Top Free Ecommerce Tools
Want to know about the best ecommerce platforms? But you don’t have enough budget for ecommerce platform development or you don’t have web design team. So, what do you do? Do you go commercial and invest thousands of dollars or hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in your new online store? Or do you go for the option of free ecommerce platforms ?
Running an ecommerce store is a lot of work. There’s so much to keep track of, calculate and set up that it can be hard to figure out where to start. In this article, I will show you how to find and implement the best ecommerce tools available.
Choosing the right ecommerce platform for your business can be a daunting task. There are a lot of options out there and these platforms have a ton of features. The good news is that you don’t need every single feature to run an online store. In this post I’ve compiled a list of top free ecommerce tools that might help you simplify this process so you can choose the right platform that best fits your needs.
It’s important to note, though, free doesn’t necessarily mean 100% free, 100% of the time. True, you won’t need to pay a monthly subscription fee to use the platforms on this list, but you’ll still be responsible for paying standard payment processing fees. Some ecommerce platforms provide the option to take advantage of add-on features, as well, which might cost additional fees.
What Is an Ecommerce Platform?
An evolution of the simple online shopping cart, ecommerce platforms can serve as a business’ entire website, allowing vendors to sell and ship physical products as well as digital products or subscriptions. They come with detailed analytics, reporting and inventory management to help track, analyze, and improve sales.
Just as important as the back-end is the customer experience. The best ecommerce platforms make it easy for customers to shop online, view all of the details about the product they’re looking for, choose how to have it shipped, and make a purchase with as few steps as possible.
1. Big Cartel
Big Cartel is made “for artists, by artists,” so its intention is to help makers of all kinds build a simple online store to sell their goods. It’s the same intended audience as Etsy, essentially, though your Big Cartel online store is exactly that: Its own, standalone online store, rather than a storefront hosted by a third-party ecommerce platform. Big Cartel offers four subscription plans, including a totally free plan.
One of Big Cartel’s biggest advantages is its super-simple setup process, as there aren’t a ton of themes or features to choose from—though that’s also a potential downfall, depending on how much you’d like to customize your store. You’ll also see that their free plan isn’t conducive to scaling. But their paid plans offer a developer API, so graduating to a more advanced plan will give you the ability to customize your store however you see fit, as well as sell more items.
Here’s what’s included on their free ecommerce plan, known as the Gold plan:
- Five product selling limit
- One image per product
- Free customizable themes
- Sell online and in-person
- Real-time stats
- Use a custom .bigcartel domain
- Offer discounts and run promos
- Shipment tracking
- Product option groups
- Sales tax autopilot
- Mobile app
- Dozens of third-party integrations
Also note that Big Cartel partners with Stripe and PayPal to facilitate online payments, and you can choose which payment processor you’d prefer to work with.
After their free plan, Big Cartel’s three paid plans cost $9.99 per month, $19.99 per month, and $29.99 per month, respectively—all very reasonable, as far as ecommerce subscriptions go. Available features and selling capacities increase accordingly, as well. The most expensive plan maxes out at the ability to sell 500 products.
WooCommerce is a free, open-source ecommerce plugin that enables WordPress users to sell both digital and physical items on their websites. Obviously, you’ll need to have an existing WordPress website (or build one first) in order to use WooCommerce. Since it’s open-source, it’s infinitely customizable and scalable, though that also means that you need to have some programming experience to fully take advantage of this option.
WooCommerce’s free plugin offers thousands of free themes and free add-ons. You can also expect things like automatic tax calculation, discounts and coupons, inventory management, analytics, shipping options, and the ability to add a blog to help boost your SEO (though all WooCommerce stores come with built-in SEO tools). Perhaps most importantly, their free plan enables you to sell unlimited products and include unlimited pictures in your product listings, so it’s a much more scalable option than most other free ecommerce platforms out there.
WooCommerce uses their own payment processor, WooCommerce Payments, to facilitate online payments. Though you can also choose among other popular payment gateways (think Stripe, PayPal, and Authorize.Net) through the platform’s extensive add-on library.
Keep in mind that WooCommerce’s initial plugin is totally free, but you’ll need to pay a good amount of additional fees. For example, you’ll need to pay for your domain name, web hosting, and SSL certificate. You might consider paid extensions, as well, like advanced shipping, customer communications, and SEO tools, among tons of others. These are optional, of course, but those costs are worth considering if you plan to grow your store.
3. Square Online Store
It’s safe to assume that you’ve heard of Square’s suite of tools for small business owners. They also offer an ecommerce platform, known as Square Online Store, that enables users to sell digital and physical goods—and, it’s free to use. The only costs you’re responsible for here are Square’s payment processing fees, which cost 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. (But you can choose Stripe or PayPal as your payment processor instead.)
Like others on this list, Square’s ecommerce platform offers paid plans for more advanced features, though their free plan offers very small ecommerce business owners all the tools they need to get their online stores up and running.
Square Online Store provides users free templates to build their stores, which are built-in with SEO tools and optimized for mobile. Their online shopping cart is fully kitted out with features like an automatic tax calculator, shipping and pickup options, and the option to offer discounts and gift cards.
Other features available with Square Online Store’s free plan include an Instagram and Pinterest integration, free SSL security, and tons of marketing and analytics tools. Also important: Their free plan allows you to sell unlimited products, so it can grow with you.
Square Online Store automatically syncs with Square POS, which allows you to sell in person and gives you access to store management tools. Of course, your Square Online Store will integrate with any other Square tools you’re using, as well, from payroll to appointment scheduling software to capital.
If you’re thinking of upgrading to a paid plan, either now or in the future, Square Online Store’s three paid subscriptions cost $12 per month, $26 per month, or $72 per month when billed annually.
Another great free ecommerce platform is Weebly. While maybe not as well known as some of the other platforms on this list, Weebly’s ecommerce capabilities are powered by Square, so you can be sure you’re getting an excellent product.
Weebly offers a completely free ecommerce plan; however, it won’t allow you to connect your own domain name and will display Weebly ads—which isn’t the most professional look for a small business. However, you will still have a beautifully designed website with ecommerce functionality, marketing tools, and more.
Ecommerce features in the free plan include shopping cart functionality, items (including badges and options) and quick shop, inventory management, in-store pickup option, automatic tax calculator, coupons, and Square gift cards.
If you opt for a paid plan instead, Weebly offers greater functionality with their Personal, Professional, and Performance plans, which cost $6, $12, or $26 per month when billed annually, respectively. For more information on what you can expect with their paid plans, check out our Weebly pricing guide.
Now that we’ve exhausted the best totally free ecommerce platform options, let’s move onto the best ecommerce platforms with free trial periods. And who better to kick it off with than Shopify, the unofficial champion of ecommerce platforms? Or, if nothing else, it’s certainly the most popular, feature-heavy, flexible, and scalable option out there.
We’d highly recommend reading our guide to selling on Shopify and our Shopify POS review for a comprehensive understanding of how Shopify works, and an overview of its industry-leading selling tools. For the purposes of this article, here’s what you need to know: Shopify offers four subscription plans. All of them are paid, but they also all offer a fairly generous 14-day free trial period. During that time, you can build a website, get a feel for the interface, and explore Shopify’s many features without spending a single cent.
From there, you can decide which of the following plans you’d like to sign up for (if you’d like to sign up at all):
- Basic Shopify: $29 per month
- Shopify: $79 per month
- Advanced Shopify: $299 per month
Alternatively, you can opt for Shopify Lite, which costs just $9 per month. This plan allows more casual ecommerce entrepreneurs (read: side hustlers) to sell items on their existing websites or blogs. Enterprise-level businesses can opt for Shopify Plus, which has quote-based pricing.
In addition to your monthly fee, you’ll be responsible for Shopify Payments’ transaction fees. And depending on how complex you want to get with your store, you may run into additional costs for add-on features such as advanced store themes, Shopify Shipping, and Shopify POS. You’ll need to pay for a domain name, as well, though Shopify makes it easy to buy your domain directly through the platform. That said, you can cancel your plan at any time without incurring early cancellation fees.
BigCommerce is another eminently popular ecommerce store builder among small and enterprise-level business owners alike, and it’s the platform of choice for major companies like Skullcandy, Ben & Jerry’s, and Camelbak. Here again, consider reading our BigCommerce review for a full list of their features, which involves everything you need to build, manage, and grow your online store. Also useful: With BigCommerce, you can sell your items on sales channels well beyond your own storefront, like Facebook, eBay, Amazon, and Instagram.
Typically, BigCommerce offers a 15-day free trial plan. But they’re currently running an offer that gives new users their first three months for free. That gives you more than enough time to build your store, get your bearings, start selling, and decide whether you want to move forward with a paid plan.
BigCommerce’s plans grow according to sales volume, rather than product limits, as all three plans (plus a fourth, customized plan, which is suitable for large businesses) allow unlimited products. Something to keep in mind when you’re considering which of their plans to sign up for. Those three, core plans cost as follows:
- Standard: $29.95 per month
- Plus: $79.95 per month
- Pro: $299.95 per month
Unlike Shopify, BigCommerce doesn’t carry a ton of additional costs—all their features (of which there are many) are built into each subscription plan. Plus, you’re not beholden to one, particular payment gateway; rather, you can take your pick among over 65 integrated payment processors. If you opt for PayPal, however, you’ll enjoy discounted payment processing fees.
Rounding out this list is Squarespace, another major name in both business websites and ecommerce stores. Assuming you’re interested in the latter, Squarespace offers two plans, which cost the following:
- Basic Commerce: $26 per month paid annually
- Advanced Commerce: $40 per month paid annually
Both of these ecommerce plans give you all the functionality of Squarespace’s advanced website-building and marketing tools. Of course, you’ll also get selling tools like a shopping cart, analytics, merchandising tools, the ability to sell on social media, and a Squarespace POS system for online and in-person selling.
In addition to your monthly subscription fee, you’ll need to pay for standard payment processing fees from Stripe (Squarespace’s integrated payment gateway), as well as a domain name. Whichever plan you choose, you can take advantage of a 14-day free trial period.
If you’re interested in using Squarespace to build your ecommerce store, we’ve compiled a guide to Squarespace pricing and plans and a comprehensive Squarespace review to learn more.
Mobile-friendliness has become an important ranking factor contributing to your site’s search performance. Check your site’s responsiveness across multiple displays with the free Responsinator tool.
In an e-commerce context, customer feedback can be used to inform everything from policies and procedures to future stock decisions. Capture this important insight with SurveyMonkey’s free plan, which lets you gather up to 100 responses per month.
10. Zendesk Chat
Sixty-three percent of customers said they were more likely to return to a website that offers live chat as opposed to one that doesn’t. Zendesk Chat’s “Lite” plan can get you started for free.
Once you’ve built your store and added the necessary tools, it’s time to turn your attention to marketing. The free resources below will help you capture the customers needed to make your site a success.
According to VentureBeat, as shared on the Campaign Monitor blog, email marketing generates the highest ROI of all tactics for marketers. Start building your own list with MailChimp’s “Forever Free” plan.
Another email marketing provider worth considering is Drip.co, whose free plan provides access to some of the more advanced automation workflows excluded from MailChimp’s free offering (though Drip.co’s free version does stick you with the company’s branding until you upgrade to a paid account).
Sumo is so much more than an email marketing tool. After installing the system, you’ll also have access to heat mapping, content analytics, image sharing, and other tools—all for free.
Effective social media marketing requires a consistent, engaging presence. Use Buffer to schedule updates to your social profiles to ensure a steady stream of activity.
Not sure what to fill your social channels with? Free image editing tool Canva can help you quickly create engaging social graphics based on established templates—no matter what your level of design skill might be.
Pexels is a royalty-free, Creative Commons license-driven collection of stock photography that you can use to build out the pages of your e-commerce store. Just be sure to watch the attribution requirements listed with each image. Failing to follow them properly could result in major copyright infringement penalties.
17. Google Analytics
Get ready to hear a lot about Google, which earned six spots on this list. But what can I say? The search giant’s free tools and services are must-haves for e-commerce merchants.
Start with Google Analytics, which is probably the best free website analytics provider available today. Shopify has a great guide on using it to track ecommerce sales.
18. Google Search Console
Another key Google resource for e-commerce merchants is the Search Console. There, you’ll find warnings about any site issues that could be impacting your search performance, as well as data on your current search rankings, by keyword.
19. Google PageSpeed Insights
Page speed matters, for both SEO and UX reasons. Keep your site humming along smoothly—especially if you’re using a plugin-intensive WordPress e-commerce install, versus a more streamlined platform—with Google’s free PageSpeed Insights testing tool.
20. Google Keyword Planner
You need a Google AdWords account to access this tool (don’t worry—you don’t actually have to run a live campaign), but once you’re inside, the Keyword Planner will give you access to huge amounts of data regarding keyword search volume for the words and phrases your shoppers are using.
21. Google Trends
Whether you’re validating demand for your idea or trying to gauge what will interest your shoppers next, keep your eye on Google Trends to measure consumer interest.
eCommerce platform fees
While we’re talking about pricing, it can get a little complicated with eCommerce platforms as they charge a little differently from other services. There are three kinds of fees you may have to pay for an eCommerce website builder:
- Monthly fee. This is anything from free to a few hundred dollars and goes straight to the platform. For most of the options on this list, expect to pay around $30 for a basic plan.
- Payment gateway fees. These are the fees you pay when you process a credit card charge. The normal fee is around 2.9% plus an additional $0.30, although this goes down with volume and higher upfront payments. Some platforms, like Wix and Shopify, operate their own payment gateways that you can choose to use, while others rely on Stripe, PayPal, and similar services.
- Transaction fees. These are another percentage-based fee that’s on top of any gateway fees. A lot of services bill themselves as having 0% transaction fees, but this merely means there’s no extra charge. Other services charge a 1% or 2% transaction fee if you don’t use their gateway.
You might be searching for best ecommerce platform, and if you are, you are at the right place. Free ecommerce platform is a solution to all your needs when it comes to website creation and management.
Ecommerce has never been easier. In fact, I’m going to venture to say that it’s never been better. These days, there are hundreds of tools available for ecommerce entrepreneurs. You name the task and there’s a tool for it. Whether you have an online store in a box or you sell products directly through Amazon, there is a tool out there specifically designed to help you succeed at your work. What’s even better is that many of these tools are free!