So you have your product ready to sell online. You think it's incredible, you know people are gonna love it, and you're visioning your goods flying off the e-shelves.
But, before you do anything, you’ll need to decide how you’re going to sell it and where. Do you really need to spend money better used in other areas of your business, building a new website? Especially, when there are plenty of free e-commerce website builders. They literally won't cost you a bean.
Ultimately, it’s you who needs to decide what your business needs in place to maximize sales. Use this criterion to determine what website builder to use. There aren’t dozens out there, so use our handy guide to navigate your way to the right decision.
So, without further ado, let's find out which of these platforms is the best free ecommerce website builder!
This is an open source shopping cart that works with WordPress sites, so if you're already a WordPress user, this is a highly popular choice. WooCommerce (read our full WooCommerce review) has been going since 2001, has 48 million downloads and powers about 30% of online stores.
Best of all, WooCommerce is free to download, and it doesn’t charge any transaction fees. However, for you to maintain your WooCommerce site, you’ll have to pay for WordPress hosting (if you haven't already) because WooCommerce isn’t a standalone e-commerce site, it's a plugin. Also, if you want to access WooCommerce's add ons, you'll have to pay a fee.
The upside to using WooCommerce is that you can list an unlimited number of products for sale, take payments via PayPal or credit/debit cards, and choose from four mobile-friendly templates.
There’s also stock tracking to help ensure you never accidentally make a sale you can't deliver. Last but not least, WooCommerce offers online support staff to help you hit the ground running.
It’s an ideal option for someone wanting to launch an online store and implement top-notch content marketing strategies.
Magento began back in 2008. There are two versions, the free one and the paid one. Magento Community Edition is a free option and is ideal for growing small businesses and start-ups. Users can customize it to suit their own needs, and there are forums available for users to share tips and tricks.
Magento (read our Magento review) claims it has the most active and most prominent community of developers in the world. Reviewers say it’s easy to navigate if you’ve never set up an e-commerce site before.
There are free materials offering advice on how to grow your business, how to sell your merchandise online, and much much more. That's in addition to technical support you can use to help set up your e-commerce store.
This platform boasts more than 600,000 online store owners.
Freewebstore (read our Freewebstore review) provides secure cloud-based hosting, and you can use your existing domain name. It’s also available to individuals and businesses alike. You can look at hundreds of different store designs and choose one that complements the tone of your brand.
All designs are mobile compatible and come with an image editor and allow you to link to your store’s social media accounts. There’s also access to Google Maps to make it easier for customers to find you- this is especially handy if you're operating a brick and mortar store.
Shoppers pay you directly through your chosen payment method, for example, credit or debit card. There’s a whole section on how to get started, how to get a domain name, and how to explain the postage of your products.
You can access the site from anywhere in the world and set up alerts so when items are low in stock; the site will let you know. If you’re going to be selling stock that’s age related, then, this platform can help you set up an age verification process.
Ecwid‘s suitable for digital store owners wanting to add a free e-commerce store to their existing website. At the time of writing, this platform boasts as many as 1.6 million small businesses as clients.
There’s a free version, and three paid for packages all of which offer mobile compatibility and unlimited bandwidth. However, the paid for solutions provide a better standard of customer support and an abandoned cart option that you don’t get with the free basic version.
Ecwid (read our Ecwid review) works across multiple platforms including WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace. There’s also a limit to just ten products you can sell for free, so if you have a broad product range, this isn't the website builder for you.
Square Online Store (read our Square Online Store review) isn't only a payment platform for stores and restaurants, but their latest addition is a newly created online store builder. There’s no monthly fee, just a 2.9% plus 30c credit card processing fee per transaction. Square allows you to sell online, in person and syncs your sales for your brick and mortar shop and your online store sales.
Like other sites, there are paid for packages too. The free bundle offers up to 500MB storage, but you can, for example, list unlimited products, manage your inventory and arrange for store pickups. You can’t however, accept payments through PayPal or list product reviews.
There’s a community forum, chat, phone and email support for free customers and integration with Instagram.
‘Build your brand. Conquer the world. Zero code or design skills required.'
That's Strikingly‘s tag line, and it certainly packs a punch.
It’s a website builder offering users the opportunity to build an e-commerce store.
There are four packages, and its free version gives you five GB monthly bandwidth and up to 25 product listings. However, you can’t remove the Strikingly name from your site if you go with the free option, but you can publish an unlimited number of free sites. You also get free 24/7 support from their “happiness officers”!
If you're based in the EU, this may work well for you if you want to sell to an international audience. There’s a language translation option, and you can arrange your orders by country or by language if you want to.
There are several plans or packages; the free one allows you to list up to 25 products. It gives credit card, debit card, and PayPal payment options and produces mobile-friendly websites.
However, it doesn’t give you the ability to social share, something many of its competitors offer as a matter of course.
When you’re creating your online shop, MyOnlineStore‘s template allows you to drag and drop elements while building and customizing your store.
Launched back in 2008, Webnode made its debut. Fast forward to today, and over 30 million users have an account. Millions of entrepreneurs have created their own websites, portfolios, personal blogs, and e-commerce stores with Webnode (read our Webnode website builder review).
The website builder is incredibly straightforward to use, so you don't need to be overly techy to make the most out of it.
All you have to do is choose from one of their many stunning templates. From there, you can customize it to exude your brand in just a few minutes. Best of all? It's free.
Plus, all their sites are mobile-friendly. So, it doesn't matter what kind of device your visitors are using to browse the web; it'll look beautiful no matter what.
Weebly is a fabulous solution if you're a small business, and want to launch your first ever website. Its drag-and-drop editor is pretty intuitive, so it shouldn't take you and your team too much time to learn. It also offers users an extensive list of features, so you can create something that leaves a lasting impression with your visitors.
In short, if you want to publish a simple yet stylish site to launch a blog, promote your business, or display a portfolio, you can't go too far wrong with Weebly.
Users get access to plenty of sleek-looking templates you can easily customize to reflect your brand's feel (all of which are mobile-friendly).
We also love that Weebly provides lots of useful SEO guides in their help center. By reading and putting their advice into action, you'll stand a way better chance of ranking highly in Google's search results for the keyword of your choice.
The main drawback to Weebly is that they don't have a personal restore option. Consequently, if your site goes down, you’re reliant on them to fix this for you.
1. Can I build an online store for free?
Yes and no.
As you can see from all the info above, it's true you can start an online store for free. However, if you want to scale and grow your business, you'll eventually have to shell out some cash.
Check out FAQ no.3 to see what limitations you'll face while using free e-commerce website builders.
2. What's the best free ecommerce website builder?
Whether a free website builder can be described as ‘the best' largely depends on the kind of business you're running. So, we've paired the following solutions with specific types of consumers to help you decide:
- Square Online Store: This is ideal for entrepreneurs who not only need a free online store but also want a free point-of-sale solution.
- WooCommerce: This plugin is perfect if you're already using WordPress and you want to add e-commerce features to your site.
- FreeWebStore Online: This is best for launching an online store if you have a tight deadline.
- Ecwid: This is great if you're looking to add e-commerce features to either a Wix or Weebly site.
- Strikingly: Great if you only have one project you're selling.
- MyOnlineStore: This is the best option if you have customers dotted around the globe, as MyOnlineStore boasts numerous language features.
We also suggest checking out this article on the best ecommerce website builders to launch a profitable online store.
3. What features will I miss with a free online store?
The features you'll miss out on largely depend on which platform you opt for. So here's a quick rundown of the things you DON'T get with all the store builders discussed in this article:
- Web hosting: this store builder is just a plugin, so you'll need to have your own WordPress site up and running using a web hosting service like SiteGround, BlueHost, or Dreamhost. Hosting can be as little as a few dollars a month, so do some research and be sure to get a good deal. Alternatively, you'll have to opt for WordPress.com's Business plan, which permits you to use plugins.
- A web domain: On average you're looking at around $15 per year for a domain name.
Magento's free platform doesn't give you a lot- unless you're fluent in coding. This is an open source ecommerce platform so you can completely customize the entirety of your site.
As such, if you're searching for an all-in-one solution providing you with all the tools and integrations you need to launch a site, you'll be better off the paid version, Magento Commerce.
FreeWebStore’s free version lacks key sales features. For example-
- You can only list 30 products
- You won't have access to integrated shipping label printing
- You can't insert social share icons on your product pages
- You can't publish additional web pages or launch a blog
- Integrating with POS systems doesn't come as standard.
Ecwid doesn't offer the following e-commerce features:
- An abandoned cart saver
- Customer discount coupons
- Automated tax calculations
- Inventory management
- Sophisticated SEO tools
Square Online Store is hands down one of the best options on this list. However, you'll be limited by the following:
- Access to only 500 MB worth of storage
- You can't use a custom domain
- Square's branding will be all over your site
- You don't have the option of adding and using third-party integrations or custom coding
- You can't accept payments via PayPal
- You can't insert product badges
- You can't use product reviews
- You won't have access to Square's shipping calculator
- There's no option for integrated shipping labels or shipping discounts
- Abandoned cart emails aren't sent automatically
- You and your customers don't have access to real-time shipping times
- You can't incorporate your Square site with your Facebook ads account
Unfortunately, with the free version, you can't use a custom domain. Instead, you'll have to use the strikingly.com one. However, the main sticking point here is that you can only sell one product! Single page sites are also much harder to SEO optimize, which means you'll have to shell out more on marketing your online store.
Not to mention, you also don't have access to either phone or live chat support. Plus, Strikingly's branding will be plastered all over your site.
Again MyOnlineStore limits how many products you can list. At the time of writing, you can only sell a maximum of 25 products. Similarly, you'll be limited to basic customer support, which means your queries won't be answered as quickly as their paid plans.
You also won't be able to use your own domain name, email address or have access to an SSL certificate. You'll also have to put up with MyOnlineStore's branding plastered all over your site. Plus, it's far harder to SEO optimize the free site to satisfy Google's algorithm.
4. How much time will it take to build an online store?
By our estimations, you can have an online shop up and running within a quarter of an hour!
Check out this article to learn more about how that's possible.
Still Unsure Which Platform's the Best Free Ecommerce Website Builder?
Maybe you’re still wondering why you need an ecommerce store at all, or you’ve set one up for free and now need a bigger platform that offers a broader range of options? We offer some more advice on what to look out for and which of the big hitters you should consider.
Featured image via Shutterstock