Today's retail market is changing. Experts predict that by 2025, online commerce will make up 24.5% of the global retail market. That means nearly a quarter of all retail sales will be conducted online!
Leading this trend are cloud-based content management systems (CMSs), which make it possible for businesses to move online. For example, comprehensive CMS software allows retailers to create websites, manage digital content, and accept online transactions.
With so much on offer, it's no wonder more than half of all online companies use a CMS of some kind. Some of the most popular include WordPress, Shopify, and Wix. But, these services, while great to use, usually come with a price tag. Even WordPress.org, which is free to download and use, requires users to pay for their own hosting.
With that in mind, we're looking at a free CMS service – Branchbob. Branchbob makes it easy to start and run your own ecommerce business from the get-go. With a range of in-built ecommerce features and an easy-to-use interface, there are many reasons to choose Branchbob over more mainstream CMSs.
Let's take a closer look…
Branchbob is a free ecommerce platform and cloud-based CMS, created in germany, that lets you conveniently set up your own online shop from your smartphone. Without coding skills, you can create tailor-made and fully-functioning stores in just a few minutes.
The company was founded in 2018 by a team of marketing and IT specialists who had the idea of creating a convenient ecommerce solution targeted at small to medium-sized businesses transitioning onto the online market.
Fast forward to today, and Branchbob now services over 150 countries! Thanks to the vast number of currencies, languages, and payment methods you can allocate to your store, it enjoys worldwide acclaim.
Some of the most notable Branchbob features include:
- Inventory and product management
- Ecommerce website creation
- Order and customer management
Below we'll look at these features and others in greater depth:
Branchbob Review: Website Creation
When it comes to online store creation, you're encouraged to pick a theme from Branchbob's theme store. There is nine free online store templates to choose from, spanning the following categories:
- Food and drink
- Health and beauty
On top of that, there's just one paid-for theme that falls under the fashion category.
Once you've settled on a theme, you'll be asked to add and install it. Don't worry; this only takes a few seconds.
Then when that's done, hit customize to start tweaking your theme to suit your needs.
First, you'll be asked to add some info to flesh out your ‘site identity,' including your website title, meta description, and slogan. You can also upload your brand logo and website favicon from this page.
Now, as shown in the screenshot below, you can tweak the theme's colors:
That's unless you have some HTML or CSS know-how. We like that Branchbob provides access to this code so that you can build your own designs. However, you'll have to boast some coding smarts to benefit from more in-depth customization.
Branchbob Review: Product and Inventory Management
When it comes to listing your products, you'll be asked whether you want to publish the product on your home page or not. Then, on the same page, you'll be prompted to give your product a name, a price, and the number of items in your inventory. Beneath this is the option to enable automatic inventory tracking, which automatically decreases as customers purchase your product.
You can add product characteristics like size, color, textile composition, or technical data. There's also additional space for a product description and an extra section for what Branchbob coins a ‘long description' – here, it seems you have more formatting options. For instance, you can bold, italicize, and underline text. You can also insert images, videos, and links, to name a few of the formatting options.
There are also fields for the input tax rate, SKU number, barcode, weight, and delivery time. Finally, you'll be prompted to create and assign your product an overarching product category.
After that, if applicable, you can include product variations (colors, sizes, etc.).
Lastly, it's worth noting that Branchbob makes it easy to check and track your inventory and hide unavailable products accordingly.
Branchbob Review: Customer Management
Within a few clicks around your Branchbob dashboard (which they dub the Cockpit), you can add and view customer info like their: name, address, email, company, and fax. That's as well as view their corresponding orders.
Branchbob Review: Customer Payment Methods
There are tons of payment methods you can offer customers. For instance, you can connect with Stripe to accept:
- Mastercard (to accept credit cards)
- Apple Pay
- Giro Pay
- Ali Pay
- Google Pay
…to name a few!
On top of that, you can also offer customers the following options:
- Amazon Pay
- Paypal Express
- Cash On Delivery
- EU Bank Transfer
- Cash On Pickup
- Bank Transfer
Branchbob Review: Marketing Features
Branchbob comes with a few in-built marketing features. For instance, you can create and distribute coupon codes. Here you can decide whether to offer a set percentage or cash amount off. You can also specify dates as to when these coupons are valid until.
Another cool feature is that you can create Whatsapp and Instagram stories within Branchbob and other social media posts.
Lastly, you can also add your Facebook Pixel to your Branchbob store. Facebook Pixel, for the uninitiated, is a short piece of code that tracks your Facebook ad campaigns, conversions, website traffic and monitors your audience. With this info to hand, you're better positioned to refine your marketing efforts to meet the needs of your target demographic.
Branchbob Review: Automated Emails and Notifications
If you want, Branchbob will automatically send your customers an email order confirmation. However, if you prefer to do this manually, you also have that option.
Similarly, you can also opt-in to receive automated notifications from Branchbob whenever you receive a new order.
Branchbob Review: Domain Name
When you first launch your Branchbob store, you'll get a Branchbob subdomain that looks a bit like this: .mybranchbob.com. You can modify this subdomain should you wish. Or alternatively, you can buy a domain name directly via Branchbob, or connect your existing domain (which looks much more professional) – the choice is yours.
Each merchant will also receive their own *.seller.bio domain in addition to the main domain so they can set up an additional store, in the style of a link in bio profile for their social media profiles (example: https://demo.onlinestore.bio).
Branchbob Review: Staff Accounts
You can also add staff accounts, which is handy if you have a small team to help you manage your store. To set their permissions, just provide their name and email address, and disclose whether you want to grant them full access to your Branchbob account. Alternatively, you can ensure that they can only access specific features by checking any of the following:
- Payment methods
- Shipping methods
- Home page
- Account settings
- Social sharing
Branchbob Review: Add-ons
Branchbob has its own app store that makes it easy to filter through its apps according to whether they're free, paid, popular, or new.
At the time of writing, only the following apps were available:
- Staff Accounts (by Branchbob), for €9.99 a month, you can add more staff accounts to your shop.
- Orders Export (by Branchbob), for €4.99 a month, you can export your past orders as a .csv file.
- Customer Import & Export (by Branchbob), for €4.99 a month, you can import and export your customers as a .csv file.
- Product Import & Export (by Branchbob), for €4.99 a month, you can import and export your products as a .csv file.
- XML Order Export (by Branchbob), for €2.99 a month, you can receive information about your orders as XML data
- Social (by Branchbob) you can integrate with your social media accounts for free.
- SEO Sitemap (by Branchbob) generates a sitemap to boost SEO for free.
- Google Shopping Feed (by Branchbob), list your products in Google Shopping Search for free.
- Google Analytics (by Branchbob) integrates with your Google Analytics account for free to dig deeper into your website traffic.
There were a couple more listed, but their functionality wasn't entirely clear, so for now, we've not included them on this list. Also, from what we could tell, there doesn't appear to be any integrations with third-party shipping providers or dropshipping services, which from some, will be a dealbreaker. Still, merchants can add tracking links from any third-party shipping provider to the order.
Branchbob Review: How to Launch a Branchbob Store
We like that Branchbob provides a checklist to help get your store “Ready-to-Sell.”
According to Branchbob, you just need to follow these five steps:
- Create your first product
- Set up your chosen payment method
- Add a delivery method
- Add your business's contact information
- Add legal pages
For the latter, Branchbob makes it easy to use their sample return form or your own custom one. Then, by just checking a box, you can add the following policies to your order confirmations by default:
- A return policy
- Terms and conditions
You can also opt to display a cookie notice on your site.
Branchbob's Customer Support
Regarding customer service, Branchbob offers an impressive array of self-help documentation.
If you scroll to the bottom of their home page, you'll find links to answers to FAQs, REST-API, and Designer-Guide (both of which come in handy if you're looking to write your own code), and Branchbob's help center. Here you'll find articles explaining how to tweak various Branchbob settings. Our only criticism of the latter is that many of the articles are written in broken English, which in some instances is quite tricky to decipher.
Lastly, there's also a link to a variety of video tutorials. On top of that, there's also a blog with plenty of advice on how to make the most out of your Branchbob store and on the topic of ecommerce more generally.
If these resources don't seem to help, you can contact the Branchbob team directly via WhatsApp, LiveChat and email.
Branchbob is free to use. There are no monthly subscriptions or hidden fees for using their service. The only paid components of Branchbob are their app extensions. As mentioned, these are integrations you can use to increase the functionality of your store. While some of these are free, many operate on a monthly subscription basis.
You also don't need to waste money on third-party software to generate invoices because every time a customer places an order, Branchbob automatically creates a corresponding invoice.
Branchbob's Pros and Cons
Before bringing this Branchbob review to a close, let's quickly highlight the platform's most noteworthy pros and cons:
- You don't have to spend as much as a cent to use Branchbob!
- In-built marketing tools are included – we especially like its sophisticated coupon creator.
- Within minutes you can go live with your online store.
- You can handle everything from the comfort of your smartphone.
- You can offer customers numerous payment options, Stripe, Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Amazon Pay, and many more!
- You can't sell digital products
- If you don't know how to code, web design customization is incredibly limited.
- Currently, there aren't any third-party shipping or drop shipping integrations
- Most articles on the online help center are written in broken English, making the instructions tricky to follow.
Is Branchbob The Right Software for You?
So, there you have it, that's our take on Branchbob! Although Branchbob isn't as well-renown as some of its competitors, we think it's certainly worth a second glance if you're on a tight budget and looking for a website builder that prioritizes ease of use. All in all, it's ideal for beginners, startups, small businesses, and anyone looking to dip their toes in the waters of ecommerce.
That's all, folks! Have you ever used Branchbob before? Or are you planning on giving it a try? Either way, tell us all about your experiences in the comments box below! Alternatively, are you considering competitors like BigCommerce or WooCommerce?