Nowadays, many eCommerce builders come with free plans tailor-made for small businesses and single entrepreneurs. With this software, young enthusiasts can create their first commercial site and start selling online without having to incur major monthly costs. In fact, some free plans are so advanced that they can compare to other companies’ paid plans in terms of the functionality they provide.
Whatever the case might be, these free platforms are fantastic for reducing common business risks. They allow you to get your business off the ground with minimal investment. And if you get a chance to scale your business, you can always upgrade to bigger plans.
In this article, I’ll take a look at 13 best and free platforms that will get your foot in the eCommerce door.
The (Still) Growing Importance of eCommerce
While brick-and-mortar stores still have a place in our commerce ecosystem, ecommerce retail is slowly replacing the traditional shopping experience. According to analysts, by the year 2026, 24% of all retail purchases will be made online. While the traditional retail will still be dominant, the weights continue to shift against its favor.
While some people are saddened by this switch to online business and digital products, the trend has warned us of our imminent future. Back in 2021, ecommerce sales globally were worth $5.2 trillion, but by 2026, experts predict that its value will have climbed to $8.1 trillion – a whopping 55% increase (source). Keep in mind this trend isn’t only noticeable in the US but all over the world.
Based on all of that, it feels that it’s much better to invest in an eCommerce business than a traditional alternative. However, that doesn’t mean you should step into the fray blindly; to succeed in this field, you still have to be calculated and devise a viable long-term strategy.
How an eCommerce Platform Supports Your eCommerce Goals
As you can guess by the name, eCommerce platforms allow you to set up a custom domain and manage physical products online. Here are a few reasons to use these systems:
- Reduce infrastructure costs of self-hosting
- Streamline website creation
- Provide an extra layer of security
- Allow you to scale an online business
- Allow selling of unlimited products
- Simplify inventory management
- Include 3rd party developer support
It’s worth noting that eCommerce platforms are actually a type of CMS (content management system) specialized in online sales. Through them, you can manage all your website pages from a single dashboard and have access to payment gateways. That way, you can simplify content publishing and inventory tracking and ensure full protection for your customers.
Of course, being cheap with eCommerce platforms isn’t necessarily the best way to save money. As your site is the basis of your marketing efforts, it isn’t the worst thing to invest in good hosting and site builder.
Are These Free eCommerce Platforms Really Free?
The simple answer is yes and no. The platforms I’ve added to the list have free plans that allow you to create sites by using programs’ key features. However, you must go with the paid versions if you wish to access extra features and gain increased storage space and bandwidth. Furthermore, many free plans limit how many products you can sell within the store.
In theory, smaller shops can go with free versions. This is especially true for specialized niche products and markets with low competition/demand. Nevertheless, if you wish to create a large, successful online brand, you’ll likely have to upgrade to premium plans. So, one of your bigger considerations will also be scaling and integrations.
The 13 Best Free eCommerce Platforms
No matter the business size, companies can benefit from some of these builders. Keep in mind that these solutions are significantly different in terms of storage, bandwidth, number of users and products, so make sure to find the right one for you!
WooCommerce is an open-source software that you can use to increase WordPress’s functionality. As both platforms are free of charge, this would allow you to open online stores without spending a dime. Unfortunately, this “free plan” is more of a bait; the company charges a custom domain name, payment and shipping extensions, security and marketing tools, and there’s also a hosting cost.
For example, if you’re looking to use the website builder’s full functionality, you’ll have to spend $10 to create a custom name, at least $10 per month for hosting, and $89 for a custom theme. WooCommerce also allows you to hire their eCommerce developers, which would cost you $55 per hour of their work.
WooCommerce also offers a plethora of add-ons and third-party integrations. As you can presume, many of them are paid or have a usage limit. Despite somewhat convoluted pricing, the platform is still cheaper than its counterparts. Its reasonable price, customization options, and great security features are the reasons why WooCommerce is the most popular eCommerce platform in the world.
While Square Online has a free plan, you still need to pay 2.9% from each transaction plus 30 cents on top of that. The basic plan gives you access to a website builder and comes with SEO tools. You can use it to sell on social media, perform pickups and deliveries, and sync with Square POS. Your customers will also have access to the most popular online payments (PayPal isn’t included).
The built-in features, such as inventory management, are good enough to get you going, and most stores can thrive with a free plan. The dashboard is quite intuitive, giving you data on sales, helping cart recovery, and tracking customer journeys. The Square Online’s platform can serve various sales channels and promotional methods.
Ecwid’s essential feature is integration with an existing site. If you already have an online store and just want to change hosting, you can easily switch to this platform without additional cost. However, keep in mind that with the free plan, you’re somewhat limited in the amount of products you can sell. You also don’t get access to advanced features such as mobile store manager and social media selling.
Ecwid is a genuinely free platform; there aren’t any transaction or monthly costs with the free plan. So, don’t worry about getting hit by some hidden expenses or similar nonsense. This makes it a perfect choice for stores that don’t need extra features and want to maximize their profits. Still, don’t be surprised if the end results feel a bit lackluster.
Its “Instant Site” feature is perfect for eCommerce store owners who don’t have technical skills. The user can also choose between various currencies and languages, making it perfect for international sellers.
With the free hosting plan, business owners can sell up to five products and use one image for each product page. It offers numerous payment options, allows in-person and online sales, and has real-time data. The users can access customizable templates, create discounts, and streamline taxing.
The free plan is solid for basic needs, but I suggest eventually switching to at least the cheapest plan for additional features. For example, with any paid version, you also get access to Google Analytics and can sell many more products. The integration works like a charm, saving you lots of time and effort.
Big Cartel is great for people without technical knowledge, as it allows easy setup and use. eCommerce players can also benefit from free templates.
This powerful eCommerce platform comes with a somewhat lackluster free version. Although you can access key features and create a domain name, there are unskippable ads on every page. This makes it hard to increase customer base and provide high customer satisfaction. As if that wasn’t enough, you’re also limited by 500MB of bandwidth and storage. The only good thing is that the free plan gives you access to customer support.
Regardless, this is one of the best eCommerce solutions on the web. If you invest in one of the business plans, starting from $17 per month, you’ll gain access to galleries, blog features, appointments, and an advanced online shopping experience. Wix eCommerce also offers a drag-and-drop interface and more than 200 third-party integrations.
Shopify is one of the worst platforms when it comes to free plans. You only get a three-day trial, after which you must decide if this is the right solution for your business. However, it’s worth noting that you pay only $1 for the first three months, which somewhat puts it in the free category (at least, the way I see it).
Eventually, you’ll have to switch to paid eCommerce plans that cost $32, $92, and $399 monthly. The best thing about this platform is that it’s rather straightforward and provides a premium user experience. Its payment processing solution is second to none, and you’ll also gain a lot of value from 1,200+ integrations, such as Google Shopping, QuickBooks, and SAP.
Further Reading: 19 Best Ways How to Promote Your Shopify Store on Instagram
Based on product reviews and what I’ve seen firsthand, Weebly has one of the best free plans out there. There’s a little drop-off from free to premium plans, as you have access to various tools, a nice security suite, inventory management, and unlimited products. The thing that goes in favor of enterprise users is that they don’t have to think about ads or storage space.
In many ways, Weebly’s free plan can be compared to Squarespace’s and Wix’s premium plans, although you don’t have the same scalability. Like many entries on this list, it’s a perfect platform for smaller brands that are just looking to get started.
The thing that makes this solution stand out is that it has an active community of developers who are always ready to help you out. There are also numerous SEO resources you can use to optimize your sales process on Google.
Further Reading: The Ultimate Guide to SEO for eCommerce Websites
PrestaShop is an open-source eCommerce platform that boasts an extensive plugin library. It’s a highly customizable product that provides excellent customer satisfaction. Unlike many free solutions, PrestaShop works for PayPal, and you can also use it to streamline PPC campaigns. The open-source software also comes with integrated analytics, which is pretty dope in my opinion.
This incredible platform can translate content into more than 40 languages, has a knowledge center, and provides maximum control over the sales process. The platform is ideal if you’re running a casual shop and already have a subscription to additional sales tools. Unfortunately, PrestaShop’s free plan isn’t great for scaling and enterprise-level businesses.
This eCommerce builder doesn’t have the best free features but still warrants addition to the list. With the basic version, you get SSL security, custom design templates, and basic marketing features. However, given that you’re limited to just five physical products, can’t create your own domain name, and have limited storage, you’ll likely have to switch to business plans.
While the free plan offers limited features, some of them would give you a competitive advantage. For example, Mozzelo is fantastic for multilingual sites and also allows you to optimize the site for mobile devices. If you have technical skills and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, you can tinker with its code in HTML, CSS, and Java.
Shift4Shop is one of the faster eCommerce platforms that has an intriguing proposal for potential users. As long as you can drive $500 in revenues, you don’t have to spend money on this advanced eCommerce solution. Unlike other companies, Shift4Shop doesn’t hide advanced features behind the paywall, so you have full access to premium functions.
The biggest issue with this platform is that it only works for the US. Still, given the plethora of advanced features and no restrictions to how many physical products you can sell, it’s one of the best eCommerce website builders out there. Simply put, with this platform, you can get the same functionality as the paid platforms but without any associated costs.
Further Reading: How To Build An Ecommerce Website: A Step-by-Step Guide
The thing that struck me with WebStarts is that you get 1GB of bandwidth and cloud storage, which is significantly more than other free eCommerce website builders provide. If we also consider that you can create unlimited pages, this makes it perfect for medium-sized online stores.
The biggest issue with WebStart’s free plan is that it doesn’t provide an online store, so you’ll likely have to spend money on this essential feature. Nevertheless, if you’re not a technical person, this might be the right solution for you. Even with a free, basic eCommerce plan, you get access to live support. The company also has an extremely efficient ticketing system.
Further Reading: 17 Best Ecommerce CMS Platforms to Build Your Online Store
The awesome tidbit about this platform is that it comes with lots of third-party app integrations. Upon creating an account, you get free access to Facebook Pixel, Adobe Commerce, Google Shopping Feeds, MailChimp, and other relevant sales software. You also get advanced features for shopping carts, email customization, discount creator, and so on.
The free option is perfect if you’re a single-person store, which you can notice based on the features. The basic plan allows only one employee and an annual revenue of $25,000. Freewebstore offers more payment options than competitors and is perfect for creating a website from scratch. The free version also allows you to create a custom domain, something that isn’t common with all platforms.
Strikingly allows you to use a custom domain name for a year. You can also build unlimited sites with free features and two sites with paid features. Because of that, I would warmly recommend it to anyone who’s making a website for the first time and is unafraid to make a few blunders.
Unfortunately, there are lots of glaring flaws with this platform, like a 5% transaction fee and the fact you can only sell a single product. It also doesn’t help that you can create only five pages per site.
The thing where Strinkingly excels is creating customizable templates. You can seemingly switch between designs without having to build a site from scratch, thus making it perfect for A/B testing. Site-building tools are also a welcome addition; you’ll definitely appreciate the uptime speed.
Further Reading: 15 Important Ecommerce Tools You Need to Know in 2024
No matter which free eCommerce platform you use, they should fulfill your basic needs. For me, some of them are significantly better than others, but I didn’t want to sway your opinion on either side. Instead, I suggest you try each of them (they’re free, ultimately) and figure out things along the way.
Hero photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash