Are you looking for the best free eCommerce platform to build your online store?
Well, you are in the right place. In this article, I have compiled a list of the best free software and platforms that you can use to build your eCommerce website.
Unlike other websites that I came across during the research, I have not included any software with free trials. Here, you’ll only find eCommerce platforms that are either 100% free or offer a free plan.
But before going ahead with the list, let’s talk about why you should opt for a free eCommerce platform and are they as effective as the paid eCommerce platforms.
Why choose a free eCommerce platform?
When we add the term “free” before anything, it usually means that either you cannot afford a premium version or you are just trying your hands before making any investment.
And in most cases, it is true.
But, when it comes to choosing an eCommerce platform for your store, free doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have to make any investment to build your store.
Most of the free eCommerce platforms available out there are open-source platforms, i.e., you can get the software or platform where you can build the store at no cost but may have to pay for hosting, domain, themes and other services involved.
Over that, if you don’t have technical knowledge of website development, you will have to hire a developer as well.
Yes, free eCommerce platforms are not exactly FREE!
So, why should you choose free eCommerce platforms to build their stores? Well, free platforms have their own advantages and disadvantages over paid ones.
Let’s talk about them and then you decide what’s better for you –
Advantages of free eCommerce platforms-
- You have more creative control over the design and the features of your store.
- Open source solutions usually come with unique features earlier than the paid platforms because they are continually being developed and improved by the community.
- You have your control over things like hosting, plugins and themes that would go into your store.
Disadvantages of free ecommerce platforms –
- You must have the technical knowledge to build the store from scratch or even just to customise themes.
- You don’t get customer support. So, you have to rely on the community for help.
- Site maintenance like hosting, speed optimisation, security will be your headache.
- It can be expensive if you have to hire a developer to build your store.
Now, you know all about the free ecommerce platform. So, keep reading. You will know more about the platforms available and then decide if a free platform is what you need for your business.
Top 5 free ecommerce platforms
Going ahead, your goals should be to find an eCommerce platform which you can use to set your online store at the lowest possible cost based on your skills, experience and the features you need for your store.
Keeping this in mind, let’s take a look at the best free eCommerce platforms that you can use to build and grow your online business.
WooCommerce is a free eCommerce platform that runs on WordPress. Unlike other eCommerce platforms listed in the article, WooCommerce is a plugin that can add operational eCommerce features to your existing WordPress site.
WooCommerce offers loads of mobile responsive and customizable themes. Also, there are thousands of plugins that you can use to add new features to your store.
With WooCommerce, you can sell anything whether its physical products, digital downloads, membership plans, dropshipping store, or affiliate products.
WooCommerce offers its own payment system called, WooCommerce Payments which doesn’t charge you any transaction fees at all. You’ll only have to pay your payment services providers like PayPal or Stripe, or your bank.
If you are already familiar with WordPress, WooCommerce can be very easy to use. You just have to add a WooCommerce plugin, add your products, set your preferences and your store will be ready.
However, if you have no prior experience with WordPress, you may require assistance from a developer to set up your website and online store.
Pros of WooCommerce:
- Easy to use
- Free Themes
- Best for SEO since it is on WordPress
- Highly Customizable
Cons of WooCommerce:
- No Customer Support
- Need lots of extensions to add basic features and it costs
Magento is the most popular and trusted open-source platform for eCommerce. The brands like Nike, Ford, Samsung use Magento for their online stores.
Magento is a fully mobile-optimized and customizable platform but you’ll need a trained developer or agency to build your store. Magento is so vast that you can customize as much as you can and add new features that no other store has ever seen.
Basically, it gives you freedom without any limit to be innovative. But the only thing is, you will need developer skills to do anything on Magento.
Magento provides seamless checkout, payment and other shopping modules that allows you to personalise the user experience on your site.
Pros of Magento:
- Strong SEO
- Scalable and highly customizable
- Strong user and developer community
- Huge marketplace for extensions and themes
Cons of Magento:
- Expensive themes
- Development cost can be expensive
- No customer support
OpenCart is also an open-source ecommerce platform which is currently supporting over 300,000 ecommerce stores across the globe.
It offers a ton of free and paid mobile responsive themes which you can find in OpenCart’s marketplace. It also provides 13,000+ modules that allows you to customize and add features to your store.
One of the best features of OpenCart is its Admin Dashboard – you can manage multiple stores from one dashboard. You can add the same products on different sources with different pricing and other variables. Isn’t this cool?
OpenCart gives you control over how customers are charged for your products and services. So, if you plan to sell products by subscription, or if you are simply breaking up payments into smaller portions, OpenCart is a way to go.
Pros of OpenCart:
- Marketplace for themes and extensions
- Integrated shipping methods
- 36 payment gateways
- Active community of developers
Cons of OpenCart:
- Paid support service
PrestaShop is an open-source eCommerce platform that was developed in collaboration with a community of more than one million users and contributors.
You can download the free PrestaShop software and build the store yourself. Also, to build the store on PrestaShop, you’ll need at least basic knowledge of HTML, CSS and JS.
PrestaShop provides thousands of mobile-optimized themes that you can use and customize the store or you can build it from scratch. It also offers 600+ features that you can include in your store.
But again, it is not like Shopify where you can just click and add new features, you have to configure it yourself using the modules provided by them.
Pros of PrestaShop:
- Strong SEO
- Available in 75 languages
- Strong community to help you
Cons of PrestaShop:
- Limited Marketing Integration
- Developer Skills required
- No multi-channel integration
- No customer support (have to rely on community response)
Unlike the rest of the tools mentioned above, Ecwid is a SaaS-based eCommerce platform. You can create your online store on Ecwid within 10 mins – it is that simple.
I have placed it at this position on the list because of a lack of customization. Using Magento, WooCommerce, and PrestaShop, you can build a store and add features as your business grows, but Ecwid is specifically built for small businesses.
Its free plan allows you to sell up to 10 products, and you can promote your products on Facebook, Google, Pinterest, and Snapchat right from the dashboard.
The best part is that Ecwid doesn’t charge any transaction fees, and once you start making profits, you can upgrade the plan and integrate with other marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.
Pros of Ecwid:
- Zero Transaction Fees
- Integrated advertising platforms
- Mobile responsive site
Cons of Ecwid:
- Not scalable
- No themes
- Very limited customization
Now, you know the best 5 free eCommerce platforms that you can choose from, but there are many more that you can explore. If you are just getting started and want to experience running an online store, Ecwid would be the best option to consider.
With Ecwid, you can build and launch your store within 10 mins. Moreover, you don’t need any technical skill to set up the store. You can also integrate Ecwid store to your existing site built platforms like WordPress, Wix, etc.
However, if you already have a WordPress site and want to add an online store to it, WooCommerce would be an excellent option to consider as it gives more design flexibility and customization access.
So, which free eCommerce platform are you considering for your store?