For any business in today’s world, the ability to sell goods and services online is paramount. The reason for this is that there has been a rapid increase in digital sales, thus implying that fewer customers purchase in physical stores.
Let’s look at some statistics. About 1.66 billion shopped online in 2017. The number went up to 1.8 billion in 2018 with global e-retail sales accounting for USD 2.8 trillion. By 2021, it is predicted that global e-retail sales will reach USD 4.8 trillion.
From the above statistics, it is evident that this sector is lucrative and promises much growth in the future. So, being an entrepreneur, how can you tap into this trend? You will need an eCommerce website builder that allows you to create an online store fast even if you have no HTML knowledge. Then, from your website, you can sell your goods and services quickly.
That said, it is still essential to appreciate that setting up and operating a business is expensive. For instance, you might not have adequate financial capital to enable you to set up an online store. Apart from that, you might not have the time to look for the best tool to help you build e commerce web site.
In that regard, this post reveals some of the best free eCommerce website builders in the market right now. We’ve gone further and reviewed each of them by assessing their pros and cons. All said, here are the free eCommerce website builders we will cover in this article:
Big Cartel is a free eCommerce website builder that enables you to set up an online store fast. It is the best platform to use if you are a small business owner who is working with a tight budget and happy with doing business in a small way.
That considered, it is essential to note that you will access limited features under the free plan. For instance, you will only offer and sell at most five different products on your site. Apart from that, you require third-party applications for selling digital products. And that is not about it, your subdomain will have “.bigcartel,” right after your URL. Now, for many, this does not come off as professional.
As such, if you want more from this platform, you will have to upgrade to the paid plans. But do not worry since Big Cartel still averages as the cheapest eCommerce website when compared to the others on this list. This tool has three plans:
With these paid plans, you will also get discount codes, a domain, and inventory tracking.
One of the advantages of Big Cartel is that it enables you to sell for free. Apart from that, it provides useful insight when you are creating your site. And last but not least, it is suitable for art items.
Big Cartel’s functionalities are somewhat inferior and lack depth. Moreover, it offers slightly poor themes and is quite problematic to use when developing your site.
Wix is an excellent free eCommerce web builder that comes with a host of useful website design tools. It allows users to create fantastic e-commerce websites using an easy- to- use the drag-and-drop feature. With this tool, business owners can select suitable themes from the over 500 templates availed. If there is the need for technical assistance or any other clarification, once can always turn to the Wix Help Center.
With Wix, you can process payments, customize your store, and add different products without breaking a sweat. It is also quite beginner-friendly given its simple designs as well as processes. With the tool’s editor, you can quickly drag videos, text, and other elements to anywhere you want on your site.
Many people prefer this builder because it allows for easy customization. It is a WYSIWYG creator that enables you to see how your site will look like as you edit your pages. This means that if you use the editor to put a text box somewhere on your website, you will know exactly how it will look like once your site goes live.
If you feel a bit overwhelmed, you can always use the Wix ADI. With this feature, you can create a personalized site fast by merely responding to a series of questions and selecting the designs you want. After that, you can edit your site to meet what you have in mind.
It offers eye-catching designs, including product videos, to provide shoppers with an excellent experience. Also, it is beginner-friendly and has mobile-friendly templates. Last but not least, it offers advanced e-commerce functionality, for example, abandoned cart recovery to re-engage customers who have forgotten items on their carts.
Absence of stock management alerts means you will not know when your products are running low. Consequently, it becomes quite challenging to scale. Apart from that, too much creative freedom can hinder adherence to e-commerce best practices.
Shopify is the top free eCommerce website platform. It offers an exhaustive range of features as well as a big application store. Also, it allows you to sell on many channels.
Under the free trial, you can access tons of world-class features. You will quickly realize that this tool is easy to use and powerful; something that other platforms find it hard to achieve. It offers the tools that are essential for your online business, in essence, abandoned cart recovery, multi-channel integration, support for multiple payment gateways, and analytical monitoring. If there is any feature you need, you can always find it in the application store that has an excess of 1,200 apps.
Shopify offers ten themes at no cost. All of them are mobile-responsive, and thus, can adjust to fit tablet and mobile screens automatically. Apart from that, it supports various languages enabling you to translate your storefront into any of the available options, for instance, German, English, French, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Italian, and Japanese. As such, it enables you to conduct international business effectively.
If you want assistance, you can get it via live chat or phone call 24/7. Other channels you can use are, social media and email.
One of the advantages of this eCommerce website builder is that it allows users to create e commerce sites that can sell on various channels, for example, eBay, Amazon, Instagram, and Facebook. Another plus is that it offers an excellent inventory system that enables business owners to manage their enterprises effectively. Last but not least, it has an excellent rating among users and provides a great host of features.
You must keep switching between the dashboard and editor while developing your storefront. Another downside is that you have to pay a transaction fee when using Shopify payments. And not to forget; the text won’t reformat when you change the themes automatically.
BigCommerce is an excellent free e commerce store builder to use if you are looking for scalability. Of all the tools on the list, BigCommerce avails the best in-built functionalities. If you keen on creating an e-retail empire, then this is the right platform for you.
At 15 days, BigCommerce has one of the most prolonged trial durations in the market. Within this time, you can sample all the features this tool has to offer before deciding to upgrade. If you are unsure what this tool can do for you, ask for a demo to learn about the same.
This tool’s usability is average when compared to the rest. Often, users have trouble with its design interface because it divides into two sections. One of them is where you put your products and manage issues such as shipping and discounts. The other is where you do all the editing.
To address this problem, you need to create an inventory area of your business first. After the setup, proceed to add your products as well as items, for example, discounts, then customize your storefront using the editor. Recently, BigCommerce introduced the Store Design feature that allows you to view all the changes brought about by your edits.
All said BigCommerce is the right tool to get convert stores into empires. As such, it comes with great complexity, which makes it unsuitable for people who are not tech-savvy.
It is the most scalable platform on the market right now. Apart from that, it offers way more in-built features when compared to the rest. Also, the fact that it lets you sell on various channels, i.e., Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook, is an excellent thing. Last but not least, it offers great SEO tools that allow for content optimization.
BigCommerce uses complicated jargon that is hard to comprehend if you are a beginner. Moreover, it does not offer a mobile application to enable you to run your enterprise while on the move.
Squarespace is best known for providing some of the most modern and stunning templates you will find in the market. Its unconventional and professional designs can help you as a seller, to make your product or service stand out from the competition. This builder is not only for building eCommerce websites but can develop a variety of sites. For this reason, their eCommerce plan is much more affordable than those builders designed explicitly for online businesses. For example, you will find Squarespace to be cheaper than BigCommerce or Shopify.
Though its plans are paid ones, Squarespace offers a free trial too. You can sign up to try this for fourteen days with absolutely no charge. There are a couple of convenient eCommerce functions you will enjoy on Squarespace. First, it allows you to sell as many products as you want to on your site. So, you can scale your business by adding new items. Second, you can add the products you want to sell in bulk. Added to these features, you can also view your revenue reports and get emails directly when your stock is running low. If you are more concerned about the visual appeal of your site, then Squarespace is your best bet.
You will find a host of great features, templates, and a wonderful inventory system. This tool also provides the best design compared to other site builders. Overall, it is affordable, as well as attractive.
Though it may look quite easy to use Squarespace is relatively harder to use as compared to other non-eCommerce builders. It also lacks payment methods and comes with no App store where you can buy additional apps for your site.
Volusion is also a suitable option for anyone who wants to build e commerce web site. It is also among the oldest web builders in the market today. With this platform, you can sell unlimited products on your site and even give clear instructions or prompts. Integration with a variety of app is also possible. However, what makes Volusion stand out from other platforms is its excellent analytical features.
It has an extensive inventory that makes it a great option if your focus is on data. With this tool, you can do customer analysis with ease. You can, for instance, see what customers are searching for on Google and use the information to improve your marketing strategy. It is easy to setup your site, manage your stock, and add various payment options.
You get a 14-day free trial when you create an account with Volusion, at the end of which you will need to choose from one of the paid plans. During this trial period, you pay no transaction fees, can add lots of apps from third parties, and can even suggest products to your shoppers. All plans come with 24/7 customer support.
This tool is best for building e-commerce websites that have lots of payment options. It also has wonderful analytics tools and a mobile app that allows you to run your store straight from your mobile phone. Lastly, it supports more than 1000 third-party apps that you can use to customize your site.
One of the shortcomings of this tool is that you need to switch between backend and frontend constantly when building your site. It doesn’t offer a blogging platform like most modern builders. Also, you will need to pay for fraud protection (SSL certificates) separately.
When you want to build an eCommerce store, you can either go for a free eCommerce website builder like Big Cartel which allows you to develop your site and sell without paying anything or a paid option such as Shopify.
Before you decide which builder to choose, look at your business needs and your budget. Know how much you are willing to spend on your site and what features you will require. Free plans are wise if you don’t intend to spend much money. However, they can limit your growth. Free eCommerce website building tools typically have complex user interfaces, less sophisticated features, a limited number of products allowed, and may not have readily available customer support. By upgrading to a paid plan, you can access more features and sales tools, sell more products on your site, and get better support.
All in all, you should sign up for either a free plan or free trial. That way, you can sell your products online more efficiently.
Here are our answers to the most frequently asked questions about eCommerce builders:
It is possible to build your store and even sell at no cost. It all depends on the tool you choose to create your site. Big Cartel, for example, has a free plan that allows you to develop your website and sell your products without charges. Alternatively, you can use Wix to create your store and upgrade later on to start selling your products. Most platforms also come with free trials too.
Each builder has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. However, the best platform for creating an online store would be one that offers an all-round experience. In this case, Shopify takes the cake. Among its standout benefits are an extensive range of world-class sales features, a huge app store, great customer support, and the ability to sell across multiple social media platforms. Wix is another excellent option too as it has tons of templates to select from and allows you to build your store on the free plan at your own pace.
The length of time it will take you to build your store depends on the platform you choose to use and how well you understand it. The easier the tool is, the faster you will build your site. Shopify typically takes some hours because of its simple language and visual cues. BigCommerce, on the other hand, may take one or two days as it’s a little harder to get used to at first.
If you use a free builder, your SEO will most likely be a problem. Google and other search engines will have issues with a non-custom domain name. While it is possible to rank when using a free platform for a specific niche, it is better to pay for a custom domain if you want to get traffic through Google.
What you will miss if you decide to build your store for free will depend on the actual tool you pick. Things you might not get for free are web hosting, custom domain, sophisticated SEO features, dedicated customer support, unlimited products, SSL certificated, inventory management, and more.