Want to build an online store, sell online, and make money at the comfort of your own home? Who doesn’t – that’s the dream!
But chances are, you already know that setting up an online business is a commitment that takes not only a lot of time and dedication. It also takes a lot of money.
I can certainly tell you one thing – free eCommerce platforms are a great way to start an online shop without a huge investment. And if you play your cards right, you can fully build a great shop on a shoestring budget.
In this article, I cover a total of 9 great free online shop options. They differ in their target audience, ease of use, features, future scalability, and more.
You will also be given a choice, whether you want to go the ultimate DIY route and build everything yourself, or trust an established platform instead – I talk about closed source and open source eCommerce in this post as well.
There are the top free eCommerce platform options available right now:
WooCommerce is a flexible open-source eCommerce platform, that is available to use together with WordPress – a very powerful content management system. Together, these two platforms give you plenty of room to grow your business.
However, it does require a fair amount of manual work, and people with limited experience in website creation are likely to struggle with the open-ended nature of WooCommerce. But if you’re willing to persist and learn all the ins and outs of the platform – you’re going to love the customizability that it offers.
To get started with WooCommerce, you’ll need to have a functioning WordPress website all set up. This isn’t all that difficult – there are plenty of free hosting providers that will help you get a website done in just a few minutes. And then, you’ll need to download a free WooCommerce plugin, and you’re all set.
The experience within WooCommerce is going to be quite intuitive.
Since it’s a WordPress product, you are able to use a range of familiar themes, plugins, and extensions to tailor the experience to your needs. The 400+ extensions currently available combine with the utility of open-sourcing to allow for high levels of customization on virtually every detail of your online store.
Technically speaking, all of the WordPress themes will work with WooCommerce – and that’s great, because it means that you can choose from literally tens of thousands of themes. Some will be free – some might cost you a little bit of money.
And then, with the platform set up and the theme ready, it’s time to start selling!… Right?
Well, the near-endless options can make WooCommerce intimidating to get started with. Luckily, the platform does provide a range of resources to assist with difficulties.
Their website features instructional materials that may help in a pinch, and there is also a massive community of users sharing their problems and solutions that might just help you as well.
WooCommerce IS a free platform. But as you’ll come to find – everyone needs to eat, so it’s not surprising to see certain things kept under a paywall.
But the main things here are entirely free of charge – WooCommerce allows you to sell both digital and physical products anywhere in the world.
There are also no limitations on product variants. For instance, it is easy to list a single sweater in a number of different sizes and colors.
Payment options are also very flexible. WooCommerce works well and requires no upfront payments with major payment methods including Mastercard and Visa. And it additionally makes room for services like PayPal, Stripe, or direct bank transfers.
WooCommerce also benefits from special features like custom checkout carts or flexible coupon systems that allow you to provide your customers with customized promotions. For example, it is easy to draw customers in with offers like “Free Shipping” or “20% off”.
It’s important to keep in mind – while both WordPress and WooCommerce are free, it’s a pretty bad idea to try and run a shop without actually investing a single dollar. At the very least, you will need:
Getting both of those things is pretty easy. There are plenty of popular web hosting providers like Hostinger or GoDaddy, that offers services suitable specifically for WooCommerce – so you should be fine.
And then, after all that is sorted, you might want to consider getting into the premium themes. While there’s a massive library of free WordPress themes available at your discretion, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to be perfectly optimized to get the best results out of WooCommerce.
The premium WooCommerce themes, on the other hand, are – and they’re not all that expensive, with one-time fees of around $60.
Then, there are the product limits. You’re allowed to sell digital and physical goods, but if you aim to sell bookings, memberships, subscriptions, or composite products – you’ll have to pay a yearly fee as well.
Finally, consider the biggest cost of all – your time. WooCommerce is open-source after all, and not everything is guaranteed to work automatically. You might have to spend hours, if not days, tinkering with your website trying to make things work.
Or you might have to consider hiring a web developer – but that could cost a pretty penny. So, dive into WooCommerce at your own discretion.
Overall, WooCommerce is a super powerful, highly-customizable platform. In order to get the best out of it, you will need to know how to handle it. But really, it's worth it.
Ecwid is a responsive eCommerce platform that can both make you a website, and help you sell in a website you already own!
This versatile option may be free, but it might prove pretty much priceless for existing businesses that want to find a simple way to go online.
Already have a website? You’ll be given a piece of code you can copy and paste to your site, giving it all of the eCommerce capabilities in just a few minutes.
Don’t have a website at all and look to build one? Ecwid can help, too. Overall, I was really impressed with how Ecwid made everything as simple as possible from the get-go.
For instance, the to-do list you get just after signing up, should serve as a great starter guide for just about anyone.
So, how does this free eCommerce platform hold up? Let’s go and find out.
The Ecwid offers a free forever plan, which allows you to build a website with the company’s subdomain and sell up to 10 products. Website hosting is included in the purchase, and there are no limits as to how many people can visit your store.
You will also be able to do basic social media advertising, as well as use multiple payment gateways. Apple Pay (via Stripe) is available to use even with a free plan.
If you choose to build your own website, you’ll also get access to a theme library. It’s nothing groundbreaking – but they’re separated into different categories and all have at least slightly different styles, so you’re bound to find at least something that suits you.
The website editing itself is pretty limited. Essentially, you get to choose from a bunch of specific options how you want your products to be displayed within the theme and that’s it.
There’s no room for creativity. Luckily, there’s no room for error as well.
Yes – Ecwid is free. But it’s still quite limited and you’ll have to pay to gain access to more premium features. For example, if you want to host more than ten items on your store, you will need to open your wallet – and choose a premium plan.
How much are those?
The monthly subscription fees range in price from $15 to $99 a month – which isn’t awful, but for those on a budget, it might be a bit of an issue.
Of course, you shouldn’t be surprise – the more you pay, the more you get.
The $15 dollar monthly plan expands your catalog to 100 products and allows for other handy features, including off-line transactions, discount coupons (for your customers), the ability to host a live chat on your website, and even some personalized help setting up your store.
The $35 package increases the product limit to a mouthwatering 2,500. You’ll also be allowed to use the platform to sell on Etsy, Amazon, or eBay.
With the $99 monthly option, the sky is pretty much the limit. At this level, you get all the aforementioned features, and there are no longer any restrictions on how many items you can host. There’s also more. For example, you can save customer addresses for easy repeat transactions and create a membership database that helps you to keep shoppers coming back.
Ecwid is a very solid free eCommerce platform that can serve as a great starting point for many businesses. It has its limitations - and getting rid of them will require you to open your wallet - but overall, it's a solid option that many will love.
Big Cartel is a simple free eCommerce platform that is optimized for artists and small businesses looking to turn their side gig into a profitable source of income. This platform is incredibly straightforward, simple to use, and requires no prior website building knowledge in order to be used properly.
Sure, the simplicity comes at a price. Don’t expect hundreds of unique templates and extensive design capabilities.
For instance, you can’t even integrate a search bar in your website – instead, your users will have to scroll right through your library in order to find a specific product.
Simply put – the sites created with Big Cartel are going to be simple. But if you’re all about your product, and not bells or whistles, this might be just up your alley.
For free, Big Cartel lets you do pretty much anything. Unlike most free eCommerce website options, you will be able to connect your own custom domain without paying. Crucial online sales features, such as discounts and promos, analytics, shipment tracking, and more are also included.
And what’s better, each and every step of setting up your eCommerce store is going to be made as simple as possible. Upon registering, every user will be given a helpful checklist of what things need to be done to sell online with no issues.
Completing it takes less than half an hour and…that’s it. You’re really to sell.
Of course, businesses need to make money – so it’s no surprise to see Big Cartel putting limits on its free “Gold” plan, and offering 3 premium plans.
The free version comes with most of the platform’s main features but only allows you to stock five items at a time.
Not enough? Upgrade to a $9.99 monthly plan, and you’ll be able to list 50 items, as well as upload up to 5 product images, and get an option to edit your website’s code to make it just a little bit more original.
The $19.99 plan doesn’t include all that much more – but it significantly increases the product limit to 250 items, allowing you to maintain a proper inventory.
And finally, there’s the most expensive $29.99 plan. Dubbed “Titanium”, this one is certainly a hard sell, as it keeps all the premium features, adds no new ones, and increased the product limit once more – this time, to 500.
Overall, Big Cartel is perfectly positioned to be a great free eCommerce platform for artists and creatives looking for a simple shop to sell their products in. Think of it as your own Etsy store or an eBay inventory, just with a custom domain and a more personal vibe.
If you're looking for something mighty simple to own and operate - Big Cartel is going to be a perfect option.
Among open source eCommerce platforms, OpenCart is surprisingly user-friendly. The platform includes many of the main eCommerce features already baked into the framework, and an account with the platform guarantees you a lifetime of free updates and customer support.
This is particularly good because maintenance and upkeep can be somewhat tricky with OpenCart. Admins of some bigger OpenCart websites do note that the platform sometimes experiences a hiccup or two. That said, the suite of features is impressive enough to make the owners of small to medium stores consider overlooking problems.
OpenCart has a lot of features that are available entirely free of charge. The star of the show is undoubtedly the dashboard. You can use it to run more than one store at once, and it allows you to localize controls while still providing unique designs and prices for each page you run.
The dashboard is also where you’ll see the solid built-in analytics system. It provides a lot of information on key data points that can help you with your business. For example, you can see how many customers you have, how much they spend on average, and even where they live – so you can shift your marketing efforts accordingly.
Also, all OpenCart users can add options and attributes to the products – something that’s not so commonly found on free eCommerce solutions. Overall, the platform has a lot of things going on – and you won’t need to pay for any of the things I just mentioned.
OpenCart, being one of the open source eCommerce platforms, is not going to host your website or give you a domain name. That means you’ll have to get everything yourself. The domain name will cost around $10 a month, and an OpenCart-ready hosting is going to set you back around $80 a month (or a bit more).
Then, when you first fire OpenCart up, you’ll find that your store will be presented in a very basic framework that lacks the sophistication – to fix that, you can either start designing from scratch or purchase a template.
Here, OpenCart’s got your back. There is a fairly solid library of in-house and third-party templates, perfectly suited for any website using the platform. The good news is, they’re not that expensive, with most decent-looking templates routinely going for less than $50.
Same way, your starter online store might be missing a feature or two – so you’ll need to use the help of the app store to get everything sorted. Similar to templates, the add-ons will cost under $50.
Overall, OpenCart is a pretty decent option for a lot of less-experienced users that are not planning on building the next Amazon any time soon. It's a simple no-thrills solution - and if this is what's you're after - go for it.
X-Cart is a flexible, self-hosted platform that is well suited for growing stores. Every aspect of X-Cart is highly customizable, so the platform is naturally prepared to grow together with the changing needs of your business.
However, that flexibility may bite back a little against users that aren’t acquainted with coding.
For those with no HTML experience, X-Cart might prove to be seriously tricky – I’d call this a prerequisite of using this platform.
And while this platform offers plenty of premium options for small and large businesses alike – there’s also an open-source option, catered specifically for web developers.
The free version gives you the complete basics of what is required to build an online website. You’ll be able to make one with as many products as you would like.
You get most of the main features of an eCommerce platform – such as all the freedom to get the best out of your SEO optimization, and a built-in extensive app store.
But it’s worth noting that editing an X-Cart site might turn into an absolute nightmare for beginners. I’m not a newbie myself, but there were several occasions when I ended up blankly staring at the editor, thinking what on earth is going on.
That said, after you persevere and put everything together, the learning curve gives way to an intuitive operating system that is loaded with high-end features.
That being said – the free open-source version will still require you to make an investment.
X-Cart is quite demanding for resources. Even the smallest website will require 1 CPU core and 1 GB of DDR4 RAM, and the demands rise significantly with extra visitors, SKUs, or categories, meaning server space will be a major X-Cart expense.
So – while there is a $0 tier, it’s difficult to master, and will require knowledge of managing not only an online store but a powerful VPS as well.
For more experienced eCommerce developers, it’s certainly a powerful solution to consider. And the newbies…are better off either paying up or moving elsewhere.
X-Cart offers a fair amount of paid plans. Most users will be interested in the X-Cart Cloud.
Starting at $49 a month, it seriously reduces the amount of work required from the user. Unlike the tricky-to-use open-source option, this one is perfectly suited for beginners.
And not only it holds your hand throughout the entire setup and sale process – and the Cloud option also includes hosting, so you don’t have to worry about that part, too.
No matter what tier you select, you will get an unlimited catalog, multilingual capabilities, and access to both free and paid templates. There will also be all easy SEO features and intuitive mobile integration that will automatically optimize your store for phone or tablet viewing.
However, you will probably want to upgrade as your business grows. The next price tier (currently available for a one-time licensing fee of $495) allows you to host customer reviews, product comparisons, custom tabs, and various site navigation tools that make it easier for your customers to find what they are looking for.
This is where the pricing ends, right?
There are also additional fees to work with. The licensing fee is good for life, but it does leave you tied to the version of the product you bought into.
The subscription plan offers one free update, but from that point forward you will need to pay for new versions – and that can add up to a serious sum of money as years go by.
And also, as seen below, there are add-on applications for marketing, administration, etc. They will cost more money – the themes are routinely going for over $100, and the range of app pricing goes just about anywhere.
That said, the powerful features do well to justify the occasional costs. X-Cart enables lots of handy (and often fairly unique) business features, including email lists, online auctions, “favorited items” lists for customers, low stock notifications for inventorying, and one-click checkout.
However – in this post, we’re looking for a free eCommerce platform.
And while I appreciate the power and customizability of the X-Cart’s open-source plan, the pricing of the more powerful options, updates, and add-ons combine into something genuinely frightening.
But if you can look past that, you’ll come to find that the templates are beautiful, the features are top-notch, and the flexibility is quite substantial.
A store can start small on X-Cart and enjoy plenty of room to grow. The interface may not be for beginners, and the fees do stack up - but the ultimate results are pretty good.
If you’re looking for total flexibility, osCommerce is going to be a great option. You’ll also be able to get the best out of this platform thanks to its solid community of users, which can serve as a great guiding light.
Sure, there are some shortcomings.
osCommerce is also notorious for being limited in its scalability. Though small- to moderate-sized stores will likely benefit from its front end catalog management, as well as the back end inventory, the bigger your store gets, the more the cracks may start to show.
Though I couldn’t repeat it myself on a larger scale (my apologies, but that would require building a massive business!), the internet is full of stories of caution. Mostly on how larger osCommerce websites were crashing or suffering from other errors that can ultimately be harmful to your web traffic and your business as a whole.
As a whole, osCommerce is a free product, and won’t “accidentally” ask you to sign up for an expensive plan, or buy a feature in order to sell in one or another way.
And to be completely fair – not like the platform is doing all that much to sell itself to people.
Seriously – just have a look at the demo/stock page you’re going to see once you sign up.
Literally selling products from 1999, and featuring a design that would make an old IBM desktop blush, osCommerce certainly doesn’t look like a great catch.
But oh – it’s customizable alright. Don’t just take my word for it – just see what some other companies did with this as their starting point:
Indeed – by using osCommerce, you effectively gain access to edit everything just the way you want to.
This platform allows for important functions such as customizable promotions that give you the ability to tailor unique events and opportunities to your customers, and the design interface is fairly intuitive.
Users of osCommerce can also automate tax settings so that regionally applicable sales taxes are automatically applied to purchases. Additionally, you can create custom shopping cart/checkout experiences, manage email lists to establish a base of repeat customers, and maintain an unlimited catalog of items.
osCommerce also features automatic payment integration. This means it will be immediately compatible with most major forms of payment, including PayPal and a variety of different credit/debit cards.
All of that is free.
As it is common with open-source apps, your main spending on osCommerce will be from buying server space and hosting.
Ultimately, osCommerce is an approachable, user-friendly platform that benefits from a generously interactive community.
Because of scalability and cosmetic limitations, some people may use osCommerce as a stepping stone to more comprehensive platforms like WooCommerce.
Magento Open Source is a flexible platform produced by Adobe. People that have a familiarity with code will find that this program is limited only by their imagination.
However, as is usually the case, the robust range of customization is both a blessing and a curse.
On one hand, the customization features make it easy to grow your store in real-time. On the other hand, it also makes it hard for the not so software savvy user to get around.
Fortunately, there is an active user community that shares resources and insights, as well as the expansive assistance library that ranges from topics about growing your business to making your store look great. But it doesn’t mean that you’ll get all your stuff solved for you. Most people may still find themselves hiring developers or going down the rabbit hole and learning all the required skills.
The free version of Magento comes with automatic mobile optimization, catalog management, one-click purchasing capabilities, and access to the app marketplace for enhanced functionality.
Platform’s dashboard, while pretty minimalist, is quite functional and after a bit of practice, you should be gliding through it with ease.
The Magento U (may or may not stand for “university”) will also include a fair amount of courses that will help you get a lot more better at building and managing Magento sites.
All of these things facilitate a fairly user-friendly experience. However, the vast majority of capabilities are behind a paywall.
Adobe doesn’t play around. It may be a solid free eCommerce platform from start, but some advanced features will cost you – and cost you a lot.
The available features include powerful SEO tools that help with keyword optimization, multi-vendor sales options, UI and UX tools, and even personalized web hosting options.
And since it’s an Adobe product – all of this pleasure may cost you a pretty penny. It’s no anomaly for Magento themes to cost $500 or even more, the same goes for some of the more advanced vendor apps.
But these are just the expenses for the add-ons. You might also have to pay just to get your website off the ground.
Adobe offers some premium plans, that include expert store building and management help!
However, there’s no list of pricing choices to see what you’re getting at. Instead, the company will schedule you a (free) demo, and tailor a custom solution fit the most for you.
How much will that cost? It’s anyone’s guess – but don’t expect the starter fee to be any lower than $5,000, and then also consider the costs for servers and management.
And that’s not all. You may be interested in the platform’s “Enterprise” option instead.
Sites on Magento “Enterprise” sites benefit from constant email and site monitoring and even come with a dedicated “support agent” that will help to address your concerns as they arise.
Consequently, it seems that the paid plans target not the online startup store, but bigger and already established businesses.
This does, however, put the Average Joe in a bit of a pickle as the free demo mode will probably not have enough to offer, while the bigger plans may very well have too much.
If you are looking for a truly free eCommerce platform, this platform will be good only if you’re looking to go full-time on it.
Magento is super powerful, highly-customizable, and perfect for business of all sizes. But if you're a small business owner, currently not in possession of a full bag with a dollar sign on it, perhaps go elsewhere.
PrestaShop is an open-source platform – meaning that it won’t give you a hosting account to host your website in. But if you have one already – and are now looking for a proper free eCommerce platform to sell with, PrestaShop is one of the top options out there.
However – I’ll have to be blunt with you. Even though this platform is free, don’t just expect to not pay anything and build a massive free eCommerce website.
The platform is both quite tricky to use (meaning it’s going to require a lot of time and maybe the services of a professional developer) – and if you’re not willing to spend days putting everything together, you might have to shake your wallet dry.
Put everything together, and now you are dealing with a platform that may be pricier and much more complicated than some premium options.
But if you know how to deal with it – it can be a perfect platform for growing your business. Life’s weird like this – let me explain.
The free version of PrestaShop gives you the ability to upload an unlimited number of products. You can even create and sell digital downloads at no extra cost.
It also includes several basic payment methods to get you started (including PayPal, debit, credit, and bank transfers), with many more methods available for purchase.
The many modules and addons available will ultimately advantage the growing business. The open-source functionality, paired with a marketplace that includes thousands of themes and features, makes PrestaShop extremely scalable. In other words, if you can think of a feature, chances are you will be able to add it to your store.
And what’s even better, a good portion of these themes are completely free.
Then, there are templates.
Templates are categorized into very precise sections such as pet care, jewelry, clothing, etc., making it easy to establish a visual motif that is appropriate to your business.
Some cost money ($50-100 being the median), but there are also plenty of free ones. However, even with the highly targeted templates and features, setting up your store will take time.
What is it like to use all of this together?
Well, building your catalog and integrating compatible modules can be challenging, and mistakes come at great cost to the operation of your website. PrestaShop stores are known for being glitchy, and the experienced hand of a developer is often recommended to limit the possibility of errors.
However, the day-to-day operations using the product are pretty user-friendly.
Through a straightforward dashboard, you can upload new products and descriptions, and even test the content for its SEO friendliness, all with a few clicks of a button. You can then view the performance of your SEO efforts via an onboard analytic system that studies site traffic and sales.
There are also many other paid features that give you a ton of control over how customers experience your store. For example, creating coupons, promotions, and intuitive product recommendations are all easy features you can access to enhance sales.
You can also customize the checkout process, engineering it to be as simple as a single click. At your discretion, shipping and tax information can be automatically built into every purchase to streamline your record keeping.
Looking to get started with PrestaShop? Well, as it is the case with open-source platforms, you’ll need to source (sorry) yourself a hosting package and a domain name.
What happens then? Well, it can be very difficult to get a sense of exactly how much money you might wind up spending as you go in.
Because there are no pre-packaged configurations, costs will simply accumulate as you build your website, and add new functionality. However, the fees end up looking quite steep. For instance, PrestaShop’s own SEO Pack will cost you north of $300.
Sure, paid modules are nothing new—platforms have to make their money somewhere—but in this case, many important business features are reserved for paying customers. This includes integration with major marketplaces such as Amazon, Facebook, and eBay. Looking to get that, too? Pay up – for instance, Amazon’s gonna cost ya another $229.
Overall, PrestaShop’s flexibility is certainly its biggest strength. It’s a perfect option for a small store to grow in size with relative ease. With the free version of the platform, you can expand your shop endlessly with a limitless catalog. And while the a la carte add-on store can be a bit frustrating and expensive to take advantage of, it can also a great way to gradually invest into your store with no long-term commitments.
If you don't make money now, but plan to have money later, why not? PrestaShop can be a great tool for a growing website.
In many cases, open-source is seen as a synonym for “horribly complicated”. As opposed to the platforms that get everything done for you, the open-source options have a reputation for making the users’ life a misery.
CubeCart is a free eCommerce platform that is well suited for users who would like something simple. The design interface has been specially optimized to make it approachable for those who do not have web development experience.
And even though it is approachable, it’s certainly not basic.
To get CubeCart up and running, you’ll need nothing but a hosting account and a domain. It’s not very demanding in terms of resources, so you shouldn’t have to invest that much.
In terms of cataloging, placing customer orders, and uploading product photos and videos, the sky is the limit. You won’t need to pay anything to continue expanding your business – new apps, plugins, or subscription plans and simply not needed.
I was impressed with how many built-in features for improving customer experience there are. CubeCart makes it really easy to create coupons, promotions, special events, and auctions.
It is also very easy for repeat customers to place orders thanks to a “membership” database that safely stores shipping and payment information.
Payment options are robust and include all major types of credit cards, as well as many other popular web-friendly gateways. The list includes PayPal, WebtoPay, WorldPay, IcePay, and more.
Additional features are available via the CubeCart addon store. There is a surprising amount of free applications here – pretty much all main eCommerce features are available without any upfront fee required.
I also liked the onboard analytic features that allowed to easily see some interesting data. You get information that goes beyond “how many people visited my site” – you can also see and compare the performance of your products, as well as see your top customers.
CubeCart is decent if you’re looking to make a basic online shop. But I’d have a hard time recommending it for anything more than that. For instance, if you’re looking to load your website with stunning designs, this is a part where your smile is going to turn into a frown.
CubeCart has a template store, but it includes only over 20 options. Some of them are free, others will cost you (albeit, they will be quite cheap). But the last time any of these racked up any design awards, I was still in elementary school.
Experienced coders might be able to do a little bit more with the platform, but there are limitations all the same. And since the community of this platform isn’t all that massive, you’ll have to trust a pretty limited library of resources.
If whatever's provided by CubeCart is good for you, and you're fine with a basic website - then this is the right option. For everything else…Consider scrolling up.
Looking to pick a free eCommerce platform? I can’t just blindly pick one for you – the features that will matter to your business will depend on the type of operation that you run.
However, there are a few basic eCommerce features that are useful for just about any business. Let’s go through them.
Order and inventory management are both necessary components of a healthy business. In order to keep everything in check, things need to be documented to the max. Fortunately, these features are becoming increasingly automated.
Many platforms are able to automatically log orders and update your inventory accordingly.
Tax features are of similar importance. Automated sales tax computation makes bookkeeping significantly simpler and ensures that your store stays on the right side of the law.
It can be good for business to have easy ways to provide your customers with promotions and discounts. Most platforms give you the opportunity to easily create discount codes that will draw in shoppers.
But that’s not all – look for plugins and in-house features for abandoned cart recovery, and automated discounts or free shipping after a certain sum.
Analytics features help you see not just how your website is performing but possibly even how individual products are doing.
By understanding your data you can better determine what is working at your store and what isn’t. All free eCommerce platforms featured on this list include at least some sort of analytics capability.
A good marketing interface will help you to attract customers that might not otherwise have known about your store. Thanks to social media, it is now easier than ever to instantly reach thousands of new people.
Consequently, it is often beneficial to have a platform that can intuitively interact with various large-scale digital marketing opportunities. For this reason, many platforms will include marketing “hubs” where you can examine the performance of advertisements from websites like Facebook, Instagram, and Google.
In this post, I spoke about two main types of products – closed source, and open source eCommerce platforms.
They can both be free, and they can both be used to sell products and services. But really, this is where the similarities end.
Open-source platforms are kind of like software that you can download on your computer. Only that instead of your computer, you put them in your own hosting server. And if you own that, you don’t have to pay any company for building and managing your site. What you build is what you get, and it’s yours. Forever.
It’s also probably the best way to get a custom-tailored eCommerce page because such programs can be freely altered to your heart’s content. So you are limited only by your imagination as you craft your store.
However, for the common business owner, more focused on selling rather than developing websites, open-source eCommerce platforms can be very much not worth the effort.
Closed-source eCommerce options are a service. You log in, you pay your monthly fees, and are allowed to use the platform to do your business. There’s no hassle dealing with buying and maintaining hosting, or setting everything up yourself. The platform does all the job for you.
However, on such platforms, you’re pretty much locked in to what you’re given. For instace, the providers have a full right to charge you for the features you could get for free while going open-source! And for some, that lack of freedom is a massive turn-off.
Is it for you?
Whether or not open-sourcing is right for you will depend on the outcome that you are looking for. If you want something truly unique, this is a good way to get it, but be prepared to work for it.
If you want a nice shop that looks good and works TODAY – closed-source is your best bet.
In this post, we’re talking all about the free options. So, I’m risking to get tomatoes thrown at me, but here goes:
Sometimes it is a good idea to spend at least a little bit of money on your eCommerce store.
While a lot of entry-level features area available for free (indeed, these solutions can even be quite generous), growing stores generally need the enhanced flexibility of paid add-ons and templates.
The best templates, and the best functionality is often hidden under a paywall. And I myself remember spending a couple of days trying to edit a website theme to look like a premium one that I liked.
Instead, I could’ve been smart, paid $20 for the real thing, and spent my whole weekend playing video games instead.
When looking for the best free eCommerce platform, don’t just be frugal – be smart, too. There are plenty of great ways to save money with the platforms I talked about – but your time is a valuable resource as well.
There is a free eCommerce platform for businesses of every size. Here is a recap of what we’ve gone over to this point.
WooCommerce is extremely versatile and gives users a lot of opportunities for seamless website growth. It can be challenging for the inexperienced, but the finished product tends to impress.
Ecwid is a relatively user-friendly platform. Thanks to a good customer support system, it is approachable, but most stores will need one of their paid plans.
Big Cartel is extremely easy and affordable. The layout is specifically designed for artists, but any small store should do fine.
OpenCart is a relatively easy-to-use platform that gives you access to most basic but important features. Though it may not be flexible enough for big stores, small- to medium-sized businesses should be fine.
X-Cart is great for growing businesses, but it comes with pricey fees and a steep learning curve.
osCommerce is a user-friendly but still very flexible platform for small- to medium-sized businesses. Stores tend to get buggy with high levels of traffic, but it should do well at meeting the needs of the average customer.
Magento Open Source can cost many thousands of dollars, and navigation is known to be challenging. However, the sites look great, and they are endlessly scalable for growing businesses. This will be a good option for large shops.
PrestaShop is a little pricey, but the high levels of flexibility favor growing businesses. Just mind the steep learning curve.
CubeCart is an easy-to-use platform that is great for small to medium-sized businesses.