What are the best free eCommerce platforms to build my online business?
💡 Quick Answer: When it comes to building an online store without breaking the bank, free eCommerce platforms are the ideal solution. The best free eCommerce platform for you depends on your specific business needs. Here are our recommendations for each business category:
- Square Online (small online store)
- Big Cartel (selling unique products)
- Gumroad (digital products)
- PrestaShop (large catalog)
- WooCommerce (dropshipping)
- WooCommerce (B2B eCommerce)
Trust me, building a custom website with a developer isn’t easy.
Sure, you can design your store exactly how you envision it.
But let’s be real.
It can be expensive and time-consuming. And honestly, you’ll find it a bit overwhelming if you’re just starting out.
That’s why eCommerce platforms are so popular.
They offer a bunch of tools and features that make it a breeze to showcase your products, handle payments, and make sales like a pro.
You don’t need to be a tech whiz or hire an expensive developer to get your digital store up and running. With these platforms, you’ll be able to focus on what matters - your products and customers.
In this guide, we’ll review and compare the best free ecommerce platforms.
You won’t find Shopify, Wix, or Squarespace on our list. We’re talking about free platforms - no hidden monthly fees or sneaky free trials here!
These are all completely free eCommerce platforms that can give you a head start without breaking the bank.
Let’s dive in.
What eCommerce platforms can do for you?
Before we get to the list of popular free eCommerce platforms, let’s quickly review how these platforms can help you run your online business.
Easy store setup
Setting up a digital store has never been easier. You don’t need to know any coding or special technical skills. Creating a virtual storefront and customizing the design to match your brand is easy.
Showcase your products
Make your products look great and boost sales with captivating product pages. You can use pre-made templates and easily add images, descriptions, and customer reviews. It’s all about making your products shine.
Secure payment processing
What about getting paid?
Many free eCommerce platforms provide secure payment gateways. You don’t have to worry about setting up a third-party payment processor. And your customers can pay using their preferred methods.
Check out the resources below to learn more about accepting eCommerce payments:
- 17 Best Payment Gateways for Dropshipping & eCommerce
- 10 Top PayPal Alternatives for eCommerce: A Comparison Guide
Keeping on top of orders and inventory becomes challenging as your business grows.
Some eCommerce platforms come with built-in order management tools. You can track sales and stock levels like clockwork to keep your business running smoothly.
Analytics and reports
You need to track and measure performance to keep your store growing. Most platforms on our list include built-in analytics to track sales, customer behavior, and traffic.
9 Best free eCommerce platforms
Let’s get down to business.
Here are the best free eCommerce platforms out there that you can start using today. Get ready to build your store without spending a single cent.
If you’re a beginner, you might want to learn more about the basics before you create your store. Use the resources below to get up to speed and start your business on a solid foundation:
- How to Write an eCommerce Business Plan + 3 High Profit Ideas
- What Are the Best eCommerce Business Models in 2023?
1. Square Online
Square Online is a free eCommerce platform that helps you create and manage your storefront without any technical knowledge. It has an easy-to-use store builder that makes the design process simple and efficient.
The platform is free to use and comes with built-in analytics, payment processing, and inventory management features.
Advantages of Square Online:
This is one of the most intuitive store builders you’ll find. Everything is designed with user experience in mind. Even if you have zero web design knowledge, you can create a functional store that looks great in no time.
Seamless integration with Square payment system
Square Online seamlessly integrates with Square’s payment system. Your customers get a trustworthy and safe checkout experience, and you get hassle-free payment processing.
Square Online’s templates are responsive and look good on any device. You need to offer a great mobile shopping experience to make money with eCommerce in 2023. Mobile sales now account for 43.4% of total retail ecommerce sales.
Drawbacks of Square Online:
While Square Online offers a range of templates, customization options are lacking. It’s perfect for beginners. But advanced users that want complete control over design elements might find other free eCommerce platforms more suitable.
Additional costs for premium features
Creating a functional store is completely free. However, you must upgrade to a paid plan to remove the Square branding and connect a custom domain. Most store owners will quickly outgrow the free plan and need to upgrade.
What type of business Square Online is best suited for?
Square Online is a good option for beginners and small eCommerce businesses. The platform’s ease of use and integrated payment system are standout features. But to create a free store without Square ads all over the place, you’ll need to look at other platforms.
Ecwid is a free eCommerce platform with a versatile approach to building your online store. It sets itself apart with its ability to embed your online store into existing websites, blogs, or social media pages. If you already have an online presence and want to seamlessly integrate a digital store, Ecwid is a great option.
Advantages of Ecwid:
You can integrate your store virtually anywhere. Whether you have a website or social media page, you’ll be able to add your store and sell products online.
Abandoned cart recovery
Ecwid comes with a built-in abandoned cart recovery tool. This feature encourages customers who left items in their carts to return and complete their purchases. We’re not talking about a free trial either; it’s included with every plan.
It has a user-friendly interface that simplifies managing your inventory and customer orders. From adding new items to tracking sales, Ecwid has got you covered.
Drawbacks of Ecwid:
Ecwid provides a single free theme. You’ll have more options using WordPress and installing the Ecwid plugin. But it’s still a drawback compared to other standalone free eCommerce website platforms.
Premium features at a cost
The Ecwid free plan has basic functionality and limits the number of products you can sell. You’ll need to upgrade to a paid account if you have an extensive product range.
What type of business Ecwid is best suited for?
Ecwid is an excellent fit if you already have an established online presence. It’s a hassle-free eCommerce solution. If you own a website or have an engaged social media following, Ecwid can seamlessly integrate with your existing platforms.
But it lacks key features and has fewer themes than some other platforms on the list.
3. Big Cartel
Big Cartel is a free eCommerce platform that caters to creatives and artists. More than 83,000 online stores use the platform. It’s a useful tool for showcasing and selling one-of-a-kind creations. It does the basics really well.
Advantages of Big Cartel:
Templates designed for artists
Big Cartel offers a range of templates specifically designed for creative businesses. From showcasing artwork to selling handmade crafts, the platform helps you make your products look appealing.
Simple and intuitive
It’s a user-friendly platform. Big Cartel is for entrepreneurs who want to focus on their craft without getting bogged down by the technical aspects of running an eCommerce site.
The platform provides essential tools for managing inventory and processing orders. You can spend more time creating and less time managing your store.
Built-in tools can be helpful. But you can also use third-party tools to enhance different aspects of your business. Check out our guide on the best AI tools for eCommerce to see how you can optimize your online business.
Drawbacks of Big Cartel:
While Big Cartel is a good option for small businesses, it has limitations. It’s not suited to larger stores with extensive product catalogs. The free plan is restricted to just five products.
Limited customer support
There’s no live chat option. The only way to contact Big Cartel is via email between 8 am - 6 pm EST on weekdays. You’ll have to wait until Monday if you have issues with the platform on the weekend.
What type of business Big Cartel is best suited for?
Big Cartel is ideal for creatives looking to sell unique products. The platform has a good range of tailored templates and a user-friendly interface.
It’s not the best option for entrepreneurs that want to quickly grow their business. The free plan is limited, and there are more scalable options out there.
WooCommerce is a powerful eCommerce platform that seamlessly integrates with WordPress. If you like the flexibility of WordPress, then WooCommerce is a great choice. You can transform your website into a fully functional online store.
There’s a huge community around WooCommerce. You’ll find plugins to add features and functionality to your store and an engaged community of developers willing to offer advice when needed.
Advantages of WooCommerce:
Seamless integration with WordPress
If you love WordPress, you’re going to love WooCommerce. It works just like the CMS platform. You manage the design of your site through the backend and publish when you’re ready to launch.
Extensive customization options
There are so many options when it comes to customizing your WooCommerce store. You’ll find thousands of free and paid themes to choose from. And you can use a free drag-and-drop website builder like Beaver Builder to make further changes.
Scalability and flexibility
WooCommerce grows with you. This free eCommerce platform can handle everything from a small boutique shop to a large-scale enterprise.
Drawbacks of WooCommerce:
Requires WordPress knowledge
WooCommerce is a dream for WordPress users. But if you’re new to the CMS, you might find the learning curve a bit steep. Some basic WordPress knowledge is needed to make the most of the platform.
You’ll need to manage your own domain, web hosting, security, and maintenance. While this provides more control, it’s a drawback for beginners. A fully managed solution is a better option for newbies.
What type of business WooCommerce is best suited for?
If you value customization and scalability, WooCommerce is the ideal choice. This platform caters to a wide range of businesses. It’s a good fit for new stores, medium-sized businesses, and even large brands.
WooCommerce is a good option if you want to start a dropshipping store. There are lots of plugins you can use to help manage your business.
OpenCart is an open-source eCommerce platform that is free to use. It has everything you need to build and manage an online store, including a user-friendly interface.
The platform has gained popularity since its release in 1999. It has a large community of developers and users online. Like WooCommerce, it’s a self-hosted platform.
Advantages of OpenCart:
Easy to customize
OpenCart is highly customizable. You can modify the platform any way that you like. While that might sound technically challenging, it isn’t. OpenCart has a really user-friendly interface. You can easily customize your store’s design and layout to reflect your brand identity.
Huge range of extensions
There’s a vast library of extensions and modules to enhance your store’s functionality. Whether you want to offer new payment gateways or integrate third-party services, you can do it with OpenCart.
Built-in SEO features can help you optimize your store and increase visibility in search results. It won’t rival Semrush or Ahrefs, but it’s excellent value for a free eCommerce platform.
Drawbacks of OpenCart:
Hosting and security
You’re responsible for managing your hosting and the security of your website. It requires more technical knowledge than some other platforms.
OpenCart offers lots of themes, but the quality does vary. Some are more polished than others.
What type of business OpenCart is best suited for?
OpenCart is a good option for large and medium-sized businesses looking for a flexible eCommerce solution. You’ll appreciate the platform’s scalability if you have an extensive product catalog.
It’s a good fit for store owners with some development experience. But if you’re looking to create your first online store, there are easier platforms to use.
6. Magento Open Source
Magento Open Source is a powerful eCommerce platform developed by Adobe. It offers extensive flexibility and scalability. The platform is used by major brands like Samsung and Nespresso and thousands of smaller eCommerce stores.
It’s an advanced eCommerce platform that offers unbelievable value.
But it’s not a good option for beginners. You need web development experience to make the most of the platform.
Advantages of Magento Open Source:
It’s an open-source platform. That means you have complete control over the design and functionality of your store. You can customize every aspect.
This is a serious eCommerce platform. It can handle as many products and customer orders as you need it to, making it an ideal solution for stores with ambitious growth plans.
Rich feature set
There’s an impressive range of built-in features. You’ll find everything from product management and flexible payment options to marketing and customer service tools.
Drawbacks of Magento Open Source:
Technical expertise required
Magento requires much higher technical expertise than most platforms. You’ll need the assistance of developers if you’re not confident in your web development skills.
It’s a robust platform with extensive functionality. But that comes with a high demand for server resources. If you’re a smaller business, a platform like Magento is probably overkill for your needs.
What Type of Business is Magento Open Source Best Suited for?
Magento Open Source is best suited for large businesses. It can manage extensive product catalogs and complex customizations. If you value scalability and have access to technical expertise, it’s a good option.
For smaller stores and beginners, you’ll find that other platforms are more suitable for your needs.
Gumroad is a user-friendly eCommerce platform that helps creators sell their digital and physical products. This platform is built for writers, artists, musicians, and designers.
While Gumroad supports physical merchandise sales, it’s primarily designed to sell digital products. If you want to sell ebooks, music, videos, or software, this platform is for you.
Advantages of Gumroad:
Easy product sales
Gumroad streamlines the process of selling digital products. Create the product on Gumroad and add the auto-generated link to your website or social media profile. That’s all you need to do to start selling.
You can see how often a product has been viewed and purchased in an easy-to-understand dashboard. Gumroad even shows you which channels generated the most sales - no Google Analytics required.
Great customer support
There’s an active Gumroad community and development team. The platform is constantly being updated and improved. Check out their Twitter profile to see for yourself.
Drawbacks of Gumroad:
While Gumroad is easy to set up, its customization options are limited. This is a tool that allows you to sell online rather than a fully-fledged eCommerce platform.
Gumroad is free to use. But you must pay a transaction fee on every sale you make. If you have a high sales volume, there are more affordable options out there.
What type of business is Gumroad best suited for?
Gumroad is ideal for creators looking to sell digital products to their audience. There’s a reason it’s so popular with artists and writers.
But it’s not a good choice for eCommerce stores with an extensive product catalog. You’ll need to upgrade to a paid subscription to add your entire product range. And the inventory management system could be more user-friendly.
PrestaShop is an open-source eCommerce platform. It’s free to download, and you can modify it any way you want. It comes with a wide range of features to help you build and manage your online store.
You can do the basics, like adding products and integrating payment gateways. But there are also features to help you make sales, including creating product bundles, coupons, and abandoned cart emails.
Advantages of PrestaShop:
The platform has a vast library of add-ons, modules, and themes in the PrestaShop Addons Marketplace. A lot of these are free, but you will need to pay for some. As the platform is open-source, you have complete control over customization.
PrestaShop is a popular platform, and there’s an active community online. That means you can always find advice when you need it.
PrestaShop is built to accommodate businesses of all sizes. Whether you’re just starting or looking to scale, PrestaShop can meet your needs. You won’t experience any drops in performance as you expand your product catalog and drive more traffic to your store.
Looking to scale your eCommerce business? Make sure you check out the proven tactics revealed in the resources below:
- 19 of the Best Ecommerce Strategies for Today and Tomorrow
- 10 Proven Strategies to Grow Your eCommerce Business During a Recession
Drawbacks of PrestaShop:
Technical expertise required
You’ll need some technical skills to set up and manage your store. There is a paid version that’s more user-friendly, but using the free plan requires some coding knowledge.
Hosting and security
PrestaShop is a self-hosted platform. You need to manage the hosting and security of your store.
What type of business is PrestaShop best suited for?
PrestaShop is a great option for tech-savvy store owners looking for a scalable eCommerce solution. You can create a unique customer shopping experience.
It’s more user-friendly than Magento, but you’ll still find it a bit too complicated if you don’t have any web development experience.
CubeCart is a popular eCommerce platform with an intuitive online store builder. It has a straightforward setup and robust functionality. And it’s easy to use compared to other open-source platforms. There are also a bunch of free features that other platforms charge for.
Advantages of CubeCart:
CubeCart has a user-friendly interface that makes it accessible to beginners. You can quickly set up your store, customize the design, and start making sales.
Extensive range of ecommerce features
It comes equipped with essential tools for inventory management, order processing, and customer support. The free version even comes with advanced features like customer login and ReCaptcha.
There are many customizable templates to choose from. You will need some HTML knowledge for advanced customization.
Drawbacks of CubeCart:
Limited third-party integrations
CubeCart doesn’t have a big active community like WooCommerce or PrestaShop. That means there are fewer third-party integrations and extensions you can add to your store.
Limited customer support
Like other open-source platforms, there is no free customer support. The issue is that the CubeCart knowledge base is much smaller, and the online community is less active. Getting advice can be challenging.
What type of business is CubeCart best suited for?
If you want to try an open-source platform but feel intimidated by Magento and PrestaShop, CubeCart is a good option. It has a user-friendly interface, essential features, and a straightforward setup process.
The platform might not be the best fit for large-scale enterprises. It lacks some of the advanced features offered by more established eCommerce platforms like Magento and WooCommerce.
How to choose which eCommerce platform is best for your business?
These are the best free eCommerce platforms around. But how do you know which is the right option for you?
Well, if you base your decision on popularity, WooCommerce is the most used free ecommerce platform.
Market share of leading eCommerce software platforms and technologies worldwide as of July 2023:
But there are other more important factors you need to consider. It really depends on the size and type of eCommerce business you are running.
Here are the best eCommerce platforms for each specific business model.
For a small online store: Square Online
If you’re starting a small online store with a limited product range, simplicity and ease of use should be your top priorities. That’s where Square Online excels.
It’s a user-friendly platform with a straightforward setup process and easy store management. Square Online is ideal for beginners with zero technical knowledge.
For selling unique products: Big Cartel
If you sell handmade or unique products, Big Cartel is a perfect match. It provides tailored templates to showcase artwork and crafts.
The interface is really simple to use. You don’t need to spend any time learning how the platform works. Add your products, make a few changes to the design, and start making sales.
For digital products: Gumroad
Gumroad is the best option if you primarily sell digital products. It’s a simple and user-friendly platform that lets you quickly set up a customizable online store, manage your products, and handle transactions.
For large stores: PrestaShop
If you have a big product catalog and ambitious growth plans, you need a platform that can scale and offers robust customization.
PrestaShop is a great choice. It’s an open-source platform, so the customization options are endless. It’s also built to scale and can handle lots of traffic and an extensive product catalog.
For dropshipping: WooCommerce
Third-party integrations can make the dropshipping process more straightforward. That’s why WooCommerce is the best free eCommerce platform for dropshipping.
You can add integrations that handle order fulfillment, product listings, marketing, and more.
Dropshipping is a business model where paid eCommerce solutions can be worth it.
For example, if you use Shopify, you can add SaleHoo Dropship to your store. Then, you’ll be able to access hand-picked AliExpress dropshipping products and add them to your store in just a couple of clicks.
For B2B eCommerce: WooCommerce
If your business sells to other businesses, look for a platform that provides B2B-focused features like custom pricing, bulk ordering, and a streamlined wholesale experience.
WooCommerce is the best free option. You can add B2B extensions that do everything from account registration and invoice payments to wholesale pricing and minimum order quantities.
How to run a successful online business using an eCommerce platform
Running a successful online business requires much more than setting up a store and listing products.
Here are some key tips and strategies to help you succeed and grow your eCommerce empire.
Focus on user experience
Create a user-friendly store that provides a seamless shopping experience. Make sure your website is intuitive, visually appealing, and mobile-friendly.
Pay close attention to the checkout process. You’ve done the hard work of getting people to visit your store and add a product to their basket. Don’t lose out on sales with a lengthy or complicated checkout process.
High-quality product pages
Product images and descriptions are crucial elements of a successful eCommerce store. They play a significant role in attracting potential buyers and converting them into customers.
Invest in professional product photography and use multiple images that showcase the product from different angles. Customers should be able to zoom in and see details clearly.
When it comes to product descriptions, highlight the most important features and benefits. Explain how your product can solve a problem or fulfill a need for the customer.
You can learn more about how to create product pages that convert in the resources below:
- How to Craft High-Converting Ecommerce Landing Pages
- A Complete Guide to eCommerce Optimization (2023)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the most effective ways to attract potential customers to your store. A 2022 study found that 33% of total eCommerce traffic comes from organic search. And nearly half of consumers have used Google to discover or find a new product.
Conduct keyword research, optimize product pages, and create valuable content to help customers find you on search engines.
Offer excellent customer service
Excellent customer service can lead to higher customer satisfaction, positive word-of-mouth, and repeat purchases. It can make all the difference when it comes to sustainable business growth.
Make sure you respond promptly to inquiries and address any customer concerns.
Check out our guide for tips on providing exceptional customer service.
You can have an amazing store and excellent customer service, but you’ll struggle to make any money without great products. Your products are the backbone of your business.
Identify pain points that your target audience faces and find products that offer practical solutions. If you need some help finding lucrative product ideas, you can use SaleHoo Labs.
SaleHoo Labs analyzes data from Amazon and eBay to help you find high-demand and low-competition products to sell.
Monitor and analyze performance
Once your online business is up and running, you need to monitor and analyze performance. This will help you understand what’s working and what needs improvement.
Depending on the platform you use, you’ll be able to see website traffic, sales, and customer behavior data.
Pay close attention to conversion rates, bounce rates, and average order value. These metrics tell you a lot about how effective your store is at generating sales. Check out our guide to discover the eCommerce metrics you need to be tracking.
Start your online business with a free eCommerce platform
The right eCommerce platform provides a solid foundation for your online business. It’s worth taking some time to choose the best ecommerce platform for your unique needs and goals.
Switching to a different platform can be difficult once you’ve built your site. This isn’t a decision you want to rush.
Whether you’re looking to launch your first store or an established business looking to scale, there’s a platform out there for you.
If you’re ready to take the next step in your eCommerce journey, check out SaleHoo Directory. It’s the best place to find reliable suppliers and source high-quality products for your online store.
And if you’re interested in dropshipping, SaleHoo Dropship can help you find winning products on AliExpress. Each product is hand-picked by our team of eCommerce experts and sold by reliable suppliers so you can take out the guesswork and start making sales.
If you have questions about choosing an eCommerce platform, our dedicated support team is here to help.