The 23 Best Free eCommerce Platforms for 2021 (Free and Paid)

Mobile-responsive-store.jpg

Looking to create an eCommerce website or online store, but don’t have a large budget? Don’t worry! There are many low-cost or even free eCommerce websites and platforms available.

While it can be confusing to find one that fits your budget and needs, we’re here to walk you through the selection process.

In this post, we’ll cover 23 of the best low cost or free platforms to create an eCommerce website. What’s the best free online store platform? Read on to find out.

We’ll also evaluate the different factors to consider when selecting one. No matter what your particular eCommerce website requires, you can find a platform that works for you.

Let’s begin!

Table Of Contents

Factors to Consider When Choosing an eCommerce Platform

Before we cover the different eCommerce platforms, let’s briefly talk about what you should look for in one.

Initial Costs

What are the initial, or up-front costs of using the platform? If you’re starting a new eCommerce website, it is likely that you won’t make a significant amount of sales for a sustained period of time. As such, you don’t want to be paying high fees for months without having the sales to cover it.

Thankfully, some platforms have transaction-based business models, free trials, and other pricing structures that start at a very low price.

Others have high flat fees, no matter how many customers you have or transactions you make. Be sure to investigate this before choosing a platform.

Monthly Costs

Shopify pricing

After the initial setup fees and costs, how much will you need to spend to keep using the platform? Some, like the standard version of WooCommerce, do not have any monthly fees.

However, you’ll also need to pay for a web hosting service, which is usually at least $5-15 per month.

Others, like Shopify, charge $29 and up per month, but this includes your web hosting and access to the eCommerce website software.

Installation and Usage Difficulty

How difficult is setup and installation? Does it take minutes or days? Starting a business is a time consuming endeavor so it’s important to use tools that help save you time — and let you concentrate on building your business.

Once you have it installed, how difficult is the software to use? WooCommerce, Shopify, and Constant Contact are known for being easy to use. Magento, on the other hand, is just as powerful (if not more powerful), yet has a reputation for having a steep learning curve.

Customizability

Do you need to customize your site? How flexible is the platform for doing so? WordPress is well-known for its flexibility; you can customize virtually anything on your eCommerce website.

However, sometimes there are too many choices, which is why you might want to use a premade template created by a professional designer.

Other platforms are more limited in terms of how much you can customize them. This is often by design, as they want to focus exclusively on selling products and services.

When selecting a platform, first decide how many customizations you will need and/or if the platform can accommodate them. Additionally, see if it is difficult to make customizations. Do you just need to install an extra plugin to add a feature? Or does it involve re-coding an entire portion of the platform?

Integration

How well does the platform integrate with other products and services? For example, is it easy to create blog posts, share your content on social media, or link to on-demand printing services?

WooCommerce is often a good choice for this reason, as it integrates seamlessly with other WordPress plugins. However, if you have a very focused type of eCommerce site, this may be less important to you.

Add-Ons and Extra Plugins

Extensions are often the most important aspect of an eCommerce platform as they allow you to add extra functionality. They can also add features that are too niche or complex to be included in the standard plugin.

This is one reason why WooCommerce and Shopify are so powerful. Both have rich libraries of thirty-party plugins.

WordPress, for example, has over 50,000 plugins available. These include everything from collecting emails, adding a forum, displaying stock tickers, and virtually anything else you could possibly think of.

Other platforms have plugins or extensions, including Shopify’s App Store or Wix’s App Market, but there are fewer choices than with WordPress.

Mobile

Mobile responsive store

How is the mobile support for the platform? Does it create responsive and mobile friendly pages for your shop? How do products look on different devices? Try to test it out yourself using a demo.

On a related note, it’s important to be able to manage your site from a mobile device. Are mobile apps available? If not, is there a mobile-friendly version of the website? Can you easily view and manage your products from the app/website?

Payment Gateways and Processors

A payment gateway or processor is the company that allows you to accept and send money between your business and a customer. In other words, it’s how you get paid when you sell stuff.

Some common options include Stripe, PayPal, Square, and Authorize.net. If you want to accept payments on your website, you’ll need to use a payment gateway.

These gateways all charge a small fee for every transaction. It depends on your sales volume and other factors, but in general the fee is about 2.9%. Some also have other monthly usage fees or fees for particular types of transactions, like those which involve international payments or certain currencies.

Depending on what country you are in, the choice of payment processors available will vary. Some only operate in certain regions or countries. Others have restrictions on the type of eCommerce website you’re allowed to create.

For example, PayPal does not operate in over 25 different countries. Before signing up to use one, be sure to check if it operates in your country.

Themes and Other Design Elements

WordPress themes

Design is an important element of any online store. The right (or wrong) site design can be the difference between drawing in new customers or repelling them forever. Thus, it’s important to pick a platform that makes it easy to have a beautiful site.

Usually, this is done via themes. In WordPress, you can use one of 10,000 different themes to find the exact match for you. You can then customize that theme’s colors, fonts, spacing, and other elements to match your brand and maximize store revenue.

Exportability

The last aspect to consider is how portable your data is. If you ever leave the platform and move your eCommerce website elsewhere, will you be able to take your website design, content, images, and other data with you easily?

Some platforms make it easier than others. Typically, open-source platforms make this easier to do.

WordPress allows you to export just about anything. You can then move your site to another host or use a local installation.

Wix, on the other hand, will only work if hosted on Wix servers. As such, you cannot export your site and reuse it elsewhere.

The 23 Best eCommerce Platforms

Now that we’ve discussed each of the factors you should consider when selecting a free eCommerce platform, let’s dive into the platforms themselves!

1. WooCommerce

WooCommerce homepage

With over 4 million total sites and 28% of all eCommerce websites, WooCommerce is the single most popular eCommerce solution around. It’s a plugin for WordPress, which means that you need to install and set up a website with WordPress installed.

WooCommerce is completely free to download and has no initial costs. Installation is also easy and is completed via a step-by-step wizard.

The monthly costs depend on a few different factors:

  • Your web host and domain name. In order to set up a WordPress site, you’ll need a web host and a domain name. The prices for these vary and managed hosting can vary, but in general, they are about $9 per year for a domain name and $5-15 per month for hosting.
  • Themes. WordPress has thousands of free and paid themes. If you use a free theme like Astra, the cost is zero. Other themes range from $20 to $150, depending on their complexity.
  • Extra extensions and plugins. WIth over 50,000 plugins, WordPress has a lot of options to extend the functionality on your site. Most plugins have free versions available, but charge for advanced features. Others are paid-only. In general, plugins range from $20 to $70, but some can be more expensive. WooCommerce has a variety of paid extensions, which range from $99 to $199 per year.

One of WooCommerce’s strongest features is its customizability. You can change virtually any aspect of your site to match your brand or particular type of business. It also integrates well with other WordPress plugins.

You can access your WooCommerce store via apps for the Apple and Google Play stores. WordPress itself also has an app to manage your site.

When it comes to payment gateways, WooCommerce has over 100 options, including Stripe, PayPal, Apple Pay, and other popular options. These gateways usually charge about 2.9%, but vary slightly depending on the service.

Finally, since WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress, it means you have a nearly unlimited number of themes to choose from and modify to fit your needs.

For example, you can use Astra, which is optimized for WooCommerce.

For most eCommerce sites, WooCommerce is the best eCommerce platform available.

2. Shopify

shopify homepage

Shopify is one of the best-known eCommerce platforms in the world today. After WooCommerce, it is the second most used platform with 23% of the market share.

Shopify comes with a ton of different eCommerce features, including unlimited products, unlimited storage, gift cards, discount codes, in-person point-of-sale, and virtually anything else you can imagine.

However, Shopify is primarily focused on selling products and has relatively few options for blogging or content creation. Extra plugins are also somewhat expensive compared to most competitors.

Shopify starts at $29 per month and scales up to $299. There is a free trial available, which is possible to extend a further 2 weeks.

If you’re looking for a high quality, eCommerce-focused solution, you can’t go wrong with Shopify.

3. Constant Contact

Constant Contact homepage

Constant Contact is a veteran email marketing organization, originally founded in 1995. In addition to email marketing, they offer an online store feature.

You can choose from one of many themes and then customize it to fit your brand. It has most features that you’ll need to run an eCommerce business, including coupons, integrated shipping, digital downloads, and mobile-friendly layouts.

Best of all, it’s completely free to use.

As Constant Contact is primarily an email marketing company, it is best to use it if you already make strong use of email marketing methods in your business.

4. BigCommerce

BigCommerce WordPress plugin

BigCommerce is often seen as a direct competitor to Shopify as it has many of the same capabilities. Designed for power users and those with technical skills, BigCommerce is full of options and features that can be customized to fit any site.

You can build your site using a drag-and-drop visual page builder, customize themes with HTML/CSS/JS, optimize the checkout process, connect to APIs, use coupons, and utilize dozens of other features.

When it comes to pricing, the plans start at $29 per month. While there is no free plan, there is a one month free trial, which is rather long compared to the competition.

BigCommerce integrates with over 65 payment gateways, including Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, Stripe, and other popular options. You can also integrate with WordPress, which is a great way to combine the two platforms.

5. Square Online Store

Squareup homepage

Square is a digital payments service that allows you to accept payments online or offline. While known for their small white “square” device that plugs into a headphone jack, they also have an online payment service.

This makes them a great choice for businesses which are both online and offline and want to integrate the two. You can also offer pickup and delivery, appointment booking, and more.

You can use one of their many website templates, which are designed for restaurants, shops, and many other kinds of businesses.

There is no monthly fee to use the basic plan and you pay 2.9% + 30 cents for each transaction. This is ideal for any new businesses on a small budget.

Overall, Square is aimed at smaller, in-person businesses that want to have an online presence.

6. nopCommerce

nopCommerce homepage

nopCommerce lets you create a free eCommerce website. It’s a platform built on ASP.NET, which is an open-source web framework designed by Microsoft. It has over 1,500 integrations and is primarily intended for enterprise users.

However, it is free and open source, meaning that there are no initial or monthly fees.

nopCommerce is used by a large number of corporate clients, including BMW, Volvo, The North Face, and Microsoft itself. If you’re using ASP.NET for your website, definitely look into nopCommerce for any eCommerce needs.

7. Weebly

Weebly homepage

Weebly is a well-known website builder. As a part of their web creation package, you can create an online store. The drag-and-drop designer allows you to customize your layout easily.

Weebly comes with other features like email marketing, SEO, analytics, a mobile app, shipping tools, inventory management, and payment via Stripe, Square, and PayPal.

There is a free plan available but it has limited features. The entry level Personal plan starts at $9 per month and includes the ability to add your own domain.

If you are looking for a simple drag-and-drop website builder that has the most basic features, Weebly is a solid choice.

8. Gumroad

Gumroad homepage

Gumroad is a platform aimed at writers, artists, and other creators. It is designed to make it easy to create content and then deliver it to subscribers. For example, it has many ways to sell digital products like eBooks, images, video, or audio.

The basic plan is free and has a 5% fee, plus 3.5% + 30 cents for each transaction. If you pay $10 a month, the 5% fee is waived, you can add your own domain, and you can share unlimited video and other content from your Gumroad account.

If you’re a creator and just want a simple way to sell products to your followers, definitely give Gumroad a look. It is more creator-friendly than most options and its delivery features are rather unique.

The site itself also has a fun, hand-drawn design, making it less intimidating than some other more “serious” competitors.

9. Big Cartel

Big Cartel homepage

BigCartel is an eCommerce platform for artists, designers, and other makers. They make it easy to create a free eCommerce website and store that features your art and other products.

The basic free plan allows for 5 products and includes a custom domain, a customizable theme, shipment tracking, and other basic features for managing your shop.

To add more products, integrate with Google Analytics, and access other features, the paid plans start at $9.99 per month.

If you’re an artist or designer and want to easily create an online store for your work, consider BigCartel.

10. Squarespace

Squarespace homepage

Squarespace is a very well known website creation service. Squarespace is often compared with WordPress, as both are predominantly content-focused. They have a large number of templates, which can be used to build a website that matches your brand.

The website builder is designed with specific use-cases in mind, such as subscriptions, digital content, or in-person sales. It is somewhat difficult to customize beyond the standard use-cases, so if you need a highly specific website, Squarespace might prove difficult to use.

The Business plan starts at $26 per month and includes virtually everything you’ll need to set up an eCommerce shop for your brand. There is a 14-day free trial, which doesn’t require a credit card to sign up.

11. Magento

Magento homepage

Magento is a Content Management System designed specifically for eCommerce. Originally launched in 2008, it was acquired by Adobe in 2018.

Often compared with WooCommerce, Magento is known as a powerful software package that comes with a steep learning curve. It also comes with virtually every eCommerce feature you can think of, from live search to complex product recommendations.

The software is open-source and free to use, but you’ll likely want to use Adobe’s own online service. To get a price estimate, you’ll need to contact their sales team.

If you are a power user of Adobe products and want to create a free eCommerce website that integrates well with the Adobe Suite, give Magento a try.

12. Ecwid

Ecwid homepage

Ecwid is a free shopping cart and online store service. Above all, Ecwid is designed to help you quickly sell your products with minimal fuss.

It doesn’t have a ton of features, instead focusing on different sales channels like social media, Amazon, Google Shopping, eBay, and similar sites.

It is completely free to set up, however, the free plan is limited to just the online store. If you want to seamlessly link your products to other marketplaces, you’ll need a paid plan. These start at $15 per month.

These plans also include extra features like MailChimp automated marketing, a whitelabel branded mobile app, unlimited products, point-of-sale in-person purchases, Facebook Messenger live chat, and a ton of other features that will help you sell more products.

There are also different mobile apps (Apple and Android) for Ecwid, making it easy to manage your store on the go.

Overall, Ecwid is a good option for those that just want to focus on selling their products and don’t need any complex customizations or websites.

13. Wix

Wix website builder

Wix is a well-known website builder that also has some eCommerce options. It utilizes a drag-and-drop system to design your site. Wix is often compared with WordPress, as both are very popular website builders.

There are a large number of options for creating an eCommerce site with Wix. You can have an online store, services and memberships, in-person sales, dropshipping, and other features. There are also industry-specific templates for restaurants, hotels, events, photographers, and other professions.

Wix has a variety of different plans available. While there is a free plan, its features are limited and you need to use a yourwebsite.wix.com domain. However, it does let you create a free online eCommerce website. The business plans start at $23 per month.

Overall, Wix is a popular and easy to use site builder. While it is somewhat expensive and prevents you from exporting your site to a different platform, it might be a good choice for small businesses that are new to web development and just want a simple website.

14. Strikingly

Strikingly homepage

Strikingly is a website creator aimed at entrepreneurs. It has a unique visual editor that lets you drag and drop items anywhere on a page. Ideal for those who don’t know how to code or design.

You can accept payments via PayPal or Stripe. Strikingly supports shipping, coupons, membership log-ins, and other eCommerce features. You can also use tools to convert visitors into subscribers and customers via signup forms, live chat, and newsletters.

The platform is affordable, starting at just $8 a month if you pay annually. This includes using your own custom domain. (You’ll need to purchase it separately.) There is also a limited free plan available, but it only includes 1 product.

If you’re an entrepreneur that wants to easily design an eCommerce site, consider Strikingly.

15. Mozello

Mozello homepage

Mozello is an affordable page builder company that lets you create a website or an online store. It has a fun, colorful design, which is a nice change compared to some other options.

Everything is mobile-friendly, multilingual-ready, and includes a customizable design. It also includes marketing and SEO features to help you grow your business. You don’t need to have any technical skills and you can choose from many different premade themes, each of which has been created by a professional designer.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of Mozello is its low cost. There is a free version, which is on a subdomain at yourname.mozello.com. If you want to use your own domain, the plans start at $7 per month. This includes registering the domain name, which is a nice addition.

There are no transaction fees and you can use PayPal, Stripe, or Braintree.

Overall, Mozello is a nice choice for those that want a free or inexpensive way to try out eCommerce and who like a more fun, light-hearted design.

16. MyOnlineStore

my online store homepage

MyOnlineStore is a no-code web store builder. With it, you can create a free eCommerce website. You can customize every aspect of your store via a drag-and-drop editor, including the fonts, colors, content blocks, and more. It is also easy to add products, process orders, and accept payments with PayPal and other payment gateways.

The platform has a free service, which gives you a store at yourname.myonline.store. If you want to use your own domain, plans start at €9 per month and let you add up to 25 products.

As MyOnlineStore is based in the Netherlands, their service is aimed more at EU businesses.

Overall, MyOnlineStore is a solid platform if you are based in the EU and want an inexpensive option. It’s very easy to use for people who aren’t technical, since you don’t need to write any code.

17. Free Web Store

Freewebstore site

FreeWebStore does exactly what its name promises. It allows you to create a free web store. You don’t even need a credit card to sign up.

If you want to use extra features like your own domain, multiple checkout styles, unlimited pages, an integrated blog, and advanced statistics, the entry level plans start at $20 per month.

The platform also includes a number of apps and extensions. These range from accepting payments PayPal and Stripe to integration with Pinterest, Twitter, and other social media sites. If you purchase the more expensive premium plans, you can also get discounts on shipping with FedEx and UPS.

If your business sells physical products and you ship them around the world, this may be something to consider.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive, simple way to make an eCommerce website, try Freewebstore. The entry level plans are fairly affordable and all of the extra features are straightforward and less complex than some alternatives.

18. Webnode

Webnode homepage

Webnode is a page builder service similar to Wix or Weebly. It has a freemium business model, with a free basic plan. Premium plans are quite affordable, as well, ranging from $3.90 to $22.90 per month. With over 40 million users, it’s quite popular.

You don’t even need to enter a credit card to use the free version, which makes it easy to test it out.

You can create a website by using blocks or by choosing from one of hundreds of premade templates. In fact, you can even build your website directly on a mobile device, which is a unique feature. It also includes extra features like mailboxes, a form builder, website statistics, and more.

To create your site, you can choose from over 100 different themes, each of which covers a different type of website. If you already have a website, you can also just use Webnode to add the store feature to your existing site.

If you’re on a budget but want a powerful but simple page builder, give Webnode a try. Their global support team also speaks many languages, which is a nice touch.

19. CS-Cart

CS-Cart homepage

CS-Cart is a multi-vendor eCommerce platform. This allows you to easily sell products from a number of different clients and/or create a marketplace where multiple companies can list their products. This is ideal if you want to list a ton of different products on your site.

To do this, it has a long list of features, including an advanced vendor payout system, restrictions on how many products vendors can add, comparison tables, subscription plans, commissions, and more restrictions on vendors. You can also create users with different levels of administrative access.

In terms of pricing, CS-Cart is rather expensive, as it is aimed at large multi-vendor websites. The introductory plan starts at a flat fee of $1,450. However, there is a free trial available, which lets you explore every feature.

If you are creating a multi-vendor site, definitely consider CS-Cart. It offers a ton of features that many other eCommerce solutions don’t have. While it is very expensive, the features available do make it worth considering if you want to have a multi-vendor website.

Typically, these types of sites are largely funded by third-party sellers, so you may be able to get your clients to collectively pay for CS-Cart.

20. OpenCart

OpenCart homepage

OpenCart is a free and open-source eCommerce platform. It powers organizations like British Red Cross, Concordia College and the Hong Kong University Welcome Center.

It has everything you need to set up an eCommerce site: an admin dashboard, user management, discounts, coupons, affiliate programs, and similar features. You can also manage multiple stores from the same account.

There are no startup fees, no monthly fees, and even free support, which makes it a great choice for nonprofits and those on a small budget.

If you’re a developer and are comfortable managing your own eCommerce platform, you may want to consider OpenCart.

21. X-Cart

eCommerce Shopping Cart Software xCart

X-Cart is an eCommerce solution aimed at larger companies and those that want to have a custom-made website based on your specific needs. They support over 120 payment gateways, 25+ analytics tools, and tons of other features and options.

The pricing model is similar to other sales-based organizations, in that you need to contact them in order to get an estimate. There is no pricing information displayed publicly on their website.

On the whole, X-Cart is a solid choice if you prefer a consultative approach to creating an eCommerce website. They create and walk you through the entire process. While this hands-on approach may seem expensive compared to free options, it will no doubt save you a ton of time, as you won’t need to set up anything yourself or troubleshoot issues that arise.

As such, it may end up being more affordable in the long run.

22. PrestaShop

PrestaShop homepage

PrestaShop is a service that lets you quickly create online stores. It is based in Paris and has numerous French companies as users, such as the grocery chain Carrefour.

It comes with customizable themes, marketing features and connections, multi language support, and tons of ways to add products to your store. There is also a marketplace of themes and addons.

One of the biggest positives of PrestaShop is that it’s completely free and open-source. You only need to pay the transaction fees of Stripe/Paypal/etc. Or, if you want to use one of the extra add-ons, you have to pay for those. However, they are very affordable.

If you are on a budget and want to use a free, open-source application for your eCommerce shop, give PrestaShop a try. As PrestaShop is based in France, it is naturally more suited for businesses based in European Union countries and/or those who do a lot of business in Europe.

23. Drupal Commerce

Drupal Commerce homepage

Drupal Commerce is an eCommerce-focused platform built on the Drupal CMS. Drupal is a CMS like WordPress, which means that it helps you publish and manage your content.

Some sites that use Drupal include WhiteHouse.gov and Examiner.com

It comes with standard eCommerce features like checkout carts, catalog management and support for a variety of payment gateways. It’s also mobile-friendly, integrated with social media apps, and has a rich community willing to help you with any issues.

If you’re a Drupal user, you may want to see what Drupal Commerce can do for you. If you aren’t already using Drupal, it may still be worth investigating, especially if you run a larger nonprofit or other organization.

Free eCommerce Platforms

Ready to create your own free online store? At this point, you should have a good idea of what platform lets you create the best free online store.

In this post, we covered everything you need to know about eCommerce platforms. First, we discussed the different factors to consider when selecting a platform. Following that, we looked at the platforms themselves, examining the 23 best eCommerce platforms available today.

What platform do you use on your own site? WooCommerce, Shopify, or any of the others listed in this post? Do you like it? What do you wish it did better? Let us know in the comments!

This article was originally published here.

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