We’re here to show you the best free ecommerce platforms, helping you decide which one is best for you.
For businesses, being able to sell online is more important than ever. Why? Well, for one thing, the growth of digital sales has meant that fewer people are shopping in actual shops.
In 2017, approximately 1.66 billion people bought stuff online. Staggering numbers, right? Well, an ecommerce platform lets you tap into this internet trend. Essentially, they allow you to build an online store and sell products easily, without knowing how to code.
However, we know running a business is expensive. You may not have a big enough budget – or any budget at all – to build an online store. Or, like most people, you just don’t have the time to search for the best brands.
Well, we’ve done the research for you and found the best free ecommerce platforms, saving you time – and most importantly for your business, money.
Before we start, though, let’s go over the basics. When it comes to choosing an ecommerce platform, there are two categories – those that offer free plans, and those which limit you to a free trial.
Free plans will let you build a website and sell your goods for absolutely nothing. However, you’ll tend to find their sales tools are really restricted.
On the other hand, most platforms offer a free trial where you can try before you buy. Free trials mean you can test all the premium benefits for free (no surprises there), but only for a limited time. Take note – if you take a shine to the platform, once your time runs out, you’ll have to pay to keep using it.
Using our research, we’ve listed the best free ecommerce platforms below.
Best free ecommerce website builders:
- Weebly (Free Plan).
- Big Cartel (Free Plan).
- Constant Contact (Free Plan)
- Square Store Builder (Free Plan).
- Wix (Free to build, not sell).
- Shopify (Free Trial).
- BigCommerce (Free Trial).
- Squarespace (Free Trial).
- Volusion (Free Trial).
After reading this article, you’ll know which ecommerce platform is best for you, and which of them offers a free plan or free trial.
For a quick overview of how the platforms on our list compare, check out the chart below.
It’s hard to find an ecommerce website builder that actually offers a free plan. We’ve put Weebly, BigCartel, Constant Contact and Square at the top of our list because they do just that: allow you to sell online for absolutely nothing.
However, from our experience these platforms just aren’t as good as those that require you to pay to sell through your website, such as Shopify or Wix. This is reflected in the scores we’ve given each ecommerce platform below.
With so many options out there, we know it’s always tricky to make a decision. That’s why we’ve done our research, and asked everyday folk to test each website builder and score them. Read more about our testing methods here.
To make things easier for you, we’ve picked out 7 of the best free ecommerce platforms, which are as follows:
- Weebly – most generous free ecommerce plan.
- Big Cartel – best for small businesses looking to remain small.
- Constant Contact – best for selling on the side.
- Square Store Builder – the one to watch.
- Wix – best for creative control.
- Shopify – best all around ecommerce platform.
- BigCommerce – best for ambitious businesses looking to scale.
- Squarespace – best for design.
- Volusion – best for data lovers.
For a quick overview of how each platform compares, check out our table below…
|Ecommerce Platform||Product Limit||Product Type||Payment Gateways||Transaction Fee|
|Weebly||Unlimited||Physical & Digital||PayPal, Stripe, Square||2.9%|
|Big Cartel||5||Physical||PayPal, Stripe, Square||0%|
|Constant Contact||3||Physical & Digital||PayPal, Stripe||3%|
|Square Store Builder||Unlimited||Physical & Digital||Paypal, Square||2.9%|
|Wix||Unlimited||Physical & Digital||PayPal, Stripe, Square||0%|
|Shopify||Unlimited||Physical & Digital||PayPal, Stripe, Amazon, Apple Pay||0% (Only when using Shopify Payments)|
|BigCommerce||Unlimited||Physical & Digital||PayPal, Stripe, Square, Amazon, Apple Pay||0%|
|Squarespace||Unlimited||Physical & Digital||PayPal, Stripe, Apple Pay||0%|
|Volusion||Unlimited||Physical||PayPal, Stripe, Amazon, Apple Pay||0%|
Most generous free ecommerce plan
- Ecommerce only recently available on free plan
- Add unlimited products
- Super easy to use – it’s one of the platforms our users were most likely to recommend
- Hefty 2.9% transaction fee and 30¢ Square processing fee applied to each transaction
- Unsuitable for large businesses
- Doesn’t support multi-channel selling
Weebly is one of our top-rated website builders, and it now offers the chance to sell on its free plan. This is huge news for anyone looking to set up a simple store on the cheap.
Weebly is one of the easiest ecommerce platforms to use, and is also one of the ecommerce platforms that our users were most likely to recommend after testing. The drag-and-drop editor is a foolproof recipe for building your store front, while it’s equally simple to add products to the product inventory in the backend.
The downside of Weebly? Well, there are a few. Firstly, it lacks some of the features that a larger store would need, like multi-channel integration (the ability to sell through social media) and sophisticated inventory management (so you can keep track of stock levels when things get hectic).
But if you’re just planning on running a small side hustle with under 15 products, you’re unlikely to miss these extra features, and you’ll enjoy Weebly’s easy approach.
The downside of Weebly’s free plan – as with most free plans – is that you can’t add a custom domain name, and your site will display Weebly ads. Even the smallest business should aim to look established, and there’s definitely an element of ‘fake it till you make it’ here. With that in mind, we recommend you don’t stay on the free plan for too long. Find your feet, then upgrade to one of Weebly’s three paid plans:
|Plan||Best for||Price per month (billed annually)|
|Personal||Connecting your custom domain||$6|
|Professional||Building a professional, branded website for your business||$12|
|Performance||Managing and growing your business with integrated ecommerce tools||$26|
Best for small businesses looking to stay small
- Only platform that allows you to sell for free
- Helpful prompts when building site
- Perfect for artistic products
- Features lack depth and quality
- Poor themes
- Hardest platform to use for building a website
Big Cartel is one of only two ecommerce platforms we tested that offers a functional free plan. Yes, they have some paid plans, but you can set up shop without spending a single dollar. This means that if you’re a cost-conscious business owner, Big Cartel could be perfect for you.
However – and it should go without saying – with no cost comes fewer features.
Firstly, on the free plan, you’re only able to list and sell up to five different products on your site. You will also need third party apps for selling digital items, and you’ll have the sub domain ‘.bigcartel’ after your URL – which doesn’t look too professional.
Want more from Big Cartel, but worried about costs? You shouldn’t be – Big Cartel averaged as the most affordable ecommerce platform in our testing.
The Big Cartel paid plans are as follows:
- Personal ($9.99 p/m)
- Diamond ($19.99 p/m)
- Titanium ($29.99 p/m)
The biggest difference between these plans is the amount of products you can sell – 25, 100, and 300, respectively. You’ll also get your own domain, discount codes, and inventory tracking on each plan.
So, if you’re looking to sell more than just a few products, you’ll likely need to upgrade.
Big Cartel is best for… small businesses that are happy to stay small.
Read our Big Cartel review here.
Best for selling on the side
- Excellent value for money
- Super simple design-assisted set-up
- Supports tons of industry sectors
- Only available in English – no multilingual sites
- 3% transaction fee applied to all sales
- Received the worst ‘likely to recommend’ score from our testing
Constant Contact is quite a limited platform, but there’s no arguing that what you get for free is special. For starters, much like BigCartel, there’s a totally free plan that lets you sell online!
It’s a design-assisted website builder, meaning rather than picking a template and editing your own site, Constant Contact creates a site for you. All you have to do is answer some basic questions about the type of site you want.
It’s super easy to set up but can be frustrating to edit, so it’s best suited to those who are happy to leave the design up to the platform – something it’s very good at.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tools used to be a real low point for Constant Contact, but it’s improved a lot in this area – in fact, its SEO features are now a real asset.
Constant Contact provides you with a special SEO dashboard, giving your site a score based on various different factors. It’s all displayed in a really easy-to-understand display that makes tracking your progress a breeze, and you’re given tips on how to improve in each area.
Put simply – you can definitely rely on Constant Contact to help you get found in the search results, even without knowing much (or anything) about SEO. The new ‘Google My Business’ integration is another huge pro for online visibility.
So, what’s the catch? With Constant Contact, you can only sell up to three physical or digital products, all with a 3% transaction fee. Constant Contact also has some pretty major strengths and weaknesses in terms of its features.
Email Marketing? Amazing. Constant Contact is an email marketing company first and foremost, and you can easily sync its website builder to its email marketing system, which is far more advanced than most platforms’ features.
SEO? Terrible. All you can do is add page descriptions and target keywords. In comparison to what you can do on the likes of Wix and Shopify, that’s very poor.
Now that’s out the way, let’s have a look at pricing:
- Free – $0/month
- Starter – $10/month
- Business Plus – $20/month
For us, the Starter plan isn’t really worth the investment. Make the step up to Business Plus, though, and Constant Contact drops the transaction fee and lets you sell an unlimited number of products.
All in all, Constant Contact is a beginner-friendly platform that’s perfect for anyone who isn’t very creative and needs a nice looking site live quickly.
Because ecommerce isn’t really its forte, we’d only recommend it if you need a basic brochure website and want to sell the odd product on the side.
Constant Contact is best for… businesses that want to sell a small number of products on the side.
The one to watch
- Square is a payment processor, so the payments setup is seamless
- Very quick to set up and easy to use
- Responsive help and support
- Limited scope for customizing your site
- Few payment processing options
- Not a very scalable option for larger merchants
Back in 2018, Square bought Weebly, the website builder featured at the top of this list. The Square Store Builder combines the payment processing giant’s expertise with Weebly’s software.
It’s extra quick to set up a store with Square, because it uses ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence) to build a site for you, based on your answers to a few simple questions. Weebly has this as a secondary option, but with Square it’s the main route. It means you have less control over the look and feel of your site (although you can tweak the auto-generated design to some extent), but means you end up with a site which sticks to best practice for your industry. Plus, you don’t get overwhelmed with choice – a common problem with builders that have hundreds of templates to choose from.
If you already have a brick-and-mortar store, and just want to test the ecommerce waters, Square’s store builder could be a great option – especially if you’re already processing your payments through Square. You can sync your store and online inventory really easily, so there’s no worry of overpromising on stock. As with Weebly, you pay a 2.9% transaction fee on each sale, and a 30¢ processing fee (as Square is the payment processor). Compared to Weebly, this will save you quite a bit – particularly if you’re selling low value items, or items with a tight margin.
If you choose to move on from the free plan, here’s a quick overview of the paid plans:
|Plan||Price per month (billed annually)|
So, you might be thinking: this all sounds pretty great – why doesn’t Square rank higher?
Well, this is a pretty new setup, so there are a few kinks that need ironing out. At various points in the building process, for example, you’ll see a fair bit of Weebly branding, which can make the journey feel disjointed. It’s also a little too restrictive on design for our taste, although the hands-off approach will definitely appeal to some people. But Square is certainly on the up, so watch this space!
Best for creative freedom
- Mobile editor
- Add product videos
- Sell supplementary products
- Cannot sell across multiple channels
- No abandoned cart recovery
- Poor inventory system
With Wix, you can build a stunning online store using its free plan, without time limits. On this plan, you can enjoy its easy drag and drop feature, choose from over 500 templates, and have access to the excellent Wix Help Center.
So you’ve built your store and are now ready to sell. While the free plan lets you design to your heart’s content, you’ll need to spend money to earn money. Don’t panic, though – Wix’s paid plans start from just $16 a month.
Better still, if you sign up for two years and pay in full, the Basic Plan comes down to just $15 per month. Just think about that – you can sell your products on a professional looking website for the same cost as a monthly takeout pizza.
On this plan, you get loads of excellent features. These include unlimited bandwidth, a free custom domain name (removing the ‘.wix’ subdomain), and apps like Ecwid giving you the ecommerce power to rival Shopify and BigCommerce.
Wix is best for… users looking for creative control
Best all-around ecommerce platform
First up, a quick look at what Shopify is doing in response to the Covid-19 pandemic:
It’s an uncertain time to be starting or growing any business, but don’t worry – Shopify totally gets that. In fact, it has introduced a bunch of awesome new measures to support small businesses in the coming months. These include:
- Making physical and digital gift cards available on all plans. That way, your customers can support you without buying any physical products right now.
- $200 million available in small business funding (US only). As part of a government partnership, Shopify Capital is offering funding to help small businesses develop at a time when they may be low on cash.
- Extending its free trial to 90 days. Shopify has extended its free trial from 14 days to 90, giving merchants even longer to try the service risk-free.
- Community support and live webinars. Virtual ‘meetups’ with the Shopify community to share wisdom and support.
Big kudos to Shopify for its speedy response, and its commitment to supporting small businesses now and always.
- Best all-round ecommerce builder
- Brilliant inventory system
- Sell across all social media channels
- Monthly costs add up with apps
- Transaction fees for other payment gateways
- Need to reformat site when switching themes
Shopify is our top rated ecommerce platform. It has the most comprehensive range of sales features, a large app store, and you can sell across loads of different channels. It’s easily the best all-around ecommerce platform.
Best of all, it offers a 14-day free trial. During this time, you have access to Shopify’s world class sales tools, at no cost at all.
Afterwards, if you love Shopify – and we certainly did – you’ll need to upgrade. After all, this is where you can really see the long term effects of its superb business tools. Better yet, our ‘features vs pricing’ test revealed Shopify offers excellent value for money.
The Basic plan covers everything you need for a successful online store, at a cost of just $29 per month. It lets you sell unlimited products, throw in loads of useful apps, and sell across 10 different channels, all for just six dollars a week.
What’s more, you can save even more by signing up to a whole year. This reduces the monthly cost to just $26.10 – quite the bargain when considering it’s the best ecommerce platform around.
Shopify is best for… any business looking to scale quickly and easily.
Best for scaling businesses
- Sell across Facebook and Instagram
- Fantastic SEO tools
- Most inbuilt features
- Editing interface is confusing
- No mobile app
- Uses complex terminology
It also offers one of the longest free trial periods, at 15 days, during which you can test all its brilliant features. After this, you’ll need to upgrade. You can even request a demo to see how BigCommerce can help your online store.
After your trial, you can continue selling with BigCommerce from $29.95 per month (billed annually). You can even save 10% when you pay for the year upfront.
Why should you bother? It simply comes down to what you get. On all its paid plans, you can sell unlimited products across multiple channels like Facebook, eBay, and Amazon, create coupons, get 24/7 support, and more. These features will really help your business flourish.
BigCommerce is best for… business owners looking to scale massively
Best for design
- In-depth features
- Industry-leading templates for online stores
- Great inventory system
- Lacks payment methods
- No app store
- Hardest non-ecommerce-specific builder to use
Squarespace is the industry leader for design, offering the best templates on the market. It really lets your products shine, and it’s ideal for users looking to sell a few items while looking great doing so.
Like Wix, Squarespace is a non ecommerce-specific website builder. So, as you’d expect, the ecommerce price plans are more than affordable. Yes, there is a 14-day Free Trial, but you can sell with Squarespace for as little as $18 per month afterwards. This reduces to just $16.20/month if you use our exclusive Squarespace discount code.
Squarespace is, on average, cheaper than Shopify and BigCommerce, but it still provides really strong ecommerce tools. You can sell unlimited items, upload products in bulk, view revenue reports, and receive direct emails when stock is low.
Couple that with the designer online store templates you can use, and Squarespace really looks like an affordable – and attractive – option for your online store.
Squarespace is best for… users with an eye for design
Best for data lovers
- Lots of payment methods
- Great analytics tools
- Mobile app
- Cannot sell digital products
- No blogging function
- SSL certificates cost extra
Volusion has a really extensive backend, letting you sell unlimited products with clear instructions, prompts, and lots of app integrations. It also provides some excellent analytics features. Like the sound of that? Good news: you can try Volusion for free with a 14-day trial.
As we said, Volusion prides itself on consumer analysis. For example, you can view what customers are searching for on Google. During your trial, you also benefit from zero transaction fees, ‘suggest products’ for shoppers to add to their baskets, and throw in loads of third party apps.
Like every other free trial, after the 14 days, you’ll need to pick a paid plan. Volusion’s cheapest option costs just $15 per month. With this plan, you have access to all the great inbuilt features we mentioned, but you can only sell up to 100 products.
However, with all Volusion plans, you’ll need to purchase SSL (fraud protection) certificates separately. These cost $89-99, and come as standard with other platforms.
So if you have grander ambitions, you should probably think about a grander plan. We recommend the Professional Plan, where you can sell up to 5,000 products at a reasonable $75 per month.
Volusion is best for… data driven business owners
Unlocking extra features is key for a successful online store. And, with the website builders around today, it’s cheaper than ever to do so. Remember – Volusion’s plans start from just $15 per month, while Big Cartel’s start from a mere $9.99 per month. So if you’re wondering whether it’s worth upgrading to a paid plan, the answer is almost definitely: yes!
In short, upgrading to a paid plan will upgrade your business. How is that so? Well, like any subscription, if you pay more, you get more. And we’ve listed below five of the best features you can get on a paid plan…
1. No ads
You may be a really small or totally new business, but nobody will actually know that — unless, of course, you’re using a the free plan on an ecommerce builder, and your site is plastered with ads as a result. There’s an element of ‘fake it till you make it’ as a new businesses, and an unprofessional website isn’t going to give off the right signals.
It can feel daunting to pay for an ecommerce platform before you’ve got any guarantee of customers and income, but think of this as a small but necessary investment. And remember, all these platforms will allow you to pay month by month, so there’s no pressure to commit to something long term if you’re not sure it’s going to work out.
2. Better sales tools
A paid plan won’t just make you a website that looks more professional, it will make you a website that acts more professional, too. Ecommerce platforms withhold premium features, like the ability to send abandoned cart recovery emails, for paying members – and with good reason. In fact, 69% of online carts are abandoned (i.e. the customer leaves the site without paying for the items they have collected in their cart). Emails sent to these customers can have an impressive open rate of 45%, and are hugely effective in reengaging these customers. In this way, any ‘premium’ features are likely to pay for themselves – and then some.
3. Sell more products
Most free ecommerce plans put a cap on the number of items you can sell. By opting for a paid plan, you’re giving yourself more freedom, and your customers more choice.
4. Get better support
Paying customers tend to either be able to access support in more ways, such as over the phone. Even if you get the same help and support options as premium customers, you better believe you’re not going to be top of the priority queue when you need help. Don’t wait until your site is down, or until you can’t get an answer to something that’s driving you nuts, before you upgrade – do it now, and your future self (and site) will thank you!
5. Increase payment methods
Paid plans typically allow you to connect more payment methods. This in turn makes for an easier shopping experience for your customers, increasing the likelihood that they’ll come back.
How to Save on Paid Plans
You guys are clearly a savvy bunch, so you’ll be pleased to hear that even though we recommend paying for an ecommerce plan, there are still plenty of ways to save money. Take Shopify, for instance. Shopify is our top-rated ecommerce platform, and you can save 10% by signing up for a year, and 20% by signing up for two years. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s actually equivalent to a saving of between $34.80 and $1,435.20!
When it comes to building an online store, you have two options. You can choose a free plan like on Big Cartel or Constant Contact – where you don’t pay a thing to sell online – or pick a paid plan like on Shopify or BigCommerce.
Deciding on a platform really depends on two simple things: your budget and your needs. How much are you willing to spend on upgrading your store, and what features do you require to grow?
The best free ecommerce website builders are:
- Weebly (Free Plan).
- Big Cartel (Free Plan).
- Constant Contact (Free Plan)
- Square Store Builder (Free Plan).
- Wix (Free to build, not sell).
- Shopify (Free Trial).
- BigCommerce (Free Trial).
- Squarespace (Free Trial).
- Volusion (Free Trial).
While free plans make perfect sense for money-conscious business owners, they do have their limitations.
Firstly, with Wix, you can only build your store for free. In other words, to actually make money, you’ll need to spend some.
Secondly, on Big Cartel’s free plan, you can only sell five products. This isn’t really feasible for businesses looking to scale; If this is your aim, you’re better off trying BigCommerce or Shopify using their free trials.
So why should you think about upgrading? Because, for just a few extra dollars per month, you’ll have access to a wide range of features. The most important include more sales tools, better customer support, and the ability to actually sell more products.
Overall, we recommend signing up to a free ecommerce plan today – or testing a free trial – to really get the most out of selling your products online.
Can I build an online store for free?
Yes – nearly all ecommerce platforms offer a free trial, so you can start building an online store for free. Big Cartel and Constant Contact let you build and sell for free, while Wix lets you build a store at no cost, but in order to sell products you’ll have to upgrade.
What’s the best platform for building an online store?
According to our research, Shopify is the best all-around ecommerce platform. It has the most comprehensive range of sales tools, a huge app market, and excellent customer support. It’s also worth trying Wix, offering the most creative control, and BigCommerce which supports the most built-in features on the market.
How long does it take to build an online store?
It depends on the platform. Creating a Shopify store takes a couple of hours, thanks to the visual cues and simple language, BigCommerce normally takes a day or two, owing to the initial learning curve, while GoDaddy uses ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence) to build your store in minutes.