We’re here to tell you about the best free ecommerce platforms, and help you decide which one is best for you.
We know running a business can be 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.
That’s why we’ve done the research for you and found the best free ecommerce platforms, saving you time – and most importantly for your business, money.
In this post, we’ll cover:
Option 1: The best free ecommerce platforms – these let you sell without any ongoing costs, but will come with strict limits, or charge commission fees. We’d only really suggest these for people selling ‘on the side’.
Option 2: The best ecommerce platforms with free trials – you’ll need to pay for these plans eventually, but the free trial gives you the chance to see if this is worthwhile. These platforms are perfect for testing a platform and seeing if it will be worth paying for.
Option 3: The best free ecommerce software – powerful open-source platforms that are free to install, but will carry some ongoing costs.
Best Free Ecommerce Website Builders
- Square Online (free plan) – unlimited products, 3 payment gateways, 2.9% transaction fee
- Weebly (free plan ) – unlimited products, 3 payment gateways, 2.9% transaction fee
- Big Cartel (free plan) – 5 products, 3 payment gateways, 0% transaction fee
- Constant Contact (free plan) – 3 products, 2 payment gateways, 3% transaction fee
- Wix (free trial) – unlimited products, 3 payment gateways, 0% transaction fee
- Shopify (free trial) – unlimited products, 4 payment gateways, 0%* transaction fee
- BigCommerce (free trial) – unlimited products, 5 payment gateways, 0% transaction fee
- Squarespace (free trial) – unlimited products, 3 payment gateways, 0% transaction fee
- WooCommerce (free to install) – unlimited products, 7 payment gateways, 0% transaction fee
- Magento (free to install) – unlimited products, 10+ payment gateways, 0% transaction fee
- OpenCart (free to install) – unlimited products, 10+ payment gateways, 0% transaction fee
- PrestaShop (free to install) – unlimited products, 10+ payment gateways, 0% transaction fee
After reading this article, you’ll feel confident in picking the best ecommerce platform for you.
These platforms all let you sell online without signing up to a paid plan, or incurring any regular cost. That said, they all come with some kind of trade off, be that a commission fee per product, or low limits on the number of things you can sell. Still, it’s a great way for side hustlers to dip their toe in the world of ecommerce, risk-free.
For a quick overview of how each platform compares, check out our table below…
|Ecommerce Platform||Product Limit||Product Type||Payment Gateways||Transaction Fee|
|Square Online||Unlimited||Physical & Digital||Paypal, Stripe, Square||2.9%|
|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%|
1. Square Online
Great value for money
- Very quick to set up and easy to use
- Responsive help and support
- Seamless payments system
- Limited scope for customizing your site
- Few payment processing options
- Not a very scalable option for larger merchants
It’s extra quick to set up a store with Square Online, 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 Online, 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 Online could be a great option – especially if you’re already processing your payments through Square. You pay the same 2.9% commission as with Weebly, and if you choose to move on from the free plan, paid plans start at $12/month.
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
* N.B. You can sell products through Weebly’s free plan in the US, but this is not currently in other countries.
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. It’s 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 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).
And with Weebly’s free plan – as with most free plans – 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, starting from just $6/month.
3. Big Cartel
Best for small businesses happy to stay small
- Helpful prompts when building site
- Perfect for artistic products
- No platform transaction fees
- 5 product limit on free plan
- Features and designs lack depth and quality
- Fairly steep learning curve
With Big Cartel, you can set up shop without spending a single dollar, and without losing a big chunk of profit to transaction fees.
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, with paid plans starting at just $9.99/month.
4. Constant Contact
Best for selling on the side
- Excellent value for money
- Super simple design-assisted setup
- Supports tons of industry sectors
- Only available in English – no multilingual sites
- 3% transaction fee applied to all sales
- Limit of 3 products on the free plan
- 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 pretty special.
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.
With Constant Contact, you can only sell up to three physical or digital products, all with a 3% transaction fee. Email marketing is a real strong point for Constant Contact (it’s very much their ‘main jam’), but the SEO could be improved. If you want to upgrade, paid plans start at $10/month.
These ecommerce platforms will require you to sign up to a paid plan in order to start selling. However, they either allow you to build your store for free (you’ll just need to upgrade to link payment details), or they offer a free trial.
Either way, you should get a clear picture of whether they’re worth the minor monthly payment – we think you’ll find that it’s worth the small investment, especially considering you can pay on a month-to-month basis, with no permanent contact, for each builder.
For a quick overview of how each platform compares, check out our table below…
|Ecommerce Platform||Product Limit||Product Type||Payment Gateways||Transaction Fee|
|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%|
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 Wix’s easy drag-and-drop feature, choose from over 500 templates, and gain 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.
Best all-around ecommerce platform
- Best all-around 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 – then you’ll need to upgrade.
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 for a whole year. This reduces the monthly cost to just $26.10 – quite the bargain when considering it’s the best ecommerce platform around.
Best for scaling businesses
Heads Up: Special BigCommerce Deal!
Put your credit card away – BigCommerce is offering three months totally free! All you need to do is jump on BigCommerce’s free trial, and then you’ll get three months free when you pick a plan. This deal is only running for a limited time, so don’t miss out – check it out today to start saving!
- 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 of BigCommerce’s 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.
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 who want 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.
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.
The following free ecommerce options are all open source softwares. Open source basically means it’s a collaborative piece of code, which can be used by anyone looking to ‘self-host’ a website. By that we mean, unlike the ecommerce platforms featured above, you need to arrange hosting separately, along with other costs like a domain name and security.
So keep in mind that, while each platform is technically free, there will be some ongoing costs involved. Software of this kind also comes with a steeper learning curve, so we wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for beginners.
Best WordPress ecommerce plugin
- Built for WordPress, making installation super simple
- Extremely scalable, with no limits on number of products or users
- Easy to use, with a helpful setup wizard built-in
- You need to install extensions for key sales features
- Cost of add-ons can add up
- You must be using WordPress, rather than another open-source platform
WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, and the way we’d recommend setting up shop if you’d rather go down the open source route.
When it comes to sourcing your WooCommerce hosting, we recommend you look at Bluehost’s WordPress-specific plans, starting at just $6.95. And incidentally, so does WooCommerce – Bluehost is not only our top-rated platform, it’s one of a select number of providers that WooCommerce recommends.
Because WooCommerce and WordPress are so popular, you’ll find that installation is super easy, because most hosts come with an auto-install. Bluehost is a prime example where you can sit back and relax while the host installs WooCommerce for you!
But let’s set hosting aside for a second, and look at what else WooCommerce has to offer. This is a scalable, cost effective ecommerce platform that’s easy to use, with great customization options.
A huge plus point is the lack of product or user limits, meaning you won’t hit a cap on your shop any time soon. Although you’ll find some features built into WooCommerce, such as coupons, you’ll need to install extensions for most features, including abandoned cart recovery and multi-channel integrations.
There are both free and paid extensions, like WooCommerce Product Reviews Pro. Multichannel add-ons usually cost about $79 per year – so be careful that your WooCommerce shopping list doesn’t add up!
Bluehost Pricing Review – A full breakdown of all the costs you can expect when you sign up to a Bluehost plan.
Best for enterprise-level businesses
- Totally customizable and very scalable
- Free to install
- Powerful features capable of supporting thousands of transactions per minute
- Trusted by household names like Nike, Samsung, and Olympus
- Difficult setup and installation process
- Least suitable platform for beginners – you should either have developer skills, or be willing to hire someone who does
- No help and support
- Some extensions are expensive
Magento is not for beginners or small stores. This isn’t by mistake, but by design; Magento is a powerful platform, and its extensive capabilities and features would simply be wasted on any store not processing several transactions a minute, and turning over hundreds of thousands a year.
If you can’t code, we don’t recommend Magento. It’s aimed at developers and enterprise-level businesses, and it shows.
If you can code, Magento offers scalability and customization that’s unrivalled by any other ecommerce solution, open-source or otherwise – but don’t expect the setup to be easy. In fact, unless you have experience in web development, you won’t be able to set it up at all, far less customize it to your liking.
Magento comes with some built-in features – more than WooCommerce, in fact – but for real power and customization you’ll need to add extensions. These can be pretty pricey (its multichannel integrations alone can cost up to $499 each), but there are 1,970 free ones to choose from, so you have plenty of options.
Yes, Magento itself is free, but expect to pay out for developer fees, and for powerful hosting to match.
There aren’t many hosts that cater for Magento, which is why installation can be so difficult. We recommend SiteGround’s Magento hosting plans for easy installation – it’s one of the few hosts that has Magento specific plans, and its prices start at a modest $6.99 per month.
If the idea of investing potentially several thousand dollars on a new web design seems too daunting, this may not yet be the right platform for you.
Magento vs Shopify – A complete comparison of two very big players in the ecommerce world.
Best for mid-sized businesses
- Fewer running costs than Magento
- A light software that doesn’t come with unnecessary features weighing it down
- Add specific functionality via the 13,000+ OpenCart integrations on offer
- Fewer features built-in, so need to allow for the extra cost
- May need work from a developer
In terms of open-source software, we’d recommend WooCommerce for small to mid-sized businesses, and Magento for really large ones.
For businesses that sit somewhere in between, and don’t want to go with an ecommerce platform like Shopify, we’d recommend OpenCart. This is a powerful platform, with a ton of scope for customization and additional features – just keep in mind that OpenCart itself is very light on built-in features, so you’ll need to make use of these add-ons. There’s a fairly steep learning curve though, and unlike WooCommerce, you probably won’t be able to ‘muddle through’ without any developer experience.
How to Write an About Us Page – It’s one of the most important pages on your site – don’t leave it as an afterthought!
Simplest ecommerce software
- Most beginner-friendly ecommerce platform
- Poor features compared to other open-source platforms
PrestaShop is, like the brands above, an open-source software – but it pitches itself as more of a website builder.
As you’ve seen with the platforms above, ease of use can be a real sticking point when it comes to using open-source software, so combining open-source power and potential with website builder simplicity sounds like a winning recipe.
Unfortunately, while a good platform, PrestaShop kind of misses the mark on both fronts. If you’re set on an open-source software, pick from one of the platforms above (depending on your business size). And if you’re after something that’s as easy to use as a website builder, why not pick… a website builder! The ones we featured at the very top of this article will be a safe bet.
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. Below, we’ve listed 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 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 business, 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 re-engaging 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 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.
6. Don’t forget your hosting
If you choose to build your ecommerce store using one of the open-source software we have listed here, you’ll know that you need to arrange hosting separately. We recommend Bluehost across the board for this, although HostGator also has brilliant Magento-specific plans.
Our top tip would be to review your hosting plan on a regular basis, rather than signing up and considering it a job ticked off.
As your ecommerce business grows, this can put a strain on your hosting plan, which in turn can lead to problems such as:
- A slow-loading website, or users being timed out
- Your site crashing when too many people are using it
Providers like Bluehost are great because they cover websites of every size, and offer excellent customer support to walk you through the different stages.
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!
This post has walked you through the key pros and cons of the best free ecommerce platforms and software on the market.
By now, we hope you have a really clear idea of which will work for your budget and your store. Here’s a quick recap:
12 best free ecommerce website builders are:
- Square Online (free plan) – Great value for money.
- Weebly (free plan) – Most generous free ecommerce plan.
- Big Cartel (free plan) – Best for small businesses happy to stay small.
- Constant Contact (free plan) – Best for selling on the side.
- Wix (free to build, not sell) – Best for creative freedom.
- Shopify (free trial) – Best all-around ecommerce platform.
- BigCommerce (free trial) – Best for scaling businesses.
- Squarespace (free trial) – Best for design.
- WooCommerce (free to install) – Best WordPress ecommerce plugin.
- Magento (free to install) – Best for enterprise-level businesses.
- OpenCart (free to install) – Best software for mid-sized businesses.
- PrestaShop (free to install) – Simplest ecommerce software.
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.
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.
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.
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.