8 Best Free Ecommerce Platforms 2023 | Save and Sell Today

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In the current economic climate, it’s vitally important that we don’t lose the nerve to try and test new ideas, or nothing will ever properly recover. Free ecommerce platforms are so important in this as they give life to new businesses without having to sacrifice large amounts of capital. After hours of testing and research, we’ve awarded Square Online the title of best free ecommerce platform because it offers the most generous free plan, with Big Cartel taking second place as the best platform for independent artists. Wix comes in third place for its excellent free trial (although you will need to upgrade in order to start selling).

We’ve tested all of the platforms on this list, meaning they’re the best of the best.

The 8 Best Free Ecommerce Website Builders

  1. Square Online (free plan) – Most generous free ecommerce plan.
  2. Big Cartel (free plan) – Best for independent artists.
  3. Wix (free to build, not sell) – Best for small online stores.
  4. Shopify (free trial) – Best for larger businesses.
  5. Squarespace (free trial) – Best value for money.
  6. BigCommerce (free trial) – Best for a purely online business.
  7. WooCommerce (free to install) – Best WordPress ecommerce plugin.
  8. Magento (free to install) – Best for enterprise-level businesses.

We’ve used our own independent research process to create this list. All of our opinions and ratings are backed up by hours of analysis and hard work, so you can be sure that our recommendations are accurate, reliable, and fair. Our mission is to always be honest and transparent with our readers – after all, our primary aim is to find the perfect ecommerce platform for your needs, and we’re confident we can achieve it!

With our research and in-depth testing, we’ve been able to narrow a wide range of platforms down to a list of the best eight. We’ve paid close attention to what each platform offers and what they fall short of, so by the end of this article, you’ll be fully equipped to make an informed decision.

Our in-house research team carries out rigorous testing and analysis to bring you the best free ecommerce platforms out there. We don’t want to promote or recommend anything without evidence and data to back up our statements. But, what do we investigate exactly?

When looking at the best free ecommerce platforms, we focused on what matters to users most:

  • Website features
  • Sales features
  • Design functionalities
  • Value for money
  • Help and support
  • Customer score
  • Ease of use

We know that site speed, app integration, payment options, and support services, are just a handful of important factors when it comes to choosing the right free ecommerce platform. We promise that we’ve considered it all when building our list of the best eight.

Additionally, we’ve tailored our focus towards the different ways you can build your online store for free: completely free ecommerce platforms, free trials, or, for the more tech-savvy, using free ecommerce software.

We want to bring you an accurate and fair representation of what’s available in the market, so every platform has not only been tested by us, but also by everyday people. This helps us judge user satisfaction, the usability of the platform, and adds a unique customer perspective to our research.

If you want more information on our processes, check out our post on How We Conduct Our Ecommerce Website Builder Research.

You’ve Got Three Options

We’ll try to keep this short and sweet: There are three different ways to start an online store for free. In this post, we’ll cover:

Option 1: The best free ecommerce platforms – these builders let you sell with absolutely no costs, but will come with strict limits and/or charge commission fees. We’d only really recommend these for people selling “on the side.” The best builder in this category is Square Online.

Option 2: The best ecommerce platforms with free trials – these are builders that offer more powerful paid plans, which you can try out for free. Free trials usually last for about two weeks, so these platforms are perfect for testing out a plan and deciding if it’s worth paying for. Our top recommended free trial builder is Wix.

Option 3: The best free ecommerce software – Software tools are different from website builders because they’re more powerful, more complicated platforms that are free to install, but will require some additional costs to get up and running. Our number one best free ecommerce software is WooCommerce.

We’ve split this page into three sections, so you can compare the best free ecommerce platforms in each of these categories. In each section, you’ll find a side-by-side comparison chart of each builder, plus individual reviews where we get into more detail.

Option 1: Best Free Ecommerce Website Builders

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In this section: 

#1. Square Online

Most generous free ecommerce plan

Square Online

Most generous free ecommerce plan

Very Good


out of 5
  • Quick setup
  • Easy to use
  • Not very scalable

Free plan available

Paid Plans: $12 - $79 / month


  • Easy to track sales and abandoned carts
  • Responsive help and support
  • Seamless payments system


  • Limited design freedom
  • Few payment processing options
  • Not great for large volume selling
Read Review

Overview of Square Online

As far as free online stores go, you can’t beat Square Online. It’s easy to manage inventory and design a professional site. Square Online templates aren’t super customizable – in fact, there are only two template options – but that means you can get online quickly with a template that’s guaranteed to look good. Plus, Square Online offers a remarkable amount of features on its free plan. We recommend Square Online if you want to grow your business as much as possible before you start paying for a website.

Square Online Sales Features

What’s fantastic about Square Online is you can start selling right away for free! It also comes with some great sales features like Square Online Payments, selling unlimited products and an easy to use inventory management system.

Square Online Free Plan Limitations

Some downsides to the free plan are there’s no PayPal payment option, no product reviews, and there’s no abandoned cart recovery. To access these features you’ll need to upgrade your plan.

Setting up a Square Online store is very quick and easy. Square Online uses Artificial Design Intelligence, or ADI, which is basically technology that can automatically create a site for you based on your answers to a few questions (it’s more convenient than creepy, we promise!).

Other website builders, like Wix and Weebly, offer ADI as an option. But with Square Online, it’s the main route. ADI means you’re guaranteed to end up with an ecommerce-optimized design, with minimal work on your end!

Overall, we scored Square Online 3.9 out of 5 for ease of use. This is because although it’s easy to get set up, navigating the editor isn’t as straightforward. Some of the language can be a little unfamiliar, so finding what you’re after isn’t always straightforward.

Because Square Online is so easy to use, its website design process can be completely hands-off if you want it to be – but the tradeoff is that you won’t get a ton of design freedom, which is why we only awarded Square Online 2.7 out of 5 in this category.

Square Online only offers two layout choices: Shop All and Order Online. The Shop All layout is for ecommerce retail brands that want to set up an online store to sell their products, whereas the Order Online layout is geared more towards restaurants and food businesses.

Despite the limited number of themes, you can still customize Square Online templates in all of the most important ways, like:

  • Changing color schemes
  • Picking fonts
  • Repositioning page elements
  • Importing your brand logo
  • Uploading photos

We just mean that if you’re really looking to get your hands dirty and create something unique, then you’re better off with Wix or Squarespace (both of which offer free trials for ecommerce).

Square Online templates are professional, just not completely unique.

If you already have a brick-and-mortar store, and just want to test the ecommerce waters, Square Online is a great option – especially if you’re already processing your payments through Square Online’s POS system. You can integrate it with your website so that online and in-person orders are always in sync.

And even if you’re not already using Square Online products, its free plan comes with some great sales features:

  • Sell unlimited products (rare for a free plan!)
  • Automatic tax calculator (US only)
  • Easily add products with different variations
  • Simple inventory management
  • Set free or flat rate shipping, or customize by weight, quantity, or order cost

Still, there are a few drawbacks to the free plan. For example, although you can accept payments through Square Online’s in-house payment processing system as well as Google and Apple Pay, customers won’t be able to use PayPal. Additionally, users won’t be able to leave product reviews, there’s no abandoned cart recovery, and your site analytics will be basic, to say the least.

You aren’t able to connect a custom domain to your site if you’re on the free plan, which means you’ll have to upgrade to connect either an existing or new custom domain. Until you upgrade, you’ll be stuck with a free square.site subdomain.

Additionally, you’ll have Square branding stuck to the bottom of your site. Combined with the domain, this can make your online store look unprofessional and untrustworthy.

Square Online banner

There are also transaction fees to contend with, as Square Online charges 2.9% + $0.30 for online payments. We mentioned before how Square Online’s free plan has no limitations on product limits, but you only get 500MB of storage and bandwidth. Too many products and high-quality images will slow your site down tremendously.

On a positive note, however, you can sell both physical and digital on the free plan. And if you’re worried about security risks, don’t be, as Square Online’s free plan comes with an SSL certificate included.

Square Online topped our research as the best free online store builder because it’s incredibly easy to use, and still doesn’t skimp on features. As a result, we scored it 4.5 out of 5 for value for money – the best score out of all eight builders we tested!

If you start on the free plan and find your store growing, then you’ll want to consider what the cheapest paid plan can offer – including a free custom domain for your first year, and no Square Online ads clogging up your store’s branding.

Square Online’s cheapest paid plan costs $12/month, which is even cheaper than best-paid ecommerce builders like Wix and Squarespace.

The Cocktail Queen of Key West, retired Chicago advertising executive Karen Moran has been featured on the Huffington Post, Martha Stewart Weddings and The Cooking Channel (twice!) for her hand-crafted, naturally sourced syrups that make her cocktails such a hit. You can shop her collection through her website, built with Square Online.

I encountered no obstacles when building. Zero. It's seriously so easy!

I have been with Weebly (which was purchased by Square) for over a decade. I actually had a business creating websites for other small business owners like myself for the Weebly platform, so I’m well-versed in it.
It’s beyond easy. Literally, drag and drop. I also love the SEO capabilities. I’ve had countless folks contact me claiming to want to recreate my site better than what I have, but every one of their sites ranked much lower than mine when running them through various SEO trackers.
I encountered no obstacles when building. Zero. It’s seriously so easy!
I’ve been using it for 5 years now.
I knew nothing before I started. If I did it, so can you! We got this
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Want High Quality at No Cost?

Square Online offers a rare combination of ease of use and excellent features – we were very impressed!

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#2. Big Cartel

Best for independent artists

Big Cartel

Best for independent artists

Above Average


out of 5
  • Good for artistic items
  • Useful onboarding process
  • Very limited free plan

Free plan available

Paid Plans: $9.99 - $19.99 / month


  • No platform transaction fees
  • Helpful tips throughout design process
  • Individual products get the spotlight


  • Five product limit on free plan
  • Features and designs lack quality
  • Difficult to customize your store
Read Review

Overview of Big Cartel

Big Cartel is harder to use than Square, and its templates are still not very flexible. Still, Square is kind of an outlier when it comes to completely free ecommerce website builders – Big Cartel is a little less impressive, but it’s what you can typically expect for the price (or lack thereof).

Plus, Big Cartel does have some impressive sales features, and its paid plans start from very cheap. We recommend Big Cartel if your store sells less than five products, and you don’t plan to expand in the near future.

Big Cartel Sales Features

You can sell right away for free with Big Cartel which is great. Also if you don’t want to be charged transaction fees, Big Cartel is the one for you. The only fee you’ll spend on is for the payment processor you use, but your sales will be yours to keep.

Big Cartel Free Plan Limitations

The biggest limitation of Big Cartel’s plan is that you’ll only be able to sell five products. This is fantastic if you have a small store or you’re just starting out, but maybe not the best long term solution if you plan on having more products.

Your website will also have an ad banner for Big Cartel at the bottom of your website which could take people away from your site and look less than professional.

Big Cartel didn’t perform very well in our ease of use testing. It has plenty of strengths, but getting online quickly and simply is just not one.

Big Cartel themes aren’t very customizable, unless you know how to code (which you can’t do much of on the free plan, anyway). So if you’re in the majority of us without a computer science degree, you may want to stick to Square instead. It’s not that you can’t do anything without coding knowledge, but you can’t do much.

But something we did like about Big Cartel is its onboarding process when you first sign up, which uses pop-up prompts and tips to walk you through your dashboard. You’ll be shown all the basics, from adding products to creating discounts – it’s more the design process that we found clunky!

Big Cartel’s template designs aren’t very customizable if you can’t code – so at least they’re stylish to begin with, right?

Well… kind of. Big Cartel’s themes are similar to Square’s, because they’re simple and professional, but lack originality. The difference is that Square’s templates are easier to set up, and you can customize them a little more without any knowledge of code.

Plus, if you do know code and want to use it to make your Big Cartel website a bit snazzier,  you’ll have to upgrade to at least the Platinum plan ($9.99 per month). Annoyingly, those on the free plan can’t make any coding changes!

Big Cartel doesn’t charge any transaction fees, which is a major perk of using this platform. You’ll still have to pay fees to whatever payment processor you use, but unlike many ecommerce builders, Big Cartel won’t take a cut of your sales for itself.

The drawbacks of Big Cartel’s sales features are that:

  • You can only sell up to five products on the free plan – any more than this and you’ll have to upgrade
  • You can only upload one image per product, so multiple angles are a no-go
  • You can’t edit products in bulk, meaning you’ll have to make any changes individually.

Like others, Big Cartel automatically places a banner at the bottom of your site advertising its builder. However, it is a lot more understated than others, and with its free plan, you do get access to a custom domain and SSL certificate to boot.

Big Cartel banner

A major limitation of Big Cartel’s free plan is its extremely tight product limit which gives you only five products and one image per product. If you were planning on selling even just six products you’d have to leave one behind or upgrade.

Additionally, Big Cartel doesn’t allow digital products on any of its plans. You’ll have to download third-party support with apps like Pulley, which you’ll have to pay monthly for too (though it has a free 14-day trial).

One major plus of Big Cartel is no transaction fees, meaning all the money you get through Big Cartel is yours to keep. For entrepreneurs on a budget, Big Cartel’s free plan gives them a big leg-up, even with the limited inventory.

Big Cartel’s cheapest paid plan costs $9.99/month, which is very cheap for an ecommerce builder. You’ll get more features (and better templates) with the $12+ builders, but Big Cartel offers great value for the price: it comes with inventory and shipment tracking, and lets you upload five images per product.
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Trying to Run a Small Store Successfully?

Big Cartel will help you out with small-scale inventory management and no transaction fees.

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Option 2: Best Ecommerce Website Builders With a Free Trial

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#1. Wix

Best for small online stores


Best for small online stores



out of 5
  • Plenty of design freedom
  • Powerful features
  • Easy to use

Free trial available

Paid Plans: $16 - $59 / month


  • Can sell Wix products on Instagram
  • Product videos add credibility
  • Mobile editor for on-the-go changes


  • No automated low stock alerts
  • Not the best for very large stores
  • Can’t change templates once site is live
Read Review

Overview of Wix

88% of the Wix users we spoke to would recommend it to a friend, and for good reason: its templates are extremely flexible, but still easy to use, and its ecommerce features are perfect for any small or midsize store. If you can’t identify any one category that means the most to you (i.e., you can’t choose between features and ease of use), we recommend Wix for creating a well-rounded store.

Wix Sales Features

With the cheapest Wix plan you can sell an unlimited number of products, and the ability to sell on socials like Facebook, Instagram, and more. You will get over 500 templates to choose from, a huge media library of images, and discounted shipping rates.

Wix Free Plan Limitations

You’ll have a 14-day free trial, but you’ll have a Wix ad banner and branded URL on your website which could clutter your design. The biggest limitation is that you’ll need to upgrade your plan to accept payments.

Wix is an easy-to-use builder with a true drag-and-drop template editor. In other words, Wix expertly combines beginner-friendliness with flexible design.

In fact, there’s so much design freedom that you might feel overwhelmed at first – but you’ll get the hang of Wix’s template editor in no time. After all, we awarded it 4 out of 5 in this category, making it the second easiest ecommerce builder to use.

You can get your hands dirty with code if you want to, but it’s by no means required to create a unique, professional design.

Wix’s 800+ templates – over 118 of which are specifically designed for ecommerce – are stylish to begin with. And as if that weren’t enough, the huge amount of design flexibility you get with Wix (which requires no coding) means you can customize your template and make it a unique representation of your business.

We were impressed with Wix’s wide range of templates and generous design freedom – it’s hard to find both of these qualities in one builder! Overall, we score Wix 4 out of 5 for its design functionality, putting it in joint first place with builders like Squarespace and BigCommerce.

Wix offers a great range of sales features on its cheapest paid plan:

  • Sell unlimited products
  • Automatically send abandoned cart recovery emails
  • Let customers create accounts for faster checkout
  • Sell on Facebook and Instagram

Wix isn’t a dedicated, ecommerce-specific website builder – it’s a regular website builder with some ecommerce-specific plans – so it doesn’t have the most scalable features on the market. But for small-to-medium sized stores, you’ll have all the features you need and then some.

Wix lets you start a free trial on any of its plans for 14 days so you can really test and see for yourself if you like it. But there are some drawbacks to this free trial. As well as the favicon and assigned, Wix-branded URL, Wix takes it a step further with its free site by having a banner of Wix ads.

Wix banner ads

This can be quite intrusive for your visitors and can make it seem like your site is advertising Wix, not your own products. This is a shame since Wix allows unlimited products and the selling of both physical and digital products, SSL protected.

But the major limitation is that while you can sell products with the ecommerce plan on a free trial, you can’t accept payments until you upgrade. Wix will hold on paying you until you upgrade, effectively keeping your sales hostage until you decide to sign up for a paid plan.

Wix also limits certain key features with the free trial, such as no access to Google Analytics and only providing up to 500MB in bandwidth.

If you want to get the hang of Wix before committing to a paid plan, you can either:

  • Design a site on Wix’s free plan, then upgrade to a paid plan to start selling
  • Sign up for a paid ecommerce plan, and get all of your money back if you cancel in the first 14 days

If you finish the 14-day trial period and like what you’ve seen, then you can stay on Wix’s cheapest ecommerce plan for $27/month.

Wix logo 165

Do You Value Creative Freedom?

Wix is an easy and flexible online store builder, meaning anyone can design their dream site.

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  • Read our full Wix Ecommerce Review for more information.
  • Wix vs Shopify – A deep dive into the key differences between these two platforms, and which will be better for who.

#2. Shopify

Best for larger businesses


Best for larger businesses



out of 5
  • Built for large stores
  • Great inventory tools
  • Recommended by real users

Free trial available

Paid Plans: $29 - $299 / month


  • Sell across many social media channels
  • Abandoned cart recovery on all plans
  • Easily track stock levels and orders


  • Some features come separately as apps
  • Transaction fees for most payment tools
  • Switching themes is a hassle
Read Review

Overview of Shopify

Shopify is a builder with powerful features and a wide range of themes. It has excellent inventory management support, so it’s a really reliable option for an established business. We recommend Shopify as a relatively easy way of building and maintaining a large store.

Shopify Sales Features

Shopify offers the ability to sell unlimited products, and incorporate multichannel selling. Also Shopify is tailored for ecommerce and offers a fantastic inventory system.

Shopify Free Plan Limitations

The limitations include a Shopify-branded free URL and the inability to sell your items until you commit to a payment plan. Essentially meaning that you can create your store for free but you can’t actually sell until you spend.

Shopify is a “dedicated” ecommerce builder, meaning all of its plans are built for selling online (as opposed to just running a regular website). Many dedicated ecommerce platforms sacrifice ease of use for powerful tools, but Shopify strikes a really nice balance. 

Whether it’s setting up your store’s pages or managing your inventory, Shopify has a clean and logical interface that makes every task as simple as it can be.

We also liked that Shopify’s dashboard is full of useful tips to help you get started – you won’t be left to learn your way around alone!

Still, it’s not the easiest builder out there. Users were a little confused by the editor, and some disliked how you had to navigate back to the dashboard to add products separately. Because of this, it scored 3.5 out of 5 in our ease of use testing. However, given the powerful tools it has to offer, we think this is a reasonable trade-off for its ecommerce capabilities.

Shopify’s themes are well-designed and come optimized for selling products effectively. However, there are only nine free themes. The rest cost between $140 and $180, which, even though it’s a one-time fee, can be a frustrating additional cost.

Each of Shopify’s free themes comes in multiple styles, so you still get a decent range to choose from. The main difference between a theme’s styles is the color scheme. For example, the Venture theme comes in three styles: Snowboards (blue), Outdoors (orange), and Boxing (black).

Shopify offers some great sales features, even on its cheapest plan:

  • Sell in 133 currencies and up to 5 languages
  • Sell unlimited products
  • Set up two staff accounts with access to the Shopify admin
  • Sell on multiple channels (sync with online marketplaces and social media accounts)

One glance at these features, and it’s clear that Shopify is equipped to handle larger stores. Plus, we were really impressed with its inventory management, which makes it super easy to track stock levels and update product listings. It’s no wonder we awarded it 4.5 out of 5 in our sales features category.

However, it’s worth noting that you’ll have to check out some third-party apps from the Shopify App Store in order to really maximize your store’s potential. That’s where you’ll find features like email marketing and dropshipping.

You’ll also have to pay transaction fees unless you use Shopify’s in-house payment processor, Shopify Payments. That means popular third-party tools like PayPal will cost you up to 2% of each sale!

In short, Shopify can offer tons of features for larger stores, you’ll just have to download some of them yourself!

Shopify is a tad less strict with its free 14-day trial than the likes of Wix, since it actually shows no ads on your page for the trial period. And, while you will get stuck with a myshopify.com domain to begin with, if you already have a third-party domain you can transfer it, even for your 14-day trial and with SSL certificates.

However, Shopify runs into the same issue of not allowing any sales transactions until you choose a price plan. Your free trial store will open with a storefront password and a freeze on all checkouts. You can get rid of the password if you don’t plan on selling, but since you probably are you will need to start paying for it.

Shopify’s free trial lasts for 3 days, and you only pay $1 per month for the first three months of the Basic plan. After that, you can choose a paid plan starting from $29/month. This is more expensive than Wix and Squarespace, but pretty on par with BigCommerce – which makes sense, since Shopify and BigCommerce are more suited to larger stores.
Lucky Dog Design Co.. has been sending colorful stationery and happy mail to customers and shops across the U.S. and Canada since 2017. Founder Kayla Hutchinson has been a graphic designer for more than a decade and has been a major crafter and maker since the age of 2. Her favorite part about snail mail is finding the perfect card to match the personality of the person receiving it. When Kayla’s not making cards or stickers, you can find her hula hooping, embroidering, drinking coffee, or getting lost in a good book.

I love how it creates a seamless process for shop owners and buyers. It is easy and painless to create new products, add specific shipping, and accept many different payments.

I’ve been a Shopify user for 5 years. I started with a template available on Shopify for free for 3 years, then migrated over to a custom website within Shopify 2 years ago.
I love how it creates a seamless process for shop owners and buyers. It is easy and painless to create new products, add specific shipping, and accept many different payments.
I would LOVE more analytics. The analytics for Shopify users at the most common level seems to be cut off. Basic analytics you may want as a small business just does not exist.
I would recommend Shopify for product-based business owners 100% of the time. The cost per month is so worth it for what you get. There are apps available that fit almost every need, and the process of managing your shop is easy within Shopify.
I would not recommend Shopify for service-based business owners or those not selling anything at all. For service-based business owners, there are other website builders (such as Squarespace) that fit the bill much better than Shopify does. If you aren’t shopping, Shopify is not for you.

Want Your Online Store to Thrive?

Shopify is the overall best ecommerce platform on the market, and it has the tools to accommodate a bigger business.

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Like to know more? Read our full Shopify review.

Or, if you’d like to branch out, discover the best Shopify alternatives.

#3. Squarespace

Best value for money


Best value for money



out of 5
  • Great management features
  • Best designs
  • Great built-in tools

Free trial available

Paid Plans: $16 - $49 / month


  • Powerful features included with plans
  • The easiest ecommerce builder to use
  • Insightful analytics tools


  • Not many ecommerce-specific templates
  • Fewer payment methods
  • Editor doesn’t autosave your changes
Read Review

Overview of Squarespace

Squarespace isn’t as powerful as BigCommerce, but it has the best-designed templates on the market, and offers great ecommerce features for a low price. Plus, in our research, it came out as the easiest platform to build and manage an online store. We recommend Squarespace for businesses in a creative industry, because you can really walk the walk with its amazing template designs.

Squarespace Sales Features

Squarespace’s 14-day free trial gives you unlimited products to sell. It also comes with great customizable checkout options, and awesome marketing tools.

Squarespace Free Plan Limitations

Once again, you will need to upgrade plans to accept payments for your store with Squarespace. You will have a randomized Squarespace domain, and you won’t have capabilities like cart abandonment recovery.

In recent years, Squarespace has made massive strides in its ease of use. Where once it was considered a relatively tricky builder to get a grip on, it’s now the easiest out of the 8 we tested. It came out on top with an excellent 4.2 out of 5 ease of use score, which is a dramatic rise from its previous score of 3.4. This means you can build a beautifully designed store without the headache!

Squarespace’s drag-and-drop template editor is a little different t0 BigCommerce’s, because you can see the changes you make to each page in real-time as you make them. We also particularly like how Squarespace’s rows add more structure to the design process. This means that, unlike Wix, you can’t just drag and drop anything anywhere, but the tradeoff is that you’re guaranteed a perfectly constructed store at the end of it all.

With a design score of 4 out of 5, Squarespace is tied first place with BigCommerce, however, we think it has the best template designs of any ecommerce website builder. Its online store templates expertly combine style and ecommerce capability.

As we mentioned in the ease of use section, Squarespace’s template editor is section-based, meaning that you can customize and reorder different parts of a page, but you can’t completely overhaul the actual layout.

You won’t get quite as much design flexibility as you would with Wix, but the benefit is that you won’t have to worry about making a design faux pas or not following ecommerce best practices. Once you choose a Squarespace template, you can customize it “inside the lines,” without having to worry about messing up the general style.

Squarespace offers excellent features, especially for a builder whose main reputation is in design. One the cheapest plan for selling online, you can:

  • Sell unlimited products
  • Sell digital gift cards
  • Accept donations

Squarespace’s ecommerce plans also come with seamless inventory management. Managing products and variants is super simple, and you can even automatically display “limited availability” labels when your stock levels are low.

Just note that this plan charges a 3% transaction fee, and you’ll have to upgrade to a more advanced ecommerce plan in order to waive it.

One of Squarespace’s biggest strengths is its ability to sell digital products. In fact, we think it’s the ideal platform for sales because, although its inventory management is good, it’s not build to support very high stock levels. As a result, digital vendors will see more of what it has to offer as an ecommerce platform.

Like the others, you won’t be able to accept payments for your store with Squarespace until you choose a plan. The 14-day trial is really more of a practice run to see if you like the site, because even if you publish Squarespace won’t index your site for Google until you upgrade.

You will be stuck with a randomized .squarespace.com subdomain during this period, though you can pre-register a domain to a parked page and then transfer once you upgrade.

You will also not be able to send any custom email notifications to any customers or get access to advanced ecommerce features like abandoned checkout recovery or customer accounts.

On the plus side, if your mind is still not made up after the 14-day trial, you are able to extend it by seven days.

Squarespace trial extend guide

Squarespace’s free trial lasts for 14 days. After that, you can start selling on the Business plan for the cheap price of $23/month. Top Tip: this reduces to just $20.70/month if you use our exclusive Squarespace discount code.
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Wow Your Customers With a Squarespace Design

On top of its ecommerce features, Squarespace offers expert designs that are both stylish and professional.

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#4. BigCommerce

Best for a purely online business


Best for a purely online business

Very Good


out of 5
  • Scalable features
  • Not reliant on apps
  • Helps businesses grow

Free trial available

Paid Plans: $29 - $299 / month


  • Standout inventory management
  • No in-house transaction fees
  • Can send transactional emails


  • Not the easiest to use
  • Restrictive pricing plans
  • Overwhelming to begin with
Read Review

Overview of BigCommerce

BigCommerce is extremely scalable, with tons of built-in apps to help you reach your full potential. It’s not the easiest ecommerce builder to use, but if you can get the hang of it, then the sky’s the limit. We recommend BigCommerce for stores planning for growth in the long term. 

BigCommerce Sales Features

BigCommerce comes out on top for sales features. On the free trial you will get all the tools you need, built right into the builder. Some examples are social media channel integrations, shopping cart recovery, ability to create customer groups for a personalized shopping experience.

BigCommerce Free Plan Limitations

BigCommerce actually does let you sell on its free trial! You also get full access to everything BigCommerce has to offer which is really rare. But keep in mind that if you don’t pick a paid plan by the end of the 15 days then you won’t get access to your online store.

BigCommerce isn’t the simplest ecommerce platform ever – we awarded it one of the lowest ease of use scores out of the bunch. It excels in other areas, like sales features.

Users’ biggest complaint with BigCommerce was that its product management dashboard and actual storefront section feel like two very separate areas. Similar to Shopify, BigCommerce makes products and design feel a little disconnected. Swapping between the two can get a little disorientating.

This setup can be frustrating, but it’s by no means too difficult to use – BigCommerce’s interface just takes more getting used to!

BigCommerce offers 12 free themes and over 100 paid themes, which range from $145 – $235. You can filter themes by industry and store size to narrow down your options.

Each theme comes in multiple shades, so you can have some control over the general color scheme. When it comes to customizing each page, BigCommerce’s editing tools allow you to make changes to the layout and style.

BigCommerce’s template editor isn’t as seamless as Wix’s or even Shopify’s, but the templates themselves are perfectly suited for ecommerce success.

When it comes to sales features, BigCommerce achieved the highest score in this category – 4.6 out of 5. It has the best built-in sales features of any builder on this page. You’ll have everything you need to grow your store, including:

  • Optional digital wallet payments (like Apple Pay)
  • POS integrations (sync your online and offline payments)
  • Create 70+ native discounts and promotions

BigCommerce’s built-in tools mean that you won’t be as reliant on third-party apps as you would be with Shopify. But if you ever want to add even more functionality, then BigCommerce’s Apps Marketplace has you covered with over 600 apps to choose from.

BigCommerce is unique in that it does let you sell on the 15-day free trial, meaning you don’t have to worry about losing any potential sales during the trial. You actually get access to all of BigCommerce’s features, like unlimited products both physical and digital, and features kept to premium plans like Abandonded Cart Recovery.

However, once the trial ends, BigCommerce will seal you out of your account if you haven’t picked a plan.

Despite its trial’s perks, there are some things that BigCommerce doesn’t do, such as not being able to install third-party SSL certificates for the trial period. You also don’t get a custom domain, or access to product filters and setting up 301 redirects.

BigCommerce’s free trial lasts for 15 days, after which you can commit to a paid plan starting at $29.95/month – a great price for midsize and large stores.
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Reach Your Potential With BigCommerce

This powerful builder has the in-house tools and ecommerce-ready themes to help you succeed.

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Option 3: Best Free Ecommerce Software

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#1. WooCommerce

Best WordPress ecommerce plugin


Best WordPress ecommerce plugin

Very Good


out of 5
  • Very WordPress-compatible
  • Extremely scalable
  • Helpful setup wizard

Free plan available

Paid Plans: $12.95 / month


  • Huge variety of plugins
  • Lots of payment options
  • Tools for selling internationally


  • Have to install most features yourself
  • Cost of plugins and tools can add up
  • Only works with WordPress
Read Review

Overview of WooCommerce

WooCommerce requires more technical skill than a website builder, but it’s still pretty easy to install. You’ll have to rely on extensions for most features, but there are seemingly endless options to choose from. We recommend WooCommerce for anyone selling on WordPress.

WooCommerce Sales Features

WooCommerce comes with neat features, including over 140 payment options. It also allows you to sell physical products, members-only digital products, and subscriptions.

WooCommerce Free Plan Limitations

Not all features you can add with WooCommerce will be free, some will be paid. And you’ll need a hosting provider with plenty of storage for adding the features you need to make your store the best it can be.

Website builders are the easiest way to start an online store, so when it comes to ease of use, WooCommerce naturally can’t compare to the likes of Wix or even BigCommerce.

However, if you need the more advanced capabilities of a WordPress site, then WooCommerce is as easy as ecommerce will get. WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress, meaning you can add it as an additional feature to any WordPress site. It comes with a helpful setup wizard, so you won’t have to worry about learning the ropes on your own.

Once you’ve successfully installed WooCommerce, adding and managing products is really straightforward.

There are only three free themes in the WooCommerce marketplace, but they’re extremely customizable. You might find customization a bit easier if you have some knowledge of HTML and CSS code, but it’s not completely necessary.

If you’re willing to go for a paid theme, you can expect to pay between $39 and $79 for one.

WooCommerce comes with a decent amount of features built-in, like the ability to add unlimited products and users. But the real benefit of this software is the huge amount of additional functions you can add if you want to. 

The WooCommerce Extensions Store covers everything from abandoned cart recovery to multi-channel integrations, so the sky’s the limit in terms of features. Just note that not all of these extensions are free, so be sure to budget for the ones that you really want!

Since WooCommerce is a free plugin for WordPress, it’s kind of expecting you to customize it with additional functionalities to really make it your own. Therefore, base WooCommerce is slightly bare of features typical to other ecommerce website builders on this list.

You still get unlimited products to sell both physically and digitally, but whether your hosting provider can handle it – with enough storage and bandwidth, for example – is up to what plan you have, rather than WooCommerce itself.

WooCommerce guide

You will also have to organize getting yourself an SSL certificate since WooCommerce doesn’t include it as standard.

Once your store is set up, be wary of transaction fees too. WooCommerce Payments charges no setup or monthly fees but will charge 2.9% + $0.30 on all transactions made with a US credit or debit card. For cards outside the US, an additional 1% is charged.

If you’re running a WordPress site, then you’ll need to pay for your own web hosting (a web host is a company that manages the server where your website’s content is actually stored). No website can get live on the internet without a host, so even with a free software like WooCommerce, you’ll have to pay a separate hosting fee (this is already included in the cost of a website builder).

We recommend using Bluehost with WooCommerce, because it’s an officially recommended provider by WooCommerce itself.

Bluehost has plenty of WooCommerce-specific plans, starting at $15.95/month.

Ankur K. Garg is digital marketing wiz. He's created countless WooCommerce sites for brands over the years, but Grill Party BBQ is his own invention. Their unique BBQ since blends which you can purchase through their website promise to add excitement to any BBQ, cookout or summer sesh!

I choose WooCommerce when it's a personal project because there are no monthly costs if you know how to code a bit. There are some one-off plugins, but you're up and running quickly and you can customize everything.

I choose WooCommerce when it’s a personal project because there are no monthly costs if you know how to code a bit. There are some one-off plugins, but you’re up and running quickly and you can customize everything.

I love the fact that I can customize anything I want without having to pay a premium like Shopify. Additionally, I love that because it’s built on WordPress I can work with almost any freelancer I want at any given time because 90% of the creator community knows how to use WordPress.

The biggest obstacle with WooCommerce is that you have to spend the extra time needed to customize everyone if you’re obsessed with branding like I am. That means everything from the product pages to the 20 automated emails that go out throughout the shopping process all requires custom UI/UX.

I’ve been using WordPress since 2003 and WooCommerce since 2008 when it was called WooThemes.

100% if you know HTML/CSS, as it’s the only way to go.

I wish I knew about my hosting provider WPEngine earlier. I only discovered them 2 years ago and it changed everything for me.

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Want to Start Selling on WordPress?

WooCommerce and Bluehost are a powerful combination for an online store, and they’re surprisingly easy to use.

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#2. Magento

Best for enterprise-level businesses


Best for enterprise-level businesses

Very Good


out of 5
  • Very customizable
  • Very scalable
  • Not very easy to use

Free plan available

Paid Plans: $6.99 / month


  • Powerful features to support huge stores
  • Can manage thousands of products
  • Trusted by brands like Nike and Samsung


  • Difficult setup and installation process
  • Beginners will need to hire a developer
  • No help and support
Read Review

Overview of Magento

Magento is not for small stores, or beginners – it’s pretty difficult to use if you don’t have some level of tech skill going in. However, the payoff is that Magento is the most powerful ecommerce platform on this list. We recommend Magento for very large stores who already have a strong base of loyal customers.

Magento Sales Features

Magento does have some built-in features – but you’ll still need to add extensions which aren’t cheap. Some features include free shipping options, bundle products, and access to Google Universal Analytics.

Magento Free Plan Limitations

While Magento’s open source version is free, you’ll need to incorporate plenty of plugins to get the features you need, which can tally up the costs. It’s also worth noting Magento has transaction fees, which can eat away at your sales over time.

We’ll be honest: Magento is not for beginners. It’s a hugely powerful platform, but it’s also complex – so the amount of effort required to use Magento just wouldn’t be worth it for a small store that doesn’t need so many heavy-duty features.

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.

Only one of the themes in the Magento Marketplace is free, and the rest cost anywhere from tens to hundreds of dollars. Once you’ve chosen a theme, you can customize it yourself – if you’re comfortable with CSS.

If you’re not super tech-savvy, then the best way to get the most out of your Magento design is to hire a web developer to tweak the theme for you. Just note that you can expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars for this option!

Magento comes with some built-in features – more than WooCommerce, in fact – but for real power and customization, you’ll still need to add extensions from the Magento Marketplace. 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.
Magento is designed for large, enterprise stores, and while the open source version is free, supporting the platform certainly won’t be.

Magento claims it can hold over a million items comfortably and enables the selling of both physical and digital products. However, like WooCommerce, you will still need to supplement it with plugins from the Magento Marketplace.

You will also have to deal with transaction fees with Magento, charging the usual 2.9% + $0.30 as well as providing your own domain name and SSL certificate once your site is live.

Just like with WooCommerce, you’ll need to pay for your own web hosting in order to get your Magento site up and running.

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 with Magento-specific plans, and prices start at a modest $3.99 per month.

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Need an Enterprise Ecommerce Solution?

Magento is the best ecommerce platform for very advanced stores – it can help you take your online store to the next level!

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WooCommerce and Magento are the standout ecommerce software providers – they’re powerful and each integrate with a variety of tools. Plus, they’re very popular – so if you ever get stuck, chances are someone on an old help forum will have been through the exact same thing.

Still, they’re not the only ecommerce software options available. So if you’d like to broaden your horizons before making a decision, here are a few software options that are decent, but didn’t make our top two.


If your store is too large for WooCommerce, but too small for Magento, then OpenCart is worth a look: it’s a powerful platform, with a ton of scope for customization and additional features. In fact, there are over 13,000 OpenCart integrations available.

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.


PrestaShop is an open-source software that 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.

Is It Worth Upgrading to a Paid Plan?

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 – Big Cartel’s paid plans 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.

Lucy's Cupcakes demo website featuring big font on yellow background with Wix banner ad
Free website builder ads can really take away from your site’s professional credibility.

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.

Squarespace email marketing dark background page with woman holding leather purse next to email example of the purse's product page
Squarespace has its own in-house email marketing package that we were really impressed with.

Even upgrading to the cheapest ecommerce plan will get you a ton of better features. For example, Wix’s Business Basic plan piles on features like five hours’ worth of video and a free domain name for the first year.

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 SiteGround also has brilliant Magento-specific plans.

Blue background with woman threading to advertise Bluehost WooCommerce plans
Bluehost is a great hosting provider in general, but its WooCommerce-specific plans set it apart from the pack.

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.

If you’re interested in upgrading your free plan or free trial, check out our table below. We’ve listed all of the cheapest starting prices for the platforms we’ve included in this article.

Best Free Ecommerce Platforms: The Verdict

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:

The 8 Best Free Ecommerce Website Builders

  1. Square Online (free plan) – Most generous free ecommerce plan.
  2. Big Cartel (free plan) – Best for independent artists.
  3. Wix (free to build, not sell) – Best for small online stores.
  4. Shopify (free trial) – Best for larger businesses.
  5. Squarespace (free trial) – Best value for money.
  6. BigCommerce (free trial) – Best for a purely online business.
  7. WooCommerce (free to install) – Best WordPress ecommerce plugin.
  8. Magento (free to install) – Best for enterprise-level businesses.

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 Shopify or BigCommerce 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.

Still unsure about which platform to choose? We've done the research for you, and written this quick quiz to help!

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Best Ecommerce Platforms: FAQs

Yes – nearly all ecommerce platforms offer a free trial, so you can start building an online store for free. Square Online and Big Cartel let you build and sell for free, while Wix lets you build a store at no cost – in order to sell products, though, you’ll have to upgrade.
According to our research, Square Online, Wix, and Squarespace all offer fantastic value for money when it comes to building an online store. Square is ideal if you want to keep costs down, with its cheapest ecommerce plan costing just $12 per month. However, it does offer fewer sales features than Wix, which, at $27 per month, has more scalability potential. Squarespace’s ecommerce plans start from $23 per month and come with a modest but impressive suite of sales tools, as well as the best designs on the market.
Wix has a 14-day free trial where you can begin to set up a store. But the drawbacks to the free trial is that you can’t accept payments until you upgrade your plan.
According to our research, Wix is the best all-around ecommerce platform. It has a comprehensive range of sales tools, a huge app market, excellent customer support, and offers the most creative control. However, if you’re planning to build a large online store, with complex inventory needs, we’d recommend trying Shopify or BigCommerce.
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 Square Online uses ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence) to build your store in minutes.
Written by:

Being a Writer for Website Builder Expert isn’t just typing words on a laptop. Each day, I’m finding new and innovative ways to help you get online in a mode you feel comfortable with. And it’s a task I do with enthusiasm and gusto. Not only do I have experience building with all the providers we talk about - creating websites such as this Strikingly demo - but we also have our wonderful, constantly updated research fielded by our researchers, so you can be reassured that what we say is an honest reflection of our professional opinions.

I’ve written articles and featured guest posts for apps like UXPin on web design in the modern age, as well as answered over 100 user comments on the site and delved into the world of choosing a domain name and adding Bitcoin payments to your site in my own pitched articles. All of this is to say that when I want to get you online - I mean it!

Outside the office, I have attended the eCommerce Expo and built up a ton of industry knowledge through talks, workshops, and guided learning sessions with noted experts.

The internet is made for everyone, so come online and let us help you get there.

Researched by:
Natasha Willett Lead Researcher

I love to understand human behavior and the cognitive biases that drive us to do what we do. For over nine years I have worked as a mixed method researcher – research using a mix of numerical data and personal experiences – across a range of sectors, from insurance and policy development to finally arriving at Website Builder Expert five years ago. Fascinated by consumer decision-making, I meticulously built our leading ranking methodology to explore where providers like Wix sit within a competitive industry and what value they truly bring to our audience.

As a member of the Market Research Society, I’m an advocate for high ethical, commercial, and methodological best practices. All of this combines to give you the most ethical recommendations based on real data.


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