Best Free Ecommerce Website Builders in 2021: Pros & Cons
The use of ecommerce website builders has been on the rise as more and more people are starting their own online store. They offer great value to those who want to get a professional-looking site without spending a lot of money.
However, it’s important to understand what you’re getting before you sign up for one because there is no such thing as free when it comes to building a business.
In this article we will explore 4 different free ecommerce website builders that all have their strengths and weaknesses so that you can make an informed decision about which one is best for you.
More importantly, we explore whether you should be using an ecommerce website builder in the first place.
What is an Ecommerce website builder?
Free eCommerce website builders are websites that allow users to make an online store for free. They are alternatives to paid ecommerce platforms.
For those looking to build a website from scratch, ecommerce website builders may be an option. These builders enable you to create a website without having any knowledge of coding and may include features for marketing, managing orders, and even shipping.
What makes a good Ecommerce website builder?
What are the features that you should look out for?
- an intuitive interface
- a variety of themes and designs to choose from
- free or affordable domain registration and hosting (usually included)
- easy setup, especially for beginners: no need to know programming skills like HTML/CSS.
4 Best Free Ecommerce Website Builders for 2021
When we looked at other articles in our research, we found that many options were no longer free. Some popular choices have all become paid, or only provide a limited time free trial. (Shopify, Magento, Wix, Weebly etc).
These are the 4 options that have a free plan as of 2021.
Square Online Store
Square Online Store is a website builder that offers some of the most in terms of features. It has an intuitive interface and an easy-to-use drag-and-drop editor which makes it perfect for beginners.
Rather than selecting from pre-existing blocks or templates, you simply choose your content by dragging text boxes around within the page editing area.
This means you don’t need any HTML/CSS knowledge to design a nice online store.
What are some of the disadvantages of Square Online Store’s free plan?
- Square’s branding and ads are highly visible
- Limited customization
- Limited features
- Limited payment options
- Not suited for high-volume sales
Strikingly is a website builder that focuses on mobile and tablet shopping. It has an intuitive, easy-to-use interface for creating online stores.
Strikingly has a free plan that offers all of the basic features you need from an eCommerce site builder.
It’s main draw is that is that it aims to be mobile optimized. It is at its best when building sites tailored specifically toward mobile devices like phones or tablets.
Limitations of the free plan:
- limited design customization
- limited SEO options
- low storage space and low bandwidth
- 1 product per site
Big Cartel is a free ecommerce platform that focuses on selling individual physical goods. Many use Big Cartel to sell artworks and creative items.
It has an intuitive, easy to use interface for creating your own online store.
The pros are:
- There is a free plan
- no transaction fees
- Easy to use interface
Limitations of Big Cartel free plan:
- can only sell 5 products
- 1 image per product
- lack of design customisations
- not designed to sell things in high volumes
- no customer logins, so all customers are guest checkouts
We know we are cheating when we include WooCommerce. Technically, it is not as free as the above 3. Woocommerce is free to download and use if you already own a domain and a server.
Woocommerce is a free plugin for WordPress. It gives WordPress the functionalities of an online store.
What are its pros?
- It is free to download and use if you already own a domain and server. Woocommerce is a plugin for WordPress, meaning it can be added to any existing WordPress website instantly.
- the highest customizability out of all of the above, and most SEO options, and most number of plugins you can install to increase features of your ecommerce website
The disadvantages of Woocommerce:
- Can’t work without domain and hosting- Technically, you need your own server in order to use WooCommerce at all
- It’s only available on WordPress sites so if that’s not something you want then we don’t recommend downloading Woocommerce.
- You need someone with technical skills to fully maximise the use of Woocommerce, and a designer is usually needed to customize a desired design.
Woocommerce is the tool we use for most of Web Imp’s Ecommerce clients because we love it’s easy of use, customizability, and scalability.
Why should you use free website builders?
Obviously, they are free! There are no upfront start-up costs so it’s easier to get started. It saves a lot of time if you just want to get up and running as fast as possible.
Very little coding or design knowledge is required, and less maintenance needed compared to full featured ecommerce platforms
When should you use ecommerce website builders?
These are some scenarios to use an ecommerce website builder for your online store.
- If a business does not have enough funds to pay for an ecommerce website platforms’ monthly fees, or to hire developers.
- When your online store does not need complex features and functionality that are found in expensive platforms.
- if you only intend to sell a product for a short period of time
- if you want to test a product for proof of concept.
Why you shouldn’t use free ecommerce website builder
There are many good reasons why a business should not use free ecommerce website builders.
They provide less functionality and features than paid counterparts. free ecommerce builders usually come with limited features and templates to choose from.
There is a lack of customer support or service from free ecommerce builders compared to other ecommerce platforms like Shopify.
Website builders can limit what you are able to do with your website design due to restrictions in the platform’s code. Free builders have limited templates that may not be suitable for your business’ needs.
You don’t really own the website that you build on these platforms. As you can’t use your own domain name, company branding is limited. If there are ads involved, you lose some credibility.
How do you know if free ecommerce website builders are right for your business?
Free ecommerce website builders are a great option for some new businesses, but this is not the best solution for every online store.
You need to compare the pros and cons, and weigh the benefits and costs of using a free ecommerce website builder. However, one thing is clear: if you intend to start a serious long term ecommerce business, free ecommerce website builders should not be your first choice.
Our digital strategists can help walk through these considerations so that we can find the perfect solution for your needs.
We’d love to hear from you if there are any questions about free ecommerce website builders or anything else!
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