If there’s something we’ve all learned in the last decade, it’s that you can buy almost anything online. This means you can sell almost anything online — assuming it’s a product that’s legal. It shouldn’t be a surprise that global e-commerce spending skyrocketed in 2020, and all signs point to this trend continuing in the decade ahead.
This is excellent news for you if you have something you want to sell online. Maybe you’re expanding a brick-and-mortar store, or you’re launching an online business selling a niche product. Either way, you’ll probably need an online store builder to help you get started.
Online store builders are website platforms with features geared specifically for e-commerce sales. There are many to choose from, ranging from free plan options to some that charge a monthly subscription fee.
We’re going to help you find the best free e-commerce website builder for your small business so you can finally start selling online.
Creating an e-commerce website doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task, but you will want to do some research to find a free online store builder with features that fit your specific needs and future goals.
If you’re a small business owner or individual looking to sell goods online, you may have some questions about how to set up a free online store. Here’s what you might be thinking:
These are just some of the basic considerations we’ll cover as we review the pros and cons of each e-commerce website builder.
One note before we begin: These are listed in alphabetical order, not preference. And bear in mind that the best free online store builder is the one that works the hardest for you and your business. What’s right for one shop owner may not be the best pick for another.
Here are the eight we’ll review:
Exploring these free e-commerce website builders is a great starting point since you likely won’t have to commit to a subscription fee. You’ll get to test-drive a website with basic features and functionality and then quickly learn what you need and what you can live without.
Let’s do a deeper dive into the features by looking at the pros and cons of each of our top picks.
Despite its name, Big Cartel is perfect for small businesses that are just starting out. If you’re planning to sell a few individual pieces rather than bulk items, this may be an excellent option for you. Big Cartel is popular with artists who want to set up shop and sell their goods online.
Coding skills? Yep. If you want more than basic functionality, knowing how to code can be useful to make this online store builder work best for you.
For example, Big Cartel’s free plan offers integration with social platforms so you can sell on Facebook and tag items on Instagram. But you’ll need coding skills to know how to set this up. If this is a deal-breaker for you, proceed to number 2.
The takeaway If you’re looking to scale up your business, Big Cartel’s free plan likely won’t be a great choice. If you think you’ll need more robust sales features soon, be prepared to upgrade or consider another plan. But if you’re an artist selling a few paintings at a time, Big Cartel’s free plan may be all you need.
If you already have a website for your small business that doesn’t have a built-in e-commerce solution, Ecwid may be the online store builder for you. Ecwid can be added to your existing website with a plug-in that’s available in 50 languages. A free Ecwid plan may be enough for you if the cons don’t outweigh the pros.
A free Ecwid plan might sound appealing to you, but maybe you don’t have a website for your business yet. If you’re thinking about creating one, look into website builders like Wix, Squarespace, or WordPress to get started. We’ve also got some handy do’s and don’ts in this article.
The takeaway Like many free online store builders, Ecwid will get you only so far with its free plan. But if you already have a business website and you’re selling on a small scale, it may be worth a trial run. Or you might want to move on to number 3.
Unlike the first two options, Freewebstore is a free e-commerce website builder that typically allows unlimited products. And you can access many of the built-in sales features for free. Their tagline “Free e-commerce for everyone” supports the idea that they truly cater to small businesses on a budget.
The takeaway For a free platform, Freewebstore provides small businesses with the essentials for launching an online store. While some extended functionality requires paid apps or a subscription, you may be able to test drive Freewebstore a bit longer before you feel compelled to upgrade.
Mozello est-il fait pour vous? Translation: Is Mozello right for you? Great question. Mozello may be the right online store builder for you if you’re looking for the best multilingual e-commerce website. With the free plan, you can create multilingual stores to sell your products in different languages. This is Mozello’s most unique feature and one that most free online store builders don’t offer.
The takeaway Mozello may be the right fit for small businesses that want to take advantage of the multilingual feature and inventory tracking options that come with the free plan. Business owners who don’t need these features may find the platform too simplistic and unsophisticated for their needs. Moving on to número 5.
A relative newbie to the scene, MyOnlineStore also offers the ability to create a site in the language of your choice within its free plan. It’s one of the more design-forward platforms on this list, making it user-friendly for beginners. Check out these pros and cons to see how it compares.
The takeaway MyOnlineStore is a young Dutch company that may be a good option for the European market since their translation feature allows for better international selling. Overall, their free plan doesn’t have much more to offer than the other sites listed. And with no social-sharing capabilities, even with their paid plans, they may not meet your future needs.
First, a quick fun fact: Square Online is a point-of-sale provider you can use to open a free online store. Squarespace is a platform specifically for building websites. They are entirely different companies, and the one we’re here to review is Square Online. Now that we have that squared away, let’s move on!
If you’re looking for a free e-commerce website builder that can help you manage both online and in-store sales, Square Online is an excellent choice. It allows established brick-and-mortar retailers the ability to start selling online without a lot of extra work.
The takeaway Since Square Online’s POS system has been the go-to solution for small business owners who want to sell goods from anywhere, it has an established background that makes this choice a safe bet.
And it’s worth mentioning that in 2018, Square Online acquired Weebly, a well-known and respected website builder. Weebly would have been on this list, but their focus is now on Square Online, which makes number 6 an even more potentially desirable pick!
The online store builder Strikingly is quite striking. If you’re selling one product or service and you’re looking for a minimalist approach, then this may be the site for you. The free plan allows you to sell one product via a single-page layout, which is effortless to set up.
The takeaway Strikingly isn’t for everyone. But for sellers focused on single product sales, it is one of the best platforms available. It allows users to build simple, single-page sites that look beautiful on desktop and mobile devices.
If you have a WordPress website and you’re looking to add a store, you will be wooed by WooCommerce. Its free version supports physical and digital goods, and it works for stores of all sizes, so this is a perfect fit for small businesses that may want to eventually scale up.
The takeaway WooCommerce offers a lot of flexibility — you can sell just about anything from physical items that ship to digital downloads and online lessons. It’s a powerful online e-commerce option that has the potential to turn your business into a megastore if that’s your end goal.
As you can see, there are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a free online store builder. One thing to remember is that we’re talking about free plans. There are many other e-commerce website builders to consider if you’re willing to pay monthly fees that range from a few dollars to hundreds.
But there’s no need to stress out about paying for a subscription just yet. With one of these website builders, you can usually start for free. Making a choice won’t be as daunting since you have nothing to lose. Just take some time to map out your short- and long-term goals, and see which online store builder is your best match.
With most of these sites, you can get up and running within an hour or two. If you find that one site builder isn’t as user-friendly as you’d hoped, move on quickly and try another. The best fit for you will be the site builder that you’re most comfortable using. And the one best suited to your business needs.
Speaking of business needs, here’s one you should never overlook — insurance coverage. Anyone running an online business needs to protect their store and customers.
Even though you aren’t operating a brick-and-mortar shop, you share many of the same risks. You may not be coming face-to-face with your buyers, but your buyers are interacting with your products — and that exposes you to potential product liability claims.
This insurance policy can offer you financial protection from common claims such as:
Let’s say you make handmade artisanal soap. You use simple, natural ingredients with no chemicals or additives, adding only essential oils to your recipes.
Unfortunately, one of your customers is allergic to the oil used and claims that your soap caused her to suffer a horrible rash and blisters, requiring medical treatment.
She’ll recover, but your online business may not. In addition to giving your online store a bad review, she may sue you for her medical costs. And you’d likely be financially responsible for them. But with general liability insurance, your policy could cover the cost of the claim, plus attorney’s fees, to defend you in court (up to your policy limit).
As an e-commerce business owner, you’re a target for hackers who want to steal customer information or do damage to your website. Antivirus and cyber protection products are the first defense, but they aren’t foolproof. Don’t let your little shop turn into a little shop of horrors.
If a hacker gets through to your personal data or your customers’ financial information, it could cost your business tens of thousands of dollars. A cyberattack can quickly become an expensive and time-consuming event. As a small business owner, you may be responsible for:
Finding and fixing the breach Notifying your customers Providing credit monitoring for affected customers And more
Cyber insurance can help you cover those costs (up to your policy limits). You can feel confident that you’re getting the coverage you need to protect your money and your peace of mind.
Here’s what cyber insurance usually covers:
Just answer a few questions, and we’ll get you a quote for cyber insurance in less than a minute.
E-commerce business insurance also can help you meet legal requirements in your city, county, or state and meet the platform requirements of e-commerce sites like Amazon. And customers will feel good about purchasing from your store if they know you’re insured.
Your e-commerce insurance can be customized to your specific risks, so you don’t have to pay for what you don’t need. We can find e-commerce insurance policies starting as low as $22.50/month.* And it’s easy to get a quote in under 10 minutes.
You’re on your way to selling your goods online, and it feels great to be putting yourself out there at last. With an online store working hard for you, your business will be thriving in no time.
Because you’re operating in a virtual world, you might assume you don’t need insurance. But the truth is, you do. Knowing your small business is set up with the right e-commerce insurance policy will help put your mind at ease. And that means you’ll have more time to focus on your shop, your products, and your customers.
This content is for informational purposes only. Simply Business does not endorse any particular product or service.
* Monthly payment calculations (i) do not include initial premium down payment and (ii) may vary by state, insurance provider, and nature of your business. Averages based on August 2021 data of 43% of our total policies sold.
I've always loved to write and have been lucky enough to make a career out of it. After many years in the corporate advertising world, I'm now a freelance writer—running my own show and contributing to Simply Business. Fun fact: I have three desks in my house, but I still do my best thinking walking in the woods.
Susan writes on a number of topics such as workplace safety, customer sales, and workers' compensation insurance.
This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer
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*Harborway Insurance policies are underwritten by Spinnaker Insurance Company and reinsured by Munich Re, an A+ (Superior) rated insurance carrier by AM Best. Harborway Insurance is a brand name of Harborway Insurance Agency, LLC, a licensed insurance producer in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. California license #6004217.