You already have a stellar product. Now it’s time to up your game by selling it online.
In today’s world, ecommerce is one of the best ways to go. In 2020 alone, more than 2 billion people bought products or services online. That same year, e-retail sales soared higher than $4.2 trillion worldwide.
No one can deny the importance of ecommerce to a business’s success. But it can be hard to know how to get started and build a solution on your website. If you’re looking for a free online store builder or an easy-to-use ecommerce platform, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve rolled up our sleeves and done the research for you, including finding out what’s free and what’s not. This way you can easily choose the free ecommerce website builder that best meets your business’s needs.
There are powerful (and expensive) ecommerce platforms best suited for enterprise and global companies. But small businesses typically do better when they use ecommerce platforms that are more affordable and tailored to their needs. After all, it’s a bit like using a chainsaw to carve a turkey. Or a nail gun to hang a picture. You get my point.
There are many powerful ecommerce solutions built for small businesses that are a fraction of the cost, and some of them are even free to use. Here are 8 of our favorites to help you find the best free ecommerce website builder for your business.
About the platform Founded in 2009 by two Australians, Eddie Machaalani and Mitchell Harper, BigCommerce has made a “big” footprint on the ecommerce software industry. After several years of raising capital and expanding its presence nationally, the company filed for an IPO in 2020 and went public shortly thereafter.
BigCommerce serves businesses of all sizes, including large, multinational companies. But here’s why we picked it for our list — it also has a solution tailored for small businesses, called BigCommerce Essentials.
Best for: small businesses that sell large volumes online BigCommerce Essentials is the clear-cut choice for small businesses that sell large amounts of products and services online.
It has features that are more attractive to businesses that are already well-versed in online sales. If that’s you, BigCommerce Essentials can offer powerful features that optimize your current ecommerce site.
But if you sell only a few items a month, skip down. There’s probably a better and lower-cost solution for you.
Here are some of the features that we believe make BigCommerce outstanding:
Start with a free 15-day trial. Then subscribe to one of these monthly plans:
$22.50/month - Best for starting your first online store & customizing its design
Plus $79.95/month - Best for growing your online business
Pro $299.95/month - Best for scaling your business & capitalizing on innovative features
Check out BigCommerce’s pricing page to learn more about the differences in these plans, including their features and fees.
About the platform
Chances are, you’ve heard of Bluehost. Founded in 2003, Bluehost is one of the largest web-hosting providers in the world, hosting more than 20 million domains. It’s also one of the only web-hosting companies that’s endorsed by WordPress, a wildly popular website builder.
To clarify, Bluehost is the hosting company, and WordPress is the tool to design and build your website. WooCommerce, however, is the plugin that makes ecommerce on a WordPress website possible.
Launched in 2011, this open-source plugin has made its mark on online selling. Not only is it free with a paid WordPress site, but it’s also easy to install and use, making it one of the most popular choices on the market.
Best for: businesses that use WordPress to build its websites
If your business’s website is already hosted by Bluehost and built with WordPress, WooCommerce is practically a no-brainer. The plugin is easy to install, offers thousands of themes, and has powerful features that make online selling simple.
It’s no wonder that more than 5 million online stores currently use WooCommerce.
Take a look at some of the features that we believe make WooCommerce stand out:
Guess what? WooCommerce is free. Yes, you heard that right. Free. You just need to pay for Bluehost website hosting and a WordPress ecommerce site at $45/month, billed monthly or yearly. Bonus, you get a free domain for a year with your first sign-up.
About the platform
Founded in 2001 by Matt DeLong and based in Tennessee, CoreCommerce offers small business owners an affordable online selling solution.
The ecommerce platform allows business owners to enjoy a variety of features, regardless of which price plan they’re on.
Some of these features include theme designs, marketing, order processing, and more. Plus, unlimited product customization, blogging capabilities, and site hosting.
Instead, you’ll notice that pricing differs, based on the number of products sold, the number of email addresses acquired, and how much storage you may need. Business owners who subscribe to the most expensive plan will enjoy more customer support services.
Best for: Small business owners seeking simplicity and transparency CoreCommerce markets a transparent solution — with no hidden fees or other costs. As long as you know how many products you’re selling and how much storage you may need, pricing is simple.
Here are some of the features we think makes BigCommerce outstanding:
You can get started using CoreCommerce’s Entrepreneur plan free for the first 30 days. Then sign up for:
Learn more by visiting CoreCommerce’s detailed pricing page. Plus, sign up for your first 30 days free to see if you like the solution.
About the platform
Born in 2009, Ecwid was founded by Ruslan Fazlyev, an entrepreneur who had already gotten his feet wet with ecommerce. After founding X-Cart, the world’s first PHP ecommerce platform, Fazlyev wanted to launch an online selling solution that would connect to existing business websites, rather than asking business owners to start from scratch to recreate their existing sites.
Ecwid’s website showcases beautiful ecommerce examples, ranging from sunglasses to furniture to clothes and shoes. It’s easy for business owners to get drawn in by Ecwid’s marketing — not to mention, their free lifetime plan for up to 10 products.
Best for: Small business owners who are just starting out Did you just launch your business? If you have 10 products or fewer and want to keep costs down, Ecwid may be the right choice for you.
You can use the free online store builder, as long as you keep 10 or fewer products to sell. When it’s time for your business to grow, Ecwid also offers affordable plans starting at just $12.50 a month.
Just because Ecwid is affordable, doesn’t mean the company skimps on features. Here’s what you can expect with your free plan and paid options.
Start with a free 15-day trial. Then subscribe to one of these monthly plans:
Everything in the free plan, plus:
Everything in the Venture plan, plus:
Everything in the Business plan, plus:
Go to Ecwid’s pricing and feature comparison page to determine which plan is best for you.
About the platform
Magento is one of the more powerful and successful ecommerce platforms we’re mentioning in this article — but it also comes at a higher price point.
An open-source PHP platform, Magento originally launched in 2007 and has been adopted by 12% of all ecommerce websites, or 0.7% of the internet. That’s a good chunk of all businesses that sell online.
Wonder what makes Magento so attractive? First, its user-friendly environment makes it simple to design and build online stores. Before making changes go live, even the most novice website designer can preview and publish without a hitch.
Plus, Magento offers all of the store fulfillment features, marketing, and analytics tools that you’d expect from a best-in-class ecommerce platform.
Currently, Magento is part of Adobe Commerce, giving it clout from a big name and easy access to Adobe’s suite of technology solutions.
Best for: Experienced business owners who want to boost their sales online
Magento offers powerful ecommerce capabilities, which may be better suited for an experienced business owner who is selling large-scale online.
Think back to my analogy about using a nail gun to hang a picture. For some small businesses with just a few products, Magento may be more than they need.
For established businesses that want to double or triple their growth online, Magento may pay off. Here are some of the features that make this more costly platform worth the price.
Magento is a higher-cost solution, starting at a couple thousand dollars a month. It’s best to talk to a Magento sales professional directly to find the right pricing for your business. Keep in mind, Magento currently doesn’t offer a free version.
About the platform
Formerly known as 3dcart, Shift4Shop was founded in 1997 in Tamarac, Florida. The company offers a cloud-based ecommerce solution that’s available to small business owners with a monthly subscription fee.
Even though it’s an older solution, Shift4Shop has quite a bit to offer to the average business owner. Not only does it have mostly all of the “expected” ecommerce capabilities, but Shift4Shop has options to request gift wrapping, the ability to start a loyalty program, and recurring order features.
Best for: Small business owners seeking innovative features at an affordable price
Shift4Shop has been around for quite a while, but that doesn’t mean it lacks innovation. In fact, it’s continually updated with new features that are designed to make selling online easier and more productive than ever.
Choose Shift4Shop if you’re a small business owner who’s looking for an ecommerce solution that’s anything but basic. Shift4Shop will give you all of the ecommerce features you expect — plus new bells and whistles.
Here are some of the features we believe stand out:
Get their end-to-end ecommerce solution free with a trial version. Or try one of these plans:
Head over to Shift4Shop to learn more about this ecommerce solution’s features and price points.
About the platform
Chances are, you’ve heard about Shopify. After all, the company has made a big name in ecommerce with large brands, like Pepsi, Tesla, and Red Bull, using it to generate billions in revenue.
As of 2021, there are 2,297 million websites that run using Shopify, and to date, these sites have generated $200 billion in global sales. However, just because Shopify has made a big mark on online sales, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s “too big” for small businesses.
In fact, Shopify is one of the best free online store builder solutions out there for a small business owner who wants to get an online shop up and running quickly.
Best for: Business owners who want to set up an online shop fast
It’s easy to start a 14-day free trial and build an online shop with Shopify in just minutes. Yes, you read that correctly — in 5 minutes or less, you have a live online store. Impressive!
Shopify has an onboarding wizard that quickly walks you through set-up and generates your store. It’s fast to set up payments, customize the site’s look and feel, and get your products on display.
If you’re like most small business owners, you don’t have a lot of time to fiddle with a complicated ecommerce solution. Shopify cuts through complex features and lets you get your store up and running fast.
Check out some of the reasons why we believe Shopify is a great choice for small business owners.
Get started with Shopify’s free 14-day trial. Then subscribe to one of these monthly plans:
Compare Shopify’s plans and features on their site to decide which version is right for you.
About the platform
Have you been in a store and seen a white, square-shaped card reader used to make payments? Most likely it’s a reader from Square, a financial services and digital payments company founded in San Francisco in 2009 by Jack Dorsey and Jim McKelvey.
Square’s biggest selling point is the chip reader that you’ve probably seen. It works hand-in-hand with the company’s ecommerce capabilities so you can offer purchases both in-person and online.
Just think — it’s the perfect solution for a brick-and-mortar store that also sells online or a restaurant hoping to boost online ordering.
Best for: Businesses that rely on ecommerce and in-person sales
Own a restaurant and want to offer online ordering too? Have a retail clothing store or small boutique and want to generate sales in another part of the country? Check out Square. It’s the all-in-one solution for small businesses that do both — in-person sales and online stores.
Take a look at some of the features that we believe make Square stand out in the market:
Square’s free plan allows you to sell unlimited products online, as well as on Instagram and Facebook. You also can upgrade to one of these more powerful options:
Free features, plus:
Professional features, plus:
Learn more about Square’s plan options and pricing on the company’s website.
Now that you’ve picked the best ecommerce platform for your business, it’s time to start selling. Or is it?
Actually, you may want to hold up sales until you purchase a solid business insurance policy.
Why do you need business insurance for your ecommerce business?
It’s easy to think that you may only need business insurance if you have a traditional brick-and-mortar or offline business. Unfortunately, there are a good number of risks even for online businesses.
Business insurance can help protect you from costly lawsuits that can put your business under water.
Think it can never happen to you? Think again. Here are a few examples of how your ecommerce business could be sued:
The financial fallout of a lawsuit can be disastrous for any company, especially if you’re a small business owner. Fortunately, business insurance is there to help. It can protect your company if you are sued or experience another type of claim, depending on your coverage and the nature of the claim.
Plus, it’s relatively low-cost. For example, with Simply Business, we can help you find GL coverage from leading insurers for as low as $19.58/mo.* And it takes just 10 minutes or less for you to get covered — a few minutes that are well worth your time and effort.
Next, let’s talk about the types of business insurance every ecommerce business owner should purchase before officially selling products.
Also known as GL insurance, general liability coverage can help pay for medical bills and ongoing treatment if someone outside your company is injured at your business.
For example, let’s say a vendor drops off inventory at your business’s warehouse and trips over a box. The vendor gets seriously injured and needs to get care from several doctors.
Fortunately, your GL insurance could help pay for their medical bills, up to your policy limits. That way, you don’t have to face those costs on your own.
General liability insurance also works if you operate your ecommerce business out of your home. Just imagine if someone dropping off inventory slips and falls on your icy walkway. As long as you have GL coverage, you don’t have to worry about paying for a costly lawsuit on your own.
GL insurance also can help cover the costs of property damage — either at the area of your home where you do business or at your company’s official location. Trust us, property damage can happen, even if you own an online store.
Let’s say a vendor visits your home or office to pick up a shipment. During the visit, you spill your hot coffee on their expensive tablet. Your GL insurance can help cover the cost of a replacement device, so you don’t have to pay out of pocket.
Marketing is incredibly important for the success of any ecommerce business. But if you inadvertently make a claim that you can’t back up — or make slanderous comments about a competitor — you can face a costly lawsuit.
Fortunately, professional liability insurance can help protect you from claims related to libel, slander, or copyright infringement. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to get caught in a mix-up related to one of these claims, even if you never intended to do harm.
Libel and slander can accidentally happen on social media and in advertisements. And “inspiration” from another company can quickly become copyright infringement, even accidentally.
Even if you’re in the right and win your case, you’ll likely still have legal fees to worry about. If you have a professional liability insurance policy, you could be protected from the financial fallout from one of these claims.
Your policy should step in to help pay for the costs of hiring a lawyer and any other legal fees, up to your plan’s limit.
This way, your business can keep operating normally, without facing disastrous financial consequences.
If your product gets shipped to a customer and causes an injury or property damage, you could face an expensive lawsuit. Let’s say you are a small business owner who manufactures a children’s toy that sells online.
One day, a small child chokes on the toy, causing an emergency trip to the hospital. The next thing you know, you’re faced with a costly lawsuit and potential product recall.
If you have product liability insurance, it can help cover the costs of the family’s medical bills, as well as the legal fallout of your product’s potential recall. Product liability insurance is one of the most important insurance coverage for ecommerce business owners to purchase. It also can help cover issues related to:
Product defects or flaws that cause injuries, accidents, or property damage Unclear or inadequate instructions that result in harm or damage
Remember, no product — or business owner for that matter — is perfect. If you have an online store, secure solid product liability insurance right away to help protect your business, no matter what might happen.
Unfortunately, cybersecurity attacks on online stores are very common, with 43% of all cyberattacks targeting small businesses. The financial consequences can be devastating — on both business owners and their customers.
In 2018, the average cyberattack cost a small business $34,604. Just imagine paying that amount out of your own pocket.
Hackers can steal customer financial details and threaten companies to pay millions of dollars before retrieving the information. It can cost business owners thousands just to investigate, clean up the mess, and re-secure company information.
Fortunately, cyber insurance is available. This type of coverage can help pay for future risk assessments, as well as damage control after a hacker has attacked.
Even better, we can get you a quote for cyber coverage in 60 seconds right here.
In today’s world, ecommerce is critical to the success of most businesses. Whether you’re a restaurant owner needing to implement a takeout solution, a retailer selling boutique-style clothing, a jewelry designer, or a toy manufacturer, you’ve probably noticed that people are buying more online than ever before.
To stay competitive in today’s market, it’s critical that you choose the right ecommerce platform to power your online store — and protect your online business along the way.
Remember, selling products and services online opens your business up to new and unique risks that you may have never faced before.
Almost anyone can see your online marketing information and accuse you of libel, slander, or copyright infringement. When you sell products online, you also will interact with new vendors, including shipping carriers, packing manufacturers, and others.
Anyone new that you interact with could bring new risks to your company. But general liability and professional liability policies can help you do business with vendors and customers with less worry.
Opening an ecommerce side to your business should be an optimistic next step — filled with excitement and potential — and not fraught with worry. Securing business liability insurance for your online store can help bring you the peace of mind you deserve as you take this important next step.
Get ready, as you embrace online selling, your business has the potential to take off even more than it already has in the past.
*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 January - March 2023 data of 10% of our total policies sold.
I earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin at Madison (go Bucky). After realizing my first job might involve carrying a police scanner at 2 am in pursuit of “newsworthy” crimes, I decided I was better suited for freelance blogging and marketing writing. Since 2010, I’ve owned my freelance writing business, EST Creative. When I’m not penning, doodling ideas, or chatting with clients, you’ll find me hiking with my husband, baby boy, and 2 mischievous mutts.
Emily writes on a number of topics such as entrepreneurship, small business networking, and budgeting.
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
*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.