People's love for shopping online has led to the birth of the eCommerce industry. In 2018, eCommerce sales around the world reached $653 billion.
Mobile purchases accounted for 25%, a total of $163.25 billion. By 2021, mobile sales will increase to 75%, a total of $3.5 trillion.
Entrepreneurs are rushing to get a piece of the pie, and they're busy setting up stores on different platforms to sell their products. However, choosing a reliable platform is hard.
Besides, your needs will vary depending on the stage of business growth that you're in. You might be interested in a platform that makes your site load faster, ensure data security, or one that you can optimize for mobile… All of which improve customer experience, and therefore, your bottom line.
My name is Adam Enfroy and I write to 150,000 monthly readers on my marketing blog www.adamenfroy.com.
With eight years of eCommerce experience, I want to share my list of the eight best free eCommerce platforms to consider when setting up your online store.
Founded in 2008, today nopCommerce powers over 60,000 stores. The free and open-source platform is based on the secure Microsoft ASP.NET framework.
With nopCommerce, you can sell both physical and virtual products, manage several stores from a single installation, or make an international multi-vendor marketplace. Since this shopping cart is the open-source one, it can be customized according to your requirements and integrated with CRM, ERP systems and third-party services.
Multi-language and multi-currency support
With nopCommerce, you do not need to deploy multiple sites to support multiple languages — all the necessary languages can be added to the store from the admin panel in a couple of clicks. The currencies you need can be added just as quickly.
Easy inventory management
nopCommerce allows you to manage multiple warehouses and track the amount of each product on the site. You can also set up alerts for the store administrator in case you run out of any item in the store.
The variety of built-in marketing tools
nopCommerce allows you to collect reviews and ratings from customers and give them coupons to help you convert more leads into customers. You can bring more traffic to your store with the affiliates, set up email campaigns, and raise the sales with tier pricing.
A flawless checkout process
With such options as anonymous checkout and one-page checkout, nopCommerce helps you improve customer experience and reduce cart abandonment rates, as it leads to $18 billion lost annually. There is also a wide range of payment methods and shipping options to choose from.
- You need basic technical skills or developer’s help to set up your nopCommerce store initially.
- Premium support from the core developers costs $299 for three months and $799 for one year.
Wix helps small business owners design beautiful websites without having to pay expensive designers. It is popular for its drag and drop user interface, which makes it easy to use, especially if you are a beginner. It also allows you to sell both physical and digital products, making it a good choice for small to midsize stores selling less than 100 products.
When editing your site, you'll see how your edits affect the final outlook of your storefront design. You don't have to wait until you finish to preview your changes.
Create a global eCommerce site by having different sites with different languages for each country.
Integrated email campaigns
Setup professional emails for your eCommerce store then install their abandoned cart recovery plugin to follow up with customers who left items during checkout.
Wix helps you protect customer information through its 256-bit SSL encryption, and works with secure payment options with high levels of encryption.
- You don't get alerts when your products are running low, meaning that you will disappoint customers who buy products that are out of stock.
- If you want to get access to tracking and analytics, you'll have to upgrade to the paid plan.
Having been around for ten years now, Square has managed to capture the attention of merchants by being the first platform to accept mobile payments.
It has an advanced mobile processing solution without monthly fees. If you're a low volume merchant with a small online presence, Square might be the solution that you need. You don't need to be a skilled web designer or know how to write code to create your site on Square. Besides, they have great integrations for content marketing and blog posts.
It makes it easier to manage your inventory
Square syncs your list automatically, so you don't have to track the missing products manually.
Customize your dashboard
The dashboard has different apps allowing you to manage backend features in your store. You can also view the information you need from your site through the widgets provided.
Collect customer feedback instantly
Square feedback asks your customers to share their shopping experience with you so you can implement the feedback you get immediately. It’s easier to manage your store's reputation and meet your customers' expectations.
Choose a shipping carrier, buy and print labels, track your shipments, and update your customers on the status of their purchase. Using the free plan, you can set a rate based on weight, the number of orders, or the quantity of items a customer buys. You still have an option to have a flat rate or offer free shipping.
- Some of the best features are restricted to paid accounts e.g., shipping features.
- Payment options are limited to Square as compared to other platforms that provide different payment options for your store.
Launched in 2008, Prestashop powers 250,000 sites globally. It is good option for small and midsize businesses, allowing you to create your store the way you want by adding the functionality that serves your needs.
Active user community
Prestashop's user community has more than 1 million members and 1,000 + contributors. As a new user, you won't get stuck because all you have to do is post a question in their community and someone will respond.
Allows you to provide good customer service
Prestashop will enable you to send emails to customers who abandon their shopping carts and send automated emails after they buy.
You can also segment your customers and run relevant sales prospecting campaigns based on the offers they opted in to.
Flexible payment options
It makes it easier for customers to make payments at their convenience, either through checks or wire transfers.
Prestashop helps you track your products and alerts you whenever you need to restock a specific product.
- It has a steep learning curve for people who lack tech experience.
- Customer support is expensive.
Small to midsize business owners with web development experience find Opencart as a viable option for two reasons: keep their operating costs low and have a ton of options to customize their sites.
That said, the platform has an intuitive user interface making it easy to learn, so you have all the functionality you need to create your site and start selling your products.
Opencart allows your customers to share their thoughts about the products they buy and their shopping experience. To avoid spam, moderate their reviews to avoid distracting other customers who need to read them before making a purchase.
Offers multiple checkout options
To prevent customers from leaving their carts open, OpenCart allows you to provide them with a guest checkout option for first-time buyers. It saves them the hassle of having to register before making a purchase.
Know what’s going on in your store by looking a sales reports, types of products your customers viewed, and what they bought.
OpenCart has a large community of developers who create different themes and extensions for users.
- You need to buy add ons to achieve the functionality you need with OpenCart.
- Support is limited to forums and user documents.
If you know anything about WordPress and blogging to drive traffic to your store, then you've probably heard of WooCommerce. Initially released in September 2011, WooCommerce achieved 1 million downloads in less than two years.
It powers more than 30% of online stores, given that merchants sell what they want without having to pay any transaction fees. Also, being based on WordPress, users have access to different themes and plugins to design and run their sites.
Stable content management system
WooCommerce runs on WordPress, meaning that you have access to the content management system that allows you to create and post content quickly, manage user accounts for influencers, and more.
To reduce the likelihood of cart abandonment, WooCommerce offers guest checkout plugins to help customers make payments faster.
Variety of templates and designs
Create your store to look exactly how you want from the vast number of templates available.
- If you haven't used WordPress before, it will take some time before understanding how to create your store on WooCommerce.
- Customer support is limited.
- WooCommerce pricing isn’t as straightforward as it seems with many hidden costs and additional fees.
7. Magento Open Source
Magento Open Source is a good choice for small to medium-sized businesses that want to create fast and affordable sites. Their code allows you to customize different features of your shopping cart to make it easier for customers to buy from you.
Create and run more than one store on the platform, especially if you are selling different products to different audience segments.
Flexible shipping and payment options
You won't lose customers simply because they can't pay for a product they want to buy.
Incase you get stuck, posting your problem inside the community will help you find a solution from the responses you get.
- Hard to learn for no-technical business owners and finding developers who understand the platform is hard.
- Shipping integrations don't provide accurate shipping rates.
Since its launch in 2001, X-Cart has established itself as one of the fastest platforms in the marketplace.
More than 38,000 stores use this platform, earning more than $3 billion in gross merchandise volume. It offers two options to merchants: build your online store or build a marketplace with several vendors.
Manage your store from your mobile device while at the same time, allow users to access your store from their mobile devices.
Easy Checkout process
Provide your customers with a one-step checkout process. For first-time buyers, give them a guest checkout option to avoid losing them during registration. With 75% of customers taking their business elsewhere if the checkout process is too difficult, an optimized checkout experience greatly improves conversion rates.
Use customer reviews to convince buyers to make a purchase. Provide upsells and downsells to increase your profit margins.
Sell your products all over the world by using relevant languages and currencies in your target countries.
- You will need to pay for an annual subscription to enjoy new features they release.
- They don't have many templates, so you have to custom write everything for products and their descriptions.
The platform you choose to build your store on will determine how well you do as a merchant. And before settling for one, you need to look at what you want to achieve, and the features that align with your business needs in each platform.
Another thing to consider is what each platform is doing to meet its users' needs. Is the platform releasing new integrations, themes, and other features that help you run your site smoothly? Since your store will grow, your needs will change, so you want a platform that stays ahead of you by providing relevant features.
All the platforms I have mentioned come with a free demo. Keeping this in mind, pick the best three from the list. Sign up for a demo in each and narrow down to one that best serves your needs and start building your store.