We explain everything you need to know to help you build a free ecommerce website…
As the pandemic and its effects wear on, the easiest and most cost-effective way to communicate with your customers is online. The best free ecommerce website builders can help you do just that.
We’ve conducted extensive research into the best free ecommerce platforms, examining the quality of their free plans and trials by hand-testing their sales tools, website features, design functions, and customer support, amongst other vital areas of ecommerce.
These platforms make it easy to build a free ecommerce website, whether it’s by offering an entirely free plan, or a free trial period that lets you build a website and test the platform before spending a penny. Once we’ve guided you through the platforms, we’ll also explain how to make an ecommerce website for free to help you get started.
The five best free ecommerce website builders
|Ecommerce platform||Free plan/trial?||Best for|
|Square Online||Free plan||Best overall free ecommerce website builder|
|Wix||14-day free trial||Best for user-friendliness|
|Squarespace||14-day free trial||Best templates|
|Constant Contact||Free plan||Best for time-conscious users|
|Big Cartel||Free plan||Best for artists|
1. Square Online
Best overall free ecommerce website builder
Square Online provides everything you need to start selling products – for free! Well, you do pay 1.9% per transaction instead, but it’s still your best option for creating a free ecommerce website.
It has the most generous free plan of any platform we tested, offering multi-channel integration with Instagram and Pinterest, the ability to sell unlimited products (most other platforms allow you to sell three to five products on their free plans), and automatic inventory syncing.
As with all free website builder plans, the only slight catch is that you have the platform’s branding on each of your web pages, plus a subdomain on your URL. These risk your site appearing unprofessional (or worse, untrustworthy), which can lead to lost sales.
If that’s something of concern, then you can sign up to the Professional plan at just £9 per month instead. This will connect your own website domain name, and remove the Square branding.
- Generous free plan offering multi-channel integration
- Access to even more features for just £9 per month on the Premium plan
- Quick and easy to set up your free ecommerce website
- Free plan comes with Square ads on every page
- Very limited creative freedom when designing your site
- Lacks the helpful prompts and support found on Wix when setting up your site
However, to build an ecommerce store and start selling products and taking payments, you’ll need to sign up to at least the Business Basic plan (£13 per month). Its price plans are still very affordable, though, making it one of the best platforms for small businesses.
Don’t be put off, though – you can first enjoy a free trial of your ecommerce store for 14 days to see if you like the platform. We were certainly impressed by Wix’s ecommerce features, value for money, and help and support.
Wix can’t beat Square Online for overall value for money, but it has some of the most user-friendly features of any platform we tested.
- Makes it really easy to build your brand image with its intuitive design interface
- Add product videos (but only on the ecommerce plans, starting from £13 per month)
- 14-day free trial and affordable premium plans
- The amount of creative freedom can feel overwhelming at first
- Only offers multi-channel integration with Instagram as an in-built feature, unlike Square which offers more in-built integrations
We’re sure you’ll be impressed by Squarespace (we definitely were), so you’ll need to then sign up to an ecommerce price plan if you’d like to continue selling products online through its platform. Starting from £20 per month, it’s more expensive than Square and Wix – however, you’re paying for superb features, and a beautiful website that can truly stand out from the competition.
Squarespace isn't as user-friendly as Wix or Square Online, so you might struggle slightly with its learning curve if you’re a tech beginner. Also, it only supports two payment processors: PayPal and Stripe.
However, using Squarespace is the closest you can get to a professionally designed ecommerce website, which will help boost your brand image and attract more sales.
- Best-designed templates of any platform we tested, helping your products stand out
- 14-day free trial and great value for money premium plans
- Impressive ecommerce features, including multi-channel integration
- Harder to use than Wix
- Supports very few payment processors (only PayPal and Stripe)
4. Constant Contact
Best for time-conscious users
Using its ADI (artificial design intelligence), Constant Contact can generate a free ecommerce website for you within a few minutes – ideal for time-conscious users or tech beginners.
It also offers excellent email marketing integration, helping you stay in constant contact with your customers and encourage more sales.
However, that’s about as far as its redeeming factors go. Constant Contact provides no app store, an underwhelming selection of templates, and little to no SEO support (unlike Wix) – and you can only sell up to three items on its free plan.
Overall, it’s a quick and affordable option, but you do get what you pay for – which isn’t always a good thing.
- ADI option can generate a free ecommerce website within a few minutes
- Excellent email marketing integration
- Very limited SEO support compared to Wix
- No app store to help you add extra functions
- Underwhelming template designs, especially compared to Squarespace
5. Big Cartel
Best for artists
Big Cartel’s biggest draw is its generous free plan, which enables you to sell up to five products (compared to Constant Contact’s three).
Also offering the ability to promote your products through Facebook and Instagram, Big Cartel is well suited to artists selling prints or individual items that don’t require different colour or size variants.
Like most other platforms, though, its free plan is very limited in terms of features. It also comes with a subdomain (‘.bigcartel.com’ in this case) rather than your own personalised URL, which can make your website look unprofessional. To avoid these problems, you can sign up to its Platinum plan for just £7 per month.
You’ll also need to know how to code – assuming you want to grow your Big Cartel store into something more than just a basic, forgettable website.
- Generous free plan, enabling you to sell up to five products
- Lots of user-friendly prompts to help you navigate the interface
- One of the best free ecommerce website builders for artists
- Very basic template designs with little creative flexibility
- Coding is required for building a beautiful Big Cartel website (unlike on Squarespace)
How to make an ecommerce website for free
Learning how to build a free commerce website is simple enough, as long as you know which platforms to use. A few platforms – such as Square Online, Constant Contact, and BigCartel – offer free plans which allow you to build a free ecommerce website and sell a limited number of products, at no cost. However, these plans are limited in terms of features, and usually offer underwhelming templates – which can make it hard for your business to stand out online.
There are other, more popular platforms, such as Wix and Squarespace (which also scored highly in our research), which offer a free trial period rather than a free plan. This means you can build an entire online store and test the platform’s tools at no cost. If you enjoy using it, you’ll then need to sign up to a monthly subscription. Wix’s ecommerce plans start from just £13 per month, while Squarespace’s start from £20 per month, when billed annually.
Based on our research, we’ve shown you the best free ecommerce website builders. You should now have a clear understanding of which platform will suit your business, whether that’s Wix or Squarespace with their free trials, or any of the options that provide free plans, such as Square Online.
The free plans are clearly an excellent way to cut costs, but they do make it difficult for your business to stand out online and grow due to their lack of features. That’s why we’d recommend signing up for a more premium plan, in order to start selling more products through a website that stands out from the competition. Thankfully, the majority of paid plans are still very affordable.