eCommerce software is a comprehensive platform that enables retailers and brands to create eCommerce sites and manage all aspects pertaining to online marketing and sales of products and/or services.
If you’re a brick-and-mortar store owner and you want to diversify your operation by opting to build an online store, but your budget is limited, there are several options available to help initiate your transition from a traditional retail store to a fully operational eCommerce business at minimal cost. The first thing you need to do is accept the fact that there is no such thing as a completely free eCommerce platform. Understand that there is always a catch when it comes to free eCommerce platforms and software solutions, but the catch is not always negative though. It all depends on your specific requirements as an eCommerce store owner. Free eCommerce software has a lot of potential in terms of features and capabilities, but you can’t realistically expect a complete solution for no cost.
When it comes to free eCommerce software, you have a few options that you can consider. One is to go with best-of-breed cloud-based eCommerce solutions with a free trial. These are premium eCommerce platforms that provide free trials to interested parties. You get full access to the software product, but the catch is the limited time. Most free trials are limited to either seven or 14 days, after which you can either drop the subscription or upgrade to a paid plan. Another option is to go with an indefinitely free plan that is sometimes available as one of the subscription options. These are free forever, but they are often limited in terms of features, capabilities and support. Free and open-source eCommerce platforms are also a viable choice for small businesses operating in the realm of digital commerce.
eCommerce solutions serve as a centralized repository for all information related to your products and customers. This is also the key role that all free eCommerce software tools play for your eCommerce operation. The software lets you manage all product data, personalize your store content, its layout, as well as your storefront. It allows you to process online transactions and accept payments with ease and efficiency.
As with most premium eCommerce platforms, free eCommerce solutions come in different shapes and sizes. Not all eCommerce platforms in the market are created equal. Some are designed with a focus on business-to-consumer (B2C) sales, while others offer business-to-business (B2B) capabilities. More traditional eCommerce software focuses on facilitating the sale of physical products, catering mostly to online retail stores.
Lately, however, more and more vendors and service providers are offering features and tools that are designed to facilitate the sale of digital products through a subscription model. This category of paid and free eCommerce software can be used by any employee of an eCommerce company. However, it is more useful and beneficial to sales and marketing teams, as well as product management personnel. A free and open-source eCommerce platform is a good example of a type of eCommerce solution that can support both B2C and B2B eCommerce businesses.
Since open-source eCommerce solutions can be customized and modified to fit the unique requirements of the organization using them, they are ideal for larger eCommerce businesses with a strong customer base in need of a platform that can support managing multiple stores across different locations and sales channels. An existing product that fits this particular profile is Magento open-source eCommerce platform. While small online stores can certainly implement this software, it’s not well-suited for small operations and beginners.
As a free eCommerce software solution, Magento is more suited to large eCommerce businesses. It’s an extremely powerful and complex solution that demands great care and attention. Basically, if you don’t have anyone in your team who can write code, Magento may not be the right option for you. On the other hand, if you or anyone in your company is knowledgeable or know how to code, then this free eCommerce platform can offer you great scalability and customization. You can easily modify and mold the eCommerce software to fit your brand and meet your requirements.
When it comes to free eCommerce software, small businesses and online store owners will find that inventory management is among the most useful features they can utilize to make things easier for their eCommerce operation. Managing inventory or stocks can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, but with a good inventory management solution, the process can be done smoothly and efficiently through automation. A good inventory management tool is one of the most important features of any eCommerce solution. It is vital to find a free eCommerce platform with good inventory management.
Customization is also a good feature to have in a free eCommerce platform. While most free eCommerce solutions don’t offer much in terms of customization, it’s good to find one that offers even the most basic customization feature. However, if you are adept at coding or if you employ someone who is good at coding, then a free and open-source eCommerce platform might be a good choice for your business. Through the free source code, you can fully customize the platform to meet your standards and requirements.
With an open-source system, you have the ability to seamlessly integrate a good shopping cart tool and a secure payment gateway to enhance the shopping experience for your customers. You also have the option to incorporate social media networks as part of your sales channels. Most premium or paid eCommerce solutions provide this functionality through APIs, but they may not always be available in the free version. This is why if you need this function—the ability to fully customize the software—you might be better off with an open-source eCommerce platform.
The level of support that the vendor provides for their free eCommerce software users is a crucial feature that you need to take into account when choosing the right software product for your eCommerce business. While many vendors and service providers offer minimal support for their free software product, there are others out there that do go all the way in providing the best product support for both their free and paid software solutions.
Building an eCommerce website so you can start selling your products and/or services online involves a substantial amount of your time and resources. It entails a lot of challenges and sacrifices, to get an online store up and running from scratch. Free eCommerce software is a just way to avoid the initial high cost or at least minimize the cost of setting up an eCommerce business. Eventually, you’re going to have to spend money and invest in a premium eCommerce solution to keep up with more complex requirements of your growing eCommerce business.
Now we go to the first and most obvious benefit of implementing free eCommerce software, the cost or the absence of it. If you opt for a free software product, you’re not investing any money into it besides your time and effort. This is beneficial to small brick-and-mortar businesses looking to transition or expand their operation online. A free eCommerce platform is a good stepping stone to the world of eCommerce and online sales without the risk of losing financial investment. Once you are settled, your operation is running smoothly, and if you decide you want more from your eCommerce software, then you can start thinking about upgrading to a paid plan.
A good free eCommerce platform gives you the ability to manage your online store and all the data related to it, including your products, your entire inventory and your customers. Even though free eCommerce solutions are often limited in terms of functions and capabilities, they still provide the basic features that can help make things easier for you and your organization. Some of the key features that you can expect from your free eCommerce platform include inventory management, product management, online payments processing, shopping cart, mobile app and limited customer support.
Your free eCommerce software can also help you attract more customers. Although you’re merely using a free software product to build your eCommerce website and manage your day-to-day operations, the fact that you have an online store up and running will help you attract new buyers, especially if you utilize social media to gain exposure for your store. Leveraging social media is the cheapest and most effective way to attract an audience and potential buyers.
Depending on the type of free eCommerce platform you implement, you can also benefit from the ability to automatically track your online sales, inventory levels and compliance with industry standards and regulations.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive solution to help you build your eCommerce business and have total freedom to expand your operation, then starting with a free eCommerce software solution is not a bad idea, assuming you can find the right eCommerce platform and a vendor that offers a free plan with all the features and capabilities you need to get your online store up and running.
Free eCommerce platforms are an excellent way to transition a brick-and-mortar retail business towards a completely digital operation. However, it is also a good choice for small businesses that are willing to pay for an eCommerce solution, but just want to try out the product before making an investment.