An online store is different from a common web page. It should have a catalog of product cards, order and payment forms, customer accounts, synchronization with stock levels, etc. It takes a long time and even more money to develop such a site from scratch.
This is why cheap ecommerce website builders are so popular on the Internet. In this article, we’ll list the most popular solutions that will help you start your home business and build an online store as budget-friendly as you can.
Option 1. WordPress
Previously, WordPress was solely recognized as a blogging tool. However, today it has become a universal development platform that can be used to launch online stores and ecommerce websites. In fact, 43% of all websites use WorsPress.
To quickly create an online store, you need the WooCommerce plugin. It has everything a store needs: product cards, order forms, accounts, etc. The add-on appeared in the WordPress directory in 2014, and by 2022, it had been downloaded more than 123 million times.
Benefits of WordPress
Here are the main reasons for WooCommerce popularity, besides the fact that it’s free.
- It turns your website into an online store as soon as you install it.
- The add-on is compatible with many free themes and store designs.
- It’s also compatible with other plugins, including paid and free options for security, SEO, backups, etc.
- A reliable WordPress hosting plan costs as little as $4 a month.
We also should not forget the key advantages of all websites built on WordPress: they are easy to manage and have strong built-in tools for SEO. After launching the project, you can easily create new categories, add products, photos, descriptions, as well as optimize web pages for search engines.
Disadvantages of WooCommerce
There is an opinion that WooCommerce isn’t powerful enough for large stores with many products. However, the capacity of a WordPress online store depends on hosting, functionality, and traffic.
A low-tier hosting plan will slow down even the most optimized website. Here are the basic hosting requirements that you need to follow:
- PHP 7.3+
- MySQL 5.6+ or MariaDB 10.1+
- HTTPS protocol
The rest are formed based on your needs. To launch an online store, you can find both inexpensive and high-speed plans that will handle high load and traffic.
Website loading speed depends on the number of categories, products, and filters. The more of them, the slower the store works. So if you’re planning to build a new Amazon, then WordPress is not an option. Otherwise, the engine can support up to 10,000 product cards, and it can be easily integrated with CRM systems. But again, remember that a lot depends on the hosting.
To understand whether your hosting will survive the load, you should analyze your website traffic. If you constantly run ads and optimize your store for search engines, you might want to choose a more powerful hosting since your traffic will be growing.
So how much would you spend in total if you build an online store on WordPress? Let’s sum it up.
- Web hosting — $4/month
- WordPress — $0
- WooCommerce — $0
- Store design — $0
Option 2. Ecwid
Ecwid is not exactly a website builder since it specializes exclusively in the industry of ecommerce. It’s a plugin solution that can build a storefront into almost any engine or HTML website. Also, Ecwid is perfectly combined with cloud platforms either via integration modules or via inserting its own HTML code.
This is kind of a “Buy” button that can be embedded in almost any website. Another pleasant thing is that it’s as easy as it gets — you need to take very few steps to add a storefront to your web page.
Benefits of Ecwid
Even the basic features of Ecwid are enough to cover the most essential e-commerce needs. We are talking about built-in statistics and reports, a convenient catalog with import and export function, product filters and search, free SSL certificates, etc.
Here is what we like about Ecwid the most:
- Users don’t need to delve into tech details — they just fill out the product cards, and the system does the rest.
- The service can integrate into an existing page design, adapting to its style and color combinations.
- Blocks with products and categories are perfectly adaptive and work great on mobile devices.
Disadvantages of Ecwid
The main challenge when working with Ecwid is that it doesn’t operate on its own. You need a separate website that you will embed the storefront in.
If you do not set up integration with the user base, then you and your store customers will have two accounts: the first one for logging into your website, and the second one for logging into your online store. It’s a decent cross-platform solution, since the same store can be embedded into several websites. But otherwise, users will not find such a solution convenient.
Here are some other limitations:
- Lack of AMP can affect page loading and behavioral factors.
- SEO tools do not allow users to set page URLs manually.
- In addition to Ecwid tariffs, you need to pay for hosting of your website that you embed the Ecwid storefront in.
Even though Ecwid provides a free version, it doesn’t support full-fledged ecommerce stores. But you can use it just to get acquainted with the service features.
Here are the paid plans that support ecommerce websites:
- Ecwid Venture — $15/month
- Ecwid Business — $35/month
- Ecwid Unlimited — $99/month
Option 3. Shopify
Shopify is another method of creating online stores. Unlike Magento, WooCommerce, and other website builders, it requires minimal effort and no website building skills. You don’t have to worry about programming, hosting, or buying a domain.
According to BuiltWith, Shopify is the second most popular ecommerce platform in the world that launched more than a million stores around the world. In 2020, it contributed over $307 billion to the global economy. For comparison, the annual sales volume of Shopify stores is higher than the GDP of such countries as Finland, Czech Republic, and New Zealand.
Benefits of Shopify
Here are the top benefits of working with Shopify.
- You won’t have to deal with difficult tech matters. Shopify provides and supports its own software, hosting, and SSL certificates.
- You can choose your store design from a catalog of free and paid themes, all adapted for mobile.
- The Shopify app store has more than 1,500 solutions that you can install in a single click, such as loyalty programs, accounting software, and marketing hacks to increase average check and conversions.
Another important feature of Shopify is its powerful SEO that will help your ecommerce website rank higher in search engines. You’ll also have access to advanced analytics that show you where your customers are coming from. Finally, the Shopify team is available 24/7 and responds almost instantly to user requests.
Disadvantages of Shopify
Unfortunately, the platform does not offer free plans, but it provides users with a free 14-days trial. You can test the platform and explore all the features it offers. Besides, if your store is growing rapidly and you need to back it up with some functions, you will quickly find that Shopify tends to monetize every single thing:
- In order for your customers to leave reviews and rate your products, you will need to additionally purchase these features from the app store.
- For stores that do not use Shopify’s own payment module, there are extra fees for processing transactions.
- Professional reporting is only available on high-tier plans.
There are 5 plans available for Shopify users. But since we are looking for the cheapest way to start an ecommerce business, we will only review two cheapest tiers.
Shopify Lite costs $9/month. While this plan doesn’t allow you to create an online store, it enables you to sell through an existing WordPress website or monetize Facebook and Instagram. With Shopify Lite, you can showcase and sell products, accept payments, track orders, and provide live chat support.
The second cheapest plan, Basic Shopify, costs $29/month. It enables users to create their online store using Shopify website builder. It also expands access and adds two extra accounts to manage a website. It means that two other people besides the store owner can log in and work with the store.
Option 4. Squarespace
You might have heard about this one from some influencer or blogger. Squarespace is a website builder with a wide range of features and a strong online presence. It is mainly used for creating normal websites, but it also has two paid plans that support online stores.
Anyone who has already worked with website builders will be able to understand Squarespace. It’s as easy as creating a PowerPoint slide deck.
Benefits of Squarespace
Here are the key advantages of Squarespace.
- You can build a website in less than 5 minutes.
- Squarespace offers free SSL certificates for all Squarespace domains.
- Thanks to partnerships with Unsplash and Getty, the platform provides users with unlimited access to the image gallery.
- Instead of code, users interact with text blocks and images using simple formatting tools and drag-n-drop interface.
Besides, Squarespace provides powerful web analytics that allows you to analyze the total number of unique visitors, where they find your website, what key phrases they type into search engines, and so on.
Lots of SEO features are already embedded into Squarespace templates. For example, your online store will be generated according to all the rules of search engine optimization. HTML markup will be clean, without unnecessary tags and elements. Images will be tagged automatically to make indexing easier.
Disadvantages of Squarespace
Squarespace is not free, but it will offer you a 14-days free trial for each website you create. After the trial period, your website will be taken off the Internet. To get it back and running, you will have to upgrade to a paid plan.
Here are some other limitations to consider:
- Squarespace doesn’t accept multi-currency payments, so you won’t be able to build an international online store.
- Squarespace-generated websites are not fully GDPR compliant.
- The platform doesn’t support version history and autosaving.
- No phone support available, only email or chat.
- Currently, the app store for Squarespace only has 30+ extensions.
There are three commercial Squarespace plans that support online sales:
- Business — $33/month
- Basic Commerce — $36/month
- Advanced Commerce — $65/month
Option 5. Wix
Back in 2006, Wix started out as an online business card builder. Over the years of development, it has grown to a top online creator of landing pages, blogs, and ecommerce stores. A flexible fee scheme allows you to buy the exact set of functions that will cover your needs.
Benefits of Wix
Here are some key advantages that make Wix preferable to other ways of building ecommerce websites.
- It has lots of themes and templates, a powerful visual editor, and convenient editing tools.
- The app library contains 350 expansions. Advanced programmers can develop their own solutions using Velo mode.
- The Ascend platform provides access to a built-in CRM, SEO optimizer, developer tools, analytics, and reports.
- There is a built-in logo designer, photo and video editors, as well as full-fledged blog and store modules.
Disadvantages of Wix
In general, Wix is a good website builder, although not without flaws.
- The website editor is less user-friendly as it requires some skill.
- You can’t switch your template once you’ve chosen it for your online store.
- Most tariffs have a website bandwidth limit.
You should also know that built-in designs are not adaptable. Instead, each template has two versions (regular and mobile), and you need to work with both of them to ensure normal display on all devices.
Wix offers 3 ecommerce options for businesses that are building their online stores.
- Business Basic — $23/month
- Business Unlimited — $27/month
- Business VIP — $49/month
Large companies can consider the Enterprise tailored solution that offers custom pricing based on a company’s business needs.
Option 6. Square Online
Square acquired Weebly in 2018 and evolved to become one of the best eсommerce website builders. Square also has a separate builder called Square Online. These platforms are very similar, but Square Online has some additional features.
Unlike most e-commerce builders, Square Online offers a free version of its platform. As with most payment gateways, you will be charged a fee every time someone makes a purchase through your store. On the low-tier and free plans, you will be charged 2.9% + $0.30. On Premium, the fee is a bit lower — you will be charged 2.6% + $0.30.
Benefits of Square Online
Square Online is best suited for smaller ecommerce businesses that don’t need a lot of customization or advanced functions. Here are the main positive features:
- It’s easy to use, so you’ll quickly set up your store and launch sales.
- Square Online offers multiple plans and is ready to grow with your business.
- There is SSL protection available for all plans, including the free plan. The company also complies with the PCI-DSS standard.
Disadvantages of Square Online
Payment options for Square Online are very limited. With the free plan, you can only use Square, Apple Pay, and Google Pay to accept payments. When you upgrade to a higher plan, you can also accept transactions via PayPal.
Square Online has no integration with top marketplaces, including Amazon, Walmart, and eBay. The customization possibilities are also scarce.
If you are building an ecommerce website on Square Online, you might be interested in the following plans:
- Professional — $12/month
- Performance — $26/month
- Premium — $72/month.
If your goal is to build an ecommerce store as cheaply as you can, the cost of website builders will be a decisive factor. Here is a list of platforms ranked from lowest to highest tariff:
- WordPress — $4/month
- Shopify Lite — $9/month (embeds in an already-existing site)
- Square Online Professional — $12/month (+ fees for each purchase)
- Ecwid Venture — $15/month (embeds in an already-existing site)
- Wix Business Basic — $23/month
- Square Online Performance — $26/month (+ fees for each purchase)
- Wix Business Unlimited — $27/month
- Basic Shopify — $29/month
- Squarespace Business — $33/month
- Ecwid Business — $35/month
- Squarespace Basic Commerce — $36/month
Select a sitebuilder based on your needs and wants. Choose a platform that will help you fully implement your business idea. Thankfully, most presented platforms have a trial period, so you can test them before getting charged.