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6 Best Cheap Ecommerce Platforms for Starting Your Online Store

If you’re reading this, then you’re probably well aware that the online business world is filled with platforms that come in a wide range of price points. On one end of the spectrum, we have ecommerce platforms that charge hundreds or even thousands of dollars per month. On the other end of it, we’ve seen some of the best cheap ecommerce platforms offering surprisingly low rates.

This post is about the latter! What follows is our comparison of the best cheap ecommerce platforms that the market has to offer.

Best cheap ecommerce platforms

Now, for obvious reasons, cheap ecommerce platforms are exceedingly popular with startups and small businesses. When combined, these groups also form the majority of ecommerce platform end-users.

It is this sheer number that, in fact, is inviting more solution providers into the market. Consequently, this is forcing even veteran ecommerce platforms to partake in aggressive price wars.

Of course, we, as the end users, have been enjoying the resulting cheap ecommerce platform rates. However, entrepreneurs have also been getting overwhelmed by the now countless low-priced options on the market. Simply put, it’s a crowded market. Gone are the days when you could choose the best cheap ecommerce platforms from just a handful of dominant providers. 🤷‍♂️

This roundup is meant to make the decision easier for you.

Without further ado, below are some deciding factors that you should consider when picking your ideal cheap ecommerce platform:

Identifying the best ecommerce platforms

It’s getting increasingly more difficult to compare all the leaders in this space, and then filter out the best cheap ecommerce platforms for your business.

This partly explains why, in spite of their huge numbers, small businesses are still lagging behind their enterprise counterparts in terms of sales. 2020’s market figures, for instance, shockingly prove that 68% of all ecommerce sales in the U.S. cumulatively came from just ten large retailers [1].

Here’s the thing, though. If you go on to pick out the few best-performing SMBs and startups from such industry reports, you’ll notice a somewhat consistent pattern in their choices for ecommerce platforms.

A comparative analysis of their underlying website architecture reveals that although the online stores ride on a diverse range of ecommerce platforms, the following six budget options tend to feature quite prominently across their respective target market segments:

  • WooCommerce – the best free ecommerce platform for WordPress users.
  • Shopify Lite – the best cheap ecommerce platform for online businesses that exclusively operate on social media.
  • Square Online – the best cheap ecommerce platform for online sellers running supplementary brick-and-mortar stores, plus there’s also a free plan.
  • Prestashop – a free and open-source ecommerce platform that allows users to build and manage online stores easily.
  • Big Cartel – the best cheap ecommerce platform for creatives, plus there’s also a free plan.
  • Ecwid – the best cheap ecommerce platform for generic sites that convert into online stores, plus there’s also a free plan.

Here are the details on each of these six best cheap ecommerce platforms:

Best budget ecommerce platforms for launching/running online stores

1. WooCommerce + Bluehost

 

With over 5.89% of the world’s top one million sites to its name [2], WooCommerce isn’t just one of the best cheap ecommerce platforms – it is, hands down, one of the most formidable ecommerce platforms on the market today overall.

And that’s not all. In total, WooCommerce powers more than five million live sites. This makes it the world’s most popular platform for online stores.

Bluehost

This celebrity status has a lot to do with the fact that WooCommerce is readily available as a free user-friendly WordPress plugin. That means you won’t have to pay anything to download it or use it. You can go straight to your WordPress dashboard and install WooCommerce to start using it.

You’ll get access to a whole lot of robust built-in features for building, customizing, and managing your online store. While WooCommerce’s open-source framework makes it a darling among WordPress ecommerce developers, it actually doesn’t require any technical skills to configure.

Keep in mind, however, that just like other WordPress applications, WooCommerce’s performance capabilities largely depend on the hosting company that you choose for hosting your WordPress installation.

If you want to keep things on a budget but still get good performance, you can pick Bluehost as your cheap ecommerce hosting provider. It will actually save you from all the technical heavy lifting when building your store. They will install both WordPress and WooCommerce for you right out the gate.

Overall, you can create a cheap ecommerce website in WordPress for as low as $9.95 a month. This includes the aforementioned one-click installation for WordPress and WooCommerce, a free domain name, multi-server redundancy, and so much more.

2. Shopify Lite

 

Shopify is another well-renowned name in the online business space. More than 3.6 million sites are currently leveraging the ecommerce platform [3]. Of those, 27,000 are ranked among the top one million globally.

Unlike WooCommerce, however, it’s not a free open-source platform relying on third-party hosting.

Shopify Lite cheap ecommerce solution landing page

Rather, Shopify is as an all-inclusive ecommerce platform that provides a full stack of services – including hosting and domain name registration.

The only problem is, these premium ecommerce features fundamentally come in three not-so-cheap packages. The Advanced Shopify plan goes for about $299 per month. The Shopify plan costs $79 per month. Finally, the Basic Shopify plan, starts you off at $24.00 per month.

Although the rates might seem fair for the exceptional features they come with, we can agree that they are not exactly in the bracket for super cheap ecommerce platforms. But then again, Shopify doesn’t entirely leave out low-budget entrepreneurs. It turns out you can still take advantage of its specialized online selling features for less than $10 a month.

Shopify Lite is the name of the often sidelined package, and it goes for only $5 per month.

This surprisingly low price means you won’t be getting the usual capabilities for building and hosting online stores on Shopify. Instead, Shopify Lite is all about inventory management and integration.

You see, while typical Shopify users obsess about setting up ecommerce sites from scratch, Shopify Lite allows you to sell your products through third-party platforms. This includes social media or your other pre-existing website – like your main business site.

You just set up your items using Shopify, and then integrate the resultant inventory with your social media pages or site. This allows you to start processing credit card payments right from your storefronts on third-party platforms.

3. Square Online

 

After making a name for itself as a payment processing company, Square decided to dive even deeper into the digital world with a solution for supporting online stores.

They call it Square Online, and it comes with all the bells and whistles of a fully-fledged ecommerce platform. But, the company didn’t stop at the basics level. Square Online was developed with a rather unique twist that capitalizes on the already well-established Square POS system.

Square cheap ecommerce platform homepage

While other cheap ecommerce platforms seek to help aspiring entrepreneurs set up and manage online stores, Square Online targets the seasoned businessperson who happens to own a brick-and-mortar store. The goal here is to help you expand your business into the web through a perfectly-synced ecommerce site.

And it doesn’t have to cost you anything. Square Online’s Free plan allows you to set up and integrate an online store with your brick-and-mortar Square POS system. After you set it up, you can proceed to sell an unlimited number of items from its simple inventory management system.

Apart from the free plan, paid upgrades are also available. If you’d like to get a free domain name and remove the Square ads from your site, the price of that is $12 per month. That still qualifies it as one of the cheapest online store builders.

As such, this solution has deservedly earned its position as one of the best cheap ecommerce platforms for online businesses that double up as brick-and-mortar stores.

4. PrestaShop Basic Edition

 

Slotting into the fourth position on our roster of the best cheap ecommerce platforms PrestaShop Basic Edition, which stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of WooCommerce.

We’re saying so because just like its counterpart, PrestasShop Basic Edition is an open-source ecommerce platform that’s free to download and use.

You don’t have to dive into the source code, though, as PrestaShop comes with the whole shebang of user-friendly tools for building, customizing, and managing your online store. 

Prestashop ecommerce solution homepage

The default platform boasts one of the cheapest ecommerce website builders, advanced SEO capabilities, multi-store support, inventory management functionalities, unlimited product listings, email automation, customizable checkout processes, etc.

And just like WordPress has its plugin and theme store, PrestaShop grants you access to a neat expansive marketplace of over 4,000 free and premium integration modules. You also get to choose from over 2,500 themes, all of which can be edited visually on Prestashop’s cheap online store builder.

The only problem is, many of these add-ons come with a price tag. The cost can range from $30 to $50 for basic modules, with the most sophisticated ones going for between $49.99 and $149.99.

Another thing you’ll spend your money on is hosting – but at least you have the freedom to find your own cheap ecommerce hosting solution.

5. Big Cartel

 

If you’re a creative seeking to sell your stuff on the web, the last thing you’d probably want to deal with is an extensively advanced ecommerce platform.

As entrepreneurs who typically operate alone, creatives don’t usually have the patience to tweak all the intricate tools and functionalities that typically come with sophisticated platforms. Instead, they prefer very simple systems for creating and managing their digital storefronts.

Big Cartel cheap ecommerce platform homepage

Big Cartel is one good example of a cheap ecommerce platform that perfectly caters to these needs. It’s built to give you a seamless experience as you set up and run your online store. It’s also perfect for selling and processing artsy items – drawings, ceramics, jewelry, paintings, t-shirts, etc.

In particular, the platform’s strong point is its focus on simplicity and affordability. Its packages, as you’ll find out, are configured to offer just the essentials without overstretching the functionalities. It is this fine balance that allows the platform to even offer some of its features for free.

As a beginner, for instance, you get to list as many as five products on a custom domain. What makes it even more attractive is that Big Cartel gives you free customizable themes plus intuitive editing tools for designing your website. This means you won’t be stuck with a generic design, cookie-cutter design. That’s not too bad for a free ecommerce platform.

If you want to offer more products on your store, plus get a range of more advanced features alongside, it’s also very affordable. The upgrades start from $9.99 per month.

Another thing that makes Big Cartel one of the best cheap ecommerce platforms is its inventory syncing capabilities. It turns out that even with the free plan, you can sell your stuff both online or in-person and even run promos or offer discounts.

6. Ecwid

 

Next in our compilation of the cheapest ecommerce platforms is Ecwid, a decade-old veteran that prioritizes multi-channel selling.

While this is a feature that you’ll get on solutions like Shopify Lite, Ecwid has managed to take it up a notch in terms of flexibility. This is the affordable go-to choice for your business when you need a simplified system for selling across multiple online and in-person fronts.

ECWID cheap ecommerce platform homepage

You can, for example, begin with a basic online store. Ecwid’s free package happens to provide all the essentials for creating and customizing an ecommerce site.

Then, once that’s up and running, you can go ahead and set up parallel selling channels on social media; third-party sites running on platforms like Weebly, Wix, and WordPress; marketplaces such as eBay and Google Shopping; brick-and-mortar stores running POS systems; as well as remotely in-person through mobile point of sale applications.

Most importantly, though, Ecwid is largely renowned for its exceptional versatility in converting pre-existing websites into fully-fledged online stores. This is the type of cheap ecommerce website builder that you turn to when you intend to venture into online selling with a pre-existing site, instead of building one from scratch.

The base package here, in fact, is completely free of charge. It provides just enough features to set up and maintain an ecommerce store.

If you intend to expand, though, you’ll have to pay at least $12.50 per month, which is still within the range of prices you’d expect for the best cheap ecommerce platforms. Upgrading to this premium level allows you to unleash the real power of multichannel selling.

The bottom line on the best cheap ecommerce platforms

Going by all the features and pricing plans we’ve explored across our best cheap ecommerce platforms, it’s evident that you don’t need thousands of dollars to launch an online store. While a solid web development budget might make things easier, a solopreneur or small business can still manage to get everything running with just a few dollars.

The free offerings, on the other hand, are best reserved for beginners who’d like to try their hand at online selling. Their packages provide just enough tools to create a basic ecommerce website, manage your inventory, host customers, and conduct digital transactions.

👉 Most importantly, though, you ought to keep in mind that:

  • WooCommerce and Bluehost combination is best reserved for WordPress users.
  • Shopify Lite is a cheap online store builder for social media sellers.
  • Square Online suits brick-and-mortar businesses that intend to expand into the web.
  • Prestashop is ideal for small to medium-sized businesses and entrepreneurs looking for a customizable and affordable ecommerce solution.
  • Big Cartel is exclusively optimized for creatives and artists.
  • Ecwid has got your back if you’re looking to transform a pre-existing site into an ecommerce store.

Whichever you end up choosing as your cheapest ecommerce website builder, it would be wise to stick with DIY throughout your web design and customization stages. This will not only keep your costs at a minimum but also sharpen your store administration skills. Remember that the deeper you get to understand your online store’s architecture, the better you’ll be able to manage it!

Do you have any questions about these ecommerce platforms? Feel free to ask in the comments section below.

Don’t forget to join our crash course on speeding up your WordPress site. Learn more below:

 
Davis Porter

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