Free eCommerce Tools to Supercharge Your Business
It’s easy for those of us of a certain age to be nostalgic for the simpler days of retail. Back in the day we’d just walk into a store and make a purchase. And while many small-business owners would like to get back to that time of brick-and-mortar simplicity, the digital age simply won’t allow it.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a splash of cold-water reality from our friends at Big Commerce: Millennials (those born between 1980-’95) make 54% of their purchases online. And according to projections, by 2026 they—and subsequent generations—will demand instant access to shopping options and a 24-hour turnaround time.
That will be the norm.
So if you want to grow your humble small business into a brand powerhouse, you need a solid eCommerce strategy. Luckily, there are great, open-source eCommerce solutions out there. And many are free.
Here are four options you should consider so your small business can meet its demands today, and well into the future.
For name recognition alone, Magneto has to rank at top of the list. But it wouldn’t enjoy the top spot if its functionality didn’t live up to its reputation as the biggest name in eCommerce software.
The unpaid version of this program offers a number of basic tools you can put to use right away. You can setup product landing pages and manage shipping and customer fulfillment. You can also generate reports for, among other things, sales tax, product stock and online search terms. Magneto also offers an extensions marketplace full of delectable add-ons to, among other things, integrate stock systems, customer chat features and account for sales tax.
Some of these add-ons are free, but know that others can cost thousands of dollars. Some of Magneto’s free add-ons include themes that users can download to help dress up their website. And even though the more responsive themes cost money, the price tag of a few hundred dollars is typically less than what web designers charge.
Be warned: Magneto is geared towards those users with a healthy amount of coding experience. Also, when purchasing Magneto, the customer is obligated to buy a payment processor and domain name. Those with limited technical know-how might want to purchase Magneto’s non-open-source starter option, which has a price tag of $2,000 per month.
osCommerce is one of the older, more venerable names in eCommerce solutions. The prime benefit of its longevity is that it has amassed a robust online community offering support. osCommerce also offers thousands and thousands of add-ons and software integrations. And while some reviews state that overall development of this software program has been slow to address glitches, it has a number of positives. These include:
- An Apps Marketplace that integrates with Facebook and Sage Pay
- ease of use, which is ideal for code-phobic business owners
- A helpful user community quick with support (this is aside from osCommerce’s official tech support, which comes at a fee)
Those who are willing to spend a little bit of cash ($8 per month), can opt for the hosted version of the platform. This further reduces the technical knowledge required to use the system.
OpenCart is a solid, ready-to-use eCommerce solution. It’s compatible with most servers, and if you’re running on a Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP system, you’ll find installation a breeze. Like the above option, it has a marketplace featuring a number of free add-ons that will boost functionality. And there are basic free add-ons to integrate Facebook and mobile payment processors like Square.
There are also some power-boosting tools on offer, like SEO insight apps, product management tie-ins, and paid options like Microsoft Dynamics integration. OpenCart also offers a cloud version ($35 per month) for those businesses without in-house tech support. However, the basic version is user-friendly enough that smaller businesses should have no issues getting the hang of it.
Finally, we gotta say, OpenCart’s admin dashboard is so sleek and efficient it practically begs you to take it out for a spin.
This final option is a good fit for most websites due to its common PHP server language. It’s a multi-national solution, meaning small business will find it useful in Europe as well as North America. PrestaShop further accommodates varied international stores by making them all available on a single back end. So if you have one storefront in Toronto and another in Los Angeles, you can manage them both from one place.
PrestaShop also offers 1,500 add-on templates that can integrate Stripe, Amazon Marketplace and Google Merchant Center, among others. They even have stellar reporting capabilities like forecast ability and a Merchant KPI feature. Overall PrestaShop is good at tightening the operational ties of a business.
Try out one of these top four to determine which one fits your operation best. And remember that shopping channels are only expanding, so it’s best to accommodate your customers’ unique needs now.
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Ryan Gould is the Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services at Elevation Marketing. An expert search, social and content marketer, Ryan leads Elevation Marketing’s digital strategy department, helping brands achieve their business goals, such as improving sales and market share, by developing integrated marketing strategies distinguished by research, storytelling, engagement and conversion. With a proven track record of energizing brands, engaging audiences and managing multidisciplinary marketing teams, Ryan is a respected expert in achieving consistent results through creative design, thought-provoking narratives and innovative problem solving. Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.