To a young or small online store, the best eCommerce tools are free eCommerce tools.
While the cost-effective alternative obviously doesn’t offer the same breadth of services as the more advanced, paid services, you’ll find that these free eCommerce tools still do well enough at polishing your site’s edges.
The 13 free eCommerce tools below all target different aspects of your site to give them a slight advantage. Stack all those advantages together though and the result is a substantial improvement over the original, a revitalized site that will resonate with your final sales. And because they’re free, you can incorporate them all, time-permitting.
So take a look at the free eCommerce tools below and see which ones you can fit into your site. Get started now, and you could have a better site by the end of the day.
Here are a couple of statistics to chew on at the same time:
- As of September 2016, a DMA and Demand Metric cross-study found that email marketing still retains one of the highest returns on investment in marketing, set at 122% by this study.
- MailChimp offers free services for under 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month.
Fiscally responsible and rewarding, email marketing is an ideal avenue for SMBs to grow their businesses without outlandish expenses… and MailChimp is the best way to do it.
The free version of MailChimp is robust and helpful, especially compared to other free eCommerce tools for emailing. Even with the free plan, you can still launch custom email campaigns, organize contacts, and access email-specific analytics.
MailChimp is a big deal for newsletters, which makes it a big deal for eCommerce, since signing up for news is often a stepping stone to convert new visitors into paying customers. The easy-to-use visual editor lets you customize your newsletters by dragging elements into place, or build from preexisting templates.
Compressor is one of the most useful free eCommerce tools you can come across on the Internet — and also one its best kept secrets. Ever since I found out about it, I’ve been using it on all my websites.
This tool compresses any image into a smaller file with no noticeable loss in quality. I was skeptical at first, too, so I tested the Compressor version versus the original. No matter how much I zoomed in, I couldn’t tell the difference – except that one was almost half the size.
As we mentioned before, smaller files mean faster loading times, and loading times are vital to any site’s success. According to a Gomez.com whitepaper, even an extra second in loading times can significantly deter conversions and sales, as well as incite a visitor to leave a site and never come back.
You never want to skimp on the quality of product photography; the fine details help shoppers draw conclusion about the product in real life, mitigating one of the main drawbacks to shopping online. The catch, though, is HD photo sizes can lag down loading times the more you have. Compressor offers the a simple, fast, and free solution that lets you have your cake and eat it too.
Don’t let the most recent wave of misinformation take you under: a lot of sites, even respectable ones, are saying that mobile browsing has recently overtaken desktop browsing for the first time in history, but this is old news. Mobile has actually dominated Internet usage since (at least) 2015.
This places a lot of due attention on responsive designs, sites that transition seamlessly from device to device without affecting the user experience. The goal is to create versions of your site with as similar usage experiences as possible, while still accounting for both the restrictions and allowances of each device.
That’s where Responsinator comes in. This deceptively simple tool shows you how your site looks and performs on the most popular devices, with examples one atop another for easy comparisons. It even shows both portrait and landscape views, so you can cover all bases. This is one of the most helpful free eCommerce tools during prelaunch when it comes time to double-check your designs across all mediums, or audit your site for a redesign.
Like email marketing, social media marketing is one of the best strategies for SMBs to bolster their numbers early on without breaking the bank on advertising. And, chances are, if you’re on a tight budget, you would be able to justify hiring a full social media staff. Luckily, free eCommerce tools for social media can shoulder some of the burden.
Sure, Hootsuite is the go-to name for social media, and the number 1 product in the field. However, when it comes to budgeting for smaller businesses, we suggest Buffer instead: Buffer’s free plan just offers more than Hootsuite’s.
If you’re new to social media management tools, they handle a lot of the minor hassles of posting so you have a few less things to worry about. You can schedule posts to be published automatically so you don’t accidentally miss the best windows. They provide an all-in-one interface for all your channels. And you can even view social media analytics and receive advice on the when to post with the optimal timing tools.
Buffer’s free version (meant for an individual, but still applicable to small brands) allots for a single account for each of the main channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google + (you have to pay for Pinterest). You can store up to 10 posts in the automatic posting queue, plus access tools for video/gif uploading, image creation, and optimal timing. However, RSS feeds are only included in the paid plans.
5. Moz: Open Site Explorer
Source: Moz: Open Site Explorer
Moz’s Open Site Explorer is the perfect poor-man’s SEO tool. It allows you to check (spy on) your competitors’ SEO performances, or your own to identify opportunities for improvement and weak points to fix.
Moz OSE offers a grab-bag of data related to SEO, page influence, and backlinking, as well as other nice-to-know information like spam scores and anchor text performance. You can see all your backlinks listed out together with their page and domain authorities, and all your pages ranked by best for link building.
Moz Pro offers even more advanced reports and recommendations for link opportunities; but still the free version delivers enough valuable insight to be worth checking back on again and again.
6. SEO Site Checkup
Source: SEO SiteCheckup
A fitting complement to Moz OSE is SEO SiteCheckup. On their own, these two free eCommerce tools may be limited, but together the free versions should tell you enough to make considerable improvements.
SEO SiteCheckup works like an automated SEO audit of your site, rating its performance in the different SEO categories, pointing out areas to be fixed, and patting you on the back for satisfactory design. The “How to Fix” feature is especially helpful, with step-by-step instructions on improve your site’s SEO.
This site also offers an assortment of data that may be useful in future marketing strategies. This site has a particular focus on keywords: your most common keywords, related keyword suggestions, a visual keyword cloud, etc. You can also see a list of your most relevant competitors and, if you read between the lines, free advice on optimizing your SEO in general.
A site like this works best in the final preparation page before launch — after the SEO content is in place, but before it’s too problematic to change it. It’s also worth checking back whenever you’re in need for inspiration or input on new strategies, or to periodically monitor if any of your links have died.
7. Survey Monkey
Source: Survey Monkey
User testing and data collection are among the most useful areas of design, and also the most costly. The bare-bone basics offered by Survey Monkey‘s free program may not seem like much, but they’re certainly better than nothing.
The popular survey tool bridges the gap between site owners and their customers with user-friendly survey creation and collection services. Surveys are one of the best ways to learn your customers’ preferences and opinions, and additionally offer the secondary benefit of collecting email addresses.
Survey Monkey’s free basic plan let’s you ask 10 questions for 100 responses, with standard email support. While the free plan is restrictive, it still offers enough to dip your toe into the pool of user testing. You can pay to dive in the deep end later.
In the same vein as SurveyMonkey, 123ContactForms offers an easy interface to create multiple types of forms, more than just questionnaires. Whereas SurveyMonkey specializes in doing one thing well, 123ContactForms gives a plethora of basic options for free, a true boon for SMB eCommerce sites. With it, you can…
- …connect web forms to other online services to streamline data collection.
- …integrate additional payment methods to order forms without the need of a shopping cart.
- …create security forms with SSL, Captcha, and password-protected contact forms.
- …track online forms with analytics.
- …create and personalize virtually any form you may need, including event registrations, polls, surveys, email registration, quizzes, and order forms.
The free plan runs out quickly, after only 5 forms with 10 fields apiece, and capped at 100 submissions per month. Still, you can do a lot with that initial handful of forms, and it might be enough to tide you over until you can afford the more intensive plans.
When it comes to free eCommerce tools for user testing, Heatmap picks up where SurveyMonkey leaves off. Heatmap collects clicks from your actual users and displays them as heatmaps, a service that’s not always this… free.
The free plan offers the standard heatmapping service, with responsive options on any device. However, it’s limited to 5 pages and 1 user, with only 6 months data retention and a capacity of 1 million pageviews per month.
Photoshop is rich and almost limitless in its capabilities… but, wow, does it take a long time to learn and use (not to mention that it costs between US$30-70 a month for the most basic business plan). The shortcut to better visuals if you’re on a tight budget is Canva, an image editor alternative that’s free, online, and simple-to-use.
Canva uses a template-based system and a drag-and-drop interface, so you can choose either preexisting elements or uploads and then rearrange their layout hassle-free. The typographic options are not too shabby either, so in a pinch you could even use it to design chunks of the site itself — though it’s more intended for content marketing with extensive templates for social media, blogs, and infographics.
It even comes equipped with a formidable stock photo library, all free-to-use. All these options rolled up together gives us one of the most multipurpose free eCommerce tools on this list.
There are free eCommerce tools for almost every aspect of design, even site speed. Among other things, GTmetrix tests your site’s Internet speed — or more accurately, grades it.
The report from GTmetrix reveals your site’s speed score with a percentage rank and letter grade. It can test sites on different browsers, and can test individual site pages.
In addition to speed statistics, there’s a lot of other related information at your fingertips. There’s a general list of site speed best practices, and each one is ranked by how relevant or helpful it would be to your site. You can even see the data graphed in a waterfall chart.
If you’re redesigning your site or double-checking it before launch, this is the tool you need to cover your bases for loading times. Once you’re site’s already active, it’s still worth checking back here if you ever need to know your total loading time, total page size, or number of requests.
12. Google Analytics
Source: Google Analytics
We’ve been talking about Google Analytics eCommerce Tracking a lot lately as part of a recent series we’re running, so we won’t get too much into the details here (but feel free to check our previous articles for advice on using Google Analytics for increasing sales, content marketing, or how to set it up.
Still, we couldn’t write about free eCommerce tools without at least mentioning Google Analytics. It’s one of the best free eCommerce tools available, and is less of a recommendation and more of a necessity.
Google Analytics provides stats across the board on data like:
- user demographics, profiles, and even interests
- the average time per session or per page
- where your referrals come from, including which send the most conversions
- behavioral flow charts to map your shoppers’ customer journey
- traffic by location, language, demographic, device, or browser
- product performance, including how much of your total revenue each accounts for
- real time observation so you can see what people are doing on the site at any given moment
… and those are just the highlights. Google Analytics really is a beast, but lucky for you it’s on your side.
This tool is practically essential for learning about your shoppers and testing the effectiveness of your marketing strategies. You can even set custom alerts/intelligence events for any criteria you choose — you reach a conversion goal, your traffic suddenly drops by half, etc. — to save you time from constantly checking it.
We can’t speak highly enough of Google Analytics for eCommerce and optimizing site design. In short, if you don’t already have it set up, it’s time to do it.
13. Google Alerts
Source: Google Alerts
We’ll end with another of Google’s free eCommerce tools, Google Alerts. This is one of the easiest ways to stay in the loop with what people are saying about you online.
While Googling yourself may be a bit narcissistic, for a company it’s actually a worthwhile business strategy… although time-consuming to do regularly. Google Alerts lets you set up a email notification system for every time someone mentions you online, keeping you in the know with little effort on your part.
It’s surprising easy, as well. You can set one up now in less than a minute, and the returns can keep coming for years. It’s the perfect quick-but-effective boost these free eCommerce tools are made for.
Did we miss your favorite? Are there any free eCommerce tools that you’d like more information about? Let us know in the comments section now.