Creating your e-commerce shop on Shopify for free is feasible. However, consider quickly switching to the paid version if you intend to sell your products. This platform actually offers only a 3-day free trial. In fact, it's a 100% free trial designed to help users discover the platform, enticing e-commerce owners to join and build their Shopify store.
With 1.5 million users worldwide, the Canadian company offers this free trial because they know that once users create and optimize their websites, they will feel an irresistible pull towards the Shopify paid version. Indeed, creating a functional e-commerce website is never free. However, for now, let's delve into the features of the Shopify free version to see if it is suitable for selling e-commerce products.
Shopify Free Trial
Shopify offers a 3-day free trial. When you sign up for a Shopify plan, you can only choose the 3-day free version to begin your Shopify journey. The trial allows you to access all Shopify features, but please be aware that you can't start selling products during this period. You will need to provide some information about your projects during your registration, select your template, and then you can start building your Shopify store.
Once your 3-day free trial expires, you can choose the pricing plan that best fits your e-commerce business needs: Basic, Shopify, or Advanced, in order to start selling your products.
A payment method is required at the end of the 3-day free trial. However, there is good news: Shopify offers an irresistible price of 1 euro per month for the first 3 months, regardless of the plan chosen. This is a great way to continue exploring this e-commerce platform and fully enjoy their services. Anyway, choosing a plan is mandatory to continue using Shopify.
Certainly, your Shopify store does not disappear at the end of the free trial. It's placed on hold and won't appear in SERPs anymore. To reactivate it, you must choose a plan. If you want to unsubscribe from Shopify, you can leave your store inactive without choosing a plan; you will not be debited. And lastly, you can pause your subscription whenever you want.
Choose your Shopify Plan
Shopify is not free for life. In contrast to Prestashop, Shopify offers both monthly and annual plans (with a 25% savings for the annual payment option) to use the platform. The policy of the platform is pretty simple: try it before you buy it. You can access Shopify and start creating your online store. After the free trial, if you want to continue selling your products, you must pay for a plan.
Three days is short. Is it sufficient to fully test the interface and the performance of this e-commerce platform? Not really, but the 1€ per month plan allows you to fully experience Shopify for three months.
Indeed, the Shopify free version allows you to get ahead and prepare your store before launching. You can create the design and layout of a website, create category and collection pages to segment your products, create product pages and product descriptions, and import visuals. Make the most of your free trial to set up an efficient store and integrate apps from the Shopify App Store.
You can also take advantage of free Shopify to set up shipping methods, accepted payment methods, taxes, and customs fees if you sell or import internationally. Integrating all the "legal" and regulatory aspects into your store may not be the most enjoyable task, but it's mandatory to have a well-compliant shop.
The Almost Free Shopify Plan: Starter
Another option to start on Shopify is to choose Shopify Starter. The idea is simple: start selling for 5 euros per month. Always with a 3-day free trial and 1 Euro per month for 3 months. This package allows you to have an online store optimized for mobile and test your project: unlimited product pages, a rapid and secure checkout page, and a contact page.
Shopify Starter doesn't really allow you to customize your online store, but it's clearly a good solution to launch your store rapidly.
Shopify Starter offers the possibility to sell simply on social media, thanks to Linkpop, with some products that you would like to put forward (but also with links to other networks; it's up to you to decide). Your client is redirected to the Shopify product page to make a purchase, and you can then assess your sales data and statistics.
However, please note that the commission charged by Shopify Starter is quite significant: a 5% transaction fee when not using Shopify Payments, and €0.25 per transaction with a credit card. Furthermore, Shopify Starter is only available to new merchants and those on the free plan. You cannot switch from a regular Shopify plan to Shopify Starter, for instance.
3 Cheaper Alternatives To Shopify For Selling Online
To begin selling online, there are alternatives to creating your e-commerce store for free using other software or social media platforms. The examples of brands like Glossier or, more relevant to us, the brand Respire, are illustrative: these e-commerce cosmetic brands first built a strong community on social networks and through a blog before launching their e-commerce websites. Today, these stores generate several million in revenue.
#1 Selling Your Products On The Marketplace
Marketplaces play a significant role in our online shopping experience. The fundamental concept of a marketplace involves selling your products on a centralized platform, with each sale incurring a percentage-based fee.
Selling your products on a marketplace offers several advantages, including tapping into qualified traffic, having a readily available e-commerce platform, and, most importantly, outsourcing logistical operations. However, it can be challenging to retain and enhance customer loyalty within a marketplace. Your products also contend with competition from numerous similar offerings, with customers often choosing the lowest-priced options. We recommend opting for a specialized marketplace, such as GMV for DIY or Asos for second-hand fashion, and thoroughly preparing your product offerings.
It's important to note that selling on a marketplace is not without costs. You are required to pay a commission on each sale, which can sometimes exceed 20%, in addition to a subscription fee. Platforms like Amazon impose a variable commission based on sales, ranging from 5% to 20%, along with management and subscription fees. Cdiscount follows a similar model, featuring monthly subscriptions and variable commissions. While selling on a marketplace involves expenses, it offers a valuable avenue for diversifying your sales channels. In some cases, advertising may be necessary to attract customers to your product page, underscoring the importance of a well-prepared commercial strategy to maintain profitability.
There are numerous advantages to selling your products on a marketplace: taking advantage of qualified traffic, having an ecommerce platform at hand, an, more importantly, delegating all the logistic aspects. However, in a marketplace, it's difficult to retain customers and make them loyal to your brand. Moreover, your products face competition from tens, or even hundreds, of similar products. Customers can choose the ones with the lowest price. We advise you to choose a specialized marketplace (GMV for DIY or Asos for second-hand fashion, for example) and to prepare your offer well.
#2 Use Wix Software
Wix is a good software to create a small e-commerce site with up to ten product references. Thanks to the free version (although limited) and a simple drag-and-drop interface, Wix allows you to launch rapidly into e-commerce.
To fully take advantage of the software, you should subscribe to the paid offer starting at 24 Euros per month and up to 52.8 Euros per month (Business VIP Plan). This allows you to access personalized reports on your sales and marketing, request subscriptions, and sell on marketplaces.
Wix remains less expensive than Shopify, but it's not as performant; you must recognize this. The software is not specialized for e-commerce, unlike the Canadian platform. Wix can be interesting for launching your business before transitioning to Shopify while you stabilize your revenue.
Wix eCommerce, an alternative to Shopify to create your online store
Wix offers all the necessary features to manage your online store. All-in-one pack from 24 Euros per month.
There are 3 other available alternatives to Shopify:
Ecwid is a 100% free e-commerce software that allows you to sell up to 5 products, but it doesn't provide a customizable domain name. You can integrate your store into an existing website and promote your store on Facebook, Google, or Pinterest for free. To further promote your website, you must switch to the paid version (starting from 19 Euros per month).
Jimdo is a robust software for selling your products online. Its strength? It doesn't charge any commission for an attractive price (ranging from 15 Euros to 39 Euros per month). Choose the 39 Euros plan for unlimited pages on your store and the synchronization of your products on your social networks.
Weebly is perhaps less popular, but this software allows you to create an online store more elegantly and simply. Weebly has a free version, but it is extremely limited. You can start selling from 14 Euros per month. It's worth noting that despite having an intuitive creation interface and the possibility to add your products very simply on Weebly, the solution has some significant disadvantages: poor SEO performance (long download times, in particular), a complex order management system, and a very basic free version.
#3 Selling On Social Media
Finally, selling on social media is a good alternative to Shopify too. Instagram and Facebook offer Shopping functionalities that allow you to display your sale information (descriptions, prices, shipping, and return conditions) before redirecting customers to your website or a simple landing page.
Social networks serve as a showcase to promote your products and engage a community. But let's be realistic; to sell on social networks, you need to invest time and money in advertising to expedite the process. So, it's not free. In fact, Facebook is one of the largest advertising platforms in the world, and given the competition, we recommend that you learn about Facebook advertising before promoting your products there.
Many brands use social media to showcase their products, reveal behind-the-scenes aspects of their brands, share their news, and engage with the community. You can also sell your products on their websites. To launch your product, you can use Shopify Starter, which allows you to sell very simply on social media, starting from 5 Euros per month.
To conclude, creating your e-commerce website for free is possible. However, you should choose a Shopify paid version or another software to sell your products effectively. You can use marketplaces or social media as tools to promote your business.