Starting a business involves a lot of planning and decision-making, and working with a low budget doesn't make it any easier. Many small businesses start out with extremely limited resources and are keenly aware that it can take some time before the first profits start rolling in. This often leads them to choose free software as they try to preserve every penny they can. Unfortunately, most businesses that take this route will end up spending much more later than they would have if they'd taken the plunge at the beginning with a paid platform.
Your Ecwid plan controls how many products your account can support (regardless of whether you use an existing site, the Starter Site, or both) as well as the eCommerce functionality you have access to. It does have a free plan, which includes the Starter Site as well as the plugin form. In fact, Ecwid claims to be "free forever," but if you're a smart business owner, you know there's no such thing as "free." Providers who offer free products or services need to recoup their costs in other ways, and free products are often extremely limited to force an upgrade to a paid plan. Ecwid is no different, and our analysis of Ecwid pricing will bring these hidden expenses to light.
One of the most crucial aspects of any eCommerce platform is transparency, which doesn't mean the available features themselves, but how easy it is to understand what's included in each plan so you can make an informed decision. Some eCommerce platforms, like Shift4Shop, list every feature in a clear way to ensure accurate comparison between plans when a new user is trying to choose the one they need. Ecwid has a few lapses in transparency; namely, some of the "features" are somewhat misleading in the sense that they're repetitive and try to present Ecwid's status as a simple plugin in a light that makes it seem more feature-rich than it is. Let's take a closer look at some examples from the Free Plan list above, and what they mean:
Another issue is that anyone with a serious interest in eCommerce could misinterpret "sell simultaneously on multiple sites" to refer to multichannel sales, rather than what it truly means: that you can connect your Ecwid store to your own multiple WordPress, Joomla, or other sites. This is very niche functionality that most people won't want to use, since selling the same products on multiple websites can lead to your own sites competing with each other for search engine ranking, which harms your SEO overall.
Other Ecwid plans also have features that are vaguely described, like "Marketplaces" in Ecwid Business ($35/month). A search for "Ecwid Marketplaces" brings up their help article about selling on Amazon and eBay, but "eBay integration" is also listed as a separate feature. This means either "marketplaces" has a different meaning to Ecwid, or that eBay is listed separately to make the list appear longer. If an eCommerce platform presents their list of features in a vague manner filled with repetitive entries to pad out the list, it's a definite sign that they're not sure what they can really bring to your business.
Your experience designing an Ecwid store will depend on whether you use it as a plugin, use the provided "Starter Site," or both. If you're adding Ecwid to an existing site, you'll need to deal with design or templates for the website builder in question, which is a mission on its own. Your online store template needs to be up-to-date with the current version of the website's software, compatible with Ecwid and any other plugins you want to use, and well-supported by its developers to ensure it stays that way. Finding the right theme can take weeks.
The "Starter Site" which Ecwid provides with your account is a limited, single-page website also called the "Free instant site." It's clear from the name that this is a beginner's website only, and the functionality makes that even more obvious. You're limited to a single page which lists all your products in one place along with your company information or other text areas you add. This type of layout is only feasible for sites with very few products, such as the 10 allowed by Ecwid's free plan.
Single-page websites also don't follow eCommerce best practices, as it's impossible to optimize a single web page for SEO when it sells multiple products and serves different purposes. A complete eCommerce website built with a platform like Shift4Shop will offer you tons more SEO potential, since you'll be able to optimize every product, category, and content page separately.
Scalability refers to how well an eCommerce platform helps you grow your business and continues to support the increasing needs of your website that come with growth. A fully scalable eCommerce platform is both accessible to new sellers and powerful enough for a multimillion-dollar enterprise with high daily traffic. Even if your goals don't involve that level of growth, you still need eCommerce software that will provide you with the tools and support to scale up as much as you want.
Ecwid is simply not scalable on any plan, as even with a $99/month Unlimited account, you're still missing the types of features a growing business will need. For example, there are no features for improving your fulfillment workflow, like real-time shipping rates or label printing. Customer interaction tools are also absent, including an order return system and a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM). A growing business can quickly find itself overwhelmed without the right tools for its increasing workload.
If you rely on Ecwid to run your eCommerce business, you won't have the right tools to help you grow or to support any growth you manage to achieve.
The features built into your eCommerce software should never be overlooked, as these are the tools that allow you to create and manage an online store. For maximum potential, you should choose a platform that's packed with features for all aspects of eCommerce business management. Ecwid simply doesn't have most of the features a serious online business needs to succeed.
If your budget is low, you're probably most interested in learning about Ecwid's free plan. It's extremely limited, and only appropriate for a very small business with zero budget who is happy to rely on word-of-mouth to earn customers. Upgrading your Ecwid plan will give you more functionality, but it still pales in comparison to other platforms.
Shift4Shop also offers a free plan, which should appeal to tight budgets everywhere — but it's vastly better than Ecwid in every way. Even Ecwid's most expensive plan pales in comparison to what you can get for free from Shift4Shop. Since Shift4Shop operates on the SaaS (Software as a Service) model, your web hosting and software updates are included. And despite being free, Shift4Shop's End-to-End eCommerce plan has more features than any other hosted eCommerce platform, even those that cost over $200 per month from other providers. Detailed inventory management, returns processing, real-time shipping, and industry-leading SEO are just the beginning. There are no limits on products, orders, sales, website pages, or anything else — and all you have to do to access this plan is to use Shift4 Payments as your payment processor. It sets up in moments and lets you accept credit cards as well as several alternative payment types.
Since if you're looking at Ecwid you're probably interested in a free eCommerce plan, let's compare Ecwid's free plan against Shift4Shop's free End-to-End eCommerce plan.
The evidence is clear: Ecwid just isn't worth it. The free account is so limited it's sufficient only for the tiniest businesses, and the one-page starter website is so bare-bones that Ecwid users are better off plugging their store into a different site builder — which means paying for web hosting, so it's no longer free. Even the paid accounts are sorely lacking in functionality and far overpriced for what they have to offer, and not even Ecwid Unlimited is enough for a business achieving any level of growth.
Why compromise when you can get the ultimate in eCommerce with Shift4Shop? Build your online store with full-featured software that provides everything you need, from a completely customizable multiple-page website to the tools you need to make it big. And our free plan makes it possible for even the newest business to get started at no cost, while still having access to pro-level eCommerce features and unlimited possibility for growth. With Shift4Shop, there's no reason you can't have a free online store without putting a ceiling on your business!