Free Vs Pay Monthly Ecommerce Shopping Cart Solutions

As a provider of several different ecommerce shopping cart websites to clients all over the world, there is one particular question that I get asked time and time again: “Should I use a free ecommerce shopping cart or a hosted solution?”. My reply is always the same: “It will depend on your specific requirements”.

I have always said that no one ecommerce solution can cater to every single customers individual requirements. We will all have different needs, and we will be trying to achieve different end results.

I wanted to take a look at the pros and cons of these two different types of ecommerce options.

What are the differences?

Usually with a free ecommerce shopping cart you will need to do everything yourself. From choosing your domain name, to selecting hosting, installing your ecommerce software, designing it etc.

With a hosted ecommerce solution provider many of the required steps are already taken care of for you. You still need to decide upon & register your domain name, but hosting is taken care of by the ecommerce company that you choose.

Hopefully taking a look at the pros and cons of each will help you to decide which best suits what you are looking for.

Free Ecommerce Shopping Cart

With a free platform you will first need to decide on platform you would like to use. Zen Cart and OS commerce are popular but are getting old and becoming less supported. Magento, Presta shop and X cart are the choice of the professionals, but have a steeper learning curve.


  • It’s free! – You can’t get any cheaper than getting something for free ay?
  • No tie-ins – There are no commitments with free ecommerce solutions. If one particular platform is not working for you, you can usually just start again on another ecommerce platform.
  • You have full control – The great thing about hosting and running your own ecommerce store is that you will have full control over all aspects of your store and so cn be a bit more flexible. Some people may find a hosted solution quite restrictive.


  • Little to no direct support – You are usually on your own support wise when it comes to free ecommerce solutions. So if something goes wrong, you’ll need to either consult forums for the answer yourself, or outsource and hire a developer to fix things for you.
  • It’s harder to install a new theme – Depending on the ecommerce solution you choose, installing a new theme can be a complicated process. You will usually need to access your websites core files and upload your new theme using FTP (File Transfer Protocol) software such as file zilla.
  • Updates – You will usually be on your own when it comes to ensuring your shopping cart software is up to date. Some updates for the software you are using could include important security patches or bug fixes.
  • Security – How secure your website is from hackers will rest with you and you alone.

Hosted Ecommerce Shopping Cart

There are several companies out there not that provide a hosted solution for a reasonable monthly fee. Each company also has their own pros and cons as well as differing feature-wise. You will need to invest time into deciding which best fits your needs. Big commerce, Volusion and Actinic are popular choices.


  • Free themes – Several free themes are available for hosted ecommerce solutions that are usually just one click away to install.
  • Better support – The majority of hosted ecommerce solutions will have a helpful in-house support team that you can turn to if you are having any problems with your store.
  • Updates – The ecommerce company that you choose will usually ensure all customers are running the latest versions of their software.
  • Security – No ecommerce company would want their platform – or a customers website to be hacked. The majority will do all they can to reduce the chances of this happening.
  • Easy installation – Most hosted solutions are very simple to set up. It’s usually just a case of entering your details.


  • Not as flexible – Those who prefer to spead their wings and experiment with their store may find a hosted solution quite restrictive.
  • You’re tied in to a monthly fee – Whether your website becomes instantly profitable or not, you will be tied in to paying a monthly fee that will range anything from $10 – $20PM.
  • No core file access – For security reasons hosted solutions will not give you access to your websites raw code. They instead make all aspects of your store editable by using the likes of a WYSIWYG editor ( what you see is what you get ).

So as you can see, the choice when it comes to ecommerce is not an easy one. I personally prefer the flexibility that the free ecommerce platforms can provide; but I can also see why hosted ecommerce solutions are becoming more and more popular.

Types of Ecommerce Sites

Are planning to put up an online business? ecommerce is fast becoming a trend among businesses. Breakthroughs in technology now allow people to do much of their business online. Over 10% of all purchases are now made from an online source.

Many people may be asking what they can get out of an ecommerce site. An ecommerce site is not just for transacting business online, although it is the primary goal of businesses when they put up one. Depending on the features in a site, it can be used for many different purposes, some of which I am going to discuss below as I enumerate to you the various types of ecommerce sites.

Virtual Storefront

This type of site allows customers to view and purchase products with just a click of the mouse. This transactional site lets shoppers browse through products, read information about them and make orders. It allows them to do everything in just one site. This is like a “mall” where shoppers can just go around choosing the items that they want to buy.

Menu features makes shopping convenient and easy for customers as they just have to click their choices. They can “carry” around with them items that they have chosen using shopping baskets or carts. When they are done with their shopping, they can checkout and pay for their purchases.

Virtual storefronts can offer a variety of products to customers. Businesses can feature as many products as they want in their site. They just have to ensure that all products are available for delivery.

Information Sites

An information site is set up to make their products known to potential customers. The primary goal is still to sell products but not online. Companies that have showroom can use this type of site to reach out to more people. Large companies use information sites to make people aware of their products.

The primary reason why people use the internet is to gain information. For example, you want to purchase a car but don’t have the time to spend a day going around checking out car dealerships. So what you can do is to visit information sites that feature cars to help you in making a decision about your car purchase.

Information sites aim to provide complete and detailed information about the products that they sell. Potential customers can read descriptions, view pictures, watch videos and obtain pricing of various products.


Unless you have spent all your life living in an isolated island, I am definitely sure that you have heard of eBay. Marketplace sites like eBay act as middleman that allows buyers and sellers to conduct business. Products that are for sale can either be purchased directly or through bidding within the site just like it’s done in eBay.

In this kind of setup, quite a lot of businesses compete in a certain industry. Because the marketplace exists in a virtual world, there is no limit as to how much you can expand. What is great about this type of site is that most of the things that you need to be able to do business online is already put in place for you.

Just a word of advice: Determine the type of site that you want to establish online. ecommerce sites can be a combination of the different types available. Just make sure that you make your site known to as many people as possible.

Free Ecommerce Hosting

Finding the right ecommerce host that will match your company’s needs, wants and demands is quite a challenge. Due to the overwhelming demands for web hosting, numerous ecommerce hosting service providers offer many options to choose from, and you should look for the best and most cost-effective ecommerce hosting company out there. Do some research and compare as many ecommerce web hosting service providers as possible.

Ecommerce hosting is one very potentially profitable business. The hosting charge varies based on the services, supports and the types, quality and quantity of the features provided. Even though some of the hosting companies do offer their services for free, there are many varied ways for them to make a profit – the most popular being that of selling ads to the prospective clients that are hosted on their websites. However, this type of ecommerce hosting offers no security and/or guaranteed service. Records of free ecommerce hosting show the instability, as they tend to close down within weeks, months and first year of operation. There are even those that close down within a span of a day or two. In such cases, the free ecommerce hosting proves to be effective for personal advances such as the posting of personal information, family photographs, and profiles, and for individuals who seek the fundamentals of web hosting by experimenting with programming scripts.

It never fails to verify how quite dependable a certain ecommerce hosting service provider can get by checking out the various websites that are currently owned and being maintained by the company or companies.