Simon Horton of ecommerce plugin supplier, ShopIntegrator, gives you his top five free tools which will let you sell online for free. Everything you need to get started is available for free, from creating a basic website, adding an online store and Facebook shop, marketing your business to customers, right down to managing your finances.
Moonfruit (http://www.moonfruit.com )
Creating a stunning looking website is no longer reserved for those people spending a fortune hiring a web designer. There are plenty of DIY drag and drop website builders which have a choice of good looking design templates to choose from, allowing even a novice to create a fabulous website.
I’ve used many such web design tools and one of my favourites is Moonfruit because it is really easy to use and the results are beautiful. It offers a free package that lets you create up to 15 web pages, and it even gives you the option to add in an online shop for up to 10 products.
However, the features of the Moonfruit shop can be limiting for many businesses, even if you expand the product numbers with one of their premium paid subscriptions. Just because you’ve built your website with Moonfruit doesn’t mean you’re stuck with using its built-in shop, as there are a number of great third-party store add-ins you can use instead.
ShopIntegrator (http://www.shopintegrator.com/ )
ShopIntegrator, from my company, is an online shop add-in that will work with any existing website and Facebook page.
Why use a third-party store add-in if your website builder already has a store?
It’s the same reason you compare the market for insurance. Third-party ecommerce add-in solutions just focus on ecommerce so often offer more features and much greater flexibility than the built-in website creator’s shop solution. Things like offering sales in multiple currencies, translating your pages into other languages and integrating with more payment processors.
In addition to these features, the free ShopIntegrator option has a generous allowance, letting you list up to 50 products with 25Mb of secure file upload storage space..
Adding the shop to your existing website takes only a few minutes. You simply pick the website builder you’ve used to create your site and the software gives you simple instructions specific to your website platform.
Moonfruit is one of the popular website builders and there is an ecommerce set up guide available for this platform. By following the instructions and watching the video tutorial you’ll know exactly where to click and what to copy and paste to create your free online store in no time.
How do you go about creating stunning graphics to give your brand a stand-out identity? You could hire an expensive graphic designer, or instead use Canva for free and do it yourself.
Canva is a powerful drag and drop graphic design tool which makes it easy to create stunning marketing content. There are a number of layout templates to pick from so whether you’re creating website banner images, posters, flyers, Facebook cover photos or invitations, you’ll be off to a flying start.
Search from a library of more than a million images to find stunning graphics, professional photography shots with hundreds of fonts to pick from. Drag these into your design, type in your text and you’ll be amazed at how professional it looks. The hardest time you’ll have will be convincing your friends that it was you who created it!
Hootsuite (https://hootsuite.com/ )
Those who know how to build a successful online presence will tell you social media plays an essential part. There are so many ‘must use’ social media tools out there such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest. Getting your message out on all these different social media platforms can be rather time consuming. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could publish a message to all your different social media platforms in one go? That’s exactly what you can do with Hootsuite!
Hootsuite’s free plan lets you manage three social profiles, but that’s just scratching the surface of what it offers. You can schedule social posts to go out automatically on all or just some of your platforms at the same time; engage with followers across different social media platforms; visualise social activity data in-depth to spot trends; find prospective customer leads by pinpointing people making strong ‘buy’ signals in their social conversations.
QuickFile ( http://www.quickfile.co.uk/ )
Once you’ve run a business you’ll know that the paperwork quickly builds up, making your accounts a real pain to get together when it’s time to go through all your receipts, invoices and bank statements.
Free cloud accounting software to the rescue! Designed with the ‘non-accountant’ end user in mind, QuickFile speeds up your book keeping, tracking sales revenue and expenditure. You can even generate customer invoices which clients can pay directly online. Those needing more help can pay for optional, assisted professional accounting services for payroll, accounts preparation and tax planning advice.
These five recommendations are just the start; I’m sure you have others that work on your ecommerce site, so feel free to share below or tweet me on @ShopIntegrator.
Simon Horton is the founder of ShopIntegrator http://www.shopintegrator.com, a hosted shopping cart ecommerce plugin that makes it easy for anybody to add an online store onto their existing website without any coding.