Ecwid #1 Free E-commerce Solution, Try Ecwid
What is Ecwid, and how does it work?
Much like other e-commerce platforms, Ecwid allows you to set up ‘catalogs’ of products, and add photos, pricing, weight, etc. for each. You can define shipping rates, accept credit card payments and so on – all the key stuff that you’d expect to be able to do using an e-commerce solution. All this is done via a web browser — there’s nothing to install locally.
Ecwid differs significantly from competing products like Shopify, Squarespace, and Bigcommerce in that it is not really designed to let you create a fully-featured, standalone e-commerce website; rather, it’s designed to allow you add an online store to an existing online presence.
(That said, Ecwid has recently added some new functionality, called ‘Starter Site’, that does let you create a one-page standalone offering. I’ll discuss this in more depth later on in the review.)
The product works by giving you a ‘widget’ that gets placed on other sites — hence the name Ecwid: it’s short for ‘E-commerce Widget’. You get a few lines of HTML code (the widget) to add to an existing website or social media profile, and your store is displayed wherever you’ve inserted this code.
But how much does this functionality cost?
The free plan
If you’ve only got a few products to sell (up to 10), Ecwid is entirely free. This is something of a USP for Ecwid — key rivals don’t offer this sort of free functionality.
Granted, the free plan is pretty basic, with key features like discount coupons and support being unavailable, and it only allows you to sell up to 10 products in 2 categories. But for merchants with simple requirements, this may actually be sufficient; and using the free plan is a good way to try the tool out.
Probably the most important thing to note about the free plan is that it is not great from an SEO point of view — you need to be on a paid plan to ensure that your product pages talk to search engines in the best way possible. I’ll discuss this in more depth later on in the review.
The paid plans
In terms of the paid plans, the pricing structure is as follows:
$15 per month – the ‘Ecwid Venture’ plan — this allows you to sell up to 100 products;
$35 per month – the ‘Ecwid Business’ plan — this allows you to sell up to 2500;
$99 per month – the ‘Ecwid Unlimited’ plan — this allows you to sell an unlimited number of products.
(All the above products allow you to make use of up to 10,000 product categories.)
If you pay for Ecwid annually, things work out cheaper: the three plans come in respectively at $12.50, $29.17 and $82.50 per month.
As you’d expect, the more you pay, the more additional features you get – discount coupons, the point-of-sale option, better support and so on.
Key differences between the Ecwid pricing plans
A few key differences in the Ecwid plans to watch out for are as follows:
The ‘Venture’ plan does not allow you to list your products on established marketplaces like Amazon and E-bay.
Although point-of-sale functionality (POS) — which allows you to use a card reader to sell in physical locations — is available on any paid plan, only the most expensive ‘Unlimited’ plan unlocks full POS functionality and integration with leading POS app Square.
The ‘Venture’ plan is quite restrictive in terms of how it allows you to display your products: on this plan, you can’t display product dimensions, use product variants or allow users to make use of product filters when browsing your store.
The ‘Venture’ plan does not allow you to edit existing orders (or create ones manually) — you’ll need to be on a more expensive plan to be able to do that.
Automatic abandoned cart recovery is only available on the ‘Business’ plans and higher.
With the ‘Business’ and ‘Unlimited’ plans, you can avail of some consultation time when setting up your store.
If you’re selling digital goods (software, music, etc.) that are over 100MB in size, you’ll need to be on a ‘Business’ or ‘Unlimited’ plan (which provide limits of 1GB and 10GB per file respectively).
Phone support is only available on the ‘Business’ and ‘Unlimited’ plan.
Fully customizable invoices are only available on the ‘Business’ and ‘Unlimited’ plans.
Let’s drill down into some of Ecwd’s key features.
With Ecwid, you can process credit cards ‘out of the box’ using Paypal, with no extra charge other than Paypal’s commission.
There are also around 50 other payment gateways you can connect to Ecwid (these include established providers like Sage, Stripe, 2Checkout, Authorize.Net and many others). Some are country-specific, so the exact range available to you will depend on your location.
Other online store solutions such as Shopify provide more options in this regard, but the range of payment gateway integrations available with Ecwid is definitely at the more comprehensive end of the spectrum.
Remember of course that using these payment gateways often means paying a monthly fee. You may find it best to start off with Paypal and add a payment gateway down the line, if and when your volume of sales justifies it.
Thanks to Ecwid’s point-of-sale (POS) functionality, you can use your Ecwid store to sell not just online but in physical locations too – in stores, market stalls, at concerts and so on.
Ecwid’s chip and tap card reader for POS applications.
Ecwid’s chip and tap card reader for POS applications.
With Ecwid’s POS functionality, regardless of whether a customer buys a product in store, online, on their phone or via Facebook, everything stays in sync – i.e., the merchant’s catalog, inventory, and customer/transaction information.
There are a few ways you can use this feature: the simplest is probably to use ‘Paypal Here.’ This involves downloading the Ecwid iOS app from Apple’s App store, connecting it to the Paypal Here service, and then taking payments using a mobile card reader (pictured above).
Ecwid’s mobile app for managing orders
Ecwid’s mobile app for managing orders
You have two choices when it comes to POS hardware and Paypal Here: you can either buy a chip and swipe reader (for $24.99) or a chip and tap reader (for $79.99). Both can be ordered direct from Ecwid.
There’s a couple of things worth noting about the Paypal Here integration: first, it’s only available to merchants in the US, UK, and Canada. Secondly, it’s not yet available on Android devices.
If you’re based outside the US / UK / Canada or want to work with another mobile device type, the good news is that Ecwid also works with the Vend, Clover, NCR Silver, and Square POS systems. These all facilitate using a wider range of hardware in a physical retail location (full-sized card readers, receipt printers, cash drawers tablet stands, etc.) and are usable in more countries.
Although you can avail of the Paypal Here POS option on all paid-for plans, you’ll need to be on the most expensive ‘Unlimited’ plan if you want to avail of a Vend, Clover, NCR Silver or Square integration.
Ecwid is ahead of the pack in that its storefronts can be automatically translated into nearly 50 different languages – customers can view your store in their own language, without you having to worry about creating alternate versions of it.
Ecwid provides this functionality by detecting visitors’ language automatically based on their browser settings / IP address.
Competing products like Shopify and Bigcommerce are yet to provide this sort of functionality – they force you to rely on third-party apps, the creation of multiple stores or Google Translate to provide different language versions of your store, which is less than ideal.
So a definite win for Ecwid here.
Importing and exporting data
Like many competing products, Ecwid allows you to import and export your data in to the platform using CSV format. When importing via CSV, you can make use of 25 different columns, each representing a particular product attribute (product name, SKU, URL for product image and so on). Your import file can be delimited by comma, semi-colons or tabs.
The export option, as you might expect, allows you to export product data, orders and customers (again, in CSV format) and means that if you ever feel the need to migrate your store to another e-commerce platform, you shouldn’t have any major problems doing so.
Search engine optimization (SEO) in Ecwid
The key things to watch out for with SEO features in store building products like Ecwid are as follows:
how easy it is to key elements like page titles and meta descriptions
how easy it is to create clean, search-friendly URLs
how fast you can get a product page to load
The good stuff first: you can edit the title of your page and its meta description easily; the relevant fields are pre-populated for you automatically, but you can tweak them to suit your SEO objectives.
Less good is the fact that you can’t manually change the URL of a product — you have to make do with the one that Ecwid generates for you. This is not ideal because keywords in URLs are used by some search engines to categorize content during indexing. However, the URLs that are automatically generated by Ecwid include the title you’ve given to your product — so if you include some keywords in your product title (not a bad idea anyway) your URL will include them too. This serves as something of a workaround, but I’d prefer full control over URLs.
Ecwid SEO options are basic but easy to use.
Another area where Ecwid doesn’t perform quite so well on the SEO front involves AMP — accelerated mobile pages.
As the name suggests, AMP pages load faster on mobile devices. This encourages people to stay longer on your page, thus increasing ‘dwell time’ —something which is believed by many SEO experts believe to be rewarded by Google with preferential treatment in search results. Additionally, Google sometimes highlights AMP pages in carousels in search results, giving AMP content an extra little boost.
Unfortunately, however — and unlike competing products such as Bigcommerce or Shopify, you can’t create AMP versions of your products using Ecwid.
Although there’s room for improvement with regards to SEO in Ecwid, I wouldn’t necessarily view its current deficiencies in this area as a showstopper; it’s important to remember that link building and having great content on your site are as important to SEO as the technical aspects of SEO. (For some general pointers on SEO, you might want to check out our ‘Making your site visible’ post).
Apps and plugins
In common with a lot of other e-commerce platforms, Ecwid provides a number of integrations with other web apps (via its ‘app market’).
However, the number of integrations available with well-known services is reasonably limited. Integrations do exist with key products like MailChimp, Xero and Freshbooks; but competing products such as Shopify offer a much broader range of established apps.
Notable omissions in the Ecwid store include Quickbooks and Zendesk, for example (that said, a Quickbooks integration is coming soon).
The picture is better when it comes to CMS plugins: these are available for WordPress, Wix, and Joomla, allowing to you install Ecwid on one of these platforms very easily.
Dropshipping in Ecwid
Dropshipping is a sales and fulfillment approach where you don’t keep what you’re selling in stock: you take the order, send it to a supplier, and they deliver the goods to your client — your store is in effect a middle man of sorts.
You can drop ship in Ecwid by adding either the Wholesale2B or Printful apps, which are both available from Ecwid’s app store.
The Wholesale2B app allows you to add a variety of products from over 100+ dropshipping suppliers to your Ecwid store; the Printful app allows you to create products featuring your images or logos (you upload them to Printful, who then manufacture the product and ship it).
Other platforms do provide integrations with more drop shipping providers, but Wholesale2B and Printful are established, providers. As always with dropshipping, for ethical reasons you may wish to perform some due diligence on how (and where) any products you are featuring on your site are being produced.
Ecwid Starter Site
Although Ecwid has traditionally been a product which lets you add an online store to an existing website, it now allows you to set up a standalone store too, called an ‘Ecwid Starter Site.’
It has to be said that this is a very basic, one-page affair — but it’s nonetheless potentially useful, and definitely represents a good ‘stopgap’ measure for merchants who wish to start selling with Ecwid but have not yet finished developing their full site (on, say, WordPress).
Ecwid starter site example
Ecwid starter site example
You can either host your starter site on the Ecwid domain (i.e., mystore.ecwid.com) or map it to your own domain (www.yourstorename.com).
An Ecwid starter site is not a substitute for a proper online store (chiefly because you can’t blog on one, which in turn will hamper your ability to use inbound marketing to generate sales). However, it will come in very handy for many merchants and is a much better than a traditional ‘site under construction’ holding page.
Using Ecwid with other platforms
Ecwid and WordPress
Wordpress doesn’t provide any e-commerce functionality out of the box, so anyone wishing to sell on the platform will need a third-party solution like Ecwid. There is a dedicated Ecwid plugin available for WordPress, so adding an Ecwid store to your WordPress site is very straightforward — you can get up and running with a few clicks.
You just sign up for an Ecwid account and then install the free plugin.
Ecwid and Squarespace
Squarespace comes with increasingly good e-commerce features, but it doesn’t currently facilitate point-of-sale or dropshipping.
Integrating Ecwid with Squarespace allows you to bypass these limitations, and adding it to a Squarespace site is very easy: it’s a simple matter of adding a code block to a page and pasting some HTML into it.
Ecwid and Wix
As with Squarespace, there’s currently no drop shipping option for Wix users, so again Ecwid can provide a good workaround. A dedicated app is provided by Ecwid to allow you to integrate the product onto a Wix store easily.
Interface and ease of use
Ecwid’s interface is pretty easy to use. Like many similar online store builders, you get a vertical menu on the left which allows you to access key functionality, and the area on the right is used to display or edit associated products, site content, and reports.
The Ecwid interface
The Ecwid interface
As with any e-commerce tool, you’ll need to spend a fair amount of time getting your head around creating catalogs and product variants, setting up shipping rates and so on…but there is nothing here that should represent too much of a learning curve.
Matters are helped by an ‘onboarding checklist’ that is provided to you when you log in for the first time.
If you are stuck, however, you can always get in touch with Ecwid’s support team – more on that later — or, if you’re on a ‘Business’ or ‘Unlimited’, you can take advantage of the included customization service (you get 2 hours and 12 hours customization time from Ecwid on these plans respectively).
Ecwid and GDPR
I am not a lawyer, so please note that the below observations should not be interpreted as legal advice, but I’m going to do my best to spell out some of the key GDPR issues facing Ecwid users below.
With the introduction of the EU’s new GDPR laws, there are several legal steps that website owners now need to take to ensure that they are adequately protecting EU customers’ and visitors’ privacy. There are serious financial penalties for not doing so (to the point where it’s usually a good idea to consult a lawyer about what to do); and even if your business is not based in the EU, you still need to comply with the regulations where any site visits from the EU are concerned.
Based on my understanding of the key GDPR rules, the main priorities for prospective Ecwid store owners are to:
provide adequate privacy and cookie notices
process and store data securely
get explicit consent from people signing up to mailing lists that it is okay to send them e-newsletters
provide a means to opt-in or revoke consent to use of non-essential cookies on a website (and to log that consent).
There doesn’t seem to be anything that stops you meeting the first three requirements easily enough with Ecwid, although you will need to spend time and possibly money creating adequate notices and crafting data capture forms so that they are GDPR compliant.
Where things get complicated with Ecwid is the fourth requirement — cookie consent. To ensure GDPR compliance, you need to display a cookie banner to your visitors which
allows them to choose which cookies they want to run BEFORE those cookies are run (i.e., to give ‘prior consent’)
logs their consent to run cookies
allows them to revoke consent at a later stage
Now, out of the box at least there is not a way to deal with the cookie consent issue with Ecwid. Nor is there an adequate app available from the Ecwid app store. Ecwid suggests using an app called ‘Promo bar’ to deal with the issue, but as far as I can see it doesn’t remotely help!
It seems to me that the only option available to Ecwid users is to use a specialist product like CookiePro, which does provide all the necessary functionality to make cookie consent fully GDPR compliant. Despite being a useful product however, Cookiepro does require quite a lot of configuration and you’ll need to set quite a lot of time aside to set it up.
The level of support you get from Ecwid depends on the type of plan you’re on.
If you’re on the free plan, you can avail of email support; if you’re on the $15-per-month Venture plan you can expect email and live chat support; and if you’re on a Business ($35) or Unlimited plan ($99) you can expect phone, live chat, and email support. You also get faster support on the Unlimited plan via a ‘Priority support’ feature.
Additionally, if you’re on the ‘Business’ or ‘Unlimited’ plans, you can get some free customization time from Ecwid: 2 hours and 12 hours respectively.
Alternatives to Ecwid
If you’re starting an online store from scratch, then you’re spoiled for choice; there are many platforms available that allow you to build a standalone online store and the big hitters include Shopify, Bigcommerce, Wix, Volusion and Squarespace (with Shopify and Bigcommerce being the most fully-featured as far as e-commerce features go).
If you’re hoping to integrate a store into an existing site, of the aforementioned, both Shopify and Bigcommerce will let you do this, via their Buy Buttons.
The Buy Buttons work in a similar way to Ecwid in that you add a snippet of code to your site to feature Shopify products or collections on it; however, whereas Ecwid allows you to effectively put a complete, fully functioning store on an existing site, the Shopify and Bigcommerce options are a bit more basic.
WordPress users may also be interested in looking at Woocommerce or Shopp to add an online store to their site.
Some of our other posts may be useful in evaluating the alternatives to Ecwid:
WordPress vs Wix comparison
(To see all relevant posts, check out our full e-commerce reviews section).
Ecwid review conclusions
Ecwid is a cost-effective, powerful way to add e-commerce functionality to an existing site or to place an online store on a Facebook page or other social media presence.
You’ll find a full summary of its pros and cons below, but the main things I like about it are its generous free plan; the way it can be used with any type of website; and the fact that it can add drop shipping functionality to platforms that don’t offer it (notably Wix and Squarespace).
I’m less impressed by the SEO features and the fact that it’s tricky to make Ecwid GDPR-compliant with regard to obtaining cookie consent (the company could do a LOT more to help users with this).
As ever, it’s a case of try before you buy, and you can register for the free version of Ecwid here.
Pros and cons of using Ecwid
Ecwid represents a really simple way to add e-commerce to any existing website.
Point-of-sale functionality is available, and there are quite a few ways to implement it.
The product is cheap in comparison to other solutions.
It supports multi-language versions of your store.
The store designs are responsive.
Plugins/apps are available for major platforms (like WordPress, Drupal, and Wix).
It allows users of website building products that don’t facilitate dropshipping to start doing so (i.e., Squarespace, Wix, etc.)
The ‘starter site’ option is a good stopgap measure for merchants who need a store quickly, but have yet to develop a full site to add the Ecwid widget to.
The free Ecwid plan is not time-limited and is fairly generous in terms of features.
The Paypal Here POS system is limited to the US, UK and Canada.
The Paypal Here POS system is limited to iOS users.
Phone support is only available on the more expensive plans.
There is a limited number of apps / integrations available in the Ecwid App store.
You can’t change product URLs, which isn’t ideal from an SEO point of view.
You can’t create AMP versions of product pages using Ecwid.
Making Ecwid GDPR-compliant (with regard to obtaining cookie consent) is difficult and there are no resources to help you with this.
The free version doesn’t let you access any of the SEO features.