There are a few particularly exciting things about ecommerce today. The first is its promising growth trajectory. Some experts estimate retail ecommerce will grow by 20 percent to become a $4 trillion market by 2020. This means there’s increasing opportunity for entrepreneurs looking to get into the game.

Another exciting aspect of online retail: You can set up shop without having to invest in a physical storefront and design a digital one without in-depth knowledge of coding. Even better, it’s entirely possible to get an ecommerce website up and running without needing to hire a web designer to build it from scratch.

Free website themes from Shopify and similar providers have introduced the “plug-and-play” mentality into setting up an ecommerce store. The ability to personalize a template gives merchants the ability to customize the look and feel of their stores without the responsibility of building them from the ground up.

Ultimately, the key is choosing the best free website theme for your purposes, then making it your own.

Tips for Picking the Right Website Theme

The best online stores manage to convey unique branding while remaining highly functional in terms of user experience. Any theme worth its weight will allow plenty of leeway for customization – differentiating your online store from others is an important part of creating a brand identity.

The ability to customize the appearance of your store is important, but so is its underlying navigation. Have you ever clicked onto a website with so much happening that it was difficult to find the links and navigational controls you were seeking? That’s a huge hurdle to expect website visitors to overcome and will only deter people from making a purchase. Instead, you want the most streamlined navigation possible. This includes organized navigation bars with drop-down options, a highly visible search box, clear buttons and etc.

It’s also imperative to pick a mobile-friendly theme for your website. As MarketWatch cites, 60 percent of all ecommerce traffic now occurs via mobile devices. Consumers are increasingly using mobile devices to make purchases, yes, but they’re also browsing product listings and reading reviews. This means your theme should facilitate a positive mobile user experience.

Last but not least, your theme must make sense based upon your branding and product lineup. For instance, some stores thrive on minimalism; others need to showcase a huge inventory.

Ways to Customize Your Ecommerce Theme

Stores using the same basic website theme can end up looking very different by incorporating other plug-and-play elements. Based on several examples of inspiring ecommerce stores rounded up by HubSpot, here are some key elements online retailers use to set their stores apart:

  • Logo: Incorporating a custom ecommerce logo is a creative way to increase brand recognition.
  • Home page image(s): The size and type of imagery you use on your home page will be visitors’ first introduction to your on-site branding.
  • Calls to action: Customize the phrasing and appearance of your calls to action for a more personalized buying journey.
  • Unique selling proposition: Convey the primary value your brand has to offer customers prominently on your website.
  • Special offers and discounts: Running a limited-time promotion? Have a great sale section? Make sure your customers know this so they can explore your offerings.

Using a free website theme is far from the kiss of death regarding the creativity of your website – quite the opposite is true, actually. Today’s customization options go above and beyond when it comes to allowing retailers to take something readymade and put their own twist on it.