Keep On Rockin' On The Free World Wide Web

Treat yourself to a New Year's gift basket of free tools you can use to spice up your site and keep your e-biz running smoothly.

With the New Year here, it's time to spice up your site by adding new e-commerce services and tools. In a Web 2.0 world where hosted applications continue to flourish, there's plenty of goodies available that can make your life easier — and many of them are free.

We've done the sleuthing for you and found 10 free applications to help you with your e-commerce endeavors, from optimizing your site for search engines, to chatting with customers in real time, to crunching numbers in a full-featured accounting package. Of course we also highlight a few free applications that are designed to add a little flair to your auction and e-store pages should that be your specialty.

  1. StatCounter - Free Web site Counter Service
    Googling free counters will show more listings than you can possibly read through. The key to using a free counter service is finding one that offers more than just a counter to display on your Web page. StatCounter offers an ad-free hit counter along with some tracking and Web stats for registered users. Some of the statistics offered with the free StatCounter include a breakdown of unique, returning and repeat visitors and details related to a visitor's browser, resolution, operating system, country, search engine, keyword, referring link and more.

  2. Feedback Site - Free Feedback Charts
    Sellers looking to test new auction Web sites can keep track of progress with a universal feedback engine. We all know your feedback rating can make or break a potential bid, and starting out at a new auction site means starting with a zero feedback score. Feedback Site allows you to show prospective buyers a tally chart of your feedback and rankings from a variety of online auction marketplaces including eBay, Amazon and Yahoo. You can link to your chart page on FeedbackSite.com or display it directly on your item listing pages.

  3. Zen Cart - Free Shopping Cart Software
    For those looking to incorporate a shopping cart into their Web site, or who just want to test-drive a new one, Zen Cart is a PHP e-commerce shopping program that makes setting up and running an online store easy. Developed using OScommerce GPL code as a foundation, Zen Cart supports options for banner advertising, breadcrumb navigation, discount coupons, merchandise pricing and even a user-friendly way of keeping your product or catalog updated.

  4. Red Roller - Free Shipping Comparison Engine (with eBay Support)
    For those merchants who allow customers to choose shipping methods, or for those looking for a better price on shipping Red Roller offers a free shipping comparison engine. You can visit the Web site and enter in your package details and location information and obtain shipping quotes from a variety of local and national carriers. Since launching earlier this year, Red Roller incorporated a free eBay shipping solution that offers reporting, tracking, e-mail notifications, a place to keep a customer address book as well as special rate options.

  5. Google Co-op Search - Free Web site Search
    Everyone knows Google is the king of search engines. For that reason, many Web site owners with their own site search will still use Google to find something in their little corner of cyberspace. For those wanting to offer visitors a good site search function, Google offers a service called Google Co-op, which is in beta of course. Google Co-op enables you to set up a Google co-branded search query that you can place on your own Web site. You control which Web sites the search engine will query for results, and your own custom Google Co-op search can literally be created and inserted to your Web site in minutes.

  6. Volusion Live Chat Software - Free Live Chat Hosted Application
    Live chat applications are usually offered as a hosted service by way of an embedded plug-in you can include on your Web site. These applications allow you to monitor and interact with potential customers via a text chat window while they are visiting your site. For those considering offering a live chat or real-time help utility, Volusion has a basic version of their Live Chat application available for free on their Web site. This version allows for one operator to host up to five concurrent chats and also access a visitor profile, use online and offline chat indicators, and also lets you customize chat windows, icons and offline messages.

  7. Cell it Videos - Free Seller Bio Videos
    Cell it offers video-hosting services to merchants and auction-oriented sellers. For those who want to show more than just a digital image when selling, you can create videos and host with Cell it. You can link to the videos by using generated code that you include in your listing. While there is a fee for uploading videos used to show products, Cell it offers sellers a free video bio that can contain information about you and your business. You can link to the video and give potential buyers a visual alternative to learn more about you, which helps build customer trust.

  8. Village Photos - Free Image Hosting
    Those using auction-oriented marketplaces for selling know that pictures are an important aspect of selling your products. EBay, as well as many other online auction sites, often charge a fee for additional photos and those extra fees can eat away at your profits. Village Photos is one free image hosting site that allow you to upload images and embed them in your online auctions. You can insert captions, resize or compress the hosted images, and also generate a URL that can be used to show the images on other Web sites, including eBay and Yahoo Auctions. The free Village Photos account gives you a 1GB-data transfer limit per month.

  9. eBay Pop - Free eBay Selling Trends
    A relatively new Mpire-powered eBay service called eBay Pop provides trends for eBay top sellers and category specific sale figures. eBay Pop lets you track what brands in any category are the big sellers, and also lets you see average selling prices for each item. Even though eBay Pop is geared towards the consumer, sellers can also use this service for free before buying inventory and listing on eBay to find out what brands and items are most popular on eBay, and what you can expect the final sale price of different brands to average.

  10. TurboCASH - Free Accounting System
    For merchants and sellers in need of an accounting package that does a lot without carrying a big price tag, TurboCASH is a full-featured open source accounting system. Designed for businesses, rather than individual finances as most free packages are, TurboCASH allows you to manage your general ledger, cashbook, customer information, suppliers, inventory, reports, point of sale, payroll and e-commerce. TurboCASH can also be fully integrated with other popular open source e-commerce software such as osCommerce and Zen Cart. TurboCASH is not for the faint of heart but will serve as a nice finance tool for those looking for a comprehensive accounting package.

Vangie Beal is a frequent contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com. She is also the managing editor of Webopedia.

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