Overview of E-commerce
Both BigCommerce and Shopify are leading e-commerce tools that help you build an online store. This comparison will help you decide which of the two may be relevant to your online business, in that, which ones you should pick given the features, pricing models, templates, UI-UX and more.
In essence both these tools help you make the process of building websites for the purpose of e-commerce much easier than ever before. You can effectively build an e-commerce store on either of these two by picking a template, uploading your products with their details, deciding on the prices and taking your site live (with a few more details, that is). Both are built to be used on web browsers and all you need is an internet connection to manage your online store built on either of the two as these can be accessed anywhere. They are SAAS tools and have a recurring fee for use.
So if you’re planning to create an e-commerce store from scratch, both of these tools are great and either one could be your go-to choice of e-commerce platforms.
But who wins the BigCommerce vs Shopify battle is a question of your strengths and your business type. It depends on what your pricing strategy is and how soon you want to scale up. It depends on how much customizability matters over your maintenance cost.
Also, just to get some more perspective, it helps to note what other competitors are using in the e-commerce industry. If you look at data on the top 100K e-commerce websites, Shopify definitely is a leader with 21% sites being built on Shopify while only 5% being built on BigCommerce. In fact, if you look at data on the top 10K websites, Shopify takes the cake with 23% (including Shopify Plus) while BigCommerce is nowhere to be found on the top ten list.
Table of Contents
Section 1 - BigCommerce Vs. Shopify: Features
Let’s consider the most basic plans (Basic Shopify and Standard BigCommerce) of both the products. Each of these plans cost approximately $29 per month. You have the ability to upload unlimited products in either of the two plans but when it comes to additional features, BigCommerce offers more than Shopify. Here’s what you can get in the Standard BigCommerce plan - An in-built product ratings and review system, professional reporting metrics, an in-built currency converter (which works on geolocation tagging), and very importantly, a built-in page builder. This greatly helps e-commerce store owners who are setting up shop for the first time and lack any experience in the domain. While a Shopify store has alternatives that are plug and play apps (such as the Shopify Product Reviews app, which is in fact free) which can be picked out of the Shopify App Store, it becomes easier to have them built in already. It’s worth mentioning that when it comes to managing your online store, BigCommerce could be simpler in certain ways. For instance, when it comes to editing online orders or giving credit to a customer, Shopify does not inherently let you edit the actual order details - size, colour etc. which can be a pain, because it would require the shop owner to cancel the order and set it up again. On the other hand, BigCommerce will let you cancel the order within it’s dashboard, which makes it more convenient. Also, the analytics dashboard within BigCommerce is very intelligent and supports real-time reporting.
However, it’s worth mentioning that Shopify’s App store has plenty of third-party apps that can be installed to get a host of functionalities, and most of them are highly rated. Also, it is important to note that there are two important aspects that are part of the Shopify Standard plan which are not part of the BigCommerce plan. One of these is the sales limits that BigCommerce imposes of $50000 per year. Secondly, an abandoned cart saver that a Shopify store provides free, comes with a price tag of $79.95 or more with BigCommerce.
You want the ability to effortlessly build your online store and have the right sales features that cover everything from shipping options to emails to transaction fees and so on. There is no doubt that when it comes to sales features, Shopify is a great platform, even though a Bigcommerce store has a tonne of built-in basics. When it comes to the essentials, both these platforms have some standard features which include, but are not limited to SSL Certificate, Abandoned Cart Recovery, Multiple sales channels like Facebook, Pinterest, Email etc. and a strong suite for Inventory management. Specially important is the shopping cart recovery which makes the e-commerce site look sophisticated and legitimate.
Shopify also has a very versatile point of sale system, that can help unify the in-store and online sales experience, making your brand seem like one. Shopify claims that this feature has helped brands achieve 30% growth in revenue year on year.
So objectively, Shopify lets you start with the basics and expand using add-ons, while BigCommerce has a lot of advanced features to begin with. Consequently, it has a smaller app store and for novices, it can get very complicated to set up.
The Verdict: Shopify is a winner in this category given the options it leaves you with. A lot of the Shopify apps are highly sophisticated and very well rated.
Section 2 - BigCommerce Vs. Shopify: Pricing Plans and Fees
This is an interesting question and if you go to BigCommerce’s site, and read their version of the Shopify vs BigCommerce comparison, you will see that they claim to help you save up to $20000 per year over Shopify pricing because of mainly two factors. Firstly, they boast about their built-in features which we’ve mentioned above and then, they talk about the fact that BigCommerce does not have any transaction fee, unlike Shopify.
Taking a quick look at the pricing plans that Shopify offers, as an e-commerce store owner you can choose from 5 pricing plans.
Shopify Lite is their cheapest offering at $9 a month while for large enterprises, one can avail Shopify Plus, which is their enterprise plan and is customized to the requirements of the large business. In between lie the Basic Shopify plan at $29, Shopify plan at $79 and Advanced Shopify at $299 per month with improving levels of features with each. You have a 14 day free trial that you can avail. Note though, that the $9 plan does not really come with a functioning online store, but just a Shopify Button that can be embedded to sell on an existing site or social media.
So a stark addition to this fee is the cost of the additional Shopify transaction fee with each of the Shopify plans. This could range from 0.5% to 2% per transaction based on the plan you are on, which means you are letting go of approximately 2% of your earnings and giving it to Shopify. In the long run that could mean a large sum.
You have the option of getting away with this if you are using Shopify Payments in place of another payment gateway. As a e-commerce business owner, there is an advantage to that:
- There is no added transaction fee, well of course, other than the payment gateway charge
- There is cheaper payment processing especially if you are on the higher plans
Moreover, Shopify Payments adds a fee (flat price based on the country of origin) in case of a chargeback that a customer might face. If the issue is sorted in favor of the e-commerce website, then that is refunded by Shopify.
Over and above, there are no hidden fees in Shopify. And if you consider the cost of a globally-renowned CDN like Fastly (for crazy website speed) and a free SSL certificate, the costs don’t seem too high. Thus, while the Shopify servers may be located in North America, it will not prevent your store from loading fast anywhere in the world.
Coming to BigCommerce, there are several BigCommerce pricing plans offered as well. Their cheapest plan is the BigCommerce Standard plan at $29.95 per month and similar to Shopify Plus they also have BigCommerce Enterprise which is meant for large businesses that run on a high scale and is their enterprise plan. On the spectrum lie the BigCommerce Plus and BigCommerce Pro plans at $79.95 and $299.95 per month, respectively. They too have a 15-day free trial just like Shopify.
Note that this lies under the Essentials tab of their website, which may be confused with the Enterprise tab.
With both BigCommerce and Shopify you have the options of credit card rates that get better as you pick a higher plan. However if you already have a payments provider in mind, or have tied up with someone, you will need to pay the additional transaction fee in Shopify, which can be avoided with BigCommerce as BigCommerce has no transaction fee. This is very highly in favor of BigCommerce especially if the volume of products sold is high.
Additionally, as BigCommerce puts it, the Shopify shop owners need to buy a host of other applications to support their store, cost of which (perhaps exaggerated by BigCommerce) may add up to $20000 a year.
The Verdict: BigCommerce definitely takes the win on this one. In terms of costs of the additional plugins and the transaction fees, Shopify can turn out to be more expensive than BigCommerce.
Section 3 - BigCommerce Vs. Shopify: SEO
If you are running an e-commerce store, your objective is to find the right customers for your store. SEO is an important aspect of meeting that goal. Making your store rank high on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) of Google, Bing or your choice of search engine is important. This will help you drive high quality, targeted leads to your online shop.
With regards to SEO, BigCommerce vs. Shopify is a tough call. They are both very effective platforms and have a guided approach to SEO.
Developers believe that the Shopify code is sophisticated and clean. It has natural inter-linkages which means that your customer will definitely have a great user experience. As the user experience is high, naturally time spent on site and other useful metrics for SEO will become in favor of a high search rank. Also, thanks to the CDN, Shopify sites are optimized well to give a high site speed which is another important factor for SEO.
SEO Booster is one of the most common plugins that can be used for SEO on Shopify and which makes doing the job of SEO very convenient. This guides you through items such as meta descriptions, title tags, image alt tags, and checks the duplication of content. You can check out our article on SEO for Shopify here (LINK) for more plugins.
On the other hand, quite a few of the BigCommerce SEO features are built in. These include Optimized URLs (which are auto populated for the product, category and other pages), Unique URLs (to ensure that there is no duplicacy), Microdata, 301 redirects (having old URLs directly redirect to new URL in case a name of a product gets altered - quite impressive) and Content Delivery Network (CDN - which you will find in Shopify too). Microdata is a very essential setting that helps you build rich snippets into the product pages to improve search results. It ensures the addition of pricing, ratings, brand and stock levels etc. This is good information to have and optimise your store.
BigCommerce allows you to cover the four major aspects of SEO in an in-built, guided method. As you go along building your online store, you will be able to optimize the URL structure, metadata, product and category descriptions along with the relevant keywords to do a complete on-page SEO for your site.
Each page type under BigCommerce has it’s own location for meta-data inputs. For instance, for the homepage metadata you must go to - Store Setup › Store Settings › Search Engine Optimization section. Similarly, for the Product Pages, the meta-data inputs need to be added following this path - Edit any product or add a product › SEO & Sharing section › SEO. Thus it falls very naturally into the whole process and makes it very easy to complete the SEO basics.
One important aspect of doing SEO for your online store is to have an SSL certificate in place. This is to ensure that search engines find your site safe for transactions which helps push you up in the rankings. While both BigCommerce and Shopify come with a free SSL certificate, BigCommerce only provides the basic features in the free version. In order to add some security features, you will need to pay a premium.
Both BigCommerce and Shopify have support centers with dedicated guides on SEO, that may be very useful.
The Verdict: BigCommerce makes it much easier to do SEO from the get go with its in-built functionalities. Barring the SSL, it’s really effective from the perspective of SEO.
Section 4 - BigCommerce Vs. Shopify: Themes and Design
Both Shopify and BigCommerce offer free theme options which are great to help you give a good first impression of your store. Having a good-looking and easy to navigate store is very important to keep your customers on-board with your brand. Your design should not be chaotic. Make it simple for the users. While both Shopify and BigCommerce offer fairly good quality free and premium themes, they are not as focused on design as opposed to other platforms like Wix or Squarespace. In essence, both these platforms are e-commerce builders and fairly limited in terms of designs.
Shopify offers nine free themes and 64 premium themes (priced between $140 and $180). It’s easy to choose the theme based on parameters like store layout, store size, navigation style and more. Most of these themes are mobile responsive (with the ability to edit both versions) and tend to be modern in their look and feel. They have aesthetically pleasing color schemes, and allow hiding and deleting of sections. However, if you are to switch a template it essentially requires reformatting a site. Thus, you must be careful while picking your template initially. Remember the industry you cater to while picking your theme.
Moving on to BigCommerce themes, BigCommerce offers twelve free themes and over 50 paid themes (priced between $145 and $235) but their selection by industry (which is important since some features are industry specific) gives very limited options. Also, most of the themes look like replicas of each other with changed images or colors. Also, some of them look a little bit outdated in terms of design.
One advantage with BigCommerce themes is that if you want to switch themes, your content will be reformatted automatically, which isn’t the case with Shopify. BigCommerce themes are also responsive like those of Shopify, however, you cannot edit the mobile site separate from the desktop version. The new Store Design tool of BigCommerce helps customize the storefront with considerable ease. It has eliminated the use of two editors that were required earlier that had to be used side by side. It’s synonymous to the Wordpress Weaver Builder but not as sophisticated.
The Verdict: Given that Shopify themes are filled with a modern aesthetic and allow more customizability, Shopify wins this one. It’s a close call though given that BigCommerce offers more flexibility in switching themes.
Section 5 - BigCommerce Vs. Shopify: Ease of Use
It doesn’t matter if you are a first time e-commerce store owner, or seasoned. It’s never not important to have ease of use with your e-commerce platform, since it helps to save a lot of time.
Shopify is known to be a very easy to use e-commerce store builder with a smooth on-boarding process and great one-demand resources and customer support all throughout. It supplies all the requisite information required at each step and the editor is super user-friendly. It also shows in plenty of customer reviews where a lot of customers are all praises for the setup experience of Shopify.
On the contrary, users found BigCommerce a bit difficult to navigate and as a first time user it was hard to understand some of the language used in the editor. Thus, if you are starting out, BigCommerce may not be the most ideal choice unless you have the time and energy for a slight learning curve.
But BigCommerce tries its best to make it’s user’s life better, but giving enough and more resources for on-boarding. Also, BigCommerce is very agile and iterative as an organisation and they continuously work on the feedback they get from users to better their product. Their Store Design visual merchandising tool is in that direction. Most users’ feedback suggested that the platform is incredibly powerful but a bit cumbersome to use.
The Verdict: Shopify is definitely much better in terms of ease of use. BigCommerce is slightly complex for a first time store owner to use.
Section 6 - BigCommerce Vs. Shopify: Payment Methods/ Payment Options
BigCommerce and Shopify have a variety of options for payment processing with a host of different approaches.
Shopify gives options such as Paypal, Credit Card Processing, Debit Card Processing, Apple Pay etc. which differ by the country of origin. Shopify Payments is their default payment processor, powered by Stripe, for the US, Canada, UK and seven other countries. The process is easy in that you only have to fill some bank account details. Immediately after, it starts to give real-time summary dashboards of all your transactions. It’s good to note that any payment processing option other than Shopify payments results in an additional transaction fee for Shopify store owners. This lies between 0.5-2%, based on your plan.
BigCommerce offers multiple options for payment gateways including Stripe, PayPal, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay and more. They have already negotiated for special rates with credit card and debit card transactions with Paypal, so as you scale up, the rates fall. This could go down all the way to 2.2% + 30 cents per transaction.
The Verdict: Between BigCommerce Vs Shopify payment methods, owing to the leverage Shopify gives to Shopify Payments, BigCommerce takes the cake. In the long term, and at scale Shopify can get relatively expensive.
Section 7 - BigCommerce Vs. Shopify: Customer Service/ Customer Support
Customer Support is very important in deciding which out of Shopify and BigCommerce can help you create a more effective store with more efficiency. It is always comforting to have the option of 24/7 live chat and phone support when you are relatively new to the platform or looking to scale up. Additionally, a guided setup process helps but so does a support forum and video how-to tutorials, all of which are available in both these platforms. Email support may be your last choice of contact but it is still one important to have for larger issues and conversations you may want to document. All of this is possible with either of Shopify and Bigcommerce.
BigCommerce has a very useful help center but it is, perhaps, not as organised as the Shopify Knowledge Center. There are topical threads for everything from Apps and Themes to Technical Discussions and Collaborative Offers. In addition, they have Shopify Compass, their response to COVID-19, which particularly has a lot of ancillary content that can help online store owners start and grow their shop, get feedback and get their initial sales going. Additionally, Shopify provides support through Twitter which the counterpart does not.
Naturally, with both the platforms, taking the advanced enterprise plans helps you retrieve priority support in the form of a dedicated support agent with Shopify and an on-boarding consultant with BigCommerce.
The Verdict: A clear winner in the Shopify vs BigCommerce Customer Support battle is Shopify. Shopify has more organised information and has a more automated support process for quicker response.
BigCommerce and Shopify are two of the best e-commerce platforms and among the top choices for most businesses.
When looking to scale your business, BigCommerce can be a better choice in terms of cost-effectiveness where as with most other aspects, Shopify tends to be the go-to choice. But again, this depends on the nature of the business you are in and what your specific business needs are. This is great for small businesses looking to start up, but also larger businesses looking for ease of doing business. Shopify is also the go-to e-commerce platform for dropshipping service providers.
In summary, a Shopify review would definitely say that it’s an easier platform to build an e-commerce store and an all-rounder and is perfect for fast-growing businesses. You have a lot of customizability with the large number of apps that can be integrated and given the customer support, that process of integration is much easier. Of course you will not get the customizability of building something from scratch like on a platform such as Magento or Woocommerce but between the two choices, Shopify provides higher ability to modify on the whole.
On the contrary, BigCommerce is a great tool if you are looking to scale up and build a large business, with built-in features.