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You’re a small business owner looking to sell your products online. So you go to Google and type in “how to start an ecommerce website.” The page loads and among your top results are ads for two different products: Shopify and BigCommerce. Having no experience in the world of ecommerce, how do you know which one to choose to help your business reach its goals?
Well, that’s what we are here for. We’ve taken the time to review both Shopify and BigCommerce—two of the most popular ecommerce platforms on the market today. The following review will explain what you need to know about each product as well as their strengths and weaknesses in relation to one another.
Although we feel you can’t go wrong using either Shopify or BigCommerce, we want to help you pick the one that is the most right for your business.
Shopify is an ecommerce platform, meaning it is a software application accessible through the internet that allows a business to manage its online website, sales, and operations.
Shopify has arguably the most brand recognition of any platform in the ecommerce space. Since launching in 2006, the Shopify platform has been used to build over 600,000 ecommerce stores and generate $82 billion worth of sales. Major brands that use the Shopify platform include Budweiser, Tesla, Red Bull, and Nestle.
Building your store with Shopify is a fairly straightforward process. You’ll need to provide some basic business information, upload a catalog of products, design your store, and arrange shipping, payment, and tax settings. Even an ecommerce rookie working by themselves could have a basic Shopify store up and running within a week.
Shopify’s size and popularity (10% of all ecommerce stores use the Shopify platform) have allowed it to build a formidable set of in-house features. Among those features are Shopify Point of Sale, a POS system that allows you to process sales in person or online. Shopify Payments is a payment service provider that makes it possible to accept credit card payments. Shopify Shipping integrates with your ecommerce platform to provide calculated shipping rates.
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Shopify provides for the sale of most product types, including physical products, digital products, and services. There is also support for dropshippers on the Shopify platform. The only items you cannot sell on Shopify are items that are illegal to sell online: medicine, weapons, and liquor.
A lot of what we just said about Shopify can also apply to BigCommerce. Like Shopify, BigCommerce is an ecommerce platform that allows for the management of an online store via the web. You can sell all the same products on BigCommerce that you can sell on Shopify, and the process of building your store is fairly similar (and just as straightforward).
However, BigCommerce has considerably less market share than Shopify. About 150,000 websites have been built using the BigCommerce platform, with merchants generating $17 billion in sales. Although those numbers are nothing to scoff at, they are a fraction of Shopify’s numbers, albeit with three fewer years of operation.
In terms of features, BigCommerce provides functionality for all the same things Shopify does. However, BigCommerce accomplishes this through partnerships with third-party vendors, whereas Shopify offers many of these features in-house. There are pros and cons to each, as we will soon discuss.
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Let’s start this comparison by talking about the areas in which both products overlap.
Photo credit: Shopify
When trying to pick between two products, price is often used as the great differentiator. That cannot be done with Shopify and BigCommerce, as their price points are remarkably similar.
The Basic Shopify plan costs $29 per month and comes with everything you need to build and run an online store, including the ability to upload an unlimited number of products, use abandoned cart recovery, and access the POS app. The two more expensive plans—Shopify ($79 per month) and Advanced Shopify ($299 per month)—boast increased customization, lower credit card processing rates, and functionality for a larger group of people.
BigCommerce’s cheapest plan starts at $29.95 per month. Like Shopify, this plan offers unlimited products and a POS app. Although BigCommerce’s Standard plan does not come with abandoned cart recovery, it does provide the ability to accept Apple Pay, generate shipping quotes, and provide an unlimited number of staff accounts.
Similar to Shopify, BigCommerce’s more expensive plans provide greater customization and lower credit card processing rates. The BigCommerce Plus plan ($79.95 per month) is where you will get abandoned cart recovery as well as customer segmentation features. The BigCommerce Pro plan ($249.95 per month) is $50 cheaper than Shopify’s comparable plan and adds a unique SSL certificate (this comes with all Shopify plans) plus the ability to collect Google customer reviews.
A major difference in the pricing structure of BigCommerce vs. Shopify is that BigCommerce places a limit on your annual sales volume under each plan, while Shopify caps the number of users on an account under each plan. Both limits are meant to get merchants to upgrade to a more expensive plan as their business grows. With BigCommerce, if your annual sales volume exceeds the limit on your plan ($50,000 for Standard, $150,000 for Plus, $400,000 for Pro) BigCommerce will increase your monthly rates. Shopify will never cap your sales limits.
We should also mention that both BigCommerce and Shopify offer enterprise plans that feature quote-based pricing. Shopify also offers a Lite plan ($9 per month) for social selling. Both offer a 10% discount if you purchase an annual plan.
For new users, Shopify provides a 14-day free trial, while BigCommerce’s free trial lasts 15 days.
Both Shopify and BigCommerce go to great lengths to help customers resolve their inquiries and stay apprised of updates to the platform. Customers can get in touch with a Shopify or BigCommerce representative 24/7 via phone, email, or live chat.
BigCommerce operates a help center where customers have free access to a community forum, weekly webinars, and a video tutorial platform. The help center also features in depth guides to everything from arranging sales tax to migrating your store from another platform.
Shopify operates an ecommerce university filled with ebooks, guides, videos, and tutorials. The Shopify Blog provides ideas on how to run your online store. There are a variety of forums with answers to commonly asked questions.
One thing that Shopify offers that BigCommerce does not is Shopify Experts: professionals who can assist with the setup, design, development, and marketing of your Shopify store. Note that this is a paid service.
Shopify has a leg up on BigCommerce in several key areas, all of which pertain to the amount of extra “stuff” you get with your ecommerce platform.
If we’re looking at the sheer volume of features, Shopify wins out. That’s not to say BigCommerce doesn’t offer a charitable feature set: the ability to accept Apple Pay and generate shipping quotes comes standard with BigCommerce, which is something you have to pay extra for with Shopify. Some other things BigCommerce offers that Shopify does not include one-page checkout and gift wrapping options.
However, if you line up BigCommerce and Shopify’s feature lists side-by-side, Shopify’s is longer. Shopify’s in-house POS, payments, and shipping tools allow you to seamlessly integrate three essential functions into your platform. Shopify also provides a unique SSL certificate with all plans, as well as abandoned cart recovery, multichannel selling options, the ability to collect product reviews, multilingual checkout, a tax calculator, customer segmentation options, a blog, customizable analytics reports, and SEO tools.
Not all of these features come standard, but if you’re willing to pay, Shopify will provide you the most functionality at the end of the day.
Another area where Shopify edge’s BigCommerce is in design. In a word, Shopify websites are easier to design and look better. By the numbers, Shopify offers 69 different fully customizable themes, 10 of which are free. The rest range in price from $140-$180. BigCommerce provides for 125 different themes, but only seven of them are free. The rest cost between $145-$235.
Where Shopify edges BigCommerce is in its drag-and-drop theme editor, which allows you to edit the appearance of your store and see the changes in real time. Larger changes can also be made by editing the theme code. Note that most of Shopify’s theme code is written in Liquid, Shopify’s custom templating language.
BigCommerce allows you to edit your store’s theme code and also has a theme editor, but it is not as intuitive as Shopify’s. The Shopify themes are also more modern, and look better on a mobile device.
This one isn’t as much of a competition. Although BigCommerce does offer 400 integrations in its app store, they can’t compete with the over 1,500 integrations available for Shopify. The sheer volume of options offered by Shopify is unparalleled in the ecommerce industry, and provides merchants with a lot of versatility.
Although Shopify offers more bells and whistles, BigCommerce edges Shopify in two very important areas that may be of greater importance to you as a small business owner.
Shopify integrates with more payment gateways than BigCommerce (100 vs. 60), but they will charge you a transaction fee for using a payment processor other than Shopify Payments. Those transaction fees range between 2% and 0.5% depending on your plan, on top of what you will already pay in credit card processing rates. These fees can really eat into your bottom line.
BigCommerce does not charge a transaction fee when you work with a third-party payment processor. In addition, BigCommerce offers discounted credit card processing rates through PayPal.
Photo credit: BigCommerce
Both platforms are designed to be as user-friendly as possible, but based on user reviews it seems that many find BigCommerce to be slightly more intuitive. You can manage your entire BigCommerce store from what is known as the control panel. The control panel is designed so that the most commonly used parts of your store’s backend, like checking orders, adding/editing products, and updating customer data, are accessible from any other part of the store with just one or two clicks.
Next to the control panel is the dashboard, where you can view notifications, read news relating to your business, and review metrics regarding your store’s performance. Shopify offers a similar format, but with less information readily available.
To summarize, Shopify offers better feature and design options and more integrations, while BigCommerce provides more affordable payment processing and is more user friendly. The question still remains: Which one should you use for your business?
Like we said, you can’t go wrong using either platform. However, if you are just starting out in the world of ecommerce, you might be a little more comfortable using BigCommerce. This is because BigCommerce is slightly easier to use and offers cheaper credit card processing, allowing you to get acclimated without breaking the bank. You also get more standard features with BigCommerce than you do with Shopify.
If you are looking to build an ecommerce website with a higher level of functionality, or you want to migrate over from a different ecommerce platform, Shopify is likely your best bet. You can really build any type of store you need with Shopify’s myriad of features and integrations. Scaling is also more suited for the Shopify platform because you won’t be charged extra for exceeding your sales expectations.
However, you shouldn’t just take our word for it. Sign up for a free trial with both products (no credit card information required) and see which works best for you. Remember there is no such thing as the best ecommerce platform, just the one that is best for your business and will help your business accomplish its goals.