Choosing the best ecommerce platform: Shopify vs BigCommerce
Updated: Mar 30
As an aspiring ecommerce entrepreneur, selecting the right platform to launch your online store is a pivotal decision that can significantly impact the trajectory of your business. This decision involves not only choosing the policies that will govern your operations, but also determining the technical capabilities that will ultimately shape the customer experience.
In the realm of ecommerce platforms, Shopify stands as a titan with over 2 million daily users. Its closest competitor, BigCommerce, boasts a robust user base of around 1 million. Comparing Shopify and BigCommerce to determine which one is better suited for your business can be a daunting task, especially since both platforms have a proven track record of successfully hosting thousands of ecommerce enterprises.
As you evaluate the ecommerce platform that best suits your business needs, there are several factors to consider, including the size of your enterprise, the customer experience you intend to provide, and your key priorities in a service provider. In this article, we will delve into the details of both Shopify and BigCommerce to help you make an informed decision.
By examining the inner workings of each platform and analyzing the finer points, we aim to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of which platform is best suited for your unique business requirements. With this knowledge, you will be well-equipped to select the ideal ecommerce platform for your enterprise, providing your customers with the exceptional shopping experience they deserve.
Table of Contents
As an ecommerce business owner, you have numerous concerns to consider when selecting the right platform for your enterprise. In this article, we will conduct an in-depth analysis of the five critical areas where Shopify and BigCommerce differ:
Usability: This includes assessing the ease of initial setup, daily use, and the quality of support offered in case of issues.
Features: We will examine the built-in capabilities and the various plugins and integrations each platform offers.
Marketing and Sales: We will compare the platforms' integration with sales channels and SEO capabilities to drive traffic and sales.
Logistics: This area covers order fulfillment, security, and tax management features.
Pricing and Payments: We will look at the platform costs and payment processing options available for customers.
By exploring these essential elements, we hope to provide you with valuable insights to make an informed decision between Shopify and BigCommerce for your ecommerce business.
In business, time is a valuable commodity. Choosing an ecommerce platform that is easy to understand and operate can reduce the time you spend learning the platform and allow you to focus on increasing conversions. Here is an evaluation of each platform's ease of use:
When it comes to creating your ecommerce website, the process is relatively similar regardless of whether you opt for Shopify or BigCommerce. After visiting the homepage of your chosen platform, you will answer a few multiple-choice questions, and then receive a personalized set-up guide that will walk you through selecting a theme, adding a custom domain name, and creating your first product page. Within an afternoon, your online store will be up and running.
Both platforms offer user-friendly signup processes, with Shopify's being slightly more intuitive, and BigCommerce offering the added bonus of allowing you to create additional staff accounts at no extra cost. With either platform, you can get your ecommerce business off the ground quickly and easily.
Ease of Use
Shopify is the ideal platform for beginners, with almost every feature including a tooltip that appears when you hover over it, providing an explanation of its function. This makes navigating the platform much easier and user-friendly.
BigCommerce, on the other hand, may take slightly longer to become familiar with, but the effort often pays off with greater control over various aspects of your store. For instance, adding a product to your BigCommerce store is a more intricate process than with Shopify, involving numerous fields. However, once the process is complete, you can personalize how customers view your product. You can include additional features, such as a gift wrapping option, minimum purchase order, and an unlimited number of product variants, whereas Shopify limits you to just three product variants.
It's worth noting that some business owners prefer Shopify's visually appealing user interface (UI) to BigCommerce's, which is an essential consideration since you'll be using the platform every day.
Shopify Learn, a collection of free video courses covering various aspects of ecommerce, is a valuable resource, regardless of whether you choose to use the platform or not. It covers everything from platform-specific how-tos to broader topics like managing finances as an entrepreneur.
BigCommerce offers a similar video course program, BigCommerce Academy, which requires payment to access. However, they also offer a free collection of recorded webinars and podcasts.
For enterprise-level customers, both platforms provide priority support in the form of a dedicated support agent for those on Shopify's Plus package and an onboarding consultant for those on BigCommerce's Enterprise package. BigCommerce's offer provides expert advice upfront, making it a better option in this regard.
In terms of usability, Shopify comes out on top, primarily due to its intuitive nature. However, it's important to note that BigCommerce is not particularly difficult to use.
Themes and Customization
When it comes to themes, both Shopify and BigCommerce offer a wide range of mobile-responsive options. Shopify boasts 105 themes, 11 of which are free, while BigCommerce provides 286 themes, 15 of which are free. However, BigCommerce's options may not be as varied as they first appear, with several themes being very similar to each other, differing only in color scheme.
Both platforms have a simple builder for editing themes. However, Shopify's builder provides more content block options, including signup and contact forms, and blog strips. While both platforms allow you to edit HTML or CSS code, this may not be ideal for small businesses looking to quickly set up an online store without spending too much time on web design. In this category, Shopify takes the lead.
Plugins and Integrations
Shopify’s App Store offers an unparalleled range of over 8,000 plugins that cover everything from marketing to upselling and customer service. This vast selection of tools enables you to personalize your site in any way you want, without the need for a developer. If you’re planning to implement a growth marketing strategy, where you experiment with many small changes to boost your customer base or conversions, Shopify’s App Store is an invaluable asset. The breadth of choice ensures you have ample opportunities to try out new features.
BigCommerce’s app store is less extensive, with just over 1,300 plugins available. While BigCommerce has equivalents to many of Shopify’s popular apps, more innovative features may be missing. On the other hand, BigCommerce offers many features upfront that you’d need to install a plugin for on Shopify. These include the ability to add product reviews, generate real-time shipping quotes, and create unlimited staff accounts. Using fewer plugins can improve your site’s loading speed, which has SEO benefits.
In addition, Shopify plugins often come with subscription fees. If you only require a few of them, the monthly cost could add up to several hundred dollars. If you’re a solopreneur or prioritize cost-saving over an all-singing, all-dancing online shop, BigCommerce has a lot to offer.
In summary, if you want a fully customized store and can afford it, Shopify is the clear winner. However, if you’re working with a tight budget and happy with a simpler site, BigCommerce is a more cost-effective option.
Email marketing is an essential part of any successful digital marketing strategy due to its high ROI, with an average return of $36 for every $1 spent. Therefore, it's important to consider the email marketing capabilities of ecommerce platforms.
Shopify offers a free plugin that handles critical email marketing flows, such as welcome messages, first purchase upsells, and abandoned cart reminders. These are all essential features for any ecommerce business, and having them built into the platform saves time and effort.
On the other hand, BigCommerce doesn't have a built-in email marketing feature. However, it is easy to integrate third-party email software such as MailChimp, Constant Contact, or Omnisend, which can provide similar functionalities.
Both Shopify and BigCommerce offer the ability to create automatic discounts, coupons, and promotions via banners, and their analytics dashboards allow you to track the results of any ads you're running on other platforms. Overall, Shopify takes the lead in this category due to its built-in email marketing plugin, but BigCommerce's integration with third-party software is also a viable option.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
As a crucial aspect of digital marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is something to keep in mind when choosing an ecommerce platform. Having a website that can be easily found by search engines such as Google can significantly reduce marketing costs.
In terms of SEO optimization, BigCommerce edges out Shopify slightly. It offers the option to fully customize URLs, which can make it easier for search engines to index the information by providing descriptive titles.
On the other hand, Shopify's URLs automatically include '/products', '/collections', or '/pages' and cannot be edited to remove them.
To drive traffic to their site, many businesses publish articles related to their products. Both platforms offer an integration with WordPress for this purpose. While Shopify charges an extra monthly fee for this service and only allows the addition of a 'buy now' button to the blog, BigCommerce offers a free integration that allows for greater site integration.
Selling your products on various online channels is essential in today's ecommerce world, and both BigCommerce and Shopify offer multiple integrations to help you do so without any extra costs. You can easily sell your products on Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon through both platforms, and they also provide free integrations for selling on Google Shopping.
BigCommerce goes a step further by enabling you to sell on Pinterest and eBay, which can be a bonus for some businesses.
Both platforms also have options for accepting payments in the physical world, which can come in handy for small businesses selling at markets or pop-up shops. However, you'll need to purchase a device to accept these payments.
If you choose BigCommerce, you'll need to buy hardware through a third party like PayPal Zettle, Square, or Hike. On the other hand, Shopify has its own option, making the process a bit simpler.
When it comes to choosing between the two platforms, your marketing strategy plays a significant role. Shopify offers an easy-to-use email marketing feature, while BigCommerce is better suited for bloggers with its comprehensive SEO tools.
BigCommerce and Shopify take security seriously and have implemented strong measures to protect customer data. Both platforms use 128-bit SSL encryption, which safeguards sensitive information such as credit card details, passwords, and personal messages from being accessed by unauthorized third parties.
Additionally, both platforms adhere to Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS), which outline policies for safeguarding financial transactions. This standard was developed by five major credit card companies and is considered a benchmark for payment security.
With BigCommerce, you can offer real-time shipping quotes on your storefront for free. You can also generate USPS labels for orders and print them directly from your control panel, making it easy and convenient for you.
Similarly, Shopify allows you to generate live shipping costs, but only on Advanced Shopify or Plus plans and through a third-party service. However, the platform makes up for it by offering support for multiple carriers, including industry leaders such as UPS and DHS. You can even print shipping labels directly through Shopify, not just from USPS, which streamlines the entire shipping process.
When it comes to inventory management, Shopify offers more advanced features out of the box than BigCommerce. With Shopify, you can easily manage your inventory across different locations and keep track of where items need to be shipped from all within your dashboard. On the other hand, if you want similar functionality in BigCommerce, you'll need to purchase a third-party app.
Shopify is especially popular among dropshippers, who outsource handling and shipping of products to a third party. There are numerous apps available to connect your Shopify store with stock providers and shipping companies, including Oberlo, which is actually owned by Shopify.
As a platform for ecommerce, Shopify offers a comprehensive set of features for calculating taxes automatically. You can easily set taxes to be automatically included for different regions, even adhering to complex VAT MOSS rules in Europe. This is particularly beneficial for small teams, as it can save you the trouble of hiring an accountant.
While BigCommerce also allows for automatic tax calculations, you will need to integrate a third-party app, such as Avalara, Vertex, TaxJar, or TaxCloud, with your store to achieve this functionality.
In conclusion, Shopify emerges as the winner in terms of order fulfillment and tax calculation convenience.
Pricing and Payments - Monthly Subscriptions
Shopify cost per month
BigCommerce cost per month
As a small-to-medium-sized ecommerce retailer, you'll find that starting on the 'basic' tiers of either software will provide you with all the necessary features. However, there are a few differences to note.
BigCommerce will require you to upgrade to a Plus package once you reach $50,000 in annual revenue. Meanwhile, Shopify's packages are not tied to store income, but upgrading from the Basic to the Standard plan unlocks more features, such as detailed analytics reports and up to five staff accounts.
If you're on a tight budget, BigCommerce may be a better option for you, as they offer lower app subscription costs. However, they also cater to larger businesses. Their Enterprise package is designed for customers who turn over millions of dollars, and offers access to technical support and other benefits.
In terms of payment methods, Shopify and BigCommerce offer a range of options to suit most ecommerce needs. Shopify boasts integration with over 100 payment methods globally, while BigCommerce offers integration with 65. Both platforms include popular payment options like ApplePay, PayPal, Google Pay, and debit cards.
One major difference between the two is transaction fees. While Shopify charges transaction fees between 1% and 3% per purchase, unless you use their proprietary payment portal, Shopify Payments (which is not available in all countries), BigCommerce does not charge transaction fees.
So, if you're looking for a cheaper option, BigCommerce may be the way to go, as you'll be paying fewer plugin subscriptions and avoiding transaction fees.
The platform is highly user-friendly and offers an abundance of helpful tutorials.
Although it offers plenty of helpful content, the platform has a steeper learning curve.
While there are over 8000 add-ons available, even basic features require plugins.
While its out-of-the-box capabilities are superior, it only offers approximately 1300 apps.
Marketing & Sales
A quality email marketing tool and comprehensive ad reporting are provided for free.
Excellent for enhancing SEO and incorporates supplementary sales channels.
simplifies tax calculations and order processing.
It is possible to manage taxes and order fulfilment in the platform, but it may not be as straightforward compared to Shopify without training / familiarization with the platform.
Transaction fees are applicable and plugin subscriptions can accumulate.
There are no transaction fees, but you'll need to upgrade to a professional plan once you surpass $50,000 in turnover.
As a business owner, choosing between two great ecommerce platforms can be a tough decision. Both Shopify and BigCommerce have their own unique advantages that cater to different types of users.
Shopify has established itself as a major player in the ecommerce industry, thanks to its user-friendly interface that allows you to create a professional-looking website without any coding experience. It’s perfect for small business owners who want to focus on running their business, without worrying about the technical side of things.
On the other hand, BigCommerce is a great option for those who want to avoid transaction fees and monthly app payments. It's more suitable for larger businesses that have the budget to hire developers when needed. BigCommerce excels in providing personalized attention to enterprise-level clients who are looking to expand their business online.
However, the success of your ecommerce store ultimately depends on how well you understand your customers' behavior. Whether you choose Shopify or BigCommerce, it’s important to closely monitor your customers' activities on your website and gather feedback regularly. By doing so, you can tailor your website to meet their needs and increase the chances of making a sale.
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