BigCommerce Vs Shopify: Which Is Better For Your Business?
|Pricing||$29.95 – $299.95/month||$9 – $299/month|
|Ease Of Use||Excellent||Excellent|
|Reviews & Complaints||Good||Excellent|
|Best For||Small to enterprise-size businesses looking for an easy-to-use eCommerce software with great customer support||Small to enterprise-size businesses looking for a full-featured, scalable eCommerce software|
Shopify and BigCommerce are two of the best-known eCommerce shopping cart solutions. Both platforms boast impressive ease of use, competitive prices, beautiful web design, and reliable customer service. When it comes down to BigCommerce VS Shopify, how do you choose between the two?
That’s where we come in. At Merchant Maverick, we spend hours researching eCommerce platforms. We’ve tested both Shopify and BigCommerce and taken an in-depth look at the features, pricing, and company reputation of each. We’ll bring you up to speed on the areas where one cart excels and the other doesn’t quite match up.
Let’s start with a little background information about each company.
Table of Contents
BigCommerce emerged onto the eCommerce scene in 2009. Since then, it has grown to support over 153,000 users who together process more than $365 billion in sales each year. BigCommerce hosts some big-name clients as well as smaller users. A platform that’s good enough for big companies as varied as Skullcandy and Ben & Jerry’s may have something to offer you, too.
BigCommerce is a fully hosted SaaS (Software as a Service) platform that offers users a low-cost platform with scalability and the option to customize your experience with an array of integrations and add-ons. It comes with an admin panel that lets you manage products and orders as well as a range of built-in marketing tools. Even if you have no experience building or running a website or if you’re new to the world of eCommerce, you will encounter few barriers when you get started using BigCommerce. Once you sign up with your name and contact information, you’ll answer a couple of basic questions about what you intend to sell. Then you’ll be taken immediately to this dashboard where you can start building your store.
Entirely cloud-based, with nothing to download, BigCommerce accommodates vendors selling a variety of products, including physical and digital items, subscriptions, and even tickets to events. You can use BigCommerce to sell on multiple channels, too, including eBay, Google Shopping, Facebook, Pinterest, and Amazon. It comes with built-in tools for inventory management, shipping, marketing, and more.
- Easy to use
- Free trial period
- Multichannel sales
- Design limitations
- Can be expensive
- Annual sales caps
Founded in 2004, Shopify is one of the biggest players in the eCommerce business, hosting more than one million merchants worldwide and boasting more than a billion dollars in revenue each year. In the past year, more than 218 million people have purchased something from a Shopify store. You might not think Heinz, The Economist, and Crabtree & Evelyn have much in common — but each of those big brands uses Shopify eCommerce solutions. During the company’s 16 years in business, it has facilitated over $100 billion in merchant sales.
Shopify is a fully-hosted, SaaS (Software as a Service) that can provide total eCommerce solutions to merchants of all sizes, from startups to big players. There are hundreds of apps and add-ons that combine with Shopify’s built-in features to deliver everything you need to start and run your eCommerce business. And, its top-selling point may just be its extreme ease of use. Try the free 14-day trial, and you’ll quickly become comfortable with the user interface. Setting up a shop takes less than two minutes, and the only information you’ll have to enter is your name and address and the answers for a few very basic questions about what you’re hoping to sell.
Shopify makes it easy to jump into eCommerce even if you don’t have products to sell. If you’re interested in starting a dropshipping business, you can search for a product to add to your store instead of adding your own products.
Shopify also highlights options for businesses selling food and beverages, including easy ways to add delivery and pickup times.
- Easy to use
- Free trial period
- Multichannel sales
- Transaction fees
- No single-page checkout
- Expensive apps
Both BigCommerce and Shopify come with an impressive lineup of features right out of the gate. The list of built-in features is similar for both platforms:
|Automatic Shipping and Tax||✓||✓|
|Abandoned Cart Recovery||✓||✓|
It’s fair to say that most anything you’d want for your eCommerce store is available as an add-on, most likely from either platform’s own app store. Of course, anything you bring home from the app store will come with a price tag, so if you see something missing from the features list that you know you’ll definitely want to use, be aware that adding it will increase your overall cost.
Because both BigCommerce and Shopify cover the basic features — and more — that you’d expect in a top-notch eCommerce platform, the choice will come down to a user’s individual preferences. Remember, both platforms offer a free trial period, with no credit card needed to start, so you can set up a store and test it before you make your decision. While their offerings differ in each area, each is more than adequate in most features. There are some important differences, however, so let’s take a look at those details.
Each platform has a smooth checkout process, offering customers guest checkout options and calculating tax and shipping on orders automatically. BigCommerce has two advantages in this area:
- Single-Page Checkout
- No Transaction Fees
Shopify does not offer single-page checkout as a standard feature, but you can download a third-party app to add it. And Shopify does charge a per-transaction fee, varying from 2% to 0.5%, depending on what plan you choose. That’s in addition to the standard fee charged by the payment gateway you work with. You can avoid that extra fee from Shopify by selecting Shopify Pay as your payment option.
One area where Shopify has the advantage is its point-of-sale option. This allows you to complete in-person sales through your online store, something that could help you manage inventory if you regularly meet customers face to face.
Only one of the two shopping cart platforms offers fulfillment as a built-in feature. The Shopify Fulfillment Network suggests what fulfillment center you should ship your products to, based on where your orders are coming from, notifies you when inventory is running low, and offers a custom packing option. You manage everything except the pick and pull from your admin dashboard. Shopify charges storage fees, based on square footage of space used in their warehouse, and a per-item transaction fee. Of course, you can also choose to work with a third-party fulfillment service.
While BigCommerce integrates with nearly two dozen third-party fulfillment services, it does not offer an in-house option. Some fulfillment services charge monthly fees and others by the item. If using a fulfillment service is one of your eCommerce goals, you’ll need to do more research in this area.
For most of us, price is an essential consideration when choosing a shopping cart. Both BigCommerce and Shopify offer relatively cost-effective plans. They also both provide free, no-credit-card-required trial periods (15 days for BigCommerce; 14 days for Shopify) and don’t charge for setting up or canceling plans. You won’t have to pull out your credit card until the trial period ends.
Each shopping cart platform offered tiered pricing. Prices shown are billed annually; monthly rates are available and will be slightly higher. You can choose monthly, rather than commit to a full year, if you need more time to test the site after the free trial period is up.
- Standard: $29.95/month
- Plus: $79.95/month
- Pro: $299.95/month
- Enterprise: Custom pricing
- Basic Shopify: $29.95/month
- Shopify: $79.95/month
- Advanced Shopify: $299.95/month
- Lite: $9/month
- Embeddable cart, enabled face-to-face purchases, and a buy button you can add to social media pages, but no standalone store website.
- Shopify Plus: Custom pricing. Reserved for enterprise-level customers.
On both platforms, each step up in plan grants users more features and admin accounts. But each platform has a key difference from the other. Since the prices on each are virtually identical, you’ll need to pick your poison when it comes to these drawbacks.
- On BigCommerce, each plan comes with a sales limit. The monthly fee you pay will go up as your revenue rises.
- On Shopify, you’ll pay transaction fees ranging from 0.5% to 2% of each sale you make. Fortunately, if you choose (and are eligible) to use Shopify’s in-house payment processor, Shopify Payments, you’re exempt from this extra commission per sale.
The good news is that both services are competitively priced overall, offering unlimited online storage, bandwidth, and products on all plans. As long as you understand the key differences, you really can’t go wrong in the price department.
Ease Of Use
BigCommerce and Shopify each offer easy-to-use admins. If you’ve posted to a WordPress blog or sold on Etsy in the past, you’re not going to have much trouble on either platform as you choose a theme, change settings, and load products and images. Both also extend a helping hand via phone support, forums, a knowledge base, video tutorials, and more if you find yourself in need of help with the setup.
BigCommerce offers a user-friendly admin panel that makes it easy to perform tasks necessary to get your store operational. Since BigCommerce delivers more out-of-the-box functionality than Shopify, you’ll have to learn more elements in order to navigate the backend. But in my opinion, it’s worth committing a little extra time to end up with a well-functioning store that takes full advantage of reporting and discounting features:
When you log on to Shopify, you’ll find one of the cleanest user interfaces on the market.
Everything you’re looking for is readily available in the sidebar to the left. It’s easy to add products, create discounts, and edit your site’s content via smart WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editing tools.
The truth is, BigCommerce and Shopify both offer the features, navigation, and usability you expect from a top-ranking shopping cart solution. Shopify may eke out an extremely narrow win here, however, since it’s a simpler out-of-the-box program for most beginners. At the end of the day, your choice will depend entirely on personal preference. You’ll just have to try out both to see which is more intuitive for you. Test out BigCommerce’s and Shopify’s ease of use by signing up for free trials of each platform.
Customer Service & Support
Both carts offer plenty of assistance in the form of 24/7 support via phone, email, and live chat — which is already more than many eCommerce solutions can claim.
BigCommerce maintains a helpful forum, resource center, and knowledgebase. While in the past there have been complaints about BigCommerce’s customer service, current reviewers report a much more positive experience. In fact, more than half of the reviewers rate the platform as Great or Excellent. Some user reviews declare that BigCommerce provides the best support they’ve ever received comparing it favorably by name to competitors.
Shopify’s published support materials are equally impressive and include a forum, blog, and knowledgebase. Users are divided in their opinions of Shopify’s support. The majority of recent complaints involve chargebacks, a process where customers contest a charge and request a refund. Shopify’s customer support team appears to be responsive to those complaints, even if users are not always satisfied with the answers they receive according to the terms of service they agreed to.
On balance, most users seem adequately satisfied with the platform they choose. Again, the free trial period presents a good opportunity to test the company’s responsiveness and help resources.
We spent hours examining user feedback about Shopify and BigCommerce, and despite the inevitable negative reviews for both platforms, they each score very well overall across multiple review sites. Take a look at G2 Crowd’s summary of user reviews as a good example:
As you can see, BigCommerce ranks just slightly behind Shopify in three key areas: ease of use, quality of support, and ease of setup. You can see that in the grand scheme, both platforms are top-notch. Still, Shopify has an edge over BigCommerce in user satisfaction.
For Shopify, the most common accolade is for ease-of-use. We agree —the UI really can’t get much more straightforward. Many others like the stellar themes, vast app store, and 24/7 support. Meanwhile, Shopify complaints tend to center around the expense of add-ons to obtain advanced features, or the cart’s transaction fees (remember: those fees are waived if you use Shopify Payments).
BigCommerce merchants report satisfaction with the cart’s lack of extra transaction fees, as well as its robust feature set out-of-the-box. I’ve often read specific praise for its strong SEO tools, built-in marketing features, the ability to create and manage numerous product variants, and one-page checkout.
While many customers report that BigCommerce is easy to use, you’ll also find more feedback that points to an intimidating learning curve for complete beginners. When I read complaints about the need for a developer, however, I like to keep in mind that it’s possible that users are trying to accomplish more complex functions with BigCommerce. At the same time, customers sometimes complain about a lack of layout control for templates, which makes sense considering there’s no native drag-and-drop tool.
As you research BigCommerce, you may also come across some complaints about the pricing structure change that happened a few years ago. Keep in mind that while these complaints are totally valid, they are voiced by a minority and are falling further into the past.
Integrations & Add-Ons
BigCommerce offers 1,074 helpful and smart integrations, in 20 categories ranging from accounting to B2B/wholesale to product sourcing and everything in between. That includes big names like MailChimp, Quickbooks Online, and Facebook ad extensions as well as smaller but still useful players. Still, compared to Shopify’s 2,693 apps, BigCommerce takes second place.
Keep in mind, however, that BigCommerce comes with more extras out of the box that Shopify may charge you to download. The Shopify app store does offer lots of free modules for one-off features as well, but note that any time you graft a non-native feature into your dashboard, you’re adding a level of complexity to your system that comes with its own learning curve.
One more thing: Shopify has its own business financing service, Shopify Capital. Through Shopify Capital, you may be eligible for a merchant cash advance (MCA). Read more in our full review of the service.
The Key Differences Between BigCommerce & Shopify
When you’re trying to choose between BigCommerce and Shopify for your online store, the good news is that you really can’t make a bad pick. They both are solid choices, offering impressive ease of use, very similar pricing plans, and solid backup in terms of support.
As previously discussed, a few key differences could be enough to tip you toward one or the other. Neither of these has to be a deal-breaker, but you’ll be a smart shopper when you keep these things in mind.
- Sales Limits: If sales and revenue growth are key parts of your business plan, be aware that each service level on BigCommerce comes with an upper limit on allowed sales. Fortunately, the limits are fairly generous. The Standard plan allows sales of up to $50,000 per year, the Plus plan goes up to $180,000, and the Pro plan tops out at $400,000. After that level, you’ll be looking at a more expensive custom Enterprise plan.
- Transaction Fees: You’ll pay a transaction fee on every item you sell through your Shopify store, with fees ranging from 2% to 0.5%, depending on the plan you choose. That’s on top of transaction fees charged by your gateway processor. Again, there’s a way to avoid those fees: use Shopify Payment, and you’re exempt from the extra charges. Unfortunately, you’ll need to qualify for Shopify Payment, and not everyone does, so that option may be beyond your reach for now.
Which Is Best for My Business Needs?
Both platforms are highly scalable, especially with their inclusion of dedicated plans for enterprise-level business. One key difference between the two platforms is the specific way in which business growth is handled.
Choose BigCommerce If …
Your sales are stable and you’re not expecting significant growth in the near future. For example, suppose your sales average around $4,200 per month. You’ll be able to sign up for the $30 monthly plan. If your average monthly sales creep higher than $4,167, your sales will top $50,000. At that level you’ll automatically be kicked up to the next highest plan, jumping from $30 to $80 per month. You might not blink at that rising cost. But when your sales exceed $180,000 annually (or an average of $15,000 each month), you’ll jump from the $80 monthly plan to the $300 monthly plan.
Choose Shopify If …
You’re a smaller business that wants to grow over time. Shopify’s pricing structure better accommodates smaller businesses on its $9 and $29 plans, while still allowing adequate scalability for larger businesses and for those hoping to grow.
Shopify places limits on the number of staff accounts you can add by plan, whereas BigCommerce enforces limits on revenue. For example, once you have to add more than two permission-restricted staff members to your site, you’ll need to upgrade to the $79/month plan with Shopify. For BigCommerce, once you cross $50K/year in revenue (around $4,170/month), you’ll be automatically bumped to the $79.95/month plan.
Comparing BigCommerce VS Shopify: The Final Verdict
In all honestly, a head-to-head matchup of BigCommerce VS Shopify is an embarrassment of riches. Both offer attractive templates, easy-to-use tools that allow you to set up a store quickly, multitudes of add-ons and integrations that allow you to customize your store to your exact specifications, and secure shopping experiences for customers across multiple platforms. Anything either platform is lacking can be made up for, it seems, with an easily available add-on.
Much of the decision-making in BigCommerce VS Shopify will come down to each user’s individual preferences. However, we believe Shopify continues to hold a slight — and only a slight — edge overall.
Shopify is a top option for eCommerce businesses of all size, from startup to enterprise. It’s easy to use, scaleable, and has built-in potential for fulfillment and financing. We particularly like the $9 monthly plan that allows small businesses to dip their toes into the eCommerce pool and its built-in receptivity to the world of dropshipping.
BigCommerce remains a top option too, with its rich feature set, easy-to-use admin, and plentiful add-ons. It will present the perfect solution for many vendors, and you owe it to yourself to explore both platforms before making your choice. Spend the time to test out both BigCommerce and Shopify, using the free trial periods.
Check out our in-depth reviews of both BigCommerce and Shopify for more information on each cart’s offerings. With a comparison as close as this one, once you educate yourself you really can’t make a wrong pick!