BigCommerce VS Shopify
Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed
Specific Size Of Business
Hardware & Software Requirements
Ease Of Use
Integrations & Add-Ons
Customer Service & Technical Support
Shopify and BigCommerce are two of the best-known shopping cart solutions in the ecommerce industry. Both platforms boast impressive ease of use, competitive prices, beautiful web design, and reliable customer service. When both services have so much to offer, how do you choose between the two?
That’s where we come in. Here at Merchant Maverick, we spend hours researching ecommerce platforms. We’ve tested both Shopify and BigCommerce, and we’ve taken an in-depth look at the features, pricing, and company reputation of each. By the end of the article, you’ll know more about the areas in which one cart succeeds and the other doesn’t quite match up.
But, before we begin, here’s a little background information about both companies:
Shopify (see our review) is one of the biggest players in ecommerce, hosting more than 600,000 users, including the Lakers Store and Black Milk Clothing. During the company’s 13 years in business, it has facilitated over $82 billion in merchant sales.
BigCommerce (see our review) was introduced to the ecommerce world in 2009. Since then, it has grown to support over 150,000 users who have processed over $17 billion in sales. BigCommerce hosts a few big name clients as well, including Toyota and Gibson.
Both shopping carts are fully-hosted, SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions that are excellent options for merchants who are looking for usability at a low price. Keep reading to find out which shopping cart has the best tools to support your ecommerce store.
Table of Contents
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.
Shopify plans break down as follows:
- Shopify Lite: $9/mo. Embeddable cart, but no standalone store website.
- Basic Shopify: $29/mo.
- Shopify: $79/mo.
- Advanced Shopify: 299/mo.
- Shopify Plus: Custom pricing. Reserved for enterprise-level customers.
Each step up in plan grants users more features and admin accounts. But, you don’t have to do much digging to learn that a lot of merchants grumble about Shopify’s extra transaction fees, ranging from 0.5% to 2% per sale. Shopify is one of the few shopping carts on the market that still charges these fees, which is certainly irritating. 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.
Excluding Shopify’s “Lite” plan, BigCommerce has similar price points to Shopify. However, plans are capped by your annual revenue. On the plus side, BigCommerce never charges an extra commission per sale.
- Standard: $29.95/month (sell up to $50K/yr.)
- Plus: $79.95/month (sell up to $150K/yr.)
- Pro: $299.95/month (sell up to $400K/yr.)
- add $150/mo. for every additional $200K/yr. in sales, up to $3M
- Enterprise: Custom pricing
I can’t really call a clear winner in this category, as each platform has its own pricing downside. We’re looking at extra transaction fees that can only be avoided under specific circumstances with Shopify, or automatic bumps in your monthly subscription fees as your revenue grows with BigCommerce. Pick your poison. The good news is that both services are actually competitively priced overall, offering unlimited online storage, bandwidth, and products on all plans.
Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed
Both BigCommerce and Shopify are both fully hosted on the cloud.
Specific Size Of Business
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. 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.
The key here is to think about the dimensions by which your store will most likely grow over time, and plan your subscription budget accordingly. Shopify’s structure better accommodates smaller business on its $9 and $29 plans for longer (while still offering plenty of scalability for larger operations), which is why I award Shopify the win in this category.
Hardware & Software Requirements
BigCommerce and Shopify are cloud-based shopping carts. To operate your store using either cart, you just need a computer, an internet connection, and an up-to-date browser. Easy tie.
Ease Of Use
Shopify and BigCommerce 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 choosing a theme, changing settings, and loading products and images to your admin with either cart. Both walk you through setup and extend a helping hand via phone support, forums, a knowledgebase, video tutorials, and more.
Shopify’s user interface is one of the cleanest 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.
BigCommerce offers a similarly user-friendly admin panel:
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.
BigCommerce and Shopify both offer the feature navigation and usability I expect from a top-ranking shopping cart solution. I award Shopify an extremely narrow win here, since it’s a simpler program out-of-the box 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.
I think you’ll be happy with what BigCommerce offers in the features department: In fact, it comes chock-full of more options than you may need (like a complex rule for “Buy X, Get Y discounts”) or want (I doubt many of you will utilize per-staff permission for adding/editing listings in eBay). Gift wrap options for the holiday season, sales tax reports that are sortable by date, and more–it’s all there. And if it’s not, BigCommerce runs an app store.
While Shopify offers plenty of features out of the box, there aren’t quite as many extras. In fact, you may need to pay for integrations with Shopify that are already native to BigCommerce, like single-page checkout.
Shopify has always provided elegant themes and templates. You can choose from Shopify’s 70 mobile responsive, attractive options. Ten of these are available for free, but most are priced between $140–$180.
It’s easy to edit Shopify’s themes. A standout feature of the software is its drag-and-drop editor Sections, which allows you to add, subtract, and arrange elements up and down your page. You can also change typography and colors without editing code.
BigCommerce has also unveiled new theme offerings within the past few years and currently offers 120+ options. Many of these templates are quite similar to one another, so the total number is not quite as impressive as it initially appears. Still, the themes are good quality and come in several color-swap variations, resulting in around 500 styles in all. Prices range from $145-$235, or you can choose from one of seven free themes.
With BigCommerce templates, you’ll have to add an extension or dive into HTML/CSS to make major changes — there is no drag-and-drop component to the visual editor. While you can adjust some fonts and colors with no coding expertise, there isn’t a lot you can easily alter layout-wise without special programming. It is largely for this reason that we give Shopify the edge in the design category.
Integrations & Add-Ons
BigCommerce offers over 600 helpful and smart integrations, including Quickbooks Online and MailChimp. Yet, compared to Shopify’s 2500+ apps, BigCommerce takes second place.
The fact that Shopify offers a slew of apps doesn’t mean they’re actually well-built or particularly useful to merchants. Happily, many of the add-ons offered by Shopify are well-crafted, earning positive reviews from hundreds of users.
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 recently introduced 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.
Shopify would win this category if it were a competition based on sheer quantity, with its 100+ payment gateway choices overshadowing BigCommerce’s 60 or so. My verdict is based on more than these surface figures, though. Let’s take a closer look.
While BigCommerce does not have an in-house processor à la Shopify Payments, it does have a special partnership with Braintree (a division of PayPal) to offer discounted processing rates at higher subscription levels. Below is a payment processing summary for online transactions (for US merchants) with each platform’s “preferred” payment system. Watch the percentages decrease in both cases:
BigCommerce + Braintree
- $29.95/mo. Standard Plan: 2.9% + $0.30
- $79.95/mo. Pro Plan: 2.5% + $0.30
- $299.95/mo. Plus Plan: 2.2% + $0.30
Shopify + Shopify Payments
- $29/mo. Basic Plan: 2.9% + $0.30
- $79/mo. Shopify Plan: 2.6% + $0.30
- $299/mo. Advanced Shopify Plan: 2.4% + $0.30
You probably noticed that BigCommerce’s discounts with Braintree are a bit better than Shopify’s. However, Shopify Payments has a few perks that the Braintree setup doesn’t offer. For one thing, Shopify Payments also offers slightly discounted processing rates for in-person transactions on its higher level subscriptions (check the website for current rates). Secondly, processing discounts are offered in all 10 countries where Shopify Payments is available, while the special Braintree deal is only available to US-based merchants. And, Shopify Payments has additional advantages such as easier setup, fully-integrated transaction reporting, and built-in fraud protection as part of the in-house system. Shoppers can even save their shipping and payment information for expedited checkout via Shopify Pay.
Now, remember that I already dinged Shopify in the main pricing battle for charging an extra transaction fee (starting at 2%) if you do not use Shopify Payments as your processor. I don’t wish to belabor that point here. Still, the problem remains that some merchants simply aren’t eligible to use Shopify Payments due to their location, products, risk level, or other factors. In other words, while Shopify Payments works really well for many merchants, it serves as a mere thorn in the side of others.
If you want (or need) full freedom to pick a processor without penalty, and perhaps to even negotiate your own processing rates with a third-party provider, BigCommerce will easily secure the payment processing win in your eyes. Meanwhile, if you’re able to take advantage of the streamlined simplicity of Shopify Payments, you’ll probably wonder what all the griping is about. Thus, I’m calling this a tie.
Customer Service & Technical 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 I’ve seen complaints about BigCommerce’s customer service, current commenters report a much more positive experience. I’ve even seen commenters declaring that BigCommerce provides the best support they’ve ever received.
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, but my overall impression is that its quality is quite good compared to a lot of similar platforms.
At the time of this comparison, I don’t see a significant difference between the two companies in this area, so I think a tie is fair.
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 for ecommerce software as a good example:
Shopify has a wider market presence and tends to receive more total feedback. You can see that in the grand scheme, both platforms are top-notch. Still, Shopify consistently has an edge over BigCommerce in user satisfaction.
For Shopify, the most common accolade is for ease-of-use. I have to say that I 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. A few also point out that they’d like to see BigCommerce offer abandoned cart recovery at the $29.95/month level. They’ve likely noticed that Shopify now offers this important feature on its $29/month plan.
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.
Stores built with Shopify and BigCommerce are hosted on servers that are Level 1 certified for PCI DSS, offering the highest level protection available against data breaches. Along with many other security measures in place, both platforms offer a free SSL certificate that provides site-wide HTTPs protocol to encrypt all your pages through checkout.
BigCommerce comes out slightly on top for me in this category, however, because it offers more flexibility when it comes to SSL certificates. First, any BigCommerce user may purchase a specialized SSL certificate through BigCommerce if the free version doesn’t meet their needs. Secondly, beginning at the Pro subscription level, you have the option to purchase and/or transfer a third-party, custom SSL certificate that comes with additional features and domain coverage.
While these certificate options won’t make a difference for most small and mid-sized sellers — both Shopify and BigCommerce do just fine on security overall — they’re worth considering for those using multiple domains and sub-domains, or sites with very specific security needs.
Lots of ties on this one! In all honesty, most of the wins were pretty close calls as well.
That said, Shopify is a tough act to beat. This cart’s ease of use, modern themes, and vast app marketplace are what make it the ecommerce solution we most commonly recommend. And while Shopify still has some room for improvement (eliminating those pesky transaction fees would be a good start), we feel confident enough in the quality of the software and service to declare Shopify the winner of this comparison.
|Mobile App + Free Card Reader||Point of Sale||Online Store||Social Media Selling|
|Get Started||Get Started||Get Started||Get Started|
|Low-cost POS for iOS and Android with free hardware||All-purpose POS integrated with all sales channels||Build a store or integrate with your current website||Sell on Facebook and other platforms|
|Starts at $9/month||Starts at $29/month||Starts at $29/month||Starts at $9/month|
|Free Trial||Free Trial||Free Trial||Free Trial|
However, that doesn’t mean that BigCommerce is a bad option. In fact, BigCommerce is an excellent solution for many online merchants! BigCommerce’s rich feature set, easy-to-use admin, and plentiful payment processing options should fit the bill for many sellers.
Take a closer look at both solutions before you make a decision. Check out our reviews (links below) for more in-depth information on each cart’s offerings and sign up for trials of each platform. With a comparison as close as this one, your choice will likely depend more on personal preference than anything else. Check it out!