Shopify VS BigCommerce
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 platforms 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 out 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 500,000 users, including the Lakers Store and Black Milk Clothing. During the company’s eleven years in business, it has facilitated over $46 billion in merchant sales.
BigCommerce (see our review) was introduced to the eCommerce world in 2009. Since then, it has grown to support over 95,000 users who have processed over $8 billion in sales. BigCommerce hosts a few big name clients, including Toyota and Gibson.
Both shopping carts are fully-hosted, SaaS solutions that are excellent options for merchants who looking for usability at a low price. Keep reading to find out which shopping cart has the best tools to support your eCommerce store.
Don’t have time to read an entire article? Take a look at our top rated eCommerce solutions for a few quick recommendations. Every option we present here offers excellent customer support, superb web templates, and easy-to-use software, all for a reasonable price.
Table of Contents
Web-Hosted Or Licensed
Both BigCommerce and Shopify are web-hosted.
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.
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.
As far as monthly prices go, both carts are competitive, offering unlimited online storage, bandwidth, and products.
Shopify offers plans ranging from $29/month to $299/month. Each step up in pricing grants users more features and lower transaction fees. But you don’t have to do much digging to learn that a lot of merchants grumble about Shopify’s transaction fees. Shopify is one of the few shopping carts still on the market that charges these fees, which is certainly irritating. Fortunately, if you choose to use Shopify’s in-house payment processor, Shopify Payments, you’re exempt from transaction fees.
BigCommerce restructured its pricing model last year; plans are now based on a merchant’s annual revenue. The good news is that all price points allow access to nearly all of BigCommerce’s features. Pricing starts at $29/month and goes all the way up to $249/month+, depending on the amount your business brings in each year. Read details on this pricing model in our BigCommerce review.
Many BigCommerce customers were upset by the sudden change in the pricing system, which has left the crew here at Merchant Maverick feeling a little skeptical of the company’s business practices. On the other hand, Shopify is still charging those blasted transaction fees.
We’re torn on this one. It’s a 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 Knowledge Base, 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. 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: It comes chock-full of more options than you may need (like a rule to set BOGO 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 and BigCommerce have both recently revamped their web design offerings. Here’s what you can find with each cart:
Shopify has always provided elegant themes and templates. You can choose from Shopify’s 61 mobile responsive, attractive options. Some of these are available for free, but most are priced between $120–$180.
It’s easy to edit Shopify’s themes. You can use Shopify’s available WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor, CSS/HTML editor, or live theme editor (so you can view your changes as you make them). In addition, last year Shopify released its Sections themes, which allow you to use a drag-and-drop editor to edit large elements of your design. See what else Shopify has to offer in our full review.
BigCommerce has also unveiled new theme offerings within the past year and now offers 105 new Stencil themes. Each of those themes comes in several variations, resulting in a total of 413 styles.
Fortunately, these themes are easier to edit than BigCommerce’s legacy themes. You can now do more with the available live theme editor, including changing colors and fonts. And BigCommerce has a WYSIWYG editor for updating content. If you want to make large changes, however, you’ll still have to dive into the CSS/HTML editors.
While BigCommerce offers excellent designs with easy-to-use editors, we’re awarding this category to Shopify. Shopify is always one step ahead when it comes to design, and their new drag-and-drop editor gives them the win here.
Integrations & Add-Ons
Sure, just because Shopify offers a slew of apps doesn’t mean they’re actually well-built or particularly useful to merchants. But many of the add-ons offered by Shopify are well-crafted, earning positive reviews from users.
Still, keep in mind that BigCommerce comes with more extras out of the box that Shopify may charge you to download.
Both carts offer similar options when it comes to credit card payment processors: BigCommerce integrates with around 60 leading processors, including 2Checkout and Authorize.net. BigCommerce also has an agreement with PayPal (Powered by Braintree), which may offer lower transaction fees than other payment processors. Take a look in our full review.
Note: I’ve seen many Shopify customers complain that they aren’t eligible for Shopify Payments. Read their Terms of Service before you count on using Shopify’s payment processor.
We’re awarding this category based on numbers alone. Shopify offers more payment gateways and takes the win.
One more thing: Shopify has recently introduced their 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.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Both carts offer plenty of services in the form 24/7 support via phone, email, and live chat, which is already more than many eCommerce solutions can claim.
BigCommerce also maintains a helpful forum, resource center, and knowledgebase. The company is active on both Facebook and Twitter. 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 written support is equally impressive and includes a forum, blog, and knowledgebase. The cart also maintains active Facebook and Twitter accounts. Users are divided in their opinions of Shopify’s support. Some absolutely love Shopify, saying that their support team is responsive and helpful. Others report that the representative they contacted did not have the power to help and actually read responses from a script.
The two companies offer near-identical support plans, so our decision was ultimately determined by user comments. BigCommerce currently receives more consistently positive reviews from customers, so we’re giving the win to BigCommerce.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
We spent hours culling user feedback about Shopify and BigCommerce. The result of that research turned up some negative reports for each cart.
Several Shopify users complain about the cart’s transaction fees (remember: those fees are waived if you use Shopify Payments). Others don’t like how add-ons can rack up expense. And some are frustrated by the lack of one-page checkout.
BigCommerce customers have more complaints. While people are generally happy with the support they receive, they have a major complaint regarding pricing structure. In the beginning of last year, BigCommerce revamped the way they charge for their platform, and while most users were unaffected (or minorly affected) by this change, some users experienced up to an 800% increase in price. And because BigCommerce only announced this change with a couple months to prepare, most of those merchants were not able to switch platforms in time.
You’ll likely come across a lot of these disgruntled BigCommerce customers as you research the platform. As you do, keep in mind that while these concerns are valid, they are voiced by a minority.
It will take BigCommerce a long time to recover their reputation from this blunder. I’m awarding this category to Shopify.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
In general, Shopify customers like its ease of use. I agree–the CMS really can’t get much more straightforward. Many others like the stellar themes and 24/7 support.
BigCommerce merchants reported satisfaction with the cart’s lack of transaction fees and unlimited bandwidth, strong SEO tools, and one-page checkout. Others like its built-in marketing features and active forum.
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.
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!