BigCommerce VS Shopify Comparison: Which Is Better For Your Business?
|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 available. Both platforms boast impressive ease of use, competitive prices, beautiful website design, and reliable customer service. But when the chips are almost down and you have to actually decide, how does one choose the best of two excellent options?
Table of Contents
BigCommerce VS Shopify
A BigCommerce VS Shopify comparison is a close matchup, featuring two worthy eCommerce competitors. Both platforms have solid reputations, and they both excel in categories like built-in features, available integrations, and customer support. The right choice likely comes down to your individual needs and preferences.
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, so you can make the very best choice for your company’s unique needs.
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 companies as varied as Skullcandy and Ben & Jerry’s may be able to meet your eCommerce needs, too.
BigCommerce is a fully hosted SaaS (Software as a Service) platform that offers 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, and a range of built-in marketing tools as well. Even if you have no experience building or running a website or if you’re entirely 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 — in other words, pretty much everything you’ll need to get your online store up and running.
- 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 in 175 different countries 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. Since its founding, the platform 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. Start with the free 14-day trial, and you’ll quickly become comfortable with the user interface. Setting up a basic online shop takes just minutes, and the only information you’ll have to enter is your name and address and the answers to 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, with a couple of noteworthy differences:
|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 deliver the basic features — and more — that you’d expect in a top-notch eCommerce platform, the choice will come down to each 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. Because each platform features admirable ease of use, it’s a minimal investment of your time that could keep you from making a costly mistake. If you test both platforms, you’ll see that 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.
BigCommerce VS Shopify: Design
Shopify is at the top of the list for best web design, with more than 100 mobile responsive themes to choose from. That includes about eight free in-house options; the rest are supported by third-party developers and cost between $140 and $180. As a group, Shopify’s themes are professional, elegant, and easy to navigate. Of course, if you don’t like what you see, you can access Shopify’s code to develop your own theme, using HTML, CSS, and Shopify’s own language, Liquid.
In the design category, there’s not a lot of space between the two platforms when you’re comparing Shopify VS BigCommerce. At BigCommerce, you’ll find about 150 themes, called Stencil themes, along with about 500 total variations or styles. You can choose from 12 themes, or 36 styles, for free, or purchase a theme for $150 to $300. All BigCommerce themes are mobile responsive. Stencil themes are easy to edit without dipping into the code, although you can dig into the code if you’d like.
BigCommerce VS Shopify: Checkout
Each platform has a smooth checkout process, offering customers guest checkout options and calculating tax and shipping on orders automatically. BigCommerce has one big advantage in this area: single-page checkout. Although Shopify does not offer single-page checkout as a standard feature, you can download a third-party app to add it.
BigCommerce VS Shopify: POS Solutions
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.
If you want POS through your BigCommerce store, you can choose among 18 apps, including Clover, Vend, and Square POS, to download.
BigCommerce VS Shopify: Multi-Currency Support
Shopify supports online stores doing international business, with two currency values (the store’s, and the customer’s) so you can sell in multiple currencies. Payment options include more than 130 supported currencies. You can enable rounding rules to make converted prices more consistent or to control how prices look in the new currency, i.e., all prices ending in .99.
While not offering quite as many options, BigCommerce also supports global sales, with 100+ supported currencies on stores created on Stencil themes with optimized one-page checkout. Again, you’re able to set rules to control how currencies display, according to customs and best practices in each region.
BigCommerce VS Shopify: Fulfillment
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 the 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 so you can choose the best fulfillment partner for your needs.
BigCommerce VS Shopify: Dropshipping
Shopify makes it easy to start a dropshipping business. You can integrate your Shopify store with Oberlo, AliExpress, Sprocket, or another dropshipping app. Dropshipping is possible with BigCommerce, too, but you’ll need to download an app to enable it.
BigCommerce VS Shopify Pricing
For most of us, price is an essential consideration when choosing a shopping cart. Both BigCommerce pricing and Shopify pricing include relatively cost-effective plans. They also both provide free, no-credit-card-required trial periods (a 15-day BigCommerce trial and a 14-day trial 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 offers tiered pricing, with increasing functions and features as your plan increases in price. Prices shown are billed monthly; annual rates are available and will be slightly less. You can stick with monthly, rather than commit to a full year if you need more time to test the site after the free trial period ends.
- Standard: $29.95/month
- Plus: $79.95/month
- Pro: $299.95/month
- Enterprise: Custom pricing for enterprise-level
As you consider BigCommerce pricing, take into account the fees you will encounter as a cost of doing business. BigCommerce does not charge transaction fees, but you will still have to pay fees to your third-party payment processor. You can choose from among 65+ payment gateway integrations to accept payments online. That includes digital wallets like Apple Pay and Amazon Pay, in addition to traditional payment gateways like Checkout.com, Clover, Klarna, PayPal, Square, Stripe, and others. BigCommerce offers special rates on processing from PayPal powered by Braintree, ranging from 2.9% plus $0.30 on the Standard plan to 2.2% plus $0.30 on the Pro plan.
As you consider BigCommerce pricing, be aware that each plan level comes with sales limits, calculated on a trailing 12-month basis. If you exceed your plan limit, you’ll automatically be bumped up to the next level. The Standard plan accommodates sales up to $50,000; the Plus plan up to $180,000; the Pro plan up to $400,000; and the Enterprise plan for sales above that. While increasing revenue is a good business goal, with BigCommerce it could lead to an increased monthly cost for your eCommerce plan.
- Basic Shopify: $29/month
- Shopify: $79/month
- Advanced Shopify: $299/month
- Shopify Plus: Custom pricing for enterprise-level customers.
Shopify also offers a Lite plan, at $9/month, that gives you eCommerce options without a full store. You’ll get an embeddable cart, be able to process face-to-face purchases, and use a buy button on social media pages, but you won’t have a standalone website.
Shopify pricing differs from BigCommerce’s in a couple of important ways. First, Shopify offers an in-house payment option. If you use Shopify Payments as your processor, your credit card processing rate will depend on your plan level. It’s available in 17 countries, including the United States, but it’s not available in US territories, except Puerto Rico. If you choose not to use Shopify Payments, or if your business doesn’t qualify, you can choose from 100+ payment gateways.
And that brings us to the second big difference between Shopify and BigCommerce payments. Unlike BigCommerce, Shopify charges fees on every transaction — with the exception of those made via Shopify Payments. The transaction fees depend on your service plan, decreasing as your plan level rises in price and ranging from 2% to 0.5% of each transaction made outside Shopify Payments. If you use Shopify Payments, you avoid transaction fees and pay a fairly standard credit card fee that decreases from 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction on the Basic Shopify plan to 2.4% plus $0.30 on the Advanced Shopify plan.
On both platforms, each step up in plan delivers 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. 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.
Of course, if aggressive growth is part of your business plan, or if you’re already seeing enterprise-level sales, both Shopify and BigCommerce are ready to accommodate your eCommerce needs. Aimed at businesses doing more than $400,000 in annual sales, BigCommerce Enterprise pricing depends on your average order value and the average number of sales you process each month. BigCommerce Enterprise uses the same dashboard as other BigCommerce plans and incorporates all the same features. Enterprise customers also receive additional support and tools.
Designed primarily for businesses making more than $500,000 in annual sales, Shopify Plus is a custom-priced option for large eCommerce vendors. Pricing is based on a monthly fee or a percentage of platform transactions, whichever is higher. In addition to the features of lower-level Shopify plans, Shopify Plus delivers unlimited bandwidth, sales, and products in addition to multi-channel capabilities, automations, and wholesale and B2B features. Of course, priority customer service is included.
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).
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 it’s worth committing to 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, a BigCommerce VS Shopify comparison clearly shows that both offer the features, navigation, and usability you expect from a top-ranking shopping cart solution. Shopify may eke out a narrow win in this category, 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. Again, that’s where the free trials come in handy. You have the option of trying out both to see which is more comfortable for you.
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. 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.
Both platforms maintain an impressive library of published support materials. BigCommerce offers a helpful forum, resource center, and knowledgebase. Shopify’s equally impressive resources include a forum, blog, and knowledgebase. While each platform has received its share of accolades — and complaints — about the level and helpfulness of customer support options, each has more positive than negative mentions.
Despite the inevitable negative reviews for both platforms, each scores very well overall across multiple review sites. Take a look at G2 Crowd’s summary of user reviews. As you can see, Shopify ranks just a bit ahead of BigCommerce in three key areas: ease of use, quality of support, and ease of setup. You can see that while both platforms are top-rated, Shopify has an edge over BigCommerce in user satisfaction.
For Shopify, the most common praise is for ease-of-use, stellar themes, and the vast app store. Complaints tend to center around the expense of add-ons to obtain advanced features and transaction fees. BigCommerce merchants report satisfaction with the cart’s strong SEO tools, built-in marketing features, the ability to create and manage numerous product variants, and one-page checkout. Some users see an intimidating learning curve and a lack of layout control for templates, which makes sense considering there’s no native drag-and-drop tool.
Integrations & Add-Ons
BigCommerce offers almost 900 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 4,200 apps, BigCommerce takes a distant second place.
Keep in mind, however, that BigCommerce comes with more extras out of the box, features that Shopify may charge you to download. The Shopify app store does offer lots of free modules 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.
The Key Differences Between BigCommerce VS Shopify
When your choice of eCommerce platform has boiled down to a BigCommerce VS Shopify decision, the good news is that you really can’t make a bad pick. Each is a solid choice, offering impressive ease of use, very similar pricing plans, and solid backup in terms of support and service. In fact, there are just a few key differences that could be enough to tip you one way or the other. Neither 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. Yes, 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 the 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 business already has stable sales and rapid, significant growth is not part of your goals. 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. Despite the very welcome increase in revenue, you may not be comfortable with that automatic, unavoidable increased monthly cost.
Choose Shopify If …
Your small business plans 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. Look carefully into Shopify Payments to make sure you can qualify to use that as your payment gateway, or be prepared to build transaction fees into your business budget.
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.
BigCommerce VS Shopify: FAQs
Comparing BigCommerce VS Shopify: The Final Verdict
In all honesty, in a head-to-head matchup of BigCommerce VS Shopify, you’ll find an embarrassment of riches no matter which you choose. 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 here will come down to each user’s individual preferences. However, we believe Shopify continues to hold a slight — and only a slight — edge overall. We continue to dislike Shopify’s transaction fees and want price-conscious shoppers to be aware that they may be giving away a portion of each sale to Shopify in addition to the fees charged by your payment processor.
Shopify is a top option for eCommerce businesses of all sizes, from startup to enterprise. It’s easy to use, scalable, 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.
There’s a lot to like about BigCommerce too, particularly 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. We promise you, it’s worth the time investment 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!