- Numerous built-in features
- Numerous integrations
- No transaction fees
- Attractive design templates
- Minimal learning curve
- Intuitive design tools
- Single-page checkout
- Limited customizability
- Inconsistent customer support
- Revenue caps on plan levels
They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and apparently this applies quite literally when naming shopping cart software. I’m not sure if BigCommerce‘s name or its Texas headquarters came first, but it’s a good fit either way. (Besides, the founders are from Australia, which isn’t exactly tiny.)
The seeds for this aptly-named shopping cart were planted in 2003 when Aussies Eddie Machaalani and Mitchel Harper met online, as programmers often do. Interspire, a locally-installed shopping cart, grew out of the early days of their partnership. When ecommerce software began moving to the cloud, Machaalani and Harper followed suit. In 2009, they launched the SaaS ecommerce solution now known as BigCommerce.
BigCommerce is recognized for its ease of use, beautiful templates, and quality customer support. Cloud-based and user-friendly, this cart software helps merchants from all levels of experience and revenue sell their products online. While BigCommerce may not have enough advanced features or customizability for some larger companies, we still believe that BigCommerce is an excellent platform for most merchants.
Keep reading for a full, independent review of BigCommerce.
Table of Contents
BigCommerce offers a free 15-day trial, no credit card required, so you can test out the platform without making any commitment. Payments are collected on a monthly basis, and there are no setup or cancellation fees. While you don’t have to sign a contract on the monthly plans, you can take advantage of a 10% discount if you choose to purchase a one-year subscription. This type of offer is fairly typical with ecommerce platforms, but I don’t recommend purchasing a full year until you’ve had some experience with a platform.
Pricing levels are based on your store’s annual online sales, which is a different structure than some of BigCommerce’s main competitors. If your company’s revenue is greater than the set amount for a specific plan, you will automatically be bumped up to the next pricing tier. Meanwhile, also note that the volume cap for the Pro plan is now $3M, up from $1M as of our last update. This means that if you don’t need the added Enterprise-level features and want to keep costs down (Enterprise plans can cost thousands per month), you can stay on the Pro plan a bit longer.
Here’s the complete rundown:
- $29.95/month (for sales up to $50K/yr)
- Unlimited storage, products, and bandwidth
- $79.95/month (for sales up to $150K/yr)
- Abandoned cart saver
- Customer groups and segmentation
- Stored credit cards
- Starting at $249.95/month (for sales under $400K)
- Price increases $150/month for every additional $200K in sales, up to $3M.
- Custom pricing available for high average order sizes
- Google customer reviews
- Faceted Search
- Custom SSL
- Custom-tailored solution for high-volume needs.
- For more information, check out our review of BigCommerce Enterprise.
All subscription levels offer:
- Unlimited products, storage, & bandwidth
- Unlimited staff accounts
- No transaction fees
- Sitewide HTTPS
- Dedicated SSL
- Responsive websites
- Single-page checkout
- Shipping label discounts
- Real-time shipping quotes
- Built-in blog
- Square POS integration
- Coupons, discounts, & gift certificates
- Ratings & reviews
- Amazon & eBay integration
- Phone, email & chat support
You can also view a comparison of BigCommerce’s pricing options side-by-side on the company’s site — just don’t neglect the footnotes at the bottom of the page!
Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed
Cloud-based. BigCommerce provides SaaS (Software as a Service) eCommerce solutions. Web hosting, web security, and customer service are all included.
Specific Size Of Business
BigCommerce offers plans to fit companies of all sizes, from startup to enterprise.
Hardware & Software Requirements
None. Just keep your technology current and your internet connection strong.
Ease Of Use
BigCommerce is one of the top eCommerce solutions in terms of usability. Customers often praise the user interface on comment boards, and when I tested out the platform for myself, I found that I agree.
You can read my summary of the BigCommerce admin below, or you can try it out for yourself with BigCommerce’s Free 15-Day Trial (no credit card required).
When you create your account, you’ll receive an email which directs you to your store’s admin. This is what the dashboard looks like:
A (very) brief tutorial shows you where each option on the sidebar leads. I actually think BigCommerce could do better in terms of showing you around the platform. Fortunately, the admin is fairly intuitive, so it isn’t terribly hard to figure it out on your own. Plus, there are videos available on the BigCommerce University page that guide you through the basics.
Adding products is pretty straightforward:
Toggle between the tabs at the top to add more product information. I was able to add product descriptions, shipping information, images, inventory stats, and SEO information in just a few minutes. If you have your product information in a spreadsheet, you can use BigCommerce’s bulk import options to easily upload your product list.
You can also create and edit orders from your admin:
Creating cart-level discounts and coupon codes is equally easy. You can set your coupons to apply to an entire order or to specific categories. Cart-level discounts let you create even more specific and complex deals.
BigCommerce has already built lots of features directly into their platform, and they’re constantly adding more. I’ve highlighted some key out-of-the-box attributes below, as well as a few of BigCommerce’s recommended integrations to help round out its core offerings. Keep in mind that some of the features (like faceted search, customer groups, and the abandoned cart saver) are only available at higher price points.
- Bulk Import/Export: Use a CSV file to transfer your product information easily.
- Customer Segmentation Lists: Group your customers by purchasing trends, location, and demographics so you can market to each group differently.
- Product Options & Variants: Create and assign virtually unlimited variants (color, size, style, etc.) to specific products. BigCommerce is quite proud of the flexibility of this feature compared to the competition.
- Inventory Management: Enter and track stock levels from within your control panel, and configure stock level notifications for both you and your site visitors.
- Built-In Blog: This is a particularly nice feature to have already built-in. Blogs help increase your traffic from social media and also improve your site’s SEO.
- SEO Tools: Take advantage of optimized URLs, automatic sitemaps, and accelerated mobile pages (AMP). You can also customize URLs, titles, header tags and meta descriptions.
- Analytics: Track your site’s performance and your customers’ habits.
- Social Sharing: Allow customers to post your products and their purchases on social media platforms.
- Faceted (Filtered) Search: Let customers find what they need faster by offering a sidebar that filters products by factors like color, size, and price.
- Product Reviews: Enable product reviews to inspire trust in your site’s visitors.
- Private & Public Wish Lists: Customers can keep track of the products they want.
- Recently Viewed Products: Show that others are looking at your site.
- Abandoned Cart Saver: Available on the Plus plan and above. Potentially recover 15% of abandoned carts.
- One-Page Checkout: “Optimized” one-page checkout is the default checkout setup for BigCommerce stores, encouraging quick transactions.
- Customer Accounts Or Guest Checkout: Give your customers the freedom to choose.
- Coupons & Discounts: Make discounts apply to a specific category, brand, product, cart etc. with this highly-customizable feature.
- Stored Credit Cards: Available at Plus plans and above.
- Tax Calculations: Configure tax rates manually inside BigCommerce, or use a third-party integration like Avalara AvaTax.
- Set Zones & Methods: Set up all the locations to which you’ll be selling, then choose specific shipping methods for each area.
- Real-Time Quotes From Major Carriers: These carriers include UPS, USPS, FedEx, Australia Post, Royal Mail, and Canada Post. You can also set static quote rules, and your shoppers view all their tailored options when checking out.
- Offer Free Shipping: Drive conversion with free shipping.
- Shipping Labels: Print & pay for USPS labels from the BigCommerce dashboard with a built-in Endicia integration.
- Integrated with ShipStation & ShipperHQ: For labels from other carriers, shipping quotes from multiple points of origin, and other advanced shipping functions, BigCommerce steers you toward its integrations with ShipStation and ShipperHQ.
- Built-in Integration With Square POS: For in-person selling, Square is the option you’ll see promoted in your dashboard (as well as on the BigCommerce website), or you can peruse the app marketplace. Note that Square will be your payment processor for both online and in-person processing if you set up Square POS.
- Sell On Popular Marketplaces: BigCommerce has native integrations with eBay, Google Shopping, and Amazon. Plus, you can use apps to sell on Etsy, Jet, the Walmart marketplace, and more.
- Sell On Social Media: Use Buyable Pins on Pinterest, set up a Facebook Store, and tag products on Instagram.
- Channel Manager: Manage sales from your social media and marketplace channels from your BigCommerce admin.
- Sell Globally: Accept multiple currencies and calculate international shipping and tax rates. BigCommerce now also includes multilingual support.
BigCommerce’s pre-made templates for new merchants are called Stencil themes. If you’re still using one of the BigCommerce legacy Blueprint themes on your site, you might consider upgrading. Stencil uses simpler functions to edit your storefront. Changing colors, for example, requires zero coding. If you’d still like to mess with the raw code, however, you have the option to download a copy of your Stencil theme and dig in from there.
Stencil boasts approximately 125 themes, along with close to 500 total variations (or “styles”) of those themes. Seven of these themes (25 styles) are free; the rest are available for $145–$235. All are fully mobile-responsive.
Here’s a sample of BigCommerce’s themes:
There’s no drag-and-drop feature within the theme editor, but there are integrations available that can help you move page elements. Also, the theme editor only manages the overall layout and style — you’ll have to go back into the main dashboard admin to change the images and text in your front page carousel, for example. It’s mildly clunky, but ultimately works fine:
A preview of your existing store with a completely different theme — in mobile, tablet, and standard form — is also at your fingertips:
Integrations & Add-Ons
If the BigCommerce platform doesn’t have everything you need already built-in, you should definitely take a look at the Apps Marketplace. Integrations are well-organized into categories and sub-categories for easy browsing. Additionally, the Certified, Premier, and Elite tiers for integrations provide an indication of how firmly BigCommerce stands behind each partner.
Over 600 add-ons are available (at last count), and while some come with extra expense, a good number of them are free. Just be aware that some apps that are free “upfront” also come with an ongoing monthly cost. I’d actually recommend talking to a rep before adding an integration to ensure you understand the current pricing structure.
Here’s just a small sampling of BigCommerce’s add-ons:
Accounting & Tax
- Quickbooks Online
Analytics & Reporting
- Google Analytics
Catalog & Order Management
- Stitch Labs
- Inventory Planner
CRM & Customer Service
- Live Chat
- ShopKeep POS
- Revel POS
- McAfee SECURE
Shipping & Fulfillment
Site Tools & Connections
Additional integration categories include B2B/Wholesale, Merchandising, Mobile, ERP, Product Sourcing, and Data Transfer/Migration Services. You’ll also have access to BigCommerce’s open, flexible API for developers if you need a custom integration.
BigCommerce integrates with over 60 payment gateways. You’ll get to choose from all of the most popular options, including the following:
Don’t forget that BigCommerce charges no transaction fees above and beyond your card processing fees. BigCommerce also has an arrangement with PayPal (powered by Braintree) that may cut down your payment processing fees. Take a look at the graphic below. For every step up in BigCommerce’s plans, you pay a slightly lower credit and debit transaction fee with Braintree.
Customer Service & Technical Support
BigCommerce offers 24/7 personal tech support via email, live chat, and phone. Fortunately, this support is available at all levels. If you’d prefer to take matters into your own hands, BigCommerce has lots of online self-help resources as well.
The Resources menu at the BigCommerce homepage is your portal to the main collection of support offerings, but you can also contact the support team through your store dashboard. Here’s what’s available:
- Documentation: How-to and troubleshooting articles for setting up and managing your store.
- Service Status: Check up on BigCommerce’s 99.99% uptime.
- University: A series of video tutorials that guide you through the basics of using BigCommerce.
- Community Forum: Find solutions to common issues and bring to light any difficulties you may encounter.
- Guides: Learn about ecommerce best practices and using BigCommerce’s software to your advantage.
- Developer Documentation: Includes design guides for both the legacy Blueprint themes and the new Stencil themes, as well as other API documentation for building integrations.
- Partner Marketplace: Find developers to help customize your store.
- Webinars: Join the weekly product tours or view the archive of topical webinars.
And here’s how you can contact BigCommerce directly:
- Social Media Profiles: You can try to contact BigCommerce through their Facebook and Twitter profiles, but I really recommend one of the other options below instead.
- Phone: See the contact page for numbers by country.
- Web Ticket
- Live Chat
Customer feedback on the support team continues to be quite mixed, although it’s trending positively overall. In my own tests of the various support channels, I also had mixed results. I received prompt and generally helpful responses but did feel reps could have transferred me sooner once we reached the edge of their expertise. I also could not reach a live operator by phone one Friday afternoon and was relegated to voicemail. Take that as you will.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
BigCommerce clients have a generally positive opinion of the platform. However, BigCommerce still receives negative reviews on a regular basis. In early 2016, BigCommerce changed its pricing structure, resulting in an unwelcome bump into higher-priced tiers for some businesses. To add insult to injury, the alteration came with a very limited warning period of just two months. BigCommerce has tweaked the system slightly since the big change (extending the maximum volume on the Pro plan to $3M/year, for example), but you may still come across some pretty scathing reviews about the original shift. Here are a few more recent themes from complaints:
- Lacking Advanced Features: Some customers complain that while BigCommerce is great for smaller businesses, it doesn’t always have the robust features that larger businesses need.
- Poor Customer Support: Most of the reviews that discuss BigCommerce’s support are quite positive. However, a few customers still report that BigCommerce could not resolve their issues.
- Expensive: Most pricing complaints these days center around the added cost of integrations, or needing to pay for a higher priced plan level just for access to a specific feature (such as faceted search or abandoned cart recovery).
- Theme Limitations: These complaints are usually about a relative lack of quality or selection for free templates, while others lament the inability to make significant design changes without altering the raw code. While the theme selection has improved in recent years, this gripe has not yet disappeared.
- No Mobile App: Some merchants are disappointed there is no mobile app for managing your store on the go.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
BigCommerce ranks pretty highly on most customer review boards. Here are a few reasons why:
- Ease Of Use: BigCommerce is right up there with Shopify in the ease of use category. If you can operate the backend of WordPress, you can sell on BigCommerce.
- No Transaction Fees: Lots of people are happy about this one. BigCommerce’s direct competition, Shopify, still charges transaction fees unless you use its integrated payment processor.
- Good Customer Support: More people are praising BigCommerce’s customer support than cursing it. BigCommerce representatives are reportedly helpful and friendly.
- SEO Tools: BigCommerce comes with lots of tools to help improve your site’s SEO. Merchants have reported higher ranking after implementing only a few of those tools.
- One-Page Checkout: Here’s another area where BigCommerce takes Shopify to task (Shopify still does not offer a native one-page checkout feature). If checkout is easy, more customers will buy.
- Good Out-Of-The-Box Feature Set: I’ve seen merchants point out that fewer third-party apps are available for BigCommerce than some competitors because more features are natively built into the platform.
BigCommerce is PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) 3.2 certified at Level 1.
According to the pricing page, all BigCommerce plan levels now include a dedicated SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate. This looks more professional in the URL field when customers visit your site than if you’re using a shared SSL certificate. At the Pro plan and above, you can also transfer a custom SSL certificate purchased from another provider. For more information on website security, read our article on SSL certificates.
BigCommerce is one of the best shopping cart platforms out there, with enough features to fit the needs of most small businesses. The admin is easy to use and the available store themes are very professional. BigCommerce tends to favor built-in features over third-party apps, which could potentially save you money in the long run, depending on the precise features you need. The platform’s ecosystem of over 600 apps is nothing to sneeze at, but some competitors do offer more. If you need a significantly higher degree of customization, you might be looking for an open-source solution anyway.
The infamous price spike at the beginning of 2016 took a major toll on many BigCommerce merchants, and the lack of sufficient advance warning cast a shadow upon the company as a whole. While this pricing change is falling further into the past, the important point to keep in mind is that BigCommerce uses your sales volume to place you in the appropriate pricing tier. By the same token, you always can opt for a higher tier to access additional features.
I know you’ll carefully weigh these factors when you make your shopping cart decision. Either way, I recommend taking the platform out for a spin with a free trial. It doesn’t take much time to get a good feel for the software, and you’re granted a full 15 days of exploration. You’ve got nothing to lose.