If you're a shop owner looking to enter the realm of online selling, you've probably been faced with the question of which to choose between two e-commerce platform giants: Shopify or Bigcommerce? The answer to this question isn't so simple.
We know that choosing an e-commerce platform can be intimidating and confusing. That's why we want to help make it easier for you by breaking down the pros and cons of both platforms in our latest blog post!
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Both tools allow you to sell either digital or physical products online and are ideal for business owners without a large budget or the skills for web development. With either of them, you can easily create a professional-looking online store without needing to write any codes.
Since both website builder tools are run on web browsers, you also don’t have to install any software to use or worry about upgrades or server maintenance. This makes it super convenient to manage your e-commerce store from any device whenever you want.
Although both e-commerce tools are great, each of them possesses certain features that make them more ideal for particular user types and scenarios. This article thoroughly compares Shopify and BigCommerce in terms of their website hosting, usability, themes, blogging and SEO features, analytics system, pricing, and every other function you’d be interested in as an e-commerce store launcher.
Who is Shopify?
Shopify is undeniably one of the best e-commerce tools in the industry today.
Created in the year 2006, the software has become the most popular online store builder in the world. Currently, Shopify has nothing less than one million retailers using its platform from over 175 countries with more being added daily.
You can use this platform to not only sell physical products, but also services like classes, memberships, tickets, and even to receive donations.
There is also the option to start a dropshipping business if you don’t have any products or services of your own – you can sell products without keeping an inventory and use Shopify as a facilitator to manage the whole process.
With Shopify, you have the ability not only to manage an online store but also your physical store by using the Shopify POS app to receive payment for goods.
In addition to that, you get all the tools you need to effectively engage with your customers, analyze important store metrics, and maximize the ROI on your marketing investments. Some processes are also automated to help cut costs, such as customer relationship management, transactions, and inventory management.
Although Shopify is made very easy to use and with many processes automated, it’s suited not only for starter online store owners but also e-commerce experts. In fact, it has been used even by famous companies and businesses featured in SharkTank.
Who is BigCommerce?
BigCommerce is another well-known e-commerce tool that has gained a lot of popularity since its creation in 2009.
It was originally founded in Sydney, Australia, but now has its headquarters in Texas. Currently, the platform serves nothing less than ninety thousand online stores in over 120 countries.
The users of BigCommerce range from new online store starters to well-established companies like Toyota. You can get everything you need to start and grow your online store from this platform, and just like with Shopify, you can sell all kinds of products – digital, service-based, or physical.
BigCommerce offers several customizable templates and powerful features to make it easy to set up your online store and market your products. Non-tech-savvy users may however find it a bit difficult to master the more advanced features of the platform as some of them require knowledge of HTML and CSS.
Shopify vs BigCommerce: Fierce Comparison
Both Shopify and BigCommerce are without a doubt the best tools in the eCommerce game. Even after narrowing down all your options to just these two, it can be quite difficult to finally settle for which of them will be most ideal for your online store.
The reason these two stand out among all other e-commerce platforms is simply the fact that they provide the best offers in terms of features, affordability, and ease of use.
Both platforms are steadily growing even though they offer very similar services. This is because each one has its uniqueness in specific areas, thereby catering to the needs of slightly different user groups.
Shopify, however, appears to attract more customers every year than BigCommerce. Let’s take a look at how these two platforms compare in certain areas.
Website Hosting and Security
Shopify and BigCommerce both offer website hosting services, meaning that you won’t have to worry about how your website would run online.
You can get your online store running in no time and without the need to go through the hassle of DNS configuration and content management system installation.
An important aspect of website hosting is security. It's very important that an e-commerce site is secure in order to:
- ensure the protection of customers' sensitive data,
- prevent fraud,
- safeguard the business’s finances, and
- make sure that the integrity of the online store is upheld as a safe place to carry out payment transactions.
Shopify's cloud-based hosting is Level 1 PCI compliant and offers very high security among other important web hosting features like high speed, unlimited bandwidth, and a 99.9% uptime.
Since all Shopify servers are PCI DSS certified, every store hosted by the platform automatically enjoys business and data protection.
Shopify takes the duty of securely hosting their clients' stores very seriously, and so carries out annual assessments to validate the platform's adherence to continuous risk management.
The platform also offers a free SSL certificate with all its plans to encrypt your store’s information and publish it with HTTPS and not just HTTP. This is a common security indicator clients look out for.
BigCommerce also provides high security for all online stores they host. Its servers are PCI level 1 certified too, so you don't have to worry about any form of a data breach.
BigCommerce and Shopify basically have all the security benefits you would need for a website.
Its other website hosting features are also similar to Shopify’s, except that with the latter you can start off your online store at a slightly cheaper rate.
Usability is an important aspect to consider when comparing these two products because a platform's ease of use matters to both beginner and experienced entrepreneurs.
An easy-to-use platform should be simple to understand from the very beginning, rather than require you to invest hours getting a hang of it.
When you can easily understand a platform, it saves you time and effort.
BigCommerce offers a lot of powerful and scalable features, but this makes it less ideal for beginners as it requires users to take some time to understand the platform.
You would notice that BigCommerce also uses a lot of technical terms on its platform.
If you have no prior experience with eCommerce site-building and management, you may have to look up certain terminologies you come across even when carrying out simple tasks like adding a product.
Although the powerful in-built features that come with BigCommerce are great for customization at a granular level, they also make the platform heavier to deal with.
With Shopify, on the other hand, you don’t need any kind of expertise to have a smooth user experience. The platform is very user-friendly and you could easily launch an online store in a few minutes, even as a beginner.
Every option you need to build your store can be accessed from the main menu, and you'll also have lots of pointers along the way. Important processes like adding a product are also very easy to handle.
Even though BigCommerce may require a bit more of a learning curve, it does use a pretty straightforward Content Management System (CMS), and so does Shopify. The CMS of both platforms looks and works very similarly. They have a modern dashboard you would find quite easy to use especially if you've used a CMS before on platforms like WordPress or Squarespace.
But for total beginners, Shopify is the better choice when it comes to ease of use.
Themes and Customization
If you're considering starting up an online store on a low budget, you'd be glad to know that both Shopify and BigCommerce have free professional-looking themes readily available.
Themes give the look and feel of a website, which is why it is essential to use the correct one.
Shopify provides a selection of nine free themes, while BigCommerce provides 12. While it may seem like the free themes are quite limited, each one has its own variations. So in essence, the free themes are more than what they seem.
The free themes provided by these two platforms differ in some ways. Although both Shopify and BigCommerce provide free themes sorted into industry and layout, you would find that Shopify themes are more aesthetically pleasing.
The themes provided by BigCommerce look rather basic and sometimes a bit outdated, with just slight differences between them. Many free themes by BigCommerce can only be distinguished by the shade of colors used in them.
When you group BigCommerce free themes based on similarities, you would end up with just 5 theme designs available rather than 12. If you plan to grow your business long-term, you may eventually have to upgrade to one of BigCommerce’s paid themes which provide more visual elements and costs anywhere from $150 to $300.
Shopify free themes, on the other hand, look modern and professional and may just be enough for your business depending on what you want. Even if you do decide to upgrade to one of the paid themes, you could do so for just about $100 to $180.
In the aspect of editing, both platforms provide drag-and-drop features to make designing the contents of pages easier. While the drag-and-drop editor is available on all of BigCommerce's free themes, it’s only available on some of Shopify's.
The free themes that are not fully customizable on Shopify leave you with only the option to edit text and font. Some beginner business owners looking to start an online store may however find that this is enough to meet their needs.
But in terms of editor quality, Shopify takes the win because its editable themes allow for amazing levels of customization.
The page editor is quite intuitive and you could easily personalize your pages and make them look as professional as you desire. With Shopify, you have access to many kinds of content blocks right on the page editor, unlike with BigCommerce.
For instance, Shopify lets you easily add features likes blog post strips, e-newsletter signup forms, and contact forms, while BigCommerce doesn’t.
Another element that's easier to edit on Shopify themes is the fonts. Shopify provides its users with a wide range of fonts from various sources like Google Fonts and Monotype to be used on any of their themes, including the free ones.
With BigCommerce, on the other hand, you're limited in font options with their free themes. This makes it likely that you'd have to manually install desired fonts to give your store the look that matches your corporate branding.
In terms of mobile responsiveness, not all of BigCommerce's free themes meet that criteria. All Shopify themes, on the other hand, are automatically responsive to all kinds of screen sizes. You can also edit both the mobile and desktop versions of your store to be sure it looks perfect on all devices.
It's safe to say that you can use the free themes provided by both Shopify and BigCommerce to create a professional-looking store through customization.
But when using BigCommerce, the controls provided within the editor may not be enough and you may have to dive into your site's HTML or CSS code if you don’t want to opt for a paid theme just yet.
And if you have no knowledge of coding, creating an online store that suits your taste may prove challenging. Although you may decide to opt for the code-tweak editing method with Shopify’s liquid themes, it’s not needed in most cases.
You could end up with an aesthetically pleasing and professional-looking online store for your products with just the free themes and editing controls provided by Shopify.
When building a website, it's common to integrate the platform with add-ons, plugins, and extra features. These external web applications and features are usually offered through an app store within the builder.
Both Shopify and BigCommerce provide app stores for their users containing a selection of in-house and third-party apps, but there's a difference in the quality of these stores.
First of all, when it comes to the number of applications contained within these stores, Shopify comes first. There are over 6,000 active Shopify apps right now, while on BigCommerce has just around 1000.
The low quantity of apps on BigCommerce may be attributed to the fact that the platform on its own provides enough functionality so its users don't really need additional apps. But then the large quantity of apps provided by Shopify reflects its robust user base and ecosystem. It also allows you to add any feature or function imaginable to your store.
Both stores provide free and paid apps to perform a variety of functions like email and SMS marketing, social media integration, optimizing conversions, customer support, SEO, order fulfillment, and many more.
The paid apps on Shopify range from $15 -$50, while those on BigCommerce range from $20-$50. Although you would find the same categories of applications on both app stores, the selection of apps on BigCommerce is slightly less rich.
One edge BigCommerce's app store has over Shopify’s though is its official integration with Mailchimp, an important email marketing tool. You will no longer find it on Shopify's app store and this may be an issue for merchants who use Mailchimp extensively.
However, there are several industry-leading alternatives like AWeber, GetResponse, and Campaign Monitor available on Shopify, some of which you won’t find on BigCommerce.
Apart from these platforms having app stores for extra functions, you'd be glad to know that they also have mobile applications of their own. Due to how mobile the world is becoming, e-commerce business owners must also be able to keep up with the activities of their stores on the go. When it comes to mobile applications, Shopify provides its users with more options and functionality.
While BigCommerce has only one mobile app for easy viewing of customer details, reports, and managing of orders, Shopify has an extra app that lets you sell in physical locations from your online store. It's known as Shopify POS.
Both the Shopify app and Shopify POS solution make handling your e-commerce store activities seamless irrespective of where you may be.
Blogging and SEO
After carefully crafting your online store and starting off your e-commerce business, how do you then attract customers? One of the best ways to do this is by blogging.
Blogging about the niche under which your products or services fall has proven to be an effective way to drive relevant traffic to your online store, as long as the content you publish is strong, search engine optimized, and promoted well.
With either BigCommerce or Shopify, you can create a blog easily. The kind of blogs you can create with these two platforms are quite basic as there are several limitations.
For example, unlike in the case of normal blogs, you can only make use of tags and not blog categories. You also cannot integrate Yoast-style plugins when creating blog posts on either platform. On BigCommerce, you can not make use of RSS feeds for your blog posts. This function is, however, automatically available on Shopify. RSS feeds are important because they help manage blog posts and send email newsletters to subscribed members.
Although the functionality of the blogging feature on both platforms is not superb, many users are satisfied with it as it is still enough to create content and attract traffic to a store. If you require more than what the platforms have to offer, you could always opt for a third-party blog integration like one made on WordPress.
When it comes to Search Engine Optimization, it’s safe to say that Shopify and BigCommerce perform equally well. You can easily manage SEO elements like page titles, meta descriptions, headings, and alt text.
You can also create page redirects quite easily on both platforms, although this function is slightly better on Shopify as it notifies you by default and initiates the redirect. Page redirects are very important on a website as they let search engines and browsers know where a page has moved to once the URL changes.
Both Shopify and BigCommerce also offer free SSL certificates with their plans. This is essential because Google considers it important in its search engine algorithm.
While these e-commerce tools provide strong SEO features, it’s important to know that you will still need to invest enough time and resources into processes like keyword research, link building, and on-page SEO to really rank well in search results.
A very large part of your e-commerce journey will be payments. If you’re starting up an online store, you should ensure that the payment features provided by an e-commerce platform are convenient for your business and of course, your customers.
You can define a payment gateway as software that accepts credit cards and direct payments from customers on an online store. The payment gateways offered by Shopify and BigCommerce vary, and come with different fees.
On both platforms, there are wide ranges of payment gateways you can connect to your store. Typically, the number of payment options available to you will depend on your country. But you can always expect to find the major payment gateways like Paypal, Worldpay, Stripe, and 2Checkout on both platforms.
Shopify offers over 100 payment gateway integrations, which is significantly higher than BigCommerce that provides about 65.
The credit card fees that come with each payment gateway will depend on the provider. Although it doesn’t cost money to integrate a third-party payment to your store, you will have to go through the process of filling forms and a contract and paying monthly fees.
If you would like to avoid all of that, you could decide to settle for the recommended card payment processor provided by either platform, which is Shopify Payments for Shopify and Paypal powered by Braintree for BigCommerce.
You may be wondering what percentage of your money Shopify and BigCommerce get to keep for each transaction made on your store. You'd be glad to know that BigCommerce charges absolutely zero percent transaction fees on all its plans.
On Shopify, you only get to enjoy zero transaction fees if you use the in-built Shopify Payments tool. If you use an external third-party payment processor, Shopify will charge a transaction fee of between 0.5% to 2% depending on your plan. You should also know that Shopify Payments is limited to specific countries. If you live outside any of those, you will have to use a third-party card payment processor and pay a transaction fee.
Apart from transaction fees, you'll also have to consider credit card fees. This fee is charged by the provider of the payment software, and as stated earlier depends on the provider.
It's safe to say that the payment gateway fees on BigCommerce are generally lower than on Shopify.
Reporting and Analytics Systems
Reporting is another essential aspect of e-commerce marketing. Luckily, both Shopify and BigCommerce provide top-notch report and analytics systems. You will get reports on the following major aspects:
Reports on customers will show the locations your customers come from, the ratio of new and returning customers, how much they’ve spent on your store, and the last time they made an order.
Search data reports will let you know the products customers searched for in your store.
Reports on marketing show the channels through which your acquired your customers.
Here you get reports on sales, taxes, and other financial metrics.
Abandoned cart reports help to know the rate of cart abandonment and which items are abandoned the most.
These platforms also provide additional reports and analytics features if you would like other reports not part of the basic. On Shopify, you can customize your reports. But this feature is only available on the Advanced Shopify and Shopify Plus plans.
BigCommerce provides an extra feature known as eCommerce Insights at an additional fee. With eCommerce Insights, you get a deeper report with more details on your products, abandoned carts, and customers.
It provides enough information to help you determine which products should get the most visible placement on your site and the channels that bring the customers with the highest customer lifetime value.
This feature is available for users on all plans, for an additional monthly fee of $49 for the Standard and Plus plans, $99 for the Pro plan, and $249 for the Enterprise plan.
Although the BigCommerce extra reports feature appears to be on the pricey side, it still has an advantage over Shopify because you can get these full-scale additional report functions on any plan.
With Shopify, you can only get access to its comprehensive reports customization feature if you subscribe to any of the more expensive plans.
However, you also have the option to integrate one of the excellent analytics tools available on the app stores if you need more features, particularly for traffic analysis. So in essence, you could still get extra comprehensive report functions even with Shopify’s inexpensive plans.
Email and Text Messaging Default Service
Email marketing is a very crucial aspect of running an e-commerce store because sending email newsletters to your customers and prospects is important to generate sales.
When it comes to email marketing, Shopify wins, thanks to its in-built email marketing tool known as Shopify Email.
Shopify Email allows its users to send email marketing messages without having to install an integration or leave the platform. It’s also quite affordable. As part of your regular plan, you get 2,500 emails per month. If you need to send more than that, you can pay $1 for every extra 1000.
Shopify email currently performs very simple email marketing functions and can't be compared with other top tools like Mailchimp and GetResponse. However, you could always decide to use an external third-party app to meet your email marketing needs.
Note that Mailchimp is no longer available on Shopify at the moment, but if you really have to, you could use third-party software to link your Shopify store to Mailchimp. BigCommerce, on the other hand, readily has access to Mailchimp and other top-industry email tools but lacks the convenience of an all-in-one marketing solution that Shopify provides.
You may be wondering if any of the platforms provide an SMS marketing solution, as the use of text messaging in marketing has become quite popular and proven to be super effective.
Currently, both Shopify and BigCommerce offer transactional and order notifications SMS messages for free. These can be sent in place of email messages in case your customer opted to be updated via SMS.
If you need a more comprehensive SMS marketing solution, Shopify has an app called WinBack which allows you to send not just updates, but also promotional messages to convince your customers to come back to your online store.
Plans and Pricing
The plans and pricing of an e-commerce website builder is a major factor to consider when choosing the right solution for your business. Since Shopify and BigCommerce plans offer different functionalities and at different prices, this is an important comparison to make to determine which platform suits your budget best.
We'll start with pricing before comparing the features that come with the plans.
On BigCommerce, you get 4 different plans. They are:
- Standard at $29.95 per month
- Plus at $79.95 per month
- Pro at $299.95 per month
- Enterprise (price varies according to your requirements).
If you decide to pay for the plan annually, you get 10% off only on the Plus and Pro plans. There is also a 15-day free trial for you to try out the platform before committing.
On Shopify, you get five different plans with corresponding fees below:
- Shopify Lite at $9 per month
- Basic Shopify at $29 per month
- Shopify at $79 per month
- Advanced Shopify at $299 per month
- Shopify Plus (price varies according to your requirements)
You get 10% off on all Shopify plans if you opt to pay annually, and 20% off if you decide to pay biannually. You can also try out that platform free for 14 days before paying for a plan.
From the above pricing plans, you can see that Shopify has the cheapest options to start selling online.
It’s important to note though that the Shopify Lite plan, which is the most affordable, does not provide you with a fully functional e-commerce store. What it does is allow you to add a Shopify widget to your Facebook page or an existing website to sell products.
You can also use it to sell goods offline while managing your inventory and processing your orders with Shopify.
Most e-commerce starters consider subscribing to the Basic plan on Shopify or the Standard plan on BigCommerce as they are the most affordable.
These two plans provide a good range of functionalities to help get your e-commerce business up and running, but with some slight differences between them.
With either plan, there’s no limit to the number of products you can sell, however, the BigCommerce plan offers more functions than Shopify's. On the BigCommerce Standard plan, you'll get a comprehensive reporting tool, automatic currency conversion depending on location, an in-built ratings and review tool, and real-time carrier shipping quotes.
These functions are not available on the Basic Shopify plan, but as for reviews, Shopify provides a free app for this purpose known as Product Reviews. Product Reviews performs all the functions of handling ratings and reviews, but if you need more advanced features you could always install an integration from the app store.
You can also install apps for any other functions you may require while using the Basic plan.
Although BigCommerce offers more features on its Standard plan, the Basic Shopify plan still has some advantages. While BigCommerce has an annual sales limit of $50,000 on its Standard plan, Shopify doesn't impose a sales limit on any of its plans.
With Shopify, you also get an abandoned cart saver on all plans, which is a useful function that could help increase your store’s revenue. BigCommerce, on the other hand, only has this feature available on its more expensive plans.
In general, Shopify plans are more affordable with lots of app integration options, but BigCommerce offers more functionality out-of-the-box.
So which one wins?
So, after everything that's been said, which eCommerce platform wins?
You can't exactly make a wrong choice by picking either of these two platforms as they are quite similar in their pricing and features. But you would very likely enjoy one over the other depending on your budget, business requirements, and preferences.
BigCommerce wins when it comes to reporting and analytics.
The platform offers very powerful and scalable features by default, making it more suitable for already established businesses or businesses looking to expand. You may also enjoy BigCommerce if you're a beginner with prior website building experience and very specific customization needs.
Shopify wins when it comes to ease-of-use and customization options.
Shopify is highly recommended if it's your first time setting up an e-commerce store all by yourself as its interface is very beginner-friendly.
Also, since Shopify is in partnership with so many third-party systems, you will have access to a more lively community of developers, freelancers, and designers who know about the platform and will be willing to help you when you face challenges.
In addition to that, Shopify offers a vast range of website templates, an in-built email marketing tool, and the most affordable abandoned cart recovery app—WinBack! Bigcommerce currently doesn’t have WinBack in its arsenal, so that’s enough reason for you to go for Shopify more than anything.
Once you’ve signed up to Shopify, come back here and sign up for a 14-day free trial of WinBack so you can immediately use SMS marketing to promote your new online store.