If you’re launching a new eCommerce store or you’re expanding an existing brand, you may be wondering what eCommerce platform you should use. BigCommerce and Shopify are two of the most popular SaaS eCommerce platforms out there – and you might not know which one is right for you.
121eCommerce is here to help. In this guide, we’ll discuss both the similarities and differences between BigCommerce and Shopify. With our help, you’ll be able to determine which platform is right for you.
BigCommerce & Shopify Are Both SaaS eCommerce Platforms
First, let’s start with the similarities. Both BigCommerce and Shopify are SaaS (Software as a Service) eCommerce platforms. This means that you will pay a monthly fee to the company.
In exchange, you’ll get to use their eCommerce platform to build your website. You’ll also get a certain amount of bandwidth, computing power, network capacity, and other cloud resources – these vary depending on the plan you choose. Both BigCommerce and Shopify have a tiered pricing system. Basically, the larger your website, the more you’ll pay to use their platform. We’ll go in depth on pricing a bit later.
Broadly speaking, they also have similar features and fulfill the same purpose. Both Shopify and BigCommerce are designed to allow eCommerce entrepreneurs to build and host their own eCommerce store – without any technical skills or coding knowledge.
They have lots of built-in features to allow you to process orders, upload products and details about each one, provide special promotions and discounts, send email newsletters, and build custom templates and website layouts – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Basically, these eCommerce platforms include all the features you need to launch your own website. With a little bit of time, research, and dedication, anyone can get started with Shopify or BigCommerce – even very small merchants. This makes them very appealing for new entrepreneurs.
However, there are some significant differences between these eCommerce platforms. These are not super important for new entrepreneurs. But as your business grows, there are issues that you may run into depending on the platform you choose – so it’s important to pick the right one.
With this in mind, let’s get into the differences between BigCommerce and Shopify. At 121eCommerce, we typically recommend BigCommerce over Shopify to new eCommerce entrepreneurs – and by the time you finish reading, you’ll understand why.
Both Platforms Have Similar Costs, But BigCommerce Has Lower Fees
As mentioned above, there’s not a big difference between BigCommerce and Shopify when it comes to their monthly cost. They both offer similar, tiered plans. BigCommerce has the following plans:
- Standard plan – $29.95/month. This plan includes all the basic features you need to build a website, and can be used if you have up to $50K in sales in a 12-month period.
- Plus plan – $79.95/month. This plan includes some more advanced features like customer segmentation, abandoned cart saver, stored credit cards, and a few other helpful benefits. It can be used if you have up to $180K in sales in a 12-month period.
- Pro plan – $299.95/month. This plan adds even more features like Google customer review integration and enhanced filtering and search options, and can be used if you have up to $400K in sales in a 12-month period.
If we look at Shopify, we find a similar set of plans:
- Shopify Basic – $29/month. Like BigCommerce Standard, this includes all the basic tools you’ll need to open up an eCommerce store, as well as unlimited bandwidth and products.
- Shopify – $79/month. This plan is meant for growing eCommerce stores, and includes some extra features like reporting and analytics tools, a larger number of staff accounts, and discounts on shipping and transaction fees.
- Shopify Advanced – $299/month. This is meant for very large online stores. You’ll get even more staff accounts, support for more inventory locations, advanced reporting, international domains, and more.
The big difference comes down to transaction fees. Shopify recommends that you use Shopify Payments as your payment processor. This will cost you 2.9% + $0.30 USD for the Basic plan, with slight discounts for the Shopify and Shopify Advanced plans.
If you choose to use a different payment processor, you’ll be charged an extra fee of 2%, on top of what you’re paying the payment processor. This drops to 1% with the Shopify plan, and 0.5% with the Shopify Advanced plan.
On the other hand, BigCommerce doesn’t require you to use a particular payment processor. You can choose from 65+ different payment processors that it supports, and there are no fees for choosing one of these third-party payment processors.
You also have the option to work with Braintree, a leading payment provider, through BigCommerce. If you do that, you’ll still pay less than Shopify, particularly if you sell more expensive items. Rates start at 2.59% + $0.49, which usually means you’ll pay less overall with BigCommerce than you would with Shopify.
You’re also free to switch to a new payment provider at any time. If you decide to do so, you’ll never have to pay any kind of fee or penalty, unlike with Shopify. These lower transaction fees and the added flexibility of BigCommerce mean that it’s a better choice when you compare the prices of each platform.
Shopify Offers Slightly More Free Themes
Both Shopify and BigCommerce offer some free themes to get you started with your eCommerce store. Shopify has 10 free themes with 22 variations. This is a bit more than BigCommerce, which has 5 themes and 12 variations.
Both platforms also have a simple, code-free theme editor that you can use. This makes it easy to customize your theme and make it your own. You can also pay for premium themes at the Shopify Themes marketplace, where there are 80+ themes, or the BigCommerce theme store, where we counted 160+ themes as of publication time.
Basically, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to branding and website design, regardless of which platform you pick. However, we think that BigCommerce has the edge when it comes to themes that drive conversions and sales.
For example, one big difference between Shopify and BigCommerce is that BigCommerce has a native product comparison feature. Customers can choose two or more products and display them on a single page, making it easier for them to pick the product they want. Compared to Shopify, BigCommerce also has better tools for cross-selling, upselling, and related products.
BigCommerce Has More Robust Product Tools Than Shopify
If you sell a lot of sizes, colors, or types of items, you may find that BigCommerce is easier to use than Shopify. This is because it has more robust native product management tools in its product catalog.
As an example, Shopify supports a total of 3 drop-down menus for each product – and it has a hard cap of 100 possible combinations or item variants. In other words, if you have a product that has more than 100 variations, you’ll have a hard time adding it to Shopify.
This can happen quite easily in an eCommerce product catalog. Consider a pair of pants. Attributes could include waist size, leg length, color, type of material, the cut of the pants, and many other variations.
BigCommerce, on the other hand, supports up to 600 different variants for each SKU. It also provides options beyond standard drop-down menus – including swatches, checkboxes, radio buttons, and much more.
In addition to this, BigCommerce has better discount options than Shopify. It supports 70+ different coupon and cart-level discounts. That puts you in control of your pricing and marketing promotions, and makes it easier to drive sales at your eCommerce store.
While Shopify does offer some similar features, they are locked behind its Shopify Plus enterprise-level product, which is much more expensive. BigCommerce offers all of these features natively, so you can access them even if you don’t have a big budget for your store.
Shopify Has Brick-And-Mortar Integration, BigCommerce Doesn’t
This may be a big one if you run an online store and a brick-and-mortar store. Shopify offers native integration with their brick-and-mortar POS (Point Of Sale) system, as well as the ability to track inventory across multiple brick-and-mortar stores.
This is one of the biggest differences between BigCommerce and Shopify. BigCommerce is exclusively focused on online shopping. They do not have any tools or a platform for brick-and-mortar shopping – and that’s on purpose. BigCommerce focuses exclusively on providing a top-tier online eCommerce platform.
But that does mean BigCommerce is not the best choice if you want to run a brick-and-mortar store and an eCommerce store. If that’s your plan, Shopify is likely a better option, despite its higher fees and more limited set of native features.
BigCommerce Offers More SEO Features
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is critical for eCommerce stores. Capturing users from search engines like Google is a major driver of traffic and sales for eCommerce, so top-of-the-line SEO features are essential for your store.
BigCommerce and Shopify both offer similar SEO features, for the most part. For example, they both offer:
- The ability to customize product and page URLs
- SSL encryption and HTTPs
- CDNs (content delivery networks) to speed up page loading times
- Simple tools for setting and editing title tags, meta descriptions, and URLs
However, BigCommerce edges out Shopify in a few ways. First, it has completely customizable URL structures. Shopify does not. There are some URL structures, such as /collections/ or /products/ that can’t be customized or removed from URLs, even if you want to do so. That means BigCommerce users have more flexibility to optimize their URLs for SEO.
BigCommerce also comes with a few more performance-enhancing features. For example, it includes the Akamai Image Manager, a tool that automatically resizes images that are uploaded to your website. This helps reduce file size while ensuring proper visual quality on your website. It also supports AMP (Accelerated Mobile Processing) natively – which means your webpage are more likely to rank higher in mobile search engines. Shopify lacks both of these features, so BigCommerce has an edge when it comes to SEO.
Both Shopify & BigCommerce Offer Robust User Support
Whether you choose Shopify or BigCommerce, there’s not a huge difference in the support they offer new users. Both platforms offer lots of support features like:
- 24/7 support via phone, live chat, and email
- A help center/knowledge base with FAQs and initial setup information
- A community forum, where users can connect and help each other
- Video tutorials to assist with common problems and troubleshooting
Honestly, your experience with both support teams may vary. BigCommerce does claim to offer better, faster support than Shopify. On their website, they claim that wait times are “less than two minutes on average” and “90% of support calls are resolved on the first call.”
However, Shopify offers pretty solid user support, too. There are plenty of eCommerce entrepreneurs who have had good (and bad) experiences with both platforms. There’s no clear winner when it comes to support, though we have found that BigCommerce tends to be more responsive than Shopify overall.
Your Customer Service Team Gets More Options With BigCommerce
Another big difference between Shopify and BigCommerce is the tools it provides your customer service team to resolve customer issues. For example, Shopify lacks native tools to edit orders and apply merchandise credits to a customer account. While you can do things like edit a customer’s address, the order itself can’t be adjusted.
So if a customer ordered the wrong thing, they would need to contact your customer service team, cancel the order, and then re-order it all over again. But BigCommerce simplifies this process.
BigCommerce allows you to edit online orders and change the size, color, or other attributes. This makes it easier to handle customer service requests without the need for any third-party extensions or tools.
In addition to this, BigCommerce allows you to easily add store credit to a customer’s account if they have an issue with their order. This is a great way to resolve problems with a customer’s order. Shopify doesn’t support store credit natively, so you’d need a third-party app to offer store credit to your customers.
BigCommerce Is A Better Overall Option For Your Store
We hope this guide has been helpful, and explained some of the differences between BigCommerce and Shopify in an easy-to-understand way. While Shopify is just fine for most retailers, BigCommerce has a larger native feature set. It also typically costs less when you account for transaction fees. And while it lacks brick-and-mortar features, this really isn’t a big deal unless you already run a physical store, or you plan to open one in the future.
Overall, we think that BigCommerce is a better option for most eCommerce entrepreneurs. And if you need help setting up your store, 121eCommerce is here for you. We’re eCommerce specialists, and our team has years of experience setting up, administering, and running BigCommerce stores of all types and sizes.
If you’re interested in working with us, feel free to contact us for a quick, no-commitment consultation. And if you want more helpful eCommerce tips and advice, take a look at our blog. It’s full of resources and information that will help you along your journey, and ensure you put your best foot forward when opening a new eCommerce store.