BigCommerce and Shopify are two of the biggest eCommerce platforms available. For businesses looking to launch or revamp an online store, the choice of which platform to use will often come down to these two. Given that they both have large, satisfied user bases and plenty of good reviews, it can be difficult to decide which one to use for your business.
When faced with two great choices such as these, it often comes down to which one has the most features for your specific needs rather than any general aspect of the software. In order to help you decide between these two juggernauts of the eCommerce world, we will take a deep dive into each of them. By exploring the key ways in which they differ, and where they are the same, you'll be able to more accurately determine which solution is the best fit for your needs.
If you can't afford one product over its competitor then the rest of the comparisons between the two aren't very useful. For that reason, we will start by discussing the price. Each of the two products comes in several tiers, each with different pricing and transaction fees.
The pricing for each company is listed below. We will give the monthly fee for using the service, plus the transactions fees that are charged. Transaction fees are a percentage of the sale plus a fixed amount.
The tiers for Shopify are:
The tiers for BigCommerce are:
If you are on a very tight budget then Shopify Lite is the best option, although that product only provides you with a purchase button that you can place on an existing site in order to accept Shopify payments. The other options all provide you with a hosted website. BigCommerce does not have a payment option for existing websites, so the comparison begins with Shopify Basic and BigCommerce Standard.
Until the highest tier, BigCommerce is just a few cents more expensive in monthly fees. The transaction fees, however, are lower for BigCommerce starting at the second tier. By the time you get to the highest tier, BigCommerce is quite a bit cheaper in both monthly and transaction fees.
The different tiers provide essentially the same service. Shopify does limit the number of staff accounts in all of their products; 2, 5, and 15 in the Basic, standard, and Advanced tiers respectively. Each of the providers has a few other extras that only come with the higher tiers. Other than that, your decision will come down to whether or not the lower transaction fees offered at the highest levels will justify the increased monthly fees.
It should be noted that BigCommerce requires you to move up a tier once your income exceeds a certain threshold. Like Shopify, they offer an enterprise program that costs quite a bit more than their plans with published pricing. A highly successful company forced onto the enterprise plan might have been better off with Shopify, though at those income levels the increase in price will be negligible.
Shopify and BigCommerce both have attractive designs from the perspective of a customer. Moreover, because these two options are so popular, both of them are already very familiar to online shoppers. Of primary interest in the user-facing side of things is whether or not you can find a theme you like. Both Shopify themes and BigCommerce themes are grouped into categories to make it easy to find what you are looking for. Both options have free themes available and premium themes for sale. Themes generally range in cost between a little under $100 to around $200 on Shopify. Some of the premium themes on BigCommerce can be more expensive.
On the administrative side of things, Shopify offers a more traditional CMS experience than BigCommerce does. This can make their system a little easier to learn and use if you have experience in another platform. Both stores are easy enough to use that this should serve more as a potential tie-breaker than a major point against BigCommerce.
Whether you can afford an eCommerce solution and whether it has a design that can fit your branding are two major deciding factors in choosing which provider to go with. Now that we've gotten those two out of the way, we can start looking at the individual features of the two options to see how they compare.
For hosting your eCommerce website, the two are even on features. Both Shopify and BigCommerce come with a free SSL certificate if you host your domain with them, both have unlimited storage and bandwidth, and both have very good uptime performance. Remember that the cheaper Shopify Lite plan does not including hosting. Other than that one tier, the hosting plans are the same across all of the offerings by both providers.
Hosting your website directly with your eCommerce provider gives the added benefit of having PCI compliance with no effort. Were you to host your own website, you'd need to follow certain rules regarding the security of credit card information that passes through your server. These requirements can be expensive, but both Shopify and BigCommerce handle PCI compliance for you.
There are several ways that your website can help you with marketing. Again, the two offerings are even here. The first way that a website affects marketing is how well it ranks in search engines. Much of this has to do with the content you provide, but there are aspects of the back-end that can affect your search engine optimization (SEO) as well. In addition to planning for those aspects, both Shopify and BigCommerce provide you with the ability to add data to SEO specific fields for each of your pages, such as keywords and meta-descriptions.
Another big aspect of online marketing is building a social media presence. By having your customers follow your business on social media, you are able to alert them to sales or new product offerings that may prompt them to make a purchase. You also keep your business fresh in their mind to help build your brand. Shopify and BigCommerce both include functionality to create links to social media sites.
One area of marketing where the two do differ is an abandoned cart reminder. If a customer puts an item into their shopping cart and doesn't make a purchase, a gentle email reminding them that they have items in their cart can get them to complete the sale. BigCommerce offers its Abandoned Cart Saver feature on the BigCommerce Plus and higher plans. To get this functionality in Shopify, you will have to rely on an extension.
Having someone else host your website saves you the expense of having a dedicated IT department, but does come with the downside that you are relying on them when something goes wrong. This could be something that is affecting your ability to update or launch your store. It could also be something that is actively costing you money by preventing customers from making a purchase. In these situations, you want to know that the provider you have chosen will easy to contact.
Luckily, both companies include 24/7 support. They both have their customer service team available for either phone support or live chat sessions to help you resolve any issues you have with their service. Additionally, both services have enterprise plans available that provide you with priority support and your own dedicated account manager to help ensure that you are able to make the most out of their platforms.
Different eCommerce websites have different needs and no one unified service can provide all of the functionality that every business might desire. This is solved in Shopify and BigCommerce through the use of marketplaces that sell third-party apps and premium add-ons from the BigCommerce and Shopify themselves. These add-ons can help with everything from marketing to analytics.
In this area, Shopify is currently ahead. They currently have around 2400 apps in their marketplace, versus 600 for BigCommerce. If you anticipate that you will need an add-on to complete your website, be sure to browse the marketplaces of the respective providers to ensure that you'll have the tools you need available to you.
One area that BigCommerce is playing catch up is the ability for extensions to provide shipping quotes during checkout. For a long time, website creators had to rely on the functionality that was built into BigCommerce because third-party developers did not have access to the APIs needed to develop such extensions. That changed last year when BigCommerce released their Shipping Provider API, but Shopify still has a large headstart in this area.
According to a UPS survey of online shoppers, 52% of abandoned shopping carts were abandoned because the customer was not ready to make a purchase but wanted to see how much shipping would cost. 58% of shoppers abandoned a cart when the shipping times were too long or when no delivery estimates were available. The importance of providing easy to access shipping information gives Shopify an edge due to its larger selection of shipping extensions.
As you can tell by how frequently throughout this post we've said that the two platforms were about equal, you can't really go wrong with either choice. Some patterns may have emerged that might cause you to lean in one direction over the other. Ultimately, it depends on what you are looking for in a platform and your experience level.
Shopify is not only easier to use, due to its more standard CMS-style interface, but there is a large community of third-party developers. This has the obvious advantage of providing you with a larger selection of extensions than are available with BigCommerce, but it also means that there are more people to help you should a problem arise. Community support is often quicker and more helpful than official support channels and Shopify has a large community.
To give you an idea of the difference in size between the two communities of users, Shopify is running on around 183,000 sites with a market share of 10.81%, while BigCommerce is lagging behind at around 27,000 sites and a 1.6% market share.
BigCommerce has a slightly higher learning curve and a less robust extensions market but provides some nice features like the Abandoned Cart Saver without the need to turn to third-party solutions. Depending on the size of your business, the generally lower transaction fees at BigCommerce could result in significant savings.
If you are still having a hard time deciding, consider browsing some review sites to see what other users are saying and get a detailed breakdown of how the various aspects of the two stores are rated by users.
If you're interested in reading more comparisons of e-commerce platforms, checkout these others in our blog:
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