When it comes to the world of ecommerce, there aren’t many names bigger than Shopify and Bigcommerce, but which platform is the better option for building an Ecommerce Webiste?
Shopify vs Bigcommerce: What is the Difference?
Both Shopify and Bigcommerce are fully hosted ecommerce platforms that offer a range of plans to suit businesses of all sizes, from start-ups to multi-national retailers. With a similar range of features and offerings, the difference between these two ecommerce website builders comes down to which one is better to use.
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As you can see, there is basically no difference between Shopify and Bigcommerce when it comes to how much their plans cost on a monthly basis but there are some differences when it comes to the way their plans work.
Shopify doesn’t have any turnover limits on their plans, meaning that users can choose which plan they want to be on but they do charge a transaction fee on any payment received through a third-party payment gateway such as PayPal or Amazon Pay and it depends on the plan you are on as to the fee that you pay:
- Shopify Basic: 2%
- Shopify Standard: 1%
- Shopify Advanced: 0.5%
But you don’t have to pay this fee if you use Shopify’s own payment gateway, Shopify Payments and this can make choosing which plan you should be on a little more challenging but you can use tools like our free Shopify fee calculator, to figure out which plan is going to be the most cost-efficient for your business.
Bigcommerce doesn’t charge any transaction fees, giving you a bit more financial freedom when it comes to choosing your payment gateways but they do have annual turnover limits.
What this means is that when you hit certain turnover limits in a 12-month period, you are automatically moved on to a larger package and these limits are:
- Bigcommerce Standard: Up to $50,000
- Bigcommerce Plus: Up to $180,000
- Bigcommerce Pro: Up to $400,000
When you exceed the $400,000 limit, you can opt to pay an additional $150/m for an additional $200,000 limit or upgrade to the Enterprise option, which is a custom-built plan for your business.
To help get you started, both platforms offer you a free trial and neither platform requires any credit card information:
- Shopify offers a 3-day free trial with the first 3 months costing $1/m
- Bigcommerce offers a 15-day free trial
You can start your free trial with either platform by clicking the links above.
As two of the biggest names in the industry, it is expected that they all offer a good range of features for their users.
Shopify offers a good basic set of features for all users and below is summary of what is available with all of the plans:
- Dropshipping Integration
- Flexible Shipping Rates
- Product Reviews
- Digital Products
- Gift Vouchers
- Shopify Management App
Marketing & SEO
- Google Adwords Credit
- Sell on Facebook
- Discount Codes
- Abandoned Cart Recovery
- Auto-Generated Sitemap
- Social Share
- Custom Meta Data
- SEO Friendly URLs
- Product Reports
- Traffic Sources
- Google Analytics
- Day, Week and Monthly Reports
- Shopify Payments
- PayPal Express Checkout
- Amazon Pay
Shopify App Store
Even though the features you get in the standard Shopify core platform are very good, they do have their own App Store which features over 3000 apps from both the Shopify team and also third-party developers.
The Shopify App Store opens your store up to a whole world of possibilities including dropshipping integration, Google, Ebay and Amazon integration, SEO and marketing tools and advanced reporting to name but a few. Obviously, with so many to choose from, it is nearly impossible for me to start listing them all in this post.
But not all of these apps are free to use as many of them are made and managed by third-party developers. Many offer free plans but you are limited to the number of features you can use in the particular app, to get all the features then you will need to use a paid plan.
So you do need to be selective when it comes to choosing your apps as you can soon end up with a very expensive store.
As standard, Bigcommerce does offer more features out of the box and below is a summary of all the features included with every plan:
- Single Page Checkout
- Product Ratings & Reviews
- Side-by-Side Product Comparison
- Create Promotions & Special Offers
- Sell Physical & Digital Products
- Discount Codes & Coupons
- Google Trusted Stores
Marketing & SEO
- Social Selling (Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest)
- Email Marketing
- Price Comparison Site Integration
- Abandoned Cart Recovery
- Loyalty Program
- Social Sharing
- Custom Meta Data
- SEO Friendly URLs
- Number of Orders
- Total Revenue
- Number of Visitors
- Conversion Rate
- Average Order Value
- Amazon Pay
- Apple Pay
Bigcommerce App Marketplace
Even though you get a lot of great features with Bigcommerce, they also offer you the chance to add even more functionality with their own app marketplace. While the 751 apps is smaller than the Shopify offering, there is still a really good selection to choose from.
The 751 apps are spread across a variety of categories such as marketing, payments, sales channels and accounting to name but a few.
As with Shopify, not all of these are free to use as they are developed by third-party companies. So you might incur some additional expenses to get the features you really want.
Theme Selection and Customization
Shopify offers a really good selection of themes through its own Theme Store, with 9 free and over 80 paid themes to choose from, with the paid options ranging from $150-$350.
But these are only the options available directly from Shopify, there are thousands of themes available outside of Shopify, from marketplaces such as Themeforest to buying them directly from developers.
And while the theme selection of very good, it is the customization where Shopify does really well as they offer a full site customizer, meaning you can edit every page layout on your site and also create custom templates for pages using the section and block system.
This gives users a lot of control over the look and feel of their storefront but there are also additional options for the:
There are also plenty of theme settings that can be customized as well as options for building out custom navigation menus.
Bigcommerce has a large of themes available within its ecosystem, with over 150 themes to choose from directly from Bigcommerce, unfortunately Only 12 of these are free to use and the paid themes range from $150 – $300. On Themeforest there are an additional 92 themes that you can choose.
Customizing a theme on Bigcommerce is pretty easy to do but you don’t have the same level of control as you do with Shopify and it can feel a little restrictive at times, especially when it comes to the layout of your site.
Unlike Shopify, you can’t build a page from scratch, instead, you will be able to change things within an existing page. For example, with the test theme we used, there was an option to hide existing sections but none for adding a new one.
This means that it is more important to choose a theme that you like and works for your business. Now while it is a bit more restrictive than Shopify, it is a really easy system to use and there is a logical flow to how you work through the process.
Running an ecommerce website can be challenging at times and you require some help, so what support do you get from these platforms?
Shopify – offers all of their users 24/7 support via live chat, over the phone or via email. But it is not that straightforward as to how you can actually contact the support teams, as there is nothing directly in your dashboard, instead, you need to go to their help center.
Outside of contacting Shopify directly, you can visit the community support forum which is full of lots of informative threads and is a good place to as non-urgent questions as members of the support team and knowledgeable users do frequent the forum.
Bigcommerce – contacting support with Bigcommerce is definitely a lot easier than with Shopify! They also offer 24/7 support via live chat, email tickets and over the phone. To find the contact details, there is a very useful help tab in the dashboard navigation menu that gives you all the options you need.
There is also a help center that is full of useful documentation as well as a community forum, where you can ask others users of the platform a question.
Hosting & Performance
With Shopify and Bigcommerce, it is pretty unsurprising that both offer their users a very good hosting environment and they both offer the following:
- PCI Compliant Hosting
- Unlimited Bandwidth
- Unlimited Storage
- 99.9% + Uptime
- Global CDN
- Free SSL Certificate
This all looks great right? But unfortunately, not all hosting is the same, so we decided to put them to the test by taking 5 customer example sites and running them through Uptrends speed tool, using their New York server as this test both load time and Google PageSpeed scores.
We did this once a day for 3 days, testing on both Desktop and Mobile to see how well they performed and you can see the results below:
Even though both of their offers are very similar on paper, when it comes to the result of the testing, the difference between the two platforms is quite considerable!
While Shopify’s performance wasn’t spectacular, it was respectable and is around the same kind of performance that is achieved by much of its competition.
But Bigcommerce has some serious issues when it comes to its hosting setup and has consistently been one of the worst performing platforms in our annual performance testing over the last 3 years and are some way off the competition.
Ease of Use
Facts and figures are one thing but what are these platforms like to use and how do they compare to each other? Well, that is what we are going to be looking at in this section.
Getting signed up to Shopify is really easy to do, all you need to do is go to the Shopify Website and enter an email address and create a password. You will then be asked a couple of questions about what the current position of your business is (start-up, already trading etc) and then be asked to enter your business information.
Once you have completed all of this, you will be taken into the Shopify dashboard for the first time and be greeted by the setup guide. Now while the setup guide isn’t bad, it also isn’t that great either, as there are a few sections missing. This is a little surprising as Shopify is aimed at people who are new to building a website.
They do redeem themselves slightly with their start-up video guide which consists of 27 videos that take you through all the different areas within the Shopify platform and does give you a lot of information.
Outside of the setup guide, the Shopify dashboard is a very nice place to be as the simplistic layout has an almost minimalistic feel to it and doesn’t feel cluttered. The navigation menu is also very easy to use as all of the sections are clearly labeled and it doesn’t take long to get yourself accustomed to where everything is.
As with Shopify, it is very easy to get started with Bigcommerce as you just need an email address and create a password.
Once you have signed up, you will be taken through to your Bigcommerce dashboard and greeted by a very good setup guide, which takes you through many more steps to get your site up and running. There is also a lot of additional information within the dashboard that can help you get started as well.
The Bigcommerce dashboard is very well laid out and the sidebar navigation menu is clearly labeled, which makes navigating your way around the dashboard very easy to do. There is also the added bonus within the dashboard of having the help icon at the button of the navigation menu.
Adding and Managing Stock
Being able to manage your stock efficiently and effectively is a hugely important part of running an online store and there are three main areas to this, which are:
- Adding products
- Organizing your Products
- Managing your inventory
Adding a new product is really easy to do on the Shopify platform. They have gone for a simple, one-page layout that has a nice flow from one section to the next. They haven’t gone overboard with the options and you get the right amount of sections to really help sell your product.
Shopify does things a little differently when it comes to organizing your inventory as they have developed their own collections system and there are a couple of different options on how this can be used.
The easiest way is the manual method, which works very similar to a traditional category-based system but the automatic method takes a little getting used to as it works of rules that you set up using product tags and to get it working effectively, it is worth reading through the documentation.
Managing your inventory is pretty easy to do in Shopify as they have included an inventory section, that allows you to update your stock quantity in bulk but if you want to make changes to the pricing, SKU code or any other field from the product, then you need to select the products you want to edit from the product overview screen and then click the edit product button, which allows you to make updates in bulk.
When it comes to adding a new product, the Bigcommerce setup is one of the better ones out there. The single-page layout has a good number of options you can easily navigate between the sections on the page using the pop-up sidebar. This sidebar makes it really easy to go in and edit your existing products.
Unlike Shopify, Bigcommerce has gone for the tried and tested category method for managing your inventory. You can easily create parent and sub-categories which makes it really easy to organize your stock. Setting up a new category is easy as they use a simplified version of the add product page.
To manage your inventory, Bigcommerce uses a really good system that allows you to quickly make changes to your products and this can be done individually or in bulk. The bulk editor allows you to make a number of changes including title, category, price and inventory on one page, making it a great tool to use if you have a very large product range.
Shopify – Order management is one area where Shopify is a bit lacking as standard, because you cannot print off invoices in bulk from the order overview page, instead this has to be done on an order-by-order basis. But you can update order statuses, collect payments, print packing slips and export your orders via CSV in bulk.
In order to be able to print invoices, you will need to install an app.
Bigcommerce – There are no such issues with the Bigcommerce system, you can choose to manage your orders individually but if you are going to be having lots of sales then you want to take advantage of their bulk features. The bulk feature allows you to print off invoices and packing slips, resend invoices, update order statuses and export orders directly in the order management area.
• Theme Customization
• 24/7 Support
• Easy to use Admin Area
• The App Store
• Very Good Performance
• Transaction Fees
• Automatic Collection system is a bit complicated
• Easy-to-use dashboard
• 24/7 support
• Sell via social media
• Bulk product editor
• Order management system
• Poor Performance
• Theme customization isn’t great
Is Shopify or Bigcommerce the better Ecommerce Platform?
Even though both are very good ecommerce platforms, Shopify just edges this one.
In many ways, there isn’t much to choose between the two, such as:
- Easy-to-use admin areas
- Features & App Stores
- Good inventory management processes
- Good order management setup (with Order Printer app installed on Shopify)
- 24/7 Support
But what gives Shopify the edge over Bigcommerce, is that the customization tools and options are better and give you more control over the look and feel of your site.
Another aspect is the performance as Shopify offers all of its users a fast and reliable hosting environment, whereas Bigcommerce does have some issues when it comes to load speed. This is important, not only because it is a ranking factor but can also impact on user experience.
As both platforms offer a free trial with no credit card needed, it is definitely worth giving them both a try to see which one you prefer.