BigCommerce vs. Shopify: The Ultimate Platform Comparison

Shelley Kilpatrick

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December 14, 2020

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Ecommerce growth is accelerating at an unprecedented rate. In fact, eMarketer readjusted its forecast to show that U.S. ecommerce sales will reach $794.50 billion this year, up 32.4% year-over-year.

For brands looking to break into D2C ecommerce, there has never been a better time to launch your online store. But first thing’s first, before you can start selling online, you’ll need an ecommerce platform (aka a website builder).

If you’ve been researching your options, you’ve probably come across BigCommerce and Shopify at some point. Both are very popular. However, there are some key differences between the two.

In this blog, we’ll review each platform at a high level. Then, we’ll dive deeper into some specific areas, such as pricing, themes, platform functionality and multichannel capabilities, so you can make the best decision for your needs.

Overview: BigCommerce and Shopify 

Both BigCommerce and Shopify are software-as-a-service (SaaS) ecommerce platforms. This means that they handle your hosting, security and updates—which is a nice cost-saving advantage for small businesses that don’t have the resources to hire a team of developers. 

BigCommerce: Open SaaS for Flexible Ecommerce

Founded in 2009, BigCommerce is a flexible, open SaaS ecommerce platform that empowers merchants of all sizes—from small online boutiques to leading enterprise B2B brands—to build, innovate and grow their businesses online.

Stand-out features include:

  • Robust out-of-the-box features included with every plan
  • Support for over 55 payment gateways with no additional transaction fees 
  • Extensive SEO capabilities, such as fully customizable URLs
  • A drag-and-drop visual editor that doesn’t require any coding knowledge

If you’re looking to scale your business for long-term success, BigCommerce is an excellent choice.

Shopify: An All-in-One Ecommerce Platform

Since its launch in 2006, Shopify has become one of the most popular ecommerce platforms on the market, specializing in getting small businesses up and running quickly. 

Stand-out features include:

  • Impressive collection of professional themes
  • An easy-to-navigate Help Center
  • Integration with its own Point of Sale (POS) system
  • Large app store to extend the platforms capabilities

For small businesses that want to get online for the first time, Shopify is a great option.

BigCommerce vs. Shopify: Plans and Pricing

Of course one of the top questions that sellers often want answered is around price, so let’s address that upfront. 

BigCommerce: Affordable Pricing, Simplified

There are four plans available for BigCommerce merchants:

  • Standard: $29.95 per month
  • Plus: $79.95 per month
  • Pro: $299.95 per month  
  • Enterprise: Custom pricing based on your needs

Each plan gives you access to the native functionality you’ll need to achieve your sales goals. And because your plan is determined by your yearly online sales, it’s easy to estimate your ecommerce software costs and plan your budget accordingly.

Shopify: Affordable, If You Don’t Mind Transaction Fees 

Similarly, Shopify offers multiple plans:

  • Basic Shopify: $29 per month
  • Shopify: $79 per month
  • Advanced Shopify: $299 per month
  • Shopify Plus: Pricing based on a percentage of your revenue with a minimum of $2,000 a month

Shopify also offers Shopify Lite for $9 a month if you’re simply looking to add a “Buy” button to an existing content site or blog.

However, unlike BigCommerce, Shopify plans are based on the features. So before you can create a realistic budget, you’ll need to have a good understanding of all the features you need to build your store.

Furthermore, Shopify has its own Payment gateway, Shopify Payments. If you don’t want to use Shopify Payments (or you can’t because you sell a high-risk product), Shopify will charge you additional transaction fees of up to 2% of each sale.

BigCommerce vs. Shopify: Themes 

Themes are your store's first impression and can set the tone for the entire customer experience. Fortunately, both BigCommerce and Shopify offer multiple mobile responsive themes that are easy to work with.

BigCommerce: Easily Customize Your Store’s Look and Feel  

BigCommerce provides merchants with a broad selection of professionally designed themes—including several free options.

Plus, you can easily make changes to your theme with BigCommerce’s drag-and-drop visual editor, PageBuilder. It’s great for making fast adjustments to fonts, colors and layout. And it’s easy for anyone to use, even if you’ve never touched a website before. 

But if you do want to edit your theme’s code, you can use BigCommerce's theme engine, Stencil. It allows you to make changes to every section of your site, including the checkout page.

Shopify: Many Themes, but Tougher to Edit the Code 

One of the things merchants love most about Shopify is the number of themes available. You’ll actually find more themes on Shopify than you will on BigCommerce, and when it comes to making changes to personalize your store, Shopify’s theme editor is easy to use and very intuitive. 

However, some Shopify themes require third-party apps to achieve the same functionality that BigCommerce themes include natively, such as Google AMP, which creates fast-loading content for easy viewing on any mobile device.

Also, if you want to work within your theme’s code, you’ll need to understand HTML and CSS, as well as Shopify’s templating language, Liquid.

BigCommerce vs. Shopify: Functionality 

When setting up your online store, it’s essential to make sure the platform you choose has the functionality you need to create an amazing experience for your customers. 

BigCommerce: Many Built-in Features  

BigCommerce offers scores of features natively within its platform to help you start selling online. Additionally, BigCommerce offers even more functionality designed to support your business’ growth and create personalized experiences for your customers.

Some examples include:

  • Building a large catalog of products with up to 600 SKUs per product with 250 options 
  • Optimizing your site’s SEO with customizable URLs and bulk imports of 301 redirects
  • Using custom fields to include additional information about your products to help customers make a decision
  • Giving your customers the option to create a wishlist to remember what products they're interested in
  • Offering customers the option for gift wrapping options or shipping to multiple addresses
  • Building your business to sell digital and downloadable products
  • Creating user-friendly navigation with breadcrumbs and a category/subcategory structure

This makes it simple to create a great website experience without becoming overwhelmed with additional software you’ll need to manage. Of course, if you ever do want to extend the functionality with an app, BigCommerce works with hundreds of best-in-breed agency and technology partners.

Shopify: Over Reliance on Third-Party Apps

Shopify provides merchants with the fundamental features they’ll need to launch an ecommerce store, such as:

  • A SSL to ensure safe browsing for customers
  • Ability to create basic discount codes and manual orders
  • Unlimited storage and bandwidth 
  • Abandoned cart saver emails
  • 100 variants and 3 options per product (size, color and style)
  • Credit card processing

However, Shopify relies heavily on third-party apps to extend its capabilities. For instance, to do many of the things listed above on Shopify that BigCommerce can do, you’ll need an app.

In total, to achieve the same out-of-the-box functionality as BigCommerce, you’re looking at spending roughly $5,800 – $30,000+ per year in app subscription costs.

BigCommerce vs. Shopify: Multichannel Sales

Of course, we can’t talk about functionality without also addressing multichannel sales — since selling marketplaces like Amazon and eBay can dramatically increase your sales. 

BigCommerce: Sell on Social Media and Popular Marketplaces

BigCommerce’s Channel Manager enables you to sell on multiple social media platforms, as well as marketplaces: 

  • eBay
  • Amazon
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest 
  • Google Shopping
  • Anywhere you can add HTML with buy buttons

To make selling on marketplaces even easier, you can integrate Zentail’s operations platform into BigCommerce and take advantage of AI-automation and features like  Listing Splits, which let you move products in and out of variation listings depending on the channel. (Zentail also works with Shopify.)

Shopify: Multichannel Sales Options, and a POS App

Shopify merchants can also sell their products on several channels:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Amazon
  • Messenger
  • Buy buttons that connect with Shopify

The biggest difference is that to sell on Google Shopping, once again, you’ll need to download an app. And keep in mind that not all Shopify apps are plug-and-play. For instance, many merchants were caught off guard when they released they needed to get approval before they could sell on Walmart’s Marketplace.

Still, for merchants with brick-and-mortar stores, Shopify makes it easy to connect with your ecommerce store through its proprietary point of sale (POS) system.

Shopify Customers Who Have Migrated to BigCommerce

While Shopify might be right for some businesses, it doesn’t work for everyone. Here’s why these retailers made the switch to BigCommerce. 

DressUp

screenshot of DressUp's BigCommerce site

After experiencing rapid growth, DressUp, a women’s clothing boutique dedicated to offering new, on-trend styles at an affordable price, knew they needed a new ecommerce platform to support its online store.

“When we took our business online, Shopify was the first major platform we used. It did what we needed, but it required numerous apps to make things happen. If we wanted to do something new or different on our site, we had to add an app. We had up to 70 apps running on our site at one time. Interestingly enough, our site speed was good," said Derrick Case, DressUp CEO.

After making the switch from Shopify to BigCommerce, DressUp was able to increase the share of online revenue to 29% while eliminating the need to run multiple apps in the background.

Veppo Vape Shop

screenshot of Veppo Vape Shop's BigCommerce site

When Veppo Vape Shop made the move from BigCommerce to Shopify, they quickly experienced challenges modifying orders and accurately accounting for inventory, which ultimately led to a decline in customer satisfaction. Not exactly what they were hoping for when they originally made the switch, thinking Shopify would be easier to use.

Once Veppo Vape Shop moved back to BigCommerce, they were able to increase company efficiency and customer satisfaction thanks to the built-in features, such as bulk pricing, and heavy customizations to checkout that enabled a more seamless process for subscription orders.

Should You Use BigCommerce or Shopify? 

BigCommerce is a platform that scales with you, making it great for any size business. Additionally, the platform’s extensive native functionality saves you money and time since you’re not managing so many third-party applications. Plus, BigCommerce provides its customers with 24/7 customer service. 

On the other hand, Shopify is a good option for small ecommerce businesses that don’t need very many features and just want to launch an online store quickly. But, if you are looking for more features, Shopify Plus is an option for larger businesses.

No one can deny that Shopify offers one of the most easy-to-use ecommerce platforms on the market. However, the reliance on third-party apps makes it difficult to grow your business over time with Shopify. You can additionally get stuck paying extra fees if you don’t use Shopify’s payment provider.

At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is that you have to choose what’s right for you. Evaluate your options and keep in mind what you need now, and how you expect to grow over time.

Interested in launching an ecommerce site with BigCommerce? Request a demo today! BigCommerce is also an official partner of Zentail.

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