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BigCommerce vs Shopify: Which is the best ecommerce solution?

We compare two of the biggest and best ecommerce-focused website builders. Which one is best for your online store?

Business is going well and you’re looking to upgrade your small online store to help cope with growing demand. You need something to help present your product in the best possible light, but also give you a comprehensive set of back end tools to deal with inventory, customers and marketing. Say hello to BigCommerce and Shopify.

Both are closely matched, so in this article we’ll answer the question of which one will be best for your needs. To help you make that crucial decision, we’ve evaluated both products across three core categories – price, features and ease of use – and compared what each has to offer.

With both being so closely matched, you might need a little more insight and information before you make a final buying decision. 

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BigCommerce vs Shopify: Pricing

BigCommerce and Shopify occupy a similar space, both having a strong focus on ecommerce. Their plans follow a similar pattern as well, offering entry level, mid-range and top-of-the-range options.

Standard is BigCommerce’s Essentials entry plan and is competitively priced at $30/mth, its mid-range Plus plan is $80/mth, while its top end Pro plan comes in at pocket-busting $300/mth. All these prices include a 25% discount for an annual upfront payment, so you’ll be paying quite a lot more on a monthly rolling contract – it adds around $100/mth to the cost of the Pro plan, for example.

Unlike a lot of other ecommerce-focused website builders, BigCommerce doesn’t charge higher transaction fees on the lower-end plans and doesn’t limit products, storage, bandwidth or staff accounts on any of the plans. So how does it differentiate between packages? It comes down to features. The Plus plan provides the option to segment customer groups and comes with support for persistent shopping carts, stored credit cards and an abandoned cart saver feature. The Pro plan adds in advanced product filtering tools to help customers track down the perfect product. Finally, the only other restriction is based on sales. The Standard plan allows sales up to $50,000, Plus $180,000 and Pro $400,000. If your site sales cross the limit you’re automatically moved to the next plan.

Shopify kicks off at £25/pm for the Basic plan, which offers everything you need to build a store and manage your inventory and transactions. You get basic reporting features and support for two staff accounts, but you also get the highest rates for Shopify payments with credit card fees of 2% plus 25p for each online transaction.

The mid-range Shopify plan will set you back £65/mth but you get access to professional reporting features, five staff accounts and a reduced rate on credit card fees of 1.7% + 25p. The top-of-the-range Advanced plan goes one step further and adds a custom report builder and up to 15 staff accounts for £344. You can get a 10% discount if you pay for a year up front. 

There’s a simplified, mobile-focused online store for £5/mth for selling products directly through social media. This is ideal if your sales focus is social media.

Winner: BigCommerce

While BigCommerce and Shopify adopt similar pricing plans, BigCommerce is slightly cheaper at the lower end and considerably cheaper at the top end. Plus, BigCommerce doesn’t limit storage, bandwidth or staff accounts and doesn’t charge for additional transaction fees.

BigCommerce vs Shopify: Features

BigCommerce is not a general website builder, it’s built for ecommerce – and high-end ecommerce at that. So it comes as no surprise that its product and inventory management features are extremely comprehensive. Its tools for organising, tagging and filtering products are impressive, but overkill for fewer than 100 products. There are good tools for managing discounts and sales; bulk buy discounts and shipping; and marketing emails and campaigns. Not to mention managing customers and grouping them, so that you can aim specific offers at specific groups. These are supported by useful customer and store analytics and reports.

Elsewhere, BigCommerce recommends PayPal as a payment solution, but it also works with Stripe, Barclaycard, Amazon, Apple and Google Pay and other third-party providers. There is a basic blogging tool that allows you to add static content as a web page using the spartan, text-based WYSIWYG editor or by cutting and pasting your own raw HTML. On the design front we liked how BigCommerce handles design across desktop, mobile and tablet screens, and the ability to flick between them and get an instant preview.

Like BigCommerce, Shopify is also squarely focused on ecommerce and its comprehensive feature set reflects this. You can track customers and sales and view visitor analytics to see how they’re navigating your site. There’s a tool to create discount codes and promotions which ties in nicely with the option to produce marketing emails. And you can automate marketing campaigns and track them to see how successful they are.

Shopify provides some useful integrations, which are often automatically suggested if you’re building a specific store type. Printify – an online store selling custom products – is a suggestion if you’re building an art prints online store, for example. Useful, but also annoying if it’s not what you really want.

Social media integration with Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitch and Twitter are all accessible through Shopify apps, but they’re not as well developed as some other website builders we’ve seen.

Winner: Draw

BigCommerce and Shopify are strongly focused on ecommerce and both have a comprehensive set of tools to deal with inventory and customers. Shopify just nudges ahead for smaller stores, but not enough to make it a winner in this section. Both have adequate, albeit rather limited, design tools for creating good-looking storefronts. Again, Shopify narrowly edges ahead here, but both have their pros and cons – there’s no clear overall winner.

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BigCommerce vs Shopify: Ease of use

BigCommerce Essentials isn’t as intuitive as it could be: it concentrates on consistency and functionality rather than flexibility and creative control. Content often needs to be changed at the back end rather than edited at the storefront, which can be frustrating. If you’re looking for a drag-and-drop approach to design, you’re going to be disappointed.

However, this can change from theme to theme or template to template. The selection of free options isn’t huge, and you’ll need to pay between $195 and $300 a year for better themes. These are customisable to a certain degree in that you can add product selections, text sections, galleries and more widgets where there are spaces provided, and connect to social media accounts and feeds.

This isn’t an approach that will work for everyone, but on the plus side it does help ensure that you’ll finish up with a professional-looking storefront where everything is in the right place, even if it is a little generic. Simply put, this is a tool for building sites that sell more than creative expression. This is ably demonstrated by BigCommerce’s approach to adding products. Unless you take the time to get your product options, categories, brands and SKUs sorted first, it’s not going to be easy. On the plus side, you can speed things up by importing existing SKU inventories from a .CSV file.

Shopify is a little more flexible on the build front, being focused on creating page elements that showcase your products, and looking to drive customers towards them. The premise of Shopify is more about customising a template than building a website, and while there are a few attractive free themes, you’ll need to shell out for paid themes to produce less generic results.

While there’s more flexibility than BigCommerce, Shopify has a few limitations. One example is fonts. You can set globally for consistency, but on an individual level you’re restricted to bold, italic or list styles, while sizes are only available in small, medium and large. It’s also not always clear how to customise certain features. But adding and categorising products is easy, and you can tag them and add them to collections without leaving the screen you’re on. Elsewhere, there’s a basic but easy-to-use blogging feature.

While Shopify may be lacking in some areas, it does have an effective ecosystem of add-ons that can add missing features.

Winner: Shopify

While details are important, you still want to be able to build storefronts without having to thumb through a manual. While neither BigCommerce nor Shopify are as intuitive as they could be, Shopify makes the process of creating and managing a storefront a little easier to learn.

BigCommerce vs Shopify: Verdict

Winner: BigCommerce

BigCommerce and Shopify are serious ecommerce solutions for serious storefronts and are overkill for smaller stores. Both solutions provide the tools for large online stores to work effectively and efficiently, and the quality of the tools on offer means that it’s difficult to choose between the two. Shopify is slightly better at building store fronts, but ultimately BigCommerce just edges it thanks to its slightly cheaper plans, no additional transaction fees and unlimited storage and bandwidth.

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