When embarking on your first business adventure online you will be forced to make a crucial decision: What’s best for my business? A Shopify or a BigCommerce store?
This is not a question to be taken lightly. Most people only do a quick search on the internet and go with the first result they find. However, each platform has its unique strengths and weaknesses and will either give your business a nice traffic boost or hinder your marketing efforts due to some limitation you didn’t anticipate when choosing a home for it.
But first, let’s see why you need an eCommerce platform in the first place.
What Do eCommerce Platforms Do?
In the days of yore, and I mean just a few years ago, building a website required extensive knowledge of programming languages. Even if you only needed a small landing page.
Unless you were a big commercial brand, your websites would look and feel clunky right off the gate. Entrepreneurial individuals with enough drive to dive into coding developed and maintained websites for their businesses with relative ease. However, internet moguls would always outpace them in terms of aesthetics, user experience, ease of use, inventory management, content generation, and search engine optimization.
Platforms are the market’s response to these pains. They are basically website builders that allow users with limited development knowledge to create and customize online stores. ECommerce platforms are easy to use, and they have become the best way to start selling products online in minutes. Just pick the template you want, upload your product pictures, set your prices, and you just got yourself a Shopify or BigCommerce store. That’s an ideal world, and we don’t live in an ideal world, do we?
It is always better to give an eCommerce SEO expert a call when you are ready to take full advantage of your Shopify or BigCommerce store.
What are the advantages of setting up a Shopify or BigCommerce Store?
We already mentioned the ease of use. Technically, you don’t need to know much about website design or development to get your eCommerce store up and running.
They all come with an immense catalog of themes that allow you to effortlessly give your online business a professional feel. Moreover, theme customization is now easier than ever, giving you the freedom to move things around, try different locations for your products or services, and create pages at will.
Additionally, platforms are SEO-friendly. You only need to install a couple of plugins to make sure your content, URL structure, metas, and redirects are all in working order. This reduces the time you would spend learning how to optimize your website for search engines.
Both BigCommerce and Shopify have incredibly easy-to-use checkout processes. One of the stickier points of building an online store is managing payment options, inventory, and shipping (not to mention returns). Both platforms now easily integrate with payment gateways that virtually automate much of the financial aspects of your business.
Finally, they all provide useful metrics that give you a bird’s eye view of how your business is performing. They not only provide information about traffic and sales. You can also see which products are performing better, where your visitors are going once they enter a page, and what part of your website is causing people to stop on their heels before completing their customer journey. This data helps businesses save time and resources by giving them the tools to constantly tweak their stores depending on their marketing strategy.
However, this sounds almost too good to be true. “These automated platforms that do everything for you and allow you to set up a store on autopilot must cost a fortune”, I hear you say.
The good news is that they are pretty affordable. The bad news is that eCommerce platforms are not a set-and-forget solution. There is still plenty of work to do if you want to give your competitors a run for their money. But let’s take a look at the pricing of the two biggest eCommerce platforms today.
BigCommerce vs Shopify: pricing
If you do a side-by-side comparison of the pricing structure of these two platforms trying to find a clear winner, you would be disappointed. The two are apparently identical at first glance.
However, there are plenty of differences between the two.
One of the most glaring differences is on sales limits. BigCommerce imposes a $50k sales cap on their standard plan, a $180k cap on their Plus plan, and a $400k cap on their Pro plan. The only way to get rid of gross merchandise value limits is to hire their custom-priced Enterprise plan.
There are no such limits in Shopify, which gives them a plus here. However, Shopify does impose transaction fees while BigCommerce has a nice and flat 0% transaction fee on all of its plans. There is a way to get around those pesky fees on Shopify, though. If you use their Shopify Payments system, they waive all transaction fees. The problem is you have to live in one of the following countries to qualify for their Shopify Payments program:
Hong Kong SAR
United States of America
If your business is not located in any of the countries listed, you have to use a third-party payment gateway or app for processing your customers´ credit cards. Shopify might be adding more countries to that list as it expands, allowing more people around the world to use their convenient Shopify Payments.
BigCommerce recommends using PayPal as a partner for processing credit cards. PayPal is less region restrictive than Shopify Payments and, all things considered, features fairly similar advantages and fees. In fact, when comparing credit card rates, Shopify Payments has slightly higher rates than BigCommerce (2.4%-2.9% against 2.2%-2.9% respectively). These percentages might not mean much for small businesses. However, for those dealing with high-volume sales, it might leave a pretty noticeable dent in the bottom line.
The importance of aesthetics cannot be overstated. ECommerce platforms came into existence to eliminate the need for web designers and developers to put together a nice-looking and functional website.
With the help of templates, we can instantly have a properly organized homepage that looks professional and clean without the fear of having to learn to code when we feel like moving things around.
Both platforms offer a wide variety of free templates to get you started right away.
BigCommerce used to take the cake here by offering more free templates and more customization options and tools. One frequent quibble among designers and developers was that their templates were too similar to each other. They only had slight differences in color palettes. That apparent lack of diversity is offset by the ease of use of their customization tools, which was deemed superior to how Shopify approached their design process.
However, in 2021 Shopify launched their online store 2.0 and added a ton more features to make our lives even easier. They adopted a modular building approach that eliminated the gap between them and BigCommerce in terms of ease of use, but it is evidently based on their competitor´s most successful features.
Product Categories and Options
The first thing we want to do is upload our product to our store. We want to see how our virtual shelves look, write product descriptions, set prices, and start selling, right?
Both platforms offer pretty intuitive ways to do all that. However, they have slight differences.
Shopify allows you to create categories and populate them in bulk. But they really hit it out of the park with their “Smart” collection feature. It automatically populates your categories with new products according to conditions you set to said category. You can set a condition that says that any product with the tag “dog snack” should be included in the “Pet” category, and forget about manually entering your products. This is a real-time saver for businesses that have hundreds or thousands of products.
BigCommerce does not lack a bulk product upload process, but you still have to place them in the right category or collection. That is not to say that there are no advantages to having a BigCommerce store. For those who sell products with a wide variety of sizes or colors, the platform allows you to create up to 600 product options and varieties, giving a lot of room for combinations. By contrast, Shopify only offers up to 100 combinations.
For those offering products that require user input, we find that BigCommerce is a lot easier to use than Shopify. This is due to Shopify´s requirement of third-party apps to be able to enter custom data (like a line of text or a file). BigCommerce allows you to do this effortlessly without making you learn to code or spend money on third-party applications.
Content Generation Tools
This is where both platforms fall short when compared to others like WordPress or even SquareSpace.
They are eCommerce platforms that focus on selling products and making your life and that of your customers easier. They do not aim to inform or educate people about the products you sell or the latest news in your industry.
This makes it a bit tricky if your business depends on search engines to generate traffic. A comprehensive search engine optimization strategy must include blogging and constant content production to be able to rank.
BigCommerce and Shopify know this, and they have included basic blogging features in their platform. However, for those used to more advanced content management platforms, these features feel pretty bland. For example, they won´t give you access to basic SEO plugins aimed at content optimization. Additionally, BigCommerce lacks RSS feeds which prove vital to syndicate your content to other outlets, thus closing the door to massive link-building opportunities.
Of course, many workarounds allow Shopify and BigCommerce store owners to leverage the power of other CMS such as WordPress, but they require an in-depth knowledge of the platform.
If you´re wondering how to properly optimize your online store, get in touch with one of our eCommerce SEO experts and ask for a free SEO audit of your website.
BigCommerce vs Shopify: Conclusions
As we can see, both platforms are well-balanced and offer very similar value. The fact that they´re constantly trying to outpace each other, incentivizes them to keep improving their platforms and offer increasingly better features.
But, only one platform will get the job done depending on your business model.
Shopify seems better suited for small stores that need to start selling a handful of products in the least amount of time. Their smart categories feature is fantastic for those who plan on growing their catalog. Additionally, they offer a free “abandoned cart saving” tool which is fantastic for generating additional sales.
However, we feel like BigCommerce offers more value for high-volume businesses. Lower credit card fees and more flexibility become more attractive if your plan contemplates long-term growth and scalability. The platform also includes more features like reporting, multi-currency selling, ratings, and reviews. Shopify forces users to purchase third-party apps if they want to expand their tool belt.
Which one is better for you? Let us know in the comments!