BigCommerce Review Highlights
Very comprehensive set of e-commerce tools “out of the box” that packs a huge punch
Grow your sales with minimal effort by leveraging on different social channels
Have an App store which you “bolt on” more advanced tools to take your store to the next level
Powering (as of mid-2015)
There are plenty of BigCommerce reviews and we have our own unique view of why BigCommerce is an e-Commerce store builder that you should consider testing – if you are serious about creating your own online store.
Building a business is by no means a simple task – trust us, we’ve been through our fair share of failures, and successes.
You will feel overwhelmed, stretched in 20 different directions, a never ending to-do list (seems to get longer every day), and wondering where did your personal life go? That happened to us.
What we found is that finding the right tools to leverage on, and automating a lot of day-to-day repeated tasks, will substantially reduce anxiety and free up time so you can focus on other important aspects of your business (and life). BigCommerce is one of those online store builders that have the capability to free up your time.
BigCommerce powers over tens of thousands online stores and has processed over $8 billion in transactions. That shows legitimacy and credibility right off the bat.
Take a look at these online store examples here and you can see what BigCommerce can do for you.
It is serving business owners in over 150 countries, who are operating online stores that range from hundreds of dollars in revenue, all the way to tens of millions of dollars. So if you have a small, medium sized or even a large e-store that sales millions of dollars per year, BigCommerce will work well for you.
In this BigCommerce review, we’ll discuss important considerations you should think about when you decide on how to build your store and some of the key pros and cons of BigCommerce.
We have used different e-commerce platforms over the years. With our store, we wanted something easy to use that had the features we needed. BigCommerce made setting up our store simple with great SEO features and seamless integrations with MailChimp, Facebook, Ebay, PayPal and Google. Consider us very satisfied clients! – Ben & Mary Daniel
Click on the following links to read the specific sections:
4. Ease of Use
BIGCOMMERCE REVIEWS – TOP 3 PROS AND CONS
- BigCommerce gives you a very comprehensive set of e-commerce tools “out of the box” that packs a huge punch. In our view, out of all the other e-commerce builders, BigCommerce offers the most helpful and practical tools that you will actually use – all included as part of their monthly package. From integration with email newsletter tools (auto responders), creating coupons / promotion campaigns, unlimited product variations (e.g. different t-shirt colors and sizes), shipping and tax configurations, secure payment gateway integrations, handling returns, store statistics reporting, social sharing, product wish list, product reviews, etc. They really set you up with a lot of tools you need to help you succeed.
- Bigcommerce helps you grow your sales with minimal effort by leveraging on different social channels. You can set up your store on Facebook and sell there, and the store is fully integrated and synchronized with BigCommerce. You can also integrate your BigCommerce store with eBay, Google Shopping, and a whole range of product comparison sites such as Shopzilla, Bizrate, Beso, Nextag, PriceGrabber, Shopping.com, and MySimon. If you think about it, BigCommerce is basically giving you massive leverage to get your products out in front of prospective customers, so you can increase your chances of generating more sales. All these social channels will be fully integrated with your BigCommerce store, so you get exponentially more exposure to potential customers, without having to do that much work. We haven’t seen any other e-commerce store builders out there with this extensive capability, so we’re impressed.
- Although BigCommerce already provides you with a comprehensive set of tools (more than a lot of its competitors), should you feel that you want more, they have an App store which you “bolt on” more advanced tools to take your store to the next level. These Apps are created by third party developers and include more advanced tools for accounting, shipping, promotion / marketing, order management, live chat, email marketing, analytics, etc. You don’t necessarily need them as BigCommerce’s basic tools are already sufficient, but these Apps are definitely handy when you are ready to scale your business to the next level. These tools help you promote your products more effectively, automate your daily mundane tasks even further, and just gives a lot more firepower without taking up any more of your time. Some of these Apps are free, and some are paid. But they are well worth the payment as they can help grow your business while freeing up your time.
- BigCommerce only offers you 7 free templates, which is quite limited when compared to its competitors such as Shopify (Shopify has 24 free templates). When it comes to premium / paid templates, BigCommerce has 76 at the moment, and they range from $145 – $235 per template. In contrast, Shopify has over 130 premium / paid templates available – more options is usually better. We know that this is something BigCommerce is working on improving, so hopefully they will issue more updated storefront designs soon.
- BigCommerce offers you over 100 free templates, but one of the things we don’t understand is that they don’t actually show you all the templates until you sign up – we found this uncomforting. When choosing the right e-commerce builder, one of the first things we want to understand is what template designs are available. Showing what templates are available is a pretty standard practice for all website builders on the internet. The only way to see any previews or demo sites is to search through BigCommerce’s blog where they do announce new template releases. But this only includes the recent new template releases and not their entire collection. Searching through the blog to look at some of the newer templates is just extra work that we don’t find helpful. [UPDATE – February 2016 You can now see BigCommerce brand new premium themes (both free and paid) here. As mentioned in our point above, BigCommerce released a number of new, mobile friendly themes that can make your online store look updated and very professional.]
- Even though BigCommerce offers support hours beyond the “standard business hours” (such as 9am – 5pm, Monday – Friday), we wished they would offer 24/7 support across the board. Although they offer 24/7 support via email and Live Chat, BigCommerce is yet to offer 24/7 phone support. However, if you really want to be able to call someone, you can always call a phone support number that is not toll-free from the country you are based in. So in a way, BigCommerce always has phone support available given global time zone differences, but if you live in North America and will have to call Australia for support, long distance charges will apply. [UPDATE – August 2014 BigCommerce now offers you 24/7 support across all support channels (including phone, email, live chat. This is a significant improvement and shows that they really do care about providing first class support, so that you know you can find support even at 3am in the morning.]
BIGCOMMERCE NEXT – WHAT IS IT?
BigCommerce recently launched “BigCommerce Next“, which introduced new mobile-friendly designer themes, blogging function (to help get more visitors to your online store and to optimize for Search Engine Optimization), 1-click integration for payment gateways, shipping and Apps, managing your store through your mobile phone, and BigCommerce University which gives you free lessons on how to grow your business and sales.
Here is a short 2-minute overview on how it all ties together to help you grow your business:
BIGCOMMERCE IS IDEAL FOR….
BigCommerce is ideal for you if you want to start an e-commerce store, or if you already operate a brick and mortar store, but want to expand your business by selling your products online.
BigCommerce serves a broad range of industries, such as fashion, electronics, health, gifts, jewelry, sports, homeware, etc. No matter what industry or niche you are selling to, BigCommerce has a comprehensive range of tools to make this an easier process for you and to help you succeed. (See BigCommerce examples across various industries here)
Operating with technology can be difficult at times, and it is not (and should not be) your only focus when running your business. So leveraging the help of e-commerce store builders such as BigCommerce to help you manage the online technology side of things, can allow you to focus on other important parts of your business (such as marketing, product development, customer relationships building, administration, etc).
EASE OF USE
As mentioned above, BigCommerce gives you a comprehensive set of tools to build your online store. As with all new things, you’ll have to invest a few hours to learn the basics and once you do that, you’ll find that it’s not too difficult to get your store up and running.
If you need to add more tools through their App Store (more on this below), each App feature / tool will be fully integrated into your BigCommerce store with just 1-click – very streamlined and simple indeed.
If you run into challenges, you can always reach out to their Client Success team for guidance (Live Chat, Phone, Email support, “BigCommerce University” – more on this below).
BigCommerce gives you the tools to:
- Create unlimited product options (price, weight, image, inventory levels)
- Setup product rules (e.g. adding $5 to larger t-shirts, free shipping for orders over $200, etc)
- Sell non-tangible products such as digital downloads, event tickets, services, etc
- Organize your products into categories (easier for your prospective customers to find what they need)
- Manage and process orders – see which orders are still pending or shipped. Invoices, packing slips. All are managed from the BigCommerce control panel.
- View your entire inventory at a glance
- Manage returns (refunds, replace, offer store credit, etc)
- Accept payments from more than 60 different payment processors in different currencies
- See your best-selling products for the week, month, all time or anywhere in between by revenue or units sold
- Identify and reward your best customers. View top 20 customer lists for any date range by revenue or number of orders.
Using BigCommerce can benefit you by doing a lot of “heavy lifting” work for you, so you can focus on other parts of your business.
TEMPLATE DESIGN OPTIONS
As mentioned in the “Top 3 Pros and Cons” section above, BigCommerce offers you 7 free and 76 paid premium templates for you to dress up your e-commerce store.
Presenting a professional and beautiful looking storefront to your visitors help builds trust and credibility. When’s the last time you stopped browsing a store because it looked confusing, messy and unattractive? We do that all the time. So having a presentable online store is very important in inspiring trust and credibility.
Since 2014, BigCommerce has been moving towards revamping their collection of storefront designs. They’ve introduced updated designs, and their paid templates look pretty good (ranging from $145 to $235 per paid template. Majority of them $170 or $195).
Their designs were quite outdated before, so they’ve come a long way in this regard.
As mentioned above, we feel that BigCommerce needs to introduce more free and premium / paid templates to offer its users more design choices, in order to be competitive with Shopify in this aspect. We understand that it is one of their priorities so hopefully more will be introduced soon.
What you can also consider doing, is explore their marketplace to find qualified design experts who can create a custom design storefront for you. A good designer is not cheap, but well worth it if your business is up and running and you want to take the design to the next level. You probably wouldn’t want to deal with a “cheap” designer anyway.
Another alternative is to hire these expert designers to tweak / modify the free BigCommerce template that you have selected. This is a more cost efficient way forward.
Just note that if you aren’t afraid to dabble a bit in HTML and CSS codes to modify your storefront yourself, BigCommerce allows you the freedom to do so.
BIGCOMMERCE APP STORE – EXTEND YOUR STORE’S FUNCTIONS
As mentioned above, BigCommerce offers you an extensive number of Apps so you can add more functions to your e-commerce store to automate a lot of day-to-day tasks.
These Apps help add more firepower to your sales & marketing initiatives, as well as helping you manage more mundane, administrative tasks such as fulfillment, shipping, inventory management, bookkeeping, etc.
While BigCommerce already provides you with a lot of basic tools as part of their package, these Apps are designed to give you even more advanced features when you are ready to apply these advanced tools.
As discussed above, some Apps are free and some are paid (with trial periods). While these Apps do have monthly fees, they’re well worth it if you need these advanced functions to save yourself time (and pain).
For instance, you can add live chat functions to your site to improve customer service and answer pre-sale questions, add customer review / rating widgets so your visitors can see what people are saying about your products (peer reviews can influence shopping behavior), or automate inventory / fulfillment process so you don’t have to manually process orders and print packing slips all day long.
You can pick and choose which App you want to add to your store. Or if you don’t find certain App necessary or helpful, you don’t have to add it. You have full control over that.
The Apps are here to further add more marketing power to your store, and streamline your business to save you time. They add a lot more functions to your store without taking any more of your time, allowing you to concentrate on other parts of your business or life.
An e-commerce store builder is not complete without mobile features, and BigCommerce does a good job here.
BigCommerce allows you to switch to the mobile theme so your visitors can purchase from your store directly on their mobile phones or tablets.
When you are in BigCommerce’s dashboard, you can see a preview of what your mobile store looks like. Just click into the preview to navigate around your mobile store.
If you know a bit of code, you can even customize certain parts of your mobile store. If you don’t feel comfortable with codes, you can always hire someone to help you get this done.
One disappointing aspect of BigCommerce is that they no longer offer you a mobile app for you to manage your store “on the go”. They used to have a dedicated app where you can operate your store remotely away from your computer, such as track sales, get sales notifications, process order, update products, etc.
It’s a shame that they’ve discontinued it, but let’s hope they introduce another one soon! If this is an important feature for you, Shopify does offer it.
SUPPORT / TUTORIALS / COMMUNITY RESOURCES
BigCommerce Customer Support
BigCommerce offers 24/7 customer support hours to you. You can reach them on the phone, email and Live Chat 24/7.
BigCommerce Tutorial Resources
BigCommerce offers you a comprehensive knowledgebase, video tutorials so you can find a lot of answers in there. They include multiple screenshots so you can follow along to resolve any issues you are experiencing.
They have also set up a BigCommerce University which is completely free and includes a series of lessons for you to watch, covering topics such as how to build your online store, how to attract shoppers (SEO), how to turn shoppers into buyers and how to build brand loyalty. All these lessons are completely free.
If you need further assistance, you can always call, live chat or email their dedicated support team for further help.
BigCommerce Community Forum
BigCommerce has a large community forum where you can post questions and have them answered. You can also find a lot of previously asked questions and their relevant answers.
This forum works well because, in addition to receiving responses from BigCommerce’s support team, other BigCommerce users (real business owners) can also contribute to the discussion. They may share some invaluable tips for you to solve the issues you may have.
HOSTING, SECURITY AND BACKUP OPTIONS
As part of your monthly plan, BigCommerce will host your online shop for you and gives you an unlimited amount of bandwidth. So in theory, if you have 10 million visitors per month, you won’t get charged a penny more than your monthly plan.
The good thing here is that BigCommerce will manage the entire hosting process for you so you can focus on other important parts of your business, such as getting more customers, supporting them or creating more products.
BigCommerce will take care of security upgrades for their servers and perform all the technical details to ensure your website is always up and running, and doesn’t get hacked.
They also provide you with top notch security to ensure that your customer data is always secure. Your online shop will be Level 1 PCI compliant and the shopping cart also includes an SSL certificate to keep you and your customer’s information secure. You can also mention this to your visitors so they know it is safe to purchase from you.
BigCommerce also backs up your data automatically, so you don’t have to worry about losing your store if something crashes.
All these e-commerce hosting benefits are all included in your monthly plan with BigCommerce. This way, you don’t have to mess around with techie things so you can concentrate on growing your business.
PRICING – IS IT WORTH THE INVESTMENT?
If you are looking for a free e-commerce store builder, then BigCommerce isn’t something for you.
But if you are looking for an industry leading, capable and features-packed online store builder that you can leverage on to grow your business, BigCommerce is definitely a candidate for you to consider.
Although BigCommerce does have some flaws (who doesn’t?), overall we do find really tremendous value in the services that they offer – considering the tools you get, the free templates and also extended customer support.
BigCommerce monthly plans range from $29.95 per month (Standard Plan) to $199.95 per month (Pro Plan) to their Enterprise plan (that is if you already have an established online store and has a high volume of transactions, generating over $1 million dollars in annual revenues).
As you progress up the plans, you get more tools available to you. With the Enterprise Plan, a dedicated BigCommerce team will help you with setup, data migration, and of course, you get priority support.
For the Standard and Plus plans, if you purchase an entire year worth of service, you can get a bulk discount of 10%.
One interesting (and at times confusing) aspect of BigCommerce’s pricing plans, is that while you are free to select any one of the plans (the higher the plan, the more tools / features you get), they do require you to upgrade to a higher plan if your store either:
- Exceed certain sales dollars threshold; or
- Exceed certain sales units threshold.
Sales Dollars Threshold
For instance, if you start off with the Standard plan ($29.95 per month), once you exceed $50,000 in sales dollars over the previous 12 months, you will need to upgrade to the Plus plan ($79.95 per month). If you exceed $125,000 in sales dollars over the previous 12 months, you will need to upgrade to their Pro plan ($199.95 per month).
Sales Volume Threshold
If you exceed over 500 sales transactions over the previous 12 months, you will need to upgrade to the Plus plan. If you exceed over 1,000 sales transactions over the previous 12 months, you will need to upgrade to the Pro plan.
For the Pro plan, if you exceed over 2,000 sales transactions over the previous 12 months, the next 1,000 sales transactions will cost you an additional $80 per month. So if you transact an additional 3,000 sales above and beyond the 2,000 order cap threshold, you will need to pay another $240 ($80 x 3) per month.
So it actually doesn’t take too much for you to be required to upgrade to the Plus plan. 500 sales transactions per year are roughly equivalent to processing 1.4 transactions per day. That’s not a whole lot if you think about it.
Even at 1,000 sales transactions per 12 months, that’s equivalent to processing 2.7 transactions per day. So if you operate a moderately successful online store, you might find yourself having to be enrolled in their Plus plan pretty quickly.
Even though BigCommerce does not charge you any transaction fees (which is not uncommon for other hosted ecommerce builders) , if you operate a high sales volume business, but your product prices are not high, the monthly fees can eat into your profit margin pretty significantly.
For example, let’s say your average price per product is $15, and you sell 6 units per day (assuming 1 unit per transaction). That’s 2,190 transactions per year, and will earn you $32,850 in sales, or $2,738 per month (this does not factor in your costs yet).
While $32,850, you can remain on the Basic plan ($29.95 per month) as it is below the $50,000 sales threshold, the fact that you are processing over 2,000 transactions per year means you have to enroll in the Pro plan ($199.95 per month).
At $2,738 sales dollars per month, the Pro plan monthly fees can really eat into your profit margin.
This is just something you should take into consideration – if your product prices are lower and your sales volume is higher, BigCommerce’s monthly fees can add up quite quickly for you.
If you operate a lower price, higher sales volume type of store, I’d suggest you take a look at Shopify. Shopify does charge a transaction fee per order, but if you use their Shopify Payments feature to handle your payment processing, there will no transaction fees. You can process thousands of orders while remaining at their lower plans (such as their “Basic Shopify” plan at $29 per month).
Further, keep in mind that you still need to pay a payment processing fee, which your payment processing provider (such as PayPal, Stripe, Authorize.net, etc) charges you every time you accept a payment. There is no way around this as it is a standard cost to enable your customers to pay you through Visa, Mastercard, etc.
One noted e-commerce feature that you get when you upgrade to the Plus or higher plans is that the “Abandoned Cart Saver” tool will be made available for you. This tool is a must-have.
It basically automatically emails your visitors who have entered their email addresses in the checkout cart (demonstrating they have an intent to purchase) but didn’t complete the purchase for whatever reason (maybe they got distracted by a phone call, or had to deal with kids).
Statistically, this tool can recover “lost” revenue by an average of 15% – meaning that it will increase your revenue by an average of 15%! Think about it this way – If your revenue was $1,000 per month, using this tool, it can be $1,150. If your revenue was $10,000, this tool can make you an additional $1,500!! This tool is included in the Plus, Pro and Enterprise plans (it’s a must have!)
BIGCOMMERCE REVIEWS – CONCLUSION / RECOMMENDATION
Overall, BigCommerce is a very strong and reputable online store builder. We are specifically impressed with 3 things:
1) A broad range of helpful, practical e-commerce features and tools that can help you lay a foundation for success. They provide you with more tools as part of their package than their competitors.
2) They integrate many social channels (such as Facebook Store, eBay, Google Shopping, PriceGrabber, Nextag, etc) so you can extend your business reach outside of your website. All your products are automatically synchronized so you are effectively promoting your products a lot further than just your storefront. This is a very easy way of exposing your products to a lot more people, while not taking up very much of your time.
3) BigCommerce Apps – to add more / extend functionality to your online shop as you grow your business
In addition to that, they are continuously introducing beautiful, professional and mobile friendly templates so that your online store can look good and sell more. If you want to take your design to the next level, you can also hire qualified, professional designers, developers, and other independent BigCommerce services provider to help you grow your store.
You might not need this service right away, but know that when you reach a point where you are ready to scale your business, these services providers (and Apps as mentioned above) will help you along your way.
Don’t forget that BigCommerce also offers its users 24/7 technical support, through the phone, email, social media or live chat. This means that if you run into issues with your online store, even at 3am in the morning, you will be able to reach BigCommerce’s support team.
BigCommerce offers you a risk-free 15-days trial to see for yourself if they fit your needs. So there is no financial risk to you to try them out.
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