Which Ecommerce Platform Is Better for You?
There’s no denying that BigCommerce and Shopify have both earned their places at the top of the ecommerce pack. But once you’ve narrowed it down to these powerful platforms, it can be hard to tell which will be the best fit for your online store.
That’s why we’ve conducted extensive research on both platforms, testing each one ourselves, and getting groups of everyday people to test them, too. Not only that, we analyzed, examined, and compared the ins and outs of BigCommerce and Shopify’s sales features, designs, customer support, price plans, and more.
Before we get into the ultimate ecommerce showdown, here’s a quick summary of each platform:
When it comes to ecommerce website builders, the recurring monthly cost of a plan is the most important factor for your budget. That said, there will also be additional costs like credit card fees and transaction fees. We’re going to cover monthly plan prices first, and then explain the additional costs you’ll encounter with Shopify vs BigCommerce.
Shopify vs BigCommerce Pricing Summary
Both BigCommerce and Shopify offer three pricing plans. BigCommerce’s plans range from $29.95/month to $299.95/month. Shopify’s plans range from $29/month to $299/month. Both platforms offer discounts up to 10% if you pay annually instead of monthly.
Shopify also offers a $9/month Lite option, but this doesn’t actually provide an online store. Instead, it simply allows you to embed a Shopify button (think PayPal’s “Buy Now” button) to add a shopping cart to an existing website.
So, back to the online store plans – let’s break those ranges down:
(For very large businesses, BigCommerce and Shopify also offer pricier, more tailored solutions – BigCommerce Enterprise and Shopify Plus – that we’ll discuss later on).
Save up to 20% on your Shopify plan
Save 10% on your subscription when you sign up for one year, and save 20% when you sign up for two years!
That means, with 20% off, you’ll save almost $200 pear year on the Shopify plan.
On the surface, these prices don’t seem very different at all. But that changes when additional costs come into play.
Transaction fees are the percentage of revenue that a website builder takes from each sale you make. You’ll be happy to know that BigCommerce has no transaction fees on any of its plans. Shopify, on the other hand, charges between 2% and 0.5%, depending on the pricing plan you choose. The only way to avoid Shopify’s transaction fees is to use Shopify Payments (as opposed to third-party payment processors like PayPal).
Credit Card Fees
While transaction fees are between you and your ecommerce platform, credit card fees are what you pay to the third party payment processor that you use when you make sales. There are tons of payment processors to choose from – BigCommerce offers over 65 integrations, while Shopify offers over 100.
You can get special rates on some of the payment processors that come recommended by Shopify or BigCommerce. Shopify recommends its in-house Shopify Payments option, and BigCommerce recommends the ever-popular PayPal – both of which charge fees of 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction.
Which Has Better Value for Money?
Both BigCommerce and Shopify offer free trials, BigCommerce for 15 days and Shopify for 14 days. It’s also safe to say that these platforms don’t have major price differences – but it’s all about what tools and features you actually get for the price you pay.
BigCommerce depends less on third-party apps than Shopify, meaning more tools will come included in the cost of your BigCommerce store. For example, BigCommerce comes with a built-in drag-and-drop website editor that lets you move and insert content elements directly onto any page.
Shopify lets you drag-and-drop elements onto your homepage, but to get that same level of hands-on control for every other page, you’d have to install a separate app like Buildify for an additional $12.99/month.
Shopify vs BigCommerce Verdict: Pricing
BigCommerce offers better value for money than Shopify. Both platforms offer similar prices, but BigCommerce has a better selection of built-in tools and a complete lack of transaction fees that make it the clear winner.
- Read our BigCommerce Pricing Review for more information on BigCommerce’s pricing plans
- Read our Shopify Pricing Plans Review for a full breakdown of Shopify’s plans
- Not sure which Shopify plan is right for you? Check out our Shopify Basic vs Professional Plan Review to find out which you should choose
- Interested in Shopify Plus? Why not read our Shopify Plus Review to find out if it’s the smart choice for your business
First, the basics: Both BigCommerce and Shopify use a straightforward content management system, complete with a modern dashboard and a straightforward website editor.
Both the BigCommerce (left) and Shopify (right) dashboards are simply formatted and full of helpful tools and pointers.
That said, users find Shopify 21% easier to use than BigCommerce. Because BigCommerce’s features are more scalable, they’re also less suited for beginners. Meanwhile, Shopify is a less powerful platform, but you won’t be left to your own devices. Here’s what one Shopify user had to say:
“I really liked how you supplied the information and the products you want to display, and then within this method Shopify more or less just created a website for you.”
With Shopify, adding products is as simple as filling out a quick form for each item. And there are plenty of pointers along the way, like this useful sales tip about comparing prices:
BigCommerce, on the other hand, offers more powerful sales features that require a bit more of a learning curve:
See that “Product Information” menu on the left? There are a lot more factors to worry about here, but if you’re willing to put in the time, then customers will appreciate the categorizations and info available from your BigCommerce store. As one BigCommerce user explained:
“It was tricky, but the platform was a much more powerful system, so challenges are more likely.”
Plus, BigCommerce has made some recent improvements to its ease of use. BigCommerce’s drag-and-drop builder actually outdoes Shopify in terms of design flexibility, and all you have to do is select a page element you like and insert it wherever you want it to go.
Shopify, meanwhile, doesn’t offer the same hands-on editing experience as BigCommerce. With Shopify, you can switch the order of page elements from a list, but you can’t actually drag and drop an element wherever you want it on a page.
News Alert: BigCommerce Named a “Strong Performer” in the Ecommerce Space
BigCommerce has been named a Strong Performer by Forrester Research in two recently released reports, one on B2B commerce suites and one on B2C commerce suites. Both reports cite feedback from BigCommerce customers regarding their experience using the platform.
These Forrester reports evaluate and score the most significant commerce suites, in order to guide digital businesses in selecting the right technology for their needs. The B2B report found that BigCommerce customers “like the culture and responsiveness of the support experience,” while the B2C report explains that “customers appreciate how BigCommerce integrates partner-provided services to unify them within the business user interface.”
Shopify vs BigCommerce Verdict: Ease of Use
Shopify is easier to operate than BigCommerce, making it the top choice for beginners. BigCommerce is more powerful, but it’s a harder platform to master – although its drag-and-drop builder is definitely giving Shopify a run for this title.
- Read our Shopify Review for more detail on this ecommerce builder and find out if it’s right for you
- Check out our BigCommerce Review to find out more about this platform’s ease of use, features, and more
- See more ecommerce builders in our Best Ecommerce Builders Comparison Chart and find the best one for you
- Have a look at our interactive article on the Best Ecommerce Platforms if you prefer a long-form comparison
Because of BigCommerce’s drag-and-drop editor, its free themes are easier to edit and customize than Shopify’s. However, Shopify’s free themes are less uniform to begin with, so you won’t have to tweak as much anyway.
Free themes are a great way for new businesses to cut costs while starting out. But most mid to large-sized online stores will quickly outgrow these basic styles and need to upgrade to a paid theme that better reflects their brand.
Shopify offers over 60 paid themes ranging from a one-time payment of $140 to $180. Specific themes are available for every industry, from food and drink to home and garden. You can also search by number of products, layout style, navigation menu styles, and more.
Most themes come with two or three different color and style options to choose from. Take the Ira theme for furniture stores, for example:
You won’t be limited to these prepackaged styles, either – Shopify’s themes are easy to personalize even further, and you can switch your theme at any time.
Similarly, BigCommerce offers over 140 paid themes for a one-time payment of $150 – $300, which you can browse by industry, catalog size, layout, and more. Like Shopify, each theme comes in a few different style palettes.
While it’s true that BigCommerce offers more than double the amount of themes as Shopify, note that some of BigCommerce’s themes are just slight variations of the same “family.” Take the Geneva template family, for example:
These are all different variations of the same layout, but they’re listed as four separate templates. So in reality, BigCommerce offers about the same amount of template styles as Shopify.
Shopify vs BigCommerce Verdict: Design
Shopify’s designs are more unique than BigCommerce’s – but BigCommerce still allows for an impressive amount of customization if you’re willing to do it yourself.
Shopify was number one in our research for its sales features. BigCommerce wasn’t far behind in second place. First things first – both Shopify and BigCommerce offer essential features as standard, such as:
- Basic shipping tools – Set shipping locations, amend rates based on weight or order value, and print your own shipping labels
- An SSL certificate – Standing for Secure Sockets Layer, this certificate protects your store and validates it as a safe place to process online payments
- Multichannel selling – Sell across multiple platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest
But these are all to be expected from two massive ecommerce platforms. So, what sets BigCommerce and Shopify apart?
BigCommerce: Best for Built-In Features
BigCommerce has an incredible amount of sales features already built-in to your store from the get-go. Its app store is much smaller than Shopify’s, but that’s because you won’t need to go to the trouble of downloading a ton of apps to add functionality to your BigCommerce store. One of our everyday users put it best:
“It was great knowing that I didn’t have to go looking for a third party to support me with certain features or apps. It shows that this platform just has its house in order, that they don’t have to outsource a central feature to work properly.”
These are some of the most useful features that come built-in with BigCommerce, that Shopify only offers through separate apps:
- Ratings and reviews – Allow customers to provide product reviews directly onsite
- Real-time shipping quotes from third party carriers – Give customers the most accurate shipping information available
- Unlimited staff accounts – Grant access to you site admin to as many staff members as you need
There are other features that do come built-in with both BigCommerce and Shopify, but are more advanced with BigCommerce. For example, platforms let you offer different variations of the same product, such as a sweater in multiple colors and sizes. But while Shopify only offers 100 variants per product based on three options (for example size, color, and material), BigCommerce offers 600 variants per product.
Shopify: Best for Customizable Features
To get a similar amount of features for a Shopify store, you’ll need to make good use of Shopify’s app store.
Adding features with Shopify requires more effort than BigCommerce. However, Shopify’s app store is considerably larger than BigCommerce’s app store – so not only will you have plenty of useful tools at your disposal, you can also be much pickier about the tools you decide to include on your site, whether it’s curbside pickup options or personalized appointment booking forms.
Just keep in mind that, while some of these plugins are free, many of them cost an extra fee that won’t be included in the monthly cost of a Shopify plan. Paid Shopify apps typically cost between $0 and $200+ dollars per month, and that huge price proves that there are best-fit apps available for every type of ecommerce store.
Shopify vs BigCommerce Verdict: Sales Features
It’s a tie! Shopify’s sales features are more customizable, but BigCommerce includes more useful features right off the bat. Both offer all of the features an online store will need!
- Interested in Shopify’s in-house payment gateway? Read our Shopify Payments Review to learn more
- Read our Shopify Point of Sale (POS) System Review for details on managing your online and offline sales with Shopify
To repeat, BigCommerce has more built-in features than Shopify, but Shopify has more options available in its app store. So, what does each platform have to offer in terms of marketing tools?
Marketing Features: BigCommerce
Every BigCommerce plan includes the following:
- Ability to create discount codes for shoppers to use
- Automatic sitemaps and customizable URLs, title tags, and metadata for best SEO practice
- One-click Google Shopping integration
- Professional reporting tools
BigCommerce’s more advanced plans also come with segmentation tools to help you personalize your customers’ shopping experience, as well as the ability to send automated abandoned cart recovery emails to customers who have abandoned their shopping cart at checkout.
Marketing Features: Shopify
Every Shopify plan comes with:
- Ability to create discount codes and gift cards
- Automatic sitemaps and customizable URLs and headers
- Analytics for product performance and finance summaries
Shopify’s basic plan offers great insights into product performance – you can understand how specific products have been selling over time – but it doesn’t come with all of the analytics that you might want. For example, you’ll have to upgrade to a more advanced Shopify plan to gain access to sales and profit reports.
Shopify vs BigCommerce Verdict: Marketing Features
This one is also a draw. As powerful ecommerce platforms, both Shopify and BigCommerce know the importance of marketing for online stores, and they both provide great tools to help get your site noticed.
For enterprise-level ecommerce, both Shopify and BigCommerce offer custom plans to equip your store with advanced tools and support. Shopify Plus and BigCommerce Enterprise are available to help large businesses maximize their potential online.
Both plans are based on bespoke quotes adjusted to your yearly revenue. Shopify Plus will charge a minimum of $2,000 per month, while BigCommerce Enterprise quotes are usually priced somewhere between $500 and $15,000 per month.
BigCommerce Enterprise has a much wider range of built-in tools than Shopify Plus, which relies on its app market for most of its customization. Because powerful apps often come at a considerable price, large businesses could end up saving as much as $30,000 per year in app subscription costs by using BigCommerce instead of Shopify.
BigCommerce Enterprise can also handle hundreds of API calls per second, while Shopify Plus has a limit of 10 calls per second. This means you’ll be able to sync your product catalogues far more quickly with BigCommerce.
Shopify vs BigCommerce Verdict: Enterprise Ecommerce
BigCommerce is better for very large stores. Both platforms offer tailored, powerful solutions, but BigCommerce is equipped to handle large inventories with more built-in tools.
Shopify vs BigCommerce: Support
Whether you choose Shopify or BigCommerce, you’ll have access to the following:
- 24/7 phone support
- 24/7 live chat support
- Help center
- Community forum
- Email support
- Video tutorials
24/7 phone and live chat support are the standout tools here, but useful knowledge centers make a difference, too. BigCommerce’s help center is full of useful information. But what we really liked about Shopify is that there are helpful prompts throughout its website dashboard that link directly to a relevant page within the Shopify knowledge center. This is a great feature for those looking to learn more on their own time. As one of our users put it:
“The help and support knowledge center was really great. By following the guidance, I was able to identify straight away how to add in a product review section. Well done shopify for your attention to detail.”
For both platforms, upgrading to the highest plan also unlocks priority support. For Shopify, this means gaining access to a dedicated support agent on the Shopify Plus plan. With BigCommerce, you’ll get an onboarding consultant as part of the BigCommerce Enterprise plan, and receive priority treatment when requesting phone support.
Shopify vs BigCommerce: Security
As we mentioned earlier, both BigCommerce and Shopify offer free SSL certificates on all of their plans. You can also upgrade to a more advanced SSL certificate (equipped with site seals and warranties) with BigCommerce, if you like. BigCommerce’s paid SSL options range from $59 to $299.
Both BigCommerce and Shopify are also PCI DSS compliant providers, meaning they meet the requirements of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard to protect against credit card data breaches.
Shopify vs BigCommerce Verdict: Support and Security
Both BigCommerce and Shopify are secure ecommerce platforms, and Shopify’s customer support is slightly better than BigCommerce’s. Both platforms offer 24/7 live chat and phone support, but Shopify’s knowledge center tips it over the top.
The BigCommerce vs Shopify battle is one that has a different winner depending on who is judging the fight. They’re big competitors, so whichever you choose, you’re sure to receive a stellar service. But there are some important differences, so let’s have a quick recap.
You Should Use BigCommerce If…
- You want built-in features without the hassle of installing or paying for them separately
- You have a large inventory and need better product variant options
- You want an easy, drag-and-drop website design tool
You Should Use Shopify If…
- You want more control over the features on your website
- You want as much choice as possible between third-party apps
- You value unique, pre-designed theme options
The better platform ultimately comes down to what you’re looking for. That said, our testing found Shopify to be the winner for its ease of use, customer support, and template designs.
Have you made your decision? Leave us a comment and let us know which builder you choose – we’d love to hear about your experience!
We recommend BigCommerce’s $299.95/month Pro plan for established online stores with large inventories, that aren’t quite ready for an enterprise-level plan yet. You’ll still get features like advanced product filters and ramped up security, but you won’t have to make a huge financial commitment before knowing what you’re getting yourself into!
No, BigCommerce only offers fully-fledged online store plans.
For this, we actually don’t recommend Shopify or BigCommerce – both platforms are pretty powerful, and that’s reflected in their high prices. Instead, you’ll want to look into Wix eCommerce, which is more suited for beginners with smaller inventories.
As a merchant, Shopify Payments offers you the convenience of a payment gateway completely tailored to your ecommerce platform, with no transaction fees. However, your customers may rather use a more well-known platform (like PayPal) that they already trust. If you’re not sure, our Shopify Payments review can provide more information.
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