The task of choosing an ecommerce platform isn’t an easy one.
First, there are so many different platforms to consider and each has it pros and cons. Some are incredibly easy to use and well-suited to beginners, but are designed to handle only simple transactions.
Others are robust and feature-packed, but require more experience and time to manage.
The key in choosing any platform is to look at what it can do and to match it to your needs. You need to walk into the comparison knowing:
As an ecommerce platform, Shopify is user-friendly, simple, and powerful. In fact, Shopify stores sold more than $3.7 billion worldwide in 2014 alone.
With more than 55,000 store owners on the platform and 14 million transactions worth $3 billion processed, Bigcommerce is no rookie, either.
Let’s dive into these two providers by putting them head to head on the areas we all look at most:
Appearance of your site matters and this is where Shopify shines. Shopify leverages independent designers for their themes and templates, ensuring that you get a look and feel for your website that’s truly one of a kind. This can mean lower bounce rates, higher time on site, and even improved conversion rates.
The drawback is that while some themes are free, some will also be paid. If you want to use a premium theme, the cost will range from $80 to $180, but this can be a fraction of the cost that you would normally pay a professional web designer to build you a site.
Bigcommerce has more than 100 free themes to choose from, plus a few dozen premium themes that are mobile-friendly.
The newest themes are good looking, with a combination of both free and premium ones in the mix. Premium designs can range from $120 to $250.
What’s unique about Shopify in comparison to a lot of other ecommerce platforms is its versatility. You can use it to sell online or manage sales within a brick and mortar store.
All Shopify stores include unlimited hosting, over 100 professionally designed templates to choose from to design your store (no design or coding required), customizable options to make your store your own, a secure checkout, and instant payment acceptance for Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express.
Don’t want to sell online but still want to use Shopify to manage transactions? No problem.
Ideal for markets, trade shows, pop up shops, fairs, festivals, or any transaction on the go, Shopify has an easy POS system that can plug into your iPad or iPhone. Just use their POS plugin (very similar to Square) to collect payment on the go.
If you just want the basics, Shopify does the trick.
On the flipside, there’s Bigcommerce, who offers one of the most comprehensive sets of tools out there for selling online.
When you go with Bigcommerce, you’re getting a securely hosted website, domain name, shopping cart, product catalog, CRM, marketing tools, reporting and mobile-optimized store, not to mention, access to tons of apps that can enhance your store.
All packages on Bigcommerce include standard features like the ability to sell unlimited products, ratings and reviews, a built-in blog, unlimited bandwidth for your images and videos, an SEO-optimized site, and access to 150+ Single-Click Apps for easy third-party integrations.
On the conversion optimization side, all three levels of package on Bigcommerce also include an easy Facebook shop, the ability to do coupons and gift certificates, and a real time shipping calculator. The platform also uses easy linking to more than 65 payment systems, like PayPal.
The only area here where Bigcommerce falls short when compared to Shopify is the ability to process payments in person. Bigcommerce is strictly online, so it’s not a good fit for anyone who wants to be able to take payment for services on the go or do brick and mortar transactions.
On the other hand, Bigcommerce has a more straightforward way of dealing with payments and transaction fees. Plus, they also offer more storage space for the monthly price. Shopify also doesn’t offer the conversion optimization enhancements that some e-tailers may require.
Shopify offers several ecommerce packages to suit the needs of any shop owner:
Basic – $29/month
Great for starter stores or those just getting started in ecommerce, the Basic package offers
Professional – $79/mo
This package, the most popular, includes all the feature of the Basic package plus:
Unlimited – $179/mo
Designed for robust retailers, the unlimited package includes all of the same features as the Basic and Premium levels, but with:
Looking for something stripped down? There’s also a $14 per month option that includes listing for up to 25 products, 1 GB file storage, no transaction fees when you use Shopify Payments, unlimited bandwidth, and chat and email support. The credit card rate is highest at this level, 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction, but this might be a good option for someone with a small budget (and inventory).
They also offer several packages to let you sell in person:
Basic – $9/mo
For transactions in person or on the move, take advantage of:
Professional – $59/mo
All the features of the Basic package plus:
Ultimate – $159/mo
Take things a step further with robust retail features that include everything in the Professional package plus and advanced report builder. (Our question here – is the reporting really worth the extra $100/mo?)
For retail stores, you can add on an additional $40 per month to get all of the features of your selected package, plus hardware support, staff accounts, and register shifts. Want to add on an online store to an existing POS package? Just an extra $20 per month.
But, they’re not the only game in town.
Like Shopify, Bigcommerce offers base level packages for selling online.
To get started selling with Bigcommerce, you’ll need to select a package. All packages include standard features like the ability to sell unlimited products, ratings and reviews, a built-in blog, unlimited bandwidth for your images and videos, an SEO-optimized site, and access to 150+ Single-Click Apps for easy third-party integrations.
Additional features and pricing information for each level can be found below:
Silver – $29.95/mo
Gold – $79.95/mo
Platinum – $199.95/mo
There’s also an enterprise level plan on Bigcommerce if you need higher bandwidth, high-volume API calls, priority support, or capabilities for multiple stores.
We love that the packages on Bigcommerce are easy to understand and that they basically give you a turnkey solution for selling your merchandise online. Shopify’s pricing model isn’t as easy to understand and it may be a turnoff for some ecommerce store owners. Sometimes, you just want transparency!
But, comparing the two in the long run, they’re both on the same level in terms of value.
There’s a lot to love about Shopify. First, they offer a 14 day free trial without entering credit card details so that you can try Shopify before committing to a package. At the end of the trial, you can pick a plan and keep selling. There are no setup fees and you can cancel your Shopify account at any time, as contracts are month to month (unless you sign up for an annual or biennial plan).
If you’re in it for the long haul, we recommend taking advantage of their discounts. If you pay upfront for an annual plan, you’ll get a 10% discount, 20% on a biennial plan. Don’t worry if your business changes – you can upgrade or downgrade Shopify plans at any time.
On Bigcommerce, all levels are contract-free and you can cancel at any time. Not sure which level you need? Try out the fully functional 15-day free trial (no credit card needed) and see which one works best for you. You can also upgrade your level at any time as your business needs change.
When it comes to contract terms, both are about on par with each other – the only difference is in the discounting that Shopify offers for long-term commitments.
Shopify is regarded for having one of the best support teams in the industry. You can reach them 24/7 either through the phone, online live chat, or email.
Having tested their support one on one, we found their team to be very helpful in answering questions – and the speedy response time didn’t hurt, either!
Bigcommerce also served us well too, offering 24/7 services via chat, email, or phone to reach out for assistance.
When you compare the two side by side, it’s hard to tell the two support teams apart – both are exceptional.
Now, let’s take a look at the educational resources both make available.
Bigcommerce is great at walking a business owner with some general knowledge of ecommerce through the process of setting things up. That type of user-friendliness makes a big difference when it comes to swaying customers. They also include access to Bigcommerce University, a library of resources to help you learn how to make the most of the platform.
However, Shopify’s library of resources is by far superior when it comes to providing simple, step-by-step instructions for first time store owners. From tips on growing your business to learning how to use the platform, Shopify does a great job in helping less experienced users develop their ecommerce skills.
But when it comes down to comparing the templates and included features, along with the overall ease of use, Shopify comes out on top for us.
We wanted something simple and easy to manage, yet able to go to trade shows or events with us. A strong library of resources and an accessible support system is important to us. We value usability and great design. We also wanted something appropriate for the volume and type of selling we’d be doing.
Bigcommerce, while great and ideal for higher volumes and more focused selling, would be overkill for what we need. Simply put, Shopify is an elegant ecommerce solution that’s as versatile and customizable as you need it to be and it can go places where Bigcommerce can’t.
For Omnicore Agency, it meets our needs, but if you are looking to sell exclusively online and need a platform that can handle things like dropshipping, then Bigcommerce might be a better fit for you.platform that can handle things like dropshipping, then Bigcommerce might be a better fit for you.
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