In this post, I am going to be comparing three of the biggest names in the world of hosted ecommerce platforms.
Without doubt, Shopify is the biggest hosted ecommerce platform and currently power over 1 million ecommerce stores since their humble beginnings with 5 people in a coffee shop back in 2004.
Bigcommerce is the youngest platform out of the three, having been around since 2009 and for a couple of years in the 2010’s were going head to head with Shopify in the battle to become the biggest ecommerce platform. While Shopify did win the battle, Bigcommerce is still a very popular platform with both small and large ecommerce businesses.
The final platform in the comparison is 3dcart, who are one of the few ecommerce platforms that date back to the last millennium having been established in 1997 and now power over 25,000 ecommerce stores worldwide.
To compare these three platforms, I am going to look at the pricing, features and ease of use. If you want more information on either platform, then I will leave a link to my full reviews on all platforms.
Disclosure – This post contains affiliate links, meaning that if you purchase a product from one of these links, I receive a small commission that helps keep this site up and running.
COMPARE PACKAGE FEATURES
No Turnover Limit
2% Transaction Fees
Unlimited Data Storage
Free SSL Certificate
2 Staff Accounts
$50k Annual Turnover Limit
No Transaction Fees
Unlimited Data Storage
Free SSL Certificate
24/7 Live Chat Support
Unlimited Staff Accounts
3dcart start up
$50k Annual Turnover Limit
No Transaction Fees
Unlimited Data Storage
Free SSL Certificate
24/7 Online Support
1 Staff User
When it comes to pricing, there really isn’t anything to choose between Shopify and Bigcommerce. The plans also offer very similar features and the only real difference is the tiered pricing with Bigcommerce and the transaction fee with Shopify.
3dcart has the cheapest package out of the three and also a slightly larger package as $29. In terms of overall cost, for businesses with smaller turnover, 3dcart is the cheapest option.
To help get you started, all three platforms offer you a free trial. You won’t need to give over any credit card information, you just need an email address and create a password. Shopify offer a 14 day trial, while both Bigcommerce and 3dcart go one better (literally!) by offering a 15 day trial.
As three of the biggest names in the industry, it is expected that they all offer a good range of features for their users.
In it’s basic form, you do get some nice features with Shopify such as:
- Abandoned cart recovery
- Sell physical or digital products
- Facebook store
- Gift cards and discount vouchers
- Product reviews
- Mobile app to manage your store on the go
When it comes to features though, the Shopify App Store is where you want to go. With over 3000 apps to choose from, it opens your Shopify store up to a whole world of possibilities including dropshipping integration, Google, Ebay and Amazon integration, SEO and marketing tools and advanced reporting to name but a few.
But not all of these apps are free to use as many of them are made and managed by third party developers. Many offer free plans but you are limited to the amount of features you can use in the particular app, to get all the features then you will need to use a paid plan.
So you do need to be selective when it comes to choosing your apps as you can soon end up with a very expensive store.
You do get more features on the basic Bigcommerce plan than you do with Shopify. Along with getting a very capable shopping cart, you also get:
- The ability to sell on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest
- Product ratings and reviews for SEO
- Single page checkout
- Post your product inventory to price comparison sites
- Ebay and Amazon Integration
These are some really great features for a basic ecommerce plan but they also offer you the chance to add even more functionality with their own app marketplace. While the 751 apps is smaller than the Shopify offering, there is still a really good selection to choose from.
The 751 apps are spread across a variety of categories such as marketing, payments, sales channels and accounting to name but a few.
As with Shopify, not all of these are free to use as they are developed by third-party companies. So you might incur some additional expenses to get the features you really want.
3dcart definitely holds its own in the features department, the only difference is that they all of the features they offer are developed in house rather than having a marketplace for third-party developers. They are also called modules instead of apps.
With the basic 3dcart package, some of the features you get include:
- Social media wish lists
- A Facebook store
- Mailchimp integration for email marketing
- Dropshipping support
- Single page checkout
- Saved carts for users
You can pick and choose which modules you want installed on your site, which gives you a good amount of control over your site. As you move onto the larger plans, you also get access to more modules.
Shopify – Within the Shopify Theme Store, there are a selection of 70 themes that you can choose from. Unfortunately only 8 of these are free to use and the others range from $140 – $180. On Themeforst there are over 1200 additional themes you can choose from.
Bigcommerce has the largest selection of themes available within their ecosystem, with 151 themes that you can choose from. Only 12 of these are free to use and the paid themes range from $150 – $300. On Themeforest there are an additional 92 themes that you can choose.
3dcart has the best selection of free themes with 48 to choose from and they also have an additional 43 premium themes that you can that range from $149 – $199. There are also 37 themes available on Themeforest.
You can tell that all three of these platforms have a global customer base as they all offer a great selection of payment gateways. For UK businesses, all of the major names are there that you would expect, including PayPal, Stripe, Amazon Pay, Worldpay, Sagepay and Klarna.
With Shopify though, you don’t get Stripe in the same way as you do with Bigcommerce and 3dcart as it is called Shopify Payments, instead of Stripe.
One of the reasons why people opt for a hosted ecommerce platform is the support they get from the platform, should they encoutner into any difficulties running their online store.
Shopify – while it is true that Shopify does offer 24/7 support to their users, actually contacting a member of their support team isn’t that easy! When you try and contact their support, you are taken to their help centre, which is full of their documentation.
And while this is very well written and helpful, sometimes you just need to speak to someone and you have to do some digging to find out how to do this and this isn’t great in my opinion! They also have a community forum that is frequented by their support staff and other users will also offer help and advice where they can.
Bigcommerce – contacting support with Bigcommerce is definitely a lot easier than with Shopify! They also offer 24/7 support via live chat, email tickets and over the phone. To find the contact details, there is a very useful help tab in the dashboard navigation menu that gives you all the options you need.
There is also a help centre that is full of useful documentation as well as a community forum, where you can ask others users of the platform a question.
3dcart – with the basic 3dcart plan you get 24/7 support via the live chat and ticketing system and both are really easy to access. The live chat icon is always present in the bottom right corner of your dashboard and to submit a support ticket or view the documentation, you just click the question mark in the bottom left corner.
On the bigger plans, you also get 24/7 phone support as well. One thing that you do get with 3dcart, that you don’t with either of the others is a welcome call from one of the support team who will take you through setting up your online store and also answer any questions.
All three platforms a more than happy to tell you how good the quality of their web hosting is and they all offer the following:
- PCI Compliant Hosting
- Unlimited Bandwidth
- Unlimited Storage
- 99.9% + Uptime
- Global CDN
- Free SSL Certificate
This all looks great right? But unfortunately not all hosting is the same, so I decided to test them all out and used my tried and tested method! I took three of their customer example sites and ran them through Pingdom’s speed test tool (London server), once a day for three days to see how well they performed.
There really isn’t much to choose between Shopify and 3dcart. Both averaged just over the 1.5 second mark, which is great for an ecommerce website as it is within that golden 2 second window.
Bigcommerce though was a bit of a disappointment as all of their sites were consistently loading around the 3-4 second mark, which isn’t great for such a big platform. I honestly was expecting more from these guys.
Ease of Use
Facts and figures are one thing but what are these platforms like to use and how do they compare to each other? Well that is what I am going to be looking at in this section.
To sign up to any of the platforms is really easy, all you need is an email address and to create a password, no credit card information is needed to give them all a try.
While getting signed up to Shopify is really easy to do, I was a little underwhelmed when signing into my dashboard for the first time. The reason I say this, is because Shopify is targeted at people who have never built or run a website before and on this reasoning I would have thought they would have had a very good set up guide.
But as you can see in the image above, the set up guide is very light and doesn’t include important things such as setting up a payment gateway or delivery options.
There are a couple more options further down the page but it still doesn’t cover everything. I personally didn’t find my introduction to the platform particularly welcoming along with not being that helpful.
Bigcommerce have a much better system in place to get you up and running. There is a very well structured set up guide to help you get your store ready to start accepting orders as well as some info boxes that encourage you to learn more about the platform and what it can do.
A very simple touch but 3dcart was the only one to actually display a welcome message when you first log in to your dashboard. You also get a short introductory video and while it doesn’t contain that much information, does give a sense of what the platform is like.
Below the video is a well laid out set up guide, that takes you through all the important basic things you need to do in order to get your store started in the right way. There is also a box at the bottom of the page that contains links to useful documentation to help you get more familiar with the platform.
Navigating your Dashboard
The Shopify dashboard is one of the easiest to navigate around as they have kept it really simple. They use a sidebar for their navigation menu and all of the sections are clearly labelled and this enables you to quickly and easily learn where everything is.
Bigcommerce have gone for a very similar set up with a sidebar navigation menu. There are more sections that in Shopify but they are all clearly labelled as are the menus for the sub-sections.
As with the other two, 3dcart have opted for a sidebar navigation menu and while all of the sections are clearly labelled, the one quirk I found was the the design section has been placed within the settings section. This can make finding how to edit your sites design a little confusing the first time you try and access it.
Customising your Theme
One of the things that Shopify has always been one of the best at is customising your theme, so much so that many platforms still aren’t as good now as what Shopify was 5 years ago.
What always made it stand out was the complete control you had over how your site looked. You can control the layout, add and remove sections as you want, change the colours and fonts so that they fit your brand.
Even the most basic Shopify theme can be made to look really good with a few tweaks. You also have access to a stock image library, which can be really helpful when you are just starting out and don’t currently have a selection of great looking pictures.
Customising a theme on Bigcommerce is pretty easy to do but you don’t have the same level of control as you do with the Shopify and it can feel a little restrictive at times, especially when it comes to the layout of your site.
Unlike Shopify, you can’t build a page from scratch, instead you will be able to change things within an existing page. For example, with the test theme I used, I could hide some of the sections but was unable to add my own custom sections.
This means that it is more important to choose a theme that you like and can work for your business. Now while it is a bit more restrictive than Shopify, it is a really easy system to use and there is a logical flow to how you work through the process.
This is the one area where the 3dcart platform is really lacking as customising your theme isn’t easy to do. When it comes to customising your theme, you are limited to changing colours, fonts and font sizes.
With 3dcart, it is more about finding a theme that you like and using it, rather than choosing one then customising the look, design and layout so that it fits your business. 3dcart is some way off the competition in this department unfortunately.
Adding and Managing Stock
Being able to manage your stock efficiently and effectively is a hugely important part of running an online store and for me there are three main areas to this and they are:
- Adding products
- Organising your Products
- Managing your inventory
Adding a new product is really easy to do on the Shopify platform. They have gone for a simple, one page layout that has a nice flow from one section to the next. They haven’t gone overboard with the options and you get the right amount of sections to really help sell your product.
Shopify do things a little differently when it comes to organising your inventory, instead of a category based system they use their own collections method. I don’t think this is the easiest thing to use as there are quite a few options as to how your collections work and to really understand it, you need to spend some time reading through the documentation and testing it out for yourself.
When it comes to adding a new product, the Bigcommerce set up is one of the better ones I have used. The single page layout has a good number of options you can easily navigate between the sections on the page using the pop up sidebar. This sidebar makes it really easy to go in and edit your existing products.
Unlike Shopify, Bigcommerce have gone for the tried and tested category method for managing your inventory. You can easily create parent and sub-categories which makes it really easy to organise your stock. Setting up a new category is easy as they use a simplified version of the add product page.
To manage your inventory, Bigcommerce use a really good system that allow you to quickly make changes to your products and this can be done individually or in bulk. The bulk editor allows you to make a number of changes including title, category, price and inventory on one page, making it a great tool to use if you have a very large product range.
The single page layout in 3dcart for adding a new product is really well laid out and contains all the sections you need.
To organise your products, 3dcart use the category system just like Bigcommerce. Adding a new category on 3dcart is the easiest I have come across as it is just a pop up with two text boxes inside, this is great but if you want to add more information to your category such SEO or any content, then you will have to go back in and edit the category.
You can also manage the your inventory directly in the product overview page by using the options in the drop down box in the top right hand corner. There isn’t the amount of options that you get with Bigcommerce but you can still do a lot directly in the dashboard.
Shopify – While it is easy to manage your orders in Shopify, you do need to do each one individually as there was no option to print invoice, packing slips or update order statuses in bulk. This could be quite tedious, especially if you start receiving a large number of orders.
Bigcommerce – There are no such issues with the Bigcommerce system, you can choose to manage your orders individually but if you are going to be having lots of sales then you want to take advantage of their bulk features. The bulk feature allows you to print off invoice and packing slips, resend invoices, update order statuses and export orders directly in the order management area.
3dcart – As with Bigcommerce, 3dcart allows you to a lot of the order management directly from the order overview section. You don’t get quite the number of options as Bigcommerce but you can still print off invoices and packing slips and update order statuses either individually or in bulk.
All three of these platforms are viable options for building an ecommerce store and there isn’t one that is better than the others as they all have their own strengths and weaknesses. But I will summarise the three platforms below.
Shopify – Is definitely the platform you should go for if design is important to you as the theme customisation options better than those offered by the other two. Outside of this, the platform is easy to use even if you are completely new to building a website.
The downsides of the Shopify platform are the transaction fees as it can make the platform quite expensive to use, especially on the smaller packages and the collections system as it is more complicated than it really needs to be. Accessing Shopify support could also be a lot easier.
Bigcommerce – From a user experience point of view, Bigcommerce is better than Shopify when it comes to ease of use. The order management system is really good as is every aspect of managing your inventory. The support infrastructure is also really good.
While not as bad as others, the theme customisation options in Bigcommerce are nowhere near as good as Shopify and the performance of their hosting is also a bit of a concern.
3dcart – While the 3dcart platform is a very capable platform, it is difficult to recommend it over the other two as there isn’t anything that it does better.
So there it is, my complete comparison between these three ecommerce platforms. For me, it does come down to Shopify vs Bigcommerce and which one you choose really does depend on you and what is important, is design (Shopify) or function (Bigcommerce) what you need out of your ecommerce platform? It is definitely worth trying both platforms out before making that decision though.