When it comes to the world of ecommerce, there aren’t many names bigger than Shopify and Bigcommerce, but which platform is the better option for UK businesses?
Without doubt, Shopify is the biggest hosted ecommerce platform and their platform has been designed for businesses of all sizes, from small start ups to multi-national ecommerce retailers. The Bigcommerce platform is a very popular option for big businesses but they also have a great selection of plans for start ups and smaller businesses.
To give a good comparison between these two platforms, I am going to be looking at the pricing, features, performance and also what these platforms are like to use. So that hopefully, it will give you a good idea as to whether these two platforms are going to be a good choice for your online business.
Disclosure – this post contains affiliate links, which means that if you sign up to services via a link in this post, I do receive a small commission. BUT and I cannot stress this enough, in no way does this influence my review of any platform, if I don’t like something then I will say so!
No Turnover Limit
2% Transaction Fee
Unlimited Data Storage
Free SSL Certificate
2 Staff Accounts
$50k Turnover Limit
No Transaction Fee
Unlimited Data Storage
Free SSL Certificate
24/7 Live Chat Support
Unlimited Staff Accounts
When it comes to pricing, both Shopify and Bigcommerce are nearly identical when it comes to their monthly fees, with the Bigcommerce plans coming in just 95 cents more than the Shopify ones. Now while the plans are very similarly priced, both platforms operate a different pricing model.
Shopify use a fixed pricing method and this means that no matter how much you sell through your site, you can stay on the basic package if you want to. But, Shopify do charge a transaction fee of 2% on the basic package for any payment that is not taken through the Shopify Payments gateway, this does drop to 1% and 0.5% on the two larger packages.
Bigcommerce on the other hand use a tiered pricing structure and this means that when you hit specified turnover limits ($50k on the standard package), you are automatically moved up to the next package but you do also get access to more features on the platform.
To help get you started, both 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 Bigcommerce go one better (literally!) by offering a 15 day trial.
You can start your free trial with either platform by clicking the buttons in the pricing table above.
As two of the biggest names in the industry, it is expected that they all offer a good range of features for their users.
The Shopify platform does come with many features, even on the basic package.
- Dropshipping Integration
- Flexible Shipping Rates
- Product Reviews
- Digital Products
- Gift Vouchers
- Shopify Management App
Marketing & SEO
- Google Adwords Credit
- Sell on Facebook
- Discount Codes
- Abandoned Cart Recovery
- Auto Generated Sitemap
- Social Share
- Custom Meta Data
- SEO Friendly URL’s
- Product Reports
- Traffic Sources
- Google Analytics
- Day, Week and Monthly Reports
- Shopify Payments
- PayPal Express Checkout
- Amazon Pay
Shopify App Store
Even though the features you get in the standard Shopify core platform are very good, they do have their own App Store which features over 3000 apps from both the Shopify team and also third-party developers.
The Shopify App Store opens your 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. Obviously, with so many to choose from, it is nearly impossible for me to start listing them all in this post.
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:
- Single Page Checkout
- Product Ratings & Reviews
- Side by Side Product Comparison
- Create Promotions & Special Offers
- Sell Physical & Digital Products
- Discount Codes & Coupons
- Google Trusted Stores
Marketing & SEO
- Social Selling (Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest)
- Email Marketing
- Price Comparison Site Integration
- Abandoned Cart Recovery
- Loyalty Program
- Social Sharing
- Custom Meta Data
- SEO Friendly URL’s
- Number of Orders
- Total Revenue
- Number of Visitors
- Conversion Rate
- Average Order Value
- Amazon Pay
- Apple Pay
Bigcommerce App Marketplace
Even though you get a lot of great features with Bigcommerce, 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.
Shopify – Within the Shopify Theme Store, there are a selection of 70 themes that you can choose from. Unfortunately only 9 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.
Running an ecommerce website can be challenging at times and you require some help, so what support do you get from these platforms?
Shopify – offers all of their users 24/7 support via live chat, over the phone or via email. But it is not that straightforward on how you can actually contact their support team as there is nothing directly in your dashboard. Instead, you need to go to their help centre, type in a search query and then the button will appear that shows all of their contact options.
Outside of contact Shopify directly, you can visit the community support forum that is full of lots of informative threads and is a good place to as non urgent questions as members of the support team and knowledgeable users do frequent the forum.
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.
Hosting & Performance
With Shopify and Bigcommerce, it is pretty unsurprising that both offer their users a very good hosting environment and they both offers 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.
Average Load Time
Website 1: 1.39 Seconds
Website 2: 2.36 Seconds
Website 3: 1.04 Seconds
Average Load Time
Website 1: 3.31 Seconds
Website 2: 3.31 Seconds
Website 3: 3.65 Seconds
Even though both of their offers are very similar on paper, when it comes to the result of the testing, the difference between the two platforms is quite considerable!
Nearly two seconds separates the average load time of both platforms and non of the Bigcommerce sites that were tested came anywhere close to the golden 2 second load time that you ideally want.
There were no issues with Shopify though as the 1.60 second average puts it amongst the best performing platforms and even the slowest website out of the three, was still nearly a second quicker than any of the Bigcommerce sites.
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.
While getting signed up to Shopify is really easy to do, all you need to do is go to the Shopify Website and enter an email address and create a password. You will then be asked a couple of questions about what the current position of your business is (start up, already trading etc) and then be asked to enter your business information.
Once you have completed all of this, you will be taken into the Shopify dashboard for the first time and be greeted by the set up guide. Now while the set up guide isn’t bad, it also isn’t that great either, as there are a few sections missing. This is a little surprising as Shopify is aimed at people who are new to building a website.
They do redeem themselves slightly with their start up video guide that consists of 27 videos that take you through all the different areas within the Shopify platform and does give you a lot of information.
Outside of the set up guide, the Shopify dashboard is a very nice place to be as the simplistic layout has an almost minimalistic feel to it and doesn’t feel cluttered. The navigation menu is also very easy to use as all of the sections are clearly labelled and it doesn’t take long to get yourself accustomed to where everything is.
As with Shopify, it is very easy to get started with Bigcommerce. Just go to the essentials part of the Bigcommerce Website and click on the get started button, where you will be asked to enter your email address and create a password.
Once you have done all of this, you will be taken through to your Bigcommerce dashboard and greeted by a very good set up guide, which takes you through many more steps to get your site up and running. Their is also a lot of additional information within the dashboard that can help you get started as well.
The Bigcommerce dashboard is very well laid out and the sidebar navigation menu is clearly labelled, which makes navigating your way around the dashboard very easy to do. There is also the added bonus within the dashboard of having the help icon at the button of the navigation menu.
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.
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 as they have developed their own collections system and there are couple of different options on how this can be used.
The easiest way is the manual method, that works very similar to a traditional category based system but the automatic method takes a little getting used to as it works of rules that you set up using product tags and to get it working effectively, it is worth reading through the documentation.
Managing your inventory is pretty easy to do in Shopify as they have included an inventory section, that allows you to update your stock quantity in bulk but if you want to make changes to the pricing, SKU code or any other field from the product, then you need to select the products you want to edit from the product overview screen and then click the edit product button, which allows you to make updates in bulk.
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.
Shopify – The order management is one area where Shopify is a bit lacking as standard, because you cannot print off invoices or packing slips in bulk from the order overview page, instead this has to be done on an order by order basis. But you can update order statuses, collect payments and export your orders via CSV in bulk.
However, Shopify have created an App called Order Printer that allows you to do print your orders off in bulk.
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.
• Theme Customisation
• 24/7 Support
• Easy to use Admin Area
• The App Store
• Very Good Performance
• Transaction Fees
• Automatic Collection system is a bit complicated
• Easy to use dashboard
• 24/7 support
• Sell via social media
• Bulk product editor
• Order management system
• Poor Performance
• Theme customisation isn’t great
Is Shopify or Bigcommerce the better Ecommerce Platform?
Even though both are very good ecommerce platforms, Shopify just edges this one.
In many ways there isn’t much to choose between the two, such as:
- Easy to use admin areas
- Features & App Stores
- Good inventory management processes
- Good order management set up (with Order Printer app installed on Shopify)
- 24/7 Support
But what gives Shopify the edge over Bigcommerce, is that the customisation tools and options are better and give you more control over the look and feel of your site.
Another aspect is the performance as Shopify offers all of its users a fast and reliable hosting environment, where as Bigcommerce does have some issues when it comes to load speeds. This is important, not only because it is a ranking factor but can also impact on user experience.
As both platforms offer a free trial with no credit card needed, it is definitely worth giving them both a try to see which one you prefer.
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