Bigcommerce vs Shopify

In this Bigcommerce vs Shopify review, we compare and contrast two of the leading online store building tools, Bigcommerce and Shopify.

Read on for a discussion on pricing, templates, important features and the key reasons why you might choose one of these leading e-commerce solutions over the other.

By the end of our review, you should have a clearer idea of which product is the best fit for your business.

Bigcommerce pricing vs Shopify pricing...

Let's start with a very important issue: pricing.

Bigcommerce offers 4 pricing plans:

  • Bigcommerce Standard: $29.95 per month
  • Bigcommerce Plus: $79.95 per month
  • Bigcommerce Pro: $199.95 per month
  • Bigcommerce Enterprise: pricing varies depending on requirements

Shopify offers 5 plans:

  • Lite: $9 per month
  • Basic Shopify: $29 per month
  • Shopify: $79 per month
  • Advanced Shopify: $299 per month
  • Shopify Plus: pricing varies depending on requirements

As can be seen above, you can start selling goods online a lot cheaper with Shopify, with the 'Lite' plan only costing $9. However, there's a big BUT with this plan: it doesn't actually provide you with a fully functional online store. Rather, it allows you to use your Facebook page or a "Shopify Button" (an embeddable widget - sort of like a Paypal 'buy now' button) to sell products online. You can also sell goods offline (at 'point of sale') with this plan, and use the Shopify backend to manage orders and inventory.

The fairest comparison: Bigcommerce 'Standard' vs Shopify 'Basic'

The fairest comparison to make between Shopify and Bigcommerce is probably between the 'Basic Shopify' plan, which costs $29 per month, and the Bigcommerce 'standard' one ($29.95) - there's only 95 cents between them. Both these plans allow you to sell an unlimited number of products, with Bigcommerce winning in terms of out-of-the-box features - the standard Bigcommerce plan provides three particularly important things that you don't get on 'Basic Shopify', namely

  • gift cards
  • a built-in ratings and review system
  • real-time carrier shipping quotes

Shopify's 'Product Reviews' App (click to enlarge)

On the subject of ratings and reviews, it's worth pointing out that Shopify does not provide this functionality on any of its plans: you'll need to us a separate app to handle this.

Fortunately, Shopify provide a free app for this purpose (the appropriately named 'Product Reviews' app) - but I find it slightly puzzling that the functionality isn't included as a standard feature. In addition to Shopify's reviews offering, you can install a wide range of third-party apps to add reviews and ratings functionality, many of which provide more advanced features than the standard Shopify 'Product Reviews' app (and integrate with the likes of Google Reviews, Disqus and Facebook).

However, the 'Basic Shopify' plan wins handsomely when it comes to sales limits: a sales limit of $50,000 per year applies on the Bigcommerce Standard plan; no such limit applies to the Shopify plan (more on sales limits below).

Transaction fees

In terms of transaction fees on their plans, Bigcommerce charges 0% on all plans; Shopify charges 0% on all plans too BUT only if you use their Stripe powered 'Shopify Payments' option (note that transaction fees differ from credit card processing fees; the latter will apply regardless of which platform you're on). If you don't use Shopify Payments, transaction fees do apply and these vary with the kind of plan you're on (2% for 'Basic Shopify'; 1% for 'Shopify' and 0.5% for 'Advanced Shopify').

The key thing worth noting about Shopify Payments is that because it's powered by Stripe, it can only currently be used in the US, UK, Australia and Canada (officially that is - I got it to work in Ireland, for the record, for a Dublin wedding invitation company).

Credit card fees

In addition to transaction fees, there are credit card fees to consider. If you use a third-party payment gateway, these will be whatever your chosen provider's rates are. 

However, both Shopify and Bigcommerce have teamed up with their own payment gateway providers - Stripe and Braintree respectively - to offer 'out of the box' payments functionality.

If you use Shopify Payments (Stripe), credit card fees will vary according to whether you are selling online or in person (in a retail setting, market stall, pop-up shop etc.). The online rates are as follows:

  • Shopify Lite: 2.2% + 30c per transaction
  • Basic Shopify: 2.2% + 30c
  • Shopify: 1.9% + 30c
  • Advanced Shopify: 1.6% + 30c

If you're selling in person, you're looking at the following rates:

  • Shopify Lite: 2.7% per transaction
  • Basic Shopify: 2.7% 
  • Shopify: 2.2% 
  • Advanced Shopify: 1.6%

Bigcommerce's de facto partner for credit card processing is Paypal, powered by Braintree. The credit card rates using this arrangement are as follows:

  • Bigcommerce Standard: 2.9% + 30c per transaction
  • Bigcommerce Plus: 2.5% + 30c
  • Bigcommerce Pro: 2.2% + 30c
  • Bigcommerce Enterprise: 2.2% + 30c

These rates are a bit higher than the Shopify equivalents - merchants selling low volumes of goods won't really notice the difference too much, but store owners with high volumes of sales definitely will. 

    Shopify Plus and Bigcommerce Enterprise

    A quick word now about Shopify Plus and Bigcommerce Enterprise: these are corporate level plans aimed at large organisations that require advanced functionality, such as:

    • guaranteed server uptime
    • API support
    • 'White glove' level of support
    • dedicated SSL / IP address

    The pricing for these plans depends on your business requirements - most users reading this review will I suspect be more concerned with the more basic offerings discussed above; but if you're interested in the Plus or Enterprise plans, you should contact Shopify or Bigcommerce directly to discuss your requirements and how much the relevant fees would be.

    (As a side note, Shopify Plus may be of particular interest to Magento users who are considering switching to another platform: Shopify are offering Magento switchers 6 months of free service, and a free data migration - you can find out more about this Magento migration offer here.)

    Annual discounts

    Both Bigcommerce and Shopify provide a 10% discount if you pay upfront for a year's service. Shopify go one further and give you a 20% discount if you pay upfront for two years.

    Maximum annual sales limits

    One thing to watch out for is sales limits - with Bigcommerce, your sales are limited to $50,000 on the 'standard' plan, $125,000 on the 'plus' plan and $1,000,000 on the 'pro' plan. No limits apply to sales if you are using Bigcommerce Enterprise.

    I contacted Bigcommerce to find what the financial implications are for breaching these limits and the response was:

    "There is an additional 1,000-2,000 order limit per plan that users be able to go over before being forced to upgrade. During this time users will receive notifications about upgrading their plan as they are over the limit. But we will not prevent additional orders from coming through until they exceed the additional 1,000-2,000 overage order provided."

    No such limits exist at all on Shopify plans, so a definite win for Shopify here. It's probably fair to say that the lack of sales limits is the biggest argument in favour of choosing Shopify over Bigcommerce; the sales limits issue is certainly something that Bigcommerce users raise with me regularly as a major downside of the product. 

    Conclusions on pricing

    The bottom line for me when it comes to pricing is that thanks to its cheap 'Lite' plan Shopify comes out ahead if you:

    • only want to sell on Facebook
    • just want to integrate a Shopify 'Buy now' button onto an existing site or online presence
    • don't need to sell more than 25 products
    • wish to use Shopify to power point-of-sale transactions.

    And as mentioned above, a key reason for using Shopify over Bigcommerce is that no sales limits apply.

    Bigcommerce however arguably has the edge when it comes to 'off the shelf' packages - their plans come with more key features out of the box, and you don't have to worry about transaction fees, regardless of your payment gateway selection.

    However, when deciding between Shopify vs Bigcommerce there is a lot more to consider than just pricing, as we'll see below.


    Shopify's "Minimal" theme is an elegant, responsive design and it's a good starting point for building an online store.

    Free templates

    Shopify has the edge over Bigcommerce when it comes to its free theme offering, because it provides a much wider selection of themes - Shopify provide 12 free themes variants to Bigcommerce's 7.

    Within these themes, there are different styles to choose from, so both products give you more choice in the free template department than the above numbers might initially suggest. However, the Shopify themes differ from each other more radically than the Bigcommerce ones; several of the Bigcommerce free themes arguably differ only in the fact that slightly different colours are used ('Fortune Contrast' and 'Fortune Highlight' be a case in point).

    Factoring in both the number of themes provided by both Shopify and Bigcommerce, and the differences between theme variants, I would argue that Shopify offers the user significantly more variety in the template department. 

    Bigcommerce's "Cornerstone" theme

    From a design point of view I prefer the free templates provided by Shopify too; but this is a very subjective area and the themes provided by Bigcommerce are definitely professional and contemporary in appearance.

    Paid-for templates

    Bigcommerce provides 76 paid-for themes. They start at $145 and cost up to $235.

    Shopify offers around 40 paid-for templates, which range from $100 to $180 in price.

    Although the above numbers seem to imply that there is a greater choice of paid-for themes available with Bigcommerce, it's worth sounding a note of caution here: as with their free templates, many of the Bigcommerce paid-for themes are pretty similar to each other. This is fairly evident in the Bigcommerce template names too: 'Geneva Colorful', 'Geneva Bold', 'Geneva Pastel' and 'Geneva Grey' are all positioned as being separate templates, but to my eyes they are effectively variants of the same theme. 

    By contrast the paid-for Shopify themes are more distinct from each other - and most themes come with a selection of variants you can choose from.

    So for my money, the Shopify offering when it comes to templates is stronger than Bigcommerce's.

    Customising templates

    Example of a paid-for Shopify theme, 'Kingdom'

    Example of a paid-for Shopify theme, 'Kingdom'

    Both Bigcommerce and Shopify let you customise their templates quite extensively – either using controls provided within the content management system or by diving into the HTML / CSS – meaning that with either system you should be able to end up with a nice looking online shop window that presents your products in a professional way. My gut feeling is that with Shopify though, you’ll probably need to do less tweaking. 

    Something to note regarding design changes and Shopify: making these HTML / CSS tweaks will sometimes involve using a templating language called Liquid.

    Liquid is essentially a simple programming language that allows you to make use of HTML and CSS but also allows you to insert tags, operators and variables to produce dynamic content (for example, in order to display the title of a product on a certain page, you would write {{ product.title }} in a liquid file). This all sounds more complicated than it actually is though, and unless you want to tweak your Shopify store to the nth degree, you'll probably find you can simply pick a pre-existing template and change colours, typefaces and certain aspects of the layout simply by using the standard controls provided.

    Key features

    Both Bigcommerce and Shopify provide users with more than enough features to set up and run a very professional online store. They allow you to create products, optimise them for search engines, manage inventory and accept – via a wide range of payment gateways – credit card transactions. A few things in particular are worth focusing on in a bit more depth:

    Payment gateways

    Shopify and Bigcommerce both allow you to connect an extensive range of payment gateways to your store: the number available varies by country but you'll find that both Bigcommerce and Shopify support the major ones - like Worldpay, Quickbooks, Paypal, 2Checkout etc. Shopify offers more however: 70+ to Bigcommerce's 37.

    Normally speaking, connecting a third party payment gateway can be a fiddly process which sometimes involves a contract and/or monthly fees, so users who are not in the mood for that sort of thing might prefer to use one of the 'out of the box' options provided by both Bigcommerce and Shopify.

    In the case of Shopify this means using either Paypal or, as discusssed above, its Stripe-powered 'Shopify Payments' option. With Bigcommerce, this means using Paypal, Stripe or Square. On the subject of Paypal, Bigcommerce have teamed up with Braintree to provide a solution that both offers some preferential Paypal processing rates and a system whereby the user can pay via Paypal without ever having to leave your storefront.

    (As a side note, it's probably worth pointing out that it is in the area of payment gateways that Bigcommerce and Shopify have their biggest advantage over relatively-new-kid-on-the-e-commerce-block Squarespace: whilst the payment gateway options offered by both Bigcommerce and Shopify are numerous, Squarespace only allows you to use Stripe - Paypal is not an option. The payment gateway functionality offered by Bigcommerce and Shopify is probably one of the strongest arguments for using either of these platforms over Squarespace.)

    Product categories

    Creating 'smart' collections in Shopify is easy

    Any online store is likely to make use of several different product collections - for example on a guitar-related store you might expect to find categories such as electric guitars, acoustic guitars, plectrums, straps, amplifiers and so on.

    Setting up categories in Shopify and Bigcommerce is straightforward enough but Shopify's approach is, in my view, niftier, because not only can you add products manually to collections, you can create categories which are automatically populated with products based on on conditions you supply. You can use various criteria to populate a collection, including product title, tags, price, weight and more; so, using our guitar store as an example, rather than having to manually add electric guitars to an electric guitar collection, you could just tell Shopify to automatically add any product with the word 'electric guitar' in its title to the electric guitar collection. This is particularly useful functionality to have handy if your store contains hundreds (or thousands!) of products. 

    Bigcommerce doesn't yet provide similar 'smart collection' functionality, so Shopify definitely has an edge here.

    Product options

    What Bigcommerce lacks in the categorisation department it makes up for with its product option functionality. With Shopify, you're limited to offering customers 3 sets of options per product - for example, size, colour or material. It's very easy to set these options up - but also very frustrating if you need to sell products that come in more than three variants (workarounds exist, but they're fiddly and time-consuming to implement).

    Bigcommerce, on the other hand, allows you to create large lists of product options - I can't find details on an exact limit, but whilst testing Bigcommerce, I was able to create 10 options for a product very easily. If your products come in all shapes, colours and sizes, you should get the flexibility you need. A clear win for Bigcommerce here.

    On the plus side, apps do exist in Shopify to add this kind of functionality, but are paid-for options and as such they will increase your monthly outgoings.

    Text fields and file uploads

    Some merchants will require that their customers enter custom data at the point of purchase - for example, a jeweller might ask a customer to enter some text for an inscription on a pendant. This is possible with both Bigcommerce and Shopify but it's significantly easier to set up with Bigcommerce - you just add a text field as an option to your product. With Shopify, you're going to have to add a piece of code to your template or invest in an app to take care of this.

    A similar situation exists with file uploads - if you're selling photography or clothing related products for example that require the customer to upload an image, then you'll find that this functionality is included out of the box with Bigcommerce; with Shopify, you'll have to resort to a third-party app again.

    Importing and exporting products in Bigcommerce and Shopify

    Both Shopify and Bigcommerce allow you to upload a CSV file containing all your product data. Shopify also allows you to import product data from Magento or Ebay, which is obviously useful for users migrating from those platforms.

    In terms of exporting your data, Shopify allows you to export to CSV format. Bigcommerce is more flexible in that allows you to export to both CSV and XML. So a slight win for Bigcommerce here.


    Blogging, when done correctly, arguably provides one of the best ways of driving traffic to a store (if not the best). The more you blog about the 'niche area' in which you are operating, the more visitors you are likely to attract to your site (as long as the content is good and optimised for search correctly). 

    Both Shopify and Bigcommerce will allow you to create a simple blog easily (and tag / categorise posts as needed). If your blogging needs are complex, you can always integrate a third party blog (such as a Wordpress one) into either platform (it'll involve a bit of messing about with subdomains / system settings but it's all doable).

    Fans of the commenting tool Disqus might appreciate the fact that integrating it with a Bigcommerce blog is dead easy: you just flick a switch and it's enabled. You can also use Disqus with Shopify, but it's not quite as straightforward (you'll have to grab a snippet of code from Disqus, configure it slightly, and insert it into the Shopify theme).

    You can import posts from an existing blog into both Bigcommerce and Shopify, using the Bigcommerce 'Blog Sync' and Shopify Blogfeeder apps respectively.

    Abandoned cart recovery in Bigcommerce and Shopify

    Sending automated emails with Bigcommerce's abandoned cart saver (click to enlarge).

    Something worth paying particular attention to in a Bigcommerce vs Shopify shootout is abandoned cart recovery functionality. This is a useful feature which allows you to automatically email visitors to your store who add something to their cart but do not complete the purchase.

    Bigcommerce's abandoned cart saver - which the company argues allows you to recover 15% of lost sales - is better than the Shopify equivalent, as the Shopify only allows you to send one automated email to users who abandon their cart, whereas Bigcommerce allows you to schedule up to three automated follow-up emails. However, with the ability to send a several emails to people who don't complete a purchase comes the ability to spam and annoy, so whilst extremely useful, abandoned cart saver tools should be used judiciously. 

    Abandoned cart functionality is provided only on the more expensive Shopify and Bigcommerce plans - their $79 offerings and up. If you anticipate a high level of traffic to or sales from your site, or are currently experiencing high levels of both, a plan with abandoned cart recovery is definitely worth looking at.

    (Alternatively, you could consider purchasing one of the cheaper Bigcommerce or Shopify plans, and using a cart saver app in conjunction with it - the options are much more extensive here with Shopify).

    Buying domains through Shopify and Bigcommerce

    Both Shopify and Bigcommerce allow you to buy domains directly from them, and this will enable you to get your website up and running quickly without the need to configure DNS (domain name settings) records with domain name provider.

    Bigcommerce advises that domains purchased with them have limited DNS capability though - as the company puts it,

    "if you need (or may later need) features such as forwarding or domain privacy, you may wish to use a domain from a third-party registrar instead."

    The other thing worth bearing in mind with purchasing domains from Shopify or Bigcommerce is that not all extensions are catered for - so depending on your requirements you may be better off buying your domain name from a dedicated provider.

    Email forwarding

    If you have bought a domain from either Shopify or Bigcommerce, you can create 'forwarding addresses' that forward your mail from your bought domain to another email address - for example, you could set up which forwards mail onto

    More useful though is the ability to configure DNS settings on either your Bigcommerce or Shopify-bought domain so that you can use Google Apps to manage your email; this gives you a proper email account that uses your domain name (i.e.,

    Personally speaking, I would be inclined to ignore both Bigcommerce and Shopify's built-in email forwarding and pay for a Google Apps account to manage email - simply because you get a very robust email solution AND a host of useful business tools (calendars, file storage, video conferencing and so on).

    You can sign up for a free trial of Google Apps here.


    Both Shopify and Bigcommerce offer 'responsive' template designs which work across a variety of devices (although if you are not happy with the 'out of the box' design for mobile, you'll need to tweak HTML / CSS to change it; that said, the responsive site usually works very well for most users and will not need to be edited unless you have very specific design / brand requirements). 

    Shopify also provides an app for managing your store on a mobile device (iOS or Android) whilst on the go. Bigcommerce used to, but no longer do. Bigcommerce say that the desktop version of the control panel may be accessible using some versions of Android, but that using the desktop control panel from a mobile device is not supported by the company.

    App stores

    There are 'app stores' available for both Shopify and Bigcommerce - with Shopify's containing far more apps than Bigcommerce's; whereas there are 300+ Bigcommerce apps available, there are 1200+ for Shopify. 

    Point of sale options in Shopify and Bigcommerce

    Shopify's point-of-sale options

    Shopify's point-of-sale options

    When it comes to using either platform for point-of-sale (POS) transactions, both Shopify and Bigcommerce allows you to use mobile devices to to facilitate point of sale transactions. Other devices such as barcode scanners, receipt printers, tills and a label printers can also be integrated. 

    All these help your Shopify or Bigcommerce store become more than just an 'virtual' entity and turn it into a tool for running a business in the physical world too - useful applications of a POS system include accepting credit cards at a merchandise stand at a gig; processing credit card payments at a market stall; or just using Shopify or Bigcommerce as a payment processor in general. All your customer and order data is synced with your online store's back end, so everything is kept neat and tidy.

    To use POS with Bigcommerce you will need to use Square hardware; the Shopify hardware kits are available from the Shopify site itself. 

    The Bigcommerce and Alibaba Wholesale partnership

    Video: sourcing products to sell on Bigcommerce with Alibaba.

    Bigcommerce have a partnership with, the Chinese giant online retailer.

    This allows Bigcommerce users to browse and buy thousands of wholesale products from 300 of Alibaba's 'gold' suppliers (ones that have been vetted, basically) from within the Bigcommerce interface. This may prove useful to certain users who are stuck for stock ideas - see the accompanying video for an explanation of how it works.

    VAT MOSS in Bigcommerce and Shopify

    If you intend to sell digital products to EU consumers with Bigcommerce or Shopify, you'll need to familiarise yourself with something called VAT MOSS (short for 'VAT Mini One Stop Shop').

    VAT MOSS requires you to apply country-specific rates of VAT to digital products - even if you are running a business that is based outside of the EU.

    Shopify has a definite edge over Bigcommerce here, because it can automatically work all the relevant rates out for you. With Bigcommerce, you'll need to set up individual tax rules to cover each country in Europe - which will take you a while.

    Interface / ease of use

    Both Shopify and Bigcommerce are straightforward to use. Their interfaces are also now very similar in appearance.

    There is one ‘quirk’ in Shopify that the company really need to address however: creating a second level of navigation is a very odd and needlessly complicated process - you have to get your head around creating and selecting 'handles' rather than simply being able to drag and drop pages into a navigation structure (like you might do in Wordpress or Squarespace).

    But this issue aside, the Shopify interface is very good, and the support is comprehensive, so if you generally like the Shopify feature set, I wouldn’t let this issue put you off too much.

    Support options

    Shopify and Bigcommerce offer similar support options, with phone, live chat, forum, FAQs and email support available. 

    With Bigcommerce, you get 24/7 'live agent support' but it's not clear if phone support is 24/7, and, before you get access to a phone number or email addresses, you have to fill in a form and review potential solutions suggested by the Bigcommerce website first. 

    Shopify's support is also 24/7 but it's not entirely clear for which channels (phone, chat or email). But unlike Bigcommerce you don't have to go through any hoops to access the support details - you can just click on a relevant support channel to see its details. In other words, phone numbers are on plain view!!

    So which is better, Shopify or Bigcommerce?

    In previous comparisons I've done of online shopping tools - for example Shopify vs Volusion - I've generally been able to broadly pick a 'winning' product. However, for this particular comparison, it's much harder to pick a hands-down winner: both Shopify and Bigcommerce have various strengths and weaknesses which seem to cancel any advantages of one platform or the other out.

    For me, the strongest reason for using Shopify over Bigcommerce boils down to sales limits: there aren't any on Shopify, whereas Bigcommerce will apply additional fees if you exceed certain sales thresholds.

    The strongest reasons for using Bigcommerce over Shopify involves product options. You really can tailor them to the nth degree on Bigcommerce, where as Shopify limits you to three options. Another key reason I'd plump for Bigcommerce over Shopify would be the real-time carrier shipping quotes, which are available for a much lower price with Bigcommerce.

    Here are some more reasons why you might pick one over the other:

    Key reasons for using Shopify over Bigcommerce 

    • The 'lite' plan allows you to start selling goods online considerably cheaper than Bigcommerce's entry level plan.
    • There are more free templates to choose from with Shopify.
    • Shopify's paid templates are cheaper than Bigcommerce.
    • Paid-for Shopify templates are generally cheaper than the Bigcommerce equivalents.
    • iOS and Android apps are available for managing your store on the go.
    • Shopify's approach to product categorisation better than Bigcommerce's - you can create collections which automatically populate and update themselves based on criteria you supply.
    • There are far more third-party apps available for Shopify than for Bigcommerce.
    • Adhering to VAT MOSS rules is easier with Shopify, because it can calculate the relevant tax rates automatically for you.
    • There are no limits on the amount of sales for your store. Bigcommerce's imposition of sales limits on each plan may represent the strongest argument in favour of using Shopify over it.

    Key reasons for using Bigcommerce over Shopify

    • You get more e-commerce bang for your buck on the $29 and $79 Bigcommerce plans than with the Shopify equivalents - both of these Bigcommerce plans come with more selling features than their Shopify equivalents.
    • Real-time carrier quotes are available much more cheaply with Bigcommerce - it's included in their $29 per month plan, whereas Shopify only provide it on their $299 per month plan.
    • You can use far more product options with Bigcommerce: on Shopify, although there are workarounds available, you're limited to 3 options out of the box.
    • You can include custom fields and file uploads as product options on a Bigcommerce store. 
    • The Bigcommerce abandoned cart saver functionality is better than Shopify's.
    • No transaction fees apply, irrespective of the payment gateway used.
    • Bigcommerce's integration with Alibaba potentially makes sourcing quality stock easier.
    • You can export product data to CSV and XML (Shopify only permits export to CSV).

    Other than considering the above, it’s a case of weighing up your needs and what features each tool provides - and plumping for the system that suits your requirements best. I would definitely advise trying both products out before picking one or the other: you’ll find links to their free trials below.

    Finally, if you have any thoughts on Bigcommerce vs Shopify, or feedback on either product, do feel free to share them in the comments section below!

    See also

    More e-commerce and website builder reviews / articles


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