Bigcommerce vs Shopify (2017) - Which is Best?

Bigcommerce vs Shopify (image of the two logos beside a computer keyboard)

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

Read on for a discussion on Bigcommerce and Shopify 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 this post, you should have a much clearer idea of which product is the best fit for your business.

If you enjoy this post, please don't forget to leave your own thoughts on the Shopify vs Bigcommerce debate in the comments section at the end of the article.


Bigcommerce pricing vs Shopify pricing

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

Bigcommerce offers 4 pricing plans:

  • Bigcommerce Standard: $29.95 per month
  • Bigcommerce Plus: $79.95 per month
  • Bigcommerce Pro: $249.95 per month
  • Bigcommerce Enterprise: varies depending on requirements

Shopify offers 5 pricing 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 per month. 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

  • make use of a "Shopify Button", an embeddable widget, sort of like a Paypal 'buy now' button, to sell products online on an existing website
  • use your Facebook page to sell products

You can also use the Shopify 'Lite' plan to sell goods offline (at 'point of sale') 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 four particularly important things that you don't get on 'Basic Shopify', namely

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

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.

Unlike Bigcommerce, Shopify does not provide built-in ratings and review functionality and you'll need to install the free 'Product Reviews' app to allow your users to rate your goods.

Unlike Bigcommerce, Shopify does not provide built-in ratings and review functionality and you'll need to install the free 'Product Reviews' app to allow your users to rate your goods.

 

In addition to Shopify's own reviews app offering, you can install a wide range of third-party apps to provide reviews and ratings functionality, many of which offer 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 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 (you'll find 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 certain countries: United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia. So if you don't live in one of those countries, you'll have to use a different payment gateway provider (fortunately, there are many to choose from with Shopify - we'll return to this issue later).

Credit card fees

In addition to transaction fees, there are credit card fees to consider. If you decide to make use of a third-party payment gateway (an app for processing credit cards, basically) 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 (i.e., using Shopify in a point-of-sale context, like a retail outlet or at a market) you're looking at the following rates:

  • Shopify Lite: 1.7% per transaction
  • Basic Shopify: 1.7% 
  • Shopify: 1.6% 
  • Advanced Shopify: 1.5%

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
    • advanced security features

    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.

    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, $150,000 on the 'plus' plan and $400,000 on the 'pro' plan. Sales limits are negotiable if you're on Bigcommerce Enterprise. All these limits are calculated on a trailing 12-month basis.

    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 it's a definite win for Shopify here.

    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. This means you can avoid the time and cost associated with app installations. Additionally with Bigcommerce you don't have to worry about transaction fees at all, 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.


    Templates

    Free templates

    Shopify has a slight edge over Bigcommerce when it comes to its free theme offering, because it provides a wider selection of themes - Shopify provide 10 free themes to Bigcommerce's 7.

    Within both the Bigcommerce and Shopify 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 in a much more significant way than the Bigcommerce ones; several of the Bigcommerce free themes differ only in the fact that slightly different colours are used (you could in fact argue that so big are the similarities between the free Bigcommerce themes that there are only two free themes on offer - not seven).

    'Minimal' - one of Shopify's free themes

    'Minimal' - one of Shopify's free themes

    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 much more variety in the template department. 

    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 (see image below for an example of Bigcommerce's 'Stencil' template).

    The 'Stencil' template from Bigcommerce

    The 'Stencil' template from Bigcommerce

    The bottom line is that you'll be able to use either a Bigcommerce or Shopify template to create a professional looking store, but you'll get more choice from Shopify.

    (It's important to remember, of course, that your chosen template is only one part of the story when it comes to aesthetics: you'll need to ensure that your product photography and descriptions are up to scratch too - no template, no matter how well designed, will look good if it's populated with poor-quality content.)

    Paid-for templates

    Bigcommerce provides around 90 paid-for themes. They start at $145 and cost up to $235.

    Shopify offers around 50 paid-for templates, which range from $140 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 very 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 and shouldn't really be positioned as separate templates at all. Within individual Bigcommerce themes, you can work with a few variants of it, but again, there isn't much variety to spot between the variants.

    By contrast the paid-for Shopify themes are more distinct from each other - and most themes come with a selection of variants which are more obviously different from each other than the Bigcommerce equivalents.

    Shopify's 'Kingdom' theme - a paid-for template

    Shopify's 'Kingdom' theme - a paid-for template

    Bottom line on templates: for my money, the Shopify offering when it comes to 'out of the box' templates is stronger than Bigcommerce's - and better value. But don't forget: there's always the option to customise.

    Customising templates

    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 40 or so.

    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 powered by Braintree (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 Paypal or Stripe. 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

    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, but you will have to remember to apply consistent naming conventions to your products to make the most of it.

    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 more than 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 (if you're interested in find out more about how products options in Bigcommerce work, I'd suggest watching the below video).

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

    Text fields and file uploads

    Some merchants will require their customers to 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 (to extract a 'line item property') 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; but with Shopify, you'll have to resort to a bit of coding or 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

    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. If adding this snippet of code doesn't appeal to you, a paid-for Shopify app is available.

    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

    Something worth paying particular attention to in a Bigcommerce vs Shopify comparison 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.

    According to behavioural marketing company SalesCycle, 1 in three recipients of abandoned cart emails click on a link, with 28% of those users going on to make a purchase - so abandoned cart functionality is extremely important.

    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. 

    Bigcommerce's abandoned cart saver

    Bigcommerce's abandoned cart saver

    An interesting aspect of Shopify's abandoned cart saver involves time intervals - you are only allowed to send your automated email at one of the following times:

    • 1 hour later
    • 6 hours later
    • 10 hours later
    • 24 hours later.

    Of these times, Shopify strongly recommend going for the 1 hour later or 10 hours later intervals, as their research shows that users who have abandoned their carts are most likely to come back and complete the purchase upon receiving an email sent after those specific particular periods of time. (This is handy information to have actually, regardless of which e-commerce platform you eventually plump for...).

    Abandoned cart functionality is provided only on the more expensive Shopify and Bigcommerce plans - their $79 offerings and up. Given that abandoned cart recovery has the potential to significantly boost sales, a plan with this functionality is definitely worth looking at, regardless of which online store builder you eventually decide on. (Tip: you could also 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).

    Analytics

    Both Bigcommerce and Shopify offer a wide range of reporting tools. These include: 

    • customer reports (where your customers originate from, the percentage of new vs returning customers, their overall spend and when they last placed an order)
    • marketing reports (how you acquired your customers)
    • search data reports (what products customers searched for in your online store) 
    • finance reports (sales, tax reports etc.)
    • abandoned cart reports.

    In addition to the reports mentioned above, you can also avail of a couple of other reports on Shopify and Bigcommerce. Shopify allows you to create custom reports (available on 'Advanced Shopify' and 'Shopify Plus' plans only) and Bigcommerce - for an additional fee - provide you with access to an 'Insights' report giving you more detailed information on your customers, products and abandoned carts.

    I think it's fair to say that Bigcommerce offers a significant advantage over Shopify here, because you get the vast majority of report types as standard on any Bigcommerce plan. With Shopify you have to be on one of the more expensive plans - the $79 per month 'Shopify' plan and up - to avail of comprehensive reporting functionality. If you're on a cheaper Shopify plan, you can avail of some statistics via an 'online store dashboard', but these are pretty basic and 'top line' in nature.

    Professional reporting in Bigcommerce is provided on its cheapest plans

    Professional reporting in Bigcommerce is provided on its cheapest plans

     

    For additional insights into your store (particularly where traffic to it is concerned) you can of course also install Google Analytics and use goals to measure conversions and create custom reports.

    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 firstname.lastname@mystore.com which forwards mail onto firstname.lastname@anotherdomain.com.

    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., youraddress@yourdomain.com. In the case of Shopify, this is done not via the Shopify control panel, but via a third party, OpenSRS - in order to log in and configure your domain name settings, you'll need to contact the Shopify support team for your credentials first. With Bigcommerce, you can access the DNS settings via the standard Bigcommerce interface - a more straightforward procedure.

    Personally speaking, I would be inclined to ignore both Bigcommerce and Shopify's built-in email forwarding and pay for a G Suite or Office 365 account to manage email - simply because in doing so you get a very robust email solution AND a host of useful business tools (calendars, file storage, video conferencing and so on). Bigcommerce actually recommends this too.

    App stores

    There are 'app stores' available for both Shopify and Bigcommerce - with Shopify's containing significantly more apps than Bigcommerce's; whereas there are around 400 Bigcommerce apps available, there are nearly 2000 for Shopify.

    The difference in quantity may to a degree reflect the fact that Bigcommerce provides a bit more functionality straight out of the box...but that said, the sheer difference in numbers points to the fact that you will be able to integrate Shopify with a much wider range of third-party apps and add more interesting functionality than with Bigcommerce.

    Point of sale options in Shopify and Bigcommerce

    When it comes to using either platform for point-of-sale (POS) transactions, both Shopify and Bigcommerce allow 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 flea 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.

    Shopify's 'Point of Sale' hardware

    Shopify's 'Point of Sale' hardware

    To use POS with Bigcommerce you will need to integrate a third party platform, namely Square, Shopkeep or Springboard Retail hardware; the Shopify hardware kits are available from the Shopify site itself and Shopify POS is more of an 'out of the box' affair. Which approach is better will vary from customer to customer - users with an existing relationship with Square, Shopkeep or Springboard Retail will value the flexibility provided by Bigcommerce; users who want a more tightly integrated approach will prefer how Shopify handles POS.

    Mobile

    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 users can also avail of two smartphone apps (iOS or Android): Shopify and Shopify POS. The first allows you to manage basic aspects of your store (fulfil orders, add products and view reports); the second, as the name Shopify POS suggests, is there to help you sell via Shopify in a physical location (accept credit card payments, sync products, email receipts etc.).

    Bigcommerce used to provide a mobile app but no longer does. (The company says that the desktop version of the Bigcommerce 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.) There are some third party apps for managing a Bigcommerce store on a smartphone available - such as this 'Admin for Bigcommerce' app - but you won't be able to rely on support from Bigcommerce for them. 

    Ultimately it's fair to say that Shopify offers more comprehensive - and official - options when it comes to managing your store on a mobile device, particularly in a point-of-sale context.

    The Bigcommerce and Alibaba Wholesale partnership

    Bigcommerce have a partnership with Alibaba.com, 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.

    Some Bigcommerce users have questioned the usefulness of this integration however, raising objections to the quality of the app that is used to power it.


    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 tax 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 and ease of use

    Both Shopify and Bigcommerce are straightforward to use. Their interfaces are also now very similar in appearance. Below you'll find a video overview of the Bigcommerce interface:

    And here's a walkthrough of the Shopify interface (albeit in a slightly more 'vloggy' format):

    There is one ‘quirk’ in Shopify that I feel 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 'link 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 for Shopify and Bigcommerce

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

    Contacting Bigcommerce

    With Bigcommerce, you get 24/7 support across phone, email and live chat. However, before you get access to a phone number or email addresses, you are encouraged to fill in a form and review potential solutions suggested by the Bigcommerce website first. (Tip: if you scroll right down to the bottom of the Bigcommerce 'contact' page you can bypass this and access the contact relevant details straight away).

    Contacting Shopify

    Shopify's support is also 24/7. 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! Additionally, you'll get an indication of how long you'll have to wait using the digital channels - email and live chat - before an agent is available to assist you.

    One thing that is slightly unclear regarding Shopify phone support is who can access it: phone numbers are provided for North America, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, but it's unclear what number you should dial if you live in any country other than these. Bigcommerce by contrast lists more phone numbers for more countries, plus provides an 'any other country' option too. So if phone support is what you're after, Bigcommerce's offering is arguably the more comprehensive one. 


    Bigcommerce vs Shopify: review conclusions

    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 in general seem to cancel any advantages of one platform or the other out.

    For me, the strongest reason for using Bigcommerce over Shopify is that it includes more useful features out of the box on its cheapest plan - gift cards, reporting, ratings and reviews. Another key reason would be product options: you really can tailor them to the nth degree on Bigcommerce, where as Shopify limits you to three options.

    For me, the strongest reason for using Shopify over Bigcommerce probably boils down to financials: there are no sales limits, credit card fees are lower, and you can start selling cheaper with Shopify thanks to the 'Lite' plan. My other main reasons for choosing Shopify over Bigcommerce would be to do with templates (the selection of both free and paid-for templates available in Shopify is better than the Bigcommerce equivalent) and integrations (Shopify offers a much wider range of apps than Bigcommerce).

    And finally, don't forget personal preference: you might simply prefer the interface of one of these tools to the other, and as such I'd definitely advise you to try both out. You'll find links to the free trials below:

    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.
    • A comprehensive set of reports is available across all plans - this is not the case with Shopify.
    • 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 easily include custom fields and file uploads as product options on a Bigcommerce store - this is not the case in Shopify, where workarounds or app installations are necessary.
    • The Bigcommerce abandoned cart saver functionality is better than Shopify's.
    • No transaction fees apply, irrespective of the payment gateway used.
    • Phone support appears to be available in more countries with Bigcommerce than with Shopify.
    • Editing MX records (in order to use G Suite or another email provider) is more straightforward in Bigcommerce.
    • You can export product data to CSV and XML (Shopify only permits export to CSV).

    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.
    • The template offering is stronger.
    • Paid-for Shopify templates are slightly cheaper than the Bigcommerce equivalents.
    • Shopify templates are more distinct from each other than the Bigcommerce equivalents.
    • iOS and Android apps are available for managing your store on the go.
    • Shopify's approach to product categorisation is much better than Bigcommerce's - you can create collections which automatically populate and update themselves based on criteria you supply.
    • There are significantly 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.
    • Point of Sale is more tightly integrated with the product and a dedicated mobile app is available for this functionality.
    • There are no limits on the amount of sales for your store.

     

    Any thoughts on Bigcommerce or Shopify?

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


    See also


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