When faced with the decision to start one’s own store, you might not know the difference between the best known hosted carts, BigCommerce and Shopify. Building a store is no easy feat, but with the right platform you’ll be growing your business in no time. Here are the ins and outs of each platform to help you make your decision.
Having an appealing, professional looking storefront is really the header of your business and the first impression a customer will have when choosing to make a sale. Luckily BigCommerce and Shopify both offer free and paid storefront themes.
Shopify uses independent designers to create their themes, so the designs are always updated and professional, and they have a wide array of choices.
BigCommerce’s themes are both professional and inviting. The best way to access them is by signing up for their free 15-day trial. While their free options may not offer all the bells and whistles of Shopify’s highest paid designs, they’re always functional and clean-cut to let your product do the talking. As of February 2016 their “Next” release theme collection has just been updated to include new premium themes, with custom designs starting at $549- all of which are mobile friendly. Rather than using a standard template selection, BigCommerce provides endless designs to fit the nuances of your individual brand for a one-of-a-kind aesthetic when building your online presence.
What it comes down to is look and design matters and can be a huge contributing factor to growth. While Shopify outsources themes that work in today’s competitive e-commerce world, BigCommerce has bridged the design gap by hiring their own team of professional designers to build their paid themes, as well.
Having a good set of e-commerce tools is the basic necessities of a good e-commerce builder. There is a slight difference in how BigCommerce and Shopify approach this. While both provide the right fundamentals to running a great online store, BigCommerce offers more in terms of advanced tools.
Shopify provides all of the basic tools to create and operate a store, including product reviews, customer wish list, and product recommendations, but these are only available in their app store where you have to pay for them. These advanced tools can really help customers navigate your site, but since they are not included as part of the basic package you have to make a financial commitment to using them.
One of the best known features is the Shopify Payments feature, which is their own payment getaway to manage all of your money in their dashboard instead of signing up for a separate payment gateway like PayPal.
BigCommerce offers a lot more advanced tools available “out of the box” which are already included in the monthly fee. So it can be said that you will get more value out of BigCommerce’s comprehensive selection. To get those similar tools with Shopify you will have to purchase an external app to integrate them into your website.
If you have deep pockets, value design above everything and you don’t mind spending more money on “apps” and transaction fees, then Shopify is the obvious choice. Keep in mind that BigCommerce provides more advanced tools out of the box than Shopify. BigCommerce offers unlimited bandwidth and way more shopping cart features than Shopify for free.
Both BigCommerce and Shopify have experts that you can hire to take your business to the next level. So maybe there’s an aspect of your business you’d need someone who’s a little more well versed in ecommerce for- this may include designers for modifying themes, developers for creating some custom apps for your store, or even marketers to do the job for you.
Shopify has hundreds of qualified experts available – much more than BigCommerce for the time being. Even though hiring an expert is not always cheap, at least having this option available is an awesome feature from both Shopify and BigCommerce.
Both BigCommerce and Shopify have their own app store for promotion tools to help you extend the functionality of your e-commerce shop. These apps can also help with managing administrative tasks such as inventory management, shipping, or customer service.
Shopify offers over 1,100 apps to choose from, whereas BigCommerce has about 250. These apps can automate a lot of run-of-the-mill tasks that you have to do when running your store to save you time, and ultimately, money.
Catalog & Category Management
It is important to note that Shopify uses what are called collections to group products. Instead of categories it offers some neat functionality in the ability to automatically group products with common tags into a similar collection.
But it’s impossible to create sub-collections (or sub-categories). BigCommerce’s category management is more traditional and familiar. You can create categories and sub-categories quickly.
Both platforms will let you connect with just about any payment gateway. You can either shop around for the best merchant provider for your needs or use payment exclusively via PayPal.
PayPal works a bit differently between the two platforms. On BigCommerce you have the option to enter all of your personal details on the checkout page, then you’re transferred to PayPal to make the final payment.
With Shopify, customers need to enter all their information via PayPal’s interface, so it is more of a hassle for customers. BigCommerce’s checkout is more streamlined. Checkout pages are hosted on the store’s domain, and the template is customizable to change the look and feel of the checkout.
BigCommerce is strictly online, so it’s not a good fit for anyone who wants to do brick and mortar transactions. On the other hand, BigCommerce has a more straightforward way of dealing with payments and transaction fees, and they offer more storage space for the monthly price. Shopify also doesn’t have the conversion optimization enhancements that some e-tailers may require.
Shopify’s plans start at a monthly price of $9 for a Lite plan, and moves up to $29 for Basic, $79 for Pro, and $179 for Unlimited. BigCommerce does not charge you any transaction fees on your sales.
BigCommerce monthly fees range from $29.95 per month (Standard Plan) to $79.95 per month (Plus Plan) to $199.95 per month (Pro plan) and their Enterprise Plan (which is customized for established, high volume businesses).
On BigCommerce, all levels are contract-free and you can cancel at any time. Note that Shopify plans don’t include a number of features in the lower-level plans that are included by default in all BigCommerce plans, such as real-time shipping quotes and gift certificates. But when you’re crunching the numbers, the price points of Shopify and BigCommerce are not massively different.
Unfortunately with a web interface running into technical issues is just part of the territory. That’s why it’s important
to have a solid support team to get you through the rough patches.
Both Shopify and BigCommerce offer live phone support, 24 hours a day. And don’t sweat the small stuff- their community forums and tutorial screenshots walk you through how to get things set up.
If you don’t feel like waiting for an email response the live chat is available at all hours of the day, as well. Both offer 24/7 services, which is an absolute necessity for e-commerce online store builders.
When choosing to build your own site their are many things to consider. Although Shopify has a much wider array of apps and themes to choose from, BigCommerce comes with a lot more advanced tools, and they do not charge a transaction fee per sale.
If you’re still not ready to commit to either, take advantage of their free trial periods to test them out yourself. BigCommerce’s trial period is 15 days, where Shopify’s trial is 14 day.
Both of them have solid reputations in the world of online store builders, so when it comes down to choosing the right pick for growing your business and meeting your unique needs, the choice is yours.