Shopify vs Volusion (2017) | Comparison of Two Leading Online Store Builders
Shopify vs Volusion - image of a shopping cart beside the two company logos.

In this Shopify vs Volusion comparison review, we pit two very well-known online store builders against each other.

Read on for an overview of their pricing and key features, and find out which of these well-known e-commerce platforms is best for your business.

About Shopify and Volusion

Shopify and Volusion are platforms which allow you to create an online store. They work in a similar way, in that they are hosted solutions - they run in a browser and there is no software for you to install locally.

Both are 'software as a service' (SaaS) solutions - you pay a monthly fee to use them,  and this gives you the tools to create and maintain your store: templates, a content management system, hosting, e-commerce functionality and support.

The fundamental idea behind both tools is that even if you don't have coding or design skills, you can create an online store easily enough using them.

In previous reviews of Shopify and Volusion, I've always come down on the side of Shopify - it's proved itself to be a classier, easier to use product. But with the recent rollout of a new version of Volusion, has its upped its game? Is it now a better option than Shopify for building an e-commerce site? 

Let's find out.


Shopify pricing

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

Volusion pricing

With Volusion, there are 4 plans to choose from:

  • Volusion Mini: $15 per month
  • Volusion Plus: $35 per month
  • Volusion Pro: $75 per month
  • Volusion Premium: $135 per month

A comparison of the Shopify vs Volusion entry level plans

Shopify can get you selling online cheaper via their $9 'Lite' plan; this is  $6 cheaper than the $15 'Volusion Mini' plan.

However, the Shopify plan doesn't allow you to actually set up a fully functional online store but rather allows you to:

  • sell on Facebook
  • use Shopify's back end in conjunction with a Shopify 'Buy' button which you can embed on your website (this works in a similar way to a Paypal button)
  • make use of the Shopify point of sale kit (more on that anon).

Volusion's Mini plan, by contrast, allows you to create a fully-fledged online store for $15 per month - but there are limits on

  • the number of products you can sell (100)
  • the bandwidth available (1GB)
  • the type of support you receive (with the Volusion Mini plan, no phone support is available).

No product or bandwith limits apply on any of the Shopify plans (the Shopify Lite plan does however restrict support to email or live chat only however).

Transaction fees

One key advantage of using Volusion over Shopify is the lack of transaction fees on any of its plans.

With Shopify, you can also avoid transaction fees on all plans - BUT only if you are happy to use Shopify's own payment processing option, Shopify payments.

There is a problem with this, because it is only available to users selling from certain territories: the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore.

Other Shopify users can make use of a wide range of third-party payment gateway processors - but if you use one, transaction fees will apply (2% on 'Lite' and 'Basic' plans, 1% on 'Shopify' and 0.5% on 'Advanced').

Key things to watch out for with Volusion and Shopify pricing plans

The key things to look out watch out for when comparing Shopify's pricing to Volusion's are probably the following:

  • Bandwidth: if you are selling digital goods or expecting a high level of traffic to your store, bear in mind that Volusion limits bandwidth: you are restricted to 1GB on the 'Mini' plan; 3GB on the 'Plus' plan; 10GB on the 'Pro' plan and 35GB on the 'Premium' plan.
  • Abandoned cart reports: you can't access these in Shopify unless you are on the $79 'Shopify' plan, whereas Volusion give you access to this data on their $35 'Plus' plan.
  • Manual order creation: Shopify allow you to create manual orders on all plans, but Volusion only allows you to do this if you are on their $75+ plans.

Core features

Shopify and Volusion offer a similar set of key features out of the box, and allow you to:

  • design your store using a range of pre-existing templates
  • create catalogues of products
  • manage your store using a CMS
  • optimise your products for search
  • accept online payments via a range of payment gateways

Let's zoom in on a few key features, and see how they stack up against each other.


Both Shopify and Volusion offer a wide range of templates, all very professional in appearance. They are responsive too, meaning that they will automatically resize themselves to suit the device your store is being viewed on. You can choose either a free theme or a paid-for one.

In terms of quality, both the Volusion and Shopify themes are of a high quality and I wouldn't have any particular reservations about using any of the themes I've encountered from both companies as a starting point when designing an online store. 

Shopify's free 'Minimal' template ('Vintage' version)

Shopify's free 'Minimal' template ('Vintage' version)

Let's look at quantity though - this is where Shopify has a bit of an edge.

Free templates from Shopify and Volusion

At first glance Volusion seems to offer slightly more choice in the free template department - there are 11 free templates to Shopify's 10. However, most of the free Shopify templates come in 2 or 3 variations, so there's actually a fair bit more choice available from Shopify. 

Paid-for templates from Shopify and Volusion

Both Volusion and Shopify offer a wide range of paid-for templates, but again Shopify provides more options: there are 51 paid-for themes available from Shopify to Volusion's 38.

You can also pick up a Shopify paid-for theme slightly cheaper: they range in price from $140 to $180, whereas all the Volusion themes all cost $180.

And finally, the Shopify premium themes are generally slicker, featuring contemporary design features like video backgrounds and parallax scrolling.

Finding the right template

Finally, the Shopify theme store is set up in a way which makes it easier to find the right template for your online store: you can browse using a wide range of filters, including price, style, industry and more; by contrast, Volusion doesn't provide any filters.

Overall, when it comes to templates, it's hard not to conclude that Shopify's offering is significantly better than the Volusion equivalent.

A Volusion paid-for theme

Payment gateways

Both Shopify and Volusion integrate with a large number of 'payment gateways' - third party tools that process credit cards on your behalf. However, you can use more payment gateways with Shopify - over 100 to Volusion's 40 or so. It's important to note that the number of available payment gateways available for use in Volusion varies significantly depending on what part of the world you're operating in - in the US, for example, you can make use of around 30 Volusion payment gateways, whereas in Europe, this number drops to just 8.

Both tools come with an 'out of the box' payments solution too: 'Shopify Payments' and 'Volusion Payments'. Shopify Payments, as mentioned above, can only be used by merchants based in United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia.

Volusion Payments is only available to merchants in the US, and unlike Shopify Payments there are fees to worry about. You also have to go through an application process which takes 5-7 days.

All this means that Shopify is a hands down-winner in both the third payment gateway department, and its out-of-the-box option is more attractive than Volusion's too.


Apps allow you to bolt on a lot of additional functionality to an online store, and integrate third party web applications with it. 

Both Volusion and Shopify have app stores, but Shopify users can benefit from a much wider range of apps than Volusion users: there over 2000 Shopify apps you can integrate with your store, but only around 60 Volusion ones.

Although Volusion's apps do cover the basics, the reality is that Shopify users will benefit from a significantly larger number of options when it comes to apps (and these cater for major third party apps like Xero and Freshbooks). There are also hundreds of free apps available for Shopify...but only five free apps for Volusion.

Dropshipping in Volusion vs Shopify

Many potential users of Volusion and Shopify will want to know how well it handles dropshipping

Dropshipping is a way of selling products where you don't keep the actual products in stock. Instead, you take an order, redirect it to a supplier, and they deliver the goods to your customer. A lot of people are attracted to this way of selling products because you don't need much capital to start up your business (the down side is that competition in the dropshipping marketplace is fierce).

If dropshipping is what you want to do then - as with much else discussed in this review - you'll find that the options are considerably more extensive in Shopify. There are tons of apps available for Shopify to facilitate it, but with Volusion, you're limited to just two dropshipping apps / suppliers: Doba and Kole Import.

For more information on dropshipping as a business model, I'd suggest you check out Shopify's free webinar on dropshipping.

Point of Sale options

When it comes to using either tool for point-of-sale (POS) transactions, Shopify has a clear edge, because it allows you to connect a card reader to an iPad, which then allows you to process credit card payments anywhere, any time.

Additionally, there are other pieces of hardware directly available from Shopify to faciliate point of sale transactions, including a barcode scanner, a receipt printer, a till and a label printer. All these allow your Shopify store to become more than just an 'virtual' entity; it can double up as a tool for running a business in the 'real' world too. All your customer and order data is synced with Shopify, so everything to do with sales and inventory is kept neat and tidy. 

Shopify's point of sale options are very comprehensive

POS functionality is available in Volusion too - you can use a variety of UPC scanners, card readers and receipt printers with it, so you will be able to use the platform in much the same way as Shopify's.

The key difference between Shopify and Volusion when it comes to POS applications however is that whereas Shopify make it a key part of the offering, and more of an 'out of the box' feature, it's more of an 'add on' service for Volusion which will require you to give more thought to the third party hardware you use (and possibly spend more time on making this hardware work with Volusion).

Adding a blog to a Volusion or Shopify store

Shopify offers an extremely important feature out of the box that is missing from Volusion: a blogging tool.

You might not immediately think that a blog is a key part of an online store - but in this day and age of content and inbound marketing, regular posting of quality blog content is absolutely essential to generating traffic to a site – and by extension to generating product sales.

It is possible to link a third-party blog (i.e., a Wordpress blog) to your Volusion store and mess around with DNS settings so that everything works neatly enough and your blog lives on a nice-looking subdomain…but it is a headache and probably one that a less experienced user will want to avoid. Shopify’s built-in blogging tool is a much better solution - you simply get a blog on your store that very easy to update.

Additionally, there are arguably SEO benefits to having your blog hosted on the exact same domain / platform as your store, so Shopify is a clear winner here.


In previous versions of this review, I've always concluded that Shopify’s back end beats Volusion’s hands down. With the new version of Volusion, have my thoughts on this changed?


Although the Volusion user interface has improved a bit, Shopify still has got a much better user interface, and I found that putting a simple store together was much, much quicker in Shopify than in Volusion.

Volusion now provides you with a step-by-step wizard to help you get started with your store - this is a welcome change from the old interface, which sort of threw you in at the deep end.

The new Volusion interface

The new Volusion interface

However, if you follow the Volusion wizard process to the end, it concludes by asking you for your credit card details. This is extremely annoying and goes against the spirit of offering a free trial! It is possible to get around this by clicking an item on the Volusion main menu..but it's not ideal and some users will find the whole thing irritating or confusing.

The new Volusion interface looks a bit prettier, but it's still oddly difficult to do some very simple things with it – like edit the navigation or add a simple ‘About Us’ web page. I've used many a site / store builder in my time, but with Volusion I've had to resort to Google searches to work out how these simple tasks are performed – instant proof that this system is not, shall we say, all that intuitive. The same tasks did not present any problems at all in Shopify, which comes with a much more straightforward CMS and WYSIWYG editor.

Finally, both products allow you to tweak CSS and HTML, so if you are a relatively experienced web developer, you’ll be able to configure your store extensively.

Overall verdict on user friendliness: Shopify is way, way easier to use than Volusion. (The below vlog-style video gives a walkthrough of the Shopify interface - unfortunately I can't source a similar video for the new version of Volusion).

Marketing features

Volusion offers some rather interesting marketing features out of the box, notably a tool that allows you to create your own affiliate programs, a CRM system and a basic email marketing tool that allows you to send newsletters to your contacts directly from within Volusion.

The affiliate program could be useful for some users, but I'm a bit skeptical when it comes to the CRM side of things, because it doesn't support email systems that require SSL integration (with Gmail, used by millions of businesses worldwide, being an obvious casualty).

Volusion email marketing tool is quite a useful feature to have built into an online store solution - but there are limits on how many e-newsletters you can send out per month:

  • Mini Plan: newsletter emails not included
  • Plus Plan: 200 emails / month
  • Pro Plan: 1000 emails / month
  • Premium Plan: 2000 emails / month 

Given that these limits are not overly generous, this feature is probably only going to be of use to merchants who are starting out on their e-commerce journey; successful merchants will have larger lists and will most likely make use of a dedicated email marketing tool like Getresponse or Aweber.

Comparable marketing functionality is not really available out of the box with Shopify, but you can integrate it easily with a wide range of third-party CRM and email marketing tools by using an app from Shopify's app store.


Volusion offers online support on all plans, but phone support is only available on their $35 'Plus' plan and up. Shopify's phone support is available on the slightly cheaper $29 'Basic' plan and up.

My hunch is that if you're a Volusion user, you are more likely to require phone support than if you're a Shopify user, simply because the Volusion interface is less user-friendly. Unlike with some competing products, it's easy enough to find a phone number for Volusion - you can either call a number listed on the home page of their site or you can use a 'schedule call' option (you can access this when logged into your Volusion Dashboard by clicking the 'Get Help' link at the top right of the screen).

Accessing phone numbers for Shopify involves a slightly fiddly process - you have to search for a solution to your problem and fail to find one before you can see any phone numbers. When you do get to see them, you'll note that numbers are only provided for a few countries - North America, New Zealand, UK, Australia and's not entirely clear what number you need to ring if you live outside of these territories. I'm guessing it's the US one.

Which is better then, Shopify or Volusion?

So which is better, Shopify or Volusion? Well, as you’ve probably guessed as this post has developed, I'd argue that Shopify is the clear winner.

There are six main reasons why I think it's a better product:

  • its user interface / CMS is much easier to use
  • it provides a wider range of free templates
  • there are no limits on bandwidth or products to worry about
  • it allows you to integrate a significantly larger number of apps into your store than Volusion does
  • it's a better bet for dropshipping
  • it allows you to blog ‘out of the box’

All this, I feel, makes Shopify far more suitable for use by people who want to set up an online store, but have little or no experience of building a website.

And speaking of building a website, Shopify generally makes it easy to do just that – you could, if you really wanted, ignore the online store aspect of things altogether and build a whole website fairly easily using Shopify.

It would be a pretty silly thing to do, as there are more comprehensive, cost-effective options out there for building a site without e-commerce functionality (see our Squarespace review or our Squarespace vs Wordpress comparison for some ideas), but the point is that with Shopify you get a very complete, generally easy-to-use package which allows you to build an entire website that is simple to maintain and comes with a fully-featured online store and a blog.

Volusion’s offering is more exclusively about the online store side of things and as such it comes with more online store-related functionality out of the box; this is fine, but many people who want an online store also need it to double up as a website (and blog) too. 

I guess my main issue with Volusion though is that despite its new interface it feels more like a tool for web developers rather than 'normal people' (!) who simply want to get a store off the ground quickly - and my feeling is that people who want to say, sell pottery online are too busy making and selling pottery to take a night class in web development.

For me, any system which presents a user with information about CSS files when he/she tries to create a simple navigation menu (as Volusion does) screams “hi developers!” rather than “hi novice”. Any ‘techy’ stuff like that in Shopify (and there is plenty of that if you need it) is kept largely out of the way in the back end – it’s accessible alright, but not shoved in your face. This is far less intimidating for anyone who doesn't know what an ASP file is (the majority of people on this planet, I suspect).

That’s not to say that Volusion is an entirely bad product. If you are technically savvy, or a web developer, you should find it relatively straightforward to set up and use, and you may find that it has a bit more online store functionality (though not content management features) than Shopify. Additionally, it can work out a bit cheaper to run a Volusion store, because (payment gateway provision aside), no transaction fees are charged on each purchase. If, however, you are a small business owner without any web skills, and you want to get a simple online store off the ground yourself with a minimum of fuss, Shopify is a much better, easier option.

Reasons to use Shopify over Volusion

  • It's significantly easier to use than Volusion.
  • There are more themes to choose from, and its paid-for themes are cheaper than the Volusion equivalents.
  • Unlimited storage and bandwidth come with all plans.
  • Blogging functionality is built in.
  • A wider selection of payment gateways is available.
  • A significantly wider selection of apps and integrations is available.
  • Point-of-sale functionality is more comprehensive and 'built in'.
  • Its own payment system, Shopify Payments, does not involve transaction or monthly fees.

Free Shopify trial

Reasons to use Volusion over Shopify

  • Its entry level plan - the $15 per month 'Mini' option - allows you to create a fully-functional online store, whereas you can't do this with Shopify unless you are on a $29+ per month plan.
  • There are no transaction fees on any plans.
  • Some users may find its marketing features (CRM, affiliate program and email marketing tools) useful.

Free Volusion trial

Free trials of Shopify and Volusion

As I always say at the end of these sort of comparison reviews, it’s usually a good idea to try both products out yourself before committing to one of them, and fortunately both come with a free trial.

Any thoughts on Shopify vs Volusion?

If you've used both Shopify or Volusion (or both!) in the past, I'd love to hear your thoughts on both systems - feel free to add comment below (note, if you're viewing this on a smartphone and can't see the comments section, you may be reading an Accelerated Mobile Pages version of the page - if so, click here to view the regular mobile version, where you'll be able to view and add comments. Thanks!). 

How to create an e-newsletter (and a great email marketing campaign)
How to create an e-newsletter (image of an @ symbol on a wooden surface)

In this post we show you how to create an email newsletter that you can send to your business leads or clients; we also advise on how to run an effective e-marketing campaign in general.

But first: why do you need to send an e-newsletter in the first place?

Why the humble e-newsletter still matters

Given the popularity of social media and online advertising as a way of generating business, it's easy to think of the humble e-newsletter as being something rather outdated or quaint. This is a mistake: even with the huge range of other marketing and advertising avenues now available, email marketing can be a hugely effective way to generate revenue.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, email has an ROI of around 4300%, and 25% of Black Friday revenue is generated via email campaigns. Given these sort of stats, it's clear that every email address you capture has a monetary value, and that email marketing is something that can be key to the growth of a business.

Below we'll look at 11 key things you need to do to create and send the best e-newsletters you possibly can. 

The first thing we're going to look at is data.

1. Start with the most important thing: your data

Before you think about ‘how’ you are going to send an e-newsletter, you need to think about the ‘who’. Without a database, you're not going to be able to send any e-newsletters; and without a clean, well-structured one, you're not going to generate as much revenue as you could.

You probably have an existing database of leads and clients tucked away in an Excel spreadsheet somewhere – or more likely, your database is spread across several very messy spreadsheets.

If this sounds like you, it's a good idea to consolidate all your files into one clean, well-organised spreadsheet before you try to send newsletters to any of the contacts on them.

You should also ensure that your cleaned database is ‘segmented’ as well as possible – i.e., ideally you should have a field in it containing information which lets you flag data as leads, current clients, past clients and so on.

(That’s just an example of how you could organise things though: how you segment your database should depend on what you are selling and the nature of your business – for example, if you sell different types of products, you may wish to flag your data by product type.)

The basic aim of the exercise is to get your data into shape, so that you are able to send an appropriate message to an appropriate prospect at the right time.

2. Create a content plan and e-newsletter schedule

The next step is to plan your communications carefully. It’s a good idea to create an ‘e-communications schedule’ which maps out what you are going to send out in your email newsletters, to whom, and when.

You can then refer to this schedule throughout the year, and ensure you have all the necessary content ready to go. And because you’ll have segmented your data nicely in advance (see above) you will be sending your beautiful and interesting e-newsletter to precisely the right group of contacts.

3. Pick the right tool for sending your e-newsletter

For many small businesses, sending e-newsletters means compiling a mailing list in Excel, then copying and pasting the addresses into the BCC field of a clunky-looking Outlook message.

This is a time-consuming way to go about things; it’s also very ineffective, because

  • it doesn’t allow you to send very professional-looking e-newsletters
  • it prevents you from accurately measure important stats like open rate and clickthroughs
  • it increases the likelihood of your email triggering spam filters (email programs usually hate emails that are bcc'd to loads of people).

It is a much better idea to use a dedicated tool for sending your e-newsletter. There are many web-based solutions available now: big-hitters include GetresponseAweber, Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor and Mad Mimi.

These all allow you to import your database, create attractive templates, and send out proper ‘HTML e-newsletters’ that stand the greatest chance of being delivered (and crucially, read!). They also provide free trials / plans (of various degrees of quality) - it's worth trying a few out and seeing which suits your requirements best.

There are pros and cons to all of these. Out of the above list, our preferred options are probably Getresponse and Mailchimp: Getresponse because it has the best all round feature set (which includes landing pages, webinars and CRM) and Mailchimp because it allows you to host a small list (up to 2000 subscribers) for free.

4. Create an attractive e-newsletter template

Once you’ve decided upon which bit of software you’re going to use for your e-newsletters, you need to design a nice HTML template for it.

With the exception of Mad Mimi, most of the solutions we referred to above provide a wide range of e-newsletter templates which you can tweak extensively - using a drag and drop editor - so that your e-newsletter matches your brand.

If your design skills are not all that strong of course, you might consider hiring a designer to set up your email templates. Either way, you should try to get to a point where your e-newsletter template looks professional and uncluttered and adheres to your organisation's branding guidelines.

5. Split test!

Once you’ve got your database, your e-communications schedule, your choice of software and your template sorted, it’s finally time to start sending some e-newsletters. But it’s really important to send them in the best way possible! This generally means 'split testing' your subject headers and/or your e-newsletter content.

Split testing involves trying out different versions of your message on a relatively small sample of your data before sending it to the remainder of your database. You might, for example, create three versions of the same newsletter, each with different subject headers, and send it to 500 people on your database – after a day or so, you can identify which subject header led to the best open rate, and then use that header for the remainder of your data.

Note that this is only worth doing if you have a relatively large database – if your business database is only a few hundred records in size, you might find split testing doesn’t really lead to particularly informative results.

You needn't restrict split testing to your e-newsletters - you can also split test forms (to see, for example if shorter sign-up forms work better than longer ones) or your landing pages (the pages where people can sign up to your list).

And speaking of landing pages...

6. Use good landing pages

It’s not just essential to have attractive, well-constructed e-newsletters: it’s important that the links in those e-newsletters take you to pages that actually ‘convert’ readers into taking further action too.

Generally speaking you don’t want to send people to a page that contains a huge number of competing calls to action or links – it’s better to present a page that encourages users to take one specific action, be that buying a product or completing a form. Your landing pages should be attractive, easy-to-use and focused firmly on conversion.

As mentioned above, you can split test your landing pages to see which pages 'convert' visitors to leads most effectively. This involves creating two or more landing pages, testing them against each other and ultimately rolling the one with the highest conversion rate out as your preferred landing page. 

Some email marketing products, such as Getresponse, provide this functionality out of the box (see image below) or alternatively, you can use a dedicated tool like Instapage or Unbounce to create and split test landing pages.

Getresponse's landing page creator

Getresponse's landing page creator

7. Measure success

Most e-newsletter tools come with detailed reporting functionality – after sending an e-newsletter, you will be able to access statistics that let you measure the performance of your e-newsletters.

Study these stats carefully, as they will help you create better e-newsletters that generate more conversions in future. The key things you need to look out for are:

  • open rates - which type of subject header / content encourages the most opens of your emails
  • clickthrough rates (CTRs) - what sort of links in your emails are popular?
  • unsubscribe rates - what content really turns people off?
E-newsletter statistics 

E-newsletter statistics 

8. Allow people to sign up to your mailing list via your website and social media profiles

All email marketing tools allow you to easily embed sign-up forms for your mailing list directly on your website or social media profiles. Make sure you do this, as it will save you having to repeatedly upload spreadsheets of data to your e-newsletter service.

Ideally, you should have a sign-up form for your e-newsletter on every page of your website, and you could also consider using pop up boxes on certain pages of your site too to maximise the number of sign ups to your mailing list (be careful with these on mobile devices however - Google can penalise sites that use pop up boxes in a way which negatively affects usability).

9. Use autoresponders

By connecting your website’s mailing list form directly to your e-newsletter software, you can make use of autoresponders or ‘drips’ – automated emails that you can ‘pre-program’ in advance so that when somebody signs up to your mailing list via your website, they will automatically receive messages of your choosing at intervals of your choosing.

For example, a subscriber could get a welcome message immediately upon signup; a special offer one week later; an encouragement to follow your company on Facebook two weeks later and so on.

9. Allow people to share your e-newsletter easily

Most e-newsletter tools will allow you to add ‘forward to a friend’ or social media sharing buttons to your e-newsletter.

Add them! It means that your content and offers get a good chance of being seen by an audience outside of your mailing list.

11. Always follow best practice

And finally, if you want to run an effective e-newsletter campaign, there are five important things to remember:

  • When you capture email addresses, make it very clear on any sign up forms and landing pages that people are subscribing to your mailing list (ideally you should provide people with a link to a privacy policy)
  • Don’t spam: always ensure that anyone on your list has actually signed up to it
  • Don’t over-commmunicate: leave decent gaps between messages
  • Always send relevant, interesting content to people on your mailing list: this will minimise unsubscribes
  • Always make it easy for people to unsubscribe
  • Be aware of data protection legislation

Hope you find these e-marketing tips useful. If you enjoyed this article, please do share it with others!

Free trials of email marketing tools

Below you'll find links to free trials of email marketing tools. 

Email marketing tool reviews

You may also find our email marketing reviews and comparisons helpful:

Bigcommerce vs Squarespace (2017) - Comparison Review
Bigcommerce vs Squarespace - image of the two logos accompanying a comparison review

In this review we compare Bigcommerce vs Squarespace, to try to help you establish which platform is better for your business. We'll go through the pros and cons in depth and highlight why you might wish to use one product over the other.

Note: in this comparison we are discussing the 'standard' verison of Squarespace, aimed at general users, not the developer's platform.

Online publication, or online store?

Before plumping for either of these platforms you need to work out what you’re trying to build – an ‘online publication’ or an ‘online store’.

The reason why it’s worth taking some time to figure this is out is because both Bigcommerce and Squarespace started out life with different raisons d’êtres: Squarespace was initially conceived as an elegant / easy way to publish content; and Bigcommerce was conceived as a straight-up selling tool.

In recent times, both platforms have sort have morphed into each other a bit – the addition of e-commerce functionality to Squarespace means it’s now got a foot squarely planted on Bigcommerce’s turf; and the addition of blogging functionality to Bigcommerce has resulted in it developing into a tool that can technically be used for publishing content.

Despite the increasing similarity of both tools however, my take on them is that they still serve two rather distinct audiences: users who are more concerned with publishing content regularly – and laying it out in an attractive manner – would be wiser to gravitate towards Squarespace; and those who have more advanced selling requirements would be better off with Bigcommerce.

Let’s do a head-to-head on their pricing and key features though, so that you can make your own mind up.


Monthly fees for Squarespace and Bigcommerce

Squarespace offers four monthly pricing options:

  • Personal - $14 per month
  • Business - $26 per month
  • Basic - $30 per month
  • Advanced - $46 per month

Discounts for all the above are available if you pay annually - the monthly fees for the above plans work out respectively at $10, $18, $30, $40 when you pay upfront for a year's service.

Bigcommerce also provides 4 monthly plans:

  • Bigcommerce Standard: $29.95 per month
  • Bigcommerce Plus: $79.95 per month
  • Bigcommerce Pro: $249.95 per month
  • Bigcommerce Enterprise: pricing varies, depending on your business needs

If you pay upfront for a year's Bigcommerce service, you can avail of a 10% discount.

All Bigcommerce plans permit you to sell an unlimited number of products. With Squarespace, the 'Business', 'Basic' and 'Advanced' plans also permit you to sell an unlimited number of products, but the 'Personal' plan doesn't provide any e-commerce functionality at all.

Transaction fees

The good news for users of Bigcommerce is that there are no transaction fees to worry about (i.e., the company will not take a cut of your sales revenue).

You can avoid transaction fees from Squarespace too, so long as you are on one of their two most expensive plans ('Basic' or 'Advanced'). If you're on the 'Business' Squarespace plan, you will be charged 3% transaction fees respectively.

However, with both products you will need to choose a payment gateway. This will involve working with a third-party company that will take a cut of your sales. Let's take a look at the options.

Credit card fees / payment gateways

A payment gateway is a service that you essentially ‘plug in’ to your website to accept online payments. This is an area where using Bigcommerce is significantly better than Squarespace - it works with around 40 payment gateways whereas Squarespace works with just two: Stripe and Paypal.

Let's look at the Squarespace options first. 

Because of it's ubiquity and large userbase, Paypal is a very useful payment gateway to be able to integrate into your site. It also doesn't involve any monthly fees. (The current Paypal merchant fees can be viewed here.)

Stripe fees also vary according to the country you are selling from. To give you rough idea however, in the US the Stripe credit card fees are 2.9%+30c per transaction.

In the UK, a more reasonable 1.4% + 20p rate is charged when European cards are used, and 2.9%+20p for non-European cards.

It's worth noting that you can only use the full version of Stripe if you are based in certain countries – i.e., you can sell your products to any user in any country worldwide with Stripe but you can only do so from the countries supported by the company.

If you don't live in a Stripe-supported country and want to sell with Squarespace, your only option is to use Paypal as your payment gateway. 

It's easy to integrate either Paypal or Stripe into your Squarespace account.

With Bigcommerce, you can use around 40 different payment gateways, so this means you can shop around to a degree to find the best deal when it comes to transaction fees. There may be a bit of configuration work involved in integrating your chosen payment gateway into Bigcommerce, but generally speaking this won't involve much time or effort.

The other main option is to use Bigcommerce's 'out of the box' solution - this means using Paypal, powered by Braintree. Their credit card rates 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

Using this option means a bit less hassle when it comes to setup.

Sales limits

One important thing to note about Bigcommerce when it comes to pricing is that the product has a 'maximum annual online sales' limit; depending on the plan you plump for, you will have to pay extra if you are fortunate enough to exceed certain sales limits. These thresholds are as follows:

  • Bigcommerce Standard: $50,000
  • Bigcommerce Plus: $150,000
  • Bigcommerce Pro: $400,000
  • Bigcommerce Enterprise: negotiable

(If you're on the Bigcommerce Pro plan, you can increase the sales limit by paying $150 per month for every additional $200k in sales.)

This contrasts negatively with Squarespace, where no such limits apply. I wouldn't describe it as a show-stopper - to be honest, if your sales are in the region of $150,000 per year you are not really going to quibble over a couple of hundred dollars - but nonetheless it's worth pointing out that Bigcommerce seems to be fairly unique amongst online store building products in applying these fees.

So which is cheaper, Squarespace or Bigcommerce?

It's a case of swings and roundabouts; a big fat case of 'it depends'. Here are a few things that I'd foreground:

  • You can technically start selling slightly cheaper with Squarespace, on its $26 'Business' plan. However, the transaction fees are high on this plan - so depending on your sales figures, this may be a false economy.
  • You can avail of real-time carrier shipping quotes cheaper with Bigcommerce - it's available on its cheapest plan (the $29.95 Bigcommerce Standard option). By comparison, you need to be on the most expensive $46 per month Squarespace plan to obtain this.
  • You can avail of abandoned cart recovery functionality (which can boost revenue significantly) more cheaply with Squarespace - it's available on the $46 monthly plan. By contrast, you'll need to be spending $79.95 with Bigcommerce before you can get your hands on similar functionality.

But pricing, as ever, is not the sole consideration to base your decision on. Let's look at some features. 


There’s no doubt about it: Squarespace offers the better-looking templates: they are beautiful and represent their strongest selling point.

That’s not to say that Bigcommerce’s are at all bad – they’re just not quite as slick as Squarespace’s offering. There are also far fewer to choose from: Bigcommerce only provides 7 free templates, whereas Squarespace offers around 80.

Bigcommerce does however provide a wide selection of paid ones: there are 90 themes available to purchase, which vary in price from $145 to $235.

I have couple of cautionary notes about both sets of templates.

First, I would argue that within the range of free and paid-for Bigcommerce themes, there is not a huge degree of the variety between templates - a lot of differently named templates look very similar.

With regard to the Squarespace templates, it's worth pointing out that not all of them are designed exclusively with online store 100% owners in mind. 

Because Squarespace is a product which is focused at a much wider range of users than Bigcommerce - photographers, bloggers, bands, artists, restaurant owners etc. - a lot of the templates are not really of the 'online store' variety. To be fair, you can sell using any of them, but if you plump for say, a Squarespace template that is designed with photographers in mind, you may find it slightly harder to use it as the basis for building an online store. 

This variety of purposes behind the Squarespace templates arguably reinforces the whole "Squarespace for content, Bigcommerce for an online store" vibe discussed at the start of this review.

Squarespace's 'Bedford' template

Squarespace's 'Bedford' template

Editing HTML and CSS

In terms of editing, both Squarespace and Bigcommerce provide a style editor - a set of controls that allows you to tweak colours, typefaces and other aspects of the design. 

Squarespace makes it it harder to edit the code behind the templates - although it is possible to add custom CSS to Squarespace sites, the company don't really like you doing it (and may restrict their support offering somewhat if you do).

In terms of adding HTML, it is possible to add 'code blocks' to Squarespace sites, although not on every type of page ('cover pages', for example, don't support this). You can also add code to the header and footer of every page, which does open up quite a lot of configuration possibilities to those who are familiar to code.

Bigcommerce gives you full control over HTML and CSS, making it technically the more flexible solution on this score.

If you are an experienced developer however, or you know one, then using Squarespace developer's platform can be used to configure Squarespace sites in a more bespoke manner. 

Interface and content management

Both Bigcommerce and Squarespace are pretty straightforward to use. The best thing about Squarespace's interface is its drag and drop style ‘layout engine’ which is really fantastic for organising and showcasing your content in a variety of ways. However it can be a bit sluggish at times, and crashes a bit more often than I'd like.

Laying out content in Squarespace is very easy

Laying out content in Squarespace is very easy

Bigcommerce's interface is now very similar to Shopify's; it's clutter-free and arguably a bit more responsive than the Squarespace one. It is not remotely as flexible when it comes to laying out text and images - but then again, that's because it's primarily an online store builder, not a publishing platform.

A quick overview of the Bigcommerce interface

In terms of blogging functionality – very important for inbound marketing or content marketing applications – both platforms let you blog out of the box, which is great.

Squarespace’s blogging functionality is definitely better than Bigcommerce's however.

First, it is far more flexible when it comes to how you present your blog content. You can drop blog content easily onto any section of your site your site, using lovely ‘magazine blocks’ and ‘featured posts’ widgets, These allow you to pull (and filter) text and images from your blog posts and display them in a variety of attractive ways. Bigcommerce doesn’t let you do that – the best you’ll get is links to your blog articles on your site footer.

Squarespace also provides RSS feeds for its blog posts; Bigcommerce, somewhat inexplicably, doesn't.

And finally, Squarespace allows you to present your blog posts in Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) format. AMP is a Google-backed project which speeds up the delivery of content on mobile devices, leading to less 'bounced' visits and some SEO benefits (Google occasionally features AMP format content in a carousel above regular search results).

Point of sale options in Squarespace and Bigcommerce

Many online retailers also take their business out into the 'real world' occasionally - for example, selling product in physical locations such as retail outlets, markets, events and so on. This requires your online store platform to be able to work at 'point of sale' (POS). A typical POS scenario would be where you want to use a card reader in conjunction with your online store system to take payments or email or text receipts to somebody who's just bought something from you in person.

Bigcommerce is definitely the better option here, because it integrates with several platforms - Square, Shopkeep, Springboard Retail and Hike - to provide this functionality. Squarespace has yet to provide a POS option, so if you're thinking of selling goods in person but want to do this via your online store platform, then Bigcommerce is definitely the better option of the two.

Adding product reviews

Both Bigcommerce and Squarespace allow you to add a ‘review product’ option to your store items. However, with Bigcommerce this functionality is built in – on Squarespace you will need to use a third-party tool (which might not be a bad idea if it’s something like Disqus).

One really nice feature of the Bigcommerce reviews and ratings tool is that after a user buys a product, they’ll automatically receive an email a few days later asking them to review it.


Bigcommerce is a winner when it comes to support – it provides more methods of contacting the helpdesk, and crucially, offers phone support, which Squarespace doesn’t. That said, Bigcommerce makes you jump through quite a few hoops before it will let you near an actual phone number - you are encouraged to submit your question via an online form and review potential answers before relevant contact information is displayed. Tip: when you see this form, scroll down to the bottom of the page, where you'll find that phone numbers, email addresses etc. are actually displayed.

With Bigcommerce, as soon as you sign up, you will get contacted via phone and email by one of their support staff seeing if they can help you set up your store (read: convert you to a paying customer). Not every user will love this (some will find it a bit intrusive) but for those who do want a bit of hand-holding when setting up their store, it can be helpful.

Which is the best then, Bigcommerce or Squarespace?

As discussed earlier, the answer to this question boils down to what you want to do: showcase content or run an online store. If you’d like to start an online magazine, run a band website or host a photographic portfolio – but maybe sell a few products on the side – you are definitely going to be better off with Squarespace, as its templates (aestheticlally speaking) are superior to Bigcommerce’s and easier to present content with. This is so long as you are happy with the fairly limited options around payment processing.

However, if selling goods is your primary business, then Bigcommerce is definitely the better bet. With more options around payment gateways and a wide range of other tools focussed specifically on selling goods in general, Bigcommerce is a better platform for ‘power’ online store users.

Free trials

Both Bigcommerce and Squarespace offer 14-day free trials of their product. 

More Bigcommerce and Squarespace resources

Our e-commerce platform reviews section is packed full of posts about leading online store builders. Some articles which may be particularly relevant here however are:

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 the two products' pricing, templates, important features and the key reasons why you might choose one of these leading e-commerce solutions over the other.

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, and any shares you can give the post - either by sharing on social media or by adding a link it on your own site are hugely appreciated :)

Right - let's start this comparison with an obvious but important question: what do Bigcommerce and Shopify actually do?

What do Bigcommerce and Shopify do?

Bigcommerce and Shopify are pieces of software that allow you sell products - digital or physical - online. Both products run in a web browser: this means that there is nothing to install on your desktop or laptop computer, and you can manage your store from anywhere (so long as you have an internet connection).

The key idea behind both products is that you can use them to build an online store without needing to design or code anything - you pick a template from a range provided, upload your products, set your prices and you are (in theory at least) good to go.

It's worth saying however that although you don't need to involve a web designer when building a Shopify or Bigcommerce store, a good eye for design, along with some professionally-taken pictures of your products, are nonetheless very important (regardless of the platform you eventually choose).

Both Bigcommerce and Shopify are 'software as a service' (Saas) tools. This means that there is an ongoing cost to use them - you pay a monthly or annual fee for access to the software.

And speaking of fees...

Bigcommerce pricing vs Shopify pricing

One of the first (although arguably not the most important!) questions which potential users have about Bigcommerce and Shopify is 'how much do they cost?'

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.

Bigcommerce Enterprise and Shopify Plus

You'll notice from the above price breakdowns that there are two plans listed above without specific pricing, 'Bigcommerce Enterprise' and 'Shopify Plus.'

These are basically 'enterprise-grade' versions of the platforms, which are aimed at corporations or store owners with extremely large volumes of sales.

As such, they contain a lot of advanced features, including:

  • guaranteed server uptime
  • advanced API support
  • dedicated SSL / IP address
  • advanced security features

They usually offer more in the way of account management too - you'll get far more hand holding ('white glove' style service) from Shopify or Bigcommerce if you plump for one of these plans.

They are also more 'bespoke' affairs than the other plans discussed above - a Bigcommerce Enterprise or Shopify Plus purchase typically starts with an in-depth conversation where requirements are gathered; after this, a plan is tailored to suit those requirements. As such, the price of a Bigcommerce Enterprise or Shopify Plus plan can vary significantly from customer to customer.

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, which costs $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 use a separate app to handle this.

Fortunately, Shopify provide a free app for this purpose (the appropriately named 'Product Reviews' app). This has garnered good reviews from its users, 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

A big question that potential users of Shopify and Bigcommerce may find themselves asking is this: what's Shopify or Bigcommerce's cut of my sales - i.e., the transaction fee per sale - going to be?

Well, it's probably a bit of a win for Bigcommerce here, because Bigcommerce charges 0% transaction fees on all plans.

Shopify, by contrast charges 0% on all plans too BUT only if you use their own 'Shopify Payments' system to process card transactions.

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 it can only 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 loads 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. These are the fees charged by the company providing the software / systems to process your customers' card payments.

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 offer 'out of the box' payments functionality, which can reduce these fees in certain cases (and make it much easier to set up card payment processing).

If you use Shopify Payments, 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

As you can see the Bigcommerce credit card fees are therefore a good 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.

Annual discounts

Both Bigcommerce and Shopify provide a 10% discount if you pay upfront for a year's service. Shopify goes one further and gives 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 win for Shopify here. That said, I'm not sure anybody selling in excess of these limits would be overly concerned about the additional fees. Still, it would be better to not have to worry about them.

Conclusions on pricing

It's a massive case of swings and roundabouts when it comes to comparing the pricing structure for Bigcommerce and Shopify.

For me, the key plus points of the Bigcommerce pricing plans over Shopify's are that quite a few more features are provided on its $29 plan than on the Shopify equivalent (gift cards, professional reporting, ratings and reviews), and that no transaction fees apply to any Bigcommerce plan.

The advantage of the Shopify fees structure is that unlike Bigcommerce, no sales limits apply at all and that credit card fees are considerably lower.

Another thing worth bearing in mind is that Shopify's $9 Lite plan can get you selling online much cheaper than any Bigcommerce plan (albeit only in certain context - via a buy button, Facebook page or point-of-sale situation).

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


Free templates

Shopify has an 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!).

The 'Vintage' style within 'Minimal', one of Shopify's free themes

The 'Vintage' style within '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 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 'Cornerstone Light' theme from Bigcommerce

The 'Cornerstone Light' theme 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 110 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: 'Chelsea Bold', 'Chelsea Bright', 'Chelsea Warm' and 'Chelsea Clean' are all positioned as being separate templates, but to my eyes they are effectively variants of the same theme and shouldn't really be presented as separate templates at all.

Bigcommerce themes tend to come in a few variants - i.e., you buy one and can choose from a few different 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

The other nice thing about the Shopify template offering is that it is really easy to browse the template gallery and find a template that suits your requirements. A wide range of filters is available to help you choose a template based not only on industry type but design type too (you can select templates based on preferences for design elements like video backgrounds, parallax scrolling, wide or narrow layout style etc.) 

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: if you're not entirely happy with your chosen theme, there's always the option to customise it...

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.

Third party providers of Bigcommerce and Shopify themes

One final note on templates: if you're really not happy with the selection of themes available direct from Shopify and Bigcommerce, you also have the option of buying them from third parties. Sites like Themeforest offer a wide range of templates for these two platforms - you may find something that floats your boat elsewhere.

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.

Let's zoom in:

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: 100+ to Bigcommerce's 40 or so.

Normally speaking, connecting a third party payment gateway can be a slightly 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 '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. In other words, you can create 'smart categories' with Shopify.

This involves using 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 use consistent naming conventions for your product titles to make it work.

Although Bigcommerce does have a 'bulk edit' option to speed up category assignment, it 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.

So clear win for Bigcommerce when it comes to product options (and if you're interested in finding out more about how products options in Bigcommerce work, I'd strongly 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.

A definite win for Bigcommerce here - merchants who need to collect custom data from customers in order to personalise products will find things much more straightforward with Bigcommerce.

Importing and exporting products in Bigcommerce and Shopify

Both Shopify and Bigcommerce allow you to upload a CSV file containing all your product data. 

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 each piece of content is really strong, optimised for search correctly and promoted heavily). 

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. 

One thing you'll need to watch out for with Bigcommerce's blogging tool is RSS feeds - there aren't any, something I find really strange. RSS feeds are useful because you can use them to syndicate content and automatically send out e-newsletters containing your latest posts. 

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 in those emails, 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, thanks to its more comprehensive app store, of which more anon).


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. This Bigcommerce 'additional fee' is quite expensive though, at $49 on the 'Standard' and 'Plus' plans, $99 per month on the 'Pro' plan and $249 on the 'Enterprise' plan.

Despite the pricey 'Insights' option, I think it's fair to say that Bigcommerce ultimately offers a significant advantage over Shopify when it comes to reporting, because you get the vast majority of report types as standard on any Bigcommerce plan.

With Shopify, by contrast, 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 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., 

Both Bigcommerce and Shopify let you access the DNS settings via the standard Bigcommerce interface.

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 500 Bigcommerce apps available, there are around 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.

More likely however is that there is a bigger userbase for and eco-system built around Shopify. As such, 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.


So how do Shopify and Bigcommerce shape up when it comes to mobile devices?


When it comes to how your store is actually displayed on a mobile device, both Shopify and Bigcommerce offer 'responsive' template designs which automatically adjust the layout of your online store so that it displays nicely 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). 

Mobile apps

When it comes to mobile apps, Shopify is hands down winner, offering quite a few different smartphone apps to its userbase. The two main ones are 'Shopify' and 'Shopify POS', which are available on both iOS and Android. 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.).

Additionally, there's an interesting iOS Shopify app called 'Shopkey' (GIF below), which makes it easier to share your product details with customers when chatting with them over apps like iMessage, Facebook Messenger or Snapchat.

Shopkey iOS app

Shopkey iOS app

In addition to the apps mentioned above, there are a few Shopify Android apps available which are designed to help you with various aspects of setting up an online store (some logo making apps, a business card making app and an 'entrepreneur articles' app).

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.

AMP format

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a Google-backed project that has, over the past year or so, really started to take off. Basically, pages displayed in AMP format are cut-down versions of your content (certain scripts and page features are removed); because of their cut-down nature they load significantly faster on mobile devices.

The key advantage of AMP format is that the number of users abandoning your site (after getting bored waiting for your content) is drastically reduced. There may also be a bit of an SEO benefit to consider too, because Google sometimes positions pages in AMP format above other content (using a featured-articles style carousel).

Although many site owners currently use AMP format to speed up the delivery of largely text-based content like blog posts or news articles, AMP usage has started to crop up in e-commerce contexts too, notably on eBay product pages.

As things stand, of the two platforms being discussed here, only Shopify allows you to present your product pages in AMP format, and it does so with the help of apps like RocketAmp. Hopefully Bigcommerce will follow suit soon, but as things stand, Shopify steals a march here.

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.

Dropshipping in Shopify and Bigcommerce

Dropshipping is a fulfillment method where you don't keep what you're selling in stock - instead, you take the order, pass it to a supplier, and they send the goods to the client. Your online store, in effect, becomes a front end or 'middle man' for somebody else's business.

Online retailers tend to like this business model because it doesn't involve much investment to start a business; you don't have to spend a lot of money purchasing or manufacturing goods before you start selling. The flipside is that margins tend to be quite low due to intense competition in the dropshipping marketplace.

Both Shopify and Bigcommerce faciliate dropshipping - you can either use your store in a bespoke manner with a supplier with whom you have a relationship, or alternatively you can dropship for various retailers by installing an app from Bigcommerce or Shopify's app store (popular options include Oberlo for Shopify or Ali Express Dropshipping for Bigcommerce). 

As discussed above, the Shopify app store contains significantly more apps than the Bigcommerce equivalent - and as you might expect, this plays out when it comes to dropshipping apps - there are a lot more options to choose from with Shopify.

NOTE: For more information on dropshipping as a business model, you could do worse than check out Shopify's free webinar on dropshipping.

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's interface 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. And as with Bigcommerce, you have to search for solutions to your problem before being given access to the contact details you're looking for.

Shopify's help screen - before you get to contact details, you'll need to try to solve your own problem first...

Shopify's help screen - before you get to contact details, you'll need to try to solve your own problem first...

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 harder to pick a hands-down winner: both Shopify and Bigcommerce have various strengths and weaknesses which often 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 Bigcommerce is really well suited to merchants who are going to be selling their own products, need flexibility when it comes to customisation options, and generally want a 'one-stop-shop' in terms of functionality for their online store. It's a good 'get up and go' option.

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). Because of this large range of integrations, Shopify is particularly well suited, in my view, to merchants who want to use dropshipping as a business model.

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 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 significantly stronger.
  • It's better for dropshipping.
  • 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.

You can try Shopify for free here.

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.
  • Dedicated phone support appears to be available in more countries with Bigcommerce than with Shopify.
  • Works with more POS systems.
  • You can export product data to CSV and XML (Shopify only permits export to CSV).

You can try Bigcommerce for free here.

    Any thoughts on Bigcommerce vs 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! Note: if you're viewing this on a mobile device, you may be reading a streamlined "AMP" version of the post which doesn't feature the comments section - in which case please just click here to view a version of the post which includes commenting.

    See also

    Bigcommerce Review 2017 - Pros and Cons of a Leading Online Store Builder
    Bigcommerce review (image of a shopping trolley)

    In this Bigcommerce review we take a look at one of the most popular e-commerce solutions currently available. Like Shopify and Volusion, it regularly features in ‘top five’ lists of online store builders. 

    In this post I'll walk you through some key Bigcommerce features. You'll learn all about the Bigcommerce pros and cons, and by the end of the article should hopefully have a better idea of whether Bigcommerce is the right e-commerce solution for you and your business.

    Our overall rating: 4/5

    What is Bigcommerce?

    Bigcommerce is a paid-for 'hosted' e-commerce solution that allows business owners to set up an online store and sell their products online.

    It comes with a range of customisable templates to help you design your store; you can use it to sell either physical or digital goods; and there are also some tools provided to help you market your store.

    The product is aimed primarily at people without much in the way of web design skills, but it also allows more tech-savvy users to tweak the HTML and CSS of their online stores too.

    As with all hosted store products (Shopify, Volusion, Squarespace etc.), if Bigcommerce were to shut down or change its feature set radically, you might find yourself in a position where you needed to migrate your store to another platform (Magento Go users can tell you all about that!).

    But unless you are in a position to develop your own online store (an expensive and laborious undertaking) you are in all likelihood going to end up using a hosted tool like Bigcommerce anyway to run your store, and the good news is that it's one of the more established products of its kind out there, with a client roster that includes Toyota, Gibson Guitars and Travelpro.

    Bigcommerce pricing and plans

    Bigcommerce follows a software as a service (SaaS) model - meaning you pay a monthly fee to use it. There are four monthly pricing plans, which are as follows:

    • Bigcommerce Standard: $29.95 per month
    • Bigcommerce Plus: $79.95 per month
    • Bigcommerce Pro: $249.95 per month*
    • Bigcommerce Enterprise: pricing varies, depending on your business requirements

    A 10% discount is available if you pay annually for your Bigcommerce plan.

    The 'standard', 'plus' and 'pro' plans are aimed at individuals and small businesses; the Enterprise plan is geared more towards large businesses and corporates (users with very high bandwidth / advanced functionality requirements). 

    * This fee increases depending on what your annual sales figures are like - these sales limits are discussed in more depth below.

    Core selling features

    As we'll see below, the exact features you get with Bigcommerce depend on the plan you opt for, but important features common to all plans include:

    • a choice of 7 free templates

    • the ability to sell a wide range of either physical or digital goods, in categories of your choosing and using shipping rates of your choosing

    • integration with Paypal and a wide range of payment gateways

    • full content management (CMS) functionality

    • good search engine optimisation (SEO) options – it’s very easy to add appropriate keywords to your products and site pages

    • integration with several e-mail marketing services: Constant Contact, iContact, Mailchimp and Interspire

    • discount coupons and gift vouchers

    • product review functionality - this is particularly welcome: not all e-commerce platforms offer this as standard, and usually require you to fiddle about with third-party apps or services to enable it. 

    • the ability to tweak CSS and HTML as desired

    • professional reporting.

    This comprehensive set of features means that Bigcommerce arguably offers considerably more bang for the buck than some competing products at the $29 monthly plan price point.

    With some alternative e-commerce platforms, you'll find yourself having to be on a pretty expensive plan to access some of the above features, or paying for apps to provide the additional functionality you need.

    As such, I'd say that the main strength of Bigcommerce is that it provides good value for money and serves as a good 'all-rounder' e-commerce platform out of the box. 

    To put this in context, Bigcommerce's $29.95 starter plan compares pretty favourably to Shopify's equivalent in that it offers 4 key features at this level that Shopify doesn't, namely professional reporting, gift cards, a built in ratings and review system and real-time carrier shipping quotes. 

    Differences between the Bigcommerce plans

    As you'd expect, how much functionality you get from Bigcommerce depends on how much you're prepared to pay for it. Let's drill down into the individual plans to see what features you gain as you go up the pricing ladder.

    Bigcommerce Standard

    Bigcommerce's cheapest offering, the 'standard' plan, costs $29.95 per month and as such is a significantly more expensive than the equivalent starter plans offered by competitors Shopify and Volusion ($9 and $15 respectively) - but that said it is a much more comprehensive starter plan than either of those plans, providing

    • a fully functional online store
    • the ability to sell an unlimited number of products
    • unlimited bandwidth
    • unlimited file storage
    • gift cards
    • ratings and reviews functionality
    • professional reporting

    In short, you get an awful lot of e-commerce bang for your buck - all the key ingredients of an online store are provided out of the box.

    As we touched on above, this is arguably Bigcommerce's USP: several of its key competitors usually require you to be on a more expensive plan or make use of apps to get a similar feature set.

    By comparison, the Shopify 'Lite' plan doesn't actually let you build a fully functional website - it is geared towards users who want to either set up a store on Facebook or use the Shopify backend in conjunction with a simple 'buy now' button or point-of-sale applications. 

    Volusion’s 'Mini' starter plan comes with monthly limits on data transfer (1GB) and limits you to selling 100 products.

    A fairer comparison would be to stack the Bigcommerce 'standard' plan up against Volusion's 'plus' plan or Shopify’s ‘basic’ plan - see our Bigcommerce vs Shopify comparison for more details on the latter.

    There is an annual sales limit for Bigcommerce Standard of $50,000.

    Bigcommerce Plus

    Next we have the 'Bigcommerce Plus' plan. This provides more functionality than the standard plan, including, crucially, an abandoned cart saver tool (more on that later).

    The other key difference between this plan and 'Bigcommerce Standard' involves customer grouping / segmentation. This lets you set pricing rules for different customer groups - for example, you could use this functionality to provide discounts to individual customers, or those who have bought specific products from you in the past.

    The annual sales limit for Bigcommerce Plus is $150,000.

    Bigcommerce Pro

    The next plan up in the mix is 'Bigcommerce Pro'. With this plan, you don't get a huge amount of extra functionality over Bigcommerce Plus - but you do get a significantly increased sales limit. This permits up to $400,000 in online sales, with an additional fee of $150 per month per $200k in sales, up to a maximum of $1m. 

    One extra feature which is worth drawing attention to on this plan is Google Customer Reviews -  a programme that lets you collect and display feedback from users who’ve made a purchase on your site. 

    If you've enabled Google Customer reviews, once a customer buys a product from your Bigcommerce store, they will be asked if they'd like to review it on Google (after it's been delivered).

    When you have Google Customer Reviews enabled in Bigcommerce, your customers are sent this email after marking a purchase.

    When you have Google Customer Reviews enabled in Bigcommerce, your customers are sent this email after marking a purchase.

    If the customer wants to do this, Google will email them a survey after their order has arrived. The collected ratings are then displayed on your site ( via an optional Google Customer Reviews badge), Search Ads, and in Google Shopping.

    The other main features on this plan are faceted search (advanced product filtering) and custom SSL via a third party.

    Bigcommerce Enterprise

    Finally, there's Bigcommerce's "Enterprise" plan to consider. This is really geared towards businesses that have very high volumes of sales (typically, over $1,000,000), and advanced requirements.

    Its advanced features that are not available on the cheaper plans include:

    • advanced product filtering (this lets your visitors search your store using your own custom fields)
    • uptime service level agreement (SLA)
    • staging environment
    • unlimited API calls
    • Bigcommerce consulting
    • priority support.

    If you're interested in the Enterprise plan you will need to discuss your requirements with Bigcommerce to establish pricing - the costs will reflect your business needs.

    You can generally expect a lot more support from Bigcommerce if you purchase an Enterprise plan - data migration, setup, account management and much more in-depth support can all be facilitated.

    The annuals sales limit with Bigcommerce Enterprise is negotiable.

    Transaction fees and sales limits

    A question which many potential Bigcommerce users asks is "how much of a cut of my sales are they going to take?"

    Well, the good news is that there are no transaction fees on any Bigcommerce plan. This is in marked contrast to some competing products.

    However, you do have to pay credit card transaction fees to the company you select to. These will depend on the payment gateway you use (see below).

    The bad news, and as mentioned above, is that Bigcommerce places a limits on your annual online sales. These limits are as follows:

    • Bigcommerce Standard: $50,000
    • Bigcommerce Plus: $150,000
    • Bigcommerce Pro: $400,000
    • Bigcommerce Enterprise: negotiable

    (If you're on the Bigcommerce Pro plan, you can increase the sales limit by paying $150 per month for every additional $200k in sales, up to $1m).

    I contacted Bigcommerce to see what happens if you breach 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."

    I expect the limits issue won't be a showstopper for most merchants - if your store is bringing in $400,000 a year you probably won't be quibbling too much about having to pay an extra $150 per month for breaching the limit...but they are a bit of an annoyance.  

    I have yet to come across these sorts of limits on competing products like Shopify or Volusion, so it's a bit of a 'could do better' here for Bigcommerce.

    Payment gateways

    With all the plans referred to above, additional charges apply for use of a ‘payment gateway’ (software provided by a third party to process credit cards).

    Depending on the payment gateway provider you choose, you are looking at a percentage of a transaction fee, or a monthly fee (or both). These fees are not applied by Bigcommerce but by the payment gateway provider.

    Integrating a payment gateway with a hosted e-commerce solution like Bigcommerce can occasionally be bit of a lengthy process, which involves setting up 'merchant accounts' with your chosen gateway provider and configuring them so that they work with your store.

    If you want to avoid doing this, you can use Paypal powered by Braintree as the payment gateway. Doing so makes for a very easy payment gateway setup and gives you preferential Paypal rates for credit card transactions (which decrease as you go up Bigcommerce's pricing ladder):

    Payment gateways in Bigcommerce

    Payment gateways in Bigcommerce

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

    It's worth looking at the various fees involved with other payment gateway providers though: depending on what you sell and how much of it, using a different payment gateway to Paypal powered by Braintree may still be the best route for you to go down, even if it involves a bit more setup time.

    In terms of the number of payment gateways that you can integrate with Bigcommerce, there are around 40 available (note however that whether or not you can work with a particular payment gateway will depend on the country you are selling from).

    This compares pretty favourably with competing products - it's much better than Squarespace (which only offers integration with 2 payment gateways, Stripe and Paypal) but not as good as Shopify (which works with 100+).

      Bigcommerce templates

      Bigcommerce offers a good selection of responsive templates that you can use for the design of your online store.

      There are 7 free themes and around 90 paid themes (ranging in price from $145 to $235) - and each theme contains a number of different variants, so there quite is a lot to choose from.

      Example of a free Bigcommerce theme

      The free themes on offer are contemporary, professional in appearance and provide a good starting point for building an online store.

      However, a few of them are very similar to each other. This is a particular issue with the free themes: although there are technically 7 available, if you ask me it's more a case of there being 2 themes with different colours. This means that in the theme department, Bigcommerce doesn't provide quite so much bang for buck as other solutions, like Shopify or Squarespace.

      To extend your options in the theme department, you can consider purchasing a paid theme. These are fairly reasonably priced, starting out at $145 and going up to $235.

      Bigcommerce’s abandoned cart saver feature

      A feature worth drawing particular attention to is Bigcommerce’s abandoned cart feature – it’s one of the best out there.

      The tool allows you to create up to three automated emails to site visitors who go part of the way through the sales process only to leave your store without buying anything. This has the potential to dramatically increase your revenue with little effort – other than the 'one-off' time investment in setting up the automated messages – being involved.

      Other online store building tools provide similar functionality, but Bigcommerce’s is in my view better than those offered by its key competitors because it is more flexible and allows you to program in more reminder emails (you can use three active autoresponders).

      It’s important to note that the abandoned cart saver functionality only comes with Bigcommerce’s 'Plus', 'Pro' and 'Enterprise' plans, but it's one of the strongest reasons why you might use one of these plans over the entry-level 'Standard' plan. If you are confident of receiving a large number of visits to your site, or are experiencing high traffic levels, then purchasing a plan featuring the abandoned cart saver is something of a no-brainer.

      Product variants and categories

      Another particularly strong feature of Bigcommerce is the way it handles product variants.

      Unlike rival Shopify, which only allows you to present users with three product variants without resorting to workarounds, Bigcommerce's 'product options' and 'product rules' allow you to create a large number of product options (I'm not sure of the exact upper limit, but in tests, I created 10 easily).

      So if you are selling products that come in a lot of different formats, Bigcommerce may be a particularly good option. See accompanying video for more detail on how it all works.

      A bit less impressive is the way that Bigcommerce handles categories - whilst creating and editing them is straightforward enough, you have to assign them to individual products in quite a manual fashion.

      It would be better - as is the case with some other leading online store builders, notably Shopify - if you could automatically categorise products based on product name or tags. To be fair, you can use a 'bulk edit' tool to speed up the process somewhat, but I prefer the Shopify approach to product categorisation.

      Dropshipping with Bigcommerce

      Many prospective Bigcommerce users will be interested to learn how it handles dropshipping.

      Dropshipping is a selling model where you don't keep what you're selling in stock. Instead, you take an order, send it the details a supplier, and they send the goods to your customer. The advantage of this model is that you don't need much start-up capital as there's no need to purchase any stock before you start selling. 

      Dropshipping is perfectly possible with Bigcommerce, but you'll need to install a third-party app to facilitate it.

      There are six such apps available to help you dropship:

      • Ali-Express Dropshipping
      • Printful
      • Sunrise
      • Wholesale 2B
      • Ecomdash
      • Streetshirts

      These apps vary considerably in both functionality and price - depending on your needs you may be able to avail of a free plan; others cost between $10 and $50 per month to use.

      File uploads and custom fields

      Merchants who need to capture text to complete an order - for example jewellers who need personalised text for an engraving, or printers who need their customers to supply a JPG of a logo for a t-shirt - will find Bigcommerce's approach to custom fields and file uploads really helpful. 

      Creating custom fields and capturing data using them is really straightforward - you simply find the relevant product, create your custom field, name it and then your site users will be able to enter information into it at the point of purchase.

      Similarly, it's dead easy to allow your users to upload a file - again, it's just a case of editing your product so that it contains an 'upload file.' Your customers will then be able to upload a file - up to a very generous 500MB in size - when they purchase that product.

      This functionality is implemented considerably better on Bigcommerce than some competing products. Shopify allows you to create custom fields and give users the option to upload files; but it's a fiddly process involving adding 'line item properties' to your code. Squarespace allows you to create a custom field easily enough, but doesn't facilitate file uploads (this will immediately rule it out as a solution for some businesses).


      Bigcommerce’s interface is straightforward and intuitive; similar in quality to Shopify's. It's not entirely dissimilar to a Wordpress dashboard either.

      A vertical menu on the left hand side of the screen gives you easy access to the key features - and the labels ('orders', 'storefront design', 'analytics' etc.) make it obvious where you'll find all the key features.

      In a nutshell, I've found it a very easy product to use - it stands up well in terms of usability by comparison to Shopify and Squarespace, and trounces Volusion.

      The below video gives you a quick overview of the Bigcommerce interface.

      Point of sale functionality in Bigcommerce

      A nice feature of Bigcommerce is that it doesn't just let you run an online store - it can facilitate selling at 'point of sale' (POS) too.

      Thanks to some integrations with three POS providers - Square, Shopkeep and Springboard Retail - you can take payment and sync inventory when selling from a physical location (such as a store, market stall, event etc.).

      You'll need to research each of these providers carefully to ensure you find the right one for your needs, but it's good that Bigcommerce offers a few options on this front. Other competing e-commerce solutions either don't offer POS at all (Squarespace being a case in point) or are more restrictive in terms of what hardware and software you can use.

      Enhancing your Bigcommerce store's functionality via the app store

      If the standard set of features provided by Bigcommerce isn't sufficient for your needs, then you might want to consider purchasing some apps from Bigcommerce's app store - or to call it by its proper name, the 'Ecommerce Apps Marketplace.' These beef up the functionality of your store, and a fairly wide range of integrations is available. 

      You can add apps that deal with lots of different aspects of of running an online business - app categories include accounting, CRM, marketing shipping and so on. Integrations are available for many well-known other business SaaS apps - for example, you'll find apps for Mailchimp, Zendesk, Xero and Salesforce.

      In total, there are around 500 apps available for Bigcommerce. 

      In terms of how the Bigcommerce apps offering compares with competing online store builders, it beats Squarespace's offering hands down (although it does let you integrate third party apps into your site, Squarespace doesn't provide any app store at all) but is rather eclipsed by Shopify's (there are around 2000 apps available in the Shopify app store).

      The Bigcommerce app store allows you to enhance the functionality of your store by integrating it with a wide range of third-party apps.

      The Bigcommerce app store allows you to enhance the functionality of your store by integrating it with a wide range of third-party apps.

      iOS and Android apps for Bigcommerce

      One area where Bigcommerce doesn't score highly for me is mobile apps. Unlike some other e-commerce solutions, no iOS or Android apps are available for store owners to use to manage their stores on the go. There was previously an app available...but it's been discontinued.

      Obviously you can still be notified of sales etc. using a mobile device via email, but that seems a bit low-tech in this day and age.

      Additionally, there do seem to be some third-party Bigcommerce mobile apps floating about the place - but you won't be able to get support from Bigcommerce when using them. 

      Something to bear in mind if you are selling digital products: VAT MOSS

      If you want to sell digital products - downloadable music, videos, books etc. - to EU customers with Bigcommerce, 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 yours is a business that is based outside of the EU. 

      With Bigcommerce, you'll need to set up individual tax rules to cover each country in Europe - a boring manual process which is likely to take you a while. To be fair to Bigcommerce, many of its competitors don't cater well for VAT MOSS either. But I'd like to see a similar approach to Shopify's being implemented here, where VAT MOSS is applied automatically to digital products.

      Bigcommerce support

      When you start a Bigcommerce free trial, you are provided with various support emails and resources aimed at helping you with the 'onboarding' process. There's a fair amount of hand-holding available if you want it, which should make it easy enough to get your store up and running.

      For those who have purchased a Bigcommerce plan, the company provides 24-hour 'live agent' support. It's not hugely clear on their site what exactly this covers - phone, chat or email, and before you get access to relevant contact details you are encouraged to try to resolve the issue by searching for an answer to your query via the Bigcommerce help pages first (see accompanying screengrab). This will annoy some users a bit, although you do get presented with fairly easy-to-digest contact details once you've completed your search and ignored the help articles! 

      The Bigcommerce contact page - packed with lots of useful resources yes, but finding contact details is trickier than it should be.

      The Bigcommerce contact page - packed with lots of useful resources yes, but finding contact details is trickier than it should be.

      BUT - and here's a handy tip if you need to contact Bigcommerce support - if you want to bypass the 'search for an answer first' routine, you can. To do this, you click the 'contact' link on the Bigcommerce site, and scroll down the page past the 'common questions.' Underneath all these you'll find - ta da - links to live chat and email, along with a list of phone numbers.

      For those who are more inclined towards trying to sort the issue out themselves first, there is a large range of video and text resources available from Bigcommerce, and a community forum.

      Bigcommerce analytics

      Bigcommerce analytics

      Bigcommerce analytics

      Bigcommerce provides users with several types of reports as standard:

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

      For an additional fee you can also gain access to an 'Insights' report, which provides you with more detailed information on your customers, products and abandoned carts. 

      In short, the Bigcommerce analytics offering is pretty strong - and the best thing about it is that the bulk of the reporting functionality comes as standard on all plans.

      This is not the case with its key competitor Shopify, which requires you to be on its more expensive $79 plan before you get access to in-depth reports.

      Of course in addition to using the built-in Bigcommerce reporting tools, you could also supplement your analytics arsenal by integrating Google Analytics into your site and using goals to measure conversions.

      Using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) in Bigcommerce

      If you're somebody who likes to keep on top of trends in web development, it won't  have escaped your attention that an increasing number of websites are presenting their content in 'Accelerated Mobile Pages' (AMP) format.

      AMP is a Google-backed project which aims to deliver your site content extremely quickly to mobile users, mainly by creating streamlined pages that strip out certain types of code (scripts) and features (for example, blog comments).

      The main advantage of using AMP on your site is that it drastically reduces the number of mobile users who leave your site as a result of your content loading too slowly. 

      At the moment, AMP format is typically used for blog posts and news articles - but it can also be used for other page types, including product pages on e-commerce sites. The fact that eBay is one of the early adopter of AMP format in the e-commerce world highlights that there are definitely some obvious benefits to using it in an online store context.

      As far as Bigcommerce goes when it comes to AMP, there doesn't seem to be a way to enable this format yet. This contrasts negatively with Shopify, which can display product pages in AMP format (if a suitable app, like RocketAmp, is installed).

      Bigcommerce review conclusions

      Bigcommerce is one of the strongest hosted online store builders I’ve tested.

      Above all else, it is very easy to use – it’s one of the most user friendly products of its kind I've used. The standout aspect of it is arguably the comprehensive feature set you get on its entry-level plan, which provides significantly more bang for the buck than many competing products.

      Other things I particularly like about Bigcommerce are the quality of its abandoned cart saver and the flexible approach to product options (in a Bigcommerce vs Shopify shootout, I suspect that this might sway quite a few users Bigcommerce's way).

      The main things that would dissuade me from using it would probably be price (the entry level plan is more expensive than those offered by some competing products); the imposition of sales limits on store owners; and the support process (contacting support is not as straightforward as it should be).

      I hope this Bigcommerce review has helped give you a sense of this product and whether it's suitable for your needs - but as usual, always best to try before you buy: you can avail of a free Bigcommerce trial here.

      Finally, below you will find my summary of the positive and negative aspects of Bigcommerce.  

      Pros of Bigcommerce

      • Bigcommerce is one of the easiest-to-use online store builder I’ve come across to date, with a very intuitive interface / CMS. My favourite aspect of the whole product is this user-friendliness – many users of online store builders are small business owners, not web developers, and interfaces should not get in the way of building the store.

      • The overall feature set on entry-level Bigcommerce plans is comprehensive by comparison to competing products.

      • You get a good set of reporting tools on all plans - again, this is not the case with all competing products.

      • It comes with built-in product review functionality.

      • There are no transaction fees.

      • Its marketing features are very strong: it’s really easy to use several leading e-newsletter services with Bigcommerce, and the tool’s approach to SEO is very straightforward too.

      • The automated emails that are sent to visitors who abandon their carts are an excellent idea and likely to boost revenue from your store considerably. Their 'abandoned cart saver' tools are more comprehensive than similar offerings by competitors (including Shopify and Volusion).

      • It comes with a wide range of discounting / coupon tools out of the box.

      • It's really easy to create custom fields.

      • Allowing your customers to upload files during their purchase is really straightforward.

      • It comes with a built-in blog. This is extremely important because it allows you to use inbound marketing techniques directly from your store, without having to make use of a third party tool like Wordpress (or set up a subdomain for your blog etc.).

      • You can avail of cheaper-than-usual Paypal card transaction fees with Bigcommerce, thanks to its preferential arrangement with Braintree.

      • Bigcommerce is a very flexible solution for vendors with a lot of different product variants.

      • You can try the product free for 14 days

      Cons of Bigcommerce

      • Limits are placed on annual online sales - and if you exceed them, you'll need to upgrade to a more expensive monthly plan.

      • The price of the Bigcommerce starter plan is on the high side by comparison to other solutions, although the plan itself is more feature-rich than entry-level products by other leading e-commerce solution providers.

      • VAT MOSS rates could be better catered for.

      • There are no mobile apps available to manage your store on the go.

      • There doesn't seem to be a way to enable AMP format on product pages (or indeed other page types) yet.

      • It's hard to find contact details on the Bigcommerce website for support - before you get to a phone number, you have to search for an answer to your problem on their site.

      • There are not as many apps available in its app store as there are in Shopify's.

      Alternatives to Bigcommerce

      As far as hosted solutions go, Bigcommerce's main competitor is probably Shopify, which is similarly priced and comes with a similar range of features. You can read our Bigcommerce vs Shopify review here. 

      Another option when it comes to building an online store is to use Wordpress in conjunction with an e-commerce tool such as Ecwid or Woocommerce. (Obligatory plug: we can help you with a Wordpress e-commerce project - contact us for more info).

      You might also wish to investigate Squarespace, which whilst not as feature-packed from an e-commerce point of view, is a good product for those who wish to combine impressive visuals or content with the ability to sell products. Our full Squarespace review is here.

      If you already have a website that you're happy with, and wish to add e-commerce functionality to it, you could do worse than check out Ecwid.

      Finally, other well-known solutions for building online stores include Jimdo, Weebly and Wix but it's probably fair to say that these are more 'prosumer' products; Bigcommerce is aimed at a more professional, e-commerce-focused market.

      Got any thoughts on Bigcommerce?

      If you have any thoughts or queries on Bigcommerce, we'd love to hear them - feel free to express yourself in the comments section below!  

      Note: if you're viewing this on a mobile device, you may be reading a streamlined "AMP" version of the post which doesn't feature the comments section - in which case please just click here to view a version of the post for mobiles which includes commenting.