Bigcommerce vs Magento - a comparison of two big online store builders
Update: Magneto have recently announced that they are shutting down Magento Go in early 2015. As such, new Magento Go accounts will no longer be available. We're going to leave this review up here however, so that anyone who is considering switching from Magento Go to Bigcommerce can view a comparison of each tool. You may also wish to look at our 'Magento Go Shuts Down' article for a more in-depth discussion on Magento's decision to discontinue the 'Go' product and the alternatives now available to Magento Go store owners.
Which version of Magento are we talking about?
There are three versions of Magento: a free, open source ‘community’ version; the ‘Go’ version (aimed at small businesses) and the ‘Enterprise’ edition, which is aimed at large businesses selling large quantities of products. In this post, I’m going to focus the Magento Go version, as it’s the product that is most comparable to Bigcommerce and aimed at the same audience.
Magento Go provides a much cheaper starter plan than Bigcommerce – their entry-level plans cost $15 and $34.95 per month respectively. However Bigcommerce’s starter 'silver' plan is significantly more generous, allowing you to sell unlimited products and providing unlimited bandwidth and 5GB of file storage; by comparison Magento's 'get going' plan provides 100 product variants, 4GB of bandwidth and 200MB file storage. Of course, you might not need unlimited products or bandwidth, in which case Magetno represents a cheaper way to get going.
As you go up the pricing ladder you will see that Magento's plans are generally cheaper than Bigcommerce (its most expensive plan costs $125 per month to Bigcommerce's $199), but they are not as fully specced. None of the plans offer unlimited products for example, or unlimited bandwidth; all of Bigcommerce's do. However, Magento do offer potentially useful piece of functionality with their $65 and $125 plans - the ability to offer your store in more than one language (more on that below).
Where Magento's pricing structure provides a clear advantage over Bigcommerce is in the area of transaction fees - none of their four plans charge them, but if you want to avoid transaction fees with Bigcommerce, you will need to be on their $79.95 'gold' plan.
As ever, it’s a case of defining your priorities clearly before committing to one or other tool, as you may find that you only notice that one or other of them is missing some key functionality after you’ve gone to the trouble of constructing your whole store and uploading a truckload of products. The main thing I would say is that when deciding which online store builder, never base the decision on price alone – weigh it up alongside the functionality you get for your cash.
A payment gateway is something you ‘plug in’ to your store in order to accept credit cards – depending on the service in question you will either need to pay a monthly fee or pay per transaction to use it. Bigcommerce has an edge over Magento Go here, as integrates with a significantly wider range of payment gateways – this affords you greater flexibility when it comes to the kind of transaction / monthly fees you end up paying. Magento Go only integrates with 14 different payment gateways – Bigcommerce offer integration with over 60. On top of this, the number of these that you can use will depend on the country you are operating your store from, so Magento Go’s offering may become more restrictive still depending on your location.
Bigcommerce and Magento Go offer a decent range of free templates, of a similar quality. With Bigcommerce you can choose from a lot more free templates than Magento Go however, and they are much easier to preview and apply. Some of Bigcommerce's free themes are responsive too, which means they will automatically display a correctly branded version of your store on a mobile device.
Mobile templates are available for Magento, but to get the most out them you will need to customise them fairly extensively yourself.
One aspect of both Bigcommerce and Magento Go that bothered me a bit was that there is no obviously apparent way (when using a desktop machine) to preview a mobile template. Another thing I found annoying about both platforms is that free themes are not categorised, meaning you have to trawl through and preview lots of templates to find one that is suitable for the kind of thing you are selling.
In addition to free themes, there are a range of paid-for templates, with Magento Go’s generally coming in a bit cheaper than the Bigcommerce ones. Magento Go’s Theme Store allows you to search by category type, which is helpful (but also an annoying reminder that you can’t browse by category when looking at their free templates!).
The good news regarding the templates in both Magento Go and Bigcommerce is that they are very customisable via CSS and HTML, so if you are comfortable with a bit of coding, you can take a free template you like and whip it into a shape you prefer (if you’re not comfortable with coding you can still edit your template from the control panel and change basic elements like colours and typefaces easily enough).
Bigcommerce and Magento Go offer a broadly comparable set of essential features – the ability to choose from a good range of templates, customise them, sell products online and accept credit cards online.
However, there are some important areas of difference that are worth flagging up:
Abandoned cart saver
An abandoned cart saver is a very useful piece of functionality because it allows you to email people who visited your store and abandoned their cart asking them to reconsider (or offer discounts if they do etc.). Bigcommerce offers one of the best abandoned cart savers around (albeit on their more expensive plans), which allows you to create a series of automated emails to site visitors who go part of the way through the sales process only to leave your store without making a purchase. This has the potential to dramatically increase your sales revenue without much effort – other than setting up the automated messages – being involved. With Magento Go, you don’t get this functionality built in – to add it, you will need to avail of / purchase a third-party solution.
Offering your online store in several languages
If you need to offer your store in multiple languages, then Magento Go is a better solution than Bigcommerce – it comes with this functionality provided ‘out of the box’ on their $65+ plans, whereas if you want to create different variants of your site in Bigcommerce, you’ll probably have to rely on third-party developers (with all the additional costs and bother that this entails).
Integration with Ebay
If you want to integrate your store with Ebay, then Magento Go is arguably a better bet: it is actually owned by Ebay and as such provides fairly seamless integration – you can effectively run your Ebay store and Magento Go from one control panel. That said, Bigcommerce does provide a high level of integration with Ebay too, so if you generally prefer the Bigcommerce interface and feature set but want to sell on Ebay you definitely have the option to use that platform.
Magento Go does not provide proper built-in blogging functionality, but Bigcommerce does, which is very important to consider when choosing between the two platforms. Simply put, the more quality blog content you place on an online store, the more traffic (and thus sales) you tend to get; so the blogging functionality that comes with Bigcommerce is very important - and represents a definite win for Bigcommerce in any comparison between the two products. That said, you can crowbar third-party blogging tools (like Wordpress) into Magento; it’s just a nuisance and Bigcommerce's in-built solution is much neater (and will be perfectly adequate for most store owners).
Ease of use
This is an area where Bigcommerce beats Magento Go (and several other well-known online store building tools) hands down. Simply put, its user interface is in another league. It’s clean and intuitive; by comparison – and I hate to sound mean – Magento Go’s is more like a CMS from the late 1990s! On top of that, Bigcommerce’s ‘Quicklaunch’ wizard makes getting from the point of starting a free trial to launching a live online store pretty straightforward, whereas with Magento Go, there’s no hand-holding at all – you’re on your own.
Magento Go’s interface isn’t all bad, and certainly better than that of rival Volusion – but it’s just not as good or easy to use as Bigcommerce’s. As such, Bigcommerce strikes me as a tool that is better suited to a user who is not all that familiar with web design or store building – perhaps, for example, the small business owner who already has a physical store and wants to start selling online with a minimum of fuss (or without involving any developers).
Which is better then, Magento Go or Bigcommerce?
The answer, as always, is ‘it depends on your requirements’. There are three main areas where Magento Go wins for me: its starter plan is cheaper; it allows you to create multiple language versions of stores; and it integrates well with Ebay. However, on balance, I prefer Bigcommerce because its interface is significantly easier to use; it offers excellent abandoned card saving functionality, it comes with built-in blogging functionality; it has a 'quicklaunch' wizard to get your store up and running quickly and it integrates easily with Facebook. If you are completely new to online store building or web development and you are weighing up these two tools then I feel you’ve got the greatest chance of not being bamboozled if you use Bigcommerce.
The good news is that free trials are available for both platforms and I’d strongly recommend evaluating both fully before committing to one or the other. You may find that that there is a piece of functionality in one tool which you really need that is not present in the other, or you may simply find that you prefer one interface over the other.