Bigcommerce Review (2018) - Pros and Cons of a Leading E-Commerce Solution

 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's a software as a service (Saas) product, which means that you don't own the software, but pay a monthly fee to use it.

Bigcommerce comes with a range of customizable 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 and developers to tweak the HTML and CSS of their online stores too.

As with all hosted online store and website building services (Shopify, Volusion, Squarespace, Jimdo 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 is one of the more established products of its kind out there, with a client roster that includes Toyota, Gibson Guitars and Travelpro.


Bigcommerce pricing

Bigcommerce offers four month-to-month 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 for the 'Plus' and 'Pro' plans if you pay annually for them.

 Bigcommerce pricing (correct at time of writing in June 2018)

Bigcommerce pricing (correct at time of writing in June 2018)

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

  • automated image optimisation (using Akamai Image Manager) - this can speed up the delivery of your web pages, which can in turn improve search rankings

  • 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 many 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.

For example, Bigcommerce's $29.95 'Starter' plan compares pretty favourably to Shopify's equivalent in that it offers 5 key features at this level that Shopify doesn't, namely professional reporting, image optimisation, gift cards, a built in ratings and review system and real-time carrier shipping quotes. (However, unlike Shopify's $29 plan it doesn't provide an abandoned cart saver).

Similarly, the feature set included in the $29 Bigcommerce plan is also more generous than the similarly priced 'Basic' Squarespace plan - providing you with professional reporting, gift cards, a built in ratings and review system and real-time carrier shipping quotes where its competitor doesn't.

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


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 starter plans offered by competitors Shopify and Volusion ($9 and $15 respectively) - but that said it is, in general, a 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

  • automatic image optimisation

In short, you get an awful lot of e-commerce bang for your buck - pretty much all the key ingredients of an online store are provided on Bigcommerce's entry-level plan.

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.

The main criticism you could make regarding this plan (and which I've touched on above) is that abandoned cart saving functionality is not included with it. An abandoned cart saver is an important piece of functionality, because you can use it to identify people who have stopped their purchase mid-way through, and automatically send them a reminder email encouraging them to complete the purchase. The similarly-priced Shopify and Volusion plans both include this, so Bigcommerce falls down a little by comparison here.

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

Bigcommerce Plus

Next we have the 'Bigcommerce Plus' plan.

In addition to the core functionality as you'll find on the standard plan, it provides

  • an abandoned cart saver tool (which we discuss in depth later on in the review)

  • stored credit cards (this allows your regular customers to store their card details with you)

  • customer grouping / segmentaiton

With regard to the last feature mentioned above, customer grouping, this lets you set pricing rules for different customer groups - for example, you could use this functionality to provide discounts to individual customers, or to those who have bought specific products from you in the past. You can also use this functionality to create a loyalty programme.

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.

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)

  • a service level agreement (SLA) for server uptime (99.99% is promised)

  • a staging environment

  • unlimited API calls

  • Bigcommerce consulting / account management

  • 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, but Bigcommerce claim that they will come in cheaper than Shopify's entrprise grade plan (this is called Shopify Plus and typically comes in at around $2000 per month).

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 for 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 process payments. 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 are 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 I guess for some merchants they will be 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 in question.

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):

  • 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 configuration 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 fairly favourably with competing products - it's much better in the payment gateway department than Squarespace (which only offers integration with 2 payment gateways, Stripe and Paypal) but not as good as Shopify (which works with over 100).


Bigcommerce templates

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

There are 7 free themes and around 120 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 (which provides 10 free themes, with 2-3 variants of each) or Squarespace (which provides nearly 100 free themes).

To extend your options in the theme department, you can consider purchasing a paid Bigcommerce theme. These are fairly reasonably priced, starting out at $145 and going up to $235 (occasionally you can pick one up at a discounted rate - I've seen premium themes available for $99 when on sale). Again, you'll find that some of these are a bit too similar to each other to merit being classified as different theme.

Overall, you will be able to create a professional design for your Bigcommerce site using either the free or premium themes - it'd just be good to see the range of themes extended a bit.


Bigcommerce’s abandoned cart saver feature

A feature worth drawing particular attention to is Bigcommerce’s abandoned cart feature – it’s arguably 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.

 Setting up an automated abandoned cart email in Bigcommerce.

Setting up an automated abandoned cart email in Bigcommerce.

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 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. This makes obtaining this functionality a bit more expensive than with competing products Shopify, Squarespace and Volusion. 

That said, the Bigcommerce abandoned cart saver is more flexible than the offerings from these three companies (which limit the number of automated emails to one), so there may be some justification for the higher price.

Ultimately, 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 makes a lot of sense.


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 options without resorting to workarounds or the installation of third-party apps, Bigcommerce's 'product options' and 'product rules' allow you to create a very 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.

Slightly 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 Shopify's 'smart' 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 seven apps available to help you dropship:

  • Alibaba.com Wholesale

  • Ali-Express Dropshipping (this will possibly be the app that most dropshipping store owners will be interested in)

  • Aliexpress Dropshipping by CedCommerce

  • e-Product Plug

  • Inventory Source

  • Sunrise

  • Wholesale 2B

These apps vary in price to use, with free trials being available for most of them.


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 good. 

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 really 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 an e-commerce solution for some businesses).


Interface

Bigcommerce’s interface is straightforward and intuitive; it's relatively similar in quality and appearance to Shopify's and Squarepace'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.

Once you've selected an option from the menu on the left, the associated content or data is displayed on the right - you can then edit or view accordingly.

In a nutshell, I've found it a very easy product to use - it definitely 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.). According to Bigcommerce, integrations with other POS providers are on the way.

You'll need to research each of the available 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.


Bigcommerce SEO

A key concern of prospective Bigcommerce will be how good the search engine optimisation (SEO) features in the platform are. The short answer is that they're very strong.

All the basics are covered nicely - it is easy to edit Bigcommerce page titles and meta descriptions and headers.

You can also create and change product-specific URLs without difficulty, and, unlike some competing products (notably Shopify and Squaresapce), you can create short URLs (i.e., yourdomain.com/product-name instead of yourdomain.com/products/product-name), which is generally considered better for an SEO point of view.

Additionally, Bigcommerce is no slouch when it comes to how a site performs on mobile. (This is crucial now that Google is introducing a 'mobile first' approach to indexing content). 

Not only are Bigcommerce's templates all responsive (meaning they are designed to adjust to suit the device they're being viewed on - mobile, tablet, desktop etc.) but they also work as 'Accelerated Mobile Pages' (AMP), which can have some positive SEO implications. 

Let's drill down into AMP for a moment, as it's an area that Bigcommerce arguably leads the hosted e-commerce solution field in.

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. This means you'll get a higher percentage of engaged visitors, and potentially sales. 

AMP format can also provide some SEO benefits too - many SEO experts believe that pages with a low drop-off rate that people 'dwell on' for some time (two things that AMP can deliver) are rewarded by Google's algorithms in search results. 

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.)

Bigcommerce's AMP offering is excellent: all the free templates facilitate AMP, and many of the premium themes too. You can browse for AMP-enabled templates using an AMP checkbox in the Bigcommerce template store.

Image optimisation

Images which are sized correctly for the device they're on and which load quickly can improve page speed significantly (with faster-loading pages being given preferential treatment by Google in search results).

A new feature recently introduce by Bigcommerce is image optimisation via Akamai Image Manger. This optimises all your images automatically, and according to Bigcommerce, merchants using Akamai Image Manager as part of a closed beta for several months saw as much as 70% improvement in site load times. 

Again, and in keeping with Bigcommerce's general 'all-in-one' approach to its platform features, this is included in all plans. A big thumbs up for this, because competing platforms either don't provide this functionality, or require you to install a paid-for app to attain it.

The below video gives an overview of this new functionality.

All in all, I'm very impressed with the SEO functionality in Bigcommerce, and it's one of its strongest features.


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 600 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, and set up integrations via Zapier, Squarespace doesn't provide an app store at all) but is rather eclipsed by Shopify's (there are over 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.


Blogging in Bigcommerce

You might not think that a blog is an essential feature of an online store - but you'd be wrong. Blogging is a key part of an inbound marketing campaign and when done well can improve a site's SEO and, by extension, traffic to it (with both improvements obviously leading to increased sales!).

Helpfully there is a built-in blog in Bigcommerce. Whilst it's not going to compete with a Wordpress blog in terms of functionality, it will nonetheless allow you to create the sort of posts that can attract visitors to your site.

 
 Adding a blog post in Bigcommerce

Adding a blog post in Bigcommerce

 

There is one rather odd omission from the blogging functionality however: an RSS feed. RSS feeds are useful because they allow your blog content to 'travel' - site visitors can use them to subscribe to new posts via RSS readers or embed your posts on other websites; and site owners can use them to automatically populate the newsletters sent by email marketing tools like Aweber or Mailchimp. 

If you feel the Bigcommerce blogging functionality is not up to scratch, or if RSS is a deal-breaker for you, you can always integrate another blogging product (such as Wordpress) to your Bigcommerce store. It's important to set this up correctly however - using a subdomain - as doing this incorrectly means that you may not benefit from the SEO / inbound marketing advantages that good blogging can bring.


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. 

Squarespace, Shopify and Volusion all offer mobile apps - so it's a big 'could do better' here for Bigcommerce.


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; this is a huge time saver.


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 the '24/7' bit 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!

You can also use 'skip this step' button to bypass this process - this immediately brings up the phone numbers, live chat options etc. 

And of course the good news is that phone support is available for a wide range of countries - and if you don't see your country listed, there's a helpful 'all other countries' number you can call.

This all contrasts positively with Squarespace (which doesn't provide phone support at all) and Shopify (which only lists numbers for a few countries, and doesn't provide an 'all other countries' option).

 The Bigcommerce contact page

The Bigcommerce contact page

Finally for those who are more inclined towards trying to sort support issues out themselves, 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. This fee varies according to the plan you are on - 'Standard' and 'Plus' customers can avail of 'Insights' for an additional $49 per month; for 'Pro' customers it's $99 per month; and for 'Enterprise' customers it's $249 per month.

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 its more in-depth sales and customer 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.


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 the product options functionality might sway quite a few users Bigcommerce's way). It's also very strong on the SEO front, with great AMP functionality and automatic image optimisation features being provided out of the box.

The main things that would dissuade me from using Bigcommerce would probably be price (it costs quite a lot to get your hands on a plan with an abandoned cart saver) and the imposition of sales limits on store owners.

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.  


Key pros and Cons of Bigcommerce

Pros of Bigcommerce

  • There are no transaction fees, even if you use a third-party payment gateway.

  • 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.

  • Its SEO features are great - you can create short URLs, AMP format is available on all its templates, and automatic image optimisation is included on all plans.

  • The 'abandoned cart saver' tool is more comprehensive than the similar offering from 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 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 help you manage your store on the go.

  • The built-in blog doesn't facilitate RSS feeds.

  • By comparison to its competitors, you have to pay quite a lot to avail of abandoned cart functionality.


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 basic features (abandoned cart saver aside, however, Bigcommerce's basic feature set is more generous). 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 some basic e-commerce features. 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. This lets you create a store which you can then add to any site through the addition of a simple widget.

Finally, other well-known solutions which facilitate the building of 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!  

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