We have a strict honest reviews policy. To fund our research and testing, this post contains affiliate ad links.
BigCommerce vs Shopify — which is better for your online business? In this detailed comparison, I’m going to help you find out! Read on to get a list of all the key pros and cons of these leading ecommerce platforms, along with a list of some of the best alternatives available.
Let’s kick things off with an important question…
What are BigCommerce and Shopify?
BigCommerce and Shopify are online store builders that allow you sell physical or digital products.
Both products are ‘hosted’ solutions that run in a web browser, meaning that:
- you don’t need to install any software to use them
- you don’t need to buy any hosting for them
- you can access and manage your store from anywhere (so long as you have access to the Internet).
In essence, the big idea behind both tools is to let you build an online store without needing to code anything. You pick a template from the range provided, upload your products, set your prices and you are — in theory at least — good to go.
That said, access to your site’s code is provided, so if you do want to use these platforms to create a more ‘bespoke’ store — or add custom features — this is possible. And ‘enterprise’ versions of both solutions are available, allowing them to be used in a more corporate environment too.
Finally, both platforms 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 not necessarily the most important — questions that potential BigCommerce and Shopify users ask is ‘how much do they cost?’
So, let’s take a look at that.
BigCommerce offers 4 pricing plans:
- BigCommerce Standard: $29.95 per month
- BigCommerce Plus: $79.95 per month
- BigCommerce Pro: $299.95 per month
- BigCommerce Enterprise: varies depending on requirements
A 10% discount is offered on the ‘Plus’ and ‘Pro’ plans if you pay upfront for a year, and a free trial is also available.
BigCommerce’s cheapest three plans form part of its ‘Essentials’ range, which are marketed in a distinct way from its Enterprise level plan — look out for the ‘Essentials’ tab on the BigCommerce website or click here to access them.
Shopify offers 5 pricing plans:
Starter: $5 per month
Basic: $29 per month
Shopify: $79 per month
Advanced: $299 per month
Shopify Plus: pricing varies depending on requirements
(The above Shopify plan prices are in USD. Plan names are consistent across countries, but Shopify’s fees outside of the US can, depending on the territory / currency involved, sometimes work out a bit higher than in the US).
Significant discounts can be availed of by choosing to pay upfront for a Shopify plan. Depending on your territory, paying upfront for a year entitles you to 10% to 50% off your plan; thereafter, paying upfront for 2 or 3 years in advance gives you a 20% or 25% discount respectively.
Like BigCommerce, Shopify also offers a free trial, which you can access here.
Now, with the launch of its new ‘Starter’ plan, you can start selling products online a lot cheaper with Shopify: this costs just $5 per month.
However, there’s a big ‘BUT’ with this plan: it doesn’t actually provide you with a fully functional online store, or let you take payment at point of sale (i.e., in physical locations like retail stores, market stalls etc.).
Rather, it allows you to:
make use of a “Shopify Button” — an embeddable widget, sort of like a PayPal ‘buy now’ button, to add a shopping cart to an existing websiteor online presence
use your Facebook page, other social media channels and messaging apps to sell products.
BigCommerce Enterprise and Shopify Plus
You’ll notice from the above pricing breakdowns that there are two plans listed above without specific prices: ‘BigCommerce Enterprise’ and ‘Shopify Plus.’
As their names suggest, these are ‘enterprise-grade’ versions of the platforms that are aimed at large corporations (or store owners with extremely high 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
- the option to manage multiple stores from one account.
They offer more in the way of account management and onboarding too. You’ll get far more hand holding — i.e., a ‘white glove’ style service — from Shopify or BigCommerce if you opt for one of these plans.
They are also more ‘bespoke’ affairs than the other plans discussed above — a BigCommerce Enterprise or Shopify Plus purchase usually starts with an in-depth conversation where requirements are gathered. After this, a plan is tailored to meet those requirements.
Accordingly, the price of a BigCommerce Enterprise or Shopify Plus plan can vary considerably from customer to customer.
(See our Shopify vs Shopify Plus post for a rundown of the key differences between the regular and enterprise versions of Shopify, and some more detailed information on how the pricing works).
A key pricing comparison: BigCommerce ‘Standard’ vs Shopify ‘Basic’
A key comparison to make between Shopify and BigCommerce pricing involves looking at the ‘Basic Shopify‘ plan, which costs $29 per month, to see how it stacks up against the ‘BigCommerce Standard‘ one, which costs $29.95. These are the plans that many first-time users of both products will be considering using.
Both these plans allow you to sell an unlimited number of products, with BigCommerce — generally speaking — winning in terms of ‘out-of-the-box’ features.
The $29.95 ‘BigCommerce Standard’ plan provides a few particularly important things that you don’t currently get on the equivalent ‘Basic Shopify’ plan, namely:
full reporting functionality
a built-in ratings and review system
- fully automatic currency conversion (based on geolocation)
real-time carrier shipping quotes (from third-party carriers).
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 provides a free app for this purpose (the appropriately named ‘Product Reviews’ app, pictured below).
This has received reasonably good feedback from its users, but I find it slightly puzzling that the functionality isn’t included as a standard feature (especially given that the app is free!).
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, Trustpilot and Facebook).
Although BigCommerce generally includes more features out of the box on its $29 plan, the ‘Basic Shopify’ plan has two important edges over it:
- The Shopify plan doesn’t impose any sales limits — by contrast, a sales limit of $50,000 per year applies on the BigCommerce Standard plan.
- Shopify offers an abandoned cart saver on all its plans, whereas this is only available on the BigCommerce $79.95 ‘Plus’ plan or higher.
The abandoned cart saver automatically sends an email to people who leave your site without completing a transaction; this message can contain a ‘reminder to check out’ note or a discount code to encourage them to do so.
It’s a really useful piece of functionality, and it can increase the revenue of your store significantly. So it’s a shame it’s not included in the BigCommerce entry-level plan.
(I’ll discuss sales limits and abandoned cart saving in more depth later on in this comparison.)
Another 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 a win for BigCommerce here, because it charges 0% transaction fees on all its plans.
On all plans except its ‘Starter’ one, Shopify charges 0% transaction fees too — but only if you use its own ‘Shopify Payments’ system to process card transactions, rather than an external payment gateway.
If you don’t use Shopify Payments, transaction fees do apply and these vary according to the the type of plan you’re on: 2% for ‘Basic Shopify’; 1% for ‘Shopify’ and 0.5% for ‘Advanced Shopify.’
(The Shopify Starter plan always involves 5% transaction fees, regardless if you use Shopify Payments or a third-party payment gateway).
The key thing worth noting about Shopify Payments is that it can only be used in certain countries, namely:
- Hong Kong SAR
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- United States of America
So, if you don’t live in one of those territories, you’ll have to use an external payment gateway provider and you’ll have to pay transaction fees.
(On the plus side, there are loads of payment gateways to choose from with Shopify — more on this in a bit).
Credit card processing fees
In addition to transaction fees, there are credit card fees to consider. These are the fees charged by the company providing the software 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.
But as discussed above, both Shopify and BigCommerce offer ‘out of the box,’ recommended payment processors, which can reduce these fees. These options also make it easier to set up card payment processing.
US users of Shopify’s payment processor, Shopify Payments, can expect to pay between 2.4% — 2.9% + 30c per transaction (depending on their plan and where they’re selling from).
BigCommerce’s recommended partner for credit card processing is Paypal, powered by Braintree. The credit card rates for this service are 2.05% — 2.59% + 49c in the US, depending on plan.
Note: if you live outside the US, you may be able to avail of considerably cheaper credit card fees with both Shopify and BigCommerce. In the UK, for example, Shopify’s credit card fees range from 1.5% to 2%; and BigCommerce’s UK rates start at 1.20% +30p (via PayPal).
Maximum annual sales limits
One important thing to watch out for in a BigCommerce vs Shopify discussion is sales limits.
With BigCommerce, your sales are limited to $50,000 on the ‘Standard’ plan, $180,000 on the ‘Plus’ plan and $400,000 on the ‘Pro’ plan. Sales limits are described as ‘custom’ if you’re on BigCommerce Enterprise (i.e., they are negotiable).
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.”BigCommerce
No such limits exist at all on Shopify plans, so it’s a pricing win here for Shopify.
Now, pricing is definitely not the only thing you should consider when choosing an online store builder tool.
So let’s move on now from costs, and onto something very important to any online store: visuals.
So how good are the BigCommerce and Shopify templates? Well they come in two flavors, free and paid-for. Let’s look at each in turn.
By comparison to some other ecommerce and website building platforms, Shopify and BigCommerce provide a relatively small selection of free themes: 9 in the case of Shopify and 12 in the case of BigCommerce.
When you select a BigCommerce template, you’ll find that there are a few different variations to choose from; so BigCommerce theoretically gives 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 can be distinguished from each other only by the fact that slightly different colours are used in them. You could in fact argue that so big are the similarities between the free BigCommerce themes that there are only five free themes on offer — not 12!
When it comes to editing your themes, both BigCommerce and Shopify provide a drag-and-drop interface to help you you manipulate the content of pages more easily.
Now, the Shopify and BigCommerce drag-and-drop editors are fairly similar in quality, but Shopify’s lets you work with more types of content blocks.
For example, while Shopify’s page builder lets you add e-newsletter signup forms, contact forms and blog post strips to your content, BigCommerce’s doesn’t.
However, the Shopify page builder works in a rather unintuitive way. Instead of letting you drag and drop content into your pages, it lets you drag and drop elements around page templates, which are then applied to pages.
Confusingly, the page content itself has to be edited using an old-fashioned WYSIWG editor.
So from a usability perspective, I prefer BigCommerce’s drag-and-drop editor, which works fine on regular pages.
But from a design point of view I prefer the aesthetics of the free Shopify themes; they just look a bit slicker (and more distinct from each other, too).
This is a pretty subjective area however, and the themes provided by BigCommerce are definitely very professional and contemporary in appearance. In short, I’d be happy to use either set of free themes as a starting point for ecommerce projects.
Stock photography in BigCommerce vs Shopify
It’s important to remember that choosing a good template is only one part of the story when it comes to the aesthetics of your online store: you’ll need to ensure that your photography is up to scratch too. No template, no matter how well designed, will look good if it’s populated with poor-quality images.
One thing that might help on this front is Shopify’s built-in library of stock images (its ‘Burst’ library, which can also be used by non-Shopify merchants). This gives you a range of useful royalty-free images that you can insert easily into your Shopify page layouts.
Whilst this won’t be a substitute for sourcing your own product photos, it can help speed up the general process of populating a theme with imagery.
If you’d like to source similar photography for BigCommerce, royalty-free stock photo sites like Unsplash or Pexels are great options.
Now, what about paid-for templates?
In addition to the free templates discussed above, you can also buy a ‘premium’ theme from Shopify or BigCommerce.
BigCommerce currently provides 217 paid-for themes; these cost between $150 and $399. Occasionally however, BigCommerce discounts some of its paid-for templates, so you might be able to pick up one of the platform’s premium templates at a slightly cheaper price.
Shopify currently offers 93 paid-for templates, which range from $200 to $350 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 the BigCommerce’s free templates, many of its paid-for themes look rather similar to each other.
This is fairly evident in the BigCommerce template names too. For example, ‘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.
By contrast, the paid-for Shopify themes are considerably more distinct from each other — and some themes come in a selection of variants which are — again — more obviously different from each other than the BigCommerce ones.
Ultimately for me, the Shopify offering when it comes to ‘out of the box’ templates is a bit stronger than BigCommerce’s — and better value too.
And don’t forget: if you’re not entirely happy with your chosen theme, there’s always the option to customize it.
Let’s take a look at how you can do that.
Download our free ecommerce e-kit
For a limited time, we’re offering our readers some excellent free tools. Sign up free to immediately receive:
- our online store comparison chart
- a downloadable cheatsheet on how to create an online store
- our SEO, blogging and ‘how to start a business’ cheatsheets
- extended free trials and discount codes for essential business apps
- our latest tips on ecommerce and growing a business
Both BigCommerce and Shopify let you customize their templates quite extensively, by either using the controls provided within the content management system or diving into your site’s HTML / CSS code.
This means that you should be able to use either platform to design an online storefront that presents your products in a professional, on-brand way.
One thing that it is definitely easier to tweak in Shopify themes is typefaces. Out of the box, you get access to a large range of fonts (a mixture of web-safe fonts, Google fonts, and licensed fonts from Monotype) — and you can use any of these in the free templates provided.
In BigCommerce, by contrast, the range of web fonts included with each of the free themes can be a bit limited.
For example, the popular ‘Cornerstone Light’ theme includes just three web fonts (see screenshot below).
So, you may find yourself having to manually install other fonts to enhance the look and feel of a template (or make it match your corporate branding more closely).
Another thing that’s missing in some BigCommerce templates is the ability to show or hide certain components easily. For example, in some themes, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious way to hide the search facility in the header.
Liquid — Shopify’s templating language
Making tweaks to a Shopify theme will sometimes involve using a bespoke 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.
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 find you can simply pick a pre-existing template and change its colours, typefaces 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 from Shopify and BigCommerce, you also have the option of buying them from third parties.
Sites like Themeforest and Template Monster offer a wide range of templates for these two platforms; so you may find something that appeals elsewhere.
However, it’s safer to buy a theme direct from Shopify and BigCommerce’s official theme stores — as these will have been vetted by the two companies and are more likely to be reliable and secure.
Ok, so we’ve looked at how much Shopify and BigCommerce cost, and how sites created with them look…so let’s turn our attention now to the what they’re designed to do: selling stuff.
A payment gateway is a piece of software that processes credit card payments and allows you to sell products from your online store.
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 platforms support the major ones (Stripe, PayPal, Worldpay, 2Checkout etc.)
Shopify supports a lot more of them, however: 100+ to BigCommerce’s 49.
Normally speaking, connecting a third party payment gateway can be a slightly fiddly process involving form filling, a contract and 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.
As discussed earlier, with Shopify this means using its ‘Shopify Payments‘ option; with BigCommerce, the out of the box option is PayPal powered by Braintree.
Now, with payment processors out of the way, it’s time to discuss how BigCommerce and Shopify deal with the key component of an ecommerce business: the actual products.
Most online stores use different product categories to present products — for example, on a guitar-related store you might expect to find categories containing 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, better.
In Shopify, not only can you add products manually to collections, you can create ‘smart’ ones which are automatically populated with products based on conditions you supply. The company refers to these as ‘automated collections.’
The setup process involves using various criteria to populate a collection, including product title, tags, price, weight and more — so, using our guitar store example again, rather than having to browse through all your products and 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 this approach work.
Although BigCommerce does have a ‘bulk edit’ option to speed up category assignment, it doesn’t yet provide similar ‘smart collection’ functionality, so the winner here is Shopify.
Product options and variants
What BigCommerce lacks in the categorization department, it more than makes up for in product options and variants — it definitely beats than Shopify in this area.
With Shopify, you’re limited to offering customers 3 sets of options per product — for example, color, size or material.
It’s very easy to set these options up, but also rather frustrating if you need to sell products that come in more than three versions.
Workarounds exist, but are either fiddly and time-consuming to implement — or involve purchasing a third-party app like ‘Infinite Options,’ that removes these limits.
BigCommerce, on the other hand, allows you to create large lists of product options — up to 250. So, if your products come in all shapes, colours and sizes, you will get the flexibility you need with BigCommerce.
On top of that, the product variant limits are much more generous with BigCommerce too — you can have up to 600 to Shopify’s 100.
Variants are the number of product option combinations you can offer — for example a red, large t-shirt would count as one variant; a small, blue t-shirt would count as another.
So, if you are working with a large number of product options and variants, it’s definitely a win for BigCommerce.
‘Buy Buttons’ in Shopify and BigCommerce
Both Shopify and BigCommerce provide ‘Buy buttons’ which allow you (and others) to sell your products on other websites.
With Shopify, it’s a case of grabbing some code from the buy button ‘sales channel’ which you can then add to another blog, website, social media profile etc.; in BigCommerce, you have to install the ‘Buy button’ app first, but it’s a similar process after that.
Not all ecommerce solutions let you add shopping cart functionality to existing websites like this, so it’s a thumbs up for both platforms here.
Shopify’s ‘Buy Button’ is slightly better than BigCommerce’s in one key respect, however: not only can you use it to embed individual products, but you can also use it to embed whole catalogs.
But BigCommerce’s ‘Buy Button’ is better for selling in different currencies — if you have multi-currency functionality enabled, your product’s price and your checkout will automatically appear in the correct local currency. Shopify’s button is yet to facilitate this.
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.
Facilitating this is possible with both BigCommerce and Shopify but it’s significantly easier to set up custom data capture with BigCommerce — you just add a text field as an option to your product.
To do this in Shopify, you’ll need to add a piece of code to your template (to extract a ‘line item property’) or spend money on an app to take care of this.
A similar situation exists with file uploads: for example, if you’re selling photography or clothing related products 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 again have to resort to a bit of coding or a third-party app.
So it’s a definite win for BigCommerce over Shopify here — merchants who need to collect custom data from customers in order to personalize products will find things much more straightforward (and cheaper!) with BigCommerce.
Now, let’s move on from products themselves — and take a look at the shipping options you can use to get them to your customers.
While you’re here — have you seen our guide to making an online store?
Both BigCommerce and Shopify allow you to set up a variety of shipping rules and rates, including:
free shipping rates
calculated (‘real time’) shipping rates from third-party carriers.
BigCommerce arguably has an edge, however, when it comes to third-party real-time shipping rates — you can access this functionality on any of its plans, whereas with Shopify this is only available by:
- paying monthly for an ‘Advanced Shopify’ or ‘Shopify plus’ plan;
- paying for any other Shopify plan on an annual basis;
- paying an add-on monthly fee to unlock real time shipping quotes.
However, if you’re based in Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Spain, the UK or the US and happy to work with a carrier that partners with Shopify (see table below for the available options), you can provide real-time carrier quotations on any Shopify plan.
|Fulfillment location||Shopify Shipping options|
What’s more, you can avail of generous discounts on shipping costs by doing so. This service — “Shopify Shipping” — is available on all plans, and the discounts provided can be quite generous (allowing you to save up to 88% on shipping).
The below video highlights how this service works.
Although there’s not a direct equivalent for this built-in, discounted shipping service in BigCommerce, third-party solutions do exist that give you ways to enhance / automate your shipping offering and offer your customers cheaper shipping rates. These are available from the BigCommerce app store.
Importing and exporting products / data 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 in this area.
BigCommerce and Shopify aren’t great when it comes to importing or exporting other types of content however — neither platform provides an obvious or easy way to import / export blog posts or static pages out of the box (that said, third-party apps can help in this regard — more on apps in a moment).
But speaking of blogging…
Blogging features in BigCommerce and Shopify
Blogging, when done correctly, provides one of the best ways of driving traffic to a store (if not the best!).
When you blog about the ‘niche area’ in which you are operating, you are more likely to attract relevant visitors to your site (as long as each piece of content is really strong, optimized for search engines correctly and promoted heavily).
Both BigCommerce and Shopify allow you to create a simple blog easily. You can import posts from an existing blog into Shopify a bit more easily however, thanks to various third-party apps that let you get your content into the platform (for example, ExIm).
Now, the blogging functionality provided by both Shopify and BigCommerce is at the more basic end of the spectrum.
For example, neither BigCommerce or Shopify allow you to use blog categories — you are limited to tags only — and neither offer autosave or version history features.
One particular omission worth flagging up is the lack of RSS feeds for BigCommerce’s blogging functionality. RSS feeds are useful because you can use them to syndicate content and automatically create email newsletters containing your latest posts.
Despite the above issues, most users will be generally fine with both Shopify and BigCommerce’s built-in blogs — they do, at the end of the day, permit you to create the sort of blog content and inbound marketing campaigns that can attract traffic to a site.
And, 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 and system settings, but it’s all perfectly doable).
Abandoned cart recovery tools in BigCommerce and Shopify
Something worth paying particular attention to in a BigCommerce vs Shopify comparison is abandoned cart recovery functionality.
This is an extremely useful feature that allows you to automatically email visitors to your store who add something to their cart but do not complete the purchase. Typically, a discount code is included in this email, which acts as an incentive to buy the abandoned item.
BigCommerce’s abadoned cart saver functionality is pretty good: it lets you schedule up to three automated follow-ups, which is more than what’s on offer from a lot of competing solutions.
However, as you can see from the screenshot below, creating the abandoned cart emails themselves involves an odd process, where you use ‘phrase names’ and ‘phrase values’ to populate your email content (alternatively you can use HTML code).
It would be much better, as is the case with Shopify, if you could simply use a regular email editor to craft your messages.
And not only does Shopify make editing your abandoned cart emails easier, it also gives you a lot more control over the conditions under which they are sent. This is thanks to ‘editable workflows’ that let you create if/then rules for sending your reminders (see screenshot below for an example of a workflow being created).
All this means that Shopify’s abandoned cart recovery features are stronger than BigCommerce’s. And they’re cheaper too: an abandoned cart saver is available on all Shopify plans, meaning you can access this important functionality for as little as $5 per month (via the Shopify ‘Starter’ plan). That’s $74 less per month than if you were using BigCommerce.
So overall, when it comes to abandoned cart recovery, it’s a clear win for Shopify.
While on the subject of shopping carts, it’s worth dwelling on ‘persistent carts’ for a moment.
A persistent cart feature makes shopping easier for your store visitors by allowing them to retrieve their cart on any device.
For example, a user might start shopping on a desktop computer at work and add some items to her cart. A persistent cart would let her continue to add more products to her cart via her phone on the train home — and then pay for them all on her laptop when she got back to her house.
With BigCommerce, this is a built-in feature (on ‘Plus’ plans or higher); with Shopify, you’ll need to pay for an app to provide this functionality. So arguably it’s a bit of a win for BigCommerce here, depending on which plan you go for.
Selling in multiple currencies
You generally get more online sales if you sell in the currency used by your site visitors.
So, if you’re selling in multiple countries, it’s a good idea to let your potential customers select their own currency to shop in (or, better yet, to present products in your site visitors’ currency automatically).
Unlike many competing ecommerce solutions, Shopify and BigCommerce both facilitate this.
To enable multi-currency selling in Shopify, you’ll need to use its ‘Shopify Markets’ feature. This lets you define selling areas — ‘markets’ based on country or groups of countries. You can then manage currencies, languages, local domains and payment processors for these markets all in one place.
Not only does this let you configure things very neatly, it lets you see at a glance where the bulk of your sales are coming from (see screenshot below).
In short, it’s a very nice feature that immediately makes Shopify a highly scalable ecommerce platform.
When Shopify Markets is enabled, your visitors outside the ‘default’ market will be prompted to to select their preferred location and currency via a pop-up box (IP addresses are used to suggest the most appropriate one).
Now, BigCommerce’s approach to multi-currency is a bit different. Unlike Shopify, you don’t create ‘markets’ in BigCommerce, but instead simply add the currencies you’d like to sell in.
Note: on BigCommerce ‘Enterprise’, a feature similar to ‘Shopify Markets’ is available — ‘Multi-Storefront’ — but this plan is really only suitable for those with corporate-level budgets.
And, rather than BigCommerce prompting your store visitors to change currency themselves, all the conversion happens automatically (based on IP address). Your visitors just see products in their local currency by default.
(With Shopify, only the ‘Shopify Plus’ plan can facilitate this).
Another key difference to note between BigCommerce and Shopify’s approach to currency conversion involves setting your own currency conversion rates: while you can manually set these on any BigCommerce plan, with Shopify, you don’t get the ability to do this unless you’re on an ‘Advanced’ or ‘Shopify Plus’ plan (both of which are expensive).
So, in terms of which platform wins the multi-currency battle, I would say that it’s probably a draw. For its neat management of domains, languages and currencies all in one place, it’s a win for Shopify; but if you need to adjust currency conversion rates manually, you can do this more cheaply with BigCommerce.
Selling in multiple languages
You can use both Shopify and BigCommerce to sell in multiple languages — however, while Shopify gives you built-in functionality to do this (as part of its ‘Markets’ feature), you’ll need to make use of a third-party app, Weglot, to do the same with BigCommerce.
On the plus side, Weglot is a flexible tool that lets you make use of either machine translations or manual one.
But watch out for the pricing: as the table below highlights, things can get very expensive with Weglot if you need to translate a lot of sites, or have a high word count on your website.
With Shopify, you can translate your site into 20 languages for free on all plans except ‘Starter’ — this should meet most merchants’ needs well.
When you enable multilingual selling in Shopify, a language ‘folder’ is added to your domain. So, you’ll end up with www.myshop.com/fr/, www.myshop.com/de/ etc.
Alternatively, if you’re on a ‘Shopify’ plan or higher, you can host a translated store on an international domain (yourstore.fr, yourstore.de etc.).
The only thing to be aware of here is that certain Shopify site elements, like product and blog tags, can’t currently be translated using its out-of-the box functionality.
Finally, it’s also possible to use Weglot with Shopify — so all in all, when it comes to creating a multilingual versions of your store, the more flexible option, and certainly the most cost-effective one, is definitely Shopify.
An area where BigCommerce has a definite win over Shopify involves staff accounts.
Whereas in Shopify strict limits apply to the number of users who can log in and manage a store (these range from just 1 on the ‘Starter’ plan to 15 on the ‘Advanced’ plan), BigCommerce allows you to create an unlimited number of staff accounts for your store — on any plan.
So any business with a large number of individuals who need access to a store’s backend will definitely appreciate the flexibility provided in this area by BigCommerce.
A key alternative to BigCommerce and Shopify — Squarespace
BigCommerce and Shopify are two of the best-known ecommerce solutions, but there are alternatives available.
One such product is Squarespace. This platform comes with more bundled templates than Shopify and BigCommerce, a fantastic drag and drop editor, excellent blogging and gallery features and the ability to host a pay-to-access members’ area.
Squarespace’s ecommerce features are not yet quite as extensive as Shopify and BigCommerce (the main thing missing from the ecommerce feature set is a wide range of payment gateways and the ability to sell in multiple currencies) but they are extremely easy to use.
You can get 10% off any Squarespace plan by clicking this link and entering STYLEFACTORY10 when purchasing it.
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 total 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 access 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 — provides you with access to an ‘Ecommerce 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 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 or higher — to avail of more 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.
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.
Finally, BigCommerce also provides a native integration with Google BigQuery, which allows you to make use of Google’s Data Studio tool for custom reporting purposes. Although you can use BigQuery with Shopify too, this will require data exports, which can be a bit complicated and time-consuming to sort out.
Buying domain names with Shopify and BigCommerce
Both Shopify and BigCommerce allow you to buy domain names 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 a domain name provider.
However, to avail of the fastest DNS lookup times, which can improve SEO, you might wish to consider buying a custom domain name from a third-party provider — configuring DNS is not a terribly difficult job anyway.
And, because Shopify or BigCommerce don’t cater for every type of domain extension, you might need to anyway.
The other advantage of buying a domain from a third-party is that you don’t end up putting all your eggs in one basket. If for any reason you lost access to your BigCommerce or Shopify account, and you had bought a domain from either, you would be losing access not just to your CMS / hosting but your domain too.
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 [email protected] which forwards mail onto [email protected].
More useful though is the ability to configure DNS settings on either your BigCommerce or Shopify-bought domain so that you can use a productivity suite like Google Workspace (G Suite) or Microsoft 365 to manage your email; this gives you a proper email account that uses your domain name — i.e., [email protected]
Personally speaking, I would be inclined to ignore both BigCommerce and Shopify’s built-in email forwarding and pay for a Google Workspace or Microsoft 365 account to manage email — simply because in doing so you get a very robust email solution AND a host of useful productivity tools (calendars, file storage, video conferencing and so on).
Email marketing tools
An absolutely key part of running an online store is email marketing. Sending e-newsletters to your mailing list is crucial to generating sales.
Recognizing this — and perhaps the fact that competitors Squarespace and Wix now both offer built-in email marketing — Shopify introduced a feature that allows you to carry out email marketing without leaving the platform: Shopify Email.
It’s cheap, too: you can send 10,000 emails per month using it as part of your regular plan, and then you’re charged $1 for every additional 1,000 sends.
Recently, the tool has been improved so that it also includes some email automation features, with key automations including:
- Welcome emails
- First purchase upsells
- Customer winbacks
Although Shopify’s email automation tools aren’t yet as sophisticated as those of dedicated email marketing solutions like Mailchimp or GetResponse, they are clearly moving in that direction, and command a large userbase: according to Shopify, over 500,000 merchants now use Shopify email to manage their e-newsletter campaigns.
And the inclusion of ‘Shopify Email’ in Shopify’s feature set means that Shopify has become more of an ‘all in one’ marketing solution than BigCommerce — as things stand, BigCommerce users will need two products to handle ecommerce and email marketing, whereas Shopify users can manage both in one place.
So when it comes to email marketing, it’s a win for Shopify.
There are ‘app stores’ available for both Shopify and BigCommerce, which allow you to integrate the platforms with other web applications or add features to your store.
Shopify’s app store contains significantly more apps than BigCommerce’s, however; while there are around 1,200 apps available in the BigCommerce app store, you’ll find around 8,000 in Shopify’s.
The difference in quantity may to a degree reflect the fact that BigCommerce provides quite a bit more functionality straight out of the box — so there’s perhaps less of a need for users to add apps.
But it also reflects the fact that is that there is a bigger user base for and ecosystem built around Shopify.
Point of Sale (POS) 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 these.
Other devices — such as barcode scanners, receipt printers, tills and label printers — can also be integrated. All these help your Shopify or BigCommerce site become more than just a ‘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 rock concert; processing credit card payments at a 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.
To use POS with BigCommerce, you will need to integrate hardware from a third party platform — these include ConnectPOS, Vend, Clover, PayPal Zettle, Square, Hike and Heartland Retail.
By contrast, with Shopify, POS is a more ‘out of the box’ affair, with the POS hardware kits and POS plans being available direct from Shopify.
In fact, the Shopify hardware range now includes an all-in-one POS device, ‘POS Go’ — a hand-held device that combines access to your Shopify dashboard with a built-in barcode scanner and card reader (note that this is currently available to US merchants only, however).
Note: POS is included on all Shopify plans except the ‘Starter’ one.
Which approach to POS is better will boil down to individual user requirements. Merchants with an existing relationship with an existing POS service will probably value the flexibility provided by BigCommerce — but those who want a more tightly integrated approach will prefer how Shopify handles POS.
One thing you will need to watch out for with Shopify POS is the fact that to get the most out of it, you’ll need to pay for a ‘Shopify POS Pro’ add-on. This is quite pricey, at $89 per month, per location.
Although you can still avail of a lot of functionality using the standard Shopify POS offering, you’ll need the add on to:
- work with an unlimited number of store staff and registers
- facilitate ‘buy online, pick up in store’
- facilitate exchanges
- provide custom printed receipts
- define staff roles and permissions
- attribute sales to particular staff members (for commission or performance-analysis purposes).
Performance on mobile devices
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 provide ‘responsive’ template designs that automatically adjust the layout of your online store so that it displays nicely across a variety of devices.
If you are not happy with the ‘out of the box’ design for mobile provided by BigCommerce or Shopify, you’ll need to tweak HTML / CSS to change it; that said, the responsive design generated usually works very well for most users and will not need to be edited unless you have very specific design / brand requirements.
When it comes to mobile apps, Shopify is arguably the winner, offering more apps and functionality to manage your store on the go.
The two main Shopify apps 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.).
In addition to the apps mentioned above, there are other Shopify apps available that are designed to help you with various aspects of setting up an online store — a customer chat app (‘Shopify Inbox’), a logo maker, a local delivery app and an order tracking tool.
Of these other apps, ‘Shopify Inbox’ is probably the most useful, letting you add a live chat service to your site; keep tabs on sales conversations; or share product details with store visitors on popular chat services like Facebook Messenger and Instagram.
BigCommerce also provides a mobile app, which allows you to manage orders, view and contact customers, and access basic stats. No dedicated POS app is available, however.
Ultimately it’s fair to say that the platform offering more comprehensive options when it comes to managing your store on a mobile device — particularly in a point-of-sale context — is Shopify.
User reviews of the mobile apps
In terms of how users rate the mobile versions of BigCommerce and Shopify, iOS users give a thumbs up, with the main apps mentioned both receiving 4.6 stars out of 5 on Apple’s app store.
Android users aren’t quite so enthusiastic however, scoring the BigCommerce app 3.6 stars out of 5, and the Shopify POS app 3.3 out of 5.
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a Google-backed project that aims to provide a better experience for people accessing web content on a smartphone.
Pages displayed in AMP format are basically cut-down versions of your content (certain scripts and page features are removed); and because of this 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 can be an SEO benefit to using them too, because Google sometimes prioritizes fast-loading pages over slower ones in search results.
Although many website 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 ecommerce contexts too.
The good news is that both BigCommerce and Shopify allows you to present your product pages in AMP format.
You can use AMP on any Shopify template — you just need to install a third-party AMP app. However, you’ll need to pay extra for this.
If you’d like to use AMP with BigCommerce, you can do so without any additional charges. AMP can be enabled on all of the free BigCommerce themes, and a large number of its paid ones too.
Given that you can use AMP on all the free BigCommerce templates out of the box and without the need for any additional app installations, I’d argue that this represents a bit of a win for BigCommerce.
Automatic tax rules and VAT MOSS in BigCommerce and Shopify
Automatic tax calculation
A key challenge of building and running an online store is that you can end up selling goods in jurisdictions with differing tax rates — something you’ll need to reflect in the pricing of your products.
Thankfully, Shopify and BigCommerce both allow you to apply tax rates automatically for a wide range of countries, which is a huge time saver; not all competing products do this.
However, in Shopify, you can do this out of the box; with BigCommerce, you’ll need to install an app to facilitate this (Avalara, Vertex, Taxcloud or Taxjar).
Note: a special tax calculation service is provided for US Shopify merchants: ‘Shopify Tax.’ This improves the accuracy of tax calculations for US merchants selling to US consumers, gives tax estimates to customers, and provides tax liability insights to merchants. You should note however that if your yearly sales exceed $100,000, additional fees will apply to use this service.
If you intend to sell digital products to EU consumers with BigCommerce or Shopify, and expect to raise over €10,000 a year in revenue from doing so, you’ll need to familiarize 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.
BigCommerce doesn’t seem to provide an easy way to do this; Shopify, by contrast, caters for it really well (via its free ‘Digital Downloads’ app).
Overall then, I’d say that when it comes to automatic tax calculation features, the winner is Shopify.
Dropshipping in Shopify and BigCommerce
Dropshipping is a fulfilment 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 model because it can represent a low-cost way to start a business; you don’t have to spend a lot of money purchasing or manufacturing goods before you start selling.
Dropshipping is not without its downsides however: profit margins tend to be quite low due to intense competition in the dropshipping marketplace.
And it can be hard to find ethical suppliers of goods — lots of dropshipping suppliers ship goods that are manufactured areas where working conditions can be very poor.
Both Shopify and BigCommerce facilitate 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 DSers 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 too — there are a lot more options to choose from with Shopify.
The Shopify dropshipping starter kit
If you’re interested in dropshipping, I’d recommend that you take a look at Shopify’s dropshipping starter kit — with this, you get a free trial of Shopify plus lots of bundled resources and tools that show you how to launch a successful dropshipping Shopify store.
If you’re interested in learning more about dropshipping, you may find our ‘What is dropshipping?’ guide helpful.
Interface and ease of use
Shopify and BigCommerce are straightforward to use — both feature a simple, user friendly content management system (CMS). Their interfaces are fairly extremely similar in appearance, and work in a similar way too.
In both BigCommerce and Shopify you use a menu on the left hand side to choose what you’d like to do (add some content, view orders, take a look at reports etc.) and the right hand side of the screen allows you to view data or upload / edit content accordingly.
Both content management systems are not terribly dissimilar from WordPress and Squarespace, so if you’ve used either of those content management systems before, you’ll be on familiar ground if you end up using either Shopify or BigCommerce.
Below you’ll find a video overview of the BigCommerce interface:
And here’s a walkthrough of how to add products using the Shopify interface:
As discussed earlier, the Shopify CMS’ drag-and-drop editor is a little bit confusing to use, because it lets you edit page templates rather than, like BigCommerce’s, individual pages.
But all in all, both platforms’ content management systems are pretty straightforward to use — and neither should present too much of a learning curve, especially if you’ve used a CMS before.
SEO tools in Bigcommerce vs Shopify
Both BigCommerce and Shopify perform well on the search engine optimization (SEO) front.
Tip: if you’re new to SEO, our guide to making your site more visible will serve as a good introduction to some of its key terminology and concepts.
The nuts and bolts of on-page SEO in both Shopify and BigCommerce are easy to manage — changing page titles and meta descriptions is very straightforward, as is adding headings and alt text.
You can also change page URLs very easily in either platform, with BigCommerce having perhaps a slight edge here, because unlike Shopify, it doesn’t insert any prefixes before your URLs (Shopify prefixes your URLs with ‘/pages’, ‘/posts’, or ‘/products’ depending on the content type).
When it comes to creating page redirects, Shopify has an edge in this area, because it automatically prompts you to do this — and generates the redirect for you — if you change the URL for any page type. BigCommerce facilitates automatic redirect creation for products and posts, but not static web pages.
Both ecommerce platforms provide you with a free SSL certificate — something which Google’s search engine algorithm considers important.
As for improving page speed, because accelerated mobile pages format (AMP) can be enabled ‘out of the box’ for all pages and products on quite a lot of BigCommerce templates, you could argue that BigCommerce makes it easier to create fast-loading pages (something that can result in preferential treatment in search results) than Shopify.
You can enable AMP on Shopify too, however, via a paid-for app like FireAmp; and unlike BigCommerce, Shopify gives you metrics that let you monitor the actual speed of your site (via its new ‘speed score’ report, pictured below).
Now, it’s important to note however that all the elements discussed above largely form part of ‘technical SEO.’ To get either a BigCommerce or a Shopify site performing well in search results, you’ll also need to invest time (and possibly money) in content related activities like keyword research and blogging; link building will be necessary too.
Tip: Check out our Semrush review, Ahrefs review, Ahrefs vs Semrush comparison, Semrush pricing guide or our Moz vs Semrush guide for more detail on keyword research tools; or for more specific information on how to carry out search engine optimization for Shopify or BigCommerce, check out our Shopify SEO guide and our BigCommerce SEO guide.
GDPR compliance in Shopify and BigCommerce
Since 2018, website owners have had to comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) — a set of fairly strict rules on privacy issues. There are serious financial penalties for not following these rules, and even if your business is not based in the EU, you still need to comply with the regulations where any site visits from the EU are concerned.
Now, please note that I’m not a lawyer and you shouldn’t treat anything here as legal advice; but that said, I’m going to spell out how I see GDPR issues affecting potential BigCommerce and Shopify site store owners.
Based on my understanding of the GDPR rules, the key priorities for prospective Shopify and BigCommerce store owners are to:
provide adequate privacy and cookie notices
process and store data securely
get clear consent from people signing up to mailing lists that it is okay to send them e-newsletters
provide a means to opt in or revoke consent to use of non-essential cookies on a website before they are run (and to log that consent).
Both BigCommerce and Shopify let you meet the first three requirements easily enough, although you will need to spend time (and possibly money on lawyers!) creating the relevant notices and tweaking data capture forms in order to make them GDPR compliant.
However, BigCommerce has an edge when it comes to catering for the the fourth requirement — cookie consent.
To ensure GDPR compliance in this area, you are required to display a cookie banner to your website users which:
allows them to choose which cookies they want to run BEFORE those cookies are run (i.e., to give ‘prior consent’)
logs their consent to run cookies
allows them to revoke consent at a later stage.
So for example, if you use a Facebook Ads or Google Analytics cookie on your Shopify or BigCommerce store, you will be breaking GDPR laws unless you have a solution in place which does all of the above.
The good news where BigCommerce is concerned is that it provides a straightforward way to add third-party scripts and ensure they are only run when consent is granted.
(It’s not clear however how to log user consent / facilitate revoking of it down the line — so there’s some scope for improvement here).
As for Shopify, there are quite a lot of apps which claim to deal with this problem and provide this functionality. Some seem considerably better than others however — several that I looked at, whilst claiming to provide GDPR compliance, came nowhere near doing so.
Ultimately, you should be able to get either BigCommerce or Shopify to meet core GDPR requirements — but because because it provides an out-of-the-box solution which broadly deals with GDPR cookie consent issues, it’s a win here for BigCommerce.
Ecommerce task automation in Shopify
A neat feature that you’ll now find available from Shopify is task automation: if you’re on a ‘Shopify,’ ‘Shopify Advanced’ or ‘Shopify Plus’ plan, you get access to an automation app called ‘Shopify Flow.’
This lets you create ‘if this then that’ (IFTT) style rules which make Shopify take certain actions based on certain events (for example, if your inventory is running low, it can send an email message to a supplier; you can tag users based on their purchasing behavior; collate negative reviews into a spreadsheet automatically etc.).
There isn’t currently anything similar available out of the box from BigCommerce, so — as long as you’ve got the budget for a ‘Shopify Advanced’ plan, it’s a win for Shopify here.
That said, there are some third-party apps for BigCommerce, such as Atom8, which can automate ecommerce tasks in similar ways (additional monthly fees of between $49.95 and $199.95 per month apply to use this app, however).
Customer support for Shopify and BigCommerce
Shopify and BigCommerce offer similar customer support options, with phone, live chat, forum, FAQs and email support available.
Additionally, searchable help portals are available that essentially act as manuals for both products. These are both packed full of useful information about BigCommerce and Shopify.
One slightly odd thing I noticed when using Shopify’s help center was that it doesn’t contain any product screenshots. This can sometimes make the instructions provided a little bit harder to follow than those in the BigCommerce portal.
With BigCommerce, you get 24/7 customer support via phone, email and live chat. However, before you get access to a phone number or email address for the support team, you are encouraged to fill in a form and review potential solutions suggested by the BigCommerce website first.
Helpfully however, BigCommerce provide a ‘skip this step’ option for users who are 100% certain they need help from a human being!
Shopify’s customer 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.
Phone support for Shopify is provided using a ‘callback’ system — i.e., you provide your phone number and Shopify call you back when they have a free support slot.
One thing you should be aware of however is that Shopify support is available in considerably more languages than BigCommerce’s — whereas BigCommerce’s support is only available in seven languages (English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Mexican Spanish), Shopify provides it for 21.
BigCommerce vs Shopify: conclusion
Ultimately, BigCommerce and Shopify are fairly well-matched store builders, with BigCommerce winning when it comes to product options, reporting, multi-currency selling and SEO, and Shopify coming out on top when it comes to templates, dropshipping, abandoned cart recovery, email marketing and integrations with other apps.
With BigCommerce, you get a lot more features than Shopify included with the cheapest plan — comprehensive reporting, ratings and reviews, cookie consent tools and multi-currency selling.
Another key reason for choosing BigCommerce over Shopify involves product options: you really can tailor them to the nth degree on BigCommerce, whereas Shopify limits you to three options.
My main reasons for choosing Shopify over BigCommerce would include its stronger template offering and its much cheaper abandoned cart saving functionality — the latter is available on Shopify’s $5 per month ‘Starter’ plan or higher, but with BigCommerce you’ll have to be on a $79.95 or higher plan to get it.
There’s a considerably wider range of apps available for Shopify too — especially where dropshipping is concerned — and these combined with its email marketing features help you manage a lot of your business activity in one place.
Below you’ll find a full summary of the reasons I’d use either platform over the other — but don’t forget personal preference! You might simply prefer the interface or ‘vibe’ of one of these tools more than the other’s, and as such I’d definitely advise you to try both Shopify AND BigCommerce out before committing to either. You can get started on either platform using a free trial — the links for both are below:
BigCommerce vs Shopify — pros and cons summary
Key reasons for using BigCommerce over Shopify
No transaction fees apply, regardless of the payment gateway used.
- You can use far more product options with BigCommerce: 250 to Shopify’s 3.
- When selling in multiple currencies, you can set your own exchange rates on any BigCommerce plan. Shopify only facilitates this on its more expensive ones.
With the notable exception of abandoned cart saver functionality, on the BigCommerce plans, you generally get more ecommerce features‘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 coding or app installations are necessary.
It’s easier to create AMP versions of your store in BigCommerce (and doing so is free too).
Professional reporting is available on all BigCommerce plans — this is not the case with Shopify.
- There’s a native integration for BigQuery available from BigCommerce — this is not the case with Shopify.
- BigCommerce’s ‘Buy Button’ works in multiple currencies; Shopify’s doesn’t.
Third party real-time carrier quotes are available on all BigCommerceplans; in Shopify you’ll need to be on an annual plan or purchase an add-on to get this functionality.
The BigCommerce abandoned cart saver functionality is more flexible than Shopify’s.
Credit card fees are slightly lower (if in the US and using Braintree powered by Paypal).
BigCommerce works with more POS systems (and BigCommerce POS can work out cheaper, depending on the setup used).
- The BigCommerce drag-and-drop editor is currently a little bit more intuitive to use than Shopify’s.
All BigCommerce plans allow you to have an unlimited number of staff accounts.
Functionality to adhere to GDPR cookie consent rules is provided out of the box.
Key reasons for using Shopify over BigCommerce
Shopify provides automatic abandoned cart recovery at a significantly lower price point than BigCommerce.
The template offering is stronger.
- Shopify includes built-in functionality for creating multilingual versions of your store.
A very affordable email marketing tool is bundled with Shopify(and depending on how many email addresses are on your list, this can even be used for free).
- The Shopify ‘Buy Button’ lets you embed entire product catalogs — BigCommerce’s only lets you embed individual products.
You can make use of a much wider range of typefaces in the Shopify free templates.
Shopify supports a much wider range of dropshipping apps and integrations.
The Shopify mobile app offering is stronger.
Shopify’s approach to product categorization is 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.
Catering for multiple tax rates automatically is easier in Shopify, as this functionality is provided as standard (i.e., no third-party app is required).
Adhering to VAT MOSS rules is much easier with Shopify, because it can calculate the relevant tax rates automatically for you.
Point of Sale is more tightly integrated with the product.
Shopify’s blogging tool comes with an RSS feed — BigCommerce’s doesn’t.
- Customer support comes in a lot more languages.
Unlike BigCommerce, you don’t need to worry about sales limits.
Alternatives to BigCommerce and Shopify
When it comes to building an online store, there are quite a few alternatives to BigCommerce and Shopify available, with Wix and Squarespace probably being the best-known competitors.
These are more ‘general’ site builders than BigCommerce and Shopify however; so their ecommerce features are not quite as advanced. However, they tend to be a better option if you’re building a brochure or portfolio site, and want to occasionally sell products on the side. For more details, check out our Wix vs Squarespace comparison.
Another option is Jimdo, but again that is a more ‘general-purpose’ website builder, with a fairly limited set of ecommerce features.
If you are on a really low budget, Big Cartel is worth a look (due to its entirely free plan for merchants with just a couple of products). We have a comparison between Big Cartel and Shopify available here, and a full review of the Big Cartel platform available here.
Used in conjunction with a tool like WooCommerce or Ecwid, WordPress can be a great solution for ecommerce — and it’s a hugely flexible design tool. However, unless you have the right technical skills, you will usually need a WordPress developer to set it up and maintain it.
Similarly, with its stunning templates and innovative approach to design layout, Webflow can work out well for merchants in need of a very ‘bespoke’ design — but you’ll need coding skills to get the most out of it.
Finally, online marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy and eBay can also work well for new ecommerce businesses. Our Shopify vs Amazon, Shopify vs Etsy and eBay vs Shopify comparisons go through some of the pros and cons of using these to sell your products.
BigCommerce vs Shopify FAQs
Should I use BigCommerce or Shopify?
The main arguments for using BigCommerce over Shopify are that it doesn’t charge any transaction fees at all, and that in general, it comes with more ecommerce features out of the box — Shopify often requires you to invest in apps to get the functionality you need. The main reasons for choosing Shopify over BigCommerce are that its templates are stronger, there are no sales limits to worry about, and it features an abandoned cart saver tool on all its plans (something you don’t get from BigCommerce until you’re on a $79.95+ plan).
Do I need a developer to help me build a BigCommerce or Shopify store?
No. Both platforms are ‘do it yourself’ online store builders aimed at people without coding skills. However, involving a developer can help you create a store faster, or add bespoke functionality to it.
Does BigCommerce have an equivalent of Shopify’s ‘Starter’ Plan?
There isn’t a BigCommerce plan as cheap as Shopify’s $5 Starter plan; however, you can use any BigCommerce plan to avail of similar functionality (i.e., the ability to sell on social networks, or create similar ‘buy buttons’ that can be used to sell on other websites).
What are the main alternatives to Shopify and BigCommerce?
Similar ‘hosted’ platforms include Squarespace, Wix and Jimdo. Self-hosted WordPress is also commonly used in conjunction with platforms like WooCommerce and Ecwid to sell products online, but doing this effectively will usually require developer support.
Can I get any discounts for BigCommerce and Shopify?
Yes. With Shopify, if you start a free trial and then pay upfront for a year’s service, you get 10% off your annual plan; paying upfront for 2 years gets you a 20% discount. BigCommerce offers 10% off its ‘Pro’ and ‘Plus’ plan if you pay upfront for a year.
How we tested these products — and why you can trust this comparison
We tested these products via independent research and, more importantly, hands-on experience of them.
We regularly help clients build Shopify and BigCommerce stores, and have extensive knowledge of how both platforms works. So this comparison is based on building many BigCommerce and Shopify stores from scratch; editing existing ones; and using a wide variety of apps to configure them.
While we do fund our work via affiliate commissions, we have a strict honesty policy, test all products exhaustively, and would never recommend any product or service that we would not be happy to use ourselves.
For more information about the criteria that we use to evaluate products, please see our ecommerce platforms buying guide — and if you have any queries about our reviews process, do feel free to contact us.
Bigcommerce vs Shopify…over to you!
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. Do you have a preference for either ecommerce platform? Do they really give you everything you need to build an online store? We’ll do our best to answer any of your questions!
Related BigCommerce and Shopify resources from Style Factory
- What is Shopify? (YouTube guide)
- BigCommerce vs Squarespace
- BigCommerce pricing
- Shopify video review (YouTube)
- Shopify beginners’ tutorial (YouTube)
- Shopify vs GoDaddy
- How to dropship on Shopify
- How to set up a Shopify store
- Shopify free trial guide