In this BigCommerce vs Shopify comparison review, we put two of the leading online store building tools head to head.
Read on for a discussion on the two products’ pricing, templates, important features and the key reasons why you might choose one of these e-commerce solutions over the other.
By the end of this comparison, you should know which of these two products represents the best e-commerce platform for your business.
But let’s start this comparison with an important question: what do BigCommerce and Shopify actually do?
What do BigCommerce and Shopify do?
BigCommerce and Shopify are website builders that allow you sell products — digital or physical — online. Both products run in a web browser, which means that there is no software to install on your desktop or laptop computer, and you can manage your store from anywhere (so long as you have an internet connection).
The key idea behind both products is that you can use them to build an online store without needing to design or code anything. You pick a template from the range provided, upload your products, set your prices and you are, in theory at least, good to go.
It’s worth saying however that while you don’t need to involve a web designer when building a Shopify or Bigcommerce store, a good eye for design, along with some high-quality pictures of your products, are very important if you are to achieve professional results with either platform.
Both Bigcommerce and Shopify are ‘software as a service‘ (Saas) tools. This means that there is an ongoing cost to use them —you pay a monthly or annual fee for access to the software.
And speaking of fees…
BigCommerce pricing vs Shopify pricing
One of the first (although arguably not the most important!) questions which potential users have about BigCommerce and Shopify is ‘how much do they cost?’ Let’s take a look.
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 15-day free trial is also available — this offer can be availed of here.
(BigCommerce’s cheapest three plans form part of its ‘Essentials’ range, which are now marketed in a somewhat distinct way from its Enterprise plan — look out for the ‘Essentials’ tab on the BigCommerce website or click here to access them).
Shopify offers 5 pricing plans:
Lite: $9 per month
Basic Shopify: $29 per month
Shopify: $79 per month
Advanced Shopify: $299 per month
Shopify Plus: pricing varies depending on requirements
Like BigCommerce, Shopify also offers a free trial, which lasts for 14 days. You can access the free trial here.
As can be seen above, you can start selling goods online a lot cheaper with Shopify, with the ‘Lite’ plan only costing $9 per month. However, there’s a big BUT with this plan: it doesn’t actually provide you with a fully functional online store.
Rather, it allows you to:
make use of a “Shopify Button” — an embeddable widget, sort of like a Paypal ‘buy now’ button, to add a shopping cart to an existing website
use your Facebook page to sell products.
You can also use the Shopify ‘Lite’ plan to sell goods offline (at ‘point of sale’) and use the Shopify backend to manage orders and inventory.
BigCommerce Enterprise and Shopify Plus
As their names suggest, these are basically ‘enterprise-grade’ versions of the platforms, which are aimed at corporations or store owners with extremely large volumes of sales.
As such, they contain a lot of advanced features, including:
guaranteed server uptime
advanced API support
dedicated SSL / IP address
advanced security features
They usually offer more in the way of account management 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 typically starts with an in-depth conversation where requirements are gathered; after this, a plan is tailored to suit those requirements.
Accordingly, the price of a BigCommerce Enterprise or Shopify Plus plan can vary from customer to customer.
(That said, there is a reasonable amount of consistency in the Shopify Plus pricing — from conversations I’ve had with Shopify, the monthly pricing for Shopify Plus tends to hover around the $2000 per month mark.).
A key pricing comparison: BigCommerce ‘Standard’ vs Shopify ‘Basic’
A key comparison to make between Shopify and BigCcommerce 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 thinking of going for.
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 ‘BigCommerce Standard’ plan provides a few particularly important things that you don’t get on the equivalent ‘Basic Shopify’ plan, namely:
professional reporting functionality
a built-in ratings and review system
a built-in page builder
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).
This has garnered good reviews 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, Disqus 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.
First, 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.
Second, Shopify offers an abandoned cart saver on its entry level plan, whereas this is only available on the BigCommerce $79.95 plan and up.
The abandoned cart saver — which automatically emails people who leave your site mid-way through a transaction — is a really useful piece of functionality which can increase the revenue of your store significantly.
(I discuss sales limits and abandoned cart saving in more depth later on in this comparison.)
A big question that potential users of Shopify and BigCommerce may find themselves asking is this: what’s Shopify or BigCommerce’s cut of my sales — i.e., the transaction fee per sale — going to be?
Well, it’s a win for BigCommerce here, because it charges 0% transaction fees on all its plans.
Shopify charges 0% on all plans too but only if you use their 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 with the kind of plan you’re on (2% for ‘Shopify Lite’ and ‘Basic Shopify’; 1% for ‘Shopify’ and 0.5% for ‘Advanced Shopify’).
The key thing worth noting about Shopify Payments is that it can only be used in certain countries, namely:
- Hong Kong SAR China
- The Netherlands
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- United States of America (note: no US territories except Puerto Rico.)
So, if you don’t live in one of those countries, you’ll have to use an external payment gateway provider and you will have to pay transaction fees (fortunately, there are loads of payment gateways to choose from with Shopify — we’ll return to this issue later).
Credit card fees
In addition to transaction fees, there are credit card fees to consider. These are the fees charged by the company providing the software to process your customers’ card payments.
If you decide to make use of a third-party payment gateway (an app for processing credit cards, basically), these will be whatever your chosen provider’s rates are.
However, both Shopify and BigCommerce offer ‘out of the box,’ recommended payment processors, which can reduce these fees; these options also make it easier to set up card payment processing.
The Shopify payment processor is ‘Shopify Payments’ — credit card fees for this will vary according to whether you are selling online or in person (in a retail setting, market stall, pop-up shop etc.), the country you live in, and the plan you’re on. In the USA, you can expect to pay between 2.4% — 2.9% per transaction.
BigCommerce’s recommended partner for credit card processing is Paypal, powered by Braintree. The credit card rates are 2.2% — 2.9%, depending on plan.
This makes the BigCommerce US credit card fees slightly cheaper than the Shopify equivalents, especially where the more expensive plans are concerned. Merchants selling low volumes of goods won’t really notice the difference too much, but store owners with high volumes of sales will.
If you live in the UK or another European country, you will 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 2.2% (+20p); BigCommerce’s UK rates range from 1.55% to 1.85% (+18p).
Shopify goes one further and gives you a 20% discount if you pay upfront for two years (on all plans).
Maximum annual sales limits
One thing to watch out for is sales limits.
With BigCommerce, your sales are limited to $50,000 on the ‘Standard’ plan, $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.”
No such limits exist at all on Shopify plans, so it’s a win for Shopify here.
Conclusions on pricing
It’s a big case of swings and roundabouts when it comes to comparing the pricing structure for BigCommerce and Shopify.
For me, the key plus points of the BigCommerce pricing plans over Shopify’s are that
quite a few more features are provided on its $29 plan than on the Shopify equivalent (a page builder, automatic currency conversion, professional reporting, ratings and reviews)
no transaction fees apply to any BigCommerce plan, regardless of the payment gateway used
the credit card processing fees are slightly lower than Shopify’s (in the US at least).
The advantages of the Shopify fees structure are that:
unlike BigCommerce, no sales limits apply at all
the $29 plan includes abandoned cart saving functionality.
Another thing worth bearing in mind is that Shopify’s $9 Lite plan can get you selling online much cheaper than any BigCommerce plan (albeit only in certain context — via a buy button, Facebook page or point-of-sale situation).
However, when deciding between Shopify vs BigCommerce there is a lot more to consider than just pricing, as we’ll see below…
Within these, there are different styles (‘variants’) to choose from, so both products give you more choice in the free template department than the above numbers might initially suggest.
However, the Shopify themes differ from each other in a much more significant way than the BigCommerce ones. Several of the BigCommerce free themes differ only in the fact that slightly different colours are used (you could in fact argue that so big are the similarities between the free BigCommerce themes that there are only five free themes on offer — not 12!).
However, thanks to its new ‘page builder’ functionality, BigCommerce’s free templates are a bit easier to edit: a drag-and-drop interface is provided which allows you manipulate the content of pages more easily (see screenshot below). To be honest, this new feature needs a bit of improvement — I’ve found it a bit buggy on occasion — but broadly speaking it does give you a bit more flexibility than Shopify when it comes to content layout.
In Shopify, you can use a similar editor to lay elements on your home page out, but you’ll have to fork out for an app like Buildify ($12.99 per month) to get this functionality on other pages; the alternative is to make do with a slightly dated WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) editor.
Finally, from a design point of view I slightly prefer the aesthetics of the free Shopify themes; but this is a pretty subjective area, and the themes provided by BigCommerce are definitely professional and contemporary in appearance (see image below for an example of BigCommerce’s ‘Cornerstone Light’ template).
The bottom line is that you’ll definitely be able to use either a free BigCommerce or Shopify theme to create a professional-looking store, but you’ll get a bit more choice from Shopify and a bit more edibility (at least as far as page content goes) from BigCommerce.
(It’s important to remember, of course, that your chosen template is only one part of the story when it comes to aesthetics: you’ll need to ensure that your product photography and descriptions are up to scratch too. No template, no matter how well designed, will look good if it’s populated with poor-quality content.)
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In addition to the free templates discussed above, you can also buy a ‘premium’ theme from Shopify or BigCommerce.
BigCommerce provides around 150 paid-for themes. They start at $150 and cost up to $300. Occasionally however, BigCommerce discounts some of its paid-for templates, so you might be able to pick up a premiun template at a slightly cheaper price than the above.
Shopify currently offers 64 paid-for templates, which range from $140 to $180 in price.
Although the above numbers seem to imply that there is a greater choice of paid-for themes available with BigCommerce, it’s worth sounding a note of caution here: as with the product’s free templates, many of the BigCommerce paid-for themes are very similar to each other.
This is fairly evident in the BigCommerce template names too: ‘Chelsea Bold’, ‘Chelsea Bright’, ‘Chelsea Warm’ and ‘Chelsea Clean’ are all positioned as being separate templates, but to my eyes they are effectively variants of the same theme.
By contrast, the paid-for Shopify themes are more distinct from each other – and most themes come with a selection of variants which are more obviously different from each other than the BigCommerce equivalents.
The other nice thing about the Shopify template offering is that it is really easy to browse the template gallery and find a template that suits your requirements.
A wide range of filters is available to help you choose a template based not only on industry type but design type too (you can select templates based on preferences for design elements like video backgrounds, parallax scrolling, wide or narrow layout style etc.)
Ultimately for my money, the Shopify offering when it comes to ‘out of the box’ templates is a bit stronger than BigCommerce’s — and better value.
But don’t forget: if you’re not entirely happy with your chosen theme, there’s always the option to customize it…
Both BigCommerce and Shopify let you customize their templates quite extensively — either using controls provided within the content management system or by diving into the HTML / CSS — meaning that with either system you should be able to end up with a nice looking online shop window that presents your products in a professional way.
As discussed above, BigCommerce makes it easier to customize page layouts — its page builder tool lets you drag and drop elements around your pages to your liking.
One thing that it is definitely easier to tweak in Shopify themes is typefaces. Out of the box, you get access to quite a wide 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 fonts included with each of the free themes is very limited and you may find yourself having to manually install web fonts to enhance the look and feel of a template (or make it better match your corporate branding).
Another thing that’s missing in some BigCommerce templates is the ability to show or hide certain components easily. For example, in the Vault theme, 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 probably find you can simply pick a pre-existing template and change colours, typefaces and certain aspects of the layout simply by using the standard controls provided.
Third-party providers of BigCommerce and Shopify themes
One final note on templates: if you’re really not happy with the selection of themes available direct from Shopify and BigCommerce, you also have the option of buying them from third parties. Sites like Themeforest offer a wide range of templates for these two platforms; you may find something that floats your boat elsewhere.
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 basically the software that accepts 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 BigCommerce and Shopify support the major ones — like Worldpay, Quickbooks, Paypal, 2Checkout etc.
Shopify offers more however: 100+ to BigCommerce’s 40 or so.
Normally speaking, connecting a third party payment gateway can be a slightly fiddly process which sometimes involves a contract and/or monthly fees, so users who are not in the mood for that sort of thing might prefer to use one of the ‘out of the box’ options provided by both BigCommerce and Shopify.
In the case of Shopify this means using either Paypal or, as discussed above, its ‘Shopify Payments’ option.
With BigCommerce, the out of the box option is Paypal powered by Braintree (BigCommerce have teamed up with Braintree to provide a solution that both offers some preferential Paypal processing rates and a system whereby the user can pay via Paypal without ever having to leave your storefront).
Most online stores are likely to make use of different product collections / categories — for example, on a guitar-related store you might expect to find collections containing electric guitars, acoustic guitars, plectrums, straps, amplifiers and so on.
Setting up collections in Shopify and BigCommerce is straightforward enough, but Shopify’s approach is, in my view, niftier, because not only can you add products manually to collections, you can create ones which are automatically populated with products based on on conditions you supply. In other words, you can create ‘smart categories’ with Shopify (the company refers to these as ‘automated collections’).
This 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 it work.
Although BigCommerce does have a ‘bulk edit’ option to speed up category assignment, it doesn’t yet provide similar ‘smart collection’ functionality, so Shopify definitely has an edge here.
What BigCommerce lacks in the categorisation department it more than makes up for with its product option functionality — and is considerably better than Shopify in this area.
With Shopify, you’re limited to offering customers 3 sets of options per product — for example, size, colour or material. It’s very easy to set these options up, but also rather frustrating if you need to sell products that come in more than three versions (workarounds exist, but either fiddly and time-consuming to implement, or involve purchasing a third-party app, thus increasing your monthly costs for using the platform).
BigCommerce, on the other hand, allows you to create large lists of product options — up to 250. If your products come in all shapes, colours and sizes, you will get the flexibility you need with BigCommerce.
So clear win for BigCommerce when it comes to product options (and if you’re interested in finding out more about how products options in BigCommerce work, I’d suggest watching the below video).
Text fields and file uploads
Some merchants will require their customers to enter custom data at the point of purchase — for example, a jeweller might ask a customer to enter some text for an inscription on a pendant. This is possible with both BigCommerce and Shopify but it’s significantly easier to set up with BigCommerce – you just add a text field as an option to your product.
With Shopify, you’re going to have to add a piece of code to your template (to extract a ‘line item property’) or invest in an app to take care of this.
A similar situation exists with file uploads: 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 have to resort to a bit of coding or a third-party app again.
So a definite win for BigCommerce here — merchants who need to collect custom data from customers in order to personalise products will find things much more straightforward with BigCommerce than Shopify.
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Now, let’s take a look at shipping options.
Both BigCommerce and Shopify allow you to set up a variety of shipping rules:
Free shipping rates
Calculated (‘real time’) shipping rates from third-party carriers
BigCommerce arguably has an edge, however, when it comes to the third-party real-time shipping rates — you can access this functionality on any of its plans, whereas with Shopify you’ll need to be on a $299 ‘Advanced Shopify’ plan to do so.
However, if you’re based in the US, Canada or Australia, and happy to work with a carrier that partners with Shopify (i.e., not a third-party carrier of your own choice) you can provide real-time carrier quotations on any plan. 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, particularly if you’re on the $299 ‘Shopify Advanced’ plan).
The below video highlights how this service works.
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 (although it recommends the use of CSV format for exports wherever possible). 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 which in a moment).
But speaking of blogging…
Blogging, when done correctly, arguably 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, optimised for search correctly and promoted heavily).
You can import posts from an existing blog into both BigCommerce and Shopify, using the BigCommerce ‘Blog Sync’ and Shopify Blogfeeder apps respectively.
However, it’s fair to say that the blog 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 you won’t be able to make use of Yoast-style SEO plugins when composing your blog posts.
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 and send e-newsletters containing your latest posts.
Despite the above niggles, 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 doable).
Abandoned cart recovery in BigCommerce and Shopify
Something worth paying particular attention to in a BigCommerce vs Shopify comparison is abandoned cart recovery functionality. This is a useful feature which allows you to automatically email visitors to your store who add something to their cart but do not complete the purchase.
According to behavioural marketing company SalesCycle, 1 in three recipients of abandoned cart emails click on a link in those emails, with 28% of those users going on to make a purchase — so abandoned cart functionality is extremely important.
BigCommerce’s abandoned cart saver, which the company claims allows you to recover 15% of lost sales, is arguably better than the Shopify equivalent, as the Shopify one only allows you to send one automated email to users who abandon their cart; BigCommerce, by contrast, allows you to schedule up to three automated follow-up emails.
However, with the ability to send a several emails to people who don’t complete a purchase comes the ability to spam and annoy, so whilst extremely useful, abandoned cart saver tools should be used carefully.
An interesting aspect of Shopify’s abandoned cart saver involves time intervals – you are only allowed to send your automated email at one of the following times:
1 hour later
6 hours later
10 hours later
24 hours later.
Of these times, Shopify strongly recommend going for the 1 hour later or 10 hours later intervals, as their research shows that users who have abandoned their carts are most likely to come back and complete the purchase upon receiving an email sent after those specific particular periods of time. (This is handy information to have actually, regardless of which e-commerce platform you eventually go for.).
Given that abandoned cart recovery has the potential to significantly boost sales, a plan with this functionality is definitely worth looking at, regardless of which online store builder you eventually decide on.
I suspect that a lot of users may be nudged in Shopify’s direction here, because although BigCommerce’s abandoned cart saving functionality is more flexible, it is also rather more expensive to get your hands on.
An abandoned cart saver is available on all Shopify plans, meaning you can access this important functionality for up to $70 less per month than if you were using BigCommerce (based on using ‘Shopify Lite’).
It will be interesting to see if BigCommerce follows suit and start including an abandoned cart saver on their entry-level plan too. But as things stand, there’s a pricing edge for Shopify here.
Selling in multiple currencies
You typically 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 choose their own currency (or, better yet, to present products in your site visitors’ currency automatically).
To a degree, Shopify lets you do this out of the box: its free ‘Debut’ and ‘Brooklyn’ themes come with a currency selector. However, if you’re not using one of these themes, you’ll have to add some code to your site to enable the selector.
What’s more useful than a currency selector is automatic currency conversion, where IP addresses are used to work out visitor locations and present prices in the relevant currency; this is only available in Shopify if you’re on a Shopify Plus plan (which will set you back at least $2000 per month) or using a third-party app (Bold Multi-Currency is a good choice).
That said, you can use Shopify’s free ‘Geolocation’ app to prompt users to switch to their relevant currency. This is uesful, but not quite as good as automatic currency conversion.
With all BigCommerce free themes, you’ll get a much better multi-currency solution out of the box — one that does facilitate automatic currency conversion based on IP.
If you’re using a paid-for template that doesn’t include this feature, then as with Shopify, you’ll need to use a third-party app — again, Bold Multi-Currency is a good option.
But all in all, BigCommerce has an edge when it comes to facilitating multi-currency payments.
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, you’ll need to make use of a third-party app, Weglot, to do this with BigCommerce.
With Shopify you can translate your site into 5 languages — unless you’re on a ‘Shopify Plus’ plan, in which case you can translate it into up to 20. Certain site elements, like product and blog tags, can’t currently be translated.
When you enable multi-language 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. It’s not currently possible to host one Shopify site across separate domains for separate languages.
The BigCommerce + Weglot approach has both its advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, you can offer your site in 100+ languages; and the translations are automatic (with the choice to manually edit them). On the negative side, you will need to pay at least an additional $21 per month for the Weglot app.
It’s also possible to use Weglot with Shopify — so all in all, Shopify is the more flexible option when it comes to creating a multilingual site, because you have the choice of both built-in features to do this AND the option to use a translation app.
A key alternative to BigCommerce and Shopify — Squarespace
BigCommerce and Shopify are two of the best-known e-commerce solutions, but there are alternatives available. One such product is Squarespace. This platform comes with more bundled templates than Shopify and BigCommerce, excellent blogging and gallery features and the ability to host a pay-to-access members’ area.
Squarespace’s e-commerce features are not yet quite as extensive as Shopify and BigCommerce (the main things missing are the ability to sell in multiple currencies and dropshipping options) but they are extremely easy to use.
You can get 10% off any Squarespace plan by clicking this link and entering the discount code PARTNER10 at checkout.
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 vary from 1 on the ‘Lite’ 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 that BigCommerce provides in this area.
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 avail of a couple of other reports on Shopify and BigCommerce.
Shopify allows you to create custom reports (available on ‘Advanced Shopify’ and ‘Shopify Plus’ plans only) and BigCommerce — for an additional fee — provides you with access to an ‘E-commerce 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 and up — to avail of comprehensive reporting functionality.
If you’re on a cheaper Shopify plan, you can avail of some statistics via an ‘online store dashboard’, but these are pretty basic and ‘top line’ in nature.
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 domain name provider.
However, to avail of the fastest DNS lookup times, which can improve SEO, you might wish to consider buying a 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 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@example.com which forwards mail onto firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 or Microsoft 365 to manage your email; this gives you a proper email account that uses your domain name – i.e., email@example.com.
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 business tools (calendars, file storage, video conferencing and so on). BigCommerce actually recommends this too.
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 both offer built-in email marketing — Shopify recently introduced a new feature, ‘Shopify Email,’ which allows you to carry out email marketing within Shopify.
It’s cheap, too: you can host a list of 2,500 subscribers on it as part of your regular plan, and then you’re charged $1 for every additional 1,000 subscribers.
At the moment, Shopify Email is a very simple email marketing tool, which simply allows you to send branded e-newsletters; in other words, don’t remotely expect Mailchimp or Getresponse style automation features just yet.
However the inclusion of ‘Shopify Email’ in Shopify’s feature set means that Shopify has become more of an ‘all in one’ solution than BigCommerce — as things stand, BigCommerce users will need two products to handle e-commerce and email marketing, whereas Shopify users can manage both in one place.
There are ‘app stores’ available for both Shopify and BigCommerce, with Shopify’s containing significantly more apps than BigCommerce’s; whereas there are a few hundred BigCommerce apps available, you’ll find thousands for Shopify.
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.
Either way, you will be able to integrate Shopify with a much wider range of third-party apps (and add more functionality) than with BigCommerce.
However, there is one key app that you’ll find in BigCommerce’s app store that you won’t find in Shopify’s: an official integration with Mailchimp.
Due to a dispute over data protection issues between the two companies, Mailchimp recently withdrew its official integration with Shopify from the latter’s app store. Although workarounds exist to get the two tools working together, it’s not ideal for merchants who use Mailchimp extensively (or plan to).
Point of sale options in Shopify and BigCommerce
When it comes to using either platform for point-of-sale (POS) transactions, both Shopify and BigCommerce allow you to use mobile devices to to facilitate these.
Other devices — such as barcode scanners, receipt printers, tills and a label printers — can also be integrated.
All these help your Shopify or BigCommerce store become more than just an ‘virtual’ entity, and turn it into a tool for running a business in the physical world too — useful applications of a POS system include accepting credit cards at a merchandise stand at a gig; processing credit card payments at a flea market stall; or just using Shopify or BigCommerce as a payment processor in general. All your customer and order data is synced with your online store’s back end, so everything is kept neat and tidy.
To use POS with BigCommerce you will need to integrate hardware from a third party platform — Vend, Clover, Square, Hike or 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.
Which approach is better will boil down to customer requirements: users with an existing relationship with one of the above POS services will value the flexibility provided by BigCommerce; users who want a more tightly integrated approach will prefer how Shopify handles POS.
On 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.
Although you can still avail of a lot of POS functionality using the standard Shopify plans, you’ll need the add on to:
sell in multiple locations
facilitate ‘buy online, collect in store’
provide printed receipts
define staff roles and permissions
attribute sales to particular staff members (for commission or performance-analysis purposes).
Performance on mobile
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 which 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, you’ll need to tweak HTML / CSS to change it; that said, the responsive site usually works very well for most users and will not need to be edited unless you have very specific design / brand requirements.
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 which are designed to help you with various aspects of setting up an online store — a customer chat app (‘Ping’), a logo maker, a business card making app and an ‘entrepreneur articles’ app (note that some of these are Android-only).
BigCommerce also provides a mobile app, which allows you to manage orders, view and contact customers, and access basic stats.
Ultimately it’s fair to say that Shopify offers more comprehensive options when it comes to managing your store on a mobile device, particularly in a point-of-sale context.
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 may also be a bit of an SEO benefit to consider too, because Google sometimes positions pages in AMP format above other content (using a featured-articles style carousel).
Although many 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 e-commerce contexts too, notably on eBay product pages.
The good news is that both BigCommerce and Shopify allows you to present your product pages in AMP format.
As far as I understand it, 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.
To find a BigCommerce theme that supports AMP, you just go to the BigCommerce theme store and select the ‘Google AMP enabled’ option when browsing the themes.
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 it’s a bit of a win for BigCommerce here.
Automatic tax rules and VAT MOSS in BigCommerce and Shopify
US and Canada
A key challenge of 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.
This is a particular headache for merchants based in the USA and Canada, where different states / provinces apply differing tax rules. Thankfully, Shopify and BigCommerce both allow you to apply tax rates automatically for these two countries, which is a huge time saver.
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 that only Avalara and Vertex support automatic tax calculation for Canada).
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 familiarise yourself with something called VAT MOSS (short for ‘VAT Mini One Stop Shop’).
VAT MOSS requires you to apply country-specific rates of VAT to digital products — even if you are running a business that is based outside of the EU.
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).
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 business model because it doesn’t involve much investment to start a business; you don’t have to spend a lot of money purchasing or manufacturing goods before you start selling.
The flipside is that margins tend to be quite low due to intense competition in the dropshipping marketplace. And it can be hard to find ethical suppliers of goods — lots of dropshipping suppliers provide goods manufactured in the Far East, where working conditions can be very poor (on this point, it would be good to see Shopify and BigCommerce provide lists of ethical dropshippers).
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 Oberlo for Shopify or Ali Express Dropshipping for BigCommerce).
As discussed above, the Shopify app store contains significantly more apps than the BigCommerce equivalent, and as you might expect, this plays out when it comes to dropshipping apps too — there are a lot more options to choose from with Shopify.
Interface and ease of use
Both Shopify and BigCommerce are straightforward to use; both feature a simple, user friendly CMS (content management system). Their interfaces are also now very similar in appearance, and work in a similar way.
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:
All in all, both platforms’ content management systems (CMS) are pretty straightforward to use and neither should present too much of a learning curve, especially if you’ve used a CMS before.
SEO in Bigcommerce vs Shopify
Both BigCommerce and Shopify perform well on the SEO front.
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.
Creating page redirects is also very easy, with Shopify perhaps having a slight edge in this area, because it automatically prompts you to do this (and generates the redirect for you) if you change a page’s URL (redirects are important because they tell browsers and search engines where a page has moved to if you change its URL).
Both e-commerce platforms also provide you with an SSL certificate — something which Google’s search engine algorithm increasingly approves of.
On balance however, I’d say BigCommerce’s SEO functionality is a bit better than Shopify’s, for a couple of reasons.
First, because it allows you to create Google friendly URLs more easily. With Shopify, although you can customise your URLs so that they contain keywords and are relatively short, they don’t end up perfect because the platform adds prefixes to your pages, blog posts and products, i.e.,
/pages/ before pages
/posts/ before posts
/products/ before products
BigCommerce, by contrast, allows you to create much shorter URLs, i.e., ‘www.mystore.com/red-dress,’ which Google prefers.
Second, because AMP is enabled automatically for all pages and products on quite a lot of BigCommerce templates, you can avoid messing about with app installs to get this important functionality in place.
That said, the SEO features in Shopify are strong too, and the fact remains that you can optimize a website for search engines very easily in either product.
It’s important to note however that all the elements discussed above form part of ‘technical SEO’ — to get either a BigCommerce or a Shopify site performing well in search results, you’ll need to invest time (and possibly money) in things like link building, on-page SEO and keyword research.
(Check out our SEMrush review, SEMrush pricing guide or our Moz vs SEMrush guide for a bit more detail on all three areas; 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.)
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 e-commerce solutions provide this functionality, so it’s a thumbs up for both platforms here.
Shopify’s ‘Buy Button’ is slightly better than BigCommerce’s in one key respect: not only can you use it to embed individual products, but you can also use it to embed whole catalogues.
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.
Support for Shopify and BigCommerce
Shopify and Bigcommerce offer similar customer support options, with phone, live chat, forum, FAQs and email support available.
With BigCommerce, you get 24/7 customer support across 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.
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 or templates) 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 really 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 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 it’s a bit of a win in this department for BigCommerce, because it provides an out-of-the-box solution which broadly deals with GDPR cookie consent issues.
GDPR cookie consent functionality, in my view, should always be considered a ‘core feature’ and not something that users should have to look to an app to provide.
BigCommerce vs Shopify: the verdict
Overall, when comparing Bigcommerce vs Shopify, it’s hard to pick a clear winner. Ultimately, they 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 themes, 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 — namely reporting, ratings and reviews, a page builder tool, cookie consent tools and multi-currency selling. Another key reason for choosing BigCommerce over Shopify would be product options: you really can tailor them to the nth degree on BigCommerce, whereas Shopify limits you to three options. And finally SEO features — absolutely key to generating sales — in BigCommerce are a a bit stronger than the Shopify equivalents.
My main reasons for choosing Shopify over BigCommerce would include its stronger template offering and its considerably cheaper abandoned cart saving functionality — the latter is available on Shopify’s $9 per month ‘Lite’ 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, and these combined with its new email marketing feature 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:
Key reasons for using BigCommerce over Shopify
No transaction fees apply, regardless of the payment gateway used.
- You can sell in multiple currencies more easily with BigCommerce.
With the exception of abandoned cart saver functionality, on the Standard BigCommerce plan, you generally get more e-commerce features on the $29.95 and $79.95 BigCommerce plans than on the Shopify equivalents.
It’s easier to create bespoke page layouts with BigCommerce, thanks to a new drag-and-drop page editor.
It’s easier to create AMP versions of your store in BigCommerce (and it’s free too).
A comprehensive set of reports is available across all BigCommerce plans — this is not the case with Shopify.
Third party real-time carrier quotes are available much more cheaply with BigCommerce — this functionality is included in its $29 per month plan, whereas Shopify only provides it on its $299 per month plan.
You can use far more product options with BigCommerce: 250 to Shopify’s 3.
- The BigCommerce ‘Buy Button’ works in multiple currencies — Shopify’s doesn’t.
You can easily include custom fields and file uploads as product options on a BigCommerce store — this is not the case in Shopify, where workarounds or app installations are necessary.
The BigCommerce abandoned cart saver functionality is 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 POS can work out cheaper, depending on the setup used).
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.
There’s an official Mailchimp integration for BigCommerce; there’s none for Shopify.
Key reasons for using Shopify over BigCommerce
Shopify provides automatic abandoned cart recovery at a significantly lower price point than BigCommerce.
The ‘Lite’ plan allows you to start selling goods online considerably cheaper than BigCommerce’s entry level plan.
The template offering is stronger.
An email marketing tool (albeit a basic one) is available out of the box with Shopify.
You can make use of a much wider range of typefaces in the Shopify free templates.
It’s arguably better for dropshipping.
Paid-for Shopify templates are slightly cheaper than the BigCommerce equivalents.
- It provides more options, including built-in functionality, for creating multilingual versions of your store.
- The Shopify ‘Buy Button’ lets you embed entire catalogues — BigCommerce’s only lets you embed individual products.
The Shopify mobile app offering is a bit stronger.
Shopify’s approach to product categorisation 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 and a dedicated mobile app is available for this functionality.
Shopify’s blogging tool comes with an RSS feed — BigCommerce’s doesn’t.
Unlike BigCommerce, you don’t need to worry about sales limits.
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 e-commerce 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!
More Shopify and BigCommerce resources from Style Factory
Other related e-commerce resources
BigCommerce and Shopify are both good options for growing businesses — but there are other e-commerce platforms available. Check out some of our other reviews, resources and comparisons to discover more about these: