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BigCommerce vs Shopify — which is better for your ecommerce project? 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 two leading online store builders, along with a list of some of the best alternatives available.
The quick verdict
Reasons to use BigCommerce instead of Shopify
BigCommerce is more generous than Shopify in a few key areas, including transaction fees, product option flexibility and staff accounts. The platform is cheaper too, and the fact that you can create multiple stores with one BigCommerce account is particularly welcome (this isn’t possible with Shopify unless you are on a $2,000-per month ‘Shopify Plus’ plan).
Reasons to use Shopify instead of BigCommerce
Shopify wins when it comes to templates, dropshipping, inventory management, tax calculation and international selling tools — these features are all considerably stronger than the BigCommerce equivalents.
Additionally, its app store contains far more apps and, via its excellent ‘Shopify Email’ app, it bundles sophisticated email marketing features with all plans. Finally, Shopify’s much larger userbase may give merchants more confidence in using the platform as a long-term solution for hosting their online store.
At-a-glance feature breakdown
|Cheapest plan||$39 per month||$5 per month*|
|Storefronts included||3 to 8||1|
|Premium template price range||$150-$400||$150-380|
|Staff accounts||Unlimited||1-15 on regular plans|
|Product option limit||250||3 (without app)|
|Product variant limit||600||100 (without app)|
|Maximum inventory locations||8||1,000|
|Point of Sale||Requires app||Built-in|
|Multilingual features||Requires app||Built-in|
|Email marketing||None||Via free app|
|Live stores (source: Builtwith)||45,200+||4.6 million|
|Free trial||15 days||3 days (but extendable for $1 per month for 3 months)|
Let’s begin the full comparison with an important question…
What are BigCommerce and Shopify?
BigCommerce and Shopify are user-friendly tools that let you build an online store. 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, both tools aim to let you build an online store without needing to code anything. You just 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 by both platforms, so if you do want to use these platforms to create a more ‘bespoke’ store — or add custom features — this is possible with either of them.
Of the two platforms, Shopify has by far the bigger userbase — around 4.6 million websites are currently powered by the platform to BigCommerce’s 45,200 or so (source: Builtwith).
Shopify has been around longer too — while BigCommerce was founded in 2009, Shopify arrived on the scene three years earlier in 2006.
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 questions that potential BigCommerce and Shopify users ask is ‘how much is this going cost me?’
So, let’s take a look at that.
BigCommerce offers 4 pricing plans:
- BigCommerce Standard: $39 per month
- BigCommerce Plus: $105 per month
- BigCommerce Pro: $399 per month
- BigCommerce Enterprise: varies depending on requirements
A 25% discount is offered on the ‘Standard’, ‘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 (as ‘self serve’ options).
To find these plans, 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: $39 per month
- Shopify: $105 per month
- Advanced: $399 per month
- Shopify Plus: pricing varies depending on requirements
A discount of 25% can be availed of by paying for your Shopify plan on an annual basis.
There’s also a free trial for Shopify available, which lasts for three days. On first inspection, this seems very short by comparison to the BigCommerce trial length (and indeed those offered by Shopify’s competitors in general).
However, matters are improved by the fact that Shopify is currently offering a $1 per month deal on some plans for the first three months — effectively giving you a long period to try the platform out at a minimal cost.
Extending a Shopify trial
You access this offer by signing up for a free trial and then, when your three days are up, accepting an invitation to use the platform on the special rate for 3 months.
Now, you can start selling products online a lot cheaper with Shopify than BigCommerce — its entry-level ‘Starter’ plan costs just $5 per month.
However, there’s a big drawback to the Shopify ‘Starter’ plan: it doesn’t actually provide you with a fully functional online store.
Instead, it allows you to:
- make use of a “Shopify Button” — an embeddable widget that adds a shopping cart to an existing website or online presence
- use your Facebook page, other social media channels and messaging apps to sell products
- sell at point of sale — i.e., in a physical location like a retail store, market stall, pop-up shop etc.
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.’
These are ‘enterprise-grade’ versions of the platforms that are aimed at store owners with extremely high volumes of sales.
They contain a lot of advanced features, including:
- guaranteed server uptime
- advanced API access and support
- dedicated SSL / IP address
- advanced security features
- the option to set up multiple storefronts and point-of-sale locations (Shopify).
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 an enterprise plan.
Pricing for both these plans is negotiable.
See our Shopify vs Shopify Plus post for a rundown of the key differences between the regular and enterprise versions of Shopify.
So what ‘cut’ do Shopify and BigCommerce take of sales?
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 (more on what that is in a moment).
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.’
Note: the Shopify Starter plan always involves 5% transaction fees, regardless of whether 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
If you don’t live in one of these, you’ll have to use an external payment gateway and you’ll have to pay transaction fees.
And speaking of payment gateways…
A payment gateway is a piece of software that processes credit card payments on 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 50 or so.
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 above, with Shopify this means using its ‘Shopify Payments‘ option; with BigCommerce, the out of the box option is PayPal powered by Braintree.
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, these will be whatever your chosen provider’s rates are.
But as discussed above, both Shopify and BigCommerce offer ‘out of the box’ payment processors, which can reduce these fees.
US users of Shopify’s payment processor, Shopify Payments, can expect to pay between 2.4% — 2.9% + 30c per transaction, depending on plan (with the rates in other countries often being considerably lower).
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.
Maximum annual sales limits
An 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 here’s what they had to say about the issue:
“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.
A key difference between Shopify and BigCommerce pricing involves the number of stores you can create on each plan.
With BigCommerce, you get the option to build 3, 5 and 8 stores on its ‘Standard,’ ‘Plus’ and ‘Pro’ plans respectively. These can be useful for merchants who operate under multiple brands or who serve multiple segments (B2C, B2B, retail wholesale etc).
With Shopify, you’ll need to be on its most expensive plan — Shopify Plus — to manage more than one store, so if you need a solution that lets you build lots of storefronts, BigCommerce is likely to be the better value option for you.
But pricing is 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 quite a small selection of free themes — just 12 each.
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 great 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 lets you edit any type of content.
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 professional and contemporary in appearance. In truth, I’d be happy to use either set of free themes as a starting point for an ecommerce project.
Now, what about paid-for templates?
In addition to the free templates discussed above, you can also buy a ‘premium’ theme from BigCommerce or Shopify.
BigCommerce currently provides 185 paid-for themes; these cost between $150 and $400.
Shopify currently offers 146 paid-for templates, which range from $150 to $380 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, BigCommerce’s. ‘Chelsea Bold’, ‘Chelsea Bright’, ‘Chelsea Warm’ and ‘Chelsea Clean’ themes are all positioned as being separate templates, but in truth they are effectively variants of the same one.
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 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.
So, let’s take a look at how you can do that.
Both BigCommerce and Shopify let you customize their templates quite extensively, by either using the controls provided within their content management systems 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 however is typefaces. Shopify comes with a large range of built-in 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 very 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 to make it meet your brand guidelines.
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 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 can pick a pre-existing template and change its colours, typefaces and layout by simply using the standard controls provided.
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 platforms 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 those of WordPress and Squarespace — if you’ve used either of those content management systems before, you’ll be on familiar ground with either Shopify or BigCommerce.
Below you’ll find a video overview of the BigCommerce interface:
And you’ll find a walkthrough of the Shopify interface in our Shopify tutorial, below.
As discussed earlier, the Shopify CMS’ drag-and-drop editor is a little bit confusing to use, because you can only use it to edit templates, not actual pages.
But all in all, both platforms’ content management systems are pretty easy to use — and neither should present too much of a learning curve, especially if you’ve used a CMS before.
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Working with products
Importing and exporting products
Both BigCommerce and Shopify let you import product data using a CSV file.
In terms of exporting your data, Shopify allows you to export to CSV format. BigCommerce is more flexible in that it 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 or export blog posts and static pages out of the box.
(That said, third-party apps can help in this regard — more on apps shortly).
Most online stores use different product categories or ‘catalogs‘ 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.
This is because 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. Shopify refers to these as ‘automated collections.’
The setup process for automated collections involves using various criteria to populate them — product title, tags, price, weight etc.
So, if I ran an online guitar store and wanted to create an electric guitar category, rather than having to look through all my products and manually add electric guitars to it, I could just tell Shopify to add any product with the word ‘electric guitar’ in its title to it.
This is particularly helpful 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 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.
Furthermore the product variant limits are much more generous with BigCommerce — you can use up to 600 while Shopify limits you to 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 a win for BigCommerce.
Text fields and file uploads
Some merchants will require their customers to enter custom product data at the point of purchase — for example, a jeweller might ask a customer to enter some text for an inscription on a pendant; an artist might want a dedication for a signed print and so on.
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. If you’re selling photography or clothing related products that require the customer to upload an image, 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.
‘Buy Buttons’ in Shopify and BigCommerce
Unlike competing ecommerce solutions, Shopify and BigCommerce both provide ‘Buy buttons’ that 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.
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 multicurrency selling.
Now, let’s move on from products themselves — and take a look at the options available to you for storing them.
With Shopify, you can house your inventory in up to 1,000 different locations (on all plans except the ‘Starter’ one, which limits you to just two).
Your inventory locations in Shopify can be retail outlets, warehouses, popup stores or any other place where you store products (you can also define dropshipping suppliers as ‘locations.’).
To ensure that your inventory quantities are always accurate, online orders and in-person sales are assigned to your defined locations. If some of your products are out of stock at one location, but in stock at another one, Shopify will split the order so that it can be fulfilled from multiple locations.
BigCommerce comes with a similar inventory management feature, but the number of locations you can manage is much smaller, with the location limits per plan being as follows:
- Standard: up to 4 locations
- Plus: up to 5 locations
- Pro: up to 8 locations
- Enterprise: negotiable
So when it comes to inventory management, the better-value tool is Shopify.
A new inventory management feature from Shopify: smart routing rules
If you store inventory in more than two locations, you can now define smart routing rules in Shopify that prioritize where an order gets fulfilled from (i.e., you can assign orders to the nearest location, ensuring fastest delivery of products).
As things stand, there isn’t an equivalent built-in feature like this available from BigCommerce.
Point of Sale (POS) options in Shopify and BigCommerce
A point of sale or ‘POS’ system lets you use your ecommerce solution to sell not just online but in physical locations too.
When it comes to using Shopify or BigCommerce to accept POS transactions, both platforms let you use mobile devices (smartphones, iPads etc.) 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 store become more than just a ‘virtual’ entity and turn it into a tool for running a business in the physical world too.
POS lets you accept payment in retail outlets, at market stalls, in pop-up shops or at events. And 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 in certain countries however — USA, Canada, the UK and Ireland).
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.
Now, although all Shopify plans come with basic point-of-sale features included (‘Shopify POS Lite’), it’s worth noting that to get the most out of POS, you’ll usually need to pay for a ‘Shopify POS Pro’ add-on. This lets you:
- work with an unlimited number of store staff and registers (the regular version of Shopify POS only lets you operate in one location)
- 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).
The Shopify POS Pro add-on costs $89 per month, per location ($79 if you pay upfront for a year’s service) — a not insignificant sum that can eclipse the price of your actual Shopify subscription.
However, if you’re a Shopify Plus user, it’s bundled with your plan for use in up to 20 locations.
Shopify POS pricing — video guide
Both BigCommerce and Shopify allow you to set up a variety of shipping rules and rates, including:
- free shipping rates
- flat rates
- price-based rates
- weight-based 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 a ‘Shopify’ plan on an annual basis
- subscribing to a monthly ‘Shopify’ plan and paying an additional monthly fee.
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, via it’s ‘Shopify Shipping’ service.
|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 by it can be quite generous (allowing you to save up to 88% on shipping).
The below video highlights how this service works.
Although there’s no direct equivalent for this built-in, discounted shipping service in BigCommerce, third-party solutions exist that give you ways to enhance or automate your shipping offering and offer your customers cheaper shipping rates. These are available from the BigCommerce app store.
While you’re here — have you seen our guide to making an online store?
Dropshipping in Shopify vs BigCommerce
Dropshipping is a fulfilment method where you don’t keep what you’re selling in stock — instead, you take an order, pass it on 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 like this model because it gives them a low-cost way to start a business — you don’t have to spend a lot of money buying 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 in areas where working conditions can be extremely poor.
Both Shopify and BigCommerce facilitate dropshipping. To get going with this, you’ll need to install an app from BigCommerce or Shopify’s app store.
Key options here include DSers for Shopify or Ali Express Dropshipping for BigCommerce; and the popular print-on-demand apps Printful and Printify work with both platforms (you can learn more about these in our Printful review or our Printful vs Printify shootout).
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 (at time of writing, Shopify returns 478 results when you search for dropshipping apps in its app store, while BigCommerce returns 40).
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?’ blog post (or the below video) helpful.
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.
Ana abandoned cart saving tool is an extremely useful feature that allows you to automatically email store visitors who add something to their cart but don’t complete the purchase.
(Typically, an incentive to buy the abandoned item, usually in the form of a discount code, is provided in this email.)
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 a clunky 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 Shopify’s Basic plan or higher, meaning you can access this important functionality for as little as $39 per month. That’s $66 less per month than if you were using BigCommerce, which only makes this feature available on its $105+ plans.
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 it’s a bit of a win for BigCommerce here, depending on which plan you go for.
These days, online merchants are increasingly looking beyond their own borders, aiming to take advantage of the much larger markets that they can access by selling internationally.
So let’s take a look at how good BigCommerce and Shopify are when it comes to multi-currency and multilingual selling.
Selling in multiple currencies
You generally get more online sales if you sell in the currency used by your site visitors — people feel more comfortable with paying for stuff in their own local currency!
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 very ‘scalable’ ecommerce platform.
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.
For its neat management of domains, languages and currencies all in one place, it’s a win for Shopify; but multi-currency features work well in BigCommerce too (and better than most of the competing platforms that we’ve tested).
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 ones.
But watch out for the pricing — as the table below highlights, things can get extremely expensive with Weglot if you need to translate a lot of websites, or have a high word count on your store.
With Shopify, you can translate your site into 20 languages for free on all plans except its ‘Starter’ one — 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, 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.
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.
It’s worth noting however that automatic tax calculation is a built-in Shopify feature, but with BigCommerce, you’ll need to install an app to facilitate it (for example Avalara, Vertex, Taxcloud or Taxjar).
If you intend to sell digital products — music, ebooks etc. — 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 when you sell digital products to EU consumers — 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, when it comes to automatic tax calculation features, the winner is Shopify.
An area where BigCommerce has a definite win over Shopify involves staff accounts.
While Shopify applies strict limits 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.
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). 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 ‘additional fee’ is quite expensive though — $49 per month on the ‘Standard’ and ‘Plus’ plans, $99 per month on the ‘Pro’ plan and $249 per month on the ‘Enterprise’ plan.
Despite the pricey ‘Insights’ option, I think it’s fair to say that BigCommerce ultimately offers an advantage over Shopify when it comes to reporting, because you get the majority of report types as standard on any BigCommerce plan.
With Shopify, you have to be on one of the more expensive plans — the $105 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 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 ‘Looker Studio’ tool for custom reporting purposes (this is available on the BigCommerce ‘Pro’ plan or higher).
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 — this enables you to get your website up and running quickly without the need to configure DNS (domain name settings) records.
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 by doing so, you won’t be 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 and hosting, but your domain too.
Sending e-newsletters about your products to your mailing list is usually a key part of running an online store. Marketing emails sent to a warm audience can generate a huge number of sales.
Recognizing this — and perhaps the fact that competitors Squarespace and Wix 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 if you exceed this limit, you’re charged $1 for every additional 1,000 sends (and less if you’re a high volume sender — fees as low as $0.55 apply if you send over 750k emails per month).
Over recent months, 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
- AI-powered subject line creation
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 an increasingly 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, while Shopify users can manage both in one place.
So when it comes to email marketing, it’s a win for Shopify.
Ecommerce task automation in Shopify
Another neat feature that you’ll find in Shopify but not BigCommerce is a task automation tool: if you’re on its ‘Basic’ plan or higher, you get access to a sophisticated automation app called ‘Shopify Flow.’
This lets you create ‘if this then that’ (IFTT) style rules that instruct Shopify take certain actions based on certain events.
For example, if your inventory is running low, Shopify Flow can automatically send an order email 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 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 (you can expect additional monthly fees of around $49.95 when using this app, however).
Blogging, when done correctly, provides one of the best ways of driving traffic to a store (if not the best!).
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 blogs. RSS feeds are useful because you can use them to syndicate content and automatically send 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 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).
Both Shopify and BigCommerce give you access to app stores; these contain a selection of both free and paid-for apps that let you add new features to your store or integrate it with other services.
Shopify’s app store contains significantly more apps than BigCommerce’s, however; while there are around 1,350 apps available in the BigCommerce app store, you’ll find 8,000+ in Shopify’s.
So it’s a clear win for Shopify when it comes to the choice of apps available to merchants, with a much wider range of add-on features and integrations with third-party tools being provided by the platform.
You can browse Shopify apps here.
Using BigCommerce and Shopify on mobile devices
Let’s take a look now at what you can do with Shopify and BigCommerce on 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 (smartphones, tablets, desktop computers etc.).
If you’re not happy with the ‘out of the box’ designs for mobile devices provided by BigCommerce or Shopify, you’ll need to tweak HTML / CSS to change them. That said, they usually work well in most contexts and won’t need to be edited unless you have very specific requirements.
When it comes to mobile apps, Shopify is the winner, offering more apps than BigCommerce 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 ecommerce — a customer chat app (‘Shopify Inbox’), a logo maker and a stock photography app.
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 and share product details with store visitors on popular chat services like Facebook Messenger and Instagram.
Recently, some AI-powered features have been added to the Shopify Inbox feature set too — in the form of ‘instant answers’ (automatic responses to frequently asked questions in online store chat).
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 for BigCommerce, 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 what users think of the mobile versions of BigCommerce and Shopify, iOS users are currently pleased with them. The main mobile apps for BigCommerce and Shopify are currently rated 4.5 stars out of 5 on Apple’s app store.
Android users aren’t quite so enthusiastic however, rating the BigCommerce app 3.6 stars out of 5 and the Shopify POS app 3.2 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). Because of this cut-down nature they load significantly faster on mobile devices.
The key advantage of AMP format is that it can reduce the number of users abandoning your store (after getting bored waiting for your content!).
There can be an SEO benefit to using AMP 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 can be used in ecommerce contexts too.
You can use AMP on any Shopify template — you just need to install a third-party AMP app (such as ‘Fire AMP’, pictured below). However, you’ll need to pay extra for this.
If you’d like to use AMP with BigCommerce, unfortunately you’re out of luck — the feature, which was available for several years, has now been removed.
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 that Google’s search engine algorithm considers important.
However, and as discussed above, Shopify wins when it comes to speeding up your site via AMP format; and it also gives you metrics that let you monitor the speed of your site in general (via its ‘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.
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.
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.
The key GDPR 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. 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 that:
- 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 pixel or a 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 probably a win here for BigCommerce.
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 packed full of useful information about BigCommerce and Shopify.
One odd thing I noticed when using Shopify’s help center was that it doesn’t contain many product screenshots or videos. This can sometimes make the instructions provided a little bit harder to follow than those in the BigCommerce help 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 provides 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 — 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 — while 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 two of the best-specced ecommerce platforms on the market and you should be able to build a professional store with either of them. However, there are some key strengths and weaknesses to consider before making your decision.
For me, there are three main reasons for choosing BigCommerce over Shopify.
First, the fact that it lets you build multiple stores using one account — you’ll need to be on a $2,000+ Shopify plan to do the same.
Second, the way that there’s less of a reliance on apps to provide functionality — unlike Shopify, features like digital downloads, product review functionality and the option to let customers provide custom data at checkout don’t involve the addition of apps (and by extension additional costs).
And third, BigCommerce is more generous when it comes to product options: you get loads of them in BigCommerce, while Shopify limits you to just three (this limit can be lifted with an app, but nonetheless, the restriction is far from ideal).
Shopify has some key advantages over BigCommerce too, however.
First, the template selection — it’s much stronger, and the templates themselves are considerably more editable, particularly where typography is concerned.
Second, it’s a much better choice for dropshipping and print on demand — the options available to you on this front are enormous.
And third, it’s a better choice for international selling. Unlike BigCommerce, there’s no need for expensive multilingual plugins to translate content, and its ‘Shopify Markets’ feature is an exceptionally good tool for managing international versions of your store.
I’ll leave you with a full pros and cons summary for each tool — but as usual, it’s a good idea to try both products fully out yourself. Links to free trials for bother platform are below:
BigCommerce vs Shopify — pros and cons summary
Key reasons for using BigCommerce over Shopify
- While Shopify only lets you build multiple stores with one account on its expensive enterprise ‘Shopify Plus’ offering, BigCommerce lets you do this on all of its plans.
- No transaction fees apply, regardless of the payment gateway used.
- You can use a lot more product options with BigCommerce: 250 to Shopify’s 3.
- You can easily include custom fields and file uploads as product options on a BigCommerce store — this is not the case in Shopify, which forces you to rely on coding or app installations to add this functionality.
- Full reporting features are available on all BigCommerce plans — this is not the case with Shopify.
- There’s a native integration for BigQuery available from BigCommerce — but not for Shopify.
- BigCommerce’s ‘Buy Button’ works in multiple currencies; Shopify’s doesn’t.
- Third party real-time carrier quotes are available on all BigCommerce plans; in Shopify you’ll need to be on an annual plan or purchase an add-on to get this functionality.
- 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
- It has a much bigger userbase, meaning that it’s technically the ‘safer’ option of the two.
- The Shopify template offering is stronger.
- You can make use of a much wider range of typefaces in the Shopify free templates.
- Shopify provides an automatic abandoned cart recovery tool at a significantly lower price point than BigCommerce (and a more sophisticated one too).
- 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.
- 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 Shopify than BigCommerce.
- AMP format is supported in Shopify but not in BigCommerce.
- 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 but 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.
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.
Related resource: Shopify alternatives — the main competitors to the platform in 2023
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, it is a better solution for dropshipping and print-on demand selling and there are no sales limits to worry about.
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 a 25% discount. BigCommerce offers 25% off its ‘Standard’, ‘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!
More BigCommerce and Shopify resources from Style Factory
- What is Shopify and how does it work?
- BigCommerce vs Squarespace
- BigCommerce pricing
- Shopify video review (YouTube)
- Shopify beginners’ tutorial (YouTube)
- Shopify vs GoDaddy
- Shopify vs Wordpress
- Shopify vs Volusion
- How to dropship on Shopify
- How to set up a Shopify store
- Shopify free trial guide
- How to buy a Shopify store
- Wix vs WordPress