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BigCommerce vs Shopify — which is best? In this detailed comparison, I’m going to help you find out! Read on to get a list of all the key pros and cons of these leading ecommerce platforms, along with a list of some of the best alternatives available.
Let’s dive in with an important question…
What do BigCommerce and Shopify do?
BigCommerce and Shopify are online store builders that allow you sell physical or digital products.
They’re mainly aimed at people who are starting a business without a large budget for web development — those who want to take a ‘do-it-yourself’ approach to building an online store.
(That said, both tools can also be used in a more ‘corporate’ context too — I look at this later on in the comparison).
Both products run in a web browser, which means that there is no software to install on your computer, and you can manage your store from anywhere, so long as you have an internet connection.
The key idea behind both tools is that you can use them to build an online store without needing to code anything. You pick a template from the range provided, upload your products, set your prices and you are — in theory at least — good to go.
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 not necessarily the most important — questions that potential BigCommerce and Shopify users ask is ‘how much do they cost?’
Let’s take a look at that.
BigCommerce offers 4 pricing plans:
BigCommerce Standard: $29.95 per month
BigCommerce Plus: $79.95 per month
BigCommerce Pro: $299.95 per month
BigCommerce Enterprise: varies depending on requirements
A 10% discount is offered on the ‘Plus’ and ‘Pro’ plans if you pay upfront for a year, and a15-day free trial is also available.
BigCommerce’s cheapest three plans form part of its ‘Essentials’ range, which are now marketed in a distinct way from its Enterprise level plan — look out for the ‘Essentials’ tab on the BigCommerce website or click here to access them.
Shopify offers 5 pricing plans:
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
A 10% discount is provided on the above fees if you pay upfront for a year, and 20% if you pay upfront for 2 years.
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 websiteor online presence
use your Facebook page or other social media channels to sell products.
You can also use the Shopify ‘Lite’ plan to sell goods offline (at ‘point of sale’) whilst using the Shopify backend for inventory management and order processing.
BigCommerce Enterprise and Shopify Plus
As their names suggest, these are ‘enterprise-grade’ versions of the platforms, which are aimed at large corporations or store owners with extremely high volumes of sales.
As such, they contain a lot of advanced features, including:
guaranteed server uptime
advanced API support
dedicated SSL / IP address
advanced security features
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 usually starts with an in-depth conversation where requirements are gathered. After this, a plan is tailored to meet those requirements.
Accordingly, the price of a BigCommerce Enterprise or Shopify Plus plan can vary considerably from customer to customer.
(See our Shopify vs Shopify Plus post for a rundown of the key differences between the regular and enterprise versions of Shopify, and some more information on how the pricing works).
A key pricing comparison: BigCommerce ‘Standard’ vs Shopify ‘Basic’
A key comparison to make between Shopify and BigCommerce pricing involves looking at the ‘Basic Shopify‘ plan, which costs $29 per month, to see how it stacks up against the ‘BigCommerce Standard‘ one, which costs $29.95. These are the plans that many first-time users of both products will be considering using.
Both these plans allow you to sell an unlimited number of products, with BigCommerce — generally speaking — winning in terms of ‘out-of-the-box’ features.
The $29.95 ‘BigCommerce Standard’ plan provides a few particularly important things that you don’t currently get on the equivalent ‘Basic Shopify’ plan, namely:
professional reporting functionality
a built-in ratings and review system
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 received reasonably 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 all its plans, whereas this is only available on the BigCommerce $79.95 ‘Plus’ plan or higher.
The abandoned cart saver — which automatically emails people who leave your site mid-way through a transaction — is a really useful piece of functionality, and it can increase the revenue of your store significantly. So it’s a shame it’s not included in the BigCommerce entry-level plan.
(I 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 its own ‘Shopify Payments’ system to process card transactions, rather than an external payment gateway.
If you don’t use Shopify Payments, transaction fees do apply and these vary according to the the type of plan you’re on: 2% for ‘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
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- United States of America (no US territories however, 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’ll have to pay transaction fees.
(On the plus side, there are loads of payment gateways to choose from with Shopify — I’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.
But as discussed above, both Shopify and BigCommerce offer ‘out of the box,’ recommended payment processors, which can reduce these fees. These options also make it easier to set up card payment processing.
US users of Shopify’s payment processor, Shopify Payments, can expect to pay between 2.4% — 2.9% + 30c per transaction (depending on their plan and where they’re selling from).
BigCommerce’s recommended partner for credit card processing is Paypal, powered by Braintree. The credit card rates for this service are 2.05% — 2.59% + 49c in the US, depending on plan.
This makes the BigCommerce US credit card fees slightly cheaper than the Shopify equivalents, 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 another country, you may be able to avail of considerably cheaper credit card fees with both Shopify and BigCommerce.
In the UK, for example, Shopify’s credit card fees range from 1.5% to 2.2%; BigCommerce’s UK rates start at 1.20% +30p (via PayPal).
Maximum annual sales limits
One important 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.”BigCommerce
No such limits exist at all on Shopify plans, so it’s a win here for Shopify.
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 $29.95 plan than on the Shopify equivalent (fully automatic currency conversion, professional reporting, third-party calculated shipping rates and 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 as follows:
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 contexts — 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.
Let’s move on from the issues of costs, and onto something very important to any online store: visuals.
So how good are the BigCommerce and Shopify templates? Well they come in two flavors, free and paid-for. Let’s look at each in turn.
By comparison to some other ecommerce and website building platforms, Shopify and BigCommerce provide a relatively small selection of free themes: 17 in the case of Shopify and 12 in the case of BigCommerce.
Within these, there are different variations 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 can be distinguished from each other only by the fact that slightly different colours are used in them. You could in fact argue that so big are the similarities between the free BigCommerce themes that there are only five free themes on offer — not 12!
When it comes to editing your themes, both BigCommerce and Shopify provide a drag-and-drop interface to help you you manipulate the content of pages more easily.
You can use a drag-and-drop editor on all the free BigCommerce themes, but for now, Shopify’s equivalent is only available on eight of its free themes (those using its new ‘Online Store 2.0’ format, which aims to provide faster, more customizable themes than the previous generation of Shopify templates).
The Shopify themes that support drag-and-drop editing are:
If you use any of the other free Shopify themes, you’re still dealing with a more traditional, text-based, What You See Is What You Get editor.
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 slightly unintuitive way. Instead of letting you drag and drop content into your pages, it lets you drag and drop elements around page templates, which are then applied to pages.
(Confusingly, the page content itself has to be edited using an old-fashioned WYSIWG editor).
So from a usability perspective, I prefer BigCommerce’s drag-and-drop editor, which works fine on regular pages.
But from a design point of view I prefer the aesthetics of the free Shopify themes; they just look a bit slicker.
This is a pretty subjective area however, and the themes provided by BigCommerce are definitely very professional and contemporary in appearance. In short, I’d be happy to use either set of free themes as a starting point for ecommerce projects.
Stock photography in BigCommerce vs Shopify
It’s important to remember that choosing a good template is only one part of the story when it comes to the aesthetics of your online store: you’ll need to ensure that your photography is up to scratch too. No template, no matter how well designed, will look good if it’s populated with poor-quality images.
One thing that might help on this front is Shopify’s built-in library of stock images — so long as you’re using one of its 2.0 themes, you can browse a range of useful royalty- images directly within the Shopify interface and insert them easily into your Shopify theme.
Whilst this won’t be a substitute for sourcing your own product photos, it can help speed up the general process of populating a theme with imagery.
If you’d like to source similar photography for BigCommerce, royalty-free stock photo sites like Unsplash or Pexels are great options.
Now, what about paid-for templates?
In addition to the free templates discussed above, you can also buy a ‘premium’ theme from Shopify or BigCommerce.
BigCommerce provides around 180 paid-for themes, that cost between $150 and $399. Occasionally however, BigCommerce discounts some of its paid-for templates, so you might be able to pick up one of the platform’s premium templates at a slightly cheaper price.
Shopify currently offers 76 paid-for templates, which range from $150 to $350 in price.
Although the above numbers seem to imply that there is a greater choice of paid-for themes available with BigCommerce, it’s worth sounding a note of caution here — as with the BigCommerce’s free templates, many of its paid-for themes look rather similar to each other.
This is fairly evident in the BigCommerce template names too. For example, ‘Chelsea Bold’, ‘Chelsea Bright’, ‘Chelsea Warm’ and ‘Chelsea Clean’ are all positioned as being separate templates, but to my eyes they are effectively variants of the same theme.
By contrast, the paid-for Shopify themes are more distinct from each other — and some 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 easy to browse the template gallery and find a template that suits your requirements.
A decent range of filters is available to help you choose a template based not only on industry type but catalog size and design type too.
Ultimately for me, the Shopify offering when it comes to ‘out of the box’ templates is a bit stronger than BigCommerce’s — and better value too.
And don’t forget: if you’re not entirely happy with your chosen theme, there’s always the option to customize it.
Let’s take a look at that.
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Both BigCommerce and Shopify let you customize their templates quite extensively — either using the controls provided within the content management system or by diving into your site’s HTML / CSS code — meaning that with either platform you should be able to end up with a nice looking online storefront that presents your products in a professional way.
One thing that it is definitely easier to tweak in Shopify themes is typefaces. Out of the box, you get access to a large range of fonts (a mixture of web-safe fonts, Google fonts, and licensed fonts from Monotype) — and you can use any of these in the free templates provided.
In BigCommerce, by contrast, the range of web fonts included with each of the free themes can be a bit limited.
For example, the ‘Cornerstone Light’ theme includes just three web fonts; so you may find yourself having to manually install others 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 some themes, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious way to hide the search facility in the header.
Liquid — Shopify’s templating language
Making tweaks to a Shopify theme will sometimes involve using a bespoke templating language called Liquid.
Liquid is essentially a simple programming language that allows you to make use of HTML and CSS but also allows you to insert tags, operators and variables to produce dynamic content.
This all sounds more complicated than it actually is though, and unless you want to tweak your Shopify store to the nth degree, you’ll find you can simply pick a pre-existing template and change its colours, typefaces layout simply by using the standard controls provided.
Third-party providers of BigCommerce and Shopify themes
One final note on templates: if you’re really not happy with the selection of themes available from Shopify and BigCommerce, you also have the option of buying them from third parties.
Sites like Themeforest and Template Monster offer a wide range of templates for these two platforms; so you may find something that floats your boat elsewhere.
However, it’s safer to buy a theme direct from Shopify and BigCommerce’s official theme stores — as these will have been vetted by the two companies and are more likely to be reliable and secure.
Ok, so we’ve looked at how much Shopify and BigCommerce cost, and how sites created with them look…so let’s turn our attention now to the what they’re designed to do: selling stuff.
A payment gateway is 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 platforms support the major ones — like Worldpay, Quickbooks, Paypal, 2Checkout etc.
Shopify offers more however: 100+ to BigCommerce’s 45.
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.
Most online stores use different product categories to present products — for example, on a guitar-related store you might expect to find categories containing electric guitars, acoustic guitars, plectrums, straps, amplifiers and so on.
Setting up categories in Shopify and BigCommerce is straightforward enough, but Shopify’s approach is, in my view, better.
In Shopify, not only can you add products manually to collections, you can create ‘smart’ ones which are automatically populated with products based on conditions you supply. The company refers to these as ‘automated collections.’
The setup process involves using various criteria to populate a collection, including product title, tags, price, weight and more — so, using our guitar store example again, rather than having to browse through all your products and manually add electric guitars to an electric guitar collection, you could just tell Shopify to automatically add any product with the word ‘electric guitar’ in its title to the electric guitar collection.
This is particularly useful functionality to have handy if your store contains hundreds (or thousands!) of products — but you will have to remember to use consistent naming conventions for your product titles to make this approach work.
Although BigCommerce does have a ‘bulk edit’ option to speed up category assignment, it doesn’t yet provide similar ‘smart collection’ functionality, so the winner here is Shopify.
Product options and variants
What BigCommerce lacks in the categorization department it more than makes up for in product options and variants — it definitely beats than Shopify in this area.
With Shopify, you’re limited to offering customers 3 sets of options per product — for example, color, size or material.
It’s very easy to set these options up, but also rather frustrating if you need to sell products that come in more than three versions.
(Workarounds exist, but are either fiddly and time-consuming to implement — or involve purchasing a third-party app like ‘Infinite Options,’ that removes these limits).
BigCommerce, on the other hand, allows you to create large lists of product options — up to 250. So, if your products come in all shapes, colours and sizes, you will get the flexibility you need with BigCommerce.
On top of that, the product variant limits are much more generous with BigCommerce too — you can have up to 600 to Shopify’s 100.
Variants are the number of product option combinations you can offer — for example a red, large t-shirt would count as one variant; a small, blue t-shirt would count as another.
So, if you are working with a large number of product options and variants, it’s definitely a win for BigCommerce.
Text fields and file uploads
Some merchants will require their customers to enter custom data at the point of purchase — for example, a jeweller might ask a customer to enter some text for an inscription on a pendant.
Facilitating this is possible with both BigCommerce and Shopify but it’s significantly easier to set up custom data capture with BigCommerce — you just add a text field as an option to your product.
To do this with Shopify, you need to add a piece of code to your template (to extract a ‘line item property’) or spend money on an app to take care of this.
A similar situation exists with file uploads: for example, if you’re selling photography or clothing related products that require the customer to upload an image, then you’ll find that this functionality is included out of the box with BigCommerce — but with Shopify, you’ll again have to resort to a bit of coding or a third-party app.
So it’s a definite win for BigCommerce over Shopify here — merchants who need to collect custom data from customers in order to personalize products will find things much more straightforward with BigCommerce.
Now, let’s take a look at shipping options.
Both BigCommerce and Shopify allow you to set up a variety of shipping rules and rates, including:
free shipping rates
calculated (‘real time’) shipping rates from third-party carriers
BigCommerce arguably has an edge, however, when it comes to the third-party real-time shipping rates — you can access this functionality on any of its plans, whereas with Shopify this is only available by:
- paying monthly for an ‘Advanced Shopify’ or ‘Shopify plus’ plan;
- paying for any other Shopify plan on an annual basis;
- paying an add-on monthly fee to unlock real time shipping quotes.
However, if you’re based in Australia, Canada, France, the UK or the US and happy to work with a carrier that partners with Shopify (Sendle, Hermes, DPD, Colissimo, Canada Post, USPS, UPS or DHL Express respectively), you can provide real-time carrier quotations on any Shopify 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 (allowing you to save up to 88% on shipping).
The below video highlights how this service works.
Although there’s not a direct equivalent for this built-in, discounted shipping service in BigCommerce, third-party solutions do exist that give you ways to enhance / automate your shipping offering and offer your customers cheaper shipping rates. These are available from the BigCommerce app store.
Importing and exporting products / data in BigCommerce and Shopify
Both Shopify and BigCommerce allow you to upload a CSV file containing all your product data.
In terms of exporting your data, Shopify allows you to export to CSV format. BigCommerce is more flexible in that allows you to export to both CSV and XML. So a slight win for BigCommerce in this area.
BigCommerce and Shopify aren’t great when it comes to importing or exporting other types of content however — neither platform provides an obvious or easy way to import / export blog posts or static pages out of the box (that said, third-party apps can help in this regard — more on apps in a moment).
But speaking of blogging…
Blogging features in BigCommerce and Shopify
Blogging, when done correctly, provides one of the best ways of driving traffic to a store (if not the best!).
When you blog about the ‘niche area’ in which you are operating, you are more likely to attract relevant visitors to your site (as long as each piece of content is really strong, optimized for search engines correctly and promoted heavily).
Both BigCommerce and Shopify allow you to create a simple blog easily. You can import posts from an existing blog into Shopify is a bit easier however, thanks to various third-party apps that let you get your content into the platform (examples include Blogfeeder and Exlm).
Now, 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 email newsletters containing your latest posts.
Despite the above issues, most users will be generally fine with both Shopify and BigCommerce’s built-in blogs — they do, at the end of the day, permit you to create the sort of blog content and inbound marketing campaigns that can attract traffic to a site.
And, if your blogging needs are complex, you can always integrate a third party blog (such as a WordPress one) into either platform (it’ll involve a bit of messing about with subdomains and system settings, but it’s all perfectly doable).
Abandoned cart recovery in BigCommerce and Shopify
Something worth paying particular attention to in a BigCommerce vs Shopify comparison is abandoned cart recovery functionality.
This is an extremely useful feature that allows you to automatically email visitors to your store who add something to their cart but do not complete the purchase.
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 a little 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.
An interesting aspect (or technically, a limitation) 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 opting for the 1 hour later or 10 hours later intervals, as the company’s 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.
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’).
So as things stand, when it comes to abandoned cart recovery, it’s a win for Shopify.
Selling in multiple currencies
You generally get more online sales if you sell in the currency used by your site visitors.
So, if you’re selling in multiple countries, it’s a good idea to let your potential customers choose their own currency (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 new ‘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. In short, it’s a very nice feature.
When Shopify Markets is enabled, your visitors outside the ‘default’ market will be prompted to to select their preferred location and currency via a pop-up box (IP addresses are used to suggest the most appropriate one).
BigCommerce’s approach to multi-currency is a bit different. Unlike Shopify, you don’t create ‘markets’ in BigCommerce, but instead simply add the currencies you’d like to sell in. (Note: on BigCommerce ‘Enterprise’, a feature similar to ‘Shopify Markets’ is available — ‘Multi-Storefront’ — but this plan obviously is prohibitively expensive for most merchants).
And, rather than BigCommerce prompting your store visitors to change currency themselves, all the conversion happens automatically (based on IP address). Your visitors just see products in their local currency by default.
Another key difference to note between BigCommerce and Shopify’s approach to currency conversion involves setting your own currency conversion rates: while you can manually set these on any BigCommerce plan, with Shopify, you don’t get the ability to do this unless you’re on an ‘Advanced’ or ‘Shopify Plus’ plan (both of which are expensive).
If you need to go further than setting your own currency conversion rates, and set prices at an individual product level (so that pricing for an item reflects a particular market’s expectations), this is only doable on BigCommerce and Shopify’s $299+ plans (‘Pro’ and ‘Advanced’ respectively).
So, in terms of which platform wins the multi-currency battle, I would say that it’s a draw. For its neat management of domains, languages and currencies all in one place, it’s a win for Shopify; but if you need to adjust currency conversion rates manually, you can do this a lot more cheaply with BigCommerce.
Selling in multiple languages
You can use both Shopify and BigCommerce to sell in multiple languages — however, while Shopify gives you built-in functionality to do this (as part of its ‘Markets’ feature), you’ll need to make use of a third-party app, Weglot, to do the same with BigCommerce.
With Shopify, you can translate your site into 20 languages — which should meet most merchants’ needs well.
When you enable multilingual selling in Shopify, a language ‘folder’ is added to your domain. So, you’ll end up with www.myshop.com/fr/, www.myshop.com/de/ etc.
Alternatively, if you’re on a ‘Shopify’ plan or higher, you can host a translated store on an international domain (yourstore.fr, yourstore.de etc.).
The only thing to watch out for is that certain site elements, like product and blog tags, can’t currently be translated.
The BigCommerce + Weglot approach has both its advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, you can offer your site in up to 100+ languages; and the translations are automatic (with the choice to manually edit them).
On the negative side, you will need to pay extra for the Weglot app on top of your BigCommerce fees — and machine translations, whilst improving all the time, are not usually good as those provided by an experienced human translator.
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 is currently Shopify.
An area where BigCommerce has a definite win over Shopify involves staff accounts.
Whereas in Shopify strict limits apply to the number of users who can log in and manage a store (these 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 provided in this area by BigCommerce.
A key alternative to BigCommerce and Shopify — Squarespace
BigCommerce and Shopify are two of the best-known ecommerce solutions, but there are alternatives available.
One such product is Squarespace. This platform comes with more bundled templates than Shopify and BigCommerce, excellent blogging and gallery features and the ability to host a pay-to-access members’ area.
Squarespace’s ecommerce features are not yet quite as extensive as Shopify and BigCommerce (the main things missing are the ability to sell in multiple languages and currencies) but they are extremely easy to use.
You can get 10% off any Squarespace plan by clicking this link and entering PARTNER10 when purchasing a plan.
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 ‘Ecommerce Insights’ report giving you more detailed information on your customers, products and abandoned carts.
This BigCommerce ‘additional fee’ is quite expensive though, at $49 on the ‘Standard’ and ‘Plus’ plans, $99 per month on the ‘Pro’ plan and $249 on the ‘Enterprise’ plan.
Despite the pricey ‘Insights’ option, I think it’s fair to say that BigCommerce ultimately offers a significant advantage over Shopify when it comes to reporting, because you get the majority of report types as standard on any BigCommerce plan.
With Shopify, by contrast, you have to be on one of the more expensive plans — the $79 per month ‘Shopify’ plan or higher — to avail of comprehensive reporting functionality.
If you’re on a cheaper Shopify plan, you can avail of some statistics via an ‘online store dashboard’, but these are pretty basic and ‘top line’ in nature.
For additional insights into your store (particularly where traffic to it is concerned) you can of course also install Google Analytics and use goals to measure conversions and create custom reports.
BigCommerce also provides a native integration with Google BigQuery, which allows you to make use of Google’s Data Studio tool for custom reporting purposes. Although you can use BigQuery with Shopify too, this will require data exports, which can be a bit complicated and time-consuming to sort out.
Buying domain names with Shopify and BigCommerce
Both Shopify and BigCommerce allow you to buy domain names directly from them, and this will enable you to get your website up and running quickly without the need to configure DNS (domain name settings) records with a domain name provider.
However, to avail of the fastest DNS lookup times, which can improve SEO, you might wish to consider buying a domain name from a third-party provider — configuring DNS is not a terribly difficult job anyway.
And, because Shopify or BigCommerce don’t cater for every type of domain extension, you might need to anyway.
The other advantage of buying a domain from a third-party is that you don’t end up putting all your eggs in one basket. If for any reason you lost access to your BigCommerce or Shopify account, and you had bought a domain from either, you would be losing access not just to your CMS / hosting but your domain too.
If you have bought a domain from either Shopify or BigCommerce, you can create ‘forwarding addresses’ that forward your mail from your bought domain to another email address — for example, you could set up [email protected] which forwards mail onto [email protected].
More useful though is the ability to configure DNS settings on either your BigCommerce or Shopify-bought domain so that you can use a productivity suite like Google Workspace (G Suite) or Microsoft 365 to manage your email; this gives you a proper email account that uses your domain name — i.e., [email protected]
Personally speaking, I would be inclined to ignore both BigCommerce and Shopify’s built-in email forwarding and pay for a Google Workspace or Microsoft 365 account to manage email — simply because in doing so you get a very robust email solution AND a host of useful productivity tools (calendars, file storage, video conferencing and so on).
Email marketing tools
An absolutely key part of running an online store is email marketing. Sending e-newsletters to your mailing list is crucial to generating sales.
Recognizing this — and perhaps the fact that competitors Squarespace and Wix now both offer built-in email marketing — Shopify introduced a feature that allows you to carry out email marketing without leaving the platform: Shopify Email.
It’s cheap, too: you can send 10,000 emails per month using it as part of your regular plan, and then you’re charged $1 for every additional 1,000 sends.
Recently, the tool has been improved so that it also includes some email automation features, with key automations including:
- Welcome emails
- First purchase upsells
- Customer winbacks
Although Shopify’s email automation tools aren’t yet as sophisticated as those of a Mailchimp or GetResponse , they are clearly moving in that direction.
And the inclusion of ‘Shopify Email’ in Shopify’s feature set means that Shopify has become slightly more of an ‘all in one’ marketing solution than BigCommerce — as things stand, BigCommerce users will need two products to handle ecommerce and email marketing, whereas Shopify users can manage both in one place.
So when it comes to email marketing, it’s a win for Shopify.
There are ‘app stores’ available for both Shopify and BigCommerce, which allow you to integrate the platforms with other web applications or add features to your store.
Shopify’s app store contains significantly more apps than BigCommerce’s, however; whereas there are around 1,000 BigCommerce apps available, you’ll find around 8,000 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.
Point of Sale (POS) options in Shopify and BigCommerce
When it comes to using either platform for point-of-sale (POS) transactions, both Shopify and BigCommerce allow you to use mobile devices to to facilitate these.
Other devices — such as barcode scanners, receipt printers, tills and 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 rock concert; processing credit card payments at a market stall; or just using Shopify or BigCommerce as a payment processor in general. All your customer and order data is synced with your online store’s back end, so everything is kept neat and tidy.
To use POS with BigCommerce you will need to integrate hardware from a third party platform — these include Vend, Clover, 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.
Which approach is better will boil down to individual merchant requirements. Users with an existing relationship with one of the above POS services will probably value the flexibility provided by BigCommerce; but those 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, per location.
Although you can still avail of a lot of POS functionality using the standard Shopify plans, you’ll need the add on to:
- work with an unlimited number of store staff and registers
- facilitate ‘buy online, pick up in store’
- facilitate exchanges
- provide custom printed receipts
- define staff roles and permissions
- attribute sales to particular staff members (for commission or performance-analysis purposes).
Performance on mobile devices
So how do Shopify and BigCommerce shape up when it comes to mobile devices?
When it comes to how your store is actually displayed on a mobile device, both Shopify and BigCommerce provide ‘responsive’ template designs that automatically adjust the layout of your online store so that it displays nicely across a variety of devices.
If you are not happy with the ‘out of the box’ design for mobile, 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 that are designed to help you with various aspects of setting up an online store — a customer chat app (‘Shopify Inbox’), a logo maker, a local delivery app and an order tracking tool.
Of these other apps, ‘Shopify Inbox’ is probably the most useful, letting you keep tabs on sales conversations and sharing product details with store visitors on popular chat services like Facebook Messenger and Instagram.
BigCommerce also provides a mobile app, which allows you to manage orders, view and contact customers, and access basic stats. No dedicated POS app is available however.
Ultimately it’s fair to say that the platform offering more comprehensive options when it comes to managing your store on a mobile device — particularly in a point-of-sale context — is Shopify.
User reviews of the mobile apps
In terms of how users rate the mobile versions of BigCommerce and Shopify, iOS users give a thumbs up, with the main apps mentioned both receiving 4.6 stars out of 5 on Apple’s app store.
Android users aren’t quite so enthusiastic however, scoring the BigCommerce app 3.7 stars out of 5, and the Shopify POS app 3.4 out of 5.
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a Google-backed project that aims to provide a better experience for people accessing web content on a smartphone.
Pages displayed in AMP format are basically cut-down versions of your content (certain scripts and page features are removed); and because of this cut-down nature they load significantly faster on mobile devices.
The key advantage of AMP format is that the number of users abandoning your site (after getting bored waiting for your content) is drastically reduced. There 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 ecommerce contexts too.
The good news is that both BigCommerce and Shopify allows you to present your product pages in AMP format.
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.
Given that you can use AMP on all the free BigCommerce templates out of the box and without the need for any additional app installations, I’d argue that this represents a bit of a win for BigCommerce.
Automatic tax rules and VAT MOSS in BigCommerce and Shopify
Automatic tax calculation
A key challenge of building and running an online store is that you can end up selling goods in jurisdictions with differing tax rates — something you’ll need to reflect in the pricing of your products.
Thankfully, Shopify and BigCommerce both allow you to apply tax rates automatically for a wide range of countries, which is a huge time saver; not all competing products do this.
However, in Shopify, you can do this out of the box; with BigCommerce, you’ll need to install an app to facilitate this (Avalara, Vertex, Taxcloud or Taxjar).
If you intend to sell digital products to EU consumers with BigCommerce or Shopify, and expect to raise over €10,000 a year in revenue from doing so, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with something called VAT MOSS (short for ‘VAT Mini One Stop Shop’).
VAT MOSS requires you to apply country-specific rates of VAT to digital products — even if you are running a business that is based outside of the EU.
BigCommerce doesn’t seem to provide an easy way to do this; Shopify, by contrast, caters for it really well (via its free ‘Digital Downloads’ app).
Overall then, I’d say that when it comes to automatic tax calculation features, the winner is Shopify.
Dropshipping in Shopify and BigCommerce
Dropshipping is a fulfilment method where you don’t keep what you’re selling in stock — instead, you take the order, pass it to a supplier, and they send the goods to the client. Your online store, in effect, becomes a front end or ‘middle man’ for somebody else’s business.
Online retailers tend to like this model because it can represent a low-cost way to start a business; you don’t have to spend a lot of money purchasing or manufacturing goods before you start selling.
The flipside is that 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 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.
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 14 days of free access to Shopify plus lots of bundled resources and tools that show you how to launch a successful dropshipping Shopify store.
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 fairly extremely similar in appearance, and work in a similar way too.
In both BigCommerce and Shopify you use a menu on the left hand side to choose what you’d like to do (add some content, view orders, take a look at reports etc.) and the right hand side of the screen allows you to view data or upload / edit content accordingly.
Both content management systems are not terribly dissimilar from WordPress and Squarespace, so if you’ve used either of those content management systems before, you’ll be on familiar ground if you end up using either Shopify or BigCommerce.
Below you’ll find a video overview of the BigCommerce interface:
And here’s a walkthrough of how to add products using the Shopify interface:
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 very important, because they tell browsers and search engines where a page has moved to if you change its URL).
Both ecommerce platforms also provide you with a free SSL certificate — something which Google’s search engine algorithm considers important.
On balance however, I’d say BigCommerce’s SEO functionality is a little 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 customize 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 can be enabled ‘out of the box’ 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 truth is that you can optimize a website for search engines very easily using 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.
Tip: Check out our Semrush review, Ahrefs review, Ahrefs vs Semrush comparison, Semrush pricing guide or our Moz vs Semrush guide for more detail on keyword research tools; or for more specific information on how to carry out search engine optimization for Shopify or BigCommerce, check out our Shopify SEO guide and our BigCommerce SEO guide.
‘Buy Buttons’ in Shopify and BigCommerce
Both Shopify and BigCommerce provide ‘Buy buttons’ which allow you (and others) to sell your products on other websites.
With Shopify, it’s a case of grabbing some code from the buy button ‘sales channel’ which you can then add to another blog, website, social media profile etc.; in BigCommerce, you have to install the ‘Buy’ button’ app first, but it’s a similar process after that.
Not all ecommerce solutions 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, however: not only can you use it to embed individual products, but you can also use it to embed whole catalogs.
But BigCommerce’s ‘Buy Button’ is better for selling in different currencies — if you have multi-currency functionality enabled, your product’s price and your checkout will automatically appear in the correct local currency. Shopify’s button is yet to facilitate this.
GDPR compliance in Shopify and BigCommerce
Since 2018, website owners have had to comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) — a set of fairly strict rules on privacy issues. There are serious financial penalties for not following these rules, and even if your business is not based in the EU, you still need to comply with the regulations where any site visits from the EU are concerned.
Now, please note that I’m not a lawyer and you shouldn’t treat anything here as legal advice; but that said, I’m going to spell out how I see GDPR issues affecting potential BigCommerce and Shopify site store owners.
Based on my understanding of the GDPR rules, the key priorities for prospective Shopify and BigCommerce store owners are to:
provide adequate privacy and cookie notices
process and store data securely
get clear consent from people signing up to mailing lists that it is okay to send them e-newsletters
provide a means to opt in or revoke consent to use of non-essential cookies on a website before they are run (and to log that consent).
Both BigCommerce and Shopify let you meet the first three requirements easily enough, although you will need to spend time (and possibly money on lawyers!) creating the relevant notices and tweaking data capture forms in order to make them GDPR compliant.
However, BigCommerce has an edge when it comes to catering for the the fourth requirement — cookie consent.
To ensure GDPR compliance in this area, you are required to display a cookie banner to your website users which:
allows them to choose which cookies they want to run BEFORE those cookies are run (i.e., to give ‘prior consent’)
logs their consent to run cookies
allows them to revoke consent at a later stage.
So for example, if you use a Facebook Ads or Google Analytics cookie on your Shopify or BigCommerce store, you will be breaking GDPR laws unless you have a solution in place which does all of the above.
The good news where BigCommerce is concerned is that it provides a straightforward way to add third-party scripts and ensure they are only run when consent is granted.
(It’s not clear however how to log user consent / facilitate revoking of it down the line — so there’s some scope for improvement here).
As for Shopify, there are quite a lot of apps which claim to deal with this problem and provide this functionality. Some seem considerably better than others however — several that I looked at, whilst claiming to provide GDPR compliance, came nowhere near doing so.
Ultimately, you should be able to get either BigCommerce or Shopify to meet core GDPR requirements — but it’s a win here for BigCommerce, because it provides an out-of-the-box solution which broadly deals with GDPR cookie consent issues.
Ecommerce task automation in Shopify
A neat feature that you’ll now find available from Shopify is task automation: if you’re on a ‘Shopify Advanced’ or ‘Shopify Plus’ plan, you get access to an automation app called ‘Shopify Flow.’
This lets you create ‘if this then that’ (IFTT) style rules which make Shopify take certain actions based on certain events (for example, if your inventory is running low, it can send an email message to a supplier; you can tag users based on their purchasing behavior; collate negative reviews into a spreadsheet automatically etc.).
There isn’t currently anything similar available out of the box from BigCommerce, so — as long as you’ve got the budget for a ‘Shopify Advanced’ plan, it’s a win for Shopify here.
That said, there are some third-party apps for BigCommerce, such as Atom8, which can automate ecommerce tasks in similar ways (additional monthly fees of between $49.99 and $199.99 per month apply to use this app, however).
Customer support for Shopify and BigCommerce
Shopify and BigCommerce offer similar customer support options, with phone, live chat, forum, FAQs and email support available.
Additionally, searchable help portals are available that essentially act as manuals for both products. These are both packed full of useful information about BigCommerce and Shopify.
One slightly odd thing I noticed when using Shopify’s help center was that it doesn’t contain any product screenshots. This can sometimes make the instructions provided a little bit harder to follow than those in the BigCommerce portal.
With BigCommerce, you get 24/7 customer support via phone, email and live chat. However, before you get access to a phone number or email address for the support team, you are encouraged to fill in a form and review potential solutions suggested by the BigCommerce website first.
Helpfully however, BigCommerce provide a ‘skip this step’ option for users who are 100% certain they need help from a human being!
Shopify’s customer support is also 24/7. And as with BigCommerce, you have to search for solutions to your problem before being given access to the contact details you’re looking for.
Phone support for Shopify is provided using a ‘callback’ system — i.e., you provide your phone number and Shopify call you back when they have a free support slot.
One thing you should be aware of however is that Shopify support is available in considerably more languages than BigCommerce’s — whereas BigCommerce’s support is only available in seven languages (English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Mexican Spanish), Shopify provides it for 21.
BigCommerce vs Shopify: conclusion
Ultimately, BigCommerce and Shopify are fairly well-matched store builders, with BigCommerce winning when it comes to product options, reporting, multi-currency selling and SEO, and Shopify coming out on top when it comes to templates, 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 involves product options: you really can tailor them to the nth degree on BigCommerce, whereas Shopify limits you to three options.
My main reasons for choosing Shopify over BigCommerce would include its stronger template offering and its much cheaper abandoned cart saving functionality — the latter is available on Shopify’s $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:
BigCommerce vs Shopify — pros and cons summary
Key reasons for using BigCommerce over Shopify
No transaction fees apply, regardless of the payment gateway used.
- You can use far more product options with BigCommerce: 250 to Shopify’s 3.
- When selling in multiple currencies, you can set your own exchange rates on any BigCommerce plan. Shopify only facilitates this on its more expensive ones.
With the notable exception of abandoned cart saver functionality, on the BigCommerce plans, you generally get more ecommerce features‘out of the box.’
- You can easily include custom fields and file uploads as product options on a BigCommerce store — this is not the case in Shopify, where coding or app installations are necessary.
It’s easier to create AMP versions of your store in BigCommerce (and for free too).
Professional reporting is available on all BigCommerce plans — this is not the case with Shopify.
- There’s a native integration for BigQuery available from BigCommerce — this is not the case with Shopify.
- BigCommerce’s ‘Buy Button’ works in multiple currencies; Shopify’s doesn’t.
Third party real-time carrier quotes are available on all BigCommerceplans; in Shopify you’ll need to be on an annual plan or purchase an add-on to get this functionality.
The BigCommerce abandoned cart saver functionality is more flexible than Shopify’s.
Credit card fees are slightly lower (if in the US and using Braintree powered by Paypal).
BigCommerce works with more POS systems (and BigCommerce POS can work out cheaper, depending on the setup used).
- The BigCommerce drag-and-drop editor is currently a little bit more intuitive to use than Shopify’s.
All BigCommerce plans allow you to have an unlimited number of staff accounts.
Functionality to adhere to GDPR cookie consent rules is provided out of the box.
Key reasons for using Shopify over BigCommerce
Shopify provides automatic abandoned cart recovery at a significantly lower price point than BigCommerce.
The template offering is stronger.
- Shopify includes built-in functionality for creating multilingual versions of your store.
A very affordable email marketing tool is bundled with Shopify.
- The Shopify ‘Buy Button’ lets you embed entire product catalogs — BigCommerce’s only lets you embed individual products.
You can make use of a much wider range of typefaces in the Shopify free templates.
It’s arguably better for dropshipping.
The Shopify mobile app offering is stronger.
Shopify’s approach to product categorization is better than BigCommerce’s — you can create collections which automatically populate and update themselves based on criteria you supply.
There are significantly more third-party apps available for Shopify than for BigCommerce.
Catering for multiple tax rates automatically is easier in Shopify, as this functionality is provided as standard (i.e., no third-party app is required).
Adhering to VAT MOSS rules is much easier with Shopify, because it can calculate the relevant tax rates automatically for you.
Point of Sale is more tightly integrated with the product.
Shopify’s blogging tool comes with an RSS feed — BigCommerce’s doesn’t.
- Customer support comes in a lot more languages.
Unlike BigCommerce, you don’t need to worry about sales limits.
Alternatives to BigCommerce and Shopify
When it comes to building an online store, there are quite a few alternatives to BigCommerce and Shopify available, with Wix and Squarespace probably being the best-known competitors.
These are more ‘general’ website builders than BigCommerce and Shopify however; so their ecommerce features are not quite as advanced. However, they tend to be a better option if you’re building a brochure or portfolio site, and want to occasionally sell products on the side. For more details, check out our Wix vs Squarespace comparison; you might also find our guide to Squarespace pricing and our resource about the Squarespace free trial helpful.
Another option is Jimdo, but again that is a more ‘general-purpose’ site builder, with a fairly limited set of ecommerce features.
If you are on a really low budget, Big Cartel is worth a look (due to its entirely free plan for merchants with just a couple of products). We have a comparison between Big Cartel and Shopify available here, and a full review of the Big Cartel platform available here.
Used in conjunction with a tool like WooCommerce or Ecwid, WordPress can be a great solution for ecommerce — and it’s a hugely flexible design tool. However, unless you have the right technical skills, you will usually need a WordPress developer to set it up and maintain it.
Similarly, with its stunning templates and innovative approach to design layout, Webflow can work out well for merchants in need of a very ‘bespoke’ design — but you’ll need coding skills to get the most out of it.
Finally, online marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy can also work well for new ecommerce businesses. Our Shopify vs Amazon and Shopify vs Etsy comparisons go through some of the pros and cons of using these to sell your products.
BigCommerce vs Shopify FAQs
Should I use BigCommerce or Shopify?
The main arguments for using BigCommerce over Shopify are that it doesn’t charge any transaction fees at all, and that in general, it comes with more ecommerce features out of the box — Shopify often requires you to invest in apps to get the functionality you need. The main reasons for choosing Shopify over BigCommerce are that its templates are stronger, there are no sales limits to worry about, and it features an abandoned cart saver tool on all its plans (something you don’t get from BigCommerce until you’re on a $79.95+ plan).
Do I need a developer to help me build a BigCommerce or Shopify store?
No. Both platforms are ‘do it yourself’ online store builders aimed at people without coding skills. However, involving a developer can help you create a store faster, or add bespoke functionality to it.
Does BigCommerce have an equivalent of Shopify’s ‘Lite’ Plan?
There isn’t a BigCommerce plan as cheap as Shopify’s $9 Lite plan; however, you can use any BigCommerce plan to avail of similar functionality (i.e., the ability to sell on social networks, or create similar ‘buy buttons’ that can be used to sell on other websites).
What are the main alternatives to Shopify and BigCommerce?
Similar ‘hosted’ platforms include Squarespace, Wix and Jimdo. Self-hosted WordPress is also commonly used in conjunction with platforms like WooCommerce and Ecwid to sell products online, but doing this effectively will usually require developer support.
Can I get any discounts for BigCommerce and Shopify?
Yes. With Shopify, if you start a free trial and then pay upfront for a year’s service, you get 10% off your annual plan; paying upfront for 2 years gets you a 20% discount. BigCommerce offers 10% off its ‘Pro’ and ‘Plus’ plan if you pay upfront for a year.
How we tested these products
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.
For more information about the criteria that we use to evaluate products, please see our ecommerce platforms buying guide.
Bigcommerce vs Shopify…over to you!
If you have any thoughts or queries on Bigcommerce vs Shopify, or feedback on either product, do feel free to share them in the comments section below. Do you have a preference for either ecommerce platform? Do they really give you everything you need to build an online store? We’ll do our best to answer any of your questions!
Related BigCommerce and Shopify resources from Style Factory
- BigCommerce vs Squarespace
- Shopify video review (YouTube)
- Shopify beginners’ tutorial (YouTube)
- Shopify vs GoDaddy
- How to set up a Shopify store
- Shopify free trial guide