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2022 Ecommerce Platform Guide: Shopify vs BigCommerce

When you compare BigCommerce vs Shopify directly, you’ll find that there is a clear choice for you. We'll help you determine the best fit.

They’re two of the biggest names in all of ecommerce. They have large followings. Major brands use them. And yet it can be difficult, sometimes, to tell the difference.

Yet when you compare BigCommerce vs Shopify directly, you’ll find that there is a clear choice for you. You just need to know how to figure out which is which. To do that, we’ve broken down both of these major platforms into their characteristics to see which stacks up best for your unique needs.

Shopify vs BigCommerce: A Quick Rundown

It may seem strange to offer a quick rundown on these platforms, given their popularity within the ecommerce space. According to some statistics, Shopify has 11% of the total ecommerce market share. If you’ve looked into opening your own store before, there’s no doubt that you’ve heard both of these names.

That said, it’s worth noting that just because these are two popular platforms doesn’t mean you know all about the nuts and bolts of each.

With Shopify, you’ll generally expect the following:

  • Plenty of help. With over one million stores reportedly on Shopify as of this writing, it’s clear that Shopify has a major advantage in terms of its user base. There are few problems you can think of within Shopify that someone else hasn’t thought of before.
  • A huge app marketplace. Given how many people use Shopify, you won’t be surprised to find that there are apps for most functions you could want. Its huge app marketplace is large enough to support entire companies that have sprung up just helping people get started on Shopify.
  • Fast potential for growth. Shopify has even been outpacing the overall growth of the ecommerce market, beating overall ecommerce sales increases by 50% to 19% in the year before the pandemic.

BigCommerce is no slouch in any regard, either. But here’s what you’ll need to know as a brief introduction to the platform:

  • Robust built-in sales features. With Shopify, you might expect to poke around its robust app marketplace to get things done. BigCommerce is more of an out-of-the-box solution, intended to give you full functionality for what you want as soon as you install it and figure it out.
  • Transaction fees (or lack thereof). BigCommerce is ideal for people who want to make an upfront investment and otherwise scale to their heart’s content. But as we’ll discuss in the pricing section below, there is no additional transaction fee with any of the options you use; BigCommerce is a platform, plain and simple, and not a payment gateway that will take money from the sales you generate.
  • A little more advanced technically. Shopify’s functionality helps explain its popularity in the marketplace, given that there are over one billion businesses using the platform. With BigCommerce, expect a bit of a steeper learning curve. It’s nothing most people couldn’t overcome, but it’s something to be aware of.

Of course, this is just a bird’s-eye view of both platforms. To run a proper Shopify vs BigCommerce comparison, we have to get into the details and compare them as closely as possible to find the key differences.

Shopify vs BigCommerce: A Point-by-Point Comparison

Shopify Pricing vs BigCommerce Cost

Any time you compare two platforms against each other on pricing, you have to take a certain amount of context into account. With BigCommerce, for example, you’ll find that there are no additional transaction fees once you get it set up. With Shopify, those fees will stick around. Is it worth what you pay for? Is the convenience of the all-in-one service of Shopify going to be exactly what you need? Or will BigCommerce’s pricing structure make more sense for your skill level?

Let’s start by looking at the basic plans of each.

BigCommerce Payment Structure

  • Standard: $29.95/month. Includes:
    • Selling up to 50k annually
    • No transaction fees
    • Unlimited staff accounts 
    • 24/7 support
    • Dedicated SSL
    • Product ratings and reviews
    • Coupons, discount codes, etc.
  • Plus: $79.95/month. Includes:
    • Everything in Standard Plan
    • Up to 180k sales annually
    • Lower credit card rates via PayPal powered by Braintree
    • Abandoned/persistent cart features
    • Stored credit card features for regular customers
  • Pro: $299.95/month. Includes:
    • Everything in Plus Plan
    • Up to 400k in sales
    • Lower credit card processing rates
    • Custom SSL
  • BigCommerce Enterprise: Custom pricing. Includes:
    • Everything in Pro Plan
    • Unlimited API / API support
    • Priority support
    • No selling limits / based on custom pricing

Shopify Payment Structure

  • Basic: $29/month. Includes:
    • Online credit card rates of 2.9% and 30c USD per transaction. In-person credit card rates are 2.7% and 0c USD.
    • 2% transaction fee if not using Shopify Payments
    • Online store
    • 2 staff accounts
    • Unlimited products
    • 24/7 customer service & support
    • Free SSL certificate
    • Abandoned carts
    • Gift cards
  • Shopify: $79/month. Includes:
    • Online credit card rates of 2.6% + 30c USD per transaction. 2.5% and 0c USD in person.
    • 1% transaction fee if not using Shopify payments
    • 5 staff accounts
    • Support, unlimited products, etc., similar features to Basic
  • Advanced: $299/month. Includes:
    • 2.4% and 30c USD per online credit card transaction. 2.4% and 0c USD for in-person transactions.
    • 0.5% transaction fee if not using Shopify Payments
    • International per variant pricing available
    • Similar features: free SSL, discount codes, gift cards, etc.

Shopify Lite is also an offering where you can add products to any website or blog and accept credit card payments for only $9 USD per month (View all Shopify plans).

ShopifyPlus is their enterprise level option, for high-volume e-commerce merchants and large organizations. You can learn more about ShopifyPlus and if it’s the right choice for you here. It starts at $2,000/mo.

Because every shop is different, it’s hard to say which pricing structure will work best for you. With BigCommerce, you won’t have additional transaction fees if not using their payment plan, of course. But it will be up to you to select a payment provider that can deliver the goods.

Note that if you have a large team, BigCommerce’s unlimited staff accounts are a major advantage as well. With Shopify, using their $79/month option will only get you up to 5 staff accounts, for example. 

To make sense of which pricing structure is better for you, you’ll have to know what your top priorities are. 

Ease of Use

Shopify has a reputation as being one of the best out-of-the-box ecommerce platforms out there, and it’s hard to argue against that being the case as compared to BigCommerce. 

There’s nothing inherently wrong with having so many features built in, as BigCommerce does. In fact, depending on your goals, you might find it to be a point in its favor. If you want more robust features right out of the gate because you have some experience with ecommerce, BigCommerce can be a great solution.

With Shopify, ease of use might be more appealing for beginners. You can always expand your capabilities through add-ons and plug-ins, for which there is a large Shopify marketplace. And with the pricing structure in place, you’ll find plenty of basic functionality right off the bat.

One advantage BigCommerce does have now: a fun drag-and-drop feature that makes it far easier to get started than ever before. You won’t need complicated development or design skills to build your own store. 

With Shopify, you may find that it’s easy to set your own orders for your products, but it may not always be so easy to design your overall look.

Overall, it’s probably fair to call this a wash. Shopify is certainly simple to set up. And BigCommerce’s true robust features tend to work out best as you develop your store. But given the drag-and-drop design BigCommerce has implemented, it’s probably fair to say you won’t have problems using either platform.

Scalability

To make this simple, let’s start with a thought experiment. If you have five products to sell, which platform is better? And which one is better if you have a hundred products to sell.

If you have five products to sell, we’ll recommend Shopify’s beginner-friendly features:

  • It’s easy to set up a product on Shopify; you simply fill out the basic form and, voila, you’ve got your product posted. In fact, it could end up being one of the first things you do on the platform.
  • Intuitive design. If you’ve ever used WordPress, for example, you’ll find the “add product” feature of Shopify to be completely intuitive and easy to use. It will feel like you’re just adding another option to the site itself.

If you have a hundred products to sell, there are then some reasons you might want to consider BigCommerce.

  • Learning curve. BigCommerce’s sophisticated features for adding products are going to require a bit of a learning curve. That always means that it’s suited to long-term shop building rather than slapping together a quick store.
  • Additional product description factors, such as product options including “Variations” and “Customizations.” These don’t exactly require a degree in rocket science to get the hang of it, but if you plan on scaling to hundreds of products, you’re probably more likely to want to make the investment of learning what it’s all about.

In terms of scalability, we have to give a slight edge to BigCommerce here. It’s not as if you can’t scale on Shopify—millions of shops do that just fine—but BigCommerce is specially suited for the long-term pursuits of shops with hundreds of products.

Support

Off the bat, let’s be clear on where the platforms are similar.

  • Robust customer support available around the clock
  • Help centers that give you something to read if you’re having a specific problem
  • Community forums
  • Wide user bases, which means you can probably find help from people who have had your specific problem before
  • Live chat
  • Video tutorials
  • Reaching out via email

For most peoples’ experience, that’s going to be enough to call this a wash. In short, you don’t have to worry about whether the customer support is going to be there on either platform—it is. Both are paid platforms, after all, and they’re happy to help out customers in an effort to retain them.

Both platforms are also happy to give you even higher levels of support as you ascend their pricing tiers. You can find a dedicated agent on Shopify Plus, while BigCommerce offers an onboarding consultant if you upgrade to their enterprise plan. Clearly, both platforms are willing to make an investment in your success if you’re going to pay more to use their more robust features.

It’s hard to give an edge to either option here. In the great BigCommerce vs Shopify debate, don’t expect customer support to be a defining factor.

Apps and Plugin Offerings

For Shopify, the “reliance” on third-party apps can be a positive or a negative. Maybe you don’t want a platform that relies on customization and researching which apps might be best for you.

On the other hand, there are so many apps and add-ons available with Shopify, that you might also perceive it as a strength. If you want a new feature, you simply have to head over to the Shopify App Store and you’ll probably find a solution waiting for you.

BigCommerce is a little more hands-off in this regard. Their goal is to have things work for you right out of the box, providing you with the functionality you want right away. Perhaps that’s why Shopify is so much easier to use right off the bat, while BigCommerce is more of a “get the hang of it” type of platform.

But let’s get specific about the kind of app experience. Which platforms offer the best functionality?

  • Support: What kind of support are we talking about here? If it’s platform support, both platforms offer support in droves. If it’s offering your customers support, Shopify’s compatibility with tools like WhatsApp Chat customer support is a nice feature. You’ll find less-popular customer support at BigCommerce, such as Ometrics chat tools.
  • Page-builders: Both have plenty of functionality here, but we have to give the edge to BigCommerce’s built-in drag-and-drop system of adding products to your site. Paid apps like Shogun’s Landing Page builder come in handy for making sales, but do require an extra investment at Shopify.
  • Top-rated apps: What about the apps people love on each platform? On Shopify, it’s telling that one of the most-installed apps is the Oberlo Dropshipping App. One of the best-rated page builders at Shopify is PageFly. At BigCommerce, Product Variants in Table help shoppers with bulk orders, which hints at BigCommerce’s specialty in moving a lot of products at scale.

Payment Options for Customers and Checkout

To make this one simpler, let’s break it down by each platform:

Shopify

You can help reduce your fees with Shopify by signing up for Shopify Payments, which handles options like major credit cards, digital wallets (Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc.)

For more information about their capacities, you can also have a look at their online payment gateways, broken down by specific areas.

BigCommerce

Over at BigCommerce, you won’t run into any problems offering customers options for paying for their purchase. You can browse their available payment gateways.

You’ll also notice features included with BigCommerce, such as stored credit cards for customers, easy refund processing, and supporting multiple currencies at checkout. Once again, the question comes down to handling all of these right out of the gate; with Shopify, you may have to do some tweaking to unlock the full payment options and checkout options you want.

Dropship Compatibility and Options

It was telling that one of the most popularly reviewed applications on Shopify’s platform was the Oberlo dropshipping app. After all, Shopify’s main appeal is that it makes for a quick, high-quality platform that you can use to create a business almost overnight. 

Dropshipping falls neatly into that appeal. With just a few well-timed clicks on the appropriate applications, you can use an app like Oberlo with Shopify. This application, for example, includes a free trial that lets you get started. It lets you browse the AliExpress dropshipping platform to find products to sell.

With BigCommerce, dropshipping can be intuitive, particularly with how easy it is to set up so many products on the platform. One of the top rated applications, Sprocket Dropshipping, lets you find dropshipping product candidates across many of the major international markets. 

If you plan to dropship in earnest, chances are you’re going to have to end up paying for add-ons that give you access to new ways to do it. That applies to both Shopify and BigCommerce. Fortunately, the fact that there are enough robust options to choose from should be encouraging. After all, there’s a reason both of these store builders are popular destinations for online dropshippers.

Pros and Cons: BigCommerce vs Shopify

We’ve finally arrived at it: a good way to sum things up. We’ve decided to break it down into some pros and cons that will give you a nice overview of each platform. Make no mistake: both are rock-solid platforms for getting your shop up and running. The question is: which one fits your specific goals?

Shopify

Pros

  • Shopify’s free themes and ree theme designs mean you probably won’t have to do a lot of work when setting it up. There are enough theme options to give you a feeling of customization even if you’re not doing the design work yourself. This is often suited for small businesses without a lot of design budget
  • So. Many. Apps. Shopify is basically built off a robust app store, which means that if you want features, you won’t have to look very far until you find them. To some, this is a good thing, and to some, this is a bad thing. It’s all about how you want to begin
  • On Shopify, using everything through the dashboard is easy, intuitive, and straightforward, which makes it one of the top platforms for getting started in a hurry

Cons

  • Customization can be an issue, particularly if you’re not familiar with the platform and often rely on drag-and-drop features for getting things done
  • Transaction fees can be a problem. You can use Shopify Payments to reduce the burden here, but it also means being reliant on Shopify rather than building a more “independent” store, if that’s your goal
  • It can be difficult to use the apps sometimes, particularly if you want to do complicated things like move your store. We can see that in how popular some “Shop copier” apps are, which help you move a shop from one place to another

BigCommerce

Pros

  • With BigCommerce’s flat pricing structure, you basically turn the key and have access to a wide variety of tools, applications, and features. You often don’t have to turn to the app marketplace just to get something done
  • The lack of transaction fees, even in the small plan, means that you get to keep more of the purchases you make on the platform
  • Robust product addition features make scaling easy, such as using hundreds of variations on a single product for cross-selling purposes

Cons

  • A steeper learning curve for many features means you likely won’t be able to “slap up a site” and call it a day
  • Though there are drag and drop features for building your site, you may not find there are as many templates to work with as with Shopify
  • Although you get plenty of features out of the box, the add-ons lack the robust potential of Shopify apps

Examples of Ecommerce Sites Using Shopify vs BigCommerce

Shopify

BigCommerce:

Get Started with Your Online Store

You can’t go wrong with either platform. But if you have expectations for a certain type of platform and you choose the other one, you may find more of a learning curve than you expected. 

If you’ve selected one, the only question is: what’s next? Fortunately, there are more than a few guides for getting started on these platforms. Here are a few ideas so you can start poking around:

Lisa Foster
Lisa Foster

Lisa heads up the customer success team. She's helped thousands of Groove customers achieve their goal—make simple support a reality. You can usually find her answering emails in Groove or running a demo or training.

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