And that ALSO means your customers can buy anything online. So why not add your business to the mix?
But if you need applications for building your online business, then you’ve got a LOT of options.
There’s a lot of software around that will let you build a website that can sell products to customers.
The two most popular of these are probably Shopify and WooCommerce, but there are many others, with a range of abilities and prices.
One of the most reputable names in the ecommerce world is BigCommerce.
BigCommerce is second to Shopify in size and popularity, as far as paid shopping cart builders go.
But that still makes BigCommerce a GIANT:
That’s 17 billion, with “B!”
And who uses BigCommerce?
Okay, so quite a few notable brands use BigCommerce. Pretty impressive.
But what about smaller businesses—is it fit for your SMALL business?
BigCommerce is popular, that’s for sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best option for ALL businesses, or even ALL SMALL businesses.
Don’t worry: that’s what I’m here to help you figure out.
I’ve been using BigCommerce for a while now, so in this review I’ll get to the FULL story.
Starting us off:
Uptime, or how often your site is up, is an essential.
But, it’s ESPECIALLY essential if your site is part of your business. I’ll admit that a hobbyist who just needs a simple site, can probably suffer some site downtime.
But if your site is supposed to provide you with income, it needs to be UP—especially on special events such as the holidays or Black Friday.
Here’s the hidden bonus that comes with BigCommerce and related shopping cart builders:
BigCommerce is stellar on uptime and general site performance.
This isn’t because of magic. BigCommerce and its competitors provide all-in-one solutions.
By this I mean that BigCommerce is not just providing you with the software you need to build your shop: it’s also providing you the resources and security.
In other words, BigCommerce is ALSO your host and your security suite, and because of that, BigCommerce is able to guarantee excellent performance.
But, because BigCommerce isn’t EXCLUSIVELY a hosting company, it essentially uses a “bigger,” industrial-sized host to guarantee excellent performance.
In this case: Google!
So the speeds? Similar story:
It helps that its base of customers is entirely small businesses with ecommerce needs—a strong incentive to invest in performance and uptime.
So my experience with BigCommerce has been unsurprisingly GOOD as far as site performance and uptime go.
This is fairly true regardless of the price of the plan you choose, as well—though you might get some performance boosts as you scale up. Necessarily, of course.
Ultimately then, BigCommerce has GREAT performance. But that’s not all it has to do, in order to be truly successful:
Ease of Use
Like uptime, ease of use is something BigCommerce HAS to nail.
Because that’s the WHOLE POINT of BigCommerce: it’s supposed to be an easy way of setting up shop online.
So while ease of use is nice in ordinary hosting, BigCommerce is also a building application in addition to being your site’s host. So ease of use is essential.
I’ll give you a quick, short version:
BigCommerce is pretty easy to use.
Easy, right? Sure. But you’ll want to know how and why it’s easy.
First up, there’s the most obvious part: the actual building of your website:
This is the CORE of what BigCommerce is supposed to be, and luckily it’s pretty easy.
I will note here that it’s ALSO easy for programmers.
In fact, BigCommerce is EASIER for programmers to use than a lot of its competitors—including Shopify.
But if you don’t know how to code, that’s okay. You can still do plenty of stuff, believe me.
I do think BigCommerce is somewhat less idiot-proof than some of its competitors. It’s less focused explicitly on beginners—but beginners can still get the hang of site building quickly.
BigCommerce is NOT hard to use. It IS a beginner-friendly.
But it’s not AS beginner-friendly as some competitors, namely Shopify.
So designing a site is, of course, the flashy part we all want to see done well.
But there’s more that HAS to be made easy:
Site and store MANAGEMENT.
Once your site is good to go as far as design goes, you also need to be able to EASILY edit certain key details.
These details are what determine the nature of your shop: what are you selling? How much? What does your traffic look like? So on, and so on.
Plus, having easy site management tools will make adding changes to your site much faster.
So these are the two main aspects of BigCommerce that NEED to be done well—and they ARE.
There is a third thing that’s pretty important—your ability to edit your account. I’ve never had any problems navigating or saving changes I wanted to make.
My overall take is that BigCommerce is NOT the EASIEST shopping cart software I’ve ever used. BUT, it is definitely up there.
It’s good enough for just about everyone, including near-total beginners. And once again, it’s especially friendly to developers.
So far, everything’s looking bright and sunny. But: you’re running a business.
Which means that, while good performance and user-friendliness are nice, we need to talk about something else, pronto:
Pricing and Features
Price is important. We all know it’s not about getting the absolute LOWEST price—but you still probably want to get a GOOD price.
A price that is fair in return for what you get in exchange.
So let’s get right to it. This is what you’re going to be looking at:
Real quick notes: these are the prices if you pay annually. If you don’t want to pay a lot up-front, you can pay month-to-month, which increases the price by 10% for Plus and Pro.
Also, Enterprise has custom pricing depending on the size and needs of your business. So I’ll be focusing mostly on the first three tiers, also known as the “BigCommerce essentials.”
Anyway, assuming you pay annually, you’re looking at a range of $29.95 to $224.95 a month.
How are the prices, generally speaking?
Of course, you’ll get a better picture when I talk about features in a sec, but generally—these are really normal prices.
BigCommerce’s biggest competitors essentially offer the same three-tiered structure with similar numbers.
Now, right off the bat, BigCommerce does really well in features.
First of all, NO TRANSACTION FEES.
Is that a deal-breaker?
Maybe not, in the scheme of things. BUT, it is an expense that feels REALLY unnecessary when you’re already paying a company to build a site.
BigCommerce’s biggest competitor, Shopify, is guilty of placing transaction fees on its customers.
So there’s a big win. Plus:
No limits on the amount of bandwidth or storage you can use, or the number of products and staff accounts you can create. For ALL of the plans.
So that’s good. Plus, all the plans can do this:
Any plan can access the most common sales channels. That’s a kind of basic feature, but it’s still good to have.
And then there’s a whole bulk of basic features:
These are the features you’d reasonably expect on most other competing platforms, and they’re available for all plans with BigCommerce.
One advantage BigCommerce offers here is that other platforms don’t always offer some of these for the entry-level.
For example, coupons or gift cards are sometimes reserved for higher-tiers—as are the different payment methods, product ratings, and so on.
So the entry-level itself is GREAT on features.
By now, you might be wondering: why even go past the first BigCommerce tier?
Fair enough. Check this out:
This is one of the BEST distribution of features.
The entry-level gets pretty much everything needed to build a robust shopping cart.
But the higher tiers still get some really useful tools:
For example, abandoned cart saver is an automated tool that markets customers who left your site on the checkout page, and has a reasonably good chance of winning back customers.
Store credit cards are a pretty strong feature that adds a lot of credibility AND loyalty to your site, and the persistent cart is GREAT for maintaining sales with recurring customers.
Plus, you get better contact management tools—in the form of customer groups and segmentation—that can be really useful if you’re creative with it.
So as you can see, lacking these tools won’t HARM the first tier. But having them really helps the pricier tiers.
Whether it’s worth the increased costs is of course up to you. But overall, BigCommerce definitely has GREAT features.
Now, I’d like to talk briefly about something else:
Here’s the thing about shipping in ecommerce:
BigCommerce faces fierce competition from Shopify. In fact, Shopify is super popular for ecommerce sites that use shipping (i.e., aren’t selling just digital products).
One of the reasons Shopify is so massive in this world is because it offers really easy integrations to shipping services, and has great shipping discounts.
So that’s the challenge BigCommerce needs to face. And how does it succeed?
Take a quick look at this:
There are obviously lots of details, and it depends on what plan you’re using—but speaking generally, BigCommerce is really good for shipping.
Here’s the short version:
BigCommerce’s shipping capabilities are comparative to Shopify’s, and if they’re not AS good, it’s probably one of the closest seconds you can get.
The best thing is that you get a lot of CONTROL and a lot of INFORMATION: so it’s really easy to both SAVE costs on shipping AND to get customers to commit to purchases.
Now, there’s one last thing I want to cover about the features, and then we can wrap this part up.
But this is PRETTY IMPORTANT:
The big differentiator between tiers, ASIDE from the features, is the sales limits.
I generally think these are pretty acceptable amounts—if you’re making close to $150k in online sales a year, paying just under $72 a month might not be so bad.
BUT, not all competing platforms have such limits or the same limits.
And if you’re someone who already has to invest a lot into their business to produce a profit, it might suck needing to increase your BigCommerce costs just because you sold above a threshold.
So that is a downside. But overall, I’ve gotta say:
BigCommerce is really well-featured. It’s as fully featured as all its competitors, and arguably has a lot more features for the first tier than its rivals offer.
So in all, it’s not just strong on features—but a GOOD DEAL.
But that doesn’t mean you should buy it just yet—we’ve got more to take a look at a real important subset of the features:
Themes and Apps
While I consider themes and apps to be under the banner of “features,” they deserve special attention when dealing with building software.
Let’s jump in! As far as themes go:
Big Commerce is okay. There’s obviously some level of subjectivity involved, but generally speaking:
BigCommerce doesn’t have a huge selection of templates.
At the time of this writing, we’re looking at just over 130 templates, most of them paid of course.
I’ll acknowledge that this is more in quantity than some of its competitors (*ahem* like Shopify).
BUT, it’s still questionable if that’s enough to choose from. It MIGHT be, because each theme comes with a few “styles,” or variations.
BUT (again) there’s the other problem of quality. I think they’re okay overall—if you take some time to find the right one and you tweak it properly, your site can look great.
The problem is just that you might need to take a little more time tweaking an existing site, because a lot of them look similar.
Overall, however, I think the themes are okay.
As for the app store, it’s pretty standard:
To be honest, RELATIVELY speaking, this is a big app store. I mean, we’re talking about over 600 apps:
BigCommerce simply won’t have the massive selection of integrations that WordPress or another CMS would have.
But the tradeoff is worth it in that you can be pretty much guaranteed a certain level of security and quality.
Because of the size, you can rest assured that basically, all the big apps are available (like MailChimp or ShipStation).
So here’s where things stand thus far, roughly speaking:
The apps? Great. The themes? Alright. Above average, but not “really” good.
We’re not ending on that note. Aside from these features, BigCommerce needs to get something else right:
After all, even if everything else seems great, you’ll need quality customer support if you’re in ecommerce.
Because even if your shop is set up just right and you’re making money off it—if a problem comes up, you’ll need it resolved QUICKLY and with minimal disruptions.
So customer support is an essential, even when you’re working with an out-of-the-box solution like BigCommerce.
And you don’t just want ANY customer support. You want THIS:
Is that what you get?
In my opinion, BigCommerce is definitely solid on customer support.
This is mostly because of the quality of conversations with representatives.
For example, BigCommerce is really proud of its phone support:
And while I can’t say I’ve had super complex problems to challenge reps on the phone, I can also confirm phone support has been fast and high quality.
Aside from 24/7 phone support, email and live chat support are also 24/7. And they’re both also pretty good.
The live chat is as fast as you’d want a live chat to be.
Email support is surprisingly fast. Obviously it’s not intended to be as instant as phone or live chat, but I’ve still gotten replies relatively quickly.
And then there’s on-site information. This is one of the things BigCommerce does SUPER well.
This is the help center:
Now, aside from being a sucker for modern design (don’t worry, I know not everyone else is), I love BigCommerce’s help center because it’s WELL-ORGANIZED.
So many sites (ahem…Shopify) have a lot of resources that are spread out all over the place.
BigCommerce keeps everything in one place. The knowledge base is of course always an essential:
And it’s also super well organized. Each of these subcategories has their own set of subcategories.
The articles themselves are high-quality, no real complaints there.
Then there’s the community:
This has a lot of forums and other more socially-oriented support features.
This is really useful, not just because you can get answers for weird questions that weren’t covered in standard help articles, but ALSO because:
You can get EXTRA tips and advice, including stuff you wouldn’t even think of:
In fact, these community pages are really underrated and underused.
There are some other aspects of BigCommerce that count as part of its good quality customer support. But aside from what I showed you, these things will usually be paid.
You can pay a little extra to get a design expert for personalized support.
But aside from those paid extra layers of support—which are still good, don’t get me wrong—the existing free support is still EXCELLENT.
I’m not sure which company I’d give a number one spot in customer support to, but BigCommerce is definitely one of the BEST.
So this leaves us with one last area: something that EVERYONE with ecommerce needs HAS to factor into their decision:
Security is of the utmost important when you’re doing business online. It’s EXTRA important when you’re RUNNING a business online.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that BigCommerce NEEDS to have solid security.
First off, the basics are covered. For example:
You should expect any ecommerce solution to have level 1 PCI-compliance, but it’s still good to see the gold-standard has been met.
And then BigCommerce makes the usual claims:
“Blah-blah, great security, something-something servers.”
This is what everyone says, even the ones that aren’t in ecommerce and even if they have nothing to back it up.
So I wouldn’t be super convinced by what BigCommerce says, EXCEPT:
They use Google’s cloud. That in itself is a guarantee of security (and performance, as mentioned earlier), because Google’s cloud platform is designed to provide industrial-strength and enterprise-sized hosting.
So you’re essentially getting a chunk of the highest-quality hosting, stuff that’s usually reserved for large companies, not individuals and small businesses.
Here’s an example:
All companies say they have DDoS attack-protection. But when BigCommerce says it, I believe them:
And specifically I mean: I believe that it’s QUALITY protection.
This extends to most else. The proof of this is in the results of great uptime and response times.
So while it sounds simple—and don’t get me wrong, I am simplifying somewhat—the general takeaway here is that BigCommerce IS SECURE.
I like this positive note. Let’s keep it going:
We’re finally beginning to wrap up this review. So, I’ll go through some of the pros to BigCommerce now:
- BigCommerce has great performance, including awesome uptime and response times.
- This is because BigCommerce uses Google’s enterprise-grade cloud hosting platform. The result is that BigCommerce is VERY secure and safe for ecommerce.
- BigCommerce is overall easy to use, for everyone.
- On that note, BigCommerce is especially friendly to developers.
- Overall features are really good and appropriate to prices. A great bonus is that the entry-level gets some features and tools that are reserved for higher-tiers on other platforms.
- Customer support is overall really strong.
We’ve got to get a little negative for a sec—but the good news is, none of these are truly serious flaws.
- BigCommerce is GOOD with shipping…BUT, it’s not AS good as its main rival, Shopify.
- It’s not that BigCommerce is HARD to use, it’s just not AS easy as some other platforms.
- There are online sales limits for the three pricing plans. These are overall reasonable, but in certain situations could unnecessarily increase the cost of BigCommerce.
- Some of the themes can look similar. Or not just not look great.
- People who are more confident in their ability to set up ecommerce tools on their own can possibly take more affordable options than BigCommerce: primarily, by using a free/open source CMS and equipping plugins as needed.
Conclusion: Do I Recommend BigCommerce?
So, it’s time for us to wrap things up—do I recommend BigCommerce?
Overall, I’ll say yes, and here’s why:
BigCommerce essentially does everything right. If you’re looking for a shopping cart building software, BigCommerce brings everything you need.
It’s easy to use, has great customer support, great performance, and great security.
But where it STANDS out compared to its rivals, is its generous feature allowances:
Several features are available for the first plan or second plan but reserved for higher tiers with BigCommerce’s rivals.
There are some downsides: it’s not AS easy as it could be, and there are sales thresholds that will force you to increase your plan price should you surpass them.
Shipping is good, but not AS good as Shopify’s—so if shipping is of UTMOST importance to you, you may need to deprioritize BigCommerce.
Plus, I’ll admit that BigCommerce can be a little pricey if you’re not looking for an out-of-the-box platform that does everything for you.
But all that aside—if you’re looking for an ecommerce solution that mixes ease of use with performance, power, and features—BigCommerce is GREAT.
You might not be sure—which is fine. The good news:
You don’t need to spend money trying to figure out whether BigCommerce is right for you or not. Check it out:
Any pricing plan will have all the essential tools and even some cool extra ones.
If you want to save money, you can use free themes and free plugins plus whatever pricing plan you purchased.
But realistically, most users will find that too limited. So realistically, you’ll be paying at least the cost of a pricing plan and a theme you like—and more likely than not, an app, too.
Plus, there’s something else that’s pretty important.
Something you HAVE to pay for:
Transferring a domain you’ve already registered is fairly easy.
And luckily, you can also register a domain directly from BigCommerce.
However, there isn’t one included for free (even for the first year).
As far as building the store goes, BigCommerce is pretty easy for the layperson.
The gist is that you’ll use a drag-and-drop style website building application for the basics of designing your site.
BigCommerce’s software also lets you edit store-details with a lot of depth, and you can manage some aspects of your store or website without using the drag-and-drop builder.
Developers can also use a programming interface for relatively straightforward direct editing.
What’s especially great is that because you can have unlimited staff accounts, multitasking with your coworkers is really easy—even if everyone has a different level of proficiency.