Note: We have tested both platforms. Based on that, we have done a comparison that would help you to decide which one would be great for you.
The world of ecommerce site-building has a few giants. Perhaps the largest of them is Shopify: since its founding in 2006, it has processed more than $72 billion in sales—the GDP of a small country.
This staggering volume has set Shopify far apart from most of its other competitors.
There is, however, a rival shopping cart and e-commerce platform that holds substantial influence of its own.
That would be BigCommerce; like Shopify, BigCommerce was once a start-up with a small team that ballooned over the years.
Since its founding in 2009, BigCommerce has processed $17 billion in sales; although far from Shopify’s walloping figure, BigCommerce has certainly set itself out from the competition to become one of Shopify’s main rivals.
What’s more, BigCommerce has become the platform of choice for many of the world’s leading brands, such as Toyota, Motorola, Camelbak, and Ben & Jerry’s (among others).
So, how do they compare in terms of quality? Does BigCommerce’s pricing beat out its major rival’s? Do Shopify’s thousands of employees ensure it has better customer support than BigCommerce’s hundreds? Which service, in all, is better?
In this review, I’ll compare the two platforms using my experience and the facts on the ground. It’s tough, but both these platforms offer great services: so let’s figure out which one is the best for you!
The first thing you’re probably looking at is pricing…so let’s bring out a magnifying glass.
Shopify has three basic tiers, and two special tiers. The first of these special tiers is Shopify Lite: this is $9 a month, and is basically for selling on Facebook and Facebook Messenger.
The second is Shopify Plus, which is for big businesses: you’ll need to get in contact with someone to negotiate the deal for that.
The three main tiers are Basic Shopify at $29 a month, Shopify at $79 a month, and Advanced Shopify at $299 a month.
BigCommerce also has three main tiers, and one special tier. This special tier is also for the big businesses: Enterprise has custom pricing for those who are interested.
The three main tiers are closely priced to Shopify’s: Standard is $29.95 a month, Plus is $79.95 a month, Pro is $249.95 a month, and Enterprise has custom pricing.
If you pay annually, as opposed to monthly, Plus and Pro get reduced by 10%, to $71.95 and $224.95.
While it’s true that the first two tiers are slightly more expensive, those seriously considering eCommerce solutions know that a dollar is negligible in the scheme of things.
Most people won’t be paying monthly anyway, but for a year or more of service—making BigCommerce somewhat cheaper overall.
Even so, I still do not expect the difference of a $10 – $20 dollars for businesses seeking second or third-tier service to matter much against everything else.
More interesting is the difference between Advanced Shopify and BigCommerce Pro: a difference of about $50 a month. If a business is already considering either of these tiers, it’s very possible this difference isn’t too significant either.
Just in case, we can say that BigCommerce has better third-tier pricing.
Overall, Shopify and BigCommerce come up with very similar pricing lists.
Aside from those distances, the first two tiers—likely among their most popular—are nearly identical give or take a dollar.
While the two companies seem overall tied on price, let’s take a look at the comparison of their features…the thing that will really determine which is a better deal.
So, both Shopify and BigCommerce are similarly priced, give or take a couple differences.
How do features stack up for the nearly identically priced first two tiers, and how do they stack up for the packages with a significant price difference?
To start small, BigCommerce Standard and Basic Shopify offer unlimited products, sales channels through social media sites, branded online stores, and all the basic tools that come with setting up an online store.
Past that, the differences begin to accumulate: Basic Shopify gives you abandoned cart recovery and discount codes.
BigCommerce Standard gives you discounts, as well as coupons and gift cards—the last two are only available for Shopify’s second tier.
What’s more is BigCommerce standard has unlimited staff accounts while Shopify doesn’t offer unlimited accounts for any of its three tiers: the max is 15 with Advanced Shopify.
BigCommerce Standard also permits product ratings and reviews, shipping label discounts, real-time shipping quotes, better reporting tools, and single-page checkout. The only thing entry-level Shopify really has on entry-level BigCommerce is the abandoned cart recovery—important, but not everything.
By the way: Shopify does not have a single-page checkout for any of its tiers. All checkouts on Shopify have a three-step process, which is surprisingly outdated for the big name in ecommerce.
Meanwhile their third tier options stack up about equally. There are some things which BigCommerce lists that Shopify does not—however, from experience I can tell you this has more to do with how they classify items than a substantial difference in the amount of tools.
This leaves us with the following: the first two tiers are evenly priced, but BigCommerce offers a larger list of features.
The third tiers for both Shopify and BigCommerce are about evenly featured, but BigCommerce’s price comes in about $50 cheaper.
So while Shopify is still very well-featured—it will probably have everything you need—I would say BigCommerce might offer a little more value feature-wise.
But while both products have plenty to work with, how easy is it to actually use them?
Ease of Use
Shopify and BigCommerce have processed billions of dollars in sales in a matter of years: in doing so, they both have proven the value of eCommerce platforms.
Businesses need solutions that are not only cost-efficient, but time-efficient: in other words, they need to have a certain level of usability aside from being well-featured.
So how do these two titans stack up?
Here’s the easy answer: they’re roughly equivalent, but Shopify is a bit more user-friendly.
This shouldn’t be controversial—after all, the reason BigCommerce is the runner-up to Shopify in terms of eCommerce popularity is because it’s easy to use and onboard to.
However, I think Shopify may have perfected ease of use more than its little brother.
Shopify has a simpler layout that’s easier on the eyes, and perhaps faster.
The only real difference aside from aesthetic is most of Shopify’s menu options are on the left side, but most of BigCommerce’s are a toolbar at the top of the page—I personally find the former a little faster and easier to work with, but that’s just me.
Shopify also has a lot more explanatory material in the actual store set-up process. You hopefully won’t need it, but it’s useful nonetheless.
This is not to say that BigCommerce is confusing. Ultimately, if you’re truly confused by BigCommerce, you’d be confused by Shopify as well—the problem would be acclimating to eCommerce and setting up shopping carts in general.
However, while both are easy to use, navigating has been faster for me in Shopify. It’s not a huge difference, but one I still noticed.
For pieces of software as comprehensive as BigCommerce and Shopify, ease of use is naturally affected by the quality of customer support.
I’ll give you the good news right away: both Shopify and BigCommerce have strong customer support services.
As a matter of fact, these are among the best SaaS companies for customer support. Like most hosting and shopping cart companies, these two have options for contacting customer service representatives directly—which we’ll get to in a moment.
They also have on-site informational content, and here is where they excel.
Let’s start with BigCommerce: BigCommerce has a bunch of free webinars, a blog, a community forum, and a knowledge base.
The also offer a lot of documentation on Stencil, BigCommerce’s theming engine, and API documentation. These are a couple things developers on your team may find useful.
The first four items listed are somewhat requisite—a knowledge base and webinars are almost universal, and blogs and forums are very common. However, BigCommerce executes all of these very well.
Although BigCommerce is not as large as Shopify, I’ve found the community to be very impressive. There are still plenty of people tackling problems and posting creative ideas. The forum is certainly vibrant enough if you have an interest.
Shopify takes things a step further, so hold on to your seatbelts.
Shopify offers: a knowledge base, called their help page; “guides,” which is basically a collection of infographic-ebook hybrids; “academy,” which is basically a set of courses on different topics that one can enroll in; podcasts, of which there are only two options; a business encyclopedia; ecommerce university, which overlaps a lot with the guides; a page that lists free tools; a community forum, which is a subset of ecommerce university; Shopify “Burst,” which is a collection of free stock photos; and finally, Shopify “Polaris,” which is a lesser-known site that goes into extreme detail about Shopify’s design standards for those building Shopify stores for their clients.
Wow, that’s a ton of stuff. Let’s unpack a little: some stuff is more fluff than substance.
There are quite a few sites that provide free stock photos, and a business encyclopedia is presumably non-essential for those starting businesses (and even if it is, Google should work about as well).
Frankly, I wish that Shopify consolidated these things better. It’s a bit overwhelming—what’s the best resource to confront first? Nonetheless, Shopify Polaris, Burst, academy, guides, and the page of free tools are very useful.
Overall, I would describe Shopify’s on-site informational material as chaotic, but useful and comprehensive.
BigCommerce has less material, but I don’t think customers suffer because of it—they have enough of the right material, format it more simply, and keep things substantial.
Aside from the on-site informational content, how are the representatives?
The response took about a minute and a half, and answered the question directly without wasting any space or time. It’s a pretty ideal live chat experience.
I’ve found BigCommerce to be pretty much the same way; while not all my experiences with the live chat have been excellent, they’ve never disappointed me either.
The takeaway here is that both Shopify and BigCommerce have great live chat and customer service representatives.
They both have a ton of on-site material that is very useful. I don’t think anyone will feel their needs are unmet from such material, but nonetheless we can say Shopify has more.
While Shopify’s resources are much more cluttered and have a lot more fluff, they also have a few additional things that BigCommerce does not.
That, and the fact that Shopify’s community is generally bigger, means that customer support is overall a win for Shopify—though not a major defeat for BigCommerce either.
Security and Reliability Comparison
Security and reliability are two things you should always keep in mind when considering a hosting platform. When you’re looking at business hosting, shopping carts, and eCommerce solutions, those two things get even more important.
If your personal site goes down, or gets hacked, that’s a shame. If your store goes down, you lose money, and maybe future income from disappointed customers as well. Both Shopify and BigCommerce have managed to move around a lot of money—so does that mean they’re safe?
To a certain degree, yes. However, that must be taken with a grain of salt. And, which company does better? Let’s see.
Shopify is less transparent about its security, which is usually a bad sign. Their website talks about being PCI DSS compliant (this means they meet an information security standard as defined by a council of payment card companies) but that’s about it.
Shopify is certified Level 1 PCI DSS compliant—the best certification possible.
This makes them sound very good, but it’s actually pretty standard—it should go without saying that a major eCommerce software meets PCI standards.
Shopify also offers SSL certificates and some additional security tools—but frankly, that’s so fundamental I don’t really want to count it towards security.
BigCommerce is more forward about its security measures. They are also Level 1 PCI compliant, proclaim 99.99% uptime and 100% uptime during cyberweek (the Black Friday to Cyber Monday period), DDoS protection, sitewide HTTPS, and various other security protocols.
Outwardly, this makes BigCommerce sound better. In actuality, Shopify and BigCommerce are about the same. Shopify has most of the same defenses, but doesn’t detail them as much.
Further, Shopify and BigCommerce both have excellent uptime—BigCommerce chooses to emphasize it more. In my experience there isn’t much of a difference in the measures the companies take.
There is a difference in the extra steps you can take to protect your account and site. Both BigCommerce and Shopify have app stores, which include good security apps. Shopify, however, has a much more robust app store and a larger community building software for the Shopify platform.
Therefore, I would say that BigCommerce and Shopify have about the same quality of security and both perform very well—but BigCommerce is more open about the measures it takes, and Shopify has a larger selection of security tools for its users to choose from.
Both Shopify and BigCommerce are priced closely together, but BigCommerce is slightly cheaper if paid annually for its second-tier account, and overall cheaper for its third-tier account.
Though these price differences are not huge, BigCommerce does offer more features for the first two tiers, to the point I consider it overall a better deal at that basic level.
Shopify does have plenty of features, and smaller businesses should do fine on its first tier—to an extent, Shopify doesn’t list everything in as much detail as BigCommerce does.
However, BigCommerce is still overall more fully-featured at similar price points, so I would say it’s roughly the better deal.
As far as ease of use goes, the two are roughly on par, but Shopify is a bit easier on the eyes and has more efficient navigation, at least in my opinion.
Compounding with ease of use, as usual, is customer support: both platforms have great customer support. Both are great for contacting representatives, and the on-site informational and educational content is good for both.
The difference is Shopify has a lot more content, but is a lot more chaotic and full of fluff than BigCommerce’s content—which is simpler, and more concentrated. Nonetheless, I would say Shopify overall has better customer support and resources.
Both Shopify and BigCommerce are again tied for security and reliability. Both have app stores that include security tools, but Shopify’s app stores are a little more robust.
Overall, I would say BigCommerce is a better deal than Shopify—a victory for the underdog!
For smaller businesses and those who are less tech-savvy, I think Shopify has such extensive customer support and popularity that it may be the better option, however.
Both bring a lot to the table—if they didn’t, they wouldn’t process tens of billions of dollars in transactions!