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Shopify vs BigCommerce

Shopify vs BigCommerce
(Image credit: Future)

If you want to launch an online store, Shopify and BigCommerce are two of the best website builders for the job. Both platforms offer a wide range of ecommerce tools, including marketing and analytics features to help you scale your business. In this article, we’ll compare Shopify vs BigCommerce to help you decide which builder is right for you.

Shopify: a market-leading ecommerce builder

Shopify: a market-leading ecommerce builder
With over 1m merchants across 175 different countries using the service, Shopify is ideal for ecommerce sites. In addition to a wide range of third-party apps, its clutter-free interface and built-in shopping cart and checkout manager include additional marketing and security tools.

BigCommerce: premium online store builder

BigCommerce: premium online store builder
BigCommerce's drag-and-drop builder is supported with cutting-edge ecommerce tools, such as payment gateway options, app integrations and plug-ins, SEO analytics, and adaptive themes. A simple, clean editor and top-level resources make it a leading option.

Check out this exclusive BigCommerce deal:

Get two months free on BigCommerce plans

Get two months free on BigCommerce plans
BigCommerce is offering two months for free across all three ecommerce site builder plans until 31st January! Get started with your new ecommerce site for free, across the Standard, Plus, or Pro plans, and start selling online!

Shopify vs BigCommerce: What we compared

We took Shopify and BigCommerce for a spin to compare how easy they are to use, what features they offer for online businesses, and what each platform could do better. Specifically, our guide will cover:

User interface and setup

The Shopify dashboard showing a setup checklist

Shopify’s dashboard is clean and easy to use, and offers a setup checklist to help you launch your site (Image credit: Shopify)

Shopify and BigCommerce are easy to get started with. You don’t have to do any website design if you don’t want to, or even pick a theme at first. Instead, you can jump right into adding products, setting up your shipping and payment preferences, and linking any other sales channels you have.

We found Shopify’s dashboard to be slightly easier to navigate, in part because it’s less crowded with options. However, BigCommerce’s dashboard is pretty straightforward, too, and offers a very similar menu to what you’ll find in Shopify. Both platforms offer setup checklists to help you launch your online store.

The BigCommerce dashboard showing a setup checklist

BigCommerce’s dashboard is slightly more crowded than Shopify’s, but still straightforward to navigate (Image credit: BigCommerce)

Once your store is up and running, the BigCommerce dashboard effectively serves as an analytics overview. Shopify’s dashboard, on the other hand, offers tips, tutorials, and information about new features once the setup checklist is gone.

Pricing

Shopify and BigCommerce compete closely on price. Both platforms offer three pricing tiers with nearly identical subscription costs, plus enterprise options with pricing by quote only. 

There are some important differences in what you get with each platform’s basic and mid-tier plans. For example, BigCommerce offers unlimited staff accounts with all plans, while Shopify limits you to just two staff accounts with a Basic Shopify plan. On the other hand, abandoned cart recovery is included with all Shopify plans, but requires a Plus or Pro plan at BigCommerce.

Another key difference is that Shopify charges an extra transaction fee if you decide to use a payment processor other than Shopify Payments. The fee is 0.5% to 2% of purchases depending on your plan. BigCommerce enables you to use any of more than 55 payment processors, with no additional transaction fees.

Shopify vs BigCommerce: pricing compared
ShopifyBigCommerce
Free version?
Starts at$29 a month (Basic Shopify)$29.95 a month (Standard)
Mid-tier plan$79 a month (Shopify)$79.95 a month (Plus)
Professional level$299 a month (Advanced Shopify)$299.95 a month (Pro)

Templates and site design

The drag-and-drop website builder in BigCommerce

The BigCommerce site builder enables you to drag and drop content elements onto your pages, but you can't modify page sections controlled by your template (Image credit: BigCommerce)

Shopify and BigCommerce both offer templates to help you design your online storefront. At Shopify, there are 10 free templates and more than 90 paid templates. At BigCommerce, there are 12 free templates and more than 170 paid templates.

Neither platform’s website builder is especially adept compared to design-first builders like Squarespace or Wix. However, they offer a reasonable amount of flexibility for customizing the look of your store.

In Shopify, the content elements on your site are largely controlled by your template. You can toggle elements on and off, and move sections of your pages up or down, but there’s no way to drag and drop individual content elements around your page.

BigCommerce offers a bit more control, since you can select individual elements such as text boxes, images, and buttons and drag and drop them around your pages. However, some sections of your page are controlled by your template and can’t be modified, only toggled on or off.

Overall, we prefer BigCommerce’s site builder to Shopify’s, but neither platform puts a big emphasis on design.

Sales channels

Sales channels available in Shopify

Shopify enables you to integrate sales from Google, Facebook, Pinterest, eBay, and your point-of-sale software (Image credit: Shopify)

One of the great things about Shopify and BigCommerce is that each platform enables you to add multiple sales channels to your account. Linking your sales channels enables you to manage all of your online sales in one place, simplifying inventory, shipping, and accounting.

On Shopify, you can add accounts from Google Shopping, Facebook, Pinterest, and eBay, as well as integrate your point-of-sale platform if you have one. Shopify also offers more free sales channel integrations through its app marketplace, including for Amazon and Walmart.

On BigCommerce, you can add accounts from Walmart, Facebook, Amazon, eBay, Wish, and Mercado Libre. Clover is currently the only point-of-sale platform supported. Paid apps enable integration with Instagram and Pinterest.

Marketing campaigns

Creating an email campaign in Shopify

Shopify enables you to build email, SMS, and online ad campaigns to market to customers (Image credit: Shopify)

One major difference between Shopify and BigCommerce is in the degree of marketing features the two platforms offer. Shopify has built-in tools for creating email, SMS, and online ad campaigns, whereas BigCommerce does not.

On Shopify, you can create email marketing campaigns using a simple newsletter builder. The builder comes with hundreds of free templates. You won’t find advanced features like A/B testing, custom scheduling, or personalized discount codes, but you can segment your customers into lists for better targeting.

Shopify also enables you to set up SMS text campaigns as well as Facebook, Pinterest, and Snapchat ad campaigns right from your dashboard.

Importantly, BigCommerce does offer automated transactional emails that are sent to customers in response to purchases. You can also find third-party email marketing integrations in both the Shopify and BigCommerce app stores.

Sales analytics

Merchandising analytics report in BigCommerce

BigCommerce offers excellent sales reports, including one that shows the impact of your merchandising efforts (Image credit: BigCommerce)

Shopify and BigCommerce each offer impressive analytics dashboards, with a lot of options for digging into your traffic and sales data. Both dashboards are easy to use, and offer excellent data visualization.

Shopify offers two unique analytics features. First, the platform enables you to track sales that result directly from your marketing efforts. For any email, SMS, or ad campaign, you can see how much revenue the campaign generated and which products were purchased. 

Second, Shopify offers custom reports. You can build your own charts and filtered views to get more insights into your top-performing products and biggest customers.

BigCommerce doesn’t have the same flexibility, but some of the pre-made reports are worth noting. For example, BigCommerce offers a merchandising report that enables you to see how your discounts and promotions are generating revenue. There’s also an in-store search report that makes it easy to see what customers are looking for when they explore your shop.

App marketplaces

The Shopify App Store

The Shopify App Store has more than 4,200 free and paid apps to extend the platform’s functionality (Image credit: Shopify)

Both Shopify and BigCommerce offer extensive app marketplaces for adding more tools and features to your online store. The Shopify App Store has more than 4,200 apps, while the BigCommerce Apps Marketplace has more than 800. In both stores, you’ll find free and paid apps.

The app marketplaces are important because they offer a huge variety of ways to scale your business and customize the platforms. For example, apps on both platforms offer shipping and logistics services, advanced marketing and merchandising tools, and accounting features. 

There are also apps to customize your checkout experience, build mobile apps, and integrate physical stores into your online sales.

Which platform is best for me?

Shopify and BigCommerce compete closely for the attention of online business owners, and the two platforms have a lot in common. Both offer unlimited products, advanced selling tools, and app marketplaces to help your business scale.

That said, Shopify is slightly better suited for businesses that are scaling up quickly. That’s because it offers a wider range of apps, built-in marketing tools, and more flexible sales reporting. While you can certainly add marketing and analytics tools in BigCommerce through its app marketplace, having these features baked in from the start can make a big difference for your business.

BigCommerce is somewhat better suited for online businesses that have a lot of staff, or that want to use a payment process other than Shopify Payments. The fact that all BigCommerce plans come with unlimited staff accounts and zero transaction fees, regardless of what payment processor you use, is a big advantage for this platform.

Shopify vs BigCommerce: main features compared
ShopifyBigCommerce
UI and setupStraightforward, with setup checklistSlightly more crowded dashboard with setup checklist
Pricing$29 to $299 a month$29.95 to $299.95 a month
Templates and site design100+ templates, limited flexibility180+ templates, drag-and-drop editor
Sales channelsGoogle Shopping, Facebook, Pinterest, eBay, Walmart, Amazon, POSWalmart, Facebook, Amazon, eBay, Wish, and Mercado Libre, Clover POS, Instagram, Pinterest
Marketing campaignsIntegrated email, text, and online ad campaignsRequires third-party apps
Sales analyticsCustom and marketing-driven reportsMerchandising and in-store search reports
App marketplaces4,200+ apps800+ apps

What our reviewers said

“There’s a reason why Shopify is the world’s most popular ecommerce platform. It’s beginner friendly, easy to use, and has excellent online selling tools. In addition, it comes with a 14-day free trial, a selection of online store templates, and streamlined store management features."
Score: 4.5/5

“There’s a reason why Shopify is the world’s most popular ecommerce platform. It’s beginner friendly, easy to use, and has excellent online selling tools. In addition, it comes with a 14-day free trial, a selection of online store templates, and streamlined store management features."

Score: 4.5/5

“This builder is right up there with the best online store creators in the world. It’s a little more complicated than competitors like Shopify, but it’s great for those looking for a scalable solution with great design flexibility. Noteworthy features include a small but decent app library, a suite of SEO tools, zero transaction fees, an advanced mobile management app, and a suite of third-party marketplace integrations.”
Score: 4.5/5

“This builder is right up there with the best online store creators in the world. It’s a little more complicated than competitors like Shopify, but it’s great for those looking for a scalable solution with great design flexibility. Noteworthy features include a small but decent app library, a suite of SEO tools, zero transaction fees, an advanced mobile management app, and a suite of third-party marketplace integrations.”

Score: 4.5/5

Alternatives to Shopify and BigCommerce

If Shopify and BigCommerce aren’t quite what you’re looking for, there are plenty of alternatives available.

One of the best is Squarespace, which combines moderately advanced ecommerce features with best-in-class website design features. Squarespace offers beautifully-designed templates, and a site editor that’s much more flexible than what either Shopify or BigCommerce offers. 

You won’t have the ability to integrate multiple sales channels, but Shopify does include email marketing tools and a handful of extensions for managing your business. Squarespace ecommerce plans start at $26 a month.

Another option worth considering is WooCommerce, an ecommerce platform built specifically for WordPress websites. WordPress offers virtually unlimited flexibility when it comes to designing your online storefront, but it’s not as easy to use as Shopify and BigCommerce are.

WooCommerce is free, but the cost of running an online store can add up quickly since you’ll need to purchase a lot of third-party apps.


Further reading on website builders and web hosting

If you want to learn more about website builders, check out our guides to the best ecommerce website builders and the best small business website builders. We’ve also reviewed free website builders for individuals and small businesses on a tight budget, and profiled the best web hosting services in case you're looking for an alternative route to websites.

Michael Graw is a freelance journalist and photographer based in Bellingham, Washington. His interests span a wide range from business technology to finance to creative media, with a focus on new technology and emerging trends. Michael's work has been published in TechRadar, Tom's Guide, Business Insider, Fast Company, Salon, and Harvard Business Review.