BigCommerce vs Shopify Plus

Demand for software as a service (SaaS) ecommerce solutions is growing rapidly so we decided to look at BigCommerce’s answer to Shopify Plus.

Shopify Plus vs BigCommerce

Both of these market leading platforms are popular choices for online businesses because of their scalability, cost-of-ownership, and reduced maintenance overheads, but it’s difficult to know if you’re comparing like with like.

Background - BigCommerce and Shopify

BigCommerce - starting out in 2009, BigCommerce Enterprise was launched in 2015 to provide a natural progression path for growing businesses. In 2019, BigCommerce's revenue grew to $112.1million, an increase of some 22% from 2018. It’s now prominent in North America as well as its native Australia for business to business (B2B) brands and, more recently, for business to consumer (B2C) companies. It has around a 3% share of the world’s top 1milllion ecommerce sites.

Since 2018 the BigCommerce London office has been the centre of its European presence, where it is starting to build momentum. The company recently secured a $64million investment to support its ambition to grow in European markets and to accelerate product development. August 2020 saw its initial public offering (IPO) on the Nasdaq stock market.

Shopify - starting out in Canada in 2006, Shopify is a large and trusted player, especially for small and medium-sized B2C businesses. It has around a 20% share of the top 1million ecommerce sites. It has a global footprint and is developing a strong presence in the UK, France, Germany, and Australia, with revenue growing in 2019 to $1.578billion, a 47% increase over 2018. The enterprise-scale Shopify Plus was launched in 2014 to provide new features, integrations, access to the underlying code, and dedicated support options.

BigCommerce and Shopify Plus are popular with small to medium-sized businesses with revenue between £750,000 and £7.5million. They both have ambitions to secure their place with larger businesses and corporations with high sales volumes and advanced requirements.

BigCommerce vs Shopify Plus

In the early 2010s, the difference between BigCommerce and Shopify was clear. Straight out-of-the-box BigCommerce had the best functionality and Shopify had the best designs. Since then BigCommerce has improved its designs and Shopify has expanded its functionality.

BigCommerce benefits – although BigCommerce has a much smaller market share than Shopify and fewer apps, it can support complex requirements more easily, making it a popular choice for larger brands.

Shopify benefits – for businesses that are looking for ease of use and lower launch costs, Shopify is a popular choice.

However, there’s much more to think about. While the monthly prices are part of the picture, custom development, third-party systems, apps, and payment processing fees can make a significant difference to the overall ease of use and cost of ownership for each platform.

It’s important to fully understand your requirements and your appetite for customisation before making your choice.

Features BigCommerce Shopify Plus
Cost of ownership BigCommerce entry-level options depend on the value of online sales; BigCommerce Standard, BigCommerce Plus and BigCommerce Pro* are available. All have 0% transaction fees. BigCommerce Enterprise licenses are based on order volume and gross merchandise value (GMV). Build costs for larger sites typically range between £60,000 and £150,000, depending on requirements.

 

Shopify entry-level options depend on the number of users and locations; Basic Shopify, Shopify and Advanced Shopify are available. With Shopify Payments, which is available in some countries, 0% transaction fees apply. For enterprise-level Shopify Plus minimum monthly fees start at £1,575 plus GMV. Build costs for larger sites typically range between £60,000 and £150,000, depending on requirements.
Market sector Medium-sized B2B and B2C customers, especially with high volumes.

 

Non-complex medium-sized B2C retailers, especially fashion and lifestyle.
Integration partnerships Growing quickly with an Apps Marketplace, connectors and integrations.

 

A strong marketplace with existing integrations for complementary systems. Over eight out of 10 Shopify merchants say they rely on apps to run their business.
Application programming interfaces (APIs) Developing a robust API offer to support headless ecommerce and customisation.

 

Options available from Shopify API.
Product Management Good for more complex catalogs. Provides product attribute fields and allows users to choose scope, assign pre-defined options, and create custom fields. Complex product data and workflows are supported with third-party Product Information Management (PIM) systems.

 

Good for straightforward catalogs. Constrained by the limitations of tags and meta fields. Custom fields aren’t fully native. Can support complex product data and workflows with third-party PIM systems.
Extensibility Easy to set up with a growing focus on extensibility, especially for front-end functionality.

 

More rigid structure is good for fast, easy set up and management to keep costs down.
Ease of use Clean and easy to use interface. Customisation options can add to complexity.

 

Clean and easy to use interface. Straightforward administration options.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) Users can control multiple SEO functions including URLs. Limited flexibility and additional skills are needed to change URLs.

*up to $400,000 online sales, plus $150 per month for each additional $200,000 of online sales.

Considerations - BigCommerce vs Shopify Plus

Most providers will say that their platform is easy to use. It’s an important consideration because usability can save or waste a lot of time.

BigCommerce features powerful built-in features, like order management, which inexperienced users can find harder to navigate and more difficult to understand. However, BigCommerce now provides the Page Builder visual editor to help. There are also a growing number of tools available in the BigCommerce app store.

Straight out of the box, Shopify is designed to help users set up an online store quickly, but this comes at the cost of easy customisation which requires some understanding of Liquid, Shopify’s template language.

Popular tools are available in the Shopify app store to make life easier, for example the Shopify Flow automation platform allows workflows to be created with triggers, conditions and actions. Shopify Launchpad helps to schedule, coordinate, execute and track sales, product drops, and restocking inventory with a real-time analytics dashboard.

URL structure can play an important part in achieving the search engine results you are looking for.

BigCommerce offers a traditional catalogue tree and provides default URL formats for products, categories and webpages but they can be customised to suit your market. This helps search engines to see the structure of your site and improve SEO. Combined with BigCommerce’s on-site faceted (filtered) search, which offers more than basic product tags, conversion rates can also be improved.

Shopify Plus takes a simplified approach by organising products using ‘collections’ which auto-populate based on product type, vendor, tags, or price. Categories to showcase products within a certain price range or items currently on sale can be created. However, it’s difficult to edit URLs and sitemaps are generated automatically and aren’t editable. Advanced SEO features are more difficult to achieve and more traditional category and subcategory structures must be combined with basic filtering or a third-party app; a third-party solution is needed to support faceted search.

Focusing on Technical SEO during your Web Build Pays Real Dividends

This is an area where the different approaches of these platforms come in to play. BigCommerce is developing the platform to offer more complexity while Shopify Plus focuses on innovation to support lean and agile operations.

Larger stores, international brands and multi-brand businesses will often require workarounds when using their PIM and enterprise (ERP) systems to deliver data into multiple stores with either platform. Both BigCommerce and Shopify are expected to offer partial solutions soon.

Many larger businesses considering BigCommerce Enterprise or Shopify Plus will already have a PIM or ERP system. Integration helps to streamline multi-store management and deliver end-to-end customer experiences.

Both platforms offer PIM integrations with providers like Akeneo and Jasper, for example. Integration with powerful ERP systems like NetSuite and Microsoft Dynamics can deliver operational benefits and improved customer satisfaction. These integrations need to be carefully managed, so it’s important to work with a Shopify or BigCommerce agency with a proven track record.

integration, illustrated by numerous squares

BigCommerce and Shopify offer features to improve conversion during checkout. These include an abandoned cart saver and customisation including checkout with either Google or Facebook.

BigCommerce Enterprise includes standard checkout features such as easy product modification on the cart page, giving customers options such as selecting and changing their choices to alter the size of clothes. Customers can also see estimated shipping and sales tax on the cart page. Developers can choose the best APIs to create their own user experience at checkout using the BigCommerce software development kit (SDK) wrapper. They can create options such as customer login management, shipping quotes, and processing payments.

In contrast, Shopify Scripts is needed to customise the checkout experience in Shopify Plus. Modifications to shipping and payments can be supported, for example to hide specific options such as in-store pick up if a customer is outside the area. Shopify Scripts includes a range of templates that can be modified to create specific discounts or they can be used as a starting point for other customisations.

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Businesses can choose their preferred programming language thanks to the BigCommerce RESTful architecture. BigCommerce Enterprise offers unlimited API calls and can support hundreds of calls per second, allowing bigger businesses to connect without bottlenecks to their PIM, ERP, and CRM systems.

Shopify APIs are rate-limited and developers will need to use call-limiting techniques such as staggering API requests in a queue or processing other tasks while waiting for the next queued job to run.

User journeys can start in many places, including websites, campaign landing pages, search engine results pages, social media or marketplaces like Amazon. Both platforms have a powerful offer for multi-channel integration.

BigCommerce includes integration with Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. It says it focuses on channels that are known to drive revenue growth. Shopify includes over 20 channels to help businesses expand their reach and streamline multichannel sales.

BigCommerce offers advanced shipping options, and BigCommerce Enterprise includes integration with ShipperHQ, allowing customised shipping rates by product, category, customer group, quantity, destination, or dimensions.

Shopify Plus offers access to discounted rates when shipping labels are printed directly through Shopify. Users can customise shipping via the Script Editor to rearrange shipping rates, or disable certain rates by country, for example. However, if your team isn’t familiar with Ruby on Rails, third-party support will be needed. Adding dimensions and other product variations will also need additional customisation.

Packaging on distribution line

BigCommerce has a much clearer focus on the B2B and wholesale markets. It includes features and has APIs to support:

  • price and customer lists
  • quotes and purchase orders
  • tiered and dynamic pricing
  • wholesale shipping rates
  • credit limits and payment terms.

The Shopify Plus provision for wholesalers has improved to meet basic requirements. However, it’s not as scalable as the BigCommerce offer because theme customisation and bespoke configurations aren’t as flexible.

 

BigCommerce supports multi-currency transactions and accounts for multinational businesses working in local currencies. It includes integrations for a range of payment partners and point of sale solutions. This appeals to established businesses that want to stay with their existing payment gateway.

Shopify Plus has a payment offering in some countries, Shopify Payments, which is a version of Stripe. It includes out-of-the-box payment methods, including Apple Pay and Android Pay. However, integrations with third party payment providers can be more difficult to implement and will add costs.

In 2017 Shopify launched Shop Pay (formerly Shopify Pay) which allows customers to use a 6-digit verification code sent directly to their phone rather than entering delivery and payment details at checkout in Shopify stores.

For multi-national businesses using Shopify, multi-currency payments must go to a single account rather than into accounts for each operating country.

The future face of payments

Visit review sites and you will see some themes emerge for both platforms.

For BigCommerce, users who have tested the free trial offer and are familiar with ecommerce, perhaps because they already run an online business, will be happy with functionality and scalability. The most common concerns are about customer support and service. However, if you’re heading for BigCommerce Enterprise or working with a BigCommerce agency to develop your ecommerce offer, you’ll have support and advice on hand.

Shopify Plus users are happy with how quickly they can launch a site and with its ease of use. Concerns are largely around limited functionality and scope for customisation. Some users have concerns about the ultimate price of their solution once they have included the costs of all the customisations and additional apps they need.

Smartphone featuring customer reviews including photos from Yotpo

How do you choose between BigCommerce and Shopify Plus?

person in a vinyl shop

BigCommerce is growing in popularity with medium-sized and large businesses, offering good scalability and headless options. BigCommerce is certainly stronger for B2B ecommerce.

Shopify Plus will be popular for businesses looking for ease of use, a quick turnaround to launch their site, and a good level of control. However, the trade-off is the limited flexibility and customisation that can be achieved without extensive third-party support.

Williams Commerce is a BigCommerce Elite Partner and Shopify Plus Agency Partner, so please get in touch if you would like to discuss your ecommerce needs.