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Discover the features, benefits and drawbacks of both BigCommerce and Shopify to help identify the best SaaS platform for your eCommerce needs.

BigCommerce and Shopify are two major SaaS eCommerce platforms that enable businesses to launch online stores. These platforms allow you to employ a wide variety of tools without requiring advanced web development skills. In this guide, we’re breaking down the features, pros and cons of both BigCommerce vs. Shopify.

What is SaaS eCommerce?

SaaS, or Software-as-a-Service, refers to software that is licensed to a user and accessed through a browser without external hosting. One of the greatest advantages of SaaS platforms is that merchants do not need to maintain the software themselves because SaaS platforms host content instead of requiring external solutions.

Platforms, like Shopify or BigCommerce, maintain the servers, run upgrades and respond to issues. SaaS solutions typically require less time to develop and smoothly integrate with external ERP or CRM systems.

BigCommerce Features

Founded in 2009, BigCommerce supports any size business. Small, mid-market and enterprise brands are backed by a cloud-based infrastructure, product management and more. The platform even allocates products based on business size.

BigCommerce Enterprise is built for mid-market and enterprise businesses, while BigCommerce Essentials is built for small businesses. Both accept various payment methods, integrate with applications and systematize shipping.

No matter the business size, small, mid-market and enterprise brands are supported with BigCommerce. Request a demo here to learn how Groove's certified BigCommerce design and development team can help turn your site into a conversion engine.

BigCommerce Features & Functionality

Customization & Themes

Set up your online store quickly and make your website unique by customizing your site and checkout experience. The theme customization capabilities BigCommerce offers is a great starting point for mid-market and Enterprise businesses.

Brands can easily customize themes using HTML, CSS and Javascript and build off proven foundational themes, like Cornerstone. We also appreciate how BigCommerce uses Akamai Image manager to optimize images for distinct browsers and devices.

On the other hand, smaller businesses can leverage free and premium fully-responsive templates. BigCommerce’s intuitive storefront editor lets you change your site’s look with no coding required.

Another key benefit of BigCommerce is that you are able to test your website locally before publishing it. Gone are the days of pushing changes live without being sure of the end result.

Cloud-Based Hosting & Compliance

BigCommerce utilizes the Google Cloud Platform, so an external server is not required. Its cloud-based hosting offers high security, exceptional bandwidth and incredibly fast speed.

Its average connection time is under 10 milliseconds — which means faster page load times, improved conversion and better user experience.

With a 99.99% average uptime, BigCommerce is Level 1 PCI compliant with zero hosting costs. It protects and oversees servers to keep your business advanced.

Additionally, showcase your storefront and products in any left-to-right language with BigCommerce's native language support. This includes languages with complex, multi-byte character sets. Translation is also available through apps and APIs for third-party translation services.

Full-Feature CMS

If you don’t have any coding experience, don’t fret. Included with BigCommerce is a full-feature CMS to keep your store up-to-date. Publish and see the changes you’ve made in real time. The headless APIs facilitate integrations into your front-end CMS of choice, including custom-built solutions. Additionally, BigCommerce's new Page Builder functionality helps brands build new pages faster and with more control.

Payment and Inventory Management

Major providers, like PayPal One Touch, Stripe, Apple Pay and Amazon Pay, are all accepted with BigCommerce. If your company uses non-standard payment gateways, BigCommerce will not penalize you for it like Shopify does. Moreover, you can manage stock and customer orders from a single location with BigCommerce. Its complete inventory management system eliminates the need for third-party software and streamlines omni-channel sales.

Mobile & SEO Optimization

From homepage to checkout, mobile responsiveness is natively supported through any BigCommerce Stencil template. Additionally, you can increase product reach by integrating BigCommerce with Google Shopping.

Rank in organic search results with the built-in SEO features, such as customizable and SEO-friendly URLs, out-of-the-box metadata and robots.txt editing. For more information on how to make your products show in search and increase traffic, follow these BigCommerce SEO tips.

Omnichannel Selling

Whether you want to sell on marketplaces, on social media or in person, BigCommerce has the ability to do so. BigCommerce is the only eCommerce platform that natively integrates with eBay, Amazon, Facebook, Pinterest and Google Shopping. In other words, BigCommerce is the at the center of all your channels.

Utilize the BigCommerce Channel Manager to streamline and manage all of your sales. It automatically syncs, so manual tracking is not required. With just a few clicks, you can add a new channel or connect an existing one.

Application Integrations

BigCommerce integrates with external applications and has an industry-leading selection of third-party apps and integrations. These apps have the ability to complement your store, but BigCommerce does not require external applications to function like Shopify does.

Some of our favorite BigCommerce apps include:

Additionally, you can leverage customer and order data in HubSpot from your site with Groove's BigCommerce & HubSpot Integration. With this integration, capture BigCommerce abandoned carts, target the right customers with personalized emails to follow-up post-purchase and tailor content, offers and outreach to segmented leads while easily managing your data in bulk.

Explore the main features of BigCommerce abandoned cart and learn how you'll benefit from this integration with this quick read on BigCommerce vs Shopify's ability to seamlessly integrate with abandoned cart apps.

Robust API

BigCommerce has a high-performing RESTful API architecture that supports the JSON media types and uses UTF-8 character encoding. This robust API allows for mid-market and Enterprise businesses to develop custom integrations and functionality.

Increase your output and easily deliver better results by creating the website you have been envisioning. Build custom apps, custom integrations and partner integrations with the power of open-source software.

Explore these 4 BigCommerce features to learn how they can be leveraged to increase website performance and achieve business goals.

BigCommerce Review

BigCommerce Benefits

Low Cost

Because BigCommerce diminishes technical debt and reduces server costs, the cost of your website will be cheaper in the long run. SaaS eCommerce even costs about 75 percent less than on-premise platforms.

If you’re interested in learning more about BigCommerce costs, refer to this cost comparison tool and check out how to choose the right BigCommerce plan for you.

Ease of Use

In terms of usability, BigCommerce ranks at the top. One of the first things you see when getting started is the admin panel which is fairly intuitive. There are even videos available to guide you through the basic steps.

It takes little technical knowledge to continue running your website after launching it. The easy-to-use CMS creates an innate back-end user experience, and advanced features can be accessed in only a few clicks.

Out-of-the-Box Functionalities

BigCommerce includes out-of-the-box functionalities to minimize costs and extension configurations. In addition to website building, BigCommerce provides the tools needed to streamline your online business.

The high-converting templates are optimized for fast page-load across devices, so you don't have to worry about optimizing your site for mobile. Create a fully customized and responsive online store with code-free updates, or work with a developer to customize your website design.

If you're looking to migrate to BigCommerce from a different eCommerce platform, the bulk product import/export makes it easy. Whether you want to improve and optimize your store or sell on new channels, BigCommerce offers one-on-one support to help you reach your goals.

Powerful Theming Engine

Use Stencil, BigCommerce’s theming engine, to select one of the many pre-made themes in which you can edit the look and function of. Experience quicker load times, mobile responsiveness and automatic updates, among other things.

We've had the opportunity to work with Stencil on many client's websites, and our development team can't say enough about it. If you're interested in learning more, we compiled 5 reasons to switch from BigCommerce Blueprint to Stencil.

Vetted Apps & Custom App Development

BigCommerce’s API facilitates third-party app development and ensures security and stability by vetting apps in their store. Developers can create custom apps with minimal effort.

The platform enables various types of apps such as:

  • Single-click apps
  • Connector apps
  • Unlisted marketplace apps
  • Personal apps

Built-In Security

With BigCommerce comes impressive security. It is PCI compliant and ISO/IEC 27001 certified, which is the highest standard for securing customer data.

Utilizing the Google Cloud platform, BigCommerce features multi-layered security, unparalleled bandwidth and blazing-fast speed which allows you to spend less time monitoring and maintaining your site security and more time to focus on increasing conversions.

Reduced Go-To Market Time

On average, BigCommerce customers launch in 4-5 months or less. Specialized services and onboarding are made available to reduce your go-to market time and have your online store running quickly, accurately and completely.

Leverage the platform's launch services, and work with a dedicated launch manager who will create a fully-customized plan designed around your personal business goals. If you need custom design or development help, your dedicated launch manager will find you an Elite BigCommerce Partner Agency.

Customer Support

On average, the BigCommerce customer support team answers calls in under two minutes and solves 90% of issues on the first call. Plus, they're available 24/7 via phone, live chat and email.

The BigCommerce support experts are there for more than just basic fixes. Whether your questions are related to selling on BigCommerce, growing your business, increasing conversion, improving user experience or requesting solutions to taxes, payments, shipping and integrating software — they'll have them answered.

BigCommerce Drawbacks

Annual Sales Threshold

When it comes to BigCommerce pricing, it accounts for online sales per year. Subscription plans are increased when your eCommerce store reaches a designated annual sales threshold.

BigCommerce gives credence to the fact that its updated plans help businesses grasp supplementary features, such as Google Reviews, abandoned cart and store credit cards. But premium plans come with premium pricing. Read this BigCommerce Review for more information on BigCommerce pricing plans.

Limited Free Themes

If you’re seeking custom design, you will either need to purchase a theme or design a theme using an agency partner. Smaller companies looking for a solution should take into consideration additional costs of purchasing themes when evaluating alternatives.

Blogging

One of BigCommerce’s biggest weaknesses is its native blogging. Almost all of our BigCommerce clients host their blogs on either HubSpot or WordPress.

If you want to integrate these two platforms, check out the BigPr.es app we developed to help you include products into your blog posts. This BigCommerce WordPress plugin can even be used to create targeted content.

BigCommerce enables you to leverage the platform as the eCommerce engine while using the front-end CMS of your choice.

Shopify Features

Founded in 2004, Shopify provides a complete eCommerce solution that allows you to create an online store and sell your products quickly. Its simple-to-use control panel, easily-organized products and order management capabilities contribute to the platform's ease of use.

Shopify design and development benefits both marketers and developers; however, it does come with some limitations. Shopify’s product variant and customization limitations can create challenges for many mid-market and Enterprise-level businesses, so we typically recommend this platform for smaller businesses.

When it comes to Enterprise businesses, there are other alternatives we recommend. This quick read shares a Shopify vs BigCommerce comparison for Enterprise businesses.

Shopify Features & Functionality

Templates & Themes

Shopify includes 24 free site themes and offers 149 premium site themes ranging from $100 to $180. Customize the themes and best represent your brand by manipulating these templates with HTML and CSS access or through a Shopify expert.

All themes are optimized for mobile devices and support content marketing creations through blogging. Though Shopify offers more site themes in total than BigCommerce, the number of available site themes is not an integral component of choosing an eCommerce platform.

Cloud-Based Hosting

Shopify also uses the Google Cloud Platform, so no server is required. Its unlimited bandwidth means you'll never be charged based on the number of visitors or traffic to your store.

Like BigCommerce, Shopify is Level 1 PCI compliant, which means all Shopify eCommerce stores provide a legitimate and safe shopping experience and secure customer data.

CMS Product & Inventory Management

Shopify provides all the fundamental tools needed to run your online store, including product inventory management, sorting features, detailed product pages, price setting, shipping detail configuration and more.

Shopify's streamlined CMS interface makes it easy to add, list, edit and organize products within your store. The drag-and-drop ordering of product images makes it easy to build your product catalog.

Track inventory with multiple variants for each product, and receive warning notifications when items are out of stock. The streamlined dashboard displays important information and real-time statistics.

Use keyword tags to aid users in searching and browsing within your site, and leverage Shopify's supported fulfillment services, such as Fulfillment by Amazon, to let someone else handle the shipping.

Mobile & SEO Optimization

Shopify's responsive themes are optimized for any device and screen solution, so you don't need to worry about redesigning your website for mobile. It supports customizable H1, title and meta tags and generates sitemaps.xml files so that new products and site changes show up on search engines rapidly.

Omnichannel Selling

Merchants are able to sell on a variety of sales channels as Shopify integrates with Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Easily keep track of products, orders and customers across all sales channels.

Application Integrations

Shopify requires external applications to function. Meet the needs of your store and add further customizations with app integrations. Free and premium apps are available from the Shopify app store. Many apps are compatible with both BigCommerce and Shopify.

Robust API

Shopify's robust API provides many options for building your own custom storefronts or integrating into other platforms. The Shopify Admin API has 50+ endpoints to give you the freedom to build what you want in minutes.

Metric Reports

Track sales and trends with detailed reports on metrics like average order value, conversion rate, repeat customer rate, total online store sessions, total orders, sales attributed to marketing and more. Advanced tools like customer wish lists, product reviews and recommendations require additional costs.

View key financial information with the finance reports feature. See an overview of your sales, payments and pending sales data. Shopify offers the option to view full finance reports to see more details about your business.

Shopify Review

Shopify Benefits

Easy Set Up & Use

Shopify is simple to set up and use, with no developmental or hosting technicalities. Shopify itself provides the software and hosting required to launch a website. The admin interface and user interface is instinctive, providing an easy-to-use experience for both merchants and customers.

Expand Your Business

Shopify allows the opportunity to not only sell online but also in a physical store, popup store or remote location with a mobile device. This is beneficial in expanding an existing business to other channels or starting from the bottom-up.

App Integrations

Shopify’s customization abilities allows for it to be easily integrated with apps. Add supplemental features and functionalities to your eCommerce store with Shopify’s app integrations.

Drive more online revenue with our Shopify & HubSpot Integration. Capture abandoned carts, follow-up with customers post-purchase and automate content while managing data in bulk with this inbound marketing  driven integration.

Easy Payment

In any Shopify eCommerce store, customers are able to complete their purchases with various payment options at checkout. It’s simple for merchants to set up the payment gateway as well.

Shopify supports its native payment option, which allows customers to complete their purchase without additional fees. The list of compatible gateways includes PayPal, Authorize.net, Google Checkout and many more. However, using additional gateways will result in additional fees.

SEO Friendly

Shopify takes SEO into consideration when setting up your online store. Improve your search engine rankings with Shopify’s ability to optimize landing pages, custom title tags, meta tags and more.

Shopify Drawbacks

Additional Fees & Higher Prices For Advanced Features

Shopify charges for both a monthly subscription and individual transaction fees. Merchants are even penalized with additional fees if they don't use Shopify's payment gateway. Say goodbye to third-party payment gateways if you don't want to pay extra for them.

The Basic Plan comes with the minimum features needed to run an eCommerce business. Advanced features, like customer wish lists, product reviews and recommendations, fraud analysis and more, are only available in the more expensive pricing plans.

Many of the more useful apps require a monthly fee, which can get pricey after adding a few to your store. It becomes more expensive if your store requires hiring a developer to make necessary modifications, like integrating a new app or building other custom functionality.

Email Hosting

Web hosting is included in all Shopify plans, but email hosting is not. This means that merchants are unable to use a domain-based email address. Work around this issue by setting up email forwarding so that emails sent to the domain-based email address are automatically forwarded to your personal email.

Theme Customization With Liquid

Shopify uses its own PHP theming language referred to as “Liquid.” The themes and templates are coded with Liquid, so it’s difficult to customize themes if you don’t know how to code in that language. However, note that you may need to hire a developer who understands how to code in that language if you're looking for customization.

App Integrations Can Disrupt Your Theme

Although themes and third party apps provide additional functionality, there's a chance that an app may not work with your theme or may require modification to the theme to make it work.

Another consideration is that all app integrations are built differently. Some create additional files and inject those snippets into your theme's files. If and when you remove that app, it may delete only the app and keep the files it created. This leaves your theme with unnecessary edits that will cause potential issues down the road.

This becomes problematic if a developer is utilizing the Slate toolkit to connect or modify your store's current theme but is uninformed of the new app and its files. As a result, debugging and troubleshooting themes become more difficult.

In this shortened blog, we provide an in-depth analysis of Shopify pros and cons.

Success Story: A Re-Platforming Experience

Many eCommerce success stories involve re-platforming. Veppo, an online vape store, found their business growing and needed extra functionality for their online store. After considering Shopify vs. BigCommerce, Veppo went with the latter.

After running their store on Shopify, they came across several limitations:

  • Subscription orders were taken to a separate cart - which made for a bad user experience.
  • Customers couldn't use the same coupon codes in the normal cart and the subscription order cart.
  • And, every time Veppo wanted to make a modification or add something to their storefront, Shopify pushed them to third party apps with long build times, rather than offering an easier in-house solution.

Just after four months on Shopify, Veppo moved to BigCommerce. They're now paying 2-3 times less for the platform, and they're saving 75% of customer service time.

Making the move to another eCommerce platform is a large investment for any business but can change almost any part of a business for the better (or worse). It requires sign-off from many teams and sometimes puts the strain on existing systems.

Re-platforming often requires partnering with an agency to aid in the migration process. Learn how Groove Commerce, a certified BigCommerce Elite partner, can help design, build and grow your eCommerce website.

BigCommerce vs Shopify: Our Recommendation

With 13 years of eCommerce agency experience, we still believe that Shopify has its limitations for growing mid-market and Enterprise businesses. For this reason, we recommend BigCommerce is often the right choice for businesses in this size range.

When choosing between Shopify or BigCommerce, remember that BigCommerce is better suited for mid-market to Enterprise businesses. Why? Its robust API that allows larger, growing businesses to develop custom integrations and functionality. The team here at Groove values BigCommerce for its continued investment in platform growth, its customers and for providing the means necessary for helping businesses increase revenue.

Conclusion

Selecting the right eCommerce platform is a complicated yet fundamental decision. Utilizing Shopify or BigCommerce is great for experimenting with a SaaS platform; however, not all platforms are suitable for every business.

As you research alternatives, you'll find that many share common features and functionality. They may all seem like they perform the same, but in fact, each platform varies immensely. Before making a decision on BigCommerce or Shopify, we highly recommend considering your individual business needs and overall eCommerce goals.

We hope this guide has provided you with valuable information on what both BigCommerce vs. Shopify have to offer. If you have any questions, concerns or would like to learn about how Groove can help build and grow your online store, contact an eCommerce expert. A member of our team will be in touch to help guide you in the right direction.