June 28, 2017

Choosing between Shopify vs BigCommerce for small businesses

Every business has a slightly different set of requirements, so we’re going to unpack two of the leading eCommerce platforms, Shopify and BigCommerce, so you can see which is the right platform for your brand. 

The major similarity between Shopify and BigCommerce is that they’re both fully hosted platforms that are fast to get live and straightforward to run, making them perfect for start-ups and small businesses, and they’ll continue to grow with you as your business does. 

There are differences within the platforms and before you start comparing, you need to look forensically at your own business and look at its strengths and weaknesses. What are you good at? Where do you need support? How is your team structured? 

For example, if you don’t have the in-house skills to manage hosting, design, custom development and the like, you will either need a digital agency like The Hope Factory to take care of it for you, or use a hosted platform like Shopify (or both!).

We also recommend you create a second ‘wish list’ of what you want the site to be able to deliver. For example, do you want a loyalty program? Do you need a live product feed? Do you need it to be easy to update? Do you want Instagram feeds? Ratings and reviews?

Once you have both of these lists in hand, it gets a lot easier to make a considered decision and get on the right platform.

THE BIG PLAYERS

You will see brands bandied about, such as Wix, Wordpress and WooCommerce, Magento, Shopify, BigCommerce, Big Cartel and more. All can be compared, all have merits, all have differences (some more subtle than others) and all have some downsides.

Today, we’re focussing on comparing two of the leading platforms, Shopify and BigCommerce. Both are major players with a solid track record. Both have ‘tiers’ of their offering, making them suitable for both small businesses and major enterprises, which is fantastic for businesses who are starting out and plan to grow.

YOUR BUSINESS SIZE

There are different types of Shopify and BigCommerce platforms so you can set yourself up on the right version for the size of your business.

Both offer multiple tiers, such as Shopify Lite that gets you selling on Facebook and processing payments, then there are three tiers of standard Shopify that are priced according to their features (which are Basic Shopify, Shopify and Advanced Shopify). 

For startups and smaller businesses, we recommend Advanced Shopify for the excellent sales features like abandoned cart recovery and shipping options, and for enterprises, The Hope Factory works with Shopify Plus and it’s just brilliant.

BigCommerce also offers Standard, Plus and Pro levels out of the box for small businesses (and Enterprise for larger brands).

Both platforms offer a level to suit your business.

THE COSTS

Both platforms have similar pricing models and both offer a free trial. Both are fully hosted and you pay a flat fee per month for this, which includes maintenance of the platform.

You will also often pay for premium apps on a per month basis, which can add up.

Shopify stands out by offering a great payments gateway out of the box, which may save you fees in the longer run.

Shopify has five plans, ranging from $9 per month to $299 a month, and BigCommerce has four plans, from $29.95 to $249.95 a month, and both price their Plus and Enterprise plans separately. If you want to talk to us about enterprise-level pricing, just get in touch [https://thehopefactory.com/]!

HOSTING AND DOMAINS

Shopify & BigCommerce both allow you to have your own domain linked to your store and both are wholly hosted solutions that can be set up (even without a custom domain) in minutes.

THEMES & DESIGN

Design is so important in eCommerce, and responsive design (the ability to be mobile and tablet friendly) is imperative. Both Shopify and BigCommerce use themes to create a design framework for your website.

Shopify and BigCommerce have a range of free and paid themes with different sets of functionality, and all are currently responsive. Until a major revision in early 2016, BigCommerce themes looked straight out of 2008, but they’ve since improved with a new suite of designs.

Shopify theme store

You can view the Shopify theme store here for inspiration and check out the BigCommerce theme store here.

For both platforms, some are free, and the better quality, feature rich ones, tend to attract a modest one-off fee to install. Both Shopify and BigCommerce themes are very easy to install and allow you to start modifying it with your own brand elements and photography. 

When it comes to raw numbers, Shopify is a clear winner, with almost twice as many Shopify themes to choose from, three times the free themes to choose from, and a better price point for paid themes (Shopify charges $100-$180 per theme, versus $145-$235 for BigCommerce themes).

Shopify also engages independent designers to create their themes, which delivers a fresh perspective on design and it’s paying off in spades for people who use them.

Here at The Hope Factory we hold the view that the Shopify themes are far better from a design and user-experience (UX) standpoint. Shopify wins on variety, volume, price point and style, hands down. 

DRIVING TRAFFIC

Getting your site launched is just step one, because you then need to drive customers to it. Every site needs a solid traffic-driving strategy, which usually encompasses SEO (search engine optimisation), AdWords, digital advertising and re-marketing, social media, content and more. 

With recent and ongoing Google updates, you need to have a solid SEO proposition built into your online store.

Both Shopify and BigCommerce offer extensive SEO capabilities, but Shopify has a more powerful set of SEO features than BigCommerce, and there’s a detailed analysis at this link if you’re keen to read more.

Verdict to deliver traffic? They’re both good, but Shopify is better than BigCommerce.

PRODUCT AND INVENTORY MANAGEMENT

As a business owner you need to be able to update your new ranges and product features quickly and easily.

Both Shopify & BigCommerce, in the back end, have a Products section where you can add and edit products. Both offer a bulk upload feature, and both have capability to be linked to your stock management or warehouse data.

Both have a pretty good interface, so it’s easy to get around and do what you need. If you need to manage a big integration, such as live product feed with many thousands of SKUs from one or more suppliers, BigCommerce out of the box has a robust capability for that, while Shopify Plus is your better option. 

APPS AND INTEGRATIONS

Apps and integrations are the elements that really customise your consumer experience. For example, loyalty programs, shipping choices, SEO tools and pop-ups can all come via apps. 

When it comes to the wish list of features you wrote up, many will be included in your template, and any extras can come from the app store.

The Shopify App Store is a treasure trove of apps to choose from. Many are free, many require investment, but all can be integrated with a few mouse clicks and no coding skill to get up and running, although to achieve real polish you may want to work with an agency like us!

Both platforms give you the core tools you need to operate,with BigCommerce offering you a few more advanced tools in their monthly packages.  

With Shopify, to get those similar features, you may have to purchase Apps, but this isn’t a negative, as Shopify offers you a much more comprehensive set of Apps and features so you can really tailor your site.

Another important difference is Shopifys Payments feature, saving you money and no mucking about with external payment gateway providers.

POINT OF SALE

Point of sale solutions are critical if you are also going to be selling at markets, trade fairs or have a bricks and mortar store, and it’s best if you have your payments system, or POS, linked up to your online store (mostly so you can track inventory and stock levels, orders, customer data, and cut out the need to run two data streams for your accounting platform).

Shopify offers a POS App that can go onto any device and accept credit card payments in a jiffy. If you invest in hardware like scanners, cash drawers and receipt printers, you’re definitely on the move, with the options to accept payment via cash, credit, gift cards, Apple Pay, or Android Pay.

To use POS with BigCommerce, you need to go third party with Square, Shopkeep or Springboard Retail hardware and set it up separately.

Its up to you which solution suits your business best. For example, if you have with an existing relationship with Square, Shopkeep or Springboard Retail you might want to keep this going with BigCommerce.

If youre after a simple, out of the box POS solution, its a green tick for Shopify.

TIME INVESTMENT - BUILDING IT

One of the great benefits, especially for small businesses, is the ability for fully hosted platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce to be pushed live quickly with the minimum of fuss.

Both offer free trial periods and stores can be set up with ease. Our personal view, matched by most views out there, is that the back end of Shopify is more intuitive and easier for people to use, which speeds up the process.

In addition, Shopify has better design out of the box and requires much less custom coding. In addition, the Liquid programming language is fast and simple to create for developers.

Both platforms will get you live much more quickly, and cost effectively, that a non-hosted solution like Magento or Wordpress/WooCommerce, and we think Shopify is easier. 

TIME INVESTMENT - OPERATING IT

No doubt, BigCommerce is a robust and solid platform, and well respected. While it stopped reporting its numbers in 2015 (which is a red flag for some), at last report they have over 95,000+ users worldwide.

Keep in mind that Shopify has over 400,000 users worldwide, and with this scale and growth you attract better designs, more support, and more apps and features. The back end is a breeze and new features and apps are as simple as clicking your mouse a few times.

On an ongoing basis, both platforms are easy to maintain and operate, but we personally think the back-end interface in Shopify is a touch more intuitive and easier to get your head around, making it easier to operate. 

THE BOTTOM LINE

When it comes to making a decision between Shopify and BigCommerce, Shopify has a bigger (and much better) set of themes, a bigger experts marketplace for help when you need it, more apps and larger group of paying customers.

This gives you better design, better access to help, and a rapidly growing suite of features that will ensure your Shopify store evolves and changes as your business does, keeping pace with a fast moving market.

Certainly, BigCommerce matches most of the Shopify features and functionality, and is better in a few respects. But it is more expensive (which can be hard on a small or start-up business), has sales limits that will add to your fees if your shop is successful, and it appears to be slowing down on the user / customer front, which doesnt bode well when it comes to future improvements.

This is why we work with Shopify. It ticks so many boxes and it's why we chose to become Shopify Experts.


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