In the last article of our series about ecommerce platforms, we look at BigCommerce, a relative newcomer to this space. If you haven’t already, make sure to check out our previous articles about Magento, WooCommerce, and Shopify.

What is BigCommerce?

BigCommerce was founded in 2009, which makes it the second youngest of the ecommerce platforms in our series (WooCommerce was initially released in 2011). Like Shopify, BigCommerce is a self-hosted solution, providing both the tools to build your online store and a web host.

According to the BigCommerce site:

  • They’ve processed more than $8 billion in sales.
  • Their average uptime is 99.99%.
  • Businesses using BigCommerce have averaged 28% sales growth annually.

BigCommerce doesn’t currently list the number of online stores they host, but in 2015, they hosted more than 95,000 store. Not an insignificant number, but only about a quarter of stores that Shopify claims.

Pricing plans

At the time of this writing, BigCommerce offers four pricing plans comparable to Shopify. Like Shopify, all BigCommerce plans have unlimited products. BigCommerce also lets you sell on social media (Facebook and Pinterest) and on your own personal site or blog, Amazon, eBay, and Google Shopping. They also offer POS with Square integration that enables you to sell offline.

Where BigCommerce differs from Shopify is offering unlimited staff accounts and no transaction fees regardless of plan.

(Disclaimer: All plans and prices listed reflect current offerings as of this writing. A year or two or five from now, these may no longer be accurate.)

Standard plan

BigCommerce’s entry-level plan is priced at $29.95 per month and offers the basics you need to operate an online store, including 24/7 technical support; coupons, discounts, and gift cards; real-time shipping quotes from a number of delivery services; reporting tools; product ratings and review; and responsive web design.

Plus plan

BigCommerce’s most popular plan is their Plus plan, which includes all the features of the Standard plan plus abandon cart saver (automated emails to those who abandoned their shopping carts) and customer groups and segmentation, which is useful if you want to run a loyalty program. This plan costs $79.95 per month.

Pro plan

Upgrade to the Pro plan, and you get two more features in addition to all the features of the Plus plan. The first new feature is Google customer reviews and the second is faceted search, also known as product filtering. As an example, for those whose business includes clothing, faceted search allows your customers to search by size, color, and so on. Expect to spend $249.95 per month for the Pro plan.

Enterprise plan

BigCommerce’s top tier plan has no listed price, but their website promises “custom pricing lower than Magento and Shopify Plus.” This plan has several more features than the Pro plan, including customizable faceted search and premium technical support.

Advantages

BigCommerce claims some big name clients, including Sony, Toyota, Ben & Jerry’s, and Dr. Pepper to name a few. So what is it about BigCommerce that they like so much besides the features already listed?

Management tools

BigCommerce provides easy-to-use management tools, including product management, order management, and analytics and reports tools, making operating your store that much easier. The reporting tool, in particular, is available to all users no matter the plan.

With Shopify, this tool is only available to the mid- and upper-tier plans, but as any marketer knows, reporting is crucial to the success of a marketing plan.

Integrated marketing

BigCommerce provides a marketing module with AdWords integration, coupons, discounts, and more to make marketing your online store easier. You don’t need costly plugins to automate at least some of your marketing efforts online.

Pricing

Relative to the number of features that you get, Bigcommerce is reasonably priced. Compared to some competitors, BigCommerce offers more features for about the same price. No transaction fees and unlimited product support are also very appealing to customers.

Of course, the prices listed for each of the plans doesn’t cover the cost of any plugins that you may need to get the features that you want. And don’t forget that credit card fees still apply.

Disadvantages

There are a few key areas in which BigCommerce doesn’t measure up to some of the other ecommerce platforms.

SSL certificate

Dedicated SSL certification isn’t included in any pricing plans as a standard feature. You have to pay extra for your own certificate. Customer purchases are still secure with BigCommerce, but without a dedicated SSL certificate, your customers have to complete their transactions on another domain rather than your own. This doesn’t inspire trust with your customers and can lead to fewer conversions.

By comparison, Shopify’s plans all include a free SSL certificate, so customers never leave the site to complete a sale. With BigCommerce, plans include a shared SSL certificate, but you may want to pay the extra cost for a dedicated certificate to ensure you don’t lose any customers or sales.

Plans and sales limits

While you may want to choose your plan based on features, BigCommerce charges you based on your average annual sales. Each of the plans offered by BigCommerce supports sales up to a certain dollar amount:

  • Standard plan sales are up to $50K.
  • Plus plan sales are up to $150K.
  • Pro plan sales are up to $400K.

If you opt for the Pro plan and exceed the $400K limit, then according to their website you are charged an additional $150 per month for each additional $200K in online sales up to $1 million. Exceed $1 million is sales and presumably you’re only option is the Enterprise plan.

App and theme store

Like the other ecommerce platforms that we looked at, BigCommerce also has its own marketplace for apps and themes so that you can purchase whatever you need to launch and customize your store. However, when compared with some competitors, BigCommerce doesn’t offer as extensive a selection of apps and themes.

This may mean having to hire a designer and/or developer to customize your store with the features that you need and the look and feel that you want.

Is BigCommerce right for you?

If the idea of having so many features appeals to you even without a dedicated SSL certificate, then give BigCommerce a try for free for 15 days. There are two free templates each with more than one styles to help you get started.

Wrap up

Now you know all the options that we presented to our client. So which one did they choose?

They went with WooCommerce. In the end, WooCommerce was the best choice for our client because it meant a one-time cost to design and develop a custom online store to fit their needs. Our client’s business is seasonal. Incurring a monthly fee to maintain a store that wasn’t making sales during a seasonal low didn’t suit their needs.

Also, prior experience with WordPress made WooCommerce an easy choice. There was little to no learning curve when it came to maintaining the site.

You have more options available to you today than ever before, so consider carefully your business needs, budget, and resources to find what’s right for your business.