Shopify is a leading online shop builder – it is currently powering over 243,000 online shops and has helped businesses process over $14 billion worth of sales. Take a look at these examples here and you can see what Shopify can do for you. You can also see a lot of customer success stories here.
It doesn’t matter if you are just starting a new online shop, or bringing an offline store online to grow your business, the last thing you want to do is troubleshoot technology. Shopify can help you save time so you can focus on other important aspects of your business.
One key thing that we think Shopify has done exceptionally well, is invite other vendors (such as theme designers or online tools providers) to integrate their services and products into Shopify, making Shopify a 1-stop-shop for all the tools you’ll need to create a successful online shop. We’ll give you more details below.
When you Google the words “shopping cart” you’ll find Shopify at the top of the page. Shopify may be the best-known cart on the market (thanks in part to that sponsored Google ad!,) but when you get beyond the glossy marketing, is Shopify as well-built and simple to use as it appears to be? Competitor Bigcommerce is also a popular option that claims to offer merchants an easy-to-navigate interface and access to a robust variety of features. But does it deliver?
Based in Austin, Texas, and London, Bigcommerce rolled out in 2009. More than $5 billion dollars in sales have been logged by over 95,000 Bigcommerce customers since that time, including Toyota, Gibson Guitar Corporation, and Pandora. In fact, Bigcommerce supports online stores for sellers working in more than 65 countries around the globe. Ottawa, Ontario-based Shopify boasts more than 850,000 users, including Amnesty International and the Foo Fighters, and has also helped merchants complete over $5 billion in sales.
The following article is the result of hours of homework on both Shopify and Bigcommerce. I’ve cherry-picked crucial info you’ll want to know about cost, customer service, ease of use, user testimonials, and more. Read on to learn about which shopping cart has the best tools to support your ecommerce store.
Web-Hosted or Licensed:
Both Bigcommerce and Shopify are web-hosted.
Hardware and Software Requirements:
Bigcommerce and Shopify are both hosted, cloud-based shopping carts. To operate your store using either cart, you only need a computer with a web-enabled internet connection and a browser.
For most of us, price is an essential factor to consider when choosing a shopping cart. You won’t have to do any heavy research to learn that a lot of merchants grumble about Shopify’s transaction fees. I’m right there with them, since I think as much of the money you earn should stay in your pocket as possible. But the good news is that Shopify removed transaction fees earlier this year for users that sign up for it’s new payment processor, so there is a pretty easy workaround if you’re smitten with the cart.
Each cart offers free, no credit card required trial periods (15 days for Bigcommerce, 14 days for Shopify) and doesn’t charge for setting up or canceling plans.
As far as monthly prices go, both carts are competitive, offering unlimited online storage, bandwidth, and number of products. In fact, the comparative plans are identical in price (at $29 and $79 per month, for the mid-range plans) though Shopify offers a starter plan at a mere $9/mo, which goes unanswered by Bigcommerce. Both carts offer their version of Enterprise plans, though we’ll be basing this comparison on the lower level plans only.
Our winner in this category is Shopify. Big commerce imposes a transaction fee on their $29 plan (albeit a small one,) and there’s that extra starter plan offered by Shopify. As for monthly prices and features offered at each level, each cart was on fairly equal footing.
Ease of Use:
Shopify and Bigcommerce each offer easy to use admins. If you’ve posted to a WordPress blog or have sold on Etsy in the past, you’re not going to have much trouble getting a feel for how to choose a theme, change settings, and load products and images to your admin with either cart. Both carts walk you through setup and extend a helping hand via phone support, forums, a Knowledge Base, and more.
Shopify 2 rolled out with new drag and drop functionality and a smart WYSIWYG editing tool. I love the live editing capability offered by Shopify that lets you see changes in real time. Bigcommerce separates adding products into tabs, so you can take it a step at a time. Both interfaces are easily searchable and broken out into intuitive subheads, too.
Since Bigcommerce delivers more out of the box functionality than Shopify, you’ll have to learn some more elements in order to navigate the backend. But in my opinion it’s worth committing a little extra time if you hope to end up with a well-functioning store that takes full advantage of reporting and discounting features. At the end of the day, it comes down to which interface is the most intuitive for you. Access Bigcommerce’s CMS here and Shopify’s CMS here via free trials.
If you’re looking for a cart that comes lean and light out of the box, Bigcommerce is not for you. Otherwise, I think you’ll be happy with what Bigcommerce offers in the features department: It comes chock-full of more options than you may need (like a rule to set BOGO discounts) or want (I doubt many of us will utilize per-staff permission for adding/editing listings in eBay.) Gift wrap for the holiday season, sales tax reports that are sortable by date, and more, it’s all there. And if it’s not, Bigcommerce runs an app store.
While Shopify offers plenty of features out of the box, I didn’t see quite as many extras as I found with Bigcommerce. In fact, you may need to pay for integrations with Shopify that are already loaded in Bigcommerce when you sign up, like single-page checkout and an eBay plug-in. Read more about each cart’s latest features in our full Shopify review here and Bigcommerce review here.
Shopify easily dominates when it comes to web design, offering many more free themes (and in my opinion, better designed ones) than Bigcommerce. Shopify’s hundreds of themes help your business look sharper and savvier, so you’re ready for your first sale You can tweak templates and access HTML via both cart’s admins (Bigcommerce has a Style Editor, but in my opinion it requires that you know a little more code in order to apply substantial changes) but I think it’s less likely you’ll want to make serious alterations to most of Shopify’s gorgeous skins.
Bigcommerce offers 57 (at last count) attractive and clean frontend themes, 38 of which are Responsive (meaning that they automatically adjust to any device’s screen size.) Or you can tap into the Bigcommerce design and developer network. (As far as I can tell you’ll have to sign up for a free Bigcommerce trial to check out the theme library via its CMS; I couldn’t find a gallery of templates anywhere on the cart’s website…which may be a subtle marketing tactic.)
As I mentioned in the Ease of Use section above, both Shopify and Bigcommerce offer eye-pleasing and thoughtful admins. I like that Bigcommerce lets you make select edits directly on your store’s frontend interface. But Shopify 2’s recently rolled out admin underwent a major refresh that made an already good CMS really great. For me, the improvements (centering around Shopify’s new live theme preview editor) will make life easier and save you time, plain and simple.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
Bigger doesn’t always mean better. But in this case, Shopify’s extensive App Store edges out Bigcommerce’s apps. Sure, just because Shopify offers a slew of apps doesn’t mean they’re actually well-built or particularly useful to merchants. But many of the add-ons offered by Shopify are well-crafted, earning positive reviews from users. Bigcommerce also offers plenty of helpful and smart integrations, including Fresh Books and Google Analytics. Yet compared to Shopify’s more than 40 social media apps and around 100 marketing apps, Bigcommerce takes second place.
Still, keep in mind that Bigcommerce comes with more extras out of the box that Shopify may charge you to download, including tiered pricing and reporting features.
Both carts offer similar options when it comes to credit card payment processors: Bigcommerce integrates with more than 60 leading processors, including PayPal and Google Checkout, Shopify supports over 70 popular gateways, including Authorize.net and Braintree.
Going with Shopify’s processor, Shopify Payments, remedies one of its main weak points–transaction fees. They’re waived if you sign up. Given this selling point, and their greater number of payment processors in general, Shopify takes the win here.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
Both carts maintain plenty of online support: Bigcommerce operates a helpful forum, has published more than 500 topical articles, and maintains a Knowledge Base, as well as Facebook and Twitter pages. But you’ll also want to know that there are a good number of complaints from users about Bigcommerce’s support staff–some merchants have claimed that issues with their stores were not resolved promptly and/or handled by competent team members.
The two companies offer near-identical support plans, so our decision was ultimately made by the user community itself. Shopify has a slightly better track record of resolved Customer Support issues, though both companies are doing well. That’s why we’re giving Shopify the win in the customer care bracket.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
We spent hours culling user feedback about Shopify and Bigcommerce. The result of that research turned up some negative reports for each cart. Several Shopify users complain about the cart’s transaction fee, but that fee is now waived via the new Shopify Payments. Others don’t like that when a customer is ready to complete a sale he or she is redirected to the Shopify domain (checkout.shopify.com), or that add-ons can rack up cost. And some desired one-page checkout.
But overall, we found more negative interactions reported by Bigcommerce customers. As previously mentioned, some claimed to have bad experiences with tech support, including issues left unresolved and lack of access to support after hours on the weekends (update: 24/7 phone support has recently been added to Bigcommerce’s repertoire of services.) In addition, other merchants wished for stronger free templates, a blog and newsletter (update: the blog has been recently added as a built-in feature), and an easier way to customize stores without knowing HTML.
In light of the several big changes from Bigcommerce to address these concerns, we’re very nearly at a tie in this category. Still, until we see a track record of success, demonstrating concrete results, Shopify is a small step ahead.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Bigcommerce merchants reported satisfaction with the cart’s lack of transaction fees and unlimited bandwidth, strong SEO tools, and one-page checkout. Others like its built-in marketing features and active forum.
In general, Shopify customers like its ease of use. I agree–the CMS really can’t get much more straightforward. Many others like the stellar themes and 24/7 support. All of these reasons, alongside Shopify’s excellent uptime record give it the win in our positive reviews bracket.
If a shopping cart wants to garner more positive buzz than Shopify it needs to offer a ton of killer free themes, no transaction fees regardless of whether or not you sign up for a payment processor, and an even smoother, more streamlined admin–if that’s possible. With advanced reporting tools and a full set of features, Bigcommerce comes mighty close on the latter two items on that list, but its lack of as many strong themes and lesser reputation for Customer Service makes Shopify the winner of our comparison.
If Shopify wants to get even better, in my opinion the cart should boost the number of features it offers out of the box, add one-page checkout, nix the checkout domain redirect, and ditch the limit on product variations..
Which shopping cart should you choose? If you’re looking for a straightforward and elegant admin and great looking store and don’t mind paying for a few add-ons, I’d lean towards Shopify. But if I was after the most bang for my buck in terms of features and liked a Bigcommerce theme (again, there are several new, attractive options) then I might opt for Bigcommerce. In the end, it all comes down to personal preference. Ready to see for yourself? Sign up for Bigcommerce’s free 15-day trial and Shopify’s 14-day trial to decide which shopping cart is the best fit for your online store.