When it comes to Shopify vs BigCommerce, they’re both big-hitters in the SAAS ecommerce world. Although Shopify is arguably the ‘go to’ instant ecommerce platform thanks to its prolific advertising campaigns both are powerful and very popular. BigCommerce is a great Shopify alternative. Our overview of both platforms, their pros, cons and costs will help you choose the best e-commerce platform for you.

Shopify Overview

Online business owners with an eCommerce website need a shopping platform that is aesthetically pleasing, affordable and easy to use for you and your customers. Shopify ticks all three boxes – and offers much more. There is a wide range of templates that can be customised to suit your brand image and is ideal eCommerce platform for drop shipping.

Is Shopify SAAS?

Yes, Shopify is fully-hosted, there is no open source code to download and install on your own server; everything is managed by Shopify.

Shopify Setup Costs

Shopify looks to provide start-up business owners with a cost-free solution by offering a 14-day free trial. After that, the monthly payments are incurred in accordance with the plan you choose.

On top of your monthly service fee, you also have others costs such as email, transaction fees and possible design costs if you hire a web developer. However, it is possible for you to customise templates yourself if you can work with Shopify ‘Liquid’. Overall, Shopify setup costs can cost anything from £600-£3000.

Shopify Monthly Costs

Shopify is a ‘software as a service’ (Saas) platform which means you have to pay a monthly subscription fee. There are five options, the cheapest of which is Shopify Lite which is an alternative low-cost option. The Shopify pricing plan is as follows:

  • Shopify Lite: $9/£7 month
  • Basic Shopify: $29/£22/month
  • Shopify: $79/£59/month
  • Advanced Shopify: $299/225/month
  • Shopify Plus: Negotiable depending on requirements. Contact Shopify sales for setup

In addition to monthly subscription fees, Shopify charges transactions fees if you use external payment gateways such as Paypal. However, there are no transaction fees when you use Shopify Payments. Transaction charges are:

  • Basic plan: 2.0%
  • Shopify: 1.0%
  • Advanced Shopify: 0.5%

Transaction fees are used to cover the cost of maintenance and the supply of technology Shopify use to power your sales. Where you will feel some loss is the credit card fees for point-of-sale. Shopify charges the following credit card fees.

  • Basic plan: online purchases = 2.2% + 20p / in person (point of sale) 1.7%
  • Shopify: online purchases 1.9% + 20p / in person (point of sale) 1.6%
  • Advanced Shopify: online purchases 1.6% + 20p / in person (point of sale) 1.5%

Shopify Hosting Options

Shopify is a hosted eCommerce platform so there are no hosting fees to pay. The cost of hosting is including in all Shopify packages.

Shopify Set-up Skills

Setting up Shopify is easier if you are tech savvy. If you know your way around a basic interface you will not have any problems. If you plan to customise your eCommerce to suit your brand colours, hiring a web developer is advisable.

Shopify uses a unique coding language called “Liquid”. This can complicate the customisation process even for programmers that know HTML and CSS code. For start-ups the best option is to use one of the free templates and only make basic modifications that do not require code. Once you start earning from your eCommerce website, you can always make modifications as and when necessary.

Shopify Theme Availability

Shopify offer 10 free starter templates and around 50 premium themes, although there are literally hundreds of themed Shopify templates available across the web. Templates are responsive and have two or three variants.  Although the free templates are well designed, the premium themes are more aesthetically pleasing and project a professional appearance. Premium templates cost between £100-£135 but have more functionality and enable you to add videos.

 

Shopify Day-to-day Running

Adding products, images and content is straightforward in Shopify. If less tech-savvy business owners shouldn’t encounter any problems with the interface.

Shopify Payment Options

Shopify has a couple of payment options for online users and credit card customers. The least expensive option is to use Shopify Payments. This is a built-in payment gateway and does not carry a transaction fee on purchases, although credit card charges do apply.

If you choose to use a recognised third party gateway, the transactions fees mentioned above apply. However, there is arguably more potential to make more sales through third-party gateways, like Paypal. Should you choose to opt for an external payment process, you need to register for a merchant account with the third party which may incur a transaction fee or monthly payment.

Shopify Product attributes (whether unlimited or not)

Shopify called product attributes Options and Variants. For example, an option is the Size of a T-Shirt of its Colour. Then the Variant is Small, Medium and Large or Green, Pink, Black.

You are allowed up to 100 variants on each product, which could be 10 options with 10 variants or 1 option with 100 variants – or any other combination.

The Shopify platform does not have a limit on the number of products you can sell.

Shopify Typical Annual Running Costs for the first year then ongoing years

The good news for eCommerce owners using Shopify is the fees go down each year. Running costs are as follows:

Plan Set Up and 1st year 2nd-year 3rd year
Basic $29/£22 $26.10/£20 $23.20/£18
Shopify $79/£59 $71.10/£54 $63.20/£47
Advanced Shopify $299/£225 $269.10/£203 $239.20/£180

Shopify Customer Support Options

Of all the eCommerce platforms available, Shopify boasts one of the best customer support teams of them all. Lines are open 24/7 and they can be contacted by email, live chat or phone. The support team are knowledgeable about usability queries, but if your question is a technical issue, you may have to wait until a developer gets back to you.

BigCommerce Overview

ECommerce owners looking for a comprehensive tool kit and a platform that can leverage products to a wider audience should look no further than BigCommerce. The powerful shopping cart packs a serious punch – but does it measure up to other eCommerce platforms and is it the best option for your business?

Is BigCommerce SAAS?

Yes, bigCommerce is a fully-hosted SAAS option. You don’t need your own server host to run it.

BigCommerce Setup costs

BigCommerce is a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform which means set up costs are lower that eCommerce software that requires a web host. All you will need to pay for is a theme template, and possible development together with the signing on fee for the package of your choice.

New businesses are best advised to start with either the Standard or Plus plans and pay for the entire year so you get a 10% discount. Templates can be grabbed for free and there are other free features such as a handful of shopping feed plugins, such as integration with Google PLA (Google Shopping) that can help you grow without having to shell out setup fees. You can start an online store on BigCommerce for less than £1000, and even less than £100 if you go for a basic template and only pay the monthly sign on fee.

BigCommerce Monthly costs

The pricing packages at BigCommerce may appear slightly higher than its closet competitors, but the company does not charge transactions fees like Shopify or add-ons to boost performance like WooCommerce. Over the long term, monthly running costs are probably less than other options.  You will still need to pay the processing fees charged by banks and payment gateways, but that is standard across all ecommerce platforms.

However, there is one slight catch. Once you exceed the annual sales threshold BigCommerce has capped under any one pricing plan, they insist you move up to the next package. In one sense, this gives you more tools to improve your online store, but also means your monthly expenses increase. The steep rise from a Plus account to a Pro account could cause a setback for some businesses.

BigCommerce pricing packages:

Package Monthly Fee Products Storage Bandwidth Revenue threshold
Standard $29.95+/£22.50 Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Up to $50,000/
Plus $79.95+/£60 Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Up to $150,000/
Pro $249.95+/£188.50 Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Up to $1,000,000
Enterprise Custom Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited

If you’re not sure whether BigCommerce software is the best option for you, customers are offered a 15-day free trial without you having to hand over your credit card details.

BigCommerce Hosting options


BigCommerce host your website as part of your monthly plan. This means that you save on hosting costs and are given access to unlimited storage and bandwidth. They also have excellent security measures to protect the bank details of your customers and back-up your data automatically. If you’re not technically minded, BigCommerce software offers a convenient solution.

BigCommerce Set up skills

The beauty of SaaS platforms is they practically remove the need to have computer skills. Unless you want to develop your BigCommerce theme, you can set up and launch your site within a couple of hours.

BigCommerce Theme availability

BigCommerce has over 100 free templates plus mobile-friendly themes that also include a blog. However, as with all software, the free templates have limitations and your store will be better equipped with a premium template you can customise to suit your brand and business needs. Templates range from $145-$235/£110-£177. However you may also need to factor in further customisation work to get the templates looking exactly how you want them.

BigCommerce Day to day running

Compared with other eCommerce platforms, BigCommerce offers a comprehensive stock of web tools. This will not make the day to day operation of the platform anymore difficult, but it will take you a little longer to fathom.

Having said that, the company has developed simple processes for essential tools. The form to add new products is very well designed and walks you through all the relevant details such as product description, tax class, pricing and shipping details.  You can also import CSV product lists which can save time if you have 100s of products in an existing store.

BigCommerce Payment options

BigCommerce integrates with around 60 payment gateways, which is substantially more than any of its competitors.

BigCommerce Product attributes

Together with offering unlimited products, storage and bandwidth, no other eCommerce software gives you the opportunity to boost your marketing as well as BigCommerce. Social media networks and eBay can be integrated into your eCommerce store together with shopping comparison sites Google Shopping, Nextag and Find It Quick plus others that charge a fee.

 

The powerful keyword search and advanced search tools make it easier for customers to find specific items and the option to request customers register an account enables you to offer exclusive deals and promotions via email.

BigCommerce Typical annual running costs for first year then ongoing years

Annual running costs depend largely depends on the success of your eCommerce store. BigCommerce does not increase the subscription fee on a yearly basis (although they may raise their fees in line with inflation), but if you surpass your annual earnings threshold (see pricing table above), you will be requested to move up to the next package which carries a significantly higher monthly fee.

BigCommerce Customer support options

Customer support lines are open 24/7 and includes phone support, online chat and email. Users also have access to video tutorials and online forums where you can tap into the vast knowledge base of other users.

How The Content Works can help

Here at The Content Works, we specialise in Technical Website Audits. We’re here to find the issues on your website that are causing you to lose visitors, see poor conversions rates and ultimately we highlight the issues costing you money. Take a look at our services page to see the technical website audits we offer. Call us on 0207 305 5599 to discuss your situation and we’ll show you how we can add value to your business.

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