- Shopify and BigCommerce are two of the fastest growing fully-hosted, cloud ecommerce platforms in the market today.
- Both have enterprise solutions to account for high-volume, high-growth merchants, and each have unique features designed to help merchants grow.
- Each platform has its own strengths and weaknesses, but each place an emphasis on security, scaling and customer service.
It’s a modern age battle of the Titans.
As two of the most popular, fastest growing ecommerce platforms in the market today, BigCommerce and Shopify find themselves in a constant clash as merchants consider which platform best aligns with their business goals.
Truth is, both create superior experiences for merchants looking to focus on their business rather than technology. Both offer similar plan structures, and both have enterprise-level solutions for high-volume merchants.
So what are the core differences between the two enterprise-level solutions of these platforms?
Quite a bit, actually.
- Transaction Fees and Credit Card Processing Fees
- Payment Options
- Discounts and Promotional Tools
- Variant Limit
- App Ecosystem
- Selling Globally
*While this article will touch on regular plans, our main focus will be on their enterprise-level solutions that power high-volume stores.
Before we begin, let's look the basic similarities between the two:
Hosted Platforms: both are fully-hosted, cloud-based services. Unlike other ecommerce platforms like Magento, these two platforms are designed to allow regular folks to start a business; merchants don't require any coding knowledge to start a store (to learn more about the difference between a hosted and self-hosted solution, give this Ecommerce Fuel podcast episode a listen).
Unlimited Bandwidth: Scalability is a top priority for these two ecommerce giants. Both offer unlimited bandwidth, so you can rest assured knowing your store can handle a high influx of traffic.
Increased API Access: Each company offers increased API access with their enterprise plans. This comes in handy for high volume merchants connecting to outside parties like an ERP system.
Superior Support: For online businesses, any downtime equates to lost revenue. That's why both platforms have a 24/7 “priority” access line (by phone, email or chat) in case of emergencies. You're also assigned a success manager (Shopify) or a team (BigCommerce) who provide high-level business advice for your store, as well as extra hands on deck during a launch or migration.
Now let's take a good look at what truly differentiates these two ecommerce platforms.
Let’s start with pricing, since it’s often the first question merchants seek when looking for the right ecommerce platform.
Both BigCommerce and Shopify plans have very comparable price points - regular plans range from $29 per month to $299 per month. Enterprise-level plans jump substantially - merchants can expect to pay up to $2,000 per month.
Let’s take a deeper look at the cost of their enterprise-level plans:
- BigCommerce Enterprise: The cost of this one is dependant on your sales volume, but plans can run up to $1,500/ month (you'll need to contact the sales team for an accurate price).
One issue with their plan structure is many businesses are forced to upgrade once they surpass a certain dollar threshold. For example, businesses on the Plus plan are pushed into Pro once they make $150,000 in sales volume over a 12-month period. They are then allowed to reach $400,000 in annual sales, but for every $200,000 in online sales beyond that, they’re charged an extra $150 per month.
If your revenue starts to substantially increase beyond that, you’ll be pushed into the Enterprise Plan. This cost of this plan varies depending on revenue, but merchants can expect to pay somewhere between $900 to $1,500 per month.
Shopify Plus: The minimum fee you can expect to pay for Shopify Plus is $2,000 per month, and the majority of merchants fall in this category. Once you make $800,000 or more per month, the fee turns into a revenue-based model and you’ll pay 0.25% of your monthly revenue. That number caps at $40,000 per month, so you’ll never pay more than that. (For more details, this is a handy article that break down the cost of Plus).
It's good to keep in mind that the nature of a hosted platform means your ongoing maintenance fees will be significantly lower. BigCommerce and Shopify both take care of any server upgrades, bug fixes, security patches and/or software upgrades that are needed.
Also, expect third-party solutions and payment fees to drive up your costs every month.
Transaction Fees and Credit Card Processing Fees
A big differentiator between the two are transaction fees. Shopify charges transaction fees if you're not using their own payment processor, while BigCommerce never charges any.
BigCommerce Enterprise: As mentioned above, you won't be charged any transaction fees on top of the fees set by your payment processor.
BigCommerce partners with PayPal (powered by Braintree) for special rates, and if you qualify to use this payment processor, you can expect to pay 2.2% + $.30 (or lower) per transaction.
Shopify Plus: Shopify has it's own payment processor known as Shopify Payments (backed by Stripe). If you use this payment gateway, you're not charged any transaction fees.
Without Shopify Payments, you'll pay an additional 0.15% on top of whatever your current credit card processing fees are.
To give you an idea on the cost of the credit card fees, Shopify Plus merchants (if they use Shopify Payments in the United States) can expect to pay 2.15% + $0.30 for each transaction on domestic Visa and MC, with an additional 1% on AMEX and international cards.
Some merchants choose to use a third-party payment gateway because they've got a negotiated rate with lower fees than what Shopify Payments can offer (even with the 0.15% charge).
When it comes to payment options, you'll have plenty of choice from both providers. They integrate nicely with the most popular gateways, and each offer expedited payment options for a quick checkout process (which is growing increasingly popular these days!).
BigCommerce Enterprise: BigCommerce has 40 payment gateways, including popular ones such as PayPal, Stripe and Worldpay.
Various Digital wallets are also available: Apple Pay, Amazon Pay and Visa Checkout.
Shopify Plus: Shopify Plus integrates with double the amount that BigCommerce offers - more than 100, including expedited payment options.
As mentioned above, Shopify also offers their own payment gateway through what they call Shopify Payments (though, there are some countries where Shopify Payments is not yet available).
Discounts are important to leverage when operating any business, and there is quite a difference between how these two platforms operate them.
BigCommerce Enterprise: With more than 70 discount options available without using a third-party app, Bigcommerce is leading the charge on this one.
These out-of-the-box discount options are enabled inside the admin, and can be scheduled with a few clicks. This gives merchants the power to offer BOGO’s, bundled offers, and various cart-level discounts fairly easily - like brand, category, quantity or shipping discounts.
Merchants also have the ability to create automatic discounts for customers tied to specific customer groups (which comes in handy with wholesale).
Shopify Plus: Shopify doesn’t have such a sizeable offering when it comes to discount options within the admin, and many merchants rely on third-party solutions to power their needs.
Shopify is starting to make strides on this issues. BOGO was introduced earlier this year inside the admin, making it much easier to create these kinds of discounts.
However, stores on Shopify Plus have access to powerful tools that remedy this issue: merchants can create dozens of discount options using Scripts and can schedule sales using Launchpad.
Let's take a closer look at what these tools can do:
Scripts: This tool gives merchants the ability to create custom pricing models. Common scripts include: bundling products, offering promotions (e.g. free gift with purchase) and giving price breaks on multiple purchases or to specific customers or groups. You can change shipping methods and offer shipping discounts as well.
Launchpad: This tool offers a suite of automation capabilities to schedule events (Note: an event consists of one or more actions: publishing product(s), applying discounts to particular products or collections, publishing an unpublished theme or enabling a script).
The true power of these tools comes in the form of automation.
Both Scripts and Launchpad can work together nicely to create and schedule flash sales in advance, putting your holiday sales on autopilot.
Bonus - Flow: Although this one doesn’t have anything to do with discounts, it’s a tool on Shopify Plus worth mentioning. Flow is a powerful automation tool that gives merchants with the ability to automate backend processes, driving efficiency so you can put your focus on other efforts.
For example, merchants can create a workflow that alerts your sales team via Slack when a top customers make a purchase, so you can send them a thank you message - handy, right?
When it comes to shopping online, merchants have to sell multiple combinations of a single product (e.g. a small, blue shirt or a medium, red shirt). Because of their hosted nature, they place caps on the number of variants possible.
BigCommerce Enterprise: With support for up to 600 variant SKUs and 250 option values, BigCommerce has the edge on this one.
Shopify Plus: This one is a big pain point, as Shopify supports 3 options per product, with a cap of 100 variants (there are workarounds for this issue, but you’ll need a good Shopify developer to help).
When it comes to wholesale, there’s quite a lot of custom functionality needed to give customers a truly amazing user experience (If you’re thinking of getting into the wholesale game, we’ve created a Wholesale Planning Worksheet that runs through a key set of features you’ll want to think about as you approach a wholesale offering).
Although both offer wholesale channels to accommodate this massive market, they are far from perfect.
BigCommerce Enterprise: Their wholesale functionality isn't too bad. It gives merchants basic functionality such as: access requirements, payment solutions, customized B2B shipping rates, streamlined order process, and unique pricing methods for customer groups.
For custom and complex builds, merchants receive access to an API.
Shopify Plus: In our experience, Shopify’s wholesale channel doesn't quite make the cut. While it does offer some simplicity for B2B selling, it lacks the unique custom requirements many enterprise-level merchants need in a wholesale shop.
We typically recommend merchants use a clone store (Shopify Plus allows for up to 10 stores at no additional cost) and customize the theme. This gives merchants the flexibility they need to create a custom wholesale store that provides customers with a truly superior experience.
Both platforms offer the same level of security as your bank, so you can rest assured knowing your customer’s financial information is stored safely.
Every store is protected by multiple layers of security to prevent unauthorized access. The infrastructure is PCI DSS 3.2 certified at Level 1 (as both a Merchant and Service Provider), which essentially means your customer’s financial information is never stored within the platform itself, so you’re not a rich target for hackers.
While both offer their own SSl certificate (allowing merchants to take advantage of the SEO benefits of HTTPS), the biggest difference between the two is that BigCommerce store owners can purchase or use premium third-party SSL certificates, like EV SSLs from industry leaders like Digicert.
Shopify, on the other hand, only allows EV SSLs that are bought directly through Shopify.
Even though both platforms have impressive features, they aren't able to offer everything. As a result, merchants rely on third-party solutions for specific functionality, like loyalty or referral programs.
BigCommerce: While BigCommerce doesn’t have quite as big of a selection of apps as Shopify, it still has an impressive collection (keep in mind they have 70 promotions and discounts available out-of-the-box, so those types of solutions aren’t needed). Everything from loyalty programs to live chat are found within the app store.
Shopify Plus: Shopify boasts more than 1500+ apps in their ecosystem, which is thoroughly vetted by the Shopify (similar to the Apple app store), so it makes for a very strong community.
When you run an online business, the world is literally at your doorstep. At some point, expanding across borders might be high on your list of priorities.
BigCommerce Enterprise: Currently selling into 150 countries, BigCommerce allows merchants to display prices in local currencies, while also offering multi-language capabilities. It also offers international shipping and tax options.
Shopify Plus: Although Shopify sells into 175 countries, it has quite a few pain points when it comes to expanding internationally. Though, Shopify is making big strides with this issue.
Prior to this year, Shopify had no elegant solutions for multi-store management, multi-currency or language translation. Shopify Plus merchants relied on using a third-party app or cloning their stores to sell in another language and/or currency.
The good news is Shopify has announced the arrival of multi-language and multi-currency! It’s slowly starting to roll out, but hasn’t hit every storefront yet.
Overall, both BigCommerce and Shopify offer capable solutions to power your ecommerce business. Here at Fuel Made, we've chosen to work with Shopify exclusively after finding it the best solution for our clients' needs time and again.
Shopify is the market leader for a reason. Shopify understands that merchants' successes are tied to their success. They are defining the future of ecommerce. They have an exceptional ecosystem, an imperfect but very well-considered and highly flexible platform and we've seen a commitment from Shopify leadership to consistent and significant improvement over time.
In the end, we work with Shopify because we feel comfortable recommending them as the best solution to our clients' needs.