If you’re a retailer, ecommerce is the future, and the future is now.
With research from UPS stating that 51 percent of purchases are made online instead of in a physical store, if you want to build the most successful business possible, waiting to create an online store is no longer an option.
Luckily for you, this process has become significantly easier as technology has advanced, especially if you’re already using a point of sale (POS) system with an ecommerce integration. If that sounds like you, then when you’re ready to launch an online store, the hardest decision you’ll need to make is deciding which ecommerce platform (sometimes called a shopping cart) to choose.
And that’s precisely why we wrote this article. We’ll take a look at two of the most popular ecommerce platforms, Shopify and BigCommerce, and walk you through the pros and cons of each so you can pick the right one for your business. Let’s get started.
SaaS vs. Open Source
The first thing you’ll want to consider is the underlying infrastructure and hardware that powers your ecommerce platform. You will have two options: open source and software as a service (SaaS). With open source solutions, you’re responsible for managing pretty much everything about the underlying technology yourself, or with the help of a web developer. Things like hosting, PCI compliance, and site security are your responsibility. Magento, one of the most popular ecommerce platforms, is an example of an open source solution.
Open source solutions are great if you need total control over your online store, and have the technical skills to manage this sophisticated technology yourself. Or you have the financial resources to hire a web developer to handle it for you. If this doesn’t sound like you, then you should consider your other option: SaaS ecommerce.
With SaaS, also known as a hosted ecommerce platform, the platform vendor handles the complex technology and security aspects of running an online store for you. This service gives you less flexibility than you have with an open source platform, but that tradeoff is often worth it for non-technical users. You’ll save hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars with a hosted platform.
Shopify and BigCommerce are SaaS ecommerce platforms, making both an excellent choice for store owners that are new to ecommerce, as well as those who would rather focus on growing their business than managing technology.
The next big thing you’ll want to consider is the actual ecommerce functionality that a shopping cart gives to you. By ecommerce functionality, we mean things like product catalog creation and management, tax rate set up, shipping settings, and promotions or offer code rules. Features such as these are one of the first areas where BigCommerce begins to distance itself from Shopify as the more robust option.
One of the biggest areas you’ll spend time on as an online retailer is creating and managing products. So, you’ll want the tools you use for this to be both intuitive and feature-rich. This is where BigCommerce really delivers. Unlike Shopify, BigCommerce allows you to create products with unlimited options. You can think of an option as a variation of your core product. For example, if you sell t-shirts, your products could have options like size, color, cut, and logo style. Each combination of these options represents a distinct product.
With BigCommerce, your products can have as many options as you’d like. With Shopify, products are limited to just three options each. If you need more than three, you’ll need to upgrade to a higher pricing plan to unlock more options. Depending on the makeup of your catalog and size of your business, this could prevent you from selling all of your products online in a cost-effective way.
In addition to robust product catalog tools, BigCommerce offers other essential features at its base price that cost extra with Shopify. A few of these features include:
- Wishlist – This allows potential customers to save a list of products for purchasing at a later date.
- Bulk discounts – This tool allows you to quickly create a large volume of discount codes at one time.
- Optimized checkout – This highly valuable feature gives you a fast, frictionless checkout that’s designed to improve the conversion rate of website visitor to paying customer by up to 12 percent.
- Wholesale selling – This capability gives you the tools you need to sell to other businesses.
Another significant component of your online store is the actual design. Both BigCommerce and Shopify handle design through themes or templates. These themes are prebuilt designs that you can apply to your store with the click of a button.
You can customize some of the basic styles of a theme, like fonts, colors, and images, with each platform’s built-in design tools. Similarly, both platforms offer a selection of free themes and premium themes that come with an additional cost. Many, if not all of the themes on each platform are responsive and mobile-friendly.
Marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Once you build your digital boutique, the next thing you’ll want to consider is how to attract potential customers to your store. Luckily, a shopping cart can help you with that too.
Again, this is an area where BigCommerce has an advantage over Shopify. Beginning with SEO, BigCommerce gives you far more control over key SEO settings like URLs, metadata, sitemap, and title tags than you’ll find with Shopify. BigCommerce also codes their templates in a way that complies with SEO best practices, giving their customers a further edge. This greater level of control will allow you to customize how your site appears to Google, helping you rank higher than your competitors for relevant keywords.
Additionally, BigCommerce also gives you other essential SEO tools like a built-in blog. With a blog, you can run comprehensive content marketing campaigns that help build your brand reputation and improve your rankings in search engines.
Outside of search engine optimization, both shopping carts feature a variety of integrations and apps that can help you scale your marketing efforts. These can be anything from integrations with advertising networks for remarketing campaigns, to connections with advanced marketing automation tools like HubSpot. There’s a lot of parity here, so the best advice we can give is to know the marketing tools you want to use. Review the platform’s app store and integrations list to make sure it will work with those tools before signing up.
The last big area of marketing we’ll cover is cart abandonment and recovery. This critical aspect of ecommerce marketing refers to those situations where a shopper adds products to their cart but then leaves your site without making a purchase. An abandoned cart recovery tool allows you to send these shoppers a series of emails that are designed to bring the shopper back to your store to complete their purchase.
While both Shopify and BigCommerce offer these capabilities, only BigCommerce is willing to put a stake in the ground and claim that their tool will help you recover up to 15 percent of your abandoned carts.
Payment Processing and Transaction Fees
This topic isn’t as exciting as marketing, but understanding your payment processing options is one of the most important considerations when picking an ecommerce platform. Much like choosing a payment processor for your brick-and-mortar business, the thing you’ll want to look at is the credit card processing fees and rates charged by your shopping cart provider. After all, this can directly affect your bottom-line.
Before looking at both platforms, let’s be clear about something. Every payment gateway (the service that authorizes the transfer of funds between buyers and sellers) is going to charge you a per transaction fee. There’s no getting around it. What we’re comparing here are additional transaction fees charged by the ecommerce platform. Like many of the areas we’ve covered already, this is an area where BigCommerce has a clear advantage over Shopify.
If you use a third-party payment gateway, Shopify will charge you a per transaction fee that ranges between two percent and half of a percent. The exact fee depends upon the pricing plan you’re on. Let’s say you make $4,000 per month selling products online. If you give up two percent of those sales to Shopify as transaction fees, you’ll lose $800 each month. The only way around this is to use Shopify Payments, which may not necessarily offer the best rates.
On the other side of the equation, BigCommerce doesn’t charge any transaction fees on top of what is already charged by your payment gateway, allowing you to keep far more of your hard-earned money.
Apps and Integrations
We touched on this briefly when discussing marketing, but one of the key things to look at is a platform’s apps and third-party integrations. In ecommerce, apps tend to cover two distinct areas of functionality: additional features and integrations to third-party software.
Apps that deliver additional features are essentially band-aids that help to cover up a platform’s subpar or missing functionality. They’re typically built by third-party developers and available for a fee. That size of that fee depends on the depth of functionality the app provides.
Integration apps are apps that allow you to connect your online store to additional tools and services. Typical integrations in ecommerce are for marketing tools, accounting tools, and shipping management tools.
When comparing BigCommerce and Shopify, it’s fair to say that Shopify wins the app volume battle. However, the vast majority of those apps are providing additional functionality that doesn’t come out of the box with Shopify. BigCommerce doesn’t need most of these apps, because most of these features are already built into the platform. There’s also a fair amount of overlap, with sometimes 10 or more apps offering duplicate functionality.
When comparing integrations between platforms, there aren’t many differences. In fact, this is one of the leading areas where the platforms are at parity with one another. As we touched on when comparing marketing tools, our best piece of advice here is to identify the apps that are useful for your business today and in the future. Then, ensure that those apps integrate with your ecommerce platform before moving forward.
We understand. Sometimes things happen, and you need to speak with an expert. That’s where customer support comes in, particularly with something like ecommerce, which can get complicated. Luckily, both Shopify and BigCommerce offer excellent customer support. Both companies offer 24/7 support should you need it. Besides live agent support, both companies have a robust knowledge base where you’ll find written tutorials and forums that can help you solve any problem you might have.
Point of Sale Integration
The last big area we’ll touch on is point of sale (POS) integration as it relates to your overall growth strategy. Omnichannel is a bit of a buzzword, but if you’re trying to build the best foundation for your business, it’s a trend you’ll want to follow. Omnichannel means offering your customers a seamless and consistent experience regardless of the sales channel they use. That means there should be a similar feel whether the shopper is engaging with your online store on their computer, doing some quick shopping on their phone, or physically shopping in your brick and mortar store.
This idea sounds complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. One of the best ways to ensure a consistent experience is to use a POS that integrates with your online store. This integration keeps all of your inventory information in-sync, so if you sell a product online, it’s automatically reflected in your in-store inventory, and vice versa. This synchronization means no more counting inventory twice or trying to reconcile two different inventory systems manually. With that said, let’s look at how each shopping cart compares.
Shopify makes their own POS that integrates with their shopping cart. That’s great, but it isn’t as feature-rich as many other POS systems that are available at a similar price point. This hook also means that Shopify prefers that you use their POS over another solution. As such, they only offer a few integrations with other POS systems, and most of the major players in the space are absent.
On the other hand, BigCommerce doesn’t sell their own POS system, and as such, they take a more platform agnostic approach. They offer integrations with many of the leading POS systems, ShopKeep included. Meaning that not only do you get access to a top tier ecommerce platform, but you can also use a POS system that has the features and power you need to run a brick-and-mortar shop for years to come.
If you’re a ShopKeep customer already, there’s never been a better time to open an online store. With our BigCommerce integration, much of the tedious work is done for you. In just a few clicks, you can push over all of your product data from ShopKeep to BigCommerce, saving you hours of monotonous work. Once that’s done, it’s on to the fun stuff like designing your store and setting up marketing campaigns so that customers start rolling in.
Summing It Up
On the surface, it might seem that there are many similarities between Shopify and BigCommerce. If you run a pretty simple and low volume business, that might be true. However, once you start to think more deeply about the type of online store you want to run, and how you see it working alongside your brick and mortar store, it becomes clear that BigCommerce offers more features and flexibility to run a more sophisticated and, ultimately, successful business.
If you’re a ShopKeep customer, just click here to get started with BigCommerce.