With over 95,000 live sites currently using the BigCommerce system for selling items and processing payments online, there’s strong reason to believe that BigCommerce provides a viable and powerful interface for your ecommerce needs. Our BigCommerce Review covers all of the aspects of this ecommerce platform, from the features to the security and support.
There's more though: In early 2016, BigCommerce underwent an incredibly drastic rebranding change, with a completely new brand structure, more integrations and plenty of new features for the users. In short, the company stated that the logo change is more reminiscent of what the platform is designed to do for users, referring to the upward trending chart logo. In addition, the company has shuffled around its website design in an attempt to provide easier access to information for all users.
The branding looks great, but what about you as the user? From Shopify to Squarespace, one of the biggest challenges when starting a business is to figure out which of the top ecommerce systems is right for your business. BigCommerce falls right in the middle of that conversation, so it’s up to you to decide whether payment processing or product management is more important. The same goes for items like security and website design.
Shopify is making waves in the market, Volusion is known to help out small startups, and Squarespace is the (relatively) new guy on the block, but where does that leave BigCommerce? Keep reading to find out.
Based on numerous emails and comments from our readers who are using BigCommerce, looks like they are dramatically raising prices for their more successful customers (bringing in more than $125,000 a year in revenue), which makes it a lot more costly than its direct competitor Shopify, which has fixed prices.
We're constantly trying to offer the best comparisons and most accurate reviews, but we also update our comparison chart on a weekly basis.
If you're not 100% sure which ecommerce platform is best for your specific needs, check it out!
Bigcommerce Review: Features
The BigCommerce features all start with the website builder, since it allows for beautiful, responsive designs, without knowing much about web design. Add and manage products without any problems, and accept payments through a wide variety of options.
Customized shipping is a must-have for most vendors, and BigCommerce has all of that. The flexible tax system and dropshipping features ensure that you don’t have to shift around your business model just because of your ecommerce system.
Note: According to our readers BigCommerce has been largely unresponsive to feature requests, making it difficult for many customers to justify the cost. For example, many of the features are built for primarily US customers, which leaves the rest of the world with features that aren't entirely useful. In addition, customers have complained about useful features getting requested over and over in the forums but never coming to fruition (like the ability to customize order statuses).
The checkout has seen many update requests, but it still seems to have an old-fashioned look, with an accordion style and not all cart information being displayed for the customer. Overall, BigCommerce strives to pack more features into the system rather than having people download apps, but recently those feature updates haven't been satisfactory.
Other than the problem with update, we can talk about some of the upsides. From smart product rules to downloadable sales, email marketing tools to advanced search engine optimization, BigCommerce does have some wonderful features. Now, the question is, do these features come at a reasonable price, and are they all that great in action?
Bigcommerce Review: Ease of Use
In terms of startup businesses looking for ecommerce platforms, the first thing companies typically ask about is pricing. After that, the ease of use is almost always the most important area. This makes sense, considering a business person generally doesn’t have the web design or development skills to build a site from scratch or mess around with confusing building processes.
So, is BigCommerce easy to use?
When you launch your website with BigCommerce they have some nice tutorials and steps to get you started. However, our tests, and the feedback from readers, show that the new Stencil framework from BigCommerce is more friendly for advanced developers. That's great news for stores that can hire a solid developer. However, non-technical users are finding it difficult to make small tweaks, something that's necessary for the average inventor or entrepreneur.
Next to Shopify, BigCommerce has the features needed for developers, but it's not quite there for the average non-techie. The first page you see when landing on the dashboard is a list of steps you should take to complete your store within a few seconds. For example, you can add products, setup shipping settings and manage your tax rates.
After that, the development gets more complex.
Apps and integrations help for customization, and website themes are pre-built for making it look like you hired a pro to design your website. However, BigCommerce relies largely on a company called Pixel Union for its themes. They look sleek and modern, but users have suggested that this focus on one designer leaves room for improvement in the uniqueness area. Not only that, but many of our readers have made it clear that it's easy to find random bugs that generally don't get fixed.
The product management is clean and unique, considering you can customize just about anything for your products.
Overall, API access is much easier to obtain than with solutions like Volusion. Advanced users shouldn’t have any problems with BigCommerce, but it's those beginners we worry about.
Bigcommerce Review: Pricing
At one point BigCommerce had some competitive pricing that compared pretty well with that of Shopify. However, after numerous emails and comments from our readers, it looks like they have dramatically increased prices for their more successful customers (making more than $125,000 a year in revenue).
This is a huge blow to both BigCommerce customers and our view on the company as a whole. Sure, you still get some of the fixed prices that we'll outline below, but once you surpass a certain point in sales you're going to get slammed with insanely high monthly rates. It's almost as if BigCommerce is trying to gouge users that make more money, simply because they can.
Anyway, let's proceed onto the different plans you can choose from. BigCommerce still has a free 15-day BigCommerce trial before you need to make a decision.
In terms of pricing, check out the four plans below:
- Standard Plan – For $29.95 per month you get unlimited products, unlimited storage, unlimited bandwidth, credit card and PayPal acceptance and no transaction fee!
- Plus Plan – For $79.95 per month you receive all Standard Plan features, no transaction fees, real-time carrier shipping, great payment providers, an abandoned cart saver, advanced customer segmentation and a checkout that is hosted on your own domain.
- Pro Plan – For $249.95 per month you receive all Plus Plan features, no transaction fees, Google customer reviews, product filtering and an available dedicated SSL. Warning: This plan starts at $249.95/mo for less than $400k in online sales. After that they require at least $150/mo for each additional $200k in sales. In short, they'll get you if you surpass that $400K mark.
- Enterprise Plan – This requires you to contact BigCommerce for custom pricing, but you can expect all of the Plus Plan features, along with a dedicated SSL and IP address, setup and data migration, priority support, product filtering, advanced reporting tools, Google trusted stores and more. As many of our users have pointed out, it seems as if BigCommerce is pushing many more successful customers to go with this plan. So, if you're making more than $125,000 in revenue per year (or over 3,000 orders per year,) you may end up being charged anywhere from $900 to $1,500 per month.
Once again, as you surpass the Plus and Pro plans, BigCommerce may not be the right choice for most companies. Although we enjoy BigCommerce features and templates, charging this much for the most profitable users is a strange business model.
These changes in 2016 make BigCommerce a lot more costly than its direct competitor Shopify, which has fixed prices.
BigCommerce Review: Templates and design
If you go to the BigCommerce Theme Store you can get an idea of what you would be working with if going for BigCommerce. In general, it’s a pretty nice store, with both free and paid options for varying budgets.
The free themes are some of the coolest I’ve seen in a while, and it’s not all that hard to customize them or make them do what you want. The majority of the paid themes are responsive, stylish and easy to work with. However, some of the uniqueness you might find elsewhere doesn't seem to come with BigCommerce. We figure it's because most of the themes come from one company called Pixel Union. It's not that they are bad designers, but it would be nice to see unique ideas from other developers.
Overall, you won’t have to spend more than $150 or $200 for a quality theme. That's about on-par with competitors.
As of March 23, 2016, customers will gain access to 67 new, responsive themes that are meant to expand your abilities for merchandising, promotions and a seamless checkout process. Although we haven't had a chance to test the themes, they range from $145 to $235, and they have modern merchandising capabilities for expanding your brand. All of these new themes can be bought through the theme store.
Bigcommerce Review: Inventory
The inventory is a standout feature, since you have the options to upload quick products, setup inventory tracking and update your stock levels within a few minutes.
Use the flexible product rules and inventory tools so that you don’t get bogged down by a bunch of rules that only pertain to one or two industries. In the past, I’ve seen it where a system will make it hard for clothing companies to add something as simple as sizes. Customization is the key with their inventory, so you have no need to worry.
You can sell things like products, downloads, events and services right out of the box, which is pretty cool. And managing which ones are out of stock is fairly easy.
Bigcommerce Review: SEO & Marketing
SEO is another strong point with BigCommerce, considering its unique content delivery network loads your website pages much faster than the competitors. This improves the environment for users, and search engines take notice as well. It's a pain to find the settings for modifying your SEO, but it's all in the product area.
Keep in mind that many of our readers have mentioned that the BigCommerce marketing and SEO tools haven't lived up to their standards. I guess the hope is that you move from a platform like Volusion or 3dCart and start pushing more customers to the store. However, BigCommerce seems like it's more set on acting as a platform for processing payments, and that's it. Overall, you should expect to complete most of the hard marketing work on your own.
You can however integrate with Google Shopping to grab all of those shoppers who go through that route. Not to mention, the microdata and reviews on your site are all posted on search engines, which are known to make search engines and customers happy.
What comes along with the marketing features? We’re talking promotions and coupons, email marketing, SEO, social media marketing and multi-channel marketing. Whether or not it works that well seems to be up for debate. You might consider implementing MailChimp, or something like that, for email marketing, but BigCommerce has an app for that.
BigCommerce Review: Payments
Payments on BigCommerce are a mixed bag. It has solid rates and no additional fees for options like PayPal, Square, Amazon Pay and Stripe. No transaction fees are charged if you go with one of the leading payment gateways. BigCommerce also offers special credit card rates from PayPal powered by Braintree. Although the starting rate of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction doesn't seem all that competitive.
The platform supports over 60 payment gateways, meaning that you can choose to process payments through your store, instead of sending them away to a place like PayPal. Offline payments are supported, and you also receive cool features like multiple currencies, customizable shipping rates, secure checkouts and shipping label printing.
BigCommerce Review: Security
All sites hosted on BigCommerce are level 1 certified PCI compliant, so your customers don’t have to worry about their personal and financial information. Your company infrastructure is also protected with an enterprise grade network architecture.
I particularly enjoy the fact that you can choose to either share an SSL certificate or buy your own. Life needs more options like that. Basically, a shared SSL means that your checkout isn't hosted on your own website. It looks like it is, but the customer goes through a different route. It's similar to Shopify.
Like I said, BigCommerce has the option for a dedicated SSL certificate, so if you have the cash you can go with that.
Overall, security is one of the strong points with BigCommerce.
BigCommerce Review: Customer Support
If BigCommerce does one thing better than the rest, it’s online customer service. Feel free to go to the customer support page and see what I’m talking about. This type of support involves online forums, tutorials, videos and a knowledge base. That's great for those who want to complete their own research.
When you sign up with BigCommerce you receive help through the phone, live chat, email and the forum. However, readers have mentioned that the phone and live chat isn't that helpful. Sometimes you get stuck on the phone for a long time and other times it seems like the representatives aren't trained properly.
With all that said, the community is more powerful than most other ecommerce platforms, and a favorite is the BigCommerce University, a series of fun and informative videos for making your site work to bring in more money.
BigCommerce Review: Conclusion
Overall, BigCommerce works for just about anyone who doesn’t want an Enterprise Level System. That’s not to say that the BigCommerce enterprise plan isn’t worth it, but I think there are stronger options out there. I'm hesitant to recommend BigCommerce to a larger company, because you can get the tools you need with Shopify or even Magento. As a startup, Volusion is a tough bargain to pass up.
BigCommerce works nicely for small companies, but make your decision based on how much you plan on scaling up in the future. Because you might end up paying lots of fees if you pass up a certain number of sales.
If you crave more features right off the bat, give their 15 days free trial a go.
What do you think of BigCommerce? Let me know what's your opinion in the comments.