BigCommerce vs Shopify Plus
A detailed look at the two leading cloud-based ecommerce platforms
What does enterprise ecommerce mean on Shopify Plus?
- Scale alongside merchants growing 126% year-over-year on average
- Deliver page speeds three times faster than BigCommerce
- Sell on over 20 channels with Shopify’s official partnerships
- Rest secure on industry-leading uptime and zero Black Friday Cyber Monday outages
- Integrate third-party systems with an open API and push webhooks
- Customize your front-end and leverage 1,500+ apps
- Get 24/7 priority support
- Rely on enterprise-level Technology, Solutions, and Agency Partners
- Expert Launch Engineer
- 24/7 support 99.98% uptime
Sell on any channel
Sell on any device
Paul HodgeCEO, Laird Superfood
“Migration is a dirty word around here. We’ve tried every platform because we’re nimble and we switch when something isn’t working. It’s costly to switch, and migrating is a major upheaval. We’re married to Shopify Plus and love the technology. Save yourself the time and money and just start with Shopify, and you won’t need to worry about switching as you grow.”
Enterprise-level brands are increasingly making the switch from BigCommerce to Shopify Plus. With an admittedly lower price tag for BigCommerce, the question is, “Why?”
The answer lies in understanding an often misused word: enterprise.
There’s a dark side to high-volume growth in ecommerce, problems that only appear under the strains of scale. For brands dependant on on-premise solutions, the symptoms are usually overly complex functionality, lagging speed of implementation, and mounting tech debt.
For cloud-based merchants, it’s different. More often, their platform’s “native” tools simply aren’t up to the challenges of growth:
- Faceted search lacking robust merchandising options
- Multi-channel sales run through unofficial partnerships
- Order management that doesn’t sync between stores
- Fulfillment services in need of 3PL and OMS integrations
- Checkout customizations that limit conversion rates
Unlike on-premise ecommerce solutions, BigCommerce and Shopify Plus are both hosted software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers that require less development work than custom-built solutions. But that’s where the similarities end, as Shopify Plus is increasingly becoming the choice for enterprise-level merchants.
The more sophisticated the merchant and the more complex their business, the more likely they are to choose Shopify Plus over BigCommerce.
It’s important to understand that Shopify and BigCommerce were once the same size. Today though, Shopify powers more than 1,000,000 stores compared to approximately 100,000 for BigCommerce.
Of course, popularity doesn’t always impact the bottom-line. On its homepage, BigCommerce cites a 28% annual growth for its merchants – roughly twice the industry average.
Shopify Plus merchants average 126% year-over-year growth.
Mark GoetzeCo-founder, Motion RC
“Shopify Plus doesn’t just reskin its control panel, it adds valuable functionality. The unified global search is really powerful and lets me search products, orders, customers, and collections all from one location. I also love dashboards and, since analytics are the lifeblood of running a back-end, I really like the new LiveView dash that lets me visualize my store’s performance in real-time.”
On Shopify Plus, enterprise ecommerce means…
- 24/7 priority support, and ecommerce’s largest ecosystem of Partners and apps
- Time and money-saving ecommerce automation tools like Flow and Launchpad that enable merchants to put much of their business on autopilot
- Shopify Scripts to create ultra-custom checkout offers, payment options, and shipping choices that significantly improve conversion rates and average order size
- Over 20 sales channels, including wholesale, which taps the lucrative $7.7 trillion B2B ecommerce market using the same back-end as your B2C storefront
The choice often boils down to where you are in your entrepreneurial journey.
Smaller brands with relatively simple businesses that are growing modestly will likely find BigCommerce sufficient. You’ll spend less money per month upfront and enjoy an easy-to-use solution right out-of-the-box… but you won’t have access to many of the powerful tools necessary — nor those Shopify Plus has in development — should you decide to scale.
The most obvious difference between BigCommerce and Shopify Plus is the degree to which the platforms help merchants grow.
Brands relying on BigCommerce can expect, according to the company, “28% annual growth.” By contrast, Shopify Plus merchants grow at a rate of 126% year-over-year — approximately five times more than BigCommerce merchants and 690% more than the industry at large.
Robin H. SmithCo-founder, VL OMNI
“Shopify Plus has a distinct advantage. It allows brands and their partners to customize extremely complex business scenarios with custom development. BigCommerce doesn’t handle the complexity of larger, more sophisticated merchants as well.”
BigCommerce merchants sell into 150 countries and have processed $9 billion in sales through the platform. Compare that to Shopify merchants, who sell into 175 countries around the world and have generated roughly $60 billion in sales.
To scale rapidly, each platform is ready to use out-of-the-box, though it’s important to understand migration time will vary for each platform based on the amount of data being moved and the complexity of the business.
Both solutions boast industry-leading uptime. And yet, data taken directly from each company’s official status page (July—August 2018) shows that Storefront Response Time for Shopify averages 45ms whereas BigCommerce clocks in at 179ms. That means BigCommerce’s initial response time for shoppers is nearly 4x slower than what you can expect from Shopify.
In addition to lightning-fast page speed, analysts suggest Shopify Plus checkouts are up to 40% faster. The edge in speed and reliability is, in part, attributable to the platform’s dual global content delivery networks (CDN).
Shopify Plus’ CDNs ensure that end-users are closer to the data center powering the site they’re browsing, regardless of where in the world users are. It also means Shopify Plus-powered sites can easily withstand significant spikes in traffic without compromising performance.
As a result, Shopify Plus offers unlimited bandwidth and — during 2017’s Black Friday Cyber Monday online holiday shopping peak — processed 10,149 orders per minute and $1.1 million in sales per minute.
Brands growing rapidly must trust that their platform can grow with them. As such, merchants benefit from the platform’s massive architecture.
Shopify Plus gives high-growth, high-volume merchants the scalability, reliability, and flexibility they need. In fact, merchants often choose Shopify Plus to accommodate the massive loads associated with flash sales, major sales events, or even “Shark Tank” appearances. The significant spikes in traffic associated with events like these often require thousands of concurrent checkouts that Shopify Plus handles seamlessly.
Greg MerrellCo-founder of Simplistic
“Shopify Plus is the only platform we trust to handle the massive spikes in traffic and transactions that come from ‘Good Morning America’, ‘The View’, and other nationally televised flash sales. With over a thousand successful flash sales, we can unequivocally recommend Shopify Plus for all of your high-traffic needs.”
BigCommerce offers what it calls an advanced customization framework to create intuitive and engaging storefronts. The platform’s storefront editor allows brands to build or change their online look without writing any code. Like Plus, BigCommerce also allows those with technical skills to customize their site themes with HTML, CSS, and popular code libraries.
Similarly, to build a custom enterprise online store with Shopify Plus, all that is required is knowledge of HTML, CSS, and Liquid — Shopify’s templating language. Shopify also maintains an enormous library of themes, which can almost entirely remove the need for any manual page development.
Mark GoetzeCo-founder, Motion RC
“I have to commend Shopify Plus because they’re always adding functionality, and that includes the checkout. You wouldn’t believe how many customers enter the wrong address. So when Shopify added address verification, it put a smile on my face.”
In addition to full front-end code access, Shopify Scripts allows developers to customize shopping carts and checkouts without the usual attendant costs. Scripts give you advanced functionality and flexibility, while at the same time maintaining stability.
Even more important, though, is the powerful Shopify Plus API, a differentiator that developers and data-integration professionals say allows Plus merchants to build complex customizations that result in more delightful customer experiences.
Seamlessly connecting storefronts with ERPs, PIMs, OMSs, CRMs, and 3PLs, it’s the Plus API and its webhooks that make the platform far more functional and feature-rich than the BigCommerce API.
Robin H. SmithCo-founder, VL OMNI
“With BigCommerce, I have to schedule all API calls, which can get expensive. It might be a subtle difference to most, but the richness of the Shopify Plus API and the push technology of webhooks is a big advantage. You can create custom processes and do a lot more with the Shopify Plus API.”
Shopify Plus also enables developers to build their own platform customizations in the form of private apps, which can be developed using the client’s preferred development language. And the Embedded App SDK lets individual client extensions appear directly in the Shopify Admin.
Global and multi-channel
While BigCommerce doesn’t disclose exactly how many channels through which its merchants can sell, Shopify Plus merchants can list, sell, and manage their products on over 20 separate sales channels, including Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Pinterest, Instagram, and more.
Nate CheckettsCo-founder and CEO, Rhone
“You don’t need an ecommerce or a retail strategy, you need a commerce strategy. To say we’re all in on Shopify Plus is an understatement. It allows us to focus on building a product rather than building an ecommerce site.”
BigCommerce touts its Channel Manager as making multi-channel “effortless” and boasts that multi-channel sales may be tracked from the platform’s dashboard, Shopify Plus offers the same visibility and centralized reporting.
The major difference between the platforms is that Shopify Plus merchants can literally sell anywhere.
With Shopify Payments, Shopify Plus merchants can sell in multiple currencies and get paid in their currency, all from one store. With customer-friendly storefront and checkout experiences, merchants can drive delight and conversion with international customers. And currency is reflected across the admin, reports, first-party apps like Shopify Flow and Script Editor, as well as third-party apps. On BigCommerce, you can only select displayed currencies. Customers can’t check out or see emails and invoices in their local currency, which can create a disrupted experience.
The Shopify Plus POS allows businesses to sell in physical retail locations or launch pop-up stores while still managing inventory, orders, and customer data with a single back-end. Shopify Plus’ Sales Channel SDK can add commerce to any mobile app, marketplace, or website, connecting your users to millions of products right where they are. Shopify handles the hard parts — like payments, shipping, taxes, inventory, analytics, and more.
Shopify Plus is also ultra-focused on helping merchants enter the $7 trillion dollar B2B market with a wholesale channel.
The channel instantly syncs your products, orders, and buyer accounts within your existing control panel. Merchants can quickly and easily launch a password-protected storefront for select customers and negotiated deals.
Instead of building a channel dedicated entirely to wholesale, BigCommerce appears to be offering a workaround by suggesting merchants create a wholesale customer group and restrict the products being offered to the group from retail B2C customers.
Paul HodgeCEO, Laird Superfood
“It’s really exciting Shopify Plus had already built exactly what we needed. It works great and saves us tons of time.”
Instead of showing brands how to check to see if the theme they’re using is responsive — as BigCommerce does here — Shopify Themes and Liquid Templating are designed to be responsive from the ground up.
When customers go to your store using a smartphone or tablet, its design automatically changes to optimize the mobile experience. The Shopify Theme Store includes over 100 free and premium themes, each engineered to display beautifully across any screen size.
More than design, however, what sets Shopify Plus apart is our approach to mobile-first payments.
Over Black Friday Cyber Monday in 2017, Shopify’s mobile orders smashed both the ecommerce industry average as well as BigCommerce’s own reported numbers:
- Ecommerce average: 30%
- BigCommerce average: 50%
- Shopify average: 64%
A large part of Shopify Plus’ advantage lies in Shopify Pay, a mobile-optimized checkout process that relies on two-factor authentication to let existing customers checkout on a single screen across half a million stores:
Alan CassinelliDirector of Marketing, Peel
“Accelerated checkouts really take advantage of the new technologies we have to purchase. It doesn’t make sense to have to re-enter the same information over and over again across all of the Internet.”
Shopify also provides a Mobile App SDK to easily develop custom commerce apps or to integrate purchasing into your existing mobile application. With just a few lines of code, you can insert native Buy Buttons or embed a responsive online store.
One other differentiator is the mobile application that positions merchants to monitor and manage storefronts from their smartphones. The app offers merchants the visibility necessary to operate their businesses while traveling or whenever they might be separated from the computer from which they normally access their store’s dashboard.
Charlie JabaleyCo-founder, Street Execs
“The push notifications on my Shopify smartphone app were going crazy. It was incredible, an extreme high to see two or three sales notifications every minute. In just a week we were doing in revenue what some of the biggest artists do in an entire month.”
At the time of this writing, BigCommerce customers are still waiting to hear how the platform intends to navigate The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) taking effect on May 25, 2018.
Shopify Plus, on the other hand, is solidifying its leadership role in security by detailing how the new regulation, which harmonizes privacy and data protection laws within the European Economic Area, might impact merchants. Shopify Plus is also assuring merchants it will be compliant when the new regulation takes effect and offers merchants resources they need to prepare.
The trust Shopify Plus has built with merchants is rivaled only by the trust the platform helps merchants build with their customers.
Customers must feel safe and secure when transacting with your brand. For this reason, security is fundamental to ecommerce. PCI Compliance is the industry’s way of verifying security standards for organizations that handle any online payments. PCI Compliance goes well beyond the software itself; it creates dependencies on how the software is managed, deployed, and hosted.
Though there have been complaints that BigCommerce modifies some merchant stores to be PCI compliant, the platform assures customers it is Level 1 PCI DSS compliant. With Shopify Plus, your site and all its data — not just checkout or transactional information — is hosted and protected in full compliance with Level 1 PCI DSS. This process includes:
- Maintaining a secure network
- Protecting cardholder data
- Maintaining a vulnerability management program
- Implementing strong access control measures
- Regularly monitoring and testing networks
- Maintaining an information security policy
Where most ecommerce websites use SSL encryption technology to protect a shopper’s personal information during purchase, Shopify covers the entire online experience. Once your certificate is activated, all traffic will be redirected from HTTP to encrypted HTTPS.
BigCommerce prides itself on resolving 90% of customer inquiries on the first call that lasts, on average, less than two minutes. Those are certainly impressive customer service metrics of which BigCommerce is rightfully proud. However, being able to handle nearly all support queries in a matter of 120 seconds or less offers valuable insight into the level of sophistication inherent in the average BigCommerce merchant.
Enterprise-level brands with complex operations require more than a quick phone call to migrate or launch successfully.
That’s why Shopify Plus offers the industry’s largest network of support — including an expert team of Launch Engineers, Solution Engineers, front-end designers, and dedicated support staff — to ensure that your transition is smooth, fast, and painless. This is the case not only during migration and launch, but for the lifetime of our relationship:
- Launch Engineers are assigned to every new project and serve as a technical point-of-contact for migration and replatforming coordination
- Our Merchant Acceleration Team regularly creates exclusive courses for Plus merchants
- The Shopify Plus Facebook Community, as well as in-person and digital meet-ups, make sure you never have to face scaling alone
From billing to development, themes to sales channels, analytics to automation, we’re with you every step of the way.
Building out a thriving partner ecosystem hinges on offering merchants and partners innovative opportunities and solutions they can’t get anywhere else.
It’s one reason third-parties judge the Shopify Plus ecosystem — one uniquely designed to benefit both merchants and partners — as more advanced, diverse, and stronger than that of BigCommerce.
Not surprisingly, a community of thousands of Shopify Experts has grown up around the over 5,300 enterprise merchants who rely on Shopify Plus to power their strategies. To ensure that Shopify Plus can accommodate the needs of large retailers, we created the Shopify Plus Partner Program, an award-winning, carefully-vetted collection of agencies, solutions, and technical providers. These include:
- Solutions partners: designers and developers that specialize in Shopify Plus themes, app integration, and customization.
- Technology partners: ecommerce tools, providers, and integrations that extend the value of Shopify Plus to our merchants.
- Agency partners: full-service agencies that offer a comprehensive suite of creative, marketing, and development services.
Shopify maintains a library of more than 1,500 professionally-built apps — roughly six times more than BigCommerce — all of which are designed to minimize dependency on developers. The Shopify App Store offers a wide array of solutions, from marketing, sales, social media, shipping, inventory, and even supply-chain management.
At first, navigating all those apps can feel overwhelming – an embarrassment of riches on our end. But that’s where guidance with a dedicated Launch Engineer during setup and an ongoing relationship with the Merchant Success team pays off. Rather than make the choices alone, both can lead you into our growing ecosystem based on your unique needs and goals.
All told, BigCommerce vs Shopify Plus is a decision that must align with where your business is and where it wants to go.
However, a (1) disjointed integration strategy, without webhooks or a transparent and consistent multi-channel approach, (2) one-off, private apps that are limited in number, (3) lack of site performance, and (4) less-than-enterprise system to serve customers and deliver growth… make us confident Shopify Plus is up to your scrutiny.