BIG COMMERCE: A CRITICAL REVIEW

Introduction

Big commerce, an ecommerce company founded in 2009 by Eddie Machaalani and Mitchell Harper both Australians who met in an online chat platform in 2003. A year after meeting, Eddie and Mitchell launched their first company, interspire, which evolved into BigCommerce. BigCommerce mission is to help merchant sell more at every stage of growth, from a small start up to mid-market businesses, to large enterprises. As at today BigCommerce serve over 150 countries, 2,800 agency and technology partners, with tens of thousands of merchants. In this review I will put you through the whole activities that occur on the BigCommerce platform, and you will have an idea on whether BigCommerce is the right choice for your business or not.

What is BigCommerce?

It is a paid-for ecommerce solution that allows business owners to create an online store to sell their products over the internet. BigCommerce runs on its own servers, so you don’t have to purchase web hosting or install any special software on your pc to use it. You are at liberty to build and manage your store from anywhere.

                                                          The BigCommerce Platform

  BigCommerce is a Software as a service (SaaS) solution which means you don’t own the software but you subscribe on a monthly fee to use the service. The platform is equipped with a range customizable templates to help you design your online store. The platform can be used in selling both physical and digital goods. Some tools are also available to help you market your products.

BigCommerce is aimed mainly at people without design skills, however, it also allows more tech oriented individuals and developers take things further by availing them the option to edit the CSS and HTML of their stores. As with most hosted online stores and website development services e.g. Wix, Shopify, Jimdo etc., if BigCommerce were to shut down or change some of its features radically, you might find yourself in a position where you will need to migrate your store to another platform. But if you are in a position to build your own ecommerce store from the scratch, you will likely going to end up using a hosted solution like BigCommerce to run your online store. The good news here is that it is one of the most trusted products of its kind out there. Internet statistics suggests that around 50,000 live sites are powered by BigCommerce. 

                         Official statistics from BigCommerce Platform usage (2022)

Now we can see BigCommerce is one of the smaller ecommerce brands out there, but interestingly with a client roster that includes well established companies like Fujitsu, Gillette, Skull Candy, Harvard University, Ted Baker and Ben and Jerry’s. It is a solution that delivers above its capacity and is trusted by many serious businesses.

BigCommerce Pricing

The company offers four monthly subscription plans;

  • BigCommerce Standard @ $29.95 per month
  • BigCommerce plus @ $79.95
  • BigCommerce Pro @ $299.95
  • BigCommerce Enterprises; here pricing vary pending on your business requirements.

There is 10% discount for the ‘pro’ and ‘plus’ plans if you pay annually for them, a 15day free trial is also available.

The standard Plus and Pro plans are targeted at individuals and small businesses and are part of the BigCommerce’s “Essentials” range of products.

The Enterprise plan is aimed at larger businesses and corporations, these are users with very high bandwidth and sophisticated selling requirements.

Core Selling Features

It is worth of note that the exact features you can obtain from BigCommerce is much more dependent on the plan you opt for. However, there are important feature common to all plans which includes;

  • 12 free templates
  • A drag and drop page builder
  • The ability to display unlimited products
  • Integration with a wide range of payment gateways like PayPal
  • You can accept multiple payment methods including credit cards, Apple Pay and Google Pay
  • Search engine optimization tools (SEO)
  • Blogging ability
  • Unlimited staff accounts
  • Discount coupons
  • Gift vouchers
  • You can integrate third party apps
  • Ability to tweak HTML and CSS
  • Product preview functionality
  • Professional reporting

When it comes to online store builders, BigCommerce’s comprehensive features set is quite unique as most other online store builders requires you to upgrade to a more expensive plans or you will pay for most of the features listed above. With this we can arguably say that BigCommerce considerable cheaper services than most competing online store providers at its entry level monthly subscription of $29.95 per month. Additionally, you can unlock more features in BigCommerce by paying more.

Let’s discuss the major differences between each BigCommerce Plans

Difference between the BigCommerce plans

As with all service providers, how much functionality you get from a service provider depends much more on how much you are willing to pay for it. At BigCommerce offers plans with distinct set of features, as you are about to see below.

BigCommerce Standard

This is BigCommerce cheapest offering which costs $29.95. This is about the same price offered by Wix, Volusion nd Shopify’s entry level plans. This plan comes with the following benefits;

  • Unlimited no of products sale
  • A standalone web stores
  • Unlimited file storage
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • No limits to staff accounts
  • Product preview and ratings function
  • Gift cards and discount codes
  • Point of sale (POS) function (this enables you to sell in a physical store/location)
  • Real-shipping quotations
  • Multi-currency support
  • Accelerated mobile pages functionality
  • Professional reporting

As seen above, this represents a whole lot for the value of your money. The list represents pretty much all the basic ingredients of an ecommerce store in the entry level of BigCommerce’s, this is hardly obtainable with other competing products. A most significant feature is the ability to sell in different currencies, more interestingly is the incorporation of automatic currency converter.

One major criticism worthy of note is that at the entry level BigCommerce standard plan is the unavailability of abandoned cart saving feature (ACS). This is an important single piece of functionality, because it can be used to view customers who have stop their purchases mid-way, with this information you can send them an email reminder to encourage them to complete the transaction. Taking a look at BigCommerce closest competitor Shopify, their ‘Basic Plan’ which is a similar priced package has the ACS feature. Another limitation on BigCommerce standard plan is the annual sales limit of $50,000.

BigCommerce Plus

Next in the ladder is ‘BigCommerce Plus’ plan. This package has in addition to the core functionality as found in the standard plan, these additional features include;

  • A ‘persistent cart’ this enables a customer add a product from one device (e.g smart phones) and also access the same cart from another device (Laptop for example).
  • An abandoned cart recovery tool
  • Stored credit card: these features enable your customers to store their credit card details in your store
  • Customer grouping segmentation

With regards to the last feature listed above, customers grouping lets you divide customers into different segments, so that you can know how to allocate rewards to deserving customers.

Annual sales limit for BigCommerce Plus is $180,000.   

BigCommerce Pro

Next on the ladder is ‘BigCommerce Pro’ plan. A major advantage of this plan over BigCommerce Plus is the increase in sales limit. This gives you a higher sales limit of unto $4000,000 in online sales. However, an additional fee of $150 per month per extra $200k in sales exists. Another added advantage with this plan is Google Customer review, once a customer buys a product from your BigCommerce store, they will be prompted for an optional review (after delivery). When the customer indicates interest in reviewing your products/services, Google will email them a survey form after they receive their order. The collected ratings are then displayed on your site via an optional Google Customer Review badge), in Google Shopping and Search Ads. Another main features you are entitled to on this plan are custom SSL via a third party and advanced product filtering functionality.

BigCommerce Enterprise

The last but certainly not the least, here is the BigCommerce “Enterprise” plan. This plan is intended for corporate users with very high volume of sales, say above $1,000,000 with accordingly advanced selling requirements. Exclusive features in this plan includes:

  • A multi-store creation feature; this feature enables you to build lots of different versions of your web store, with the ability to change the content and currency settings to suit particular market needs.
  • Price list; this gives you the opportunity to create pricing groups as a result different groups of customers can see different product prices based on how you segment them.
  • Unlimited API calls; this API application interphase enables developers to share data between your store and other apps, and this plan doesn’t place any limit to the amount of times this data sharing connections can be made. With these businesses expecting high volume of traffic/ API connections to their stores are well taken care of.
  • Priority support
  • Account management services.

To opt in for this plan you will need to discuss your business’s specific requirement with BigCommerce to establish pricing. The overall cost will reflect your business needs, but according to BigCommerce who claims that they are much cheaper than those for Shopify’s enterprise plan which is known as ‘Shopify Plus’ offered at $2,000 per month.

Obviously, you should expect much more support when you subscribe to BigCommerce Enterprise plan, set up, in-depth support, data migration can be facilitated. Note that the annual sale limit for the BigCommerce Enterprise plan can be negotiable.

Sale Limits and Transaction fees

One important question that comes to the mind of potential BigCommerce users is “what percentage of my sales are they going to take?  Let your mind be at rest as no transaction fees on any BigCommerce plan. This is contrary to most of its key competitors. However, there is credit card processing fee to the company you select to process your payments. This will depend on the payment gateway you use in paying (to be discussed shortly).

Pending on how you view it, Bad news or otherwise, BigCommerce places limits on your annual online sale volume. These limits are listed below;

  • BigCommerce standard: $50,000
  • BigCommerce Plus: $180,000
  • BigCommerce: 400,000
  • BigCommerce Enterprise: Negotiable

When I contacted BigCommerce to know the possible consequence of breaching these limits, the response I receive was “users are giving a leverage of additional 1,000 – 2,000 orders per plan, before been forced to upgrade. During this period users will receive notifications about upgrading their package but will not be prevented from receiving more orders, however, in a situation where the additional 1,000-2,000 have been reached they will be stopped from getting more orders unless they upgrade”

I don’t really expect this sales limits issue will be red card notice for most merchants, reason that is your store is getting $300,000 per annum, you wouldn’t be upset is asked to pay an additional $150 per month for breaching these limits. But for some merchants this cannot be acceptable. Close competing products like Squarespace or Shopify don’t apply these types of limits, so BigCommerce should look into this, they could do better.

Which BigCommerce plan represent a better deal?   

Going through the various packages, I found out that the $79 per month ‘Plus’ plan is the sweet pot, because it gives one access to features that will enable you sell considerably more products, an abandoned card saver, persistent and credit card storing. As long as you have a reasonable good flow of traffic to your store, these features will usually pay for themselves with extra.

Payment Gateways

There are basically two ways to accept payments in BigCommerce. The easiest and most efficient thing to do is to use the default payment option for BigCommerce, which is Paypal powered by Braintree. By doing so you by cut the need for complicated payment setup and you get preferential Paypal rates for credit card transaction which reduces as climb up the BigCommerce pricing ladder. The US rates currently are as follows;

  • BigCommerce standard: 2.59% + 49c
  • BigCommerce Plus: 2.35% + 49c
  •  BigCommerce Pro: 2.05% + 49c
  • BigCommerce Enterprise: 2.05% + 49c

These fees differ according to countries, for example in the United Kingdom, rates start from 1.20% + 30p.

There is also an option of using a third-party payment gateways. Forty-eight of such payment gateways are currently available for BigCommerce, pending on your country of operation. These figures are reasonable compared to its closest competitors. Squarespace only provides two payment gateways (Paypal and Stripe). However, Shopify offers over one hundred payment gateways.

Based on the payment gateway you choose, you are required to pay a monthly subscription fee, a transaction fee or both. It is worthy of note that these fees are not applied by BigCommerce but by the payment gateway provider you choose. This contrast sharply with Shopify, which charges you transaction fee for using a third-party payment gateway.

BigCommerce Templates 

BigCommerce offers a good selection of highly responsive templates that you can use in designing your online store. At the time of filing this review, there are 12 free BigCommerce themes and 210 paid themes; each one contains a number of distinct variants, so there are quite a lot to select from.

BigCommerce Free Themes

These free themes are professional in appearance and provide a good starting point for building an online store. However, few of them are similar to each other with the main difference being in color schemes. This is the major disadvantage with free themes, although we technical have 12 available, in reality it feels more like on 5 themes are available to choose from. This means that in the area of Theme provision BigCommerce doesn’t arguably provide much value as other alternative like Squarespace, which provides approximately 140 themes and Wix, which provides about 800+ themes.

BigCommerce Paid-for Themes

If you aren’t satisfied with the free themes available at BigCommerce you have an option to purchase a more advanced themes. This have fairly reasonable price tags starting from $150 to $399. Occasionally you can pick up some premium themes at discounted rates say $99 when on promo sale.

You will also discover that there are similarities among the paid-for themes, which obviously does not merit to be classified as different themes. However, you will be able to create a professional design for your BigCommerce store either with the free or premium themes.

Making use of BigCommerce’s Themes

Overall assessment of the BigCommerce themes indicates that they are very easy to edit and are reasonably flexible. But a key area where BigCommerce could improve in their array of themes is their typefaces; font selection in most of the free themes are relatively small compared to the ones offered by competing products like Squarespace and Shopify, some cases limiting one to just 4 or 5 web fonts in addition to 8regular web safe/ desktop fonts. Although it’s possible to add another more fonts, but this will require a little bit of coding, which may not appeal to most users. There is also a limitation on the ease at which one can hide certain site elements in BigCommerce templates, for example, when testing ‘Fortune’ theme, one can’t hide the side bar without adding some CSS.

All free themes are fully responsive as mentioned earlier, meaning they will automatically display correctly on any device (Tablets, mobile, desktops, etc.). They are also AMP-enabled (more on this later).

Product Options, variant and categories in BigCommerce

Product variants are a number of product option combinations that a provider can offer, for example a small black knife in your store would be counted as one variant, another large red one would count as another and so on. One strong feature of BigCommerce is the way it handles product options and variants. Unlike its competitor Shopify, which allows you to only present users with three product option without having to code or pay for third party apps, BigCommerce lets you create a large number of product options (about 260 per product). You can actually present a product with up to 600 variants. Whereas, Squarespace and Shopify’s equivalent variants are 250 and 100 respectively. This implies that if you are selling a product that has lots of different formats, BigCommerce may be a good option for you. However, although BigCommerce is great with product option, it’s less attractive when it comes to product categories. Creating and editing the products is straightforward, but you have to assign them to individual products in quite a manual fashion which could be quite tasking.

It could have been better if you can automatically categorize products based on their names and tags as obtainable in Shopify. Moreover, you can use a ‘bulk edit’ functionality to speed up this aspect of product categorization a bit, but Shopify’s smart approach is preferable.

Abandoned Cart saver feature

This is a feature obtainable in BigCommerce that is worth singling out for credits. Arguably, it is one of the best out there. This feature allows you to create maximum of 3 automated emails to site visitors who go through the sales process only to exit without purchasing anything. These mails can be used to remind your potential customers to complete their transaction or even provide an incentive for them to do so. This feature has the potential to dramatically increase your revenue with just a little extra effort.

It is important at this point to note that Abandoned cart functionality only come with BigCommerce’s Plus, Pro and Enterprise plans, which means obtaining this functionality is a little bit more expensive than from from closely competing companies. Nevertheless, the BigCommerce abandoned cart saver is more flexible than similar offerings from closest competitors, in which most limit the number of automated mails to just one. With this there is some justification the the said higher price.

In my view and experience, the abandoned card saver often pays for itself and if you are confident of receiving lots of visitors to your site, opting for BigCommerce plans with the abandoned card functionality makes a lot of sense.

Selling in Multiple Currency    

Your sales will typically increase when you sell in currencies used by your site visitors, that is to say if you are selling in different countries, it’s a good idea to allow your potential customers to choose to pay in their own local currency or better still present price tags on your products in the visitors’ local currency automatically. The main good news is that with BigCommerce free template, you could obtain a very good multi-currency solution out of the box, for example one that facilitates auto currency conversion according to IP address. However, if you are using a paid-for theme, you might need the services of a third-party app to enable multi-currency selling. But generally, BigCommerce rates high when it comes to multi-currency selling, most competing products don’t offer this functionality at all (for example, Squarespace), while others don’t give you the privilege of setting your own currency conversion except when you subscribe for a higher plan.

I found out that the multi-currency feature is one of the strongest arguments for choosing BigCommerce over competing ecommerce products.

Multilanguage selling in BigCommerce

With BigCommerce sell in multiple languages using an integration with the translation app Weglot, this is because BigCommerce doesn’t have any built-in multilingual capabilities. However, the BigCommerce plus Weglot approach have both advantages and disadvantages. On the positive side, you have 100+ languages to offer your site in and the translations are automatic, with an option to manually edit them. On the negative aspect, you will need to pay extra for the Weglot separately from the amount you pay for the initial BigCommerce plan. And this could be very expensive if you have a high word count on your site or when you need to present your site in different languages.

Dropshipping with BigCommerce

A business model you don’t necessarily keep what you are selling in stock. Instead, you accept orders, send details to a supplier who then send the goods to your customers. One advantage with this model is that you don’t require much startup capital, as there is no need to purchase any stock before you commence selling. The disadvantage here is that low start-up capital signifies that a lot of people will be using it, making it a very competitive business area.

BigCommerce can be used for dropshipping. However, a third-party app is required which you will to install from BigCommerce app market to facilitate it. A few of the third-party apps available for dropshipping include;

  • Spocket
  • Ali-Express Dropshipping
  • Wholesale2B
  • Printful
  • Inventory source
  • Sunrise wholesale
  • Syncee

These apps vary in price, with some giving free trials to use

Point of Sale Feature in BigCommerce

BigCommerce doesn’t just let you sale online only, but also gives you the opportunity to have a ‘Point of sale’ (POS) services. Credits to some integration to some POS service providers (Paypal Zettle, Clover, Vend, Square, Hike and Connect POS). You can take payment and synchronize inventory when operating from a physical location. Other competing products either don’t offer at all or they been very restrictive in terms of which country they can be used in, or the software or hardware options that are available.

File Upload and customized fields

Merchants who need to capture text in order to complete an order, like in the case of printers who require their customers to upload Jpeg format of logo on a shirt design or jewelers who require personalize text for engraving will find this feature captivating. This feature is a straight forward approach in BigCommerce, you just find the relevant product, create custom fields and then name it. By so doing your site users will be able to fill in the information into it at the point of purchase. Additionally, it’s very easy to allow your customers to upload files of up to 500MB size when the purchase that product. This feature is considerably better on BigCommerce than other competing products. For example, Squarespace allows you to create a custom field but doesn’t facilitate file upload. Shopify on the other hand allows you to create custom field and upload files but this feature requires coding. So, in all, a kudos for BigCommerce in this area.

BigCommerce Shipping Options

With BigCommerce you are given opportunity to set up variety shipping methods. These include;

  • Free shipping
  • Flat rates
  • Weight-based rates
  • Price-based rates
  • In-store pickup
  • Real-time shipping rates, usually from third party carriers.

BigCommerce has an advantage over its competitors when it comes to third-party real-time shipping rates. This feature can be accessed on any of its plans, whereas on other platforms you will usually need to be subscribed to one of the most expensive plans to access this feature.

Interface and ease of use  

The BigCommerce interface in user friendly, its interface is similar to that of Squarespace and Shopify in terms of quality and appearance. It’s not totally different from WordPress dashboard either. If you are conversant with contemporary content management system (CMS) you should find it easy to navigate. However, when it comes to content management there is room for improvement.

Using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) in BigCommerce

AMP is a Google backed project which is responsible for delivering your site content quickly on mobile phones.  The main advantage of having this functionality on your site is that it drastically reduces the number of mobile users who leave your site as a result of difficulty in loading your content. This means that you will have a higher percentage of engaged visitors and potential sales. BigCommerce AMP offering is very excellent and all its free templates facilitates the use of AMP and many of the premiums do also.

Android and iOS Apps for BigCommerce

After several years with no mobile app, BigCommerce has just reintroduce another mobile app. Available on both android and apple playstore. This new app allows you to manage your store on the go.

Claim free $1500 Giveaway😎