Bigcommerce is a paid-for ‘hosted’ e-commerce solution that allows business owners to set up an online store and sell their products online. It’s a software as a service (Saas) product, which means that you don’t own the software, but pay a monthly fee to use it.
Bigcommerce comes with a range of customizable templates to help you design your store; you can use it to sell either physical or digital goods; and there are also some tools provided to help you market your store.
The product is aimed primarily at people without much in the way of web design skills, but it also allows more tech-savvy users and developers to tweak the HTML and CSS of their online stores too.
As with all hosted online store and website building services (Shopify, Volusion, Squarespace, Jimdo etc.), if Bigcommerce were to shut down or change its feature set radically, you might find yourself in a position where you needed to migrate your store to another platform (Magento Go users can tell you all about that!).
But unless you are in a position to develop your own online store (an expensive and laborious undertaking) you are in all likelihood going to end up using a hosted solution like Bigcommerce anyway to run your store, and the good news is that it is one of the more established products of its kind out there, with a client roster that includes Toyota, Gibson Guitars and Travelpro.
Bigcommerce offers four month-to-month pricing plans, which are as follows:
- Bigcommerce Standard: $29.95 per month
- Bigcommerce Plus: $79.95 per month
- Bigcommerce Pro: $249.95 per month*
- Bigcommerce Enterprise: pricing varies, depending on your business requirements
A 10% discount is available for the ‘Plus’ and ‘Pro’ plans if you pay annually for them.
The ‘standard’, ‘plus’ and ‘pro’ plans are aimed at individuals and small businesses; the Enterprise plan is geared more towards large businesses and corporates (users with very high bandwidth / advanced functionality requirements).
* This fee increases depending on what your annual sales figures are like – these sales limits are discussed in more depth below.
Core selling features
As we’ll see below, the exact features you get with Bigcommerce depend on the plan you opt for, but important features common to all plans include:
- a choice of 7 free templates
- the ability to sell a wide range of either physical or digital goods, in categories of your choosing and using shipping rates of your choosing
- integration with Paypal and a wide range of payment gateways
- full content management (CMS) functionality
- excellent search engine optimisation (SEO) options – it’s very easy to add appropriate keywords to your products and site pages and create SEO-friendly URLs
- automated image optimisation (using Akamai Image Manager) – this can speed up the delivery of your web pages, which can in turn improve search rankings
- integration with several e-mail marketing services: Constant Contact, iContact, Mailchimp and Interspire
- discount coupons and gift vouchers
- product review functionality – this is particularly welcome: not all e-commerce platforms offer this as standard, and usually require you to fiddle about with third-party apps or services to enable it.
- the ability to tweak CSS and HTML as desired
- professional reporting.
This comprehensive set of features means that Bigcommerce arguably offers considerably more bang for the buck than many competing products at its $29.95 monthly plan price point.
With some alternative e-commerce platforms, you’ll find yourself having to be on a pretty expensive plan to access some of the above features, or paying for apps to provide the additional functionality you need.
For example, Bigcommerce’s $29.95 ‘Starter’ plan compares favourably to Shopify’s $29 equivalent in that it offers 5 key features at this level that Shopify doesn’t, namely professional reporting, image optimisation, gift cards, a built in ratings and review system and real-time carrier shipping quotes.
(However, unlike Shopify’s $29 plan it doesn’t provide an abandoned cart saver).
Similarly, the feature set included in the $29.95 Bigcommerce plan is also more generous than the similarly priced ‘Basic’ Squarespace plan – providing you with professional reporting, gift cards, a built in ratings and review system and real-time carrier shipping quotes where its competitor doesn’t.
Given this, I’d say that the main strength of Bigcommerce is that it generally provides good value for money and serves as a good ‘all-rounder’ e-commerce platform out of the box.
Pros of Bigcommerce
- There are no transaction fees, even if you use a third-party payment gateway.
- The overall feature set on entry-level Bigcommerce plans is comprehensive by comparison to competing products.
- You get a good set of reporting tools on all plans – again, this is not the case with all competing products.
- It comes with built-in product review functionality.
- Its SEO features are great – you can create short URLs, AMP format is available on all its templates, and automatic image optimisation is included on all plans.
- The ‘abandoned cart saver’ tool is more comprehensive than the similar offering from competitors.
- It comes with a wide range of discounting / coupon tools out of the box.
- It’s really easy to create custom fields.
- Allowing your customers to upload files during their purchase is really straightforward.
- It comes with a built-in blog. This is important because it allows you to use inbound marketing techniques directly from your store, without having to make use of a third party tool like WordPress (or set up a subdomain for your blog etc.).
- You can avail of cheaper-than-usual Paypal card transaction fees with Bigcommerce, thanks to its preferential arrangement with Braintree.
- Bigcommerce is a very flexible solution for vendors with a lot of different product variants.
Cons of Bigcommerce
- Limits are placed on annual online sales – and if you exceed them, you’ll need to upgrade to a more expensive monthly plan.
- The price of the Bigcommerce starter plan is on the high side by comparison to other solutions, although the plan itself is more feature-rich than entry-level products by other leading e-commerce solution providers.
- VAT MOSS rates could be better catered for.
- There are no mobile apps available to help you manage your store on the go.
- The built-in blog doesn’t facilitate RSS feeds.
- By comparison to some of its competitors, you have to pay quite a lot to avail of abandoned cart functionality.