As a newbie into the world of eCommerce, the challenges in setting up a store can seem overwhelming. After doing all of the work of research, finding products, and setting budgets, you still have to select how to create your website in a way that brings you the best results. The good news is, there are a lot of SaaS (software as a service) solutions that help you set-up a store while assisting you with features, functionality, and design. Then you are just left to decide the best fit for your business.
The most popular option for an eCommerce website is Shopify and most people host their store on Shopify with their eyes closed due to the ease of setting up and the popularity of their brand. But is it the right choice for you?
In this article, We’ll compare the big guns, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, and Shopify to see which platform best suits your needs. We will look at things like:
- ease of use
The most important thing to look for in a content management system (Shopify, BigCommerce, etc.) is if the features align with your needs and if they will be useful to you as your business scales. So here are the core features the big 3 offer:
- 100+ professional themes from Shopify store plus additional themes available from theme forest
- 1000s of Shopify apps to choose from
- Option to edit HTML and CSS directly
- Host store on your own domain
- Blogging available
- Site analytics
- Mobile friendly
- Sell anything (products, services, digital, physical)
- 24/7 email chat and phone support
- Hosting included
- Free SSL certificate
- Unlimited file storage
- Accept payments with PayPal, Stripe, bank deposits, cash on delivery and almost 70 other options
- SEO friendly
- Mobile friendly
- Built-in marketing tools
- Lots of design options (themes, customizable CSS/HTML)
- Can host store on own domain name
- Reports built-in
- Payment gateways built-in
- Free hosting
- Call support 9-5, Monday to Friday. Email and chat support available 24/7
WooCommerce is slightly different from the other two as it is a plugin for WordPress. So you can only use WooCommerce as your content management system if you host your website on WordPress. Its features include:
- Ticket, forum, and blog support
- Accept payments via PayPal, stripe, checks, bank transfer and cash on delivery
- Multi-language support
- Options to offer free or flat rate shipping
- Reporting on sales, inventories and store performance
- Ability to configure tax settings
- Marketing tools inbuilt
- User reviews and ratings built-in
Ease of use
Ease of use plays in as a big factor, especially if you’re just starting out with an online store, or would rather focus on store management rather than technical details.
Ease of use of Shopify
Setting up a store on Shopify is rather easy. Once you’ve created an account, all you need to do is to follow instructions on their step-by-step wizard and you’ll set-up a store in no time. What’s even more, you can buy ready-made, existing stores from Shopify Exchange Marketplace if you want to skip setup altogether.
And because you’re paying for a complete subscription package, you won’t have to worry about managing security and server issues, as Shopify will take care of these. Although this also means you’ll have less control over these aspects.
In essence, Shopify has a 3 step approach to creating a store:
- Pick your design
- Add products to your store to sell.
For the design part, Shopify offers professional, aesthetic themes for all sorts of styles and businesses, with the option to further customize them.
Ease of use of BigCommerce
BigCommerce in comparison to Shopify is a little less easy to use and set-up, owing to the powerhouse it is, it provides the most built-in features of the 3 CMS options. So it does involve a bit of a learning curve.
The complexity of use owe itself to BigCommerce’s split editor, You add products and make some changes in one place and then make edits to your storefront in another area.
The onboarding starts with a tour of where to find features and customization options, and their team encourages you to ask all sorts of questions to clarify any confusion.
Ease of use of WooCommerce
WooCommerce is probably the hardest of the three to set-up and use and involves a few more steps than Shopify or BigCommerce to set-up. This is mostly because WooCommerce is a plugin and not a hosted platform. With WooCommerce, you have to:Get a domain nameSign up for a hosting accountInstall WordPressInstall a themeInstall WooCommerce using its wizard
The installation wizard will take you through 4 steps:
- Page setup
- Store locale
- Shipping and tax information
- Payment setup
Similar to BigCommerce, the tradeoff in ease of use is made-up by unlimited room for customization when using WooCommerce.
The myriad of costs involved in running an eCommerce store can add up quickly if you don’t account for them. It’s important to be aware of all the costs, including the price paid to run a profitable store.
Costs with Shopify
Shopify is available in 3 price plans.
After a 14 day trial, you can opt for: Basic Shopify for $29/mo Shopify for $79/mo Advanced Shopify for $299/mo
All these plans include a domain name, web hosting, and an SSL certificate. On every sale you make with your Shopify store, Shopify charges 2% as a transaction cost, and this goes down to 0.5% on the Advanced Shopify plan.
You can also use Shopify’s payment gateway to save credit card processing costs. If using a third-party gateway, the cost you will be charged with will be the plan’s transaction rate + whatever the third party gateway charges.
With Shopify Payments, there are no transaction costs and the credit card processing costs are as follows:Basic Shopify: 2.9% + 30cShopify: 2.6% + 30cAdvanced Shopify: 2.4% + 30c
Shopify’s costs are transparent and easy to understand, you pay for a monthly subscription, and then for any paid apps or themes you choose to install.
Costs with BigCommerce
Similar to Shopify, BigCommerce also comes in 3 plans plus an enterprise option.
After your 15 day trial, you can choose from: Standard for $30/mo Plus for $80/mo Pro for $250/mo, or Enterprise plan which involves custom pricing based on your needs
What helps BigCommerce stand apart from Shopify is that it doesn’t charge any transaction costs for all its plans!
Bigcommerce’s recommended partner for credit card processing is Paypal. Their rates are as follow:Bigcommerce Standard: 2.9% + 30c per transactionBigcommerce Plus: 2.5% + 30cBigcommerce Pro: 2.2% + 30cBigcommerce Enterprise: 2.2% + 30c
Costs with WooCommerce
WooCommerce is free!
There are no plans or subscription options as WooCommerce is a one-time free download plugin for WordPress.
WooCommerce’s default payment options are through PayPal and Stripe, but you can choose to go with any gateway as WooCommerce offers support for most systems.
WooCommerce also doesn’t charge any transaction costs, and similar to the other two, the credit card processing fees are dependant on the provider you decide to go with.
You start a business with expectations for it to grow and scale, and therefore you also need systems that can grow as you grow. Let’s see how Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce score for scalability.
Scalability with Shopify
Scaling your store with Shopify is simple as all you have to do is upgrade your plan to enjoy increased benefits. With Shopify Plus, your store will be able to handle traffic and sales spikes easily, without crashing. In Shopify’s own words:
“Shopify…was built to be resilient, with systems for controlled latency and solutions to ensure no single point of failure. To maintain peak performance, the in-house team manually performs extensive passive load testing and optimizations by combing through critical parts of the platform.”
Shopify also lets you manage and secure information by letting you:
- Export your catalogs as CSV files
- Create website backups (through third-party apps)
Scalability with BigCommerce
BigCommerce is an open-architecture solution, meaning it evolves and adapts as you evolve and grow. BigCommerce is well suited to meet the demands of companies that process 1000s of orders a day.
Scalability with WooCommerce
With WooCommerce, the responsibility of ensuring a smooth growing process falls on your shoulders. As you scale, the cost of hosting resources will increase but unlike subscription Shopify and BigCommerce, you have control over which aspects you want to invest in.
You need a dedicated eCommerce hosting provider if your store is built on WordPress and a solid understanding of WooCommerce’s code. Or you can hire an in-house technical team to ensure that you scale effectively.
The Final Verdict: Shopify, WooCommerce, or BigCommerce?
As you can see from the comparison between these 3 giants, different platforms are suited for different needs. To find the right eCommerce store builder, first, you have to plan what sort of store you need, how professional you want it to look, and what your plans are down the road.
Then you can use: Shopify if it’s your first time setting up an online store or you want a good looking store without putting in too much technical work. BigCommerce if you want a product that provides a good balance between automation and a hands-on approach. BigCommerce lets you take over a lot of aspects of running the store while still maintaining some crucial backend tasks. WooCommerce if you’re a WordPress buff who prefers a complete hands-on approach to building and managing a store.