How Does Shopify Plus compare to BigCommerce Enterprise?
BigCommerce Enterprise and Shopify Plus have a fair bit in common. Both platforms are Software as a Service (SaaS), which means they handle hosting and any updates to the platform, and they both offer a lower total cost of ownership compared to on-prem platforms.
Both platforms are:
- Easy to use (when compared to on-prem platforms such as Magento)
- Have a vast eco-system including both apps & partners
- Feature uptime over 99.9% (BigCommerce lists 99.9% uptime compared to Shopify Plus at 99.98%)
- Talk about a lower total cost of ownership
This statement requires deeper investigation as the true total cost of ownership isn’t always transparent as Enterprise merchants will need to expand their tech stack beyond the base platform. Merchants will almost always add at least a few apps or third-party integrations to any eCommerce platform and the total number of extensions required can vary widely from one platform to the next. While both platforms allow brands to launch faster (reducing time to market), there are quite a few differences that we’ll be investigating in detail in this article.
The History of BigCommerce Enterprise
Introduction to BigCommerce Enterprise
High-level overview & key features
- Scalable SaaS platform ideal for brands that need more complexity both B2C & B2B
- Powerful & flexible native functionality
- Highly extensible OpenSaaS- Support for 400+ API calls per second
BigCommerce was founded in 2009 by Eddie Machaalani and Mitchell Harper, who had met in an online PHP chat room. It turned out both Mitch & Eddie were trying to solve similar problems and decided to meet in Sydney, Australia. They went on to launch Interspire in 2007 and created a SaaS version of Interspire called BigCommerce in 2009.
BigCommerce celebrated a decade in eCommerce in August 2019. What started as a solution for small businesses, eventually grew into a solution for high volume brands. BigCommerce launched its Enterprise solution in 2015. BigCommerce Enterprise builds on top of its small business foundation to support high volume merchants. BigCommerce Enterprise is suitable for brands with more complex needs and use-cases.
The History of Shopify Plus
Introduction to Shopify Plus
High-level overview & key features
- Scalable SaaS platform ideal for brands with less complex B2C use-cases
- Has a comprehensive app eco-system- over 2,500 apps
- Emphasis on bleeding edge technology including AR, VR & 3D imaging
Shopify started as a snowboarding shop back in 2004 when Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand, and Scott Lake wanted to launch SnowDevil, an online store selling snowboarding equipment. Unhappy with the available eCommerce options, Tobias Lütke built his own. This platform became the foundation for the Shopify platform, which launched in 2006.
Shopify was built initially for small businesses looking to sell online. As merchants flocked to Shopify, their number of high volume merchants continued to grow. To solve for these high-volume merchants’ needs, Shopify launched their Enterprise solution, Shopify Plus, in 2014. Shopify Plus is a popular choice for fashion and apparel merchants looking to create visually stunning stores.
In Context: BigCommerce Enterprise vs. Shopify Plus
It’s worth looking beyond the story of each platform and studying what is available now. Both BigCommerce and Shopify have experience in small business and offer excellent features for smaller merchants. In the early 2010s, the distinction between the platforms was clearcut, Shopify had the best out of the box designs, and BigCommerce had the best out-of-the-box functionality. Both have improved upon their shortcomings since.
BigCommerce has improved its design functionality, and you can find stunning stores in its showcase. Shopify has expanded on its functionality, including massive improvements to promotions/discounts, and it is currently rolling out the ability for merchants to edit existing customer orders.
Today the key differences are that Shopify has a more numerous merchant base, including a strong SMB base and an enormous app marketplace. And BigCommerce has fewer merchants and a smaller app marketplace but supports a level of complexity that makes it a popular solution for more prominent brands.
However, merchants would be wise to dive deeper into each platform to understand the differences and make a decision based on what their specific brand needs because there is no one size fits all solution.
Let’s move past the high level and compare each platform at a granular level of detail.
Product & Catalog Management: Shopify Plus vs. BigCommerce Enterprise
When choosing which platform will be best to manage your product catalog, the two primary considerations are:
The complexity of your Product Catalog:
- Number of SKUs
- Number of data fields per product
- Parent product/child product structure
- IF/THEN rules needed for product functionality
- Product imagery
Which third-party systems need to integrate with your platform:
- PIM (Product Information Manager)
- ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software.
Shopify Plus can be a solid choice for brands with a relatively small and or simple catalog.
An example of a simple catalog would be less than 20,000 SKUs and products without a large number of variations.
Managing more than 20,000 SKUs or large product catalogs with Shopify Plus can quickly become cumbersome.
Shopify has a straightforward interface that makes adding and editing products quick and easy.
Above: Shopify’s product editing interface
Unfortunately, Shopify Plus shares the same catalog limits as Shopify:
- a limit of 3 option types (such as size, color, or material)
- a 100 SKU variant cap (which means you can’t go over 100 possible option combinations).
The image above shows two options and 18 SKU’s. You can see how the 100 SKU cap can be constricting.
Shopify allows for merchants to delete combinations at will as shown above:
Options can be displayed in a drop-down menu or rectangles, and having the display vary by-product would require customization. As a result, many Shopify Plus brands turn to the app marketplace or developers as their catalog grows or requires additional functionality. While some solutions such as color swatches can be hardcoded into the store’s design, more elaborate product types and options, including file uploads and text boxes often require third-party applications or custom integrations.
There are several apps for more complex product options available in the Shopify marketplace.
Creating products with options on BigCommerce used to be a confusing process, but the user interface received an update in 2019. Current BigCommerce merchants will likely have the legacy experience. Using the v2 legacy UX, adding a product with options for the first time has a few extra steps, but it’s much easier to re-use the same options across multiple products.
Above: New BigCommerce Add Product Interface.
Above: Legacy Add Product Interface
BigCommerce supports a wide range of option types for display:
- drop-down menus
- radio buttons
- checkbox options
- swatch options
- text/number fields
- date fields
- files uploads
- product pick lists (which support limited bundling)
Merchants can add custom fields that enable the display of additional product information on the front end or on the backend, which allows integration with other third-party systems.
Shown above: The BigCommerce produce option creation process for a swatch display type
The updated “add a product” experience on BigCommerce allows merchants to add variants – product options that tie to an SKU & support inventory tracking, or modifiers – which don’t have an SKU. This updated experience empowers merchants to simultaneously have options such as size or color that support inventory tracking while allowing for modifications to a product such as personalization that does not track inventory.
In either case, merchants can still have both these variants or modifiers change the overall price of the product. BigCommerce Enterprise also has product catalog limits that you should be aware of, but the limits are much higher than Shopify Plus.
BigCommerce Product Catalog Limits:
- 600 SKUs on product variants
- 200 custom fields on a product
- 250 values within a single product option.
Brands with the need to go beyond these limits will likely have to consider an open-source platform like Magento.
Core functionality: Shopify Plus vs. BigCommerce Enterprise
BigCommerce Enterprise and Shopify Plus both include the core functionality that merchants have come to expect in an eCommerce platform:
- User permissions
- Gift Certificates
- Sales Tax Integrations
- Support for additional sales channels, including Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
BigCommerce originally had an edge on core functionality. However, Shopify has made a fair number of improvements over the past year, including the long-awaited support for editing an order (although this feature is still relatively limited and not yet available for merchants on Shopify Plus) and improved control over individual staff user accounts.
Built-in Analytics: BigCommerce Enterprise vs. Shopify Plus
While at United 2019, Shopify announced the “New Shopify Plus,” which includes combined analytics for multiple stores and the ability to control users across stores from a single dashboard. However, these features are not yet available. Shopify Plus will notify current merchants and allow signup when the beta is open.
Merchants on both platforms can connect to a wide variety of third-party applications for more robust analytics functionality.
Gift Certificates: Shopify Plus vs. BigCommerce Enterprise
BigCommerce Enterprise & Shopify Plus both include native gift certificate functionality. Shopify Plus merchants can use these gift certifications in conjunction with their native Shopify POS system. BigCommerce supports integrations to connect gift certificates with POS systems using the gift certificate API.
Categories (BigCommerce Enterprise) vs. Collections (Shopify Plus)
For many merchants, organizing and managing products is where the rubber meets the road. BigCommerce and Shopify have very different approaches to product organization and front-end store display. The core difference is a static (BigCommerce) vs. dynamic (Shopify) approach, both of which have their pros and cons.
BigCommerce uses a parent/child relationship for categories with each product being added directly into the desired category and or subcategory. The most significant advantage to static categories is that with static categories, you generally know where each product belongs.
BigCommerce store settings allow merchants to control what happens when a shopper visits a parent level category:
- Do they see only products from that category?
- Do they see products from subcategories if the parent category is empty?
- Do they see products from both the parent category & subcategory?
Pictured Above: BigCommerce category settings
The biggest drawback to traditional categories is that managing a category for all items that are on sale requires updating products that are on sale to be in that category. BigCommerce merchants can use third-party integrations, including a Product Information Manager (PIM) to create dynamic categories.
Shopify organizes products using collections. There are two different types of collections: automated collections and manual collections, which work the way you would expect. Manual collections are similar to traditional categories where you manually place each product into the desired collection.
Pictured above: The Create Collection interface on Shopify
The trick here is that Shopify doesn’t have “sub-collections” so for example, you don’t have a parent category like clothing which could then contain various subcategories such as shirts, shoes, or dresses.
There are ways to achieve the look of subcategories on the front-end, but the management usually ends up being a bit more involved. Automated collections are dynamically displayed products based on conditions such as product title, type, vendor, price, tags, weight, inventory. Merchants can control if a product must meet all of the listed conditions or any of the conditions. This feature is useful if you want to have a category to show all products under $25 quickly and easily.
Pictured Above: Manual vs. Automated Collection Interface on Shopify Plus
Merchants needing to organize a large number of collections will require either third-party apps or custom development to display categories more than two levels deep. Natively, merchants can only have a parent category and subcategories, which is more problematic for stores with an extensive catalog.
Search Functionality: BigCommerce Enterprise vs. Shopify Plus
When it comes to searching for products on the front end of the live store, neither BigCommerce or Shopify has the best native search functionality. To make up for this lack, both support integrations such as Nextopia, which supports search autocomplete, year/make/model product finders, and improved navigation.
In terms of native functionality, BigCommerce Enterprise includes product filtering (what BigCommerce calls faceted search). Faceted Search allows shoppers to refine their search based on product attributes such as size, color, or price. Merchants can also implement faceted search using custom product fields. However, merchants can only display up to 12 different filters, which can be a significant drawback.
Third-party search applications such as Nextopia can circumvent these limitations.
Pictured above: An example of BigCommerce Enterprise Faceted Search
Merchants on Shopify can create an experience similar to product filtering with custom development. Creating basic filters using product tags is generally straightforward, but creating filters that show products with two values (such as both the color red & black at the same time) generally requires integrations with Nextopia or SearchSpring.
Pro Tip: You can filter products on a Shopify store by going to a specific collection and adding +product_tag to the end of the URL.
This trick will show you products in that collection that have ALL of the listed product tags. You can’t always guess how a given store will set-up their tags.
Shopify announced support for predictive search during the 2019 Unite and it can currently be added by a developer using the Shopify Ajax API. Both Shopify and BigCommerce have apps to support this functionality.
Checkout Features & Customization: BigCommerce Enterprise vs. Shopify Plus
BigCommerce and Shopify both have a variety of features to improve conversion during checkout, including an abandoned cart saver and the ability to customize checkout. There are a few differences between these platforms.
Shopify supports the ability for merchants to checkout using an email address or a phone number while BigCommerce supports only email addresses at checkout.
Pictured above: Customer contact checkout options with Shopify Plus
Shopify Plus merchants can customize the checkout experiencing using Shopify Scripts. These scripts allow merchants to apply a range of discounts, change shipping or payment options, and more.
When Shopify introduced Shopify Scripts in 2016, merchants used it primarily for discounts. Since then, it has grown to support modifications to shipping & payments, which allow merchants to automatically hide specific options such as in-store pick up if a customer is outside of a particular location. Shopify Scripts includes a range of templates that can be modified to create a specific discount or used a starting point.
Pictured above: Shopify Script template options example
Merchants can only have a single active script at any time, but merchants can schedule script changes using Launchpad.
BigCommerce includes a few checkout features that generally require custom development on Shopify. One of the more understated pieces of functionality is the ability for merchants to modify products on the cart page easily, which allows a shopper to quickly change a product option without having to remove and re-add a product. Instead, a shopper can just click on change and switch the size on a t-shirt from small to medium.
BigCommerce also includes the ability for shoppers to see an estimate of shipping and sales tax on the cart page while Shopify does not, which can help reduce abandoned carts.
Pictured above: BigCommerce storefront shopping cart example
Merchants can fully customize their checkout experience using BigCommerce’s checkout SDK or checkout API. Using the SDK or API, developers can create their own UI experience to guide shoppers through checkout, including managing customer login, getting shipping quotes, and processing payments. Developers on both platforms can customize checkout to allow shoppers to checkout with either Google or Facebook.
Headless Commerce: BigCommerce Enterprise vs. Shopify Plus
Content has been a vital part of commerce for some time. Content is a critical part of ranking on the search engines, in addition to providing customers with a personalized experience. The saying “content is king” is as accurate today as it was back in 1996. Having a content-first strategy enables merchants to bring in potential new customers and move customers further down the purchase funnel.
For the last year or two, as merchants move towards a content-led shopping experience, there has been an increase in headless commerce.
Headless commerce means decoupling the front-end presentation layer and the backend eCommerce platform.
BigCommerce was one of the first platforms to offer a headless commerce solution. Other early players in headless commerce include ElasticPath, CommerceTools, and Magento. Headless Commerce relies on APIs for data orchestration, while allowing for different systems to be connected. BigCommerce coined the term OpenSaaS to describe their blend of flexibility and extensibility on a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform.
Some of the key features include a high number of API calls, multiple API endpoints, high-quality developer documentation, and focus on API development as part of the product roadmap. BigCommerce supports an impressive 400+ API calls per second, with 90% of the platform exposed via the API.
Here is an example of what headless architecture might look like:
BigCommerce supports headless commerce via integrations with WordPress, Drupal, Bloomreach, Acquia, and Adobe Experience Manager. Using BigCommerce’s API documentation, developers can build their integration with any custom Content Manager System (CMS) or Digital Experience Platform (DXP).
Shopify is a relatively latecomer to the headless space. While there have been a small number of merchants who have heavily utilized Shopify’s APIs to provide a custom experience, Shopify didn’t announce a headless commerce solution until the most recent Shopify Unite in June of 2019.
While Shopify is known for having some of the best documentation in the industry, Shopify isn’t known for having the fastest API in town. Shopify’s REST API uses a leaky bucket method, which gives you a base of 40 API calls, and your bucket refills an additional two calls every second. Meaning that every request sent over the API is subject to throttling to ensure they don’t go over the limit. Shopify Plus merchants get double the API calls (leaky bucket of 80 calls that refills at a rate of four calls per second). Additionally, Plus merchants can connect private apps at a rate of 10 calls per second and have access to Shopify Plus only APIs, including Gift Card, User & Multipass.
While Shopify’s API has a significantly slower API compared to BigCommerce, Shopify was an early adopter in 2018 of GraphQL, which allows developers to make more sophisticated queries. BigCommerce just recently announced an open beta for its GraphQL powered Storefront API in November of 2019.
Extensible Ecosystem: Shopify Plus vs. BigCommerce Enterprise
Both platforms can integrate with a wide range of different systems, including the following:
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
- Order Management Software (OMS)
- Automated Manifest System (AMS)
- Product Information Management (PIM)
- Point of Sale (POS)
The quality of these integrations will rely on API per second, API endpoints, and developer documentation. BigCommerce without question has the edge when it comes to API calls per second (400+ vs 10), which means that data can be updated faster. While Shopify could integrate with all of the same systems, depending on the size of the product catalog updates, it could take quite a bit longer.
For example, if a store had 25,000 products and variants, it would take roughly a minute on BigCommerce. That same sync would take approximately two hours on Shopify Plus at ten calls per second.
Shopify has one of the largest app marketplaces in the industry, with over 3,500 different apps. While BigCommerce has a relatively smaller marketplace with over 700 apps, merchants can often find very similar features.
Shopify Plus and Shopify Flow
Shopify Plus also includes free apps, including Shopify Flow, which is an automation & workflow tool. Flow includes over 90 templates to make it quick and easy for merchants to create or modify a workflow. There are currently 40 different apps that connect to Shopify Flow.
Pictured above: Shopify Flow templates example
Some of the most exciting use-cases for Flow automate the process of adding tags to products, customers, or orders. Automating product tags can help save time during the product creation process. Order tags can make it easier for a merchant or their staff to review an order, and merchants can tag customers while creating discounts.
Pictured Above: Shopify Flow customization interface
While BigCommerce doesn’t have a dedicated automation tool, many of the most common use-cases can easily be created natively in BigCommerce, such as hiding out of stock products or sending an email notification to the staff email when an item hits low inventory.
Many BigCommerce merchants handle automation & workflows in third-party systems like an ERP, PIM, or OMS.
Multi-Location: BigCommerce Enterprise vs. Shopify Plus
In 2018, Shopify launched support for multi-locations for inventory. This feature adds locations to the Shopify control panel. Initially, this functionality was a bit limited and relied on a fulfillment priority to determine which location fulfilled an order. If the default location didn’t have inventory in stock, the item would pull from the next location on a setlist. Merchants could choose to fulfill an order from a different location as part of the order management process.
Pictured above: Shopify multi-location shipping interface
Merchants on Shopify could also use third-party integrations for inventory management or create custom integrations using the shipping and fulfillment API.
BigCommerce doesn’t currently offer native support for multiple locations. However, there are several integrations, including Linnworks that can support multi-location inventory. And just like Shopify, merchants can create custom integrations using BigCommerce’s shipping API.
Shipping: Shopify Plus vs. BigCommerce Enterprise
Shopify and BigCommerce both offer shipping solutions that help merchants save on their shipping rates. Shopify Shipping supports USPS, UPS, DHL, and Canada Post, while BigCommerce currently only supports USPS & DHL.
On both platforms, merchants can use their shipping accounts or use a shipping app like ShipStation, which provides discounted shipping with a broader range of shipping providers, assist with automation and batch processing.
BigCommerce allows merchants to configure a mix of manually entered & real-time shipping rates. These rates can be simple like free shipping, flat rate, or a table of rates based on weight or order amount. Or they can be as complex as pulled rates from FedEx, UPS, USPS, or DHL.
Using pulled rates allows merchants to define the dimensions on their products & boxes to get more accurate shipping rates. While these rates are generally more accurate, the packing algorithm isn’t always perfect at putting multiple items into the same box. Unlike a real person, it always puts items into a box the same way so it won’t think to put something on its side.
Pictured above: BigCommerce shipping settings in the control panel
Shopify’s shipping is mostly the same as what BigCommerce offers with two notable differences. First is the recent introduction of Shipping Profiles. We consider this to be the most notable improvement to Shopify Plus in 2019. Shipping Profiles allow merchants to tie shipping zones to different inventory locations and specific products.
For example, this would allow a merchant to create a specific profile for all fragile items, then restrict the shipping methods and add a handling fee.
The other notable difference is that Shopify doesn’t natively support dimensions on products. Lack of dimensional support is generally more problematic for merchants selling products in a wide range of sizes.
Like most limitations on Shopify, there is an app to solve this problem.
B2B Functionality: BigCommerce Enterprise vs. Shopify Plus
The world of B2B has changed. According to Forrester consulting, 72% of B2B buyers want self-service access to accounts and orders. B2B customers expect a level of service that has become the norm for B2C.
Shopify Plus B2B Overall
Shopify Plus has some B2B functionality, but overall, it is relatively limited. Natively Shopify Plus includes an exclusive wholesale channel that allows merchants to have a B2B store using a subdomain that uses their existing products & inventory. This channel contains specific B2B features that aren’t available for regular products & orders.
A severe limitation with Shopify’s wholesale channel is the minimal design options. Merchants can add a logo, select an accent color, and add a background image to the landing page. There are no theme files that a merchant can edit instead.
Pictured above: Shopify Plus limited B2B customization
Shopify Plus B2B Price Lists
In terms of functionality, merchants can create price lists with either a set percentage of, or fixed prices. Prices list are then connected to customer groups. Customer groups are dynamic base on customer tags. Customer Tags can be added to customers manually or by using Shopify Flow. However, you must invite customers, or they cannot access your wholesale store. Customers can apply for store access, but you still must approve of them.
One caveat to be aware of is that customers can have multiple tags and can be in multiple customer groups. If a customer has more than one discount, the priorities are as follows: the customer is given the lower price over the higher price, and a set price over a percentage discount.
Price lists can be created inside the control panel or imported using a .csv file. There is not currently an API for price lists. When you create a price list, you have the option of enabling tiered pricing and have the ability to set if customers can mix and match product variants while still receiving the bulk discount.
Pictured above: Shopify Plus price lists interface
Overall, the ability to create price lists is clunky compared to editing regular products in bulk. Merchants have to add products to price lists manually, and changing prices has to be done one cell at a time (one positive is that when a price applies to a product, it is carried over to all variants and can be modified if desired).
New Features: Shopify Plus
New features exclusive to the wholesale channel:
- Ability to set quantity increments (i.e. customers must buy in quantities of x) for products and or variants.
- Volume breaks- However merchants are capped at only three levels of pricing (creating a different price list for the same product with additional tiers doesn’t get around this limit)
- Support for minimum orders- The minimum amount can be changed or disabled on an individual customer
While Shopify offers a multi-currency solution, it doesn’t support wholesale channels, meaning that merchants are limited to selling in B2B in only their default store currency. While wholesale channels add new functionality to Shopify Plus, it isn’t uncommon for merchants to create a different Shopify store with B2B specific apps instead. Creating a new store usually requires setting up a PIM or another app to keep inventory and information synced across multiple stores.
BigCommerce B2B Overall
When it comes to selling to B2B or B2B+B2C, BigCommerce has a more complete offering than Shopify Plus. Similar to Shopify Plus, merchants can create price lists tying to customer groups.
There are some key differences; first is that customers can only belong to a single customer group. Merchants can control which product categories a customer group can view, which you can use to generate a wholesale category that only wholesale customers can see/access.
Pictured above: BigCommerce customer group interface
BigCommerce B2B Price Lists
Price lists can be created before they pushed live to the store. This makes it easier for merchants to work on a price list over time rather than having to fill everything out in a single sitting. And for merchants with a vast catalog, products can be filtered, which makes it easier to update a smaller set of products.
Pictured above: BigCommerce Price Lists Catalog Filtering interface example
Once products are filtered, merchants can edit the columns shown and can quickly update multiple prices at once by dragging a cell down (similar to Excel) or copying/pasting the content of cells.
Price Lists also includes a few read-only fields such as the price for general customers (ie, the price set when creating the product) and a markup field that dynamically shows the difference between cost and catalog price, as a percentage. Merchants can also set a new regular price, sale price, and MSRP that ties to the price list.
Shown above: BigCommerce Price list example
Merchants can also create bulk discounts and configure for a percentage off, fixed amount off, or fixed price. There is no limit to the number of tiers a merchant can create. Merchants can set bulk pricing that is the same for some or all variants.
Pictured above: BigCommerce B2B Bulk Discounts
Merchants can also create price lists using the API or use a free price list import app to upload price lists created using a CSV file. BigCommerce merchants can also further extend the native B2B functionality using third-party apps such as PunchOut 2 Go, Quote Ninja, B2B Bundle.
Payment Processing: BigCommerce Enterprise vs. Shopify Plus
When it comes to the differences between BigCommerce and Shopify Plus, there is generally a lot of discussion around payment processing and for good reason.
Shopify highly encourages its merchants to use their payment gateway, Shopify Payments. Merchants who don’t use Shopify Payments lose access to some payment features in addition to paying transaction fees. It’s worth digging into the details of how these fees work & who can use Shopify Payments as it will have an impact on the total cost of ownership.
Shopify Payments is currently only available in the following 14 countries.
- Hong Kong SAR China
- The Netherlands
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- United States
Any merchants selling outside of these 14 countries will be subject to transaction fees for using a third-party payment gateway. Shopify Payments is essentially just a white-labeled version of Stripe, which is a popular payment gateway.
What Happens If You Do Not Use Shopify Payments
If you do not use Shopify Payments, you are subject to a transaction fee of 0.15% (this is higher for non Plus merchants), and you won’t have access to certain features like multi-currency or Google Pay. This transaction fee is in addition to the processing fees charged by your payment gateway. The transaction fee doesn’t sound too bad at first, but for stores processing at a high volume, 0.15% can add up.
Let’s say a business is doing $800,000 in sales per month, that’s an extra $1,200 in transaction fees per month. Granted, that is small in comparison to total sales, but it adds up.
Additionally, the details of when you are subject to that fee are more than a little confusing because if you aren’t using Shopify Pay that fee applies to your third-party payment gateway and other payment methods like Amazon Pay and PayPal. Manual payment methods like Cash on Delivery (COD), Money order, or other custom offline payment methods aren’t subject to transaction fees regardless of what gateway you use. The good news for merchants using Shopify Payments is that you won’t have to pay the additional 0.15% transaction fee on any payment method.
Both Shopify and BigCommerce support a wide range of payment gateways that work in just about any region of the world. Shopify has 100+, while BigCommerce has 70+.
When it comes to payment gateways on BigCommerce, there aren’t any transaction fees. BigCommerce has stated they plan to support additional payment gateways shortly. Using BigCommerce, merchants can offer their customers the ability to store their credit card information for future purchases.
The following payment gateways support this feature:
- PayPal powered by Braintree
While Shopify doesn’t have the same feature, merchants using Shopify Payments can use Shopify’s accelerated checkout Shopify Pay. It lets potential customers use stored credit card information across all Shopify stores offering Shopify Pay. While this could be handy for smaller stores that could benefit from the brand notoriety of Shopify, the experience features the Shopify brand rather than the merchant’s brand and becomes a detriment for Enterprise brands.
Selling Globally: Shopify Plus vs. BigCommerce Enterprise
When it comes to selling globally, both BigCommerce & Shopify both have their ups and downs. Neither platform currently offers a native multi-storefront solution, but there are ways to achieve this on each through customization. While both platforms offer the ability to sell and transact in different currencies, there are some significant differences in how the feature works.
To understand multi-currency, we must break down the three different ways currency is represented digitally:
- Display currency: this is the currency that shoppers on the front end of a store see while shopping.
- Transaction Currency: this is the currency used when a customer pays for their order. This is a big deal because when you buy something in a currency other than the currency used for your credit/debit card, you will often be charged an additional fee by your credit card company. Not every customer will have to pay this fee, and some credit cards don’t charge these fees, but it’s way more common to be charged a fee.
- Settlement Currency: the currency the merchant is paid in at the end of the day.
We also need to understand the way each platform sets prices, which is the most significant difference. Shopify’s multi-currency uses dynamic rates with round rules, while BigCommerce uses fixed prices.
On Shopify, merchants using Shopify Payments enable up to 10 transactional currencies:
- Australian dollar (AUD)
- Canadian dollar (CAD)
- Denmark Krone (DKK)
- Euro (EUR)
- Hong Kong dollar (HKD)
- Japanese yen (JPY)
- New Zealand dollar (NZD)
- Pound sterling (British pound) (GBP)
- Singapore dollar (SGD)
- United States dollar (USD)
Pictured above: Shopify Plus Multi-Currency settings
Merchants can then edit the rounding rules for each currency. Creating custom rounding rules is only available to merchants on Shopify Plus. Rounding rules allow merchants to control if the price is rounded up or down while ensuring shoppers see prices that are clean and feel similar to what they are used to seeing when shopping. For example, while shoppers in the US like to see prices ending in $0.95 or $0.99, shoppers in Japan might feel more comfortable with prices rounded to 100 yen. Each store has a default “store currency”; this is the currency that merchants use when setting prices inside their control panel. Prices for any other currency will be converted and rounded based on the rounding rules.
Here is the math that is happening behind the scenes:
(Product Price * Currency Conversion Rate) + Currency Conversion Fee = Raw Price
The rounding rules then apply to the Raw Price.
For example, if a product costs $10 USD and the exchange rate to Euros is 0.867519, and the currency conversion fee is 1.5%:
($10.00 USD x 0.867519) + 1.5% = €8.81
Let’s say the rounding rules say to adjust up to €0.90.
That would make the price the customer pays €8.90.
The currency conversion fee may vary, and the example 1.5% is based on Shopify’s help documentation. This fee is passed onto the shopper and is included in the price displayed. Depending on what payment methods are enabled, merchants might want to use Shopify Scripts to automatically hide other payment methods if a customer is checking out using a foreign currency. Automatically hiding other payment methods prevents the price of the item from changing back to the default store currency during checkout, which could hurt conversion.
Merchants then receive their funds in their desired “payout” currency, which is usually the same as their default store currency. When merchants look at their payout summary, they will be able to see a breakdown of the fees.
Merchants not using Shopify payments could use multiple stores in different currencies or use a multi-currency app. There is a wide range of apps that can allow prices to be displayed in different currencies (but charged in the store currency at checkout), or that will charge shoppers in their local currency.
When it comes to multi-currency on BigCommerce, product pricing is set manually rather than based on the current exchange rate. Merchants can set up additional currencies as either display currencies or as transactional currencies.
Pictured above: the BigCommerce multi-currency options interface
For display currencies, the rate will be automatically calculated and displayed while shopping but be changed back to the default currency during checkout.
Pictured above: BigCommerce Enterprise: display currency vs. transactional currency
Merchants on BigCommerce Enterprise can set currency-specific pricing using Price Lists. Each price list ties to a specific customer group, which can be used so that retail customers & wholesale customers can have different prices. Inside the price list, merchants can set different prices for each transactional currency, which allows merchants to take full advantage of a product with higher demand based upon region.
Pictured above: BigCommerce Enterprise price list multi-currency settings
When switching from the default currency to another, merchants can see the catalog price based on the current exchange rate. Merchants can also set MSRP, sale prices, and tiered pricing for each specific currency.
While Shopify with a proprietary payment gateway handles the conversion fees, on BigCommerce fees are managed by the payment provider. A merchant that only has a bank account in the United States will need to convert payments back into US dollars, BigCommerce doesn’t handle the process and fees. In terms of transaction currencies supported, BigCommerce supports currencies that are offered by the payment gateway. Stripe, for example, supports over 130 different currencies.
Multi-language Support: Shopify Plus vs. BigCommerce Enterprise
Shopify has an edge for merchants using a language other than English. Merchants can change the language used inside their Shopify control panel.
This feature has been in open beta for over a year and is tied to an individual user so each staff member can use their preferred language. Currently, the control panel is “available” in 20 different languages:
- Brazilian Portuguese
- Chinese (Simplified)
- Chinese (Traditional)
Merchants on Shopify can change the “checkout” language used on the front end of their store. The support languages vary by theme, but merchants can make customizations if their desired language isn’t supported. However, merchants can only have a single language active on their live storefront at any given time.
Currently, the BigCommerce control panel is available in:
On BigCommerce, having your front-end store in a language other than English would require either custom development. Ultimately, merchants wanting to have a store in two different languages would need more than one storefront on both platforms. When it comes to connecting multiple storefronts together, BigCommerce has the edge because of its powerful API, which supports faster syncs between systems.
In most cases, merchants looking to manage multiple stores in different languages will use a Product Information Management (PIM) tool such as Jasper PIM.
Promotions & Discounts: BigCommerce Enterprise vs. Shopify Plus
BigCommerce has a wealth of functionality when it comes to offering promotions. With support for over 70 different types of promotions and discounts, including a range of discounts based on categories, customers, products, or brands. Discounts can apply automatically (ie, discount applied at checkout) or through the use of a coupon code.
Pictured above: Promotion creation interface in BigCommerce
Shopify Plus and Shopify Scripts
Shopify has made up much ground when it comes to promotions and discounts over the last few years. Merchants can now set up a range of both coupon code & automatic discounts directly inside their control panel. Shopify Plus merchants also have access to Shopify Scripts, which allows for the creation of custom discounts.
While Shopify Scripts is flexible, it is done entirely in Ruby, and some merchants may find their templates a bit confusing if they aren’t comfortable with code. Merchants can only have a single script in each category (Line Item, Shipping & Payment) running at any given time. While scripts themselves don’t support scheduling, merchants can also tie scripts to Launch Pad.
As part of an event, merchants can change their theme, line item and/or shipping scripts and apply basic discounts. A particularly handy feature is that merchants can control which scripts are enabled during an event and control if a different script is enabled after the event has entered.
Launchpad can only run a single event at a time. For most merchants, this likely won’t be an issue, but for a merchant wanting to run a series of more complex and overlapping promotions, it could become cumbersome to set up a different event to account for each item something changes.
Generally, both platforms recommend using % off discounts for promotions in currencies other than your default since flat-rate discounts such as $5 off would be based on the default currency. A % off discount doesn’t prevent shoppers from being able to use a coupon code, but $5 off would get converted into another currency based on the exchange rate, so there is an excellent chance it won’t be a clean amount during checkout.
Search Engine Optimization: BigCommerce Enterprise vs. Shopify Plus
When it comes to SEO, BigCommerce has a strong advantage. That isn’t to say that SEO on Shopify is terrible, but merchants have a lot less control over crucial factors such as URL structure.
Merchants on Shopify can’t remove certain directories from their URLs, which means all collection pages, including /collections/, all product pages have /products/ and all informational pages include /pages/ in the URL. BigCommerce URLs are fully customizable.
SEO is also another place where the difference between collections & categories comes back into play. Merchants on BigCommerce can use the parent/child structures of their categories as part of their URL structure.
Another downside on Shopify is the inability to edit the robots.txt file. This file tells web robots how to crawl your site and can be used to control what folders it should or should not index. There are ways to get around this on Shopify, but it requires modifying the head section in the liquid theme files.
Total Cost of Ownership: BigCommerce Enterprise vs. Shopify Plus
When it comes down to putting a price tag on a Shopify Plus store vs. a BigCommerce store, the base price is often similar. BigCommerce Enterprise starts at around $1,000 a month with pricing based on order volume and GMV. Shopify Plus starts at $2,000 a month with pricing based on GMV.
However, the base price is rarely the actual cost on any eCommerce platform. Merchants would be wise to take a look at the cost after they include the cost of custom development, third-party systems, apps, and payment processing fees (including transaction fees). If you are looking to get the most bang for your buck, generally, merchants on BigCommerce get more functionality out of the box compared to Shopify.
But what works well for one merchant isn’t always what works well for another. We recommend merchants fully scope out their full tech stack to understand not only the cost but also the time spent on different tasks. When considering time spent on each task, think about the cost of using a developer vs. a member of your staff.
Customers & Website Examples: BigCommerce Enterprise vs. Shopify Plus
When it comes to evaluating different ecommerce platforms there is something to be said about seeing what has already been accomplished on any given platform.
B2C Brands on BigCommerce
- Bliss World
- Ben & Jerry’s
- John Paul Mitchell Systems
- Kettlebell Kings
B2C Brands on Shopify Plus
- Kylie Cosmetics
- MVMT Watches
- 100% Pure
B2B Brands on BigCommerce
- Avery Dennison
- Clarion Safety
- Dupont Sustainable Solutions
- GE Aviation
- Georgia Pacific
B2B Brands on Shopify Plus
- Hurraw! Balm
- Laird Superfood
- Deathwish Coffee Company (note this is not using Shopify Wholesale channel)
Headless commerce powered by BigCommerce
- Firewire Surfboards (WordPress)
- Carluccio’s (WordPress)
- Harvey’s furniture part of Steinhoff group (Bloomreach)
- Burrow (custom react frontend)
- Canvas 1839 (Gatsby)
Headless commerce powered by Shopify Plus
- Grass Roots Farmer’s Cooperative
Concluding Thoughts and Final Verdict: BigCommerce Enterprise vs. Shopify Plus
Choosing an eCommerce platform is complex, and with this detailed guide, we hope that we helped with that complexity by comparing and contrasting the differences between these two great platforms: BigCommerce Enterprise and Shopify Plus.
While you truly can’t go wrong with a build on Shopify Plus, we give the nod overall to the BigCommerce Enterprise platform for these reasons:
- BigCommerce Enterprise has better native Search Engine Optimization options – namely the ability to fully customize the URL structure
- BigCommerce Enterprise has better payment processor options
- BigCommerce takes no transaction fees
- Choice of gateway doesn’t limit your feature set
- Multi-Currency on BigCommerce is not payment processor dependent
- BigCommerce offers an array of POS systems and does not limit feature set based on POS
- BigCommerce Enterprise has a faster API with a significantly higher limit than Shopify Plus, allowing merchants better integrations with third-party systems. With BigCommerce you don’t have to worry about data not being current because syncing takes too long
- BigCommerce allows for more complex catalogs with wider range of variant/option types
While we tried to go into as much detail as possible, we realized there might be topics left uncovered.
If you are running into a roadblock, have any questions, or need advice or app recommendations, or RFP development, please reach out by email at email@example.com, or give us a call at (512) 559-4640.
At Cart Consultant, we are a full-service design, development, and marketing agency empowering eCommerce businesses to do what they do best, while we handle the rest.
Our goal is to provide our clients as much value as we possibly can.