IntroductionIf you’re looking into a comparison between BigCommerce Enterprise and Shopify Plus, we can make certain assumptions about your business and its needs. Not all of them need to be true, but for this resource to provide you with genuine value, it is likely that:
- Your business has outgrown a Squarespace online store, or WixStore and that you are looking for a platform that can scale with you.
- Your business has become sufficiently complex that your suppliers, products and customers are becoming increasingly difficult to manage centrally and you need a solution that saves hiring a procurement, fulfilment or customer service team.
- You are concerned about ongoing security issues with Magento (Adobe Commerce) and are looking for a CMS that offers a secure home for your brand and its customers.
What we’re going to attempt to do here, is look at two of the primary options in these situations, Shopify and BigCommerce, and discuss the two platforms in as close to an unbiased way as we can. Clearly, as a Shopify Plus agency we’ve decided to commit to becoming experts in one platform over the other, but there is plenty that BigCommerce Enterprise has to offer depending on your business needs.
What is Shopify Plus
Shopify Plus, introduced in February of 2014, is Shopify’s enterprise and large-scale ecommerce solution. Its launch saw Shopify aiming to address a section of the retail landscape that had historically been poorly served by ecommerce platforms. Not a company to stand still, however, Shopify has continued to roll out new features and products - including, following the 2019 acquisition of B2B ecommerce platform Handshake, a greatly improved and expanded B2B offering.
Differences between Shopify and Shopify Plus
Shopify Plus is about taking a step-up, and this is largely the difference between your standard Shopify store and Shopify Plus. It's more customisable, more adaptable, and more scalable. Some of the key differences are as follows:
- More staff accounts - Plus allows you to grow your team and maintain ease of access and control via your admin account.
- Greater theme customisation - with more access to Shopify's theme language, Plus allows you much greater control of your backend.
- Checkout customisation - Shopify Plus provides businesses with extensive customisation options for their checkout process, while Shopify Scripts offers even more control over shipping methods, customer fields, payment options and more.
- More API integrations - Shopify Plus gives businesses the opportunity to better integrate third party apps and even incorporate their own custom built apps.
- Exclusive apps - although Shopify has an extensive range of apps, Plus customers gain access to exclusive apps such as Launchpad, Script Editor and Shopify Flow.
Improved capacity for complex integrations - as your business grows, Shopify Plus allows you to integrate PIMs, ERPs, WMS and 3PL solutions.
What is BigCommerce Enterprise
Launched in May 2015, BigCommerce Enterprise launched as BigCommerce's solution for large volume retailers. As with Shopify Plus, this is a premium offering with expanded integration, customisation and insight options.
Difference between BigCommerce and BigCommerce Enterprise
As with Shopify Plus, BigCommerce Enterprise is a next step for an ecommerce brand. It is a premium ecommerce solution - and it’s in such things that you’ll see the difference. BigCommerce Enterprise maintains all of the functionality of the lower packages, but adds additional enterprise level functionality. Some of the key differences are as follows:
- Integrations: - users are able to extend the capabilities of their sites using any of the hundreds of enterprise-grade integrations and are given unrestricted access to integrations helping with resource planning and inventory management, accounting, email marketing and more.
- Security: - enterprise packages are given access to higher level security features, built-in SSL, PCI Compliance and DDOS protection to keep sites operating and secure.
Performance: - one area in which BigCommerce has become industry famous is its uptime, and its enterprise packages incorporate this in addition to local data centres globally that allow for better page load times and responsiveness.
The current ecommerce CMS landscape
The ecommerce landscape is huge and growing all the time, accounting for around 6 trillion dollars worldwide or around 20% of all retail sales. While almost $1.5 trillion of this goes to Amazon and Alibaba. and another 100 billion to eBay, there is an enormous amount of money being spent in online stores globally.
As things stand, the majority of these stores use one of five main platforms:
- WooCommerce & WooThemes - both owned by WordPress parent Automattic and operating on an open source, freemium basis.
- Squarespace Online Stores - Squarespace's highly customisable ecommerce offering.
- Shopify - a dedicated ecommerce platform from Shopify Inc.
- WixStores - an entry level ecommerce platform from Wix.
Of the top million ecommerce stores, 21% use a version of Shopify while a further 5% use Shopify Plus.
Despite its relatively low market penetration, the majority of BigCommerce's 60,000+ customers (according to information available as part of its IPO) are in the mid-enterprise tier with brands such as Vodafone and Skullcandy among the high profile retailers using the platform.
This position with mid and upper tier retailers has continued to be bolstered by BigCommerce’s growing number of native integrations with third party platforms for both selling and payment.
However, despite BigCommerce's reputation as a mid-enterprise platform, Shopify Plus actually hosts many larger brands even than BigCommerce, and has reached the point where it now accounts for some 10% of all ecommerce purchases in the US, and has processed almost half a trillion dollars in sales.
When a brand reaches the point of deciding between platforms at the level of Shopify Plus and BigCommerce Enterprise, it can be reasonably assumed that they are looking for more than a template site. While their previous web presence may have been unable to properly reflect their brand image, this level of control is a must in the mid-upper tier represented by these premium platform options.
Nevertheless, it can often be beneficial to have jumping off points to help springboard your creative ideas. To this end, there are hundreds of themes available across both platforms (around 300 on Shopify and around 200 on BigCommerce), these are all available somewhere between free and $360 for Shopify themes and up to $400 for BigCommerce.
These themes can, of course, be customised using WYSIWYG, drag-and-drop builders on both platforms. If your business has the in-house design and development ability you need to properly represent your business online, then it is feasible for a business to customise a theme to meet many of the requirements of growing business.
What is less likely, however, is that you’ll have the expertise to cater for the extraneous aspects of development. As your business grows, so too do the complexities of providing the experience that your growing customer base demands. As such, you’ll need to consider things such as campaign automation, the personalisation of buyer journeys, an expanded number of payment methods, direct social selling, back end integration and many more.
For this reason, if you’re investing in a premium ecommerce platform, it will likely be worthwhile briefing your needs to a developer or agency that can then ensure that both front and back-end functionality match what your business requires not just in the present, but also in the future.
As things stand, BigCommerce’s partner program currently lists 1145 partners, though this drops off substantially depending on area and service offering, Shopify currently lists 358 ‘Plus’ partners offering a huge range of service - though their overall agency network across Shopify, Shopify Plus and Apps reaches several thousand.
While Shopify has no specific requirements for partners to be certified, partners are required to demonstrate the following (and they do offer an excellent individual certification):
- Proven experience working with high growth merchants
- Thought leadership in commerce (and recognised in the public market as such)
- Technical expertise and commerce knowledge necessary to build world-class solutions on Shopify Plus
- Ability to provide end-to-end services and the bandwidth to support multiple complex solutions
- An existing portfolio of high-volume merchants with a proven track record for success.
The BigCommerce CMS (content management system) will look pretty familiar to anyone that has previous experience with, for example, WordPress or many other popular CMSs - the left hand menu lists the most important aspects of managing your site, allowing you to add products, review orders, check basic analytics and make tweaks to your site’s look and feel and integrations.
In addition (as mentioned in the optimising section), there are a host of SEO options unique to the BigCommerce platform that pushes it ahead in terms of native ability. However, there is, between the two platforms, a noticeable difference in UX.
The Shopify CMS feels less complicated while still offering a similar level of functionality. It is more accessible to new members of your team, and offers a streamlined process for many day-to-day ecommerce tasks.
A client which which we worked recently on a migration from the BigCommerce platform to Shopify Plus stated the following:
“Shopify’s CMS is really intuitive, easy to use and doesn’t require you to have an extensive knowledge of websites. Adding new products and editing existing products is really straightforward and can be done by near enough anyone.
“To be fair, BigCommerce is fairly intuitive when it comes to admin tasks, updating the CMS, uploading products etc. However, over time, as you become more experienced in the eCommerce space, you can tell that Shopify pays more attention to UX/UI. In that sense, Shopify edges ahead.”
While it’s close in most respects between BigCommerce Enterprise and Shopify Plus, this is one of the areas that made it possible for Velstar to happily commit to its decision to exclusively develop sites for the Shopify Platform.
Shopify’s app ecosystem is, simply, streets ahead of BigCommerce - at all levels, but especially with its enterprise offering. The statement that Shopify makes on its entry level app store is both compelling and also underscores their enterprise offering. They state that:
- Tried, tested, and vetted: - each app is required to pass a 100-checkpoint review before inclusion in the Shopify App Store.
- Merchant-powered algorithms: - this provides retailers with recommendations for apps that are based on those that have already worked for businesses like yours.
Why apps are important
It would be reasonable to ask whether the difference between the 1250 apps provided by BigCommerce Enterprise and the 8000+ offered by Shopify Plus is really that significant. You are, after all, unlikely to use even a small fraction of the apps available - and you’d be right.
The reason this app ecosystem is important is that there is always someone thinking about your specific vertical. Shopify Plus app developers operate in almost every retail space from subscription to D2C and B2B and at all levels from owner operators to established enterprise brands - which means somebody somewhere is working on the problems you’re facing and are about to face, and they're almost certainly bringing that solution to Shopify before any other platform.
Remember - each of these apps is a problem solved without needing to pay a developer to solve it.
Ease of integration
Unless you’re employing an in-house futurologist, predicting the future is a virtual impossibility (who would have foreseen the rise of TikTok ecommerce pre-2019, for example). As such, it’s necessary to supplement the capabilities of your site at fairly regular intervals - and Shopify Plus allows you to integrate the latest apps at the click of a button.
Whether you need to begin expanding your list of suppliers, add a new payment method, integrate the latest in AI tools and technology, your Shopify Plus store will only ever be an app away from the cutting edge of ecommerce.
Social media integration
Both BigCommerce Enterprise and Shopify Plus offer the ability to sell on the main Meta platforms (Facebook and Instagram), and BigCommerce has introduced a solution for TikTok (though it redirects to your BigCommerce store to make the purchase), Shopify Plus is the industry leader for social media integration - including:
- Facebook (Shop Pay enabled)
- Instagram (Shop Pay enabled)
- Tiktok (first to market)
- Youtube Shopping
- Twitter Shopping
3rd Party integration
One area of integration that BigCommerce Enterprise edges it, at the moment (and Shopify Plus is closing fast), is in large third party marketplace integrations. While Shopify Plus has the capability to allow sellers to sell across various marketplaces - such as Amazon, Sears, Wish, Ebay, Walmart and more, BigCommerce’s available integrations include these, but also extend beyond the larger US platforms into smaller localised platforms which can be more useful for retailers operating in European, MENA and Asian markets.
Ecommerce platforms have historically, like many CMSs, performed poorly with regards to online optimisation for search. Up until between ten and fifteen years ago, there was only one platform you could reliably use that offered the necessary functionality and customisation opportunities to rank well on search engines, and that was WordPress. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that WordPress is now the CMS for almost two thirds of all websites, nor that WooCommerce and Woo Themes are the CMS of choice for a substantial share of smaller ecommerce sites.
What does surprise people, however, is how far other CMSs have come in terms of SEO performance and general online optimisation. Not only have Shopify and BigCommerce invested in improving their SEO performance, they have overcome many of the issues that had held them back - with BigCommerce in particular earning praise among the search community for its improved performance against SEO metrics.
Shopify and SEO
When Shopify was built all the way back in 2006, partly as a home for the sale of snowboarding equipment, the practice of search engine optimisation was still largely in its infancy - making it no great surprise that the practice was an afterthought.
However, as we have begun to live our lives increasingly online and search has advanced, Shopify has retained some issues when it comes to a search ready ecommerce store.
- Duplicate content: - while rumours of penalties should have died several years ago, it bears repeating that there is no duplicate content penalty. However, Shopify can end up creating excessive duplicate URLs which can serve to dilute the ability to rank your preferred page. There is a fantastic guide to fixing this issue here, however.
- Speed (core web vitals): - ecommerce sites are naturally very image and container heavy, this is a recipe for poor CWV scores and Shopify has been known to suffer as a result. There is work that can be done though, both with apps and development, that can vastly improve performance.
Structured data: - there is no native automation of structured data which, as structured data is an underused and relatively little known requirement, means that Shopify stores often aren't equipped for the semantic web (likely to become more important in the age of machine learning and LLMs).
Some apps to improve SEO performance
- Crush.pics: - provide an app that allows for compression of large image files which can help both with speed, CWV and UX on image heavy retail sites. At Velstar, we handle this with CDN requests thanks to the wizardry of our developers, but this is a nice runner up solution.
- Schema App Total Schema Markup: - provide an app that allows users to add structured data to their site if they lack the dev time to develop a custom solution. Schema is integral now for many rich results and really should be a consideration at enterprise level.
- Yotpo Reviews: - provide an app which enables users to add product reviews and, therefore, make your content eligible for starred rich results in Google searches. A longstanding partner of Velstar and an excellent solution for reviews.
- Rewind Backups: - offer an app that automatically creates backups of your site which can be a life saver when implementing large scale changes. Again, though Velstar handles this with sandbox environments, this can be a useful substitute.
Yoast: - has created an app which automatically handles many SEO concerns, something which can be a time and money saver in the short term, but is unlikely to benefit a brand as much as expert guidance from a seasoned search professional.
BigCommerce and SEO
SEO is an area in which BigCommerce has really tried to stake its claim as the go-to platform for retailers. It automatically generates microdata (schema markup) for products, has worked to ensure unique unique URLs (removing the duplication problem it shared for a long time with Shopify) and its URL change and redirect process is nice and easy to use should you need to update your products.
That being said, BigCommerce still has some SEO issues:
- Speed and Core Web Vitals: - despite, like Shopify, providing a built in CDN, BigCommerce can struggle with layout shift and load speed if not handled well during the development phase.
- Support and tutorials: - while it offers several native solutions for standard SEO problems, there is a lack of in-depth support and/or tutorials for their implementation. As such, many retailers don’t use them at all or use them imperfectly. It’s worth noting here that, conversely, Shopify offers a huge library of resources as well as round-the-clock support.
- Automatic subdomain for blog: - it’s still a contested issue, but there is a growing consensus that subfolder is better than subdomain as a home for your blog and resource content. As such, BigCommerce’s decision to automatically add your blog as a subdomain is a strange one when you consider how often new users will arrive at your site through content and how hard you already need to work to rank that content.
Some apps to improve SEO performance
The choice of apps for BigCommerce is less extensive than on Shopify across use-cases, but there are a few for SEO that have varying levels of user ratings.
- Image Optimizer: - while not as user-friendly as the Shopify example, this is a reasonable app for image optimisation, allowing you to compress new and existing images.
FavSEO: - although it covers some things that are already native to the platform, the addition of a user friendly method of guidance makes it a good option for anyone without the experience to get the most out of BigCommerce. It also acts as the answer to the Shopify Yoast plugin, with various traffic light issue monitoring and optimisation options.
There can come a point in most eCommerce journeys when the investment needed to overtake a competitor is prohibitive, when a market has been conquered, or has reached either saturation or a difficult to move equilibrium. The next step, then, becomes a shift into a new territory. This can be hugely complex – there may be issues with localisation, with branding, colours, or traditions. What you do not need is to have such difficulties exacerbated by developing an entirely new web presence in the target country.
However, what has been designed for one language is not always going to translate as well as your content – German, for example, is around 30% longer on a sentence-by-sentence basis due in part to its tendency to create compound words where the English language would find a new word (take gloves, for example or ‘handschuhe’ – literally ‘hand shoes’). These differences in text length can break tables, overspill from buttons and cause many more design nightmares.
The following, from Shopify, demonstrates this nicely:
For a time, both BigCommerce and Shopify handled the problem in the same way – they used multiple storefronts with localised content necessary for each. BigCommerce still handles it this way, stating that their solution allows brands to provide:
- Localised content and conversion tools – using their ‘Stencil framework’ or CMS of your choice, users can build unique, branded sites that then deliver that localised content to the proper geographies. Although it must be stated that this is not automatically translated, but content written natively. Auto translation would require working with a third party or a lot of developer time.
- Localised currency and payment options – stores can display, transact, and settle in over 100+ currencies, allowing shoppers using those geographically specific sites to pay in the way that they choose.
- Localised catalogues and pricing – brands can customise product catalogues, pricing, and promotions for target regions through those stores to cater to local requirements.
While this has been a practical solution for SMEs looking to go international, it has often discouraged enterprise brands that do not wish to split their online presence across multiple sites, and SMEs without the necessary resources to carry out the additional work to run multiple stores.
In both cases, Shopify Markets is the likely solution – allowing brands to operate a single store which can react to and localise to their shopper’s location. Shopify Markets is a tool which allows for cross-border management and helps brands to identify, set up, launch, and manage the process of expanding into new, international markets - all while remaining a single store.
- The tool allows brands to centralise international selling tools while also introducing new functionality to help manage global sales.
- Markets allows you to create tailored online shopping experiences for different buyer segments – meaning that you can still cater to differing local UX and design tastes - creating ‘markets’ that target specific countries or regions.
In the UK alone there are more than 16 million disabled people and, while not all of those will require specific changes to a site for reasons of accessibility, there is still a significant proportion of the general population that are poorly catered to by the modern web. Not only is accessibility the right decision morally – it is also good business.
In addition to covering the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) on their help centre – including specific advice on four of the most common requirements (text accessibility, alternative text for images, slideshow and video accessibility, and keyboard support), Shopify has more than 550 accessibility focused apps - including highly rated accessibility specific apps such as Accessibly – which can help your store to more easily achieve compliance with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and WCAG.
BigCommerce, on the other hand, though it does provide similar WCAG documentation, only returns three unrated apps for “accessibility”.
As with its app ecosystem, Shopify is a runaway winner in the area of innovation. Not only do you have dozens of app partners racing to keep on top of the latest ecommerce trends and requirements, you also have a huge in-house team at Shopify aiming to keep the core platform at the forefront of available technology, web development trends and techniques, payment portals, integrations and more.
Shopify is regularly the first to market
Since the platform launched in 2006, Shopify has achieved industry firsts such as Shopify Payments and Shop Pay, Shopify Audiences, Shopify Markets, direct Amazon integrations, iPad POS, BNPL, and many more.
Shopify has also been at the forefront of social commerce. For example, Shopify’s integration with TikTok is just the latest example of Shopify being the ‘first to market’ with social commerce integrations (see the social media integrations section).
Shopify, it seems, is committed to never standing still. Shopify Editions - the platform's biannual roundup of changes - is a testament to this, showcasing a huge amount of innovation and development (typically 100+ innovations and developments), with almost $1.5 Bn spent on research and development in the last 12 months alone.
One of the reasons for this is, of course, company size. While BigCommerce has
approximately 400 employees globally, Shopify employs more than 2,000 people in development positions alone. In addition, Shopify’s product team
is approximately five times the size of that at BigCommerce, meaning (in theory) that Shopify has an increased capacity to provide support, as well as a superior resource for in-house research and development.
While Shopify’s apps allow for brands to stay at the cutting edge - if they know where that edge is - BigCommerce seems determined to incorporate more functionality natively. There are pros and cons to both approaches - you may notice new features in the BigCommerce CMS and be able to learn to take advantage of them, you may never hear about Shopify apps that can boost your performance in various ways.
In essence, BigCommerce’s integration of new functionality into the platform means you may be more likely to discover new features as and when they roll out, but the best idea in all cases is to ensure you’re staying on top of developments in the ecommerce space so that you don’t miss out on developments whichever platform you choose.
Although we could (and have) discuss the various whistles and bells that make up the wider platforms, arguably the most important thing for ecommerce businesses is how easy it is to sell. We've covered the excellent social media selling capabilities of Shopify, but where it really excels is in its checkout process.
That's not to say BigCommerce is lacking in this area - it's payment options, for example, are on a par with far more expensive and established brands and, where this a resource on the comparative benefits of BigCommerce versus, for example, the Adobe owned Magento platform, we would be happy to state that BigCommerce's slightly lower conversion performance is more than outweighed elsewhere.
Outstanding checkout performance
However, in this instance, the numbers speak for themselves and Shopify rightly boasts of the following results from its extensive work on the checkout process.
- Up to 36% higher conversion than competitors, and 15% more on average.
- 50% conversion lift when Shop Pay - the platform's one-click express checkout - is used.
- 5% more completed checkouts for businesses which have Shop Pay is enabled.
In addition, Shopify also allows you to incorporate high-converting features such as product bundle apps, subscription apps and many more (BigCommerce does have similar functionality, but we'll refer you here to the integrations section).
You’ll note, however, that BigCommerce outperforms Salesforce and is only narrowly behind Magento (Adobe Commerce).
Choosing Shopify Payments for your store doesn’t just provide you with access to accelerated checkouts via Shop - it also allows you to provide your visitors with a broader range of payment options.
These options include buy now, pay later, which let customers pay in four interest-free instalments (or monthly instalments up to 12 months) as well as a range of other integrations that have seen Shop Pay overtake PayPal as the most common payment method on US Shopify sites.
Shopify has also partnered with a huge variety of payment gateways to ensure that customers can pay in their local currency with their favoured payment method. As things stand, this is not an option with your standard BigCommerce Enterprise store - which integrates with PayPal and Stripe, but lacks equivalent global reach in gateway partnerships.
The enterprise level pricing for both BigCommerce Enterprise and Shopify Plus can be a little obscure, though Shopify Plus is at least able to present a baseline figure of $2000 a month for businesses with a turnover of less than £650K per year.
In truth, with bespoke pricing on a case-by-case basis, it’s virtually impossible to give an exact comparison. Both platforms charge a platform fee followed by additional charges based on a share of revenue.
What we know: Shopify
Shopify Plus, after the initial £650K is exceeded, charges around a quarter of one percent of your monthly revenue up to a maximum of $40,000 (approximately £33K).
What we know: BigCommerce
While we can’t know for certain as they don’t advertise a base rate, BigCommerce’s platform fee appears to start at around $1000, making it the cheaper of the two platforms to begin with. Above a set turnover, however, it seems to function in the same way as Shopify Plus - though if various blogs are to be believed, with a lower cost per month ceiling ($15000 per month). BigCommerce does boast that it’s cheaper than Shopify Plus and Adobe Commerce, but unfortunately we can neither confirm nor deny. What we can say is that, when improved conversion rates are taken into account in addition to the benefits of Shopify's commitment to innovation and wider ecommerce ecosystem, the lower price seems a lot less like value for money and more the lower price of an inferior product.
As we’ve said elsewhere - we chose our side when we decided to focus exclusively on Shopify as our platform of choice. However, both Shopify Plus and BigCommerce have their benefits depending on the nature of your business and the resources at your disposal.
If, like the founder of Shopify, you happen to be a development whizz - then the app ecosystem won’t mean so much to you, as you’ll be able to implement your own solutions. If you’re focused solely on the US as your only territory, then Shopify’s internationalisation capabilities won’t be of much use either.
That being said - Shopify, even in the last 7 years that Velstar has been building sites, has come a long way in making up for any shortcomings it has versus other ecommerce platforms.
Its move into enterprise solutions, two years before Velstar was born, is also one of the reasons we were happy to commit early to Shopify - as we knew there was a groundswell of support and desire for businesses on Shopify to be able to take their next big steps.
On the next page, we’ve assembled a head-to-head of the various things we’ve discussed in this resource. We’ve tried to be as even handed as possible, and we think we can fairly say that - if you’re looking to move from the SME to enterprise bracket, Shopify Plus should be your destination of choice.