Here’s a TLDR overview of the BigCommerce platform:
- BigCommerce is a cost-effective SMB and mid-market SaaS eCommerce platform
- BigCommerce is often compared to Shopify, due to the SaaS nature of the platform, their target market(s) and their pricing / packages
- BigCommerce targets both the B2C and B2B & wholesale markets
- BigCommerce is one of the more flexible SaaS platforms on the market and they’re gradually making the platform more open, with a particular focus on the front-end and headless builds
- BigCommerce is payment provider agnostic and provides flexibility around the checkout (often considered to be one of the big advantages over Shopify)
- Upcoming releases for multi-currency (in beta), a page building solution and multi-store management have been announced and are coming soon
- BigCommerce are currently very focused on growing their mid-market and enterprise ecosystem, with a focus on best-in-class SI partners and technology partners
I’ve looked at BigCommerce a lot over the last few years (and way more so in the last six months), with it generally being brought up as a competitor to either Magento Commerce or Shopify Plus when I’ve been running an RfP or considering platform options. In the past, BigCommerce was often ruled out as it didn’t have the same high profile retailers and it didn’t have a European presence, however, both of these areas have now changed – so I decided to do a write-up on BigCommerce as an enterprise and mid-market eCommerce platform option.
I’ve also been using BigCommerce on a couple of clients recently and I met their, Brent Bellm a few months ago which was interesting and gave me a lot more clarity on the market they’re targeting and where the product is going. Brent mostly talked about their goal to be the most flexible, mid-market SaaS platform. Although they’re not perfect (no platform is), I think BigCommerce will see a lot of growth over the next few years – as a result of them having a great base product, a clever go-to-market strategy (aligning themselves with headless currently) and a very smart team (from what I’ve seen so far).
BigCommerce is also starting to win some good brands and projects in the UK, with Steinhoff Group being a very notable win (headless build with Bloomreach for Harvey’s and Benson for Beds).
What is BigCommerce Enterprise?
BigCommerce Enterprise is the version of the platform (just like Shopify Plus) designed for larger businesses, offering a number of features that aren’t available in the lower tiers. Aside from these features and increased support etc, they’re the same – the interface and core feature-set are the same. The pricing for BigCommerce Enterprise is also based on order volume, as opposed to fixed price tiers (with the lower, SMB-focused options), which I’ll come onto more later on.
BigCommerce Enterprise isn’t a new eCommerce platform – it’s been around since 2015 (with the main BigCommerce platform being introduced earlier in 2009, as a hosted version of Interspire) and it already powers stores for a number of household names. Even in the UK BigCommerce already have thousands of merchants, including some pretty big ones – such as Carluccios, Steinhoff Group (in build) and YUMI. These are BigCommerce Enterprise customers, whereas the majority would be the lower tiers.
BigCommerce has become a lot more relevant to us recently – after they opened their first European office in London (where I live) a few months ago. BigCommerce seems to be on everyone’s lips at the moment – be it through their presence at industry events, them directly reaching out to merchants or their new partners introducing it as a potential fit to a client. This is a really good thing as it adds another credible, capable platform option to the SMB and mid-market space and it adds another mid-level SaaS solution that’s capable of competing with Shopify Plus.
BigCommerce may not have the same brand as Shopify Plus, but they have won a lot of great clients in recent times – including Skullcandy globally, Paul Mitchell, Gibson, YUMI, Carluccios, Ford, Spinning.com, Toyota, Kodak in Australia and various others. Although these may not be in the same league as some of the high-volume stores on the Shopify Plus (such as Kylie, Gymshark, Fashion Nova, MVMT etc) and Magento platforms (such as Missguided, Made.com, Nobel Biocare etc), BigCommerce are handling a lot of complexity and providing a really good foundation for headless implementations – which is quite a unique proposition with the platform being a SaaS provider.
I wrote this guide comparing BigCommerce and Shopify Plus, so I’ll try not to compare these platforms too much but they both have very strong propositions and BigCommerce are really pushing forward as a more complex option.
Here are some questions that we generally get asked about BigCommerce and BigCommerce Enterprise
What are the costs of BigCommerce Enterprise?
The BigCommerce Enterprise licensing model is based on number of orders, with four pricing tiers determining the cost being paid per order. This allows for reduced per order pricing for high volume merchants and it also ensures that the brackets scale up for B2B users of the platform.
Overall, BigCommerce tends to be very competitive from a cost perspective. Licensing-wise, it’s usually very similar to Shopify Plus and considerably lower than Magento Commerce and Salesforce Commerce Cloud and the same applies to an average build. The rough average costings that we’ve seen so far can be seen below:
- Platform Licensing (based on a £10m B2C retailer: £3,000 per month
- Build cost: £50k – £200k (depending on the integration partner you go with)
- Module / app costs (e.g. search, backups, wishlist etc): £500 per month
- On-going development retainer: £2.500 per month
It’s worth noting that, as with Shopify, the development retainer doesn’t require any allocation for platform maintenance. The above costs are assuming the build is a relatively straightforward project and isn’t headless etc. Also, smaller BigCommerce builds can start from as low as £15k and the standard tiers come with much lower monthly costs.
How does BigCommerce handle multi-currency?
BigCommerce recently introduced their multi-currency feature, which, although still in BETA, I was really impressed with. It’s certainly not perfect yet and it has the same issues as Shopify had when they first launched their multi-currency feature (around compatibility of third parties, payment gateways and apps etc), but it’s slightly stronger in terms of handling of pricing.
The main difference between this and Shopify’s multi-currency is that you’re able to set price lists against each currency – which is more in-line with how Magento and Salesforce Commerce Cloud handle currencies. If you prefer, you can also use a blanket exchange rate. As with Shopify, you also have control over which currencies can be transactions.
How does BigCommerce handle broader international setups?
Currently, BigCommerce doesn’t have a multi-store solution and each international store would operate independently (with apps needing to be managed separately, different product IDs, independently managed merchandising etc). BigCommerce are working on building out proper multi-store capabilities, but this is due to be released over the next 6-12 months.
This said, there are plenty of localised international stores (with independent stores for each country) and multi-brand setups that are using BigCommerce – you’d either need to manage certain things manually, use or create a syncing solution, or rely more on a PIM or ERP. In my experience, people tend to do a mixture of these.
Also, BigCommerce are quite flexible with pricing for merchants needing to use more stores.
What are the key selling points / features of BigCommerce for B2B?
BigCommerce has a pretty strong B2B offering and it’s started to have a big impact on the SMB and mid-market B2B and wholesale space, which was previously dominated by Magento. The shift towards merchants wanting a SaaS platform in the B2C space is also a trend in B2B, where complexity allows for it.
Some of the key B2B and wholesale features that BigCommerce offers natively include:
- Customer-specific pricing (via price lists)
- Quote / CPQ management
- Volume / tiered pricing (which can also be set at a customer-level)
- Purchase orders and credit terms management
- Customer-specific catalogs, shipping options, availability, payment methods, content and more
- Customer segmentation features
- Advanced shipping capabilities (via ShipperHQ)
- Advanced product management features (attribute sets, custom fields, variant handling etc)
- Quick order functionality
B2B is a big focus for BigCommerce and it’s an area where they’ve made some huge headway, with clients including:
- HD Supply
- Harvard Business Publishing
- Yellow Pages
- Berlin Packaging
BigCommerce also recently introduced a bit of B2B accelerator, which combines a number of their technology partners to allow for other common requirements (such as SKU or product code search or product finders). Although this is a good move in the right direction, a number of these technology partners aren’t obvious fits for larger implementations.
How flexible are BigCommerce’s APIs when it comes to headless builds?
BigCommerce has really honed in on headless in recent times, opening up their APIs to allow for more flexibility and developing commercial relationships with popular CMS’s and DXPs. In order to make this work, BigCommerce has had to build out their various APIs, to allow external front-end technologies to fetch product information, build the checkout and process payments etc.
The catalog APIs listed here have good coverage and allow for flexible headless builds whilst still making use of core functionality. This is a real strength of BigCommerce as a SaaS platform (when you compare to obvious competitors) and it’s already enabled them to compete in places with API-first platforms like Elastic Path and Commerce Tools. The BigCommerce Checkout JS SDK is a big pro for the platform and developers, allowing for a lot more flexibility – with Shopify for instance forcing users back into the native Shopify checkout.
How good is BigCommerce for Product Management?
Considering that the platform was originally focused on SMB users, BigCommerce have fairly strong product management features, allowing for multiple attribute sets, broad product attributes, bundling (within the platform), variation handling options (e.g. colour, size & fit), tiered pricing, product option groups, parent <> child category relationships etc.
How does BigCommerce Enterprise Compare to Shopify Plus?
I’m a huge advocate of Shopify Plus and it’s the platform I’ve been working with most over the last 12-24 months. Although BigCommerce has some pros over Shopify, I still think Shopify is hard to beat in terms of its simplicity, the ecosystem around the platform and some of the new functionality they’ve introduced over the last couple of years (e.g. Shopify Flow, Launchpad, advancements around POS etc). The other thing that Shopify Plus has more high volume, big-name merchants – but BigCommerce is definitely on a positive trajectory at the moment and I’d imagine they’ll make a lot of progress in this area over the next 12 months. I wrote this more detailed piece on this topic. I wrote this more detailed guide that goes into more detail on this comparison.
Here are a few quick points of comparison:
- Pricing-wise the two are very similar
- BigCommerce is far stronger for B2B and wholesale stores / requirements
- BigCommerce is more open in certain areas (checkout, APIs for headless, payments etc)
- Shopify is more proven in enterprise B2C
- Shopify is bigger and has far more merchants
- Both platforms aren’t natively ideal for complex multi-store implementations (e.g. complex international or multi-brand)
- Shopify has a strong ecosystem around integrations and SI partners
How Extensible is BigCommerce?
One of the main pros for BigCommerce over some of the main competitor SaaS platforms is how extensible the platform is, considering there is no access to the server. There is a wide range of APIs available and they also released a checkout SDK last year, which helps to allow for further customisation and more flexibility for headless builds. BigCommerce have well documented APIs around the catalog, the checkout, custom login (also supports SSO), price lists, shipping, customers, orders and various other areas.
BigCommerce have also developed a lot more enterprise-focused technology partnerships recently to support this area, such as:
- Bloomreach (visual merchandising and CMS)
- Attraqt (visual merchandising)
- Klevu (search)
- Algolia (search)
BigCommerce also allow for credit card vaulting, which is often an issue with complex deposit payments and subscriptions.
Who are some of the larger retailers who work with BigCommerce?
BigCommerce have a wide range of mid-market customers, using BigCommerce Enterprise – here are some examples:
- Skull Candy (international, B2C)
- Avery Dennison (B2B)
- Woolrich (international, B2C)
- Paul Mitchell (B2C and wholesale)
- Carluccios (headless, B2C)
- Ben & Jerry’s (B2C)
- Ford Parts (B2C)
- PetCoach (headless, B2C)
- Balance Me (our client + B2C)
What are the main limitations of BigCommerce?
The main limitation with BigCommerce is the same as most of the SMB and mid-market platforms, which comes from not being able to access the server. Although this is very rarely a major issue, it can limit merchants in places – most commonly with us, this has been server-side rendering with things like visual merchandising tools (to create an in-line grid for search engines).
The other obvious limitation of BigCommerce is the lack of native multi-store capabilities, which can add some big overheads for larger international retailers. This is something that’s being worked on and I’ve been told that they’ll provide an early-stage solution early next year.
Which Integration Partners Support BigCommerce?
Following a lot of growth around BigCommerce Enterprise, they’ve been focusing a lot more on larger, more enterprise-focused systems integrators, with recent additions including the likes of Inviqa, BORN, Space48, LiveArea, Greenlight Commerce, SQLI, Blueleaf etc. In addition to these, you then also have partners like 5874, SILK Commerce, American Eagle, Redstage, Digital Haus etc.
BigCommerce Enterprise Features & Capabilities
There are a wide range of selling points for BigCommerce, with it being a relatively open, feature-rich SaaS eCommerce platform, but here are the ones that I tend to find are cited most commonly:
Fully managed SaaS platform
BigCommerce is a SaaS provider, meaning that they offer their platform as a software-as-a-service and take control of the hosting, all server maintenance, platform upgrades, security patching etc. This is a big pro for a lot of merchants and it’s a real movement in the eCommerce platform space at the moment.
Fairly advanced product information management capabilities
Although not quite at the same level as platforms like Magento Commerce or Salesforce Commerce Cloud, BigCommerce have pretty strong native product information management functionality – allowing for different attribute sets, configurable product options, bundling, custom fields with different scopes etc. This is an area where they’re stronger their some of their close competitors (such as Shopify) and it’s an area that supports their recent focus on the B2B market.
Focus on headless commerce
Over the last 12 months, BigCommerce has embraced the headless commerce trend and have gradually opened up their platform to allow for separate front-end technologies / approaches. BigCommerce now has a wide range of APIs that allow users to build on top of their chosen framework or utilise one of their new integrations with platforms like WordPress, Bloomreach and Acquia. This is a big focal area for BigCommerce and they’re actively working on introducing new integrations with other frameworks, platforms and DXPs.
Native marketplace & social integrations
BigCommerce has native integrations with marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon, allowing merchants to test out new channels or manage orders and product information for multiple business areas in one place.
BigCommerce also natively provides a quick and easy route to connect products to Instagram and set up a Facebook store, directly through the admin. Similarly to Shopify, BigCommerce also has a buy button which can be used on content sites and external sites to allow for products to be promoted and then quickly purchased via the checkout.
BigCommerce Enterprise comes with ShipperHQ (a tool we use a lot with various platforms) built-in, which is a really nice add-on for merchants! ShipperHQ allows for highly complex logic around shipping options / rates, as well as communicating them on the front-end. I use ShipperHQ on a number of projects (and the cost can add up) and it’s great that it’s a free add-on with BigCommerce Enterprise.
Payment provider agnostic
BigCommerce is payment provider agnostic and doesn’t have any penalties / charges for merchant’s looking to use a different, third party payment gateway. BigCommerce does also have strong relationships with mainstream providers like Braintree, Adyen, Stripe etc. The only thing to add to this is, currently, Stripe is the only payment that can be used with new multi-currency features.
BigCommerce also has a wide range of pre-integrated payment providers – including payment gateways and things like AmazonPay and Klarna.
Strong SEO flexibility
The SEO side of BigCommerce is a big plus for a lot of people and can even be a decision-maker for some. Some of the benefits of using BigCommerce from an SEO perspective, in comparison to Shopify Plus, include:
- Full control over URLs – ability to change URL structure for different pages and no forced directories
- Ability to edit the robots.txt page
- Ability to use directories in URLs (creating a parent > child style relationship)
- Native support for AMP (accelerated mobile pages)
- Native redirect management
That said, there are some negatives on the SEO front with BigCommerce, which are:
Both of these are down to not having access to the server.
It’s also straightforward to handle things like canonical URL logic, hreflang implementation, structured data etc, which would be handled in the templates.
The BigCommerce app store & existing integrations
Another big selling point for BigCommerce (although not as strong as Shopify and Magento) is the number of apps and integrations that are readily available for users.
The BigCommerce app store contains a wide range of apps, ranging from search and merchandising to shipping and tax to CRM and email. These are just a few examples and the app store contains a combination of modules from independent developers (e.g. a wishlist or popup app) and technology partner companies (such as ShipStation or Yotpo).
This is a big focus for BigCommerce globally and they’re really pushing their partnership channel to support this. Even in the last 6 months when looking at BigCommerce there are more and more third parties launching or developing apps or integrations with BigCommerce, such as Algolia, Klevu, Klarna etc.
Promotions and discounting
BigCommerce has a strong native promotions engine built into the platform, which allows for relatively complex offers to be managed against specific groups of products, for specific customers etc.
The coupon code options are also pretty advanced natively, providing the ability to restrict to certain products, customers, numbers of uses, cart combinations, shipping location etc.
If you have any questions on BigCommerce and any of the core features or where it can or can’t be extended, please feel free to send them via email or add in the comments below.