There was a time about 3 or 4 years ago when Shopify was lower on my list of recommended platforms. Today, it firmly stands at the top as the best eCommerce platform. I’ve worked with over a dozen online store builders and eCommerce platforms and at this point, Shopify blows them out of the water. In this blog, I will provide a detailed comparison of Shopify, WooCommerce (a WordPress plugin), and BigCommerce, focusing predominantly on the features of Shopify that I think make it a no-brainer when deciding where to open up your online store.
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Can I or Should I Switch My Website Platform?
Before we begin, it’s worth noting that this information is not just for brands looking to create a new website or open up their business for eCommerce sales for the first time. I have successfully worked with clients in migrating them from other major CMS platforms to Shopify, even after they’ve been with those platforms for many years. You need to be working with the best eCommerce website builder suited to YOUR needs. While there is an immediate impact when it comes to SEO and traffic, the added benefits that Shopify brings to the table can greatly outweigh the negatives. On top of this, after the recovery period (I’ve seen it take 2-4 months on average) growth and performance easily outstrip historical records if the Shopify site is set up and leveraged properly.
Comparing 3 Of The Top eCommerce Platforms
Why are we comparing just BigCommerce, WooCommerce and Shopify? Well, it comes down to two main reasons: 1. Better UX/UI, 2. Better tracking and convertability. In my experience, it is easier to create a fully functional eCommerce website on these three platforms with the least amount of experience. I have worked with Wix, Magento, PrestaShop, Volusion, and Squarespace as well, but feel that each of these has a glaring flaw when compared against the primary 3 we’ll be focusing on today. It’s also crucial to run your business on a platform that’s built to help you grow. With better tracking and analytics you’ll know exactly where you need to improve. By reducing friction and having a better customer experience, the increase in conversion rate means a substantial amount of increased business and revenue. It’s no wonder that many of your favorite eCommerce brands have Shopify sites.
The most common flaws I’ve seen with these other platforms is that they aren’t up to date with best practices, have extremely poor reporting, or are missing necessary features out of the box. While these three areas still aren’t perfect with the 3 platforms we’ll be discussing, they are still much better on average. Additionally, each of them is pioneering changes in the eCommerce industry. Over the last few months Shopify and BigCommerce have both announced a significant amount of platform improvements, add ons, and other features.
Not Up To Date With Best Practices
Platforms that don’t keep up with SEO best practices are immediately disqualified. While website design is important, if your website sacrifices organic value to get it, it’s not worth it. Allowing for the proper implementation of search engine tracking and fundamental SEO best practices is an absolute must for any business that wants to grow over time and reap the benefits of organic momentum. This means easy customization of title tags, meta descriptions, page headers, navigation menus, sitemap signalling, and more.
Poor eCommerce Reporting Or Tracking
If you can’t trust your website’s inbuilt eCommerce reporting, what can you trust? This is a fundamental element to a healthy CMS and yet so often lacking, even among some of the best-in-class solutions. The best eCommerce CMS solutions include deep analytics on user product behavior, checkout behavior, traffic sources, and more. If it doesn’t have these features, it must, at an absolute bare minimum, have easy integration for popular tracking tools like Google Analytics or Facebook’s pixel.
Endless Microtransactions, Plugins, or Add-Ons Required
This category often has some of the biggest offenders. It’s common knowledge at this point that a CMS will be used to sell products digitally and that in order to do so, most brands need to leverage popular digital tools like Google Shopping, Facebook Ads, and email. However, I still run into many platforms that require 3rd party plugins or microtransactions to enable base level features for eCommerce marketing. It’s understandable that it can be hard to evolve with how rapidly a lot of digital platforms are changing, but that’s the crux of being a good CMS. Shopify has consistently soared in this category. It’s email platform and payment installments program are just two examples of how it’s creating a well-rounded ecosystem within itself.
Ease of Initial Setup
Depending on the complexity of your store and products, the answer to which is the easiest to setup could be a toss up. However, if you have unique products without a vast amount of variants, Shopify takes the cake on ease-of-setup.
Creating the store, adding products with their respective titles, descriptions, and pictures is ridiculously easy. Mapping them into categories is also very straightforward. The beauty of this is that Shopify has plenty of free-to-use templates that make the initial design well-optimized and user-friendly. As far as tracking is concerned, since Shopify uses code-injectors, it’s pretty hard to mess up your Google Analytics, Google Ads, or Facebook Ads data.
With WooCommerce, the plugin itself isn’t super hard to navigate, but ensuring that the rest of your site is set up properly can require some previous experience or research. Additionally, a lot of eCommerce features within WooCommerce require 3rd party integrations which can sometimes be hard to sift through in the extension store.
BigCommerce is also pretty quick in terms of setup, but that still depends on the way your products are formatted and the source you’re pulling from. One of the benefits of BigCommerce that we’ll cover further on is the ability to really go to town with your product variants and interconnectivity. This is made much simpler than most other platforms.
In this category, above all else, Shopify is the most distinctive winner which is why I prefer them over any other platform. If we’re not in this to see how we’re doing and where we can improve, then why are we doing it? The reporting dashboards even at the base subscription give valuable user information to help you make actionable decisions on how to improve your products and store. Information like the abandoned cart report, traffic, average order value, and others mean that finding the information you’re looking for is quick and painless.
BigCommerce reporting has been glitchy at best for the last few years. I’ve found issues with date filtering, missing revenue numbers, and more.
WooCommerce reporting, while better than BigCommerce, still lacks most of the bells and whistles that you get with even the basic Shopify plan, let alone Shopify Plus.
Google Analytics Enhanced eCommerce Reporting
As for integrating with Google Analytics, Shopify’s enhanced eCommerce reporting is also the easiest to set up and most robust within Google Analytics. These reports give marketers valuable insights into what elements of the checkout process impact buyer behavior and overall conversion rate.
Plugins, Extensions, Apps
This is my second favorite reason for using Shopify. At this point, the Shopify App marketplace is unparalleled. You can find anything from beautiful abandoned cart emails, exit intent popups, to easy email integration (like Klaviyo). My only caution here is that because the marketplace is so big, it’s easy to go overboard. When you start having 20+ apps in your Shopify store, it’s most likely time to take out the trash.
WordPress also has a strong app store, but those for WooCommerce can be a bit less refined than what you see on Shopify. Because WordPress is more open source, you can find some unique apps for increasing your website and store’s performance, but support and updates aren’t always guaranteed (and could potentially break your site if you’re not careful).
BigCommerce also has a big app store but integration, in my experience, tends to be a bit trickier and less appealing on the front end.
As of writing this article, none of the preferred Google Shopping integrations are perfect for any of the three platforms. If I had to choose, I’d probably say that Sales and Orders (BigCommerce) was the best, but it’s definitely a close one.
Shopify has adapted quickly to Google’s free merchant listings program and has recently opened up Shopify Shop, a marketplace competitor to Google Shopping and Amazon. This is a huge benefit to being on that platform as users may gravitate towards a more all in one solution when shopping and it gives ecommerce stores the opportunity of having app-based real estate.
Design & Development
Both Shopify and BigCommerce have good convertible out of the box designs. BigCommerce (Stencil) is extremely limited when it comes to making design changes or any form of development which is why it’s my least favorite when it comes to design and usability. However, BigCommerce has recently released a page builder tool which might make the overall design process easier. On top of this, BigCommerce has also released the BigCommerce for WordPress plugin. This can be a huge game changer as it brings the robust commerce engine from BigCommerce and combines it with the flexibility and design of WordPress. It’s actions like these that make BigCommerce a top 3 CMS solution because it continues to evolve and adapt to market needs.
Shopify is relatively easy to work with, but development can be confined by the theme that you’re using. Both free and purchasable themes can cover your basic needs for a new eCommerce store and make it feel like your own. Menu customization is also easy with the inbuilt interface and can be juiced up depending on your theme or additional plugins.
WooCommerce is the clear winner in the design category. Whether you’re using a theme builder like Divi or Beaver Builder, or hard coding page templates, the amount of customizations is basically only limited by your imagination and development skills. It may not have as great of out of the box designs, but with a good design and development team, you can bring pretty much anything to life. On top of this, the developer network for WordPress is one of the biggest there is.
This is where the three platforms are the most split. BigCommerce functions great under pressure. Meaning, if you have thousands of products, BigCommerce can bear the load even when those products have tons of unique customizations and variants. When your store needs highly customizable products at scale, BigCommerce is your best solution without having to turn to custom development or expensive 3rd party plugins.
Shopify is pretty simplistic out of the box when it comes to product variants. When your store consists of simpler products, Shopify is a great choice. Its integration with Google Shopping and the Facebook Catalog is a bit more limited though than either of the other two options unless you utilize a more expensive custom 3rd party app. It has recently begun to work directly with Facebook though, so this limitation won’t last long.
With WooCommerce, you can become very creative when it comes to product variants, but this typically requires custom fields or a plugin. That effectively means that it doesn’t play super nice with other apps that require the product data unless you do some finagling. It can also tend to have the most sitelag when you get past a certain number of products or pages, but this can heavily depend on your host as well.
When it comes to payment providers, this may be the category least in Shopify’s favor at first glance, only when it comes to flexibility. Unless you’re a high risk vendor, Shopify’s inbuilt payments can work great. But, if you are high risk or want to use a payment provider outside of Shopify, there is an additional percentage tacked on to your rate. With the release of Shopify’s “Shop” the interconnectedness that Shop Pay (formerly “Shopify Pay”) offers customers and it’s focus on an accelerated checkout experience might inevitably shift this category into Shopify’s favor.
BigCommerce on the other hand supports 65 payment gateway integrations like Stripe, Authorize.net, and many other popular ones. BigCommerce itself doesn’t charge any transaction fees, you just have to pay the fee applicable to your respective payment gateway.
WooCommerce offers 100+ options for payment gateways. Additionally, you can integrate payment gateways with popular WordPress plugins like Gravity Forms or Contact Form 7.
While BigCommerce and Shopify allow for selling in multiple currencies, WooCommerce out of the box does not. So, if you’re looking to do more turn-key international eCommerce, WooCommerce might not be the easiest fit. There are, however, a few extensions to support multiple currencies if you’re leaning towards this CMS based on other factors.
Shopify and BigCommerce will occasionally offer free trials, so finding a free eCommerce platform isn’t as hard as you might think. If you’re just looking for the cheapest eCommerce platform ongoing though, well WordPress and WooCommerce are both free! So the minimum you have to pay comes down to the cost of your domain, website hosting, and the theme if you pay for one. Of course, the bells and whistles can start costing you extra, but WooCommerce is the cheapest option of the three.
Shopify and BigCommerce both have a similar pricing structure, but the transaction fees for non-Shopify payments make it a tad more expensive if you’re using that option. Shopify also limits the number of staff accounts you can have at certain tier levels, whereas BigCommerce does not.
There’s definitely a lot more about each platform than I’ve covered in this article. Every designer or developer you meet will typically have their own strong preference; however, from a marketing perspective I would say that Shopify takes the cake 9 times out of 10. With better reporting, a robust app store, and ease of use, it’s the easy choice for both new and seasoned brands alike. Not only is Shopify the best eCommerce builder for small business, it’s also the best enterprise eCommerce platform as well. If you want to grow your business, make sure you’re using the right platform to get you where you want to go!
|Ease of Setup||Easy for merchants with simple products||Intermediate. Product customization options aren’t all out of the box, so custom fields or plugins are needed||Easy, depending on your product type and product file (csv)|
|Reporting||Best-In-Class||Covers the basics||Poor, with potential data loss|
|Plugin, Extensions, Apps||Best-In-Class||Robust, but open source. Updates and support aren’t guaranteed||Robust, typically harder to implement and potentially more expensive|
|Design & Development||Out of the box designs. Development can be limited based on the theme chosen||Sky’s the limit||Stencil is extremely limited and the number of developers who can work in this language is much less than Shopify and WooCommerce developers|
|Product Variants||Decent out of the box options with the ability to upgrade with plugins or custom coding||Lots of options with the right use of plugins and custom fields, but might not integrate well with 3rd parties||Best-In-Class|
|Payment Gateways||0.5-2% additional fees for using payment gateways other than Shopify Payments Shopify Payments from 2.4% + 30¢ to 2,9% + 30¢ depending on your plan.||No transactional fees for leading payment gateways. 100+ options *fees dependent on each 3rd party provider||No Transactional Fees for leading payment gateways. 60+ options *fees dependent on each 3rd party provider|
|Pricing||Starting at $29/mo||FREE||Starting at $29.95/mo|