BigCommerce is an ecommerce shopping cart platform that was founded in Sydney, Australia. The company started in 2003 and currently serve over 20,000 businesses in 65 countries. BigCommerce has recently opened a satellite office in Austin, Texas. The ecommerce platform is known for its reasonable rates, strong security features, and powerful inventory system. Some of their active online store’s include: ShaveNow, Oh So Celeb, and Pandora. BigCommerce was once rated #1 on Top10Reviews but has since dropped to #4 because “navigation throughout the software is a little more difficult and time consuming than some of the other software we tested.” They offer five packages which range from $24.95 to $299.95 per month.
Pro: BigCommerce has a ton of features that will help you create, market, and run your online store. Some of the most popular are: wish lists, Facebook marketplace, RSS feed for new products, 96 W3C/XHTML compliant storefront templates, multi-level category fly-out menus, thumbnail photos of products created automatically, super zoom, and the ability to easily sell on eBay. See all of BigCommerce’s features here.
Con: It’s a little strange, but BigCommerce provides you with a newsletter form on their website without having the actual function to send a newsletter.
BigCommerce Ease of Use
Pro: BigCommerce sports a simple drag-and-drop design feature which makes it easy to design your own store front. Access to HTML and CSS coding enables those who are tech savvy to design their own pages the freedom to do so. Adding products, pictures, shipping options and taxes is quite easy.
Con: Drag and drop as well as point-and-click tools are easy to use, but the setup is slightly more confusing to navigate for novice users. BigCommerce is undoubtedly easier to use than ecommerce platforms like Magento, but according to Andrew Bleakley, Shopify has simplified the process [of building an online store] as much as possible and has opted to impress by just working. He also wrote: “BigCommerce looks like it was designed by a marketing team looking for pats on the back.” (Source)
BigCommerce offers five separate packages from “Bronze” at $24.95 per month to their enterprise solution called “Diamond” for $299.95 per month. All of BigCommerce’s plans require no setup fee, which is quite standard among its competition.
Pro: All of BigCommerce’s plans include their full list of features. Unlike Volusion where you have to upgrade to get a basic function like a “social store builder,” it’s nice that BigCommerce gives you full functionality at no additional charge. It’s also great that upon signup you get $50-$100 in Google AdWords Credits, depending on the plan you choose. BigCommerce offers a 15 day free trial with no credit card required.
Con: Although BigCommerce offers their whole feature set at any pricing plan, they’re really limiting when it comes to number of products, staff login accounts, bandwidth, and storage. If you start with a “Bronze” plan, you’re limited to 100 products (remember, a t-shirt isn’t just one item, it’s one item per size, and color), 3 staff logins, 2 GB of bandwidth, and 200 MB of storage. You should take note of the limit on bandwidth in particular. As I found on their website:
Bandwidth over your allocated monthly allowance is charged at half a cent per megabyte. For example, using 1 GB of bandwidth over your allocated monthly allowance would be charged $5.12 (1,024 MB x $0.005). Storage space over your monthly allowance is charged at 10 cents per megabyte.
If you don’t sell much and you don’t get very much traffic, bandwidth should not be a problem, but if you get a surge in traffic you will be surprised at the end of the month when you receive your bill. Also, although they have a decent rating with the Better Business Bureau, they have had 15 complaints closed with the BBB (9 of which in the past year). Four of the complaints have been about “Billing / Collection Issues” but have been resolved “with BBB assistance.”
BigCommerce Templates & Design
Pro: BigCommerce offer 96 professional store design templates that are customizable to a certain degree through point-and-click or drag-and-drop tools. Photos are easy to load and a larger version of the photo can be accessed through a pop-up when clicked. Zoom features allow users to get a really close up look at products before buying. Not all ecommerce platforms offer the ‘zoom’ feature so its nice that BigCommerce has this functionality. Most BigCommerce templates are optimized for use on handheld devices such as the iPad, Blackberry, iPhone, and Android.
Con: Although simple to use, BigCommerce templates have a tendency to be rather bland. Customizing BigCommerce templates is a difficult process to navigate and your scope of customization is limited. Designing your own page is also a clumsy process when compared to other software models and you are better off getting a custom design from the BigCommerce design team at an additional cost. According to BigCommerce Review:
To me they do look either a tiny bit bland or very specialised, but they’ll certainly do to test the concept to see if it is worth having a custom design built! (I love the idea of a store you can set up for a few dollars, test and then either discard, let it run along or invest some serious money into!) You can change the layout of the designs to an extend by dragging sections (or panels as they call them) around. That’s handy, but for major changes you will need to get into the code or hire a designer. (Source)
Criticism online revolves mainly around the set-up of stores where less tech-savvy users have trouble navigating the store-front design process. Those who are tech savvy complain that the HTML editor is underdeveloped and creating a custom page takes more time than it would in other ecommerce software. Example, if you want to customize your own design, they show you to a 57 page PDF that was created in 2009 – that’s 4 years ago if you’re wondering.
Pro: For complex product options and inventory management, BigCommerce has a convenient automatic inventory control feature which allows users to easily track product numbers and automatically alters inventories when products are sold, returned or added. Users can set up auto-alerts which send a message when product lines are running low. BigCommerce has an extremely efficient and easy-to-use product return system. All aspects of the process can be customized to reflect the user’s unique returns policy and staff members can be assigned to deal with particular returns. Not much bad to say about their inventory system.
BigCommerce SEO & Marketing
Pro: BigCommerce SEO includes custom URLs, page, title and meta-details, and 301 redirects. The software will automatically create categories, customized products, web pages, news items and bulk update URLs. User’s sites contain search engine optimized links, HTML/XTML sitemaps, image alt tags, table-less templates and proper use of header tags.
BigCommerce users are able to drive traffic back to their stores with point-and-click export to PPC websites Beso, NexTag, PriceGrabber, BizRate, MySimon, Shopping.com and Shopzilla.
New merchants selling on BigCommerce can sign up for their popular E-Commerce University, which is a free email course that has taught almost 100,000 entrepreneurs how to grow their businesses using “guerilla marketing.”
Con: BigCommerce has a good blog that helps new store owners get started, although lately they have been focussing much more on company news instead of helpful tips on selling. On a similar note, BigCommerce used to have a great YouTube account where Mitchell Harper, their co-founder, used to do helpful video blogs. Unfortunately, as of late their YouTube account has been focused on giving office tours, highlighting public relations successes, and even a strange (arguably fun) song about SEO.
Really, really bad: For a long time, BigCommerce claimed that SEO expert Aaron Wall optimized their platform. His “endorsement” appeared in all their sales, PR, and marketing material. In reality, Aaron never optimized their platform at all, he simply had a 5 minute off the record chat many, many years ago. Aaron Wall asked repeatedly for BigCommerce to stop using his name, but it took BigCommerce well over a year to finally stop their deceitful advertising. Here’s an excerpt from Aaron Wall’s blog:
Over 5 years ago I had a quick chat with the folks from Interspire about their websites, including their shopping cart at the time (BigCommerce) & offered a few tips to fix some of the obvious issues I saw. This was over a half-decade ago & under a different product name & entirely informal.
Anyhow…as they later ramped up on marketing, they at some point claimed that I somehow “certified” their software, even as the version changed, their product name changed, their mode of sales changed (from primarily pushing a downloadable software product to an SAAS model), many SEO fundamentals changed over the years, and so on. (Source)
The scandal got quite a bit of attention online, and many BigCommerce clients that signed up specifically because of Aaron Wall’s “endorsement” were extremely upset. Here’s a comment from January 16, 2012:
I signed with BIGcommerce primarily for the simple fact that it was “endorsed” by Aaron.
After setting up shop, 1 month and 300 products later, I then realized that this POJ was lacking some critical SEO features like:
1- H1 tags ( was using H2 instead)
2- Ability to change URL or keep illegal characters out of it ( finally fixed like 5 years and 1000 votes later)
3- Ability to set a canonical URL (they just automatically set it for every product. HELLO duplicate content penalty!)
I was always wondering how Aaron could have missed this stuff. Now I know. ..
This is all pretty shady, and is in line with a lot of things I have been seeing from them. Well, I am glad to say that I will no longer be using them. (Source)
It’s up to you to decide how much this scandal should affect your decision on which shopping cart to choose, although it does certainly represent the company’s reprehensibly marketing and advertising ethics.
Pro: BigCommerce integrates with over 50 payment gateways, but they prefer their clients to use their in-house payment services “BigCommerce Secure Payment Gateway.” Provided in partnership with PayLeap, the BigCommerce Secure Payment Gateway includes everything you need to accept credit cards online through your BiCommerce store. They have three difference plans to choose from, their “Starter” plan is $14.95 per month, plus a 2.48% transaction fee, plus $0.45 per transaction, and their top of the line plan “Elite” is $34.95 per month, plus a 1.98% transaction fee, plus $0.29 per transaction.
Con: Although using BigCommerce as your ecommerce platform and payment gateway is extremely convenient, their all-in-one payment solution is very expensive. It also makes switching ecommerce platforms down the road more complicated and expensive.
Pro: Every BigCommerce online stores make use of a shared SSL certificate by default. BigCommerce does not skimp on the security features and customer data is safe behind the 128-bit SSL firewalls. They also have a service to block unwanted users, a network intrusion detection system as well as disaster and recovery support should something go awry. BigCommerce is teamed up with GeoTrust, the world’s #1 provider of security products for online retailers.
Con: If you would rather your customers stay on your domain throughout the checkout process, you need to purchase your own SSL certificate through GeoTrust. Prices range from $79 per year – $449 per year.
BigCommerce Customer Support
Pro: BigCommerce has a customer-focused approach and a plethora of resources and customer service avenues. New users can utilize the online knowledge database and videos that detail the set-up process. Articles add to the info packages and, if they still have queries, clients can use the toll-free number, live chat or support ticket system.
A popular feature is the community center which is a forum where users discuss ideas and issues or ask questions. It’s a sort of community where other BigCommerce users cas chime in. This forum also acts as a ‘suggestion box’ for features that need improvement or new features that clients want to see. Users vote for queries or issues and the design team responds with improvements. This feature is very popular as users feel they have a voice and some determination of the direction in which the product grows. It’s undoubtedly one of the most appreciated aspects of BigCommerce’s platform.
Con: If you read the comment threads on various review sites, you will see a few people complaining about bad customer support. Here is a recent comment by Gregory Menchov, dates February 10, 2012:
They do not have usable support. They do not resolve issues. We are switching to them and have integration problem (the one they advertise as fully functional), have critical ticket opened 3 weeks ago with absolutely no reply. Tech support people do not offer any help and they refuse to forward call to their supervisors. It’s a joke! We would not even try to make it work, if only we did not invest into website design specifically tied to BC! (Source)
BigCommerce offers a ton of fantastic features which users can enjoy no matter which pricing plan they choose. If you’re not trying to do anything fancy or custom, it’s quite easy to use. The templates that BigCommerce offers aren’t that great. They offer strong security and inventory management systems. BigCommerce’s SEO is fairly good, but they have an awful track record with deceptive sales and marketing tactics. The takeaway on that is take everything they say with a grain of salt because the company’s ethics have been heavily questioned in the not so distant past. Their in-house payment processing is convenient but expensive, and their customer service has tons of excellent material that will undoubtedly help you start your online store, just don’t expect super quick responses to support emails you send. I suggest before settling on starting your online store on BigCommerce, you check out my reviews on Shopify, Volusion, BigCartel, and 3dcart.
This review was written by James. Please feel free to leave a comment or question, I’d be happy to answer! Lastly please follow me on Twitter.