Welcome to another episode of Game of e-Commerce Thrones, the series where we compare B2B and Hybrid eCommerce solutions in key areas such as ease of use, total cost of ownership, flexibility, scalability and features, and end up recommending BigCommerce 😁.
Not because after being BigCommerce partners since 2011 (back when this was all fields) we have lost all objectivity. Quite the opposite. It's precisely because we’ve witnessed BigCommerce’s evolution and growth over the years and its maturation into a complete Enterprise eCommerce solution.
Anyway, let’s see how it goes this time, when we compare BigCommerce against Shopify Plus as B2B and Hybrid eCommerce solutions.
Take a seat. Showdown’s about to begin.
Both Shopify and BigCommerce are heavyweights in SaaS-based eCommerce solutions for enterprises. But this hasn’t always been so. Originally, Shopify was more focused on entrepreneurs and small businesses (at one point claiming to be the “anti-enterprise commerce platform”) so it’s quite new to large enterprises, to B2B and to the concept of composability. The Shopify Plus customer base accounts for less than 1% of Shopify’s total merchants.
On the other hand, BigCommerce has consistently focused on becoming the world's most flexible and easy-to-deploy B2B platform and matured into a complete enterprise platform in functionality and composable flexibility, as noted in their 2022 annual report that you can check here, or our summary of key points here.
In one corner, Shopify Plus.
Shopify Plus is an enterprise-level eCommerce platform that offers a range of features to help businesses grow their online sales. The platform is designed for businesses that need more advanced features than what's offered by the standard Shopify plan.
In the other corner, BigCommerce.
BigCommerce has become a leading Open SaaS ecommerce platform for fast-growing and established B2C and B2B brands:
BigCommerce is particularly well-suited for B2B companies looking for a value-priced, partner-centric, multi-tenant SaaS eCommerce solution that leverages an extensive open application marketplace to deliver complementary functionality.Andy Hoar, CEO at Paradigm B2B
BigCommerce VS Shopify Plus…FIGHT!
As we mentioned, both BigCommerce and Shopify are targeting the same upmarket strategy, but their approaches differ significantly. Shopify aims to create a more closed ecosystem with a focus on ease of use, whereas BigCommerce focuses on providing more flexibility and freedom of choice.
BigCommerce is like Android in the sense that it's considerably more open. It offers more granular control over storefront design and functionality, allowing users to customize their online stores according to their preferences. Shopify Plus is like Apple in the sense that it is a closed ecosystem that is highly designed and easy to use. It removes a lot of freedom from the user in order to prevent them from making mistakes or doing something unexpected.
Shopify is good at removing choice for merchants who aren't ready for it. BigCommerce is great for those who are. By focusing on openness and flexibility, BigCommerce aims to better cater to businesses with more complex needs, while Shopify may be better suited for more straightforward requirements.
Ease of use vs total cost
Shopify is a little more user-friendly, yes. It makes it the ideal choice for new businesses that only need very light features and can make do with the app store to plug in any needed extra functionality, as it becomes necessary. A solution, yes. Not a very cost effective one though. Compared to having the necessary functionality from the start. For example, if you need a different payment processor, like Paypal, Shopify will charge a transaction fee. On the other hand, BigCommerce caters to growing merchants with native functionality like robust catalog structure, filtering, order, and customer management. And a user-friendly UX.
We’ll compare features and functionalities later, but when it comes to cost, bear in mind that with Shopify Plus you will have to factor in the costs of transaction fees and of the third-party apps you will need to combine with Shopify Plus to reach feature parity with BigCommerce.
With Shopify, TCO can be unclear. Gartner reports that Enterprise merchants find they require additional functionality not included in the Plus plan from Shopify’s app store and custom integrations” that greatly impacts their TCO. As a rule of thumb, Merchants considering Shopify Plus should factor in an additional $1k-$5k in monthly fees for third party apps. BigCommerce’s pricing plans enable you to make financial plans with no surprises.
Design and customization
While Shopify Plus is built on a proprietary platform that provides less flexibility than BigCommerce's Open SaaS architecture, it still offers a wide range of customization options for integrations with third-party systems.
BigCommerce offers more flexibility in design with a greater selection of themes, more design options, and a best of breed Headless framework. This can be a huge advantage for brands that require a unique design or have specific requirements. On the other hand, Shopify has a more simplified and user-friendly approach to customization, which may be better suited for smaller businesses with less complex design needs.
Operation: B2B functionalities
BigCommerce has one single focus: eCommerce. Shopify Plus offers multiple services such as payment gateway, shipping and fulfillment provider, email marketing service, etc. This all-in-one approach may be a good thing for some businesses, but this difference understandably affects each platform's ability to serve B2B merchants in particular. BigCommerce's focus on eCommerce means that it can provide more depth and flexibility in its B2B features.
For example, BigCommerce allows merchants to manage B2B customer accounts and run a robust B2C channel from a single store.
Although both platforms offer support for multiple languages and currencies, BigCommerce has more native support for multiple currencies and languages than Shopify Plus, making it a better option for international B2B businesses.
Shopify has historically struggled with providing robust B2B and internationalization features, which have been strengths for BigCommerce.
Shopify has been making strides in the B2B space, but BigCommerce is still in the lead here from a "default out of the box" perspective and market mindshare point of view. BigCommerce has a significantly more robust feature set out-of-the-box compared to Shopify Plus. Its native functionality includes robust catalog structure, filtering, order and customer management, price lists, category/subcategory structure, breadcrumbs, and faceted search.
BigCommerce Enterprise offers robust B2B features such as custom pricing, bulk ordering, and quoting, making it the ideal choice for mid-market B2B eCommerce companies. Now, while many of these B2B features are available on Shopify Plus through third-party apps, these drive up your costs and slow down your system. Here, let us explain.
Houston, we have a Shopify Plus
Many of Shopifyʼs native features donʼt offer the level of complexity that most enterprise businesses need. Merchants selling in multiple currencies can set fixed pricing for different markets or use custom rounding rules, but they can only do this if using Shopify Payments, while BigCommerce supports price lists that allow merchants to set specific prices in a given currency down to the SKU level. Merchants on Shopify can only have a single automatic discount applied at a time, while BigCommerce supports the ability to have multiple automatic discounts enabled.
Also, Shopify doesnʼt support a large volume of API calls per second. Enterprise brands have a lot of different systems they rely on (ERP, OMS, PIM, etc.) and keeping everything current can have a huge impact on the experience of the end consumer. Syncing a product catalog with 25,000 SKUs would take over 2 hours on Shopify Plus (limited to 10 calls per second) compared to a minute on BigCommerce (400 calls per second).
This becomes problematic for large amounts of data and impacts performance. Shopify relies heavily on its app store to fill gaps in its core functionality, which can lead to slower store performance as more third-party apps and scripts are added, and it may become harder to control and manage store performance.
Unlike BigCommerce, Shopify cannot support different catalogs / storefronts in a single instance (MSF). Multi-storefront enables merchants to have one store, catalog, etc. and leverage unique storefronts for different brands, languages and currencies. Vital for B2B and Hybrid brands.
Another disadvantage is that Shopify does not support BOPIS, local delivery, accelerated checkouts (buy now pay later or digital wallets).
Possibilities: Flexibility and Scalability
BigCommerce is open SaaS and open SaaS is all about openness and flexibility. Not everyone wants that. Many people prefer ease of use over the flexibility to do something different, such as the freedom to bring your own payment provider, or your own point of sale, or modify the checkout.
BigCommerce has always placed an emphasis on flexibility and the ability to customize the platform to meet specific business needs. The platform offers a wide range of APIs that allow developers to build custom integrations and applications on top of the platform. Shopify, on the other hand, has a more rigid ecosystem, where everything needs to be done through their platform, which limits the flexibility for businesses with complex requirements.
Both BigCommerce and Shopify Plus are eCommerce platforms with B2B and Hybrid functionalities. BigCommerce wins over Shopify Plus regarding flexibility, functionality, and scalability. It offers more built-in functionality, more design flexibility, a wider range of integrations, and a more open API ecosystem, which can be essential for businesses with complex requirements.
Shopify's weaknesses include limited freedom of choice, weak modularization and choice, large catalog and complex product limitations, and a lack of focus on B2B and large enterprise markets. Or perhaps it’s just us? No, it’s not. BigCommerce Scores 16 medals in 2021 Paradigm B2B Combine Midmarket and Enterprise editions. It was recognized as a leader in B2B by industry analysts like Gartner and Forrester. Shopify Plus is not evaluated specifically for B2B.
However, for small merchants or merchants that prioritize brand presence, ease of use, and a wide range of commerce solutions, Shopify may be a better choice.
We hope you enjoyed a new episode of our Game of e-Commerce Thrones series, where we compare B2B and Hybrid eCommerce solutions in key areas like ease of use, total cost of ownership, flexibility, scalability or critical features, and end up recommending BigCommerce.
Ultimately, the best way to make an informed decision is to talk to an expert to help you find the best course of action. We’ve been BigCommerce partners for over a decade and we have learned things that can help. Reach out and book a demo.