If eCommerce platforms were simple to stack up and compare, business owners and stakeholders would be able to recommend and choose the right application for their business, their processes, and their audience. However, getting answers in the eCommerce platforms space is harder than you might think as definitions are not uniform, comparisons are conditional and at times they are version dependent. When it comes to SAAS platforms, there isn't any control on change since the cloud-based platforms continually evolve so keeping up can be a real challenge.
To get a better grip on comparing these two formidable online store builders, it is best to break it down into areas where capabilities can be measured at the architectural level, much like a brick-and-mortar store. Capabilities based on the physical nature of selling products make more sense since customers, shopkeepers, and business owners all know how the dynamic works. Therefore any and all capabilities based on a lifecycle of a store throughout the year including peak sales which we are about to see as in Black Friday 2021 will get to see all the tools at work.
The difference between the two eCommerce Platforms is the philosophy in catering to the online space. Shopify's approach is to control its architecture which in turn boxes in the capabilities in neat layers and keeps business owners in categories of business size incentifying them to grow with discounted fees driving Shopify's revenue to grow. Shopify's SAAS has been very successful and has been driving market share growth that has been unprecedented in the past 10years.
Whereas Shopify's SAAS approach has been successful, BigCommerce is coming in with Open SAAS giving merchants an open architecture to tailor their eCommerce features to fit their business model, instead of allowing Apps to dictate how you should run your business. These 2 different approaches in catering to the same audience deliver a very different set of capabilities which in turn provides different eCommerce solutions.
Where both can just use the website builder within their similarly priced plans, similarities between both platforms end there. Sure, both can sell online, but the cost for features will vary depending on the type of business you operate if you require discount codes, inventory management, integration with an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning system). Social media capabilities aside, where Facebook and Instagram are the most popular are integral to most eCommerce websites and are Apps for their integration. The same goes for payment processing, depending on payment options you are to provide, credit cards or PayPal/Apple Pay/Google pay are all integrations in either system.
Shopify Plus Pro's
The "partner program" makes it easy to migrate into the Shopify Plus platform, which includes the ability to import store credit and rewards which a lot of platforms have in the medium business space. The tools in Shopify Plus are enhanced in the API interface with 2-3x the throughput than a regular Shopify Store.
Migration to Shopify Plus: https://www.thegenielab.com/post/migrating-to-shopify-plus
Integrations with Shopify Plus are straightforward and can be read further with this article: https://www.thegenielab.com/post/integrations-with-shopify-plus-for-your-ecommerce-business
Shopify Plus has Scripts that allow you to have a subscription business model for your audience, however, it does require a Shopify Expert to engage to set it all up - an article on this is available here: https://www.thegenielab.com/post/shopify-experts-have-scripts-for-shopify-plus
As for the API advantages over a regular Shopify store, there is a handful of capabilities to note and are captured here: https://www.thegenielab.com/post/shopify-development-for-shopify-plus
Shopify Plus Cons
Pricing: With a baseline of $2000USD plus extras, the cost of having your own payment gateway still requires a per-transaction fee.
International Stores: Every country has its own store, for up to 10 instances. Making changes to your stores requires 10 edits each time - synchronizing your stores does require some additional tools when it comes to inventory for example (would need an ERP). App Costs are also multiplied in some cases when Apps are priced without the multistore option. Maintenance (seasonal events, seasonal look-feel, refinements) can be burdensome in managing all 10 themes continually. Subdomains are required to manage each country store, as Shopify Plus cannot have the URL structure for a multilingual/country structure - this is more challenging for SEO since authority is not placed on one main domain, and then branched out to various countries, it is handled as unique sites. URL structure restrictions to /Blogs /Collections /Products /Pages make it restrictive when it comes to SEO.
BigCommerce Enterprise Pro's
SEO Advantages: While you are unrestricted on the SEO front, you have the advantage of advanced SEO features such as mobile optimization, as well as SEO Audit tools.
Products/Variants: Shopify is restricted to 100 variants for a product, with each product having 3 options as a limit. BigCommerce can have up to 600SKU's per product making it a lot more flexible when it comes to configurable products.
API Throughput: 333 Calls/min (Base store) vs. 40 Calls/min in bursts (2 per second for a Base store), BigCommerce Enterprise "Unlimited and greater than 10K/min" vs. Shopify Plus at 80 Calls/min. This is where the Open SAAS approach has a major advantage.
BigCommerce Enterprise starts at $1000USD/mo, which puts pricing at about 1/2 to where Shopify Plus is starting from.
BigCommerce allows for different checkout experiences for guests and customers and can link back guest orders to their customer account.
Built-in conversion features are included in the Enterprise edition.
B2B Edition: One thing Shopify is restricted on is the ability to handle B2B, where BigCommerce has dedicated a fully-featured version: https://www.thegenielab.com/post/bigcommerce-and-b2b-online-store-advantages
The BigCommerce App store is limited in the availability of Apps in comparison to the Shopify App Store. Over time this will be less of an issue, besides, making your own Apps is a lot more appealing than with Shopify's API call limits. For more on BigCommerce App development: https://www.thegenielab.com/post/bigcommerce-app-and-web-development
International Stores: BigCommerce takes a headless approach much like Shopify with much of the same challenges in managing subdomains, replication, and maintenance. See article here: https://www.thegenielab.com/post/bigcommerce-and-headless-for-global-stores
If you are looking for standard best practices SAAS, then Shopify Plus can be an easier experience and will have the support and ability to get your eCommerce site up and going in no time. If you are more hands-on and would like to differentiate your store from others with the knowledge that you will have integrations via the API to account for, BigCommerce will most likely be more suitable for your business. When it comes to B2B, BigCommerce is the only way forward. If you would like to discuss further the two platforms, feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com.