There’s a reason that eCommerce is all the buzz right now. It’s growing, and it’s growing fast.

It’s not just the behemoth that is Amazon that’s booming in this space either. Companies large and small are experiencing growth in eCommerce, and many are doing it with dedicated stores of their own.

As a business, the potential for success with your own eCommerce store is huge, but it takes work. It requires, branding, design, marketing and a solid business and growth strategy you can execute on. It also requires you to choose the right eCommerce platform for your needs. While there are many options out there, the platforms we get asked about most often are Shopify and BigCommerce. Let’s take a look at what each has to offer.

The Potential of eCommerce Platforms

Before we dive in to the difference between Shopify and BigCommerce, we want to drive home just what kind of opportunity exists. Small Business Columnist Steve Strauss addressed some of these in a previous Harlo Blog post entitled E-Commerce 101 with Steve Strauss.

The eCommerce sector has shown double digit growth every year for the last decade, and shows no signs of stopping. eCommerce also has a fairly low cost of entry, making it the perfect opportunity for small or new business to enter the marketplace. Other benefits to new businesses are the ability to acquire new customers faster, higher average sales, more average monthly orders, more loyal customers, and overall more monthly revenue.

To put the growth of eCommerce into perspective, here are some pretty incredible numbers from RJ Metrics.

  • “Worldwide total retail will continue to grow between 5-6% through 2018
  • Worldwide e-commerce will grow at a rate between 13-25%
  • U.S. total retail will grow at a rate around 5.5%
  • U.S. e-commerce will grow at a rate between 11-16.5%”

In order to tap into all that potential you’re going to need an eCommerce store. That’s where websites like Shopify and BigCommerce come into play. Shopify and BigCommerce are eCommerce platforms that allow business owners to easily build and manage their own digital stores. With easy to use templates and product management software, eCommerce platforms make it easy for even the least tech-savvy people to get an eCommerce business up and running.


If you’ve already heard of Shopify we wouldn’t be surprised. With more that 600,000 users, it is by far the largest eCommerce platform around. With companies like the Los Angeles Laker and Black Milk on its roster it’s no surprise that it’s many new users first choice in platform. It’s got the name brand to draw people in, and the capabilities to back it up.

While both platforms are designed to be easy to use, Shopify could probably be described as the more “out of the box” user friendly platform. With a strong focus on design and user experience, Shopify makes running your eCommerce store just about as easy as it can be. Read the top 5 reasons for choosing Shopify.


The design options and templates are what’s most appealing about any eCommerce platform. Shopify’s templates mean that even users with no web design experience can easily set up an attractive web store.

The last time we checked Shopify offered a total of 67 templates, with 10 of those templates available free of charge. While BigCommerce offers more total templates, We still feel Shopify has the edge here, as all of their templates feature responsive web design, meaning they’ll display beautifully on both desktop and mobile. Responsive design is crucial for both user experience and SEO, so you’ll want to keep that in mind when choosing a template on either platform.

Shopify also features a robust style editor that allows you to customize the colors, fonts and other design features within each template. The style editor is great for adding your own personal branding touches to your site, which in the end is one of the reasons you’ll want to build a site in the first place. Branding enhances the customer experience, building customer loyalty and brand recognition. Professional photography, copywriting and logo design can help you get the most out of your branding efforts.


Beyond beautiful design, Shopify is packed full useful tools. Things like product and inventory management, detailed analytics reports, social media integration and basic customer relationship management all come standard on the platform. Tools like these make Shopify not only a great website builder, but also a useful business management  software. One of the more impressive tools Shopify offers is a dedicated Point of Sale (POS) system that makes it easy to integrate your webstore with any offline business.

Many of these tools, and a ton of others as well, are offered through Shopify’s open source app store. There are more than 1,000 apps you can integrate into Shopify templates that enhance their capabilities. From integrated product rating apps, to third party credit card processors, Shopify’s apps are one of the defining characteristics of the platform. These apps can take technical efforts to get setup, so sometimes it can be beneficial to partner with an agency like Harlo to get your store off the ground.


Shopify subscriptions are available at 5 levels of varying capabilities, with the Lite version simply allowing you the use of a Shopify button and Shopify Plus offering “white glove” service and expert consultation.

  • Lite: $9 per month
  • Basic Shopify: $29 per month
  • Shopify: $79 per month
  • Advanced Shopify: $299 per month
  • Shopify Plus: pricing varies depending on requirements

Beyond the platform subscription you’ll also want to consider transaction fees and credit card processing fees for the eCommerce platform you choose. Shopify waves all transaction fees if you utilize their Shopify Payments system, but charges fees if you use an external vendor. A similar case exits for credit card processing fees, thought you also have the option of using external vendors like PayPal.


After Shopify, BigCommerce is probably the most well known eCommerce platform. What sets BigCommerce apart from the rest is their focus on companies moving a large amount of product or gearing up for major growth. The BigCommerce platform offers a few more nuanced capabilities out of the box that smaller business are less likely to need, but come in handy for more complex industries.

BigCommerce, works well for rapidly growing companies thanks to detailed product attribute sections and not having transaction fees. According to their website, Bigcommerce merchants grow 28 percent year over year, nearly two times the industry average.


Design options are a priority for BigCommerce, and they offer enough you feel very in control of your site despite it being a template. BigCommerce offers 124 templates for web stores, however only 7 of those are available for free. Another thing to keep in mind is that even they offer nearly twice the number of paid templates, many of them are just slight variations of another theme. They still offer a ton of templates, but don’t be too impressed by the large numbers.

Another problem with the templates available from BigCommerce is that not all of them are mobile friendly and compatible with their style editor. Without the ability to customize specific elements of your template it will be harder to build valuable brand recognition, and non-responsive design could hurt you when it comes to mobile users. Again, this isn’t true for all their templates, but it could be frustrating.

As for the platform itself, BigCommerce has a very user friendly design that makes it easy to manage your site and products. It offers the user more control, while not overwhelming you with options. Even if you’re not familiar with coding, we’re confident you could figure out how to navigate and use the BigCommerce Platform.


The BigCommerce platform is also full of out of the box tools similar to those available with Shopify. These include easy to manage shipping, inventory management and social media integration. One of the biggest differences however is the flexibility on product pages. Shopify limits you to 3 product attributes, while BigCommerce does not. BigCommerce also features product reviews out of the box, while Shopify requires an app to add the feature to a template.

Like Shopify, BigCommerce also offers third party apps that can be integrated into their platform. These range from credit card processors to email marketing apps that can help boost your business. However, when it comes to the number of apps available BigCommerce can’t compete with Shopify, who has been around longer and placed importance on building out their community. Still, BigCommerce has more than enough to get the job done.


Usually price plays a pretty large role in deciding what platform you’ll use, but in this case Shopify and Bigcommerce are so similar that the comparison is difficult to make. BigCommerce offers a slightly cheaper Pro level account, but at that level of commerce the cost is nearly negligible.

  • Bigcommerce Standard: $29.95 per month
  • Bigcommerce Plus: $79.95 per month
  • Bigcommerce Pro: $249.95 per month
  • Bigcommerce Enterprise: varies depending on requirements

If you look at the BigCommerce Standard plan there are some significant tools you get out of the box that aren’t present in a Shopify Standard account. These include a gift cards program, professional reporting functionality, a built-in ratings and review system, real-time carrier shipping quotes. These are some seriously valuable tools, and are definitely worth considering if you’re looking at a Standard account.

Choosing The Right Platform For You

Both Shopify and Bigcommerce have a lot to offer, and at the end of the day each of them probably have what it takes to get the job done. What you’ll have to consider is exactly what you believe your business needs to grow, and the platform that best provides those tools. Whatever your decision may be we’d suggest you keep a few things in common for good eCommerce website design.

First, always act with your customers in mind. Provide them the very best experience possible, with simple buying process and easy navigation. This is what Amazon does so well, and why they’re able to move so much product.

Second, offer what amazon doesn't, which is a unique branded experience. Make customers remember your site and want to return again and again. Better yet, make them want to share it with their friends.

Third, offer that unique customer experience by investing in your branding. Get professional product shots of what you sell. Make it pop with stellar design and, compel users to buy with conversion driving copywriting. Each of these platforms offers you the ability to make a stunning website, but it’s up to you to make it happen.

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