Well it has been a long time since I took a look at the eCommerce game. More than a year, and a lot can change in the business world in that time. When I last looked at BigCommerce they were a bit of an up and comer, and their service, while excellent, came with a few caveats that kept them from my coveted top spot. That went to Shopify, but if I had to compile that list again, I would be very hard pressed to pick a winner. The vast majority of the issues I mentioned back in the day seem to have been addressed, and when I look at their site right now I see a streamlined buying process, a feature set par excellence, and a few choice additions that I never even dreamed of. But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit here.
BigCommerce got its start back in 2009 and since then has grown year on year. Thier products and services have become more and more streamlined, to the point where right now, literally anyone can get an online storefront running. One of the key things with BigCommerce is the impressive combination of accessibility, and complication. If you want a little more control over your site, when it comes to customization and injections, the options are there, but if you want to take a more on the fly ad-hoc approach, the fine folk over at BigCommerce have got you covered. In the last year the firm have more than doubled their user base, and that money has gone back into the company, improving their infrastructure, their customer service and the functionality of their storefront builder. In addition, they have done something very special, and I will be singing the praises in just a few short paragraphs.
BigCommerce is an all in one solution in the eCommerce arena. It does have the versatility to suit all kinds of users, but if you want something a lot more free form, and as a result much much harder to use, check out something like Magento.
BigCommerce – Appearance, Professionalism, & Overall Look
There are few things as important when it comes to getting that sale than the look of your site. All in one solution sites offer what are called themes, to dial in the look you are going for, and quite a few firms out there offer only the most basic looks for free. That is not the case here, I am happy to say. The key thing to bear in mind when going it alone is to match what you are selling to the look of the site, it does not do to sell handcrafted boutique items in an amazon style ream of products layout after all. The end user experience is important, and I feel BigCommerce have gone out of their way to make sure you can craft something unique and appropriate easily.
I remember checking BigCommerce last year, about a month or so before I wrote the review, and found their list of themes to be very lacking in variety. A disappointment then, but by the time I got around to writing the thing they had updated their list to include a wide variety of beautiful themes, and that really helped them pull ahead of most of the competition. In the time since then they have further refined their list. One issue still remains though, out of nearly 100 well designed themes, only around 10 are free, with the cheapest theme being in excess of $100. Not something I can get behind to be honest.
BigCommerce have more than tripled the number of themes they sell in the last year, and all of them are fantastic. Well designed, with a plethora of customization options in the back end, and while it might take you a little while to get used to said back end, once you are, you can tweak and edit colors, fonts, layouts, pretty much every aspect of your storefront to suit yourself, and better appease customers. The best thing about them is their scalability. Every last one of them smoothly transitions between desktop and mobile storefront mode, so their is no need to tweak, nor look through themes to find a mobile compatible theme. The price issue is a big one for me though, and while it is true that the free themes are nice, and share the feature set of their expensive brethren, the fact that an eCommerce provider that sells itself on speed of set up and ease of use requires you to do some extensive customization before selling, or shell out the $145 for the cheapest of premium themes, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Though aforementioned bad taste may have something to do with that runnest of on sentences.
In all the themes are great, but with some limitations that I feel need to be addressed. There are features offered by BigCommerce that offset the asking price, so maybe they are looking for folk willing to pay a premium up front to mitigate the revenue most other firms “earn” by skimming from your sales. I might sound a little critical here, and for the most part I am, when seen in a vacuum the lack of free theme options and the relatively high price of the premium themes is a bit of an entry hindrance, but I think BigCommerce more than makes up for this with a few choice features.
BigCommerce – Features & Integrations
If this is your first foray into the online marketplace there are a few things you are going to have to become familiar with. This isn’t like the brick and mortar storefront, where getting customers is a matter of appealing to the locals. no, you have to understand how people come to find your site in the first place, and for that we all gotta worship at the feet of the all mighty google. Why am I talking about this here? Because the most important features for your site have nothing to do with selling items, and everything to do with SEO.
SEO, search engine optimization, dictates where on the list of links you appear when someone googles a term or terms. If you integrate keywords onto you pages, and google likes it, you show up higher on the list, and showing up higher on the list increases the likelihood of someone clicking, and someone clicking increases the likelihood of showing up higher on the list etc, etc. There are a number of tricks to it, and BigCommerce knows what they are.
BigCommerce have been paying attention to their SEO options over the last year, and I am happy to report that they seem to have streamlined the complicated monolith by automating so many of the little tweaks, URL optimization, XML sitemaps that feed google automatically, even the themes have been designed with SEO in mind. The much needed blog comes as standard with all packages, as my editors are so fond of pointing out, content is king, so be sure to hire a decent copy writer to improve your score, or write it yourself, if it were hard I wouldn’t be able to do it. The page to page customization is a god send, and you will get a lot of use out of it. This is not an exhaustive list of all the little built in tricks that BigCommerce is giving all of its users as standard, so be sure to take a skim down yourself on their site.
In terms of theme customization BigCommerce are one of the best. It does lead to a fairly complicated back end, but they seem to have streamlined that a little in the last year or so, making it far easier to just get to work. Even their most basic package gives access to storefront integration with a variety of social media platforms, which is great for growing your business.
Overall, even at it’s most basic BigCommerce comes with all the features you need to get going. There is one other thing I would like to talk about before I move onto scalability. Dropshipping. Dropship sites are some of the easiest to set up, and utilizing dropship tactics with a normal storefront can increase your sales by quite a bit. It essentially allows you to buy and list items from Alibaba and Aliexpress at the click of a button. There are many folk out there making a damn fine living using this format. Oberlo i9s not yet out for BigCommerce, but I have it on good authority that that is set to change. There are a number of other solutions on the BigCommerce app page that can do broadly the same thing, but I feel it might be best to wait for the kings of the ship to arrive before trying for it to be honest.
BigCommerce – Flexibility, Ease of Use, & Scalability
Flexibility is a hard one to nail down. From my perspective it is about what can and cannot be done in the back end that influences the overall look and feel of the storefront, and when it comes to that I think that BigCommerce offer the best tools on the market. Even when I compared them to Shopifiy’s last year I was impressed. The options available are far and away more robust than theirs, though the argument can be made that simplicity is better for those just starting out, I feel that having the option to fine tune the design is great. It comes with a cost thoguh.
The Ease of use factor. Using BigCommerce on a day to day basis is fairly simply. A few button clicks, and fill in the fields and you got a product listed for sale. Sorting the reports, that you generate on the fly, is simple enough too, but the comparative difficulty in setting up is where the issue lies. The back end customization options are still a little cluttered, and can be said to be somewhat overwhelming, especially for new comers.
When I last reviewed BigCommerce I said that they are fantastic for entry level users, but the scaling wasn’t quite up to par. Well, in the last year they have knuckled down and refined all aspects of their storefront for all kinds of business sizes. Their packages offer more features as you move up, and they are allowing high volume sellers access to far more package customization than I would have expected. On top of that they now offer a bespoke service, finally catering to the biggest of stores, tailoring the user experience, and the pricing, to suit you. These are scaling options on par, and in some ways surpassing, even Shopify.
All of the issues I had with the firm last year seem to have been addressed, bar the slight learning curve involved during set up. It seems to me that all of the iussues you will have with BigCommerce will be met and dealt with within the first few weeks of use. Not a terrible thing to get them out of the way sooner rather than later. When you do make it to the other side you end up a more savvy site builder, and better able to handle any issues that might arise that I haven’t thought of.
BigCommerce – Cost & Value
Ah the price. I’m a bit tight fisted myself, so the price is the most important factor when it comes to buying literally anything for me. If I can find a way to cut a corner, do something myself or drive a hard bargain you can be damn sure that I will do so. With BigCommerce you have options here, going free for the theme and simply learning how to customize is the first big saving, but there are others to be made, eschewing package upgrades in favor of taking a stroll through their app store for instance. All that is meaning less until you purchase a package though, and these prices are on point.
The Standard Package is the cheapest one they have, and it costs $29.95 per month. There are some savings to be made if you buy it yearly, 10% is not a saving to be sneezed at, so if you really want to make a go of it that is the one to get. The Standard package comes with everything you need to get going, with all the SEO features, and social media integration you could want. There is something important to point out here, and it is the lack of transaction fee. Most other eCommerce solutions out there have a small percentage added to all sales, not the case here, nor is it the case with any of their packages. I cannot overstate how amazing this is.
Moving on to the more expensive packages, you will find added features that help streamline details for larger volume sales. The Plus Package, at $79.95, adds customer sorting, allowing you to understand your consumer base and tailor not only your product line to suit them, but also your overall aesthetic, remember it is important to tailor your site to a market, and make changes to accommodate your market as well. You also gain access to the handy abandoned cart saver feature, with email reminders, a great tool for picking up customer who simply forgot they were going to buy something from you.
The top level package is the Pro, at $249.95, and it comes with all of the above as well as further increased sales volume, integrated google reviews, great for SEO, and dedicated protection services. This is really for those out there who are speeding past the $150,000 sales limit on the Plus package, so upgrade carefully. That said I recommend you click here to see all the differences and any current deals for the different packages.
The Final package is the Enterprise, and it is really for larger firms looking to make the jump online with a bespoke site and service requirements. The price varies, but if you are in that boat by all means contact BigCommerce directly to get a quote.
BigCommerce – Recap & Review
- All in one solution
- Better integration of features in the back end
- More customization, if you know what you’re doing
- No Transaction fees, a feature that all eCommerce solutions should look into integrating, even if it does to lead a slightly higher start up cost.
- Excellent store scaling, going from tiny to huge in four easy steps.
- Huge list of features in even their most basic package
- A little difficult to use at first
- The lack of free themes is a concern for me, even if I get why they limit them.
- The current drop shipping tools are far from ideal
BigCommerce have really stepped up their already impressive game from last year. It is clear that the firm have listened to criticism and taken steps to fix the issues their customers have, so that you can continue to aid your own customers. I may have to edit a few articles from last year to ring them up to date with this new information, but for now know that if you are in the market for setting up a market, BigCommerce is a firm that must be considered seriously. As an aside, you can grab yourself a free 15 day trial to see how you like the backend and set up. Honestly, that should be enough time to find the pitfalls and set up a good storefront.