In 2018, 1.8 billion people around the world bought something online. And annual online retail sales are expected to double to over 4.8 trillion by 2021.
So, if you rely on revenue from product sales, you simply can’t afford to not sell your products online. What used to require getting in the car and driving to the store now takes five minutes and a few clicks from the comfort of home.
So, whether you already have a digital storefront or are looking to start from scratch, modern-day page builders make setting up shop easier than ever before. They exist to turn business owners into professional web designers in no time.
BigCommerce is one of many eCommerce specialized page builders created specifically for selling products online. But is it too good to be true? Is it easy to learn even if you’ve never built a website before? If you’re not sure, you’re in the right place.
In this in-depth review, I cover the things I like about the platform, the things I don’t like, a deep dive into their pricing plans (plus which one to start with), and a high-level look at their industry reputation.
So, let’s dive in!
High-Level Pros and Cons of Using BigCommerce
To see how this e-commerce platform works, I built an online shop with BigCommerce. As I went through the process, I took note of the things I liked about my experience and the things I didn’t. Here’s an overview of my experience (in case you don’t want to read the full Bigcommerce review).
What I like (AKA the good stuff):
- No additional transaction fees
- 80+ free and paid professional eCommerce themes
- Built for fast-growth businesses, so it scales with you as you grow
- You can sell physical and digital products as well as services
- 500+ apps to add functionality to your site
What I don’t like (AKA the not-so-good stuff):
- No free plan (15-day free trial)
- Only 12 of their professional themes are free
- Each plan has a maximum annual sales limit
- May be difficult to learn if you’ve never built a website before
Overall, BigCommerce is a feature-rich platform with no additional transaction fees for fast-growth businesses interested in selling products online. Furthermore, you can sell physical products, digital products, and services without paying any extra fees.
You have hundreds of apps and add-ons you can use to add functionality to your site, plus 80+ free and paid professional themes to choose from, so you don’t have to start from scratch (unless that’s your thing).
However, there’s no free plan, and you only get 15 days to take it for a test drive. Furthermore, it’s not built for absolute beginners, so if you’ve never built a website before, it’s going to take you a while to get used to it.
What I Like about BigCommerce
Most of my experience with BigCommerce is positive. I found the platform packed full of valuable features (even on the cheapest plan). So, I want to go through my favorite aspects of BigCommerce and talk about why they matter.
1. No Additional Transaction Fees
Many eCommerce website builders make big money by charging a secondary transaction fee for every purchase made through your shop. However, BigCommerce doesn’t charge anything extra. So, you can keep more of your money in your own pocket.
With that said, you do still have to pay transaction fees for the payment processor you use. But, BigCommerce has negotiated special payment gateway rates for its customers, so you’ll actually pay lower transaction fees than with other eCommerce platforms.
Plus, with 60+ integrations with different payment processors to choose from (Shopify offers over 100 merchant integrations), you won’t have a problem finding the perfect one for your business. While BigCommerce doesn’t have as many, they have popular ones like Stripe, Paypal, and Square.
2. 80+ Free and Paid Professional eCommerce Themes
Staring at a blank screen is intimidating, especially if you’ve never built a website before. But, even if you have, it’s difficult to design conversion-focused pages that act as your number one salesman.
BigCommerce offers 12 free themes, and 80+ premium paid themes you can customize to match your own brand and business to help you get started. It’s as simple as installing your favorite theme and replacing its content with your own.
From there, you can customize your colors, fonts, and more, without having to know coding and HTML. So, what used to take weeks (or even months), now takes less than a day and a few clicks. And you don’t have to sit staring at your screen for hours on end, wondering where to start.
That said, a lot of the templates are built by the same developer, so they’re very similar in style, and there’s not a lot of variation from one theme to the next. Which… isn’t a complete deal breaker, but you may have a hard time finding the right theme if that’s not the style you’re looking for.
3. Built for Fast-Growth Businesses and Scales With You as You Grow
BigCommerce is based on a stable infrastructure that lets the platform scale with you as your business grows. While it’s easy to outgrow many other eCommerce website builders, you don’t have to worry about it with BigCommerce.
You can rest easy knowing you won’t have to switch providers down the road or spend thousands of dollars hiring someone to do it for you. On every plan, you get unlimited products, bandwidth, file storage, and staff accounts, so you’ll never feel limited regardless of how much you’re paying.
Furthermore, every plan comes with everything you need. While their top-tier plans offer more advanced features, you don’t necessarily need all of them to start and grow your online store.
Plus, you’ll save money on transaction fees (since BigCommerce doesn’t charge extra on any of their plans). And while the price tag seems a bit hefty for their more expensive plans, you won’t need to upgrade until your business is making enough money to justify the cost.
4. You Can Sell Physical and Digital Products as well as Services
Other e-Commerce platforms focus on selling and shipping physical products. This means you have to pay extra or integrate with third-party platforms to sell digital products or services. However, digital products and services are built into the BigCommerce platform.
Pair this capability with unlimited file storage, and you have the framework for a profitable (and completely digital) online store selling 100% digital products without the hassle of shipping, inventory, or manufacturing.
Or maybe you want to offer services to supplement your income. With BigCommerce, it’s easy, and you don’t have to install or integrate with any third-party tools. Simply use their digital download feature to instantly deliver a service agreement for signatures.
Once you have your payment and contract in hand, you can start interacting with your new client and performing the services they paid for.
With all that said, selling physical products is simplified as well because you have all the management tools and apps you need to get started and scale your business (even on the most affordable plan).
5. 500+ Apps to Add Functionality to Your Site
Want to start a dropshipping business? Or display your Instagram feed? Maybe you want to sell print-on-demand products or integrate your shop with your email marketing provider. Regardless of what you want to do, odds are there’s a BigCommerce app for it.
Their app market features over 500 different apps (both free and paid) designed to add extra functionality to your online store. They’re easy to install and integrate seamlessly with your new website.
Plus, the search function makes it easy to find exactly what you need without having to scour through hundreds of apps looking for the perfect solution. When you’re ready to install an app, all you have to do is click one button and configure your settings.
Where Bigcommerce shines when compared to Shopify, is that Bigcommerce has less reliance on third-party apps. What comes already included in BigCommerce would need an app from Shopify.
What I Don’t Like About BigCommerce
As with any business, the positive qualities don’t come without the not-so-great qualities as well. Although most of my experience was great, there are a few things I don’t particularly like about the BigCommerce platform.
So, I want to go through the things I don’t like and talk about why they’re not so great for business owners interested in DIYing their website.
1. No Free Plan (Only a 30-Day Free Trial)
Other online store builders (like Weebly and Wix) offer a free forever plan so you can get comfortable with the platform and build the framework for your site before paying anything. However, that’s not an option with BigCommerce.
But, they do offer a 15-day free trial to new users. Which… is great, but the biggest problem is it usually takes longer than that to get comfortable with the platform. This is especially true if you’ve never used a website builder before.
That said, with the free plans on Weebly/Wix, you can’t actually sell products online. You have to upgrade to a paid plan. Furthermore, other eCommerce specific website builders don’t offer free plans. So, this isn’t necessarily surprising or a huge deal breaker.
2. Only 12 of Their Professional Themes are Free
Out of their 80+ professional eCommerce themes, only 12 of them are free, and the font selection with free themes is very limited. Furthermore, the premium themes look better and have more variety from theme to theme. Some of them also have additional features.
With that said, the free themes do look great and are mobile responsive, so you don’t have to worry about making tweaks to two separate versions of your site (desktop and mobile).
But compared to Shopify, BigCommerce has more free themes to choose from. So, this isn’t a huge downfall. Plus, you can invest in a premium theme later after you’ve started making money with your online store.
3. Each Plan Has a Maximum Annual Sales Limit
This is something I haven’t seen with other page builders. Each plan has an annual sales limit for a trailing 12-month window. If you start making more money than the plan you’re on allows, you have to upgrade to a higher plan.
Furthermore, if you’re already on the top plan, you have to pay an extra $150/month for each additional $200k/year in sales you make. So, as you start making more money with your online store, you have to pay more money as well.
With that said, most small businesses won’t have any issues with these limits because they’re pretty high (except on the standard plan — max is $50k/year). And if you’re making more than $400k/year, an extra $150 per month isn’t a huge dent in your wallet.
4. May Be Difficult to Learn if You’ve Never Built a Website Before
If you’re familiar with self-hosted WordPress, you’ll find the BigCommerce platform much easier to use. However, if you aren’t familiar with or haven’t used a website builder before, you may have a hard time learning how to use it.
When you first sign up for an account, there’s a lot going on in your account dashboard. This can feel incredibly overwhelming if you’ve never built a website before. To start customizing your Bigcommerce theme and building your website, click on “Storefront” in the left navigation menu.
This is just one example of BigCommerce being difficult to use. They use advanced terminology like “Storefront” rather than calling it something a bit more intuitive to understand. It took me quite a while to realize this is where to go to edit my actual website.
Furthermore, the page editor isn’t easy to understand if you’re not familiar with building websites. And it’s not immediately clear how to update sections pulled in automatically from the theme you chose.
There’s a short tour you can take, but it doesn’t provide much clarity and didn’t help me understand how the page builder works. With that said, once you get the hang of using BigCommerce, you’ll be creating unique pages and a beautiful storefront in no time.
BigCommerce Pricing & Plans
BigCommerce offers three standard pricing plans and an enterprise plan. The Standard Plan has everything you need to start building your store and selling products online. So, it’s the perfect starting point for most business owners.
Tier 3: The Standard Plan — $29.95/month
This is the most affordable eCommerce plan, and it includes everything you need to get your website finished and launch your online store. Furthermore, you can rest easy knowing you’re in good hands because BigCommerce is built specifically for selling products online.
It’s the perfect choice if you’re building your online store from scratch or just getting started with selling products online. I recommend everyone start here and upgrade to a higher plan if you outgrow the sales limit.
With this plan, you get every tool and feature you need to build a comprehensive online store. It’s one of the most feature-rich basic packages I’ve seen from any eCommerce website builders out there. It includes:
- No transaction fees
- Unlimited products, file storage, and staff accounts
- Fully branded online store
- Connect your store to eBay and Amazon
- Point of Sale (POS)for selling in-person
- Selling on Instagram/Facebook
- Google Shopping
- Mobile responsive
- Mobile app for managing on the go
- Single-page checkout
- Apple/Google/Amazon pay capabilities
- Coupons, discounts, and gift cards
- Real-time shipping quotes
- Professional analytics tools
- Blogging functionality
- Product ratings/reviews
- Free SSL certificate
- Up to $50,000 in annual sales
- Unlimited bandwidth
- 24/7 phone support and live chat
That’s a massive list of features for a super affordable price (as long as you make less than $50,000 in sales per year). About the only thing I can think of that’s missing is abandoned cart recovery emails, but you can create those through your email marketing provider.
Tier 2: The Plus Plan — $79.95/month
If you’re making more than $50k but less than $180k every year, this is the perfect plan for you. It also includes some advanced features not available in the Standard Plan. However, most of these features aren’t necessary if you’re just getting started.
This plan includes everything in the Standard Plan plus:
- Customer grouping and segmentation capabilities
- Abandoned cart saver tool
- Persistent cart so customers can shop across devices
- Stored customer credit cards for easier checkout
- Discounted PayPal transaction fees (2.5% + $0.30)
- Up to $180,000 in annual sales
Tier 1: The Pro Plan — $299.95/month
If you go over the sales limit of the Plus Plan (congratulations to you!), you’ll have to upgrade to the Pro Plan. It includes a few advanced features and a higher annual sales limit so you can continue growing your online store.
This plan includes everything in the Plus Plan plus:
- Google customer reviews
- Advanced product search features
- Custom SSL certificates from third-parties
- Up to $400,000 in annual sales (+ $150/month for every $200k beyond that)
- Discounted PayPal transaction fees (2.2% + $0.30)
For Enterprises — Varies
The Bigcomerce Enterprise Plan is for large companies and enterprises looking for a white-glove tailored experience. It’s not clear how much this plan costs because you have to contact their sales team to learn more about it. However, most enterprise plans start around $2,000+/month.
Their Enterprise Plan includes everything in the Pro Plan plus:
- Launch services to get you up and running
- Technical and strategic account management
- Advanced customization and design capabilities
- Custom product search capabilities
- Price lists
- Unlimited APIs
- VIP priority support
- API support
- Custom annual sales limits
Is Using BigCommerce as Easy as it Sounds?
If you’re comfortable using other website building platforms, you won’t have any problems learning how to use BigCommerce. However, if you’ve never built a website before, it’s not the most intuitive platform to learn.
Recently, BigCommerce released an update that added a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) visual drag-and-drop page builder. This made the platform much easier to use than it was before, but it’s still not as intuitive as it could be.
Furthermore, they use somewhat advanced and less-common terminology, so navigating your account dashboard takes some getting used to. However, once you learn what everything is and where to find it, you’ll be passed the hardest part.
With all of that said, it’s about what you would expect with an eCommerce site builder.
It has some advanced eCommerce specific features that make it more confusing for beginners who’re just getting started. But, these advanced features come in handy once you know how to use them to their full potential.
Exploring BigCommerce’s Reputation
BigCommerce has been around for 17 years, but they’re not accredited by the Better Business Bureau. However, they do have an A+ rating regardless of the 38 customer complaints filed against them.
Several of these complaints mention having a hard time canceling accounts and being charged after their accounts were closed. And from my personal experience with BigCommerce, it is difficult to cancel your account.
Furthermore, their response to all their complaints feels automated and unprofessional. Rather than owning up to their mistakes and working to make their customers happy, they argue back and forth and tell their customers they’re wrong.
You can see a full list of these complaints here.
BigCommerce Reviews: BBB
BigCommerce has two one-star reviews on BBB. One of them is from 2018, and the other is from 2019. With that said, neither of them is in regard to the website building portion of BigCommerce, so they aren’t relevant to this review.
You can read both of these customer reviews here.
BigCommerce Reviews: TrustPilot
BigCommerce has an average of 1.8 stars out of 348 customer reviews on TrustPilot. 55% of these reviews rate them better than average. However, most of the recent reviews are negative.
Some of these negative reviews mention things like:
- How hard the platform is to use
- Constant bugs that take forever to fix
- Awful, non-existent customer service
- Being charged after canceling an account
- Severely dated infrastructure
Furthermore, even some of the positive reviews mention how bad their customer service is. You can read all of BigCommerce’s TrustPilot reviews here or take a look at what some of their recent customers have to say:
“Leaving a review helps! For weeks Big Commerce blew off my requests for help. I left a negative review, and within a week, I finally got a call back and a partial refund. It pays to be tenacious and to follow up instead of just whining. Below is my original complaint…
I’ve been with Big Commerce for about three years. I found out recently that they are VERY pricey compared to other similar options and when my business went under this spring; basically due to COVID 19, the only thing Big Commerce was interested in was how to “hose” a small business. After three different customer service reps at Big Commerce promised me a call back from a supervisor I have heard nothing. I hope my experience warns other small businesses to stay away!” – Deb Ferns (May 28, 2020)
“A broken system with poor coding.”
It’s been weeks, and I can not ship items unless I open and reauthenticate Big Commerce in a private tab. This is something that proper coding would prevent, but quality control at BC is lacking. Most review websites will give BC 5 star reviews so they can cash in on the affiliate program, but BC is not a 5-star system. It a broken system plagued by poor code, bad management, and apathetic employees.” – AJ Koenes (April 17, 2020)
TLDR: BigCommerce Reviews Overview
BigCommerce has a mixed reputation, but some recent reviews mention terrible customer service, dated infrastructure/coding, and bad business practices. These certainly aren’t things you want to hear about a website builder hosting your online store.
I scoured through hundreds of reviews and noticed that even the positive reviews mention things like bad coding and awful customer support. Plus, it’s difficult to cancel your account, and they’re known for charging customers after cancellation.
If you’re set on using BigCommerce, always read through your agreement and the fine print before giving over your payment information. And don’t expect to rely on their customer support team to help you through the process.
Hopefully, BigCommerce actually starts listening to its customers and working to improve these issues in the near future.
The Final Thoughts on a BigCommerce Store
BigCommerce is a smart choice for fast-growth eCommerce businesses or brick and mortar shops looking to extend their sales online. And, in a world where 69% of consumers (in the US) shop online, not having an online store is something you can no longer afford.
The platform is packed full of beneficial eCommerce features (even on the cheapest plan), complete with everything you need to start and grow your online business. Plus, you get unlimited products, storage space, and staff accounts regardless of the plan you choose. Unfortunately, it isn’t as good as Shopify.
However, it’s not the easiest platform to learn, so expect to take some time to get used to how everything works. And don’t expect to rely on getting too much help from their customer support team throughout the process.