Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce are some of the most well-known eCommerce platforms. Each has a rabidly loyal following — and yet, if you’re building an eCommerce site, they may not be a good fit.
To help you out, we’ve created a quick comparison of these three platforms. Here’s how they stack up against each other and what to be aware of as you evaluate your options.
Over 1.7 million businesses use Shopify, a subscription-based platform. Some of its highest-profile users include Kylie Cosmetics, Gymshark, Pepsi, and Fitbit.
Its greatest selling point is that it’s an all-in-one solution. You don’t need to host your own site or be a developer to get started. Shopify offers tons of ready-made themes and drag-and-drop modules to choose from, making it easy to get your shop up and running.
Shopify’s plans range from $29 to $299 per month, depending on the features, number of users, and other capabilities required. It additionally offers Shopify Lite ($9 a month) if you’re looking to do something simple like add a buy button to an existing site, as well as Shopify Plus (starting at $2,000 a month) if you’re part of an enterprise company that needs a robust solution.
All in all, Shopify excels in simplicity. That said, the biggest complaint is that it requires third-party apps to support features like product reviews, contact forms, and more. So, although you benefit from being able to choose which apps to install, you’ll likely pay more than the base subscription cost to maintain your site.
- Easy to use – There are thousands of templates (by both Shopify and third-party creators) you can launch right away in addition to drag-and-drop modules.
- No dev knowledge required – When using Shopify, you don’t have to worry about hosting, security, or technical maintenance. Shopify also provides a clear process for listing your products and organizing your site so you don’t necessarily need a developer to get started.
- App store – Shopify has more than 4,200 apps and plugins available to automate, simplify, and expand your store. Many of them are plug-and-play, letting you get by without constantly involving a developer.
- Lots of payment options – Shopify supports several payment processing options, though Shopify Payments (essentially, Stripe) is the preferred solution if you want to sidestep transaction fees.
- 24/7 support – Shopify support is available around the clock via email, phone, Twitter, and live chat.
- Limited customization – Simplicity comes at the cost of customizability. You can’t adjust every component of your Shopify site like you could with WooCommerce because of how templates and codes are set up.
- Fees – You’ll need to pay a monthly subscription fee to use Shopify, plus transaction fees of up to 2% per sale unless you use Shopify Payments.
- Relies on apps – More than 80% of Shopify users incorporate third-party apps to beef up their sites, so fees and maintenance work may rack up the more you scale or customize your site.
- Difficult to scale internationally – If you intend to sell internationally, you’ll have to use third-party apps to accept multi-currency.
BigCommerce is a smaller, yet mighty platform that records around 60,000 customers, including Skullcandy, Bliss, and Ben & Jerry’s. Although its market share is a mere 1.69%, it was met with lots of fanfire when it went public in 2020.
For comparison, Shopify has been a Wall Street favorite since 2015. It’s 20 times bigger than BigCommerce and growing at a fast clip. But BigCommerce has managed to woo many sellers with its zero-transaction fees and scalability. It also has the second-mover advantage. For example, having heard complaints about Shopify’s over-reliance on third-party apps, BigCommerce has integrated many popular eCommerce features into its core platform.
BigCommerce monthly packages range from $29.95 to $299.95 a month. Similar to Shopify Plus, BigCommerce additionally offers an enterprise package that’s custom priced.
- Zero transaction fees – You don’t have to pay a transaction fee, even if you use a third-party payment gateway. Additionally, there are no limits on the number of user seats, product listings, or file storage either.
- Built-in functionalities – BigCommerce plans include SEO tools, ratings and reviews, email marketing tools, and more, which would typically require a plugin if using Shopify or WooCommerce.
- Deep, expansive integrations – BigCommerce’s Channel Manager allows you to promote your products across social channels like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. You can manage these channels centrally from BigCommerce. Or, if you’re looking to expand to other marketplaces and/or automate multi-channel tasks, you can work with one of BigCommerce’s integration partners.
- 24/7 customer service – Technical support is available via phone, chat, and ticket. BigCommerce offers advice around marketing basics and SEO as well, if needed.
- Fewer templates – BigCommerce has fewer store themes than Shopify. Some sellers complain there isn’t a lot of variation between themes, due to the fact that BigCommerce relies heavily on one source (PixelUnion) for its templates. Moreover, premium themes can be pricey.
- Order limits – If you exceed a certain amount of annual sales, you’ll be forced to pay for a more expensive plan. BigCommerce’s most basic plan allows up to $50,000 in online sales, while its pro plan supports up to $400,000. After that, you pay fees for every additional $200,000 in sales, unless you sign up for a custom enterprise plan.
- Learning curve – BigCommerce offers powerful, scalable features, but they require more training than Shopify, according to users.
- Harder to customize – Theme customization can be hard to navigate, and there are times when you may want to tap a developer for help.
WooCommerce is the dominant eCommerce platform of the lot (and in the world), maintaining 39.48% of market share. It powers more than 4.4 million sites worldwide and has more than 1,400 eCommerce plugins.
The biggest perk of WooCommerce is that it’s free and fully customizable. It’s an open source platform built for WordPress that you can tailor to your specific needs. You only ever have to pay for the plugins or professional services you want, rather than a recurring subscription.
The downside is that you need technical knowledge to make the most of WooCommerce. At a minimum, you need to be able to set up your own domain, host your site, maintain the back end, install plugins, and develop the interface (or hire someone who can do it all for you).
Alternatively, WordPress offers its own subscriptions that include hosting and access to WooCommerce. Its eCommerce plan goes for $45 a month and includes payment gateways, premium store designs, and 24/7 support.
- Flexibility – You have control over every bit of your site, thereby more control over any costs associated with it as well.
- Freeware – WooCommerce is free to get started. That said, you’ll likely want to take advantage of plugins to offer things like product comparisons, gift wrapping options, and pre-orders on your site. Each of these extensions comes with its own price tag.
- Great for content marketing – WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) in the world, powering 42% of all sites on the internet. And since WooCommerce is built on WordPress, sellers have the advantage of being able to create blogs or new web pages with WordPress’ easy-to-use blogging tools
- Large community – Because WooCommerce is open source, tons of users and developers are familiar with how it works. Many developers will even sell or give away themes and advice, making it easier for you to find support outside of WordPress Support if needed.
- Learning curve – WooCommerce is not a plug-and-play solution. It requires a lot of up-front setup, and while it can be easy to use in the long run, you’ll need to tap someone with the technical know-how to set up the design, payments, products, and more.
- Relies on plugins – You’ll need to pay for plugins if you want more payment options, SEO tools, or other functionalities. While the average user requires 20 to 30 plugins, some WordPress users report needing as many as 50 for their site.
- Maintenance – Even after you’ve created your site, you’ll need to maintain your own backups, hosting, and security, unless you purchase a WordPress eCommerce plan that takes care of these for you.
- Limited customer support – Because WooCommerce is a free tool, support is shared among millions of businesses. However, there are many online forums you can visit to consult third-party WooCommerce developers or site owners.
How to decide which is best for you
In general, Shopify is best for SMBs and some large businesses looking for a simple solution.
BigCommerce, on the other hand, is fast becoming the top pick for really large businesses that are looking to scale. It’s better poised to handle large-scale omni-channel growth due to its built-in omni-channel tools and a robust API that allows for greater customization.
WooCommerce is best for companies that sell internationally or have complex websites that require tons of customization. It’s the most flexible solution of the bunch, but also the most complicated to set up and maintain. If you already use WordPress and have developmental resources at your disposal, WooCommerce could be a good choice.
Wrapping up — Choose your eCommerce platform wisely
Your eCommerce platform is the foundation of your site, so do your due diligence and critically evaluate all your options. Request demos if available, and gather a list of your wants versus must-haves. Keep an eye on the pros and cons of each, then pick whichever satisfies your criteria both now and in the long term.