If your brand’s sales volume is outgrowing your current e-commerce platform it might be time to consider an enterprise-level platform. But which one?
There are many challenges for enterprise-level brands when scaling at speed, the most common being, the feeling of frustration due to the limitations of e-commerce platforms that simply cannot live up to the challenges of growth.
Shopify Plus and BigCommerce Enterprise are said to be the two most powerful enterprise-level solutions for high-level volume growth and are extremely popular with the biggest brands. Shopify Plus power websites for big brands like Gymshark, SkinnyDip and The Economist. BigCommerce power big brands such as Skullcandy.
It is often a huge dilemma for e-commerce managers when trying to choose between BigCommerce Enterprise and Shopify Plus. So we have undertaken an in-depth analysis of the two premium plans to help you make the right decision.
BigCommerce and Shopify Plus are both hosted software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers. This means that they are cloud-based and require a lot less development work in comparison to custom-built solutions.
In February, 2014 Shopify launched Shopify Plus, an enterprise-level e-commerce solution and BigCommerce followed in May 2015, launching its new version called BigCommerce Enterprise for high-volume retailers. It could be argued that BigCommerce is following in Shopify’s footsteps, learning from the biggest and more established platform solution for enterprise-level brands.
Brands growing rapidly need to trust in the platform they choose and must be certain that the platform they go with have a proven track record of working with brands that are growing at scale.
Scaling your brand usually means you will be introducing your brand to customers abroad and therefore will be dealing with more complex situations, like dramatically increasing your orders and experiencing big peaks of traffic to your website. It is extremely important to check that the platform you choose can cope with these extremities.
Shopify merchants sell into 175 countries worldwide and have generated around $60 billion in sales. Compare that to BigCommerce merchants who sell into 150 countries but only generated $9 billion in sales. Does this make us question if BigCommerce Enterprise has the ability to cope with brand growth and scalability? Let’s look at this in more detail…
As we briefly mentioned above, when your brand is growing and scaling at speed, your website needs the capability to cope with spikes in traffic.
If your website cannot handle peaks in traffic associated with big sale days, your site’s loading pages will be too slow and customers won’t want to stay on your website to make an order. For this reason, your e-commerce platform needs to provide a consistently fast storefront response rate and quick page loading times especially during busy times of year- there should be no compromise in the storefront response rate and load speed.
Data from July-August 2018 (from each company status page) shows that Shopify’s Average response time boasts an average of 45 milliseconds in comparison to BigCommerce Enterprise which averages at 179 milliseconds: which is nearly four times slower than what you can expect from Shopify Plus.
Trust us, shoppers do notice the difference and will abandon your store if your storefront response rate is too slow.
Dual global Content Delivery Networks (CDN)
Shopify Plus and BigCommerce offer a CDN which is very helpful when coping with high spikes in traffic associated with big sale days, promotions and events.
CDNs deliver photos and video files as quickly as possible to improve site speed. The photos and video files are delivered by something called a “node”, and using a node closest to the end-user will decrease the distance that the files need to travel, making the site load faster and will load just as fast in China as it does in the U.S.
Currently, BigCommerce only has CDN nodes in London, Los Angeles, New York, Sydney, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Hong Kong and Singapore. Whereas Shopify Plus uses a world wide CDN called “Fastly”, allowing your store to run quickly all around the globe.
BigCommerce and Shopify Plus both have an infrastructure which is PCI DSS 3.2 certified at Level 1 as both a Merchant and Service Provider. This will protect your customers against credit card data breaches and takes away the need for you to handle compliance yourself.
On the subject of security, with the recent implementation of GDPR, it is crucial that you are compliant. Both platforms are doing all they can to help their merchants to bring their practices inline, however, there are still tasks you need to do yourself so make sure you seek support from a professional.
Customisation gives you the chance to show off your brand with a unique design to suit your brand’s tone of voice and overall feel. So it’s no surprise that many merchants feel frustrated when they are limited in how far they can customise their site. One of the main reasons for replatforming to Shopify Plus or BigCommerce Enterprise is to have the opportunity to customise your storefront with fewer limitations in comparison to other platforms.
Shopify Plus stands out by offering “Shopify Scripts” which allows developers to customize shopping carts and checkouts: giving your brand advanced functionality and flexibility with the branding of your store.
Choosing a theme for your brand’s website is a major part to customising your website and making it your own. Shopify Plus and BigCommerce Enterprise both offer a huge variety of themes which are said to remove almost all the need for manual page development when customising your e-commerce site and checkout page.
Shopify Plus have the advantage of being around a lot longer than BigCommerce, they’ve had more time to build a larger team of professional designers which sets them apart from BigCommerce Enterprise. Although BigCommerce are starting to catch up, Shopify Plus are still able to offer a more sophisticated variety of themes to meet an enterprise-level brand’s design needs in comparison to BigCommerce Enterprise.
Shopify premium themes are priced from $100-$180, whereas BigCommerce offer premium themes for a minimum of $145 and a maximum of $235. Larger brands will generally have an agency (like us!) design and develop a custom theme for them, rather than using an off-the-shelf template.
Application Programming Interface
API systems help merchants to build an even more complex customisation for your store and both platforms claim to offer super functional and feature-rich API systems to help developers when building a custom e-commerce site.
What do API systems do? They connect storefronts with helpful software management tools like:
- ERPs (resource management),
- PIMs(product information software),
- OMSs (order management system),
- CRMs (customer relationships management)
- 3PLs (Third Party Logistics).
Shopify Plus offer something called “webhooks” to make it simpler to deliver data to applications with less code or overheads making it easier to maintain. Webhooks use push notifications that are sent directly to merchants to let you know something has happened in real time and then you can respond as soon as you can.
For instance, webhooks can be used to keep your database in sync with your store’s inventory levels and keep up to date with inventory information. Everytime a product changes or inventory is getting low, for example, you will be notified and you can then take action and let your suppliers know.
BigCommerce Enterprise also use webhooks to help merchants deliver data to other applications in real-time, but it seems more complex and needs more coding experience.
Apps and integration
As your e-commerce business keeps growing, repetitive manual tasks will become even more complex and difficult to juggle: this is where apps and automation tools come in…
Shopify Plus are partnered with almost 1,000 apps and integrations for various purposes. Shopify Plus also offers specialised apps and automation tools that are designed specifically for high-growth merchants such as Shopify Flow, Launchpad, script editor, and more. You can use these tools to do things like automatically reorder inventory and automatically remove sold out products from your store.
BigCommerce Enterprise do offer many apps and automation integrations but they offer a lot less as they believe it slows down the speed of your site. But Shopify Plus merchants have not regularly made complaints about this being an issue, in fact the result is quite the opposite.
Stats suggest that in the first quarter of 2018, 75.6% of customers chose to abandon their shopping carts due to the checkout process being too long or too complex. That’s why both platforms offer mobile optimised themes, designing for mobile first.
Shopify Plus offers something more than mobile optimised design, with their new approach to mobile-first payments: Shopify Pay. This offers a seamless, fast, mobile-optimized checkout process by letting existing customers to save their personal information and payment details; saving time, increasing convenience and sales.
And according to Shopify, during Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend, over 400,000 people spent more than $30 million 3x faster using Shopify Pay.
BigCommerce doesn’t offer an alternative for this yet.
Shopify Plus have a big team of consultants, solution engineers, launch engineers, and merchant success managers who are on hand to help you 24/7 by phone, email or live chat.
You will be allocated a Shopify Plus Consultant to be with you during the exploration period and together you will analyse your existing needs and figure out how Shopify Plus can best help you to grow efficiently. They pride themselves in that all of their services are tailored exactly to you and your brand.
They will be on hand to assist with technical Solutions: front-end and back-end and with Shopify Plus you don't need to worry about managing the migrating, replatforming, and launching of your site because a launch engineer will oversee it all for you. Your launch engineer can help with international storefronts, security, customisation, payment gateways and more.
BigCommerce Enterprise also claim to offer a similar 24/7 support service, they provide onboarding services, launch management and account management with extra premium services for large merchants. Larger merchants can benefit from priority support with calls answered by senior technical support teams in under 30 seconds via email, chat and phone.
Pricing is tricky for enterprise-level platforms because costs vary from merchant to merchant and it will depend on a whole list of things. However, we do know that Shopify Plus’ price range starts at $2,000 per month but this increases based on the merchant’s turnover, GMV (gross merch volume) and the number of storefronts you have.
With Shopify Plus, when you exceed a turnover of $800,000 per month, pricing will increase per year. One of the best things about Shopify Plus is that there are no ongoing maintenance costs, no support retainers, and no hosting fees. However, you may be charged transaction fees of 0.15% if you use a payment gateway which is not Shopify payments.
BigCommerce Enterprise’ pricing plans start at about $400 per month and can range up to $15,000 per month. Pricing for BigCommerce Enterprise is also based on your sales, and varies depending on your individual business.
To conclude, BigCommerce and Shopify Plus are two of the most powerful and sophisticated e-commerce platforms. Both of the platforms are great for big enterprise-level brands who want to scale at speed and not suffer from the limitations and stress of custom built websites.
However, although they are very similar, they certainly have their differences. The main difference being that Shopify Plus has been around for a lot longer and is, therefore, more sophisticated and experienced in coping with the bigger issues that enterprise-level brands come across on a daily basis.
For instance, Shopify Plus have a much bigger variety of apps, automation tools, integrations, themes, designers and extras like Shopify Pay. It feels as though BigCommerce Enterprise are learning from Shopify Plus, and even though they are catching up, Shopify Plus will always lead the way.
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