If you are thinking about selling something online, then you need to have a way to display your wares and to collect payments. Online shopping cart software makes it easy to create attractive storefronts and to collect payments without setting up a credit card merchant account or handling payments manually. BigCommerce (which begins at $29.95 per month) offers a wide array of powerful advanced features but its support wasn’t top-notch in our testing. Our Editors’ Choices for shopping carts, Shopify and Pinnacle Cart, are friendlier platforms with better support.
For this review, I signed up with the Standard plan to set up an online storefront on an existing domain called Super Fun Tech Big. There are no setup fees, so the price of getting started was just $29.95 per month. If I’d needed a new domain, I would have paid a $12.27 registration fee on top of the plan’s monthly fee, or I can purchase a domain from any domain registrar and connect it to the tool.
Shopping Cart Packages
BigCommerce’s website looks a lot like Shopify’s and Pinnacle Cart’s, with a giant picture of a person and a big Start Trial button. I had to check the logo on the top-left corner to be sure which site I was on. Like 3dCart, BigCommerce one-ups Shopify and Pinnacle Cart’s 14-day trials with a 15-day trial.
BigCommerce offers four different packages: Standard, Plus, Pro, and Enterprise. Unlike 3dCart, BigCommerce imposes no product limits, as all of its plans allow you to sell an unlimited number of products, connect an unlimited number of staff accounts, and unlimited bandwidth. The Standard plan costs $29.95 per month, the Plus plan is $79.95 per month, the Pro plan is $249.95 per month, and the Enterprise plan offers customized pricing and setup. The Plus plan gives you access to advanced features, such as abandoned cart savers and custom groups. The Pro plan adds product filtering and customer reviews.
All the plans offer a 10-percent discount on annual subscriptions, coupons, discount codes, and gift certificates, as well as a way to set up a shop on Facebook. 24/7 phone, email, and chat support are available for all the plans. Plus offers a feature called Abandoned Cart Saver, which means the store can detect when customers abandon their carts and tries to salvage those transactions. This feature alone may be worth the upgrade to the Plus plan. Enterprise plans offer a dedicated SSL certificate and IP address. Most online merchants will likely find everything they need in the Plus plan. The Enterprise plan offers priority support, one-on-one expert setup and migration, and advanced reporting tools.
Features-wise, the Standard plan has advanced features you normally see at higher tiers with other competitors. Shopify, for example, offers unlimited storage only for its Unlimited plan ($179 per month), and Volusion and 3dCart offer eBay integration in only their highest tiers. BigCommerce jumps straight from $29.95 to $79.95 per month for Plus, and I am not sure I see that the advantages are worth the cost. If you don’t need all the advanced features, the mid-tier Small Biz plan from Pinnacle Cart may be more cost-effective.
If you decide you don’t like BigCommerce, make sure to cancel your account before the trial ends, because BigCommerce doesn’t offer refunds. I understand why it doesn’t make sense to offer refunds for monthly plans, but for small businesses who pay for and aren’t happy with the annual plan, a refund seems reasonable. The bottom line is that you should make sure you are happy with the store setup and how the dashboard looks before migrating your online store over to BigCommerce.
Setting Up a BigCommerce Store
To get started with the free trial, you enter the store name and create a password for your account. No credit card is required, which is nice. The sign-up process is a bit more involved than with the competition’s trial plans, as BigCommerce asks you to create a store name as the first step. You can create a free sub-domain under mybigcommerce.com (such as superfuntechbig.mybigcommerce.com), use an existing domain, or register a new domain. New domains are charged annually, and you can choose to pay for one year ($12.27 per year) or for plans up to five years. After I created an account with an email address and password, I stepped through a wizard to set up each component.
The dashboard is comprehensive. It’s not as simple to use as Shopify’s or Pinnacle Cart’s, but its layout is intuitive enough that you can find everything without too much difficulty. The last thing a merchant wants to do is spend time learning software, so while there is a learning curve, BigCommerce makes it fairly gentle. The setup process is thorough and clear, and I had no trouble going through each step to get the store set up.
BigCommerce doesn’t have long, detailed pages where you enter everything at once. When adding a product, you go through various tabs, for Details, Images, and Inventory information. If you don’t have all the product information on hand, it’s nice to be able to focus on only one or two sections and go back later to add more details. BigCommerce has one of the better search options among similar services, and it lets you filter for products, specific orders, and customers to limit what you are looking at on the screen. BigCommerce offers more than 100 free and paid themes, including the option to buy customized designs directly from designers.
An online store isn’t just inventory pages and order forms. BigCommerce has an extensive app store with third-party add-ons such as recurring billing and loyalty programs to enhance the store. You can integrate with MailChimp for email marketing, FreshBooks for invoicing, Quickbooks for accounting, and SurveyMonkey for customer surveys, to name a few. There is a built-in editor to create attractive storefronts, as well as a full HTML editor for those want more control over site design.
BigCommerce has extensive inventory-tracking tools. Like Pinnacle Cart, it lets you import product databases from a comma-delimited file instead of making you enter each item individually. BigCommerce offers guest checkout and one-click shopping across all plans, as well as multi-currency support, a big plus if you deal with international customers. You can set up newsletters and offer customers the ability to post reviews. Pro plans let you sell on other channels, such as eBay.
Customer Experience and Payments
I found the user experience (UX) easy and seamless both as a customer trying to buy a product and as a seller managing the transaction. I was so pleased with the ability to do one-page checkout that it makes me wonder why other shopping carts don’t just offer this feature upfront. BigCommerce offers a wide range of payment gateways, includine Stripe, PayPal, Square, and Amazon, all of which are available with no additional incremental transaction fees levvied by BigCommerce against the site owner.
BigCommerce has perhaps the most-extensive tutorial and support system among shopping cart software, including a comprehensive knowledge base, regular webinars, video tutorials, an active community forum, responsive social media presence, a detailed design guide, and a dedicated YouTube channel with more help materials. Live chat and email support is available 24 hours a day. Live chat was immediately responsive to my query, which was not my initial experience when testing the solution in 2015.
Simplicity is critical when setting up an online store. You don’t have time as a merchant to focus on setting up and managing the store. You want to be fulfilling orders and making the products for sale. BigCommerce makes sure the learning curve is never steep, even with all of its many advanced features.