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BigCommerce – A Viable Alternative To Magento?

BigCommerce
  • Written By Adam
  • Posted April 20, 2020
  • 7 minutes Read Time

A new era of eCommerce is emerging… OK, well it’s been around for nearly 5 years, but SaaS eCommerce stores are now a more popular choice.

This is thanks partly to the subscription normality in which we live in our daily lives, and also to the stability they’ve built on, gaining trust from big reputable retailers and international brands. They all still have a desire to lock down their code restricting total customised freedom – but perhaps that’s a small price to pay for inclusive security, patches, upgrades and hosting.

BigCommerce is perhaps the lesser-known SaaS eCommerce provider, with the likes of Shopify wielding huge marketing budgets to gain market share in the SOHO (small office home office) marketplace, and whose typical customers may be looking to the platform for their startup venture or first eCommerce business. Rather than invest in marketing for market share, the team at BigCommerce have heavily invested in the platform and the features it has out of the box to support more experienced retailers and those looking for the safety of SaaS with the functionality you’d expect from a more custom-developed on-premise or monolithic platform.

Why We Have Chosen BigCommerce

At Media Lounge, we’re making the transition from being a Magento agency to an eCommerce agency.

We want to ensure we stay at the forefront of our industry and offer the best platforms, advice and software solutions to our clients. As the needs of our clients have changed over the years, we can see a range of eCommerce platforms which better fit the retailer depending on where they are in their business and online retail journey.

Having a platform like BigCommerce in our available eCommerce software solutions means we can always be recommending a range of suitable platforms to our clients and giving them a greater choice based on their needs now and their future ambitions. On that note, all our guidance is based on the BigCommerce Pro and Enterprise plans only.

Where BigCommerce Fits In The Market

SaaS products have carved out their own niche in eCommerce. BigCommerce, unlike other SaaS platforms, has a far greater range of eCommerce businesses in that niche that they can help.

This is mostly due to the feature-rich platform functionality, a reduced need for development or technical skills, and their API-first approach – connecting BigCommerce to your other business software or to adopt a micro-services approach with your 3rd party service providers.

API-first also allows retailers to use BigCommerce as part of a headless architecture, PWA and to simply embrace its powerful software as the eCommerce engine behind any frontend user experience.

As a platform, SaaS eCommerce offers retailers a lower total cost of ownership when compared with on-premise systems. BigCommerce has deliberately moved away from any revenue share models and made no additional charges or percentage adjustments for your choice of payment gateway, unlike some competitors. An equivalent Shopify store with comparable features would likely set you back an extra £10k per year on top of your base subscription cost.

Pain Points Addressed By BigCommerce

Every business is likely to have their own pain points they’d like to overcome with any new eCommerce system. That said, the list below should resonate with retailers who have experienced frustrations with their current platform and therefore may benefit from the following:

• Uses 3rd party Apps, not extensions, meaning virtually no conflicts
• Built-in ‘page builder’, allowing the admin to create unlimited page layouts without the need for a developer
• Lower level of technical knowledge needed and ideal for any business with no in-house development skills
• API first with 400 requests/sec (Shopify 2 requests/sec). Updating 25k products on BigCommerce takes just 60 seconds (Shopify takes 2 hours)
• Live 24/7 chat support
• Extensive advanced promotional rules
• Automated image optimisation to reducing the need for resizing
• Multi-currency and currency conversion
• Editable checkout pages to tailor your experiences, with a single checkout page for standard or subscription products
• Moto terminal for manual orders processed over the phone
• Online returns handled as standard, managed in the admin panel giving the option to refunds payment or offer store credit

Please also compare the platform weaknesses and limitations image below to decide if the platform is right for you. Whilst many of the pain points above are addressed, there may be limitations with the platform which make it unsuitable for your business software architecture as a whole.

Addressable Market By Business Model

How BigCommerce Can Help Your Business

From a business perspective, most retailers look at how any new eCommerce platform could reduce cost, reduce admin time or improve the service they receive. Here are some key points we feel apply to most eCommerce businesses:

• Lower cost to implement (against on-premises products)
• Lower maintenance costs as all upgrades, security patches, on-site security, SSL and PCI compliance are all handled by the platform inclusive of your subscription
• All hosting, content delivery networks, bandwidth and storage is included in your subscription
• Spend up to 80% less on support, so you can spend more on innovation and new features
• Native Amazon, eBay, Pinterest and Facebook integration to streamline order processing without any additional subscription charges to third parties
• Google shopping data feed included as standard without any additional templates to configure
• Catalog transfer apps to easily migrate your content and data from other platforms
• Quicker time to market in weeks, not months

Noteworthy BigCommerce Features

Some additional noteworthy features we feel would benefit most retailers, all as standard in the platform:

• Tier pricing
• Wishlist
• Related products
• SEO customised URL structures
• Cart level discounts
• Google, Apple, Amazon pay & Klarna
• Gift cards & store credit
• Wholesale customer groups with group pricing
• Product custom options & unlimited attributes (better for larger catalogues)
• Category filters based on attributes
• Advanced search with weighted attributes and ordered results to include pages, categories and products

BigCommerce Weaknesses & Limitations

Every platform has its weaknesses or limitations. Most frustrations come from not correctly identifying these before starting the project, putting limitations on your business or ultimately having to move to another platform.

The following are what we consider to be the biggest weaknesses or limitations of BigCommerce based on the types of features our clients regularly request or feel inhibit their growth:

• Difficult to manage multi-language with specific currency per language
• A smaller ecosystem meaning fewer apps and 3rd party functionality
• Once on the platform, you are locked in and can’t take any development with you to another platform
• Regular updates to inventory are time-consuming via the admin panel, better done via API or import
• Development skills required to edit theme design and theme templates
• Platform issues can only be resolved by BigCommerce or the App creator, and not third party agencies or in-house developers
• Server performance and page load times are delivered by the platform and hard to optimise
• Forms for additional data collection (other than standard contact form) requires 3rd party apps
• Customer specific prices or price tables
• Credit limits and associated pay on account payment methods
• Multi level user accounts
• Quick order (by sku) or import order functionality
• Unable to support multi-store

Conclusion

BigCommerce is suitable for retailers of all sizes. Its limitations lie primarily in customisation, which can be overcome with a good agency partner, and international expansion, which isn’t on the agenda for everyone.

Please remember this is a hosted platform and the level of customisation in general, as well as the release of new features and server performance, is all dictated by the platform provider (BigCommerce) which may stifle some retailers. Their page builder provides more flexibility in creating custom page layouts without the need for a developer, whilst built-in marketplace functionality will save on costly 3rd party subscription costs and reduce your admin time.

This SaaS platform takes away a lot of the pain and frustration experienced with bigger monolith platforms, but also has one of the fastest APIs allowing you to integrate other software with lightning-fast data transfer speeds.

Oddly, I personally feel this platform suits two types of business with very different ambitions:

• The businesses who want a simple, support free, low maintenance platform which achieves 90% of eCommerce functionality out the box, looking to go to market or change platform quickly.

OR

• Businesses who just want to use the power of the API, connecting micro-services and delivering the eCommerce functionality as part of a multi-platform, headless site architecture.

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