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Shortly after Amazon launched in 1994, it was evident that the company would be incredibly successful. True to that statement, roughly two years after its launch, Amazon grew its revenue to more than $12 million. In more ways than one, the company had become a giant in the ecommerce world, and it was difficult to challenge its position.
While much of this is still true today, companies like BigCommerce, Shopify, and Square are changing the narrative. With them, small and midsize businesses can create an ecommerce store and make a profit in no time.
The only question now is, which of these platforms is right for you? BigCommerce vs. Shopify vs. SquareUp.
In this article, we’ll examine all three carefully, placing their unique features side by side and making an unbiased conclusion. That said, let’s dive right in!
BigCommerce officially entered the market in 2009 through its Australian founders, Eddie Machaalani and Mitchell Harper. Since its inception, the company has grown incredibly, currently serving over 150 countries and tens of thousands of merchants with 1000+ employees.
BigCommerce has a unique focus on individuals and small businesses across B2B and B2C companies that’s evident in their business structure and pricing. Regarding their pricing plans, for instance, the entry point is $29.95/month.
The standard plan allows you to add unlimited staff members to your account. You can also access professional reporting tools, multi-currency transactions, as well as unlimited file storage, products, and bandwidth.
On the other hand, if your business needs more than what the Standard plan offers, you could go for the Plus, Pro, or Enterprise plan. Regardless, you’re likely to get value for your money.
BigCommerce has a near-overwhelming set of features that could set up a small business owner for success. Most of them are detailed on the company’s website alongside a robust list of use cases to fuel your purchase decision. Perhaps the most noteworthy and relevant to your business include the following:
As one might expect from any ecommerce platform, BigCommerce offers a drag-and-drop storefront design tool. This completely eliminates programming expertise as a barrier to entry into the platform. Beyond that, the platform offers a seamless WordPress integration, highly customizable checkout pages, and multiple themes built with HTML to help you get your building process started.
The average business owner needs a bit more marketing strength than BigCommerce has to offer. But, the basic tools on the platform make it easy to get your foot in the door. Among others, you can access email marketing templates, abandoned cart notifications, banners, etc.
Interconnected Sales Channels
Outside of your BigCommerce website/storefront, the platform makes it easy for you to manage nearly all your sales channels from the same place. This includes social media and advertising channels, marketplaces, WordPress storefronts, etc.
Analytics and Reporting
BigCommerce’s analytics module shows you everything from your revenue to your abandoned carts. Outside of these, BigCommerce also lets you see your sales tax report, new vs. repeat customers, and practically everything else in between.
BigCommerce Point of Sales
Unlike its two competitors on this list, BigCommerce doesn’t technically have a POS system of its own. The company makes up for this quite nicely by offering an integration with Square’s POS system. However, some might argue that going through the whole integration process might be noticeably more tedious.
Compared to its competitors, one of the best things about BigCommerce is the sheer value of its Standard plan. As a small business, you get the unlimited versions of several offers, a mobile-responsive website, support for multiple currencies, and a host of other perks.
The analytics and reporting functionality is equally robust, with the ability to check multiple parts of your business to see where you’re doing well and where you might need improvement. This strength of reporting is similar to Bold and Recharge’s analytics functions.
BigCommerce has several redeeming features that allow it to even feature on this list in the first place. But, two major problems stick out, with the second being more worrisome for most users.
The first is the learning curve on the website builder. Some users have complained that it is fairly steep and technical. As a related addition, some people believe there aren’t enough templates to get started with.
The second problem is the platform’s automatic plan upgrades. You see, while the Standard plan offers nearly everything you need to run your business, there’s a limit to the number of sales you can make with it. Once you cross that limit – around $50,000 a year or so – you’ll be automatically bumped to the Plus plan. The same applies to the Plus plan, with a $180,000 sales limit per year.
A noteworthy mention among the cons is that BigCommerce’s Standard plan doesn’t let you send automatic notifications to customers with abandoned carts.
Shopify came into the scene in 2006, easily making it the oldest and, consequently, most experienced brand on our list. Since then, it has grown to epic proportions, reporting $1.3 billion in revenue in Q2 2022.
While the brand is mildly vague about its product adoption, it might be safe to say that it houses over 2 million merchants and 10,000 employees on its platform. What’s more, the company’s services are distributed across over 175 countries in the world.
Despite the size and level of its growth, it doesn’t shy away from its goal of helping small business owners build a profitable company at the lowest possible cost. The company’s pricing strategy is the most obvious evidence to support this. The Basic plan costs $29/month. But, with a yearly subscription, you can slash that price by a whopping 50%.
Being one of the most successful and popular ecommerce enablement platforms on the market, Shopify has its fair share of features that stand it out from its competitors. Some of the most important include:
The Shopify POS feature is, by far, one of the most impressive perks of using Shopify for your business offline. It allows you to sell your products to your customers without losing the critical sync in your Shopify account that helps you to make sense of your finances and inventory. Since you’re going offline, you will need a few bits of hardware, including a monitor/tablet, card reader, barcode scanner, and a receipt printer.
Even within the Shopify POS system, there are key features that you might find useful. For example, instead of having to print a receipt every single time you make a sale, you can send it to the customer’s email instead. Additionally, you can monitor your sales to see which products are most popular and make critical decisions from there. Finally, and this isn’t even an exhaustive list, you can use Shopify’s POS system to give your customers refunds.
While running a B2C company, especially one with relatively low-ticket offers and a host of competitors, it’s important to give your customers a reason to stick with you. Offering promos and alternative payment methods through gift cards are an incredible way to do so, and Shopify gives you that luxury. Simply go to your products section and then navigate to gift cards to create one.
Social Media Integration
You can connect your Shopify store directly to your Facebook account using custom APIs. This could be especially useful if you’ve spent the last few months or years growing a considerable following on Facebook. Instead of losing customers who are simply not patient enough to navigate your website, you can convert them right from the point of contact – Facebook.
Like practically any other web builder/ecommerce platform, Shopify allows you to view the most important statistics in your business on its analytics dashboard. You can check everything from the number of store visitors to their referring domains and their visit durations. With the Basic plan, you get a general overview of basic reports. With the Shopify and Advanced plans, you get professional and custom reports, respectively.
One of the most appealing things about Shopify is the sheer size of the platform. Of course, the amount of customers they have serves few people outside the company itself. But, your advantage is the number of resources in their robust community. Because of the company’s success, there’s an incredible number of themes developed by third-party Shopify developers that will help build your website.
You can also access a range of professionals to help you grow your Shopify business, with some offering an entire marketing agency specific to Shopify’s needs.
Regarding the features themselves, their pricing is a major point of discussion. The 50% discount on yearly subscriptions puts them ahead of many competitors. The point of sales system, too, contributes to the positive experience, especially if you have to sell any of your products offline.
To cap it all, there’s a rich library of resources and assistance you can always access to help you navigate the plethora of benefits that Shopify offers.
While it does have its benefits, it’s still important to note that there’s no perfect company.
Outside of the UK, US, Australia, and New Zealand, getting phone support from customer service is challenging. Some might consider this strange because the company serves more than 170 countries worldwide.
Save the customer support issue, there’s also the problem of Shopify only having nine free templates. Everything else requires you to pay before you can access it. This extra cost isn’t exactly exciting for all Shopify users.
The final brand in this comparison is Square. Established in 2009, the brand is pretty much a Swiss army knife for small business owners.
That assertion is fuelled by the simple fact that it allows you to do almost everything you might need to run your business. Among other things, Square powers your staff management with payroll, scheduling, and time cards. You can also use it to perform basic bank transactions and execute loyalty programs to keep your customers coming back. Above all, Square allows you to sell to your customers online and offline.
It achieves the latter with its POS system, which has grown incredibly popular over the years. On the other hand, the former puts all the powers of a typical website builder in your hands, with no-code development and web hosting to go alongside your work.
The pricing starts at $0, making it technically the cheapest of the companies in this review.
However, costs could quickly rise with the multiple add-on services and features.
You can easily find Square’s full list of features on its pricing page right under the unique plans created. A few of them that are worth noting include:
This unique feature is so handy and popular that it is arguably one of the most utilized tools the brand has. This statement finds its backing in other ecommerce stores’ integration with Square POS’s system.
Outside that, Square’s POS allows you to process discounts and split bills between different buyers. It also has tax features that allow it to automatically add taxes to the bill or to print it separately. To cap it all, among several other features, Square’s POS can work just fine without an internet connection.
With this feature, Square allows you to set aside a specific portion of your earnings periodically in a separate folder. You can then access these funds later when you find yourself needing to pay taxes, or you simply have an emergency business expense.
Square offers different forms of marketing as premium additions to its list of features. You could connect with your customers by creating and tracking entire email campaigns that are designed to drive conversions. If your target audience is more comfortable with it, you could choose a slightly different direction and use text message marketing instead. Either way, Square supports you with various tools to aid your process.
Gift Cards and Loyalty Programs
Taking a cue from Shopify, Square lets you easily create gift cards and loyalty programs to bring in more customers and earn the loyalty of the existing ones.
The biggest advantage of using Square is its multi-functionality. Other ecommerce platforms offer a range of services, no doubt. But Square completely throws itself into helping you build a thriving business online and offline.
Besides that, its low entry barrier makes it possible for you to build your business and sell to customers without necessarily needing to pay every single month.
To top it all, the POS system comes with a range of features that make it easier to do business in person. One of the best of those features is the ability to work offline.
While Square has been around for a good number of years, it doesn’t quite have the same international penetration that some of its competitors have. As a result, it might be noticeably more challenging for you to set up a thriving account if you aren’t in the UK, US, Canada, Japan, Australia, etc.
Finally, you can’t get support from customer service 24/7 via phone calls. While this isn’t much of a problem for everyone, it might be a challenge for individuals who often like to solve their technical issues quickly.
BigCommerce vs. Shopify vs. SquareUp: Key Differences and Factors to Consider Before Making Your Final Decision
Truth be told, the line between all three brands is pretty thin in terms of value proposition, especially because they are direct competitors. But, this extensive article has pointed out a few things.
The most obvious difference between all three ecommerce platforms is that BigCommerce doesn’t have a point of sales system. Shopify and Square, on the other hand, have theirs and don’t need to integrate with a third-party app unless the user deems it necessary. Still speaking on BigCommerce, there’s an unlimited number of staff additions to your account, but Shopify doesn’t quite provide that luxury.
For Shopify and BigCommerce, there’s a minimum amount of money you need to pay to own a storefront. Square doesn’t have any such barriers to entry. With $0, you could be a store owner.
Shopify and Square seem to match up the most in their rivalry with their POS systems. In reality, the line that defines both is a tad blurry. But it’s still not difficult to see that Square’s reporting feature isn’t quite as sophisticated as Shopify’s.
Final Verdict: What’s Best for Your Small Business?
In more ways than one, each brand is good and offers a unique perspective. With Square, there’s a low entry barrier, and it functions more as a robust set of tools to start your small business. With BigCommerce, you have a rich set of analytics and marketing tools alongside interconnected sales channels.
Shopify brings those two advantages with the added benefit of a few more years of experience that could translate into more stability and heightened user experience. While it certainly has its hitches now and then, its ability to amass several million more users than its competitors points us in the direction of its efficiency. This is beyond the range of features it offers.
All things considered, Shopify is a fair winner in the battle of the best ecommerce platforms for small businesses.
But we can understand if you feel a little overwhelmed. Realistically speaking, the margin of decision wasn’t even that large. So, if you do feel like you’re not entirely ready to build a complex storefront from scratch, you can start small. Limey already offers an opportunity for you to build a landing page that’s unique to your business in only a few minutes.