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Bigcommerce is an all-in-one hosted e-commerce solution.
What this means in plain English is that in order to use Bigcommerce, the only thing you need to do is sign up through bigcommerce.com (free trial), and you will be able to start building and customizing your e-commerce store right away.
Bigcommerce is meant to take care of your products and orders most of all. So while it does offer content management features as well (blog posts, pages, and so on), it’s not its main selling point.
Setting the functionality aside, Bigcommerce also takes care of the things going on under the hood. For example, it hosts your online store and handles its security. The servers at Bigcommerce employ hacker deterrent security provisioning and hardware firewalls. Basically, top of the line stuff.
More than that, Bigcommerce stores are also able to withstand even sudden spikes in traffic, in case a product of yours goes viral one day.
Also, the checkout is done via SSL, which makes it ultra secure and takes good care of your customers’ vital information.
Who’s Bigcommerce best suited for?
Just like the headline on their website suggests, Bigcommerce is best suited for someone who’s growing fast and wants to operate at scale.
The platform offers really good e-commerce features in terms of handling your orders, products, customers (there’s a built-in CRM), marketing tools, and analytics. Everything is truly optimized to hold hundreds or thousands of products in the database and make your everyday work with the platform as hassle-free as possible.
That being said, for someone who’s just starting out, and who just wants to sell their first 1-10 products, there are better alternatives out there.
For example, we talked about two of them recently:
Of course, before you make your decision, you also need to think for the future and estimate how much you can possibly grow in a year’s time. For example, even if you just have 5 products to sell today, in a year your store might grow much bigger (both in terms of products and orders being processed). In that case, you should still consider Bigcommerce. It’s a great platform to grow alongside your business.
Bigcommerce review: pricing
Like I mentioned briefly a couple of paragraphs above, there is a free trial available. It’s 15 days, it lets you test everything and effectively set up your online store from start to finish. However, your customers won’t be able to buy anything from you if you’re on the free trial. For that, you need to upgrade.
There are 3 main plans:
The first one – $29.95 – is the best starting point in my opinion. It gives you everything you’d need from day one, and it doesn’t restrict the size of your e-commerce store in any way:
- You get unlimited products,
- unlimited storage,
- unlimited bandwidth,
- you can accept credit cards and PayPal,
- there’s a 1.5% transaction fee. (If you don’t want to deal with any transaction fees, you’ll have to upgrade to $79.95 / month.)
Is it easy to use?
Let’s put it this way:
- Managing your store, taking care of your orders, adding products, looking through your analytics, and so on – basically, doing anything that can be considered your day-to-day work – is very easy. Everything is clear and intuitive.
- Setting up your store, tweaking the design, and doing everything else that can be considered a one-time task can be a bit confusing (more on that below). You might need the support team’s assistance for that part if you’re not particularly savvy with web stuff.
How to build an online store with Bigcommerce
Like with most online tools/solutions, your Bigcommerce adventure starts by going through a basic sign-up process.
I encourage you to begin with the free trial:
To get started, Bigcommerce just asks you for the name of your e-commerce store, and then your basic personal/business details.
That’s really it when it comes to sign-up. After clicking on “Create my store now” you get redirected to the control panel, where you can look through the on-screen tour to get familiar with the most important and useful features (highly encouraged).
The main view of your control panel is the Dashboard. It’s a really well-designed interface where you can get to the important information like, recent orders, site traffic, and revenue.
Also, it’s where some cool built-in Bigcommerce features can be accessed. Just to name a few:
- Bigcommerce has a nice search field that allows you to look through products, orders, customers, and more. It’s Bigcommerce’s spin on Apple’s Spotlight search, so to speak.
- You can view your store by clicking the main store icon.
- You also get notifications – see what has happened in your e-commerce store since the last time you visited the dashboard.
The main control panel is also where you can view the available sub-sections (the left sidebar):
- Orders – your all-in-one order management panel; also includes shipping, tracking, processing returns and refunds.
- Products – your products library; add, edit, delete products, and also manage product categories and features.
- Customers – here, you can learn more about who’s shopping in your store; you can view customer profiles, and import/export customer information.
- Content – it’s where you can manage the non-store content of your website; including things like images, blog posts and pages.
- Marketing – create coupons, set up search marketing (AdWords integration), handle abandoned carts, and more.
- Analytics – everything you need to know about what’s going on in your store; things like popularity stats on your products, traffic, how effective your marketing campaigns are, and etc.
- Apps – app integrations with external tools, like MailChimp, HubSpot, ReferralCandy, and a lot more; great place to extend the functionality of your online store even more.
- Settings – it’s where you can customize the look of your store, configure your billing and payment methods, manage your domain and email, and configure a handful of other things to make your e-commerce store personalized.
- Help – if you have any questions or doubts regarding Bigcommerce, here’s where you can find answers.
Naturally, the first step on anyone’s e-commerce path is to select the design for your store and tune it to fit your needs.
The online store designs in Bigcommerce
Bigcommerce prides itself on delivering designs that are optimized for all kinds of purposes and types of e-commerce stores. So no matter what you might be selling, Bigcommerce has a good design for you. And that’s not only a design that looks good, but also converts well.
What’s important is that all the designs are optimized for mobile viewing … something that is crucial in this day and age. For instance, did you know that 80% of internet users own a smartphone? You do want to make your store accessible to them, don’t you?
To get started, just click the “Edit Settings” button in the dashboard:
Right off the gate, Bigcommerce assigns a default design to your store.
Apart from that default one, there are also tens of other high-quality themes/designs available, both free and paid.
The paid themes can be quite pricey, though. They go for around $120-$250 a piece. But the free themes seem to look just as good, so I’d only advise going for the premium stuff if you really like the design and can justify the price tag.
When it comes to the designs themselves, they have a multipurpose nature, and each of them can be used for all kinds of stores and products. So the way to go about picking your theme would be to look for something that’s in tune with your brand.
The theme I went with as a test in this Bigcommerce review is called Fun N Games. Like the name suggests, it’s a fun and modern design, and it has good product presentation.
No matter what design you pick, you can always go into the customization options:
The best place to start the customization is changing the default colors of the theme to reflect your brand, and tweak the fonts. Then, you could add your logo, enable the mobile theme, set the main carousel or do other things (… adjust the header, perhaps).
Additionally, if you’re feeling confident, you can work with raw HTML and CSS to make your e-commerce store fit your needs as closely as possible.
How to manage the products in your online store
Okay, so let’s talk about what’s the most important aspect of any online store – managing products and product categories.
However, before we do that, let’s handle the basic configuration of the store first.
There’s quite a few subsections in the settings panel, but the good news is that each of them is really intuitive, and usually only requires you to review the default settings that are already there. In other words, your store is going to be operational on the default settings most of the time.
One thing you might have to deal with is setting the default currency, and especially if it’s different than the one used in the country you’re operating from. Make sure that those settings reflect your business model. Adjust this in Settings > Currencies.
Online payments in Bigcommerce
In short, Bigcommerce doesn’t force you to settle for one particular payment method. Instead, it’s really friendly and allows you to hook up your store to whatever payment processing mechanism you prefer.
For instance, it integrates with PayPal, lets you accept credit cards through online gateways, and even enables offline payments (e.g. bank deposits).
How do add and edit your products
Working with your main store module is very simple. Just go to Products (left sidebar) and see what’s there.
By default, you’re going to see a range of example products. Go ahead and delete all of those, and then add your own.
You can add a product by clicking the “Add” button:
Each product has a number of parameters, such as name, price, category, tax class, weight, width … basically, everything you’d expect and everything you need.
Of course, every product has its description. This is the place for you to write your sales message and make the product attractive in your customer’s eyes.
Everything here works via an easy-to-use text editing interface (similar to what you get in MS Word).
In the next tab, you can add images for your product (and even videos).
There’s drag-and-drop support here too.
Additional product settings
Apart from the basic stuff, you can go really in depth and set every little detail about your product if you find it necessary.
Just to name a few possibilities:
- You can set unlimited product options. You can let your customers choose the color, size (for shoes, for example), shape.
- You can set smart product rules. For instance, this gives you the option to offer free shipping for orders above $200.
- You can also sell not only physical items but also digital products, event tickets, downloads, services.
- You can track inventory, enable Google Shopping, add custom parameters for every product, and do much more. This is especially useful if you want to take your online store to the next level.
Here’s my product added as a test:
Admit it … you want it.
How to list your products on the homepage
One of the things you certainly want to do is showcase some of your products on the homepage of the store. In Bigcommerce, there are two ways to achieve this.
The first one is to mark certain products as featured. Once you do that, they will appear on the homepage automatically.
Doing this is simple. Just click the star next to the product’s name and price:
The other method is to customize the homepage carousel and display your products there. To do this, go to Settings > Design and then click on the “Carousel” tab.
There, you get to pick an image from your computer, add some text (such as the heading, button text), and a product link.
Once you click the “Save” button, your carousel is online.
Marketing tools in Bigcommerce
One thing I have to admit in this review, Bigcommerce offers quite a nice range of marketing tools to get your store going and give it an advantage on the online landscape.
- Banners – you can place them on the homepage, a specific category page, or a brand page. You can use them for various promotional and non-promotional purposes. Basically, you can put whatever text or image inside those banners.
- Coupon Codes – especially handy if you’re doing an exclusive promotion and want to share codes via email.
- Abandoned Cart Notifications – you can contact your clients and remind them about their shopping carts.
- Google AdWords and Yahoo Search Marketing integrations – this allows you to promote your products on Google somewhat automatically.
Reporting – AKA. checking how your store is doing
There’s a great Analytics module in Bigcommerce that lets you know about everything that’s going on inside your store. You get info on:
- Your orders,
- store traffic,
- conversion rates,
- purchase funnels,
- abandoned carts, and more.
What’s particularly valuable here are the charts and visual representation of your sales data. Really cool, and especially once you start getting some sales.
Bigcommerce doesn’t end when the visitor clicks the buy button. The platform also allows you to process orders, print invoices and packing slips, and basically handle the order throughout its path to fulfillment.
This is a really important functionality, especially if you have multiple products in your offer and handle multiple new sales every day.
Additionally, Bigcommerce helps you handle returns and manage your inventory, so you don’t have to worry about selling something that you actually don’t have any more.
How to edit text on the page
Bigcommerce is a platform a bit more centered on making it as easy as possible for you to manage your actual store – the products, orders, and so on – and not as much on working with additional content.
For instance, editing the homepage isn’t as straightforward as working with your products. To do so, you need to go to Marketing > Banners.
There, your homepage content is actually handled by one of the banners.
Granted, you can still edit it pretty easily (there’s an easy-to-use text editor), but finding this in the first place did take me some time.
How to make your store available to the world
Once you’re done adjusting the settings and making sure that your e-commerce store is ready for the world to see, just go the the dashboard and click the “Launch Store” button.
Still, before your customers are able to buy anything, you’re going to have to select your plan and upgrade to a fully functional account (not the free trial).
As I said before, the best plan to get you started would be the first one – Standard – $29.95 / month.
By default, your store is going to be available under a subdomain, like
YOURSTORE.mybigcommerce.com. But you can hook it up to a normal domain as well.
Review conclusion – is Bigcommerce the right tool to launch your online store with?
- Bigcommerce gives you awesome management tools. This includes product management, order management, analytics, reports, all that stuff. In short, when it comes to working with your store day by day, Bigcommerce is great.
- There’s a nice marketing module with AdWords integration, coupons and more. This allows you to handle your store’s marketing partly on autopilot.
- Bigcommerce is rather cheap for the amount of stuff it offers and the fact that it puts no limits on how many products you can have in your database or how many customers you can serve.
- There’s 24/7 support. And they even help you with things like SEO and other somewhat external traits of your online store.
- There are apps. You can integrate your store with platforms such as Facebook, MailChimp, QuickBooks, eBay, and a lot more.
- You can use multiple currencies at the same time.
- The themes can get expensive if you want something premium. The price tags go as high as $250 a theme (luckily, it’s just a one-time investment).
- The homepage isn’t that easily adjustable. For whatever reason, the text content of the homepage is treated as a banner. Not that intuitive.
- The homepage carousel is only a somewhat helpful functionality. It requires a lot of trial and error to get it looking right.
- The design adjustment doesn’t always work as predicted. I’ve had my Chrome freeze a couple of times when working with my store design. Again, fortunately you only have to deal with your design setup once.
- There’s a 1.5% transaction fee if you’re on the cheapest $29.95 / month plan.