When planning the launch of an online storefront, one of your most fundamental and important decisions is your choice of platforms. Making your choice will depend on features and functionality. Below you’ll find out 10 out of the box BigCommerce features.
- Unlimited products, file storage, and bandwidth
- Single-Page Checkout
- Coupons & Gift Certificates
- Product Videos
- Bulk Pricing
- Ratings & Reviews
- Product Swatches
- Customer Groups & Segmentation
- Abandoned Cart Saver
- Persistent Cart
Ecommerce platforms come in two basic types. The first is self-hosted software, of which Magento Commerce is an example. This type of product is a one-time purchase, which you then own. It is up to you to acquire hosting, installation, setup, and support for the store yourself.
The second is Software as a Service or SaaS. This type of platform combines the functionality of eCommerce software with the support of an ongoing service. Your storefront is essentially rented, with most of the heavy technical lifting like hosting, technical support and security maintenance provided by the software developer. Popular SaaS platforms include Shopify and BigCommerce.
The choice between self-hosted eCommerce software and a SaaS platform is not a matter of “better” or “worse.” It depends greatly on the needs of your business. Traditional software typically offers greater flexibility, allowing its owner to make choices about hosting, customization and maintenance. This freedom can be of great benefit for a company that has the resources to take advantage of it, but it comes with a lot of responsibility and (dare we say?) some risk.
Alternatively, a SaaS platform can radically simplify the setup of an online storefront by packaging hosting, maintenance, and support with the product itself. The peace of mind is traded off against any limitations imposed by the service, and it isn’t always clear at the outset what these limitations are.
A Place for SaaS
At Shero, we specialize in developing and supporting eCommerce websites. We love Magento’s powerful features and expandability. At the same time, we also recognize that the complications of launching a customized eCommerce store (and believe us, it gets complicated) can be daunting for a non-complex business with a smaller budget or concerns about ongoing maintenance. For some clients, we recognize that the simplified workflow of a SaaS platform, like BigCommerce, is a great benefit and for these customers, we often recommend and support clients with our BigCommerce services.
One reason we like and partner with BigCommerce is that it is highly customizable. Like all SaaS platforms, it operates on a closed system so that support and maintenance can be included as part of its subscription service. On the other hand, BigCommerce provides a set of tools that developers can use to make a wide variety of customizations to an eCommerce site. BigCommerce can be used with a default base theme, one of 10 free themes and dozens of powerful professional themes that are available for purchase. Regardless of which theme you choose, it can be heavily modified, customized and extended to meet a store’s unique requirements. Its functionality can also be greatly expanded upon with support for custom scripts and a powerful API to handle all kinds of integrations. In short, a BigCommerce site doesn’t have to be cookie-cutter just because it’s on a SaaS platform.
Another thing we like about BigCommerce is its impressive set of native features. Like other SaaS platforms, BigCommerce has an app store in which integrations can be purchased to extend a store’s capabilities. Apps are great, but their use can represent an ongoing cost that might not be immediately obvious, especially since most apps work on a subscription model. Unlike some other SaaS platforms, BigCommerce comes out of the proverbial “box” with a suite of capabilities that can reduce or even eliminate the need for third-party extensions.
Here are 10 of our favorite features that are likely to require apps with other platforms, but come natively with BigCommerce. All these features are available with BigCommerce’s $79 “Plus” plan and above.
1. Unlimited products, file storage, and bandwidth
BigCommerce doesn’t impose limits on catalog size, storage space or the number of requests your website can receive in the space of a month. This is true even at its entry-level “Standard” tier, so you don’t have to purchase a better plan to add more products or get better loading times. The only cap BigCommerce sets is on actual sales, which are limited to $50k annually for the “Standard” plan, $150k for “Plus” and $400k for “Pro.”
Like any website, your BigCommerce site will work better if it is optimized with clean design and compressed assets, but you won’t have to pay for better bandwidth.
2. Single-Page Checkout
A streamlined checkout is crucial for conversions since every step a customer takes toward the final purchase is an opportunity for a distraction or a change of mind. BigCommerce has engineered a simple, single-page checkout that eliminates distractions and increases the likelihood that customers will complete the process.
3. Coupons & Gift Certificates
All BigCommerce plans include a great set of tools that store owners can use to increase purchases and improve loyalty. A flexible discount system allows you to offer special purchase incentives based on specified criteria. For example, a customer can buy one product and get another free, or get free shipping on orders over a certain amount.
All BigCommerce plans also include coupons. A coupon code is a useful method of encouraging visitors to sign up for a newsletter or create a member account. Coupon codes are also excellent for tracking the effectiveness of a marketing campaign, by associating a unique coupon code with a particular advertisement.
Additionally, all BigCommerce plans come with the ability to create gift products, allowing your customers to buy a virtual gift certificate for any specified price range and have it automatically emailed to the recipient.
4. Product Videos
As a standard feature, all BigCommerce plans allow sellers to add videos to their products. The video can be added using a simple YouTube link and appears right on the product page. A product video is an attention-grabbing method of showcasing a product with an in-depth demonstration or sizzle reel.
5. Bulk Pricing
Bulk pricing is a feature that allows the seller to incentivize purchases at a higher quantity by offering bulk discounts. This is very useful for products that are often purchased in multiples and is one of several off-the-shelf features that make BigCommerce a compelling choice for B2B stores. Bulk discounts can be offered in a variety of ways; for example, by adding a percentage discount for each quantity tier, or by setting a fixed price per product for each tier.
Bulk discounts can also be simplified by applying them at the category level. In the “Plus” plan and above, they can be combined with customer groups, which is especially handy for B2B stores with retail and wholesale customers.
6. Ratings & Reviews
BigCommerce includes a simple system for customer reviews and ratings; it can be activated with a single click and made available on any product page. Reviews can be set for manual or automatic approval and can be throttled to help prevent spamming. BigCommerce also provides a customizable template for email invitations to review recently purchased products. For sellers with more advanced needs, BigCommerce can be easily integrated with systems like Yotpo, but its default reviews and rating system is a great choice for starters.
7. Product Swatches
In all BigCommerce plans, products can be created with multiple variants for options like size, color or pattern. BigCommerce provides several useful choices for formatting these options, such as dropdowns, checkboxes and size selectors. For products with visual variations, sellers can use color or image swatches, giving customers a quick preview of each variant.
8. Customer Groups & Segmentation
For sellers using the “Plus” plan and above, BigCommerce provides the ability to classify customers by group, also known as segmentation. This feature can be used for stores of all kinds but is particularly important for B2B storefronts. Using segmentation, customers can be added to a loyalty club that receives special offers, a membership group that receives discounts, a wholesale group with lower prices or a tax-exempt group. Products and categories can be restricted to particular groups as well.
9. Abandoned Cart Saver
This feature is also available to sellers at the “Plus” plan and above. The Abandoned Cart Saver allows the seller to create emails that are automatically sent to customers that have abandoned the checkout before completing their purchase. The design, content, and timing of the emails can all be customized. For example, an initial email can be sent reminding a customer to complete checkout after 1 hour. If the purchase isn’t completed, another email can be sent 24 hours after that, this time including a discount code to encourage the purchase.
10. Persistent Cart
This third feature offered with the “Plus” plan helps ensure that customer carts stay consistent even when they move between devices. For example, if a customer begins adds items to their cart on their smartphone, then returns to the site later on their desktop, the cart contents will remain intact. Persistent Cart also ensures that if a customer adds products to their cart before logging in, the cart will remain the same after login. Since it is associated with a customer’s account rather than a browser-specific cookie, it accommodates the seamless and flexible convenience that customers expect from modern eCommerce experiences.
There are many factors involved in choosing between self-hosted software and a SaaS platform for an eCommerce store,. The BigCommerce features discussed above are impressive by natively including many features at its standard tier that other SaaS platforms include only at higher price points or with the addition of subscription plugins. These features, combined with BigCommerce’s capacity for customization, make it a compelling choice for merchants who would like to reduce the complexity of setting up and maintaining an online storefront. Contact Shero to learn more about whether BigCommerce is a good fit for your project.