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How ready out of the box are Bigcommerce, Shopify, and SEOshop (1)

Today’s post is the first in a series of blog posts in which I discuss important features that I would like to see in my ecommerce software provider. These are really handy and mostly even essential features that you – sooner or later – will need when building up your online business. Of course it is both much handier and economical if these features are included from the start. Shopify is often praised for its beautiful design, while Bigcommerce claims for itself the status of being very complete out of the box. But is Bigcommerce more complete out of the box? Find out how they compare in this new blog series!

Is Shopify, by the way, king of design? Read the review that I recently posted on the design and ease of use of Shopify, and compare it with Bigcommerce and SEOshop. Just like I recently tested ease of use and design, I also researched what features and apps are included in the same three providers, and how they work.

How I researched and graded ecommerce features of Shopify, Bigcommerce, and SEOshop

The first step I took was to brainstorm what ecommerce features I would like to see in the ecommerce software platform of my choice. I decided to make the list not too long, but long enough to cover most of the essential desirables and desirable essentials (for the more experienced readers of this blog – do feel free to suggest more essential features you would like to see in your ecommerce software in the comments section below this blog post). This list was composed based on a lot of ecommerce experience as well as research on what features others found important and the features that were marketed as important by the providers itself.

The second step was doing a lot of research to find out whether Shopify, Bigcommerce and SEOshop offered these features and how they work.

Third and lastly, I gave each of the providers a grade for each of the features. If they don’t provide a feature, they got zero, the one I consider to be the best, got a full point. The second and third best got 0.75 point for that feature. I will present a total grade in the second blog post – so make sure to get back in a week’s time to find out!

abandoned cart saver
Abandoned Cart Saver/Abandoned Cart Recovery/MyAbandonedCart

A lot of visitors add products to their shopping cart and subsequently fail to finalize their purchase. Perhaps they got distracted while checking out. Or their internet connection was temporarily lost. There are many reasons why people don’t complete their purchase. Analytics shows, however, that with a good tool, a significant percentage of these sales can be recovered. A good reason to look which ecommerce software providers offer this powerful tool!

Bigcommerce offers an abandoned cart saver feature from the gold package ($ 79.95) and up.

How does it work? The Abandoned Cart Saver will trigger when (i) a customer is logged into their account, adds an item to the cart and then leaves the store or (ii) a guest adds something, begins the checkout process and enters email address and gets as far as selecting “proceed to payment”. After this process is triggered, a (series of) email(s) is send to the visitor. It is possible to send up to three fully customizable e-mails.

Shopify offers abandoned cart recovery from the professional package ($ 79) and up.

How does it work? Anytime a potential customer provides their contact information but doesn’t complete the order, Shopify stores that as an abandoned checkout. You can either automatically (6 or 24 hours after abandonment) send an email to customers or do it manually. Each email has a permanent link to a customer’s checkout so they can quickly and easily complete the checkout.

The recovery email will not be send in some cases, for example if the customer did complete a purchase before the recovery email gets send, when there was a payment processing order or when the order was not possible because you don’t ship to that address or when the products in the abandoned cart were not available.

You can also send the recovery email manually. For example if you want to include a discount code with some recovery emails, but not with all of them, you will need to send it manually.

SEOshop doesn’t offer this feature out of the box, but they do offer an extensive app at 9.95 EUR, with any of the SEOshop plans. If the smallest package that SEOshop offers at 49 EUR/month is enough for you except for the abandoned cart app, then your total software expenses work out actually a little cheaper than with Bigcommerce or Shopify (all other things being the same).

How does it work? Once a potential customer leaves their email address, the app can do its work (also when checking out as a guest). You can send up to three emails per abandoned cart and the email template is fully editable. The app comes with extensive documentation and statistics.

Grading for this feature: bigcommerce logo logo-shopify-default seoshop review
Available out of the box? Yes Yes No
Pros +fully customizable emails
+up to three emails
+fully customizable emails
+customers don’t get “spammed” by more than one email
+ Fully customizable+ No need to upgrade to a more expensive plan only for this feature

+ Up to three emails

Cons -only one email will be send
Best and second best Best Second Best Second Best
Score* 1 0.75 0.25

*Score is calculated on the following basis: availability = 0.5 points, best = 0.5, second best = 0.25

One page checkout / One step checkout

The reasons why you most probably should want to have one page checkout are mainly the same as why you want abandoned cart saver: people get stuck during the checkout process and fail to complete their order, for multiple reasons.

Research has shown that one page checkouts in many cases by far outperformed multiple page checkouts. Single page checkouts, when well-designed, make filling out the necessary personal, address and payment details more transparent and easy. The visitor right away knows at the start of the checkout process what details are required and can enter them there and then.

A study of ticket sales during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics involving split tests showed that ticket sales for a single page checkout were 21,8% higher than for multiple page checkout! You would be wise, of course, to not expect such a high increase in sales, but this does show some of the potential of the single page checkout.

There are, of course, much more effective multiple step checkouts than the one shown in this short video, but it does illustrate well how effective a one page checkout can be!

Bigcommerce offers the choice between a single page checkout and a multiple page checkout. There is unfortunately not a lot of documentation available on the single page checkout. I viewed half a dozen of online stores that run on Bigcommerce, but not a single one of them used the single page checkout. What is cool, however, is that you have the choice with Bigcommerce.

Shopify doesn’t offer this option.

SEOshop, like Bigcommerce, offers both the single page and multiple page checkouts. SEOshop offers the single page checkout for all plans. They also offer the possibility to A/B test your checkouts, from the L (89 EUR) plan upwards. With A/B testing, the system randomly shows one out of two versions to a visitor, and you can view in analytics which version performs better.

Grading for this feature: bigcommerce logo logo-shopify-default seoshop review
Available out of the box? Yes No Yes
Pros + You make the choice: both single page checkout and multiple page checkout available N/A + You make the choice: both single page checkout and multiple page checkout available+Integrated option to A/B test checkouts
Cons N/A – A/B testing is only available from the L (89 EUR) plan
Best and second best Best N/A N/A
Score* 0.75 0 1

*Score is calculated on the following basis: availability = 0.5 points, best = 0.5, second best = 0.25

Newsletter / Email marketing

email marketing

It is by now common knowledge that repeat purchases are the best for the ecommerce entrepreneur – the marketing costs are much lower and the transaction values tend to be higher. Visitors who became customers already trust you. Turn them into a brand ambassador!

One of the best ways of communicating with your current customers, keeping them informed and trying to inspire them to make those repeat sales, is by email marketing. It is great to foster a loyal customer base, and an effective email strategy positively affects your brand.

A solid integration with email marketing software is a definite asset of any ecommerce platform.

Bigcommerce has a free integration with Mailchimp, which is probably the most used email marketing software out there. It is not clear whether there is a limitation as with Shopify and SEOshop, but I assume it is the same deal. They also offer (paid) integrations with iContact and Constant Contact.

Shopify also offers a free integration with Mailchimp, it does however have the limitation of 2,000 subscribers in the mailing list. If you have more subscribers, you need to pay extra.

SEOshop has an free integration with  a less well-known app – Ininbox email marketing software. Just like Shopify’s Mailchimp integration, the free plan is limited to 2,000 subscribers. SEOshop’s Mailchimp integration costs 4.95 EUR monthly.

Grading for this feature: bigcommerce logo logo-shopify-default seoshop review
Available out of the box? Yes Yes Yes
Pros +free integration with Mailchimp, the most popular newsletter software +free integration with Mailchimp, the most popular newsletter software +free integration with Ininbox
Best and second best Best Best Second Best
Score* 1 1 0.75

*Score is calculated on the following basis: availability = 0.5 points, best = 0.5, second best = 0.25

Integrated blog

A blog is a great tool for all online stores for two reasons: first, you can share your news updates with your visitors and customers, explain more about a product or how to use it, or share a background story about your company or brand. Second, and perhaps even more important – a blog is great for SEO. This second reason is the main reason why I maintain a blog for my online store. Google likes fresh content and ranks websites that are regularly updated higher. An integrated blog is a great tool for that.

Bigcommerce offers an integrated Blog feature that from the outset has pretty much everything you need. Disqus, the commenting platform, is integrated. You can make Search-optimized URLs and can easily integrate share options via social media buttons.

Shopify has a built-in blog as well. Disqus can be added, as it is a free plug-in. It is not possible to change URLs, and the blog posts URL always contain a number for strange software reasons.

SEOshop offers a free blog only from the “Advanced” plan (89 EUR/month) and up. For the “Basic” (49 EUR/month) user there is an extra monthly fee of 4.99 EUR to use the blog.

Grading for this feature: bigcommerce logo logo-shopify-default seoshop review
Available out of the box? Yes Yes From Advanced plan (89 EUR/month)
Pros +Make search-optimized URLs+Easy social sharing +Easy social sharing +Easy social sharing
Cons – not possible to change URLs, URLs always contain a number- not possible to add categories – “Basic” users pay an extra monthly fee of 4.99 EUR or need to upgrade
Best and second best Best Second Best Second Best
Score* 1 0.75 0.75

*Score is calculated on the following basis: availability = 0.5 points, best = 0.5, second best = 0.25

Check out this blog next week to learn about what further essential features are included in Bigcommerce, Shopify and SEOshop and which one of these three ecommerce software providers is most complete out of the box.

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