What can a ecommerce software novice set up in an afternoon? Is it really as easy as those shopping cart software providers want to make us believe? What ecommerce platform is easiest to use and what ecommerce platform has the best looking stores? There is only one way to find out: testing for yourself. I build my own Bigcommerce store in an afternoon, and will share my findings with you in this blog post. You will find out how to launch your Bigcommerce Store in 7 steps.
Ecommerce Income maintains and builds upon a wealth of information on Ecommerce Software. You can, for example, check out the features of Bigcommerce and other Ecommerce Software packages, as well as compare those features in the software Comparison. This blog is the second in a series discussing the ease of use and the design of a number of SaaS packages. I create an imaginary store “Socks Are Sexy” on the platforms of Shopify, Bigcommerce and SEOshop. Today’s turn is Bigcommerce.
Introducing my Bigcommerce Store
As with the previous Shopify store, I spent an afternoon on the Bigcommerce Store and I am selling the same products – socks 😉 Of course, the result is not fully professional. Still, what somebody who is new to Bigcommerce can achieve in an afternoon is impressive. (I am new to building Bigcommerce stores as we run all our stores on Magento – in Magento one would need much more time to create a basic store like this).
The home page looks like this:
“Socks Are Sexy” Store Front. Home page featuring carousel and products. The amount of columns is easily modified in this theme. This is a version with 5 columns, the verison below has two columns.
The Category Page showing the products on sale in this category. Note the cool comparison feature – more on that below.
Launching your Bigcommerce Store in 7 Steps
This section provides a detailed description of steps you need to take before you can launch your Bigcommerce Store.
1. Registering on Bigcommerce.com
There is not a lot of information you need to provide when you register for your free trial store. I entered the store name on the Bigcommerce home page and then I got to the following page. You just need to provide the following information:
So that is: Email address and Telephone number plus some information to help you set up your online store more effectively, such as your level of ecommerce experience.
You can change the name later – so don’t worry too much about that. So really, nothing should hold you back to try your own free trial version. Try out Bigcommerce and/or some competitors to find out what is the right option for you! Don’t you get excited when you can build your own online store? Even better when you can first try it out for free!
The Excitement of opening your own online store: you get to see this page right away after creating your trial store. Especially the statistics and trends sections made me want to build up a new store, launch a new idea and start selling! What about you?
2. Choosing a Theme
Next, probably the first thing you should do is selecting your theme. A theme is the the basic design of your store that allows you to quickly build up a nice looking store front.
Bigcommerce offers 57 themes in their theme store. How to select one? Never select a theme based on the colour or the background. You can easily change those in the admin panel later. Pay attention to what you need on the various pages, and where.
The following theme was loaded by default. It is a free and responsive theme that suits an online store selling clothing.
Note that the theme came with already preloaded products in it. It is nice to be able to right away see how a store may look with products in it. On the other hand, you will need to remove the preloaded products when you are adding your own products to the store.
I did have a look at the theme store, where there were a few other themes that were responsive, free and suitable for a clothing store. In the end I chose to keep the default theme.
The default theme “Classic Next” in the Bigcommerce Theme Store.
3. Modifying Your Theme
The next step is modifying the theme to personalize the online store and to make it your own, reflecting your store’s brand or the image you want to convey. This step and the next step of the adding of the products – especially the selection of product photos – can be done in reverse order, or at the same time. Check out our page on product photography here. If you make sure the background of your product photos is neutral (preferably white), they will always blend in nicely in the background of your online store.
What really is a cool feature of Bigcommerce is the ability to edit in real-time. As we noticed in last week’s post, in Shopify you need to make the changes in the admin panel and then refresh the actual page to see how it looks. Not so for Bigcommerce. You can see above that I was editing the colours of the store. I changed the default black buttons, as well as some headers to blue. I could right away see how it looked in the store. Do make sure that when you changed something to your liking, to save the result!
Just like Shopify, Bigcommerce also allows you to edit the code of your theme. But for those who don’t have advanced coding or technical skills – like me – you can use the handy drag-and-drop editor. Everyone can build a store in a few hours in this editor!
Because the real-time drag-and-drop editor has to fit together with the page you are editing and can thus take just a little bit of space, you have to go back to the admin panel to edit some particular elements of your theme. I didn’t understand that right away and had to look for the place where to edit the carrousel and social media buttons.
As you can see in the screenshot above, there are tabs to edit the themes, logo, mobile, carousel & social media, respectively. You can see it is easy to edit the carousel – changing the pictures, the amount of slides in the carousel and the time it takes to swap. It is also easy to add or remove social media buttons.
Mobile sales are growing exponentially. This theme also has extra settings for mobile devices. It is possible to configure these settings after clicking on the “mobile” tab. The only thing that needs to be done, besides enabling the mobile theme, is uploading a mobile theme logo with the required dimensions. Easy!
4. Choosing your Domain
It took me some time to find the place where it was possible to add a domain, and in fact I didn’t find it in the trial version. The client area has a menu for domains, but it is probably only possible to buy a domain when you are an actual paying client (which makes sense – why would you buy a domain for a trial version of your store?).
Creating categories is fairly easy in Bigcommerce.
Categories the old-fashioned way – quite easy editing and possibly better for SEO than Shopify’s system using collections.
A bit specialist information perhaps for this post but relevant for the starting and experienced online store owner alike – how well is you ecommerce software oriented to providing great SEO features? Bigcommerce claims it has “Killer features” while the software provider I will review in next week’s post even has SEO in its brand name: SEOshop. To get back to the topic of respective (dis)advantages of site structures through the use of collections or categories: the basic difference between Shopify and Bigcommerce visualized is this:
I will research this question, try to find out for the Ecommerce Income readers what is better for SEO and get back to that topic in a future post. What I do know for sure, is that having a good category page with unique content gives a boost to your SEO.
It’s a pity that products can only be added to product categories in the admin – products page and that what products are in the categories cannot be edited from the admin – product category page.
6. Adding Products to your Bigcommerce online store
Note in the screen shot above that there is a field to enter a “Avalara Product Tax Code” (more on that below), that it is possible to add a product to multiple categories, and that you can save the product and simultaneously duplicate it to more quickly add products.
A nice little extra in Bigcommerce is the integration of Avalara. Avalara can be a great help with tax codes. Tax codes? As Avalara explains it themselves: “For instance, Tax Code PC040100 is used for general clothing products (t-shirts, slacks, etc.). When that Tax Code is mapped to a product, built-in Tax Rules correctly return zero tax when the product is invoiced to a location in Pennsylvania or Minnesota. The same Tax Rules fully tax the product when invoiced to a location in Alabama or Texas, and tax the product only above a specified threshold when invoiced to a location in New York ($110 threshold for the state, New York City, and some counties) or Massachusetts ($175 threshold).”
Avalara is for sure handy in the US, with all of its states maintaining their own VAT policies. Avalara is also originally from the US and still has the bulk of its offices there. It does, however, also maintain up-to-date tax records for EU countries, so also possibly saves a lot of time for companies selling across the EU.
What is helpful in the Bigcommerce admin during the setting up and launch phase is the Quick Launch feature, guiding you through all the steps you need to take to set up your store and start selling. Note that the Bigcommerce Quick Launch feature includes setting up payments. As the best way of setting up payments differ per region and to focus on design and ease of use, this (already long) blog post doesn’t discuss payments. There are other posts on payments on Ecommerce Income and we will soon test what payment systems you should look for in your region. Do always make sure to check whether a ecommerce software solution has integrations with payment service providers that operate in your sales region.
It is cool to see that learning is smartly integrated in the admin environment, with direct links to videos explaining what something is or how to do something. So I was for example wondering how product options work in Bigcommerce, and I found a direct link in the admin to this video:
Apart from product pages, (this theme of) Bigcommerce has a page for brands. If brands are important in your store, this may be a nice feature.
You can see in the drop-down menu how products can be edited in Bigcommerce. You see the admin – products – brands page in the screen shot above.
What I don’t like, however, is that it seems possible (or at least difficult) to remove the brands page. If I for example sell only my own brand of super sexy socks, why would I want a brand page sitting in my online store?
A cool feature of Bigcommerce is the default possibility to compare products. You see the “Fun Socks” category page above with 8 products in it. Above the Add to Cart/Choose options buttons, there is the possibility to tick a number of products to compare them. As you can see below, I chose to compare the “Batman Caped Socks” and the “Super hero 3-pack”.
In my modest opinion, the product page (see below) looks fine, but not stunning. I don’t like that the thumbnail pictures are sticking to the big picture.
7. Choose your Bigcommerce plan and Start Your Online Business!
I advise you to try out Bigcommerce. It is really easy to set up and it seems fully focused on getting you selling as much and as quickly as possible. Also try out other ecommerce software providers. In about a week’s time, Ecommerce Income will review SEOshop. After that you can expect a wrap-up of this series in which I will compare the three software providers more in depth.
In case you like Bigcommerce (and/or some of the other ecommerce software providers), I advise you to stop doubting and choose the plan that best suits your needs. There is no long-term contract with Bigcommerce – you pay per month. At 29.95 USD for the Silver plan you get a really good deal. Bigcommerce prides itself on being very complete out-of-the box.*
* I will soon write a series of blogs on how complete the various ecommerce software packages are, and compare this Bigcommerce claim to be very complete with other providers.
Other Posts on Bigcommerce and other Ecommerce Software Platforms
I focused on the seven steps of starting your own Bigcommerce Online Store. Last week, I published a similar review of Shopify here on Ecommerce Income. SEOshop will be reviewed in a similar manner next week. If you can’t wait until then to find out what SEOshop has to offer, you can already check out this page.