Ecommerce has fundamentally changed how we act as consumers, with 7.5% of all US retail transactions happening online. It’s an exciting time to be a retailer, and the days of having to setup an ecommerce store from scratch are long behind us.
There’s a lot to consider when starting your own ecommerce website, but we’ll help sort it out in this comparison guide. We’ll look at the most cost-effective solutions from the three big providers in the ecommerce space, Shopify, BigCommerce, and Volusion. Continue reading for details about monthly fees, transaction costs, payment solutions, marketplaces, social media selling, and more.
- Common Features
- Costs Associated with an Ecommerce Store
- Payment Solutions
- Selling Through Marketplaces and Social Media Networks
- Other Features
Before we look at costs, here’s a brief overview of the features provided by all three ecommerce services. The features below are offered as standard.
Selling on Mobile
Responsive online stores that work seamlessly on mobile. This means you can easily sell to customers through their smartphones and tablets.
Lots of prebuilt, customized, and premium themes so you can tweak the look and feel of your store.
Integration with many third-party apps for functions like marketing, accounting, inventory control, and more.
Search engine optimization functions to help your store show up in search.
Analytics and reporting
Detailed data to help you measure and tweak your offerings.
Order, product, and inventory control
Full order, product, and inventory management.
Setting, controlling, and charging shipping costs.
These standard features provide a basis for your online store, giving you the essentials to sell through the internet. You’ll be able to create your store, manage inventory, track shipping, and choose any apps that you need for your business.
Costs Associated with an Ecommerce Store
There are several types of fees you’ll need to pay to setup and run an ecommerce store:
- The monthly cost to host your store.
- Online payment charges – The cost of taking payments through your website.
- Offline payment charges – The cost of taking payments in person or via phone, if applicable.
- SSL certificate – The cost of purchasing a secure certificate to process payments (required).
Note that you don’t necessarily have to use the same ecommerce site platform and payment processor. If you choose a merchant account with a different processor, your transaction charges will vary from the pricing listed here.
One of the most important factors is how much each of the big three ecommerce solutions is going to cost you. Each of them has several different pricing plans, based on the size of your business and the features you need. Features may include image gallery support and slideshow capability, tax rate calculations, daily deal support, newsletter creation, and more.
Shopify provides online ecommerce plans between $29 and $179 a month.
Volusion runs from $15 to $135 a month.
BigCommerce has plans from $30 to $200 a month.
These costs are in addition to the costs to process credit cards.
Online Payment Charges
Transaction fees are charged on every payment that’s made through your ecommerce store. Here’s how the big three providers charge for accepting online payments.
Rates vary depending on your plan:
Basic: 2.9% + 30c per transaction
Pro: 2.6% + 30c per transaction
Unlimited: 2.4% + 30c per transaction
Rates are through integration with Stripe, PayPal and Braintree. Discounted rates for Braintree processing may be available, depending on your plan:
Standard rates and plans: 2.9% + 30c per transaction
BigCommerce Plus Braintree fees: 2.5% + 30c per transaction
Pro and Enterprise Braintree fees: 2.2% + 30c per transaction
15% per transaction for traditional non-rewards debit and credit cards
Additional 1.39% transaction fee (for a total of 3.54%) for processing rewards cards
Fixed $30 monthly fee for all plans
Note that reward cards are used fairly frequently (for some businesses, more than traditional cards) which would make Volusion’s pricing expensive for many businesses. However, if your target demographic isn’t likely to use rewards cards, then Volusion may be an option, as it doesn’t have a per-transaction fee for processing. One caveat is that Volusion also appears to offer a tiered pricing model, which may have additional unexpected expenses.
Pricing listed from all three companies are in addition to your monthly plan fees and may not represent all costs.
Winner: Shopify and BigCommerce.
Offline Payment Charges
Offline payments are generally more secure than online payments, and have a lower cost. Here’s how the providers charge for offline transactions.
Rates vary depending on your plan:
Basic: 2.7% transaction fee
Pro: 2.4% transaction fee
Unlimited: 2.2% transaction fee
BigCommerce – Rates are through integration with Square, at 2.75% for a swiped card.
Only offered via third party merchant account or payment gateway. Fees depend on the account or gateway you choose.
Additional fees may apply.
Cost of an SSL Certificate
SSL certificates are a way to encrypt transactions online. They allow you to process credit and debit card payments securely, and are required by payment processors. The three sites all offer SSL certificates.
Shopify provides a free SSL certificate for all stores.
BigCommerce will sell you an SSL certificate for $79 a year.
Volusion provides an SSL certificate for $89 a year.
There’s more to ecommerce payments than just the pricing for transactions and monthly fees. Let’s take a look at online and offline options, payment gateways, and international payments.
Ease of Accepting Online Payments
The most crucial part of ecommerce is the ability to quickly and easily accept online payments from your customers. You can do this through native solutions, or integrations with a third-party gateway.
Shopify provides native payment solutions through Shopify Payments. You can also integrate with many third-party payment gateways and processors.
BigCommerce has built in integration and easy setup to accept PayPal and Stripe payments. You can also use payment gateways.
Volusion has a native payment solution, Volusion Payments, and you can also integrate with many third-parties.
Offline Point of Sale Solutions
If you want to sell goods and services offline (i.e. not through your online store or social media) you’ll need a Point of Sale (POS) solution. These allow you to swipe credit and debit cards when you’ve got a customer with you. They typically integrate with tablets and smartphones to let you take payments anywhere, although you can also get dedicated POS hardware.
Volusion doesn’t provide any native offline POS support. You’ll need to sign up with a third-party merchant account to take offline payments.
BigCommerce provides offline POS solutions through its integration with Square. This means you’ll need to have a Square account to accept debit and credit cards in person.
Shopify provides native POS hardware that integrates with its Shopify Payments solution. You can get a free card reader that plugs into your tablet or smartphone. It costs $40 a month for the offline POS solution. If you want to take cash payments, Shopify also sells cash drawers, receipt printers, barcode printers, card readers, and stands.
Winner: Tie. The right choice will depend on your needs.
Accepting International Payments
As your online store gets more visibility, you might start selling to countries around the world. Here’s how the big three ecommerce solutions deal with international payments.
Volusion doesn’t provide native international currency support, though it does provide it through integration with third-party providers and apps. It costs an additional 1.79% to process international cards.
Shopify Payments accepts debit and credit cards from the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia at no extra charge. If you want to accept payments from other countries, you’ll need to use a third-party payment gateway. Additional fees may apply in that case.
BigCommerce provides easy online integration with PayPal, and Stripe, making it easy to take international payments. PayPal has additional fees for transferring funds between currencies.
Winner: Shopify and BigCommerce.
Integration with Payment Gateways and Card Processors
You might want to use a third-party card processor or payment gateway. The three ecommerce solutions each provide integration with these systems.
Volusion and BigCommerce each integrate with around 40 payment gateways.
Shopify integrates with nearly 50 gateways in the US and many more around the world.
Winner: Shopify, although Volusion and BigCommerce have nearly as many in the US.
Fees for Using Payment Gateways
Costs of using separate gateways are as follows:
Shopify charges 2% of the overall transaction amount for using a separate payment gateway. This cost is in addition to any processing costs from the gateway provider.
Volusion doesn’t charge anything extra for using a payment gateway.
BigCommerce doesn’t charge anything extra for using a payment gateway.
Winners: Volusion and BigCommerce
Selling Through Marketplaces and Social Media Networks
You aren’t limited to just selling through your ecommerce store or face to face. You can also use social media platforms and online marketplaces to promote and sell your products, including:
- Facebook Sales
- Selling on Twitter
- Pinterest Sales
- Integrating with Amazon
- Integrating with eBay
Here’s what Shopify, BigCommerce, and Volusion offer for social media and marketplace sales.
Facebook now provides a “Shop” section. It’s a fully integrated store, attached to your Facebook business page. It provides an opportunity to market and sell products to friends, fans, and customers through the biggest social media platform in the world.
Shopify has built in integration with Facebook Shop – Facebook users can browse your store, pick items, and pay, all on Facebook. Shopify then syncs everything back to your regular store.
BigCommerce and Volusion let you list your products in your Facebook store, but customers will need to click through to your ecommerce store to complete their purchase.
Selling on Twitter
If you’re an active Twitter user or know that your customers are, you might be interested in marketing your products through the platform.
Shopify and BigCommerce have full Twitter integration, meaning you can share your products on Twitter and your customers can buy them without having to leave the platform.
Volusion doesn’t have direct Twitter integration, although you can promote your products on the platform. Customers can click through to your website.
Winners: BigCommerce and Shopify.
As a social network built around visuals, images, and design, Pinterest is a great place to promote products and physical goods.
BigCommerce and Shopify let you sell directly on Pinterest via “Buyable Pins.” So if you pin a product from your store on Pinterest, users will be able to select and pay for your product without leaving the platform.
Volusion lets you share your products on Pinterest, but doesn’t offer buying or checkout options in the platform.
Winners: BigCommerce and Shopify.
Integrations with Amazon
As the biggest online retailer in the world, Amazon is a great place to get your products featured, and can significantly increase your sales.
Neither Shopify nor BigCommerce integrate with Amazon, but plan to add the option in the future.
Volusion provides complete integration between your regular store and Amazon, meaning you can list and sell items on Amazon very easily.
Integrations with eBay
Although it started as an auction website, eBay is now one of the largest platforms for retailers offering fixed-price products. Listing on eBay is a good way to expand your reach and increase your sales.
Unfortunately, Shopify doesn’t have eBay integration, although some of its third party apps can make listing on eBay easier.
But Volusion and BigCommerce integrate completely with eBay, meaning that listing and selling your items is very easy.
Winner: Volusion and BigCommerce.
There are a couple of other features that may be important to you as you set up and run your ecommerce business: accounting integration, and abandoned cart recovery.
Integration with Accounting Systems
Accounting, reconciliation, and taxes are a fact of life. When your ecommerce solution integrates with your accounting software, it can make tracking your turnover, profits, expenses, and invoices much easier. Here’s how each of the big three manages that:
Shopify integrates with QuickBooks, Sufio, Xero, TaxJar, Less Accounting, Taxify, Billy, AngelBooks, Freshbooks, and more.
Volusion integrates with Small Business Accounting, QuickBooks, Xero, and Peachtree, via third-party apps.
BigCommerce integrates with Xero, Sufio, QuickBooks, TaxJar, Avalara, Sage, and more.
Winner: Shopify for having the most integrations, but it ultimately depends on which accounting program support you need.
Abandoned Cart Recovery
An “abandoned cart” is when your customer adds products to their “cart” on your site, but leaves without purchasing the products. Abandoned cart recovery means that if they come back to your website, their products will still be in their cart and they can complete their purchase.
As you can see from the chart, two of the three provide options for abandoned cart recovery.
Shopify provides abandoned cart recovery on its “Pro” and “Unlimited” plans.
BigCommerce offers recovery on its “Plus” and “Pro” plans.
However, Volusion does not offer automatic abandoned cart recovery.
Winners: Shopify and BigCommerce.
As you can see, there are lots of areas to think about when it comes to costs, transactions, integrations, social media selling and more. Thus, you’ll want to make your final decision based on what you expect from your ecommerce store, as each provider has a slightly different approach.
The best way to start is to read through this guide carefully, noting the areas that are most important to you. Each provider offers a 14 day free trial, so you can sign up, try their solution, and see what works best for your needs.
Aside from all the other positive features that Shopify and BigCommerce offer, there is one negative that makes Volusion the clear choice for merchants who are concerned about their profit margin. If you use Shopify and don’t accept their ridiculously high price for ecommerce transactions and want to use your own merchant account, Shopify will still charge a percentage of the transaction ranging from .5% to 2%. Essentially eliminating any benefit to shopping for your own account. In other words, a merchant that can get an effective rate elsewhere of, for example, 2.4% and has the Shopify Basic package will pay an additional 2%, bringing the merchants effective rate to 4.4%. This is how Shopify traps merchants into paying 2.9% and $0.30. They make the financial commitment to set up the online store and it’s often too late once they realize that Shopify fees are off the charts high for ecommerce transactions and they would have been better off with Volusion since there are no additional fees to bring your own merchant account to the game. I don’t sell any of these products and have no stake in the race, I just can’t stand to see hard working business owners get ripped off by not having the option to shop a service around.