In addition to my Etsy shop, I also sell my printables via my own website. I may be tech savvy when it comes to making printables, planner stickers and patterns (basically Photoshop), but I have no clue when it comes to coding, programming or building a website.
So when I wanted to expand beyond Etsy, I did a mountain of research into which ecommerce host / provider was the best to build my online store with.
The answer is BigCommerce.
But let me rewind for a second.
If you want to start an online store, you have a few different platforms to choose from:
Option 1: A Marketplace
The first option is the one most people start out with. Market places include Etsy, Creative Market and Teachers Pay Teachers. These are a great starting place but I highly recommend diversifying outside of a marketplace so you have a shop that is truly your own.
With your own website it has only your products so you aren’t competing directly with your competitors. For example, when someone searches planner stickers on Etsy my store appears but so do my competitors 🙁
Option 2: Self-hosted
Self-hosting is only ideal if you know how to do coding and build your own websites. This is the most technical option but you can create basically anything you want (but it will take a long time to figure out how to do it).
You can pay someone to build a website for you (which I looked into doing), but it’ll set you back a few thousand dollars, and every time you want updates made to your website, you usually have to pay the developer a fee. The updates may also not be completed as efficiently as you would like. Some developers may also require a monthly retainer fee.
Option 3: Blog theme and plugins on WordPress
There are numerous WordPress themes and plugins you can use to create a website (and integrate it diretly with your blog rather than having separate domain names like I do. I started my online store before my blog, so couldn’t use the same domain name for my blog as my online store (hence why my blog’s URL is www.allaboutthehouseprintablesblog.com).
Having your blog directly integrated with your online store, in my opinion, is the only advantage of this option. Simple things that are standard with hosted shopping carts such as BigCommerce like allowing customers to pay via Credit Card require you to purchase a plugin and they ain’t cheap!
Option 4: Use a hosted shopping cart
A hosted shopping cart means you pay a monthly fee (most do disocunted pricing when you pay for an entire year upfront), choose a theme from the hosted shopping cart’s options and you’re good to go!
It’s that easy – you choose a theme and replace the sample text, graphics etc. in the template with your own.
With the themes you can:
- Add your shop categories
- Upload your product photos and listings
- Create a home page
- Change colors to suit your brand
- Personalise and make the layout your own
Some hosted shopping carts have free themes and others are paid. Don’t make the mistake I made and go with a free theme just because it’s free.
Let’s compare my online store…
…With my sister’s store (paid theme)
While I love the changing featured product image on the home page of my online store, overall, I think my sister’s store is so much better. I love that her theme has a top and side menu.
If you want a theme with this kind of layout they’re usually paid but they’re so much easier to navigate. If people can easily find what they’re looking for, they’re more likely to buy from you.
A paid theme will set you back about $200 USD – it’s worth every dollar. My sister makes 4 x as much money each month from her online store than her Etsy shop!
Changing my store theme is on my list of never-ending things to do and when I do get around to it, I’ll definitely be choosing a theme that has a side menu!
Some of BigCommerce‘s store themes to choose from…
They also have a handy option to filter by niche, although you can adapt any theme to use with any type of ecommerce store.
Why I chose BigCommerce
So I’ve talked about why I chose a hosted ecommerce shopping cart, but I haven’t said why I specifically chose BigCommerce.
There were a few key things I was looking for and BigCommerce satisfied all of the criteria.
The key things to look for when choosing a shopping cart:
- Unlimited products
- Digital downloads file delivery built in (i.e. external file storage or an app for allowing customers to download files such as Send Owl is not required)
- Low monthly fees
- No transaction fees
- Ability to quickly and easily customise a store layout
- Live chat if you need help
Pros of BigCommerce
- Unlimited products – you can sell as many products as you like!
- Can copy existing products. So if you sell similar products, just copy the product listing you’ve already created, switch out the photos and update the sales copy
- Unlimited product categories and sub-categories
- No transaction fees – because why should you be penalized every time you make a sale? This was the deciding factor of why I chose BigCommerce over other hosted shopping carts such as Shopify
- If you offer different colors for the same product, you can set up your listings so that when a customer clicks on each color, the product photo will change to match that color
- Unlimited photos per product listing – show off your product at every angle! I also haven’t had any issues with maximum file upload size limits
- If you sell digital products, you can add as many files as you want per product – this was a big one for me. My planner sets are huge with so many pages they’re a very large file size. You can use 3rd part apps such as Pulley App to deliver instant downloads or Dropbox. But trust me these get really expensive, real fast, and are a recurring monthly cost no matter how much you sell. Plus, if you use one of these apps, you have to pay the cost of that app in addition to the store hosting fees. With BigCommerce digital file delivery is built into their pricing plans (which are cheaper than ecommerce providers that don’t even have an option to sell digital downloads!)
- Live chat – I’m only tech savvy when it comes to Photoshop. Building websites? I have no clue. You can choose from their pre-made themes, just upload your photos and replace their sample text and you’re done! Plus if you have a question, or you want to change or customise something, they have a 24 chat included in their pricing plans
- You can add required fields to your product listings. This one was another deciding factor for me. It’s ideal if you sell personalised products and customers are prone to forgetting to leave their name, or details of their party if you sell invitations. By adding a required field, customers can’t check out until they provide you with that necessary information to complete their order, so there isn’t any time wasted in back and forth emails, nor are there delays in production and shipping. With Etsy customers can only add personalisation in the notes to seller’ section when checking out, which isn’t a required field. You also can’t customise the name e.g. with BigCommerce you could label a field to say ‘text for line 1 of the address label’
If you haven’t already, become a subscriber and download my guide filled with the tools I’ve used to grow my online business.
Still not convinced?
Other Features worth mentioning
- You can use apps such as the pop up I have to collect subscribers
- No automatic shopping cart timeout – BigCommmerce saves the items in your customers’ cart so there’ll still be there when they come back to your store later on
- Abandoned cart saver feature – this is part of their more expensive pricing plans but can make you a lot of $ with no extra effort on your behalf. You set it up once and choose when automated emails are sent to your customers (e.g. 12 hours after they added it to cart but didn’t check out). You do have to pay for this (on their premium plan) but it’s a great way to make more money on autopilot
- Easy upsell – can choose to show related products both below the product on the main listing page and when a customer add a product to the cart
- Depending on what store theme you choose you can showcase certain products on the home page using a featured image carosel like the one I have for my shop. When customers click on that image, it’ll take them directly to the product page or web page on your site (so you could link FAQ’s, the page where you list shipping rates etc.)
- Store themes have both the option of top and side menu – you can customise the themes to match your brand
- Can can embed videos into the product image area, as well as the product description
- You can make gift certificates
- You can redirect email enquiries to an existing email address – yay for not having to juggle multiple email accounts!
- Comprehensive analytics and statistic tracking – they tell you useful statistics including:
- What people are searching for
- Daily sales
- Conversion rate
- Which products are your bestsellers
- Top customers
- Location where orders are being placed
- Comparison how you’re doing this month compared to last month (and this year to last year) so you can track your progress and see where your marketing efforts are paying off the post
- Unlike Etsy and most marketplaces, I can add as many shop categories and sub-categories as I like!
- They offer a discount for annual pricing (if you pay the entire year upfront) I’m on the lowest pricing plan ($29/month) which works out at just $360USD for an entire year – way cheaper than Etsy!
- Can set up products to have zero cost. You might be thinking ‘why on earth would I want to do that?!’ If you sell digital products and set the cost to be zero, potential customers can download and try your products for free. I’ve found that if people can try it, they’re more likely to buy it. I set up the product like you normally would be a paid one, and change the cost to $0.00. Then, when a customer wants to add the product to their cart, I have a required field they must tick (to subscribe to my blog), in order to place the ‘order’ and download the product. This has proven a very effective method at growing my email list!
Once they tick the box, the ‘add to cart’ button will appear
- You can add live chat – make it easy for customers to contact you with any last minute concerns they have that are holding them back from making a purchase. I always leave this as offline due to the fact that I live in Australia and most of my customers live in the USA. I may be on my computer but I’m by no means sitting there waiting for people to message me because you know, I have printables to make! But by adding the live chat, even if it says offline all the time, it makes it easier for to contact me, rather than them having to find the contact us page. If it’s too hard to buy from you, people won’t. I use Tidio chat. When someone sends me a message and it says live chat is offline, it sends it to the email address I have associated with BigCommerce and then I can just reply to the person like a normal email.
- You can see feedback before it’s published on your site – so you can contact the customer and work with them to resolve any issues if they’ve left negative feedback
- Multiple payment gateways – I use stripe for credit card payments as well as PayPal
- It’s a company that started in Australia – yay for supporting fellow Aussies and also yay because they have an office in Australia. This was appealing to me when it comes to live chat as I know no matter what time of day it is I can hop on the live chat and get a problem sorted quickly, regardless of time zone (most hosted shopping cart companies seems to originate or be based in the USA when I was doing my research)
- You can list the same product in multiple categories which you can’t do on Etsy without creating a copy of the listing
- As for the back end site maintenance, it’s easier to search and sort through your products. You can add multiple sub-folders/fly out/drop down menus to your store which you can’t do on Etsy. It baffles me that they only allow you 15 shop sections!
- Live chat/unlimited support – have an issue? Just get on the live chat – they’ll even send you screenshots of exactly what to click using your store as an example, not just a generic press this button etc. you can also get a transcript sent to your email and if they can’t resolve it they’ll open a case for you/refer it to someone that can help you sort out your issue. You can do as many chats as you want as well. No limit = J
- Almost no downtime – in the 3 years I’ve used BigCommerce I have never had my store have downtime or been unable to login/access my account due to a server issue on their end or technical issues etc.
- I’ve never had an issue with image upload size. Some marketplaces e.g. Teachers Oay Teachers, have issues with large image file sizes for product photos meaning I have to use compress jpg to create a copy and re-upload it. Not only do I then have to come back and delete the duplicate image to make sure I don’t use it for my online store and Etsy shop (as comrpesed jpg files have a lower picture quality / lower resolution). I have the same issue with my blog (which is hosted on WordPress), so keep that in mind if you choose to add a shopping cart/shopping platform via your blog rather than a hosted shopping cart!
Cons of BigCommerce (and what could be better):
I always provide an honest review, so here are some of the things BigCommerce could improve on:
- More store themes – there’s a few different layouts but a lot of them are very similar
- More customization – with their themes they let you choose a font style but only from a few pre-selected options – you can’t choose any font you like – if you want the option to do this have to pay for a developer to do so (unfortunately this is standard for most hosted ecommerce shopping cart platforms)
- If you have a featured products carousel on your home page your website can be a bit slow to load (although this may just be my slow internet)
- My sister had difficulty customising the set up of her shop’s menu. She wanted FAQ’s in the top menu rather than the bottom menu. She had to spend a couple of hours on live chat to get them to sort it out
- Automatic time-out – if you leave yourself logged into your account and step away from your computer for more than 5 minutes it automatically signs you out. I get why they do this for security, but it is annoying if I’m in the middle of uploading something and it times out as I have to re-upload it again
- Can be difficult to get traffic to your site. I get about a fifth of the traffic to my website than I do to my Etsy shop. I think there are couple of factors. I list all of my planner stickers in my etsy shop and most of my products etsy is the first place I list because etsy is known as THE palce to go for planner stickers, organization printables etc. so peope who bypass google and go straight to etsy, would never find my online shop. But by having an online shop I can direct people who find my blog to my online store, and also customers who buy form esy I can direct to my online store. To encourage people to shop on my website rather than ets I also ofer a small discount on my products as I don’t need to pay etsy transaction fee every time a prduct sells so I thought why not pass those savings on to my customers? J
- Can’t reset download links. I love that I can offer as many digital products as I want and each can have as many files associated with that product that I like, but I don’t love that I can’t reset download links. You can choose to set no expiry date on downloads, but if you do and a customer comes back a year later asking for files to be resent, there’s currently no way to do this (I usually use We Transfer to send the files instead).
- There are lots of apps to choose from but some you have to pay for. For example, I tried a loyalty/rewards program (via the SweetTooth app) for a while and no one was using it 🙁 I ended up cancelling it as it was costing $70 a month!
Despite all of the above (and I know most of them are petty), I’m still happy with Bigcommerce especially after reading reviews for other hosted shopping carts which cost more, allow less customisation, penalise you when you have a lot of sales and/or a lot of products by charging transaction fees and/or highler monthly fees.
Why I chose BigCommerce
Overall, BigCommerce is a platform that can grow with my business.
It has affordable pricing plans if you’re just starting out, as well as all the features you need to help increase sales and grow your business. It’s also simple and easy to use.
I’m glad I took the time to spend hours researching and comparing hosted shopping carts because once you choose one you’re basically stuck with it – choose something that’s going to give you room to grow with you as your business grows, not just what meets your needs now.
Most hosted shopping carts have ‘starter’ pricing plans which are less than $50 a month, so even if you aren’t making many sales while you’re setting up your store, I still think it’s worth it. It can be easy to tempted by a shopping cart that offers a $0 monthly fee but note that these always come with high transaction fees that end up costing you more in the long run. I’ve seen some hosted shopping carts that have a transaction fees of up to 10% per product – that’s insane! If you sell $1,000 worth of product say bye-bye to $100 of potential profit – that’s more than what it costs for the monthly fee (and no transaction fees) for a plan with BigCommerce.
Disclaimer: I am an affiliate of BigCommerce. If you set up an online store using my affiliate link I’ll receive a small commission for referring you. I only recommend products I actually use, genuinely like and would recommend to a friend! 🙂
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