Zoran Zoran
14 minute read

BigCommerce and Magento are excellent eCommerce business solutions that provide a lot more than just basic eCommerce tools. But, there’s a major difference between how they work and how they help eCommerce businesses achieve their goals.

BigCommerce vs Magento - BigCommerce home page

While Magento is both PaaS and open-source software, BigCommerce is SaaS and, for the most part, closed-source. What does this mean and which one is better for your eCommerce business? Stay until the end of this article and you’ll find out.

Magento home page

PaaS vs SaaS

Let’s start by explaining the basic distinction between PaaS and SaaS.

PaaS stands for Platform-as-a-Service and SaaS is short for Software-as-a-Service. 

PaaS is a cloud-based service that provides both hardware and software tools that enable users, typically developers, to build, deploy, and manage, in our case, eCommerce-related web applications. Paying for this type of cloud service is similar to renting a car or an apartment. You don’t own them, but you’re free to use them for your benefit in return for a certain amount of money.

SaaS has to do with the cloud, too. SaaS provides everything users need to build, run, and manage their eCommerce stores. It makes things like the procurement of servers, downloading and installing software, software and hardware maintenance, taking care of hosting, and a lot more, unnecessary. You just need a stable internet connection to get access to all of the benefits SaaS offers through a monthly or annual subscription.

It still sounds like there’s not much of a difference between a PaaS and a SaaS eCommerce solution. However, the key thing to note here is that the PaaS model provides a lot more in terms of control, scalability, and flexibility. With the SaaS model, you can’t even get close to the extent of customization and the number of options/functions available with PaaS software. 

This is the case primarily because PaaS provides a development environment, which gives users potentially endless opportunities when it comes to the look and functionalities of their eCommerce stores and businesses. Usually, a business owner hires developers who create custom solutions specific to their business and brand.

In contrast, with SaaS there are boundaries to how much and what you can do. It’s expandable, but SaaS keeps you within certain limits. You can’t have the scope of functionalities found in PaaS. However, as we’ll see later, there’s a rationale behind these restrictions.

Open-Source vs Closed-Source

In addition to being PaaS, Magento is also open-source software. This means that users are free to modify and share the source code. No copyright infringement consequences, no penalties for its use and redistribution.

Are PaaS and open-source the same?

Nope. Open-source software does include the benefits of PaaS in terms of control and flexibility, but without web hosting.

There are many benefits to using open-source software, but there are also trade-offs. For instance, due to their nature, open-source platforms are more vulnerable to cyber attacks. First, due to the fact that a hacker would always have access to the code (open-source). Next, because the client is the one who needs to install security patches timely. If they fail to do that on a regular basis, their business is at risk.

In line with this, there are 2 types of Magento: Magento Commerce (PaaS) and Magento Open Source. There are significant differences between them, but more on that later.

In contrast, BigCommerce is closed-source software, meaning the source code is not available to the public. Despite the company flirting with the open-source community and launching its open-source project Open Checkout in 2020 - which is a pretty uncommon practice for a SaaS company - it still remains largely closed-source software.

Who Is BigCommerce For?

BigCommerce is well-suited for businesses with smaller budgets and profits. It’s ideal for business owners who prefer a simple and hassle-free eCommerce experience over endless possibilities, which bring a higher level of complexity.

Despite the company’s efforts toward transforming itself into a par-excellence eCommerce solution for well-established medium and enterprise-level businesses, it’s mainly used by small-sized businesses. To a certain extent, this is not surprising, considering that SaaS platforms are by their nature perfect for businesses of smaller size.

Generally speaking, a SaaS platform is much simpler and easier to use than any PaaS or open-source platform, which business owners may find overly technical. As a SaaS platform, BigCommerce takes care of software maintenance: updates, upgrades, and bug fixes; in short, all the technical stuff involved in running an eCommerce business. The main objective is to make things simple for users, enable them to have their store up and running in no time, and allow them to focus on the most important thing: their business.

Who Is Magento For?

It doesn’t matter whether it’s Magento Commerce or Magento Open Source, both are well-suited for larger, enterprise-level, well-established businesses with a big and steady customer base and high profits.

Just like PaaS, open-source software is extremely flexible, which makes it a good option for those who really require countless customization options for their eCommerce store. 

However, both types require a team of software professionals to run your store smoothly and get the most out of the platform. This is basically one of the reasons Magento is an excellent choice for larger businesses. Usually, bigger companies have the means and resources to utilize the potential of PaaS and open-source software to the utmost.

Magento open source

In essence, larger businesses, both size-wise and revenue-wise, are the ones that really need all of the options available through Magento, which become necessities once a business reaches a higher level of complexity. Usually, a SaaS platform cannot adequately meet the needs and requirements of a client at this stage of development.

This doesn’t mean that small businesses can’t or don’t use Magento. It only means that larger businesses are in a better position to utilize the full potential of the platform. It’s like having a Swiss army knife with a ton of functions. You can use it, but if you’re not a soldier, gardener, handyman, or mountaineer, and you only use the large blade the majority of the time without really knowing how to use the bulk of the other functions, maybe this particular knife is not the best one for you.

Features

A large part of what was said in the previous sections was more or less generic. We talked about SaaS, PaaS, closed-source software, and open-source software in general. Now, let’s delve into some of the specifics of BigCommerce vs Magento.

BigCommerce

BigCommerce shares certain features with Magento, like the ability to accept payments in multiple currencies, or the possibility to set your store in multiple languages, or, in general terms, the opportunity to use B2B tools. This is only natural, considering that they’re both eCommerce platforms. But, there are also features that are specific to each of the platforms. 

Let’s first look at a short list of some key features that BigCommerce offers:

  • Design tools for your eCommerce store 

There’s a drag-and-drop page builder and visual editor that enables you to create various types of pages and customize the mobile-friendly templates and checkouts. In addition to this, you can use the Stencil CLI to get even more in terms of design and customization.

  • Lead conversion tools

You can offer discounts and coupons, and give personalized product suggestions.

  • Multichannel sales

Sell your products on Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Walmart, Pinterest, etc. BigCommerce also offers its clients native POS systems.

  • B2B eCommerce

You can offer custom pricing, bulk pricing, and different payment methods. You can also divide customers into various groups for different pricing, product access, and promotions based on factors like industry, location, earlier bought products, and much more.

  • High page speed

BigCommerce stores run on the Google Cloud Platform, which along with the globally spread built-in CDN and Akamai (an app that optimizes images for faster page load time) gives you lightning-fast load time and creates a seamless user experience.

  • Excellent commerce tools

Include shipping, sales tax automation, refunds and returns, reports and analytics, a control panel that allows you to handle your product catalog, and more.

  • SEO and blog

SEO-optimized URLs, metadata, and a basic blog.

  • API

400+ calls per second for faster product updates, full-on headless commerce experience thanks to the server-to-server API functions, etc.

  • Security

PCI compliance, SSL certificates, eCommerce store data backups, safe and reliable hosting, and more.

Magento

Magento is highly customizable and gives a lot of creative freedom to its customers. It gives you so much control, that it even lets you build your features into the platform. How cool is that?

As we mentioned before, Magento Open Source and Magento Commerce are not quite the same things. For illustrative purposes, let’s have a look at an image that clearly shows how big the dissimilarity between the two is:

Magento commerce open source

Magento Open Source lacks a simple page builder and visual editor, so you can’t create and customize pages without the help of IT professionals. A built-in B2B functionality is nowhere to be found, just like automated upsells and cross-sells, advanced segmentation and analytics, Magento-certified cloud infrastructure, or the possibility to scale up and tackle more complex eCommerce sales scenarios. However, keep in mind that a team of good IT professionals can save the day, just like the many integrations compatible with Magento.

As for Magento Commerce, there’s a myriad of built-in features available. The complete list of tools along with accompanying explanations can be downloaded as a PDF document here

Since a large portion of the features can be seen in the image above, to avoid redundancy, we’ll just look at some of the most notable Magento Commerce features:

  • SEO

Automatically generated Google sitemaps, search engine friendly URLs, URL rewrites, and more.

  • Store management

Multi-store and multi-site capability that lets you have many eCommerce stores/sites controlled from one admin account. BigCommerce claims that it offers something along these lines as well, but its multi-site ability is not identical to what Magento offers here. 

On BigCommerce, it means having multiple accounts connected together, the advantage being that you can access all of them with one login. In essence, the more appropriate name for this BigCommerce feature would be linked accounts. However, real multi-store/multi-site information is shared across the stores, which is the case with Magento, but not with BigCommerce.

On top of this, there’s an option to define different roles and allow different levels of access to admin features, create system reports to identify technical problems with the store, and more.

  • Multi-location inventory

You can track products in many different places and manage when to fulfill orders, and from which location, to avoid out-of-stock issues.

  • Complex B2B functionality

Quick order forms, requisition lists, custom catalogs and price lists, ability to create company accounts and set up multiple buyers, and much more. This is considered to be one of the strongest sides of Magento, and that’s why we’re bringing this topic up again. 

  • PWAs - Progressive Web Applications technology

Magento allows you to make use of the state-of-the-art PWAs technology to build top-notch eCommerce stores. This is possible thanks to JavaScript libraries like React and Redux.

Some of the major advantages of PWAs are the following:

  • Installability: meaning that a web app behaves similarly to any other application that you install on your device. For instance, you can open the web app through an icon on your home screen.
  • Network independence: enables web apps to function smoothly in case a network is not dependable or even completely missing/down.
  • Responsiveness: which in simplified terms means that these types of web apps are compatible with any type of screen size, no matter if it’s a desktop, smartphone, tablet, or a device that we’ll be using in the future.
  • Safety: it has a mechanism that thwarts snooping - listening to network traffic and communication protocols like ARP and TCP. 

With Magento, unless you’re proficient at web development, you’ll definitely need the professional help of developers and IT engineers because it’s difficult to do any customization on your own.

Pricing

Magento

Magento Open Source is something like a Magento free plan. Similar to WooCommerce, it requires users to find hosting themselves, as well as take care of upgrades, maintenance, security, and added functionalities through third-party apps.

Setting up and building your store on Magento is time-consuming, and more often than not, it requires hiring a developer, which can be pretty costly.

There’s also a high probability that you’ll need to hire an agency to manage your Magento eCommerce store.

As we already saw, in the commercial version, Magento Commerce includes hosting and a lot more. It’s mainly geared toward big players, more precisely, businesses that earn over $1M on an annual basis. The prices vary according to how large the client is. The minimal possible price is $22K/year!

BigCommerce

There’s no free plan with BigCommerce. The company offers 3 regular pricing plans, 1 custom-priced plan, and a free trial. There’s a 10% discount on annual billings with 2 of the plans. This is, in short, everything you need to know about the BigCommerce pricing:

BigCommerce pricing

Clearly, each of the plans is designed to cover different customer needs, ranging from a really small business to an enterprise-level company.

Integrations

Magento

Magento has a large app store with about 4000 available apps. The prices range from under $40 to $3,380 and above. They’re divided into 6 categories: 

Magento integrations

BigCommerce

There’s a BigCommerce app store as well. It’s not as big as Magento's, but still pretty solid. BigCommerce offers almost a thousand integrations categorized into 20 groups according to their purpose. The good news is that many of them are free. 

BigCommerce integrations

Along with this, there’s an alternative way to add third-party software to your BigCommerce store: embed codes. This can be very handy in certain situations. For instance, we mentioned that BigCommerce offers a blogging option, but it’s way too basic and underwhelming. For serious blogging, you’ll need a top-shelf blogging integration like DropInBlog. You just need to copy a few lines of code from the DropInBlog site and paste them into your store to be able to enjoy the benefits and perks of this first-rate blogging platform.

BigCommerce takes care of everything related to your eCommerce store, including the third-party integrations. This means that you don’t need to install security patches, updates, and generally, you don’t have to do any software maintenance. BigCommerce makes the whole process of running an eCommerce business extremely convenient.

Customer Support

Magento

Magento Open Source doesn’t include typical customer service. There are a lot of online resources though: extensive documentation and posts by other users that can help you with your problems. However, keep in mind that the bulk of the Magento community consists of developers, not business people, which means that the posts you’ll be reading will probably be more technical in nature.

When it comes to the commercial version, Magento has been working on improving its customer service, but it’s still not quite there. With this version of Magento, you get around-the-clock phone support, a dedicated technical account manager, and a customer success manager. Also, there’s a ticket system in place.

BigCommerce

BigCommerce shows its care for clients in many different ways: 24/7 email, phone, and live chat support with every pricing plan. Other resources include a Help Center, the BigCommerce University, a Webinars page, the BigCommerce Community, and a Knowledge Base.

Over and Out

This concludes our comprehensive BigCommerce vs Magento comparison. We hope that it was informative and that it will help you in your search for the best possible eCommerce solution for your business.

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