BigCommerce vs Magento - Which platform takes 2018/2019?

Today we are breaking down the differences that matter in the question which is best? Magento or BigCommerce?

Now that the dust has settled on the acquisition of Magento by Adobe, let us look into the differences between our choice of ecommerce platform - BigCommerce - and those of one of the largest ecommerce platforms globally - Magento. As BigCommerce UK specialists dealing with enterprise clients we've made a list of the factors that need considering before any tendering or requests for proposal (RFP) are made.

Magento is a brilliant system, and we have in the past built successful websites on the platform, but we want to address why SaaS solutions like BigCommerce are worth considering over on-premise ecommerce platforms like Magento Enterprise Edition.

Grab yourself a tea, a coffee, and a snack and let’s get started.

Customisability of your store

As an owner or stakeholder you will want your ecommerce store, whether a fledgling startup or a publicly listed company, to have an identity and aesthetic that reflects your brand or your market. You'll also consider as part of your competitive analysis the user experience and layout so as to maximise conversions and grow your business.

In order to achieve the above you will want to choose an ecommerce platform that offers front-end flexibility to achieve the design worthy of your brand. The question is do you go for a SaaS solution like BigCommerce, or an on-premise ecommerce platform like Magento?

Well both platforms allow for merchants to have a fully customised store, with BigCommerce and Magento allowing designers and developers to create truly beautiful and functional storefronts that are made to drive conversions and sales. On-premise solutions like Magento do have one major drawback when it comes to customisation - cost of achieving it.

Certified Magento specialists and developers are expensive due to the specialist knowledge of front and backend technologies required to achieve a custom solution. BigCommerce as a SaaS platform already has the backend built for you, allowing your developers to focus on frontend design and functionality.

If SaaS platforms like BigCommerce are limited in any customisation, this is normally linked to the creation of frictionless and compliant checkout processes and design. However, this is more of a preference of your business and there are arguments for and against going with a checkout offering like BigCommerce’s over a fully frictionless one built from scratch with Magento.

Verdict: Draw

Apps and Integrations

Both BigCommerce and Magento have rich ecosystems of applications and integrations that can be implemented in your ecommerce store. Good thing too as merchants, whether they're a start up or small to medium enterprise business, utilise a large number of different systems to power their ecommerce site.

What types of systems? Well these examples of these include Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems like SAP or Oracle, Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) systems like Salesforce, order management systems such Linnworks or Ordoro, and shipping and fulfilment platforms like Shipper HQ. Regardless of whether you use them now or not, its critical to ensure that your choice of ecommerce platform is able to accommodate these in the future as to not hamper growth and allow for successful business operations.

On-premise ecommerce platforms like Magento require you to have resources available to handle the integration of these applications into your site; this may be through an in-house team or part of the agreed scope of development works. An internal team will require someone with a skillset that can understand and utilise the API documentation to create this custom bridge between the platform and the external system.

On-premise often were far easier to link to external solutions than their SaaS counterparts, with Magento being able to connect with ERP systems like SAP and Oracle, but with the proviso that platform vendors typically won’t provide support if it even remotely appears that your integration interfered with the core of the platform. It is for this reason that you should use experienced ecommerce development teams to handle your integration.

It used to be the standard that licensed/on-premise ecommerce platforms like Magento were easier to integrate with other systems like Linnworks, but SaaS platforms like BigCommerce have near enough closed the gap on integrating these functionalities. BigCommerce provides a robust and varied API catalog along with legacy API accounts allow all the necessary hooks to integrate your systems seamlessly. However, just like the licensed ecommerce platforms, these do require either having the right internal team available, or an agency experienced in API works.

Verdict: Draw

Access to Source Code

This is where on-premise solutions like Magento have a significant advantage over BigCommerce and other SaaS platforms - access to the platform's source code. This allows users greater access over the core functionality of the system and gives them full knowledge of the underpinnings of their store.

For example, if you as a business want to understand exactly how all the cookies on the platform work for your privacy policy, or the security policies and systems of their store and hosting, using on-premise solutions allows you a far greater access to information than SaaS platforms can offer. SaaS platforms like BigCommerce tend to keep their securities policies secret to prevent exposure; although BigCommerce enterprise customers can submit requests for some information on these matters.

BigCommerce is closing the gap however with their new BigCommerce for WordPress plugin, one that brings the functionality and resilience of a SaaS platform and populates the WordPress store with product information. This gives you a combination of a bulletproof SaaS system to manage your products, with a CMS with full source code access for greater front-end customisation. This truly headless commerce - a service we already offer - is something we will discuss in more detail in another blog post.

Verdict: +1 for Magento


Whilst Magento won the battle of the source code access, this is not to say that Magento has won the war of security.

Ecommerce companies face an incredible level of scrutiny when it comes to security and compliance. Understandable given the volume of data that flows through these platforms; you’ve got credit and debit card data, user data, etc. that not only passes through the system, but in some instances is logged and retained. Keeping your platform as secured as possible means keeping up with security patches, updates and PCI compliance standards.

Every business, regardless of size, should treat the security of their ecommerce platform and their data as one of their most primary concerns - especially with heavy fines associated with data breaches.

Here's the interesting thing - neither platform is inherently safer. However, the approach to how the security is maintained couldn't be more different between BigCommerce and Magento.

If you using Magento you will need to either have knowledge of cybersecurity standards and a protocol that you can implement to keep the platform up to date, employ skilled members of staff to undertake this for your business, or pay third party specialists a retainer for their services. There will be pressures to ensure that you team rolls out updates in a timely fashion to prevent exploits - such as an exploit from 2017 that left 200,000 Magento stores vulnerable to attack (see DefenseCode’s RCE discovery for more information on this example - “DC-2017-04-003”) - whilst ensuring compatibility with existing integrations, to ensure your store is PCI compliant, and also the consideration to re-platforming to the latest Magento version should your software be in its end of life stage (before the security updates dry up).

PCI compliance is a beast within itself, and an internal team responsible for your business's PCI compliance will include duties such as building & maintaining a secure network for your store, developing policies, analysing large amounts of code, and writing PCI reports frequently. Maybe if you have a large team that's fine, but for businesses that are looking towards being more lean and efficient to consider whether the time and skill to maintain this internally is suitable for your ecommerce business.

So how is a SaaS ecommerce platform like BigCommerce different? Everything in regards to the system updates, maintenance, and PCI compliance are covered for you by BigCommerce. No need for internal teams to cover these matters, no re-platforming issues, and most importantly no extra charges for BigCommerce to handle this. Larger enterprise customers are now looking towards BigCommerce over Magento to take advantage of the no-nonsense security and PCI compliance handled by experts.

Verdict: +1 for BigCommerce

Back-End Scalability

You want your business to be successful, but what happens to your store when the pressures of growing is placed upon it? In order to future-proof your business you need to select a scalable system like BigCommerce or Magento to withstand the increased demands. The difference between these two systems however is the cost, the ease, and the speed to scale your ecommerce back-end.

If you're using Magento it can be quite simple to change your licence as your company expands, such as moving from Magento Community Edition to Enterprise Edition, but the pain points and complications being at provisioning and preparing the underlying server infrastructure to cope with the growth before it affects your site adversely.

How do you know when more resources are needed, or how much of the budget to use for infrastructure purchases like servers for the store and the backups/redundancies? Even the most skilled IT teams speculate when it comes to these decisions, and to properly scale a store built on Magento your IT team must be take these speculative decisions. What about choosing a company to outsource the monitoring of you Magento solutions? This may take the guesswork out of determining when and how to scale by choosing more experienced third-parties, however the costs of scaling your own infrastructure will always exist but with the additional costs of the retainer.

BigCommerce offers major benefits towards increasing the ease of scalability whilst minimising the cost of doing so. Stores on BigCommerce easily handle thousands of orders per day. Say you run a sale event (such as Cyber Weekend sales) that drives unprecedented traffic to your site, BigCommerce ensures that you site has the resources needed to handle the extra demand. As you scale (measured by BigCommerce using your store's turnover) your monthly fees with BigCommerce will also increase. However, because of the scale at BigCommerce operates, the monthly licensing fees are typically a fraction what you’ll pay for adding on-premise servers.

Verdict: +1 for BigCommerce

Time to Market

An important consideration is the time to market (time to launch) when choosing the ecommerce platform for you store. After all, delays to launching your store or re-platforming can result in missed opportunities and sales.

Developing a Magento store takes more than just coding the theme files, extensive reviews will need to be made in regards selecting and building the server backbone, creating or selecting a team to maintain the store, and also the implementing of policies and solutions for security before even starting the design and development process.

With BigCommerce you start at right at the design and development stage. No need to consider software maintenance, PCI compliance, or server infrastructure which reduces the time to market by weeks or even months. On-premise launches typically take about two to four times longer than SaaS launches.

Verdict: +1 for BigCommerce

Final Verdict: BigCommerce 3 - Magento 1

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but instead covers the main issues that store owners (regardless of their size) face when considering entering the world of ecommerce, or by re-platforming from one solution to another. There are plenty of examples where Magento is still a better fit, but from the points mentioned above it is clear to see why anyone who uses or is considering Magento 2 CE or Magento 2 EE to consider BigCommerce instead.

Interested to see how BigCommerce compares to another SaaS platform in Shopify? Then head over to here to find out. Want to download a fact sheet detailing the differences between SaaS and on-premise ecommerce? Then click here to download your free copy; no sign up required.

Interested in a demonstration of BigCommerce with one of our account managers, who will walk you through all aspects of BigCommerce and set up your own test store for you? Click here to book your BigCommerce demo today.