When you are first jumping into the world of eCommerce, you want to make sure that you start off strong, on a reliable and powerful platform that has a wide range of features that will enable you to connect with your customers and sell your products effectively.
BigCommerce is one of the most widely used eCommerce platforms for all of these reasons and more. If you have been considering where to launch your online store, there are numerous reasons why this incredible platform should be right at the top of your list. BigCommerce will allow you to create a beautiful eCommerce store that has all of the functionality that your customers expect while providing you with sophisticated marketing analytics and apps that will give you the edge you need.
This guide will cover all of the basics you need to know in order to get started on BigCommerce so you can get your online store up and running, including how to create your account, how to select the right theme from the Theme Marketplace, and how to launch your first product. We will also cover all of the advantages that BigCommerce provides so you can better understand what to expect and make your decision if you are still on the fence about where to begin your eCommerce journey.
What Makes BigCommerce Different From Other Platforms?
The world of eCommerce has certainly grown in recent years, and that only means that there are more platforms to start on than ever before. With fierce competition a given in the industry, and the fact that all of these different platforms are offering various incentives to get people to invest in them, what actually makes BigCommerce stand out from the rest of the competition?
It’s important to be acquainted with all of the major benefits of BigCommerce so that you can make the most informed decision possible when it comes to selecting a platform that’s right for you, as well as being able to take advantage of those features once you are starting the process of building your online presence. When it comes to eCommerce platforms, many of them offer the same exact kinds of features merely repacked into different categories and apps. You want to dig a bit deeper and really analyze the unique features of the platform you are choosing in order to judge if it is the best path forward.
With that being said, there are several reasons why BigCommerce is different than most other platforms and why it stands on its own as a giant in the world of eCommerce. By understanding and familiarizing yourself with these various features and benefits you will see why it is the go-to choice for a growing number of merchants.
One of BigCommerce’s standout features is its high degree of user-friendliness. It has an intuitive dashboard that’s easy to navigate, which means you won’t have to waste time learning a complex new system and you will have no problem accessing what you need in only a couple clicks.
There are a lot of moving pieces when it comes to running an online store, so having a platform that makes your job easier is certainly what you want to aim for. Between managing inventory, making sure your website is providing a great user experience, uploading new product images to your website, changing out discount codes, and dealing with customer service issues, you’re going to have enough on your plate as it is.
BigCommerce takes much of these hassles of running an eCommerce store away by providing you with a truly efficient and easy to grasp platform. From the dashboard, you can easily access your store analytics, your products, promotions, installed apps, past and present orders, and more, with zero clutter and confusion.
As far as BigCommerce’s benefits are concerned, this is one of the greatest aspects of the platform, especially when you consider how confusing some of the other common eCommerce platforms can be. BigCommerce has clearly invested a great deal of time into their UI and has simplified the job of managing your online store to such a degree that it only takes a quick overview to locate all of the core features. This means you can immediately jump right into creating a beautiful store as soon as you sign up, with little in the way of a learning curve.
For business owners searching for a true eCommerce solution that covers a wide range of functionality without feeling overwhelming or confusing, BigCommerce has exactly what you’re looking for.
Optimized Inventory and Return Management
Managing inventory is a massive aspect of running an eCommerce business, and in order to do it properly, you need a reliable and efficient backend system. BigCommerce excels in this area, giving store owners plenty of options at their disposal to view their stock, control order quantities, tracking, batch orders, and a litany of other helpful options.
Not only is inventory management a critical area of concern for store owners, being able to manage your returns is equally necessary. BigCommerce makes it easy for your customers to make returns if the situation calls for it while giving you the proper information and control to ensure that your inventory is managed accordingly.
A lack of a structured inventory management system is one of the drawbacks of other, less professional platforms. You do not want to manually conduct inventory management or cobble together your own way of keeping track of such things. If you intend to scale and grow as a business, you need a proper way to track what products are in stock and all of the various transactions and sales associated with your inventory.
Compared to the costs typically associated with starting up an eCommerce store, BigCommerce is quite affordable. You can get started on the platform for as little as $29.95 a month, and the rest of the BigCommerce pricing tiers are comparably affordable as well. Even their most basic plan gives you a comprehensive suite of features with which to work with, as well as top tier support.
This is a notable benefit of the platform because, with all of the other upfront costs of starting a business, online or otherwise, you don’t want to be saddled with anything too egregious. The modest cost of BigCommerce’s plans gives store owners the freedom to invest in inventory and other aspects of their initial startup costs without being worried about how to pay to keep their website up and running.
For larger eCommerce stores, BigCommerce also offers an enterprise-level plan which is different per your specific needs but provides an even higher degree of flexibility and functionality, such as unlimited API calls and additional support. Compared to other platforms in the industry, BigCommerce’s enterprise tier is also quite affordable given the degree of functionality that comes with it.
Customer Loyalty Features
Customer retention and community-building are essential to the health of any eCommerce store. These days, it’s not nearly enough to simply start up a website and host a few products. If you want to separate yourself from the competition, you need to leverage every advantage possible, and one of the most reliable methods of going about this is to build a following.
Building a dedicated following that pays attention to your brand, hinges on your advice, and will come to you time and time again to purchase what they need is no small order. It takes solid and consistent branding, a highly optimized website that always meets the user’s needs, incredible customer service, and an awareness of the various customer retention tactics.
For example, gift cards are a perfect example of one way eCommerce stores keep their customers coming back for more. BigCommerce allows you to create coupon codes and gift card functions with ease, and even put together entire customer loyalty programs by coordinating discounts, various rewards, exclusive access to special offers and products, as well as free products and custom coupons.
This kind of functionality is a game-changer because it expands the scope of your eCommerce business by several orders of magnitude beyond simply hosting products on a website or creating a sales funnel. These extra efforts engage your customers and help draw them into your brand, establishing a relationship and ultimately driving far more sales that are not just based off of need, but off of trust.
Creating Your BigCommerce Account
The actual process of creating your BigCommerce account couldn’t be easier, although it differs somewhat from the way you’re probably used to signing up for online services. To begin, simply navigate to BigCommerce’s homepage and click the tab at the top labeled “Essentials.” From there, you will be brought to a screen that looks like this:
If you click the “Get Started” button, you will be prompted to provide an email as well as minute details about your business. These are cursory bits of information that can be changed at a later time and are only used to give some substance to the account you are creating. It only takes a few minutes to fill all of this information out, and once you do, you will be sent an email that includes your credentials and a link that will take you directly to your dashboard.
Once you have created your account and are inside of the dashboard, you will want to take a look around and familiarize yourself with all of the primary features BigCommerce offers, which can be accessed from the left-side navigation panel.
Before you forget, you want to make sure you head over to the Store Setup area and take care of all the preliminary steps your store needs in order to properly function, such as filling out important tax information and establishing your accepted payments.
You also want to pay attention to the Advanced Settings and Server Settings options, which each have several options that are important to the functionality of your store. To truly get the most out of the platform you want to make sure that you methodically go through all of the various options on the Dashboard and fill out all relevant information. While you don’t need to do this immediately, certain aspects of your store cannot function properly without taking this necessary step.
Selecting The Right Theme For Your Business
When launching any kind of website, regardless of whether or not it’s for eCommerce, it’s crucial to craft the proper aesthetic. Online, visual communication is everything, and if you get it wrong, your website will send improper signals to your visitors. This won’t translate well in terms of conversions, and ultimately your store will flounder.
Every industry and niche has certain design conventions you want to be aware of. If you are a clothing retailer specializing in designer handbags, you probably don’t want to use large slab fonts or industrial imagery. Likewise, if you are selling electric guitars, you might want to avoid choosing a theme suited for kids’ toys or yoga supplies.
While you may like a certain design of a theme, your first and only concern in this area should be your customers. What is the message you are trying to deliver to the visitors to your site and how will you go about convincing them to click on your products and hitting that “buy” button? Messaging is extremely important, which is why you want to know how to find a theme that suits your needs.
BigCommerce makes selecting a theme effortless. From your dashboard, all you have to do is click on the Storefront option, which will allow you to see the theme you currently have installed and which will open up a variety of other options for you to peruse. Select “Theme Marketplace” and you will be given a variety of popular choices that you can narrow down per industry. You can also filter themes by whether they are free or not.
Installing a theme is just as simple. Once you find the theme you prefer, all you have to do is click on it, which will bring you to a new screen where you may either choose to preview it on your store or add it by choosing the “Add Theme” button. You will be asked whether or not you want to apply the changes, and if you agree, your store will be updated accordingly.
As with any major change you make on your website, choosing a new theme will ultimately shift certain design elements around and may cause conflicts depending on what you have already worked on. However, you can change your theme any time and do so as many times as you like to get the best “feel” for what you want to go forward with.
Depending on your niche or specific requirements, you may ultimately want to consider custom development for your BigCommerce website design, because while they do supply a plethora of great themes, there’s always going to be cases where you wish you could create a certain kind of look or kind of functionality for your store. Here at 1Digital®, we excel at providing high-level custom development options for BigCommerce, so if you are interested in using this platform as a starting point toward a fully unique experience, this is also an option that’s available for you.
Creating Your First Product
Launching your products on BigCommerce couldn’t be easier. They have streamlined the process of product management and make the process of viewing, adding, or importing products intuitive and efficient. To begin, simply navigate to the appropriate area by clicking the “Products” option on the left side panel. If you click on the “Add” option from here, you will be taken to the product creation screen, shown below.
Creating a product is as easy as giving it a name, price, and adding it to a particular category. You want to be sure to fill out all appropriate information and don’t skimp on the title or description. Regardless of the size of your store, you should take the time to make sure that each of your product descriptions and titles is optimized for SEO, otherwise, it is unlikely that these items will be picked up on search engines. Include the right keywords in all relevant areas and make sure your descriptions are readable and full of useful information. The better your store serves your customers, the longer they will stay on your pages and the higher likelihood that they will convert.
BigCommerce gives you an array of detailed product options such as weight, special pricing conditions, variants, and a host of other important fields that will allow you to fine-tune your product to the exact specifications you want. When you are first creating your store and adding a few products, you don’t necessarily need to take advantage of each and every option, but it’s important to know that they are there if you need them.
Once you have the details of your product the way you want, it’s time to add some photos and videos. Visual media is critical in eCommerce, so you want to make sure that you upload high-quality photos and engaging videos if you have them. At the very least, you want to include two to three crisp photos that clearly show off the best and most important qualities of your product.
Providing media is an immediate way to make your products stand out and also give the search engines something to chew on. As a general rule, make sure your photo files are clearly labeled with the same keywords and product titles as the ones you are using on the page itself, and keep them at an appropriate size. Too big and they will needlessly slow down your page, too small and they will appear unprofessional and untrustworthy.
Putting this much attention into all of the products in your store is essential if you want to have a realistic chance at ranking against your competitors. Online shoppers are becoming savvier and better attuned to what to look for in a quality eCommerce experience, and that means having an authoritative website that looks the part.
If you are satisfied with the state of your new product, you can simply hit the “Save” button on the bottom right corner of your screen to add this product to your listings. Your new product will automatically populate in the appropriate areas of your storefront. You can repeat the process however many times you like until your online store’s inventory is where you want it.
Adjusting Your Storefront and Finishing Touches
To change certain details of your storefront, including the homepage carousel images or other aspects of the homepage, navigation, and other links, click the “Storefront” option from the lefthand sidebar. Here you can upload your business’s logo and favicon, add or delete pages, change the look of your homepage, or install custom scripts.
Be mindful of the various SEO features that BigCommerce offers you, such as custom page URLs and meta descriptions. Filling out all of this information for each page is necessary, as it provides vital information to search engines as well as for users if they spot your website in the SERPs.
This is also the area of your Dashboard where you can put together and manage your blogs. While you may not necessarily have taken blogging into account when you first decided to open an online store, you should definitely carve out some time to write informative and entertaining blog articles every so often for the benefit of your customers as well as the search engines. Google is on the lookout for high-quality content that is as up-to-date as possible.
You will notice that the BigCommerce Storefront Dashboard makes it as easy as possible to access your pages, change your content, make updates, and cover all aspects of managing your store. This is by design and is one of the reasons why BigCommerce is the preferred platform for so many store owners. They break down the complexities of running an eCommerce business so everything is far more digestible and manageable.
As you fill in all of the details of your store and create pages, upload photos, and add products, make sure you are frequently previewing your site so you can spot errors, and saving where appropriate so you don’t lose any work. In no time you will have a fully functional, professional-looking eCommerce website up and running.
Taking Your BigCommerce Store to the Next Level
While BigCommerce offers a low barrier of entry and an impressive suite of features that will allow you to get your business off the ground, it’s not always easy to launch and manage an online store on your own. Whether you are in need of a custom homepage, attractive mega-menu, or a comprehensive SEO strategy that will get your store ranking on page 1, you may want to consider investing in a professional agency that specializes in BigCommerce SEO and development.
We are BigCommerce Elite Partners that have a thorough grasp on the platform and understand what it takes to develop a superior eCommerce experience. Our team of seasoned eCommerce experts can tackle all facets of your online business, including high-level custom development, migration, and digital marketing. 1Digital® specializes in creating beautiful BigCommerce website designs that not only look on-brand but are incredibly functional and optimized as well.
If you are interested in getting the most out of BigCommerce and truly making a statement online, get in touch with our team today and we will help you design an impactful store and coordinate your marketing efforts until you get the results you are looking for.
Are you ready to jump into BigCommerce and experience everything this powerful eCommerce platform has to offer? You can join BigCommerce FREE for 3 months by clicking this link. (This is an affiliate link and we may receive a referral commission for any purchases made through it, without any extra cost to you.)
- Matt Lovett
- July 7, 2020