The BigCommerce ecommerce platform has an amazing array of advanced selling features and management tools designed to help startups and small businesses compete at the highest levels. Yet all of this power is surprisingly simple to harness. You can set up a BigCommerce store in just a few hours following our 10 easy steps.
1. Create Your BigCommerce Account
You need to create a BigCommerce account before you can start developing your online store. You don’t have to pay anything to get started. BigCommerce offers a 15-day free trial, no credit card needed, no strings attached. Simply head to BigCommerce.com, and click Start Your Free Trial or Get Started (both take you to the same place):
Next, enter your email and BigCommerce will walk you through a few short steps to set up your account. You’ll create a password, provide your proposed or existing store’s name, and answer a few simple questions about your business. After answering these questions, you’ll be directed to your BigCommerce dashboard where you will learn how to build an ecommerce website and store.
There are several ecommerce software options you can choose from, but experimenting with the BigCommerce platform is totally risk-free. If you decide a BigCommerce online store is right for you, then you can select from several store plans, starting at just $29.95 per month. See all BigCommerce store plans and pricing.
Take a Video Tour of the BigCommerce Platform
Before you proceed with customizing your online store, take a video tour of the platform to familiarize yourself with all it has to offer. You’ll find a wide variety of Getting Started videos in the BigCommerce Help Center.
You can build and launch your store without an in-depth understanding of BigCommerce’s many advanced features. It’s not advised, though, as before long, you will likely need to use them to market your site and increase your sales.
When learning how to set up a BigCommerce store, if you find you have specific questions about any platform feature, check out the store builder’s in-depth tutorials for more information. Finally, you’re never alone with BigCommerce as its support team is available to help you via phone and chat 24/7.
2. Select a Theme for Your Online Store
Once you sign up for your BigCommerce free trial, you’ll immediately see your store’s BigCommerce Dashboard on your screen. This dashboard directs you to all the tools and features you need to develop your online store.
BigCommerce uses themes to control the overall design, look, and feel of your online store. The default theme for your BigCommerce Store is called Cornerstone, which offers a simple yet functional layout that’s suitable for a variety of online shops.
If you want to change your theme, all you have to do is navigate to the Storefront tab on your dashboard, which will direct you to the BigCommerce Theme Marketplace. BigCommerce offers 12 free themes that are suitable for most new online stores. There are also more than 120 premium themes to choose from that are priced between $165 to $250.
Free themes let you change images, colors, typefaces, and customize some store elements, but they don’t provide many optional features to enhance your site such as sidebars or added homepage elements. To create an online store with an upgraded design and added functionality, you may want to consider a paid theme.
If you’re new to working in ecommerce platforms and using themes, it’s wise to set up your store and add at least a few products using a free BigCommerce theme to get the hang of how things work. After you’ve worked within the system a bit and have an idea of how you want your store to look and function, you can explore paid themes to see which one meets your specific selling needs.
You also have the option to upload a custom theme. This is only advised if you have exceptional technical skills as BigCommerce does not provide technical assistance for uploaded themes. The platform cannot add new features to your custom themes, either.
Customize Your Theme
Once you’ve selected your theme, you can customize it at any time. From your home dashboard, simply navigate to Storefront > My Themes and click on the Customize button to begin editing your theme’s appearance.
You can change colors, fonts, payment buttons, and checkout options, as well as the visibility of various elements that appear on your store’s website. BigCommerce also offers helpful theme tutorials in case you need help customizing the look of your store.
3. Add Your Logo & Home Page Carousel Images
Two core elements to add to your theme immediately are your logo and your header images, which are shown in a carousel-style slideshow on BigCommerce. Adding these to your BigCommerce store is simple and straightforward.
Add Your Logo to Your Online Store
From your home dashboard, click on Storefront, which opens a sub-navigation bar that includes a Logo tab. Click on Logo and the Logo Options screen appears.
Once on this screen, decide between using plain text as your logo or adding a custom logo to your site. If you’re uploading a custom logo, make sure you refer to the logo size recommended for your theme. While you’re here, you can also adjust the position of your logo on your online store via the Launch Store Design link.
The Logo Options screen also allows you to add a custom favicon, which is simply a small image or icon that represents your brand in browser tabs. This tiny image should be 32×32 pixels in size. Be sure to save your logo and favicon using the using the Save button in the lower right corner.
Change Your Home Page Carousel Image
Once you add your logo and choose a favicon, it’s time to add your header or primary images to your store, which BigCommerce calls the Home Page Carousel. You do that in the Storefront tab using the Home Page Carousel option. When you navigate to the Home Page Carousel page, you’ll see the following screen that includes two preloaded demo images:
Your first step is to get rid of the demo images by clicking on the red x’s. This gives you a blank slate from which to work. Your screen should now look like the image below:
Your Home Page Carousel is the featured graphics section on your online store and should contain eye-catching images that define your brand and highlight products worthy of special attention. You can insert from one to five slides on your Home Page Carousel.
Most BigCommerce themes use slide images sized at: 1200×600 pixels. Once you have selected images for your Carousel, it’s time to upload them to your store using either the drag and drop editor or upload option.
When adding your images, you may also want to add the following elements to each slide, though none are required:
- Heading: This is typically a one-to-five-word headline that explains the main point you want to make through your image.
- Text: You can offer a short explanation about the image that offers a little more detail than is provided the heading. For easy readability on desktop, laptop, and mobile devices, it’s best to keep this text short—a rule of thumb is no more than eight words.
- Button Text: Adding a button on your image tells your store visitors what to do next such as Learn More, Shop Now or Browse the Collection.
- Link: When a person clicks on an image, you need to direct them to the page that they are interested in viewing, and you do this by adding a link. Obviously, you don’t want to add a link here until the associated category or product page has been created.
Once your images are added, you can use the click and drag feature to rearrange slide order. BigCommerce defaults to a five-second “swap time” for every image in your Carousel but you can change that setting to transition between images more quickly or more slowly.
An advantage to setting up an online store with BigCommerce is that answers to all your specific questions are just a click away. For example, in the upper right corner of the page, there is a link to “Learn more about using the Carousel builder” which will take you to the BigCommerce Help Center. There you’ll find extensive how-to instructions for adding featured images.
When viewing your images and their associated headlines, text, and buttons on the Carousel builder page, you may find that your images look strange. This is because the preview panel on the builder does not use the CSS styling that is incorporated into your theme. If you want to check to see how an image looks on your site, simply navigate to your home dashboard and click the “View Store” link in the upper left corner of your screen.
The best way to make sure you’re comfortable updating your site’s featured images is to experiment by adding different types of photos and illustrations to your Carousel. If you need some inspiration, pay close attention to what your competitors are doing on their stores and be sure to notice the images on the other online stores you visit, too.
You’ll want to keep your website fresh and exciting, which means you’ll likely return to the Home Page Carousel editor periodically to swap out images. That’s why it’s important to make sure you get comfortable with this builder now.
4. Create Product Categories
If you plan a simple store with only a few products, then adding product categories might not be necessary. For most online stores, though, product categories are a must as they help your shop visitors navigate your shop more easily. As a bonus, categories also help Google understand the structure of your site, which means adding categories could help you rank higher on Google.
When using BigCommerce, it’s best to create your product categories before adding products to your shop. That way you can select the proper category as you add each new product. Later, if you find that your original categories are not sufficient for the new products you’re adding, you can always come back and add new categories whenever it’s appropriate.
To begin the process of adding new product categories, click on Products on the navigation column on your home dashboard. Once there, click on Product Categories. When you first open this screen on your store, you’ll see that BigCommerce has added some sample product categories to your demo shop. If the demo store categories match what you sell, keep those that you need and delete the ones you don’t want to use.
To add new categories, simply click on the Create a Category link. When creating a new product category, BigCommerce provides eight fields where you can add information about the new category.
While you don’t have to complete all the fields, there is a handful that you’ll want to complete. At the very least, you need to add a category name (1), category page URL (2), and a description for the category (3) before you continue building your store.
Elements 4 through 8, above, can be added at this stage or later or you may choose to skip some altogether. To learn more about each field, BigCommerce offers an excellent video tutorial that covers each element used on category pages.
5. Add Products to Your BigCommerce Online Store
Once you create your product categories, it’s time to start adding products to your online store. BigCommerce makes this process fairly straightforward, though you may be surprised at how many fields you’ll need to complete to add thorough information about your products to your store.
When adding products, give your shoppers enough information about your products so that they can make informed purchasing decisions. This will help you sell more products. It will also help ensure shoppers are more satisfied with their purchases, which will mean fewer product returns and more favorable product reviews.
To add products to your online store, navigate to the Add Product screen. To do this, click on “Add” on the Products navigation bar on the left side of your screen. Once you do this, you’ll immediately see the Add Product dashboard.
The Add Product dashboard is intuitive, which makes it easy to use. You can easily scroll down the long screen to enter all types of information about each product in your online store, including basic product information, product options, storefront details, and fulfillment details, as well as search engine optimization (SEO) and open graph sharing details.
Make sure when you fill out product fields on the Add Products screen that you always click on the Save button in the lower right corner of the dashboard. If you fail to do this, all of the information you just typed in will be lost.
Add Basic Product Information & Descriptions
You’ll improve sales on your online store by describing your products in detail. Vivid images and videos also improve sales. Add this information one product at a time via the BigCommerce Add Product dashboard.
Here are the available fields on BigCommerce where you can add essential product information:
- Basic information: In addition to adding the product name, you might also want to include its SKU, product type, default price, brand, weight, and product category.
- Product description: You need to write a text-rich description of the product that will help your store visitors understand the product’s core features and benefits.
- Images and videos: Here you can upload or link to multiple images and videos that showcase your product’s features.
- Product identifiers: If you’d like, you can enter more unique product identifiers, including the Universal Product Code (UPC), the Bin Picking Number (BPN), Manufacturer Part Number (MPN), and a Global Trade Number (GTN).
- Pricing: In this section, you’ll enter a default price excluding tax, the tax class for your product, and your tax provider tax code. You can also enter advanced information related to price, including cost, sale price, bulk pricing discounts, and the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP).
- Inventory: BigCommerce allows you to track inventory by entering the amount of stock available initially for the product. It then lets you set a “low stock” amount, which is when BigCommerce will alert you that product stock is getting low.
You don’t have to enter information in all of the product information fields available on BigCommerce. It’s best to consider which fields will help you sell your products. Also, for the best store visitor experience, be consistent in adding the same fields for like products in your online store.
Add Product Options
You may think you’ve covered all the product details you need, but you’re not quite done yet. If you offer product variations or customizations, there are two more fields you’ll need to complete.
The first BigCommerce product option field is called Variations. This field allows you to set multiple variations for your product such as different colors and sizes. The second field is called Customizations, which allows you to enter information required for the customized products you sell such as personalized engravings.
Add Storefront Information
This section on the Add Product dashboard allows you to establish additional information that helps further establish what the customer will see when they visit your online store. Some of these fields may apply to your store, and some may not.
Here are the field options available in the Storefront section of the Add Product dashboard:
- Storefront details: Here you can add information that tells BigCommerce how high you want the item to appear on your Storefront. You can also add product availability information—such as, ships within 24 hours—as well as keywords that shoppers may be using in their search.
- Custom fields: If you offer products that require description fields not offered in the standard BigCommerce Product dashboard, you can create a custom field here.
- Related products: You may want to link some products with other related products on your site. You can do that in this field.
Again, some of these fields may not apply to the products you’re adding to your store. If they don’t apply simply leave the field blank.
Add Product Fulfillment Information
When operating an ecommerce business, you can’t just be concerned with which products to add to your store and how to describe them. You also need to think about how to ensure that ordered products actually reach the buyers after a purchase is made. The BigCommerce Add Products dashboard also contains information fields that can be helpful in fulfilling product orders.
Here are the fields related to product fulfillment:
- Dimensions and weight: Here you’ll add product weight in ounces, height, width, and depth of your product.
- Shipping details: This field lets you enter a fixed shipping price. You can also choose a free shipping option here, too, if you prefer.
- Purchasability: Most products in your shop should be available for immediate purchase. Others may not be available yet but are coming soon, so you may want to take pre-orders. You can set options for both scenarios using this field.
- Gift wrapping: BigCommerce allows you to offer gift wrapping options at the product level, which means you can offer wrapping for some products and not for others.
BigCommerce does not provide product fulfillment services. Still, its flexible and thorough dashboard options certainly aids in the product fulfillment process.
Add SEO & Open Graph Sharing Information
Last but certainly not least, the BigCommerce Add Product dashboard helps you generate organic traffic to your online store by providing SEO fields—including customizable page titles and meta descriptions—at the product level. BigCommerce also allows you to establish open graph sharing, which gives you control over what shows up when someone shares your product page on social media and other channels.
6. Create Your Store Information Pages
You’ll want to create a few store information pages to communicate details about your brand to customers and answer common questions upfront. Having a good set of store information pages will save loads of time answering customer emails and phone calls.
BigCommerce makes this easy by providing customizable pages for your store through its Web Pages dashboard. If you’re ever at a loss for how to set up a new webpage for your store, refer to the BigCommerce webpage setup tutorials. They’re packed with detailed how-to information explained in jargon-free terminology.
To access the Web Pages section, go to your home Dashboard and then select Storefront > Web Pages. This screen will appear:
Specific Pages Your Online Store Needs
BigCommerce automatically sets up Shipping & Returns and Contact Us pages. It also offers a built-in blog, which you can choose to develop or disable.
The four web pages you need to have on your website include:
- Shipping & Returns: Change the details on this demo page to add your store’s shipping and return information, including shipping options, rates, and expected delivery times, return instructions, and refund policies.
- Contact Us: Replace the demo content on this page with your contact information and other pertinent information such as your hours of operation.
- About Us: Many customers like to know more about a company before doing business with it, so it’s wise to create a new webpage that provides more information about you and your store.
While most online stores need the four pages above, many offer additional web pages on their site. For example, buyer’s stories and case studies often make for great online store content.
How to Set Up Web Pages for Your Online Store
BigCommerce makes editing demo pages and creating new web pages simple and straightforward. The process for editing and creating pages on your shop is the same for all types of pages.
The example in the image above is for a Shipping & Returns page. There are fewer elements on this page compared to a product page and you can see that BigCommerce has done much of the work for you. There are six key areas to pay close attention to when developing or editing a webpage.
Here are the six sections you’ll want to complete:
- Page Type (1): You’re given five different options here, as you can link content to this page from various sources. In most cases, you’ll want to check the first option, which is “This page will contain content created using the WYSIWYG editor below” (which stands for “what you see is what you get”).
- Page Name (2): Simply fill in what you want to name the page. In this example, we’re editing the Shipping & Returns page.
- Page URL (3): Keep this simple and focused on appropriate keywords for the page.
- Page Content (4): This is where you get the opportunity to add page content. The BigCommerce Editor allows you to format your content in a manner quite similar to the Microsoft Word editor.
- Navigation Menu Options (5): Choose whether you want to include this page on your website navigation menu. Remember that your space for your primary navigation menu is limited, so links to some web pages would be more appropriate in the site’s footer.
- Advanced Options (6): Here you have the ability to add SEO content such as search keywords and a meta description for your page, as well as choose from a few special settings that determine when and how this webpage is to be viewed.
Notice the small words and buttons in the lower right corner; they’re amplified below so you can get a closer look at what they say. When creating new web pages, you must remember to save your work.
When editing or creating web pages, BigCommerce gives you the option to Cancel, Save & Exist, or Save & Keep Editing. If you’re spending a lot of time creating your web pages, it’s best to hit the Save & Keep Editing button every few minutes; this ensures you never lose your work.
Example Webpage: Shipping & Returns
So you can get a sense of what a webpage looks like after you’ve gone through the setup process, we’ve created an example Shipping & Return Page (see below). As you can see, the BigCommerce Web Page editor allows you to use simple text editing features such as font size variety, bold type, and text centering. This lets you to create simple yet effective webpages that are easy for your visitors to read.
7. Set Up Your Store Navigation
Your basic store setup is nearly complete. Now it’s time to review your navigation menu and decide if you want to make changes. Do this by returning to your theme. Recall that you can access your theme from the Storefront option on your home dashboard. Once you select Storefront, click on My Themes. Select Customize to begin the theme customization process, which includes navigation editing.
The categories you added to your store will appear in your primary navigation menu. The web pages that you selected to appear in your menu will also automatically appear in your main navigation.
If you prefer that these pages not show up in your main menu, you can click on the Visibility option on your Theme navigation and deselect web pages. Once again, save your work after making any changes; on this screen, you’ll find the Save button in the upper right corner.
Sometimes you’ll want some webpages to show in your main navigation menu and others to show up elsewhere on your store—such as in your footer. The only webpages that will show up in your default navigation bar are those that you selected to appear there back when you created your webpages.
If something is appearing in your header that you don’t want there, return to your Web Pages dashboard (Home > Storefront > Web Pages). Click on the page that you don’t want to appear in your navigation menu and scroll down to the Navigation Menu Options. Then, deselect “Yes, show this web page on the navigation menu” and save your changes.
You can also add up to six social media links to your online store. To do this, go back to the Storefront option on your dashboard and navigate to Social Media Links. Next, add your specific social media links to each network profile that you want to promote on your store. Then, drag and drop your links to the Live on Your Storefront section of the screen. Save your work so the social media icons appear on your website.
With this step completed, you have a fully navigable, working website that includes categories, products, and needed contact and customer service information. As you can see, it takes just a few hours to go from nothing to having an online store that’s nearly ready to launch.
8. Set Up Your Shipping Rates & Methods
Access the BigCommerce Shipping Manager from your home dashboard under Store Setup > Shipping. BigCommerce gives you lots of options when it comes to shipping, so it’s best to watch their shipping video tutorial before setting up this feature for your store so you fully understand the best shipping solutions for you.
Once you navigate to the Shipping screen, it’s time to enter basic details about where you plan to ship your products from. If you’re just starting out in business, this may be your home address. If you have a business warehouse or brick-and-mortar store, you may choose to ship from there. You may also want to ship directly from a fulfillment company.
Next, navigate to Set Up Services. Here, you’ll get a few shipping choices, including B Shipping, which is free for BigCommerce merchants and is powered by ShipHawk and ParcelCast. ShipStation is another shipping service BigCommerce recommends; a 60-day free trial is available for all BigCommerce merchants.
There are several more shipping partners that work well with the BigCommerce platform. You are free to select from one of these options, or just click on skip setup if you plan to handle product shipping another way. You can always print USPS shipping labels directly from within BigCommerce and take care of shipping yourself.
BigCommerce defaults to United States as your shipping zone. You can add additional shipping zones on the final screen of the Shipping Manager dashboard, under Checkout Shipping Options.
The next step in setting up shipping for your online store involves establishing specific options by shipping zone. To begin this process, select the Configure button next to the United States shipping zone to create your exact shipping settings. When you do this, the following screen will appear:
This shipping screen allows you to set various shipping parameters for the United States. You can add both static shipping quotes and real-time shipping quote options for your customers. Note that if you plan on shipping to multiple countries, you’ll need to repeat this step for every shipping zone you service.
Here are the types of static shipping quotes you can add:
- Free shipping: BigCommerce allows you to offer free shipping on all products or just on products over a certain dollar amount.
- Flat-rate shipping: You can offer flat-rate shipping on entire orders or per item within an order.
- Ship by weight or total order: You can also set shipping rate ranges based on total order weight.
- Pickup in store: If you also have a brick-and-mortar store, you can create an option where customers can order products online and then pick them up in your store.
Though less common, you could also offer real-time shipping quotes on your online store. To do this, you need to connect your store to popular shipping carriers, including FedEx, UPS, and the USPS.
Once you’ve set up your shipping details, it’s time to move on to the next critical step, which is establishing a method for customers to pay you.
9. Set Up Your Payment Methods
To set up your store’s payment options, navigate from your home dashboard to Store Setup and then to Payments. There, you’ll find a number of different ways to collect payments from your customers.
BigCommerce gives you lots of options for accepting payments. For your convenience, if you don’t already use an existing payment provider or merchant account, BigCommerce offers a built-in payment processor—PayPal powered by Braintree— that’s already set up for you. You don’t have to choose this payment processing option, though.
Here are the most popular options for accepting payments for your BigCommerce online store:
- Popular payment gateways: Sign up for a Square, PayPal, or Stripe account and link your payment gateway of choice to your online store.
- Merchant service accounts: Set up a merchant service account, for example Chase Merchant Services, to collect payments.
- Digital wallet solutions: You can link your online store to Visa Checkout, Apple Pay, Chase Pay, Google Pay, and Masterpass.
- Offline payment solutions: BigCommerce will also let you set up less common offline payment options such as money order, c.o.d., or pay in-store for items that customers pick up at your physical store.
BigCommerce’s default payment collection solution is PayPal powered by Braintree. If you already use Square or another merchant processor to accept payments for another venture, you can use them for your BigCommerce store, too. Simply click “no thanks” to deactivate BigCommerce’s default option. Then, scroll down the page to set up the payment processing options that work best for you.
10. Add Finishing Touches & Launch Your Store
You are now moments away from launching your store. Before you announce that you’re open for business, there are a few more minor yet important tasks that need to be done. The first is setting up your store profile and the second is setting up tax rules for your store. Finally, you’ll want to preview your store one more time before launching it.
Set Up Your Store Profile
Head to your home dashboard and click on Store Setup one more time. Then, click on Store Profile and enter basic information about your store, including its name, address, and the email and phone numbers that you want to post on your site so customers can contact you. This contact information will automatically appear in the footer on your store.
Create Your Sales Tax Settings
The default tax setting on BigCommerce is Manual Tax, which can be edited at any time. Sales taxes can get complicated, so it is highly recommended that you consult with an accountant to get a clear understanding of your obligations regarding collecting sales taxes. It’s also wise to visit the BigCommerce Help Center to view tutorials on manual tax setup.
Preview Your Store One Last Time
Before you announce to the world that you’re open for business, conduct one last thorough review of your online store to make sure that it looks the way you want it to look and says exactly what you want it to say. To do this, simply navigate back to your homepage and click on View Store to see your live BigCommerce store.
You may also want to enlist help to preview your store, as at this point, you’re probably so familiar with your website that you might have trouble catching errors. Plus, it’s always good to get others’ opinions. On your home dashboard, BigCommerce provides store preview instructions and a preview code so that you and others can view your store before it launches.
Launch Your Online Store
After you’ve completed all the steps outlined here, you’re ready to launch your store. Before your site goes live, though, you’ll need to upgrade your trial to activate your store. Access this from your home dashboard by clicking the Upgrade Your Trial button.
There are four plans available through BigCommerce. The features for BigCommerce plans vary somewhat, so before making a purchase decision, be sure to review the details BigCommerce provides about each plan.
One key difference among the various plans is the total sales volume you are allowed for each plan. The more sales your online store generates, the more you’ll need to pay for your BigCommerce plan. All BigCommerce plans are competitively priced, though, so you never have to worry about paying too much for your online store.
Here are the sales limits for each BigCommerce plan:
- BigCommerce Standard Plan: Sales up to $50,000 per year
- BigCommerce Plus Plan: Sales up to $150,000 per year
- BigCommerce Pro Plan: Sales up to $400,000 per year
- BigCommerce Enterprise Pan: Best for sites that sell over $400,000 per year
You can always start with the Standard Plan and upgrade as your needs evolve. In fact, that’s how most online store owners launch new sites.
As you can see, it’s relatively easy to set up a BigCommerce store. The dashboard is intuitive and the online store editor is simple and straightforward to use. There are more than 100 themes available so you’re certain to find one that will work well for your online store, no matter what you plan to sell. The BigCommerce platform gives you everything you need to create and launch a stunning website in no time at all.
While we’ve focused on the setup process here, BigCommerce will also help you track sales, list products on sales channels like Amazon, eBay, and Facebook, and manage your product orders efficiently. It truly is a complete online store solution. Sign up for your free 15-day trial at BigCommerce.com.