The BigCommerce ecommerce platform has a robust set of advanced selling features and management tools designed to help startups and small businesses compete at the highest levels. And, all of that power is surprisingly simple to harness. You can learn how to quickly set up a BigCommerce store by following our 10 easy steps.
BigCommerce offers a 15-day free trial, with no credit card needed and no strings attached. Use the trial to set up your online store. However, you’ll need to sign up for a paid plan in order to launch your store.
1. Sign Up for a BigCommerce Account
You need to create a BigCommerce account before you start developing your online store.
After you have signed up, you will be taken to your dashboard where you can see an outline of recommended steps to launch your online store.
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.
Add Users If Needed
If you will be working with others to build your store, it is recommended that you set them up as additional users.
Set Up Your Store Profile
The Store Profile is where your basic store information is entered, like your store name, country, and contact information. You can do this by going to Store Set Up > Store Profile.
If you have specific questions about any platform feature, check out the store builder’s in-depth tutorials for more information. BigCommerce also has its support team available to help you via phone and chat 24/7.
2. Create Product Categories
For online stores, product categories are a must as they help visitors navigate your shop 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.
While it may not seem intuitive to create your product categories before you’ve created your products, we recommend doing this step first since your products have to be assigned to a category at creation. That way, you can select the proper category as you add each new product.
To begin the process of adding new product categories, click on Products on your control panel. Then, click on Product Categories. You’ll see that BigCommerce has added some sample product categories to your demo shop by default. If the demo store categories match what you sell, keep those you need and delete those you don’t.
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 are 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 can be added at this stage or later—or you may choose to skip some altogether.
3. Add Products to Your BigCommerce Store
Once you create your product categories, it’s time to start adding products to your online store. You may be surprised and overwhelmed at first with how many fields you’ll need to complete to add thorough information about your products, but don’t fret—BigCommerce makes this process simple.
A Shortcut: Importing Products via CSV File: Use a CSV file to create your products and categories, including product details, stock levels, descriptions, and even images, and import them into your store. This is ideal for businesses that already have product lists from a POS system, supplier, or other ecommerce platform.
To manually add products to your online store, navigate to the Add Product screen by clicking on “Add” on the Products navigation bar on the left side of your screen; you’ll immediately see the Add Product dashboard. Within the dashboard, you’ll see five main categories to enter: product information, product options, storefront settings, fulfillment, and SEO.
Make sure that when you fill out product fields on the Add Products screen, 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 will be lost.
On the left-hand side of the “Add Product” screen, you’ll see a menu of different product information to enter. Here are the available fields for 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), Bin Picking Number (BPN), Manufacturer Part Number (MPN), and 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 wholesale cost, sale price, bulk pricing discounts, and 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 and hide or disable purchasing of a product when it runs out. To enable inventory tracking, go to your control panel, click on Advanced Settings > Inventory.
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 similar products in your online store.
If you offer product variations or customizations, there are two more fields you’ll need to complete.
If your product has variants (different versions/SKUs of the same product) or modifiers (such as optional customizations or add-ons), you can add those into the Product Options section as Variations and Customizations.
If your products have shared variant options, you can easily set this up by going into Product options in your control panel. These variants can be assigned to multiple products so you save more time.
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 available 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.
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 the 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 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 aid in the product fulfillment process.
Lastly, 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.
4. Configure Back-Office Settings
Set Up Your Payment Methods
To set up your store’s payment options, navigate from your control panel to Store Setup and then to Payments. There, you’ll find a number of different ways to collect payments from your customers.
For your convenience, if you don’t already use an existing payment provider or merchant account, BigCommerce offers a default 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; just click “no thanks” and scroll down the page to set up the payment processing option that works best for you.
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, like 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, cash on delivery, or in-store pay for items that customers pick up at your physical 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.
Remember that unless you have set up multicurrency in the control panel, your store transactions will be based on your store’s default currency, which is determined by your billing address.
Selling in multiple currencies? Read a comprehensive guide from BigCommerce on how to set this up.
5. Set Up Your Shipping Rates and Methods
Access the BigCommerce Shipping Manager from your control panel under Store Setup > Shipping. BigCommerce gives you lots of options when it comes to shipping, so it’s best to watch its shipping video tutorial before setting up this feature so that 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 BigCommerce 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 other shipping partners that work well with the BigCommerce platform. You are free to select from one of those 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.
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. When you do this, the following screen will appear, where you can set various shipping parameters for the United States, including static and real-time shipping quote options for your customers:
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.
6. Design Your 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.
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 in 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.
Once you’ve selected your theme, you can customize it at any time. From your control panel, simply navigate to Storefront > My Themes and click on the Customize button to begin editing your theme’s appearance.
Add Your Logo and Homepage 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.
Upload Your Logo
From your control panel, click on Storefront, which opens a sub-navigation bar that includes a Logo tab. Click on Logo, and the Logo Options screen will appear.
Change Your Carousel Images
Once you add your logo and favicon, it’s time to add your header or primary images to your store, which BigCommerce calls the Home Page Carousel. 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.
To change your carousel images, go to the Storefront tab from your control panel and choose Home Page Carousel. When you navigate to the Home Page Carousel page, you’ll see the following screen that includes two preloaded demo images:
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 add a short explanation about the image that offers a little more detail than is provided in 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.
If you have specific questions about a step, BigCommerce provides answers in just a few clicks. 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 in their stores and be sure to notice the images on the other online stores you visit,too.
7. 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 up front. 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. To access the Web Pages section, go to your control panel and then select Storefront > Web Pages. This screen will appear:
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.
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.
The process for editing and creating pages in your shop is the same for all types of pages.
There are six key areas to pay close attention to when developing or editing a webpage.
Here are the sections you’ll want to complete:
- Page Type: 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: Simply fill in what you want to name the page. In this example, we’re editing the Shipping & Returns page.
- Page URL: Keep this simple and focused on appropriate keywords for the page.
- Page Content: 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: 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: 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 that 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.
8. 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.
Add Menu Pages
You can add menu pages by returning to your theme. Recall that you can access your theme from the Storefront option on your control panel. 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 web pages to show in your main navigation menu and others to show up elsewhere in your store—such as in your footer. The only web pages that will show up in your default navigation bar are those that you selected to appear there back when you created your web pages.
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.
Add Social Media Links
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 control panel 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.
9. Preview Your Store
Before you announce that you’re open for business, conduct a 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 control panel 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 dashboard, BigCommerce provides store preview instructions and a preview code so that you and others can view your store before it launches.
10. 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, so before making a purchase decision, be sure to review the details BigCommerce provides about each plan.
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. Read our BigCommerce review for more details on pricing and features.
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 quickly.
Sign up for your free 15-day trial at BigCommerce.com.