Bigcommerce Price Hikes Outrage Users

Late last year, e-commerce platform Bigcommerce quietly announced a new pricing model, which it started rolling out to users in January. The announcement was made via a statement by new CEO Brent Bellm over the company’s private forum.

The announcement caused consternation among many Bigcommerce (BC) users, with many long-term customers reporting outrageous price increases. Together with the price hikes, former and existing BC users have reported appalling customer service, a lack of pricing transparency, severe censoring of forum discussions, and the feeling that the company is actively looking to shed unprofitable users.

At least one user commenting on Whirlpool’s forum has warned others that BC “is not afraid to shut down stores” as a result of forum and social media activity that is critical of the company, its board and the new policies.

One source has also accused the company of price gouging ahead of the company’s proposed IPO in 2016.

Details about the new pricing structure and BC’s treatment of customers have largely gone under the radar for a few reasons. Firstly, the pricing changes were quietly announced through the company’s user-only forum, which requires a user login to view. Secondly, BC appears to have provided little information in response to users’ queries for further explanation and detail regarding the new pricing structures. Thirdly, BC has reportedly been censoring its internal forum to remove some of the more critical posts. Finally, and most troubling, many current BC users have been unwilling to voice their frustration because of concerns that it will affect their businesses.

To find out more, Power Retail contacted several BC users for comment. Some were unwilling to speak for fear of damage to their businesses, with one source stating “they [BC] can kill my shops if they feel like it.”

However, one BC user did agree to go on record about the price changes and the ensuing furore. This source, known as Jay, requested that we not use his real name as his business still relies on the BC platform, although he is in the process of moving to another platform.

Jay has been a Bigcommerce customer since 2011.

“Bigcommerce has been a good platform for the price we were paying, and if they had implemented a reasonable increase we would have accepted that. However, tripling our monthly fees without giving us a single thing in return is not acceptable,” he told Power Retail.

Changes to pricing

Before turning to the user concerns, it’s worth letting BC explain the rationale behind the changes to its pricing structure.

A BC spokesperson told Power Retail: “After several months in development and receiving valuable feedback from hundreds of merchants and partners, Bigcommerce is moving to a new pricing model that aligns merchant success with our success. The new model, in which pricing is set based on a trailing-12-month order count or online sales volume, allows us to provide plans and pricing that automatically adjusts as merchants grow, so that all merchants receive the features and service appropriate for their size.

“It’s also worth nothing that, as part of these changes, roughly 80 percent of Bigcommerce merchants will see no change, or a decrease, in their monthly fee. Also, transaction fees have been eliminated for all plan types.”

According to the a CEO statement originally posted on the company forum, the changes to the pricing structure are because “historical Bigcommerce plans had no mechanism to adjust for merchant growth.

“As a result, some small clients that started on Bigcommerce’s standard $30 per month plan are now filling tens of thousands of orders per month.

“Bigcommerce loses a lot of money serving these merchants because the pure cost of page loads, server calls, and customer service dwarfs the monthly fees collected,” the company stated.

“Some of our most successful merchants cost us tens of thousands of dollars per year to serve.

“The fixed nature of all current contracts means that every merchant becomes less profitable to Bigcommerce as it becomes more successful, and the most successful are subsidised by the least.”

(The full CEO statements are available on the Flying Solo forum.)

“The pricing change appears to be a response to a problem with the prior business model, in which it was attempted to upsell ‘value-added’ features,” one user stated on the company forum. “The enhanced features are of little to no real (dollar) value, yet are the justification for the mammoth price increase.”

While the new pricing structure has outraged many users, it’s not so much the price hikes as the way they have been communicated (or in many cases, not communicated) that has really raised the ire of users.

User response

Since announcing the pricing restructure, BC has faced a deluge of negative feedback on its internal forum, which has spilled over to external forums like Whirlpool and Flying Solo, as well as onto social media.

Reports of price increases faced by individual users have varied from between 200 to 500 percent per month, to as much as 4,000 percent.

BC Twitter 1

BC Twitter 2

“Our company specifically is facing a price increase of 220 percent per month,” Jay told Power Retail, “and I’ve seen others who are facing 2,000 to 4,000 percent increases.

“These increases only come with promises of new features, but nothing that they will actually discuss with us besides new templates and being able to sell on Pinterest and Facebook (which most other companies aren’t even interested in).”

When disgruntled clients took to the company forum to vent their outrage, moderators reportedly began deleting posts that were critical of the company and the new pricing structure.

“I have been very active on the [Bigcommerce] forum for the past month, trying to discuss the new changes,” said Jay.

“No exaggeration, 100 percent of the posts by non-Bigcommerce employees are complaints about the changes. All BC keeps doing is telling us that these changes will ‘enable us to scale and be successful’, without giving us specific details about new features.

“I have seen quite a few posts deleted from the BC forum though, specifically when they call into question the new CEO (Brent Bellm) and when people had suggested that users contact the board to express dissatisfaction.”

Jay has since been blocked from the BC user forum for posts critical of the pricing increases, the censorship on the company forum and the failure to respond to client feedback.

Furthermore, BC has reportedly deleted two threads (each with over 700 posts) from its internal forum. A company representative stated that this was done to “streamline the conversation in order to avoid confusing merchants with discussions about previous iterations and outdated information” and so that people wouldn’t have to sift through mountains of information to find pricing help.

Other users have reported forum posts being deleted that discuss specific dollar figures, suggesting that price transparency is not a high priority for the company.

Regarding rumours that BC was willing to shut down users’ stores based on social media and forum activity, Jay was unable to verify this but did confirm that he heard those rumours from people across various forums.

Big silence

The company has seemingly done little to extend the olive branch to users most affected by the pricing increases. Despite claims of “a fair and transparent pricing model”, BC seems to have been less than forthcoming with details regarding the changes to the pricing structure. Many users have tried contacting the company to discuss the changes and get further information, seemingly without much luck.

Some users have reported extreme difficulty in trying to contact the company, getting no response to emails, facing long hold times on the phone, and then being told by customer service representatives that they can only pass messages on to management.

According to Jay, “BC tell people to call in, but everyone on the forum who has attempted to call either couldn’t get through, or was told they would be contacted by a manager, and then they never heard from anyone.”

One user apparently tried for more than a week to reach a BC representative who was empowered to discuss pricing without any success. Another stated that BC customer service representatives justified the price increases by outlining new features that would become available, many of which the user already had or simply didn’t need. One user, on being unable to reach a customer service representative over the phone frustratedly pointed out that ‘24/7 support’ was one of the features being used to justify the price increases.

So, why the changes?

Based on the new pricing structure and the swathes of feedback from disgruntled customers, it appears that BC is looking to shed its mid-size to large clients to focus on higher profit margin users, and to push the company’s new Enterprise package.

In October, AFR reported that BC CEO Brent Bellm is retargeting larger customers and prioritising profitability ahead of an IPO in 2016. 

“I 100% believe they are price gouging in hopes of losing a large percentage of the clients who aren’t making them enough money,” said Jay.

“I think Brent [Bellm] wants to focus on enterprise customers, which will be generating the most profit. This is understandable; however, crippling all other customers is harsh, and bad business.”

Customers facing the new pricing structure are left with two choices: swallow the price increase and continue to use the BC platform, or look to migrate to a new e-commerce platform. For some users, the latter choice may not be viable due to the often significant switching costs associated with changing platforms. As one user put it: “If we treated our customers like we’re now being treated (demanding an overnight doubling or tripling of payment), our business would collapse. There are no switching costs in our category, so our customers would abandon us. Thus, we’re concerned that BC, for its long-term viability, is relying on the fact that its customers have high switching costs.”

However, despite the costs associated with switching platforms, many frustrated BC users are looking to new providers.

“We have been a BC customer since 2011,” said Jay, “and I am now in the process of learning the Magento platform so we can abandon ship.”

 

BC Twitter 3

If you’re a Bigcommerce user, please share your experience (good or bad) in the comments below.

 

 

25 thoughts on “Bigcommerce Price Hikes Outrage Users

    • Jay
    • 8th February

    Very biased piece of journalism. You quoted a Whirlpool forum.. Seriously?

    Reply
  1. Sorry for the merchants who face this price hike.
    A good reminder for the rest of us that cloud solutions have not only benefits, but also costs and risks.

    Reply
    • Tony
    • 8th February

    @Jay, you clearly didn’t read the whole article did you son?
    You know, like the bits where the author had interviewed disgruntled store owners, published the official reply from BC who were given the right of reply, posed a possible defence and asked for other BC customers for their feedback good or bad?

    Reply
    • Stuart
    • 8th February

    My employer faced price increases too. The cost per month means we have invested in a Magento store with a local e-commerce developer and put them on a retainer for looking after the store.

    Even moving to Shopify would have been more beneficial financially and appears to be a forward thinking company that is as feature rich, or more so than BigCommerce as a SaaS platform.

    The frustrating thing for me was to have seen the platform be very stagnate about releasing updates which would ultimately drive more revenue for its customers. Any release that I had seen since using the platform in March 2014 when I joined our company appeared to be just moving the chest pieces round the playing board instead of improving the core product.

    Examples:

    1. Redesigning the admin control panel – this may still be beta but it was blatant copy of laying out similar to a competitor.
    2. The recent Stencil template design they have announced.

    To price hike current customers and offer no improvements beforehand was a disappointing move. As ‘Jay’ stated in the article, this would of been acceptable if it was a small hike, but instead there are no extra benefits (especially being based in the UK) and we were able to move platform, have extra features and still save money over the course of the next 12 months.

    Reply
  2. The article above contains highly inaccurate content that was not properly fact checked by the author. To clarify, Mr. Thumm’s only attempt to contact Bigcommerce occurred on January 18 at which time he requested “some information about [the] price increases,” which we subsequently provided and was included in the article. Since we were not provided the opportunity to respond to the specific allegations listed in the article, we wanted to share additional context to set the record straight.

    At Bigcommerce, customer service is a top priority and we have worked extensively with our customers to communicate the updates to our pricing plans. Starting last October, we held 3 open Town Hall meetings to field questions from our community, our CEO has personally outlined pricing changes in several Bigcommerce forum posts, we’ve sent more than 40,000 emails directly to customers, and we’ve spoken to more than 1,000 customers by phone/chat about their individual pricing plans. Additionally, any Bigcommerce customer may speak with a manager at any time about any topic.

    As you can see, this is very different from the picture painted by the author’s source that “everyone on the forum who has attempted to call either couldn’t get through, or was told they would be contacted by a manager, and…never heard from anyone.”

    In the article, Mr. Thumm’s anonymous source also reportedly claims to have been blocked from the Bigcommerce forum for “posts critical of the pricing increases.” While we cannot speak to this individual’s case directly for obvious reasons, we can share that in the past six months only one customer has been banned from posting in the Bigcommerce forum, and only after first receiving multiple warnings from our community team members for his use of profanity and abusive language directed at other forum members and Bigcommerce staff. Worth noting, this individual’s store remains operational and they still have the ability to browse our forum so they can benefit from constructive discussions about the platform and industry.

    Lastly but most importantly, I want to directly address the self-reported “rumours” that “Bigcommerce was willing to shut down users’ stores based on social media and forum activity.” Not only is this claim inaccurate, I find it particularly troubling that Mr. Thumm would choose to publish it despite his anonymous source stating he “was unable to verify this.”

    In summary, what this article lacks in facts it more than makes up for in hyperbole and irresponsible reporting.

    We welcome any Bigcommerce customers that have questions about the pricing changes to contact us directly via any the methods listed on support.bigcommerce.com/contact.

    Best regards,
    John Yarbrough

    Reply
      • Seamus Brooke
      • 9th February

      John,

      If you are so confident of your position, why not allow the author to repost the forum posts from your own forum here without threat of retribution.

      After all, if the customers are as happy as you say, those posts (those that are still there, and not deleted by Lauren), will speak for themselves.

      Reply
      • Samantha
      • 10th February

      “In the article, Mr. Thumm’s anonymous source also reportedly claims to have been blocked from the Bigcommerce forum for “posts critical of the pricing increases.” While we cannot speak to this individual’s case directly for obvious reasons….”

      ‘Obvious reasons’ being that you’re guilty of it.

      Reply
      • Stannis
      • 18th February

      “At Bigcommerce, customer service is a top priority and we have worked extensively with our customers to communicate the updates to our pricing plans.”

      This is such a farce. Just take a look at your own forums. 100% negative feedback indicates that you guys are completely out of touch with your customer base, and regardless of how many times you spit out the same PR spiel, it doesn’t change the reality of the situation.

      You have a stagnant platform, with NO IMPROVEMENTS being made. If you take a look at the “feature request” section of the forums, there are TONS of feature requests, yet NONE of them are ever implemented. There are feature requests YEARS old, where a BC employee will say “thanks for the input, i’ll pass this along to our team!”…. and years later, no improvements.

      Maybe if you actually improved your platform and LISTENED to your customers, people wouldn’t be so outraged.

      Seriously, you guys are so out of touch it is insane.

      Reply
    • Jessica
    • 10th February

    John Yarbrough must be forgetting about the storage array fiasco of Easter 2015 where some store owners were quite vocal in the forums, which resulted in them being banned from the forums, followed by the shutting down of their stores with 30 days notice. There are posts in the forums of the carts they’ve moved to that spell this out. Mr. Yarbrough must also not be aware of forum users being accused of “enticing an e-riot” because they found and posted their findings that BigCommerce was scraping the stores’ customer’s data via javascript that was present on all stores’ headers. Then there is banning Creative partners for their words, and shutting down THEIR customer’s stores, even though those stores had nothing to do with the forum posts. Calling out Eddie on Twitter? Banned & Shut Down.

    I’m not going to name names, because that’s not my place to do so. There is enough keyword information there for Mr. Yarbrough to either realize I know that he’s blatantly lying to us, or that he’s so misinformed that he really shouldn’t be speaking on behalf of the company.

    Reply
    • Seamus Brooke
    • 10th February

    For some shop owners, the cost is divorced from reality.

    I’ve seen some owners in the hidden forum priced at $600/month for 8K orders a year, and others priced at $1200 / month for 4K orders a year – the only difference is their turnover, which does not reflect their overhead cost to BC in any way at all.

    Surely the guy with $8k orders cost BC more to service than the 4K guy, due to more checkouts, more CPU time, etc. They want those higher-usage guys to leave, and the few that remain, due to high-cost-of-switching, will generate the same sort of revenue that they used to get from far more customers, The only difference to BC is that they now spend far less on resources as they will have less customers.

    Reply
    • Brian
    • 10th February

    I had no trouble getting hold of a BC rep who was able to negotiate the monthly fee down from a proposed US$880 to $550. Still it’s a massive hike from $179. I am considering my options now as I had not fully migrated to Bigcommerce at the time of the increase, luckily I guess.

    Reply
    • Bibi
    • 10th February

    I’ve had my BigCommerce store for 3 years now and I’m very happy. Our monthly fee’s are going from about $89US per month to around $380 US per month. Before Christmas I was getting all set to transfer over to Shopify and everyone goes on about them however there a KEY basic features they don’t have.
    For example you can’t enter your cost of product. Ridiculous. How the heck can you calculate margin and how the heck can you efficiently look up your products in your system when shopping around to quickly compare COGS.
    The other thing is the monthly fee’s. Based on our volume we would have needed to go on a plan that would cost us $1700US per month! That’s crazy. Sure you get an account manager – that can do stuff my team already knows how to do. Pointless for us.
    We were originally going to move to shopify because they have subscriptions apps and recurring billing apps BUT only recently these are available on BigCommerce. Happy dance.
    So now I get a few extra features and a better price than if I went to shopify AND if I had of upgraded to BigCommerce’s enterpise plan earlier. Things like:
    Google Trusted Store
    Inventory integration
    Access to more reports
    And more.
    It’s very EASY to throw around % increases – but let’s look at the actual cost. It’s still peanuts for what you get.
    Cheers – Bibi.

    Reply
      • Brian
      • 12th February

      I agree it’s a really great product and I would stay with Big Commerce for US$380 a month too. But at US$550 (and it will keep increasing) it tips the scales toward building and hosting your own site.

      Reply
    • Stephanie
    • 11th February

    When you see someone complaining (on another site) that their pricing is going from something like $40 a month to $1000 a month you know and understand that BC needed to do something because there were clearly a fair amount of people using a ton of resources for like $400 – $500 a year

    BUT when you hear the CEO’s rational for the price increase (on their townhall video) that some people on the starter plans were doing millions of dollars worth of business and not upgrading from their basic, starter plans and then proceed to cap their starter and “plus” plans at $50K and $125K then I call bullsh*t. How do you compare merchants with millions in sales to people not even doing half a mil?

    And the BEST part is sales tax / VAT and shipping costs are INCLUDED in the $50 and $125K limits.

    Basically BC doesn’t want “hobby” businesses and are fine with taking on start-ups as long as those starts ups are driven to keep increasing sales with the goal of being able to afford enterprise – and I’m fine with that (not happy but it isn’t my company) – its the direction they decided to go in but pretending otherwise (as they do ad-nauseam in their forums) is beyond irritating.

    What they should’ve done is split off their enterprise like Volusion did with Mozu but I guess that wouldn’t have worked with the upcoming IPO or something . . .

    REALLY pissed I chose BC and as soon as I can figure out if Lightspeed is not going to much up SEOShop after purchasing them I’m gone from BC.

    Reply
    • Simon Hill
    • 17th February

    Our store has now gone from ~$400usd in monthly fees to $3000usd… basically overnight.
    At this point it is time to abandon the platform, and get serious with Magento on Amazon AWS. Continous deployment and testing store functionality against business objectives. Bigcommerce is good if you are under-resourced, and it did help us focus on marketing and design for the last year (besides one outage last year when they had issues with IBM Softlayer that cost us around $10k)

    We are looking forward to moving onto bigger and better things now though.

    Reply
      • Paul
      • 18th February

      How much does it cost with Magento operating 7 stores on one server?

      Reply
        • Alex
        • 23rd February

        If you are talking about hosting it really depends on number of products and customers. Magento can have multiple stores under one installation.
        To check hosting cost you can visit for example Nexcess (short link https://goo.gl/NFVzcF), not the cheapest hosting.
        You need also take into account maintenance host (developers who take care after your store) to install security patches, fix problems and do other small things that with BC were in high extent not your problem.

        Reply
    • Heather
    • 20th February

    Our pricing went from 199/month to over $1000/month. We have been with BC for 6 years now and will be migrating over to another platform. We were looking at SparkPay which use to be americommerce but now has capital back of capital one.

    Lot of rich features even BC doesn’t have.

    Reply
    • Amos
    • 23rd February

    The BC Community Forum pricing thread has been purged of numerous posts and users who have had posts and forum accounts deleted without warning, with large sections of the pricing thread edited away. Some posts were rants or pricing specific but John @ BCs statement below:

    “only one customer has been banned from posting in the Bigcommerce forum, and only after first receiving multiple warnings from our community team members for his use of profanity and abusive language directed at other forum members and Bigcommerce staff.”

    Is either ill informed or a plain lie.

    Reply
      • Chris
      • 25th February

      Merchants that generate over $125,000/year will be automatically upgraded to the “Pro” plan at $199.95/month (or keeping it simple $2,400/year).

      The “Pro” plan allows for up to 3,000 orders/year so best case, the cost per order is $0.80.

      Over 3,000 orders/year an $80/month “growth adjustment” per 1,000 orders ($960/year) is added. Ironically this means that the cost per order is now HIGHER for merchants that increase the number of orders and revenue. So depending on the number of orders the cost ranges from $0.84 to $1.12 per order once the “growth adjustment” starts to be assessed.

      And then, just around the corner, is bigcommerce Enterprise plan pricing. Merchants will be upgraded to this unpublished pricing plan once revenue exceeds $1,000,000.

      Bottom line, the “shared success” model is a transaction fee based on the number of orders.

      Reply
        • Seamus Brooke
        • 29th February

        What BC also fail to mention is that if you get bumped to Enterprise pricing by exceeding $1M order volume, there’s no way back to your previous price level, even if your store falls below the $1M threshold.

        I have experienced this personally, and they just ignore you when you point it out to them.

        Reply
    • Steve R
    • 8th March

    BigCommerce can do what they wants within the law, we just don’t have to stick around and pay for it. After a failed attempt to “share in the success” of “successful” stores by offering an optional “advanced” analytics “enterprise” package they have now resorted to forced price increases. I am curious if they “share” in the failures of the companies that go out of business using their platform? Since evidently the degree of success of stores using their platform is due to them. Not sure how that works…do they support some stores more than others and that is why they succeed more?

    I understand tying fees to costs, but not tying fees to “success”. Tying fee increases to costs I seriously doubt would result in the incredible price increase we are seeing.

    As other have noted, we would have paid more, just not this much more. BC touts their many improvements, and they have made some over the years, but they have stalled on many, many seemingly obvious needed improvements requests. Their fixes/new features often involve partnering with a third party that has figured it out and BC “sharing” in their revenue.

    Their platform is fine, there are other options though, so we will see how this price increase works out for them. To me the support time and costs of dealing with small stores that are more likely to come and go seems higher than simply collecting monthly fees from established “successful” companies that have few ongoing support needs having gone through their learning curve.

    BC obviously has more data on their costs and customer profiles than I do, so good luck to them. Actually, I don’t really mean that, they are costing me thousands of dollars reinvestment that I have already spent customizing and interfacing with BC that I will need to respent. They are changing the rules of the game so severely that it is difficult for me to wish them well in any way shape or form. I will leave it at that.

    Reply
    • Tim
    • 11th March

    We have been with BC for 2 years now. Our price has now gone from $200 to around $1500. Considering they didn’t add any new features we need in 2 years, we will probably move. It is going to be a lot of work, but it just doesn’t feel like the right company to stay with.

    Reply
    • Beaten Down by BC
    • 12th March

    It is time for me to move as well. I just received notice my pricing is going from $49/mo to $650/month. I use none of their other resources they kept trying to sell me before, and giving me these “features” means nothing as they are of no additional value. I understand an increase to cover bandwidth and loads, but gouging is gouging. With my slim profit margin I cannot do business at the new pricing, and I cannot pass this to my customers or I will have none. My biggest fear is rebuilding on another platform and loosing my history and customer feedback that has accumulated within my store. Give me a 3x the cost account at $150 and I could survive, but a 13x increase can not be absorbed.

    Shame on BC. This really should be a price gouging Class Action…

    Reply
  3. Who Is The Business Guru?

    Reply

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