Why BigCommerce’s New SSL Policy is Epic Fail

BigCommerce released an email statement today indicating that they are going to change blow up their SSL policies with store owners. In the email, it states that Silver Plan members will no longer be able to purchase or install a dedicated SSL certificate, Gold Plan members will only be able to use a BigCommerce issued SSL certificate, while Platinum and Enterprise plans are unaffected.

Let me tell you why this is a dangerous dance with fire for both BigCommerce and store owners: conversion blackmail.

Here is the email in its entirety:

As part of our commitment to keeping our Partners informed, we wanted to let you know about an exciting new feature and some changes to how we handle dedicated SSL certificates on our platform.

Site-wide HTTPS
For merchants using Bigcommerce Enterprise, we’re introducing the exclusive ability to host every page on HTTPS. Besides the added security, the primary benefit is improved search rankings on Google. This feature is scheduled to be released to a limited beta group in March, and then to all Enterprise stores in April.


Dedicated SSL
We’re making some changes to our dedicated SSL offering on Silver and Gold plans to better align with the requirements of small- and medium-sized businesses. Existing merchants who have already installed a dedicated SSL will be grandfathered in, but the following changes will be put in place for stores upgrading on or after March 17, 2015:
  • The Silver Plan will no longer have the option to purchase or install a dedicated SSL certificate.

  • The Gold Plan will continue to have the option to install a dedicated SSL certificate purchased from Bigcommerce, but will no longer have the option to install third-party certificates.

  • Platinum and Enterprise Plans will continue to have the option to install a dedicated SSL certificate purchased from Bigcommerce or a third party.



The Bigcommerce Partner Team

For those not in the know, Google came out and said that SSL would play a factor in a website's ability to rank in Google's search results. While enforced SSL browsing isn't a requirement for ranking, the writing on the wall is that Google is pushing for the entire web to transact over secure http traffic at some point in the future.

In the email, BigCommerce immediately acknowledges that SSL is used by Google as a ranking signal for SEO and offers this full secure browsing experience for their enterprise clients. On the other hand, while their introductory plans are still able to use SSL, they are removing the ability for store owners to use their own SSL certificates.

What does this mean and how does it affect you?  Let me show you.

Here is a screenshot from a BigCommerce store that sells men's fashion clothing with the URL shown at the top.



Here is what happens when you checkout and end up on BigCommerce's shared SSL certificate. URL highlighted in red for posterity.


Introducing change to the customer in the all-holy conversion funnel is sacrilege.

Online shoppers already abandon carts 67.75% of the time  and 17%  of those shoppers indicate concerns regarding security as one of the reasons for leaving.  What would a customer who is shopping at think if they were taken to to complete their checkout?  What you would think if you were shopping at Williams-Sonoma and when you went to the register to checkout, the clerk took you to the stock room to checkout on a cell-phone app?  The answer is that introducing change to the customer in the all holy conversion funnel is sacrilege.

Making Life Tougher for New Businesses

With this new change, what new Silver Plan owners are going to face are additional headwinds to starting an ecommerce business. Silver Plans are already paying a 1.5% transaction fee, have no abandoned cart (an oxy moron when you consider the 1.5% fee), have no access to feeds and marketplaces and are now forced to push their customers to a non-branded domain to finish their checkout.

The reality is that if you're even doing $500 in sales a month, jumping from the Silver Plan to the Gold Plan to gain access to the Abandoned Cart Recovery is worth it. If you can reduce your abandonment rate from 70% to 65%, that's an extra $83 per month in your pocket and covers the extra $50/month. For the math inclined:

  1. Retention Rate = 100% – Abandon Rate (70%) = 30% = 0.3
  2. $500/month / Retention Rate = 500 / 0.3 = $1,666 (Total Sales Potential)
  3. Total Sales Potential * (Retention Rate + 5%) = $1,666 * 0.35 = $583/mo

So the problem isn't the pricing,  because if you're at even a small revenue stream, the business math makes sense. Who it doesn't make sense for are the entrepreneurs still working their way to their first $500 month. Ecommerce is an industry with a high failure rate. How high? I don't even know, because Google search reveals no published data from any reputable sources. None!  And you know it's bad when nobody is willing to publish it.

At EcomCrew, we give it straight when we say ecommerce is not an easy business. But the idea of handicapping an incubating business is like withholding water from the slowest guy on the football field . They're not going to get better, they're gonna die of thirst. This business move by BigCommerce is going to exacerbate the burn rate of their new businesses, period.

What I believe is that management at BigCommerce realize this fact too: that between Silver Plans deciding to continue paying the $29.95/month and potentially losing customers with a shared checkout or upgrading to the Gold Plan @ $79.95, Silver Plans will make a calculated business decision and upgrade to Gold. This would fit BigCommerce just fine, because the harsh reality is that most SaaS vendors don't make much on their starter or “teaser” plans. Like many businesses, the customers paying the least often cause the most headaches with support, setup and onboarding costs. The real money comes from enterprise level customers.

That said, the most vocal group of owners is going to be the Silver Plans (aka the Mom and Pop stores) that will be spreading their word around at anything that dips into their marginal profit centers. Every new batch of potential store owners that Googles around will eventually see the warning that if they use the BigCommerce Silver Plan, they will not have a chance to own their checkout funnel. That's serious business, folks.

Most store owners are surprisingly lacking in tech know-how. But what they lack in tech they make up in business acumen; and owning the customer is Business 101. Serious players, the guys that are willing to commit cash and time into their stores are going to commit to the bigger plans anyways. The small fish, the guys who pay for the, “Learn How I made $X Million Dollars Selling Junk!” seminars will always continue to flounder. But the mid-level guys like us at EcomCrew, who started out small and grew it out, we would have had a hell of a time figuring out why our conversion numbers were so bad if we started on a system stacked against us. I would not be at all be surprised if this shared checkout is a +20% hit on top line revenue for small stores.

For store owners out there, especially those on BigCommerce, what are your thoughts?  For those on Silver Plans, will you upgrade or grin and bear it until you make enough revenue to warrant the jump?  We would love to hear your opinions.

For disclosure: At EcomCrew, we run our sites ( and on BigCommerce Gold accounts. We use dedicated SSL certs and will be grandfathered in, so this change doesn't affect us.

Mike's Bounce Back

My favorite thing in the world is when a company sends out an announcement, that they full well know is a negative for their customer base, and try to make it sound positive. BigCommerce could make so many other features part of their Gold and Platinum plans; picking SSL to be the one to hold hostage is a major mistake in my opinion. I wouldn't be the least be surprised for them to update this policy within a year.

Grant Chen

Grant currently owns and operates two ecommerce businesses selling kitchen products and clothing. He is also a partner in a restaurant franchise with two locations and has over a decade of experience as an entrepreneur and web developer. He lives in the beautiful city of Seattle, Washington, and when he's not at his laptop with a coffee, will be found skiing or hiking in the mountains .


  1. Thankfully we had a battle with the CEO and the upper managment and ended up getting kicked off the plarform. Big commerce was a good thing when we started 3 years ago, but the last year and half something changed. They started making updates and policies that were shooting their customers in the knees and holding them hostage for upgrading plans. some of us were lucky we signed up before the issues began and were grandfathered in, but many of us on their forums were weary of the day they came to collect from us as well. from features that were promised 3 years before to being released as beta and then being told you had to get an enterprise plan to get acces was a complete slap in the face for those of us using the platium plan. the abandon cart feature was broken and doesnt work. the site searches do not work correctly. hell we did not even have spell check in the product creation description box. We asked and asked why not fix a fundementally decade old feature and we were slienced. We had a few other issues with broken features and unannounced releases that were badly programmed on stuff we had not asked for or wanted. I took to the CEO via twitter and he told me to go f my self and then had the team in austin send me the termination letters for back talking them in public.

    a entire group of outspoken forum members from BC’s community forum were then also issued termination letters and bounced with 30day or less notice. WE landed with 3dcart, while not perfect, and guilty of the SSL hostage program they did allow us to buy our own and have helped far more then hurt us. I can say that our move while it set us back due to BC deleting all our data with out giving us notice we have more then doubled our sales even in the first month since the move and that is with out even being up and running 100%.


    1. Seriously? Can BC do that? Ask you to move out or delete your store, because you complained via Twitter? That’s not right.

  2. I’m playing Devil’s Advocate here: What about Shopify stores that also use a shared SSL certificate? Only Enterprise accounts can use their own SSL Certificate and there are some big players on Shopify who appear to be okay with it.

    For the record, I am grandfathered in with my own certificate, but I am still opposed to this change for the same reasons listed. Changing the URL during the checkout is a huge mistake that both BigCommerce and Shopify are guilty of. I just wanted to bring up a different point of view.

  3. This is a horrible move by BC , we bought an SSL from GoDaddy – and then BC tells us that we cannot use their SSL. Doesn’t this break some kind of anti-trust , or blatant extortion law? Sick of this.

  4. HI Grant, if bigcommerce and shopify is such a rip off what other options do we have? I’m using bigcommerce the standard plan and I do want to get a SSL. That’s I don’t really like those hosted plans.

    Your suggestion is much appreciated.

    1. Hey Tim,

      There’s always “other” options out there, but they aren’t the best options either. At the enterprise level, there is Magento if you want to dump $30k to $50k into a website. At the polar opposite, there’s Woo Commerce that you can setup a site for $10 but good luck keeping it secure and PCI compliant.

      The other options are Open Cart, Volusion, 3d Cart, X Cart, Prestashop, Square, Spark Pay and a few other small ball players. Then you take a look at whether or not they integrate with a lot of the major apps out there. If you have a simple site with a few SKUs and don’t need to scale or get big, any one of those sites (except Woo, please anything but Woo) would work fine.

      I also wouldn’t say that BigCommerce and Shopify are “rip offs” exactly. They’re obviously still the two top contenders for SME businesses that can grow into enterprise level. Your out of pocket, time and success will still be higher with BC and Shopify in my eyes depending on the type of ecom website you run. I’m pretty sure they know it too, which is why they’re upping the pricing and going out of the start-up phase of burn-piles-of-money-acquiring-installs-for-our-VC-overlords mode and into the can-we-be-profitable mode.

      Short summary, if you value your time, go with those two. If you value your expense ledger, go with the smaller fish. If you’re grossing over 120k per month, consider a custom roll out or enterprise.

    1. It’s pretty painful for quite a few merchants. The reality is they can set pricing to whatever they want, but you also have the option of migrating to another store. They seem ready for users to leave by the sounds of it.

  5. Is it just me or is Bigcommerce’s SEO horrendous? Aside from SSL Certs it seems like none of my 6 sites have ever really gotten any lovin from SE no matter how hard we work to perfect them.

    1. One thing we noticed is that a lot of the BigCommerce theme providers are horrific coders. There’s a lot of bloat, poor use of CSS/Javascript and lack of optimizations. We took a lot of time to re-optimize our sites, which involved throwing out miles of bad code.

      So to be fair, it’s not really BigCommerce’s fault, because they just offer the platform. A properly built theme is really the start of decent code. BigCommerce doesn’t help though by having all of the random Javascripts everywhere, but it’s hard to build a modern site without a fair amount of JS.

  6. I just logged into my Bigcommerce portal (after Godaddy renewed my premium SSL certificate for $250) and was told that I had to upgrade my account to Enterprise. This is crazy!

  7. The SSL update was defe a bad move by Big-commerce, We just started a new site and already seeing tons of abandoned carts because we are using BC’s shared SSL Cert. Even if you buy the $79.95 SSL from BC you still will not have a completely secure checkout, and customers will see that. So in order to really make sure you are getting the highest conversion rate you have to sign up for the platinum or enterprise plan which means dropping at least $250 Bucks a month. This is insane if you asked me. And unfortunately bigcommerce will pay dearly for this. Already know many who migrated to other platforms.

  8. A few thoughts, after reading these posts, I have had a store with Yahoo for years. Good SEO – but bad everything else. When I add up all the work I’ve done, had done, and features and add ons we pay monthly for to make up for all the features Yahoo stores is MISSING and will not address I’d gladly pay $250 or more to have a decent platform. I opened up a store with BC as a test. The SEO does seem mediocre out of the box so to speak- but overall seems like a decent platform that we can build a better site on. We are in the process of selecting a more up to date template and it looks like the structure will be more SEO friendly. We’ll see. We’ll give it 90 days and go from there. The other option we explored was Shopify . They seem like a good fit as well.

    1. Hi Mark, thanks for the comments. It’s interesting you mention Yahoo stores. Mike and I are on a number of business buyer lists and we always perk when we see an ecommerce store on Yahoo. I tend to think of those stores as diamonds in the rough, since they have been aged for a long time, but they generally have fallen off the Google map due to poor performance/tech in many areas. Yahoo stores was actually first written in LISP, which is an amazing feat for it’s time. I actually had experience on Yahoo stores in early 2000’s and it was quite the learning experience.

      Mike immediately migrated IceWraps off Yahoo when he got it and I did the same with Chopping Blocks when moving it off Miva. There’s just no reason to battle tech anymore when the real fight is on the marketing side. Gotta deploy your resources correctly these days. So, very good idea switching platforms.

  9. I have had a BC store for a while and am experiencing 100% abandoned carts according to the BC analytics. I chatted with BC support and they said they would create a support ticket and they would get back to me within 3 days (more than 3 days ago & nothing yet). I have always had good responsiveness from BC support in the past, but i’m getting no where with this issue. I’m wondering if this is an SSL certificate issue. So, I’m pondering my options: get an SSl certificate, jump ship and transfer over to Shopify? Would love some insight.

    1. Hi Ann,

      On a whim, I tried out a checkout on your site. Your checkout is using shared SSL, which frankly, is garbage. Your checkout page/theme is also a conversion dead zone because of the sidebar. You also have a test payment gateway enabled. Your credit card input field is also suffering from some bizarre Javascript handling action that makes the focus bounce past the input area.

      All in all, I would rate your checkout about 2 of out 10, which would explain the high abandonment rate. That said, 100% is a little odd, but running a test credit card did seem to pass.

      Unfortunately I can’t really go into details on how to solve everything, but you should ask your coder/designer to implement most of the fixes we have outlined on our BigCommerce conversion article here:

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