If you’re looking for a BigCommerce expert to help build or design your store, you’ve probably noticed that some are “certified” and others are not. In the BigCommerce Partner Directory, you’ll also see that BigCommerce Partners are grouped into three “tiers”. But at the end of the day, all you want is a reliable company that does quality work and will finish the project you give them. So let’s break down what all the different tiers and certifications mean.
What are BigCommerce Certified Partners?
As I’m writing this, there are over 600 companies listed in the BigCommerce Partner Directory, but only about 160 are BigCommere Certified. This designation means that at least one person within each “certified” company has passed a series of tests demonstrating their proficiency with the BigCommerce platform. The tests include everything from store setup tasks (like shipping and store settings) to Stencil theme design to advanced featured like the BigCommerce API and the BigCommerce WordPress plugin.
Keep in mind that if you’re working with a larger company, this doesn’t mean that everyone you speak with will have passed these tests. If you’re talking with a salesperson about your project, they may or may not have taken the tests required for certification. Even within their development team, only some of the employees may have completed the certification requirements. That being said, working with BigCommerce Certified Partners is a good way to ensure that the company has enough experience with the platform to complete your project.
If you want to guarantee that the person you’ll be working with has all the expertise you need, consider looking for a smaller agency or a one-person company. BigCommerce Partners who are individuals (like Duck Soup E-Commerce) have passed all of the tests themselves, so you can be guaranteed that they have a complete understanding of everything BigCommerce.
What do BigCommerce Partner Tiers Mean?
BigCommerce offers descriptions of each partner tier on their partner directory landing page, but they aren’t really accurate. The explanations imply that all Elite partners have more expertise and offer more services than Preferred partners, who in turn offer more than regular partners.
While this might be true in some cases, the partner tiers actually indicate the size of the company and how many BigCommerce client projects they have completed over a given time period. Smaller companies and one-person shops who work with fewer BigCommerce clients will never achieve the Preferred or Elite tier – even if they offer a wide range of services and have been in business for many years.
For example, Duck Soup E-Commerce is a one-person shop that has been working with BigCommerce for nearly a decade. I am selective with which clients I take on because I can only handle a limited number of projects at a time without sacrificing the quality of my work and the personalized service I provide. I’m listed as a regular Partner because I don’t take on enough clients to reach Preferred or Elite tier. But for my clients, this is a good thing – it means I have time to really focus on them and their projects.
Therefore, when evaluating BigCommerce Partners for your project, don’t be too concerned about which “tier” is listed by their name.
Choosing BigCommerce Partners
There are many things to consider when selecting the right BigCommerce Partner for your project. Here we’ll review the most important criteria.
Experience and Skills
First and foremost, you want to make sure the company is proficient on the BigCommerce platform. Starting with BigCommerce Certified Partners is a good first step. If you’ll need specialized services, like a custom API or integration with a particular app, make sure they can handle those requests. Finally, look for a company that has experience working with clients in your industry – they’ll be better able to anticipate your needs based on similar projects they’ve completed in the past.
Most BigCommerce Partners are companies, so in this case personality means how the agency works and how they treat their clients. Will you get a dedicated account manager for your project, or will you be dealing with a different person each time a question comes up? Can you easily get someone on the phone or do all change requests have to be submitted through an online system? What type of support is available once your project is complete? These are all essential questions to ask even if you’ll be working with a small company or one-person shop. Reading reviews left by other BigCommerce store owners or asking for client references are also important ways to gauge a BigCommerce Partner’s personality.
Price and Value
Price is always going to be a factor, but like many things, value is a more important consideration. Some BigCommerce Partners may quote you a lower cost but there may be trade-offs – they could be located in a different time zone or not have as much experience as another company that will charge more. Some BigCommerce Partners offer packaged services, so you may get marketing services or ongoing support, making the quoted price more affordable in the long run. When evaluating proposals from multiple partners, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples as much as possible.
Where a company is located isn’t the most important thing, but it can be a deciding factor for some store owners. Being in the same time zone, or at least within the same country, as your selected partner means more working hours during which you can schedule phone calls or expect responses to your email requests. Some store owners like to sit down with their designer to hash out ideas in person; in that case, finding a local BigCommerce partner might be the best choice. But if you’re the type of store owner who tends to work late at night, maybe because you have two jobs, a partner located overseas could work better for you.
Trust Your Gut
Ultimately, it’s important to consider how you feel about the company after interviewing them. Did they seem simpatico, like you would get along well? Was your initial conversation easy, everyone speaking the same language? Or was talking with them a challenge, leaving you unsure if they truly understood your project or goals? I’ve turned down projects simply because I didn’t feel like the potential client and I were on the same page during our initial call. Since you’ll be working with these people (or this person) a lot over the next few months, make sure you’re comfortable with them before moving forward.
There are so many BigCommerce partners to choose from, and the list grows longer every day. Hopefully this article has provided you with the information you need to select the right one for your project, whether it’s building a new store, redesigning your storefront or migrating to BigCommerce from another platform.
If you have additional questions or want a quote for your project, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m a Certified BigCommerce Partner with nearly a decade of BigCommerce experience. I’ve written multiple books about BigCommerce, am a BigCommerce Community Legend and have been rated 5 stars by more than 35 BigCommerce merchants.