Launched in 2005, Big Cartel is geared toward “artists and makers” looking for somewhere to sell their wares that provides them more control than Etsy but is less complex than an ecommerce powerhouse like Shopify.
Does this ecommerce platform sound like what your business needs to start selling online? This Big Cartel review will help you decide. Below, we’ll dive into the Big Cartel features, pricing, pros and cons, and more.
What Is Big Cartel?
Big Cartel is a cloud-hosted ecommerce platform, meaning you can build and operate your store from any device with internet access. You have the option to use one of their free themes to get your online store up and running, or you can create a truly unique design through their API.
Big Cartel is made for artists, by artists, so while you can sell just about anything on the site, it was specifically designed with custom and handmade goods in mind—from clothing to art to jewelry and more.
When building your online store with Big Cartel, there are several plan options—including a free one—to choose from. The plan you pick will depend on how many items you want to sell, as well as what features you want to access.
While it’s easy to think of Big Cartel as a marketplace, this is not the case. The store you create using Big Cartel will be an individual, standalone site. Plus, Big Cartel does not take a cut of your sales, like many marketplaces do. This makes it a great solution for smaller enterprises or for people who create and sell their goods as a hobby. However, if you don’t run a creative business, have more than 500 products (Big Cartel’s maximum), or want more robust features, you will likely want to explore other ecommerce platforms.
Keep reading to learn more about Big Cartel features, pricing, and more.
- Ease of use
- Very niche
Big Cartel Features
There are two different sets of features included with Big Cartel: The features that come standard with all plans, and the features you can only unlock with a paid subscription. Let’s first look at what comes included with all Big Cartel plans.
Although Big Cartel isn’t known for providing a lot of bells and whistles, here are the things that won’t cost you a penny:
- Mobile app: Big Cartel has an iOS and Android app that can be used to manage your store on the go.
- Security: All sites come with SSL encryption, meaning all information sent and received from your website will be encrypted.
- Search engine optimization: All Big Cartel pages are optimized for SEO. Big Cartel also provides tips on how you can improve your website’s ranking in search engines by doing things like providing in-depth product descriptions and collecting inbound links to your site.
- Order management: Through the Big Cartel dashboard, users can arrange to send confirmation emails to customers after a purchase, track orders, print shipping labels, and bulk export order history via a CSV file.
- Customer support: Big Cartel offers email support between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday. Perhaps more useful is the Big Cartel Help Center, which provides robust documentation on how to build and manage your online store. There is also a Big Cartel blog with useful guides that can help you build and manage your online store.
If you spring for one of the paid plans, here are the additional functions you can expect:
- Custom domain: Whereas all free stores come with a “shop.bigcartel.com” URL, a paid store allows you to use a custom domain registered via Google Domains. Having a custom domain will make your store easier to find and is more favorable for SEO.
- Inventory management: With inventory tracking, your store will keep track of how many products you have sold, and deduct that amount from the available quantity. In addition, you’ll receive alerts when you are running low on a certain product.
- Apply discounts: The paid store allows you to provide discount codes to your customers that can be applied during checkout to take a percentage or fixed amount off the price of the product.
- Analytics: Via the dashboard, users can track order and visitor stats as well as conversion rate. If you have a paid plan, you’ll be able to link Google Analytics to your Big Cartel store to provide you with detailed information about who your store’s customers are, where they’re coming from, and what they’re looking at and buying.
- HTML/CSS editor: Editing your store’s source code is only available with the paid plans.
- Multiple product images: With a paid plan, you can have up to five images for each product (as opposed to one image with the free plan).
Big Cartel offers about two dozen third-party applications and plugins that can extend the functionality of your store. However, one of those plugins is Zapier, a paid service that can facilitate connections with over 1,000 additional third-party apps.
Here are some of the notable applications available for purchase within the Big Cartel app store:
- Facebook Store
- Google Analytics
- Pulley (Sell digital products)
There is also a Big Cartel API, allowing you to integrate with other software.
The point of any ecommerce store, of course, is to facilitate online sales. To complete these sales, you’ll need a payment processor. The payment processor you use will charge a per-transaction fee and sometimes an additional flat fee applies. However, Big Cartel does not charge an additional fee for payment processing.
Big Cartel works with Stripe and PayPal to accept credit card payments online. If you opt for PayPal, customers have the option to check out using PayPal credit or Venmo. You can also accept payments in-person using their iOS app.
Big Cartel Pricing
Big Cartel’s pricing is based on the number of products you wish to sell. As mentioned above, you will also be able to access more features and upload more product images with the paid plans. All of the paid plans offer the same number of features but differ in the number of products you can offer. Big Cartel’s plans and pricing are as follows:
- Gold: Free
- Five product limit
- One image per product
- Free customizable themes
- Branded bigcartel.com domain
- Sell online and in-person
- Real-time stats
- Offer discounts and run promotions
- Shipment tracking
- Product option groups
- Sales tax autopilot
- Platinum: $9.99 per month
- 50 products
- Five images per product
- Use a custom domain
- Theme code editing
- Google Analytics
- Inventory tracking
- Bulk editing
- Diamond: $19.99 per month
- 250 products
- (same features as Platinum)
- Titanium: $29.99 per month
- 500 products
- (same features as Platinum and Diamond)
Big Cartel Pros
Now that we know what Big Cartel can offer, here are what we see as the benefits of this platform.
- Ease of use: Big Cartel is great for the new ecommerce businesses because it provides a simple setup process and doesn’t try to confuse users with some of the more complicated aspects of selling online (taxes, shipping, payment processing). Additionally, because it doesn’t offer tons of themes or features, you won’t have to spend too much time building or managing your store. For those looking to set up a no-frills store quickly, Big Cartel is one of your best bets.
- Price: If you’re only selling a limited number of products, Big Cartel gives you a lot of value for your money. Although the free version limits the features you have access to, it still gives you a fully functioning ecommerce store. Even the Platinum plan, at $9.99 per month, gives you a lot more than you would find elsewhere in the market for that price. The fact that Big Cartel doesn’t take a percentage of their vendors’ sales or charge additional payment processing fees is another big advantage.
- Developer-friendly: Another pro of Big Cartel is that while they offer free themes that anyone can use to easily create their online store, they also allow those with developer knowledge the ability to create a completely customized design. Since this ecommerce platform is geared toward creative types, this can be especially appealing for those who want to create a website that is fully aligned with their brand.
Big Cartel Cons
On the other hand, here are some disadvantages of Big Cartel to consider:
- Scalability: Although Big Cartel is good for those just starting out, as your business grows you may find yourself limited by what Big Cartel can provide. For example, you may want more options than Big Cartel’s limited library of store themes, or you may want to promote more than 500 items. Simply put, other platforms can offer more functionality and control over your ecommerce store than Big Cartel can.
- Features: Another thing you’ll get a lot more of with larger ecommerce platforms is features. Again, Big Cartel provides more of a bare-bones product, so having a lot of features isn’t a priority for them. However, if you’re looking for abandoned cart recovery, CRM features, you will likely want to look elsewhere.
- Very niche: While any type of business could theoretically build their ecommerce store with Big Cartel, this platform was created with artists in mind. For businesses outside of this niche, you will likely find another platform to better meet your needs, whether with more themes, features, or overall functionality.
Big Cartel Alternatives
If you’re looking for an ecommerce platform with a bit more functionality, here are two alternatives to consider:
WooCommerce isn’t an ecommerce platform itself, but rather a shopping cart plugin that allows you to turn a WordPress site into an ecommerce store. Even better: It’s free and it doesn’t place a limit on the amount of products you can sell. Note that there is a fairly steep learning curve with WooCommerce, so try and learn the ins and outs of WordPress before signing up.
Shopify continues to be among the most popular ecommerce platforms on the market. That’s because it offers a ton of features, customization, and integrations at a reasonable price (plans start at $29 per month). If you were looking into Big Cartel’s Diamond or Titanium plans, you’re probably better off going with Shopify. In fact, in the Big Cartel vs. Shopify showdown, Shopify is the clear winner if you’re a serious ecommerce business owner who needs a platform to accommodate the size and scale (or eventual size and scale) of your operations.
The Bottom Line
Big Cartel isn’t for everyone. But if you’re a very small business, are running a side business, or need an easy way to build an ecommerce store for free, Big Cartel may be right for you. It may not offer all the bells and whistles of some of the larger ecommerce platforms, but it provides an easy and cost-conscious way to start selling your goods online.
If you’re interested in learning more about Big Cartel, consider signing up for their free plan and start testing the waters. If you like it, you can always opt for one of their paid plans and start adding more products. However, if you find it isn’t right for your needs, there are plenty of alternatives to consider.
Matthew Speiser is a former staff writer at Fundera.
He has written extensively about ecommerce, marketing and sales, and payroll and HR solutions, but is particularly knowledgeable about merchant services. Prior to Fundera, Matthew was an editorial lead at Google and an intern reporter at Business Insider. Matthew was also a co-author for Startup Guide—a series of guidebooks designed to assist entrepreneurs in different cities around the world.