Big Cartel E-Commerce Platform Review 2022

Big Cartel is good for selling limited numbers of products but lacks advanced sales features competitors can offer.
Feb 23, 2022

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Big Cartel is a web-based e-commerce platform geared toward independent artists and retailers. With Big Cartel, you can create an online store, add products and services, as well as accept payments and run promotions.

Big Cartel offers a free plan that allows you to list up to five different products and includes the core tools to run an online store — making it a good option for new businesses, especially those looking to sell a limited number of products. This can also be a worthwhile e-commerce platform for smaller artisans or craftspeople selling unique goods, such as T-shirts, prints, jewelry or art.

However, with a lack of advanced sales features and minimal third-party integrations, Big Cartel is not a great choice for larger sellers or those looking to scale their businesses quickly.

Pros

Cons

  • Affordable monthly cost.

  • Option for a forever-free plan (only includes five products).

  • Free, easy-to-use store themes.

  • No transaction fees; you only pay Stripe or PayPal processing fees.

  • Simple and approachable; good for beginners.

  • Restricts number of products you can list.

  • Lacks advanced customization and sales features.

  • Minimal third-party integrations.

  • Can only use Stripe or PayPal for online payment processing.

Deciding factors

Cost

  • Gold plan: $0 per month.

  • Platinum plan: $9.99 per month.

  • Diamond plan: $19.99 per month.

Store design

18 free themes. Customize using a what-you-see-is-what-you-get, or WYSIWYG, theme editor. Paid plans have access to theme HTML to edit the design using code.

Payment processing

  • Use Stripe or PayPal to accept customer payments online.

  • To accept payments in person, you must use Stripe or take cash.

  • Big Cartel doesn’t charge transaction fees; you only pay the processing fees from Stripe or PayPal.

Scalability

Three plan options, but they restrict the number of products you can list on your site. Minimal differentiation between the plan options — and the top-tier, paid levels lack advanced e-commerce tools to help you grow your business.

Customer support

Support available through email, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time.

Ease of use

Simple and user-friendly with a straightforward navigation and interface. Quick and easy to set up an account, create and customize your store and start selling online. Very approachable for e-commerce beginners, as well as those without technical web experience.

How does Big Cartel work?

Big Cartel is a platform on which you can create and launch your own e-commerce website. You can sign up for a Big Cartel account and use the web-based solution to start selling online fairly quickly.

Here’s an overview of how Big Cartel works.

Design your store

Big Cartel offers 18 free themes so that you can build and customize your online storefront. With a WYSIWYG editor, you can add images, change colors and fonts, adjust your layout and preview your website before setting it live. Although you can design your Big Cartel store without any coding knowledge, the paid plans have the ability to edit themes using HTML.

Add your products

Each Big Cartel plan limits the number of products you can sell on your website, as well as the number of images you can upload with each listing. However, when you add your products, you can include descriptions, categories, statuses (e.g., active, hidden, sold out), variations and shipping costs — in addition to the product name and price.

Set up your payments

Big Cartel allows you to accept payments online and in person. To accept online credit card payments, you must use Stripe or PayPal as your payment processor, which requires creating a separate Stripe or PayPal account.

  • If you use Stripe, customers who have Apple Pay can use the instant checkout feature to buy directly from a product page.

  • If you use PayPal, your customers can pay with Venmo or PayPal Credit.

  • You can enable both Stripe and PayPal to give your customers the widest range of payment options.

To accept in-person payments, on the other hand, you can process credit cards with Stripe — using the Big Cartel app for iOS or Android devices — or take cash.

Start selling

After you’ve set up the main components of your online storefront, you can launch your website and start selling.

You can use the “orders” section of your dashboard to print packing slips, edit shipping details, view order history and mark orders as shipped. You can send customers tracking information and notifications.

As your store gains momentum, you can use additional tools to engage your customers. You can create a discount or run a promotion, add a newsletter sign-up with Mailchimp and — if you have a paid plan — you can integrate with additional third-party tools such as Instagram and LiveChat.

Track your progress

The Big Cartel dashboard shows up-to-date data on store performance. You can track sales and visitors in real time, as well as get a more detailed breakdown that includes conversion rate and revenue for a particular time period.

Big Cartel also generates statistics by product and category so you can see which items are most popular, how much money certain products have generated, how many times an item has sold and more.

Big Cartel plans and pricing

Big Cartel offers three plans — Gold, Platinum and Diamond — and prices them on a monthly basis.

The Gold plan is a “forever free” plan. Unlike some e-commerce subscriptions that offer free trials that expire within a set period of time and then incur a monthly fee, the Gold plan is free regardless of how long you use it.

The chart below shows the costs and features of the different Big Cartel plans.

Plan

Features

Pricing

Gold

  • List five products.

  • One image per product.

  • Free, customizable themes.

  • Sell online and in person.

  • Real-time sales and visitor statistics for your store.

  • Use a custom domain name.

  • Offer store discounts and run promotions.

  • Mark orders as shipped; send shipment notifications and tracking information to customers.

  • Create product option groups based on size, color, cut and other variations.

  • Automatically calculate and remit sales tax on purchases made through your online store.

$0 per month.

Platinum

  • All the features of Gold.

  • List 50 products.

  • Five images per product.

  • Edit theme using HTML.

  • Built-in integration with Google Analytics.

  • Track product inventory and adjust stock levels.

  • Change status, categories, shipping and tax codes of several products at once with bulk editing.

$9.99 per month.

Diamond

  • All the features of Platinum.

  • List 500 products.

$19.99 per month.

Payment processing costs

Big Cartel does not charge transaction fees, but in order to accept online payments, you’ll need to use Stripe and/or PayPal and pay the processing fees those providers charge.

  • Stripe’s fees for online payments start at 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction.

  • PayPal’s fees start at 3.49% plus 49 cents per transaction.

Benefits of Big Cartel

Affordable monthly cost

If affordability is a top priority for your business, Big Cartel is a good option for an e-commerce platform.

Big Cartel’s Gold plan is completely free, and although it limits you to a catalog of five total products — you have access to all of the essential tools to create, customize and run an online store.

If you want to list more than five products, the Platinum and Diamond plans have more flexibility but come with monthly fees. The top-tier Diamond plan maxes out at $19.99 per month, which is cheaper than even the basic level plans of popular e-commerce competitors such as Shopify, Volusion and BigCommerce.

Unlike some competitors, Big Cartel doesn’t charge transaction fees on top of the fees from the payment processor (Stripe or PayPal) and all of the store themes are available for free.

Simple and user-friendly

Big Cartel is easy to use, with a straightforward and simple dashboard, navigation and overall user interface.

  • The platform is easily accessible for e-commerce beginners, offering a WYSIWYG editor to customize the online store with no coding required.

  • When you log in to your new account, Big Cartel provides guided steps to get started and offers suggestions along the way.

  • Big Cartel also offers online support, including frequently asked questions, informational articles, video tutorials and developer documentation.

Drawbacks of Big Cartel

Product listing restrictions

Each Big Cartel plan limits the number of products you can add to your online store. The free Gold plan only accommodates five products, the Platinum plan accommodates 50 and the Diamond accommodates 500. Compared with e-commerce competitors, many of which allow you to list an unlimited number of products regardless of the plan level, this is a severely limiting restriction for businesses — especially those that are looking to grow their operations.

Lacks advanced sales features

Although Big Cartel has three subscription levels, there are minimal differences between the plans and they don’t offer many advanced features that could scale your e-commerce business.

  • There are restrictions on the number of images you can include with each listing.

  • Competitors offer features such as abandoned cart recovery, multiple sales channels, gift card and loyalty programs and reporting tools, but Big Cartel is lacking in these areas.

  • Competitors such as BigCommerce and Shopify provide access to app marketplaces with hundreds of third-party integrations. Big Cartel, on the other hand, has few integration options — and some of the options it does offer require a paid plan.

Alternatives to Big Cartel

Shopify

Compared with Big Cartel, Shopify can be a better option for a wider variety of small businesses.

  • Shopify offers three subscription plans, plus a lite and an enterprise-level solution, with prices starting at $29 per month for Basic Shopify.

  • Shopify has a vast feature suite, integrated payment processing with Shopify Payments and is easily scalable.

  • Although Shopify will likely be more expensive than Big Cartel, it can offer a wider range of functionality and fewer restrictions, especially for listing products, customizing your online store and integrating with third-party tools.

» For more details on how they compare, read our Big Cartel vs. Shopify review.

Shopify Ecommerce

Shopify
Shop Now

on Shopify's website

Square Online

Square Online can be a good choice for businesses that want a free e-commerce platform but want access to more advanced features and the potential for scalability that Big Cartel lacks.

  • Square Online offers four subscription plans, starting with the Free plan and followed by the Professional plan for $12 per month.

  • All Square Online plans include the ability to list an unlimited number of items, sell on social media, as well as offer marketing features such as SEO tools, Instagram integration and Facebook and Google Ads.

  • Square Online is also a worthwhile option for brick-and-mortar businesses, such as restaurants or retailers, that are looking to expand their presence online. All plans integrate directly with Square POS, include on-demand and in-house delivery features, in-store and curbside pickup, as well as operations management tools.

» Learn more about this e-commerce platform in our Square Online review.

Square
Shop Now

on Square's website

A version of this article was first published on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.