Big Cartel Review: Is It Right for Your Store?
This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
Big Cartel is an easy-to-use ecommerce solution for creatives who want to sell their products from an online store without a big investment. The all-in-one platform lets you build your site using templates designed to make your products stand out, connect a payment gateway like Stripe or PayPal, and sell products without extra listing or transaction fees. Big Cartel has a free plan and offers paid tiers starting at $9.99 a month.
What We Like
- Easy to use
- Low monthly cost
- Stylish themes with no ads or branding
- Not scalable, only has basic features
- No inventory tracking without upgrade
- Limited integrations and payment providers
- Weak search engine optimization (SEO) features
- Software Fees: Free; paid plans start at $9.99
- Transaction Fees: None
- Credit Card Payment Processing Fees: Stripe: 2.9% + 30 cents, PayPal: 3.49% + 49 cents
- Payment Gateway Options: Stripe, PayPal, and Apple Pay
- Free plan lets you sell up to five products
- Connect a custom domain, even on free plan
- Robust mobile apps (can add/edit products, save changes, process orders, and more)
What We Recommend Big Cartel For
Big Cartel earned a spot in our list of the best free ecommerce platforms. It’s the only free self-hosted ecommerce platform we reviewed that allows you to connect to a custom domain. Its simple platform with aesthetically pleasing templates contributed to its high marks. However, product limitations (the free plan only allows for five products) and lack of advanced inventory tracking (no SKU management) hindered it from getting a higher score.
We recommend Big Cartel for:
- Artists and creatives looking to sell their custom, handmade, or limited edition products: Big Cartel was made with artists in mind. Its stylish templates are developed for showcasing aesthetically pleasing product photos.
- Businesses that have no immediate plans to scale: If you do not have any plans of scaling your business soon and intend to sell only a handful of products each month, Big Cartel’s free plan is for you. You can sell up to five products with the free plan.
When Big Cartel Would Not Be a Good Fit
- If you want a full-blown ecommerce website that can grow with your business, Shopify is what you need. It is a platform that is ideal for new businesses but has room for growth and scalability. It also allows you to build a full website on its platform.
- If you run a brick-and-mortar store and would like to add an online component for pickup or local delivery sales, then Square Online is your best option. It lets you build a full website or a simple one-page site for free and offers a complete POS for your brick-and-mortar store.
- If you have a high-revenue business or an extensive product catalog, BigCommerce is a better fit. You can choose your payment processor with no added fees, and it can host an unlimited number of products—physical, digital, or services.
Looking for something different? Read our guide to the best ecommerce platforms for small businesses to find a service or software that’s right for you.
Big Cartel Store Examples
Big Cartel is best for artists or creatives looking to sell limited editions of their work and wanting to do it on a standalone site, compared to signing up with a creative marketplace such as Etsy. The brands we showcase below are perfect examples of those that have utilized Big Cartel’s standout features for their businesses.
Val Lucas, a letterpress printer from Maryland, started her Big Cartel store because she wanted to be in control of her online store. She shared that setup was quick and easy.
Multidisciplinary artist Jo Peel chose to build her store in Big Cartel because of its ease of use. She wanted a platform with a website template that lets the products speak for themselves, and she found that in Big Cartel’s Luna theme.
Joanna Gonzales left her TV job to launch a children’s clothing brand inspired by her three children and their surroundings. She said she chose to build her online shop with Big Cartel because of its easy-to-use platform, good customer support and fast response time, and affordable prices.
Big Cartel Pricing
Big Cartel offers a free plan and two paid options that start at $9.99/month. All Big Cartel plans allow you to build your online store with customizable themes, sell online and in person, use a custom domain, perform shipment tracking, and offer discounts or promos. The main differences between the tiers are product limits, inventory tracking, bulk editing, product option groups, and the ability to install Google Analytics.
Big Cartel Plans
Number of products
Images per product
Use custom domain name
Inventory and shipment tracking
Big Cartel’s Gold plan is free and allows you to sell up to five products with one photo per item. It also lets you connect a custom domain, such as www.yourstore.com. If you don’t own a custom domain, you can use a Big Cartel subdomain, like yourstore.BigCartel.com, for free.
You integrate a small but mighty set of apps, including Mailchimp, ShipStation, and live chat. You’d want to upgrade to the paid versions if you need to sell more products and include digital items, like e-books and videos.
Big Cartel’s paid subscriptions, Platinum and Diamond, essentially have the same functionalities except for the number of products you can sell. Apart from what’s listed above, you can edit theme codes, offer discount codes, use inventory tracking, and do product option groups.
While Big Cartel’s pricing may appear affordable, the features included in each plan remain basic, limited, and aren’t very scalable. When you upgrade, you get an increase only on the number of products you can sell—you don’t get more advanced features to support your business.
Shopify’s $29 per month plan gives you unlimited products, whereas Big Cartel’s $19.99 per month option has a 500-product limit. You also get more marketing options, better SEO features, and payment channels with the former. Big Cartel won’t give you the best value for money if you’re looking to grow your online store.
However, this is an excellent option if you plan to keep it small and stay that way. You can use its free plan and start selling online right away.
Big Cartel Features
Big Cartel boasts an easy-to-use platform that is an all-in-one solution for creatives. Once you sign up, you can easily set up your products, process payments, and ship orders from a single dashboard. It’s worth noting that Big Cartel doesn’t have advanced ecommerce features you might need, such as SEO tools, email marketing, and advanced inventory tracking.
Since our last update:
Big Cartel has made many changes to its platform, including:
- iOS and Android apps now have better navigation features, and Product Drafts are now included. You can save your product posts to put them in drafts and make them go live when you are ready to hit publish.
- Major improvements to the Design Area of your shop, such as the ability to preview your website from multiple devices, autosave changes (and the ability to discard changes after), have more text formatting and table options, and add images straight into custom pages such as Contact Us, About, and FAQ.
- Improved shipping settings and subscription options are currently in Beta mode, with more updates coming soon.
That the platform was created with the artist in mind is evidenced by the design of its website templates—they are stylish and modern and, unlike many competitors, don’t include pesky ads. There’s just a subtle logo on the footer, which you can remove using code.
As of this writing, Big Cartel has 18 themes, all minimally designed and focusing on visual appeal. Users can edit CSS files for the themes; however, if you wish to change some HTML coding, you need to upgrade to a paid subscription.
Big Cartel’s website builder is intuitive. You can easily switch previews to see what your website looks like on desktop, mobile, and table. However, there aren’t a lot of sections you can add to the homepage—you can only add a logo and background image, customize fonts and colors, and adjust layout settings for your products.
You can, however, add additional pages to your website, but you are limited to working with a WYSIWYG editor.
Since Big Cartel’s free plan doesn’t allow for more than five physical products, don’t expect to need to set up many product details. You can upload a product with a single photo, put a description, classify it by category, set up product options, and set pricing, shipping, and tax fees. The ability to track inventory is available only on a paid plan.
One thing to remember when it comes to naming products is that once Big Cartel has created a URL for your product, you can no longer edit it.
If you are moving products from Etsy, Squarespace, and Shopify, go with Big Cartel’s product import feature to bulk import products using a CSV file.
Big Cartel allows you to set up product options such as size, color, and material for your listings. If you intend to have multiple options per product, you can set up a product group options feature. You can set up to three options and create 150 different product options per product listing.
To set up product options, go to Products, add or edit a product listing, scroll down to the Options area and click Add option. Set up the option’s name (such as size) and type in your choices (such as small, medium, and large). Click Save.
Big Cartel offers the following payment integrations: Stripe, PayPal, and Apple Pay. It doesn’t add any fees on top of whatever these providers charge.
Read our Stripe vs PayPal comparison to choose the right one for your business.
You can set up shipping methods from your product listing page. You can set up your country of origin and specify standalone or combined order rates.
With the recent update, shipping profiles are added to your dashboard and are currently in Beta. You can add specific default shipping options, so you don’t need to set it up individually in your product listings.
Big Cartel’s available extensions are limited. The most notable integrations are with Mailchimp, Instagram, and Zapier, allowing for some flexibility in expanding your integrations.
As you can see, Big Cartel’s feature set is elementary and limited. While this may be a drawback for some small business owners, Big Cartel has been very clear about its target audience and has found a steady customer base in the arts and crafts community, with many examples of artpreneurs moving from their Etsy stores to open a solo store in Big Cartel.
Big Cartel Ease of Use
- Intuitive dashboard
- Straightforward onboarding process with design wizard
- Friendly onboarding process
- Help Center/FAQ
- Training videos
- Email customer support (Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time)
Big Cartel has a very user-friendly onboarding process. When you’re setting up your online store, it gives you helpful prompts, reminders, and suggestions. Being guided through the setup tasks makes it beginner-friendly and easy to use.
Setting up a store with Big Cartel is straightforward, even simpler than the setup process of Shopify (which topped our list of the best ecommerce platforms when it comes to ease of use). Of course, the simplicity of Big Cartel’s setup process is due to the platform’s feature limits.
When it comes to support, Big Cartel doesn’t provide phone or live chat options. However, email response time is fast, and its support team is pretty active in the provider’s social media accounts, especially Twitter.
Top Big Cartel Alternatives
Best for: Small storefronts wanting to add an online store
Best for: Small businesses with ecommerce as their backbone
Best for: Artists and creators wanting top-rated templates
Monthly fee from: $0
Monthly fee from: $5
Monthly fee from: $18 (for ecommerce functionality)
If you’re not sure Big Cartel is right for you, see how it compares with our top free ecommerce website platforms.
What Users Think About Big Cartel
There are not many Big Cartel reviews available online. The reviews we have read were mostly positive though, with most users commenting on how the free plan allows them to have a basic store. They also said that its pricing plans are affordable. Common negative feedback, meanwhile, is that it lacks features for scaling—such as advanced inventory capabilities and customization.
At the time of publication, Big Cartel reviews earned the following scores from other critics and user review sites:
- G2: 4.3 out of 5 based on more than 20 reviews
- Website Builder Expert gave it a 3.0 out of 5 rating in its review.
- App Store (iOS): 4.8 out of 5 stars based on nearly 7,000 reviews.
When reading through Big Cartel reviews, I noticed these trends:
|Seamless website and mobile app integration||Lacks advanced features|
|Affordable paid tiers||No flexibility for customization|
|Easy to learn, quick setup||Very few integrations available|
For growing businesses and experienced web developers, Big Cartel’s simplicity may be a cause for frustration. Since Big Cartel is designed for creatives and isn’t built with scaling ecommerce businesses in mind, it is everything you can imagine when it comes to ease of use. So, if you need to sell only a few products at a time, Big Cartel is a logical choice. However, if you need a platform that can accommodate your growth in the long run, you might want to look at Shopify or BigCommerce.