Big Cartel Review
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- Date Established
- Salt Lake City, UT
- Suited to startups
- Cheap monthly cost
- Easy to use
- Free plan available
- Limited SKUs
- Not scalable
- Limited integrations
Designed for painters, photographers, crafters, bakers, and authors, Big Cartel supports independents in their endeavors to produce and sell products they believe in. And it does so in an easy-to-access format.
Founded in 2005, Big Cartel was created by Matt Wigham, who was looking for a way to sell his band merchandise online. It has since expanded to serve nearly a million artists, including AR Ceramics and The Good Twin. Big Cartel is web-based, fully-hosted software, sporting simplicity of design and ease of use with zero transaction fees. Functions are simple, and the process of adding products, creating discounts, and managing orders and inventory is as smooth as it gets. Unfortunately, that ease of use comes with a limited feature set. If you’re selling mass quantities, Big Cartel likely won’t be able to fill your needs. However, if you’re just getting started, or you don’t need a whole lot of advanced features, Big Cartel might be just the ticket.
While Big Cartel is not the right option for every merchant, for the independent artist, this software is one of the best options out there. Keep reading to learn about Big Cartel’s pricing and features.
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Table of Contents
Big Cartel’s pricing structure is based on the number of products you list. If you have five or fewer products, you can use the free plan. While the free plan is definitely an option for hobbyists, to really sell, you’re going to have to spring for a paid plan. That way, you can provide more than one image for each product (which is crucial for online selling) and list more than five products. Fortunately, the paid plans aren’t all that expensive.
Here’s a breakdown of all of Big Cartel’s pricing plans.
Big Cartel’s Gold plan costs $0/month and includes:
- Five products
- One image per product
- Use your own domain
- Google Analytics
- Full code customization
- Inventory tracking
- Discount codes
- Automatic tax calculations (coming soon)
- Advanced tax settings (coming soon)
- Product option groups
Big Cartel’s Platinum plan costs $9.99/month and includes everything in the Gold plan, plus:
- 25 Products
- Five images per product
- Free customizable themes
- Sell online and in-person
- Real-time stats
- Use a custom domain
- Theme code editing
- Google Analytics
- Inventory tracking
- Offer discounts and run promos
- Bulk editing
- Shipment tracking
- Automatic tax calculations
Big Cartel’s Diamond plan costs $19.99/month and includes everything in the Platinum plan, plus:
- 100 Products
- Product option groups
- Advanced tax settings
Big Cartel’s Titanium plan costs $29.99/month and includes everything in the Diamond plan, plus:
- 300 Products
Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed
Web-hosted. Big Cartel hosts your store on its servers. Fortunately, the company has a pretty good track record.
Hardware & Software Requirements
As a fully-hosted, web-based platform, Big Cartel doesn’t have any hardware or software requirements. Just be sure to keep your basic tools (computer, internet, and web browser) current and functional for optimal use.
Big Cartel also offers mobile apps that you can use to manage your store from anywhere. These apps are available for Android (4.4+) and iOS (12.0+).
Specific Size Of Business
Big Cartel is designed for makers and artists who sell their handmade products. Big Cartel is not robust enough to handle a high volume of transactions, but it works well for small sellers.
Ease Of Use
It’s incredibly simple to set up a store with Big Cartel. I would go so far as to say that Big Cartel’s setup process is simpler than that of Shopify, the eCommerce platform which usually dominates in the ease-of-use department. A setup wizard guides you through all the steps of setting up your site, and you can find additional setup information in the Help Center. Adding products is remarkably straightforward, as is customizing your site’s design.
I will say, however, that part of this simplicity is due to the limited number of features in the dashboard and the design editor. This limited functionality and simplicity would be frustrating to a more advanced user or a merchant who deals with more products and orders. At the same time, though, I think Big Cartel is just right for a lot of artists. If you’d prefer to focus your energy on making products instead of tweaking your site’s code, Big Cartel may be the right approach.
Although Big Cartel’s admin is fairly simple in terms of features, there are a few that you should note:
- Dashboard: Last year, Big Cartel updated its entire software, including a redesign of its dashboard. While I’m happy that Big Cartel is continually making improvements to its software, I prefer the old dashboard. The new dashboard is a bit too gray for me — things tend to blend into each other. Fortunately, Big Cartel has not hurt its usability with this update.
- Products: Big Cartel allows you to list up to five images per product on its paid plans. You can also list multiple product options at multiple price points. If you want to list digital merchandise, you can use the integration with Pulley to do so.
- Multi-Channel Selling: Big Cartel lets you sell in-person, on your site, and through Facebook.
- Checkout: Currently, the tax calculation is very limited (you can only list taxes for one state or territory in the US), and there is no automatic shipping rate generator (you can only create flat shipping rates for each product and region). Most shopping carts come with these features built-in. Fortunately, Big Cartel says that automatic tax calculations and advanced tax settings are coming soon. You can also integrate a shipping software via an add-on to handle complex shipping calculations.
- Inventory Management: Track your inventory, so you never sell any stock you don’t have on hand (available with paid plans). You can also list items as “coming soon” or “sold out.”
- Marketing: Create discount codes to attract more customers (available with paid plans). Use a Facebook integration to set up shop on your social media platform.
- SEO Tools: Utilize SEO features, such as plain-text URLs and automatic sitemap generation, to draw in traffic.
- Reports & Analytics: Google Analytics is already integrated into the platform (available with paid plans).
I would like to see some additional functionality (e.g., shipping calculators, search tools, abandoned cart recovery). But for a cheap, bare-bones shopping cart, Big Cartel has an adequate number of features.
Big Cartel has seventeen themes available, and all of them are mobile-responsive. This is definitely a small selection of themes compared to other shopping carts. While the themes are not particularly spectacular, they should look just fine if you fill them with beautiful, high-resolution photography. There are also a few third-party themes out there, and you can always work with a web developer to customize your site at the source code level.
Editing one of Big Cartel’s seventeen themes is easy (and actually fun). I got a little carried away testing out various themes, adding different images, and trying on the multiple fonts available. It’s all point-and-click. Here’s what I started with:
In five minutes, I had this (see below). It’s clearly not a publishable site yet, but I like to think that it looks pretty good for five minutes. There’s also an HTML/CSS editor available (HTML is only available for paying clients). Just click the <> tab at the top of the page.
Integrations & Add-Ons
Big Cartel integrates directly with only 17 add-ons, although the integration with Zapier significantly expands those options. With a Zapier integration, you have access to over 1,000 different applications. You will have to pay for both the Zapier service and your third-party applications, but Zapier eliminates the need to hire a web developer to build those connections for you.
Additionally, there’s an API available to help you integrate with other software.
Big Cartel integrates with two payment methods. View them below:
- Stripe: Stripe allows you to accept online and in-person payments. Processing fees begin at 2.75% for online transactions and 2.7% + $0.05 for in-person transactions. What’s more, Apple Pay works with Stripe to provide Instant Checkout for your customers. Read more in our review of Stripe.
- PayPal: PayPal allows you to accept online payments. You must have a PayPal business account to use this integration. Processing fees start at 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. Integrating PayPal also allows you to accept PayPal Credit and Venmo payments. Take a look at our review of PayPal for more information.
You should note that although Big Cartel does not charge any transaction fees, payment processors do. To learn more about payment processing, download our free eBook, The Beginner’s Guide to Payment Processing.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Big Cartel offers customer support primarily through email and its Help Center. We wish Big Cartel allowed users to call in for support; however, we find Big Cartel’s email support to be solid. Both times we emailed in with a question, we received a full response within two hours. We also have not seen any negative reviews of Big Cartel’s customer support online, aside from a few comments that express a desire for phone support. Here’s a quick breakdown of all of Big Cartel’s support offerings.
- Email: Although Big Cartel does not offer phone or chat support, you can reach customer service via email Monday-Friday from 9 AM to 6 PM EST.
- Help Center: Big Cartel also has a Help Center available. The Help Center includes information on the following topics: Customization, Products, Orders, Dashboard, Discounts, Settings, Billing, Security, and Apps & Integrations. I’d still like to see a few more topics added to Big Cartel’s knowledgebase, but this Help Center is a good start.
- Videos: Big Cartel provides five re-recorded live classes, which you can watch for guidance on adding a product, creating a discount, and more. You can also register to join one of Big Cartel’s monthly live classes for more support.
- Blog: Big Cartel maintains a blog that features various artists who use the platform and provides helpful tips for running a business. The updates of the blog present new features and integrations.
- Social Media: Big Cartel has active accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest, which customers can use to contact the company with general questions. However, you should note that most of Big Cartel’s replies on social media advise customers to send an email detailing their problems.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
After some time spent haunting forums, customer review sites, and comment threads, I’ve come up with the most commonly mentioned complaints about Big Cartel. Here are the top complaints:
- Product Limit: Big Cartel’s plans only allow up to 300 products, which can certainly be limiting for some sellers.
- Restrictions On Free Plan: The free plan does not allow you to edit HTML or create discount codes.
Other complaints include limited integrations, features, and a built-in tax calculator, and the lack of image hosting, a search function, or an automatic shipping calculator.
If you take a look at the company’s BBB (Better Business Bureau) page, you see that Big Cartel scores an A+ despite a handful of complaints. A closer look shows that ten of the eleven complaints on Big Cartel’s BBB page are from consumers who are addressing stores that use Big Cartel as their platform. These are misdirected accusations, as Big Cartel clearly states in its legal agreement that the company is not responsible for fulfilling orders placed at Big Cartel stores.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
There’s a lot of good to talk about with Big Cartel. Big Cartel earns 4-stars out of 5 according to G2 Crowd’s ratings. Here’s what the people of the internet mention most often:
- Ease Of Use: Customers rave about the simple dashboard and no-hassle theme editor. It’s pretty great to go from a blank canvas to a full site in just a day, with no HTML headaches necessary.
- Great Alternative To Etsy: Most Big Cartel users are the type who would otherwise belong to the Etsy community. Big Cartel allows them to sell the same products independently, without direct competition from other artists and without that pesky 5% transaction fee. Big Cartel also gives artists more power to build their brands, apart from the Etsy marketplace.
- Price: Many sellers use Big Cartel entirely free of charge! The paid plans are also affordable options for most sellers.
Other positive reviews discussed the company’s reliable uptime, elegant web design, and that there are no additional transaction fees.
One Big Cartel user commented:
Big Cartel is inexpensive. The pricing plans are excellent and affordable. There is an ease of use and the dashboard/tools are intuitive.
Big Cartel stores come with SSL encryption on every page. Your payment processor secures the transactions.
Big Cartel is the perfect platform for merchants who plan to remain relatively small. If dramatic growth is in your future (or just over 300 SKUs), you’ll likely want to look into other options so that you won’t have to switch platforms down the road.
However, if you want a platform that allows you the time you need to create your art, free from the noise of Etsy, then Big Cartel may be the way to go. Its ease of use lets you design beautiful themes to match your beautiful products without ever touching that ugly code.
If you’re ready to join the community of artists who already use Big Cartel for their online stores, click the link below. Sign up for the free plan and play with the platform for a bit. Add a couple of products, test out the theme editor, and see if Big Cartel is right for you.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.
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