Big Cartel Review
This easy to use eCommerce shopping cart is designed for artist and makers who sell their products at a low volume.
- Suitable for startups
- Low monthly cost
- Easy to use
- Free plan available
- Limited product listings
- Not scalable
- Few integrations
Big Cartel Overview
Big Cartel is web-based, fully-hosted eCommerce software designed for painters, photographers, crafters, bakers, authors, and other creative types. As that audience will no doubt appreciate, Big Cartel is known for its simplicity of design and ease of use. And with zero transaction fees, listing fees, or other charges, Big Cartel supports independents in their endeavors to produce and sell products they believe in, even if their margins are low.
A Big Cartel review shows that no particular technical expertise is needed to use the software. 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 in high quantities, Big Cartel likely won’t be able to meet your needs, and you’d do well to check out some other top-rated eCommerce software options to find one that will suit you better.
However, if you’re just getting started, or if you don’t need a whole lot of advanced features, Big Cartel might be just the ticket. In fact, while Big Cartel is not the right option for every merchant, for many independent artists and creators this software is one of the best options out there.
Keep reading to learn about Big Cartel pricing, features, and more.
Table of Contents
- Big Cartel Pricing
- Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed
- Hardware & Software Requirements
- Specific Size Of Business
- Ease Of Use
- Big Cartel Features
- Big Cartel Web Design & Themes
- Big Cartel Integrations & Add-Ons
- Payment Processing
- Big Cartel Customer Service & Technical Support
- Big Cartel Reviews
- Big Cartel FAQS
- Final Verdict
Big Cartel Pricing
Big Cartel offers a range of pricing plans to meet most budgets, and Big Cartel pricing depends on the number of products you have to list. If you have five or fewer products, you can use the free plan, with no credit card required. If you’re looking to really sell you’re probably going to need one of the two paid plans that allow you to upload more than one image for each product and list more than five products.
Fortunately, no matter what plan you choose, you won’t have to worry about Big Cartel fees, because you won’t pay anything outside your payment processor’s transaction fees.
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 a custom domain
- Free customizable themes
- Sell online and in-person
- Real-time stats
- Discount and promo codes
- Shipment tracking
- Sales tax autopilot
- Product option groups
Big Cartel’s Platinum plan costs $9.99/month and includes everything in the Gold plan, plus:
- 50 products
- Five images per product
- Theme code editing
- Google Analytics
- Inventory tracking
- Bulk editing
Big Cartel’s Diamond plan costs $19.99/month and includes everything in the Platinum plan, plus:
- 500 products
Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed
Big Cartel is web-hosted, meaning Big Cartel hosts your store on its servers. Fortunately, the company has a pretty good track record, with 100% uptime over the past 60 days at the time of this Big Cartel review update and no incidents reported for the past three months.
Hardware & Software Requirements
As a fully-hosted, web-based platform, Big Cartel doesn’t have any hardware or software requirements. Just be sure your computer, internet, and web browser are current and functional for optimal use. Big Cartel supports the following browsers:
- Chrome 61+
- Safari 10.1+
- Firefox 63+
- Edge 16+
- Opera 12+
If you’re not sure if you’re up to date, visit the Big Cartel website for a link you can use to check — and to get help updating your browser if you need to.
Big Cartel also offers free mobile apps you can use to manage your store from anywhere. These apps are available for Android and iOS.
Specific Size Of Business
Big Cartel is designed for makers and artists who sell handmade and creative products. The software is not robust enough to handle a high volume of transactions, and each plan includes limits on product listings. For these reasons, Big Cartel will work best for smaller 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 that 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 straightforward, as is customizing your site’s design. Of course, it’s worth noting that much of this simplicity is due to the limited number of features in the dashboard and the design editor. This limited functionality would be frustrating to more advanced users or to merchants who deal with a large volume of 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 for you.
Big Cartel Features
Although Big Cartel’s admin is fairly simple in terms of features, there are a few that you should note:
- Dashboard: Big Cartel has a colorful dashboard that clearly shows important data points: number of visitors, orders, conversions, and sales revenue over the past week, month, year, or store lifetime.
- 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 on your site and through Facebook and Instagram. If you want to process in-person sales, you can connect your account with Stripe or take cash payments.
- Sell Internationally: Your Big Cartel shop can display prices in one of about two dozen currencies. Conversion from other currencies will be handled automatically at checkout.
- Checkout: Big Cartel’s Sales Tax Autopilot automatically calculates and collects sales tax on all U.S. orders. That applies to all sales made to all states and territories that levy sales tax. You’ll get a report for how much was collected in taxes, and you can use that information to report your taxes. If your store is located outside of the U.S., orders bound for the States will have sales tax automatically applied. Otherwise, you can set taxes for your store’s home country. However, Big Cartel still does not offer a built-in shipping rate generator. You can only create flat shipping rates, unless you integrate your choice of shipping software add-on.
- Inventory Management: Paid plans include the ability to track your inventory, so you never sell any stock you don’t have on hand. You can also list items as “coming soon” or “sold out.”
- Marketing: Create discount and promo codes to attract more customers. 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 built in to the platform, if you have a paid plan.
I would like to see some additional functionality (e.g., shipping calculators, search tools, abandoned cart recovery). But for an inexpensive, bare-bones shopping cart, Big Cartel has an adequate number of features.
Big Cartel Web Design & Themes
Big Cartel has 18 store themes available, and all of them are mobile-responsive. This is definitely a small selection of themes compared to other shopping carts. However, while the themes are not particularly spectacular, they are free. And they should look just fine if you fill them with beautiful, high-resolution photography. You can find a few third-party themes out there, or you can choose to work with a web developer to customize your site at the source code level, if you’re on a paid plan.
Editing one of Big Cartel’s themes is easy and actually fun. I got a little carried away testing out various themes, adding different images, and trying out 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 site that’s ready to publish, but I think it looks pretty good for five minutes’ work. There’s also an HTML/CSS editor available for paying clients. Just click the <> tab at the top of the page.
Big Cartel Integrations & Add-Ons
Big Cartel integrates directly with only about two dozen add-ons, including options in these categories:
- Marketing & promotions
- Manufacturing, shipping & fulfillment
- Store Management
- Payment processors
- Domain providers
While these categories cover the basics for running an online store, there’s a good chance you might not find your top choice among the options. For example, while it’s great to find ShipStation, ShipRush, Pirate Ship, and ShipRobot add-ons, there are many highly rated, very popular shipping apps that you won’t be able to integrate with.
On the other hand, for a shopping cart focused on makers, Big Cartel offers some well-chosen integrations. In particular, artists will appreciate being able to link their stores to Art of Where and Printful, which are both print-on-demand services that enable dropshipping through a Big Cartel store. The Pulley app is another good choice, enabling sales of digital products including music, ebooks, videos, craft patterns, software, fonts, graphics, and more. So while the number of integrations is not overwhelming, it may suit Big Cartel’s target audience just fine.
And of course, the available integration with Zapier significantly expands the options. With Zapier, users have access to more than 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 users create integration with other software.
Big Cartel users have several good choices for payment providers, although again while the choices are solid the number of options is limited compared to other eCommerce vendors. You can use Stripe or PayPal for processing credit and debit card payments through your Big Cartel store.
It gets a little more interesting when you add in ePay for instant checkout and Venmo. Of course, in order to use ePay, you’ll first need to set up your store to accept Stripe payments. Once you do that, you’ll also be able to accept payment via PayPal Credit. That means you can offer customers a buy now, pay later option (BNPL) that meets their needs and can improve your own bottom line. If you want to use Venmo as a payment option, you’ll need to connect PayPal Commerce Platform and pay PayPal processing fees. If you do, you’ll be able to offer a different BNPL option, in the form of PayPal Credit. Big Cartel says it’s working to add Afterpay as a checkout option as well, though there’s no date attached to those plans.
It’s important to note that although Big Cartel itself does not charge any transaction fees, payment processors do. To learn more about payment processing, download our free eBook, The Beginner’s Guide To Credit Card Processing.
Big Cartel Customer Service & Technical Support
Users can access Big Cartel 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 a question, we received a full response within two hours. We also have not seen any negative Big Cartel reviews related to customer support, 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 8 AM to 6 PM EST.
- Help Center: Big Cartel also has a Help Center available. The Help Center includes information on the following topics: Basics, 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 recorded “live classes” that you can watch for guidance on adding a product, creating a discount, packaging products, adjusting your account settings, and more.
- Blog: Big Cartel maintains a blog, called Workshop, that features various artists who use the platform and provide 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.
Big Cartel Reviews
While there’s a lot to like about Big Cartel, the software does have a few shortcomings that are often cited in Big Cartel reviews. Overall, the company has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and good composite ratings but few reviews on G2 Crowd and Capterra. An outlier with 40 ratings and a poor review of 2.5/5 stars, Trustpilot shows that 20% of reviewers rate Big Cartel “excellent” while 70% say it’s “bad.” However, a deeper dive into those reviews reveals that most of the poor reviews are from people upset about a purchase they made on a Big Cartel website, and not from people who actually use the site for their own online stores. On Trustpilot, at least, actual users are overwhelmingly appreciative of the platform and satisfied with their eCommerce choice.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at both the good and the bad comments that pop up more than once from actual Big Cartel users.
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 500 products, which can certainly be limiting for some sellers.
- Restrictions On Free Plan: The free plan does not allow users with free Big Cartel shops to edit HTML or create discount codes.
- Limited Customization: As previously mentioned, Big Cartel’s ease of use can be seen as a positive or as a negative, depending on your point of view. The templates, in particular, seem limited and, in the words of one user, “clunky.”
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
It’s easy to find good things to talk about with Big Cartel. 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. While you won’t find a huge number of Big Cartel templates to work with, it’s relatively easy for even non-technical types to create a stylish and visually appealing website fast.
- 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 Etsy’s pesky transaction fees. 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, paying only the inescapable fees for credit card processing when they make a sale. At the same time, most sellers who wanted one found that Big Cartel offers affordable paid plans as well.
Other positive reviews discussed the company’s reliable uptime, elegant web design, and the fact that Big Cartel does not charge additional transaction fees.
One Big Cartel user commented:
Since I have owned multiple successful Etsy stores before, I moved to Big Cartel because I was fed up with ridiculous fees taking loads of my profits. Using Big Cartel for my business, I no longer lose around 20% to Etsy fees.
Big Cartel stores come with SSL encryption on every page. Your payment processor secures the transactions.
Big Cartel FAQS
This Big Cartel review shows the platform could be the perfect choice for creators of all types who want to add an eCommerce element to their art. Big Cartel is best for those who plan to remain relatively small. If dramatic growth is in your future — if you’re hoping to offer more than 500 products — you’ll likely want to invest in another eCommerce option, like Shopify, to find a truly scalable platform so that you won’t quickly outgrow your Big Cartel store and 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 and the expense 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. Of course, Big Cartel is not your only choice. Before you commit, check out a couple of other easy eCommerce options for beginners.
If you’re ready to join the community of artists who already use Big Cartel for their online stores, you can sign up for the free plan (there’s no credit card required) and play with the platform for a bit. Add a couple of products, test out the theme editor, and you’ll soon see if Big Cartel is right for you.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.