|Big Cartel standout features|
|Best for||Startups, freelancers, and small|
What Are the Pros and Cons of Big Cartel?
Big Cartel is a niche e-commerce platform for small business owners with limited products and technical know-how. It offers the basic features necessary for creating an e-commerce store. While it enables startups to start their online shops even with zero programming knowledge, it limits options to grow their business.
If you’re looking for a no-cost or low-cost way to sell your products online, Big Cartel can be a viable solution.
Pros of Big Cartel
- Very affordable subscription plans: I cannot overstate the appeal of Big Cartel’s free plan. When it’s time to upgrade or introduce a more extensive product line, the paid plans are very reasonable too.
- Customizable and responsive designs: The platform’s professional and creative layouts are easy to personalize, with editable attributes, and the editing tools are simple and user-friendly.
- Mobile app for sellers and buyers: Big Cartel offers a separate app for its users that allows you to run your business from anywhere with an internet connection.
- Point-of-Sale (POS) enabled: Merchants and creators can avail of Big Cartel’s POS, which comes with Stripe integration. It’s very helpful in boosting sales during events, exhibits, festivals, and conferences. Also, selling your products in physical stores is an advantage.
- Digital goods allowed: Big Cartel makes it possible through Pulley, the company’s digital downloads service. You would need to create a paid Pulley account for $6 per month, but the 14-day free trial can get you started.
Cons of Big Cartel
- No abandoned cart recovery solution: Maybe this is not common in online stores with a handful of products, but I believe this feature is still important. Should you wish to cover this aspect of your business, you’ll need to integrate a third-party email marketing provider like Mailchimp.
- No built-in blog: If you intend to include blogging in your marketing strategy, you need to create it on a separate platform and integrate it with your Big Cartel store. This can be a tedious undertaking.
- Limited payment service provider: Big Cartel’s POS comes pre-integrated with Stripe, but that’s it. It lacks multiple payment providers and can improve on it.
Customizable design themes
You can use any of Big Cartel’s 18 pre-built templates or work with the design team to create something unique for your business.
I used a premade layout and could still change the logo, colors, and fonts and replace the images. Even the pages and options are customizable.
As you personalize the theme of your choice, the preview pane updates in real time. This makes designing your storefront easy and fast; you don’t need coding skills or graphic design experience to make the changes. The edit buttons are not difficult to navigate or identify.
One downside to designing on the Big Cartel platform is the image support and capacity. These are the acceptable files and sizes:
- Formats: .jpg, .png, .gif, and .bpm
- Maximum file size: 10MB
- Maximum dimensions: 12,000 x 12,000px
If you are tech-savvy, you can perform more in-depth customization. All pages of your Big Cartel store come with editable HTML (except for the checkout page). You can add plug-ins, like translation and currency, to ensure your customers’ journey through your website is more seamless and enjoyable.
Also, you may embed plug-ins to support your sales and marketing campaigns, such as reviews and newsletter subscriptions.
I also found the Done button very helpful as it prevents accidental publishing of your work if you’re not yet finished. At the same time, it saves all the changes you’ve made. When you’re sure about the final version, simply hit the Publish button.
Product listing options
This Big Cartel feature allows you to add attributes to your listings. Thus, if your products come in various colors, sizes, or prints, your customers can click on their choice. This makes it easy to navigate your site as it eliminates the need to upload multiple images of the same item.
And if you offer multiple options, the product option groups feature is your solution. It provides multiple lists for items that come with more than one attribute.
For instance, customers can order a commemorative plate in small, white, floral design specs. Or in large, gold, cityscape design, if they prefer. Each selection shows its corresponding price.
The display of these options on your storefront is retina-ready as well.
This feature also applies to existing products that may not previously have had variants. You can use the conversion tool instead of creating new listings for them, but you must ensure your theme is in the current version. Otherwise, upgrade it first before making the switch.
Search engine optimization
Appearing on page 1 of search engines is a proven way to drive organic traffic to your website. You need to optimize your site pages according to their algorithms to achieve that.
Fortunately, you won’t face this challenge when your e-commerce store is built on Big Cartel. It does the SEO for you based on Google’s rules. The paid plans also come with Google Analytics to help determine the profiles of your site visitors.
These are the SEO perks you get even on the free plan:
- Optimized page titles and meta descriptions
- A valid HTML that displays correctly and prevents bugs
- Search engine-friendly URLs
- Site navigation that search engines easily understand
- Reader-focused headers and anchors
- Images with appropriate alt tags
- robots.txt pointing to a sitemap
- Canonical URL
In the Help Center of Big Cartel, I found valuable tips on how to optimize my e-commerce website for search engines.
Payment processing is one of the hallmarks of the best e-commerce platforms. It is among the top reasons business owners choose to subscribe to their services instead of winging it out on their own. With this feature, you skip the all-important step of payment gateway integration as the company does it for you.
Big Cartel lets you connect to PayPal and Stripe, and that’s it. The company intends to keep things simple, and the fewer payment processors, the better.
The upside is that both payment gateways are accessible on all iOs and Android devices. I found the option to enable either one or both.
These are the advantages of using PayPal for your Big Cartel online store:
- Convenient and secure
- Trusted brand by most online shoppers
- PayPal Credit (buy now, pay later)
- Buyers opting for PayPal Credit can pay in four installments, but you get paid in full
- Payments take only one business day to convert
Meanwhile, enjoy these benefits when you choose Stripe:
- Accepts Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and a host of other credit cards
- Also accepts debit cards
- Apple Pay customers have faster transactions through Instant Checkout
- Accepts POS payments with the Stripe Terminal card reader
Transaction fees for PayPal and Stripe cost 3.49% + $0.49 per transaction and 2.9% + $.30 per transaction, respectively. Big Cartel doesn’t charge any added fees.
Also, payments through Stripe take longer — two, four, or seven days, depending on your preference. This is because it must first verify transactions with a customer’s bank before remitting the money to you.
Considering the advantages of the two payment processors, I recommend enabling both on your Big Cartel shop to cater to a wider customer base. The only drawback is the absence of an in-house option on the platform, which other providers include in their basic features.
For the platform to cover those exempted assets with SSL, you must secure them. When that’s done, the customer support team will grant you an opt-in for SSL that covers your entire site.
That’s the good news. Now for the not-so-good. Big Cartel is not PCI compliant. If you’re caught not following the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), you’re liable to pay hefty penalties and will forever forfeit your right to accept payments through credit cards. This is one of the critical aspects you should consider before signing up for a Big Cartel account.
One of the main reasons people use Big Cartel is the store’s support, available by email and phone from Monday to Friday between 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST. I found its customer service team highly responsive, knowledgeable, and helpful. And it is an in-house company staff, not outsourced agents like most companies employ.
The company also offers video tutorials, webinars, and Instagram tips on its YouTube channel. These materials will walk you through every aspect of your store, from designing a logo to customizing the checkout process.
Classroom, Big Cartel’s library of resources, is filled with guides on growing a website-based retail business.
The learning curve for this platform isn’t as steep as some of its competitors. So, if you’re looking for something that doesn’t require extensive training, Big Cartel might just be a good fit.
Compare Big Cartel Alternatives
When choosing an e-commerce website builder, Big Cartel is a great option. But compare it with other companies that offer the same service to ensure it’s the best fit for your business.
You can read our comprehensive reviews on each to make an informed decision. For a quick look, I’ve added a comparative table below.
Frequently Asked Questions About Big Cartel
Do Big Cartel shops have SSL?
In such cases, all you need to do is secure your assets and contact customer support to request an opt-in to a site-wide SSL. But you can be assured that checkout is always SSL-secured.
Can you use another language on your Big Cartel website?
Big Cartel doesn’t provide a tool to translate content, but its paid plans allow you to tweak the raw HTML. If you want to do it manually, simply translate at the code level by hand.
Alternatively, you may insert a free translator widget like Bing into your site or use an app like Weglot, which can translate content into multiple languages. Both are easy to integrate within any Big Cartel store.
Is Big Cartel’s free plan really free?
Does Big Cartel have a built-in newsletter?
Are the Big Cartel themes mobile-ready?
Can you drop-ship on Big Cartel?
What are the prohibited items on Big Cartel?
Does Big Cartel offer a free trial for the paid plans?
Can you use Big Cartel on Shopify?
How I Rated Big Cartel
I test e-commerce providers based on the following factors:
- Value: What do you get for each plan — and does it hit that sweet spot of cost ratio to features?
- Ease of use: Is it simple to use the platform with intuitive tools, familiar interfaces, and supportive tutorials or tours?
- Features: Does the platform offer tools that support your business, including marketing integrations, plug-ins, reporting, and management? How effective are the features?
- Security: Which measures does the platform take to protect your business? Does it offer Payment card industry (PCI) compliance and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates?
- Support and improvements: How well does the platform help when you need it? And will it continue to grow with your needs?
Learn more about our review methodology.