Bottom line: I found Big Cartel’s super easy setup to be its best feature. The fully customizable templates and mobile-friendly storefronts are a big plus. Thanks to the straightforward dashboard with a clear interface, you can manage your online shop in one place. But I missed certain features available in most other e-commerce website builders, such as automatic abandoned cart recovery emails, built-in newsletters, and multichannel 24/7 customer support (email and phone, and business hours only in Big Cartel). Though there are no hidden charges to surprise you midstream, either.
Who should choose Big Cartel? Startups, artists, and small businesses that wish to sell online on a national or global scale.
What we like about 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.
What fell flat
- 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.
Big Cartel’s Editorial Review
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.
Big Cartel is a complete e-commerce platform that allows you to customize your store to best suit your business needs. The company offers a variety of products and services at very low rates, including:
- Customizable design themes
- Product listing options
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Online checkout
Guaranteed security is non-negotiable in any e-commerce platform, not just for protecting a seller’s revenues. More importantly, an online shop must safeguard the personal information of its customers at all costs. In this regard, Big Cartel takes care of one but not the other.
Big Cartel’s customer support is limited in terms of availability. Nevertheless, its reps provide efficient and thorough service.
- Monday – Friday between 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST
- Highly responsive
Plans and Pricing
Except for Magento and WooCommerce, Big Cartel is the only other e-commerce website builder on the market that offers a free plan. Its paid plans are also the lowest among all its competitors.
Compare Big Cartel plans:
- Good for: New users
Platinum $9.99 per month
- Good for: Small businesses
Diamond $19.99 per month
- Good for: Small and medium-sized businesses
All plans come with free customizable themes, product option groups, automated sales tax, and sales support.
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 one 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.
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.
The best thing about a small company is the big opportunities for improvement. Big Cartel takes advantage of its positioning by constantly upgrading its features and services, one by one, and slowly but surely.
That said, the platform has not made any updates since the last one in October 2021.
Previous changes were usually done in response to users’ feedback and intended to make it easier for anyone to start an online store.
- Expanded product options: When you opt for the platform’s highest tier plan (Platinum), you enjoy expanded product options. Your customers can choose from a myriad of attributes like size, color, and print. This feature allows you to offer more customized items compared to the free and Gold plans, where each product comes with only one list of product options.
- Faster POS processing: This improvement is in partnership with Stripe, which provides an accurate card reader that includes the product, order, and customer information as well. You can connect it to your Big Cartel mobile app via Bluetooth.
- Improved Big-Cartel-For-Mobile: In response to the increasing number of Big Cartel users managing their online shops on their phones, the company updated several functionalities in its mobile app for store owners. These include improving speed, expanding the workspace, enabling the saving of product drafts, and allowing the uploading of multiple images per product for Android users.
- A better way to design your storefront: It’s not just the shoppers who are becoming more reliant on their phones; sellers are too. In response, Big Cartel added a preview function on its Design page. Here, you can view your online store’s appearance on different sizes of devices and revise where necessary before hitting save and publish. It also installed an image uploader, which replaces the previous practice of adding images through hosted links. Likewise, a new text editor offers more formatting options.
- Product-specific shipping profiles: Initially launched in Beta, Big Cartel’s shipping profiles feature has been perfected, thanks to the feedback of users while building was in progress. Now, you can set shipping rates based on your customers’ location. That’s good news for those based near your warehouses who get to enjoy lower delivery fees. In addition, a new override category helps merchants with extra-heavy, oddly shaped, or fragile products avoid extra shipping costs.
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.
Pricing + Basic Plan Features
- 5 products
- Email and phone support
- Shipment tracking
- No transaction and processing fees
- Custom domain
- Real-time stats
Consider Big Cartel if: You’re looking for a no-cost or low-cost way to sell your products online
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, 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?
Yes, Big Cartel’s free plan does not include hidden fees. You won’t be unexpectedly charged transaction, processing, or listing fees while accepting orders.
Does Big Cartel have a built-in newsletter?
No, but you may use a third-party integration like Mailchimp. Then, you can automatically include a Subscribe To Our Newsletter box at checkout, sync customer information, and purchase data, and send custom order confirmations. Adding a newsletter signup to your store makes it easier to implement targeted newsletter campaigns.
Are the Big Cartel themes mobile-ready?
Customers can view your online shop on any digital device. And as a user, your account also comes with an app you can download on your phone. This will enable you to manage your store on the go.
Can you drop-ship on Big Cartel?
You can, but you have only two options — The Art Of Where and Printful, both of which cater to the printable artwork niche. As with any drop-shipping suppliers, they will handle the production and delivery, though the artwork will come from you.
What are the prohibited items on Big Cartel?
Like most e-commerce platforms, including marketplaces like Amazon, Big Cartel prohibits weapons, illegal drugs, counterfeit items, hazardous material, prescription medications, and stolen property. The list is long, so if you’re unsure whether your products are acceptable, check here.
Does Big Cartel offer a free trial for the paid plans?
The free plan is better than a no-cost trial because it doesn’t expire until you upgrade to one of its two paid plans.
Can you use Big Cartel on Shopify?
Yes, you can export your products, orders, and customer data from Big Cartel to Shopify, whether the latter is a new or existing account.
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.