Big Cartel Review: How Creative Does This Free E-Commerce Platform Get For Its Clients?

Are you a maker or blogger looking for a creative e-commerce solution that fits your business model? Read our review of Big Cartel for important facts before making your decision.

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Brenda Barron
Brenda is a freelance writer, business owner, and WordPress enthusiast. She lives in California with her husband and two children.

Last Updated on August 5, 2020

Big Cartel is on a mission to support small businesses and it shows. With reasonable pricing, beautiful templates, and a simple set of features, this e-commerce builder is a fantastic solution for smaller shops, bloggers, and creatives that want a quick and easy solution to monetize their business while remaining steadfastly focused on their craft.

Originally founded in 2005 by Matt Wigham and Eric Turner, Big Cartel now currently powers over 45,000 websites. That may sound like a small user base, but its primary directive is to assist artists and other creatives looking to sell physical and digital products online. Therefore, it’s more of a niche platform.

In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of using a platform like Big Cartel and explore some of the outstanding features that make it a great pick for some users.

What Is Big Cartel’s Big Sell?

Since Big Cartel caters to small online stores, you can expect this platform to come with fewer frills than site builders meant to power huge online stores. And if you’re a small creative agency, blogger, or artist, that’s exactly what you should be looking for.

Your goal here isn’t to build a massive store around vast quantities of merchandise; you simply need a tool to help you monetize your work and make it available to the public online.

bigcartel homepage
The BigCartel homepage — and e-commerce builder — are designed to appeal to creatives.

Curious to learn more about Big Cartel’s best features and how they’ll help you get an online store up on your site in no time? Here they are:

How Much Does Big Cartel Cost?

Pricing is fairly low, which is a great incentive for smaller businesses and startups trying to secure a solid builder tool on a budget.

Is Big Cartel Free?

Yes, there is a starter free plan available (the ‘Gold’ plan) that’s completely cost-free to use. It comes with:

  • The ability to add 5 products 
  • One image per product
  • A bigcartel.com domain name 
  • A selection of pre-made themes
  • The ability to sell in-person
  • The option to add the store tab on Facebook
  • A real-time dashboard
  • The option to upgrade at any time (but no limited trial contract that forces you to do this)
  • 24/7 support, Monday to Friday

Therefore, this free plan can do one of two things:

  • It can serve as a trial for users that want to test out the software and get a taste of what they can do with it.
  • It could also be a nice little addition to a current business’s website if you only have a few products to sell.

Does Big Cartel Take a Cut?

Big Cartel never takes a transaction fee for sales processed on your site, which keeps more money in your pocket. That, of course, doesn’t mean you’ll be spared the fees from third-party payment gateway providers, but it’s still nice to know Big Cartel has your back.

editor panel bigcartel
This is a view of the editor panel for a store called Swinj. The Swinj store was built with BigCartel.

See Big Cartel plans

Another great thing to note about Big Cartel pricing is that all users are on a month-by-month plan. Therefore, you’re not locked into a contract and you can cancel at any time. This also means that upgrading or downgrading your plan only takes a click of a button.

Setting Up and Managing Your Site

It’s clear that Big Cartel understands their audience, which is why it’s nice to see that it offers assistance to users from the very get-go. The online store platform is pretty simple as is, but Big Cartel offers this setup assistance to ensure that you’re not wasting any undue time getting your store up and running.

Big Cartel review
Example of a BigCartel template.

The experience of using the Big Cartel platform only improves from there:

  • The builder tool is user-friendly, even for those who don’t know anything about coding.
  • You can adjust elements like colors, fonts, text, and media, all by using visual tools instead of code and files.
  • Product pages are simple to create, enabling you to easily upload images, set prices, and explain what your products are about.
  • There is a clean and intuitive dashboard to instantly view recent orders, overall sales, sold out items, and more.
  • There is also a comprehensive order management area for printing packing slips, viewing specific orders, shipment reminders, and exporting order data.

Design Features

Since this is a standalone e-commerce site builder tool, Big Cartel has taken care to provide customers with access to a library filled with free themes (pre-built site designs) for their stores.

Big Cartel review
An artist’s Big Cartel-built site.

There aren’t too many designs to choose from — perhaps a dozen or so available at any given time — but Big Cartel is all about streamlining the process of getting a site up and running for busy creatives. The tool itself includes the essentials you need to create an effective e-commerce gateway, so a limit on design choice shouldn’t be a deal breaker.

The themes look modern and stylish, with templates for more creative stores supported by large media. And all themes are mobile-friendly and can be customized to match company branding.

Big Cartel review
Gametee’s site was built using Big Cartel.

View Big Cartel themes

The App Store

Here’s one of the main reasons we like Big Cartel so much. All of the apps provided through the system are completely free. You can even access them if using a free plan.

There aren’t that many apps to choose from, but Big Cartel sticks to the essentials. Some of the apps in the Big Cartel app store include the following:

App Free or Paid? Function
Art of Where Paid Custom printing
Big Cartel for iOS Free Mobile app
Facebook Store Free Sell products on Facebook
Lucky Orange Paid Site analytics
MailChimp Free Email marketing
Live Chat Paid Customer support
Google Analytics Free Site analytics
Printful Paid Custom printing
Pulley Paid Digital products
ShipRobot Free Manage shipments
ShipRush Paid Manage shipments
Zapier Free (for 5 zaps) Connect to apps to automate processes, e.g. customer management and social media promotion
Stripe Transaction fees Payment merchant
PayPal Transaction fees Payment merchant
Square Transaction fees Payment merchant
Big Cartel Device Management
Manage your site on the go with any device

Coding Optional

Although this tool is clearly targeted to users who want a no-frills experience in monetizing their business, Big Cartel does offer some advanced coding capabilities. So, if you find that you want to customize your store further or need expert assistance managing it, just know that Big Cartel has accommodated this in some of their premium plans.

This way, developers don’t have to rely on visual builder tools and can instead turn to advanced HTML and CSS coding.

What Sales Technology Is On Offer?

It doesn’t matter what you want to sell through your Big Cartel-powered store — art, music, books, ceramics, photos. If your goal is to create a seamless shopping process, you’ll have access to the tools that will empower you to do so.

The checkout process accepts credit cards through PayPal as well as Stripe. You can choose the payment processor you prefer, or you can accept both.

In addition, if you decide to take your “store” on the road, Big Cartel does offer customers an iPhone app as well as a swiper, so you can make in-person sales while you’re out at conferences, fairs, and other events.

What Social Integration Is There?

Like other e-commerce builders, Big Cartel enables customers to add a Store tab to their Facebook page and start selling to customers through social media. This not only lets people buy directly through Facebook but it syncs with your store’s products, saving you time in having to build out a completely different store on Facebook.

What Customer Support Does Big Cartel Offer?

The support team is available Monday through Friday, 9 am to 6 pm EST, so if you need to speak to someone, keep those hours of availability in mind.

For additional support:

  • Big Cartel has a module in the dashboard to message the support team.
  • You can email your questions and get a response within the same day.
  • You can also refer to the FAQs to learn more about the platform.
Help and Advice on Big Cartel
In-depth guides help you set up your store

Premium Features: What Are They?

All of the features mentioned above come part of the free plan offered by Big Cartel. However, if you find that there’s more you want to accomplish with your store, a premium plan and its features might do the trick.

In addition to enabling your store to sell more products, here are some other capabilities you can acquire through a premium plan with Big Cartel:

  1. Options to add 25, 100 or 300 products with the platinum, diamond and titanium plans respectively.
  2. A custom domain (one that doesn’t reside on the Big Cartel server). These offer businesses a better opportunity in terms of branding and professionalism.
  3. Basic built-in statistics for understanding where your customers are coming from and what they’re looking at on your store.
  4. Google Analytics integration for helping you derive actionable insights from customer behavior and sales.
  5. 5 images for each product to give customers a close-up look at your merchandise.
  6. Discount codes for rewarding loyal customers.
  7. A beautiful inventory management module for tracking items going in and out of your store as well as smart alerts about when items are about to go out of stock.
  8. Coder-friendly interfaces for customizing HTML and CSS.
  9. The ability to upgrade or downgrade between plans at any time.

The Verdict on Big Cartel

The thing that makes Big Cartel most special is its niche. You don’t see many website builders only focusing on creatives. That’s a huge plus for people in that category since you know that the system was made for your business’s specific needs as well as the limited time in which you have to dedicate to building a new site.

View Big Cartel features

In addition, the free Big Cartel plan means that you can test the waters to see if it’s the right platform for you. Far too often we see free trials and most of these are simply to hook users into putting in their credit card information. That’s not the case with Big Cartel.

Big Cartel might be smaller than its competition but it definitely serves up a high-quality service that you should carefully consider.