Big Cartel vs Shopify: Which is Better for Your Business?

Big Cartel vs Shopify

By Ecombridges    •   Updated September 27, 2023

ECommerce is growing. It is toppling its growth records each year at a pace that is expected to continue. While searching for the best home for your eCommerce business, you’ve likely come across Big Cartel and Shopify. The debate about which is better: Big Cartel vs Shopify, does not always seem to have a clear-cut answer. In this article, we hope to settle that debate.

Big Cartel vs Shopify, which is better for your business? It turns out the answer may be more evident than you think. Let’s dig in.

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Big Cartel vs Shopify: An Overview of Shopify

Start your business with Shopify

Shopify targets businesses of all industries, shapes, and sizes.

At the time of writing, there are 3,489,406 live Shopify stores worldwide, making it the second most popular hosted solution website in the internet’s entirety. What makes it so popular? Here’s a bit of an overview:

  • Ready to Use
    Shopify comes equipped with a lot of ready-to-use features and integrations.

  • Customer Support
    Shopify boasts 24/7 customer support over a wide range of contact options. These options include phone, email, social media, and live chat, meaning that whenever you run into an issue, you should be able to get a hold of someone to help you solve it quickly.

  • Flexibility
    With Shopify, you can sell just about anything you’d like. You can sell physical products, digital products, dropship someone else’s products, or offer services.

  • Fully Hosted
    Shopify is a fully hosted platform, so you don’t have to set up or maintain your own host/server. This eliminates a lot of hassle and technical know-how on your end.

  • Easy to Get Started
    It’s easy and intuitive to get started with Shopify. The e-commerce platform is perfect for the beginner but also elaborate enough for the expert. You don’t have to know how to code or have any web design experience to produce a beautiful result.

Big Cartel vs Shopify: An Overview of Big Cartel

Big Cartel vs Shopify: Big Cartel eCommerce Platform

The Big Cartel platform targets artists and creatives. As of the time of writing, Big Cartel has 81,802 live stores.

Like Etsy, Big Cartel is for artists who want to create a small business from their work. Unlike Etsy, it is not a marketplace. Instead, Big Cartel offers the tools to create a whole store.

Selling on Etsy is like opening up a stand at a farmer’s market. Customers are already there and browsing. However, hosting your business on Big Cartel is like opening a storefront; you must bring the traffic yourself.

What makes Big Cartel popular? Here’s a bit of an overview:

  • Easy to Use
    From the first time you land on their page, it’s easy to tell that they designed Big Cartel for artists. They have created an intuitive and easy-to-use platform with clear calls to action and an intuitive flow to cater to that market. It has limited customization options, but if web design isn’t quite your thing, that is often for the best. You don’t need any special skills to launch a website.

  • Free Membership
    The most basic plan allows an artist to add up to five products at no cost to the website owner.

  • Online and In-Person Sales
    They offer options to allow artists to sell their work quickly in-person and online using Square payments.

Big Cartel vs. Shopify: Pros and Cons

Let’s get into exactly what you were looking for when you clicked on this article. What are the pros and cons of Big Cartel vs. Shopify?

Pros of Shopify

  • Scalability
    Shopify is perfect for both the amateur and the pro, meaning it is a platform you can continue to use as your business grows and scales.

  • Customer Support
    Shopify offers best-in-class customer support. Support is available 24/7 from a slew of communication portals, making the Shopify team easy to get a hold of should you need them.

  • Social Selling
    Shopify integrates with many tools, including social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook. The deep integrations allow you to sell your products quickly beyond your website after connecting to various sales channels.

  • Integrations
    Shopify has a robust selection of integrated apps that allow you to get as detailed as you’d like when building your store (including email marketing, cross and upselling, customer relationship management capabilities, etc.).

  • No Product or Image Limits
    Shopify allows you to add as many products and images as needed.

Cons of Shopify

  • Can Be Expensive
    Shopify offers robust features and integrations, but they are not always free. The lowest-paid plan with Shopify is $29 per month, and many integrated apps add their subscription fees. You may end up paying more than expected once you finish building your Shopify store.

  • Blogging
    The blogging section of the Shopify portal seems to have been a bit of an afterthought when designing Shopify, so it isn’t always easy or intuitive to get aesthetically pleasing blog posts.

Pros of Big Cartel

  • Pricing
    The low cost of Big Cartel is one of the most significant advantages for new eCommerce entrepreneurs. The cheapest plan is free to use, and the most expensive one is $19.99 per month, which is $9.01 less than Shopify’s least expensive plan. They also have a zero transaction fee policy, so you’ll never pay them for a transaction (i.e., you’ll never pay more than the pass-through credit card processing fees).

  • User Friendly
    It’s clear that Big Cartel caters to artists looking for an easy way to share their work — it’s not catered to the standard eCommerce entrepreneur (i.e., someone looking to learn a thing or two about website design). Because of this, the Big Cartel platform is simple. Limited customization options keep your website focused on what matters most — the art.

  • Community Feel
    Big Cartel works to make it feel as though you’re joining a community of artists, not just setting up a website.

Cons of Big Cartel

  • Designed for a Limited Product Range
    They designed the Big Cartel platform for businesses with only a few products. Because of this, a few otherwise standard eCommerce platform features are missing. Examples include no “search” bar on your website (making it harder to find products), a product and image limit (regardless of your plan), and no bulk upload options.

  • Customer Support
    Customer support on the Big Cartel platform is limited. They respond to support queries during standard EST business hours only.

Big Cartel vs Shopify: Which Should You Choose?

Big Cartel vs Shopify: how to change store name on shopify: don't be confusing

When evaluating competitors, it’s helpful to compare them directly on relevant criteria. Let’s put Big Cartel vs. Shopify head-to-head and create a verdict on the following criteria: features, limitations, pricing, integrations, design, support, and user-friendliness.

Which Has Better Features? Shopify

Big Cartel lacks some standard eCommerce features, such as a website search capability, automatic shipping calculations, and limited customer and inventory management features. Shopify is much more feature-heavy.

Which Has Fewer Limitations? Shopify

The possibilities on Shopify are essentially endless. A marketplace full of apps is ready for you, allowing you to design your store as you imagine. On the other hand, Big Cartel has built-in limitations (fewer themes, fewer integrations, fewer customization options) to keep the design process simple, which makes it more limited.

Which Has Lower Pricing? Big Cartel

Big Cartel wins the pricing category. With plans starting as low as $0 per month, Shopify is undoubtedly more expensive.

Which Offers Better Integrations? Shopify

Big Cartel is quite limited in integrations, making outside apps and programs hard to use alongside your store. Shopify has many useful integrations with popular third-party tools, though they are not always free to use.

Which Is Better for Design? Shopify

Shopify has over 100 free and premium themes to choose from, and these themes are all customizable. Big Cartel offers a limited selection of themes (around 20), and the customizations for each are restricted (and free accounts can’t customize at all), meaning many Big Cartel stores often look identical.

Which Offers Better Support? Shopify

As we touched on, customer support with Shopify is best-in-class. Big Cartel users are limited to support via email during business hours EST.

Which is More User-Friendly? Tie

Both platforms are for the beginner. They make it quick and easy to start your eCommerce business.

Which would you choose for your eCommerce business?


Keep Reading: 9-Step Guide on How to Build an eCommerce Website from Scratch.

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