Founded by Matt Wigham in 2005, Big Cartel sets itself apart from other commerce solutions by specifically targeting artists looking for easy solutions to sell their products online. The company has placed a great emphasis on making their platform as easy as possible, while they provide all the necessary features to operate your own online store the features remain pretty basic. Today the company hosts more than 250,000 stores, with artists from around the globe run most of these shops. If you are just looking to sell a few products online and don't mind the basic features (some sellers had to switch to a more powerful platforms as you can see in our Shopify reviews) then perhaps Big Cartel is the right fit for you, read on to find out more.
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Big Cartel Video Overview
My colleagues Stephanie recorded a short video overviewing the most important topics I cover here so if you'd rather listen than read give it a go.
Big Cartel Features
From the very moment you sign up with Big Cartel it becomes apparent that they just aren’t interested in offering all the bells and whistles of other ecommerce platforms, they are not aiming for the large online retail stores but instead they are focused on smaller companies. This is also very visible through the features offered.
One of the biggest problems I see with Big Cartel is the fact that the stores do not offer a search option, in other words your customers cannot enter a search query in order to find a product. While this might not seem like a problem if you are only selling a few products, it quickly become a great annoyance if you have a store with more than 20 products.
Similar to their competitors the company offers different pricing plans, and of course the more you pay the more features you can unlock. These features include things such as inventory management, stats about the number of visitors, which links people use to access your site, as well as what search terms are being used to find your site.
If you are just looking for a few features then Big Cartel will have enough to meet your needs, however as your store grows bigger many users are complaining about the lack of features.
Big Cartel Ease of Use
As mentioned above, the number of features offered by Big Cartel is rather limited, while this can be both good and bad it certainly comes with one big advantage, ease of use.
Creating your first store with Big Cartel is extremely easy, whether you have zero previous experience or years of coding experience it doesn’t matter; there is something for everyone.
The dashboard can sometimes be a bit daunting, however this isn’t the case with Big Cartel as their dashboard is about as easy to use as they come. Navigation is easily achieved through the use of large buttons at the top of the screen. The different areas allow you to see your latest orders, a list of your current products as well as different promotion options. Others have argued that the text is too small and I must admit I agree, now while I have almost perfect vision my mother would have a hard time reading the text on the dashboard.
Once you have completed the basic steps of your store you can easily delve right into the customization process. Even with no coding experience you can quickly create a great online store. Should you feel more adventurous you can always start modifying the HTML and CSS codes to your personal liking.
As mentioned at the beginning of this section, it really couldn’t be easier to create and run a store through Big Cartel, still we would have liked a few more features and themes.
Big Cartel Pricing
Big Cartel offers four different pricing plans, the cheapest plan actually costs nothing, while their most expensive plan costs less than $30 per month. These are some of the most competitive prices we have ever seen from an ecommerce platform. Of course as with (almost) anything in life “free” does come with a few drawbacks, in this case each free shop only allows you to sell five products, comes with the most basic customization options and instead of your own domain you are forced to use a bigcartel.com URL.
If you sign up for the second cheapest plan you only pay $9.99 a month but compared to the free version you can sell 25 products and have full customization options when designing your store, it also comes with inventory tracking as well as your own personal domain.
Big Cartel Templates and Design
At the time of this review Big Cartel offered a total of six different themes. Yes you read that right six themes. Even though the themes are individually customizable you quickly become aware of the fact that design just isn’t the biggest factor for Big Cartel or their customers.
All pricing plans allow users to tinker with the CSS files for the themes, however if you wish to change the HTML code of the theme then you need to sign up for one of the more expensive plans.
Big Cartel Inventory
If you sign up for the free plan be prepared that it comes with absolutely no inventory management. With all other plans inventory tracking is included as a standard feature.
One of the biggest gripes I have with Big Cartel is the fact that once you have given your product a name and the URL has been created there is no going back. In other words you cannot edit the URL at a later time, and this means you really need to consider your product names carefully before you create a new product, because once created they become set in stone, or at least set in URL.
Big Cartel SEO & Marketing
Unlike competitors Big Cartel comes with very simple features that can help your marketing efforts. These include among other things the option of offering a time sensitive discount.
You can also connect your store with Facebook. Thanks to the Big Cartel’s Facebook app is it easy to start selling your products directly from your Facebook page, although I have yet to see a successful online shopping user experience on a Facebook page.
Unfortunately when you really break it down, unlike some of the more feature rich ecommerce platforms you are really left on your own when it comes to marketing your store.
Big Cartel Payments
Similar to their no frills approach to design and features Big Cartel only offers two choices for payments, you can either use Stripe for Credit Card acceptance or your customers can complete their orders through PayPal.
When using PayPal for transactions on Big Cartel you are automatically charged 2.9% + 30¢ for each transaction. This is exactly comparable to what Shopify charges for credit card payments.
Big Cartel Security
Every online storeowner knows the importance of security, if your customers feel uncertain about the security of their information then chances are they will complete their shopping elsewhere.
The company provides top-notch industry standard SSL encryption to keep customer information secure. This means that no matter which connection you use to enter your dashboard all information sent and received will be encrypted.
Big Cartel Customer Support
If you need any form of support then Big Cartel offers email support Monday – Friday from 9AM to 6PM EST. However, they do not offer any form of phone or chat support.
The company does offer access to their help site, which is very well written and filled with helpful content and FAQs. They has also uploaded several videos to help make the store creation process easier. Another good source of information is their Twitter site.
While I noticed they respond to emails in a timely manner I am just worried that their lack of phone support might scare some potential clients away. At the very least they should offer some form of live support for those clients signing up for the more expensive packages.
One of the biggest pluses Big Cartel has is the fact that you can set up a store without paying a dime, albeit a small shop with only five products but still free. Even if you do decide that selling five products just isn’t enough the pricing plans offered are still very affordable.
Big Cartel might not offer all the features of bigger competitors, but truthfully it feels as if they are not catering towards the large multibillion-dollar corporate clients but rather have found a comfortable niche in the arts and crafts community, some of them graduating from Etsy to a solo career.
If you are looking to sell a few products and do not need a ton of different themes or extravagant SEO features then Big Cartel might be the right ecommerce platform for you, otherwise you might want to look at offers from different companies, like Shopify or Bigcommerce.