Big Cartel vs Shopify – The Ultimate Comparison

As an ecommerce merchant, you’ve probably noticed that Big Cartel vs Shopify is one of those debates that are seemingly here to stay. While Shopify boasts of a huge following, BigCartel, on the other hand, has its fair share of fans who are convinced that it’s the best balanced online selling platform.

Whichever side you lean towards, one thing’s clear- you want the best for your online store. Shopify is, admittedly, one of the most renowned platforms on the market because of its reportedly powerful ecommerce features. That alone would have made this easy contest- but then again, Big Cartel is no easy pushover. It’s also a well-respected ecommerce platform, particularly when it comes to simple selling for creatives.

So, how about we settle this Shopify vs Big Cartel issue now? We’ve comprehensively assessed each ecommerce platform individually to prepare a detailed Big Cartel vs Shopify report.

Shopify vs Big Cartel: Overview

Big Cartel

Big Cartel is indeed a reputable cloud-based shopping cart solution, which comes with a host of decent ecommerce features. Although many people have compared it with Shopify, Big Cartel concentrates on a completely different market. It has explicitly focused on creatives and artists since 2005.

Big Cartel SquareSpace Alternative

Fair enough. However, make no mistake of writing it off. From our detailed Big Cartel review, you can confirm that it’s no small-time. In fact, according to independent web usage figures, the platform has hosted more than 70,000 online stores- most of which are ran by creatives like crafters, designers, and musicians.

When you land on its site, one of the first things you’ll notice about Big Cartel is its emphasis on simple ecommerce tools. It handles the entire pipeline from hosting and site building, to managing your online store.

Shopify

Shopify (you can check out the complete Shopify review here) needs no introduction. Going by the level of buzz in the ecommerce world, I believe Shopify is a legend of sorts.

Although the company was founded in 2004, the ecommerce platform itself was launched in 2006. However, it was not until 2008 that Shopify began making profits as a SaaS solution for online businesses.

Today, Shopify has firmly secured its position in the digital selling space. It’s a platform that combines web hosting capabilities with a wide range of shopping cart functionalities, plus numerous third-party integrations. That alone makes it suitable for pretty much all types of online businesses, including art.

best ecommerce platform Shopify homepage

Consequently, it’s no surprise that Shopify has managed to host more than 2 million sites over the years. And nearly half of them are live at the moment.

The Verdict

The two ecommerce solutions have been around for over a decade now. And thanks to their powerful web hosting, site building, and online store management features, Big Cartel and Shopify have managed to attract quite an impressive following.

Although Big Cartel specifically targets creatives, it’s widely considered to be one of the best Shopify alternatives. And that’s principally because of the noticeable user demographic overlap between them.

In simple terms, the creatives that Big Cartel targets can also leverage Shopify– which is versatile enough for all types of businesses. But, it goes without saying that they offer very different functionalities.

So, let’s see which one is the best fit.

Big Cartel vs Shopify: Main Features

User-Friendliness

Big Cartel

The process of setting up a store is pretty easy and straightforward on Big Cartel. After uploading your product images, you only need to determine the prices, select a suitable store theme, and voila! That’s all it takes to begin selling your stuff.

Thankfully, the user interface here is equally simple. Its overall layout has a minimalistic feel, even for beginners and startups. You’re bound to have an easy time learning about Big Cartel’s usability. But, in case you experience any issues, the platform’s Help section has got your back. It explains everything in detail.

Shopify

One of the principal aspects that make Shopify exceptionally popular is its user-friendliness. Although the whole platform is a complex multi-featured engine, it’s structured to deliver in a simple, systematic way.

Setting up your store, for instance, takes only four steps- just add your items, tweak your theme accordingly, create a domain, and then specify your tax plus shipping details. You also get a responsive theme editor to work on your store’s overall outlook before it goes live.

The Verdict (Winner: Shopify)

To effectively serve beginners, startups and small businesses, both Big Cartel and Shopify have been developed to be pleasantly simple and straightforward. That notwithstanding, I’d say Shopify’s user interface is slightly superior to Big Cartel’s- owing to its overall responsiveness, plus the fact that it provides more functionalities.

Therefore, Shopify wins the first round of the Big Cartel vs Shopify contest.

Web Design

Big Cartel

Big Cartel doesn’t let its users down when it comes to designing websites. Right off the bat, you get 16 mobile-optimized themes, all of which are completely free.

Well, I know what you might be thinking- 16 is a bit on the lower side. And you’re right, but I guess we could cut Big Cartel some slack since you won’t pay even a dime for any of them. Plus, they are neatly designed for art-based online stores.

Big Cartel is also gracious enough to accommodate theme customization. Not too kind though- because the corresponding tweaking options are a bit limited. As a matter of fact, it’s impossible to make adjustments to your mobile site version. But then again, that might not be necessary, considering the layout automatically adjusts itself on mobile devices.

Now, the type of user who’d quickly fall in love with Big Cartel’s site templates is a typical artist or photographer. If you’re not one, then prepare yourself for a major disappointment because the site builder is seemingly not interested in other industries.

Another crowd that might experience problems is novice coders. Although the bulk of the theme elements can be customized without coding, it’s fairly difficult to achieve a fully-personalized website. You need coding technical skills for dynamic tweaks like adding and editing your own images.

Shopify

Shopify might not be as great as dedicated website builders like Wix and Squarespace in designing sites. But, it certainly provides what you need to create a unique online store across all business categories.

Now, for starters, the built-in site templates here substantially outnumber Big Cartel’s. You’re free to choose between 71 different attractive themes, all of which have been designed by Shopify’s professionals.

The only problem, however, is that only 11 of them are free. While they support a fair array of edits, the most customizable options come at a price. They are not cheap, unfortunately, because the least expensive option is priced at $140 dollars, while costliest ones are just $20 shy of $200.

But, I guess the pricing might make sense when you get to the editing part. You see, Shopify’s themes go beyond the standard level of edits to grant you extensive customization capabilities- enough to help you design an incredibly exquisite online store that will make your brand stand out from the crowd.

And you know what? It doesn’t take much to achieve that. You can personalize numerous site elements without any coding experience.

That said, Shopify doesn’t leave out professional developers. It allows them to use their coding skills to edit themes at a much deeper level. Consequently, you should be able to build a complex online store for, perhaps, a growing mid-sized business.

Interestingly, customization doesn’t only apply to the web version of your site. While Shopify’s themes are optimized for mobile by default, the platform allows you to tweak even the mobile versions in line with your desired outlook.

The Verdict (Winner: Shopify)

Big Cartel’s web design process is inarguably simple and it provides more free themes. But, let’s be honest- Shopify is significantly ahead of it. The latter offers 71 different template options, and then it goes ahead and provides more customization freedom.

And that’s enough to make Shopify the undisputed winner of this round.

Online Store Management

Big Cartel

Big Cartel was basically built to facilitate small businesses dealing with single items. That’s why its free plan supports up to five products, while the highest you can go is 300 on the costliest plan.

If you’re wondering, the answer is yes- 300 means just that. Only 300 pieces. Nothing more, not even multiple variables of a single product.

As a matter of fact, it’s impossible to upload numerous products at a go. You have to add each item individually. So, of course, you might want to consider other platforms if you’re dealing with a progressively growing enterprise.

Now, the subsequent selling process is pretty smooth. You can take advantage of Big Cartel’s SEO features to attract traffic, discounts to boost your conversion rate, and then order tracking to follow up on every single purchase during fulfillment. You might also consider capitalizing on Big Cartel’s Facebook integration to extend your selling capabilities to the social platform.

That said, one important thing missing here is the abandoned cart recovery function. Quite unfortunate, I’d say, especially considering the average abandonment rate for a typical online store is usually between 60 and 80%.

Well, ultimately, the leads you manage to successfully convert can process their payments through Square, Stripe, or PayPal. Although these are undoubtedly some of the most popular payment processors, we’d appreciate if Big Cartel introduced more options.

Nonetheless, you won’t be paying Big Cartel for your transactions. The platform operates with a zero transaction fee policy- which essentially means that only the payment gateway’s card processing fees are deducted from the transaction amount.

And speaking of cards, it’s worth noting that Big Cartel does not come with Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance. So, you might be liable for some of the industry guidelines when you’re processing card payments.

Now, all things considered, here’s a nutshell of the online store management features provided by Big Cartel:

  • IOS app for management on-the-go
  • Digital product selling
  • Full-time inventory tracking
  • Automatic order confirmation emails
  • Order tracking
  • Bulk order history export
  • SEO features
  • Product discount codes
  • Facebook integration
  • Mobile POS for brick-and-mortar stores
  • Google Analytics support
  • Customer guest checkout

Shopify

The inventory management function on Shopify, to begin with, is nothing short of impressive. You can introduce as many items as you want- there’s no limit at all. Plus, you can choose to upload them individually or proceed with the bulk import.

Now, at this stage, you’re free to edit numerous product attributes like price, description, title, barcode, and their distinctive SKUs. The corresponding product page further allows you to add custom images, as well as tweak the shipping options plus SEO features.

Then when you finally start selling, you can leverage Shopify’s customer segmentation to group and target individual leads, dropshipping integrations, guest checkout support, automatic shipping rate calculator, automatic tax calculator, inventory tracking, product discounts, social media integration, and much more.

All things considered, Shopify is particularly outstanding in multi-channel selling. You can expand beyond your site to set up secondary selling points on Facebook, third-party websites, external online marketplaces like Amazon, and even offline brick-and-mortar stores. Thankfully, the inventory is linked and coordinated in real-time to help you track all the sales concurrently.

And in case you lose a shopper before they complete the checkout process, Shopify offers abandoned cart recovery by default. It not only provides recovery emails, but also a comprehensive analysis of the abandonment instances. Quite useful when you want to understand possible abandonment reasons and the affected products.

All in all, Shopify is, undeniably, a powerful and dynamic online store management platform. But, after facilitating everything, it hits you with a shocker at the final transaction stage. Apparently, despite paying a monthly subscription fee, Shopify goes ahead and deducts hefty transaction fees each time you process a payment.

On the bright side though, you have a wide range of payment processors to choose from. You can avoid Shopify Payments altogether and leverage other globally accessible gateways. But, sadly, that still won’t save you from Shopify’s transaction fees because it also makes deductions from payments processed by third-party gateways.

Now, collectively, here are Shopify’s store management features:

  • Unlimited store products
  • Unlimited product categories
  • Product variations
  • Bulk inventory export and import
  • Multi-lingual management interface
  • Mobile apps for management on-the-go
  • Customer segmentation
  • Dropshipping apps
  • 50 checkout languages
  • Guest checkout support
  • Automatic carrier-calculated shipping rates
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Automatic tax calculator
  • Own domain checkout
  • SEO features
  • Product discounts
  • Social media integration
  • Multiple sales channels
  • Built-in analytics

The Verdict (Winner: Shopify)

I bet you’ve figured it out by now. That Big Cartel’s sales features cannot possibly match up to Shopify’s. Shopify combines numerous store management functionalities with an array of payment gateway options, plus, of course, an extensive app store. You can take advantage of third-party apps to progressively expand your ecommerce functionalities.

Big Cartel, on the other hand, is ideal for small businesses and startups whose management is more inclined towards individual items. You cannot scale it dynamically as your business grows.

Therefore, in a nutshell, Shopify is much better in online store management.

Add-Ons and Integrations

Big Cartel

Big Cartel supports a couple of decent app integrations, with the most popular being Facebook. Users love it because it connects your inventory with Facebook, allowing you to sell directly from the social platform.

And in the event you’re running a secondary offline brick-and-mortar store, you can link it to its online counterpart through Big Cartel’s mobile POS integration. The iOS app is also handy for accepting card payments via iPad or iPhone.

Apart from that, Big Cartel supports a number of app integrations for domain providers, payment processors, store management, manufacturing, shipping, order fulfillment, plus marketing and promotion.

Now, get this- the Zapier alone provides additional supplementary integrations with numerous additional services. But, that’s still nothing compared to what Shopify offers.

Shopify

The Shopify App Store is remarkable, to say the least. It comes with more than 1500 app integrations for pretty much all the ecommerce functionalities.

There’s a wide range of options to enhance your store’s reporting, productivity, finance management, security, customer support, inventory management, orders and shipping, sales and conversion, marketing, design, selling channels, and much more.

The only problem, however, is the cost associated with third-party integrations. Since most of the premium options come at a price, the overall cost of running and managing your online store may continue adding up progressively.

The Verdict (Winner: Shopify)

There’s no denying- Shopify is way ahead of Big Cartel when it comes to integrations.

Big Cartel’s limited integrations would only be sufficient for a typical art business that doesn’t have a myriad of needs. You should be able to sell on Facebook and offline, plus slightly enhance your online store’s functionalities to serve regular customers. But, if you need to optimize your store extensively, your best option would be relying on the Shopify App Store, whose range of integrations exceeds 1500.

Big Cartel vs Shopify: Customer Support

Big Cartel

In case of any problem, I’d advise you to first check out Big Cartel’s knowledge base. The articles here are well categorized to offer a neat and simple navigation process. So, you should be able to sort through everything in a matter of seconds to find what you need.

But, if that doesn’t pan out, you can email Big Cartel directly using support@bigcartel.com. Unfortunately, the support team is not available 24/7. They’ll only get back to you between 9 am and 6 pm EST Monday to Friday.

Alternatively, you could use Twitter. Big Cartel’s support team usually responds to user concerns through their @bigcartel handle.

But that’s all you get. There’s no live chat or phone support on Big Cartel.

Shopify

Shopify’s customer support framework is seemingly the stuff of legends. It provides technical help through all the channels you can think of- email, live chat, phone, support center, knowledgebase, forum, Twitter, and Facebook.

Then guess what? The support team is available 24/7. So, of course, you should be able to get in touch with them even in the dead of night.

big cartel vs shopify - shopify customer support

Now, although these options would be good enough for most online stores, it gets better. It turns out the platform further supplements its Shopify Plus users with dedicated support agents. Quite a nice touch, don’t you think?

The Verdict

While Big Cartel lags behind with limited support options, Shopify takes customer support very seriously. Its agents are accessible via phone, social media, email, and live chat 24/7. Compare that with Big Cartel, whose team is only available on email during the standard EST working hours.

Therefore, we can agree that Shopify beats Big Cartel by a mile.

Big Cartel vs Shopify: Pricing

Big Cartel

Gold Plan- Free

  • Up to 5 products
  • Real-time stats
  • Seamless checkout
  • Sell on Facebook
  • Sell in-person
  • Digital products
  • Order management
  • Quick setup

Platinum Plan- $9.99 per month

  • Gold plan features
  • Up to 25 products
  • Shipment tracking
  • Bulk editing
  • Promos and discounts
  • Inventory tracking
  • Google Analytics
  • Theme code editing
  • Custom domain
  • Free customizable themes
  • Five images per product

Diamond Plan- $19.99 per month

  • Platinum plan features
  • Up to 100 products

Titanium Plan- $29.99 per month

  • Platinum plan features
  • Up to 300 products

big cartel vs shopify - big cartel pricing

Shopify

Shopify Lite- $9 per month

  • Accept credit card payments
  • Add products to any blog or site
  • Sell on Facebook 

Basic Shopify- $29 per month

  • Shopify POS
  • 2% transaction fees for transactions processed by third-party payment gateways
  • 7% + 0¢ fees for in-person credit card transactions via Shopify Payments
  • 9% + 30¢ fees for online credit card transactions via Shopify Payments
  • Fraud assessment
  • Discount codes
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Free SSL certificate
  • Manual order setup
  • Sell on social media
  • Sell on online marketplaces
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Two user accounts
  • Unlimited products
  • Online store

Shopify- $79 per month

  • All Basic Shopify plan features
  • 1% transaction fees for transactions processed by third-party payment gateways
  • 5% + 0¢ fees for in-person credit card transactions via Shopify Payments
  • 6% + 30¢ fees for online credit card transactions via Shopify Payments
  • Professional reports
  • Gift cards
  • 5 user accounts

Advanced Shopify- 299 per month

  • All Shopify plan features
  • 5% transaction fees for transactions processed by third-party payment gateways
  • 4% + 0¢ fees for in-person credit card transactions via Shopify Payments
  • 4% + 30¢ fees for online credit card transactions via Shopify Payments
  • Advanced report builder
  • 15 user accounts

Shopify Plus- Negotiable

  • Custom solutions for large enterprises

big cartel vs shopify - shopify pricing

The Verdict (Winner: Big Cartel)

Right off the bat, it’s fairly obvious that Big Cartel is substantially cheaper than Shopify. At the lowest level, it offers a free plan with limited features- which is acceptable, especially considering Shopify’s free option is basically a 14-day trial.

Big Cartel further reinforces its competitive pricing by availing its premium features to all plans. Even the cheapest Platinum Plan comes with full functionalities. The only attribute that changes as you upgrade is the number of listed products- from 5, to 25, then 100, and eventually 300.

Unfortunately, that’s all there is to Big Cartel’s pricing plans- there’s no package for mid-sized and large enterprises

Well, Shopify, on the other hand, does a fantastic job by supporting an unlimited number of products on all its plans. But then again, it becomes a costly business, especially when you factor in the overall cumulative costs of running your online store.

First, you’ll pay the monthly subscription price. Then, of course, you have website themes plus third-party apps to worry about. And even if you avoid the premium options by settling for free themes and apps, Shopify will still charge you transaction fees when you start processing payments.

So, all in all, Big Cartel is the winner when it comes to Shopify vs Big Cartel pricing.

What’s Better: Big Cartel or Shopify?

Now, let’s finally settle this Shopify vs Big Cartel issue. Which of the two is undeniably better?

Well, as we’ve seen already, Big Cartel and Shopify are two very different platforms. Their features vary significantly because they are optimized for different types of users.

Big Cartel is built for creatives and small businesses with basic selling needs. Then Shopify, on the other hand, targets small, mid-sized and large businesses with dynamic selling needs. Consequently, it comes with more functionalities plus extensive flexibility.

Overall, therefore, Shopify emerges as the winner in the Big Cartel vs Shopify contest. But, don’t be quick to dismiss its opponent. Big Cartel is still a suitable option for artists, photographers, and the likes. It’s particularly ideal for users seeking an inexpensive way of selling a couple of art items.

 

Davis Porter

Davis Porter is a B2B and B2C ecommerce pundit who’s particularly obsessed with digital selling platforms, online marketing, hosting solutions, web design, cloud tech, plus customer relationship management software. When he’s not testing out various applications, you’ll probably find him building a website, or cheering Arsenal F.C. on.