Reviews

Big Cartel Review: Best Ecommerce Platform for Artists? (August 2019)

The complete Big Cartel review, with a focus on features, pricing, and integrations. See how Big Cartel can help you run a successful creative business.

If you’ve been mulling the idea to dive into ecommerce for a while, or you’re just looking to turn your talent into a business — you’ve come to the right place. Big Cartel has been around for a while, but what makes this ecommerce solution stand out from the crowd, is its dedication to help artists start and run a creative business. 

The platform targets small artists who are looking to unleash their talent onto the world. Designed by artists for artists, the platform boasts a limited, yet powerful, list of features to help sellers get noticed. Their budget-friendly price plans, easy to use website builder, and simple integrations, make it easy for people to test-drive their ideas before they fully commit. 

With the expected $4 billion in ecommerce sales by 2020, it’s a great time to take the leap of faith and get started. Is Big Cartel the best place to do that? Keep reading to find out. 

How does Big Cartel work?

Big Cartel is an all-in-one solution that lets users build and run an ecommerce store all in one place.

Designed for artists by artists, there’s a big emphasis on helping creators build a visually pleasing online presence. You can pick and choose from already created themes, or dive into the code to build a unique online store from scratch. 

You don’t need extensive website building skills or ecommerce experience. Simply pick your subscription plan, select your theme, and start adding products to start selling – a simple solution for innovators looking to start a creative business.

Big Cartel review: features 

Big Cartel Dashboard image

Overall, compared to larger ecommerce platforms Big Cartel is quite basic. It’s not ideal for enterprise-level businesses, and therefore the list of features is short.

However, the features they offer are exactly what beginners and small businesses need to get started. The main advantage is that merchants don’t get overwhelmed with an abundance of options. Instead, they can build and run their business with minimal skills, knowing that everything they need they already have. So what do you get with Big Cartel?

Sell digital products

The integration with Pulley lets merchants put their digital products on sale. The integration helps sellers outsource their skills, as well as their products. Whether you’re looking to make an extra buck writing content, or turn poems into wall art, Big Cartel can help you achieve that.

Sell on Facebook and Instagram

Today merchants need to be present, ready to assist shoppers across all channels. Luckily, Big Cartel offers integrations with Facebook and allows tagging products on Instagram. Regardless of your price plan, as long as Facebook approves your products, you can expand your business and reach customers scrolling on Facebook. To integrate social platforms to your online store, you will need to do some coding. You can find a quick video on how to do that here.

Order management

You can set up automatic emails to notify customers once their order is confirmed, fulfill orders, print shipping labels and export order history in CSV files.

Inventory tracking

Easily keep an eye on stock levels to prevent sales of items that are out of stock, and list items as “sold out” or “coming soon”.

Easily Editable Product Information

big cartel product editing

In Big Cartel you can easily edit such product information like name, description, inventory status, price, edit product URL for SEO reasons and much more. By the way, one useful feature that needs to be mentioned is that you can group products into the categories straight from the product edit page.

Marketing and SEO

The platform offers great SEO features, like sitemap generation to drive relevant traffic to your store. Users can also apply discounts and run special promotions with ease.

Intuitive Product Management

Big cartel inventory products

It has quite an intuitive product management system. Everything here is user-friendly and there are no unnecessary complications.

Track progress

The platform integrates with Google Analytics, which provides sellers with insights into how and what products are performing well. It also helps to identify what channels drive the most traffic to your store, making it easier to plan marketing efforts.

Apps and integrations

The platform integrates with a small number of third-party plugins, but joining Zapier to your Big Cartel account expands your options. The third-party extension gives access to thousands of additional applications, which of course come at extra costs. Some plugins are purely optional, but the likes of Pulley are necessary if you wish to sell digital products. Here’s a list of some of the apps available for Big Cartel:

  • LiveChat: Engage and support shoppers with a live chat on your site.
  • Lucky Orange: Detailed analytics.
  • MailChimp: Email marketing and automatic order confirmation emails.
  • Printful: Screen printing, packing, and shipping service for print on demand products.
  • Pulley: Sell digital products.
  • ShipRobot: Send package tracking emails, create and print shipping labels.
  • ShipRush: Print shipping labels in bulk.
  • ShipStation: Streamline information from multiple channels to print shipping labels.
  • Socialphotos: Share user-generated content (like customer photos).
  • Big Cartel for iOS: Store management on the go.

Big Cartel WordPress plugin

Another exciting integration is the ability to link your Big Cartel store to your WordPress blog or site. With the Big Cartel WordPress plugin, sellers can include their products in posts, pages, and widgets.

Big Cartel custom domains

Big Cartel offers two options for setting up and running your shop with a custom domain. You can replace the default storename.bigcartelstore.com with www.storename.com in your account, or use another subdomain to show content other than just your Big Cartel shop. You can do that by swapping the www with something like shop.customdomain.com. You can create your custom domain for free with the Platinum plan and will find detailed instructions on how to apply changes in your account here.

Big Cartel free themes

Compared to other ecommerce platforms, the website theme selection is limited. At the time of this review, the platform offers a total of 16 customizable themes, which are free with all paid plans. All templates are mobile responsive and minimalistic. They’re super easy to customize, but if you’re feeling adventurous or want to tinker with the code, you can access the CSS files.

Big Cartel payment processing

Just like everything else on Big Cartel, the payment gateways on offer are simple but effective. For online payments, customers have two options: Stripe and PayPal.

Payments made with PayPal automatically incur a $2.95 + $0.30 transaction charge per purchase, which is a standard fee for other ecommerce platforms. For in-person sales, Big Cartel integrates with Square, which accepts newer chip cards, magstripe cards, Apple and Android Pay. There is a transaction charge of $2.75 per purchase, and you can read more about this new integration here.

Big Cartel shipping


Big Cartel doesn’t offer any specific shipping features; however, there are plenty of integrations and apps you can use to help with the process. For example, ShipNation will take care of the packaging and shipping of all your orders. Other options include
Printful, ShipRobot, Pulley and more. You can find the full list here.

Does Big Cartel take a percentage?

Big Cartel prides itself in supporting the creative community in whatever way they can. There are no hidden Big Cartel fees and the platform doesn’t take a cut from your sales.

Big Cartel pricing

You can take Big Cartel for a test-drive with their Golden free plan, but to access all the features you’ll have to subscribe to a full plan. The Golden plan is limited to only five products, and you can’t have a custom domain for your store. All the other plans unlock all features, but you pay extra to have more products on your online store.

The Platinum plan starts at $9.99 with 25 products, the next in line is the Diamond plan which comes with 100 products at $19.99, and the most expensive Titanium plan ups the product limit to 300.

All in all, Big Cartel offers the most competitive prices for ecommerce platforms. For most sellers, the Platinum plan is more than enough to run their business. If you’re looking to list a few products, and don’t mind the branded Big Cartel URL (this is overcomeable with a URL shortener), you can easily stick with the Golden plan until your store picks up momentum.

Does Big Cartel print for you?

Sellers can easily expand their product line with seamless integration with Printful. This free addition to your online store will automatically fulfill and ship your products. It’s a print on demand tool, with a broad range of products to choose from; from t-shirts to flip flops to water bottles — you can get your artwork printed on high-quality products with minimal effort. Here’s a quick guide on how to get set up. 

Big Cartel vs Storenvy


Considered as a direct competitor to
Big Cartel, Storenvy is a marketplace that features small indie brands. It’s ideal for merchants that are looking to sell unique jewelry pieces, vintage fashion, and home decor.

Storenvy features are very similar to Big Cartel. You can customize your store and get a custom domain for your site, access built-in email marketing tools, quick setup, and you can list up to 1000 products for free. Lots of apps and integrations to help fulfill orders, take care of shipping, and help run your store. There’s a built-in marketplace, and sellers can integrate with social media apps. Like Big Cartel, the platform accepts payments via Stripe and PayPal.

Storenvy pricing is also roughly the same as Big Cartel. There is a free plan that comes with limited features, and the Plus plan will only cost $14.99 per month, which comes with almost all of the features Storenvy offers. With the Plus plan, users get custom domains, up to 2000 products, special discounts, cart abandonment recovery features and more.

The most significant difference and downside of Storenvy is the fact that there are lots of hidden fees. Big Cartel fees are transparent, whereas Storenvy takes a 10% cut of your sales and also charges customers per transaction. There is less freedom to customize your storefront, and if you’re looking to sell something other than apparel and accessories, this is not a platform for you. 

Check out this in-depth comparison to see how Big Cartel measures up to other ecommerce platforms.

What can you sell on Big Cartel?

Big Cartel is like a blank canvas — if you have an idea for a unique product or design, this is the best place to be. The platform is stripped back so that your products can shine. It’s not always easy taking the first step, especially when it comes to something as personal as art and design. However, plenty of others have made the leap of faith and are thriving on Big Cartel. Take a look at some of Big Cartel’s most exciting stores, from a broad range of categories, that are successfully turning their art into a creative business.

Big Cartel streetwear

Apparel is the most straightforward option for artists. Whether you’re a painter or a sculptor, it’s a great way to get your artwork on a desirable product. T-shirts, hoodies, hats and other items of clothing are a hit among hip shoppers chasing the latest trends.

Outlined 

Critically Acclaimed

Big Cartel clothing

For designers that have collections of unique, trend-setting designs in their portfolios, Big Cartel is a great place to release your fashion lines. For those that design beyond t-shirts and hoodies, the sleek minimalistic templates can really help your products shine.

Matter Matters

ProjectBYH

Big Cartel enamel pins

Pins are like badges of honor, and more people are looking for new ways to express what they stand for. Whether you’re looking to create something that helps people show their support for a cause or a movement, or give people a funky way to personalize their items — enamel pins are quickly becoming the “must-have” accessory.

BadPins 

AxelHoney

Big Cartel jewelry

Not the easiest product to pull off, but one that’s always in demand. From friendship bracelets to engagement rings, talented metal workers will have no problem finding an audience on Big Cartel.

Eclectic Eccentric

Idle Hands

Big Cartel hair boutiques

This niche has been steadily growing in popularity, and hair boutiques can sell anything from hair extensions to styling services to hair care products.

Leyonda’s Hair Boutique 

Hair Bratz

Big Cartel hair accessories

Another category that’s been slowly but steadily growing in popularity. Returning fashion trends from the 80s and 90s giving this niche wings, and many shoppers are out in force looking for unique hair pins, hair bands, scrunchies, crowns, headbands, and more.

ORA-C

Big Cartel vintage

This is an exciting category that’s been making waves in retails. Simply put, it’s like a retro shop that sells vintage clothing. Every year, trends from previous decades hit the catwalks, making these retro looks a hot item. Sellers either recreate vintage looks or resell items from well-known brands.

AestheticVintage

ThriftHeavenVintage 

Big Cartel photography

If you’ve got a keen eye for detail, and love taking stunning pictures, you might be sitting on a gold mine. Photographers can either put their pictures up for sale as fine prints or use their previous work to showcase their skill and offer their services instead. Baby showers, engagements, and weddings are among the most popular services on Big Cartel. 

Justin Hackworth Photographs, etc.

Laura Brett Photography 

Is Big Cartel legit?

One of the key attractions for Big Cartel are the competitive prices. You can have your store up and running with zero investment, even if it’s a small shop. Sure, the features it offers are basic, compared to the likes of Shopify, but if you are an artist looking to make an extra buck from your art — this is a great place to start. The features on offer are everything you need to run an online store and make it a successful one.

If you’re not looking to run an enterprise-size business, you should definitely check Big Cartel out. After all, it says what it does on the tin — it’s an easy way for makers and shakers to start and run a creative business.

8/10

Big Cartel

Designed for makers and shakers, the platform does what it says on the tin -- it help artists start and run a creative business. The features are modest, but it’s incredibly easy to use, and you can get up and running in minutes. The ideal place for a budding artist to unleash their creativity onto the world.

Pros

  • The only ecommerce platform to offer a ‘forever free’ plan
  • Point and click website builder accommodates all skills level
  • Ideal for artists, photographers, fashionistas and other creatives

Cons

  • Limited business, marketing and selling features
  • Basic themes that require coding knowledge for real customization
Owner of Profit Industry. Also CEO & Co-Founder of GetFound XL. Catch up with Justas on Twitter.
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