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Big Cartel vs. Shopify: In a Nutshell

Big Cartel and Shopify are two of the most popular ecommerce platforms of today. Shopify boasts of more than 2.1 million daily active users. Big Cartel hosts roughly 84,000 websites on its platform.

Big Cartel Usage Statistics Image Source: BuiltWith

Both these platforms allow its user base to:

  • Showcase their products online
  • Receive and process customer payments
  • Global shipping and delivery
  • Market products in physical stores

As we dig deeper into these two platforms, we’ll see they have striking differences.

Big Cartel Overview

Launched in 2005, Big Cartel provides web hosting for thousands of online stores. Its offerings have created more than $2.5 billion in sales for all its users. One notable thing about Big Cartel is its roster of users from its early days. Most users are musicians, artists, and budding businesses. So, it’s not surprising to find photographers, artists, jewelers to showcase their artwork.

Big Cartel markets itself as an avenue “crafted for artists by artists.” As such, it allows sellers to sell anything they can come up with. This platform allows its users to operate any type of store across different devices. As long as there’s internet connectivity, they can sell online. Users can create their online store, depending on their budget. Many online sellers choose Big Cartel for its vast collection of free themes. But beyond that, users can also create a customized theme through its API.

Big Cartel has free and paid features that users can leverage to make their stores stand out. Big Cartel is a simple and highly navigable platform that offers a suite of services. It has real-time analytics, order management, search engine optimization, and promotional tools. With these, they can offer their users an online store they can run wherever they may be. Despite its simple and easy-to-use tools, this platform has launched artists. It’s one of the best solutions out there to help budding artists monetize their talent.

Shopify Overview

Shopify is one of the biggest hosted-cart solutions. Founded in 2006, Shopify ranks third in the ecommerce market. In 2019 alone, Shopify took 31% of the market share. Their success is undeniable, spurring economic growth. They have contributed to more than $183 billion in global economic activity. Shopify has helped its seller earn over $135 billion in sales.

Shopify Overview Image Source: Shopify

While Big Cartel is a niche market, Shopify caters to a broader and robust user base. As of writing, the platform hosts nearly 1.6 million live stores. And this is why many sellers prefer to build their store using Shopify’s tools and resources. With an impressive suite of features, it’s easy to leverage even a small store and bring it to the global scene.

Shopify Usage Statistics Image Source: BuiltWith

Sellers can build and customize the stores to their liking. It also offers a host of marketing tools to increase online visibility. It has web hosting capability, shopping cart features, and third-party integrations. Online sellers can develop their online store and market right away with a few clicks.

Big Cartel Pros and Cons

The Big Cartel platform caters to artists. They can use it to showcase unique pieces with its specific sales features. It has a simple onboarding process, making it an ideal avenue for small-time sellers. Here are some of the pros and cons of Big Cartel:


  • A free plan that allows users to set up and sell products online
  • Straightforward navigation and controls
  • Niche market - making it easier for artists to leverage their competitive edge
  • Impressive onboarding process
  • Perfect for limited edition and unique items
  • Mobile-ready online website
  • Good collection of free templates


  • Basic themes and offers few customization varieties
  • Unlocking high-level features store building requires coding knowledge
  • Poor depth and quality in some of the features

Shopify Pros and Cons

Shopify is popular among online sellers for a reason. This ecommerce platform allows sellers to directly cater to consumers worldwide. Here are some of the pros and cons of using Shopify:


  • Selling across different channels
  • Excellent collection of inventory features
  • Superb ecommerce functionality
  • Ideal for beginner users
  • Wide variety of app market add-ons
  • Awesome community support
  • Built-in website editor
  • Multiple plugins for every store type
  • Host of customizable themes
  • Built-in SEO
  • Seamless product categorization


  • Hefty transaction fees
  • Absence of single-page checkout
  • Costly third-party integrations
  • Country-specific plugins
  • Difficult to edit theme header


When it comes to some sellers, the deciding factor is the cost they have to shoulder. Here’s a detailed comparison between Big Cartel and Shopify’s pricing plans:

Big Cartel pricing

Big Cartel seems to have the edge over Shopify when it comes to pricing. This online selling platform boasts of a straightforward pricing plan. The tiered pricing structure depends on the number of products a store carries. Note that the most expensive tier limits product placement to 500. As such, bigger enterprises may find the inventory of Big Cartel too limiting.

It may have limited inventory. But, it has the essential features one would need to launch a successful online store. Big Cartel also added the sales tax autopilot, a new feature available for all its plans. The sales tax autopilot calculates and remits sales taxes for all purchases. This helps sellers automate their tax filings.

Big Cartel’s pricing tier is as follows:

Gold: Sellers can carry up to 5 products with no credit card required. The plan allows sellers to upload one image per product, use free themes, and see real-time analytics. They can also run discounts and offers, track shipments, and automate sales tax filing.

Platinum: For only a $9.99 monthly fee, sellers can showcase up to 50 products, with a max of 5 images per item. The Platinum features lets sellers use a custom domain. Plus, edit theme codes, access Google Analytics, track inventory, and do bulk editing.

Diamond: The Diamond features are like the Platinum. For a $19.99 monthly fee, sellers can carry as much as 500 products on their online stores.

Based on these plans, sellers choose the plan that best suits their needs.

Shopify Pricing

Unlike Big Cartel, Shopify does not offer its users a free plan. But, it does come with a 14-day free trial. During this time, sellers can study and get used to the controls. Those who decide to launch their store will need to provide payment information. Don’t worry. Shopify allows its users to cancel their accounts.

Users who wish to get discounts can sign up for annual plans, earning them a 10% reduction. For biennial plans paid upfront, the deal is 20%. One of the most notable advantages of Shopify over Big Cartel is its unlimited inventory listing. This offering applies across the different plan offerings. This allows sellers to populate their stores with anything they prefer.

Here are Shopify’s available pricing plans:

Basic: Shopify’s basic plan priced at $29 monthly is best for new sellers. It comes with website hosting, unlimited product inventory, and two staff accounts with access to Shopify admin and POS. Sellers have round-the-clock support and up to 4 inventory location assignments. It also has manual order creation, discount code generation, abandoned cart recovery options, and gift cards. The basic plan has a 2% transaction fee.

Shopify: Priced at $79 monthly, the Shopify plan is ideal for growing businesses. It’s an upgraded version of the Basic plan. Aside from all the basic features, this plan provides users with five staff accounts, up to 5 inventory locations, and standard reports. The transaction fee is pegged at 1%.

Advanced: The priciest and most complete plan is the Advanced plan. In this model, sellers can have 15 staff accounts. It’s the perfect plan for a scaling enterprise. It also allows up to 8 inventory locations, advanced reporting, and third-party integrations. By paying $299 monthly, sellers can lower transaction fees to only 0.5%.

Verdict: Shopify

Given the information above, it’s easy to see that Big Cartel caters to a more niche market and smaller business entities. Most of them only do online selling as a side hustle. Shopify is more focused on sellers who want to make a lucrative business selling products, whether it’s online or offline. Sellers can base their choice that matches their earning goals. For pricing, Shopify may be much more expensive, but it does give more value for money.

Main Features

Big Cartel may not have the top-tier features that can help them compete against big ecommerce platforms. But it does have an appeal for sellers on a shoestring budget. Its onboarding process allows users to learn website design, particularly when it comes to niche sellers.

Shopify is one of the leading online selling platforms to date, and easy to see why. It boasts of some of the most impressive features that can help sellers, whether they’re still starting or poised for growth, to reach a global market. Its main features are perfect for launching any particular type of product.

Ease of use

Big Cartel

When it comes to user interface and user experience, Big Cartel is regarded as the most user-friendly online selling platform. Most of the controls and store set-up process is pretty straightforward. As soon as the product pictures are uploaded to the store, users can readily set a price, choose a theme, and they’re good to go. The no-nonsense interface also makes it easier to tweak and customize the store.


Shopify may be a little too complex for beginners. Since the platform comes with tons of features users can play around with, it’s still built to deliver systematically. Those interested in learning the process can set up and manage the store with a few steps. Users can add products, edit themes, build a domain, and choose the tax and shipping information. They can also get a preview of the store before launching it.

Verdict: Big Cartel

When it comes to user-friendliness, Big Cartel takes the cake. It’s the perfect platform for not-so-tech-savvy online sellers. The minimalistic interface allows users to tweak and adjust the themes to their liking even without coding knowledge.

Themes and Flexibility

Themes and flexibility are huge factors that can spell the success of online stores. Most consumers are now easily reachable online. This means they are among the most distracted audience. Many will visit an online store and abandon a cart because they have to do other things. That’s why it’s crucial to catch their attention. How is this possible? Through an eye-catching website design that features unique themes and flexibility options.

Big Cartel Web Design & Themes

When it comes to website design, Big Cartel provides its users with 18 optimized themes, all available for free. While these are relatively fewer than most ecommerce platforms, these themes won’t let the artists down. They are all impressively designed. Aside from the free themes, sellers can freely customize themes based on their preferences. Note that the customization options may somehow be limited. Mobile version adjustments aren’t possible with Big Cartel. But, it shouldn’t be an issue since web customization adjusts the layout for the mobile version.

One thing that non-artists may not find very pleasing about Big Cartel’s themes is the site templates. Many users claim the templates are more directed towards artists or photographers. So for those who want to explore templates to please other industries, their collection is something to frown about.

While most of the free themes can be customized without any coding experience. But, full personalization can only be possible with coding. Those with technical skills can add and edit their own product images to appeal to their buyers. To edit themes, users have to buy paid plans to tweak and adjust code segments.

Big Cartel has some theme limitations. Still, they are perfect for small businesses in the art sphere. Sellers into fashion and jewelry may also find the artistic-leaning themes appealing for their products. Most would only require a few tweaking, and they can readily make their stores go live in no time. This is particularly true for those who don’t want to dive into complex customizations.

What it lacks in customization, it makes up for flexibility. Users have the flexibility to switch from one theme to another. It doesn’t take any genius to do this. Simply switch to the new them, and everything else will undergo automatic reformatting. Users never have to worry about any product being out of place in the new layout.

Shopify Web Design & Themes

Shopify web design, themes, and flexibility may not be top-notch like Squarespace and Wix. But it does give users the basic features to showcase their stores, no matter what product lines they carry. Shopify dwarfs Big Cartel in terms of built-in themes. The ecommerce platform giant has 73 different themes specially designed by professionals. Their collection can outshine their competition.

One downside to this impressive number is that only 9 built-in templates are free to use. Most edits and other customization features can be a bit on the pricey side, ranging from $140 to $180 apiece. However, the price may be justifiable for some since they can take their designs to another level. In the end, this price can help skyrocket sales as it will help the store win over its audience.

Unlike Big Cartel, personalizing the themes doesn’t require special coding skills. But, it doesn’t mean that high-level developers will be bored with the platforms. Shopify can also help put their skills to good use by developing a highly-intuitive online store for a growing business.

In terms of flexibility, Shopify comes with mobile version customization. Like Big Cartel, Shopify will automatically adapt the web version to mobile. But, it also comes with the flexibility to change the code and change the mobile version to come up with a preferred look. So, it comes with full-on customization.

Verdict: Shopify

For website design, themes, and flexibility, Shopify is the clear winner. Sellers have diverse options for beautifully-designed themes that can help entice buyers to check out their products and actually “check out” the cart. Shopify clearly understands the importance of having a well-made online store to attract sales.

Online Store Management

Big Cartel

One of the main selling points of Big Cartel is its straightforward interface. Sellers can carry one product and up to 500 products maximum. This makes it way inferior compared to Shopify’s unlimited inventory. Since the interface is simple, it also doesn’t allow sellers to upload their products in bulk. This can be a game-changer for big enterprises with hundreds, if not thousands, of products. Not only does it take too much from their resources, but it will also limit their ability to cater to more buyers.

Another online store management feature that Big Cartel lacks is the abandoned card recovery function. Sellers know that most shoppers would browse shops and eventually abandon their carts. The absence of this recovery function can cause sellers to miss out on huge sales. It’s something that Big Cartel can improve on should they update their features.

Still, one should not overlook Big Cartel’s strengths. The platform’s backend interface deserves kudos. Its simplistic approach lets sellers streamline their processes. They can control different sections, add new items, change existing products, and manage inventory with a few clicks. These features can be leveraged to improve the online store and attract more buyers.

That said, here are some of Big Cartel’s online store management features sellers can leverage:

  • Multi-device OS support for intuitive management
  • Online product promotion
  • Round-the-clock product list monitoring
  • Automated email for order confirmation
  • Order monitoring
  • Bulk order report export
  • Built-in SEO
  • Discount coupons
  • Social channel integration
  • Mobile POS for physical stores
  • Google Analytics integration
  • Guest checkout option


As mentioned, one of the great things that allow Shopify to win over more users is its unlimited inventory. They’re also hailed for allowing sellers greater flexibility when uploading their products. They can upload only one product or choose to upload a huge volume of products via CSV. This will enable them to delegate tasks and resources accordingly. Once products are up, sellers have the freedom to modify product information and manage shipping options.

Shopify also comes with the abandoned cart recovery feature. This is available for all plan types. In terms of marketing, this feature can help win back customers who abandoned their carts by sending emails to remind them of their “supposed” purchases. Sellers, similarly, can analyze causes of abandonment and make necessary tweaks to lessen its incidence. Ultimately, this will help sellers scale their businesses seamlessly.

Shopify’s marketing tools are also impressive. Sellers can segment their customers and focus on individual leads to manage targeted marketing efforts. It also comes with a host of other features, such as dropshipping integrations, shipping rate estimation, stock monitoring, and a whole lot more. These features make Shopify a strong contender in omnichannel selling, perfect for those planning to scale their operations soon. They offer a full suite of online store management that can bring impressive numbers.

In summary, Shopify offers the following features:

  • Limitless product line
  • Limitless product categories
  • Wide product variety
  • Bulk inventory uploading and importing
  • Several languages available
  • Mobile apps for easier management
  • Customer categorization
  • Dropshipping integration
  • Multilingual checkout
  • Guest checkout option
  • Automated shipping rate calculator
  • Abandoned cart recovery on all plans
  • Automatic sales tax estimator
  • Built-in SEO
  • Discount coupons
  • Social media channel integration
  • Omnichannel sales
  • Real-time analytics

Verdict: Shopify

There’s no denying that Shopify takes the crown in online store management. Its feature-rich platform can help sellers manage their stores hassle-free. Plus, they’re great for whatever type of business there is, be it small or a large, global enterprise.

Selling Channels

Exploring omnichannel selling brings huge wins for store owners. The ability to sell across different sales channels can help them improve their sales and increase their buyer visibility. This strategy is critical for improving customer engagement that can bring profitable results in the long run.

Big Cartel

While Big Cartel allows for Facebook, Instagram, and offline stores, it’s yet to offer multiple channel selling options. This can be limiting for sellers trying to leverage a broader user base. It would be nice to see the platform explore several other channels to help their sellers take their stores to the consciousness of more buyers.


Shopify’s understanding of omnichannel selling is commendable. The platforms allow sellers to set up multiple channels beyond Facebook and physical stores. The platform also allows for online marketplaces and third-party websites. All of their stores have inventory and real-time tracking to address potential gaps in the process. This option is excellent for growing brands to improve their reach and enhance their bottom line.

Verdict: Shopify

It won’t be a sellout to say that Shopify takes over the selling channel feature. While the option is only available for Shopify Plus, it’s still a relief to have such an option available for sellers to leverage.

Add-Ons and Integrations

Big Cartel

Add-ons and integrations can spell a huge difference for most online stores since they can enhance features to give buyers the best customer experience possible. Big Cartel allows sellers to integrate more than 500 third-party apps via the Zapier plugin. Those who don’t want to pay for the plugin can still take advantage of a host of software tools to help them market their products.


Shopify has the Shopify apps with an impressive collection of over 3,000 integrations across all types of tools that one may need to promote their business. From productivity apps and SEO to reporting and analytics, sellers can choose anything they fancy. However, it does come at a price.

Verdict: Shopify

Big Cartel’s add-ons and integrations may be enough for beginner sellers to launch their stores. But, when it comes to increasing sales, Shopify offers tons of benefits. While it may be more expensive up front, it does make up for the sales it can bring the sellers.

Customer Support

Big Cartel

Big Cartel’s customer support is somehow limited to email, social media, and the Help Center. Sellers facing issues can check out the platform repository, which provides good information to help resolve concerns. While the customer support may be responsive, they’re not available 24/7. Replies are limited during their work hours, Monday to Friday, from 9 am to 6 pm EST. As such, they’re not great for immediate concern resolution.


With its broad user base, Shopify understands the importance of having many channels to air concerns. Sellers can reach out to customer support via phone, live chat, email, and social media. They also have a dedicated support center, blogs, and forums that contain details to address potential concerns. Customer support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Shopify Plus clients also have dedicated customer agents.

Verdict: Shopify

For customer support, Shopify is the clear winner. Sellers get the support they need with various options and round-the-clock availability.

Payment Gateways

Big Cartel payment

Big Cartel did well by sealing partnerships with various payment gateways, such as Venmo, Apple Pay, and PayPal. It’s also notable for them to have a zero transaction policy. But, their non-Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance raises a red flag.

Shopify payment

Aside from payment gateway partnerships, Shopify has taken it a notch higher by launching its own Shopify Payments. But then again, the skyrocketing transaction fees can be the deal-breaker.

Verdict: Shopify

Shopify indeed has hefty fees. However, it’s better to pay this price rather than lose more customers due to liability issues later. Plus, the roster of payment gateways can be a good deal for merchant partners.

Reviews & Complaints

It’s impossible to have a perfect product and service. So, it’s only natural for these platforms to receive complaints. Big Cartel’s complaints mostly focus on the limitations of personalization and product limits. Shopify is mainly about the costly fees.

For the good reviews, many users praise Big Cartel’s ease of use and Shopify’s generous add-ons and customization options.

Which Is Best For My Business Needs?

Consider the goals for opening an online store when choosing the best platform. Focus on what you want to achieve and the means to make it happen. Here’s our tip:

Choose Big Cartel If …

Big Cartel is best for:

  • Sellers with existing stores, such as Etsy.
  • Content and artistic creators looking for a manageable online store.
  • Irregular sellers who don’t want the monthly lock-in fees.
  • Sellers with small product portfolios with no plans of offering more than 500 items.

Choose Shopify If …

Shopify is best for:

  • Sellers willing to invest money in developing an online store
  • Sellers who plan to grow and scale their online store.
  • Vendors who plan to make online selling as their primary source of income.
  • Business owners willing to capitalize on aesthetics to boost their online presence.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Does Big Cartel charge fees?

No, Big Cartel does not charge transaction fees.

What can be sold on Big Cartel?

Sellers can sell anything, but most of the users on the platform are artists.

Is Big Cartel ecommerce?

Yes, Big Cartel is an ecommerce builder.

Can I use Big Cartel and Shopify for free?

Big Cartel offers a free plan. Shopify has a 14-day free trial. After which, you have to sign up for a paid plan.

Which is easier to use, Big Cartel or Shopify?

Big Cartel is easier to use than Shopify.

Do Big Cartel and Shopify take transaction fees?

Big Cartel does not take transaction fees. Shopify has charges transaction fees for every sale, depending on the plan.

Are Big Cartel and Shopify PCI compliant?

Shopify is PCI-compliant, but Big Cartel is not.

Comparing Big Cartel vs. Shopify: The Final Verdict

To sum it up, Shopify offers sellers a full suite of features, tools, add-ons, and integrations. These help them showcase their products, attract buyers, and increase their revenues. Big Cartel is a good option for small sellers with a limited budget. Shopify is best for those who want to see their ecommerce business flourish.