Big Cartel review

An e-commerce platform that prides itself on being designed for artists, by artists.

Big Cartel is designed for independent artists who want to build an aesthetically pleasing storefront without investing a significant amount of resources. The signup process is quick and can facilitate both online and in-person sales. But it lacks third-party widgets and sophisticated customization.

  • Choose this provider if you’re an artist looking for a do-it-yourself platform to receive and process online sales.
  • Consider something else if your business has complex technical needs or you want to list more 500+ products.
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Details

SolutionsIn-store, Mobile, Online
ProductsPayment processing, Website builder, Inventory tracking
Monthly fees start atFree for up to 5 products
Processing fees start atit partners with a third party for processing online payments
Cancellation feeNone
HostingHosted

Here’s what you can do with Big Cartel

  • Create an online storefront with a custom domain
  • See real-time stats to measure traffic and sales
  • Generate deals and discounts for customers
  • Track inventory and shipments
  • Process customer payments
  • Sync with Google Analytics for advanced insights

It’s a do-it-yourself platform meant for artists that list fewer than 500 products each month.

Pricing and fees

Big Cartel doesn’t charge transaction or listing fees. Instead, it charges a monthly membership according to the number of products you add to your shop. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Up to 5
  • Free
  • 1 image per product
  • Customizable themes
  • Real-time stats
  • Custom domain
  • Discounts and promo codes
  • Shipping and tracking
  • Automatic sales tax calculator
  • Product groups based on features like size, color, material and more
  • Up to 50
  • Up to 250
  • Up to 500
  • $9.99 monthly
  • $19.99 monthly
  • $29.99 monthly

Includes all the free features, plus:

  • 5 images per product
  • Theme code editing
  • Google analytics
  • Inventory tracking
  • Bulk editing

Processing payments with Big Cartel

Big Cartel partners with PayPal and Stripe for processing online payments. For in-person transactions, it uses Stripe and Square. You choose the best option for your business.

While Big Cartel doesn’t charge transaction fees, the payment processors do. Here’s what to expect:

PayPal

2.9% + $0.30 per transaction

Stripe

2.9% + $0.30 per transaction

Square

2.6% + $0.10 per transaction

How much technical experience do I need?

You only need basic Internet skills to use Big Cartel. It’s possible to set up and operate your Big Cartel storefront without any technical coding skills, though you’ll want to include high-quality images to best showcase your merch.

Big Cartel offers live webinars and classes for users in every membership tier, so newbies can listen and learn about how to leverage their storefront.

How does Big Cartel help with SEO?

Big Cartel has plenty of processes running under the hood to help your online store with search engine optimization (SEO). SEO affects where you rank on search engines like Google.

Better rankings mean it’s easier for customers to find your store. SEO essentially underpins your website's visibility: The better optimized your store, the more traffic you’re likely to receive.

Here’s what Big Cartel does to help your online store stand out in the eyes of search engines and potential customers alike:

  • Valid HTML markup.This helps uncover mistakes in your HTML code and identify why your site might not be displaying properly.
  • Search-engine friendly URLs.The use of clean, simple URLs may help search engines better understand your page and increase your site’s ranking.
  • Appropriately labeled headers, anchors and image alt text.Headers, anchors and alt text all contribute to the ease with which a search engine can crawl and index your page.
  • A robots.txt file that points to an automatically generated sitemap.This plain text file contains crawling instructions for bots and may help search engines better identify important pages on your site.

The best part about Big Cartel's SEO features is that you don't need to understand what they are or how they work in order for them to do their job effectively. Big Cartel has designed these processes to run in the background of your site to help boost your SEO rankings and store visibility.

How do I contact Big Cartel support?

Big Cartel’s customer service team is available weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET. It also has “a few folks available to help out” on weekends, according to its website. Here’s how to get in touch:

There isn’t a customer service phone number posted online.

According to our experience using Big Cartel’s live chat, its customer service team is friendly and responsive. While the first message you receive is a bot, it connects you with a real person after that.

What design options does it have?

Big Cartel has 18 different themes available, and all are free. You can customize them with basic tweaks to the color scheme, font and header, slideshow and background images. Users who know HTML or CSS code can also customize the theme manually.

You can click through a demo before signing up to test drive the layout. All of its themes are compatible with web, Android and iOS interfaces. In general, Big Cartel’s themes are trendy and minimalistic, meant to show off your work without overshadowing it.

Pros and cons

Pros

  • No transaction fees. Big Cartel doesn’t take a cut of your sales.
  • Easy to set up and manage. It won’t be a drain on your time or energy to set up and manage your shop.
  • Monthly memberships. You can cancel at any time without penalty if you’re dissatisfied.

Cons

  • Limited customization. There are only 18 themes, which might not be flexible enough for some.
  • Can’t sync with third-party marketplaces. It’s not a good choice if you want to sell through vendors like Ebay, Amazon or Rakuten.
  • Lacks scalability. The priciest plan only hosts 500 listings, so multiperson businesses that aim to grow should look elsewhere.

Big Cartel reviews and complaints

It’s difficult to factor in Big Cartel reviews on Trustpilot, because most of the complaints are directed at specific storefronts rather than the platform itself. As of October 2020, Big Cartel isn’t accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), but it has an A+ rating with the agency because it responded to two out of the three complaints listed.

To get a better sense of Big Cartel’s reputation, we looked at entrepreneur chat forums around the web. Overall, users like that it’s relatively affordable compared to larger platforms like Shopify and doesn’t require technical know-how. However, some people report that even though they launched an online business with Big Cartel, they eventually switched to an e-commerce provider with more features since it lacks sophisticated widgets and plug-ins.

How do I sign up for Big Cartel?

Signing up for Big Cartel takes a couple of minutes and you don’t need a credit card unless you’re purchasing a paid plan right away. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Select Open your store.
  2. Choose a membership.
  3. Enter your email address, password, shop name and URL.
  4. Select Sign up.

Do I need an existing URL to sign up for Big Cartel?

No. If you don’t have an existing URL, you can get one for free that looks like this: Yourbusiness.bigcartel.com.

You’ll also have the option to purchase a personalized URL through Google Domains.

What other products will I need?

You don’t need to purchase any other products when using Big Cartel, as payment processing is included in the service. However, you need a checking account to receive any money you make through the site.

Big Cartel also doesn’t handle order fulfillment, so if your business is taking off and you need help shipping orders, you may want to research services like ShippingEasy or ShipBob.

What is Big Cartel?

Big Cartel is a platform for creative individuals and small businesses to display and sell their products, including jewelry, apparel, e-books, prints and more. It’s independent, self-funded and generally has a reputation for helping artists facilitate online sales — though it can also be used for in-person transactions if you harness the power of PayPal or Square card readers.

It’s low risk starting out, since you can get started by listing five products for free. It can also be used in tandem with your existing website.

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Bottom line

Big Cartel can help you build an online presence for your artwork swiftly and with a low upfront investment. But if you need a platform designed for larger enterprises or simply want more freedom when it comes to customization, browse other e-commerce providers.

Frequently asked questions

How old do I have to be to use Big Cartel?

Individuals age 13 to 17 can use Big Cartel if a parent or guardian fills out a consent form. Otherwise, you have to be at least 18.

Can I sell CBD products through Big Cartel?

Yes, you can sell hemp-derived CBD products if “applicable federal, state, local, and other laws, as well as third party terms, permit you to do so,” according to Big Cartel’s terms and conditions.

How do I get a refund if I don’t sell anything on my Big Cartel site?

Unfortunately, Big Cartel doesn’t offer membership refunds under any circumstances.

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