Aren’t you tired from all those mellow eCommerce platform reviews, where everything is great, splendid, and amazing?! I am! So, this is my brutally honest eCommerce website builder Big Cartel review.
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Big Cartel is an eCommerce platform. They claim that it is specifically designed for small, online specialty shops such as custom-made jewelry or fashion boutiques. This is the main selling point of Big cartel, alongside a promise of easy setup and absence of hidden fees.
But is Big Cartel delivers what it promises? Is it worth giving away your hard-earned cash for it? Well, that is what I am going to be looking at in this review and examine such aspects as the features on offer and ease of use. So, let´s get started, shall we?!
Big Cartel review: in a nutshell
- Easy Order management
- Inventory tracking
- Sell in person.
- Sell on Facebook.
- Stats (traffic + Google Analytics integration).
- Built with SEO in mind.
- Discount codes.
Like the much better-known counterpart Shopify, Big cartel is also a hosted eCommerce platform built as PaaS (Platform as service) or SaaS (software as service). It works as a standalone platform, and users have to pay a subscription fee to use most of its features and services. According to BuiltWith, currently, 61,626 live websites are using this eCommerce platform.
When I first heard about Big Cartel and how it is made for creative people, I was full of hope. First of all, I always cherish competition and the possibility of choice! Secondly, I secretly hoped that finally will be the software that will brutally humiliate Spotify.
You see, I am a vindictive man, and I have my own beef with large corporate businesses, which exploits the desperation (or sometimes stupidity) of small entrepreneurs.
But let´s take step back.
What is PaaS and SaaS?
Platform as a service (PaaS) is a cloud computing model in which a third-party provider creates and hosts a platform and makes it available to customers over the Internet.
Software as a Service is also a cloud computing model. Instead of a platform, the third-party provider creates and hosts the software and makes it available to customers over the Internet.
eCommerce platforms as SaaS (PaaS)
There are two trends in eCommerce World: free, opensource, self-hosted eCommerce platforms such as WooCommerce, OpenCart or PrestaShop and hosted eCommerce platforms that operate as SaaS or PaaS, such as Shopify, ecwid or Big Cartel. If you ask me what Shopify, ecwid, or Big cartel are, I don’t know. PaaS and SaaS are basically identical, except PaaS have a kind of lower level of support. If you’d like to dive into details, try this article.
The firsts eCommerce Saas (or PaaS) was Volusion, and it was created in 1999.
Big Cartel main characteristics
Big Cartel is what many would consider a “light and easy to use” eCommerce platform. The company keeps it simple. Unfortunately, that lightness comes with a limited feature set.
If you are planning to build a serious enterprise with lots of sales, Big Cartel most likely won’t be able to fill your needs. This is definitely not the right option for every merchant. However, if you’re just looking around to make some extra cash in your spare time, or you don’t need a whole lot of advanced features, Big Cartel might tickle your interest.
According to Big Cartel’s site, they provide just the right mix of real-time stats, search engine optimization, order management, and promotional tools to get a small shop up and running with as little stress as possible.
Big Cartel Pros
- Simple and easy to use
- Very affordable and has a free plan
Big Cartel Cons
- Not suitable for real online business
- Not very flexible
- Lacks a search function
- Very limited payment options
Big Cartel Pricing
As we discuss previously, Big Cartel is SaaS (or PaaS) and comes with monthly plans. Big Cartel has four pricing plans, and the only difference between them is the number of products you can. For tiny shops, you can use the free plan. It is limited to max. Five products, and you can display only one image per product. So, it might be a great way to test the platform, but for “real business”, you have to choose one of the next three paid options. Fortunately, the paid plans compared to some competition, aren’t so expensive.
Here’s a all of Big Cartel’s pricing plans in details.
This is free plan and it includes:
- Up to five products
- Only one image per product
- You can use your own domain
- Free customizable themes
- Real time stats
- Shipment tracking
- Inventory tracking
- Discount codes
- Product option groups
Big Cartel’s Platinum plan costs $9.99 a month and includes everything in the Gold plan, plus:
- Up to 50 Products
- Five images per product
- Free customizable themes
- in-person and online sales
- Real-time stats
- Use a custom domain
- Option to edit Theme code
- Bulk editing
- Inventory tracking
- Offer discounts and run promotions
- Shipment tracking
- Automatic tax calculations
Big Cartel’s Diamond plan costs $19.99 a month. It includes everything in the Platinum plan, but instead of 50 products, you can publish up to 250 products.
Big Cartel’s Titanium plan costs $29.99 a month and includes everything in the Diamond plan but allows you to publish up to 500 products.
How to set up Big Cartel
Since Big Cartel is a fully hosted, web-based platform, it doesn’t have any hardware or software requirements. Anyone with a computer connected to internet can access and use this eCommerce platform.
Onboarding is straightforward. After choosing the monthly plan, just click on sign up now. This will lead you to this screen:
Fill up the required data, and you are in!
Next, you can pick up and customize your shop’s theme, start to add products, set up checkout details, add a profile image and add discounts or browser apps and integrations.
Big Cartel: adding and managing products
Despite the statement that Big cartel focuses on creators, surprisingly, you are limited to physical products only. However, adding products is easy. The Big Cartel add new product page is definitely the simplest I have come across. It has a minimal number of sections that need to be filled in.
This makes it adding new products straight forward even for someone new to eCommerce websites.
The downside of this simplicity is that it is very little you can do. For example, you can not change the structure of the product Url, which is essential from SEO point of view.
Sadly, there is also no option to set a custom meta description. Also, there are minimal options over the category section – the only control you get is the category’s name. There is no option as sub-categories.
There is a bulk editor for all paid packages.
Big Cartel Design and Customization
At the moment of creation of this article, there were 18 themes available to choose from.
Compared to other eCommerce platforms, that’s not much.
After some short playing around, I find these themes not extraordinary spectacular. However, they are still OK for essential eCommerce website. When you fill them with lovely, high-resolution photography, they look just fine to me.
Shop customization is effortless. Basically, it’s all point-and-click.
Here’s an example of what I made in 5 minutes.
Big Cartel Add-Ons and Apps
There are some Apps & Integrations available on Big Cartel. All options are organized into 6 groups:
- Marketing & Promotion Apps
- Manufacturing, Shipping, & Fulfillment Apps
- Store Management Apps
- Apps by Big Cartel
- Payment Processors
- Domain Providers
The apps and integrations are accessible even with free plan. Some are free, but for most of them be prepared to pay something extra.
Compared with the competition, there aren’t many apps to choose from, but integration with Zapier significantly expands those options.
With a Zapier integration, it is possible to access over 1,000 different applications. It is a paid service, and you will have to pay for both the Zapier service and the third-party applications of your choice. Anyway, it is handy because Zapier eliminates the need to hire a web developer to build those connections for you.
If you know what you are doing, there’s also an API available to help you integrate with other software.
Big Cartel also has Android and iOS mobile apps that you can use to manage your store from your smartphone.
Big Cartel payment options
If you are using Big Cartel, there are not a lot of options when it comes to payment gateways. By default, you will have PayPal and Stripe. After the latest update, there are also Apple Pay (which needs to be installed separately) and Square (Only If you use Big Cartel for iOS).
What Customer Service & Technical Support does Big Cartel offer?
The support options for Big Cartel are quite limited as their primary source of contact is email and its Help Center. It is stated on their webpage that the support team is available 8am – 6pm EST, 7 days a week. Unfortunately, there is no phone support even for Titanium plan users. However, according to customer reviews on third-party sites, Big Cartel’s email support is reliable. I could not trace any negative reviews of Big Cartel’s customer support online.
Big Cartel also has a Help Center available. The Help Center provides information on the following topics:
- Apps & Integrations.
So, it is relatively easy to get a quick answer on some most common issues.
Besides mentioned, Big Cartel provides five re-recorded live video classes. You can watch topics on adding a product, shipment settings, creating a discount, packaging your products, and account settings.
On the bottom of the homepage, there is a link to Big Cartel blog. It also provides helpful tips about Big Cartel’s new features and integrations.
They also actively promote themselves on social media such as Facebook and Twitter. I guess that might be another avenue for getting support from them.
User Reviews about Big Cartel
There are mixed reviews about Big Cartel available on TrustPilot. The major complaints are about their pricing policy.
Overall, it scores 2 stars from 22 users reviews.
Big Cartel: Conclusion
I don’t know, it’s probably just me, but I don’t understand. Where is the point to pay for a commodity if you can get something equivalent or even better for free.
I have read how some fellow bloggers rant that it is a perfect platform for merchants who plan to remain relatively small. Common! Seriously! If you’ve got so far and have created your own online store, why limit yourself with the platform, which even on its top plan limits you to 500 products?!
Why, for god’s sake, somebody wants to pay $30.00 per month for a platform where you are limited only to PayPal or Stripe as payment options?
I’d like to point out that basically, every free opensource platform such as WooCommerce, OpenCart or PrestaShop offers you literally hundreds of integration plugins for every possible payment service provider out there.
Even if you know that you will not need more than 5 products, don’t you wanna have an eCommerce platform that does not limit your SEO options. Probably I will disclose the secret, but also WooCommerec store is elementary to set up. See for yourself, read: How to set up a WooCommerce store fast: step-by step-guide.
Why bother messing around with Big cartel? Don’t know!!!
In my humble opinion, it looks and feels like cripple Shopify relative, and honestly, it is not wort your time.