Looking for ecommerce software? Here's how Big Cartel and Shopify stack up.
Daniel Adams and Matthew Taylor
Last updated 2o July 2020
4.0 Stackupp rating
$ 9.99 / month
Best forBig Cartel has carved out a specific niche in the ecommerce space. It’s a platform designed specifically for creatives that want to sell original work.
4.8 Stackupp rating
$ 29.00 / month
Best forSmall and medium-sized retailers that need a fully-hosted solution that’s easy to customize.
Can't decide between Big Cartel and Shopify?
Find the best platform for you with our side by side comparison of Big Cartel and Shopify. See how each platform stacks up across ease of use, design, support and value for money.
Let the comparison begin. Don't worry, we'll guide you.
Big Cartel is a fully-hosted ecommerce solution built specifically for small-scale creatives. If you sell original work, like art, jewellery, woodwork, refurbished furniture, and so on, then Big Cartel is ideal.
While the general look-and-feel and functionality are minimal and straightforward, Big Cartel doesn’t skimp on features or support. Users have access to a comprehensive suite of ecommerce tools, including payment gateways, promotional features, and integration with social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. What’s more, Big Cartel is very well-priced, with plans starting at $10/month and a “forever free” option.
Retailers that need more than three hundred product listings and a more powerful set of features, however, will have to opt for another solution.
Use Cartel is you’re a creative (with an inventory of fewer than 300 products) looking for a hassle-free, cost-effective solution.
With over one million users, Shopify is one of the most popular hosted ecommerce platforms on the market.
Shopify has gained a reputation for being extremely beginner-friendly, allowing retailers with no coding or development experience to build and manage a professional store with unlimited products.
If you’re looking for a solution that’s ready-to-go, easy to set up, and isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg, then Shopify could be the way to go.
Notably, Shopify offers features as part of its basic package, like multi-channel selling, that are often only available on higher-level plans on competing platforms.
Use Shopify if you’re just getting started or are transitioning your small or medium-sized store to a new ecommerce platform.
Our first comparison criteria, ease of use. Why? Because it’s the most important.
Think about it. You don’t want to invest a lot of your precious time setting up an online store and tweaking the design only to find out that it’s a pain in the butt to manage day to day.
We take a look at how simple the Big Cartel and Shopify platforms are to run.
Big Cartel is one of the easiest-to-use platforms on the market, and gives hyper-intuitive products like Weebly and Wix a run for their money.
Users are initially guided through a step-by-step set-up process and will be prompted to configure their store and add their first product. Themes can be customized via a WordPress-style editor, and all products and orders are managed from a central dashboard.
“We would recommend Big Cartel without reservations.”
“I would definitely recommend using Big Cartel. They have a lot of ready made layouts that are really easy to use (especially for people like me who have zero knowledge in website building).”
“We’ve been using BigCartel since 2010 and have been very content with their shopping cart and ability to easily customize our store and portfolio.”
Ease of use is one of the areas where Shopify really shines. All users have access to a website builder and intuitive content management system. Adding products is a doddle. And all orders are managed from an automatable fulfillment dashboard (which connects with popular fulfillment solutions). SEO and mobile responsiveness are both taken care of.
“I have built two websites using Shopify and it was a great experience. They have someone available all the time if you run into problems. I’m not a web designer and I was able to figure it out without any lengthy tutorials.”
“I've had a great experience with this platform and I highly recommend it!”
“I honestly don't know why there are so many bad reviews about Shopify. It is an absolutely amazing platform with an even better support team. I think people need to stop being so negative as there is nothing more you can ask from them.”
It's a draw!
Powerful features are great, but we all know first impressions count. So, do Big Cartel and Shopify templates actually look any good? See for yourself. We outline each platforms design options, plus showcase a few real life examples.
Big Cartel is designed for retailers with little or no coding experience. Because of this, the site editor is very easy to use and provides control over key design elements like the logo, colours, layout, font-size, and so on.
The theme library, which includes just under twenty themes, is relatively small compared to other ecommerce platforms. This is more than made up for, however, by the quality of themes, all of which are free. They ‘re beautifully-designed and will appeal to a variety of creatives.
On the downside, retailers that need to make deeper code changes will struggle. Only limited HTML and CSS changes are possible.
There’s no doubt that Shopify offers some of the most beautifully-designed templates on the market. There are over seventy templates to choose from. The downside, however, is that most themes cost around $180. At the time of writing, Shopify offers eight free themes.
The design features in the website builder are intuitive and suitable for people with no coding background. Making tweaks to colors, buttons, images etc. is a doddle. What’s more, it’s possible to make straightforward CSS and HTML additions.
The main difficulty arises when it comes to making “deeper” backend changes. Accessing and amending the Shopify backend requires specialized knowledge which many retailers don’t have.
Shopify is our winner for design
Everyone’s favourite topic - pricing. Let's dive in to see if Big Cartel or Shopify offers better value for money.
Big Cartel offers reasonable value for money. Users have access to a solid package of features, including analytics, discount and promotional codes, shipping tracking, and more. Retailers can also take in-person payments with a Square reader (useful for taking orders at trade fairs, conventions, markets, etc.) There is also a “forever free” plan that allows for five products and a small selection of features.
The big downside is the limited number of product listings. The basic plan only allows for twenty-five products, and the premium $29.99/month plan has a maximum of three hundred products. What’s more product options (such as different colors or sizes) are only available on the higher-level plans.
Shopify offers great value for money. The basic package comes with a fantastic array of features, including unlimited product listings, 24/7 support, discount codes, and abandoned cart email automation. There are no set-up fees, and you can take advantage of a 14-day free trial. You’ll also get a discount when you pay for an annual plan.
The main downside to Shopify is that you’ll be charged additional fees for using any payment gateway other than Shopify Payments. While Shopify allows for a range of gateway integrations (including popular services like Paypal), it’s important to account for these extra charges before signing up.
Shopify is our winner for cost
If things go wrong (and they often do) you need to know someone’s there to help get you back on track. So, how does Big Cartel's and Shopify's support measure up?
Support is available via. email from Monday to Friday between 9 AM and 6 PM EST. While support is only available on workdays in working hours, reports about the quality and speed of support in these times are generally very good. Phone and live chat options are not available.
All Shopify plans come with 24/7 email, phone, and live chat support. Customer reviews are generally favorable when describing the quality of support. 24/7 email support is also offered in a variety of other languages. Shopify has one of the most active communities of users, and the forums are an excellent place to ask for help.
Shopify is our winner for support
The final say. Let's wrap up our thoughts on each platform.
Big Cartel is one of the most interesting and unique ecommerce platforms we’ve reviewed on Stackupp. At first sight, enforcing a limit of 300 listings on the premium plan would seem ridiculous. Serious retailers need unlimited products, right?
But this seemingly arbitrary limit on product listings ties in with Big Cartel;’s core value proposition as a “tight-knit company, built to stay small, independent, and do right by our team and artists for years to come.” The whole package is designed to give small-scale artists a professional, easy-to-use platform that stands head-and-shoulders above other entry-level options like Wix and Weebly.
If you’ve got a limited selection of products but want a beautiful online storefront to showcase them, along with the ability to take in-person orders at craft fairs, then Big Cartel is worth checking out. If, on the other hand, you run a more traditional ecommerce store, you’re better off seeking an alternative solution.
Shopify is a model ecommerce platform - a fully-hosted, feature-rich retail solution at a reasonable price. Among the standout points are the intuitive site builder and content management system, the quality of the templates, and the complete package of features included even in the basic package.
A highly active online community, along with 24/7 support, makes it an ideal option for small and medium-sized stores that don’t have the resources to manage everything themselves.
It’s also notable that Shopify includes omnichannel selling (for social media and Amazon), discount codes, and a free SSL certificate as part of its value proposition. Retailers also have access to shipping discounts when using Spotify Shipping.
Here are two points before wrapping up. If you’re thinking of giving Shopify a test-drive, be careful to check the costs of using third-party gateways. Also, ensure you’re able to make backend changes if that’s something you need to do.
Overall, we found Shopify to be the better ecommerce platform.
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