Big Cartel vs. Shopify: Choosing the Right E-commerce Path

Big Cartel vs. Shopify: Choosing the Right E-commerce Path

In the ever-expanding world of e-commerce, selecting the right platform is a critical decision that can significantly impact the success of your online venture. Shopify emerges as the winner, although Big Cartel carries its own advantages. To decide the better fit for your business, a detailed comparison is imperative.

The debate surrounding Big Cartel vs. Shopify underscores the crucial decision of selecting the optimal e-commerce platform. Both platforms offer diverse features for online product sales, yet their distinctions become apparent across various dimensions. Our comprehensive comparison meticulously dissects aspects such as ease of use, customer support, sales features, themes, flexibility, design, apps, integrations, and cost efficiency.

So, when pondering the question, "Which is better, Big Cartel or Shopify?" the answer unfolds considering each crucial aspect. As we navigate through this comparison, the focus is on unraveling the intricacies of both platforms, providing clarity for entrepreneurs seeking the ideal solution for their specific business needs.

Shopify vs. Big Cartel: Comparison of Advantages and Drawbacks

Both Shopify and Big Cartel have their distinct advantages and drawbacks, conveniently outlined in the following for a concise and straightforward understanding:

Big Cartel

  • Allows free online selling.
  • No transaction fees.
  • Easy to use.
  • Ideal for selling individual pieces like artworks.
  • Limited selling channels.
  • Modification and website features lack depth.
  • Not beginner-friendly due to coding.


  • Better app store.
  • Great inventory system.
  • Free themes.
  • Excellent e-commerce features, high customer score.
  • Easy to use.
  • Allows selling across multiple channels (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest).
  • Costly themes.
  • Additional transaction fee on all external payment gateways.
  • Content reformatting needed when switching themes.

For an in-depth exploration of various features and a detailed comparison between these platforms, refer to the comprehensive analysis below. This will assist you in making an informed decision on which platform aligns best with your specific needs!

Simplicity in User-Friendliness

When evaluating the ease of use between the two, both Shopify and Big Cartel aim to streamline the process of building an online store. The efficiency of these e-commerce platforms is paramount, ensuring that managing your online store doesn't become a daunting task. Let's explore which platform offers a smoother site-building experience.


Shopify, with its abundance of features, edges slightly ahead in complexity compared to Big Cartel. However, this richness in features is thoughtfully structured to provide a straightforward and systematic site-building process. Even for those without professional web design or development skills, Shopify remains user-friendly, allowing you to set up and manage your store with ease.

Big Cartel vs. Shopify
Source: Shopify

Big Cartel

Big Cartel simplifies the onboarding process by offering suggestions and prompts through a setup wizard, making the initial stages of building an online store accessible even for those without technical knowledge. Uploading product images, setting prices, and selecting a theme for your store are intuitive tasks. However, the simplicity takes a turn once the beginner-friendly onboarding process is complete. Customizing your Big Cartel website theme requires coding knowledge, involving the editing of the HTML of the theme itself.

Big Cartel vs. Shopify
Source: Big Cartel

Big Cartel vs. Shopify: Ease of Use - The Assessment

While both platforms present themselves as simple and user-friendly initially, Shopify holds a slight advantage over Big Cartel in terms of ease of use. The structured approach of Shopify makes it more accessible for users with varying levels of technical expertise.

Comparing Customer Support

When deciding on an e-commerce platform, customer support is a crucial factor to consider. While it may not be the first thing on your mind, having reliable support can be a game-changer when needed. Let's delve into the customer support offerings of Big Cartel and Shopify to determine which platform stands out in providing assistance.

Big Cartel

Big Cartel extends customer support through three channels: Email, Help Center, and Social Media. Users encountering issues are encouraged to consult Big Cartel's well-categorized and informative knowledge base, which contains articles designed to guide them through challenges. Alternatively, direct contact via email ( is an option. However, a significant drawback is the limited availability of Big Cartel's customer support, which operates solely via email from 9 am to 6 pm EST, Monday to Friday.

Big Cartel  Support
Source: Big Cartel


Shopify surpasses Big Cartel in terms of customer support options. The array of assistance includes social media support, 24/7 phone support, 24/7 live chat, video tutorials, forums, and email. Notably, Shopify goes a step further with advanced specialist support. This diverse support ecosystem positions Shopify as the winner in the customer support category.

Shopify support
Source: Shopify

Shopify vs. Big Cartel - Support - The Assessment

Shopify emerges as the superior choice in customer support, offering a comprehensive range of support options, including the provision of a dedicated support agent for users on the Shopify Plus plan. Shopify ensures that assistance is readily available whenever it is needed.

Evaluating Sales Features

Now let's delve into a comparative analysis of Shopify and Big Cartel, examining their respective core features to determine which platform stands out in facilitating an efficient online sales process.


Renowned for its popularity in the e-commerce realm, Shopify distinguishes itself with a wide array of features, coupled with an intuitive user interface. Apart from facilitating online payments, Shopify offers access to over 100 payment gateways, enhancing flexibility for businesses. Its app store is a treasure trove, housing various applications essential for optimizing e-commerce sites.

Core features of Shopify include finance reports, discount codes, unlimited product listings, unlimited bandwidth, staff accounts, mobile point-of-sale (POS), customer support, and abandoned cart recovery. The platform provides an advanced inventory system, allowing users to add single products or upload them in bulk without any limitations.

Shopify features
Source: Shopify

Big Cartel:

Positioned as a more suitable option for small businesses focusing on individual product sales, Big Cartel offers a streamlined set of features.Core features include free themes, discount codes, inventory tracking, bulk editing, Google Analytics integration, shipment tracking, and unlimited bandwidth. However, the product upload options are limited, varying with the pricing plans, ranging from five products in the free version to 500 for the highest plan.

Big Cartel review
Source: Big Cartel

Product Uploads

Big Cartel:

  • Limits product uploads to five in the free version, 50 in the second plan, and 500 in the highest plan.
Big Cartel review
Source: Big Cartel


  • Offers a more advanced inventory system with no restrictions on the number of products, enabling users to add single products or upload in bulk effortlessly.

Shipping Options

Big Cartel:

  • Relies on third-party apps for handling shipping services.


  • Provides the Shopify Shipping Suite, empowering users to manage rates, bulk-print labels, and avail of discounts on rates when shipping through carriers like DHL Express, UPS, or USPS.

The Verdict - Shopify vs. Big Cartel: Best Features

While both platforms have their merits, Shopify emerges as the winner for sales features. Its robust feature set, extensive app store, and advanced inventory system offer a more potent solution for building and managing online stores. Shopify's user-friendly approach simplifies the store-building process, providing businesses with the tools needed to thrive.

Assessing Themes, Flexibility & Design

The visual aesthetics of your online store play a pivotal role in how your products are presented to potential customers. Big Cartel, with its design emphasis, provides users with access to 18 free themes, a number slightly lower than many other e-commerce platforms.

However, a notable limitation is that users with free accounts on Big Cartel cannot make any modifications to the themes. Upgrading to a paid plan becomes imperative for those looking to customize the code segment of their chosen theme.

Despite this constraint, the free themes cater well to artists, photographers, and similar creative endeavors, offering a neat and organized appearance suitable for art-centric online stores. Nevertheless, limitations exist, including the inability to switch themes seamlessly, automatic reformatting of products to fit new designs, and a lack of customization for the mobile site version.

Big Cartel Themes

  • 18 free themes available.
  • Limited customization for free accounts; coding knowledge required for modifications.
  • Themes suitable for art-based online stores, with neat and organized layouts.
Big Cartel Themes
Source: Big Cartel

Shopify Themes

  • 10 free themes and 50+ paid themes ranging from $140-$180.
  • All themes fully optimized for mobile devices.
  • Extensive customization options, including adjustments to the mobile version.
Shopify Themes
Source: Shopify

In contrast, Shopify surpasses Big Cartel in design, themes, and flexibility. While it may not share the same intense focus on design as platforms like Wix or Squarespace, Shopify distinguishes itself by enhancing the visual appeal of your shop.

The Verdict - Shopify vs. Big Cartel: Design

In the design arena, Shopify takes the lead. Offering superior flexibility, a broader selection of themes compared to Big Cartel, and an easier customization process, Shopify stands out. It simplifies the design process, eliminating the need for coding knowledge, while Big Cartel presents challenges in adding or editing images, requiring a more technical approach.

Evaluating Apps & Integrations

In the realm of apps and integrations, once again, Shopify emerges as the frontrunner. Boasting over 7000 apps within its app store, Shopify caters to diverse user needs, providing a seamless way to implement additional features such as upselling and popups through third-party apps.

Shopify Apps:

  • Over 7000 apps available in the Shopify app store.
  • Categories encompass marketing, store design, shipping, and delivery.
  • Varied prices and quality across apps.
  • Customer ratings available on a 5-star scale for informed decision-making.
shopify apps.
Source: Shopify

On the other hand, Big Cartel offers integration with over 500 third-party apps through Zapier, a paid plugin. Without Zapier, users can still incorporate 25 software tools, including Facebook Store, MailChimp, ShipRobot, Instagram, and more. Notably, some add-ins may come with monthly fees. Additionally, Big Cartel provides a mobile POS integration for convenient management directly from smart devices.

Big Cartel Apps:

  • Integration with over 500 third-party apps through Zapier (paid).
  • Incorporation of 25 software tools without Zapier, including Facebook Store, MailChimp, ShipRobot, Instagram, and others.
  • Monthly fees may apply for certain add-ins.
  • Mobile POS integration available for efficient smart device management.
Big cartel apps
Source: Big Cartel

The Verdict - Shopify vs. Big Cartel: Apps

In the realm of apps and integrations, Shopify secures the victory. However, the emphasis should not solely be on the quantity of available apps, but rather on the availability of essential extensions crucial for managing your store effectively. Both Shopify and Big Cartel cover the essentials, including email marketing, social media, and CRM management.

Cost-Effectiveness Comparison

In the final aspect of the Shopify vs. Big Cartel comparison, we assess the value for money each platform delivers. Whether your e-commerce venture is a side project or a primary source of income, it's crucial to balance cost and features. Here's a breakdown of the pricing and value propositions of Shopify and Big Cartel.

Shopify and Big Cartel Pricing:

Shopify has three paid plans with a 14-day free trial. Basic plan trial available for $1 for three months. Monthly cost ranges from $24 to $299.

From the other hand, Big Cartel has three price plans, including a free version. Paid plans range from $9.99 to $19.99 per month.

Big Cartel's Distinction:

  • Big Cartel is the only e-commerce platform offering free online selling.
  • No credit card information required for the free version.
  • Limitations include the ability to list only five products and upload only one image for each product in the free version.

Additional Features - Shopify Basic Plan:

  • Unlimited products.
  • Blog.
  • Sales channels.
  • Gift cards.
  • Shopify POS app.
  • Abandoned cart recovery.
  • Two staff accounts.

Transaction Fees:

  • Shopify Payments users incur no transaction fees.
  • Third-party payment providers have varying transaction fees.
  • Shopify Payments has no transactional or additional fees but requires store eligibility.
  • Big Cartel users integrate with third-party services for transactions.
  • Transaction partners: Paypal and Stripe.
  • Both Stripe and PayPal charge 2.9% of the total transaction cost plus $0.30.

The Verdict - Value for Money

In assessing value for money, there's a draw between Shopify and Big Cartel. The choice depends on your business type and specific needs. While Shopify offers superior features and value for money, Big Cartel stands out for its affordability, making it an ideal choice for small businesses.


In summary, both Big Cartel and Shopify present diverse services and functionalities tailored to facilitate online product sales. Small businesses and artists seeking a user-friendly platform with straightforward customization options may find Big Cartel appealing.

On the flip side, Shopify stands out as a comprehensive platform with more advanced functionality and customization features, albeit at a higher cost. The choice between the two platforms ultimately hinges on your specific needs and financial considerations.

For a comprehensive comparison of certain aspects between these platforms, you can refer to this guide.

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