Big Cartel vs Shopify Ecommerce Website Builder Comparison : Which is Better?
Big Cartel and Shopify help you sell things online. They provide comparable services — helping you set up and keep an online store — but they go about it in different ways.
Big Cartel is best suited for artists or those who sell creative products. Shopify better suits those who plan to sell a diverse array of products. Big Cartel merchants tend to be small independent stores, while Shopify better serves larger businesses.
Overall, Shopify is the better ecommerce website builder. It accommodates bigger brands, offers 24/7 help, and lets you list an unlimited amount of products — as well as run multiple staff accounts to keep your business running smoothly.
Which is Better, Shopify or Big Cartel?
- User Friendliness: 4.5
- Value For Money: 4.5
- Design Flexibility: 4
- Features: 4
- Support Help: 5
- Customer Rating: 4.5
- User Friendliness: 5
- Value For Money: 4
- Design Flexibility: 4.5
- Features: 3
- Support Help: 4
- Customer Rating: 4
How Ecommerce Works Between Big Cartel and Shopify
No two ecommerce website builders look the same, and that’s especially true between Big Cartel and Shopify. Mainly, Big Cartel has more payment options, but Shopify has more features. Here’s how they compare.
Big Cartel Ecommerce Structure
Big Cartel has five payment structures. They’re each color-coded and differentiated by the price and the number of products you can sell.
- The Gold plan is free and allows you to sell up to 5 products.
- The Platinum plan lets you sell up to 50 products for $9.99 per month.
- The Diamond plan gives you up to 250 products to sell for $19.99 per month.
- The Titanium plan affords you 500 products to sell for $29.99 per month.
The different features you get between the products don’t change much. From the Platinum plan up, you get all the same features as Gold except you can edit theme codes and get Google Analytics. Beyond that, you’re just paying for the number of products you can sell on Big Cartel.
Shopify Ecommerce Structure
Shopify only has three payment plans:
- Basic Shopify, costing $29 per month
- Shopify, costing $79 per month
- Advanced Shopify, costing $299 per month
Unlike Big Cartel, the number of features you get between pricing plans varies greatly.
The additional fees incurred when you use a provider other than Shopify Payments differ between plans. On Basic Shopify, that fee is 2.0%. It’s 1% on Shopify, and 0.5% on Advanced Shopify.
We could go in more detail, but it would probably take too long. See for yourself here how the features differ among pricing plans.
User Friendliness — Which Has the Lowest Learning Curve?
We describe user-friendliness as how easily your grandma can use these services. We don’t like website builders that require you to know a lot of code to understand. The simpler the features, the faster you can build your website.
Big Cartel User Friendliness
Big Cartel beats Shopify in terms of design. The site touts itself as being built by artists, for artists, so the site is certainly pretty to look at. But does aesthetic beauty translate to beautiful design?
We think so. Setting up your website is very simple. Once you purchase a membership with Big Cartel and create an account, you’re taken to a page containing 3×3 boxes, sort of in a cube shape.
They walk you through adding products for your site, choosing a template, adding payment options, and tweaking the design. It’s very straightforward and, yes, so simple your grandma can do it.
Shopify User Friendliness
Shopify doesn’t have a major learning curve, but setting up a website isn’t as straightforward as it is with Big Cartel.
Shopify appears to have more features on each page, so your eye has to wander around each section before finding what you’re looking for.
One example is the home page. It shows your earnings, top products, top pages people visit, and the money you made that day. It’s not a bad looking page — it’s still sleek and easy to read.
The amount of stuff could make you feel a bit lost or overwhelmed when you first use it, which can lessen over time.
Big Cartel vs Shopify User Friendliness — Verdict
The winner: Big Cartel
Creative Control — Which Offers the Most Design Flexibility?
This section is for the perfectionists. Do you spend forever trying to find the right shade of blue behind your product page? Do you want to have full control over the font you use when describing yourself on the “About” page?
That’s what design flexibility is all about. Full creative control means website builder lets you tweak whatever you want without diving into the page’s code.
Big Cartel Creative Control
While Big Cartel says it was built “by artists, for artists,” it offers a disappointing amount of design flexibility.
You’re essentially stuck with Big Cartel’s out-of-box templates for your store’s design. This doesn’t mean your store will look ugly — quite the contrary. But there aren’t many features allowing you to tweak the template’s colors, fonts, font size, typeface, and more.
Shopify Creative Control
Not only does Shopify give you the options to customize everything, but it also gives you the best news and information to give you the tips on how to customize your site.
For example, Shopify links to a blog post describing that familiar website designs actually increase the likelihood of getting conversions.
Therefore, Shopify doesn’t just provide the necessary tools to alter your website but the best information on how you should design it.
Big Cartel vs Shopify Creative Control — Verdict
The winner: Shopify
Shopify offers surprisingly more design flexibility than the ecommerce website builder built by artists.
You can control different aspects of your website from the product to checkout, whereas Big Cartel mostly leaves you with templates and rigid structures. And Shopify beats Big Cartel on giving users the best information on how they should design their website.
Features — Which Gives You the Best Tools?
Your site can’t just look pretty. Websites need tools to market their products, create promotions and discounts, send out alerts for said promotions and discounts, and a host of other features.
The more features web builders have to choose from, the better they can optimize their website and find paying customers.
Big Cartel Features
For a cheaper service than Shopify, Big Cartel still offers a sizable number of site features. They include:
- 13 clean themes
- Up to 300 products
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Full HTML and CSS customization, regardless of price plan level
- Integrated Google Analytics
- Coupon code generation
- List “sold out” or “coming soon” on a product
- Integrate into Facebook to add to an existing Business’ Facebook page
- Create a mobile admin app for iOS
Features also differ based on the pricing plan.
There’s a free Gold option up to the highest-paid $30/month Titanium option. Gold lets you sell five products with one picture each, run discounts and promos, and get real-time stats, among other things.
The titanium option lets you get all Gold plan features plus the ability to sell 500 products. And you get theme code editing and Google Analytics support with Titanium.
- 60 professional, elegant themes
- Unlimited products
- Up to 15 staff accounts
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Gift cards
- Mobile POS, or allowing physical stores to sell from mobile devices
- SEO marketing features
- Built-in analytics
- Assign inventory in up to 8 locations
- Easy Google Analytics integration
- Coupon code generation
- Inventory management
- Full HTML and CSS access
- Integration with popular shipping carriers
- Customer profiles to allow users to log-in to your store
There are more features to list, of course, but these are the top ones.
Accessing these features depends on the pricing plan you choose. For example, the Basic Shopify plan only lets you create two staff profiles and set up inventory in only four locations. The Advanced plan gives you the full 15 staff profiles and eight separate locations.
The feature of online credit card rates lowers between pricing plans as well — a notable difference. The rate for the basic plan is 2.9% of the sale plus 30¢, but it’s 2.4% plus 30¢ for the Advanced.
Therefore, Shopify has more features in general, and these features expand as you go up the pricing plans.
BigCartel vs Shopify Features — Verdict
The winner: Shopify
Shopify has 4x the amount of features Big Cartel has. These robust features better suit larger merchants who plan on expanding their business to different locations. If you’re serious about growing a company, Shopify’s features would be for you.
Can BigCartel or Shopify Post Blogs?
Highly ranking blog posts on search engines allow customers to come to your ecommerce store organically. They also allow you to give customers helpful tips, tell them any internal news or press events, and otherwise engage with your audience.
Ecommerce website builders that offer blogging platforms forgo the need to set up a different website for your blog, which could get especially tedious if multiple staff members help run your website.
For simplicity and cohesion, it’s best to keep your blog attached to your ecommerce store.
Big Cartel Blog Posting
It doesn’t look like Big Cartel lets you add a blog as we think of it. When we say “blog,” we mean a tab on the website in which you can add different posts. The blog is thus embedded in the site and doesn’t redirect readers elsewhere.
Big Cartel tells you ways that blogs are useful to adding traffic to your website, but we found that you can only add custom pages like an “About” or “Bio.” You can’t have multiple posts on one page.
Therefore, you cannot use Big Cartel to also build blogs for your ecommerce store. But adding a custom page is simple.
- Go to your Account area
- Click “Customize design”
- Click “Pages”
- Click “+”
- Name the page
- Add your content. You can use the editor to insert links, images, or fancy editing.
- Save once you’re done
You can still use these static pages to give readers information about your store or your policies, show off work through an embedded Instagram gallery, and increase user engagement with a way to sign up for a newsletter. It’s still not a blog, though.
Big Cartel Plugins allow you to create a blog, such as through Powr.io, but you can’t create a blog directly through Big Cartel’s layout.
Shopify Blog Posting
Yes, Shopify lets you start a blog. And doing so is simple from the admin portal.
Once you log in, click the “Online Store” tab to the left. You’ll be taken to a new set of menus, and “Blog post” will be the second one. Click on it.
There will be a large button that says “Create Blog Post.” Click on that, and you’ll be taken to a page where you can write your blog post, add a title, change who that author is, and even alter the SEO description (the little box of text that appears under a headline when you Google something.)
You can even add feature images, embed media into the blog post, and add tags so that you can better categorize the post. In all, the Shopify blog post content management system looks a lot like WordPress, so it shouldn’t be a huge learning curve if you’re already used to that.
Big Cartel vs Shopify Blog Posts — Verdict
The winner: Shopify
Shopify easily beats Big Cartel in the blog posting category because Big Cartel doesn’t even have that option. Shopify’s blog content management system has everything you need to make legible, attractive, and optimized blog posts for your ecommerce store.
Best Marketing Tools — Big Cartel and Shopify
Marketing tools grow your online business. You can create advertisements and target certain audiences, create a newsletter about upcoming items to create interest, and create promotions to draw audiences towards a sale.
Every good ecommerce website builder needs to have a robust set of marketing tools. Here’s how Big Cartel and Shopify compare.
Big Cartel Marketing Tools
Big Cartel lets you embed the following apps into your online store:
- POWr.io — Create a microblog, social feed, customer review, and other marketing materials
- Elfsight apps — Embed social media, customer testimonials, FAQs, Google Maps for physical locations, and more into your online store
- Instagram — For displaying pictures of products, people, locations, etc
- LiveChat — Facilitate customer support through instant messages
- Lucky Orange — Utilizes traffic data to help you understand why visitors don’t convert
- Mailchimp — Create targeted campaigns, automatically follow up with customers after they purchase a product, recommend products all through email
- Zapier — Automate tasks such as email marketing, customer management, social media promotion, accounting, and more
In all, these apps help small businesses grow their customer base. They’re all relatively simple to use too.
Shopify Marketing Tools
Shopify lets you:
- Start up a blog
- Access SEO tools
- Create marketing campaigns through Facebook ads, email marketing, and Google Smart Shopping
- Automate marketing through Kit — allowing you to boost awareness, drive sales, and email customers without labor
- See in-depth data behind your marketing efforts, taking the guesswork out of which campaigns are effective or not
- Access to the Shopify App Store with even more marketing tools
- Connect with Shopify Experts to help you better strategize marketing campaigns.
- Get high-quality 24/7 customer support should you experience issues with your marketing tools
It’s hard to quantify the number of items Shopify has, but it’s more than Big Cartel. On Shopify, you not only have access to top-tier marketing tools but the knowledge base, data, expert advice, and customer support to use it most efficiently.
Big Cartel vs Shopify Marketing Tools — Verdict
The winner: Shopify
Shopify offers more than Big Cartel. And Shopify not only offers tools but the information and access to marketing experts to let you market your site the best.
Big Cartel is good for independent artists hoping to grow their audience. Shopify better suits large businesses striving to reach millions of people.
Which Has Better SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. Good SEO allows products or blog posts to land among the first top five listings when searching for something on Google.
Readers aren’t likely to scroll onto the second or third page to find something they need, so good SEO is crucial for creating conversions and growing traffic organically.
Big Cartel SEO
Big Cartel takes care of SEO on the backend, so you don’t have to do much if you’re not well-versed in this sort of thing.
Big Cartel automatically generates unique meta descriptions using optimized keywords for your products. The company also does the meta keywords and sitemap, which are also important for ranking highly on search engines.
There are a few things you can do, though, as listed on the Big Cartel website. Users can create a custom domain that lets search engines see the URL clearly as a unique brand.
Merchants can also create a good description with ample keywords to rank highly. You should also write robust product descriptions for each product rather than leaving them blank. Ask friends or other business owners to link to your site — that’s another way to rank highly on search engines.
Shopify gives you an in-depth review of everything you need to know about SEO. It also lets you add keywords for SEO on your Shopify store, optimize site structure for search engines, among other useful things.
The Shopify App Store also lets you find other tools to boost your SEO, such as Smart SEO and TinyIMG SEO Image Optimizer.
Big Cartel vs Shopify SEO — Verdict
The winner: Shopify
Shopify has more tools, information, and app access than Big Cartel. Shopify even allows you to add SEO excerpts on each blog post to land higher on the page. In all, Shopify inserts SEO into everything it does, whereas it feels like SEO was tacked onto Big Cartel’s website structure.
Support Help — Which Has Better Customer Service?
We like it when a company offers 24/7 customer service so you’re never stuck waiting for someone to help you fix your problem. Quick, reliable support lets you get your site back on track and allows you to sell more products.
Big Cartel Support Help
Big Cartel states on their website that they have nine humans (not AI) working their customer help desk. They are available seven days a week from 8am to 6pm EST. Big Cartel’s customer service is also only available by email.
These are ample working hours, and it’s nice that customer service is available on the weekend. But these hours could be difficult to manage if you’re in a vastly different time zone or run your business after working hours.
Shopify Support Help
Shopify offers a 24/7 help center with people based in 21 locations around the world.
You also get access to a community forum, where you can quickly read solutions for problems people have had before you.
There’s also a help center filled with answers to common issues people on Shopify have, as well as ways you can grow your business.
Big Cartel vs Shopify Customer Service — Verdict
The winner: Shopify
Shopify has more customer support technicians working across the world to help users fix website issues.
Shopify also has more resources to help customers fix issues without contacting customer support, such as the help center and community forum. If you’re shy or just like solving issues on your own, that’s for you.
Big Cartel works on a much smaller scale than Shopify. This means you can’t always get access to one of Big Cartel’s nine customer support technicians, but you’ll probably get more care and attention when connecting with them.
Shopify, however, offers more support with more people in more locations. It’s simply a bigger company than Big Cartel, and it thus has more resources to help people.
Big Cartel vs Shopify — Our Winner
To review, here are the categories we had and the winner of each:
- User-friendliness — Big Cartel
- Design Flexibility — Shopify
- Creative Control — Shopify
- Features — Shopify
- Blog Posts — Shopify
- Marketing Tools — Shopify
- SEO — Shopify
- Customer Service — Shopify
Shopify is the clear winner in terms of categories won. It’s more expensive than Big Cartel, but the extra cost translates to more features and the ability to grow a large online business.
When to Use Big Cartel Over Shopify
Big Cartel works best for individual or small shop owners. These merchants can’t afford a huge staff to help run their company and are probably doing everything out of their bedroom.
Big Cartel also suits people who want to save money. You can have a free ecommerce store and just sell five products, which is perfect for people trying their hand at selling online but aren’t sure they want to commit to a costlier plan.
Big Cartel also works best with people who just want to set up their site and forget about it. They’ll revisit it from time to time, but they aren’t obsessed with metrics, growth, marketing, SEO, or the like. Big Cartel has these features for those who want them, but they aren’t the main point of who Big Cartel is for.
Big Cartel is for creative folks who want a simple, beautiful website and to connect with customers. Growth, marketing, SEO, and other tools help grow their audience, but they aren’t concerned with making millions of dollars. They sell for the sake of distributing good products.
When to Use Shopify over Big Cartel
Shopify is for entrepreneurial folks who want to grow their ecommerce store into a large business. Shopify gives you all the tools to grow big, complete with robust marketing tools, metrics, SEO, and hundreds of apps.
Shopify better suits online merchants with the capital to take on multiple staff members on board, growing the company’s team in addition to the business. Shopify isn’t cheap, either, so businesses must afford the higher price tag than Big Cartel.
Big Cartel and Shopify suit different niches. Big Cartel is for smaller, independent online stores, while Shopify works better for those who want to grow as big as possible.
Shopify offers more features for online merchants, but either ecommerce website builder will help you make stunning websites and sell products online.