3 out of 5 stars
BigCartel is the only ecommerce builder where you can set up a store and sell online for free.
Last Updated on January 5, 2023
Big Cartel is an ecommerce builder that lets you make an online store for free. Suitable for selling individual pieces such as artworks rather than bulk uploads due to its simple sales features, BigCartel is good for small businesses that aren’t looking to scale up soon.
Beginners are supported by BigCartel’s user-friendly onboarding process, with prompts and reminders helping you set up your store.
But, coding knowledge is useful if you want to get the most out of this builder. Basic sales features and a free plan make BigCartel a risk-free choice for starting your business out small.
It’s basic compared to ecommerce builders like Shopify, but does this mean you should avoid it? In this review, we’ll look at Big Cartel’s sales tools, pricing, and more.
|One of the only ecommerce builders where you can set up and sell online for free||Basic theme designs and extremely low level of customization|
|Online store set up has clean navigation and user friendly prompts||Coding is useful if you want to push beyond the limits of the builder|
|Perfect for artists selling individual pieces||Features lack depth and quality|
Perhaps you’ve heard of Big Cartel and want to know if it’s the right ecommerce builder for you. You already know it’s the one of the only free ecommerce builders. Maybe you’re wondering if it’s too good to be true? What’s it really like to build your online store with?
Luckily for you, we’ve tried, tested, and scored this builder to tell you everything you need to know.
Big Cartel is perfect for small businesses that are just starting out rather than looking for growth.
Big Cartel’s free plan is a big appeal, especially for those on a budget. It has a user-friendly onboarding process that guides and prompts you through setting up your store. But if you want to move your Big Cartel store beyond the basics, you’ll need to know how to code.
While it can’t compete with market leaders such as Shopify and BigCommerce, Big Cartel is a good choice for starting out small.
Here at Website Builder Expert, we want you to have the best experience of building your website. Whether that’s choosing the right website builder for your portfolio, picking the best ecommerce builder for your online store, or finding the perfect hosting provider, we’ve got you covered.
We carry out research to give you the best reviews and comparisons possible. We’ve used Big Cartel ourselves, and that’s not all. We got a wide selection of people to use it too, and rate their experience. We also spent hours scoring, ranking, and analyzing all Big Cartel’s features. We didn’t leave a nook or cranny untested.
So read on to find out if Big Cartel is right for you…
Creating your online store should be exciting. Some might even say it should be fun. It definitely shouldn’t leave you banging your head against your desk in frustration. We always test for ease of use because it really is one of the most important factors of choosing the right ecommerce builder. Big Cartel is no different.
So how did Big Cartel do?
Overall, the honest answer is: it did okay. By that, we mean that it wasn’t awful but it also didn’t blow our socks off. It has a very user-friendly onboarding process. So when you’re setting up your online store it gives you helpful prompts, reminders, and suggestions. Being guided through the setup tasks makes it feel beginner-friendly and easy to use.
One user found this especially useful:
“It has its strengths in that I felt more confident using it because it guides you through tasks, this just made it feel easier.”
The problems start once you’re ready to begin customizing and adding things yourself. The design of your site revolves heavily around your chosen theme. The themes themselves are very basic and offer very little room for customization. So if you want to change or add anything outside the guidelines of the theme, this is where you run into frustrating territory.
To really make the most of your website and have full creative control, you will need to know how to code. This is less than ideal for beginners. In fact, it’s less than ideal for most people who aren’t confident coders!
Big Cartel came fourth in our research rankings for ease of use. If you stick to the basics and are happy following the theme without making many changes, Big Cartel is simple to use. But, for anyone who wants some creative freedom, things can get slightly tricky.
So how likely is someone to recommend Big Cartel? It received 3.7/5 stars for its customer score, with 52% of users saying they were likely to recommend it. This was taking into account their own user experience, as well as factors like price and features.
Here’s what some of our users had to say about Big Cartel:
“A simple, easy to use website builder that’s maybe good if you are starting out and you want a basic store, but not so great if you want a higher level of customization.”
“It’s quite deceptive, at the start I thought it would be really easy and customer friendly because it mentioned that you were 10% of the way there, don’t forget this, do this do that. But then you realize that everything has to be coded in the back end.”
Overall people said they found it really simple and easy to get a basic site online fast. But most also found it limiting and said they would’ve liked more customization.
You want your online store to sell as much as possible. From uploading your products, to the customer’s checkout, a good online store should have the tools to make every part of the selling journey easy.
Big Cartel has a range of basic sales features to support your online store. The first thing to be aware of is, while you can sell on the free plan, you’re limited to five products and can’t create discounts.
You have a range of standard ecommerce features with Big Cartel. These include a mobile app to manage your store on the go and three types of accepted payments.
You also have a customized checkout including confirmation emails reflecting your brand and chosen theme. There’s an orders section where you can keep track of your transactions and order details.
Something to be aware of is Big Cartel isn’t PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant. This means you’re responsible for following PCI guidelines on processing and accepting people’s card payment details. This is a big job and hassle which you don’t have to worry about with other ecommerce builders.
On the plus side, Big Cartel doesn’t charge transaction fees. The usual charge is applied by the payment gateway itself. For example credit card payments will be charged at the standard 2.2% + 30p rate. But Big Cartel itself has 0% transaction fees, even on its free plan!
Big Cartel recommends using apps for a lot of your ecommerce functions. You need apps or third plugins to unlock features such as:
- Selling digital goods
- Creating promotional pop ups
- Accessing more advanced finance and analytics tools
- Making drop-shipping available to your customers
These can expand your online store and create a better customer experience. This is where Big Cartel’s free plan is worth taking advantage of, as these apps will add to the cost of your website each month.
We’re not going to dodge the truth: Big Cartel definitely has sales areas where it can’t compete with ecommerce builders like Shopify and BigCommerce. There are simple features an online store should be able to offer, like product reviews, which aren’t available even using apps.
There’s no customer login option for Big Cartel sites. While this might not be a deal breaker for some, it means your online store can only ever offer guest check out. In a world of online shopping where we’re used to saving our details for a quick buy, this might not go down well with customers. You can’t bulk upload products either, which can be time consuming if you have a lot of stock.
Having to upload products individually makes Big Cartel a lot more suitable for selling one-off products like artworks and prints. This removes the hassle of adding lots of variants like size and color, which could be frustrating if you’re running a clothing store, for example.
Today it’s not enough just to sell through one platform. It would be like only using a bike when actually everyone else is also walking, driving, and scootering! You don’t want to miss out. Luckily, with BigCartel you can sell via Facebook and tag products on Instagram.
You can set this up even if you’re on the free plan. Just be aware that to tag products on Instagram, your products must be approved by both Facebook and Instagram. Plus you will need to do some coding to integrate these social media platforms with your store.
Want to find out more? Read our article on how to make money on Instagram for a breakdown of how to sell through this social platform. Or, read our guide to selling through Facebook to find out the best ways to maximise your store’s online presence.
Abandoned Cart Recovery
The main drawback of Big Cartel is there’s no abandoned cart recovery. This is a major issue, and something to really think about when setting up your store. Abandoned cart recovery basically helps you increase sales by catching incomplete orders.
If a customer has entered their details, but left products in their cart without checking out, you can send them a reminder email. This also helps you analyse why some products might be abandoned more than others.
All in all, Big Cartel doesn’t have as much to offer as bigger and better ecommerce builders. But it does give you a range of standard features to build a basic, functioning online store. Plus it gives you a selection of apps to give your website more power.
So you know what it can do. But how good does it look while it’s doing it?
There are 16 Big Cartel themes to choose from. They all look clean and professional, which is great for getting your online store live quickly. You can preview your theme before you select it.
A bonus of Big Cartel’s themes is you can switch your theme at any time you like. Your products will be automatically re-formatted to fit the new design. It’s worth knowing, however, any extra content (like background images), will not be transferred to the new style. You will have to re-upload these manually, which could be time consuming.
In this on-the-go world, mobile optimization is vital. Your customers need to be able to view and work your website easily no matter what device they’re on. All of Big Cartel’s themes are fully mobile responsive. Each one will reformat to fit mobile and tablet screens, so you don’t need to worry about your mobile visitors missing out.
When it comes to adding and editing images, Big Cartel has less to offer than its competitors. Unlike Shopify and BigCommerce, Big Cartel doesn’t have an image editor. Instead you can only edit images by using code. You must upload images yourself, as there are no stock images or clipart available.
Another bugbear is with flexibility. The themes are restrictive, and offer very little creative freedom. The themes aren’t impressive enough for most people to feel happy leaving them as they are. And if you do want to customize, you will need to get coding.
Overall Big Cartel’s themes are functional, but don’t go the extra mile to make editing easy or your site visually impressive.
Big Cartel offers one type of direct support across all its plans. This comes in the form of email support available from Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm (EST). If you’ve seen a live chat feature, don’t be fooled – this takes you back to the email support.
There is also the Big Cartel knowledge base. This is laid out clearly and is very easy to navigate. So, no tearing your hair out over confusing help pages or unclear navigation.
Here’s what one user had to say about their experience of using Big Cartel’s help and support:
“Amending the shipping costs was really easy and was explained well within the help and support knowledge center.”
While Big Cartel may lack in a range of help and support features and resources, it is really good at supporting the user within the building process itself. With its frequent prompts, reminders and messages, you’re less likely to be reaching for email support or be searching through the knowledge base for answers.
At the end of the day, cost is one of the most important factors when making a decision. You’re meant to be making money through your site after all, not splashing out all your savings on it!
The good news is, Big Cartel’s main attraction is its free plan. It’s one of the only ecommerce builders where you can create an online store and accept payments for free!
Big Cartel has three price plans. These range from $0 on the free plan to $19.99 a month on the most expensive Diamond plan. The number of products you can sell through your store varies across the plans from five to 500.
On the free plan, you can sell up to five products. With basic features like one image per product, and the option to promote through Facebook and Instagram as well as your website, this is a good option for starting out small.
You can sell 50 products on the Personal $9.99 a month plan, and 500 products on the $19.99 a month Diamond plan.
Despite Big Cartel’s tiered plans, the features offered remain basic across all price levels. For example, Shopify allows you to sell unlimited products compared to Big Cartel’s maximum of 500. So, if you’re looking to grow your online store, Big Cartel won’t give you the best value for money.
But, if you’re looking to start small and keep it small, this is the only free ecommerce builder around. Now that’s something to shout about!
Of course, there are limits to using the free plan. You can only feature one product photo per item, and you won’t e able to edit your theme’s code. You also won’t be able to integrate Google Analytics, either.
However, you will be able to connect a custom domain for a more professional feel. Additionally, the free plan also allows you to generate discounts and run promos, as well as offering shipment tracking and a sales tax autopilot.
Overall, however, other ecommerce builders do offer better value for money. Big Cartel’s limited and basic features hold it back from being an impressive deal. But, if you’re looking to start out on a free plan, this is your perfect choice! No other builder will let you sell online without signing up to a paid plan. So Big Cartel deserves a big shout out for this rare offer!
Big Cartel is an ecommerce builder with numerous pros and cons.
Its appeal lies in its free plan, being the only ecommerce builder to let you sell online free of charge. Plus, it has no transaction fees.
Its design lends itself best to anyone looking to sell one-off pieces like artworks or prints. It is not so suited to adding lots of different variants such as size and color, as you have to add them all individually. So if you’re looking for a really developed store, it’s best to look elsewhere.
It has standard sales features, which will support a small online store. The limitations of some of these features means you can end up doing a fair bit of work. But if you have a small number of products this shouldn’t cause too many issues.
So, if you’re looking to grow your business this is not the right choice. But if you’re just starting out small, and only want basic sales features, Big Cartel could be the perfect place to start.
Still undecided? Check out our online store comparison chart to browse and compare the best ecommerce website builders on the market. Or, take our free quiz to receive tailored suggestions for the best builder for you.
You can also sell through Facebook and tag products on Instagram from your Big Cartel store, but any products must be approved by these platforms. Big Cartel is best suited to artists selling prints and individual pieces. This is because it’s easier than selling products like clothing which involves a lot of variants in size and color.
There are also website builders which have ecommerce plans and functions. Examples of these are Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace. These builders often have a higher level of creative control and are easier to design in terms of how your store looks.
Whether you choose an ecommerce builder or a website builder with ecommerce functionality, you’ve got lots of choice! It depends on your own preferences and the scale of your business. Browse the best online store builders in our comparison chart.