Shopify VS Big Cartel

Shopify VS Big Cartel

Shopify VS Big Cartel


Shopify VS Big Cartel

So, you have decided and you are ready to start your e-Commerce store, but the options are overwhelming. Yeah, we know that. But somehow you narrowed  it down to two: Shopify and Big Cartel. But still, you can’t figure out which one is best for you.

Well, this is your lucky day.

In this post, we will talk through the Shopify vs Big Cartel comparison to help you decide which one is the right one for you and your business.

Shopify Who?

If you’re reading this article then you’ve probably know what Shopify is. But, just in case, Shopify is a Canada-based e-Commerce platform. It offers all the functionality that you need to list products online, manage your orders, manage your inventory, and sell on social media like Pinterest and Facebook. They also sell an integrated POS for multichannel businesses who want to expand from an e-Commerce to brick & mortar (or vise versa).

Shopify has an app marketplace where you can find over 1100 apps and plugins. Much like the apps you download for your mobile device, these apps expand Shopify’s capabilities and enable it to integrate directly with different kinds of platforms.

Shopify is the eCommerce giant on the block, right now. In fact, they host over 210,000 active online stores, and that number is growing fast. After a successful IPO earlier this year, it has become the darling of the e-commerce industry.

Big Cartel Who?

Despite Shopify’s dominance in the e-commerce industry, there is still room in the market for competitors. Big Cartel is one of these…

Founded in 2005, Big Cartel is a Salt Lake City, UT based e-Commerce solution provider. It is a software-as-a-service that includes many of the core features that you need to run an eCommerce store (products, orders, inventory, and much more).

Big Cartel is a smaller company. As per their website, they have fewer than 30 employees. They may not have the market exposure or PR that Shopify does but they do host around 20,000+ webstores – not on par with Shopify numbers but certainly formidable.


So, how do these s-commerce solution providers compare? How do you pick one over the other?

It doesn’t do anyone much good to talk about why these 2 e-commerce solutions are the same. They both have the same essential features where you can add products, create variants of products, sell products, and fulfill orders.

How these platforms differ is by far more important, because that’s what is going to help you pick one over the other.

Here’s how they are different from each other.

User Focus

One of the first things that you’ll notice when looking at Shopify and Big Cartel is how they position themselves in the market.

Shopify wants to be the “every man’s” e-Commerce platform as they position themselves as a platform that you could use for any kind of online business. They promote their differentiating features like no other by highlighting their one-of-a-kind social integration and their integrated POS.

It’s without a doubt that they have a huge customer base and they have gathered a lot of attention, but their customer base is not all that focused. This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing really. It just is.

Big Cartel is different. The very first thing that you will see on their homepage is, “We believe in the artist,” followed by, “Built for makers.” This is a value proposition that is very different to what Shopify presents.

Big Cartel wants to be an eCommerce platform of choice for indie brands. Their marketing strategy is full of tattooed millennials. Big Cartel refers to their customers as artists and makers. It’s pretty obvious that the segment of people they are trying to attract. The “team” page even showcases goofy pictures of their staff doing what they love.

If you put another way, Big Cartel is to Shopify is simply what Etsy is to Amazon.

Sure, Shopify also supports makers and artists. But, they don’t talk directly to them.  Big Cartel does.

Maybe this user focus matters to you. Maybe it doesn’t. But what is clear  here is there’s a difference between Shopify and Big Cartel when it comes to FOCUS.

User Interface

While Shopify and Big Cartel share the same essential e-Commerce features, their user interfaces are much different.

Shopify’s page layout is more standard for an e-Commerce or CMS, with the left navigation separated out into functional areas. If you’ve used other CMS like WordPress or Bigcommerce, this should be very familiar to you.

Shopify’s branding and overall user experience are very clean. They provide clear user instructions for how to use each feature all throughout, and they link nicely to their help documentation. They make it a point that their users easily understand what they are doing so they’d be able to get started without ever having to talk to another person.

Big Cartel, on the other hand, does not have that nice of a layout. It uses a non-standard top tab layout, that’s hidden behind some moderately confusing iconography. The user interface layout is not user-friendly as with the Shopify’s, and it just isn’t as clean and smooth.

With that being said, Big Cartel’s interface is snappy and it does accomplish what it is supposed to do. It’s not bad really…just not as nice as Shopify. And, some might argue that simple is better.


Shopify (Prices) – Basic ($29) Pro ($79) unlimited ($179) – All offer unlimited inventory

Big Cartel (Prices) – Platinum ($10) Diamond ($20) Titanium ($30)

We will admit that the Big Cartel platinum plan might seem attractive, but you will only be able to hold 25 products. With the Diamond plan, you only be able to sell 100 products which are not enough and you have to think about the future.

The free features and add-ons category, Shopify offers will help you earn more money compared to Big Cartel. If you get the basic plan, which costs $29, a $9 difference from the diamond plan, we guarantee that the features that you will pay for the difference and then some. You will get more bang for your buck!

Generally speaking, Shopify and Big Cartel fall in virtually the same market segment, at least as far as price is concerned. (ShopiHunt is excluding Shopify Plus from this, which is significantly a lot more expensive.) However, there are some key differences.

Shopify’s plans price points range from $9/month to $179/month and are mostly based on a number of products and availability of more advanced features like discount coupons, gift cards, and reporting. They do not offer a free version, but you can get started with a 14-day trial for free.

Big Cartel’s plans price points start at $10/month and can go up to $30/month. For an entry-level eCommerce merchant, these prices are quite comparable. However, you’ll notice that Big Cartel’s biggest price point only allows you 300 products.

On the top end, Shopify is slightly different from Big Cartel, because they allow for “unlimited” expansion.  Big Cartel seems to be not concerned with anyone but small merchants, which makes sense to us, considering their focus on “artists and makers”.

Big Cartel does offer a free version, though, making it still a particularly compelling for entry-level eCommerce merchants. And, for some “makers” this  5 product limit may be perfectly acceptable.

Apps & Integration

Shopify in this category stands head and shoulders above Big Cartel because of their Shopify App Store. As of this writing, the Shopify App Store contains over 1200 pre-built add-ons and integrations to other platforms. Most of which are quite affordable, making your Shopify store a part of a broader ecosystem of technologies, which will be an inevitable requirement as you grow your business.

Just so you know, Big Cartel provides very little “out of the box” app integration. They have integrations to Facebook, but that’s about it. There have quite a few integrations (like to WordPress) floating around, but none of these are part of an App-Store-like community. With that being said, Big Cartel does provide an API, which can allow you to build your own integrations.

For someone who  is planning to sell hundreds of products, Big Cartel’s lack of integration ecosystem may be totally acceptable. But, if you’ve got plans to grow your business, you should think hard about this.

So, which one should I use, Shopify or Big Cartel?

Honestly, like us, you’ll be hard-pressed to find too many reasons to pick Shopify over Big Cartel, but still, we won’t make a universal proclamation that Shopify is better.

If you are an artist, a small merchant,  or a “maker”, and you don’t plan to grow your business that much, Big Cartel can be a good option for you. Its simplicity lends itself well and their support for artists and “makers” resonates with you, that only makes it a better fit. If this is something important to you, then consider going with Big Cartel.

But, for those merchants who are trying to build and grow their business, Shopify is obviously the best choice. Its entry point is similar but there is just far more room to grow on this platform. Shopify would start with the assumption that this is the best option unless you can make a compelling argument to choose Big Cartel instead.

For the sake of disclosure, we are not a Shopify nor a Big Cartel partner and we don’t receive any kind of compensation or incentive for writing about their platforms on this blog. This is purely based on our research and analysis.

What To Do Next?

Simply picking an e-commerce solution for you online store business is far from the last step. Once you’re all set up, you need to be thinking about how you are promoting your brand and creating an exceptional customer experience that drives loyalty and repeat sales or purchases.

Fortunately for you, we are writing a white paper that explains just how to do that! Check it out soon!


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