17 min read

Big Cartel vs. Shopify Comparison: Which is Better? (2024)

Big Cartel vs. Shopify is an ongoing debate for people venturing into e-commerce.

Both offer a range of features to help you sell your products online, but they differ considering various aspects.

We compared Big Cartel and Shopify in terms of ease of use, customer support, sales features, themes, flexibility, design, apps, integrations, cost efficiency and more. Let's discover them!

A cover image that says "Shopify BigCartel, which is better for you?" with a green and black background

Shopify vs. Big Cartel: Pros and Cons Table

Shopify and Big Cartel both have pros and cons, and we gathered them with this table. You can get an insight by looking at this quick and straightforward table:

Pros & Cons of Big Cartel & Shopify

Big Cartel Shopify
Pros Lets you sell online for free Better app store
  No transaction fee Great inventory system
  Free themes

Excellent e-commerce features, customer score
  Easy to use Easy to use
  Perfect for selling individual pieces like artworks  Selling option across multiple channels like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest 
Cons Limited selling channels Costly themes
  Modification and website features lack depth Additional transaction fee on all external payment gateways
  Not beginner-friendly due to coding You need to reformat the content to switch themes 

We explained various features and compared these platforms below so that you can decide which one works best for you!

Ease of Use

In terms of ease of use, there’s a close tie between the two. All e-commerce builder platforms aim to make it easy for anyone to build an online store.

Ease of use saves you a lot of time to focus on more critical aspects of your online store. Your business shouldn’t become a chore. So, which one provides more of a smooth site-building process?

a screenshot of Shopify’s homepage

Shopify is a little bit more complicated than Big Cartel since it is rich in features. However, it is designed in a structured and systematic way to deliver a simple process. It allows you to set up and manage your store within a few simple steps.

Even if you are not a professional web designer or developer, it’s still fairly easy to use.

a screenshot of Big Cartel’s homepage

Big Cartel offers many suggestions and prompts via a setup wizard to guide you throughout the building process. Building a new online store with this platform is straightforward, even without any technical knowledge.

All you need to do is to upload your product images, set their prices, and select a theme for your store. Then, you can start selling.

But wait, there is a catch.

Once you complete the beginner-friendly onboarding process, it gets tricky. You’ll need to know coding to customize your Big Cartel website theme. It requires you to edit the HTML of the theme itself.

Although both platforms seem simple and straightforward at first glance, Shopify is slightly superior to Big Cartel in terms of ease of use.

Customer Support

Although customer support may not be at the top of your mind when picking an e-commerce platform, it’s still better to be safe than sorry. You never know if you will need it.

a screenshot of Big Cartel’s contact page

Big Cartel provides customer support only via three different channels: Email, Help Center, and Social Media. If you have any trouble, you should first check Big Cartel’s knowledge base.

It has well-categorized and helpful articles to guide users.

Or you can email them directly via [email protected]. However, the biggest drawback is that Big Cartel’s customer support is not available 24/7. The help channel is only via email, available between 9 am and 6 pm EST Monday to Friday.

a screenshot of Shopify’s support page

Shopify’s customer support scores over Big Cartel’s. It has various help options to choose from, including:

  • Social media support
  • 24/7 phone support
  • 24/7 live chat
  • Video tutorials
  • Forum
  • Email
  • Advanced specialist support
Shopify wins. In addition to many support options, you can even get a dedicated support agent to assist you if you use Shopify’s Plus plan.

Sales Features

screenshot of Shopify’s solutions section

In the e-commerce business, sales features are the backbone of a successful and easy-flowing sales experience.

The real reason behind Shopify’s popularity is its wide range of features, along with its simplicity. Not only can you accept online payments, but also Shopify provides you with over 100 payment gateways to choose from.

It also has all kinds of apps you might need for your e-commerce site in its app store.

On the other hand, Big Cartel has relatively fewer features and is more suitable for small businesses selling individual products.

Let’s compare the two platforms’ common core features.

Shopify’s core features include:

  • Finance reports
  • Discount codes
  • Unlimited products
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Staff accounts
  • Mobile POS
  • Customer Support
  • Abandoned cart recovery
a screenshot of Big Cartel’s feature section on homepage

Big Cartel’s core features include:

  • Free themes
  • Discount codes
  • Inventory tracking
  • Bulk editing
  • Google Analytics
  • Shipment tracking
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Up to 25, 100, or 300 products, depending on the price plan.
a screenshot of Big Cartel’s features of various pricing plans

Product Uploads

Big Cartel’s product upload options are too limited. You can only upload five products with the free version, 50 products with the second plan, and 500 for the highest plan.

In contrast, Shopify’s inventory system is more advanced. You can add single products or upload them in bulk without any limit for the number of products.

Shipping Options

Shopify offers the Shopify Shipping Suite, which helps users manage rates, bulk-print labels, and discounts on rates when shipping through DHL Express, UPS, or USPS.

Big Cartel offers third-party apps to handle shipping services.

Shopify is the winner for sales features. It provides a more powerful builder with more features you will need while building your online store. In addition, it gives you more time to focus on your business by simplifying the store-building process.
Big Cartel’s features are basic and can’t compete with Shopify’s yet. However, if you think the basic features are enough to run your business, it’s still a choice.


Big Cartel offers dropshipping features, allowing you to sell merchandise featuring your artistic creations. Since it is more focused on artistic perspective, it allows artists to dropship for sure. 

Big Cartel allows you to sell via Printful and Art of Where. However, the scope of its dropshipping functionalities can be limited.

Contrarily, Shopify has a strong reputation for being highly compatible with dropshipping businesses. There is a wide range of Shopify dropshipping apps in its app store designed to facilitate such operations.

Also, it costs less than $100 if you want to get started with dropshipping.

📌 See our guide: "How Much Does It Cost to Start Dropshipping on Shopify?" for further details about dropshipping costs on Shopify.

For dropshipping, Shopify can be a better solution than Big Cartel.

Themes, Flexibility & Design

Big Cartel Themes

a screenshot of Big Cartel’s themes section

The design of your online store can make a sea change in the way your products are presented. Big Cartel has 18 free themes, which are fewer than most e-commerce platforms.

What’s an even bigger drawback is that free accounts can’t modify the themes at all. You’ll need to upgrade to a priced plan to be able to make modifications in the code segment.

Nevertheless, free themes are still perfect for artists, photographers, etc. They look neat and organized, which makes them best for art-based online stores. Online stores selling jewelry or clothes might find the themes attractive too.

Yet, you will still have limitations and little room for customization. Additionally:

  • Switch the theme anytime
  • Products are automatically reformatted to fit the new design
  • The selected layout automatically adjusts for mobile devices, but you can’t modify the mobile site version.

Shopify Themes

a screenshot of Shopify’s themes page

In contrast to Big Cartel, Shopify has the upper hand in design, themes, and flexibility. While it doesn’t have the same sharp focus on design as other website builders like Wix or Squarespace, Shopify helps your shop’s looks stand out.

  • 10 free themes and 50+ paid themes ranging from $140-$180
  • All themes are fully mobile optimized.
  • You can adjust the mobile version.
  • Great level of customization
See “15 Best Conversion Ready Shopify Templates to Use in 2024” for Shopify template recommendations.
Shopify takes the design round! It offers better flexibility, more themes than Big Cartel, and is easier to customize. However, you’ll need coding knowledge to add or edit images in Big Cartel while Shopify simplifies everything for you.

Apps & Integrations

a screenshot of Shopify app store page

Once more, the answer is Shopify. With over 7000 apps in the Shopify app store, Shopify meets user needs and provides a way to implement new features like upselling, popups, etc., with third-party apps.

Popular Shopify app categories include marketing, store design, shipping, and delivery. The app store offers something for everyone. But, of course, the apps’ prices and quality vary.

All apps on Shopify have customer ratings on a 5-star scale. Before committing to it, you must consider whether an app has a good score. Otherwise, it might hurt your store’s security and performance.

For further information about Shopify apps visit:

a screenshot of Big Cartel’s apps and integrations page

Big Cartel allows you to integrate with over 500 third-party apps with Zapier, a paid plugin. You can still add 25 software tools without Zapier, including Facebook Store, MailChimp, ShipRobot, Instagram, etc.

Mind that some of those add-ins have monthly fees. Additionally, don’t forget to download Big Cartel’s mobile POS integration on your phone. It lets you manage everything right from your smart devices.

Shopify has the victory in terms of apps and integrations. However, what matters is not the number of apps available but whether you can find the essential extensions you need to handle your store.
Fortunately, both Shopify and Big Cartel cover the essentials like email marketing, social media, and CRM management.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Security

The importance of SSL security in online commerce cannot be overstated. 

This security protocol ensures that data transferred between the web server and browser remains private and integral. When it comes to transactions made on your online store, the personal data and credit card information your customers share are kept secure.

Big Cartel provides SSL security. All Big Cartel shopping cart and checkout pages are HTTPS and SSL-encrypted, ensuring safe and secure transactions on your e-commerce site. 

Just like Big Cartel, Shopify provides free SSL certificates for all pages, content, and data on every Shopify site. 

This feature helps ensure your customers' information is safe and secure during transactions. 

An additional benefit of SSL is that it encourages a higher ranking on Google, therefore helping with your SEO efforts. In Shopify, the padlock icon visible in the URL bar reassures customers about the security of their data and increases their trust in your e-commerce store.

In conclusion, Big Cartel and Shopify prioritize securely exchanging sensitive information during transactions. 
Their SSL certificates protect your customers' data and provide them with a secure shopping experience. This is key for legitimizing your e-commerce business and building trust with your customers. 

📌 Also see: "What Does SSL Pending Mean On Shopify? (Complete Guide)"

Pricing & Cost-Effectiveness

Our last criterion for Shopify vs. Big Cartel comparison is the value for money you’ll get from each. Whether you plan to set up a business on the side or for your primary income source, your e-commerce store should bring you money, not lower your budget.

So, what have Shopify and Big Cartel got to offer in terms of pricing and value?

a screenshot of Shopify’s pricing page

Shopify has three paid plans and 14-day free trial and $1 Basic plan trial for a month. The price ranges from $24 to $2,300 per month.

Big Cartel, on the other hand, has three price plans, including the free version. Paid plans are $9.99 to $19.99 per month and have no listing fees.

a screenshot of Big Cartel’s pricing page

Here’s Big Cartel’s advantage and most significant selling point:

Big Cartel is the only e-commerce platform builder that lets you sell online for free.

It doesn’t require any credit card information, either. However, you can list only five products and upload only one image for each product in the free version. So while Big Cartel’s prices are lower than Shopify’s, you get less value for money as you upgrade.

Shopify’s basic plan is $24 per month, but it immediately gives you more features, including:

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

Transaction Fees

Another important aspect you’ll need to consider when building an online store is transaction fees, the fees required for every transaction. Different services charge different rates.

Shopify has no transaction fees for stores that use Shopify Payments.

If you choose to use a third-party payment provider, each of Shopify’s price plans has different transaction fees, as in the following:

  • Basic plan: 2%
  • Shopify plan: 1%
  • Advanced plan: 0.5%

If you use Shopify’s payment provider, Shopify Payments, it doesn’t charge any transactional or additional fees. However, to be able to use it, your store needs to be eligible.

When it comes to Big Cartel transaction fees, Big Cartel doesn’t handle the transactions itself due to its more minor focus. Instead, users need to integrate with a third-party service. Big Cartel’s partners for online orders are Paypal and Stripe.

Both Stripe’s and PayPal’s transaction fees are the same: 2.9% of the total transaction cost plus $0.30.

We have a draw between Shopify and Big Cartel regarding value for money. Each service has its advantages, and it’s up to your business type and needs to choose one.
While Shopify offers better features and value for money, Big Cartel is cheaper and ideal for small businesses.

SEO Capabilities

SEO capabilities enhance your website’s visibility and helps attract more traffic from search engines.

Big Cartel offers basic SEO tools which can help you optimize your site. You can add titles and meta descriptions to your products, customize URLs, and use Google Analytics to measure the performance of your website.

However, Big Cartel doesn’t have an integrated blogging platform which is essential for content marketing and SEO.

Big Cartel’s SEO capabilities are somewhat limited, especially when compared to Shopify.

In contrast, Shopify is well-equipped with a comprehensive set of SEO tools. On this platform, you can fully customize URLs, titles, meta descriptions, and image ALT tags.

Shopify also includes an integrated blogging platform that can help boost your site’s SEO ranking.

Additionally, it automatically generates a sitemap.xml for your store which makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index your site’s structure.

Shopify’s App Store also contains plenty of SEO apps that can further enhance your SEO efforts, like SEO image optimizer, to further make your site more visible in search engine results.

In terms of SEO capabilities, Shopify comes out on top due to its advanced and extensive SEO features.
While Big Cartel provides basic SEO tools that can get the job done, growing businesses might find it limiting. As such, if your marketing strategy heavily relies on SEO, Shopify might be the better choice.

To learn more about Shopify SEO, you can check out our articles:

Wrap Up

In conclusion, Big Cartel and Shopify provide various services and functionalities to assist you in selling your products online. Small businesses and artists looking for a user-friendly platform with simple customization possibilities might consider Big Cartel.

Contrarily, Shopify is a complete platform with more sophisticated functionality and customization choices, but at a higher cost. The appropriate platform will ultimately depend on your unique needs and financial situation.

To choose which platform suits you the most, you can refer to this guide, where we compare these platforms’ certain aspects.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are The Main Differences Between Shopify and Big Cartel?

The design and customization possibilities, pricing, and customer support are the primary distinctions between Big Cartel and Shopify.

Shopify offers more sophisticated functionality and customization choices but at a higher price range, while Big Cartel is more straightforward and intended for small enterprises and independent artists.

Additionally, Shopify offers many other capabilities, including managing multiple payment methods, shipping and tax options, and inventory management.

Big Cartel vs. Shopify: Which One is Better?

We need to clarify that Shopify and Big Cartel aim at very different target audiences. While Shopify is best for small to large businesses and offers something for everyone, Big Cartel is designed mainly for artists and small businesses.

Overall, the winner is Shopify, but if you plan to sell individual items such as artworks in small numbers, Big Cartel is still a good option.

Is it Simple to Switch from Big Cartel to Shopify?

Absolutely, transitioning from Big Cartel to Shopify is straightforward. You can migrate your products through a CSV file.

Also, you can utilize an external application to assist you in moving your Big Cartel store to Shopify. Pay attention to backing up your data during the transition process.

Does Big Cartel Work with Shopify?

Yes, Big Cartel can work with Shopify via its Product Import feature. This tool allows you to export your product listings from your Shopify store and import them into your Big Cartel shop.

However, you must ensure your Shopify store remains open during the process so all product images can be transferred. Also, the Big Cartel plan you choose must support the total number of products you intend to import.

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