Shopify vs. Big Cartel: Seeking the Best eCommerce Platform

There are many options for platforms in starting a new eCommerce website and Big Cartel is a common entry-level choice. However, before rushing to any decision, it’s always recommended to conduct a careful evaluation of the platforms and their pros and cons. So, if Shopify and Big Cartel seem to be two quality options and you are not sure to decide choosing any of them, this comparative study can help you.

Here we are going to explain the differences between these two platforms along with their respective strengths and weaknesses.

Customer Niche

From a high level, both Shopify and Big Cartel appeal to eCommerce businesses, yet they have clear differences in respect of their customer focus and brand positioning. Big Cartel has a landing page that immediately reads “Easy online stores for artists & makers.” True to that tagline, Big Cartel seeks to have a strong appeal with a niche audience of artists producing their own independent products.

In contrast, Shopify is a considerably more robust and multifaceted platform. Shopify positions itself with an appeal to all eCommerce markets as it truly can accommodate any type of store with any product offering.

Designer setting up eCommerce webstore

Ease of Use

When it comes to overall merit of user experience for each platform, both Shopify and Big Cartel are truly easy to use with a few individual differences for each platform.

The Shopify admin panel is absolutely easy for the beginner. Moreover, it all needs just as much as four steps to start selling your products. All you need is to add the products, treat the theme with custom attributes, set up a domain, and lastly give your tax and shipping info. It also allows easy customization of the look and feel of the webstore through tweaking the theme before your site goes live.

Big Cartel offers equally easy to set up options. All you need is to upload the product images, set prices, choose domain, choose a theme, and your store is ready. The WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) editing in Big Cartel allows you to make adjustments to the website without needing any advanced knowledge or fumbling with the code base

Range Of Features

When it comes to set of features offered by each platform, each platform is unique in its own way. Shopify offers a really exhaustive feature set that covers practically everything one needs to setup and run a web store. In contrast, Big Cartel comes with a considerably smaller range of features which is very limited in scope.

Shopify features advanced analytics reporting

Key Shopify Features include:

  • Hundreds of free themes
  • 60 professional themes
  • Unlimited products
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Complete HTML and CSS access
  • Mobile point of sale (POS) to help any small business sell from a mobile device
  • Integration with all reputed shipping carriers
  • Built-in SEO marketing support that includes reporting analytics tools and the option of integrating Google Analytics
  • Incentivizing features such as coupon code generation
  • Import/export products using CSV files
  • Inventory management
  • Customer profiles
  • Gift cards
  • Built-in campaign support
  • Integration of all major shopping carts
  • Integration of a huge and diverse range of third party apps to extend capacity and features
  • And several others…

Key Big Cartel Features:

  • Only 13 basic themes
  • HTML and CSS customization only for paid versions
  • WYSIWYG editor
  • Only up to 300 products permissible
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Integrated Google Analytics
  • Inventory tracking is provided for paid versions
  • One can create discount codes
  • Tagging items as “sold out” or “coming soon”
  • Integration of Facebook app for linking to a Facebook business page
  • Built-in order management tools
  • Allowing export order history to CSV
  • Mobile admin app for iPhone

User Interface

In spite of many similarities shared by Shopify and Big Cartel on features, they differ on user interface to a great extent.

Shopify offers a fairly standard layout with a left navigation panel showing all the functional areas. Big Cartel defies this standard convention and instead opts for small icons, which may be confusing for first-time users. The Shopify layout looks clean with clear directions. Big Cartel in many respects fails to take advantage of the ease of larger screen real estate.

Shopify business owners easily navigate user interface


The price points of Shopify vary from $9/month to $179/month. The price mainly ranges as per the number of products and advanced features. Shopify also offers a 14-day free trial.

The pricing of Big Cartel ranges from $10/month to $30/month. Big Cartel even has a free version for a store of 5 products or less. However, the major downside of Big Cartel is the limitation of adding up to 300 products. This is inconvenient for mature eCommerce businesses.

This highlights the fact that Big Cartel is suited specifically for small businesses and leaves no option to scale beyond the 300 product cap. Shopify, on the other hand, offers all ranges and price points with varying features for every type and size of businesses.

Third Party Apps

When it comes to integration of third party apps Shopify stands a lot taller than Big Cartel. Shopify comes with a fully fledged App Store that houses 1100 pre-built add-ons and integration options to link to other platforms, the vast majority of which are quite affordable.

Big Cartel on the other hand, just has a few integration options like the Facebook app and an option to link to Wordpress. It doesn't offer a robust App Store with hundreds of app integration options, leaving you only with limited, out-of-the-box options.

Shopify store owner implements website updates with ease


In our survey, it's apparent that both Shopify and Big Cartel offer easy gateways into eCommerce. However, in looking at the details, there's no doubt that Big Cartel is designed to appeal to a specific, lower-tier market at the detriment of of its capabilities. Shopify is clearly a more sound choice for anyone serious about eCommerce. Although Big Cartel offers appealing startup offers, in the long term it doesn't meet many eCommerce business needs. Simply put, Big Cartel has too many profound limitations. This could create a real headache and significant investment down the road when either the limitations significantly impact business growth or necessitate switching to another platform like Shopify.