Get Started
Printful Blog logo
Creative services
Photography services

Blog / Ecommerce platform guide / Big Cartel vs. Shopify: Which Is Best For Your Business?

Ecommerce platform guide

Printful Blog

Master the art of ecommerce

Launch your own print-on-demand business

Sign up with Printful

No upfront fees • No order minimums • 335 premium products

Printful Blog

Blog / Ecommerce platform guide / Big Cartel vs. Shopify: Which Is Best For Your Business?

Ecommerce platform guide

Big Cartel vs. Shopify: Which Is Best For Your Business?

Big Cartel vs. Shopify: Which Is Best For Your Business?
Zoe Amora Iranzo-Lauriņa

By Zoe Amora Iranzo-Lauriņa

14 min read

One crucial step in setting up an online store is choosing the right ecommerce platform for your brand’s success. Two popular options are Shopify and Big Cartel, but they each target different seller types. In this Big Cartel vs. Shopify comparison, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of each platform to help you make an informed decision.

Of course, there are other excellent ecommerce platforms besides Shopify and Big Cartel. We’ve compiled a list of the best ecommerce platforms for dropshipping along with the pros, cons, and pricing for each, to guide your selection.

Online shopping has seen consistent growth since the early 2000s, fueled by the widespread availability of the internet and rapid advancements in technology. Fast-forward to 2024, and ecommerce is booming, same as the dropshipping market.

So, perhaps Big Cartel or Shopify can enable you to start a successful ecommerce business. Let’s look at these two popular ecommerce solutions for your online store.

Big Cartel vs. Shopify at a glance

Both Big Cartel and Shopify are ecommerce platforms that allow you to create a professional-looking web store. Big Cartel offers free and low-cost plans with no extra fees, while Shopify is more expensive, but offers more customization options, features, and apps.

Who is Big Cartel best for?

a screenshot of a computer screenSource: Big Cartel

Big Cartel promotes itself as the platform for makers. It’s best suited for artists, independent creators, and small business owners looking to sell a limited amount of unique products online. Its easy-to-use interface, affordability (starting with a free plan), and absence of fees make it a popular choice for beginners in ecommerce.

The platform’s website builder allows you to craft an ecommerce website without touching a line of code. However, more advanced customization features like creating redirects or adding a blog without external tools or HTML knowledge can be challenging.

Printful logo
man with jacket
Printful logo
Create and sell custom products online
Let’s go

Who is Shopify best for?

a screenshot of a websiteSource: Shopify

Shopify is an all-in-one ecommerce solution suitable for businesses of any size, ranging from small startups to large enterprises. Its feature-rich architecture, highly customizable themes, and wide range of apps make it a versatile platform that can cater to the needs of various industries.

The Shopify website builder has a steeper learning curve, but the perks may be worth the investment. It’s arguably the best platform for building a scalable online store or a dropshipping business, able to adapt to the evolving needs of Shopify store owners over time.

Big Cartel vs. Shopify: An in-depth comparison

There are many decisive factors when selecting an ecommerce platform for your online store—the cost, ease of setup and use, necessary features and integrations, and more.

Costs and plans

Big Cartel offers a free plan for up to five products, then $9.99 to $19.99 monthly. Shopify doesn’t have a free plan, but they offer a 3-day free trial and the first three months for just 1$. Then, you can choose from three paid plans ranging from $29 to $299 (when paid annually).

Shopify pricing

 

a screenshot of a websiteSource: Shopify.com

Here’s the breakdown of Shopify’s plans:

Basic plan: The Basic Shopify plan costs $39/month or $29/month if billed annually. This plan comes with a custom domain, unlimited products, one staff account, shipping discounts of up to 77%, standard analytics, and 24/7 support.

Shopify plan: It costs $105/month or $79/month when billed annually. You gain five additional staff accounts, shipping discounts of up to 88%, lower transaction fees, and deeper insights into customer behavior and site analytics.

Advanced plan: For $399/month, or $299/month if billed annually, you’ll get advanced reporting, the lowest transaction fees, automation to cut down on manual work, and 15 staff accounts.

While Shopify doesn’t provide “unlimited” web hosting, it provides scalable hosting solutions that can handle high traffic and transactions while maintaining optimal performance.

All Shopify plans allow you to manage inventory in up to 1000 locations and include a free SSL certificate. You can try any plan for free with Shopify’s three-day trial.

Big Cartel pricing

a screenshot of a websiteSource: BigCartel

Big Cartel’s free plan, the Gold plan, lets you access basic ecommerce features like free customizable templates, the ability to sell online and in-person, real-time stats, and sales tax autopilot. You can list up to five products with one image each.

At $9.99/month, the Platinum plan lets you sell up to 50 products with five images each. It allows you to edit your theme’s code and track your marketing and product success through Google Analytics.

The Diamond plan, at $19.99 per month, offers the same features as Platinum, but with a 500 product limit. This means better web hosting bandwidth—a website’s ability to handle large amounts of traffic and continue loading pages quickly.

All plans come with real-time statistics, discounts, and promos—features that other platforms require an upgrade to access. Plus, you can create a custom domain and access easy management tools.

Ease of use

Creating and running a business should be lucrative but also fun! So, as an entrepreneur, it’s important to find an easy-to-use platform.

a book shelf with books on itSource: Big Cartel

With Big Cartel, building a website is a breeze. The Big Cartel dashboard offers an intuitive interface and easily accessible features. The platform offers helpful prompts and reassurance throughout the setup process, making it an excellent option for building a simple and clean website.

Shopify is a user-friendly platform, but becoming familiar with its various interfaces may take some time. Don’t let that discourage you—with patience and effort, you can create a beautiful website that represents your brand and attracts many customers. Plus, thanks to Shopify’s advanced ecommerce tools, you can scale your business effortlessly.

Setup time

Big Cartel offers an easy onboarding process for setting up your online store. Unlike other platforms that leave you to figure things out on your own, Big Cartel provides helpful prompts and reminders to complete every step of your shop setup. This ensures that your website is optimized before going live and starting to sell. However, you’ll need some HTML coding skills to customize themes.

Shopify is one of the most robust ecommerce platforms out there, but that also means it’s more complex. Setting up a store can be labor-intensive but worth the effort. Plus, with a free trial and the first three months for just 1$, you’ll have plenty of time to create a gorgeous shop front.

Site design features

Shopify offers a user-friendly drag-and-drop page-building interface that allows you to customize your website theme without any coding skills. With over 70 templates, including many free ones, you can choose a theme that best suits your needs. Check out the best Shopify free themes for your Shopify store.

a screenshot of a websiteSource: Printful

The Shopify website builder’s advanced customization options make it easy to personalize your online store. Plus, thanks to the SSL certificate and PCI compliance, you can be assured of high-quality security when you publish your ecommerce site on Shopify.

Big Cartel offers 18 clean, mobile-optimized free themes, but their features are limited. Customizing Big Cartel’s themes requires some basic HTML coding knowledge, making it difficult to achieve individuality and create a standout brand.

a screenshot of a websiteSource: Big Cartel

Apps and integrations

While the Shopify app store offers over 8,000 app integrations, Big Cartel doesn’t fall far behind—the platform connects to Zapier, giving access to over 6,000 integrations.

Print-on-demand integration

Both platforms integrate with print-on-demand services like Printful, allowing online businesses to create and sell custom merchandise easily. 

a screenshot of a productSource: Printful

Why should you consider the print-on-demand business model?

Print-on-demand (POD) is similar to dropshipping where you sell third-party products on your storefront without keeping inventory—meaning, no overhead costs. What makes POD companies stand out is the ability to customize products. You can create unlimited designs and have them printed on custom t-shirts or mugs, embroidered on bags and hats, and much more. 

a man sitting in a chair with a laptopSource: Printful

More apps and integrations both platforms offer

Here are a few examples of apps and integrations you can add to your Big Cartel site or Shopify web store.

  • Mailchimp: This integration helps create targeted email campaigns and track performance metrics.

  • Klaviyo: An excellent integration for creating personalized email campaigns based on customer behavior.

  • Bold Product Options: Customize product options like text fields, dropdown menus, checkboxes, and uploads to offer personalized products and increase sales.

  • Yotpo: Collect and display customer feedback with product and photo reviews on your store to build trust and drive sales.

  • ReferralCandy: Acquire new customers through customizable referral programs, incentivize existing customers, track activity, and reward advocates.

  • Privy: Capture more leads, reduce cart abandonment, and increase sales with customizable pop-up forms, overlays, and automated email campaigns.

Find more apps and integrations on the Shopify app store or browse Big Cartel’s apps and integrations.

a screenshot of a websiteSource: Shopify

Apps and integrations unique to Shopify

You can connect Oberlo to your Shopify store to help you easily import products from suppliers, manage inventory, and fulfill orders. Shopify also offers many integrated marketing tools to boost sales, like Shopify email for easy email campaigns, Shopify forms to capture more leads, and marketing automation to reduce manual work.

a screenshot of a websiteSource: Shopify

With Shopify’s inventory tracking and finance, order, and engagement tools, you can easily manage your shop from a mobile app, even when you’re on the go. The platform keeps everything organized, making it simple to fulfill orders and handle refunds and returns quickly and efficiently.

Learn more about Shopify dropshipping and how to earn with this leading ecommerce platform.

Apps and integrations unique to Big Cartel

Although not as extensive as Shopify’s app store, Big Cartel provides essential integrations to streamline your online business. These include ShipStation to simplify shipping and Google Analytics to gain insights into your store’s performance. Integrating these apps allows you to streamline order fulfillment, optimize marketing efforts, and improve sales.

Printful logo
man with jacket
Printful logo
Create and sell custom products online
Let’s go

Payment processing

Shopify makes accepting payments from customers easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. The platform offers its native solution, Shopify Payments, plus integrations with over 100 payment providers worldwide. This sets Shopify apart from other ecommerce platforms that rely on limited payment gateways like Big Cartel.

a person holding a credit cardSource: Shopify

Big Cartel offers only PayPal, Square, and Stripe payments. Although these may suffice in most cases, offering more payment options is always better. There’s nothing worse than a customer visiting your Big Cartel store only to abandon their cart at checkout because they couldn’t pay.

a screenshot of a computerSource: Big Cartel

Luckily, Stripe and Square Payments support popular mobile payment services like Apple Pay and Google Pay, making it convenient for customers to pay using their preferred payment method. With an estimated 337M contactless mobile payment users worldwide, having this option is highly beneficial for any ecommerce site.

What about transaction fees?

Big Cartel doesn’t charge transaction fees—they’ll depend on your chosen payment processor. Shopify charges 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction on the Basic plan. Shopify transaction fees depend on the plan you’re using.

A big Shopify bonus is that you won’t have to pay third-party transaction fees for orders processed through Shopify payments, Shop Pay, Shop Pay Installments, and Paypal Express. You also won’t have to pay transaction fees using manual payment methods like cash, cash on delivery (COD), or bank transfers.

Ready to start selling products through your ecommerce store? Check out this list of trending products to add to your shop. Also, browse our list of bestselling print-on-demand products for inspo.

a screenshot of a websiteSource: Printful

Search engine optimization (SEO) tools

Shopify offers extensive SEO tools to help improve your online store’s visibility and rankings in search results. Key features:

  • Customizable meta tags: Shopify allows you to customize meta tags for product pages, collections, and other content. It can improve click-through rates and search engine visibility with compelling and keyword-rich meta titles, descriptions, and keywords.

  • Structured data markup: Shopify supports structured data markup (Schema.org), which helps search engines understand your web content. Adding structured data to your pages improves your site’s appearance in search results with rich snippets like product ratings and prices.

  • Mobile optimization: Shopify prioritizes mobile optimization to ensure your online store is responsive and user-friendly on all devices. Search engines favor mobile-friendly websites that are more likely to rank higher in mobile search results.

  • Site maps: Shopify automatically generates XML sitemaps to help search engines crawl and index your online store’s pages, ensuring accurate search result rankings.

  • URL redirects: Shopify’s URL redirect feature redirects visitors to up-to-date content and preserves your site’s SEO, preventing lost traffic due to broken links or outdated URLs.

Big Cartel provides basic SEO tools, including customizable meta tags and SEO guidance—tips on keyword research, content optimization, and link-building strategies to improve your site’s visibility and rankings over time. Your website will also be mobile-responsive, and the themes will automatically update on mobile.

a screenshot of a websiteSource: Big Cartel

However, Big Cartel is limited compared to Shopify’s more extensive options. You won’t be able to access advanced features like XML sitemaps, URL redirects, and structured data markup.

Sales features

Once you set up your online store, it’s time to start selling products. When it comes to offering robust ecommerce sales features, Shopify wins. Sales features like abandoned cart recovery, discount codes, and customizable checkout are excellent allies.

While Big Cartel’s features are suitable for small businesses that sell individual products, they don’t match the scalability of Shopify’s platform. Besides the features mentioned above, Shopify provides unlimited products and bandwidth, promotions, discounts, and product recommendations.

a screenshot of a computerSource: Big Cartel

Big Cartel falls short with no abandoned cart recovery (a feature shown to increase sales by 10%) and limited sales channels. But its simple, streamlined approach to online selling with basic sales features can be an advantage. It caters well to smaller businesses and independent artists seeking a straightforward solution for selling their products online.

a white rectangular object with black textSource: Shopify

Shopify also offers more extensive multi-channel selling. It integrates with social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram), online marketplaces (Amazon, eBay), and in-person sales (point-of-sale systems), allowing you to reach customers wherever they shop. Big Cartel also allows you to promote your products on social media and other platforms, but its channels may be more limited.

Support

Big Cartel provides users with comprehensive business support resources covering all aspects of account setup, from setting up a storefront to configuring shipping and payment options. You’ll also find guidance on popular topics in their Help Center. You can also contact support via email, but they only work on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST—not ideal if you have a question or issue that needs immediate assistance.

a screenshot of a chatSource: Shopify

Shopify offers 24/7 customer support through live chat, phone, and email. Their customer support team is available to help users with all aspects of store setup, including design, configuration, and troubleshooting. Also, Shopify offers a vast knowledge base and community forums where users can find additional resources and guidance.

Plus, the Advanced Shopify plan gives you enhanced 24/7 chat support.

Printful logo
man with jacket
Printful logo
Create and sell custom products online
Let’s go

Other things to consider

Sales tax: Big Cartel and Shopify automatically calculate and send sales tax to the relevant governing bodies. But, if you process any sales in person through Big Cartel’s app, the platform fails to collect sales tax on your behalf. Shopify’s point-of-sale (POS) and tap reader purchases automatically include sales tax in the transaction.

a screen shot of a deviceSource: Shopify

Plans: Big Cartel offers only a monthly payment plan you can cancel anytime. Shopify also offers a yearly plan where you pay upfront and get 20% off. You can cancel anytime, but it doesn’t issue refunds. There’s also an option called ”pause and build’ to halt your store’s operations while continuing to make adjustments on the backend.

Shipping: Shopify’s shipping features trump Big Cartel’s. The Shopify Shipping suite offers discounts, easy management of rates and bulk-print labels, and automatic carrier-calculated shipping rates for Advanced plan subscribers. While Big Cartel doesn’t offer a shipping service, it integrates with third-party apps providing shipping services.

a screenshot of a computerSource: Shopify

Domain names: With Big Cartel, you can buy a domain name through a third-party platform like GoDaddy and then connect it to your Big Cartel account. Shopify allows you to buy a domain via the platform or connect to an existing website domain you purchased from another provider.

International selling: Shopify has 21 available languages and international inventory locations for global shipping. This means your site maintains accurate stock information, no matter where customers view it. Big Cartel doesn’t have a built-in tool to change the site language. However, paid plan users can translate HTML manually or use a third-party translation widget like WeGlot.

SSL security: Both platforms have SSL security, so you can rest assured customer information is kept safe.

PCI compliance: PCI compliance is a security standard for web stores to keep customer data safe. Big Cartel lacks compliance, leaving it up to users to rely on external processors, while Shopify guarantees compliance with any processor.

Which ecommerce platform will you choose?

Choosing the right platform for your online store’s success boils down to your needs, budget, and long-term goals. As you’ve learned in this article, Big Cartel and Shopify are two excellent options with unique advantages.

Big Cartel is perfect for those who want to showcase their creativity and brand in a simple and budget-friendly way. If you’re a solopreneur looking to sell a limited amount of products, Big Cartel will do the trick.

Shopify is a feature-rich platform that offers scalability and advanced ecommerce capabilities for businesses of all sizes. If you plan on building a thriving ecommerce enterprise, Shopify is the way to go.

author

By Zoe Amora Iranzo-Lauriņa on Mar 12, 2024

Zoe Amora Iranzo-Lauriņa

Guest author

Zoe is a creative writer, multilingual translator, and certified yoga instructor with a passion for learning, traveling, and global cuisine. When she's not typing away at her PC, you can find her teaching yoga in the park, reading on the couch with her cat, or plunging in the Mediterranean.

Zoe is a creative writer, multilingual translator, and certified yoga instructor with a passion for learning, traveling, and global cuisine. When she's not typing away at her PC, you can find her teaching yoga in the park, reading on the couch with her cat, or plunging in the Mediterranean.