Big Cartel or Shopify?

Are you trying to decide between a few ecommerce platforms? If you cringe at the phrase “e-commerce platforms” but still want to open an online shop, you may be in the right place. But just to be sure, let’s give you a quick run-down of the big differences between Big Cartel and Shopify.

A little history

Big Cartel and Shopify hit the internet around the same time: Big Cartel in 2005, and Shopify in 2006. We’ve had different growth strategies. Shopify has grown to 5000 employees, and went public in 2015. That takes a lot of planning, and can result in a huge pay day for the owners and/or early employees. Big Cartel chose to stay small, growing to around 40 employees. It’s meant that we’ve had to carefully prioritize where our team spends time and energy, but we like that we can make decisions that are good for our employees and customers, not stockholders.

The right fit at the right time

Are you launching a new brand? Testing the waters of running a small business? Candidly, Big Cartel is going to be a much easier place to get started. Shopify has a free 14-day trial, and then their plans start at $29 or $79 per month. In contrast, Big Cartel’s Gold plan is free for as long as you’d like to use it. And once you’re ready for the full feature lineup, our paid plans are $9.99 or $19.99 per month.

Think about the early days, before sales are consistently coming in—with Shopify’s least-expensive plan, you’ll spend $348 for your first year. If you signed up for Big Cartel’s top-of-the-line plan from the very beginning, you’d save more than $100 for the same year. Your start-up costs are even lower if you start on Big Cartel’s free plan, then upgrade as you need to unlock more features.

Nickels and dimes

Beyond the monthly fees, you’ll likely end up spending more money to get your shop off the ground. With both Big Cartel and Shopify, you’ll choose a theme as a jumping-off point for your store layout and design. Big Cartel has 18 built-in themes, all free to use. Shopify offers eight basic free themes, but the rest of their options will cost $250-$350 to use. This not only means getting your shop set up can cost more on Shopify, but it could also make you think twice about updating your shop’s look in the future. With Big Cartel, you’re free to explore—small design tweaks or full brand overhauls won’t cost extra.

And then there are recurring costs: Each time someone buys from an online shop, a payment processor transfers funds from buyer to seller, and keeps everyone’s information private in the meantime. Big Cartel lets you connect with PayPal or Stripe (or both), depending on which service you’re comfortable with. Both of those payment processors charge a per-transaction fee that’s pretty standard for their industry: right around 3% of the total sale. With Big Cartel, your transaction fees end there. With Shopify, you’ll be charged similar transaction fees if you use their payment processing service, Shopify Payments. If you choose not to use Shopify Payments, however, you’ll be charged an additional 2% fee per transaction. It’s like paying a restaurant’s corkage fee for the privilege of bringing your own bottle of wine to the restaurant. Call us strange, but we think you should get to drink what tastes good to you, without an extra markup.

Streamlined options

Ask someone about the difference between Big Cartel and Shopify, and they may mention that you can do just about anything on Shopify, with the right add-ons. And that’s probably true! They have a whole marketplace filled with third-party apps (there are 65 apps just in their “Most Popular” section), which give you extra functionality. The only questions are which of the many options will work best for your business, how do you decide, and what will it cost?

Big Cartel works with a core group of integrations as well, for the same purpose: to expand the functionality of your online store. The shorter lineup may mean that you can’t do everything under the sun, but our collection of integrations has been curated to offer the most commonly-used extensions used by independent artists and small businesses.

Ready to simplify your business (and expenses) with Big Cartel? You can sign up for a free Gold account to try things out for as long as you’d like. After that, upgrading is simple if Big Cartel fits. And if you already have a shop with Shopify, Etsy, or Squarespace, you can quickly load your catalog into your Big Cartel shop with our product importing feature. Start your store today.

Big Cartel

Start an online store and sell your work in just a few minutes with our powerful set of tools for independent artists and makers.

Make what you make make money

Start a store