Black Friday Recap

This last holiday sales weekend was a huge success. The week surrounding Black Friday, Small-business Saturday, and Cyber Monday makes up a big part of the annual sales for most stores, and has become a very important event for small shops. This holiday season was one for the record books: Big Cartel shops processed almost 214,000 orders and sold a combined $12,000,000 worth of unique gifts!

Our support team, while technically off for the Thanksgiving holiday, still took to the internet and worked through nearly 600 emails that weekend, and nearly 600 more come Monday morning. It was a busy weekend for our shops, and while we did have a few minor issues, we’re happy with how smoothly things went, and we’re excited to implement some tech improvements to be even better equipped next year.

The holidays sales aren’t done yet, and while the chaos continues, we’ll do everything we can to help champion your cause, encouraging customers to continue to shop independent through our Gift Guide, our #ShopIndie campaign, and even a local Pop-Up shop where 100% of the sales go back to the artist. And since we know you’re not ready to take a break yet, we’ll keep you organized through the rest of the holiday rush season with our handy calendar. Thanks for all the hard work and enjoy the holidays!

Donate to Ride On PDX

Last weekend, Portland was home to an art show with a heart of gold: Ride On. For this event, a talented group of artists are given skateboards that they paint, carve, cut, and collage to make into one-of-a-kind works of art. This year, all proceeds from the show benefit the Union High School arts program in Vancouver, WA.

The great news is that there’s still time to help out, and to have a chance at owning one of these incredible skateboards. Before December 1, 2014, head over to Ride On’s shop, find your favorite board (or a few favorites), and purchase 1 or more $5 raffle tickets. Winners will be randomly chosen on December 1.

Want to increase your chances of winning? Well, just purchase more raffle tickets. The kids at Union High School will appreciate you.

Scoop up your raffle tickets today »

If you want to know more about what Ride On is all about, check out this blog post from organizers Jolby and Friends.>

A guide to Seamless Checkout

By now, you’ve probably heard about our shiny new Seamless Checkout updates, right? Don’t worry, if you missed the big news, you can check out out just a few posts down. Read it here »

You might be thinking about setting up Seamless Checkout, but you may have some questions. Or maybe you’ve set up Seamless Checkout, but ran into a stumbling block. We’re here to help with answers and handy links.

The basics

What is seamless checkout?

We’ve got all the details for you right on our help site. Get the details »

How do I set up seamless checkout?

We put together a video and wrote down all the steps over on our help site. You’ll be a pro in no time! Check it out »

Can I customize the checkout page? I’d like to translate it to my local language or add a phone number field.

Sorry, but that’s not possible. Due to the sensitive data orders contain, like addresses and credit card details, the checkout page’s code cannot be customized.

However, keep in mind that the colors, fonts and header image you’ve chosen in the Customize Design area will be used in your store’s seamless checkout.

Can I use PayPal’s shipping and tax with seamless checkout?

Unfortunately, no. We’d really recommend switching over to our built-in shipping and tax settings. If that doesn’t work for you (it’s alright, we’re still friends), you’ll need to stay on PayPal Standard with their off-site checkout to keep using your current shipping or tax settings.

Why can’t customers pay with a credit card on PayPal Express?

Since the new PayPal Express option can be used alongside Stripe for credit card payments, we thought it would be redundant to also include a credit card option via PayPal. We like to keep things simple. If you enable Stripe and PayPal together in your checkout, then you should have all your bases covered.

What if I don’t want to (or can’t) use Stripe to process credit card payments?

Right now, that’s the only way to accept credit card payments through Seamless Checkout. If you don’t want to use Stripe, or it isn’t available in your country yet, you may need to stick with PayPal Standard for now.

Does Stripe have postage and shipping label features similar to what PayPal offers?

Sadly, no. Depending on your business needs, you may find suitable alternatives with services like or Shipstation. If PayPal’s postage and shipping label features are something you can’t live without, you’ll need to stay on PayPal Standard for now.

Does this change the process of getting paid?

Nope! Nothing changes on your end with PayPal, except maybe you’ve just upgraded to a Business account. Their fees remain the same, and you still get paid right away.

If you’re just using Stripe for the first time, you may have some questions about getting your money from Stripe orders. Stripe transfer info »

What’s all this PayPal Business stuff about? Do I really need a Business account to use PayPal with seamless checkout? I’ve got a small operation over here, do I even qualify for a PayPal Business account?

You definitely need a Business account to use Seamless Checkout. Make sure you’re prepared to provide a valid email address, business address and phone number, and bank information, among some other identifying details, so PayPal knows who you are. It really is that easy, anyone can do it!

If you don’t have a Business account, you can easily change that. Upgrade now »

Troubleshooting connection issues

I can’t connect my PayPal account to seamless checkout.

Here’s what to check:

I’m using Seamless and still have questions.

Where do customers add shipping info and discount codes?

That no longer happens in the shopping cart and is seamlessly (get it?) integrated into the checkout process. Instead of choosing a shipping country on the cart page, once your customers input their address at checkout, shipping will automatically be added. They’ll also have a field to plug in any discount code on the Seamless Checkout page, too.

Why are my customers still taken to PayPal’s site to complete their order? I thought it was a seamless process.

Seamless Checkout matches your store’s theme, updates your inventory in real time, is less error prone, offers a receipt page, and is overall more reliable. At some point their payment info still has to be collected by PayPal, so this is at the end of the checkout process, where they confirm the order on PayPal’s site.

My visitor stats dropped after switching to seamless checkout - what happened?

Seamless Checkout tracks your stats differently. It now uses Javascript, so search engine bots and crawlers aren’t tracked. Visitor stats may now be lower than before, and we know that drop can appear shocking. The good news is they’re now actually more accurate and inline with services like Google Analytics.

I can’t see the field labels on my checkout page!

If your theme is using a light colored font, those labels on the checkout page may be washed out or even invisible. The good news is we’ve fixed that - but you may be running an older version of your theme. To get that fix applied to your store, you just have to update your theme by choosing it again in the Customize Design section of your admin.

Keep in mind that this resets it to the defaults, so all customizations will be gone. If you’ve altered your code, you may want to download your theme’s code so you can manually add that back in again.

Shop Indie: handmade holidays

While some people are waking up early to shop the big box stores, we have an even better idea: stay in your pajamas and purchase items online from talented, independent artists and makers.

Just in time to help with your holiday shopping list, we’ve assembled a collection of unique products from a few of the 600,000 stores using Big Cartel. This gift guide covers everyone on your list, and even includes some last-minute ideas for those of us who may not get started early, but still want to give something special.

Start your shopping with the #ShopIndie gift guide »

Quick reference: running a holiday sale

While the air outside is getting colder, the holiday sales season is heating up—which means it’s the perfect time to launch a discount code or two and entice your gift-seeking customers to shop indie.

The Big Cartel Support team has fielded lots of questions lately about discounts and promotions, so we’ve put together a handy cheat sheet on how to best use our discount code features.

How do I set up a discount code?

Easy! If you’re on a paid plan, head to the Promote > Discounts section of your store admin. Click Add Discount, fill out all the details (which items are eligible for the discount? How much will customers save? When will the promotion start?) and hit Save. Check out our video tutorial to see it in action.

Pro tip: make your code easy to remember and type out. When in doubt, something like HOLIDAYS or WINTERSALE are a safe bet.

How do I advertise my discount in my store and encourage people to use it?

There are lots of ways to get the word out about your discount code—the easiest way is to spread it around on social media. Hit up Facebook and Twitter and put together an eye-catching image or quick video to post on Instagram.

If you’ve got a mailing list, even better! Reward your inner circle of fans with a little price break. It doesn’t hurt to put the discount code in the subject line.

You can even use the export .csv feature in your Orders area to generate a contact list of your past customers and encourage them to order again. (Just make sure you’ve got your receipients’ permission and that you’re using some reputable newsletter software like MailChimp, TinyLetter, or Campaign Monitor.)

Don’t stop there, though! If your shop is on a paid plan, head to the Customize Design > Advanced section and stick a note on your shop’s built-in Home page or Cart page to really get your shoppers’ attention.

Can I offer gift cards, certificates, or store credit in my store?

Big Cartel doesn’t include any built-in store credit features, but if you use PayPal for your shop’s checkout, their gift certificate feature may be a good solution. Read more »

Can I set up a code that discounts the entire order?

Sorry, no free orders through Big Cartel. PayPal and Stripe both have transaction minimums ($0.01 for PayPal, $0.50 for Stripe), so orders can’t be placed if they have a $0 total.

Can my customers use more than one discount at checkout?

No, sorry! We try to keep things as simple as possible for our users, so for now one at a time is the way to go. Your customers will likely appreciate the ease of a single discount code that gives them a great deal.

If you use PayPal Standard checkout and rely on their shipping profiles, you can always set shipping on orders over a certain amount to be automatically free, which would let customers enter a separate discount code at checkout.

Can I do a promotion where customers buy one and get one free (or get one half off)?

Since discounts can be set up for a flat rate, percentage, or free shipping discount, there’s not an exact buy one get one half off configuration, BUT: if you set up a flat-rate discount equal to all or half of the amount of the item you’d like to discount, that applies only to a specific item or category of items, it will have a similar outcome.

When I set a discount code to apply to a category of items, how does that work?

As long as the customer includes at least one item in their order from the discounted category, and the order meets the other requirements for the discount (minimum total or number of products ordered), they’ll receive that discount.

Can my customers request an item be gift-wrapped?

Sure! We’d recommend noting somewhere in your shop that gift wrapping is available, and encourage customers to use the “notes to seller” field at checkout to include their preferences. Using PayPal Standard checkout? There’s an “add giftwrap” setting you can enable in your PayPal profile’s payment preferences.

Ready, set, go!

Don’t forget you can set discount codes to begin and end at specific dates and times, or expire after a certain number of uses. Setting limits on discounts (and letting your customers know about those limits!) can really work to your shop’s benefit in encouraging a holiday rush.

As always, our mighty support fort is on hand to answer your questions, so feel free to drop us a line. Contact us »

Check out our Holiday Rush Calendar to stay organized and focused during the holiday shopping season. Bookmark it »

PayPal now in seamless checkout

We’re thrilled to announce the most requested improvement to seamless checkout since its launch last year - PayPal payments! You can now give your customers the option to pay with a credit card (powered by Stripe) or with their PayPal account.

Seamless checkout has already processed nearly $20,000,000 in orders. That’s a lot! Our artists love that their checkout and order receipt pages now look and feel as nice as the rest of their shop, and their customers love the simplicity and speed of our single-page buying process. Win win!

Didn’t you already support PayPal?

Big Cartel has always supported PayPal Standard, which has been a trusty companion over the years, but can be quite limited and problematic. For seamless checkout, we’re now using PayPal Express, which allows us to improve a bunch of things:

  • Truly seamless - based on your store’s theme, images, fonts, and colors, we’re able to adapt the payment and receipt pages to match exactly.
  • Direct payments - your customers can pay you directly with a credit card (through Stripe) or with their PayPal account (through PayPal Express).
  • Lightning fast - our elegant single-page design significantly cuts down on checkout times (note, PayPal payers still submit final payment on PayPal).
  • Beautiful receipt page - an order confirmation page that reviews what was purchased, that your customer can come back to at any time.
  • Fewer headaches, more awesome - no more pending e-Check payments, IPN delays, or attempts to spoof orders.
  • Better for high volume sales - no delays from PayPal Standard means inventory reserve and overselling are history.
  • Great on any device - no matter if your customers shop from a desktop, tablet, or mobile device, their checkout process will work (and look) perfectly.
  • Faster, more reliable storefront - everyone using Seamless Checkout is also using our new storefront system, which is incredibly fast and stable.

Support for PayPal Standard isn’t going away, but we strongly encourage anyone using our old PayPal Standard checkout (i.e. the “One moment” page) to learn about switching to seamless checkout »

Get setup for the holidays

Our team worked hard to get you this great new feature in time for the holiday rush (thanks beta testers!). Ready to give it a whirl? Head over to the Settings > Checkout section of your admin and get crackin! As always, if you have any questions about this or anything, let us know. Happy holiday selling!

Ask an Expert: Pygmy Hippo Shoppe

When you’re running a brick-and-mortar shop at the same time as your online store, it adds another level of complexity to the holiday rush. That sort of hustle and bustle is just what Emi of Pygmy Hippo Shoppe handles every day. She’s an expert at finding unique new and vintage gifts, and her customers know they’ll find something special for each person on their holiday gift list in her store. Emi helped us out with some holiday season advice. Our favorite part? “Don’t feel like you have to join the rat race.” Read on for more:

When do you begin increasing your inventory and by how much? Usually by the end of September and the amounts vary per-item. I work very closely with all of my vendors and believe the most important thing is to have a clear open line of comminication and strict deadline dates.

What promotions do you run during the holidays? I opened my brick and mortar shop on December 15th of 2010, so a big part of our holiday celebration is the store anniversary party! I always offer my customers (in store and online) free gifts with purchase and release limited holiday items only available during the month of December.

How frequently do you post during your holiday promotions? Every day! It’s important to stay in the loop!

Are specific shopping days like Black Friday important for your business? Nope. We specialize in mostly handmade and the hard to find, so the big-box store deals have never benefitted or impacted us in any way. I think it’s important to talk about that because a lot of our friends with small businesses struggle to give their clients post-Thanksgiving deals, but the reality is that if your customers are shopping small, they most likely aren’t expecting the same hook-ups they’d get at the local mall. As with any promotion, always offer what you can when you are able to show your customer appreciation, but don’t feel like you have to join the rat race to survive!

How do you handle urgent shipping requests, or orders that are too late for holiday delivery? I’ve learned that when an order is too late, it’s sadly just too late. We’ve gotten ourselves in more trouble offering “guaranteed” overnight delivery to customers, only to have their packages show up a week late, and it’s just not worth the customer heartache. Post your holiday shipping cut off times clearly and frequently.

What do you do to relax after the holiday rush? I close shop on New Years Eve to take a 3-4 day road trip. It’s become our annual tradition and the best way recover after all the chaos, plus it really helps me start the new year off with a clear mind.

Do you have any other advice for sellers who are prepping for their first holiday season? As stressfull and intense as it can get, it’s important to remember that you’re not performing open-heart surgery, so you’re allowed to make mistakes, just as long you take note and learn from them so you’re not a repeat offender.

Pick up some great gifts in the Pygmy Hippo Shoppe »

Ask an Expert: Lapin & Me

We asked Madeleine from Lapin & Me to tell us a little bit about how she prepares for her busy holiday season. For several years, Lapin & Me has sold a charming combination of vintage and new products for children and fun-loving adults. Madeleine’s a pro at planning for the holidays, and is willing to share what has worked for her business:

When do you begin increasing your inventory and by how much? Planning starts early in the year, and products are ordered at the beginning of the year. It steps up in September, with last minute orders and adding to the Christmas selection. Main Christmas orders are also delivered at this time. Always have a plan or back-up product, as you may be let down on a delivery you had been expecting.

What promotions do you run during the holidays? We run a series of promotions every year, because we know there is a huge choice for customers out there. We often do spontaneous promotions, pre-warning on Facebook and Instagram. We might offer free delivery, % discount codes or a special offer on a certain product. Last years promotion was “12 days of Christmas,” so we had a deal a day for 12 days.

Have there been some promotions that didn’t go at all like you expected? They vary every time, sometimes you can run an offer and no one takes advantage, and a couple of days later you will get lots of orders, none of which took advantage of the offer! Some planning ahead is needed, you don’t want to offer something you then can’t deliver.

How frequently do you post during your holiday promotions? You don’t want to over-kill a promotion and make it look like desperation, so don’t overdo it! Always keep an eye on the competition as well, it’s vital to see what else is going on out there.

Are specific shopping days important for your business? Yes, they can always be busy but again, you can always be surprised.

How do you handle urgent shipping requests, or orders that are too late for holiday delivery? We always aim to offer service above and beyond, so we do whatever we can to ensure an order is where it is meant to be. Always let customers know your cut-off times and delivery dates for international shipping.

What do you do to relax after the holiday rush? It’s always such crazy time, it takes a few days to unwind and try and switch off. Every year I plan a getaway, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Do you have any other advice for sellers who are prepping for their first holiday season? Get organized, often we have found there is one must-have products that sells out - always have a back up product! And try and enjoy, it is stressful but it is also a fun time of year.

Get started on your holiday shopping list at Lapin & Me »

New Field Guide: Video

If you want to share your shop’s story, or showcase your new collection in an interesting way, video may be just what you’re looking for. Before the camera starts rolling, cover some basics so that you feel like a pro on set. In this new field guide, we’ll cover audio, editing, lighting and more, so you don’t end up with The Blair Witch Project 2 (unless you’re into that sort of thing).

Review these tips and you’ll be ready to start filming before you can say ‘magic hour.’ Brush up on the basics with the video field guide now »

Welcome Brandon Farmer

Finding and hiring the right people is a constant goal here at Big Cartel, and it’s incredibly exciting when a new person joins our tight-knit team. That is certainly the case with Brandon Farmer, the newest addition to our team of developers.

Brandon started coding when he was only ten, after his family inherited an old IBM computer. He started tinkering with the secondhand computer, and went on to earn a degree in Computer Information Sciences. He honed his skills over the last few years as a Rails/Ruby/iOS developer and consultant alongside the folks at Hashrocket.

Brandon and his wife, along with their handsome dog Freddie, recently relocated from Jacksonville, Florida to Boulder, Colorado to enjoy hiking in the mountains as much as they can. When he’s not outside exploring, chances are he’s engaged in a serious game of Portal, programming something (seriously, he’s passionate about code), or reading the latest Chuck Palahniuk novel.

Please help us welcome Brandon to the Big Cartel team!