Big Cartel is an eCommerce builder platform that is designed for small businesses, artists, creatives, freelancers, entrepreneurs, and mompreneurs. Since it offers a free plan, it allows anyone, regardless of their budget, to get started with selling stuff online.
Big Cartel is far from the most popular eCommerce building platform. In fact, it only powers less than 0.1 percent of websites that use a content management system, according to W3Techs, which keeps track of the market share of each website builder and software.
However, usage has grown slightly over the past year. Perhaps because Big Cartel is so simple and easy to use, without too many distractions such as an abundance of plugin choices, it seems to be gaining some traction recently.
As you will see in this article, many sites using Big Cartel are owned by artists, musicians, and the like. They use Big Cartel to sell their own art or merchandise.
Big Cartel was created by artists, in fact. Many on the managing team run their own Big Cartel sites as well.
This focus on the small business owner is what attracts many to Big Cartel; it’s like a mom-and-pop shop compared to Shopify, which would be more like a chain store such as Walmart or Costco.
Big Cartel might not be the best website builder for massive eCommerce sites. It just does not offer the flexibility and customization options you would get with Shopify, which has so many themes and apps to choose from, as well as hundreds of integrations with third-party services and tools.
Big Cartel is best for smaller sites, especially if you are selling something truly unique or creative, such as art, ceramics, music, and the like.
You may also choose Big Cartel if you only have a few products to sell and don’t want to pay money for a website builder like Shopify. If you use Shopify to power your eCommerce store, you will also have to pay money for a domain name and hosting.
Even free website builders like Wix don’t usually allow you to sell products for free. You might be able to create a Wix website for free, but if you want to sell products, you have to sign up for a premium plan so you can use Wix Commerce.
Finding an eCommerce platform that lets you sell for free can be surprisingly difficult. Big Cartel is an outlier in this regard, really.
Even though the free plan is limited, it does allow you to get started without paying a cent. Once you make enough sales, you may be able to afford a premium plan.
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Given the choice between Big Cartel and Shopify, is there any situation in which choosing Big Cartel is a better option? It’s hard to answer that question directly because it depends on a lot of factors, including your needs and budget.
Shopify is, without a doubt, a better eCommerce builder overall. It just has more options, allows you to get more done, has tons of apps and integrations, and so on.
On the other hand, Big Cartel is more limiting when it comes to things like choosing a theme or integrating with other services.
However, that’s not to say that Big Cartel doesn’t have its benefits. Like I already mentioned, it allows you to sell items for free.
Although Shopify has a free trial, that only lasts for 14 days. You can’t sell products on Shopify without paying money.
Big Cartel, on the other hand, allows you to sell up to five products for free.
While Big Cartel might not be as user-intuitive (on the developer side) like Shopify, it is still rather easy to use. I wouldn’t say it’s the easiest website builder to use out there, but after going through a bit of a learning curve, you should get the hang of it.
It doesn’t allow for as much customization as Shopify, but it does allow you to customize your theme, up to a point, without needing to know any coding. However, as you will see in these examples, many Big Cartel sites look pretty similar, with a similar template.
That’s because it can be hard to truly make your site look unique when using Big Cartel. Thus, a lot of sites are very obviously Big Cartel sites – even if they don’t have the Big Cartel name in the footer, they might have a shopping cart icon that is common on Big Cartel sites.
If you are an artist, freelancer, musician, or some other sort of creative, Big Cartel might be a better choice for you. You won’t have to worry about setting up an extravagant website.
Big Cartel makes it easy to set up a relatively minimalistic but elegant website, as I will show you in this article with examples. As an artist, you want to make your art the focus of the website – the thing that people notice first when they land on your site.
A minimalistic design, which you will see in some of the examples below, helps draw the reader’s eyes to the artwork you are selling. It cuts out distractions and helps your creativity shine through.
You may also want to use Big Cartel if you are concerned about your privacy when selling with Shopify or some other large website builder. Big Cartel claims that they don’t answer to investors, which allows them to keep your data safe.
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Getting started with selling on Big Cartel is pretty straightforward, and you don’t need to have any coding experience. You’ll need to sign up for a plan (if you are just getting started, choose the free plan) and create your store.
You will be able to add products, along with product information, and choose one of the free themes. You can customize your theme by changing the fonts, changing the color backgrounds, and personalizing the header and footer with your logo and/or slogan.
Big Cartel supports both PayPal and Stripe as payment processors. These two payment processors allow customers to pay in the following ways:
- With a credit or debit card (Stripe)
- With PayPal
- With Venmo (PayPal)
- With Paypal Credit (PayPal)
- With Apple Pay (Stripe)
- With in-person payments (Stripe)
The cool part is that Big Cartel, unlike many other eCommerce website builders, does not take any commissions. In other words, it doesn’t charge a transaction fee – for example, you don’t have to pay three percent in fees to Big Cartel; you only have to pay your monthly subscription fee (if you are signed up to a premium plan).
However, PayPal and Stripe charge their own fees. These payment processor fees are normal and can’t be avoided; however, you won’t have to pay additional transaction fees on top of them.
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1. The Feebles
The Feebles is a beautiful website that sells quaint art. It has a simple design, but the art prints being sold on the site are beautifully laid out.
It’s a simple site, but it is elegant. It is easy to navigate, and checking out is a breeze.
Sometimes, when it comes to eCommerce, less is more. You don’t have to go full-out minimalistic with your eCommerce store, but reducing clutter can help make your site easier to use, and it is a great tactic to use when you are selling something as unique as The Feebles’ products.
The Feebles is a great example of how to set up a simple but professional and elegant website store for any purpose, regardless of what you are selling.
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Delish Condish is another excellent example of how to make a simple but quirky store using Big Cartel. It’s a small business that sells homemade skincare products using natural ingredients that were ethically sourced.
The homepage is well organized – at the bottom, there are different categories you can click on to see products in a specific category.
The products on the homepage and on each category page are well laid out, with easy to read text and beautiful images. The main menu is pretty simple too – you can view product categories or find information about the site, including frequently asked questions.
I And You Ceramics doesn’t just have a cute name, it has a cute online storefront as well, powered by Big Cartel. Like the previous examples on this list, it is simple but elegant.
I And You Ceramics uses a minimalistic design, with short sentences and quotes in beautiful font displayed along with a beige-colored background. Scrolling down, you will come across beautiful images of ceramics.
One thing I liked about the product page on I And You Ceramics is that they didn’t just include pictures of the actual products. Instead, they showed people holding the ceramic products, using different poses.
I think that helps catch the eye.
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4. Lucy Kirk
Lucy Kirk is an artist who creates art and sells interesting designs printed on products like prints, clothing, and stickers. She uses Big Cartel to host some of her art and products.
Although Lucy uses Big Cartel, she keeps her main site on a separate domain, hosted using Squarespace. She links to that site from her Big Cartel site.
Thus, Lucy Kirk is a good example of how you can use Big Cartel not only to create a good site in its own right but to drive traffic to your main site.
All in all, the Lucy Kirk Big Cartel site is easy to navigate and has beautiful fonts.
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Another Feather is a jewelry store selling handcrafted and other types of jewelry. They have a Big Cartel site, but they don’t even host any products on the Big Cartel shop – it’s another example of a store using Big Cartel to drive traffic to their main site.
When you Google “Another Feather jewelry,” their Big Cartel site is the first result on Google, so it probably brings some nice traffic to their main site.
In addition, they use their Big Cartel site to provide information about their social media profiles so people can follow them.
It’s not a lot of work to set up a small Big Cartel site for such a purpose, and it can help drive sales and conversions.
Nic Annette Miller creates and sells beautiful sculptured art, from a set of three sculptured sardines to a set of five pallid bats. The sculptures are truly unique, have a special flair, and she uses Big Cartel to show them off and sell them.
Scrolling down the homepage, you will see sculpture after sculpture, without much text. There’s no need for text, in fact – the sculptures are so beautiful that they speak for themselves.
The price for each sculpture or pack of sculptures is displayed under the photo on the homepage. They can run high, but a lot of work goes into those sculptures, and they are fairly priced.
Hallie Bateman is a freelancer and illustrator. She has been published in famous outlets like The New York Times – indeed, her art is something special.
She sells a wide range of art products on her Big Cartel site, from funny signs to illustrated comics to buttons to unique modern art. Regardless of your personal tastes, you can find something you like on her page.
She has a great logo – a pencil with the initials HB carved into it.
The Big Cartel site isn’t too fancy, but it does its job, and it is easy to navigate.
Until now, most of the Big Cartel website examples I have shown you were of websites that were minimalistic or simple yet still elegant. However, Jessica Hische’s site is a good example of a Big Cartel store that is a bit more elaborate and extravagant.
Jessica sells all types of products on her website, including prints, art, stationery, cards, pins, jewelry, and more.
She even sells fonts! If you want to buy a unique font that she personally created so you can stand out, Jessica sells special fonts at reasonable prices.
While her site is more “advanced” than some of the more basic sites we have seen so far, it is still rather easy to navigate and use.
Atakontu is a Spanish brand selling t-shirts with unique art. Although they have a store in Bilbao, Spain, they also sell t-shirts on their Big Cartel website.
All t-shirts are sold in euros, so if you are looking for a European example of a store using Big Cartel, Atakontu would be something you might want to look at.
It is a very minimalistic site. There is not much going on, but the t-shirt designs speak for themselves.
Also, most visitors who land on the site were probably directed there from Atakontu’s social media profiles, so they already know what Atakontu is about and why they would want to buy an Atakontu product.
10. Uno + Ichi
Uno + Ichi sells handmade ceramics. It is based out of LA and uses Big Cartel to power its online store.
I like the quirky design of the online store. While not all products are always in stock, there is still a nice selection to choose from.
11. The Hype Machine
The Hype Machine is a website that aggregates “hyped” music. If you want to find the latest, trendiest music, head over to The Hype Machine to find the latest hype.
The Hype Machine also sells merchandise using a Big Cartel store. There are only three types of products for sale as of this writing – a sticker pack, a t-shirt, and a necklace.
Prices range from $5-$15 for The Hype Machine merchandise, so it is rather cheap.
I think The Hype Machine’s store is a good example of how to use Big Cartel if you only have a handful of products to sell. You don’t need a lot of products to sell to create a nice site using Big Cartel.
Regan Smith Clarke sells clothing with vintage art. Their online store, which is powered by Big Cartel, contains a decent selection of vintage clothing items.
The site needs a bit of an update, as it doesn’t look that modern. However, perhaps the fact that it sells vintage clothing allows it to have a more outdated, “vintage” look without too many negative consequences.
13. Matter Matters
Matter Matters is a store selling handbags and other unique products. The products have interesting color schemes and will definitely make you stand out and look unique.
I think Matter Matters, which is based in Hong Kong, is a good example of a Big Cartel store targeting more luxury buyers. A lot of Big Cartel stores sell t-shirts and other items at low prices, but Matter Matters prices its products at hundreds of dollars.
Jim Golden Studio sells eye-catching art prints, many of which go for $150 each. The prints are exquisitely beautiful, and although I am not personally a fan of the website’s grey background, the website is easy to navigate and provides a good user experience.
15. Paulina Mocna
Paulina Mocna sells original paintings in her Big Cartel shop. These paintings are obviously in high demand, as many products seem sold out as of this writing.
The website is simple but does the trick. It is easy to browse the products on sale and find one you love.
16. Frida Clements
Frida Clements is an illustrator based in Seattle who runs a small Big Cartel shop. She sells various posters on her Big Cartel store.
Those posters are simple but have a certain mystery about them. They often feature a single animal or bird, with a short phrase consisting of just a word or two, causing the imagination to wander.
No, Big Cartel is very well priced. As I mentioned already, you can set up a store for free, but you will only be able to add up to five products.
In addition, you will only be able to add one picture per product.
However, you will still be able to use free themes, track shipments, see real-time stats, offer discounts, and more.
The free plan is free forever. You will not need a credit card to create a free account and start selling.
The Platinum plan costs just $9.99/month and allows you to add up to 50 products, with five images per product. You will also be able to make use of inventory tracking.
It would be $19.99/month for 250 products and $29.99/month for 500 products.
As I mentioned, Big Cartel is best for small shops. To be honest, 50 products is not a lot, but if you are an artist selling your own artwork and designs, you may not need more than that – especially if you are doing this as a side job, as you won’t necessarily have time to create so many designs.
If you have a large site with more than 500 products, Big Cartel just won’t do it for you. You’ll need to use an alternative website builder, like Shopify.
Always check the Big Cartel pricing page for updated pricing information, as prices are subject to change at any time.
I hope this list gave you an idea of the type of website you can build with Big Cartel. Of course, since you can customize your theme, you can create many different style websites with Big Cartel.
However, as you can see from this list, many Big Cartel websites have a few things in common. They tend to be smaller eCommerce stores, often operated by a single person.
In addition, they often focus on creativity. A lot of artists use Big Cartel, so if you are an artist on a budget who wants to sell a few prints, Big Cartel might be just right for you.
Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.