Big Cartel E-Commerce Review: Made for Creatives, Easy to Use
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If you’re an artist looking for a simple, straightforward way to sell your art to your fans and customers, e-commerce can be an intimidating, even frightening prospect.
Big Cartel was created to change all that. It’s an e-commerce platform made specifically for artists, bloggers, and creative types of all kinds. It’s not the most robust, fully featured e-commerce solution out there, but it gets the job done, and it truly grasps the unique needs of its targeted market.
You can get a good sense of Big Cartel’s corporate personality from its active Instagram account, where the company puts the focus on its customers and users in creative ways.
If you’re an author, visual artist, crafter, musician, sculptor, photographer, or any other kind of creative worker who’s looking for a simple way to build an online store and blog for your work, Big Cartel is worth a closer look.
About Big Cartel
Founded by Eric Turner (current Creative Director) and Matt Wigham (current CEO) in 2005, Big Cartel was created specifically to provide a customizable, easy-to-use e-commerce solution for artists.
Clothing designers, musicians, crafters, visual artists, writers, photographers and more — these are Big Cartel’s people, and the company serves its tribe well.
With its headquarters located in Salt Lake City, Utah, Big Cartel now hosts and has built over 250,000 e-commerce sites.
Big Cartel’s Plans and Features
Big Cartel offers four tiered plans at increasing price points, along with a forever-free entry-level plan that might be perfect for bloggers who are just beginning to dip their toes into the e-commerce waters, so to speak.
First, let’s consider the starter plan. It’s permanently free of charge, which is nice, but it doesn’t offer the full range of features provided in the paid plans. If you are getting started, this might be just what you need.
You can offer only five products for sale, but that may be all you need, especially if you’re focusing initially on digital products. Also, you won’t have access to inventory tracking, custom domains, Google Analytics, customization of HTML and CSS, or discount codes.
The paid levels offer those missing features, as well as the ability to post up to five images for each product. The other primary difference between the premium plans and the free plan is the number of products you can offer for sale, from 25 to 300.
Its features are on the basic side. You won’t find a robust, fully featured backend offering endless customization and app integration. That’s not what Big Cartel is all about. It wants to make e-commerce simple and easy for bloggers, writers, artists, and other creative sellers.
So while you won’t find an extensive list of features, you will find the essential tools required to create an online store. In addition to the specific features listed above, you’ll enjoy freedom from transaction fees, as well as the ability to sell on Facebook or in person.
True to its artistic origins, Big Cartel offers some lovely, clean templates to use. You can play around with point-and-click design controls, including image tools, multiple font choices, and more.
You can see some of the results here. While it may be a subjective question of taste, arguably the Big Cartel sites are some of the more attractive e-commerce sites around.
Big Cartel’s Specialties: Artists and Ease of Use
Big Cartel says it was “built for makers,” and that’s true. It was created by a musician who wanted a simpler way to sell his music directly to fans. For over ten years now, other artists of all kinds have used those simplified tools to build attractive, unique e-commerce sites to sell their creative work to their fans.
Big Cartel was made by an artist specifically for other artists. That means it boasts an impressive degree of user-friendliness. It’s made for creative people — not necessarily coders. Its aim is to simplify the process of creating an online store and selling your creations to your fans. It does that by offering a more limited set of features.
That doesn’t mean it’s not the right solution, or that it doesn’t do what it should. Big Cartel is well suited for its targeted audience.
But that more limited set of features means it’s perhaps not quite as robust as other solutions out there. So you’ll probably want to take advantage of the free plan as a means of evaluation before committing.
Big Cartel lets site owners integrate with Stripe and PayPal. As of last year, it also allows you to use Square for in-person purchase processing.
You won’t be charged transaction fees, but you will have to pay processing fees for whatever payment processing gateways you integrate into your site. Of course, that’s standard in almost any e-commerce solution.
While you’ll need a PayPal business account to use it on your site, your customers won’t need an account of their own to check out with their purchases — any credit or debit card should suffice.
The company supports digital download products so you can sell PDF-based ebooks and courses, videos, or even podcasts. The Pulley App system handles the checkout/download process.
Tax and shipping calculations are somewhat restricted. Other shopping carts offer more flexibility. You can, however, add a shipping estimate calculator through an add-on.
Big Cartel is a little light on methods of customer support. Surprisingly, and uncommonly, there is no telephone or chat support. Basically, you’re limited to email support, and that’s only accessible during the workweek — Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 6 PM EST.
There’s also no tutorial or wizard to walk you through the initial site setup, although you will have access to several videos that can show you how to change your site theme, initiate discount codes, and add products to your site.
The company is also active on Facebook and Twitter. You can ask general questions on either site but you’ll probably be directed to submit an email request.
Big Cartel invoices on the same date every month after the day you sign up for a paid plan. It accepts payments through any major credit card as well as a PayPal account.
The site also allows you to change your plan mid-month. So, for instance, if sales go through the roof and your customers are clamoring for more products than your current plan permits, you can click on the “Upgrade” button to move up to the next plan level. You’ll get access to the next plan’s features immediately, but you won’t have to pay the higher price until your next regular billing date.
Or if you decide to simplify your offerings and you don’t need that many products on your site, you can downgrade in much the same fashion. You can also cancel at any time.
Is Big Cartel Right for You?
Big Cartel is an e-commerce platform with a clearly defined target audience. It’s made for artists who don’t want to spend all their time and effort creating and running an e-commerce site, but just want to have a user-friendly, attractive site through which they can connect with their fans and customers.
And that includes bloggers, who will be drawn to the user-friendliness, the aesthetically pleasing designs, and the support for digital products.