What is Big Cartel?
Big Cartel is a website builder that has impressed me a lot over the past couple of years. They've made a lot of changes and updated a lot of their themes that were extremely outdated. It is now a serious contender when it comes to choosing a platform to build your website on top of.
You might be wondering why they're included as an Etsy alternative. It's because they position themselves as a website builder for "makers, designers, musicians, and other artists". Their tagline is "We believe in the artist". That being said, I don't see any way that Big Cartel is catering towards the artist more than any of the other website builders out there. If anything, Big Cartel is a lot simpler and lightweight than a lot of the website builders out there. The lack of features is apparent, but it is still beautiful in it's simplicity. My guess is that Big Cartel markets themselves this way because artists and crafters probably prefer a more lightweight solution.
There is no marketplace component to Big Cartel. It is a website builder, and that's it, so we'll be reviewing that component only. Therefore it's very different to the other Etsy alternatives we've reviewed on this site, but the scoring criteria is still relevant.
Big Cartel review summary
- A great website builder, which will give you a beautiful and professional looking website.
- There's no opportunity to get more exposure with Big Cartel. It is simply a stand-alone website builder, and that's it. It's your responsibility to drive your own traffic to it.
- A number of our other top 10 Etsy alternatives allow you to build a stand-alone website too.
Big Cartel review scores
- Competitiveness: 5/10
- Exposure: 0/10
- Fees: 9/10
- Flexibility: 8/10
- Handmade ethos: 3/10
Total score: 25/50
Big Cartel review
This review is written for those wanting an alternative to selling on Etsy. So, I'll be reviewing Big Cartel based on the top 5 reasons people are looking for an Etsy alternative:
1. Competitiveness – Do your products have a chance of standing out from the crowd?
2. Exposure – Is there a good chance of increasing your traffic and getting more exposure?
3. Fees – How much does it cost? Is the pricing simple and predictable? More than that, are the fees fair for what's on offer?
4. Flexibility – How professional does it look, and how flexible is it to change?
5. Handmade ethos – Are they strictly for handmade, or can you sell anything there? Will you be competing against manufacturers of mass produced goods, that can easily beat you on price?
I'll give each of these elements a score out of 10, to arrive at a total score out of 50. I'll then use this score to arrive at the top 10 Etsy alternatives.
The benefit of having your own website is that you're not competing against other sellers in the marketplace that are selling similar products to you. Therefore, since you'll have your own website with Big Cartel, there is zero competition to worry about! 😍
Zibbet, Bonanza, Tictail and Storenvy all have a website builder too, however I scored them based on their marketplace competitiveness. Since we can't do that with Big Cartel, I'm going to score them out of 5 instead. Obviously there's no competitiveness on your own website, therefore it's a perfect score (5/5). The total score will still be out of 50, so Competitiveness for Big Cartel will be reflected as 5/10 in the score summary. This will allow us to normalize the results and make it more accurate when compared to the rest of the Etsy alternatives.
*(but reflected as 5/10 score summary)
As mentioned, Big Cartel allows you to build your own website. When you have your own website, you need to drive all of the traffic to the website yourself. You don't have a marketplace to help you get additional exposure.
In April 2015, they launched Shop Indie, a curated site that showcases the best products from Big Cartel websites. It gets almost no traffic though and isn't promoted by Big Cartel at all anymore.
Big Cartel's fees are very reasonable. They have a feature-limited free plan where you can list 5 products, and the $9.99, $19.99 and $29.99 per month plans are differentiated by the number of products you can list.
You are capped at 300 products, even on the highest plan. So, if you have an inventory larger than 300 products, Big Cartel won't be a good fit for you.
Big Cartel doesn't take any commissions of your sales either. 😍
One thing I don't like is that you can't sell Digital products on Big Cartel without adding an app on called Pulley, and it's really expensive. I know a lot of sellers that would be disappointed by this but I haven't taken any points off since it won't affect the majority of people. I just thought it was worth mentioning, in case people reading this review are digital product sellers.
Big Cartel has some nice, professional looking themes to choose from. You can make customizations to the look and feel and even get your hands dirty in the html/css code too if you're that way inclined.
Compared to other "sole" website builders (i.e. it's their sole purpose to be a website builder), like Shopify, Big Commerce etc, the level of customization and flexibility is quite slim though. The level of customization is similar to Zibbet's website builder, and they have a marketplace component too.
Even though Big Cartel markets itself as pro-handmade, it's not really doing anything to enforce these policies. To be honest, they don't really need to, because it's not a marketplace. It's a standalone website, so sellers can sell whatever they want. I think Big Cartel "want" to be more handmade than they actually are. I've given them a few points because the desire is there.
In conclusion, Big Cartel is a great option for you if you're looking for a standalone website. You should also consider Zibbet, Bonanza, Tictail and Storenvy for a standalone website, as these are all offered in addition to marketplace exposure. Many people like to keep their inventory in one place as it makes it easier to manage everything.
Big Cartel has finished up with a score of 25/50, which ranks them 8th in the top 10 Etsy alternatives list.