Starting an online business is easy these days. In times gone by you had to hire a programmer and a designer and build from scratch, now all you need is an eye for design work and the will to push past the competition. There are many options for those with technical skills, Magento and OpenCart come to mind, but for those without, your options, while not as robust with Magento, are still considerable. Shopify is one of the larger companies that provide eCommerce solutions. Since 2004 they have made a name for themselves as one of the best options not only for established companies, but for startups and larger firms as well. Today I’ll be comparing their service to that offered by BigCartel.
BigCartel target a very specific niche, that of artists who want an easy way to sell their works online. They offer many of the same features that Shopify do, but don’t seem to have the same scaling that is offered by the industry power-house. For the indie crowd though there is a definite appeal here. The company began in 2005 with a specific purpose, and in the years since they do not seem to have deviated from it.
So let’s break these two down and see which option is better for you.
Shopify Vs BigCartel – Appearance, Professionalism, & Overall Look
You must have a good-looking site. It is the primary way with which a customer interacts with your business and if it is a cluttered mess, with a poorly designed interface then you can kiss potential sales goodbye. An overlooked aspect of this is the appropriateness of the design. If you pick a theme that is ultra modern and try to sell fishing supplies it is unlikely to fly, by the same degree selling art in an amazon-like ream of products can cheapen the experience for the user. So lets take a look at what is offered by these two.
BigCartel focus on the very small business owner. Not even the business owner in the traditional sense, they sell to the artists and the creatives. Which is a little weird considering their lack of themes and templates. Their packages come with a variety of customizable templates, and they are for the most part well designed, but every one of them is from the sleek minimalist school. Great to look at, but with limited variety. If I were comparing them to the like of Etsy, another home craft sales site, then they would come out on top here with little doubt, but I’m comparing them the Shopify, and I find the limited options disappointing.
They do offer a decent amount of customization though, allowing you to craft custom themes, within limits, and there are third party sites filled with professional designs. The issue there is that you have to pay extra for them. I have seen some of them on sale for $60, which isn’t bad, but having to pay anything for an appropriate design is a black mark for me. In the last year they have added a fair number of templates and I fully expect the list to expand, but for now we have to make do with less.
This is an area where Shopify excel. Shopify design all of their themes to be scalable, meaning that the theme you use for your small business will still work well when your business inevitably grows. They have hundreds of professionally designed template for you to play around with, and each one is fully customizable. The vast majority also work well with different screen sizes, and considering more and more people are shopping from the comfort of their phone that feature is a godsend.
They have a wide variety of styles to choose from, whether you’re looking for the more couture boutique site or the ream of products set up, you’ll be able to find something that suits your needs. Not all of their themes are free though, running between $80 and $200 or so, but you needn’t bother with them unless you fall in love with one. The free themes are varied and expanding, with new designs popping up every so often.
Overall, while having fewer designs on offer can make it faster to set up a site, I prefer more options. BigCartel’s templates are great to look at, and they do offer some level of customizing, but they cannot compete with the variety on offer from Shopify, giving them an easy early win.
Winner – Shopify
Shopify Vs BigCartel – Features & Integrations
When it comes to feature integration the more the better. Being able to control inventory and sell items is just the tip of the iceberg. The two most important features for eCommerce are SEO and social media integration. They will be your marketing tools. You set them up right and you will be able to have a steady stream of customers coming to your site, and having a good product will do the rest. Let’s a take a look at the options available from Shopify and BigCartel.
Due to their singular focus on the very small business owner BigCartel’s feature list is not a robust as others. After the free package, their packages are based on the variety of products you want to sell, not on the additional features you unlock for moving up through them. All the basic features are here though. You can list products, add images, track sales etc, but adding options to your products is difficult, you’ll need some tech skills to do it, and the options for the free plan are just terrible.
They have native support for Facebook, but adding other social media services is somewhat difficult. Setting up a blog is easy though, and you’ll need the content to rank well on google, so that’s a plus. Overall there isn’t much room to expand, the report generation does not get more complicated as you buy up the packages, and the core features, while well implemented, are not suited to any medium to large-sized business. For the lone salesperson there is a lot here to admire though.
All the features. Really. Shopify’s packages are tailored to add features as you go through them, meaning you gain more tools as your business grows, but on the ground floor you automatically have more things to play around with than with BigCartel. The social media integration is better, and the app store is far easier to navigate, gaining all the add-on tools needed is as simple as clicking a button. They match BigCartel in terms of SEO and you can sell an unlimited number of items. In addition adding options for your product is simple, and you are allowed more images per than with BigCartel too. Lastly Shopify has an ace up their sleeve with their Shopify POS service.
Shopify POS is an offline integration system, tailored to those who already have a brick and mortar store, or for those who like to travel to conventions or festivals. It allows you to keep track of your business online and off, as though they were the same store. You can also take payments on the move, with a small plugin for an iPad, doing away with the traditional till. It’s a service not offered by their competitors, and evidence that the Shopify service is ever-expanding. Add in the 24/7 phone support, compared to BigCartel’s 9-5 Monday to Friday email support, and you have an all round better service.
Not a hard one to call here. BigCartel may offer most of the features that Shopify offer, but with their product listing limits and less robust support network, they cannot compete with them on any front bar the very small business.
Winner – Shopify
Shopify Vs BigCartel – Dropshipping
Dropshipping comes in many guises in the online market place, but the most common is still buying from warehouses and selling on your site. there are some bespoke sellers out there that market their products to eCommerce stores, with unique drop shipping extensions of their won, but for the supplementary user or the power user, you want software that integrates with Alibaba, Aliexpress and even Amazon sometimes. When it comes to grabbing product from those kinds of sites and adding it to your storefront you kind of have to go with something like Shopify. BigCartel do not have a broad spectrum solution to the issue at present, though it may well be something they are moving towards. So let’s look at the details of both firms.
Shopify are the kings of the arena, though in this fight they needn’t be to be honest. There are two options out there, in general. A smaller focused app like Oberlo, or a more robust, but somewhat buggy, app like Shopified. Both have their use, and it really depends on the kinds of store front you are trying to set up./ For what it’s worth, I prefer Oberlo, it is the more streamlined, and to be honest, integrating from Aliexpress is the only one you really need as a supplementary user. If you are creating a store from scratch then it might be worth it to expand and add products from the likes of eBay and Amazon, not great profit, but useful when trying to up your SEO score. Shopified is your go to there. Overall they have you covered for every contingency.
BigCartel do not seemed too focused in this area. There are a number of bespoke solutions, but nothing like Shopified, more like even lighter version of Oberlo. Sorry to see it, but it gives me a clear winner in this field, and I am always a fan of being able to call it solidly for one firm or the other.
Bit5 of a no contest I’m afraid. it is odd to me how common that is for this field. It seems as though others firms don’t attract the app creators, and thus don’t have these lovely integrated apps for automatic, or as close to, drop shipping. An oversight to my mind, but not a huge one.
Winner – Shopify
Shopify Vs BigCartel – Flexibility, Ease of Use, & Scalability
Let’s begin with flexibility. With their rigid listing limits and lack of themes on offer, BigCartel leave much to be desired in this section. While it’s true that the comparative lack of options does make it easier to use, I think Shopify proves that flexibility does not need to come at the expense of user ease. Shopify offer hundreds of themes, each customizable in the back-end, and allow you to set details on as many items as you want.
When it comes to ease of use though BigCartel are king. They have their service set up to be as simple to use as possible. The lack of thematic options means you can be running in no time, and the limited item listings makes tracking everything super easy. This is a service tailor-made for the sole creator, and having too many things to juggle can make a business too much of a burden. Shopify is easy to set up too though, but they cannot match BigCartel in this area.
And finally scalability. BigCartel is a one size fits all kinda gig. Sure they offer more expensive packages, but they only increase the amount of items you can list, they don’t add extra features. Shopify on the other hand have a variety of features integral to different business sizes. As your business grows you just upgrade your package and gain all the new tools you need. An easy victory for Shopify here I think.
Winner – Shopify
Shopify Vs BigCartel – Cost & Value
This is an interesting section. On one hand BigCartel is cheaper, but they offer less for the money and have listing limits. I can see that they are not trying to compete with Shopify directly, but by virtue of offering a similar service they are competing. Shopify offer more features, and excellent scaling, making them perfect for small ventures that want to grow. Let’s do a run down of prices.
BigCartel have four packages available. Their least expensive is free, but you are limited to one image per product, five products and your URL will be something like Blank.bigcartel.com. No inventory tracking, but with five items why would you need to. There are no transaction costs, though you’ll need to pay credit card fees. Moving up we have the Platinum Package, at $9.99, the Diamond Package, at $19.99, and the Titanium Package, at $29.99. The difference between them is the number of products you can sell, going from 25 to 100 to 300. Once you have more than 300 products it’s time to leave BigCartel, no room for growth.
Shopify have four packages as well, though their smallest package is little more than a buy button add-on for existing sites. The Basic Package is $29, and comes with everything you need to build and grow a business. Moving up from that will grant you more tools, for larger businesses, but without a listing limit you needn’t move up until you want them. The Pro Package is $79 and the Unlimited package is $179.
If you find yourself needing to sell more than 25 items then I would say go for Shopify. It’s ten dollars more, you can grow your business better, and it comes with way more features. BigCartel’s packages are great for the very small business, that does not see much growth beyond.
We tracked down a link for a free trial for Shopify in 2017. Click here to automatically apply a free 14 day trial when you sign up.
Winner – Shopify
Shopify Vs BigCartel – Recap & Review
- All in one Solution
- Easy to set up
- Wide variety of options and themes
- Shopify POS
- Scales with any business size
- Excellent price to feature ratio
- Slightly more difficult to use
- More expensive per month
- Language support needs an update
- Excellent service for the small business person
- Very quick to set up
- Easier to use than Shopify
- Cheaper than Shopify
- Does not scale well
- Fewer options
Another review, another easy win for Shopify. BigCartel focus on small businesses, and while that might be good in the short term, this is an industry dominated by the scalable solution. With fewer themes, and that item listing limit, BigCartel have shot themselves in the foot before the race. If you are looking to host more than 25 items, you have to go with Shopify, but if you want to sell fewer than five, then go for BigCartel’s free solution.
The time to get your online store up and running is now! You can use this link to get Shopify setup and rolling for free.