If you are looking to use Big Cartel website builder, chances are, you are an artist who has merchandise such as design prints, artwork or craft to sell online. Good on you. I always feel that creating your own online store is better than selling through crowded marketplaces like Etsy or CafePress. But is this the right platform for you? In this review, I’ve researched the pros and cons to put into perspective what this builder can do for your art business.
Big Cartel at a Glance
Big Cartel is a web hosting service that focuses on building an eCommerce presence for artists. This isn’t to say that only this group of people can use it – just that most of the themes provided reflect upon the creative niche instead of the others.
There are 3 types of monthly plan available and the main difference is the number of product listings allowed.
- Platinum – $9.99 (25 products)
- Diamond – $19.99 (100 products)
- Titanium – $29.99 (300 products)
Here are some features that you can expect to get from this platform.
- Order management
- Inventory tracking
- Mobile responsive templates
- Apps and extensions to market your online store
- Ability to sell digital and physical products
- Easy checkout process for customers
- Real-time dashboard
- Integration with Google Analytics
- Search engine optimized
- Ability to provide discount codes
Alternatively, you can also test using the free plan (which allows up to 5 products) to see if this is the right eCommerce solution for you.
Firstly, let’s start with the things that I like about Big Cartel.
1) In terms of product listings, Big Cartel isn’t difficult to use. There are generous spaces provided to describe the product detail and sufficient image allocation for viewing.
2) The editor isn’t clunky either and you should be able to navigate with ease even if you don’t have any experience setting up an online store.
3) The help section is only a click away and it covers the basic walkthrough for each feature available on the platform. There’s also a ‘classroom’ section which is basically a collection of blog posts that discuss the current topics in the eCommerce world.
4) A feature that you may find interesting is the ability to integrate the store into a Facebook business page. This is particularly helpful if you already have a big social following for your work.
Not every eCommerce platform is created equal and these are some disadvantages you need to be aware of when using Big Cartel.
1) Every artist has his/her own branding style and that should be reflected in their store designs through customization or at least, with more template variety. However, Big Cartel only offers 13 templates to choose from. That’s not a lot of options when you consider the number of artists that are out there, craving to stand out from one another.
2) Using a custom domain name is the best way to start an online business, but Big Cartel doesn’t provide an in-house service for that. The good news is, the domain and hosting aren’t bound together so it’s easier if you want to move to a different platform later.
The bad news is, you need to wade through several technical steps in order to integrate the domain to the online store. It’s a very geeky thing that often confused people who don’t know much about web stuff. You can still set things up, but it just takes a longer time.
3) While the platform is good for building an online store, it falls short when it comes to creating a business with content. What this means is that a site with only product listings isn’t easily discovered on the internet. Even with 300 products, it doesn’t make any difference because they are merely images that lack textual information.
In order to rank on the search engines naturally and to engage with a bigger size audience, you need to have a blogging feature. There are many things that you can write about – what inspires your work, what’s new in your product range and so on.
Storytelling is what distinguish artists in the modern eCommerce landscape. The more you write about it, the more people will notice your work. It’s as straightforward as that.
Unfortunately, Big Cartel doesn’t have a blogging feature. Yup, you read that right. They do allow you to create pages, but that doesn’t count. The way to go around this is by integrating with external blog sites such as Blogspot or Tumblr. Honestly, I find this technique quite cumbersome and it has the potential to ‘take people away’ from your main store site.
Even as I go through all the other stores created using Big Cartel, I found little to no existence of blogs on these sites. There are only product pages, an about page, a contact form other miscellaneous topics. Needless to say, the layout of each also looks similar to one another, ‘thanks’ to their limited themes.
4) Without a blog, the only traffic analyzing tool that is viable to use is Google Analytics, but in order to create a successful online business, that’s not sufficient. Now, if you have blog content, you can use another tool called the Google Search Console to see what keywords your business is ranking for.
This will provide more details as to what phrases people are using to discover your products online. These keywords can then be used in blogs, email funnels or ads to drive targeted customers to your store. To re-emphasize my point, if you aren’t leveraging from the data on Google Search Console, you are missing out on a lot of new business opportunities in your niche.
5) I personally buy a lot of things online and one feature I like to see when ordering something with my credit card is an SSL certificate on a site, denotes by the HTTPs in front of a domain name (as shown in the image below). Without getting into the technical details, it’s basically a (paid) security service that protects the buyers and organization’s information so that we won’t get hacked during any point in the sales transaction.
As an eCommerce portal, I don’t see this feature is being provided in the hosting plans nor can I find any resources in the help section about how to install one. I am guessing that this is something that is not readily available (unlike other more established eCommerce solutions) and you may need to contact support about it if you want one.
So, Is Big Cartel Website Builder Worth Your Time
Overall, it seems like Big Cartel website builder offers only basic eCommerce setups with very little supportive features on how to drive traffic to an art business, much less makes it a secured one. With the cons outweighing the pros, I wouldn’t recommend using this platform even from a beginner’s point of view.
You may have better chances with a WordPress site that comes with all the facilities – various professional-looking themes, powerful eCommerce setup and an in-house blogging feature that is touted to be one of the best out there.
If you’ve never used WordPress before, no worries. Wealthy Affiliate has some good training and a reliable hosting service to help you get started. Find out how you can benefit from this program as an artist and connect with me from inside the community so that I can assist you along the way.
Hope to talk to you soon.
Are you an artist struggling to build an online presence? What platforms have you experienced with so far? Please share your comments in the space below.