Both of these platforms are incredibly popular as they both offer free packages to help small businesses start selling online, but which one is the better ecommerce platform?
Big Cartel vs Ecwid: What is the Difference?
Big Cartel is a hosted ecommerce platform designed for simplicity with creative businesses such as artists and fashion designers being the main target audience for the platform. Ecwid is a multi channel ecommerce platform that allows users to build an ecommerce website but also sell via Instagram and Facebook, it can also be integrated with platforms such as WordPress and Wix.
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On the face of it, Ecwid is the more expensive of the two platforms but most of these packages come with restrictions, which have been broken down more in the table below:
|Package||Number of Products||Number of Product Images|
|Big Cartel Gold||5||1|
|Big Cartel Platinum||50||5|
|Big Cartel Diamond||500||5|
So Big Cartel does have more restrictions on its plans than Ecwid and doesn’t offer an unlimited option, which might not be ideal if you potentially will have a large number of products or require multiple product images.
Big Cartel also doesn’t offer the option for paying for your plan annually, Ecwid does and also offers a discount equivalent of two months free when the plans are purchased annually.
Neither Big Cartel or Ecwid charge any transaction fees (payment gateway fees still apply).
Features is definitely an area that Big Cartel do not shout about! This isn’t great in my opinion as you aren’t exactly sure what you are going to be getting on your monthly package and after going through the site numerous times, all I could really find was the following:
- Google Analytics
- Real Time Stats
- Inventory Tracking*
- Discount Codes
- Shipment Tracking
- Bulk Editing*
*Not available on the free package
While this may be ok for users who are just getting started and are unsure of what they require but if you know exactly the types of features you need, you will probably be left with more questions than answers from Big Cartel.
One thing that is quite limited on Big Cartel are the payment gateway options as you get the choice of:
- Venmo (requires PayPal Business Account)
- ApplePay (requires Stripe)
And while these will cover most payment methods, it still may prove to be restrictive for some businesses.
Also, somewhat surprisingly, Big Cartel doesn’t offer the option of digital products or downloads as standard (which would be very useful for many creative types) and if you want to add this functionality, you will need to install an app which starts from $6/m.
Big Cartel Apps
To add their existing features, Big Cartel do have a small number of apps that can be used to integrate the platform with third-party software or bring that functionality into a Big Cartel site. While this is really good, only a few of the apps are free to use, with most requiring a paid plan to get full access, which can make Big Cartel quite a bit more pricey.
There are no such issues when it comes to Ecwid and the features that they offer as they happily promote them all over their site and platform. Below are a summary of the features available (just be aware that not all of these are available on the free plan):
- One Tap Checkout (with Apple Pay)
- Schedule Order Pickup
- Sell Physical, Digital & Service Products
- Inventory Tracking
- Secure Checkout
- Automated Tax Calculations
Marketing & SEO
- Sell on Facebook & Instagram
- Discount Coupons
- Gift Cards
- Custom Meta Data
- SEO Friendly URL’s
- Number of Visitors
- Conversion Rate
- Apple Pay (via Stripe)
These are a summary of the features included with the Venture package but you do get more tools such as abandoned cart recovery, product filters, product variations and a multi lingual storefront on the business and unlimited packages.
Ecwid App Market
While Ecwid does come with a good selection of features, there are still some gaps that need to be filled and that is where the App Market comes into play. All of the apps within the market are made by third-party developers, which means that many of them do require you to pay for them.
Theme Selection & Customisation
While Big Cartel does have a relatively small selection of 18 themes, they are varied and well designed themes that very much fit the indie feel that the platform has. The best thing is that all of these are free to use on any platform, so even a free Big Cartel website can look very attractive.
There are a few different options when it comes to theme customisation but it is not the most intuitive set up as most changes to the layout are down from checkboxes and dropdown menus. It is easy to change the colours and font options that go on the front end of your site.
It is very limited when it comes to what you can do with your pages as there are no options to add or remove sections, this makes it quite difficult to make a site look and feel different to any others that are using the same template that you have chosen. This is very evident when taking a look at the example sites after checking out the theme selection.
The live preview is a nice tool but it is not that responsive and changes aren’t instantly updated.
Ecwid overhauled their theme selection and customization in 2021 with the introduction of New-Gen Instant Site, which added many more tools to enable users to build good looking, stand alone ecommerce website.
The New-Gen Instant Site saw the introduction of 10 templates that users can preview before selecting them for their store but the real changes are to be found in the customization as the new drag and drop builder brings a host of new features, including:
- The ability to add, remove or rearrange the blocks of the page
- A varied selection of blocks that add different design elements
- Settings for the sites header and footer
- General theme settings including fonts styles
Overall, the New-Gen Instant Site has been a big improvement to Ecwids design options and makes it much more viable option for building a stand alone ecommerce website.
Within the dashboard, there are also design and layout options for product and category pages.
Running an ecommerce website can be challenging at times and you require some help, so what support do you get from these platforms?
Big Cartel – support options are quite limited with the Big Cartel platform as the only options are to contact them via email and that goes for all of the packages. There are no extra support options on the larger packages, which is a little surprising.
Ecwid – with Ecwid, you do get a good level of support from their team, for the basic Venture plan, this will be in the form of online chat, which is available 24 hours a day Monday to Friday. They also have very good documentation on their site to help you.
For users on the Business or Unlimited packages, you do get phone support but this is only available between 2pm and 10pm pacific time, which due to time differences makes this not great for users in other parts of the world. But it is still there if you need it.
Hosting & Performance
Both platforms take a very different approach when it comes to advertising their hosting.
Big Cartel give almost no information away on their website about their hosting, the only thing they say is that all packages include a free SSL certificate but as you can see from our performance testing, Big Cartel performs very well but some information about the hosting would be nice.
Ecwid on the flip side are very upfront and it is very easy to find what their hosting set up is like and you get the following:
- Hosted on Amazon Web Services
- PCI Level 1 PCI DSS
- Cloudfront CDN
- Secure Checkout
- Unlimited Bandwidth
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test Ecwid’s performance as they don’t have any customer example stores showcased on their website.
Ease of Use
Facts and figures are one thing but what are these platforms like to use and how do they compare to each other? Well that is what I am going to be looking at in this section.
Getting started with the Big Cartel platform is really simple to do, all you need to do is go to the Big Cartel website and click the sign up icon in the top right hand corner, this takes you to the pricing page so that you can choose the package that you want.
Once selected, you are taken through to the sign up page and all you need is an email address, create a password, create a shop name and a shop URL and you are good to go. If you have selected a paid plan, then you will need to set up your billing information as well.
Once you have signed up, you are taken through to the Big Cartel dashboard and are greeted by a set up guide and unlike other platforms, you do need to work through the steps in this guide in order to access the dashboard section of the admin area.
Fortunately, the set up guide is pretty good and takes you through most of what you need to do to get your website up and running.
The Big Cartel admin dashboard is very simplistic as there is only 5 sections, so it doesn’t take long to know where things are and even within the sections, there aren’t many options. While this is good in one way, it does show how light on features the Big Cartel platform.
Getting started with Ecwid is also very simple but the difference is that you sign up to the free plan and then if you want to, you can upgrade to a paid plan at a later date. To sign up, all you need is your name, email address and create a password.
After this, you will be taken through a quick set up process with your stores name etc. Once you have done all this, you will be taken in to your admin dashboard and greeted by the Ecwid set up guide, which takes you through most of the steps you need to do in order to get your store up and running.
Unlike Big Cartel though, you have full access to the full dashboard from the start and can hide the set up guide if you want to.
As you can see in the image above, the Ecwid dashboard has many more options and that is down to the increased amount of features that you get and is much more in keeping with many of the other ecommerce platforms that are out there.
Navigating around the Ecwid dashboard is pretty easy but does take a bit longer to get fully accustomed with due to the aforementioned features. The only thing missing from the Ecwid dashboard is the ability to create custom pages, there 5 legal pages that are already there for you to fill out but can’t create more outside of these, which is a shame as the editor for these pages is pretty good.
Adding and Managing Stock
Being able to manage your stock efficiently and effectively is a hugely important part of running an online store and for me there are three main areas to this and they are:
- Adding products
- Organising your Products
- Managing your inventory
Big Cartel has one of the simplest product creation pages out there, which makes it very easy to add a new product but you are limited to purely physical products. Which is surprising as it is aimed at creative types who may have digital versions of their creations.
Something that is missing from the product creation page is any kind of SEO settings and you can only change the URL of a product by creating it and then going back in and editing it. While having a light and easy to use product creation page is good, it does feel like there are some things missing.
Organising your products is a little strange as categories are created either within the product creation page or clicking the three dots on the inventory overview page and they are created by just giving them a title. There is no description or SEO tools associated with them.
It is also doesn’t allow you to create sub-categories or choose how you display the categories on the front end of your site. Categories are simply added to the main navigation menu product drop down list, when a product is added to the category.
Bulk inventory management is only available on the paid plans but having it as an option is still good. On the free plan, all editing has to be done on a product by product basis.
The add new product section on Ecwid is very nicely laid out and easy to use. They have gone for a tabbed layout and it gives you lots of options when it comes to adding a new product. The layout has a really good work flow and the clear display means that you are less likely to miss adding important information to your product listing.
The only thing I don’t like about the create a new product in Ecwid is that you cannot edit the URL and while the auto generated URL’s a pretty good, for all the products, they do include a random number sequence at the end. My personal preference would be to remove these to make the URL’s look as good as possible.
To help you organise your products, Ecwid have gone for the tried and tested category model, which allows you to create both parent and sub-categories.
When it comes to managing your inventory, Ecwid have a bulk editor which includes many different options including being able to:
- Update the product title
- Change the SKU code
- Update prices & quantities
The editor also has a filter system, meaning that you can pick and choose the fields that you want to edit on your products, which makes managing your inventory much easier.
Big Cartel – Unfortunately, I cannot say how good or bad the Big Cartel order management is as there is no option to manually create orders.
Ecwid – The order management system on Ecwid is one of the best ones I have used as it allows you to do pretty much everything directly from the order overview page. You can update order statuses, print invoices, update payment status and export your order via CSV or to a Google Sheet. This makes the complete process of managing your order very easy and efficient to do.
Big Cartel Summary
Big Cartel Pros
• Hosting Performance
• Cheap Plans
• Easy to learn
• Attractive themes
Big Cartel Cons
• Limited features
• No real SEO tools
• Only email support
• Not really scalable
• General lack of information
• Good Support
• Easy to use
• Good integration
• Order Management
• Bulk Product Editor
• SEO Tools aren’t great
• Some features & support options are locked to some plans
Big Cartel vs Ecwid – Which is the Best Ecommerce Platform?
Overall, Ecwid is the better option as it offer a more complete all around offering as it is easy to use, has a good selection of features and the new New-Gen Instant Site makes it a more viable ecommerce platform for standalone ecommerce stores.
And if you combine Ecwid with a more content driven platform such as WordPress, you have a very capable combination that is a very good option for small to medium businesses.
Big Cartel definitely has potential and the performance of the hosting is incredible but the platform almost feels like it is still in development due to the lack of features and general lack of information about pretty much anything!
So that is my conclusion of these two ecommerce platforms. If you want to try one or both of these out for yourself, then you can by clicking on the buttons below.
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