Big Cartel vs Square Online (2024) – Ecommerce Comparison

For businesses looking to start selling online but only have a small budget, Big Cartel and Square are both popular but which one is the best ecommerce platform?

That is what we are going to answer in our in-depth review of these two budget-friendly ecommerce platforms.

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Big Cartel vs Square Online: Quick Summary

Big Cartel vs Square: Which one is best? Square came out on top for a number of reasons:

  1. Square offers a better selection of features and can be used to sell a variety of different products including physical, digital and subscriptions
  2. The website builder is much better as it offers a lot more customization and content options
  3. They offer a wider range of support options

We felt that Square offered the best overall platform and if you do sell face-to-face, it integrates perfectly with the Square POS to help you manage your business from a single dashboard.

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Big Cartel Logo
  • Gold: $0/m
  • Platinum: $9.99/m
  • Diamond: $19.99/m
square logo
  • Free: $0/m
  • Plus: $29/m
  • Premium: $79/m

Big Cartel and Square have both taken a very simple approach to their pricing as they both offer a free plan and two paid options and there are some similarities between the two platforms as neither:

  • Charge additional transaction fees
  • Have annual turnover limits

These once again make both platforms very attractive for budget-conscious businesses but there are a couple of differences between the two in terms of their plans other than the monthly subscription cost:

  • Big Cartel limits the number of items you can sell to a max of 500 on the most expensive plan and also limits the number of images you can add to your product listings
  • Square’s main limits apply to the free plan as you only get 500MB of storage space and can’t use a custom domain name

And even though Square’s monthly subscriptions fees are higher, you do get access to more features (which are covered in the next section) and have fewer restrictions in terms of the number of products you can sell.


Big Cartel

Features are definitely an area Big Cartel does not shout about as they don’t have a dedicated features page on their website and only a few features are listed on their pricing page.

As features are a selling point of an ecommerce platform, you would have thought they would provide more information on this but we did some digging around and found that they offer:

  • 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 Big Cartel is limited on is the number of payment gateways that they offer, which is only:

  • PayPal
  • Stripe
  • 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 that starts from $6/m.

Big Cartel Apps

To add their existing features, Big Cartel does 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.


For a platform primarily marketed at small businesses, you might think that Square might be limited in terms of features, but that isn’t true and even the free plan comes with a good selection but if you want to see a more in-depth breakdown of the features available, check out our full Square Review.

Below is a summary of the features that are available with Square (any features marked with an * are only available on the Performance and Premium plans):

Ecommerce Tools

  • Unlimited Items
  • Multiple Items Types 
  • Age Confirmation
  • Password Protected Pages
  • Item Quick View 
  • Item Badges 
  • Product Reviews*
  • Abandoned Cart Recovery* 

Marketing & SEO

  • Sell on Facebook & Instagram 
  • SEO Tools 
  • Facebook & Google Ads
  • Facebook Messenger 
  • Blog 
  • Vouchers 

Similar to Big Cartel, Square is also very limited when it comes to the number of payment gateways that are available, with the following:

  • Square
  • Apply Pay
  • Google Pay
  • PayPal*

Square also has a selection of reporting and ecommerce analytics but these are only available on the paid package.

So Square comes with a good range of features but they also offer a little bit more with their App Marketplace and this includes a selection of apps across a range of categories that allow you to link your Square store to third-party companies.

Some of these apps are not available for Square ecommerce (just the Square POS) and some are paid options.

Square App Marketplace

Website Builder

Big Cartel

Big Cartel’s website builder is quite basic but it does include a small selection of 18 themes that are varied in terms of style and well-designed and best of all, they are all free to use.

But customization is quite limited with the platform as there isn’t a lot you can do to help your store stand out from any others that are using the same theme as you, this is because you are limited to changing the:

  • Colors
  • Fonts
  • Alignment of elements

There aren’t any additional sections that you can add to your store’s homepage, which means that you can only really build quite basic stores.

You are also limited when it comes to building any additional pages for your site as it only offers a very basic text editor to add content to the page and this is done in the sidebar of the live preview customizer, which makes formatting the page a bit more challenging.

They also don’t include a blog feature, which means you are limited as to what you can add in terms of content to your store and there are no on-page SEO tools, so if SEO is part of your marketing strategy, you will struggle with Big Cartel.


Square offers a much more complete website builder but the one negative is that they only offer 1 base theme, which doesn’t sound great but where Square does shine is when it comes to customization.

This is because Square offers a full-site customizer, meaning that you can customize every different page type on your store and the customizer includes:

  • A selection of different sections
  • Multiple options for each of these sections
  • Options for your site’s header and footer
  • Styles, including some pre-made ones using complimentary colors along with options to set your own colors and font styles

It just gives you much more control over the look and feel of your site than you get from Big Cartel.

Square Theme Customizer

And this extends to adding content to your site as you can create custom pages for your store and build them using the different sections, which allows you to create some visually appealing pages for your store.

They also include a blog (which they call stories), which are added through the live customizer but you can also add custom sections to the posts and all pages with Square include SEO tools to help you set custom URLs and meta information.


Running an ecommerce website can be challenging at times and you require some help, so what support do you get from these platforms?

Big Cartels 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.

Square offers a range of support options, including:

  • Email Support – which aims to get back to you within 48 hours
  • Phone Support – available 9 am – 5 pm Monday to Friday
  • Community Support Forum

These are available to all users, Square also has some very good help documentation, which covers many of the more common issues that users experience when using Square.


Big Cartel is very limited in the information they provide about their hosting environment and the only information we could find is that they include a free SSL certificate and while this might not be important to some users, information about PCI compliance, uptime and a CDN would be helpful.

Even though Big Cartel provides basically no information, they did perform very well in our annual ecommerce performance testing coming top overall.

Square offers much more information about its hosting environment and includes the following:

  • PCI Compliant Hosting
  • Unlimited Bandwidth
  • Unlimited Storage
  • Free SSL Certificate

The only thing we couldn’t find information on was whether or not they offer a CDN with the platform and unfortunately, we couldn’t test the performance due to a lack of customer sites showcased by Square.

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 we are going to be looking at in this section.

Getting Started

Big Cartel

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 signup 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 signup 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 setup 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 setup 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 are 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 is.

But some things do take a bit of digging to find and the most notable one was the ability to create pages on your website for say Terms and Conditions or Privacy Policy. This is done through the theme customization section and there are very limited formatting options, which makes creating aesthetically pleasing about or promotional pages a bit of a challenge.


Getting started with Square isn’t the most straightforward process because when you sign up, you are not just signing up to the ecommerce platform but also the payment gateway and this means there are many more steps in the signup process, which isn’t ideal if you just want to try it out.

Once you have gone through the signup process, you will go through to the main Square dashboard and to access the website builder, you will need to click on the Online Store option, you will then be taken through to the Ecommerce dashboard.

On your first sign-in, you will be greeted by a short setup guide that takes you through the basics of setting up your store including designing your site, creating a product listing and setting up your domain. Overall, a good intro to the platform but a prompt to set up the Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy would be a good addition.

Square Ecommerce Dashboard

The dashboard itself is very easy to use as it has a nice, clean interface and the clearly labeled sidebar navigation menu makes it very easy to learn where everything is.

Adding and Managing Stock

Being able to manage your stock efficiently and effectively is a hugely important part of running an online store and there are three main areas to this, which are:

  • Adding products
  • Organizing your Products
  • Managing your inventory

Big Cartel

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. This 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.

Organizing your products is a little strange as categories are created either within the product creation page or by 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.


Creating a new product is very simple and easy to do with Square as they have opted for a well laid-out, single-page layout.

With Square offering many different product types, including Physical, Digital and Membership products, the sections available on the page does depend on the type of product you are creating.

Square Add New Product

Organizing your inventory is very simple as Square has opted for the traditional category system and you can create main and sub-categories, making it very easy to create a nice, easy-to-use hierarchy for your customers. You can also create multiple sub-categories, which makes this even better.

Managing your inventory isn’t great in Square as they don’t offer any real bulk editors and most changes including stock quantity and price need to be done on a product-by-product basis, which isn’t ideal for large inventories.

Managing Orders

Big Cartel – Unfortunately, we cannot say how good or bad the Big Cartel order management is as there is no option to manually create orders.

Square – Unfortunately, we were unable to test the order management system as we only set up a test environment and didn’t complete the signup process for the Square payment gateway, which meant we couldn’t create a test order.


Big Cartel Summary

Website Builder
Hosting & Performance
Ease of Use

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


Square Summary

Website Builder
Ease of Use

Square Pros

• Easy to use admin area
• Good theme customizer
• Low Cost
• App integrations

Square Cons

• Limited payment gateways
• No pre-built themes
• Limited bulk editors



So is Big Cartel or Square the best option for building an online store?

Having compared the two, Square gets our vote as just feels like a more complete ecommerce platform and one that can be used by a variety of different businesses as it comes with better features, theme customization and feels like a more scalable option.

Plus it can be integrated with Square POS, which makes it a great option for small businesses that may have a physical storefront or plan on selling face-to-face.

While Big Cartel is very easy to use and performs well, it just feels very limited in terms of features and what you could potentially achieve with the platform.

But you don’t need to take our word for it, you can test both of these platforms out for yourself by clicking the buttons below and starting a free online store.

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Hi, I'm Paul, the Owner and Founder of EcommerceGold.
I ran my own Ecommerce Business for over 7 years and now help others start their own online retail empires!