Big Cartel vs. Etsy – A Detailed Comparison

Zoran Zoran
14 minute read

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Big Cartel and Etsy are very similar e-commerce platforms. They both cater to the same target customer: crafters and artists, so doing a Big Cartel vs. Etsy comparison is inevitable

Big Cartel’s main audience, however, is independent artists like musicians and designers. On the other hand, Etsy is primarily used by small retailers who sell handmade and vintage products. 

That said, they’re both web platforms where creatives sell their creations. Additionally, both are perfectly suitable for running a small-scale business, and, interestingly enough, they were founded in the same year, 2005.

But these platforms also have significant differences other than their audiences. My goal in this comparison here is to give you an overview of those differences and provide information on how these platforms work. 

So, let’s get to it!

The Main Difference Between Big Cartel and Etsy 

I couldn't find any info on the origins and history of Big Cartel’s name, so I have no idea what “Big Cartel” means. However, it’s funny how Etsy got its name. 

Namely, one of the founders, Robert Kalin, wanted to build a platform from scratch. The name of the platform had to symbolize this absolutely new beginning. That’s why he gave his creation a name that’s meaningless. I mean, it’s loosely based on an inaccurate transcription of the Italian expression “Eh, si” (meaning “Oh, yes”). Nevertheless, the word is definitely original, and everyone would associate it only with the company itself and nothing else.

However, this is not the fundamental difference I wanted to talk about – it’s just something that I found amusing while doing my research. 

The most fundamental difference between Big Cartel and Etsy has to do with the way they are designed. 

Etsy

Big Cartel

Everyone sells in the same marketplace.

Sellers can create their own stores on their own domains.

Harder to stand out as a unique merchant.

Easier to build your own brand.

Easier to attract customers due to large traffic volume.

Sellers have to come up with strategies to attract customers.

Etsy

Etsy's landing page - Big Cartel vs Etsy review

Etsy is like a giant marketplace (similar to Cratejoy) where your unique products and brand have to compete for attention, which means that they may get lost in the sea of competition. 

Everyone sells in the same space here. When people buy your product, they don’t exactly buy it from you – they buy it from Etsy. You don’t have your own unique store where you can build your brand and show your originality. 

Etsy doesn’t leave enough room for your brand image to shine, other than a little profile photo and merchant name. It doesn’t allow you to build a standalone e-commerce store. It’s more like having a stall at a local market.

BigCartel

Big Cartel's landing page - Big Cartel vs Etsy review

In contrast, Big Cartel lets you create exactly that: your own personal store. You get a special online place and your own domain, where you can showcase your products and build your brand independently from anyone and anything else.

But this comes with a caveat. The way it is, Etsy already has a lot of sellers and a huge customer base, so you don’t necessarily need to make as big an effort to attract a following as you do with a brand-new online store. Yes, you do share the same space with thousands of other sellers, but Etsy has its own smart ways to drive traffic to your products. 

Unlike Etsy, to build a Big Cartel store means that you have to start from zero. You have to develop clever strategies to drive people to your website and generate sales.

Before I proceed, I have to say one more thing. And it’s very important. 

When I described Etsy as a giant marketplace, I meant regular Etsy, but there’s an alternative provided by the company itself. It’s called Pattern, and it’s a whole different animal. It’s similar to Big Cartel in that it lets you register your domain and allows you to have your own e-commerce website. 

This website can be synchronized with a regular Etsy shop, but remember that it doesn’t come with Etsy’s regular subscription plans.

Pricing and Fees

Big Cartel

Etsy

Free plan:

Gold plan

Etsy Standard

Paid plans:

   Platinum ($9.99/month);      Diamond ($19.99/month)

Etsy Plus ($10/month)

Additional plans:

None

Pattern by Etsy ($15/month)

Big Cartel

Big Cartel offers three pricing plans: Gold (free), Platinum ($9.99/mo), and Diamond ($19.99/mo). 

Some of the cool features that come with Gold are a free theme, the chance to offer discounts and run promos, and shipment tracking. You can’t list more than five products with one image per product, and you only get limited customization options. 

All of the remaining three plans include the same extra features: five images per product, Google Analytics, theme code editing, bulk editing, custom domain, and several more. The difference between them is the number of products you can list: 50, 250, or 500.

One cool thing about Big Cartel is that it doesn’t charge listing and transaction fees. This doesn’t mean that you don’t pay for the services provided by transaction gateways. But, the fact that Big Cartel doesn’t take a cut from your earnings is great news for anyone running a small business with limited capital.

Etsy

Etsy’s pricing plans are not expensive. However, there are fees for so many things that, at a certain point, it may be just too much. Let’s start from the beginning.

There are two regular pricing plans, or subscription packages as Etsy calls them: Etsy Standard (free) and Etsy Plus ($10/mo). Etsy Standard is the default plan. Etsy Plus is totally optional. There’s one more option that we mentioned before: Pattern. The monthly fee for Pattern is $15.

What do these plans include? 

There isn’t much information on Etsy Standard’s features available on Etsy’s website. It only says that, with this plan, the clients get the basic tools that enable them to sign up and start selling. Naturally, this implies that there are certain limitations when it comes to making design changes to your storefront.

Etsy Plus offers advanced customization features, out-of-stock emails, a discount for a custom web address, access to discounts on promotional materials, ad credits, listing credits, and so on. 

Some of the cool features of Pattern by Etsy are shop manager, unlimited listings, advanced website analytics, SSL certificate, SEO, blog, and social media sharing.

Fees

Now, let’s take a look at Etsy’s fees. With Etsy, you have to pay listing, auto-renewal, transaction, and payment gateway fees. Some optional fees include in-person selling, advertising, and currency conversion fees. For more details, check Etsy’s fees and payments policy page.

The fees are not high, but they add up. You should do your math and see whether or not it’s a good idea to sell your products on Etsy. The fact that there are already so many people doing business on Etsy proves that it really can be a profitable endeavor. 

Customization and Ease of Use

Big Cartel

Etsy

Easy to use:

Yes 

Yes 

Customization:

Basic design customization

Fixed storefront layout

Notable features:

Custom domain, SSL security, SEO, customer statistics, basic sales features

Hosted platform, marketing tools, international sales, unlimited products

Integrations:

Yes

Yes

HTML/CSS access:

Yes

No

Big Cartel

Big Cartel allows for customization, but it’s not one of its priorities. The accent is more on ease of use. With Big Cartel, everything is simple and neat. 

Big Cartel offers tons of cool features, like a custom domain name, SSL encryption on each page, SEO optimization, inventory tracking, bulk edit orders, packing slips, order status updates, conversion rates, visitors and product statistics, and so on. 

However, when it comes to customization, the scope of changes you can make is not as wide as, for example, with Shopify. Of course, this doesn’t have to be a drawback. Not having to bother with gazillions of options may actually feel like a breath of fresh air. If what you really want is just that – a simple, no-fuss e-commerce store – you’ll get it with Big Cartel. 

If you want to do some tweaking, though, you’re free to play around with colors and text, add buttons, do some tricks with images, and even do some HTML and CSS coding.

Etsy

Everything I said about Big Cartel can be said about Etsy, too – it’s an easy-to-use platform where creative control and customization are not the primary focus. 

So, on the one hand, it’s an advantage that there aren’t many advanced features, and there isn’t much room for improving the look of your shop is what makes Etsy simple and easy to use. 

But, on the other hand, this may also be viewed as a disadvantage: not being able to adjust the default design can be very limiting and, ipso facto, a huge bummer for some.

However, you can still make your Etsy page look professional with the available customization options without ever resorting to code. Besides, if you want to improve the look and functionalities of your shop, you can always use some of the available third-party integrations.

Customer Care and Support

Big Cartel

Etsy

Phone:

No

Yes

Email:

Yes

No

Live chat:

No

Yes

Resources:

Articles and videos in the Help Center

Forums, videos, tutorials, marketing, and e-commerce resources

Big Cartel

Big Cartel’s help page is well organized and informative. You can find many articles and videos that cover various topics and answer questions related to building and running a Big Cartel store.

Another way to get help for your eCommerce store is through Big Cartel’s contact center. It consists of a team of twelve people who provide support seven days a week from 8 am to 6 pm EST. You can contact them through email. There’s no live chat or phone support.

Etsy

Etsy takes care of its clients via different channels: the Help page, forums, live chat, and phone.

Also, there are a lot of resources on Etsy’s website, like videos, tutorials, helpful links to marketing and e-commerce resources, and even inspirational stories by users. You’d never feel like you are on your own. 

Blogging

Big Cartel

Etsy

Native blogging solution:

No

No

Blogging options:

Via third-party integrations

Etsy’s separate website building product

Big Cartel

Big Cartel doesn't give you the option to add a blog to your store. But if you want to say something about your products, one way to do that is to link your Big Cartel website to a WordPress blog. This is possible thanks to the Big Cartel plugin for WordPress. 

However, a much better choice would be to find an easy-to-use blogging app and simply integrate it into your Big Cartel website. One of the best and simplest blogging apps out there is DropInBlog. We’ve written about how to add DropInBlog to your Big Cartel store, so you should definitely check it out.

Etsy

The only way to blog with Etsy is through Pattern, a product offered by Etsy. It’s like another channel for your business that allows you to create a website separate from your Etsy shop. You can read about how to do that here.

FAQs

Neither Big Cartel nor Etsy have a built-in blogging feature. However, if you’re intent on continuing to use these platforms, there are workarounds.

With Big Cartel, you can integrate with third-party apps by injecting their code into your site’s HTML. With Etsy, it’s a little different since they have their own website-building product called Pattern, as we mentioned earlier.

The best way to start a blog on Big Cartel is by adding DropInBlog to your store. The process is seriously easy, and it should take you no more than three minutes. We have a comprehensive tutorial on how to add DropInBlog to Big Cartel here.

For Etsy, the best way to add a blog is to use their own product Patterns because it’s currently the only way to add a blog to your Etsy store. While not comparable with other e-commerce platforms, Pattern’s offerings are quite impressive for $15/month. However, the transaction fees are quite high – 6.5%, which is higher compared to Shopify.

Big Cartel and Etsy are great at what they do, which is why they have large user bases. But if you’re looking for something a little bit different that can still accommodate your small business, there are plenty of great business software solutions that you can use for both selling and blogging.

Shopify is the obvious alternative, as most Shopify users are small businesses. It’s affordable, easy to use, and it offers some really great features.

Wix is popular for a reason. It’s beginner friendly, has some great templates, and great features out-of-the-box.

Square Online is another platform suitable for small businesses, and the best part about it is that you can sell with the free plan. The style of the editor is more minimalistic, but the platform itself is pretty agile.

Ecwid is another platform where you can sell for free. We like it because it’s very user-friendly and doesn’t come with additional transaction costs.

Squarespace has beautiful templates that can be perfect if you sell art or crafts, plus its e-commerce features are solid. We have written about Squarespace and Big Cartel before, so you can go ahead and check it out.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we examined some of the most important aspects of Big Cartel and Etsy. Based on my research, these are the main takeaways: 

  • Big Cartel and Etsy are similar in terms of their main target audience.

  • The most basic difference is that, with Big Cartel, you own a separate website from the very beginning, while the regular Etsy plans don’t allow this. You have to go with Pattern by Etsy if a standalone e-commerce store is what you’re looking for.

  • Both platforms are inexpensive, but there are more fees with Etsy.

  • With regard to customization, both are easy to use but somewhat limited.

  • Both offer plenty of help through their help pages, but they differ in that you can directly contact Big Cartel’s support team via email, while you can contact Etsy through live chat and phone.

  • Big Cartel doesn’t include a blogging option, while Etsy has one, but only through Pattern by Etsy.

Hopefully, this Big Cartel vs. Etsy comparison will help you in your decision-making process. If you want to see how well things measure up before you commit to one of these two site builders, I hope that we’ve provided you with enough information to make a more informed decision. 

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