(This post was originally published on July 28th, 2015. We’ve updated it for accuracy and completeness.)
Should you sell on Shopify or Etsy? When comparing the two, it’s less about which platform to use and more about which method of selling makes the most sense for you.
Shopify is a webstore. Etsy is a marketplace. It’s kind of like comparing apples to oranges. Yes, they’re both eCommerce sales channels, but they are two fundamentally different ways to sell online.
In terms of which one is a better for you, there may not be a right or wrong answer. You must decide which one aligns better with your business goals and resources. In some cases, you might want to even sell on both platforms!
Nonetheless, we’ll compare Shopify vs Etsy in this article to help you make the best decision for your business.
Comparing Shopify and Etsy Popularity
When I compared Shopify vs Etsy, I first used Google Trends to determine which platform was more popular by web users. I assumed the platform getting searched more often is the more popular one.
However, I found that a simple comparison like this can’t be made here. When looking at this graph, Etsy (red) appears to be much more popular than Shopify (blue).
This happens because both consumers and sellers would be searching for Etsy. Like Amazon, Etsy is a marketplace to shop on as well as to sell on. On the other hand, only sellers would be searching for Shopify. Consumers are oblivious to the fact your webstore is even run by Shopify, they would just search by your business name.
This is one of the main problems when comparing webstores and marketplaces. But, it highlights a key difference. If you’re selling on Etsy, you’ll get more exposure than you would on your own webstore. Etsy already has a built audience, unlike Shopify where you’ll have to build your own traffic. This is why most people to choose to sell on marketplaces like Amazon, especially when they’re first starting out.
Shopify vs Etsy: Selling on Your Webstore Vs Popular Marketplace
So, should you use a marketplace like Etsy or sell on your own webstore like Shopify? That’s the fundamental question we need to answer.
While we could do an extensive list of feature by feature, it’s not necessary. There are only a few critical points to keep in mind when comparing the two:
- Product Types
- Pricing and Fees
- Ease of Entry
These areas are where Shopify and Etsy are fundamentally different. These should give you a good idea of which platform could work better for you or why you might want to be selling on both.
Shopify vs Etsy: Product Selection
If you don’t already know, Etsy is a creative marketplace for handmade goods, vintage items, and craft supplies only. They’ve also opened a channel for wholesale selling too. They have strict guidelines on what can and can’t be sold on their marketplace.
Shopify, on the other hand, is an eCommerce platform. There are no restrictions on what type of products you can sell, if it’s legal of course!
If you aren’t selling handmade, vintage, or craft supplies, then Etsy isn’t an option for you. If you plan on expanding beyond those types of products, then you’re going to eventually outgrow Etsy. Make sure you’re planning for both today and the future of your business.
Shopify vs Etsy Pricing Model: Which One Has Less Fees
Who has better pricing? Well, it depends on how much you’re selling. The difference in selling costs comes down to what fees each platform charges you.
Shopify will be more expensive upfront. This is because merchants pay a subscription for their Shopify store. However, Etsy can be more expensive in the long run because of their transaction fees.
Shopify Selling Fees
According to Shopify’s pricing page, these are the plans currently available:
- Basic – $29/mo
- Shopify – $79/mo
- Advanced Shopify – $299/mo
To decide what plan works best for you, you need to decide how many items you want to sell and what functionality is important to you. The main things that will change based on your plan are:
- Number of staff accounts available
- Credit card rates
- Shipping discounts
- Extra functionality like gift cards, reports, abandoned cart recovery, report builders, and shipping rate calculators
$299/mo sounds like a lot to simply have a website up, especially if it’s a new website and you can’t predict how much revenue you’ll make. This is a fair objection to opting in for the Advanced plan. So, then let’s look at Etsy’s pricing model.
Etsy Selling Fees
With Etsy, there is no membership or subscription fee charged. Merchants instead pay three main fees:
- Listing fee: $0.20 per item to be listed for 4 months
- Transaction fee: 3.5% on every purchase
- Payment Processing: 3% + $0.25 on every purchase
If you use Shopify Payments (their payment gateway), there are no transaction fees. However, if you use another payment gateway, you will be charged 2%, 1% or 0.5% for each plan respectively. You also still must pay credit card rates.
For example, let’s say you’re planning on using Shopify’s payment gateway and are on the Shopify plan. This means you’ll pay $79 a month, no transaction fees, and credit card rates.
If you sell $2,260 worth of merchandise on Etsy, at a 3.5% transaction fee, you would pay $79 (as well as $0.20 for each item listed and payment processing fees).
So, if you plan on selling more than $2,260 of merchandise a month, Etsy is actually more expensive than Shopify.
This at least true when using Shopify’s payment gateway and their middle-tier plan.
However, there are other hidden costs with Shopify. The total cost of ownership for a Shopify webstore can be higher. You could pay for web designers, SEO experts, and other services to boost your store’s functionality, design, and attract and build a larger audience. Etsy, on the other hand, already takes care of these things. It’s part of the ease of setting up and selling on a marketplace.
Will I get more exposure with Shopify or Etsy?
Do people recognize you like Nike or Apple? Chances are, if you’re comparing Etsy and Shopify, your brand doesn’t have that same name recognition (yet!).
It’s usually a long, hard road to build up your brand recognition, especially if you’re starting from scratch. This is why Etsy has the obvious advantage in exposure.
Just look at the chart at the top of this post. Etsy is getting a ton of searches. In fact, Etsy has 30 million active buyers and businesses and sales over $2.8 billion just in 2016.
So, if your brand is new, then you might need the exposure Etsy can offer.
That being said, Etsy has much more traffic than your webstore would, but it’s much less targeted traffic. When someone is on your site, they are interested in buying your product. If they see your item on Etsy, they may just be browsing or getting creative ideas. They aren’t as invested in you.
There are advantages and disadvantages to the amount of exposure each platform offers.
How much control do I have over my Etsy listings?
When it comes to your Etsy listings you’re limited to pictures and text. Here’s an example of an Etsy listing for a painted paper bag.
In addition to this top section, you are given an “Item Details” section to write whatever you would like about the item. While you are limited, this template is easy to work with. You’ll load your listings as needed and won’t have to worry about anything else.
With Shopify, you have full control over your listings. You can create your website and product pages to look however you want them to. Shopify is known for their user-friendly design interface. They also have countless templates so you can find and customize the template that you think fits your store’s personality the best.
When it comes to control over your listings, Shopify is the clear winner, if you have the time and knowledge to build the website you want.
Is it easier to sell on Shopify or Etsy?
While you lack control over your Etsy listings, this also makes it easier to start selling there. You don’t have to worry about setting up a website or setting up a product page. You simply need images of your products and a description.
Yes, of course, you will also need to create a seller account on Etsy. This is a very simple process and can be done within minutes. It also doesn’t cost you anything until you start listing and selling your products.
Shopify is also extremely easy to get set up on. While it is harder and more expensive than Etsy to get started, it’s still not something you will be spending too much time on.
Shopify vs Etsy: Ideal Sellers
Do you have a better idea of which platform you want to sell on? If not, here’s a quick description of an ideal seller for each platform.
Ideal Etsy Seller: You’re a maker or seller of homemade, vintage, and craft supplies. You’re new to the whole business thing, but want to try out selling your stuff for the first time. You’re a one-man (or woman) show without a whole lot of resources. You want to get set up quickly and need an audience to sell to. If this sounds like you, then Etsy might be for you.
Ideal Shopify Seller: You’ve been selling your products for a little while now and your brand is starting to get attraction, especially locally. Now, you want to expand your product line and customer base. You need full control over the look and feel of your brand and have some resources to make that happen. Creating your own webstore with Shopify might be the next step for your business.
Selling on Both Shopify and Etsy
As we’ve mentioned, Shopify and Etsy are two different methods of selling. One’s a marketplace and one’s its own webstore. Sometimes, it doesn’t have to be a choice between the two, you can sell on both at the same time!
Just like Amazon, many sellers often sell on both a marketplace and their own webstore. A marketplace is a great way to open your brand to a large audience that you can’t grow on your own. However, marketplaces tend to be overcrowded and extremely price sensitive. You also lose control over the total look and feel of your brand.
It’s not uncommon for sellers to start on Etsy, then grow their brand and create a webstore. You can drive traffic from your marketplace listings to your website where customers get an even better taste of what you have to offer. If you’re a seller who can’t list all your items on their site because of its restrictions, then a webstore is a great way to expand.
Etsy Pattern: Etsy’s Own Webstore Platform
Now, Etsy realizes that this is a common path for their sellers. So, they did recently release Etsy Pattern, which provides Etsy sellers a separate website for their Etsy shop. It costs $15/month and has very basic functionality. However, it is not connected to your Etsy Shop and not searchable on Etsy.com.
It’s simple to use for a reason and doesn’t really stack up to an industry-leading eCommerce platform like Shopify (that’s why we haven’t mentioned it yet). If you want to just play around with your own webstore, Etsy Pattern could be beneficial and another small step forward to advancing to something like Shopify.
Choosing Between Shopify and Etsy
We can’t make the decision for you, but we can give you helpful information to make your decision easier. It’s all about what’s the best method of selling for your business!
Just keep in mind, if you do open up a Shopify webstore, check out our integration to connect it to your accounting system or marketplaces.
Check out Other Articles about Selling on Shopify and Marketplaces
If you want to do some more reading, check out our post on:
- Learn Shopify SEO tactics to increase your web traffic.
- If you’re not quite sold on Shopify, check out our comparison of Shopify and Magento Community or WooCommerce.
- Learn top risks of selling on online marketplaces.
- Considering a Shopify Facebook store? Read this first.