(This post was last updated on December 5th, 2017. We’ve updated it for accuracy and completeness.)
Should you sell on Shopify or Etsy? When comparing these 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 platform. Etsy is an online marketplace. It’s kind of like comparing apples to oranges. While they’re both online sales channels, these platforms represent two fundamentally different ways to sell or reach potential customers.
So, which method is better for your business? There may not be a right or wrong answer. You must decide which platform aligns best with your resources and business goals. In some cases, you might even want to 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) over the past five year.
This is because both shoppers and sellers would be searching for Etsy. Like Amazon or eBay, Etsy is an online marketplace that features third-party sellers for consumers to buy from. On the other hand, only merchants would be searching for webstore software like Shopify to buy from. Shoppers are oblivious to software your webstore runs on like Shopify. When searching online, they would look for your products or business name.
This is one of the main problems when comparing webstores and marketplaces. They represent two different ways to sell. But, it highlights a key difference. If you’re selling on Etsy, you’ll get more exposure than you would on your own webstore (at least at first). Etsy already has a large, built-in audience, which is why many sellers start their business here. When launching a new eCommerce site on Shopify, sellers must build their own site traffic.
Shopify vs Etsy: Selling on Your Own Webstore Vs Popular Marketplace
So, should you use an online 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 your business 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 only handmade goods, vintage items, and craft supplies. 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
Which platform costs more to sell on? Well, it depends on your selling volume. The difference in costs comes down to the selling fees each platform charges.
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:
- Free 14-day trial
- Basic – $29/mo
- Shopify – $79/mo
- Advanced Shopify – $299/mo
- Shopify Plus – Enterprise offering for high-volume merchants
On top of these subscription plans, sellers also pay online credit card rates
To decide what plan works best for you, sellers must decide how many items they can 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
Shopify’s advanced plan 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: 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 $1,580 worth of merchandise on Etsy, at a 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 $1,580 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. Over time, sellers usually pay for web designers, SEO experts, and other Shopify apps to boost your store’s functionality and design so you can attract and build a larger audience. Etsy, on the other hand, already takes care of these things. You have everything you need to build an online storefront. It’s part of the ease of setting up and selling on a marketplace.
Will my business get more exposure with Shopify or Etsy?
Do people recognize your brand 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 33 million active buyers and businesses and sales over $3 billion just in 2017.
So, if your brand is new, then you might need the exposure Etsy can offer.
That being said, while Etsy has much more traffic than your webstore would, the traffic is much less targeted. 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 and are comparing many different sellers at once. 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, giving you many options to fits your store’s personality 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 that can be done within minutes. It also doesn’t cost you anything until you start listing and selling your products.
In terms of webstore software, Shopify is also extremely easy to set up. While it is harder and more expensive than Etsy to get started, it’s still not something you’ll spend considerable time on. Someone can have a basic Shopify site set up within a few days.
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-person 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 the other is its own webstore software. 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 do offer 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!
Check out Other Articles about Selling on Shopify and Marketplaces
If you want to do some more reading, check out our post on:
- Shopify Competitors: A Comparison of Shopify Alternatives
- 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.