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Shopify vs Etsy: The E-commerce Showdown

It’s one of the most popular questions among all e-commerce entrepreneurs (and those who want to become one):

Where do I sell my products?

The possibilities almost seem endless.

Today we bring some light in the dark and take a look at two very different, but great tools that will help you go from “I have no idea” to “oh, I didn’t know that…” and finally to “great, I will use that tool!”.

Before we start, please note that comparing Shopify and Etsy is a little bit like comparing apples and oranges. Boat tools empower you to sell your products online but Etsy is a marketplace for shoppers and sellers and Shopify is a tool only for sellers.

However, it still makes sense to take a look at both tools so you can make a decision based on:

  • Your e-commerce experience.
  • What you’re selling.
  • Your ambition.
  • Your budget.
  • Your marketing skills.
  • How much design flexibility you want.
  • How much help and support you need.

Not sure about these points yet? Don’t worry, we go through each of it now.

Shopify vs Etsy Comparison: Ease of Use

Which tool will do a better job for you strongly depends on your level of experience. Both tools allow you to create a way to sell products online without the need of programming anything. 

Ease of Use: Etsy

If you’re very new to building websites or finding a way to sell products online, Etsy is a great entry-point. To get started on Etsy, you just need to sign up for a free seller account and can literally get started in just a few minutes. 

There’s no need to spend a lot of time on your store design, setting up the backend-processes or anything else that takes a lot of time.

Everything is very intuitive and you don’t need to have any previous knowledge to start selling on Etsy.

Ease of Use: Shopify

Unlike Etsy, Shopify is not only made for very small - small sellers. Shopify is a tool that works great for all kinds of business sizes. Along with this flexibility come a lot of features which cause more complexity.

But even though Shopify is indeed more complex than Etsy, building an online store on Shopify is far away from being considered “hard”. 

Ease of Use: Verdict

The winner is Etsy.

Both platforms are very easy to use. But because of Shopify’s advanced features, it’s more complex.

Shopify vs Etsy Comparison: The Products You Sell

The products you sell are one of the most important parts of your business. Therefore you should know which products you are allowed to sell (and which not).

The Products You Sell: Etsy

On Etsy, there are thousands of very talented creators that sell their own handmade products. These sellers are not just passionate about selling their products online, but mostly in the process of creating them. Selling is just a great way to monetize their passion. 

Also, you will find a ton of amazing vintage products. Shopping on Etsy is an amazing experience for a lot of shoppers. 

That being said, Etsy is very well known (and appreciated) in the world of handmade and vintage product shoppers. For most of them, it’s the number one place to shop.

More on that later in the marketing section on this post.

Lately, Etsy also opened their doors for wholesale products. But they have very strict guidelines on what you can sell.

The Products You Sell: Shopify

On Shopify, you can sell anything you want. As long as your products are legal, Shopify has almost no restrictions on what you can sell, which is a big plus.

Shopify is very interesting for sellers who don’t own any products. Like dropshippers or print on demand business owners. This is something which is very hard to realize on Etsy. On Shopify, however, it’s a very simple process. 

But don’t get me wrong, even if you have your own products (yes, also handmade and vintage products), Shopify can be the right choice for you. 

There’s a reason why small dropshipping businesses and big companies like KYLIE Cosmetics both sell on Shopify. 

The Products You Sell: Verdict

The winner is Shopify!

Etsy has some advantages (especially for handmade / vintage product sellers) over Shopify, but it’s not enough to beat Shopify! No matter the product you want to sell; Shopify is the right tool for you.

Shopify vs Etsy Comparison: The E-commerce Features

The difference between “I want to build a big company” and “I just want to make some money” is huge. Both ambitions need other features. To find out which tool gives you the best features for your ambitions read the next Shopify vs Etsy comparison section.

The E-commerce Features: Etsy

Etsy was built for people who don’t want to spend any time on a technical setup of their online store. 

Etsy is the perfect place for people who want to sell their products on a small scale. Even though you can totally make a living out of selling products on Etsy, due to its limited functions, it’s not the right tool if you’re looking for a tool that supports a big company.

For example, you can’t directly connect an email marketing tool to Etsy. This is a big factor since email marketing is one of the most cost-effective marketing channels. Even though you can get the email addresses of your Etsy customers, you can’t install email opt-in pop-ups or forms to let interested people sign up for your newsletter in return of a discount on your products. 

And email marketing is not the only one. We can continue this list with analytics, social shopping integrations, abandoned checkout emails, and so much more.

The features on Etsy are very limited. And therefore your growth is also limited.

The E-commerce Features: Shopify

No matter if you’re shooting for the moon or just want to have a nice little online store that can make you a few extra bucks to supplement your income, Shopify has the right plan and features for you.

Shopify’s own appstore (with more than 5,000 apps) is an e-commerce entrepreneur’s dream come true. With just one click you have access to everything you need to start, grow and scale your business.

Shopify alone is already very useful, but combined with certain apps and integrations, your store becomes super powerful.

From email marketing apps, apps to find products for your store, product bundles or even post-purchase upsell apps, Shopify’s appstore has it all.

Every Shopify store owner has direct and full access to the appstore. You can take a look at the appstore here.

There’s nothing Shopify and/or the Shopify appstore can’t do. Your personal ambitions define the limit of your business’ growth. Not Shopify.

The E-commerce Features: Verdict

The winner is Shopify!

Shopify’s features are outstanding and will help your business. No matter your ambitions.

Shopify vs Etsy Comparison: The Costs

Running a business always involves certain costs. The next section of this article will compare all costs of both Shopify and Etsy so you can make an educated decision which tool is the best for you.

The Costs: Etsy

The pricing of Etsy is very simple.

You pay $0.20 USD per product listing. This listing is active for four months or until the product starts to sell. If you don’t sell the product within four months, you need to pay another $0.20 USD for this product for another four months.

As soon as your product starts selling, you have to give away 5% of the sale price to Etsy.

If you collect payments through Etsy Payments (Etsy’s own payment gateway), you also have to pay an additional 3% of the sale price + $0.25 USD for each transaction.

Here’s an example:

Upfront costs: $0.20 USD for one product.

You sell this product for $20 USD.

5% goes to Etsy = $1 

(3% Etsy payments + $0.25) for transaction fees =  $0.85 

Total transaction costs: $1 + $0.85 = $1.85

Total transaction costs + listing costs ($0.20) = $2.05 USD

In this example, you will earn* $17.95 USD.

*This calculation is just based on pure Etsy costs. There are no taxes or costs for goods and services included. So your final profit will be lower.

The big advantage of Etsy, especially for beginners, are the extremely low upfront costs. You only need to pay a few cents for a listing. There are no other monthly fees.

However, giving away more than 8% of your profit margin just for transaction fees is very high. Depending on your industry, business model and products, this might eat up your full profit and you won’t make any money at all.

The Costs: Shopify

Shopify has a slightly different pricing model than Etsy.

First off, Shopify charges on a monthly basis. It costs from $29 to $299+ per month.

The features of the “Basic Shopify” for $29 per month:

  • Unlimited products
  • 24/7 support
  • Sales channels (allows you to sell on Facebook, Instagram, etc)
  • Full access to the Shopify app store
  • Gift cards
  • Shipping discounts (up to 64%)

The features of the “Shopify” plan for $79 per month:

  • Everything from the “Basic Shopify” plan, plus:
  • Professional and advanced reports
  • Shipping discount (up to 72%)
  • Sell in 2 multiple languages 

The features of the “Advanced Shopify” plan for $299 per month:

  • Everything from “Basic Shopify” and “Shopify”, plus:
  • Advanced report builder
  • Third-party calculated shipping rates
  • Sell in 5 multiple languages

All plans have access to Shopify’s own payment gateway: Shopify Payments. By using Shopify payments, you won’t need to pay any transaction fees to Shopify. You only pay the usual fees of accepting payments via credit card (max. 2.9% + $0.30 USD per transaction).

Shopify also has a “Lite” plan that allows you to sell on your existing blog (like WordPress, Squarespace or Tumblr). This plan only cost $9 per month but you won’t get your own online store. You just get the tool behind a Shopify store owner’s store and can sell from any other website.

Additionally, Shopify also has a plan for big companies: Shopify Plus. It has a custom pricing and only makes sense for big brands who need more features than the average online store owner.

The Costs: Verdict

The winner is Shopify!

Undoubtedly Etsy deserves some bonus points for keeping the upfront costs extremely low. However, once you start selling, Etsy’s fees eat up a big part of your profit margin. Shopify’s combination of a low monthly subscription and very low transaction costs are the better option for anyone who takes e-commerce more seriously.

Shopify vs Etsy Comparison: Traffic And Marketing

You won’t sell anything without getting people to see your products. Therefore, doing marketing and bringing traffic to your store is an essential part of your success. Let’s find out which tool is better for traffic and marketing.

Traffic And Marketing: Etsy

Since Etsy is a platform (marketplace) for both sellers and buyers, you benefit from the already existing traffic on Etsy. 

People from all around the world know and trust Etsy. Some people don't even know that they’re buying from an individual business. They think they purchase directly from Etsy. And this is a very big advantage!

To put it in simple words: Etsy does the marketing for you. Some of it at least.

However, with the growth of Etsy, the competition between sellers increases. More and more people sell on Etsy and therefore, your potential customers have more options where to buy from.  

Especially if you are new to e-commerce and marketing, you might want to have a helping hand with traffic. Etsy’s built-in traffic can definitely help you get your business off the ground.

Traffic And Marketing: Shopify

Compared to Etsy, Shopify doesn’t do anything for you in terms of traffic and marketing. You are 100% on your own.

Unlike Etsy, Shopify is not a platform and you won’t benefit from any kind of existing traffic. But even though this might sound bad to you right now, this also has an advantage.

Price comparisons are not that easy to do for your customers. On Etsy, your potential customers can easily look up the offers of your competitors and may find something that they like more. 

Easy price comparisons are one of the main reasons why platforms like Etsy, Amazon and eBay are that big. And even though this is great for the end-consumer, it’s not that good for sellers.

Shopify has some great apps and features that will help you leverage existing traffic, but the initial traffic always has to come from you.

Traffic And Marketing: Verdict

The winner is Etsy!

Since Shopify won’t help you attract people to your online store, the winner is Etsy. If you’re very new to selling products online or just don’t want to spend any time on marketing, Etsy can be the right place for you.

Shopify vs Etsy Comparison: Design Flexibility

No matter the backend set-up of your business, the design of your store is what your customers get to see. If it doesn’t look appealing to them, they might not trust you and therefore won’t purchase anything from you.

Design Flexibility: Etsy

By using Etsy, you won’t get your own online store. You get access to a platform where you can sell your products. And this is the reason why you can’t do whatever you want to do in terms of designing.

Etsy simply can’t give you full design flexibility and control because this would lead to chaos. Every Etsy seller would create a unique storefront and Etsy would end up looking like abstract art. 

Right now, the user experience on Etsy is great. Online shoppers know their way around and will find the products they’re looking for. And, as mentioned before in the traffic and marketing section, this is one of the biggest advantages of Etsy. 

Plus, the fact that you can’t do much in terms of designing will save you quite some time.

Design Flexibility: Shopify

By using Shopify, you will get your own online store that you can fully customize. 

This doesn’t mean you have to have any design experience. Shopify works with “themes” which are pre-structured design templates for your store. All you have to do is to drag and drop certain design-sections in the theme editor.

But there’s more! You can even add design apps which allow you to create fully customized collections, blogs, landingpages and more. 

With Shopify (especially in combination with a page builder app), there’s nothing you can’t do.

But this flexibility has its price. You need to spend more time (and even money if you decide to use apps) on creating your store compared to designing your Etsy store.

Design Flexibility: Verdict

The winner is Shopify!

The simplicity of Etsy has some advantages, but because you can’t do much designing, Shopify has to win this section. No matter your design experience (and budget), Shopify always gives you more flexibility than Etsy.

Shopify vs Etsy Comparison: Help And Support

We all face problems from time to time. Sometimes there seems to be no solution and that we’re the first one ever on this planet to face this situation. This not just applies to everyday life, but also to new software (like Shopify and Etsy). In this section you will learn how much help and support you will get from Shopify’s and Etsy’s staff.

Help And Support: Etsy

Etsy does an amazing job on end-consumer support. Meaning your customers will have a great experience whenever they have a question about Etsy or their orders. 

This is definitely a bonus since this will save you time and money on your customer support. However, you - as the seller - won’t get that much help. 

Etsy has a solid help-center and offers some free resources that will help you set everything up.

Since the process of selling on Etsy is actually very simple and the vast majority of sellers don’t face any big issues, there’s no real need to get individual help.

But: If you’re someone who wishes to talk to someone directly about your Etsy site, you will have a hard time getting someone on the phone.

Help And Support: Shopify

Shopify’s support focuses 100% on helping store owners.

It doesn’t matter if you call or start a live chat with the Shopify support in the middle of the night, they will answer within a few minutes!

Shopify’s support team is one of the best in the world. Not just in e-commerce.

They are available 24/7 for you. Even if the person you’re talking to doesn’t know the answer to your question straightaway, they always will find someone who can help.

Your problems get solved. Always.

Given the fact that Shopify isn’t a platform, they can’t help you with your own customer support.

Help And Support: Verdict

The winner is Shopify!

Even though Shopify’s usage is far away from considered to be hard, Shopify is aware of the fact that some of their advanced features bring in complexity that can lead to confusion for beginners. By offering a free world-class customer support they handled this situation in the best possible way.

Shopify vs Etsy Comparison: The Final Conclusion

Both Shopify and Etsy have some advantages and disadvantages. No doubt about that.

But if we’re looking at the whole comparison, there’s one clear winner: Shopify.

If you’re looking for an easy way to get started with ecommerce and want to have the possibility to grow your business later on, Shopify is the place for you.

Yes, Etsy is indeed even more easy to use, but because of some restrictions and limitations, it’s not necessarily a tool you want to use if you’re looking to start a real business. If you just want to monetize your hobby however, you might want to check it out.

But if you’re truly interested in e-commerce, go with Shopify.

What’s next? Now that you know what Shopify can do for you, it’s time to see how this looks in real life. Read this behind the scenes Shopify store story now where we started a brand new store and made around $1,500 in sales in just 4 weeks (without spending money on advertising). Click here to read this case study now.