To better understand this whole Shopify vs Etsy battle, let’s imagine a situation: You’ve made a fancy and colorful cushion. And now you want to sell it on Shopify or Etsy, but you don’t know much about those. First and the best thing to do is ask yourself these simple questions:
- What do you like better: market or brick and mortar store?
- What do you value more: coziness of a market or conventionalism of a brick-and-mortar store?
Answering these questions, you’ll probably be able to make up in your mind approximate decision on choosing the winner in Shopify vs Etsy battle. But hold on for a second! That is just a tip of an iceberg. There are so many other issues to be covered, that you’ll probably reconsider your decision and not once.
At a first sight
Actually, both platforms have only one thing in common – they are both e-commerce platforms, and huge ones. As for the rest – it’s like comparing traveling by car and traveling by train. Yes, they both will get you from the point A to the point B. Though with the car (Shopify) you’ll be provided with complete freedom, but everything else will be on your shoulders. On the other hand, in the train (Etsy) you’ll be treated well, while somewhat sacrificing your personal freedom.
Shopify is like a car rental company. They provide you with a car (your site) and allow you to customize it (site customization, Shopify app store), with comprehensive maintenance (hosting, payment transactions) and support (24/7 tech support, forums, blogs etc.). All that’s necessary is a rent (monthly payments) and gas expenses (payment transaction commission).
On the contrary, on Etsy, just like in the train, you only pay for your seat (20p listing fee and 3.5% selling fee). You’re not getting the same freedom as in Shopify, though. But you don’t have to bother with putting up your own store and promoting it. Etsy already took care of it. All you have to do is to list your item, assign it a price and it will be available for nearly 30 million army of buyers. Just enjoy your ride and spend money on minor trip expenses and some pleasant bonuses (Etsy payments, shipping labels, promotions, auto-renewals, etc.).Already own a store and want to handle it more efficiently? We know how to help you out!
At first sight, these platforms seem dramatically different. Which they actually are. Shopify is a webstore platform while Etsy is a marketplace. That’s why it is so hard to make a direct comparison between them. But there is one else crucial factor which makes them even more distinctive…
An elephant in the room
Using an analogy we have somewhat covered differences between platforms in this Shopify vs Etsy comparison. But there is one more decisive distinction, so-called “elephant in the room” which we haven’t noticed yet. This “elephant” is an ideology on which both platforms are built. And, if in case of Shopify, it is not the most significant point, for Etsy it is vital.
History of Shopify started in 2004 by a team of developers (Tobias Lütke and Scott Lake) who wanted their own online webstore to sell snowboards. But they weren’t satisfied with the existing situation in the field of e-commerce products. They did come up with that webstore, but the platform which they’ve developed to run it appeared to be way more profitable. That’s how in 2006 Shopify emerged.
From its very beginning, Shopify has been positioned as an e-commerce hosting solution. Since then guys added more and more functionality and customization possibilities on behalf with constant optimization. Now it is a huge platform which powers near 377500 stores. The keyword here, for us, is that it only powers a store. What to do with that store and what to sell there is all up to you.
Etsy, on the contrary, started as a pure marketplace in 2005. Though, from its birth, it was positioned as a cozy place from crafters and for crafters. It solely occupied the niche of handcrafted, unique and vintage items. With clearly outlined audience, great and constantly growing functionality, strict policy and smart marketing they’ve become a real giant. 1.7M sellers and 28.6M buyers astonishing number, isn’t it? But the the biggest win here is that they have won the hearts of their audience – sellers and buyers as well.
How did they do that? They have actually created a cozy place for handcrafters. They implied strict rules towards items which you can sell there. That also includes how those items are produced and by whom. They have nurtured their community. From such trivial things like the blog and the forum to comprehensive guides, webinars, conferences etc.
Despite the title, it won’t be correct to compare them back-to-back in a Shopify vs Etsy battle. We can observe it through simply comparing “interest over time” from 2004 till now, towards both platforms using Google trends tool. On the screenshot, we can see that from the very beginning Etsy is way more popular than Shopify. But hold on for a second. Why is Shopify so popular and how it makes money anyway? Point is that when people are looking for items on Etsy they go directly there, but when they are looking for items on Shopify… They aren’t looking for them over there! Because there are no goods on shopify.com. People are looking for the stores which are only provided by Shopify.
These two platforms are too different by their approach towards what to sell, how to sell and how to charge for that. But there are universal attributes common for any e-commerce platform, doesn’t matter how distinct it is.
Those are also crucial when you decide which platform to work with. So we will step-by-step cover all these markers in our Shopify vs Etsy comparison, so your choice could be a bit easier.
You don’t have to bother with promotions and advertisements because Etsy has already done this for you. You simply list your item and it is there, for everyone to see. Listing an item will take you something from 5 minutes to an hour, depending on your fantasy when you will write a description of it. And managing them won’t bother you as well. There is pretty convenient “listings manager” to help you out with it. Thus, you might get a bit frustrated when you will have to deal with hundreds of listings, as this manager doesn’t seem to be meant for such quantities. So here you might consider using some 3rd party app.
Same goes to order management. It is simple as well but possesses quite a basic functionality. So as with listings, it might be a pain in the arse to manage lots of them here. We’ve already covered this theme in one of our previous articles. But everything of that can be easily overviewed and somewhat managed in the dashboard. Plus you have a great statistics module, which helps you to keep an eye on nearly anything what is going on in your store.
In Shopify, you get your own store, with your own URL. But remember one rule: your store – your responsibility. Shopify only provides comprehensive tech support, helps with payment transactions and shipping. Setting it up, keeping it running and, what’s most important, bringing in new clients that is all up to you.
On the other hand, this is your store, and just like in real life you decide what to do with it. You customize it as you wish – possibilities are nearly infinite. You sell there whatever you wish (within reason, of course). And the pleasant thing is that you build up your brand from the very beginning. Member about own URL?
Setting up your store takes a while, comparing to Etsy, but it is still as easy as a pie. Shopify provides you with a huge variety of themes and templates and allows you to customize all of that. And if you are skilled in front-end development – that’s a huge win. Plus you may launch your own blog! After that, you may also introduce your custom payment, shipping, and discount templates. And, as well as in Etsy, you get comprehensive statistics module.
The best part of owning Shopify store is its App Store. Numerous plugins and apps will make your selling experience even more pleasant. It is quite a good idea to start with some inventory management apps, and we have a few suggestions on that.
Shopify vs Etsy: which one is better in terms of usability?
Etsy is rapid to set up and absolutely convenient to use but lacks in customization freedom. On the contrary, Shopify takes a while to establish but is nearly limitless according to customization possibilities. Both provide great user experience, have a beautiful design and have a variety of features. But thanks to app store Shopify slightly wins this round. Anyway, they are quite the opposite to each other and which one to use is only up to you.
Shopify has three main plans and two additional:
- Basic Shopify – $29/month
- Shopify – $79/month
- Advanced – $299/month
- Shopify Plus – completely negotiable enterprise solution
- Shopify Lite – selling via Facebook for $9/month
Three main plans differ in percentage fees for credit card transactions (2.9% +30¢, 2.6% +30¢, 2.4% +30¢ respectively), and fees for using other payments methods than Shopify payments (2.0%, 1.0%, 0.5% respectively). According to features, Shopify provides 2, 5 and 15 staff accounts for each plan, better Shopify shipping discounts in every plan. The basic plan lacks in gift cards, professional reports, and abandoned cart recovery compared to Shopify plan. While Shopify plan lacks in Advanced reports and third-party calculated shipping rates.
So as we can see, Shopify here makes everything simple. The only thing that’s left for you is to decide what amount of functionality do you require. Fees dramatically differ only when you use external payments while using Shopify payments is completely free! Also, they provide 14-days free trial which allows you to try all the features and decide which plan suits you best.
Etsy, on the contrary, bases its pricing on fees:
- $0.20 for listing an item, also applies towards auto-renewal of the one.
- 3.5% on every sale. Shipping and tax rates aren’t included.
Those are the main fees which you always have to keep in mind. There is also a 2.5% fee for deposit currency conversion when you list your items in currency other than the currency on your bank account. The most interesting part here is promoted listing, which (duh) advertises your items. While this theme deserves its own article, there is one thing you should keep in mind: you set your advertising budget in the range from $1 to $10 and you are being charged on a daily basis.
Shopify vs Etsy in terms of pricing
We can observe here the same tendency as with usability. While Etsy keeps low entry threshold, Shopify might be better in a long run. The simple math will help us here. With 3.5% on every sale on Etsy, selling items in the amount of $828, $2257 and $8542 will cover the cost of respective Shopify plan. And we don’t count 20¢ listing fee here. On the other hand promotion on Etsy will cost you only up to $10/day, while on Shopify you have to take care of it on your own.
So the conclusion is pretty straightforward in this part of Shopify vs Etsy battle. Consider how much merchandise are you going to sell, what price tags are you going to put on them and how much you are willing to spend on advertisement.
Both competitors provide a great support but do it in very different ways. Shopify provides comprehensive 24/7 support in any form you like (live chat, email, phone) and wherever you like (any country supported). Average response time via live chat, according to their own statement, is 2 minutes, or you can instantly call them. And that is 24/7. Isn’t that great?! Of course, webstore – hosting business model, obliges them to have this kind of support, but they do it with a great diligence.
Etsy used to have this kind of support, as well. But in 2011 they’ve shut it down. Since then they conduct support only via email and phone calls. But the phone support operates only from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Monday till Friday and on Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern US time, only in the USA. There is also a German phone support 5 days a week from Monday to Friday, 11:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m. CET. Which, of course, isn’t great at all. However, Etsy provides you with the excellent forum (which is more merit of the community than Etsy itself) and brilliant guides.
Shopify vs Etsy: who provides better support?
This category is the one where Shopify gets a flawless victory in the Shopify vs Etsy battle. Etsy simply can’t compete with Shopify’ 24/7 support all over the globe. Guys from Etsy might provide you with brilliant guides and support tremendous community forum, but it is no match to comprehensive 24/7 live support. And, by the way, Shopify provides cool guides and has great forums, as well.
Everything above doesn’t matter if there are no people who are willing to buy your products. In this case, these platforms are as distinctive as it can be. And the analogy with marketplace and brick-and-mortar store will be very convenient here. So, let’s see who will win in the Shopify vs Etsy comparison in this category.
On Shopify, you are completely responsible for your audience. To bring people to your brick-and-mortar store you have to work 24/7 on your brand recognition. Advertisement campaigns, expanding your presence wherever possible acquiring and keeping loyal customers – that is all up to you. People won’t come to you if they don’t know about you (duh). Yes, Shopify has a devoted community, but those are mostly sellers who own stores here. Buyers usually go straight to the store which they already know and like. And making your store the one which buyers will know and like is mainly on you.
As mentioned above, Etsy has the 28.6M army of active buyers, and your items are exposed to them from the moment you press “Publish” button. Guys from Etsy are proud of this number and promote it on every corner. Reading “About” page further on we encounter one huge “but”. Here Etsy also states that it has 1.7M of active sellers. So imagine one marketplace with 1.7M market stalls and 28.6M of buyers. Doing simple math we get roughly 17 buyers per your stall. But will these buyers notice your stall at all? Saying straightforward – Etsy is oversaturated. Even constantly running promotions doesn’t guarantee the result. It is more like a matter of luck.
On the other hand, smart marketing, thought-out listings with nice descriptions and professional photos will bump you up. Being on the top, your items will attract the attention towards your brand which will give you the slice of this tremendous pie.
Shopify vs Etsy: which one provides you with better exposure?
And again Etsy provides us with better possibilities from the beginning, while Shopify needs some investments. With some exceptions, we can say that Etsy has slightly won this round in the Shopify vs Etsy battle. Because of its devoted and huge community and marketplace structure it is easier for a seller to reach his potential customers. Plus, as a pleasant bonus, you get very healthy and strong community of people who, probably, have views similar to yours. Which is really great.
So who is better, anyway?
Do you consider bespoke cushion as a handmade and unique item? Sell it on Etsy!
Do you also want to sell chainsaws? Well, Shopify here is definitely your only choice.
Do you want effortlessly and rapidly reach your customers? With some exceptions, Etsy might be a better choice.
Do you want to make and sell such cushions in bulk? Go with Shopify, as Etsy won’t let you do that, because of their policies. Or there is Etsy Wholesale for that, but that’s completely another story.
Do you want to establish your brand producing these cushions? On both platforms, you’ll have to invest some money and a lot of efforts to build it. But on Shopify, you’ll have your very own site with only your brand on it, while on Etsy you’ll have to build your brand under its (Etsy) shadow.
As you can see there is no simple answer to that. These platforms aren’t direct competitors as they are from distinctive fields, with different audience and policies.
Until this point, you probably have already made up in your mind which platform suits you better. If it is so – we are glad we helped you with that. But if you didn’t – our best recommendation could be: why won’t you just use both?