Starting your online business may seem daunting in the beginning. There are after all so many platforms to choose from – Shopify, Etsy, you name it.
And it is always important to make the right choice as the tool (Shopify, Etsy, etc) you decide to use can ultimately make or break your online retail business.
But how exactly do you know which tool will perfectly serve your business and deliver the best return on your investment?
Well, you’re in luck because you are about to see a complete, detail-by-detail comparison between two of the most popular eCommerce tools — Shopify and Etsy.
In this guide, you’ll get to learn:
Ready? Let’s jump right in!
Since you’re on this page, we assume you already have an idea of what Shopify and Etsy are about. But to stay on the safe side, here’s a quick introduction of each of the platforms.
Shopify is a cloud-based, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) eCommerce platform that helps online retailers create a store and domain name, build and run the store.
Each user (or merchant) pays a monthly fee starting at $29 to access an admin panel where they can redesign the look of their store, enter their store information, and add products.
Once the store is set up, Shopify serves as a hub for managing inventory, processing orders, making sales, handling shipping, and implementing marketing strategies.
Sellers can also sell their products on multiple channels, including their own websites, social media, mobile, and even in a physical location (the last one is made possible by Shopify’s nifty POS system).
This popular online store engine is used by businesses of all kinds; from the smallest shops right up to massive brands. What’s more, your favorite celebrities like Kanye West and Cristiano Ronaldo use Shopify to sell their products online.
At the very basic, Etsy is an eCommerce marketplace focused on unique and creative handmade goods, vintage items, and craft supplies.
Think of products like jewelry, clothing, shoes, bags, arts, collectibles, crafts, paper goods, housewares, wedding items, home decor, furniture, toys, craft supplies of all kinds, and vintage items that are at least 20 years old.
So, how does Etsy work? Independent sellers — artists, crafters, designers — are allowed to open up accounts on Etsy and sell their handcrafted products directly to customers. Buyers find the items by browsing the Etsy online marketplace and purchasing directly on the platform.
From the above introductions, you can immediately see that there’s a clear difference between Shopify and Etsy.
Shopify is a web store platform for merchants to build their own independent, standalone digital stores. Etsy, on the other hand, is an online marketplace where sellers can set up an artsy shop alongside other vendors, and buyers can buy directly from the website (Etsy.com).
Is it then fair to compare Shopify and Etsy head to head? In a sense, the answer is no.
Although Shopify and Etsy are both eCommerce platforms, they actually represent two different ways to sell and are not operating in the exact same way.
While Etsy is at the front line of the seller/buyer relationship, Shopify operates almost in complete obscurity from the buyers’ point of view. As a matter of fact, in some cases the buyer may not even know that your store is built with and powered by Shopify.
So when comparing these two platforms, it’s less about which platform to use and more about which selling approach suits your business best.
But here’s a breaker:
Etsy recently introduced what it calls “Pattern by Etsy.”
Pattern is a service that allows Etsy sellers to build unique websites and expand their online sales beyond the Etsy marketplace. It lets you choose unique customizable templates, sync your Etsy store, and add items or services that otherwise aren’t allowed on the traditional Etsy.
And you know what that means, don’t you?
Well, it means that Etsy can now hopefully compete with Shopify on the general merchandise front. And by extension, it means that a Shopify Vs Etsy comparison can be done fairly and a lot more equitably with Pattern being dragged into the mix.
With that settled, we can now go over some dimensions to see how these two tools compare and then give you our verdict on which platform is best for you.
First, a look at some key differences will help put things in perspective as to how they stack up against each other.
|Selling method||With Shopify, you set up your own standalone store or sell on any of Shopify’s multi-channels — Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Instagram, physical store, etc.||With Etsy, you sell on a popular marketplace.||Shopify|
|Ease of use||Shopify’s ease of use is almost second to none in the eCommerce space. It combines user-friendly interface with easy-to-use features that even an absolute beginner will find simple.||Since Etsy is a done-for-you platform, sellers basically don’t need to perform any technical tasks other than setting up an account and logging in to sell.||Tie|
|Design flexibility||Shopify comes with a carefully maintained themes store where users can get both free and paid modern templates. There are also a bunch of customization tools available for editing your site’s look and feel to match your brand.||Etsy is a done-for-you platform which applies basically the same design and look across board. This gives you zero customization flexibility and absolutely no unique design options.||Shopify|
|Branding, domain name, and hosting||With Shopify, you get a professional domain name and hosting with which you can build an amazing unique brand. Both domain name and web hosting come in the plan you choose without the need to pay extra fees.||Your Etsy store is built off the Etsy.com domain name. This means you don’t get a unique website for your store. The exception is if you purchase Pattern, which offers a unique domain name for additional fees.||Shopify|
|Feature set, integrations, and add-ons||Shopify has a ton of features, add-ons and apps. In particular, there are about 3795+ apps, with which you can add different functionalities to your web store.||Etsy has fewer features than Shopify, but those features should be enough to run a simple marketplace-based shop.||Shopify|
|Online traffic||After creating your store on Shopify, you set out to drive your own traffic. Shopify does not provide you with any direct traffic but gives you the tools to create and promote your business. This means you are responsible for driving traffic to your website through marketing, SEO, social media, and advertising campaigns.||Etsy is a super-popular marketplace with millions of buyers, which means as an Etsy seller, you get ready-made traffic although you’ll be sharing that with other vendors. This is great for exposure and means you won’t have to put in the sweat in getting buyers to come to your shop.||Etsy|
|Security||Shopify’s 256-bit SSL certification — a high-standard encryption technology for securing data and files — offers maximum protection. Also, with Shopify being a level-1 PCI compliant company, your customers’ credit card data are well secured.||Just as Shopify, all credit card information processed on Etsy is encrypted using secure socket layer technology (SSL) and stored in a PCI compliant environment.||Tie|
|Support||Shopify’s support comes in the form of 24/7 phone assistance, live chat, social media, and email. Plus, the Shopify Help Center is packed with a large number of videos and written tutorials; not to mention the truckloads of helpful Shopify-related information scattered across the Internet. Shopify Plus customers also get a specialist account manager.||While Etsy does not have a live chat feature, it offers great support via email and phone. There’s also a well-developed help center, a community forum, and a ton of content by third-parties all over the web.||Tie|
|Shipping||Shopify offers shipping rates from USPS, UPS, or DHL Express. Users can print shipping labels and track shipments from the admin panel.||Etsy has tools like postage labels, calculated postage, and shipment tracking. Etsy Postage Labels allows sellers to ship orders with USPS, FedEx, or Canada Post from the Etsy shop.||Tie|
|Abandoned cart recovery||In Shopify, abandoned carts order recovery is available with email and web push notifications. But this is available only for the Online Store sales channel and the Buy Button sales channel. Abandoned checkouts on Shopify POS or third-party sales channels do not receive a checkout recovery email.||On Etsy, offers are sent to people who have left your products in their cart. These shoppers basically get an email offering them a coupon for that product 24 hours after they abandoned it in their cart.||Tie|
|Fees||Shopify has no set up fees. As for transaction fees, there are no fees if the seller uses Shopify Payments. But if external payment gateways are used, the seller will pay additional fees of 2%, 1% or 0.5% depending on the plan they are on. Generally, Shopify has lower transaction fees than Etsy and supports 100+ payment gateways.||While new sellers can sign up for an Etsy account for free, they’ll have to pay $0.20 to list a product. In short, there are three basic Etsy seller fees: a listing fee, a transaction fee (5% of your product price), and a payment processing fee. A listing ($0.20) lasts for four months or until the item is sold. (Note that Pattern listings do not expire).||Tie|
Despite their core differences, Shopify and Etsy (especially Etsy Pattern) still have a lot of great things in common.
The following tables show the key data for each platform.
|# of active users||1,000,000+ online stores|
|# of merchants||500,000+ businesses|
|Sales generated||$135+ billion USD (October 2019)|
|Years in operation||Since 2004|
|Estimated revenue||1.07 billion USD|
|# of countries||175+|
|# of buyers||39.4+ million|
|# of sellers||2.1+ million|
|Annual gross merchandise sales||$3.9+ billion USD (2018)|
|# of items listed||60+ million|
|Years in operation||Since 2005|
|Estimated revenue||$604+ million USD (2018)|
|# of countries||83+|
You can see more Etsy statistics here.
As mentioned earlier, comparing Etsy’s and Shopify features isn’t quite equitable as the platforms operate differently. The equation only becomes somewhat even-handed when Pattern is brought in.
Nonetheless, we think the feature sets of each platform work pretty well for each user base given their specific needs. So let’s go over some of the most notable features you’ll find on these platforms.
If you ever used Shopify, here’s a list of some of the most notable features you’ll find:
Here’s a list of some of the features you get on Etsy (and Pattern):
How do Shopify and Etsy compare in pricing? Is Shopify free? How much does Etsy charge? We’ll answer these questions in this section.
Shopify operates a 3-tier pricing plan as follows:
Additionally, there are separate packages for $9 per month (Shopify Lite) for absolute beginners and the custom-priced Shopify Plus for large enterprises.
They also have a 14-day free trial that does not require entering your credit card details.
Etsy has two plans as follows:
The Standard plan has everything you need to start, manage, and grow your business. It’s free to sign up for, but when listing your product, there are some Etsy fees to pay (as discussed in the “Key Differences” table).
The Plus plan comes with an expanded set of tools to help grow your brand.
Also, Etsy’s Pattern goes for $15 per month. There are no extra listing fees but you will need to pay Etsy’s domain name registration partners (Tucows) a separate domain name fee + a $3 WHOIS domain privacy fee.
Just like items in your Etsy shop, items sold on your Pattern site will attract the same payment processing fees.
Etsy offers a 30-day free trial for Pattern users.
So, what are the advantages and disadvantages associated with each of these platforms? This is the section where we’ll highlight the pros and cons of both Shopify and Etsy.
|Merchants can sell unlimited types of products||Requires upgrade or use of paid-for apps to be able to access certain features like reports|
|Multi-channel retailing allows merchants to sell on the web, social media, mobile, offline, and on popular marketplaces like Amazon and eBay||Does not have a free plan, but a 14-day free trial|
|Supports multiple payment gateways and languages||Additional transaction fees are charged for using external gateways other than Shopify Payments|
|Tons of apps for adding different functionalities to your online store||A lot more expensive than Etsy, although not more expensive than other online store builders like BigCommerce|
|A fully hosted service and domain name tailored to eCommerce sites is included||Does not have built-in traffic|
|Comes with Facebook Shop, Google Shopping, Buyable Pins, and Facebook Messenger integration for enhanced social commerce|
|Global shipping with USPS, UPS, and DHL Express|
|Allows full control, branding, and myriads of design flexibility|
|Extremely easy to use with its beginner-friendly user interface (UI)|
|It has a readily available massive traffic you can sell to||The main Etsy platform is restricted to selling only arts, crafts, handmade products, and vintage goods. This limits some buyers’ potential|
|It is extremely easy to use and does not require any special tech skills to set up and start selling||Domain name registration on Pattern attracts additional charges as you’re required to register with Etsy’s domain name partners, Tucows. You also get to pay a $3 WHOIS domain privacy yearly|
|It has a free plan and requires a very low listing fee ($0.20)||Vintage items must be up to 20 years old before they are allowed to be sold on Etsy; although this restriction is not effective on Pattern|
|For just $15 per month, a premium service (Pattern by Etsy) allows sellers to sell more than just handcrafted products||As a done-for-you platform, you don’t have any creative powers in terms of customizing your store and implementing unique designs|
|Etsy’s restrictions on products is an advantage for sellers who specialize in the arts niche||With all the vendors selling on the same platform to the same set of buyers, the competition on Etsy could be stiff|
|A set of helpful feedback and analytical tools provide key data for sellers||Limited integrations and apps for adding functionalities|
|You can sell and ship internationally|
Having seen all the differences, similarities, features as well as pros and cons, which tool should you use? How do you even make the decision to sell either on Shopify or Etsy?
This section will help answer those questions.
Ultimately, the point is that with Shopify, you own and run your own standalone store. With Etsy, you sell on a well-patronized marketplace.
So the decision you make will depend on:
Nevertheless, here are some important questions to answer that’ll help you make the best decision as per the above three objectives:
If you want to sell a wide variety of products, Shopify is your best bet.
Etsy-type sellers are mainly those in the categories of arts, crafts, vintage, and any handmade item. Of course, that’s what sells best on Etsy but you can use Pattern to widen your product line.
Etsy and Shopify are both user-friendly, as they have simple user interfaces.
By comparison, Shopify is decked with more features than Etsy and thus requires a little more of simple set up here and there, although there’s no coding involved.
For instance, you’ll need to know how to install themes and apps, tweak those to meet your preferences, and so on.
Shopify provides more design and branding options. You get a unique domain name, themes, and your own personal design screen where you can edit your store’s look, add logo, change colors, etc.
Etsy stores adopt the primary design used for the parent site, making all the stores look and feel the same.
It would depend on where you are in your business.
Here’s what that means:
If you’re just getting started or bootstrapping, or simply don’t yet have a substantial cash flow, then you might find Etsy’s pricing structure useful for your business. It’s cost-effective, making it great for beginners or small businesses.
Once you’ve started growing with some moderate revenue and a steady stream of transactions, Shopify pricing starts to make sense.
When starting out, anything goes in the branding department. Your entire focus is on getting those few initial sales. And that’s exactly what Etsy offers.
But as you begin to gain traction, professionalism and branding become increasingly important.
Here are some branding tools Shopify brings to the table:
On Etsy, your listings are limited to product image and description text. Simply upload your product photo and add appropriate details in the “Item Details” section. For some, that’s just enough.
If you want full control, Shopify does the job. You can create product pages, add whatever product you want, and customize the listings to look however you want.
Etsy wins over Shopify for having an existing traffic and customer-base which you can sell to from the outset. The platform is already extremely popular and ranks well on Google for high-traffic keywords. In fact, there are over 33 million monthly visitors to the site.
The drawback is that you get to share that traffic with millions of other sellers. There’s no guarantee that visitors will end up buying your stuff.
On Etsy, people don’t look for your store specifically. They simply search for a product on Etsy.com and if your product shows up, they might buy it.
On the other hand, Shopify does not directly provide any built-in traffic. But it does provide you with the tools to use in driving traffic and conversions, and ultimately expanding your business without limitations.
Once your Shopify store is ready, you’ll have to put in the work to drive traffic to your website. You need to handle your own SEO, social media promotions, and other marketing campaigns.
Yes, it’s more work but you get to be the boss of your own destiny. And overtime, when that traffic builds up, you won’t have to share it with anyone.
As stated, Shopify and Etsy represent two different selling methods — marketplace-style selling versus owning your own independent digital store.
In some cases, you can use both at the same time.
A marketplace (Etsy) will give you access to a large audience that has already been grown and nurtured. The downside is that marketplaces can be overcrowded, thereby upping the competition and bringing down prices.
It’s okay to start off on Etsy, grow your brand, and then create a standalone web store on Shopify. You can still maintain your Etsy shop, but expand with your Shopify store.
There are several apps on the Shopify app store for importing your Etsy listing to Shopify, syncing the two platforms, and generally integrating several aspects of the eCommerce powerhouses.
Who’s best suited to sell on either Shopify or Etsy? Let’s see!
|ETSY IDEAL SELLER||SHOPIFY IDEAL SELLER|
|As a popular marketplace that’s focused on arts, crafts, and vintage goods, Etsy’s ideal users are small businesses who make or sell homemade, vintage, and handcrafted supplies.
The platform is also a great place for those who are new to eCommerce or those with limited resources who want to quickly set up an account and sell to a ready-made audience.
|Shopify is ideal for online retailers who’ve been selling their products for a while but now want to grow more in terms of expanding their product lines and customer base.
If you want full control over your brand, website, product listings, marketing, and other aspects of your eCommerce business, Shopify offers such control.
As a way to help you refine your decision, here are some situations that might warrant you use either Etsy or Shopify:
Shopify is an eCommerce heavyweight for creating and managing your online store, while Etsy is a smaller company (marketplace type) tailored towards artists and creators. Both have their unique advantages and disadvantages.
If you’re selling on Etsy, you’ll get more exposure than you would on your own online store (at least in the beginning) but you won’t have your own unique web store. On Shopify, you are in total control although you’ll have to work to build your own customer base. Interestingly, it’s not uncommon for sellers to use both platforms.
Ultimately, the right fit is up to you. And with the information we’ve provided in this Shopify Vs Etsy guide, you should be able to make the right decision for your business.