Etsy and Shopify are both online selling platforms, but they differ widely. Shopify is one of the most well-known e-commerce platforms with a website builder incorporated. Etsy is a popular online Marketplace where users can have an online store and compete with millions of other shop owners to sell their products.
If you are in the process of deciding to open either an Etsy shop or a Shopify store and you are not sure which platform to choose, this comprehensive comparison should provide you with an answer.
Let’s dive right in and review the two platforms.
What is Shopify?
Shopify is a cloud-based e-commerce platform that enables users to build an online store and sell their products and services online. Shopify has invested heavily in technology to provide users with all the features they need to run an online business, including payment checkouts, fulfillment services, and marketing tools.
Founded in 2006 in Ottawa, Canada, Shopify has grown to become a global market leader powering ecommerce websites in 175 countries, supporting over twenty languages, and employing more than 10,000 people. The company went public in 2015.
Several well-known international brands have built their online stores on Shopify, including
Heinz, Redbull, BBC, Victoria Beckham, and Netflix.
What is Etsy?
If you are familiar with Amazon, then you will understand Etsy and how it works. Etsy is a marketplace like Amazon – every user has a stall or storefront where they can run a business selling vintage items, crafts, and craft supplies. The great benefit of selling on Etsy is an existing audience of millions of people familiar with the platform and already using it to find unusual items.
Since its beginning in 2005, Etsy has been hugely popular. According to Statista, there were roughly 7.4 million sellers on the platform in 2021, and their stores were visited by 95 million buyers worldwide. The company also went public in 2015.
Visualizing the Difference Between Etsy and Shopify
Selling on Shopify, it’s like having a shop in a mall. You rent the space and people can walk into your store and only your products are there,
Selling on Etsy is like selling at the farmers’ market. People can see everybody’s products at once – all the homemade jams and lovely cakes on tables next to each other. Which will be picked up by the passersby?
A Quick Overview
- Shopify allows you to build an online store exactly as you like it, offering you complete control over your store.
- Shopify offers powerful ecommerce tools that help you with marketing and SEO.
- Shopify offers one of the best solutions for dropshipping.
- The platform is scalable, so it’s a great support for business growth.
- You can sell all kinds of products.
- You can create your own branding and promote your brand.
- Users can use Zapier to implement the automation of many mundane tasks.
- Finding buyers is up to you and your marketing skills. If you start without an existing customer base, it will take a while before you see any revenue.
- A Shopify store can end up costing a lot, especially if you want to benefit from the many apps and plugins on offer.
- The biggest benefit is the exposure you get. The platform has an established customer base that is familiar with the platform and uses it to find unique items.
- It takes minutes to set up an account, upload your product(s) and start selling.
- No monthly subscription fees.
- You can trial a new product idea at a very low cost.
- Etsy pays for off-site advertising.
- Your storefront has serious limitations. You have very limited opportunities to develop your own brand.
- Similarly, you have limited creative control over the look of your storefront.
- The competition is unbelievably fierce.
- No tools are provided to help you scale your business.
- Store owners can only sell handcrafted and vintage products, as well as craft supplies.
- The many fees can eat into sellers’ profits.
Now that you have an overview of the two e-commerce platforms, let’s take a more in-depth look at what sets them apart. This review will attempt to point out the similarities and differences between the two e-commerce solutions.
Website Builder Service
Shopify is a website-building platform specifically for e-commerce. The company has made its business to make it easy for anyone to build a website that can act as an online store. Users have access to a drag-and-drop editor that makes it easy to build a store, so people with little or no technical skills can build their own store.
For those with technical skills, the platform offers full access to the CSS and HTML code so merchants can customize their chosen templates to suit their needs.
Etsy, on the other hand, is an existing online store where you can have a space to sell your merchandise. You can’t design a store on Etsy.
However, Etsy has introduced Pattern, a website builder that allows users to build a standalone, website. While it allows Etsy sellers a wider range of products to sell, it is not a robust e-commerce website builder. It doesn’t boast the same range of e-commerce features as Shopify. For example, Pattern doesn’t have abandoned cart features, built-in email marketing, drop shipping, or SEO features.
While Shopify is a website builder that is designed to enable commerce on the internet, enabling international brands to build huge digital stores, Pattern is an added benefit that allows Etsy sellers to build a simple website to augment their sales.
Shopify Ease of Use
Etsy and Shopify are both straightforward to use. Both platforms guide users through the setup process.
I would venture, however, that Etsy is easier to use, simply because there is less to learn. You basically sign up, upload your listings and that’s that. With Shopify, you are building a website from scratch and you have to learn about and how to use all the e-commerce features, which are not present on Etsy.
While Shopify is a user-friendly website builder with a straightforward interface that anyone can understand, there is a learning curve. You won’t have a functioning store in a few hours or a day.
Someone with no technical skills can build a website with Shopify, using the drag-and-drop editor and the instructions that pop up while in the design process. With the editor, you can add and move blocks and sections around on the pages you’re working on. In addition, Shopify guides you through the process of setting up your online shop.
Shopify bills itself as a platform for beginners, but it is quite technical. There is plenty you need to familiarize yourself with to get a business off the ground, especially if you plan to leverage the many e-commerce features the platform offers.
Etsy Ease of Use
Etsy is less technical than Shopify. The platform is straightforward and super easy to use, so you can get familiar with it in no time.
All you need to do is set up an account by answering a few questions, choosing a store name, and uploading at least one product, complete with a product description.
As with Shopify, Etsy guides users through each step of setting up a storefront. Sellers don’t need to design a website; they just sign into Etsy to set up a store page, which makes it quick and easy to start selling.
Shopify Customization and Design
Shopify offers a legion of customization possibilities. In the first place, the platform has a wide range of templates that can be customized using plugins and, if you have the technical skills, you can get access to the source code via CSS and HTML too. Shopify makes it possible for everyone to build a truly unique website.
There are more than 60 themes to choose from, ten free and 50 paid. The great thing is that they are customized for different industries with specific features for each industry.
The theme you choose acts as the basis for your website, including the design, but that’s not all it takes to build a website with Shopify. You will need to know how to customize the themes you choose and how to integrate extensions. In addition, you will need to register your own domain name.
You can design your Shopify store with a specific buying persona in mind, customizing the user experience minutely. This is not possible with Etsy.
Etsy Customization and Design
With Etsy, you are not building a storefront; you are adding listings. You sign up to the platform and you get a space to rent which you can’t change much. You can show your logo and have a banner to distinguish your storefront, but that’s about it.
Your products won’t be displayed in a unique digital shop. To buyers browsing Etsy, all the shops look pretty much the same.
The only thing you can do is be clever with your listings. Give careful thought to your product descriptions, and make sure you take really good photos of your products to make them stand out on the Etsy storefront page.
Taking into account that it can be time-consuming to do product listings right and that you need to set up your shipping process, this takes considerably less time than setting up an entire website.
Merchants can’t design their storefronts so they can stand out from the crowd. For those who are serious about building their own brand, Etsy is not the right choice.
A major difference between Shopify and Etsy is the products that merchants can sell. Shopify allows its users to sell just about anything, excluding only illegal items in the country the seller operates from.
Etsy, on the other hand, is much more restrictive. Merchants can only sell handmade items, vintage products, and craft supplies. In addition, handmade items must be made by the seller or someone involved in the business. Sellers are not allowed to sell items they didn’t design or make.
The selling of digital items is allowed, but not services or rentals. Vintage items are a hot favorite with shoppers browsing Etsy, but these items must be at least 20 years old to be listed. Etsy doesn’t allow newer vintage-style or collectible items.
On Shopify, business owners can sell physical items, virtual products, and services. Examples of services that you can offer via your Shopify store are:
- Appointment booking is often used by service businesses like spas, hair salons, or medical clinics.
- Consultations are offered by professionals like medical doctors, lawyers, coaches, psychologists, financial advisors, and others.
- Classes, tutoring, and courses offered by tutors, education centers, private teachers, and lecturers.
- Businesses that provide support services like food catering for weddings, parties, and sports events offer their services through a website built on the Shopify platform.
Domain and URL Structure
Shopify allows you to have a custom domain for your website. This is a crucial point for e-commerce.
Your domain name is where your website lives on the internet; it’s where your customers can find you. With Shopify, you can have a website address that clearly indicates your business and nobody else’s. For example, look at this website address, it is clear who this website belongs to: https://www.heinz.com/
That is what you want for your online business – a name that your customers can identify with you and your business. A clear website address like this is also a powerful brand creator and makes the business look professional and trustworthy.
Keep in mind that your custom domain comes at a cost, but Shopify makes it easy to find and register a custom domain name. It has a domain name generator to help you find a completely personalized name for your online business.
Etsy is a completely different story. Sellers on this platform don’t have their own website; they participate in a marketplace. That marketplace belongs to Etsy, so it features prominently in all the domain names of Etsy stores. An Etsy web address looks something like this: www.etsy.com/shop/the-store-name
Keep in mind that if you built a website using Etsy Pattern, you can have your own domain for that website.
Bottom line: Etsy is not ideal if you want to create and grow your own brand.
To set up, Etsy is cheaper, but as soon as you start making serious sales, the fees start eating into your profits. With Shopify, you pay a monthly subscription fee. There is no subscription fee to use Etsy.
So, at first glance, it would seem that Shopify is more expensive, and the top tier plan certainly is, but that is only used by large corporations like the BBC. The ordinary business person doesn’t need such an advanced and expensive solution.
Shopify is certainly more expensive, to begin with, but the platform also offers a lot. You are well compensated for your financial outlay.
Let’s look at the Shopify fees in more detail.
Shopify allows users a trial of its basic plan for free months for only $1.
For: Individuals and small businesses
Cost: $25 per month
- Everything you need to create a store, ship products, and process payments
- Basic reports
- Up to 1,000 inventory locations
- 2 staff accounts
For: Small Businesses
Cost: $65 per month
- Professional reports
- Up to 1,000 inventory locations
- 5 staff accounts
For: Medium to large businesses
Cost: $399 per month
- Custom report builder
- Up to 1,000 inventory locations
- 15 staff accounts
The price for this plan, mainly used by large enterprises with large sales volumes, starts at $2,000 per month.
There is no monthly subscription fee to use Etsy, however, users pay to list their products. The listing fee is $0.20 per product. This will pay for your listing to be published for four months. After that, the listing is automatically renewed for another four months at the same price unless you disable auto-renewal.
Etsy also charges you a transaction fee of 6.5% for every item you sell. The fee is based on the price you display for each listing plus the amount you charge for delivery and gift wrapping.
In addition, your payment processing fees will cost you an additional 3% on every item you sell. This is considerably higher than Shopify transactions fees: Basic Shopify (2%) Shopify (1%), and Advanced Shopify plans ($0.25). And sellers that sign up for Shopify Payments don’t have to pay any transaction fees.
What it boils down to is this: the more you sell on Etsy, the more you pay for the privilege. In the end, the platform only really works for sellers who sell on a small scale. Also, if your prices are low, the fees you have to pay may limit your chances of making a good profit.
There is an option to sign up for Etsy Plus. This will cost you $10 per month and get you 15 listing credits and $5 credits for Etsy Ads per month – Etsy Ads lets you promote your listings or shop on the platform.
Etsy Plus benefits include access to custom web address discounts, restock requests, advanced shop customization, and a 30% discount for Moo, an online print and design company.
If you only take pricing into account, the main advantage of using Etsy over Shopify is that you don’t need to pay a monthly subscription if you sign up for the standard solution. The main disadvantage is that the transaction fees are considerably higher compared to Shopify and can eat into your profits once your sales increase.
It must be stated at the outset that Shopify is superior in this regard. Shopify has earned a reputation for its comprehensive range of quality sales and marketing features. The platform was built specifically for e-commerce, so it has everything and more a person needs to run a successful online business.
Let’s look at the two platforms in more depth.
Shopify E-commerce Tools
As mentioned earlier, Shopify was built specifically for e-commerce. Each Shopify plan has the following features:
- Discount codes
- Gift cards
- Shopify POS (point of sale) app
- Fraud analysis
- Brand asset management
- Third-party calculated shipping rates
- Inventory and order management tools
- Abandoned cart recovery
- SSL certificate
- Multichannel selling tools for multiple social platforms
- Guest checkouts
- SEO tools
- Built-in blog
In addition, Shopify has an enormous app store with more than 8,000 apps. Whatever your need is, there is an extension (or several) for that. You can go to town and extend the functionality of your website with apps that enable upselling and cross-selling, increase conversions, help with social media advertising, highlight customer reviews on your website, and much more.
While such a huge number of add-ons may be a great benefit, it can also be confusing and time-consuming to sift through all the thousands of options. Besides, it doesn’t make sense to lay out cash for a platform that is already optimized for e-commerce. If you want to use apps, have a look at the free apps created by Shopify to save costs.
One app you should definitely consider is the Shopify POS (Point of Sale) app. It is free to install and it helps you to take your business offline, When you sign up, you get a free credit card reader, making it possible to sell your goods at fairs, markets, and pop-ups.
You can do many of your normal sales activities with this app, including accepting credit cards, offering store credit, selling gift cards, creating order notes, issuing refunds, and more.
Shopify POS syncs with your online business so your inventory will always be up to date.
The abandoned cart recovery feature notices when a customer has left products in their basket and automatically sends a reminder email to return can complete the purchase. Since 70% of carts are abandoned at checkout, this is a crucial sales feature for your business, especially since this tactic is known to bring 20% of customers back.
Another great sales feature is the inventory management system, which helps shop owners track stock levels, monitor orders, and update product listings. The system allows sellers to upload products in bulk or one at a time,
The platform helps shop owners organize their products by category, type, sale items, price, and more. This is a boon for sellers selling large volumes of products. Being organized, it helps shoppers find what they are looking for.
Etsy E-commerce Tools
In comparison to Shopify, Etsy offers basic sales features to help its users market and grow their online business.
The company has its own unique way to help its users succeed. One way is by boosting a new listing’s visibility each time a shop owner lists a new product. Sellers can also boost their shops and generate traffic and sales by using the built-in Etsy sales feature.
As soon as this feature is activated, it triggers an email notification from Etsy that informs everyone who has interacted with the store in the past that there is a sale. This works similarly to the listings boost, increasing traffic to the store.
There is also the Etsy Seller app. It works like a POS, allowing merchants to continue doing business wherever they are.
With this app, sellers can
- Access order details when necessary.
- Identify a repeat buyer.
- Manage orders and track packages.
- Add videos and photos directly to listings.
Etsy helps sellers to save on postage labels, offering discounted rates and a quick and easy purchase process. Discounted labels help sellers to save on shipping costs.
Merchants can also upgrade to Etsy Plus and benefit from more advanced e-commerce features. Sellers can now customize their stores with the help of more banner options and choose what to feature on their home page, such as their most unique or newest products.
Using this plan, sellers get access to custom web address discounts through the third-party partner, Hover. This is an outstanding benefit since it helps shoppers to find your store online. A custom domain or web address is always an enormous benefit for online businesses.
All in all, as far as e-commerce features are concerned, Shopify is the superior choice. The platform supports sellers in every possible way and can scale with the business. Even Etsy Plus doesn’t offer the same range of features as Shopify.
Shopify Marketing Tools
Shopify provides plenty of tools to promote your online business. Since there isn’t the benefit of an established customer base that comes with a marketplace like Etsy, shop owners are responsible for their own marketing. Fortunately, Shopify offers plenty to help you in this regard.
As mentioned before, the platform comes with a universe of apps, some of them specifically for digital marketing campaigns. Shopify allows email marketing through third-party apps like Seguno, Klaviyo, Campaign Monitor, Constant Contact, and Privy. If you want to use MailChimp, you will need to connect to it through a tool like Zapier.
A great marketing ploy is Shopify email shout-outs. You can customize these email blasts to fit your brand and stay connected with your customer base. You can use templates with simple drag-and-drop features that make it easy to create professional-looking emails.
In addition, Shopify has built-in SEO tools that help businesses optimize their online store for search engines, driving more traffic to their site.
Another great feature is the fact that the platform enables multi-channel selling. This means companies can sell their products across multiple channels, including social media platforms and marketplaces like Amazon, Facebook, and Instagram.
With Shopify’s marketing features, businesses can expand their reach, connect with their customers, and grow their brands.
Etsy Marketing Tools
It is very difficult for a store to stand out on Etsy. Fortunately, merchants can benefit from two essential advertising tools to help their products reach more eyes: on-site and off-site ads. On-site ads can be seen by shoppers as they browse the platform, showing up in relevant search results and on other product pages. These ads help increase visibility and can lead to more clicks and sales.
At the same time, off-site ads appear beyond the Etsy marketplace on platforms like Google and Facebook. Leveraging both on-site and off-site ads can be very effective in expanding the reach of a business.
The company also allows users to promote their shops on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. Sellers can generate buzz about their business by running special sales and promotions for their social media followers.
In addition, the company assists its users in promoting their stores by boosting the visibility of their listings. By optimizing their listings with keyword-rich descriptions and titles, sellers can increase their chances of appearing in relevant searches on Etsy.
Both platforms enable business promotion but in completely different ways.
Shopify Payment Options
Customers these days demand a wide variety of payment options – the more you can offer, the better. In this regard, Shopify offers more choices.
Shopify offers a wide range of payment gateways including PayPal, Stripe, and Amazon payments.
Shopify encourages businesses to use their own in-house payment gateway called Shopify Payments. Those that choose to use Shopify Payments don’t need to pay transaction fees, which can be a big saving.
Shopify Payments only charges a card processing fee starting at 2.9% + $0.30 on the Basic Shopify plan. This fee decreases with the more advanced Shopify plans – Shopify (2.6% + 30¢) and Advanced Shopify (2.4% + 30¢).
Etsy Payment Options
Etsy doesn’t offer a wide range of payment options. Sellers are compelled to use the in-house payment processing system: Etsy Payments.
What this means in practice is quite a hefty reduction of profits for those selling their products on Etsy. While it allows you to accept a wide range of credit cards plus payments through Apple Pay, Google Pay, and PayPal, you will have to pay the credit card fees plus Etsy’s 6.5% transaction fee.
The fees can work against a business. For creators selling handcrafted items at a low price, the transaction fee plus shipping fees can be prohibitive. Ironically, once you start making a lot of sales, you are penalized for being a successful seller – you have to sacrifice your profits to one of the highest online transaction fees. That can be disheartening.
Shopify is a better choice in terms of payment and transaction fees, but you’ll have to fork out a monthly subscription fee, which doesn’t apply to Etsy users.
Attracting Customers to Your Online Store
Launching a Shopify store is like dancing by yourself at home. Doing the same on Etsy is like walking into a room where the party has already started.
With Shopify, you have to go out and announce your presence in the marketplace and get people to come to your party. Fortunately, the platform has all the tools you need to do just that.
To attract customers to your Shopify shop, you need to
- Know how to leverage SEO to create organic traffic
- Create SEO-optimized content
- Invest in online advertising
- Know how to use digital marketing tools
You are responsible for finding and attracting customers to your shop and to do that effectively, you need skills that are time-consuming to learn. It’s a lot of work, but if you succeed, so will your business.
With Etsy, everyone is already in the room and they are eager to meet you, but the room is so crowded, they may never find you.
The online giant has a ready-made customer base that counts in the millions – 96.2 million, according to Business of Apps. Any storefront is exposed to an audience of millions, looking for the type of product that Etsy sellers specialize in.
Etsy’s ready customer base gives it a considerable advantage over building a website to run a business. However, this doesn’t mean that people looking for a certain product will immediately hone in on your store; they may land on other stores selling the same stuff. This is the disadvantage of a huge customer base all in one place.
To stand out among the competition and attract buyers to your storefront, you need to
- Make sure your products are unique or something people need
- Produce stunning product photos
- Know how to write high-converting product descriptions
- Learn how to run a sale successfully on the platform
The platform’s ability to present sellers with a ready-made audience puts it ahead of Shopify in terms of attracting customers. Some solo sellers might not need more than this to make a go of their online business.
To get the same kind of exposure, a Shopify store owner must put in a lot of work and develop multiple skills.
Shopify Customer Support
As mentioned before, Shopify was explicitly built to enable online commerce. Online the interchange between day and night has no effect on business operations – business doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. Anything can happen at any time requiring immediate intervention.
Shopify is geared to offer 24/7 support by various means to enable businesses to run 24/7.
The different support options available are:
- 24/7 live chat
- 24/7 phone
- Shopify Help Center
- Video tutorials
- Social media
Like most other e-commerce platforms, Shopify encourages users to first consult the help center and its resources, before reaching out to speak to a Shopify representative. In fact, you only get access to a representative after looking for a solution to your problem and refining your inquiry. This wastes users’ time and is very frustrating, but it’s the case with Etsy too.
The help center has a neat search bar that helps you to find the topic you need help with among the huge number of helpful articles and guides. Shopify provides support in 21 languages.
Shopify offers its support right on your dashboard. You can go to the editor, type in your question, and it will take you straight to the relevant help page in the help center.
Etsy Customer Support
Etsy has a help center with a simple user interface that features a search function to make it easy to find answers to common issues via a range of informative articles.
If you don’t find a solution after reading all the articles related to your problem, you will find a notice that reads: Still have questions? Contact support. If you click Contact Support, you are taken to a form where you sign in to contact Etsy support.
You can also join a forum where community discussions take place and questions get answered. Etsy doesn’t offer phone or email support.
The support that Shopify offers is clearly superior in comparison to that which Etsy offers. Nothing beats 24/7 support via phone, chat, and email.
Dropshipping, Only If You Have a Shopify Store
Dropshipping is an ecommerce fulfillment method that allows businesses to sell products without keeping them in stock. Shopify integrates seamlessly with various dropshipping suppliers to help users benefit from this low-cost business model.
To get started with dropshipping, you need to find a reputable supplier and make sure your website has an optimized checkout process. Finding a reputable supplier is crucial as your reputation depends on the professionalism of your supplier.
Your supplier will also affect the final price and quality of your products. Shopify integrates with reliable global suppliers like AliExpress, Oberlo, Printful, and Alibaba, putting a huge resource of products at your disposal for shipping to your customers.
Dropshipping with Etsy is a different story. There is nothing on the website or in the platform’s documents that directly speaks to dropshipping. And the platform certainly doesn’t integrate with suppliers.
There is a way to sort of do dropshipping. This can be done by outsourcing the production of your products. However, the seller is still responsible for the design and the fulfillment of the order. So, you can outsource the production, but not the design of your products.
Etsy also allows merchants to source items on Etsy and sell them elsewhere. However, you can’t source items on Etsy and resell them on Etsy.
As you can see, dropshipping as such is not really supported on Etsy. On the other hand, with a Shopify store, your business can benefit from this business model.
Shopify Customer Reviews
On the positive side, Shopify is praised for its ease of use, beautiful templates, powerful backend features to help with selling, and continually making improvements. There are many reviews online of people who have had very positive experiences with the platform.
Some laud the platform for its great customer support while others complain that it is notoriously inconsistent, with people promising to get back to you and leaving you in the lurch for weeks.
Although the company says that you can phone them, it seems that, in practice, that is actually impossible. The poor customer service and the financial outlay seem to be the main issues. It’s expensive to add apps and plugins to customize a website properly.
Etsy Customer Reviews
The most common complaint from users is the sudden suspension of their accounts with no warning or reason. This seems to be happening quite often.
It’s interesting to note that the many positive reviews are from customers, not sellers, which reflects positively on the sellers, not the platform. Negative reviews are mainly from Etsy sellers who complain that money is unfairly withheld and that the company tends to side with buyers rather than sellers.
Many reviews also note that competition on the platform has become incredibly stiff and that the many changes the company makes from time to time seem to benefit it more than those trying to make some money on the platform.
Tip for Consumers When Choosing between Shopify and Etsy
If you are planning to sell online and have to decide on an ecommerce platform for your business, be sure to do your due diligence. Each platform has its pros and cons, and of course, user reviews are subjective. When comparing ecommerce platforms, it’s essential that you do a thorough study of the ones you are interested in before you make a financial commitment that you might regret down the line.
Etsy vs Shopify: Which One Should You Choose?
So, is Etsy or Shopify better? In our review, Shopify is clearly the superior e-commerce solution between the two, but not everyone needs a powerful seller platform. Someone working from home, selling vintage items or a limited range of handmade items, will do fine selling on Etsy.
However, if you plan to build your own brand, Etsy is obviously not an appropriate choice. In this case, you need a platform like Shopify that has everything you need to build a successful online business.