If you’re new to ecommerce or considering opening a new online store, you might be wondering which platform to build your business upon. In this article we will cover the pros & cons of selling on Etsy vs Shopify and if there really is a better option. Mind you this comparison mainly pertains to brands looking to get into the handcrafted space since Etsy is geared towards handmade products & supplies.
We’ve personally used both platforms for our Iron Age brand & in our opinion, it’s wise to use both side-by-side but at differing stages. We will show you how these two platforms fit together in the greater scheme of e-commerce & how to utilize them to maximize your business potential.
Pros of Having an Etsy Store
Etsy is a great option for dipping your toes into ecommerce. Maybe you want to start a new crafting hobby, a side hustle, or are dead set on starting a new business venture.
The primary benefit to using Etsy is that it’s easy to set-up! You can punch in your details, upload a logo, & have products ready to sell in just a day or two. This makes it a great option for when you’re starting out & we really recommend you give it a try.
The 2nd and still a very powerful point for Etsy vs Shopify, is that you have access to more “reach” and a large audience. By reach, we mean visibility, which typically comes from having built your audience through social media, blogging, or paid advertisement. The Etsy platform also has its own built-in advertising system that makes it easy to get into Pay Per Click (PPC).
So far it’s easy to use, it provides great visibility, & thirdly, it has a sense of community. With Etsy, they have active forums & you can easily find all sorts of resources if you have any issues. When you use the Etsy platform, you’re not alone in your entrepreneurial journey.
Cons of Having an Etsy Store
While Etsy is fast & easy, it does lack a few things that might not become desirable until further along your business development. We still recommend it for newbies or those who are established but want to enhance their web presence.
The first drawback is the limited customization & 3rd party apps available. There is hardly much room to differentiate your brand vs anyone else’s brand. All the stores are formatted the same in terms of design & ability to implement search engine optimization. You also can’t implement 3rd party apps that might help to boost your revenue such as email autoresponders, pop-ups, chat bots, in-depth analytics, etc.
The 2nd drawback is related to control. It’s a dirty word to some, but let’s be real, if you’re seeking to get into entrepreneurship, it’s likely you’re looking to obtain some form of control – That is control of your life, control of your finances, or control of your future.
This drawback includes the fee structure. While you do get quite a bit of value for the fees you’re paying Etsy, you are completely at their whims when it comes to inevitable fee raises, rules, & regulations. As a pragmatic & independent person, this is a huge red flag for me & definitely something to consider when your sales start to unfurl in the breeze.
The 3rd drawback is about branding. Since you’re part of a collective of Etsy sellers, it’s also much more difficult to set yourself apart & build brand equity. Your brand can get lost in a sea of look-alikes & this also impacts brand loyalty & customer retention in the long term. Finally, your customers are actually more of Etsy’s customers instead of your own, this ties into drawback #2 and especially since direct communication with them is limited.
Pros of Having a Shopify Store
For those who have proof of concept or are ready to jump in head first into ecommerce, Shopify is a solid platform that has evolved over the years to become one of the top service providers in the space. One thing we recommend for either Esty or Shopify however, is to always start with building an audience on Social Media – Very important!
So benefit #1 of opening a Shopify store is that it’s also quite easy to set up and get going. There’s lots of guides, resources (including dedicated forums), and customer support. There’s hardly any coding required unless you need something very specific and everything is generally drag & drop. Best of all, it just works.
Benefit #2 is the amount of customization available. You can change themes relatively easily to suit your products & brand. There’s also a ton of 3rd party apps that easily integrate with your shop. You can start building an email list, connect your social media accounts, & offer upsells to maximize your revenue goals. The possibilities simply open up!
Finally, you can begin to build brand equity & get known for what you do. You can now implement loyalty programs, email retention strategies, and generally provide a better experience to your customers.
Cons of Having a Shopify Store
With all the added freedoms of Shopify, there come some heavy costs that need to be undertaken. When you’re getting steady sales weekly or even daily however, one can consider it just the cost of doing business.
So let’s begin with the expenses. You’re now looking at a monthly expense + transaction fees + any costs of premium apps that you might be using. For our own personal Shopify store, we spend about $80 a month for subscription, about 2.6% per sales for processing, plus another $80 for 3rd party applications.
Next up is the cost of time & effort required to set everything up. Yes it’s very easy to do but there is a lot to double check & fill in. This includes connecting payment accounts, testing the checkout, & filling in content for the homepage/category pages/product pages/terms of service/shipping/checkout/etc.
The third drawback is a big one but if mastered will set you apart from the majority of ecommerce sites out there. It’s that you have to build your own audience & traffic or pay out of pocket for advertising. With Shopify you are in complete control of your destiny & that includes learning the basics of online business. You need to learn to drive traffic, generate leads, & convert visitors into buyers. It’s a long process but those inclined to learn will ultimately benefit & make a living as online entrepreneurs.
Etsy vs Shopify Conclusion
So what’s the verdict between the two? We recommend this first… Start building your audience now. For any online business you need traffic so spend the time getting known & building up a fanbase. Only then will you reap the benefits of either platform.
With that important bit out of the way, we recommend opening an Etsy shop to get started & once you have consistent sales (enough to pay for a Shopify subscription), then move over to Shopify. Basically Etsy is short term & Shopify is for the long run. But if you don’t have traffic built up already, then the Shopify venture will fall short.
Etsy is fast & easy to get started with a sense of community. You also shortcut some of what it takes to get traffic & eyeballs on your products. The drawbacks are that it limits you in many ways such as customization & customer retention which become crucial in later stages of business.
Shopify on the other hand, is also easy to set up but requires much more effort. You must come in with your own traffic source to make it work. For traffic you can start with social media, move into organic SEO content which you can do yourself (or hire someone like us), & finally into paid traffic when your website is optimized for conversions.
So that’s our winning strategy for selling on Etsy vs Shopify – Use both but most importantly build up an audience in order to gain “proof of concept”. Did you find this useful? Think we should do something differently? Let us know in the comments!
3 Crucial components of ecommerce are building traffic, having a website that converts visitors to buyers, and a method of customer retention. If you need help implementing any of these things into your business, shoot us a message. We offer pre-packaged solutions for all 3 in our webstore. You can also reach out to us here for custom solutions or if you have any questions at all.