Shopify VS Etsy: Which Is Better To Sell Online In 2021
|Ease of use||Excellent||Excellent|
|Reviews & Complaints||Good||Good|
|Best for…||Makers or artists who want to sell directly on social and their own site while having more control over branding.||Hobbyists or small businesses looking to supplement other selling channels or who don’t have any exposure currently.|
Before we dig right in, let’s acknowledge that comparing a web builder and shopping cart platform such as Shopify with the marketplace features of Etsy can be challenging. They truly are two different types of platforms — but this also makes comparing them even more beneficial for someone who isn’t sure how they want to focus their efforts. Makers, creators, artists, and budding entrepreneurs have specific needs when it comes to setting up their store online, and that’s what we’re focusing on here.
In this Shopify VS Etsy review, I’m going to show you how each platform can help you build your business and reach more people.
Table of Contents
Shopify VS Etsy
Whether you’re a maker, crafter, or artist, if you want to sell your wares online, you’ve probably wondered whether you should start selling on Etsy or a platform like Shopify. While Etsy is great for hobbyists, we’ll show you why you might want to reconsider when you grow. Let’s take a closer look at each platform individually first.
Shopify is one of our favorite web builder and shopping cart solutions because it’s competitively priced, very easy to use, and is built with scaling in mind. Not only can you integrate your shop to sell directly on Facebook and Instagram, but you can add other selling channels — like Amazon — or put a Buy Button anywhere. With Shopify Lite, you don’t even need a site to sell on social channels, making it a great option for either those who are established or just setting up shop.
You can set up a full eCommerce experience with Shopify and choose one of 100 third-party gateways including PayPal, Authorize.Net, Adyen, and Fiserv. The simplest option, however, is to go with their in-house payment processor, Shopify Payments. You can avoid the additional transaction fee this way, however, but it is currently only available in the US and select countries.
When it comes to creating a site with Shopify, you have quite a bit more freedom in how your shop looks compared to Etsy’s marketplace. Shopify has over 100 themes to choose from, with several being completely free templates. From the Basic Shopify plan and above, you’ll have unlimited free bandwidth, and a secure, unlimited web host.
Additionally, Shopify is certified Level 1 PCI DSS compliant, which means your customer’s information and payment data is secure with no additional PCI security fees. The thing to keep in mind with creating your website is that while you have much more control over branding (read: customers remembering who you are) and how your products are displayed, you’re also starting from the ground up. That is, of course, unless you already have social media following or brand awareness.
- Omnichannel selling platform
- Customizable web front
- Robust platform makes it easy to scale
- Best for established business model
- Monthly fee for web front and Shopify features
- Add-ons may be necessary
What Can You Sell On Shopify?
You can sell physical items or digital downloads that you’ve created on Shopify as long as you’re following the Acceptable Use Policy. Here are some common and trending items sold on Shopify.
What To Sell On Shopify:
- Kitchen and Dining Room Furniture
- Laptop Skins and Stickers
- Water Bottles
- Jewelry and Accessories
Examples Of What You Can’t Sell On Shopify
Shopify’s Acceptable Use Policy specifically calls out certain types of products that are prohibited, including:
- Child exploitation
- COVID-19 related products have restrictions
- Harassing or threatening materials
- Copyrighted or trademarked materials
- Restricted items including certain firearms
Now that you have a general idea of what Shopify has to offer, let’s explore the Etsy marketplace.
At its core, Etsy is a global marketplace geared for makers and artists to sell unique items. From handcrafted pieces to rare vintage items for the wardrobe and home, Etsy was built for the small, independent seller. That said, it’s also now a highly competitive market built of all kinds of business owners.
The Etsy marketplace is a great option for those who don’t have the time or energy to commit to a subscription platform quite yet. With the Etsy marketplace platform, users don’t have much control over what their shop looks like, but this simplicity can be a draw for makers who are just testing the waters. You simply upload your listing, ensure your title and keywords are descriptive, and wait to be discovered.
Etsy provides a high level of convenience and some exposure. And because Etsy has a strong domain, it often comes up first in Google searches. The thing to keep in mind is that you have no control over what other listings Etsy displays on your shop page, or who gets displayed in these searches. Etsy is built to feed its own rankings and boost its own bottom line. So while it can work both ways — your listing may also show up on someone else’s shop — it’s all highly variable and ultimately unpredictable. This unpredictability and lack of control are what make some sellers consider opening up a more independent website when they become successful. But even that comes with its challenges we’ll discuss below.
- Easy to set up
- No monthly fee
- Shoppers ready to buy
- Great for hobbyists
- No design freedom in the marketplace
- Competition displayed on your page
- Mandatory additional fees for marketing may apply
What Can You Sell On Etsy?
So what can you sell on Etsy? Some of the most common things you’ll find on Etsy are of the handmade variety. Think: Customizable items for birthdays, gifts, and unique things you won’t really find anywhere else.
So what can’t you sell on Etsy? Here is what we found:
- Certain plants, herbs, and seeds
- Alcohol, tobacco, drugs
- Animal products
- Hate items
- Pornography and mature content
- Violent Items
- Here is the complete Etsy Prohibited Items Policy
On its policy page, Etsy also conceded that these issues are complex and that:
Art and history can be provocative, emotional, and divisive. There are some topics on which we may never reach a consensus as a community, and that is okay.
Shopify VS Etsy Features
Let’s acknowledge right away that comparing the features of the Etsy marketplace and Shopify is hardly an apples-to-apples endeavor. One is an online marketplace including multiple sellers, while the other is a platform on which to build a website that you ultimately own.
Etsy has a specific target market of crafters, vintage resellers, and the like, while Shopify’s merchant pool is much wider. The feature sets of each platform work really well for sellers within their specific contexts. Once we add Etsy’s Pattern to the mix (monthly fee applies), the comparison gets a little closer, but for the purposes of this review, we are pitting the idea of creating your site with Shopify VS the Etsy marketplace selling community.
The best feature of Etsy is that it’s incredibly simple to set up and start listing items, and you’ve already got a built-in traffic base. Beyond this, there’s not a lot you can do on the back or front end of your Etsy marketplace shop unless you bump up to the paid Etsy Pattern option. And even with that, you’ll find some limitations when you compare with Shopify.
For instance, Shopify adds several features that Etsy Pattern is missing, like checkout on your domain (customers are redirected back to Etsy if they purchase through your Pattern site), manual order creation, a built-in POS system, and generous plug-in options. In addition, many of the features they share have more robust or flexible options with Shopify. (Things like, their respective discount engines, abandoned cart recovery, marketing tools, SEO tools, etc.)
Shopify is a platform that’s built to enable a seller to do whatever it is that they want in terms of creative freedom and branding. Not to mention a couple of thousand options in add-on integrations. This freedom can be overwhelming for a handcrafter who sells part-time or irregularly. However, Shopify also allows a seller to start small. With multi-channel selling options through the lowest monthly plan Shopify Lite, entrepreneurs can add inventory and sync to more selling channels, including a Facebook shop, shoppable Instagram listing, or Amazon.
You don’t actually need a website to sell on Shopify, and that can relieve some pressure in cost and creative energy. However, you still have to do the work by nurturing your audience, building followers, and engaging them. To be fair, Etsy sellers often find themselves doing the same thing, but having less overall control in the process.
We’d miss a pretty significant talking point if we didn’t list Etsy’s search features here.
Under the wing of the Etsy marketplace, you don’t have to worry too much about back-end site optimization because Etsy is in control. If you name your items smartly with descriptive keywords, your items will make it to the eyes of searching shoppers. While this does create a highly competitive environment, it also brings more exposure to entrepreneurs who don’t have any other sales channels. You have a chance to be seen, which is better than nothing. For those who offer highly unique or rare items (read: you have limited competition), you might find your sweet spot in this scenario.
But for those who have a competitive niche, you may find you’re on top for months at a time only to fall from grace with little to no warning.
Etsy doesn’t disclose its algorithm, and some Etsy sellers get frustrated with unpredictable sales over the long term because of this lack of control. In these cases, sellers often find themselves doubling down on social media marketing or other promotions to get people to their Etsy shop. And when this happens, you can imagine they’re frustrated even more at having a lack of control over what gets featured on their page, lack of customization, and ultimately, bringing their hard-earned traffic to Etsy instead of building their own site.
Web Design & Customization Of Your Shop
Shopify is likely the strongest choice here, even if we consider Etsy’s Pattern premium monthly software into the mix. However, for this review, we do want to focus solely on Etsy’s marketplace listing vs creating your Shopify store. Shopify offers 100 templates, most with 2-4 style variations which allow you to create a more branded experience that represents you rather than Etsy. Several themes are free and supported by Shopify developers, while the remaining third-party themes are offered at $140-$180 as a one-time purchase to support the design creator.
Shopify has tools to adjust fonts and colors (via the Theme Editor), and to drag-and-drop page elements up and down your layout (via the “Sections” tool) — all without touching any code. You can also make further adjustments with code if you have those skills, but this is not necessary for the average user. For more information on how these tools work, check out our full Shopify Review.
One of the starkest differences between the Etsy marketplace and the Shopify platform in terms of long-term growth is their distinctive approaches to marketing. We’ve already noted that even in the most basic Shopify plan, you can easily integrate and add your social media channels to start selling directly on each platform at no additional cost beyond payment processing.
As your list of customers grows, Shopify Email now allows you to market to them with email marketing campaigns. These tools are important if you want to build your brand and customer loyalty. We like that you can utilize these basic tools without an additional email marketing plugin. You can send your customers up to 2,500 emails each month at no charge, and it’ll cost you $1 per 1K emails after that.
Now, let’s compare this marketing autonomy to Etsy’s newish policy on offsite mandatory ads. Etsy will advertise a listing with no warning to the seller throughout the web — it could be a Google paid ad or Facebook and Instagram. If the shopper clicks and you make a sale, you have to pay a fee. So what’s the problem? The issue that many sellers have (and myself included) is that sellers who have the highest volumes of more than $10K a month are unable to opt-out of these ads.
What really irks many is that instead of passing the exact cost to the seller, a percentage of the ticket price is taken from the seller.
Despite the fees and mandatory offsite ad spend for some, Etsy still provides exposure to fledgling entrepreneurs they might not have had. And for power sellers, they are also likely to enjoy real estate at the top. But as we’ve noted, it isn’t always predictable, and ultimately you are building a presence on Etsy, not for your brand. In a way, you’re renting space on Etsy which may be convenient, but it’s not something you can call your own at the end of the day. Marketing your shop will take some lead-up, but what it yields is all yours. Note that Etsy Ads is also an option and that gives you more control over ad spending across Etsy. In Shop Manager, you can set a budget at your advertising dashboard and gain exposure for your listing.
Shopify VS Etsy Pricing & Fees
Let’s take a look at how Shopify and Etsy compare when it comes to pricing and recurring charges.
Shopify fees are based on your monthly subscription. Here are the basic plan options, but note that Shopify Lite isn’t included in the table with the full eCommerce plans, but it is still available. Shopify Lite does not include a website, but you will have inventory syncing to your sales channels (e.g., Amazon, Facebook, Instagram), and can add clickable inventory to any existing site or blog. With that included, pricing begins at $9/month for Shopify.
For payment processing with Shopify Payments, you’ll pay 2.9% plus $0.30 for online credit card purchases if you have Shopify Payments. If you use anything other than Shopify Payments, you’ll need to pay the transaction charge of 2.0% on top of that. These fees are for the Basic plan and decrease as your plan size does, however.
Here’s a breakdown of Etsy’s fees. While you won’t pay any monthly fees with Etsy, they will take a cut on each sale.
- Etsy Listing Fees: Etsy fees are per listing and you’ll pay $0.20 per item listing. Note that Etsy renews this fee after each item sells if you have multiple quantities of the same item.
- Etsy Transaction Fee: In addition to the initial listing fee, you’ll be charged a transaction fee of 5% of the price you display for each listing plus any charge for delivery and gift wrapping.
- Payment Processing Fee: Etsy Payments costs 3% plus $0.25 per transaction (fees vary by country).
- Offsite Ad Fee: As we noted in the section above under Marketing Features, Etsy also may select your listing with no prior warning and feature it in an offsite ad. If it gets a click and a purchase, you’ll pay a percentage of your selling price — either 12% or 15% based on volume.
Overall, Etsy requires less upfront spending with no monthly cost, which makes it an ideal choice for someone with limited inventory or who is just getting started. Etsy Pattern is available for $15/month to create your site, but that’s your only plan option. The great news is that if you have Etsy Pattern, you won’t pay a listing or transaction fees.
We think Shopify’s platform offers more options in pricing and features to create your web store and comes with more tools and security you’ll need to start selling on your site, anywhere on the web with payment buttons or your social media channels.
Ease Of Use
Shopify earns our top rating for ease of use within the eCommerce web building and shopping cart categories and with good reason. But in this Shopify VS Etsy post, we have to take a look at the marketplace and Shopify, respectively. And in that case, Etsy is much easier to get started with because you only have to create an account and add your listing. As a marketplace with a uniform structure across all webshops on the platform, the whole Etsy setup process is much simpler and easier to start selling right away.
Once you fully dive into the admin dashboard and start manipulating individual features, however, I think the two platforms are equally easy to use.
Customer Service & Support
Both platforms offer 24/7 email and phone support, but Shopify adds a third contact channel via 24/7 live chat.
I know a lot of online sellers prefer the live chat option over email and phone since it works like a nice blend of the two. Etsy does offer a callback option when waiting on hold, which is very handy. On the flip side, I’d like to see Etsy’s contact number and ticket system more easily accessed from the help center page — it’s much too buried for my taste at the moment.
While both platforms also offer great self-help resources such as blogs, forums, knowledgebase articles, and videos, the information for Etsy sellers is mixed in with support resources for Etsy shoppers. This can feel a bit cluttered and confusing at times. I will say that Etsy does go beyond the support of a typical eCommerce platform in a unique and specific way.
As a marketplace that gathers many merchants together in one place, sellers are automatically part of a built-in community. There’s even an opportunity to join Etsy Teams — groups of sellers in the same location, selling the same types of products, or with other unifying aspects to their stores. Some teams even meet up in real life or organize special events together. While Shopify users can tap into the strong community of developers and merchants offering mutual support in forums, the overall camaraderie can’t compete with Etsy’s community vibe.
Reviews & Complaints
Etsy sellers like how easy it is to set up shop. They enjoy access to an existing customer base and the effective site search tools that make it easy for shoppers to find their products. Some users have mentioned their positive experiences with Etsy’s customer service, and the help they’ve received resolving disputes with customers (or even other sellers).
Of course, some Etsy sellers mention bad experiences with customer service, too, saying the marketplace isn’t taking enough responsibility for regulating seller behavior. I found several complaints that Etsy gets away with being a “neutral” party, shifting blame to its users on either end of transactions. At the very least, people are confused about Etsy’s role.
On the Shopify side, the top accolade is also that it’s easy to set up shop. Sellers also like the opportunity to add functionality and scale their stores using add-ons from the app store. Shopify’s web design is highly praised, especially among those who appreciate the ability to easily customize their sites without code.
Shopify’s customer support receives mixed reviews. Other common Shopify complaints include the added cost of integrations and the extra transaction fees if you can’t use Shopify Payments. Sellers do sometimes have problems with the payment system itself as well — their funds were held, or their Shopify Payments accounts were terminated due to various factors. While this sounds scary, understand that these issues won’t affect the majority of shops, yet it is a somewhat predictable problem among all eCommerce shops with other third-party payment processors as well.
We’ve got a resource to help you prevent funding issues in our article How To Keep Your Payment Processor From Holding Funds Or Terminating Your Account: What Small Businesses Need To Know.
Etsy VS Shopify Integrations
Etsy and Shopify each offer a collection of free and paid add-ons to integrate with your shop. The big difference is in the quantity. Etsy’s selection just can’t compete with Shopify’s approximately 2500 offerings. If you’re worried about the quality of these Shopify add-ons, you have access to thousands of user reviews in the app store. You’re likely to find anything and everything you need to expand your store beyond the core Shopify platform.
The Key Differences Between Shopify & Etsy
Shopify and the Etsy marketplace platform are very different products when you put them head to head. Etsy is a marketplace that aggregates all of its users, and while greater traffic and visibility can come with it, ultimately you also face intense competition.
Starting your shop with Shopify means that you’ll need to invest some time in marketing your products and growing a following, but once you get your shoppers to your site, you won’t have your competition at your shop page — you own your space and the brand recognition that comes with it. Here are a few other things to consider:
- Multi-Channel Selling: Shopify beats Etsy in terms of omnichannel selling integrations. When you look at the Etsy marketplace on its own, you quickly see that tools for multi-channel selling simply aren’t there. With Shopify, you can quickly add multiple selling channels and sync inventory right from your dashboard. You can create shoppable Instagram posts, set up a Facebook Store, and even sell on Amazon Marketplace from Shopify.
- Brand Control: With Etsy’s marketplace, you have no control over how your shop looks. And because of that, many shoppers associate all of what they buy with Etsy rather than individual shops. Shopify provides templates and more options in branding and design so that your customers remember you, not the marketplace.
- Ease of Use: While Shopify is one of the easiest web builders and shopping cart solutions, it isn’t as easy as Etsy to set up shop. If you are a hobbyist or are looking to supplement your physical shop, Etsy can be a cheap and easy way to get your products in front of more shoppers.
- Extra Tools and Features: With Shopify, you have more marketing tools and a built-in ecosystem of features that are built with scaling in mind. You can send up to 2,500 emails to your list at no extra charge with Shopify, with tools and templates to create a targeted campaign. Shopify also dwarfs Etsy in terms of integrations and tools you can easily add to your shop, as well as POS equipment for in-person selling.
- Exposure & Marketing: Etsy offers quite a bit of built-in exposure that would be best suited for unique products or rare finds. For a competitive niche, you might find yourself frustrated at the unpredictability of exposure. You’ll have to do the work to build your audience with your online Shopify shop, however. Etsy sellers often also have to do their marketing as well, but if you have your site, you are building a following that you ultimately keep to yourself.
- Pricing: Using Shopify’s platform and Shopify Payments, you’ll end up paying less per each sale. However, Etsy has no monthly fees to list on its marketplace while Shopify has monthly plans starting at $9/month.
Which Is Best For My Business Needs?
So is Shopify or Etsy best for your business? After all, that’s the only answer that we care about in creating this post. Consider the following when making your decision about each platform.
Choose Shopify If…
Shopify is best for:
- Site creation
- Brand recognition
- Less competition
- Those who want to sell on social channels
- Established businesses
- Features and integrations
Choose Etsy If…
Etsy is best for…
- No monthly fees
- Hobbyists or very small-volume sellers
- Using as a supplemental selling channel
Shopify VS Etsy FAQs:
Comparing Etsy VS Shopify: The Final Verdict
To bring our main points home, remember that Etsy gives you the ability to get a shop up and running quickly on a shoestring budget, and you’ll get built-in access to the traffic of an entire online marketplace. However, you’re also competing with the other sellers, too. If you’re thinking about the long term, Shopify allows you to lay the foundation and build something that can last and grow over time. You have control over the look and feel of your shop and your customers are more likely to remember you rather than say, “I found this on Etsy!”
With Shopify, however, you’ll need to be ready to take responsibility for maintaining and drawing traffic to your website or already have an email list and/or a social following. Marketing is no small feat for the budding online seller and should not be taken lightly. If done well, however, any customers you obtain are your own, and this is the big reward that accompanies your efforts with Shopify. Your sales and growth will not be limited by super-direct competition with other sellers within a marketplace.
We think Etsy can still be a great place for budding hobbyists and for those who want to supplement what they are already doing — including setting up a site with Shopify.
For more posts to get you inspired for growth, check out How To Wow Your Customers With Your eCommerce Website Design and 6 Effective eCommerce Marketing Strategies To Grow Your Online Store.