Online store versus online marketplace: Which is better – Shopify or Etsy?
As two of the most popular e-commerce platforms, it’s no wonder you’re asking yourself which is better out of Etsy and Shopify. The huge success of both tells you that they can offer you something to get your online business up and running – but if you’re looking to choose between the two, which takes the top spot?
Etsy vs Shopify Top Stats (2021 figures)
- Over five million active sellers
- Over 89 million active buyers
- Shoppers spent over $3 billion in Etsy stores
- 1.75 million merchants
- Processed $79.5 billion in order value
To help you make a decision on which is the best platform for you and your business, we’ve collected up-to-date information on both to give you a fair and honest review.
If you’re keen to learn more, let’s get going!
Etsy vs Shopify: pros and cons
The pros of selling on Etsy
- Let’s start with the big one: Etsy’s traffic (i.e. number of visitors to Etsy). As one of the biggest online marketplaces, your potential buyers are already on Etsy, searching for products. If you’re a brand new, or a very small business, this is a huge draw – rather than worrying about how you’re going to build your brand from scratch, you can instead put your faith into the popularity of Etsy.
- It’s easy to use. For the most part, you simply set up an Etsy account, upload your product information and images and start selling. If we’ve made that sound easy, that’s because it is. Etsy has a solid e-commerce system in place that makes it straightforward for anybody to set up an Etsy shop – even if it’s your first time.
- Standard plans come with no extra monthly charges. Although you will still be required to pay listing fees and a transaction fee, you will not be charged a monthly subscription, unless you upgrade to another account type.
- Caters for niche product sellers. Plenty of customers are looking for more niche products such as handmade crafts and bespoke, personalised keepsakes and Etsy Handmade does this brilliantly. Forget faceless corporations – this is the place people go when they can’t find what they want elsewhere.
The cons of selling on Etsy
- Listing and transaction fees. As an Etsy seller, you will pay a $0.20 listing fee, plus a 6.5% transaction fee on items you sell through the platform. There’s also a standard 3% + $0.25 payment processing fee. If you’re a growing business, you are likely to see an impact of these fees as your sales increase.
- Saturated market. Etsy’s popularity can backfire on new sellers – some of the top-selling categories are jewellery, clothing, crafts and toys, so unless you sell extremely unique items that have an audience, you will be competing with thousands of other small business owners who are offering similar products.
- Restriction of products. Etsy is serious about what you can and cannot sell on its marketplace. It is only for handmade goods, craft supplies and vintage items – if you’re looking to sell something outside of those categories, Etsy is not the e-commerce home for you.
- Less creative control. We know many entrepreneurs and e-commerce business owners have set up on their own because they want total control over their brand. Due to Etsy’s quite restrictive format, you will not be able to choose your own store layout or product pages. Aside from adding your logo and a few brand images, you can’t get too creative with how your Etsy store can look.
The pros of selling on Shopify
- Greater creative control of your business. If the thought of making your own decisions about every aspect of your online business excites you, Shopify is a great option. It allows you to consolidate order control via a platform that you run. Looking at the number of small businesses and first-time entrepreneurs who have opted to use it, it seems like a solid bet.
- E-commerce tools to help run your business. Shopify wants to get your store onto their platform, so their business tools are a huge incentive. The majority of very helpful and can really boost your retail business. And thanks to Shopify Apps, you can also find a reliable order syncing app to manage your orders across multiple marketplaces.
- No restrictions on products you can sell. Shopify allows you to sell unlimited products with no restrictions. Whether physical goods or digital services, you’re good to go!
- Very scalable. Shopify is ideal for businesses of all sizes – it doesn’t discriminate. As your business begins to grow, Shopify will be there every step of the way.
The cons of selling on Shopify
- Exposure. Unlike Etsy, eBay and Amazon, which have a huge search volume, customers won’t know a store is built on Shopify. This means they would have to find your site through search – whether organic or paid. Therefore, you are responsible for growing and marketing your brand directly. For those brand strategists among us, this is a huge pro – but we can’t all be brand strategists, can we?
- Customisation ‘hacking’. Shopify gives way better customisation options compared with Etsy (more on that later), but the platform does use a unique setup to customise its themes, which can be a little frustrating for those who love to regularly tweak code. This is only really an issue if you’re an experienced web developer who loves to have a look underneath the bonnet – for the rest of us, you probably won’t even notice!
Which is easier to use: Etsy or Shopify?
When compared side-by-side, it’s pretty even.
Shopify has built a reputation for allowing merchants to easily build their own online store. Starting is user-friendly and there’s a clear step-by-step guide to follow.
Once you have entered all your information, Shopify helps manage your store by syncing your inventory and you can add order syncing apps to your store quickly and easily.
Although Etsy isn’t as detailed, the set-up is straightforward if you follow the how to open an Etsy shop instructions. Once you have finished the process, you are ready to start selling. This ease of starting is definitely a plus for those new to e-commerce selling.
Who wins on ease: Etsy or Shopify?
In this category, it’s just about a tie. For those just venturing into the world of e-commerce selling, Etsy is quicker and generally more straightforward to set up. Shopify, however, offers merchants a host of great e-commerce tools, so if you think online selling is your future, give it a try. In fact, there is no harm in trying both and seeing how it goes!
How easy it is to attract customers: Etsy vs Shopify?
Etsy is a one-stop-shop for handmade and unique items. If you make and sell something original, chances are potential customers are already looking on Etsy for it. Etsy has the visitors, so they might find their way to your store – however, this is far from guaranteed, as there will be plenty of competition.
Shopify, in contrast, gives you control over your business and its marketing. You are in control of your own search engine optimisation (SEO) rankings in Google and you will need to build your brand from the ground up. Fortunately, Shopify has plenty of tools to help you do so, but ultimately, YOU are in control of bringing visitors to your website.
Ease of attracting customers: who wins?
Etsy, no doubt.
Once you have your store set-up, products added, you’re ready for customers to come to you. Now, you have to hope that they will pick your store over others, but there’s no doubt that the established popularity of Etsy is a huge draw for sellers.
Shopify is great for longer-term strategy, but if you’re new to e-commerce, it might appear a little daunting at first.
Comparing Etsy and Shopify’s e-commerce tools and features
When comparing Etsy and Shopify side by side, one of the platforms is going to eventually win. For e-commerce tools, it’s Shopify’s time to shine. If you are looking to start or expand an online business, Shopify’s features can help you grow your business and increase sales.
Shopify allows you to sell unlimited products on their plans, with no restrictions on what you sell either. Shopify also has an impressive app store – where you’ll find Athlete – offering hundreds of apps that allow you to expand and customise your online store. These additional tools can take your business to the next level. We cannot recommend Shopify’s e-commerce offering enough.
And so, to Etsy. Its e-commerce features do make managing your shop easy – but those features are basic. There is an Etsy App to allow you to monitor sales and customer messages on the move and you can easily buy postage through Etsy (although it’s often better to find an alternative option). Through your account, you can manage your Etsy marketing and ad spend and you are able to quickly share highlights across social media platforms. So, all useful, but still basic when compared to Shopify.
Which has the better e-commerce tools and features?
It’s a clear victory for Shopify! Its tools are more advanced than Etsy’s and it can really help to grow your business more quickly.
Which has the most flexible design: Etsy or Shopify?
More and more of us are noticing poor design online. We spend so much time on websites that it’s got easier to spot the good from the bad. When it comes to design, this is less of an issue on Etsy, because you have to follow its layout. You can’t customise it at all – your Etsy shop will look the same as all the others. If you’re not a designer, this could be good news, as you don’t have to worry about what ‘looks good’. However, it does mean that you won’t be able to build a strong brand via Etsy, so if you are selling similar products to hundreds of other stores, it will be difficult to stand out.
If you want to create a strong brand for your online store, Shopify is the answer. It currently has over 100 themes for you to choose from, which gives you a brilliant starting point when building your website. You can even filter the themes to suit your industry – something we would advise as a great timesaver.
But what’s the best thing about Shopify’s themes? They are customisable! If you’re just starting to create your online store, this might not seem such a big deal, but experience tells us that eventually, you will want to make some design tweaks. So pick a theme that matches your industry and take it from there.
Who wins ‘most flexible design’: Etsy or Shopify?
There’s only one choice: Shopify.
Its high-quality themes and opportunity for customisation means you can create your brand look from day one. As a business owner, that’s a hugely valuable asset.
Domain and URL structure
A domain name is the website address people will use to find your site. The name you choose is really important when you’re setting up an online business. Domain names are unique (‘custom domains’) and as your brand expands, they become a vital component of your business’s success.
With Shopify, you are actively encouraged to use a custom domain.
That isn’t the case with Etsy. If you’re selling with Etsy, you don’t have ownership of a domain name. Instead, your domain will look something like:
As with much of Etsy, you are under their control. This is fine for those sellers who want to keep their e-commerce business small, but less so for those looking to expand.
Which is better for domain and URL structure: Etsy or Shopify?
With Shopify, you have a custom domain that tells your customers you are professional. With no option to have a custom domain on Etsy, you will find it much harder to establish your online brand.
Costs: Listing and transaction fees
Now on to one of the most important deciding factors when it comes to business owners deciding which is best between Etsy and Shopify: fees.
Before you sign up for any e-commerce platform, you should have a thorough understanding of all transaction fees. These can quickly add up, especially if you’re not expecting them.
Etsy charges listing fees of $0.20 per listing. This is the cost of publishing your listing and covers four months (or until the item is sold out).
Once you sell a product, there is a 6.5% transaction fee, plus a 3% + $0.25 payment processing charge. Although these charges are fairly common, Etsy’s rates are slightly higher than average. While this won’t have too much of an impact on your bottom line if you’re selling a small number of items, if your business grows (and we hope it does), you will start to notice those transaction fees.
If business is going well and you are already feeling those transaction fees, Shopify could prove to be better value. It uses Shopify Payments, which doesn’t charge any transaction fees. For Shopify Payments, you only have to pay the card processing fee at a rate of 2.2% + 20p (much less than Etsy).
However, if you opt to not use Shopify Payments, there are many other payment options available including PayPal, Apple Pay and Google Pay. The highest transaction fee for these is 2%, and the lowest is 0.5%. Again, much cheaper rates when compared with Etsy.
For businesses of all sizes, this is a big deciding factor.
Etsy’s Standard plan has no monthly fees, only the listing fees, transaction costs and payment processing charges applied to products. The Plus plan costs $10 per month and gives you more business tools to help grow your store, such as customisable options.
At first glance, Shopify’s pricing might seem substantial compared to Etsy’s but you get a lot more for your money, including those e-commerce tools and the opportunity to scale your business in the longer term.
Which is better on price, Etsy or Shopify?
Both are winners to us, but it depends on your ambitions. Etsy is clearly cheaper and wins for individual sellers who are happy to stay small. Shopify offers great value for money with many of its additional features included in its cheapest plan. If you’re keen to expand your business, Shopify is the frontrunner on price.
Which has the best seller support: Etsy or Shopify?
If you opt for Shopify to start or expand your business, you are sure to be impressed by their 24/7 support. We’ve used it ourselves and they have always (so far!) helped. The Shopify Help Center is your friend; it is easy to use and has plenty of Shopify resources that will help you think you have a supportive team on your side.
Etsy also has a Help Center for sellers. It’s easy to use and contains a lot of helpful Etsy resources when getting started. In our experience, these aren’t quite as thorough as Shopify help guides, but they are generally quite useful as a starting point.
Which offers the best support: Etsy or Shopify?
Shopify’s support team tend to go that extra mile, so Shopify wins. While Etsy does have a useful community forum (well worth a search if you have a burning Etsy question), it doesn’t compete with Shopify’s more comprehensive support.
Using Etsy with Shopify
If you’re anything like us, you can see the pros and cons of both Etsy and Shopify. The good news is, as an online business owner, you don’t have to just pick one. You can reap the rewards of both and have a much greater chance of growing your business. Thanks to Shopify’s App Store, you can add a Shopify app for syncing Etsy orders, ensuring that all Etsy orders are loaded into Shopify within seconds. This will give you complete control over all your orders on just one platform – you don’t have to switch between the two, which can increase the likelihood of missing orders.
If you have an Etsy shop and a Shopify store, Athlete allows you to sync orders and fulfillments quickly, making sure you can process orders as soon as possible and keep your customers happy. Try the Athlete Shopify app today on a free trial.
Our answer to the big question: Which is better, Shopify or Etsy in 2022?
If you start with Etsy and prove that there is a demand for your products, that’s great. But you are paying Etsy extra for providing that demand. Therefore, it makes sense to bring repeat business to your own (cheaper) platform – and that’s Shopify.
Setting up your e-commerce business on Shopify means you need to focus on brand and marketing, which does take time. In our experience of helping both Etsy sellers and Shopify merchants, the correct approach to grow your business is a blend of the two platforms. However, if you want to consolidate order control on a platform that only you control, Shopify is the best option.
Did you find this guide helpful? We'd love to hear from you – share your thoughts about the best platform for e-commerce sellers with us on Twitter, @sellwithathlete.