Should you sell on Etsy or Shopify? Is one better than another? And how do you know which one will be best for your business right now? Should you sell on both? If you started your small business, or are considering starting one soon, you are probably asking yourself one of the questions above. You are in the right place! As an experienced Etsy seller, Shopify seller and small business mentor working with small business owners daily, I get this question A LOT. So today, I will give you my honest answer, together with guided questions that will help you decide which platform is best for your situation.
FACT: While many Etsy sellers are closing their shops daily, and moving to Shopify, Shopify sellers are closing their shops and moving to Etsy. You can ask 1000 small business owners, and everyone will give you different answers about their preferred selling platform and why. What may work for one small business may not be the best choice for another.
Before you make a major decision to start an Etsy or Shopify store, or switch from one platform to another, you need to understand the nature of each platform to make the best decision for your business. If you don’t understand the nature of the platform you choose for your business, you won’t succeed on any of them. Etsy and Shopify are both great platforms for small business owners, yet they are very different.
Understand nature of the platform
Etsy is a marketplace. What does that mean? Etsy provides a platform for small business owners to sell & at the same time, brings customers to their site who are interested in buying those products. In other words, customers on Etsy always type into the Etsy search bar products they are looking for with their credit card ready to shop. Think of Etsy as “Amazon for handmade & unique products”.
THIS is the biggest perk of selling on Etsy. You pay your fees, they bring customers. And if you take time to learn how to follow their SEO rules and use quality keywords in your shop, you can run successful shop without having to spend time and money marketing your products. If you don’t know what am I talking about, download my Free Etsy SEO Guide here to understand this better.
Besides, Etsy is entirely beginner friendly. You can open your Etsy shop within one hour and start listing your products immediately. Sounds almost too good to be true? Well, there are strings attached. As an Etsy seller, you are limited to the platform’s rules. It’s their platform; they bring customers, and they make the rules. You pay % for each product you sell for using their marketplace. If Etsy decides to change the policies or fees tomorrow, you must obey if you want to continue selling there. Let me summarize Etsy’s pros and cons in the image below for you.
Shopify is one of the most popular e-commerce platforms. It allows you to create a fully customized professional website with your domain name without learning to code. You can choose one of the free Shopify themes or purchase a beautifully designed theme to fit your branding and create a professional brand experience for your customers. You can also integrate your email marketing provider and social media feed and create a blog for your website.
However, Shopify is NOT a marketplace. It’s just an e-commerce platform. What does that mean? It means you create your online store and take care of your entire marketing yourself. Shopify does not bring customers to your store; you are 100% responsible for bringing traffic to your website, which is more complicated than it sounds. Most small business owners know how to make or source their products, but when it comes to getting sales online, that’s a whole new challenge. Optimizing your shop with keywords to rank on Google is not easy; you will likely need to hire someone to help you with that.
When you choose to sell on Shopify, you will need to learn how to market your products online to get sales. Side note: marketing your products does not mean posting your product occasionally on Instagram or Facebook. With thousands of small businesses on social media, you’ll need to have a solid marketing strategy and know how to attract the right followers and convert your audience into paying customers. This can be an uphill battle, especially if you are a person who says, “I am not good at social media.”
Before we move on to making a decision which platform is best for you, let me sum up Shopify’s pros and cons:
Now that you know how both platforms operate, you can understand that one is NOT better than the other. But one may be more suitable for your business than the other based on your skill set, preferences & goals. So without further due, let’s dive into the specific questions you need to ask yourself before you decide to open your Etsy/Shopify store or switch from one to another.
Which one is better for your business right now?
Question #1: What are you selling?
On Etsy, you can only sell handmade items, craft supplies and vintage products. Based on Etsy’s policies, here is what that means specifically:
- Handmade items: “Handmade items are items that are made and/or designed by you, the seller. You must: Physically make or create the original designs for your items. Include each person involved in making your items or running your business in the about section of your shop. If you work with a production partner, you must disclose that production partner in your relevant listings. Use your own photographs in your listings. Reselling is not allowed in the Handmade category on Etsy.”
- Craft supplies: “Craft supplies on Etsy are tools, ingredients, or materials whose primary purpose is for use in the creation of an item or special occasion. Craft supplies may be handmade, commercial, or vintage. Party supplies may also be sold as craft supplies.”
- Vintage items: “Vintage items must be at least 20 years old. Newer, vintage-style, or collectible items aren’t allowed in this category.”
If you are not selling any of the above, you won’t be able to sell on Etsy and will have to sell on Shopify or another e-commerce platform.
Question #2: How serious are you about your small business?
A) Do you want to try to sell your products as a weekend hobby to earn extra pocket money? Are you looking for an easy solution that won’t require you to constantly make TikToks and take the joy out of your creativity? Then 1 point for Etsy, 0 for Shopify!
B) Do you want to grow your business long-term? Are you willing to invest time/money in learning online marketing? Then 1 point for Shopify, 0 for Etsy.
Question #3: How are your technical skills?
A) Are you looking for a quick and easy step-by-step store set-up? Do you get easily overwhelmed by technology? Then 1 point for Etsy, 0 for Shopify.
B) Do you have patience with technology, and are you OK with spending time to custom create your e-commerce store? Then 1 point for Shopify, 0 for Etsy.
Question #4: How will you get sales?
It’s important to understand that getting sales on Etsy or Shopify is never passive. Even if you are selling digital products, you need to know how to get customers to find your product on the internet before you will get consistent sales.
A) If you want to get sales on Etsy, you must define how you will compete with established sellers selling similar products. You will also need to learn how to SEO optimize your shop so Etsy shoppers can find your products in Etsy search.
B) To get sales on Shopify, you need a strategic traffic plan to bring customers to your shop. You will need to learn how to market your products online using free social media traffic or paid ads.
Make it simple: if you already have an audience interested in buying your products or are willing to learn online marketing, Shopify is the right one for you. If you don’t have an interested audience (social media, email list) and don’t know much about online marketing, I’d recommend sticking to Etsy until you start building your audience.
Question #5: How important is for you to have control?
This is a tricky question to answer but an important one to ask. You must follow Etsy’s rules when you choose to sell on their platform. You may get rewarded with a better ranking if you do what they say, but you may also be punished for not following their policies. Etsy can shut your store down, and you have no control over it. Yes, it is scary, but let me remind you that this can happen also with Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and Amazon. Any platform which is not yours comes with perks and risks. The question is:
A) Are you willing to take a chance, and will you follow their rules? If the answer is yes, 1 poing for Etsy and 0 for Shopify.
B) Are you absolutely terrified of not having complete control over your shop? And are you willing to do everything we mentioned above to make Shopify work for you? Then 1 point for Shopify and 0 for Etsy.
Now when you answered the questions, take a look at the points you gave to Etsy and Shopify and choose which one has more points for you. Consider which points are more valuable for your unique situation. I don’t want you to get stuck here. Choosing the platform for your business is a big decision, but it is also just one of the thousands of decisions you will make for your business. The sooner you decide, the faster you will move forward. Keep in mind that you can always open shop on the other platform later or switch entirely in the future when your business situation and priorities change.
I truly hope this blog post helped you to make a decision on which platform is the best one for your business right now. If so, shoot me a DM on my Instagram at @smallbizbabescommunity; I’d love to hear which platform you chose and why!
Until next time,
Thank you, this helps. I have been back and fourth whether I should stay on Etsy or go on Shopify. I’m thinking of moving to Shopify because I bring in most of the traffic and I don’t like all of the fees that comes with each purchase on Etsy.
You are welcome Brianna, so glad this was helpful for you! If you are bringing most of your traffic yourself, I think this is a great decision!