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Andrew Rosensweig
05.10.2018

When trying to build your online shopping presence, it’s essential to compare platforms to determine the most suitable for your business. In this survey we are going to offer a comparison of Shopify and Etsy as eCommerce solutions.

While Shopify is a well regarded eCommerce platform serving millions of web stores and business aspirations, Etsy comes as one of the most popular marketplaces allowing both sellers and buyers of all different scales to perform transactions in a user friendly interface.

Both can boast tremendous popularity and exposure, yet they have many differences in terms of target audience, nature of operation, pricing, user interface/user experience, feature set, and design. In the following, we are going to compare and contrast the principal differences between these two platforms.

Shopify store designer easily customizes the webstore layout

Popularity and target audience


First and foremost, it’s important to draw a distinction between Etsy as an online marketplace and Shopify as a standalone eCommerce platform. This makes it rather difficult to place the two in the same ballpark. Nevertheless, it is necessary to determine whether establishing your own webstore or selling through a marketplace is best suited for your business as the two are serious options for eCommerce platforms.

Being an online marketplace, Etsy is searched by millions of buyers and sellers alike. Having competitors such as eBay and Amazon, Etsy differentiates itself by focusing more on unique or curated products as opposed to a typical resale market. Showcasing products in a marketplace such as Etsy is a great way to establish a brand. The nature of this format makes it easy to attain organic web traffic to your product with visitors at one central hub.

Shopify, on the other hand, is an ideal platform for presenting your webstore through a standalone website. When crafting your own brand identity and product line, a platform like Shopify is going to offer a user experience that is under your control. In that sense, Shopify has a more sophisticated sensibility, presents the perception of a more established business, and often is a solution once a business has outgrown a marketplace-beginning like Etsy.

Ease Of Use



As far as Etsy’s functionality goes, each store doesn't differ much from the other as the choice of functions remain the same for everyone. This actually helps shoppers intuitively browse through product in an orderly fashion without readjusting to the quirks of different user interfaces as you would on different websites. Yet it also significantly inhibits any brand identity and the ability to instill a shopping experience that customers will remember - that "je ne sais quoi" that brings users back as repeat customers. So, while the usability makes shopping quick, orderly, and uniform, the lack of customization in appearance and functionality is somewhat at the detriment of brand building and lifetime customer value objectives.

Also, the search function is quintessential to Etsy as it is in any marketplace format. Creating item listings without containing the right keywords and searchable details can considerably diminish the chances of sellers appearing in search queries and overall visibility.

With regard to Shopify, the convenience and ease of use for a robust eCommerce platform makes it an industry leader. It allows a vast degree of control and customization with a plethora of features at an extremely accessible level. Sellers have control over determining the user experience of their webstore and have the ability to cultivate a true brand identity. Furthermore, Shopify caters to the increasing mobile eCommerce trend, optimizing themes for mobile device experience. Lastly, navigating the back end of a Shopify store is simple through a user-friendly dashboard with easy access to all sections.

Shopify is an easy to use platform for making updates like discounts

Feature Set and Flexibility



Etsy offers all of the features expected of a store functioning within a marketplace. Although there are not significant native features in the platform, Etsy does allow integration of some third party apps. Thus, the seller can easily allow apps like Google Shopping, Google Analytics, Bing, Shopstyle and Facebook to synchronize with the store. Creating a privacy policy, preferences for notification delivery, two-factor authentication, preferred language and region are also some controls albeit scarcely any selling points.

When it comes to Shopify, there's practically an inexhaustible range of features. A given theme will provide its built-in feature set, with some themes more developed than others. Yet Shopify also has third party app integrations to extend store features to accommodate almost any want or need. Offering a full range of feature options for every different product niche along with a whole array of flexible design settings, Shopify is a robust eCommerce solution. In comparison, Etsy’s functions are only a fraction of what Shopify offers.



Design

Online seller updates Shopify eCommerce Website



In spite of being a marketplace, Etsy’s structure allows the seller to offer a professional looking webstore from the get-go by utilizing the design convention of Etsy. Further, Etsy has a mobile app that ensures customers have a user experience designed specifically with mobile devices in mind. Nevertheless, all the stores on the Etsy platform are part of the same marketplace and therefore have the same design. There isn’t any degree of customization to your own storefront other than a page banner. Custom themes, editing of CSS code, or using your own design layout all elude Etsy and present a major downside. 

Shopify, on the other hand, offers custom design elements almost without limit. There are close to one hundred themes (comprising both paid and free) and these are enough to bring your store a custom look and feel. Moreover, all designs are made keeping the ease of use and accessibility in mind for customers. You can further tweak any theme with preferences for header, footer, hero images and slideshows, fonts, color schemes, etc.

Fees & Pricing

Having an account and a store on Etsy is free. You only need to pay $0.20 for listing items. For every items sold you need to pay a 3.5% transaction fee for each sale along with credit card fees. If you make a custom domain, a $15/mo fee is applicable.

With Shopify, the basic service level costs a monthly fee of $29. This fee includes both hosting charges and support. There is no transaction fee on Shopify except the regular credit card processing fees.



Marketing and SEO

With Etsy, you can bring visitors to your shop through ads and other web marketing devised and maintained entirely by yourself. However, the nature of a marketplace format means that there’s a fair chance the traffic you bring will be tempted to view the offerings of other marketplace sellers. In addition to any personal marketing efforts, the platform itself makes advertisements and brings traffic to the marketplace. This allows the potential of more exposure depending upon your products and offerings. Also, Etsy features paid search advertising, where sellers can natively promote their product listing within search results to improve their visibility.

With Shopify, your web store works like a standalone business with the aid of a gamut of marketing tools. As previously mentioned, the platform offers an exhaustive range of features and apps that further extend your webstore capabilities to help you market your site and build online traffic. Furthermore, Shopify also provides a very SEO-friendly structure with built-in best practices for SEO as well as easy integration of email marketing apps, all designed to help boost the visibility of your products and store over the web.

An example of a Black Friday sales promotion on a Shopify webstore

Customer Support



Etsy offers very limited tech support. The customer support for Etsy consists in accessing the “Etsy Help Center” section in the store dashboard. Through this, you can connect with the tech support team, find articles and how-tos, as well as browse their live forum.

Shopify offers a range of tech support which is available through live chat, e-mail, and phone. Further, there are copious amounts of information in tutorials and live forums. Shopify also has a YouTube channel offering educational videos to address all types of common issues.

Conclusion

Knowing your target audience and business goals is key in determining your choice of platform. Also, your product offering and ability to attain organic traffic are considerations in whether Shopify or Etsy are better suited to your needs. For sellers just testing out the market or casually listing a few products without aspirations of building your own unique enterprise, Etsy can be an effective choice. However, if you have a product range capable of supporting a new and promising brand in the eCommerce industry, Shopify is likely an ideal platform. Shopify offers a much deeper range of options without sacrificing simplicity, requiring little effort or expertise to build a competitive eCommerce site.

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