From geeky handmade jewelry to vegan leather wallets, what starts as your part-time hobby could one day become your full-time passion that brings home the bacon. But that brings new challenges as you transition from hobbyist to business owner: you’re passionate about what you create, not what accounting software or ecommerce platform you use.
Lucky for you, we at The Taproom Agency are very passionate about ecommerce. We’re here to break down the top 3 things to consider when deciding which platform to build your business on. Today we’re looking at Shopify versus Etsy.
Let’s Get to Know Our Platforms
Etsy is a well-known website specializing in handmade goods, artisanal crafts, and vintage wares. It’s a marketplace platform like Amazon, so customers can search and find results from a variety of stores. Strict guidelines are in place around what can and can’t be sold on their website.
Shopify is an ecommerce platform where each seller has their own online store on a custom-designed website. There’s no centralized marketplace like Etsy, but you can sell what you want and manage it on their platform.
#1: Pricing and Fees
A big consideration for any small business owner is how much it costs to run an online store.With Etsy, you pay 3 fees: a listing fee of $0.20 per item for 4 months, a transaction fee (in July 2018 this increases from 3.5% to 5.0%), and a payment-processing fee of 3% plus $0.25 on every purchase. These fees are part of Etsy Standard. In a June 2018 press release, Etsy announced Etsy Plus and Etsy Premium: monthly payment options that give merchants access to customization features and support tools.
With Shopify, you pay a monthly subscription fee for your store—Basic at $29, Professional at $79, and Advanced at $299—depending on your business needs. If you use Shopify Payments to process transactions, transaction fees are waived. You do pay a credit card transaction fee that decreases based on your plan, and a similar scaling percentage fee on payments using third-party providers like PayPal or Amazon Payments. Shopify Plus is an enterprise-level service offered to high-growth, high-volume merchants, starting at $2,000 per month.
How Do They Compare?
On Etsy Standard, if your business makes less than $1,600 per month, your total amount of transactions fees will be less than the $79 Shopify Professional monthly cost. If your business makes more than this, or you’re scaling it to make more than this, Shopify becomes the more logical option. Etsy will quickly become more expensive once you pass this threshold.
#2: Customization and Ownership
When you create a brand, it’s very much your “baby”: you conceive it, name it, shape it, and spend your nights worrying how to raise it... Your brand is highly personal. For a lot of our clients, making their storefront look exactly the way they want is deeply important. After all, when it comes to new customers, first impressions count!
As a marketplace, Etsy has its own website with the same design and setup for every listing. You can upload photos, product names, and description text on a storefront that looks the same as other Etsy merchants. For customization, you can upload a banner, choose featured products, and add text about your store and brand. With new Plus and Premium features, you’ll be able to add a custom domain and edit certain storefront features for a monthly fee.
On Shopify your store is fully customizable so it looks exactly the way you want. You can add pages like About Us and blog posts, customize product pages, and more. You can pick an out-of-the-box theme, or create your own theme with the help of a web developer. Not only is your store fully tailored to your brand, but you’re not sharing your space with other brands—it’s your website and store. Customers won’t need to search through lots of similar products to find your store.
How Do They Compare?
If you’re just starting out, Etsy is an appealing option. You don’t need to think about how your store looks or functions—just upload your products and a banner and you’re good to go. But Etsy also has strict guidelines about what you can and can’t sell. You can’t sign customers up to a mailing list, and you can’t link customers to external pages or a website, if you have them.
If you’re looking to build a strong brand on a store you can make your own, then Shopify is definitely a long-term, scalable solution. Additional costs are involved if you hire a web developer and designer, but at the end of the day you’ll have a beautiful, functional store that’s entirely yours. Plus, you won’t need to adhere to Etsy’s marketplace rules, and having a mailing list is a big bonus.
#3: Exposure and Marketing
When you’re starting out, or if you have a growing brand but a small team, you might already be asking yourself, “How do I get people to buy this?”.
Etsy, as mentioned in this article, is a marketplace where customers type what they’re looking for and find hundreds of results from different stores. You can stand out by having professional product photography and catchy descriptions and names. You can also promote products for a fee, and with Etsy’s new monthly subscription options, there might be even more ways to stand out in the crowd.
With Shopify you’re running—and marketing—your own store. But there’s a wealth of social media platforms available depending on your audience. With some guidance from a social media strategist, you’ll be poised to create your own community and use all the advertising options on each platform. Plus, Shopify has integrations with marketing services like MailChimp, so you can automate your marketing campaigns.
How Do They Compare?
A growth-oriented business with a higher marketing budget will scale faster with a proper marketing strategy that focuses on building its brand on platforms beyond their online store. You’ll have more control over how your content looks and feels, and customers will be directed to your website, not to a marketplace where they might find (and choose) other businesses in the same niche.
But if you’re a hobbyist in the process of finding your business feet, you might want to take more time to grow your business internally and gain momentum before diving into a digital marketing strategy. If that’s the case, starting on Etsy means your items are discoverable through a search. When defining your brand, keep in mind Etsy’s potential oversaturation as a marketplace so that you stand out from competitors.
Now that you know more about Etsy versus Shopify, it’s all up to you! Decide what kind of business and brand you want to build and which platform is a better fit. So that you can get back to doing what you love—making your products.
Need more advice? Get in touch!