Etsy vs. Shopify

Etsy vs. Shopify

Are you struggling to choose between Shopify and Etsy? When you begin your exciting journey to sell products online, Etsy and Shopify are two of the major brands you'll see discussed online, and both have their raving fans. So which one is the better? 

Although on the surface they may seem similar, Etsy and Shopify are VERY different platforms. Etsy works more like a marketplace (think eBay or Amazon) whereas Shopify is an ecommerce platform to allow you to create your OWN store (think: no competition).
Etsy does have some favorable qualities, such as:
  • It's REALLY easy to set up and get started
  • Built-in traffic and engaged fans on the platform
  • No monthly subscription cost for Etsy Standard
  • Great analytics
However, there are quite a few limiting factors with Etsy that FAR outweigh the pros! In this module, we'll take a look at these factors and why it makes Shopify a much better choice!

1) Fees

With Etsy, they do not charge a monthly subscription fee to use their site on the standard plan. This can instantly make Etsy seem super attractive, but they do have 3 separate transaction fees no matter what plan you are on, which can quickly mount up when your sales volume increases. These transaction fees are:
  • Listing fee: $0.20 per item
  • Transaction fee: 5% for each sale
  • Payment processing : 3% + $0.25 for each sale
You do NOT pay listing or transaction fees to Shopify outside of credit card processing fees. Shopify does have a monthly subscription cost to use any of the plans on their platform (after the free trial period), which is $29/month.
If you compare the plans, let's say you have 20 products in your Etsy shop and you sell each product at $10/each. Maybe it's a bundle of printables or binders or something. You can't ask more money for your products there, so you're competing to the bottom price, which never wins for anyone. 
So whereas I can charge $57 for each binder, if I were on Etsy, I'd only be able to charge $10-$17ish and that's a huge price cut for me. But let's say you have 20 binders at $10 each and you pay the listing fees. That's $4 to list them. Not too bad. But the transaction fee is where you get cut. 5% is a lot. Let's say you sell 60 binders, that's $30 right there. 
Are you planning on selling less than 60 sales/month? 
Do you see how playing it safe and getting on Etsy messes with your mind. You want to save money, so you want to subconsciously sell less. Whereas, if you're on Shopify, you're paying $29/month and so your mindset is, "Okay, I can sell as much as I want because I'm just paying one fee. No problem!"
Selling on Etsy plays with your mind. It makes you play SMALL and when you play small, you have small success. You want to PLAY BIG!!!
Life is way too short to play small. If I'm going to invest all that time into creating my products, I'm not going to bow out and play small when it comes to selling them! I want to get them into as many hands as I can and if they don't get into people's hands, then I can't change people's lives and that would be MY fault. So yeah, I have to play big. It's my mission in life and it should be yours too! 
There are far too many benchwarmers out there. Don't be one of them!!!
Hands down, in the long term game for a growing business, it will work out cheaper to use Shopify. Spend wisely and start with the right platform!

2) Competition

This is a major factor!
I was on Facebook the other day and saw a Facebook ad and clicked it. I was interested in what she was selling. 
Clicked it and immediately saw this:
This poor lady is paying for people to see other people's items. In fact, I found myself clicking other people's stuff. Found things cheaper, things I liked better. 
All she's doing, sadly, is getting more traffic to Etsy. See her sales??? 6. 
I went back to her shop a couple weeks later. How many sales does she have now? 12. 
She sold 6 items in a few weeks. I don't know if she's still running ads or not, but if she is, she's losing money. 
ETSY SUCKS!!!! IT MAKES YOU FAIL!!!!!!!! #sorrynotsorry

You're not doomed to fail! But Etsy has so much competition and if you DO get anywhere, eventually, a mean competitor will just take you down (as you'll see later on in this post) so it's pointless to build on there.

Sometimes, I'm asked if you have to market your shop on Shopify. Yes, you do, but you also have to with Etsy. The difference is, when you market on Shopify, you keep all your traffic!!!
On Etsy, you have to compete with a LOT of other people. The marketplace setup encourages visitors to do a lot of browsing, which means they continue to stumble upon listings with similar products and alternatives to yours!
They are presented with so much choice that your products can and will get lost in the crowd. Even if you promote your Etsy shop, you get them to the store but your potential customer easily goes to buy someone else's stuff. Shopify can't do that to you! It's your store!! You display YOUR products without ANY distractions!
Etsy's number one priority is to make sales, and they don't care if that sale was from YOUR shop or SOMEONE ELSE'S. They just want the money; they don't care who it comes from.
Again, there's also competition with your price point. Due to the volume of sellers on Etsy, it can drive the prices down as everyone is trying to compete for attention by reducing their prices. Your profit margins can take a sharp nosedive! 
You're getting $10 for your binder. I'm getting $57 and before you think I'm gouging customers with too high of prices, check the shelves of any office supply store and tell me how much a planner is. A one-time use planner is a good $50 and it ain't even pretty! 
You can find prettier planners sure, but again, the one-time use planners are $30-$35 and they don't MAKE all the different binders I make. 
  • Blogging binders
  • Medical binder
  • Holiday binders
  • Christian binders
  • Essential Oil binders
  • ...and more!
As you're pricing your work, it's not fun to feel pressured into a price war, to take a cheaper price just to MAYBE get the sale, you should be paid fairly (each one of my binders takes me 3 weeks to build it!).
$10 for 3 weeks of my life?! No way!!!
A race to the bottom is not how you want to run your business! No one wins!
The very nature of a marketplace, generally attracts buyers looking for the lowest price possible with the best reviews. So even if you have great reviews, if your price isn't lower than the others selling similar products, you are unlikely to grab the sale. It's not a great situation.
Naturally, there will always be competition no matter where you sell online. However, it's the degree of the competition that matters. The competition on Etsy is also within your own shop, as Etsy displays competitor products right there on your store!
However, when people come to your own Shopify store, you can keep them on your site much longer. You won't be sending them away to look at other shops, and showcasing competitor products on your Shopify store like Etsy does.  You can design your Shopify store in a way that's engaging and gets people to stay browsing on what you (and ONLY you) have to offer.
When you have your own Shopify store and somebody lands on your site, their only option is to look at YOUR products. This is GOLD!

3) Control

With Etsy, you have almost no control over your shop. You are essentially renting a store on THEIR site and you have to abide by THEIR rules. They can enforce any policies and silly rules on a whim, and if you don't follow them, you will be removed. 
Even if you DO create an entire empire on the site, making millions of dollars, would you really feel safe doing that? Would you feel peace and security knowing it can just go POOF...bye-bye!!!
Your store is gone, just like that, after all your time and effort. Don't think it happens? I've seen it happen on a few other sites before. Etsy is not immune to it. 
And even if you can opt out of some policies, you'll likely be penalized. A prime example of this is when Etsy implemented the following:
"As of July 30, 2019, items that ship for free and shops that offer free shipping on orders $35 or more to US shoppers will be prioritized in US search to help US shoppers to find more items that ship free within the US."
This is really unfair for those that can't offer free shipping (items too large or heavy, for example). They will now have less exposure on Etsy due to this change. Even if you offer a better service and better quality products, those that can offer free shipping will be given preference and awarded higher positions in the Etsy search listings.
If you increase your prices to absorb the shipping costs to offer free shipping, you will likely end up with higher prices than others and you'll be unable to compete with them. You can't win with games like that. I mean really, if you wanna work for someone else, it's safer to just get a job. Maybe I'm crazy, but I HATE working for someone else. I hate it when I feel like people OWN me. Call me a rebel if you want, but this is my life and I should have the option to live it how I want. Obviously within reason. I obey laws and stuff, don't get me wrong, but when you are just CHOOSING to be under someone like this, where someone else owns you, to save a few pennies at first, it's stupid. 
It reminds me of the Bible passage that talks about the son giving up his rights as firstborn for a bowl of soup. It seems crazy, doesn't it???
Here is another one in the works by Etsy:
"All sellers will be opted into the advertising program when it goes live next month. Sellers making less than $10,000 per year — most people on the site — will be able to opt out, but they will still be automatically included in the program to start. Those stores will be charged a higher 15 percent fee."
You are at the mercy of Etsy's rules and the change above just screams of greed. These changes smack you in the face out of nowhere and you're always on edge wondering how the next change will affect your store and income! That's no way to run a business. That's not peace. Control is of utmost importance and you just don't have it with Etsy.
When they make design changes. You just have to roll with it.
When they change their algorithm, your shop will be affected by it, good or bad, but you won't know until it happens.
Etsy is not your own site or platform, so you don't get to control where the Etsy ship goes. If it sinks, you will sink along with it!
This is OK if you want to use Etsy as a little hobby side project, and you are not relying on the income, but it's not a good place if you want to make real, lasting money. 
With Shopify, you have full control over your listings and store. You can create your website and product pages to look however you want them to and make sensible pricing and shipping decisions, should you choose to ship products. You are not bound by how someone else wants your store to look or by someone else's rules, like you are with Etsy.

4) Less Professional

Tell me I'm not the only one, but when I use Google to search for a specific product, I am usually attracted to the listings that aren't from marketplaces like Etsy or even ebay and Amazon. I feel like the products will be subpar. 
To me, a business seems more authentic when they have their own domain and store rather than a listing on a site like Etsy. I'm far more interested in clicking on the personally owned shop to see what they have to offer.
I feel like it comes with more WEIGHT. 
A shop with its own domain and website just seems more professional and competent. Like it suggests they take their business SERIOUSLY and it gives me more peace of mind. It feels like someone unsure and just testing the waters would use Etsy, whereas someone who is confident in their business and what they have to offer, would have their own online store.
Etsy stores also seem less professional from a publicity and networking perspective. To get media attention, it's much better to have your own domain and store. It's not to say it's never possible to get media attention on Etsy, but the lack of professionalism makes it more difficult to be taken seriously.  
A long URL that starts with, does not look pretty or professional. Reviewers and media outlets are aware of this, so they tend to feature personally owned stores over Etsy ones. When media or other related sites write a piece on a store, they want to be known for sharing authentic and competent stores (did you know that MSN published me linking to my printables and BuzzFeed said that I was at the top of the printables empire)? I wouldn't have been able to get that attention with an Etsy shop, I promise you that! 
Soooo, I get more attention and make more sales! Them sharing my links/site is a reflection on them, so they don't want to be sharing some generic wishy-washy store that looks like any other Etsy store. They want something serious!
This obviously won't concern those that just want to make a few sales as a hobby (and that's totally okay!), but for those that want to take things more seriously and build a business that makes money on autopilot one day, this would be a massive concern.

5) Lost Sales

We previously discussed this, but it's so major, it deserves it's own category in this post! :)
Etsy is like a giant mall with boatloads of shops offering the similar products and bombarding visitors with so much selection. It's beyond difficult for you to stand out and capture the attention of these visitors.
Potential buyers land on the Etsy site and they have hundreds of options vying for their attention other than YOUR products. They can and will get distracted by the other options and if they do land in your Etsy shop, Etsy itself has so many options that they likely won't stay and browse your store for long (if at all).
There are umpteen different sellers that all sell the same thing, so the very website is competing with you. This can result in a TON of lost sales. Even if someone is interested in your products, there attention can be quickly taken by the ads for those selling similar products to yours.
When you have your own Shopify store and somebody lands on your site, their only option is to look at YOUR products. You are more likely to convert a visitor on your own store, when you have their undivided attention and no competitor products trying to steal your thunder.
You also lose sales on Etsy because they don't have any up sell or add-on product functionality.  This is definitely a well-known technique to increase revenue. If a visitor is buying one product from you, it is easier to suggest and sell other items to them than somebody who hasn't already decided to purchase from you (for me, I use a reviews system as a classy and discreet way to upsell). :)
When a potential buyer is looking at your listing on Etsy, there is no suggested products or add-on feature.  Shopify has awesome product recommendation capabilities to help drive more sales and profit! They have apps you can add right into the product ads (I don't do that, but you can!).

6) Branding

Shopify allows you to communicate your brand to visitors more than Etsy ever will. More often than not people buy on Etsy and don't recall what the shop name was. When someone asks where they got their cool wall art, almost everyone will say "I got it from Etsy". This doesn't do you any favors from a brand perspective and there will be no word of mouth marketing for you.
When someone gets something from me, for example, they say, "I got this from Sarah Titus". Run a Google search on just my name and you find it. Bada-bing-bada-boom, FREE advertising!!!!!!!!!!!
If your site is well-designed and intuitive, your brand will be taken more seriously on your own site than on Etsy. For similar reasons, your own eCommerce site can be better for customer referrals, as there's less brand confusion and customers have an easier time of remembering your personal URL than that of your Etsy store.
Etsy listings are just too generic and you can't generate the type of look and feel you want for your brand. It's hard to differentiate one store from another on Etsy because they just look so similar. You definitely won't have that problem with Shopify! You can differentiate and design your store exactly how you want, allowing you to inject the exact look and feel you want your brand to portray.

7) No Email List

And now, we reach the most important reason!!!
Having an email list is a goldmine for an online business. I started my Shopify store a few years ago with 35,868 email subscribers and today, I'm at over 100k!!!
Each week, I get to send my most loyal fans free stuff (to keep them on my list) and sales when they occur, both for my printables shop and for my courses. 
My email list gets me traffic to my blog (media ads income and shares to blog posts), traffic to my store (sales), and course sales (I made $816,809 last year (2020) in course sales alone!)
Without my email list, I wouldn't be making near as much as I do ($8M/year at this point)!!!
Unfortunately, Etsy does not allow you to capture buyer email addresses for your own list. 
This sucks!!! Considering that 36.8% of my sales are REPEAT customers (my 2020 stats). 
36.8% of $7 MILLION is uhhhh....quite a lot! I'd be without a good chunk of those sales without my email list!!
The inability to communicate with buyers is a MAJOR drawback. It's far easier to get repeat sales from an existing customer than to a new one. Etsy doesn't allow you to connect and develop a relationship with your buyers. People say "The money is in your email list" for a reason, you're severely limiting your earning potential without being able to build a list of buyers.

8) Target Audience

We all know that having a clear idea of your target audience and where to find them is a major key to your success. It's worth considering the types of audience Shopify and Etsy attract to see if it fits with the people you are trying to reach.

I think it's REALLY obvious that Etsy an online marketplace that mainly targets and attracts female buyers and sellers. That's great if that's the demographic you want to target, but not so great if your audience is gender neutral or male dominated.

On the other hand, Shopify isn't predominantly targeting any one specific gender. They are more neutral on that front. There's an abundance of themes to allow you to customize your store to cater to a particular audience.

9) Types of Products

On Shopify, you can really sell almost anything, as long as it's legal, abides by their Acceptable Use Policy, and isn't on their restricted items list. Shopify is more geared towards small business owners who are wanting to focus on building a brand, so it's completely up to you whether you want to sell physical goods, digital products, services, or a combination of those.

However with Etsy, the focus is more on handmade goods, craft type supplies, and vintage items. Etsy has pretty strict regulations on the types of products you are permitted to sell on their platform. You need to closely follow the guidelines on what qualifies as “handmade” and “vintage”. If your products don't abide by the guidelines, then you aren't able to list them on Etsy at all.

Etsy wants to protect and guarantee that their platform is centered around unique and distinctive handmade, vintage, or craft supply goods. It's not like you could even buy homemade items and resell them on Etsy. If you didn't make it yourself, you cannot sell them on Etsy.

10) Income

From experience, I've never seen someone make more on Etsy over Shopify. Whenever my friends have moved from Etsy to Shopify, their income ALWAYS skyrockets!
One of my friends was on Etsy and making a little each month. She went through an Etsy course online. Doing okay with it. Then I talked to her and told her about Shopify. She didn't listen. lol. Went with another company online (similar to Shopify) and made a little more than Etsy. Then, after a while, she was frustrated. Finally gave in and went with Shopify, now she has TWO Shopify stores and made over $300 in her first DAY on Shopify WITHOUT an email list!
She makes more on Shopify than anywhere else (3 other sites - one being Etsy). I've personally tried many other platforms as well (Podia, Amazon, BigCommerce, and have coached many others using all different platforms as well) and always made the most with Shopify every single time.
One of my other friends, she's a blogger and has been on Etsy for around 9 years now. Making good money but went to Shopify and started making $5k/month very soon and she's doing really well. She was making $500/month between Etsy and one other site, now $5k/month on Shopify. That's a huge difference. Massive!

11) Just Plain Evilness

I received the following comment and am updating this post to include #11.

And another...

I have seen the exact same thing on other sites as well. It is sad but true. 

When I was on ebay, I had a friend that sold the same thing as me (Littlest Pet Shops) and we had stores. We were of the top 5 sellers on ebay all the time and another lady, who was also in the top 5, would go to our shop every year, buy from us and leave a negative feedback. 

I had purchased from her in my collecting (by chance, nothing evil), so I knew her name/mailing address. The lady purchasing from us both and leaving negative feedback every year was indeed the same girl. Same name. Same mailing address. I could literally prove it was her and yet ebay would not do anything about the negative feedback.

On ebay, it is imperative to have 100% positive feedback. If you don't, you get less sales to those who DO have 100% positive feedback. My friend and I are not evil people and didn't do the same thing back to her (though tempted, I'll admit). She was getting more sales because she was doing that and I could prove it, but do nothing about it. 

After the second time she did it, I decided ebay wasn't for me anymore. I didn't want to be around people like that and so I left and became a blogger. Now I make 7-figures/year and was only making $1,500-$3k/month on ebay. She actually did me a favor in the long run, by her evilness (God always is faithful to take care of His children), but it was a nightmare while I was there. 

If that wasn't bad enough, I thought selling my ebooks on Amazon would be different. I made it to the Best Sellers list on my books without giving anything away free. I was doing great. Very successful and had a competitor with an ax to grind. She got a hold of a few of her friends and twisted truths and made a lot of trouble for me. She did negative feedbacks and didn't even purchase the book. She used her name. On that one, she didn't even hide. 

Thankfully now, when I look at her profile on Facebook (happenstance), I see she's married and completely happy now. I'm honestly so happy for her to have found happiness and joy and wish her all the best in life. But it wasn't a fun experience to go through.

There will always be people who want to knock you down. There will always be competitors who play dirty. On Shopify, you don't have to deal with that. You can choose not to publish those types of comments and yes, I've seen 3 of those comments on my Shopify store since opening. It still happens, but NOW...I can control it. 

On Etsy, Amazon, ebay, and other places of similar fashion, you can't control it. And you can lose everything in a millisecond. 

Don't play by someone else's rules. Make your OWN rules in life!! While Etsy may make a little bit of money as a short-term side hustle, it's not for the person who is working hard creating a lot of stuff and making a business. It's just foolish to build there! The Bible says a fool builds on sand- Matthew 7:24-27 (in principle). We want to build on rock and I feel like Etsy is building on sand. 

The factors mentioned in this module highlight the main reasons why Etsy is not the right platform if you want to make serious money.
Based on the points above, it's clear Shopify is the better choice overall, but there are times when a person could go with Etsy instead of Shopify. Maybe they have 1-2 items. Maybe they just wanna try it out. Maybe they just wanna make a couple of quick bucks. But for the person who wants to make SERIOUS money and set up a business that can make them a boatload of money, Shopify is hands down the way to go!