Sunday, September 25, 2022

Shopify Vs Etsy – A 2018 Comparison & Review

Last time I compared Shopify to Squarespace, and in all honesty there wasn’t much differentiating the two. They both sold well designed sites tailored for eCommerce. This time I’m comparing Etsy to Shopify, and from a store front perspective these two could not be more dissimilar. On one hand we have custom designed sites, an incredible amount of back end support and a consumer experience aiming their wallet directly at your products, on the other hand, while Etsy shares a few of these features, the primary method by which the consumer sees your products has more in common with eBay.

Don’t get me wrong, that may well be exactly what you’re looking for. A smaller storefront, specializing in handmade items with extremely low overheads. So from an introduction to business standpoint Etsy can make a lot of sense. But, if you have a decent volume of products and don’t want to see your items listed next to the competition, it may not be the option for you.

Let’s take a closer look at both platforms, weigh the pros and cons, and find the right fit for you.

Shopify Vs Etsy – Appearance, Professionalism, & Overall Look

For the most part this section is dedicated to letting you know which platform offers the most appealing looking designs, and usually I have to look through a whole load of different ones, comparing them to those offered by the competing platform. That is not the case here. While Shopify has hundreds of base themes, Etsy has a fair few less. For most users it’s one size fits all, but more recently they have added Pattern.

Etsy:

Etsy themesPattern is Etsy answer to Shopify. Instead of being listed alongside your competitors, you have your own custom store front. A separate website with a new domain name included. Sounds great on paper, but looking into it further I have to say it leaves a lot to be desired from an aesthetic standpoint. They let you look through a few completed sites and while they are clean and uncluttered, they are also a little basic in terms of design. A far cry from the sublime minimalism of Squarespace or the robust list of themes offered by Shopify.

I tried to find alternative designs, but could not. The style settings section allows you to change the font, background and accent colors, gallery layout and a few other things, but no real info on broader changes to the layout. Granted this feature is still in its infancy, and I expect the future to bring more and more functionality to it, but for the time being I don’t think it can compete on the market.

Outside of Pattern Etsy is simply nice to look at. It is clean, functional and reminds me of eBay. It’s great for the consumer, looking though items from multiple sellers, but for someone setting up shop for the first time, getting your product in front of someone who wants to buy it is essentially based on luck.

Shopify:

shopify-themesWhere Etsy has a drought of design options, Shopify has a deluge. There is a huge variety of themes available, both free and premium. In all honesty though, they free designs are superb. Unless you find yourself particularly taken with a premium design there is no real reason to buy anything, beyond your subscription fee. The best thing about the options available is they way they span the gamut of more boutique like personal sites and robust amazon.com-esque product block store fronts. It makes selecting the right option for you much easier. I prefer a site that makes it easy to browse, and most sites these days tend to favor an almost tumblr feed like design that I find both confusing and unsightly.

I would argue that due to the options available to you as a business person Shopify will take longer to set up just right. On Etsy you just fill out a form and stock your shop, done. Here there is more design work involved. It isn’t a huge issue, and I’m the kinda person that likes as much control over whatever I am working on as possible, but it is  something that needs to be taken into account when making your choice.

This section is decided on aesthetics alone, and while I like the steps Etsy is taking with regards to Pattern, i feel like it isn’t quite there yet. Shopify has all the design features in place to make a visually appealing and appropriate site right out of the gate, giving them an easy win.

Winner – Shopify

Shopify Vs Etsy – Features & Integrations

Features features features. Can’t have enough of them. Both Etsy and Shopify have a plethora of them, but one has more than the other. You’ll need social media integration, discount codes, maybe a blog, inventory control, report generation. Let’s take a look at the features offered by these two.

Etsy:

etsy featuresSeen as it’s pretty new to the personal online shop space, the features listed as available for Etsy’s Pattern format are a little lighter than I would like. Looking at their introductory page they list only a few. They offer payment processing, at a fairly heft 3.5%, unlimited listings, custom domain names, auto synced mobile site, plenty of stats and sales data and no storage limits as standard. Further digging revealed a few other pieces of choice information, the fact that your Etsy listing are auto synced to your pattern site, giving built in support for Etsy.com integration. I do know that all Etsy shops can be linked to existing Facebook and pinterest pages, and a simple click when listing your item will make it show up in your subscriber’s feeds, but I do not know if this feature has carried over to Pattern, I imagine it has.

Overall the list is a little lighter than the competition, but for $15 it’s a bargain. I hope to see more functionality added in the future, but for now they offer a great introduction to the world of online commerce.

Shopify:

shopify-pricing-2016Shopify bills itself as an all in one e-commerce solution, and it takes that title seriously. All of the features included with Pattern from etsy are here, the reports, the mobile site, unlimited listings, credit card processing, where they charge a mere 2.9%+30c, the works. In addition you gain an attached blog, abandoned cart retrieval, built in SEO, built in tax calculation and even gift card generation. You’ll be glad for the gift cards come holiday season, I can guarantee you that. The big selling point to Pattern is its auto sync feature with your regular Etsy listings, well Shopify can match that too. With a simple click you can transfer your Etsy listings to your Shopify site and even link the two of them with a nice little plugin. In addition you can sync your Shopify store to every form of social media there is, from Google+ to Twitter to Facebook, giving you access to as much advertising as possible.

The newest feature offered by Shopify is their Shopify POS system. It integrates your online store with your physical one, if you have one, and allows you to sync stock between the two, organizing it via an iOS app. I’ve seen it in action and I must say it elevates Shopify above the competition. If you find yourself debating over Shopify and Etsy though, having offline integration is likely not too high on your list of priorities, but It is still something to think about long term.

If you travel a bit, selling your crafts at festivals or open air markets, Shopify’s POS system is worth its weight in gold. It lets you take credit cards on the fly, and that is something that even a solo crafts person can see the use in. Seen as Shopify has been around a whole lot longer than Etsy, and their Pattern product is still young, I have to give this one to Shopify.

Winner – Shopify

Shopify Vs Etsy – Dropshipping

Dropshipping, by its very definition, is not really something you see on Etsy, even with Pattern. It is an option on all other eCommerce providers though, and Etsy’s attempt to expand their service to sellers kind of needs more features in general, including dropshipping support. there has been complaints of Chinese warehouse stores selling on Etsy anyway, why not slap your face and products alongside them and turn a profit from them. Dropshipping is essentially adding items from warehouse stores to your site, allowing you expand your product line, and keep costs low, as you do not need to store the items yourself. Shopify have plenty of options in this field, but i focus on two of them. So let’s take a look at what’s on offer here.

With Shopify there are really two big players on the market. The Shopified App, for the bigger seller, and Oberlo, for the low key supplementary drop shipper. I fall into the latter category, and so have a bit of an affinity for Oberlo. Oberlo focuses on the one site, Aliexpress, and that is really all you need access to to make a fully featured, and stocked, site. I love how streamlined it is, and the single site focus allows it to be feature rich, without the visual bugs that plague more broad spectrum solutions. Speaking of, the Shopified App is such, an app that can drop ship from pretty much every site you can imagine, even Amazon. Not sure of the utility of that, but maybe when finishing up a product line you need something from there, and the option is available for that. The price is a little steeper, but the added function is certainly worth it for the right kind of customer. Those two should be enough to keep you covered.

Etsy have no apps like this. The service is still too young to compete in my opinion. There is an underlying irony to this, but I’ll not be so crass as to spell it out. I hope in the future they do allow this kind of thing, though a quick look down their forums is enough to make anyone realize that there are some militant craftsmen out there, obsessed with authenticity. Up to you as to whether you want to take advantage of an excellent format or not.

Easy win from Shopify, simply by allowing it in the first place. Again, hope Etsy Pattern allow it at some point, and provide the tools for it, but right now they lose.

Winner – Shopify

Shopify Vs Etsy – Flexibility, Ease of Use, & Scalability

As I’ve said before, a big selling point to using Shopify or Etsy is how easy it is to set up a shop and start selling on the global market. Unlike the last time I compared companies in this category, here we have two very different business sizes. Etsy’s base size is their non-Pattern store, where you can throw a few products out into the jungle that is the end user experience on Etsy proper. It is a wonderful way to start a business, but the room for growth on that model simply isn’t there. It’s what Pattern is supposed to do. Offer a platform that can scale with your performance, and it has all the basics there. But it isn’t as robust as the competition just yet.

I fully believe that in time Pattern will be a real force to be reckoned with, as Etsy have the numbers behind them, but until then the extra options available from Shopify make it the clear winner. Being able to select the package, and upgrade your package over time, is too great a benefit to their system. We cannot ignore the importance of Shopify POS here either.

POS integrates offline store functions with your Shopify online store. I know that people who sell homemade crafts tend to visit conventions a lot, or at least I hope the folk I see selling stuff at conventions have some kind of online presence, and I just see POS as too useful to them, even at the entry level. Overall I like what I see from both firms, and for the smaller business the lower price offered by Etsy’s Pattern makes it very attractive, I just don’t think there is much there at the moment to facilitate longer term growth, unlike Shopify.

Winner – Shopify

2018 Update: As of now you can get started with Shopify for free by clicking this link. 

Shopify Vs Etsy – Cost & Value

The price difference offered by these two companies is substantial, to say the least. The lowest priced package available from Shopify, that includes a store, is $29, which is a great price for what you get. But Pattern is half the price, and has enough features to get you started online. They don’t offer any other pricing tiers, but they do take a slightly larger cut of your sales, 3.5% of every sale plus credit card fees to Shopify’s 2.9%+30c credit card fee, they do not charge you a transaction fee if you use Shopify Payments.

Moving on to other pricing echelons from Shopify, the next rung up is $79, and comes with all the features you could ever need. The extra design options from Shopify elevate it above Pattern. The integrated SEO, Shopify POS, broad spectrum social media integration, cart recovery, gift cards, overall the features you get make your business look more professional. Pattern is exclusively for selling hand crafted goods, limiting it’s versatility, and they tend to be less than discerning regarding what can be called a home made product, google factory sellers on etsy to see what I mean.

Disregarding that small issue, for the beginner Pattern, and Etsy itself, offer a great transitory platform on your way to true entrepreneurial greatness. And it is fantastic value fr money. It puts them ahead in this department.

Winner – Etsy

Shopify Vs Etsy – Recap & Review

Shopify Pros;

  • All in one solution
  • A tremendous amount of themes
  • Excellent customer care, 24/7 support
  • Constantly being expanded and worked on
  • Shopify POS
  • Easy to Set up

Shopify Cons;

  • Shopify back end language, Liquid, is a little difficult to get to grips with if you already know PHP or other language. There is a lot of documentation on it, and the 24/7 support line can usually help you resolve issues.
  • No built in market. Etsy has your product visible to a large amount of possible customers as soon as you list it, means you have to do your own marketing for the most part.

Etsy Pros;

  • Very easy to set up.
  • Auto integration with your Etsy store
  • Immediately visible to millions of potential customers
  • Very cheap for the moment
  • Still has features being added to it every so often

Etsy Con;

  • Still a young service. Pattern is not quite as robust as the competition
  • Etsy’s market place is flooded with cheap factory products in some, not all, places

Another service that is still too young to stand toe to toe with Shopify. I like what Etsy are doing, and the automatic listing on the main Etsy site as well as the Pattern site is fantastic, if you were going to join Etsy anyway then by all means get Pattern too. If you are looking to set up a real business, even a small one, then you have to go with Shopify, it offers more features, better scaling and a damn fine price.


Again if you want to take advantage of the free trial currently available for Shopify you can click here.

Barry W Stanton
Irish born writer who drinks too much caffeine and reads too much Terry Pratchett. I enjoy long walks on the server and Korean cuisine.
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