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Updated 10/24/20

The Battle of Scale

If you ever thought about selling that vintage sweater sitting in your closet or turning your creative pastime into a side business, you probably know Etsy. How does it stand against Shopify, another popular platform for new entrepreneurs? We did the research and got the facts. Check out our guide to learn more.

As of 2019, more than 45 million buyers used Etsy, an online marketplace where you can buy and sell anything “handcrafted, vintage or unique.” Like Amazon or eBay, it lists your products alongside millions of other third-party sellers.

Etsy: number of active buyers 2012-2019

Shopify, by contrast, is a popular, fully hosted software platform that allows you to build your online business from scratch. It gives you all the tools you need to set up and manage your store effectively.

Although both are very popular with sellers, they are fundamentally different methods of selling. Etsy is like selling in art and crafts fair or a farmer’s market, Shopify is like having your own store. Only on the web.

We might as well be comparing apples to oranges. But setting them side-by-side allows you to see which aligns best with your business goals.

So here are some of our takeaways from comparing the two platforms.


Shopify has a straightforward pricing plan. The three levels range between $29 and $299 per month along with a 14-day free trial period. Based on your plan, you get different numbers of staff accountants, shipping discounts, or reporting plans.

If you are just starting and don’t know how much you will sell, Shopify’s Advanced plan ($299) might be more than you necessarily need. More is not always better.

Of course, another choice for high-volume sellers and large businesses is Shopify Plus, which can spike the price significantly. You might be looking at $2,000 a month!

If you use Shopify payments, you don’t pay any transaction fees. But otherwise, you will end up with transaction fees of 0.5% - 2% based on the level you choose.

Unlike Shopify, Etsy has no monthly subscription fees. You pay 20 cents per item you list, 5% transaction fee on every purchase, and payment processing fees on every purchase of 3% and 25 cents.

At first, Etsy seems much less expensive. The tricky part of Etsy’s pricing is your monthly selling volume. The more items you sell, the more costs you should expect with transactions, listings, and payment fees. At some point, you might be paying more per month than you would with Shopify’s subscription.

Ease of use

Both platforms are super easy to use. Etsy has the advantage of an online marketplace—it has a pre-designed template that allows you to list your product in no time. 

Although more detailed than Etsy, Shopify is also very user-friendly. It has a clean, streamlined interface and offers the best tools for your site’s design and management with little to no technical knowledge necessary. If you’re stuck, there’s a 24/7 help and support that will come in handy.


Here, Shopify comes out  on top by a long shot. It offers some of the best eCommerce tools, and with much more variety and functionality than Etsy. 

Shopify Online Store

Some of its best features include the ability to sell across 10 different social platforms, Abandoned Cart Recovery, Third-party shipping rates, free SSL certificate, among many others. It also has built-in features to manage your inventory and payments.

Etsy has basic eCommerce features for running your business effectively. For managing your listings on the go, you can try Sell on Etsy App.It also has built-in tools for setting up sales and discount coupons and gives statistical reports for your ongoing sales.

Another way of getting more features is to use Etsy Plus, which gives you more customized themes, your own web address, marketing materials, and email notifications.

With Etsy, you have to manage your inventory elsewhere. It only lists your product.

Design and Customization

It turns out we don’t just eat with our eyes, we shop with our eyes, too. 38% of people will leave a website with an unappealing design or layout.

Etsy sellers use a fixed template for listing their products. The template makes listing inventory easier, and because of its clear-cut and user-friendly format, you don’t have to worry about the design or layout of your store. But you’ll have a hard time standing out because it has a “cookie-cutter” feel. 

The template is limited to description, image, and item details. The super easy format might be too restrictive for those who like more control over their listings or layout of their store.

If you want to have an independent store in Etsy, they are now offering Etsy Pattern, which offers more personalization with your choice of 10 design templates and basic functionalities for creating a unique brand. It costs an additional $15/month.

Shopify, however, far outshines Etsy with its variety of design themes and customization possibilities. It gives you 10 free templates and more than 60 paid themes. All are mobile-friendly and modern, and you can switch between themes at any time. 

For those interested in making new Shopify themes, they can check out Shopify’s theme store community. A community of creative thinkers just for store designs!

Even though Etsy Pattern offers some customization, it is simple and by no means comparable to Shopify’s powerful customization tools. If you savor individuality or a personalized webstore, Etsy is far from ideal.


Another big difference between the two. Like other online marketplaces, Etsy takes care of marketing and promotion for you, and it drives traffic to your website so you can easily reach millions of users worldwide.

Unless using Etsy Plus, you won’t have a personalized domain name in Etsy, which might not be important if you are an individual seller, but having your own domain becomes an integral part of establishing your brand identity.

Online marketplaces are fiercely competitive. In Etsy, you’ll have to stand out among 2.5 million other Etsy sellers, and because you cannot make a strong unique brand on the platform, you are at the mercy of user reviews for building your reputation.

2.5 million Etsy sellers graph

Shopify, by contrast, gives you all the resources you need to build an online identity. It has powerful SEO tools, marketing, and customization tools, and it offers advice on how to promote your brand. 

It is certainly easier to start selling on Etsy, as you only need to sign up for a seller’s account. Just remember that you will give up a lot of control for your design and branding if you choose to sell on Etsy.


Both platforms offer great security features. They are both PCI compliant and have SSL certificates for secure payments.

If you use Etsy Patterns, you’ll get redirected to Etsy’s checkout pages for completing transactions. This increases the security of your webstore, but you will lose the independent feel for your store. Shopify lets buyers directly check out through your store with the same level of security.


The most noticeable difference between the two platforms is the type of products you can sell in each. Because Etsy is only a creative marketplace, the products you can sell are restricted to handmade or vintage items and craft supplies. 

They offer the possibility of wholesale selling, but they have very strict rules on what and how you can sell your products. If you are looking to expand beyond this specific market, Etsy is not the best platform to grow your business.

Shopify supersedes Etsy here because it’s extremely scalable. You have no limitations or rules on what you can sell, and you can always add features to scale up your store.

Shopify is built for both small and large businesses, giving you total control over your inventory, branding, and promotion. With infinite numbers of apps and features, you can be sure to find the best functionalities for the size of your business.

If you are selling creative items and want to choose between the two, think about not just your immediate needs, but also your long term plans for expanding beyond a particular market.


You can, of course, tap into the advantages of both these platforms. A common pattern for sellers has been to start with Etsy to reach its large audience and get their name out, and then gradually shift to Shopify when expanding their business or once they have built sufficient site traffic.

If you want tointegrate the Etsy marketplace with your Shopify store, it will cost $60 per month after a 7-day free trial, and it will also include unlimited product listing, real-time synchronization, and advanced order management to streamline your integrated store.


Shopify Etsy integration

The bottom line is if you’re in the creative items sector, and you are fretting over which to use for your new store, keep in mind that Shopify is an e-commerce solution for building your store, while Etsy is a marketplace with much less functionality, but a huge audience and built-in marketing tools.

You can go with either or both. It depends on how quickly you want to start selling, your product selection, design personality, and of course, price.

Need help deciding? Feel free to contact us.

You can also read some of other comparison posts on popular eCommerce articles.

Check out more great eCommerce products, services, and resources from IWD


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