When you’re taking your very first steps into the world of ecommerce, there’s a lot to learn.
You might have the “make amazing products” part down, but packing an order, helping a frustrated customer, or dreaming up a marketing campaign might be new territory.
That’s why marketplaces like Etsy hold such appeal and can be such a good fit for makers selling everything from craft supplies to finished goods—they come with a built-in audience that is already looking for what you have to offer.
As you begin to scale your business, though, there might come a time when you want to run your own online store, and begin looking for an alternative to Etsy so that you can focus on creating a memorable brand outside of Etsy’s marketplace. This is where you’ll compare Etsy and Shopify to determine which platform is best for your growing business. And in some cases, it may be both.
The benefits of selling on Etsy and Shopify
If you’re thinking about opening a Shopify store, that doesn’t mean you need to shut down your Etsy operations. Growing on Etsy and Shopify simultaneously provides a rare chance to actually have your cake and eat it, too. Selling on one doesn’t preclude you from selling on the other.
As with every strategic decision, choosing to sell on Etsy and your own Shopify online store has to make sense for your business. So, what’s the difference between Shopify and Etsy?
- Own your brand experience. While Shopify powers your brand in the background, you have creative control over the look and feel of your store, with fully customizable templates from the Shopify Theme Store.
- Enjoy lower transaction fees. While you are paying a monthly fee for your plan, scaling Etsy businesses may find that their sales volume justifies moving to this pricing model.
- Build and own your audiences. Define your target audience and grow your email list and customer base with full control over how you communicate with them. And, unlike Etsy, you can port them over to other platforms.
- Get access to high-intent buyers through Etsy’s built-in marketplace audience. Etsy also allows you to opt in to ads (for an additional fee), eliminating the guesswork and research that comes with marketing, including online advertising, email marketing, and SEO.
- No monthly fee so that you can grow slowly, only paying listing fees or a transaction fee when you make a sale. While these fees are higher than Shopify, this model is ideal for those just playing around or only making a few sales a month.
- Get up and running before you’re ready to dive into branding design or develop a marketing strategy. Plug your business name and an avatar into Etsy’s plug-and-play template. This is ideal for true beginners.
Selling on Etsy and Shopify: Integrating your stores
Many brands will fall into the sweet spot of seeing benefits from selling on both channels. You can even sync your inventory to Shopify with the Etsy Marketplace Integration app found in the Shopify App Store. Manage your products and orders in one place with functionality that uses automation to sync your data seamlessly.
If you need help setting up the app to sync your Etsy and Shopify stores or need a custom integration, consult an expert. The Shopify Experts Marketplace has platform pros for hire who can walk you through any technical challenges of integration.
Case studies: 3 business owners share their advice for selling on Etsy and Shopify
We spoke with three store owners who have built successful businesses with a multichannel approach. Their experiences and lessons learned can help you chart a course that’s right for you.
Floral Neverland: Using marketplaces to test the market
Olivia Wang, founder of Floral Neverland, was still in school when she launched her store on Etsy in 2014. She figured selling on the platform would be a great way to earn money on the side, so she jumped in.
“Etsy was really straightforward to set up,” says Olivia. “I took some pictures of my products, uploaded them to Etsy, added a cute shop banner, wrote two paragraphs of the story behind my shop, and that was it.”
Migrating to Shopify to ramp up brand marketing
But as she graduated from university into a career in digital marketing, Olivia realized that many of the marketing skills she was learning could be better applied outside of Etsy. She began to notice that while getting started on Etsy had been a perfect introduction to the world of selling online, she wanted more flexibility to really create a brand and stand out.
“I didn’t want my shop just to be a side gig. I wanted it to be my full-time job someday,” she says. “So I decided it was the time for me to build a brand outside of Etsy, grow my own community, and tell my own stories.”
While she still sells on her Etsy shop to maintain contact with the community, she dedicates most of her time to her Shopify store as it generates more sales.
It was time for me to build a brand outside of Etsy, grow my own community, and tell my own stories.
Telling your own stories can be one of the most challenging parts of branding, especially if you’re new to ecommerce. Olivia had her digital marketing skills to help her scale, but even if your current job doesn’t include marketing, there are ways you can build a brand and get the word out about your store.
“Within a year of opening my Shopify store, I built a dedicated Instagram following in line with my brand philosophy and aesthetic,” says Olivia of her progress. She has also grown a sizable audience on other social media platforms like TikTok. To stress the importance of branding, she notes that the competition on Etsy can be fierce, especially when other sellers offer similar goods.
“Building brand loyalty on Etsy is hard. Most of the time, a customer’s loyalty is to Etsy, not to your brand,” says Olivia
In a bid to stay competitively priced with other sellers on Etsy, Olivia previously relied on shipping products in plain bubble mailers as letter mail so she could offer free shipping. However, it never delivered the experience she wanted for her customers.
“I believe that packaging is an essential part of a brand, and I put time and love into my packaging,” says Olivia. “I get people writing emails to me or tagging me on Instagram, thanking me for putting a little personal touch on the packaging.”
💡Takeaway: To lay the foundation for a long-term business, eventually you’re going to need to find and nurture an audience of people who are uniquely attracted to what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it. That means creating your own channels to connect and acting on every opportunity to leave a lasting impression.
HaldeCraft: Creating space to grow with Shopify
When Lorena Haldeman, owner of HaldeCraft, first dove into the world of making and selling, she was able to start with a solid foundation, thanks to her previous retail experience running a yarn shop.
That’s what led Lorena to start selling on Etsy in 2010.
“Etsy wasn’t the first time I’d sold online, but it was the first time everything was mine and mine alone. I sold yarn that I hand-dyed myself and soap that I made, but my main focus was the ceramics that I’d had a lifetime of making as a hobby,” says Lorena, who learned the craft from her entrepreneurial grandmother.
As her business grew, there were small things about Etsy that began to frustrate Lorena. Specifically, given her wide range of products, she needed additional categories to keep her store organized.
“I was branching out and making more and different ceramics, and dyeing more and different weights of yarn,” she says. “The more products I added, the harder it was making categories on Etsy that helped people find what they wanted.”
On her Shopify store, she was able to create categories and subcategories that organized all her product listings in a way that worked for both the store and her customers.
While Lorena was originally worried that building her own store would be cost-prohibitive, after running the numbers she realized it was affordable enough that she could keep both open at the same time.
Did you handwrite ‘Thanks, I hope you like this!’ on your packing slips when you were on Etsy? Keep doing that with Shopify.
“When I started my Shopify site in 2012, the only things I kept on Etsy were things that repeatedly sold there, especially around the holidays,” says Lorena. “While the majority of my time was spent promoting my Shopify site, I’d start beefing up the Etsy one around August, leading into the holidays.”
She was able to move customers from Etsy to her Shopify store when they were looking for a wider selection of her items.
Recreating Etsy’s personal touch on Shopify
Crucially, Lorena also carries the appeal of supporting a small, handmade business through to her store. Etsy’s focus on handmade goods and personal connections is what makes it so appealing to customers, but with a bit of work, you can add the same feeling to your store.
“Did you handwrite ‘Thanks, I hope you like this!’ on your packing slips when you were on Etsy? Keep doing that with Shopify,” advises Lorena.
💡Takeaway: One of the best ways to balance running a Shopify store and selling on Etsy is by paying attention to how each product is selling and optimize for each channel. If you have a blockbuster Etsy product, it’s worth keeping your store open just to capture that traffic, not to mention the exposure to new audiences. HaldeCraft’s Etsy presence, even with fewer products, ended up being a strong way to gain new customers.
Migrate your Etsy store and try Shopify free
Conquest Maps: Building a multichannel business from square one
When Ross Worden started his business, Conquest Maps, he had no business experience, no idea about the potential market, or any idea how to ship a package. What he did have was a desire to give his wife a great travel map, but he couldn’t find anything online that fit his vision.
So he made his own. When it turned out nicely, he made five more and posted them on Etsy to sell them. They sold, which was all the encouragement Ross needed to keep working on Conquest Maps.
When he started to look at options to grow beyond Etsy, he evaluated a number of popular ecommerce platforms.
Ross initially tried two other ecommerce platforms to build and launch his own store before finding Shopify. “It was pretty intuitive,” he says, “and before I knew it, I had my site up.”
Through a multichannel approach, Ross continues to operate both a Shopify store and Etsy shop.
“While we always try to attract our traffic to our Shopify store over any other channel, Etsy is still a very good place to operate,” he says.
One of the biggest reasons that Conquest Maps tries to drive people to its Shopify store is the relationships they can build with their customers.
When you operate a Shopify store, your customers are your customers.
“Etsy is a super place to start,” says Ross. “It’s a great place to test things and validate product ideas, because they have a lot of traffic already on the site that is ready to buy awesome stuff, but the downside is that those customers aren’t actually yours. They're Etsy's customers.
“When you operate a Shopify store, your customers are your customers. You can contact them and market to them how you want, as long as they’ve approved it.”
Customizing the experience with Shopify
Conquest Maps also has room to tailor its site to include custom sections like upgrades and personalizations—something the standard Etsy template didn’t easily accommodate.
“The reality is that things will always be changing in ecommerce, no matter what you do. Take advantage of the opportunities you have now and roll with the punches,” advises Ross.
💡Takeaway: Try a multi-channel approach and sell on both Etsy and Shopify to take advantage of the unique features and benefits that each platform offers. If one channel begins to underperform, you always have another way to reach customers and make sales.
Future-proof your business: Own your brand and audience with Shopify
Since you’ve already built a successful business on Etsy, launching a Shopify store might be the right next step for your brand.
One of the best ways to solidify your business for the future is to create a relationship with your customers directly, on channels that allow you to tell your story, build your own brand, and connect in authentic ways with the right people. That way, when algorithms change, or you bump up against limitations on a platform, you have other sales channels to rely on.
There’s work involved to create all that from scratch, but it could be just the thing to take your online business to the next level.
Are you ready to level up your brand?
Complement your Etsy shop by building your own brand and audience on Shopify. Try us free.
Etsy and Shopify FAQ
Can you sell on both Etsy and Shopify?
Yes! In fact, you may find it advantageous as you grow from a small business to a medium business to sell on Etsy and Shopify at the same time. You can simultaneously enjoy the benefits of Etsy’s built-in marketplace and use Shopify to grow your distinct brand.
What’s the difference between Etsy and Shopify?
While both Shopify and Etsy are ecommerce platforms, there are several key differences. Etsy is a marketplace where customers can find your store within Etsy’s own search function. Shopify allows you to build your site and audiences on your own terms, but you’re responsible for driving our own traffic and sales. Etsy and Shopify also have different pricing models—review each to see which makes the most sense for your business.
What are the benefits of Etsy and Shopify?
Some benefits of Etsy are:
- Access to a marketplace of high-intent active buyers
- Simple setup for beginners
- Opt-in ad tools to take the guesswork out of marketing
- No monthly subscription fees on standard free plan (only pay when you sell or list products or upgrade to Etsy Plus)
Some benefits of Shopify are:
- Full control of your brand’s look and feel
- Advanced features to create a custom experience on your site
- Ownership over your email and customer lists
- Low transaction fees
- Seamlessly expand into a retail storefront with Shopify POS