Recently, we published a story to our Instagram account to answer a prevalent question we get: ‘should I use Etsy or Shopify for my handmade business?’ Our answer to that elicited such an interesting response.
“I had not thought of it this way…” (Something we always like to hear! It means we are breaking through to new ideas.)
We are so glad to know that handmade business owners are interested in Etsy are ALSO interested in Shopify. However, asking which one they should use is not the correct question.
Why not etsy and shopify
This is where people were surprised.
For us, regardless of the question, the answer is Etsy AND Shopify.
Etsy and Shopify are not similar platforms at all. They accomplish two completely different things and are not comparable. For that reason, we recommend using both!
Comparing Etsy to Shopify is like comparing a bag of Doritos to a pineapple. They are simply completely different things.
Sometimes you want a bag of Doritos. Sometimes you need a pineapple. If you have both in your possession, you’ll always have the best of both worlds.
When I say ‘use both’ Shopify and Etsy, I mean: list your product for sale on a marketplace site like Etsy and sell your product on your domain shop, which you can easily set up using a service like Shopify. Bottom line: we recommend selling on one marketplace site AND on your standalone eCommerce site.
You can certainly accomplish the same result of one marketplace site and a standalone site using other tools and services (like Amazon and WordPress.) Our recommendation is Etsy for the marketplace and Shopify for the domain site. But the keyword here is AND.
We suggest using Shopify to build your branded domain site based on our personal experience and our students’ and Council Members’ experiences. We also passionately endorse Etsy because we know how powerful of a tool it can be in your business! Similar to Instagram. Just like you don’t have only an Instagram account and call it a day, you don’t have just an Etsy shop and call it a day either. Your Instagram account is a tool you use to help you build something bigger and more significant, not only to amass Instagram followers for no reason. That’s pretty much how we see Etsy! You can learn more about our Etsy philosophy here.
The ‘something bigger, in this case, is your full brand and business. Etsy helps you build that. A branded, autonomous domain site is sort of where the buck stops. You NEED it.
How are Etsy and Shopify different?
What you need to know about choosing Etsy or Shopify for your handmade business. The big difference here is PURPOSE. While both provide a shopping cart to sell products with, that is just a result. The purpose of using Etsy is to leverage its power, brand recognition, and audience. The purpose of using Shopify is to build your site to have brand autonomy.
We always suggest starting with Etsy due to the low barrier to entry (you can start for free) and because you do get a lot of experience to find out what kind of features you would or wouldn’t want or need on your own site. Use Etsy with the intention of eventually starting your own domain shop, too. If you are currently only selling on Etsy, that is entirely fine. However, do not spend one more hour or more minute building and nurturing and updating your Etsy shop unless you are positive that it helps you build your brand also in other ways!
As mentioned, you CAN use other tools to build your eCommerce site. It is essential to think about your business long-term. If you want to be running this business five years into the future, consider if the platform you are considering choosing today can support the business you want to have five years from now. You want to avoid exerting a lot of effort building and customizing your site only to find out three years down the road that the platform cannot support the business you are now running. If you are at the point where you need more functionality in your shop, that is NOT the time to recreate the whole thing elsewhere. We know that Shopify can grow with you, and we know it’s versatile enough to accommodate lots of situations, which is why we recommend it.
The benefits of Etsy
Etsy is a marketplace site that offers different benefits to shop owners than a standalone eCommerce shop would. Among those benefits are that Etsy has a lot of built-in traffic to funnel to your Etsy shop. If you set your shop on Etsy up correctly, you can get traffic to your listings every day without having to promote your Etsy shop on social media or elsewhere. If you ask us, that is the ultimate goal.
There are opportunities associated with being present in a marketplace like Etsy. Visibility, brand trust, and ease of use are just a few.
However, when selling on Etsy, you do not get full authority over your brand. It’s a trade off for the benefits, but you still want to have authority over your own brand, too! That’s where your custom domain site comes in.
The benefits of Shopify
Shopify allows you to build a site that you can brand to you and your business at every step. You can add or subtract functionality as needed; you can sync it with your email service provider to build your contact list; you can offer upsells and cross-sells; you can do more advanced couponing and loyalty programs… so many things! The short story is that you can do whatever you want and the sky’s the limit!
When you use BOTH tools, you get the benefits of both tools.
That’s why it’s not the question of Etsy or Shopify for your handmade business.
If you are interested in Shopify, we have a free boosted start training to help you get set up faster.
How to promote both an Etsy shop and a Shopify site
A frequently asked follow-up question when talking about this is ‘ how do I promote both of my shops at once?’ and I love that question because it gives me a chance to preach my gospel. In the Merriweather Model, you would only promote your standalone site, and you do not promote your Etsy shop through organic or paid efforts at all. In the Merriweather Model, you let Etsy send traffic to you, not the other way around.
If you want to learn how to get Etsy to send traffic to you instead of the other way around, we can teach you in our Training Course for Etsy sellers.
If you want to learn how to market and promote your autonomous brand site, we cover that extensively in The Council.
Building a business is a lot of work, but it’s much harder when you aren’t proactive! Diversifying and thinking of your brand’s longevity and autonomy first should be a priority, not an afterthought! Take steps early and often to build your entire brand, not just a shop on a platform you do not own!
*This post is written and published by The Merriweather Council. The Merriweather Council is not affiliated with Etsy Inc. Etsy is a trademark of Etsy Inc. We write about Etsy, from our own experiences, not for Etsy.