ECOMMERCE TOOLS   |   9 minute read

eCommerce or Marketplace? Comparing Shopify vs. Etsy

Etsy and Shopify offer eCommerce businesses very different experiences. But which one is best for your business? It depends on your goals: is it to establish your brand with a standalone eCommerce store or to participate in a larger marketplace?

Knowing your goals as well as each platform’s strengths will help you best serve your customers, bring in steady revenue (and profits!), and plan for the future.

Etsy vs Shopify: Platform Demographics

First, let’s look at who’s using each platform to either to sell or buy. 




Active Sellers

2.1 million (2018)

820,000 merchants (2019)

Active Buyers

39.4 million (2018)

1M (2017)

Gross Merchandise Sales

$3.9 billion

$14 billion

% of Sales From Mobile 55% 79%
Mobile App? Yes Yes

Etsy Vs. Shopify: Popular Products

Both platforms allow you to sell just about anything across dozens of categories. Some items are more popular than others, of course, so knowing what shoppers are looking for can determine which platform makes the most sense. 

Etsy Popular Product Categories

There’s no definitive list of the best-selling products on Etsy, but looking at what’s commonly identified as popular shows buyers are frequently looking for: 

  • Custom arts and crafts (both supplies and finished products) 
  • Vintage toys
  • Vintage women’s apparel
  • Women’s fashion and accessories
  • Baby and children’s fashion and accessories

Related blog: Etsy Inventory Management

Etsy_colourfulImage via Etsy

Shopify Popular Product Categories

By contrast, Shopify shared a list of the best selling items of 2018, items that fall into a few distinct categories: 

  • Women’s fashion and accessories
  • Men’s fashion and accessories
  • Automotive accessories
  • Travel accessories
  • Wearable technology


Related blog: Shopify Inventory Management

Etsy vs. Shopify: Setting Up and Selling

What costs and levels of effort it takes to create and maintain an eCommerce presence can make a big difference when choosing between Etsy and Shopify. Also important is how each platform will you grow your business tomorrow and beyond. 

Cost of Setup

What expenses are there for just creating and maintaining an account? 

  • Etsy: There is no cost to create a standard Etsy shop. Several choices about product categories, pricing and more need to be made, but the process takes just a few minutes with this information handy. An Etsy Plus account costs $10/month to unlock additional sales, branding and other tools and features.

  • Shopify: The Basic Shopify plan starts at $29/month and additional features are available in the Shopify ($79/month) and Advanced Shopify ($299/month) plans. Shopify Plus is meant for enterprise-level merchants. For those who don’t want to create their own store but use Shopify to sell products through a blog or other website, Shopify Lite is $9/month. 

Shopify_shirtsImage via Shopify

Related blog: Etsy: Bohemian Marketplace Perfect for Makers

Sales Fees

How much will I be charged for selling on their platform?

  • Etsy: $0.20 listing fee on every item, 5% transaction fee on each purchase and 3% + $0.25 for payment processing.

  • Shopify: A fee is leveraged for all credit card payments, with the percentage dependent on the account level selected. An additional percentage is added for all transactions that don’t use Shopify Payments. 

International Expansion

Will the platform allow me to grow to additional overseas territories? 

  • Etsy: Yes. Options are available for sellers to determine what countries they offer products in by translating product listings into local languages. 
  • Shopify: Yes. As long as sellers are familiar with local rules and restrictions and have established international shipping options.

Etsy_giftsImage via Etsy

Wholesale Operations

Does the platform offer the option to sell to retailers instead of or in addition to customers? 

  • Etsy: No. Etsy once offered Wholesale but closed that operation in mid-2018, citing lack of usage.
  • Shopify: Yes. Shopify offers sellers a number of options to aid in wholesale transactions, including creating a standalone store for just this purpose. 

Shop Branding

Shop owners should be prepared to make a number of decisions about their storefront on either Etsy or Shopify, including:

  • Create a shop Name
  • Choose the default Language (additional languages can be added later)
  • Choose the Country of operation
  • Decide on the default Currency
  • Choose the Payment Methods accepted
  • Add a Bio and Photo
  • Write an About section

Sellers will also need to customize the look and feel of the storefront, as well as how shoppers will find it. All of those issues play into the branding of your store. 

Themes are the designs and layouts applied to the eCommerce store. Domains refer to the web address used to navigate to the store.




Free Themes



Paid Themes



Free Subdomain

Yes (e.g.

Yes (e.g.

Custom Domain

Yes (e.g.

Yes (e.g.

Customer Loyalty and Service

What options does each platform offer in terms of creating and reinforcing connections with shoppers? 

Because both Etsy and Shopify offer similar options in terms of branding, design, and domains, the same basic best practices apply: 

  • Offer accurate descriptions and photos 
  • Thank people for positive feedback
  • Respond constructively to negative comments
  • Engage on social media 
  • Determine what, if any, rewards or loyalty programs to offer
  • Evaluate marketing options, including paid ads, email newsletters, blogging and more

What’s Next? 

Small business owners must trust the platform they choose to grow with them in order to innovate strategically.

Shopify will begin to focus on mobile shopping, enabling customer interaction, direct-to-consumer brands and more, as reported in early 2019.

Etsy’s plans – shared as a list of updates in its Sellers Handbook – show that it will centralize efforts around third-party integrations, store optimization, improving product listings, and more. 

Both companies continue to entice sellers with new paid promotions and other options. They’ve also made updates on their offerings that are in line with eCommerce trends and consumer habits. 

Choosing between Etsy and Shopify comes down to evaluating the similarities and differences outlined above, including: 

  • Branding and customization
  • Payment options
  • International expansions
  • Shopper demographics
  • Active competitors 

While each platform has made a point of changing their image, Shopify as the reputation of being for businesses while Etsy has long been seen as the option for aspiring artists and crafters. 

That may be the biggest factor for eCommerce store owners to consider.

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