Shopify vs Etsy: Which is the right e-commerce platform for print-on-demand?

shopify vs etsy: the right e-commerce platform for print-on-demand

When it comes to brand building, for on-demand printing business, it’s always the battle between Shopify vs Etsy. The biggest question whenever trying to decide which platform is that: “Will this suit my business aim?”

To answering this question, let’s dive in with us the pros and cons of each platform in this article.

Round 1: Workflow

Shopify: How does it work?

To build a store on Shopify, it is similar to building an actual physic store, just that your location is online. But building a store on Shopify means that you’re building a brand for yourself. Shopify merchants are allowed to host all activities related to their store site. Basically, you’re building a whole new website for your business. This means that you will have to put more work on building the site, raising traffic to your store, and also customize your customer’s shopping experience on your own.

The good thing is, there’s not much limit on building a whole webstore, since Shopify has their app store. If a web theme cannot fulfill your requirement, you can always install an application to help you on with it. For example, your theme can’t support personalization features for your products. But you can always install and use teeinblue to set up personalization, which also adds up experience to your customers with live preview. And in terms of selling product with customized details, would it be best to allow customers to see real-time changes?

Etsy: What’s the difference?

On the other hand, Etsy isn’t a website builder. It is a marketplace. This means that if you’re building your business on Etsy, it would be much similar to opening a kiosks in a market. Market is the most ancient trading place that was created thousand of years ago. In the era of e-commerce development, market goes online. On Etsy, you will need to sign up for an account as signing up to rent a shop. After this process is completed, you can start uploading your products to Etsy. You can upload images of products to deliver a physical feeling to customers. Your products will be listed in categories within Etsy, and customer can filter to check the product that is most resonated with them.

However, that is just it. On Etsy, you can customize your storefront, since you’re a shop in their marketplace system. So Etsy would be perfect for those who are selling normal on-demand printing products, which means no personalization. However with personalized products, you won’t be able to allow customers to customize product efficiently. They will need to note down what they want in a product and you will need to create a print file according to their description on your own. This is very time-consuming if you’re able to sell more than 50 orders a day.

shopify vs etsy interface example 2
Source: Tiny Marketing Lab

Nevertheless, don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying Etsy isn’t good as much as Shopify. Both have the pros and cons comparing to each other, and both will require you to put a lot of effort in it. However, both platforms have been generating billions of sales and help lots of merchants to succeed with their business. You just need to figure out which of the two platforms will suit your brand value and what you want to deliver the most.

shopify vs etsy: round 1 workflow
Source: BloggingEclipse

Which is why for this round, I would say it’s a tie.


Round 2: Branding

No matter where you’re running your business on, all of your products will require a domain. This domain is important because this is the destination that you need to draw your customers to visit to. It’s also a way to do branding for your store, since most the domain will take after the store name.

For Shopify

Once you signed up, your store domain will take after the first store name you create, something looks like this: “custom-your-own.myshopify.com”. Since Shopify is a webstore builder, it will allow you to change store name later and also to connect a domain without the suffix of “.myshopify.com”. Your finished domain and store name might be something like this: “lilycustomgifts.com”.

If you need to learn more how to create store domain on Shopify, you can check out this instruction by Shopify in here.

For Etsy

Well, I must confirm that you won’t be allowed to have your own domain with Etsy. Your store domain will take after Etsy domain, e.g. etsy.com/shop/lilycustomgifts. It represent the fact that your store is a part of Etsy marketplace, so it’s an idea that every merchant who are selling on Etsy need to pick up along the way.


And because of the customizable advantage, Shopify is the winner of this round.


Round 3: Features and function

Both platforms have similar features related to analytics, marketing and inventory since they are built for business. Although there is a little difference in the way how these features work, the purposes of those remain the same.

However, Shopify will include Extras function and API to support application integration, while Etsy doesn’t.

Shopify features

shopify features
Source: Internet
  • Sell products on multi-channel: Shopify currently supports merchant to integrate and sell their products on Amazon and Instagram account. This function can help you more on delivering easy shopping experience, and also to increase sales via multiple channels at the same time.
  • Recover abandoned checkout: Sometimes, customer will leave before completing their checkout. Shopify will store the data of customer based on cookies, and will send them an automated email to remind them to finish checkout for their cart. According to a statistics, this feature has been helping merchant to convert 12-15% of these abandoned cart.
  • SEO function: Shopify has a feature to optimize keyword for your product page, and it can be custom for each product as well. The feature includes basics such as optimizing product title and description showing on search engine, optimizing the URL of product.
  • Blog: Shopify includes blog function within your store. If you haven’t noticed, blogging is an organic marketing activity that can boost your store’s result and image in the long term. Understanding how important the role of blog can play, Shopify allows merchant to create a blog page right within their own store.
  • Fraud analysis: This function helps merchant in noticing which order contains fraud risk based on the payment or the customer information.
  • Coupon/Discount code generating: Merchant is able to create coupon or automated discount for entire store or for specific products.
  • SSL certificate: SSL is shorted for secure sockets layer, which is a protocol for web browsers and servers that allows for the authentication, encryption and decryption of data sent over the internet. This function allows consumers to input and secure their payment information to finish checkout.

Etsy features

etsy features
Source: Avada

Once a merchant signs up their account on Etsy, he or she will be granted to access all features that is included in Etsy Standard subscription. This subscription plan includes all the basic features to help merchant on having a secured space to promote, sell and attract consumers.

  • Etsy Pattern: This function allows merchant to create their own store site. In this webstore, you can sell anything with supported function that is beyond the basic settings on Etsy marketplace. This webstore, however won’t be connected with Etsy marketplace, which will limit your store from showing up on Etsy search engine.
  • Etsy Ads: Etsy marketplace supports advertisement within its own system. You can adopt this function to advertise your products on search results or on other pages of Etsy marketplace. Etsy Ads will optimize your budget to show ads on most effective pages of Etsy.

For this round, we would say that both Shopify and Etsy creates a corresponding collection of features and values that is suitable to their system. However, if you’re looking for a way to open your webstore and develop it to the max ability, Shopify seems better to try out.

Round 4: Pricing

Shopify

Since last year, due to COVID-19 situation, Shopify offers all merchants a free trial of 14 days to encourage everyone to open online store during the pandemic. Once you sign up, you will have 14 days of free using, then you will need to pay monthly with 4 subscription plans of Shopify. Each plan will attach a corresponding limit, supported features and function, as following:

  • Basic Shopify: $29/month – suitable for new SMEs.
    Basic features supported include one store domain, 2 staff account, blog, basic online store features, support 24/7.
  • Shopify: $79/month – suitable for growing enterprises.
    Features include all basics in Basic Shopify and some added-up value: 5 staff account, specialized statistics, gift card, etc.
  • Advanced Shopify: $299/month – suitable for on-scaling business.
    Limited number of staff accounts will increase to 15. Statistics report will be updated with more information. Furthermore, logistics cost (including shipping cost) is able to be reduced.
  • Shopify Plus: $2000/month – suitable for large enterprise with high volume of sales.
    Since this the highest subscription plan of Shopify, it is said that there is no limit for business that is subscribed to this plan.

Etsy

Less than Shopify, Etsy contains only 2 subscription plans. Details include as following:

  • Etsy Standard: With this plan, you don’t need to pay monthly price to Etsy. However, you will need to pay $0.2 per month in 4 months continuously or until your products is started selling.
  • Etsy Plus: Pay $10/month for webstore domain control, automated warning email for consumers, banners and discounted marketing documents.

For this final round, you can obviously see that Etsy charges a much lower subscription price. However, as mentioned all above, Etsy will have limits in developing an independent online store. Thus, if you’re fresh and don’t have much money to invest in business, begin with Etsy and move to Shopify later once your store is grown.


After 4 rounds, which platform that you think is the best for on-demand printing? To us, Shopify is slightly better. But remember, you need to select platform based on your goals, budget and requirements of platform’s functionality.

We hope this comparison of the two trending platforms can help you on choosing the most suitable platform for your enterprise. If you have any blog request, feel free to leave comment below.

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