Shopify vs Etsy for Printables: The 3 Things You Must Consider

Jun 22, 2022

Trying to decide between Shopify vs Etsy for your printables business and not sure which one is better for you?

We get it, if you are in printables (or any other eCommerce business for that matter), you want to make sure that whatever platform you choose, it will be a strategic decision for your business and fulfil the right requirements for you.

Because when it comes to the never-ending Shopify vs Etsy battle, it’s not really about which one is better. Both of these platforms are great in their own right. It’s just that they are very different and serve a very different purpose in your printables business.

The First Thing You Need To Know

The first thing you need to know is how these two platforms operate and how the core of them is very, very different. So what’s really important is the understanding of what you’re actually getting from them and how they’re influencing what you specifically want to achieve.

So first we’ll be diving into the most important things about the Shopify and Etsy platforms. Then we’ll be comparing some details that might be really important to the printables business you’re in.

And then finally, I’ll show you some examples that will help you make an informed decision to make sure that whichever one you choose, that it’s going to work for you.

So let’s have a look at the five questions you really must consider before you settle on either Shopify or Etsy.

1. Shopify vs Etsy is kind of like deciding between a Farmer’s Market or a Local Bakery.

Neither of these is better, it’s just a different business model.

Comparing Shopify vs Etsy for printables is like deciding between buying bread from your nearest farmer’s market or heading to a local bakery store.

Yes, it really is like that. One of them is like a market and the other one is more like a shop. And if you’re not aware of it, that can impact your printables business.

So first let’s talk about Etsy.

Etsy is like a market. So imagine that you are going to your nearest farmer’s market and then the market does its own ads to get people in and gets the grounds ready for artisans to display their products and for visitors to come in.

In other words, Etsy gets people in that’s their job, it’s a marketplace. And these people who go to Etsy mainly go there because they have a great relationship with Etsy. You could even go further and say that they are Etsy’s customers.

Originally, Etsy was designed exactly for handmade products, for artisans who continuously create new boutique products in small batches kind of like for craft makers to take their headache away of having to create their own website. To make it easy for them to sell online.

As I mentioned, it’s kind of like going to a farmer’s market except it’s online. Customers who go to local markets or visit Etsy, know that they are supporting a small local business and that’s part of the experience.

Etsy Homepage

So Etsy as well as local markets attract a specific type of crowd as well and therefore there is one super important thing.

The important thing is that whilst Etsy brings the crowd to the market where you’re participating, which is great because in this way they’re essentially promoting your business, they’re bringing the crowds and promoting everybody else’s business as well.

And so when you search on Etsy for printables, you’ll be seeing all of the stores that are selling those printables just like you are. So whilst each of them is going to be a little bit different, there is always going be competition next to you selling something similar to what you’re selling.

On top of that, it’s not really easy for you to have a relationship with your customers and being brands and customer loyalty because remember, Etsy brings the crowd and the crowd has a relationship with Etsy, not with you.

Let’s Talk About Shopify

Now Shopify, on the other hand, it’s kind of like that local bakery not a market. It’s a standalone store. It can be that you’ve got to put in more effort into it at the beginning but it’s more sturdy because just like a local market, it’s not going to get shut down just because the weather is bad or because the market organizers decided not to open the market this weekend.

Imagine that you’ve secured a physical store space from Shopify and they have also given you the fit-out of the store with it. It’s kind of like Shopify has given you the checkout, the shelves, the whole experience with frills. You’re leasing the space, but the store is completely yours. If you choose to move locations, you’ve got the brand and the business with it.

Shopify Homepage

It’s a beautiful store, however, be careful. You are responsible to bring people in. With Shopify, you’ve got more independence, but it also brings responsibility with it. It’s kind of like a standalone shop where you decide what part of town you want to have the store in and how to incentivize people to visit. The Shopify platform is not going to do that for you just like a landlord of a physical store wouldn’t do that for you.

The good news is that it’s your store, you’re independent, you’ve got a business and a brand outside of your Shopify ‘space‘ and it’s your own ecosystem which means that you have a direct relationship with a customer. You’re not just a seller, you are a brand.

So with Shopify, once you have a visitor who came to your store, they are all yours. And your printables business is not competing with anybody else side by side who might also sell printables. They just come to your store and they may as well buy all of the products that you’ve got.

2. If your printables are mostly the same it’s a very different decision as to whether they’re each custom-made

So the next thing you must consider with Shopify vs Etsy for Printables is the actual fulfilment of your printables products and orders and how Shopify vs Etsy are different.

If you produce more of the same products or at least you are planning to sell at least a few thousand dollars worth of each product, then Shopify could be better for you because you essentially crate your store, your collections, specify how much stock you have and it doesn’t require that much maintenance.

Also, not all people in the printables business make their own products and some won’t even hold them in stock and just source them on demands from a third party. So if that’s you, then Shopify could be better for you because you can automatically send the orders to your suppliers without actually having to do that manually.

Printables On Etsy

The other thing you could do is build a brand and have a relationship with your customers and invite them to come back to your store via email. You can create promotions and collaborations with other brands and statistically, about 20% of customers actually do end up coming back, so it’s something to think about.

Etsy on the other hand was originally designed for handmade boutique products that are typically in the single digits. You can of course sell more of one specific product but Etsy just hasn’t been designed for brand building and repeatable sales of the same product as it doesn’t have the right features for it.

The Shopify App Store

Now, the other thing that’s great for Shopify is that they have, what’s called the Shopify app store. The Shopify app store is super easy to use, even for non-techy people and it’s got some amazing apps in there that you can install in your store that helps you to increase conversions, include sales, ramp up the urgency and scarcity for your products, include reviews, connect it to your social media much more.

The Shopify App Store

But remember, if you always create new products that are different to the product you’ve made before, like little bit more artistic and every single product is a little bit different, then Shopify is not very good for you because you would constantly need to create a new product listing and in that case you might want to go with Etsy instead.

3. Shopify vs Etsy fees for your printables business can vastly differ based on what you sell, how often and for how much

Shopify vs Etsy, which one gives you a better return on investment? The platform fees are something to take into account.

Shopify Fees

In very basic terms, for Shopify, you pay a monthly flat fee and a smaller fee for every transaction you make and you can pretty much create the store the way you want it and include as many products as you want. Just like if it was a physical shop and it’s up to you how many products you put inside.

The platform is also quite easy to use even for a non-techy person and Shopify offers a 14-day free trial if you want to just check it out and get a feel for it.

Shopify Fees

Etsy Fees

For Etsy, the fees seem a little complicated because it’s just a long text article and you have to read between the lines.

Essentially, you pay a small fee for each product in every listing and once that product sells you then pay a listing fee for the next product in line. On top of that, you pay a higher fee for every transaction.

Also when it comes to Etsy, one thing you’ve got to remember is that Etsy doesn’t just make money from your listings fees. As the marketplace grows in popularity, they started to monetize the power they’ve got around who goes onto the first page of the marketplace.

When people come to Etsy and they’re searching for a product or product ideas, Etsy started to monetize the first display row, because this one gets clicked on the most and gets the most purchases.

Etsy Listing Fees
Etsy transaction fees

Who Brings The Traffic?

So you always need to remember that Etsy controls the traffic to your store and it also wants you to pay to play.

For Shopify, you’re responsible for bringing your own traffic to your store. You can either pay to advertise on Facebook or other social media platforms and bring your ideal customers to your store.

The other option is to learn how to bring traffic to your store for free. If you’re just starting out with your printables business, I personally would learn how to bring traffic for free to start with.

To put this into other words, the more products you sell on Shopify essentially the lower the overall fees will be per product and the higher the fees will become on Etsy because there’s a significantly higher transaction fee for each product.

However, if you’re not planning on selling many printables and you want to keep your costs low, Etsy is actually really good because if you have multiple quantities of the same item, the initial listing will be 20 cents. And then the listing will be automatically renewed and another 20 cents after each of the items sells.

So if you, for example, have 20 of the same printables and you’re going to list all of the 20, you are only going to pay for one to start with. But the transaction fee on each sale will be 6.5%. So again, to summarize both with Shopify, you pay more upfront with Etsy, you pay more from your transactions.

So if you are really strapped for cash and you just want to start listing your product, Etsy might be better for you. However, if you want to build a brand that is also resalable in the future and you have that consistency and you want to be able to influence how your store looks and you want to make sure that you’ve got different apps in there that are giving in a certain feel or an experience, and you have that loyalty with your customers, then Shopify could be better for you.

The #1 Shopify vs Etsy Mistake That Kills Sales Of Your Printables Business

With Shopify vs Etsy, whichever you go for, make sure that you avoid the #1 Mistake that kills the sales for your printables business. We’ve already established that Etsy is like a marketplace and you will naturally get some visitors to your store just by being there.

However, most people don’t realise that on average, it takes up to one hundred visitors to your store to get one sale. So whether you go for Etsy or opt-in for Shopify, you want to start learning how to get traffic to your eCommerce store.

The fastest way to start getting buyers to your store is to make sure that you’re easily found on Google. To be picked up by Google, the trick is to start creating a thorough description of what your printable products are.

One of the biggest mistakes is that eCommerce entrepreneurs just mention their brand everywhere or create fancy names for their collections. But not enough people know these small brands, let alone some new fancy collections and hence these stores don’t get any buyers to them and have to pay a lot of money for paid ads.

Being found on Google really matters

Shopify vs Etsy – In Summary

Whether you’ll be going for Shopify or Etsy, what you want to do instead is create extensive listings with detailed descriptions of what your printable products are. These phrases, we also refer to them as Ninja Phrases, and if you do it correctly, eventually it will be super easy for people searching on Google to find your products and you get buyers to your store for free.

So if you want to learn more about how to build and grow your online store and get more people to buy your wonderful product, just head over to our Traffic Ninjas Youtube channel for more great info.

Silvia Myers

Silvia Myers

Traffic Ninja & eCommerce Coach

Silvia is co-founder of Traffic Ninjas, teaching product makers and brand builders how to sell their incredible products online without having to discount or spend their hard-earned cash on things that don’t work.

Together with her husband and co-founder, Kristen, Traffic Ninjas equip eCommerce stores with an underground Ninja method specifically designed for small business owners, teaching them how to be profitable and sustainable and actually earn an income from selling their products online.

The Traffic Ninjas community has grown from Sydney, Australia to 35+ countries around the world with small business owners achieving amazing results.


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