Are you thinking about moving your store away from the Etsy platform? Many Etsy sellers are calling for a boycott of the platform to protest the controversial reserve system, which sees some sellers losing access to as much as 75% of their takings for up to 45 days.
If you’ve been affected by this, you may be questioning your future with the platform. In this article we will give you an overview of one of the alternatives - a Shopify store - and the benefits of changing your business model.
Yes, platforms like Etsy have many great advantages. Etsy is a well-known brand with a clear USP and a massive audience base. It’s a very capable search engine for people looking for specific items.
However, the latest Etsy issue demonstrates one of the major problems with all selling platforms - as a seller, you actually have very little control over your business. The platform can change its policies and practices at any time, jeopardising your business and giving you no autonomy to change the situation. Even if this particular issue hasn’t affected you, maybe a future one will.
Another issue with selling platforms like Etsy is that you don’t own your brand or customer base. Your customers belong to Etsy. Although you can get in touch with them directly, you can only do so via Etsy. Etsy owns your communication channels with your customers.
And just how good is that search engine anyway? Etsy’s search algorithms give priority to high performing products and high authority sellers, which can make it difficult to get a foot on the ladder.
With a good ecommerce store and an online marketing strategy, you can do just as well on your own. You may not even need Etsy, especially if you already have an established customer base. If you decide to leave the platform, you can take them with you.
Ultimately, the mere actions taken by Etsy may be enough to put you off.
Why do we care about this?
We love independent business, and we love the creative industries. Etsy has done a lot to support these, but it does have its limits and disadvantages. We’re keen to see small creative businesses grow, flourish and carve out their own niche. These kinds of businesses enrich the global marketplace, and our lives.
We’re all about emboldening organisations to make brave decisions and go against the grain. We love to empower small businesses to make informed decisions for their future. Our goal is not to sell you our services, or turn you against Etsy. It’s just to share our knowledge.
We also always put the customer first. Platforms like Etsy impose a limit on how well you can serve your customer. Setting up your own ecommerce store gives you much more control over the customer service you can provide, and gives you much more flexibility to create a remarkable customer journey.
Finally, we always support the right of workers to strike and the right of people to protest. Platforms are meant to serve humans, not the other way around, so if your platform isn’t serving you, it’s time to take a stand.
Should I leave Etsy?
This is a question only you can answer. If Etsy is your sole source of income, setting up your own ecommerce store could be a great move. If you’re more of a hobbyist, you may be better off sticking with the platform, at least for now.
Even if you do decide to set up your own ecommerce store, that doesn’t mean you have to abandon Etsy entirely. It’s still possible to make the platform work for you by using it as one of your revenue channels, without relying on it for your whole business.
Your goal should be to get your customers to your website so that you can own their journey. You can direct customers out of platforms like Etsy and Ebay towards your store to make their transaction. You can even incentivise them to do this, by giving them a discount code they can only use on your store.
This gives you much more autonomy, while still tapping into the benefits offered by these platforms.
Another important consideration is what’s best for your customers. How can they benefit from you moving your store to Shopify or another ecommerce provider? A potential downside is that your customers have to move to a different place on the internet to transact with you. But many of them might be excited by the idea that your business is growing and becoming more independent.
Furthermore, owning your own store gives you much more control over the customer journey and the way you interact with your customers. You can create a personalised experience for them, which will significantly improve their experience of your brand.
What are the costs of an ecommerce store versus Etsy?
With both Etsy and Shopify, there are costs involved. Etsy has listing fees, transaction fees and payment processing fees. On top of this, you can pay the platform more to become a Plus or Premium customer, or to promote your listings.
With Shopify, you subscribe to pay a monthly fee, the cost of which depends on the level of functionality and support you need. The lowest tier is pretty cheap, at £25 per month. Shopify does also charge small transaction and processing fees. The higher your subscription, the less you pay in fees.
Our research shows that, all fees and costs considered, the same product sold at the same price point on Etsy and on Shopify would give you a slightly bigger profit on Shopify.
When you’re making the decision to set up a Shopify store, it’s worth doing some maths to make sure it’s financially viable.
One great thing about a Shopify subscription is you can scale it up and down, which is why an ecommerce store makes more sense if you’re a bigger business looking to grow.
Do I need to be a web developer to set up a Shopify store?
No, you don’t need to be a web developer to set up a Shopify store. A web dev is only needed if you need Shopify to do more than what the out-of-the-box product offers. Chances are, if you’ve been trading happily on Etsy until now, you won’t need any additional functionality.
Shopify is designed to be easy to use for non-technical people, and a store can be set up and managed by pretty much anyone.
So how do I leave Etsy?
Step 1 - Establish your brand
Make sure you have a strong brand. When we talk about brand, we primarily mean the reputation you have with your customers, and how you communicate with them.
The goal of branding is to generate customer loyalty, which will be key if you decide to set up your own ecommerce store. If your customers follow you on social media, this is a great forum to start creating content that raises brand awareness.
Some things that are important here include:
Customers are loyal to brands who have a clear purpose or stance. For example, it could be your commitment to sustainable materials, the way you champion heritage craftsmanship, or the way you celebrate your culture.
If you’ve cultivated a tribe of people who believe what you believe, they will happily follow you anywhere. If you haven’t made a meaningful connection like this, they may choose Etsy over you.
A strong visual identity will ensure that people recognise you as soon as they land on the new store and know they’re in the right place. You can start with a logo, but this also should include your colour palette, typography style, image style, and even how you write your product copy. Your visual identity should ring true with your values, appear professional, and be attractive to your customers.
Make sure your customers understand why you’re leaving Etsy, where you’re going, and that nothing will change for them (except for the better!).
This is probably the most important factor. Your customers want to almost not notice that anything has changed. They want to be assured that they’re still dealing with the same people, products and brand. Everything about your new store should feel consistent with your offering on Etsy.
Step 2 - Register your domain
A domain is basically your web address. You want to make sure it is:
Easy to spell
Easy to remember
Easily relatable to your Etsy store (e.g. you use the same name)
We recommend using www.123-reg.co.uk to register your new domain.
Step 3 - Set up your store
As I mentioned in the introduction, we think a good alternative to Etsy is Shopify, but other ecommerce platforms are available. We’ve chosen to focus on Shopify because it’s a well-known provider that you’ve probably heard of before, it has a user-friendly CMS (content management system), and a massive library of themes that make it quick and easy to get started.
Getting started on Shopify can be very simple, as long as you don’t require any complex customisation or functionality. If you need your store to do extra stuff, you may want to work with a developer. In this case, this will be an additional cost to factor in.
You can’t really go wrong by setting up an account and having a go with Shopify’s free trial. They even have a nice onboarding questionnaire so that they can recommend the best starting point for you.
How to set up a Shopify store:
Sign up. Go to the Shopify website and sign up for an account.
Choose a theme. Shopify offers a wide range of pre-designed themes that you can use for your store. Pick a theme that suits your brand and style. You can customise the theme later on to make it unique.
Add products. Set up the products you want to sell. Include product images, descriptions, prices, and inventory information.
Set up payment and shipping. Configure your payment gateway to accept payments from customers and set up shipping options to deliver products to your customers.
Customise your store. Use Shopify's customisation tools to adjust the design, colours, fonts, and layout of your store to match your brand.
Publish your store. Set your store live for customers to visit and make purchases.
Manage your store. After your store is live, you can continue to manage and update it, add more products, run promotions, and track sales and customer data through the Shopify dashboard.
If you need help setting up your store, you can always drop us a line.
Step 4 - Build your brand
Now that your store is ready for trading, it’s time to really go to town with your brand.
A major advantage of setting up your own ecommerce store is that you will have much more freedom when it comes to developing your brand. You’ll be able to control exactly how your website looks, the kind of content you put on it, and the way you communicate.
You want to focus on creating great content that supports and communicates your values, and share it across your social platforms.
You can also start doing some fun creative things with your brand to make you stand out against your competitors.
You can work on creating a really distinctive tone of voice that will make your store more memorable for your customers. Firebox is a great example of this.
You can develop a unique and arty photography style for your products.
You can play with colours, illustration and video to bring your store to life.
The more personality, authenticity and joy you pour into your Shopify store, the more your customers will love doing business with you.
Remember, consistency is key! Although it’s good to be creative and experimental, make sure that your brand identity still feels coherent, professional and trustworthy. Consistency leads to trust, whereas trust can quickly be lost if a customer comes across a touchpoint that doesn’t feel right.
Step 5 - Promote your new store
Online marketing is probably going to be vital for your store’s success. When we talk about online marketing, we’re referring to the PESO model, which covers every activity that can be done to promote a brand online.
The key to online marketing is to figure out what works best for you and your audience, and fine-tune it so that it delivers a reliable return on investment. You don’t have to do everything on the PESO model to find success; it’s all about creating the right strategy.
Social media is likely to be a huge factor for you, so maintain your presence there and bring your followers with you on your journey.
You may want to look at paid Google advertising or sponsored social posts to increase the reach of your advertising. Creating a great landing page on your Shopify store can significantly increase conversion from ads.
SEO (search engine optimisation) will help you win new customers from what we call organic search, which is when people find you by searching in Google without you paying to appear in the results. You’ll want to make sure you’re optimising the content on your Shopify store to win this organic traffic.
You can also use tools like Mailchimp to create email marketing campaigns, which can be a great way to talk to your audience. For example, I personally dislike the spammy emails I get from Etsy, and I would much prefer personalised mailers from my favourite sellers.
Online marketing can be tricky, especially if you’ve never done it before. Get in touch if you need some pointers.
To sum up, Etsy is a great platform for people who want to start selling quickly with an established marketplace and minimal setup. It suits creative sellers and artisans who prefer less technical complexity and want to tap into Etsy's existing customer base. On the other hand, Shopify gives you more customisation, branding opportunities, and control over your customers and store, making it suitable for businesses aiming for long-term growth and scalability.
Whatever you choose, we’re here to support you! Get in touch for a free 1-hour chat if you have any questions or concerns about ecommerce. Good luck with your business!
Who wrote this?
She / her; red / blue. Mel is a writer, editor and designer. Equally happy hiking a muddy trail as playing tabletop roleplay games by candlelight. Will seize any opportunity for a party, as long as said party features copious food, prosecco and hits from the 1980s. Her true passion lies in words. A student of literature, she is fascinated by enduring myths, etymology and science fiction. Kurt Vonnegut is her hero. “We are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.”