For small business owners looking to sell products online, the first hurdle is actually figuring out what platform to use. But sorting through dozens of ecommerce website builders doesn't exactly fill you with anticipation, does it?
Don't worry. We understand. That's why we've put this Shopify vs Etsy comparison together, to give you an idea of the pros and cons of the ecommerce game's biggest players. Along the way we'll also look at how Paperform stacks up as an alternative you can get started with today.
Feel free to use the table of contents to skip to the section that matters most to you, whether that's pricing, customisation, analytics or anything in-between. Ready to rumble? Let's get started. 🥊
Shopify is a hugely popular ecommerce website platform that you can use to sell all types of products. It’s a cloud-based, hosted solution, which means that you can access your website’s dashboard from anywhere without relying on a downloaded application.
It’s relatively simple to get started and it scales with you as your ecommerce business grows. Shopify comes with rich functionality and plenty of apps to fill any gaps that you run into.
Etsy is a global online marketplace that's designed to give people a platform to make, sell and buy unique and creative goods. With many online stores devoted to new and shiny items, it focuses on vintage and handmade goods.
Favoured by independent artists and creatives, the most popular products sold on Etsy include handmade jewellery, art, clothing, home décor, accessories, toys and assorted collectibles.
Paperform is a digital platform that empowers anyone to create beautiful forms, landing pages and ecommerce sites without writing a line of code. With our versatile tools and robust customisation options, you can build a unique solution that's tailor made for your specific business needs.
Whether you're an entrepreneur selling digital products, an online bakery looking for a home, or any other business hoping to find software that doesn't take a degree (and hours of time) to master, Paperform is the answer for you.
Shopify, Etsy and Paperform all come under the umbrella of "ecommerce" solutions. However they offer distinctly different experiences, much in the same way Orwell, Faulkner and Le Guin are all novelists but vary greatly in the way they write.
"Shopify is a robust website builder designed for complex ecommerce stores, Etsy is an online marketplace for handmade and vintage items, and Paperform is a digital platform that empowers you to build an easy ecommerce solution alongside a suite of other tools."
With Shopify you can achieve just about anything in the ecommerce space. From inventory management to dropshipping and everything in between, it has an array of advanced features. By default you have a myshopify.com URL, but you can also purchase your own domain and use that instead.
Unfortunately, all this comes with a hefty price tag and a platform that can be difficult to use, especially once you get third-party apps involved.
📚 Read more: The 8 Best Shopify Alternatives
Etsy is quick to get up and running, fairly cost effective, and comes with a large built-in audience. It's a go-to for a lot of beginners, because it doesn't have to come with subscription fees. But its biggest strength is also its biggest weakness: it's a marketplace.
That means there's lots of competition, little chance of customer retention, a distinct lack of branding options, and that Etsy gets a cut out of every sale. In fact, a potential customer can complete their entire shopping experience without so much as glancing at your page.
📚 Read more: The 17 Best Etsy Alternatives for Selling Handmade Crafts
Paperform keeps selling simple. In minutes you can add products, manage stock levels, customise your page and start taking sales. Templates make it even easier to get started, and with more than 3,000+ integrations you can connect with all your favourite apps to make Paperform your business hub.
Plus we are much more than an ecommerce platform. There is more to being a small business owner than just sales, and we offer a range of other features. From taking appointments and automating your onboarding forms to embedding contact forms on your website, we've got you covered across all your business processes.
Let's take a more in-depth look at the key differences between these platforms:
|Best For||Creating a full website solution with powerful ecommerce solutions.||Selling handmade goods on a small scale.||Creating beautiful storefronts and versatile forms, surveys, and questionnaires of all kinds.|
|All themes are mobile responsive||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Apps and extensions||Yes||Yes||No|
|Reporting and analytics||Yes||Limited||Yes|
|Blog CMS capabilities||Yes||No||No|
|Custom online store||Yes||No||Yes|
|Custom domain name||Yes||No||Yes|
|Insert multimedia||Images, videos, GIFs||Images, videos||Images, videos, GIFs|
|Send email campaigns||Yes||No||Yes|
|Secure payment gateways||Over 100||3||Over 80|
|Storage limits||Unlimited||No storage||Unlimited|
|International customer support||24/7 support||24/7 support||24/7 support|
|Digital signature capture||No||No||Yes|
|HR form processing||No||No||Yes|
It goes without saying that the cost of monthly plans vary between Shopify, Etsy and Paperform. But with a range of hidden transaction and processing fees, it's not the only cost to consider.
Basic Shopify is an affordable solution for businesses making the move into ecommerce. The base Shopify plan gives you access to the majority of features, with limits on staff accounts and reporting, which is a bummer if you're looking for insights into your sales.
Sadly, Shopify takes a slice of your profits across all plans. Transaction fees and credit card rates vary between 0.5%-2.9% for each sale (plus 30 cents for online sales). This doesn't sound like much at first, but quickly adds a considerable price on top of your plan.
Technically, you can use Shopify Payments (Shopify's payment gateway) to get around these fees. But with specific country and bank requirements, it's not ideal. Once you add costs for website themes and third-party apps—lots of which are $300+—it becomes apparent the monthly fee is a floor rather than a hard ceiling.
Out of the box Etsy is free to use. Kind of. By "free", what they really mean is, instead of paying a monthly plan, you pay multiple different listing and transaction fees that take a Godzilla-sided chunk out of your profits.
Just how much this affects you depends on how many products and sales you have. If business is going well (i.e. you're making lots of sales), Etsy can actually cost more than Shopify and Paperform, while offering merely a fraction of the features.
For $10 a month you can subscribe to Etsy Plus, which gives you access to better (albeit, still limited) shop customisation, credits for listings and ads, discounts on domain names and other benefits of varying usefulness, like custom shipping boxes.
Also worth noting is that an additional 'Regulatory Operating' fee is charged to sellers based in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain and Turkey.
In direct contrast to Shopify and Etsy, Paperform doesn't tack any extra fees onto the cost of monthly plans. Our pricing is simple: your subscription gives access to all the functionality you need with no nasty surprises tacked on to your bill.
That means there are no listing or regulatory fees. In terms of transaction fees, you only pay what the provider charges (for example, Square and Stripe have fees that are separate to our platform.) The bottom line is what you see is what you get. We don't take any percentage of your profits—Paperform started out as a small business, and we know just how important every cent is.
Whether you're an Essentials or Agency user you can upload unlimited products, take subscriptions, manage your inventory and automate quotes and receipts. Across each pricing tier you also get access to our vast Template Gallery, as well as over 3,000+ Direct and Zapier integrations at no extra cost.
Paperform's Essentials plan is a great option for small businesses and entrepreneurs starting on their ecommerce journey. It's cheaper than Shopify and offers way more features than Etsy. Folks looking for advanced features, customisation and analytics might want to consider Pro and Agency plans.
Ease of use is one of Shopify's major selling points. Once you've made an account, it works out of the box. If you're happy with the default setup you can adjust the look of your own store, upload products and get your online store up and running fast.
You can buy a custom domain directly from Shopify, and they have SEO optimising features and email marketing built in, which makes it easy to build up a customer base without relying on other software.
Once you add apps things get tricky. Shopify's app store boasts thousands of add-ons that extend the functionality of your store—many of which are crucial to the everyday running of your online business. These apps can do anything from allowing you to integrate with other sales channels, to offering gift card functionality, but they usually come with a monthly subscription fee.
In theory this is great, but in practice after you add more than a few (and you'll need to), the dashboard starts to feel cluttered and noticeably slower. It's unfortunate that some of these features aren't included in Shopify's standard plans.
In fact, even without additional apps, the dashboard is overwhelming. This comes as a side effect of having so many features, Shopify's backend simply can't keep up. For businesses that need to constantly update and change their store, this is a red flag, as after a while tweaking your site becomes a chore.
Due to the simplicity of its platform, Etsy is exceedingly easy to use, both on desktop and from the Etsy app. Choose a store name, add products and you're ready to go. Unfortunately, you have to add at least one product before you can see Etsy's backend, while both Shopify and Paperform offer free trials with no monetary commitments required.
For a platform with relatively few features, Etsy's dashboard has a lot going on. We found it difficult to navigate around, and had to rely on the help centre to find what should be simple settings, like how to change your profile picture. Other basics are hidden in a maze of menus too, which results in a frustrating experience.
Etsy's backend is dedicated to managing customer messages, showing basic analytics and managing your listings. It can feel unintuitive, but it's approachable enough that anyone can use it without too many headaches. The main problem is there just aren't many features, which is partly why it's so popular with hobbyists (and so unpopular businesses).
Paperform's tools empower anyone to create an ecommerce solution without any code or technical knowledge. We mean it when we say if you can use a Word doc, you can use our unique free-text editor to build a beautiful online store in minutes.
To create your storefront simply insert a product field and upload your items. In a few clicks you can add images, product descriptions, price and SKUs. Unlike Etsy, you can customise your store to look exactly how you want it—change colours, tweak fonts, add your unique branding and even embed videos and GIFs anywhere on the page.
Our backend is also where you can manage your everyday processes—from adjusting stock levels to adding new inventory and payment accounts, or connecting with your favourite apps to unlock additional functionality (similar to Shopify's apps without the extra cost.) It's built to balance simplicity with advanced features.
"I initially played around with some larger platforms like Shopify... However I quickly found that while their platform is powerful, it's perhaps too big and overwhelming for a small business. I needed to find a platform that would not only be easy for shop owners, but something they could easily update. That's when I came across Paperform."
— Dennis Karle (📚 read the case study)
From here you can also automate post-sales actions to cut down on busy work and free up time to work on other parts of your business. Whether you want to send customer satisfaction surveys, generate receipts or transfer customer data elsewhere (your CRM for example), we strive to keep things simple and intuitive no matter your level of expertise.
Shopify accepts payments through more than 100 payment gateways, from PayPal to Visa and Google Pay. This means you have plenty of options, though remember that you'll have extra credit card and transaction fees depending on your plan—unless you use Shopify Payments.
Sadly, Shopify Payments is only available in 17 countries and your bank must meet certain requirements to qualify for it. This is a major roadblock and seeing that it's simply not as established as other payment processors, most businesses will opt for the bigger names despite the additional fees.
In terms of payment features, Shopify's options are comprehensive. You can collect tips, calculate shipping costs, sell internationally and achieve just about anything your business needs to. With Shopify's point of sale (POS) features, you can even take payments in a brick-and-mortar store.
In contrast to Shopify and Paperform, Etsy offers only two solutions for accepting payments online: Etsy Payments and PayPal. Etsy Payments is similar to Shopify Payments, in that it's not available to users in all countries, though it comes with fewer restrictions than Shopify's offering.
As we previously covered, Etsy makes its money on transaction and processing fees, which are on top of any fees associated with individual payment processors. For POS payments you're able to link a Square account to your Etsy shop. This works well, and also allows you to set up coupons and discounts on products.
Running your business is stressful enough. Taking payments shouldn't be, which is why Paperform takes the hassle out of getting paid. From the Payments page you can connect to major gateways like PayPal, Stripe, Square and Braintree—or all of them if you are an Agency customer—in a couple of clicks.
Once your accounts are connected you can take in-store payments with Stripe's POS and even set up recurring subscriptions. With custom pricing rules you can easily add variable shipping and tax charges based on a customer's location. This is automated, so getting your customer to the checkout is effortless.
Additionally, Paperform's calculations give you the freedom to provide quotes, adjust costs and apply discount codes and coupons to products. These coupons can be time sensitive, applied across your store or available only for certain products. And unlike Shopify and Etsy, there are no extra fees. Ever.
📚 Read More: The Best WordPress Ecommerce Plugins
Shopify recently launched Online Store 2.0, a new way to customise its stores. As part of this, they include one free theme and 41 paid themes. These are well made, but customising them beyond basic colour and font adjustments isn't easy.
The platform looks a certain way, so while basic theming is simple (and sites look great) it feels like you're building a Shopify store, rather than your own unique site. Sections are uniform and while you can edit the elements within them, it feels a bit too much like a template you fill with your own products.
Overall, though, customisation is intuitive. The themes look professional and it's much faster to build something workable than on most alternatives. Just beware that working with images can be a finicky, so be prepared to play around with image sizes and dimensions to get the right look.
Etsy's customisation is limited. You can add a shop icon, a banner for your store, and choose a name. That's the extent of it. We aren't exaggerating when we say that Etsy's customisation is closer to a social media profile than a website builder.
With Etsy Plus you get more options. You can create sections on your homepage, add an about page and tags to group individual items, and use up to four rotating images on your banner. It's not exactly reinventing the wheel, but it's better than the default branding settings.
If you're just looking to sell as a hobby this might not bother you. However, if you're a business owner, Etsy just doesn't give you the tools to showcase your own brand. Brand recognition and customer retention are all but impossible, making your business an extension of Etsy rather than its own entity.
Paperform is built from the ground up to make it easy to reflect your brand. Tweak colours, change fonts, edit backgrounds and customise your store to look just how you want it. Unsure where to start? Use one of our 600+ templates for inspiration, which, unlike Shopify's themes, are free across all plans.
While Etsy limits you to a banner, with Paperform you can add images, videos and GIFs anywhere on the page. Visuals are an important part of any ecommerce store, and with our Unsplash, GIPHY and Adobe Creative Cloud integrations you can show off your products—and brand—in style.
📚 Read more: DIY Product Photography Ideas for Ecommerce Stores
Best of all? There is no code required. Small business owners usually wear multiple hats, and you don't need a degree in design to create a page that looks professional. Thanks to our contextual menus the options you need appear right when you need them, and if you ever get stuck our customer support team is always happy to lend some design tips.
Customisation doesn't just extend to the way your page looks either. The versatility of the platform means Paperform is adaptable to a variety of use cases—from forms and surveys to a bookings solution for a restaurant or software for cooking classes. You're only limited by your imagination.
Shopify offers detailed analytics across all plans. From the Shopify dashboard you'll find a variety of different reports on products, sales and customers. They're thorough and comprehensive, which means there's a slight learning curve, but that's par for the course.
There is also a Google Analytics integration, as well as other third-party applications on the App Marketplace. If crunching the numbers and delving into the nitty gritty of your business is your style, Shopify has you covered.
Etsy Stats, Etsy's in-house analytics program, gives you basic information about the performance of your store. You can see visits, orders, conversation rate and revenue. As you might expect from Etsy, the stats here are relatively simple and there's little room to delve deeper.
Paperform has simple analytics built in to the backend. You can get insights into views, sales and completion rate (the percentage of visitors that made a purchase from your store).
To be transparent, Paperform's native analytics falls somewhere between Shopify and Etsy. That's why we allow you to integrate with over 25 analytics apps—from Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel to Mixpanel. With these platforms you can get the data you need to ensure your business operates smoothly.
For content hosted on a "myshopify.com" domain, SSL certificates are activated by default. For other domains you can turn it on manually. Shopify is GDPR compliant, meaning Shopify can be trusted with your personal data and privacy.
You can also turn on two-step authentication to make your account more secure. For further security measure you can download apps from the Shopify App Marketplace.
Like Shopify (and Paperform), Etsy allows you to activate two-factor authentication for better account security. You can also setup notifications for when someone signs into your account from an unknown device, and access your sign-in history.
When you use Paperform you can trust that your data is safe. We are fully GDPR compliant and offer two-factor authentication for all users. Your data is secured using TLS 1.2 SSL from your customers browsers through our US-based servers.
At any time you can even turn off storage on Paperform. This means that rather than data being housed on our servers, you can keep it contained to your internal systems for additional peace of mind.
Internet security protocols aren't stagnant. They're constantly shifting and changing as new technologies emerge. Our systems are regularly updated and maintained to ensure we stay on top of the latest vulnerabilities. Still have questions? Just ask us.
Shopify has native integrations with most social media platforms, as well as Amazon and other ecommerce sites. This means that if you are so inclined, you could sell on Etsy and Paperform simultaneously while also running a Shopify store. This opens up avenues for omnichannel marketing and sales.
In addition, Shopify's App Marketplace has thousands of apps to extend your store's functionality. Apps are sorted into categories (e.g. Store Design, Marketing) and grouped into collections (e.g. Launching your store, Growing your business) which make it easy to find what you need.
Unfortunately, Shopify's App Marketplace suffers the fate of all app stores face: it's impossible to sort the wheat from the chaff. Many apps are kind of useless, and with only a few 'Made by Shopify', it can be difficult to discern what's actually helpful and what is just filling in the numbers.
Etsy sellers can integrate with a number of applications aimed at simplifying small business workflows. While choices are limited compared to Shopify and Paperform there are integrations solutions for most processes, from connecting to your CRM system to accounting with Xero.
Most of the integrations are related to promoting products or your business on social media, or allowing multi-channel sales (for example, embedding a widget for your Etsy store into your own website.) If you're really serious about integrating with your other apps, it might be worthwhile looking elsewhere.
At Paperform we believe your apps should do the heavy lifting. That's why all users get access to over 3,000+ Direct, Zapier and Integromat integrations to streamline workflows, automate processes and help get more done.
"Want to add a user to a list on Mailchimp? Easy done. Need to create tasks in Asana? No sweat. Upload files directly to Dropbox? It’s only a couple of clicks away."
By taking advantage of our integrations Paperform becomes the central hub of your business. No more switching between tabs and having dozens of tools open for each part of your business. From accounting to fulfilment; CRM management to project management, Paperform's integrations have you covered.
Shopify has a comprehensive help center and active discussion forums where existing users share their own resolutions. It also has a vast library of YouTube tutorials that's updated often, and 24/7 support via chat and email.
Unfortunately response times from customer support are a bit slow, which is a side effect of having such a large user base. Based on our reviews, it's also common to have to explain your situation to multiple customer service representatives, which doesn't make for the greatest customer experience in the world.
One of Etsy's major drawbacks is its lack of a personal touch. It offers support via email, but response times are long (up to a few days). A quick browse of any review site shows a range of similar complains about unresolved support issues.
There is a help center and a forum, which are quite comprehensive and filled with actionable guides and FAQs. Unfortunately, while Etsy does maintain an active YouTube channel, they don't post educational videos.
Everyone learns differently, which is why Paperform offers an array of avenues to get the help you need. There is a comprehensive help center, an active community forum, a regularly updated YouTube channel and an 24/7 customer support team around in case you need a human touch.
Customer support isn't just something we offer to check a box. It's a core part of our business. Our team is made up of computer scientists, web developers and analysts with expert technical knowledge and real, hands-on experience with the product.
We aren't going to pretend that Shopify and Etsy aren't good solutions. They are, but they both have limitations. Shopify is stacked with features but that comes at a price (literally) and restrictions in terms of customisation and ease of use.
Etsy, on the other hand, is extremely limited. It's okay for niche sellers looking for a way to sell homemade and vintage items, but it's simply not a viable ecommerce solution for businesses looking to build a proper online store.
With Paperform you can get an affordable solution that has everything you need to build, manage and run your ecommerce business. Plus, because Paperform is more than an ecommerce tool, you have more features than Shopify and Etsy combined.
Paperform brings forms, surveys, landing pages, inventory management, analytics, onboarding and every other feature you require in one single platform. From a store to an order platform to a way to simplify your onboarding, Paperform is whatever you need it to be.
The best part? You don't need to take our word for it. Try our 14-day free trial (no credit card required) and start building your dream store today.
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