To get into ecommerce, you’ll need an online platform to host your products. So here I'll compare three very different solutions: Shopify, Etsy, and Squarespace.
Don't have time to read the whole review?
Here’s a brief summary:
Use Shopify to build a scalable online store with access to a wide range of eCommerce features.
Use Squarespace to showcase lots of imagery in the best possible light, and if beautiful web design and customization freedom is your priority.
Use Etsy if you sell handmade items (physical or digital) and want to keep your business simple. Etsy is perfect for side hustles or testing a market's potential.
Now without further ado, let’s jump into my full Shopify vs Etsy vs Squarespace comparison:
Shopify vs Etsy vs Squarespace: Features
Shopify is easily the most feature-rich and scalable eCommerce platform of the three solutions. It provides a full-fledged online store, enabling you to create product pages and catalogs, manage your inventory and orders, and run ad campaigns on social media like Facebook and Instagram from the Marketing section of your Shopify dashboard.
As Shopify’s suite of features is so vast, I won’t be able to list them all here, but here’s a summary of Shopify’s most standout features (the same also applies to Etsy and Squarespace):
- Built-in SEO tools – for example, you can edit the meta tags, alt text for images, meta description, and URLs of your website and product pages
- App store: Expand the functionality of your Shopify store with thousands of integrations and widgets, easily accessible through its app market
- Commerce: in addition to selling items online, you can also sell digital and physical goods on your Shopify store, display product image zoom for a more detailed view of items, display related products on product pages, manage your inventory and orders, and more.
- POS: Connect POS systems to your Shopify store to combine retail and online selling (including Shopify’s own free POS app).
- Multichannel selling: Sell via YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Google Marketplace from the convenience of your Shopify dashboard.
- International selling: Sell abroad with multi-currency support
- Marketing: You can build a blog on your Shopify website, send abandoned cart, upsell, and welcome emails, and create targeted ads on Google and social media (Instagram, Facebook, TikTok). You can also publish banners and promotions and insert or embed promotional videos into product descriptions, blog posts, and web pages.
- Store management: Easily manage your inventory, orders, fulfillment, returns, and refunds from one dashboard. To help with this, you can build custom automations to reduce the hassle of repetitive workflows. For example, you can hide products when they’re out of stock, instantly reorder supplies when running low, and automatically track loyal customers based on parameters like spending, order numbers, etc.
- Analytics: Receive contextual insights into trends and performance with advanced reporting features. For example, reports into customer return rates, total spending over different periods, and stats on your average order value.
Etsy is an online marketplace for unique and handcrafted items. It provides sellers with an intuitive dashboard where they can easily create and sell products. It’s simple to construct an Etsy store by creating an Etsy account and adding your shop name, profile picture, bio, and product listings. Etsy has a helpful guide that walks you through the entire process.
Other notable Etsy features include:
- Etsy’s marketplace: Etsy has an existing audience searching for products you can tap into.
- SEO: You can optimize your Etsy store’s SEO in two ways: Etsy SEO, which refers to searches on Etsy.com, and Google SEO for Google searches. Etsy provides guides on how to use both to optimum effect.
- Etsy ads and marketing: Run ads to give your products greater visibility on the Etsy marketplace and offsite ads on Google, Bing, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. You can also create sales and discounts and send automated coupons via email to thank customers for purchasing or when an item is abandoned in their cart. You can also share new listings, reviews, sales, etc., on social media from the convenience of your Etsy dashboard.
- Simple product management: Create product listings by filling out the new listing form, uploading product photos and videos, tagging the necessary product categories, and publishing.
- Reporting and analytics: Review your store’s visits and engagement over time, which listings perform the best, and which ad campaigns won you the most revenue.
- Integrations: Integrate Etsy with email marketing, social media solutions, or apps to improve your Etsy SEO. You can also integrate with POS and inventory management tools if you have a physical inventory.
- Pattern: Etsy Pattern lets you create your own website with various business management tools. Please note: your Pattern store is separate from your Etsy store. It isn’t limited by Etsy’s strict focus on unique and handcrafted items. However, inventory is synced through the Etsy shop manager so you can sell on Etsy and your website harmoniously, giving you an additional platform to sell your products. It’s free to try Pattern and design a website (for 30 days). Your Pattern subscription begins when the free period expires, costing $15/month.
Squarespace’s website builder celebrates unique stores with its wide range of design and customization features. It’s often preferred by creatives thanks to its high-quality, contemporary templates designed to showcase work such as photography, graphic design, art, etc.
But Squarespace is much more than this. It aims to offer everything you need to create and manage a website built-in. It, therefore, relies on fewer apps and integrations (just 24). Unfortunately, this means it isn’t as flexible. But it ensures new merchants benefit from a robust set of web-building tools without investing time and money into other plugins. So, it’s swings and roundabouts!
Some of Squarespace’s most notable features include:
- SEO tools: Build your own blog, edit meta tags and descriptions, create clean URLs, automatically generate sitemaps and product categories, add image file names and alt tags
- Market: Sell on social media, create mailing lists, banners, and promotions, review marketing analytics, and create promotional videos in the Squarespace video studio app.
- Commerce: Sell physical and digital goods, subscriptions, and memberships, and manage your orders and inventory. You can apply limited availability labels to products with low stock, display related products on your product pages, and display product image zoom when customers hover over product pictures.
- Reporting and analytics: Receive stats on all aspects of your business. I.e., view site traffic, page views, revenue, orders sold, abandoned carts, engagement, average order value, and which keywords drive the most traffic from Google and other search engines.
- Store management: Manage your orders, customer order notifications, shipping and fulfillment settings, customer profiles, taxes, and payment options in one place.
Shopify vs Etsy vs Squarespace: Design and Templates
Shopify’s Design and Templates
Shopify provides decent design capabilities. It comes with 11 free customizable themes and 114 paid ones. For the latter, be prepared to spend between $150 and $350 for a premium theme.
You can customize your theme’s colors, fonts, logos, and more. It’s also possible to edit your website's CSS for more unique effects. But, of course, you’ll need some coding smarts to benefit from this.
Shopify’s theme editor isn’t a complete drag-and-drop system. Instead, you’re confined by the restrictions of your chosen theme, of which you can tinker with the layout, sections, and blocks via the sidebar. As a result, it’s nowhere near as intuitive or customizable as Squarespace’s engine.
Shopify also offers an image editor that you can use to resize, crop, draw upon, and change an image’s orientation.
Etsy Design and Templates
Etsy is by far the most constrictive where design is concerned.
When launching an Etsy store within its marketplace, your store page will look the same as everyone else’s, except for your profile picture, banner, product images, and about section. Unfortunately, there’s no way to further customize this space.
In contrast, if you create a website with Etsy Pattern, you enjoy more customization freedom as you can choose from a selection of website templates. However, customization mainly focuses on the fonts, colors, basket style, and search bar style.
Squarespace Design and Templates
Squarespace undeniably has the most to offer regarding design and customization. They have 97 official themes created by web design pros as well as themes from third-party designers that you can customize using Squarespace’s drag-and-drop editor called Fluid Engine. This is available on every Squarespace plan.
Importantly, however, Squarespace themes don’t define your website as much as other builders. Thanks to its highly responsive grid, you can apply different themes to different parts of your website and fully customize your layout.
Squarespace also lets you adjust your images in the browser using various filter effects, contrast, and saturation. In addition, you can apply text effects, animations, layer elements, scrolling blocks, stylized headers, and more.
Shopify vs Etsy vs Squarespace: Pricing
Shopify offers a 14-day free trial and three primary pricing plans. The Basic plan is excellent value for money and comes with everything you need to start selling online. You can pay monthly or annually. The latter comes with 25% savings, which I’ve listed below:
- Shopify Basic costs $29 monthly. You also pay a 2% transaction fee on every sale. In addition, the plan comes with two staff accounts, unlimited products, 24/7 phone, email, and live chat support, and all key selling features.
- The Shopify Plan costs $79 monthly. The transaction fee is reduced to 1%. In addition, this plan unlocks eCommerce automations, five staff accounts, and discounted shipping rates.
- Advanced Shopify costs $299 monthly and charges a 0.5% transaction fee. You also benefit from 15 staff accounts, advanced reporting, and automatic duty and import tax calculation.
There’s also a Shopify Starter plan for $5 per month that enables you to sell through social media and messaging apps with a buy button. Lastly, there’s Shopify’s enterprise solution, Shopify Plus, which starts at $2,000 monthly. However, you’ll have to contact them directly for a custom quote.
Creating a store on Etsy’s marketplace is free, making it an excellent option for anyone wanting to dip their toe into eCommerce without taking considerable financial risks. You do, however, pay a small listing fee of $0.20 whenever you upload a new product, and you also pay a 6.5% transaction fee on every sale.
If you want to create a simple online store with Etsy Pattern, this will set you back $15 per month after a 30-day free trial period.
Like Shopify, Squarespace offers several pricing plans. These are billed monthly and annually. Prices below are based on annual payment, representing a 30% discount:
- Personal: $16 per month allows you to create a fully customized website with unlimited bandwidth, 24/7 support, two contributors, and access to Squarespace extensions.
- Commerce Basic: $27 per month removes the transaction fee and includes additional sales features like product reviews, POS, customer accounts, advanced merchandising tools, and more.
- Commerce Advanced: $49 per month unlocks advanced discounts, the ability to sell subscriptions, and advanced shipping (Free shipping for orders that meet a set threshold you’ve defined and dynamic shipping rates based on a customer’s shipping address).
Shopify vs Etsy vs Squarespace: Final Thoughts
That’s it for comparing Shopify, Etsy, and Squarespace! As said in the intro, these three platforms offer unique value to different types of sellers.
If you’re selling handmade items and don’t want the hassle of running a complex online store, check out Etsy.
However, suppose you’re looking to create a pristine website; you’ll get better value for money with one of Squarespace’s cheaper plans than settling for Etsy Pattern.
But, for serious online merchants invested in scaling their online store for maximum revenue, Shopify has the most to offer.
Let us know in the comments below which eCommerce platform is right for you!
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