Rumor has it that you have decided to start your online business selling handicrafts. After years of your family badgering you to sell your goods online, you have finally decided to open up shop. However, when it comes to the choice between “Etsy vs own website,” which should you choose?
If you think Etsy is a good choice, you are certainly not alone. It is the biggest marketplaces for merchants who want to sell unique niche artisan goods and handicrafts and offers an easy way for sellers to promote their goods. However, it also has its share of drawbacks as well and those are enough for many merchants to sell their products on their own custom-made website.
One of the biggest concerns behind the question “Etsy vs own website: which should you choose?” is that many craftsmen fear they will self-cannibalize their sales on Etsy if they start their own website as well, or vice versa. However, the truth is that both platforms offer a range of benefits not just to you, the seller, but to your valued customers as well.
So let us find out the features of both these platforms to answer which one should be best for your business.
Selling on Etsy
Etsy is the favored marketplace for craftsmen and artisans. The platform provides sellers the ease of setting up their online store quickly and start selling very unique products in just a few minutes. It also offers people a lot of has a simple fee structure and offers a very secure shopping experience.
Winning Features of Etsy
Quick Set Up
Etsy itself doesn’t sell anything but rely on its sellers for revenue. As such, it offers its sellers a lot of convenience when it comes to setting up a store quickly and easily, without the need of special coding skills.
A seller will need to register on Etsy’s platform to make a store on it. Etsy will then provide them with several options for pre-built theme and layout of their storefront, which is a big relief for people who are not web designers. Once you add all the relevant details and products on your website, your store can be up and running in just an hour.
Additionally, Etsy also has in-built tools that keep track of your store’s performance metrics, freight tracking, order shipping and payment processing, which is a huge boon since these things can be difficult to navigate on a customized website.
No Set Up Costs
Any person can set up a store on Etsy without paying a single cent. Etsy hosts your store on its own platform so you don’t have to buy a separate domain or hosting. Etsy itself also does not demand a fee for hosting and domain name as well as for use of its themes. The set-up is completely free, though when you are adding products, it will charge a nominal listing fee.
This is good news for new entrepreneurs who have limited capital and make don’t make much in profits as they don’t need to be concerned with paying monthly fee for hosting, domain, and other recurring store fees.
Of course, one of the biggest draws for Etsy is that it can give you access to millions of customers whom you would not have otherwise been able to reach. In addition, you can also make use of Etsy’s Risk-Free advertising strategy that can enhance promotion of your store for a cost. This can result in huge exposure of your store — if you play your cards right. More on this in the drawback section…
Etsy attracts millions of customer, most of them recurring. And there is a good reason for that. Etsy has gone through a lot of effort in terms of its branding and business development to ensure it gains instant customer trust. People who sell specialty niche products understand that Etsy is the best place for them to sell their products to relevant market— yes, even more so than ecommerce giants like Amazon and eBay.
This means a higher likelihood of your products being exposed to the right people. Additionally, Etsy also offers highly secure payment processing system and have policies that protect its sellers.
With Etsy, sellers don’t need to worry about their website experiencing downtime. Of course, since Etsy is such a big ecommerce marketplace it is bound to experience technical difficulties one time or another. However, any bugs in the system will be resolved by Etsy all on their own, without disturbing the sellers.
Community of Sellers
As the site grows, it gains a wider and wider community of sellers from all over the world. These sellers come from diverse background and are a rich source of information if you have need help with anything related to running your store on Etsy.
The Etsy community board is also a great place where you can hang out with fellow artists, swap ideas and even go into a marketing partnership. Local groups also organize events through the community board on a regular basis, which can bring more exposure to your brand.
Drawbacks of Etsy
The fee structure on Etsy is simple but it is relatively higher than other marketplaces. Each product listing on Etsy costs $0.20 per item, so if you have 50 items to sell, it will cost you $10. The listings stay on your store for 4 months or until the product sells out completely. In addition to the listing price, Etsy also takes 3.5 percent of your product’s selling price as commission.
However, all these expenses may be offset by the fact that Etsy does not charge a hosting or set up fees. It actually depends on the price of your product and the volume of your sales to determine whether Etsy is well-worth the money.
Etsy design store does not provide a huge inventory of templates or themes. This may not be a big deal if you are just starting your own business, but in time, you will need to distinguish yourself from other similar sellers on Etsy and create your own brand identity. With the limited design, it can be challenging to do so.
Etsy is also a bit tricky to optimize for marketing and you may have to do some work if you want to place call-to-actions, like a request for subscription, on multiple places in your store. This means you don’t have much control over your marketing.
Lack of Control
Putting all your eggs in one basket is a risky business and the same is true for Etsy. Since Etsy controls almost all aspects of your online store, if it suddenly decides to change its policies, sellers will not have any choice but to go with it. A recent example is Etsy removing standalone PayPal from its payment processing options for sellers who live in countries that accept Etsy Payments.
Sellers have also been known to complain that Etsy shuts down their store unexpectedly for perceived violations of policies. Even though the decision can be reversed, the business can lose its followers and will need to gain its traffic from scratch.
There are thousands and thousands of online stores on Etsy which sell similar handmade goods that is very difficult to make your website come out on top of the Etsy search engine results. SEO on Etsy takes almost the same amount of effort as if you were doing it for your own custom-made website.
In the past, when the number of shops were fewer, there was a high chance customers could easily find your shop. However, now with the growing number of shops, exposure is not as easy. This can be especially frustrating if you have gone to extra effort to go to craft events, handing out your business cards, and schmoozing customers, only to find them turning to your competitor with a lower price tag.
Selling on Your Own eCommerce Site
If sellers want to grow a strong and memorable brand, it can be very hard to do so simply by using Etsy. With your very own ecommerce site, you have virtually unlimited customization options and as much space as you want to be creative. You can also make whatever shop policies you need and you can opt for payment gateways that take a much lower cut of your profits than Etsy. Additionally, you can add extra tabs on your website like blogs, event pages, or specific CTA pages. Basically, you are in charge of everything, period.
Winning Features of a Custom-made eStore
When you sell your products through your own ecommerce store, you are the boss. You can decide which theme, design, or layout would be best suited for your unique product offerings and you can make your site more distinctive for branding purposes. And if you want to change the design of your site for a big promotional event, there are no restrictions and you don’t need anyone’s permission.
You can add various elements to your site, like adding an email listing signup form on various pages. Along with this, you can also use whatever payment processing gateway you want, be it PayPal, Stripe, Square on any other.
With your own site, you can change the terms and conditions of your store whenever you want. Since it is your site, you don’t have to worry about inadvertent violations of policies that can suspend your business.
You will also have more opportunity and space to create your own story and manage your SEO the way you want.
This is your site, so you call the shots.
Since this is your own custom-made website, you won’t have to worry about your competitor’s advertisement showing up right next to your product listing — which is what happens on Etsy. Since everything in the page belongs to you, it means your customers will not get distracted by anything that you don’t want to show there.
Since it is your website, you won’t need to pay any listing fee for your products. In the long run, the absence of a listing fee can result in money saved for sellers.
Additionally, you won’t need to take down your products after 4 months if they do not sell out — you can keep them for an indefinite amount of time without incurring any additional cost.
Passive Side Income
Once your store kicks off and you start earning profits, you also have the opportunity to set up ads on your page. One of the best kinds of ads is native ads which provide added value to your customers. In addition, you will get a passive income from the advertisers every time one of your customers clicks on the ad.
A custom made site means your customers and media take you more seriously. However, there is a caveat with it: this only happens if your website is very well-designed and well-managed. This means you will need to put some effort in the designing, branding, and content creation for your website.
You won’t be able to gain any credibility if your website is outdated and sloppy with difficult navigation and in this case Etsy will offer you far better results.
There is also less brand confusion with your own customized website and hence it is better for brand referral as customers have an easier time of remembering your brand name.
Drawbacks of a Custom Website
You Need A Web Designer
The major drawback of creating your very own store from scratch is that you need to have some good coding skills. Barring that, you will need to hire a web designer, who can create an ecommerce store for you, which itself can be pretty unaffordable for sellers who are just starting their business.
Your new site will not just need to look nice from the get-go, you will also need to implement changes to it on a regularly to meet the best website standards. Additionally, you must be careful not to fall into the usability pitfalls, like having an easy-to-use shopping cart from a third party and a dynamic SEO strategy.
Managing your website as well as all your store functions all by yourself can be very difficult.
Unlike an Etsy store which can take less than an hour to set up, it may take days, or more likely weeks to months to set up your own website. You will also have to go through a steep learning process as you build your website.
Additionally, unlike Etsy, you will need to get a domain and hosting for your website which will incur monthly charges that you need to stay on top of if you don’t want your site to go down unexpectedly. However, one good thing is that you won’t be charged a listing fee for adding products to your store so this can actually save you more money in the long run.
You will be solely responsible if your website becomes buggy for some reason or if something goes wrong with your site or store. This means you will need to diagnose what is wrong with your site and troubleshoot it all by yourself.
However, if you are using self-managed platforms like Squarespace, the database management is taken care of. They also have a support team that can help you with fixing up your website. Even so, you will still need to perform the steps yourself, which can be pretty time consuming and confusing for people with not much tech experience.
Doing Your Own Marketing
Since the store is entirely your own, you will lose the opportunity to feature in a popular marketplace from the start – as is the case with Etsy. To make sure your website gets the exposure it needs, you will need to come up with a comprehensive and robust marketing strategy.
Your brand awareness efforts will need to pan across several channels like social media, blog, press releases, brochures, and craft events. You will also need to create additional pages on your website like “About Us” and “Contact Us” pages, which will give all the details about your website and direct customers towards your social media channels.
This can also be very difficult to handle while running a store, but marketing your store is even more important when you are doing it alone.
Just because there is no ad by a competitor featured inside your store, doesn’t mean you won’t get vicious competition. Getting the word out about your ecommerce store and ranking your store on Google’s top search results will require a lot of SEO activity.
Don’t forget that you will also need to contend with your competitors on Etsy that are showing up on Google search result. Since Etsy is a popular, bigger, and trustworthy source of handicrafts, attracting customers towards your business will be quite tricky.
Etsy is a wonderful way for beginner entrepreneurs to attract tons of customers. But that doesn’t mean you won’t need to do the appropriate SEO and marketing to get exposure. It also has the potential to eat into your profits.
Etsy will also control a lot of aspects of your store and though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for new sellers, it can be a bit problematic for experienced entrepreneurs with bigger business.
Although Etsy offers a ton of benefits, it may not be the best platform if you want to get brand recognition, and create a thriving business. What you should do is use Etsy to capture leads and then funnel them to your own website.
In the battle between Etsy vs own website, neither platform wins hand down. However, you will have a win-win situation if you can manage the time to use both these platforms and reap their individual benefits.
This way, you will have a much better chance of creating a long-lasting brand identity and customer base, as well as experiment which platform gives you the biggest profits.