by Rhiân Davies
Published on 20 October 2016
If you're thinking of opening an Etsy shop, a quick search for Etsy success stories will tell you the following: you can make $25,000 a month selling cheeseboards in the shape of US states, and charge almost $370 for a knitted bisected human head. No, really. Etsy is lauded far and wide by artisans and crafters for being a great alternative to using eCommerce software to sell handmade items online, due to its phenomenal popularity and ease of use.
As a C2C marketplace, possibly the biggest draw for many small business owners is the sheer amount of exposure on offer, with 26.1 million active buyers. This, coupled with its easy to use, HTML-free storefront for sellers makes Etsy appear to be a powerful tool to exhibit your handiwork, and make a pretty penny while doing so. Additionally, the potential for repeat purchases is huge, too.
So, what's the catch? As you delve deeper into the world of Etsy selling, it becomes clear that while Etsy is a great place for buyers, sellers can get a raw deal.
Firstly, as a seller on Etsy, you are essentially brand-less. "One of the main reasons to not sell on Etsy is because you are building Etsy's brand and not yours", says Tom Harness of Harness Digital Marketing. "Etsy gives people a nice transition to start their business and grow it to the next level. However, if you don't have a solid plan to transition your customer-base over to your own website, you will have a major decrease in traffic and revenue."
When asked "Where did you get that?", a buyer is more than likely to reply "Etsy", rather than "from this seller on Etsy". Your identity as a seller is essentially obscured by the Etsy-juggernaut.
The vast saturation of products on Etsy and its search functionality also means that you are battling against millions of other sellers to be found, and that's before converting those visits into a sale. Max from Ace Work Gear made the move from Etsy to his own eCommerce site, and says the main reason for this was "because of how Etsy aids product discovery. A lot of the traffic that I was working hard to drive to my Etsy shop was actually heading to other shops on the platform, because that's the way that Etsy has intentionally been designed. I felt that if I'm investing money in paid advertising through social media, I deserve all of the traffic that I'm generating, so I changed."
Thomas Jepsen from Contractor Quotes also notes how difficult the eventual transition from Etsy to your own eCommerce site can be. "When you eventually make the move to your own platform, you'll need to contact people linking to your Etsy channel to get them to change these links to now send the authority from those links to your own site. This can oftentimes be time-consuming with limited success, where it would've been better to do it on a self-hosted platform from the beginning."
However, aside from these frustrations, Etsy is lacking in functionality too. There's no live chat support function (for sellers nor buyers), and Etsy prohibits you from contacting customers via mailing list/newsletters. Add this to a 3.5% transaction fee, listing fees, a four month shelf-life on your listing, and the fact that Etsy now allows manufacturing partners - which has led to concerns about the proliferation of rock-bottom prices and mass produced or fake items - and the allure of Etsy starts to wear off.
So, where should small businesses venture to sell their wares, if not on the Etsy marketplace? We've rounded up four great eCommerce alternatives to Etsy for sellers to consider.
Shopify is an eCommerce platform with more than 1,000 free and paid add-on apps, and all sites are mobile-optimized for customers. It also integrates with 80% of the most popular apps, supports over 70 payment gateways, offers 24/7 customer support, and gives you access to HTML, CSS, and Liquid customization. With this level of customization, you can wave goodbye to a brand-less storefront.
One GetApp reviewer says that "the availability of vetted experts through their expert directory are all clear advantages. The cherry on top is the attention to design and user experience that is offered through the Shopify dashboard".
Pricing? From $14.00/month
Free Trial? Yes
GetApp User Rating? 4.24/5 (183 reviews)
3dcart is an 'all-in-one' eCommerce solution, offering a built in CRM system, built in affiliate programme, customizable templates, built in SEO function and a POS system for those who sell both online and offline. With a built-in email marketing tool too, you need not worry about losing potential future custom. 3dcart is a feature-heavy solution for a range of business sizes.
Reviewers on GetApp love 3dcart's order management capabilities, and excellent customer service.
Pricing? From $9.99/month
Free Trial? Yes
GetApp User Rating? 4.92/5 (12 reviews)
BigCommerce offers single-page checkouts, abandoned cart savers, and "buy" buttons for social media sites with its eCommerce solution. It also boasts unlimited bandwidth, unlimited storage, and ratings and reviews functionality.
GetApp reviewers love that BigCommerce have no hidden fees and that it regularly updates its critical eCommerce features.
Pricing? From $29.95/month
Free Trial? Yes
GetApp User Rating? 3.7/5 (10 reviews)
WooCommerce is a free plug-in for WordPress sites, with the option of over 400 free and paid add-ons to enhance your store. With the ability to view stock levels and store performance from the backend, and it's ability to integrate with MailChimp, FreshBooks and Xero, WooCommerce is a great eCommerce solution for those seeking low-cost, ease of use and huge opportunities for customization.
Reviewers on GetApp say that WooCommerce is ideal "because of it's open source nature, and there's a solution for almost any need that can be easily integrated".
Free Trial? N/A
GetApp User Rating? 4.22/5 (9 reviews)
Etsy is fantastic for discovering niche items, and the user experience as a buyer is, on the whole, a good one. But as discussed, sellers don't fare so well. We'd love to hear about the best alternatives to Etsy from those with experience, so drop us a comment below or go leave a review of your favorite eCommerce software.