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Getting start with eCommerce – should you start with Etsy?

Which is best for you: Etsy, or your own eCommerce site? Let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches…

Selling on Etsy

Pros

Ready to go.

Sure, you’ll have to do some work in getting it set up, but an Etsy store is far closer to being done “out-of-the-box” than any eCommerce site. This is true not just in terms of layout and design—a real relief to those who aren’t web designers — but also when it comes to delivery tracking, stats on web traffic, and that all-important payment process system, which can be difficult and cumbersome to design and navigate on your own.

Instant customer trust.

When you link your own brand with Etsy’s, you’re tapping into all of the branding work and business development the site has done to gain customers’ trust and respect. There’s a reason, after all, that the site attracts so much traffic. And because motivated niche customers are already visiting in higher volumes than they do on any other e-commerce site, getting on Etsy means potentially exposing your products to an audience it would take much longer for you to find on your own. That means instant viewership and marketing, right from the get-go.

Etsy selling page graphic

Help is only a community board away.

Even as the site has grown, Etsy has maintained an engaged, passionate, and inherently helpful community of sellers. Should you have any questions — whether they concern set up, marketing, or anything else — on the community boards you’re likely to find a fellow seller willing to help you out. Community boards are also a great place to connect and swap stories, which can often lead to marketing partnerships in the future (see the tips section below for more on this).

Cons

Lack of control.

Of course, all of that ready-made convenience comes with a cost. When you’re on Etsy, you’re subject to any company policy changes or administrative decisions, and it’s not unheard of for well-meaning sellers to have their shops shut down for inadvertent or trumped-up policy violations. Even if the decision is reversed, your store and loyal followers can be lost, and you might have to start over from scratch.

Limited design options.

Likewise, when you use Etsy, you’re pretty limited by their template store designs. This might be fine as you’re starting out, but it makes it difficult to brand as you grow, which in turn makes distinguishing yourself from other sellers more of a task. It’s also hard to optimise for marketing with various calls to action (CTAs), like placing email list signups in multiple places throughout the page. Again, this means you put much more of the marketing in Etsy’s hands, rather than in your own.

Etsy section for items you may also like

Heated competition from other sellers.

With so many similar products on the site, it can often be difficult to keep a customer on your page, particularly when competitor products are listed in the sidebar. This is especially frustrating if you’ve done the hard work of, say, going to a crafts show in person, schmoozing a customer, handing out a card with your Etsy store on it, only to have them turn elsewhere because they see a better (yet you might argue, unfair) price.

Monthly fees

It takes a chunk of change (sort of). Each product listing costs 20 cents (about 16p) per item. On top of that, Etsy takes 5% transaction fee of the selling price. In addition you need to take payment through a Payment Gateway such as PayPal whom have a 4% (plus 20p) fee.

So whether or not Etsy is more expensive will depend on how well you’re doing on the platform. And of course, as we covered in the pros, Etsy comes with plenty of benefits that may still be worth any investment.


Building Your Own E-commerce Site

Pros

The Naked Deli mobile designs
The Naked Deli sells healthy food

More control over Design, Marketing and SEO.

When you operate from your own eCommerce site, you’re in control of just about everything. You decide on the layout, design and branding of your website — and if that changes, all you have to do is change the look and feel. Want to add an extra mailing list signup button so you can further your list building? Do it. Want to change your policies? Do it. On your own website, you won’t have to worry about a sudden change in regulations, or having your store shut down and having to start again. In both the back-and the front-end of your site, you’ll have far more opportunities as well. And if you want to change your site to promote a big marketing push or product launch, you can just — you guessed it — do it.

What is SEO and why do I need it for my website?

Fewer on-page customer distractions.

On your own website, you won’t have to worry about a competitor advertising their product right next to yours (essentially in your store). Your page, your show, your rules. End of story.

Aubury Interiors Shop design
Aubury Interiors sells designer homeware

You can sell what you like

Etsy is predominantly for items that are Vintage, Handmade or Personalised. If your product isn’t inline with their target audience, then you may find you won’t get many sales or interest. With your own website you can sell products, services, memberships, events, bookings for your talks, the list can be endless. You can even tap into what we call an “API” whereby your shop could ‘talk‘ to big stores such as eBay or Amazon and automatically post new products or update orders, helping create automation for you.

Websites are evergreen

With third-party software hosted like Etsy, you are at their whim and rules – if they decided to shut down you’d have to move to another hosted platform or build your own website anyway. As long as you renew your domain and hosting, then your website will be online forever, it’s every green. You can drive your traffic from Search Engines and other digital campaigns to specific pages on your website, such as FAQs, a mailing list or contact form, and get Analytics on how those customers are behaving.

Media and customers take you more seriously.

If your site is well-designed, the media tends to take you more seriously on your own site than on Etsy. That first part is a key caveat here, and it only really happens if your website shows that you’ve put time and effort into branding and design — far more than if you just entered information and uploaded a few pictures to Etsy. That won’t happen if your eCommerce site looks shoddily-made or outdated, in which case you might as well just do Etsy. For similar reasons, your own eCommerce website can be better for customer referrals, as there’s less brand confusion and customers have an easier time of remembering your personal URL than that of your Etsy store.

Cons

ecommerce-flat-line-designYou have to know what you’re doing.

I’m not saying that you don’t know what you’re doing now, or that you can’t learn. But if you’re not familiar with web design, making your own website can be a recipe for disaster. Not only will you want your website to just generally look nice, but it’s also crucial to avoid a number of usability pitfalls. For example, you need to have an easy-to-use shopping cart, preferably from a trusted third-party platform that keeps on top of changing financial regulations, and an easy way to add things to your cart. You’ll want your website to load quickly and to be secure, and you’ll want a robust SEO strategy. As such, unless you’re a Designer or Developer yourself, hiring one may be an important added expense.

We’ve written a blog post to help you with some of the What’s involved with starting an eCommerce website.

Coca Cola advert with polar bearsIncreased marketing tasks.

On your own website, there’s no chance you’ll be featured in a popular store from the get-go. You’ll need a comprehensive Marketing plan to get the word out about your store. This might include a social media and blog presence, fliers and printouts, and lots of touring at trade or craft shows. While Marketing is also an important activity for Etsy store owners, it’s even more important when you’re on your own.

We’ve created a blog post to get you started, with 68 ideas for your Advertising and Marketing.

Web competition.

We said before that on your own eCommerce site you won’t face competition directly on your store page. However, on the wider web, you’ve got a world of competition, including all of those Etsy wares. Because Etsy is so popular — pretty much the go-to place for handmade crafts for many buyers — attracting customers your way can be a daunting task.


Whichever route you decide to choose, be sure you’ve considered all your options as it may save not just money in future, but your time in the long run.
If you’re not sure and would like some free, no-obligation advice, get in touch at [email protected].