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Is it worth starting a separate ecommerce website to Etsy?

If you are currently running an ecommerce business through Etsy marketplace, chances are you have considered whether you also need to have a separate website to Etsy. This article outlines alternative options to just selling on Etsy and how they can benefit your business.

Why separate out your business from Etsy?

First of all, let’s consider why you might want a separate website to Etsy. While Etsy is a behemoth in the ecommerce world, providing a marketplace to buy and sell handmade and vintage goods, there are still many reasons why you might consider your business beyond it’s virtual walls. For starters, it can be a bit of a risk placing all your eggs in one basket. By just retailing through Etsy, you are essentially at their mercy should they change their pricing plans, web functionality or terms and conditions.

Furthermore, you may wish to establish your business as more than a small fish in a big pond. As popular as Etsy is, this can also be a double-edged sword for sellers. It’s true that Etsy attracts massive traffic to its platform. However, this is largely down to the huge variety of sellers and products it offers. That means you are fighting to stand out in the crowd amongst heavy competition. One way to set yourself apart from other customers is through your brand identity. And yet, there’s not a lot of scope on Etsy to customise your actual shop. From an SEO standpoint, you’re relying on off-site SEO and other marketing activity to drive customers to your shop. So you might be thinking, “I may as well be putting this energy into driving customers to my own website, away from competing sellers.”

Factors to consider when moving away from Etsy

So let’s look at what factors you might consider when weighing up alternatives to Etsy. Cost is undoubtedly going to play a role. So too is the ease of setting up on a new platform and then managing your store. Plus you’ll want to assess how you can customise your site and SEO it to be found easily on Google.

Cost is definitely going to affect a lot of retailers when it comes to making their decisions. As of 2020, Etsy charges £0.15 for a 4 month listing. This is in additon to a 5% transaction fee and 4% + £0.20 payment processing fee. Depending on your profit margin, this can seem excessive for what is an-out-of-the-box solution.

However, that brings us on to another factor to consider which is the ease of setup. Setting up a separate website to Etsy isn’t just about incurring costs. It’s also important to think about how timely and efficient the set-up can be. For instance, setting up your own website on a platform like WooCommerce or even Shopify will require configuration and maintenance that you will have to factor into your working schedule.

The level of customisation you can do to your shop will also vary depending on what option you choose. Not all ecommerce platforms are considered equal. There’s plenty of easy out of the box solutions to tempt you, from Wix Stores to Big Commerce. Ask yourself, is the saving in time and money worth it in relation to what you’re getting out of it? What level of customisation am I actually getting for my money?

Finally, how are customers going to find your new shop? Again, some ecommerce platforms offer much more sound SEO architecture than others. This will help your site get ranked higher in Google. In general terms, the more customisable your website is, the more chance you have of employing search engine optimisation to help you get found on Google more easily.

Separate website options to Etsy

Etsy Pattern

Etsy Pattern, as the name would suggest, is an option that is still powered by Etsy. Technically it isn’t quite the same as having a completely separate website to Etsy. The reason it has been added here is because it allows the retailer a degree of customisation to their shop that a regular Etsy shop does not provide. You can have your own domain name that points through to an individual site that is hosted by Etsy. While this site is separate from the Etsy marketplace, you can still pull through your Etsy listings plus add additional products to your site.

This is a great advantage to small ecommerce businesses that might not have the time to do stock management on more than one platform. Pattern also lets you add products that are not limited to just the “vintage” or “handmade” categories required for Etsy.

So far, so good. But Pattern is still very limited in what it offers you in terms of design layouts and functionality. This means that you’re not going to get to have a shopfront looking exactly how you want it to as you might should you go with a bigger ecommerce platform like Shopfiy or the infinite possibilities of WordPress.

Having said that, Pattern is easy to set-up and you can have a storefront up and running in the space of minutes. So you’re getting your own web presence away from Etsy, an easy to set-up website, and none of the hassles of stock inventory and management you would have if hosting another ecommerce site away from Etsy.

Of course, all of this comes at a cost. There’s currently a 30 day free trial for Pattern and after that a cost of US $15 a month in addition to the £0.15 per product listing on Etsy marketplace. Products that you only list on Pattern and not Etsy as well will not be charged listing fees. However, you will still have to pay your 5% transaction fee and 4% + £0.20 payment processing fee on all products purchased through Pattern.

Pattern Summary
Pros: Integrates out-of-the-box with Etsy so no additional stock management to worry about. Easy to set-up and maintain. No additional third-party integrations to worry about.
Cons: Lack of design features and functionality. Cannot scale-up the website by adding more features over time. Standard Etsy analytics, no integration with Google Analytics. Etsy still owns the platform ie you don’t own your own online business.

Overall, while Pattern may appear an easy option for those wanting to branch out from just being on Etsy, it’s actually quite expensive for what you get. The main attraction of Etsy marketplace for sellers is the amount of traffic that the site gets. On Pattern you’re responsible for driving your own traffic to a site that you can’t do very much with. So for an extra $15 a month, plus the annual cost of a domain name, this does not really represent good value for money.

Out-of-the-box solutions: Shopify

A move away from Etsy may be a daunting step for some sellers. That’s why an out-of-the-box solution might suit retailers looking to have a separate website to Etsy that offers a quick and easy set-up. One of the most popular of these all-in-one solutions is Shopify and it’s easy to see why.

With Shopify you pay a monthly fee, which varies according to the plan you choose. The basic plan is $29 (around £22) plus 2% transaction fees. The medium plan is $79 (around £60) plus 1% transaction fees. And the Advanced Shopify plan is $299 (£277) plus 0.5% transaction fees. It’s got an easy set-up that walks you through each stage of building your shop and includes a custom subdomain eg YourShopName.Shopfiy.com. You can also buy a domain name through Shopify if you wish (starting at $11 a year). In addition there is built-in security, with Shopify being PCI compliant and coming with an SSL certificate out of the box.

Shopify layouts available from their theme store
A selection of themes available to buy at Shopify Themes

Shopify offers a number of themes to customise your shopfront with. These can be modified to a certain degree. However there are only 8 free themes and 64 paid themes, which come at a cost of $180 each.

The main benefit of a platform like Shopify is you’re getting an awful lot of functionality in exchange for a very small investment in time. The amount of built in features varies with the pricing plan you choose. For example, you only get the abandoned cart recovery feature starting with the $79 a month Shopify plan. However, you can also buy additional features from the Shopify app store should you need them. Many such apps require a monthly charge which, on top of your payment plan costs, can quickly add up. So it’s worth looking into each plan carefully to decide whether it’s more cost effective for your business to pay more upfront in exchange for additional functionality.

In addition to the straight forward set-up wizard, Shopify also offers great 24/7 support. So there’s a lot of handholding you get in exchange for your buck. This will no doubt appeal to many sellers dipping their toe into the waters away from Etsy.

Shopify Summary
Pros: Easy set-up and management. Add on functionality offers seamless integration. Built in security.

Cons: Limited free themes. Add on plugins for functionality come at a cost.Your store is still owned by Shopify

Shopify is a great “next step platform” if you’re ready to expand beyond Etsy’s walls, but not ready to throw the kitchen sink at your business. The easy and intuitive set up and management is a great plus point. It’s not exactly cheap, but with so much being taken care of for you, from web hosting to technical updates, it can be a tempting option. Perhaps the main factor you’ll want to ask yourself is, are you prepared to have your business sitting in the hands of another company that has the potential to change their platform, pricing and terms just like Etsy?

WooCommerce and WordPress

If you’re looking to take the next step beyond Etsy and really supercharge your store, then WooCommerce might be ideal. WooCommerce is not actually an eCommerce platform itself. It’s a plugin that provides eCommerce functionality that runs on top of the WordPress CMS. That means you also get all the brilliant SEO benefits of using WordPress’s powerful built in blogging framework as well as an eCommerce store. Both WordPress and WooCommerce are free and open source. So with a bit of coding know how, it can be customisable in pretty much any way possible – it just needs a bit of expertise.

A selection of themes available from WooCommerce

However, there are thousands of free and paid-for WordPress themes that are easy to install. These can get the front end of your site looking stylish in no time without the need for lots of professional elbow grease. There are also many themes designed specifically for WooCommerce stores. But any theme designed with WordPress best practice in mind should integrate well. WooCommerce offer their own theme, Storefront, for free and this can be a great starting point to get you up and running. They also offer a range of paid-for themes that start at $39. So in terms of design, the possibilities are almost endless – it just depends how much time and money you want to invest.

In terms of the functionality you get with WooCommerce, it’s pretty much comparable with Shopify. You can sell any number of unlimited products, services, downloads and more. It includes all the basics, like editing your tax rates and shipping options. And PayPal and Stripe come as built-in payment gateways out of the box. You can of course add more payment gateways at a cost. In fact that’s both the main pro and con of using WooCommerce.

It is a streamlined plugin by design. You can build upon it by adding more extensions in order to enable the features you require. This way you won’t end up with a bloated eCommerce store that takes forever to load and run. Of course that also means that set-up might take longer than with an out-of-the box solution like Shopify.

So how much is having a separate website to Etsy going to cost if you’re using WooCommerce? While WooCommerce and WordPress might be free, there are still fees you’ll need to pay.

Unlike Shopify, WooCommerce is not a hosted solution, so you will have to pay for your own web hosting. There are web hosting packages available with WooCommerce pre-installed. Of course the cost of web hosting varies quite considerably depending on who you go with. For example, Bluehost offers a package from £3.25 a month that also comes with an SSL certificate. If your hosting does not include SSL, this is something you will need to buy separately as well as a domain name before your store is up and running. The cost to get your store live will also depend on how much customisation you want to do to your site and whether you want to outsource the work to a web designer / developer or take it on yourself.

The other factor to consider is that WooCommerce does not offer 24/7 support in the way that Shopfiy does. The plugin comes with documentation and a ticket system for customers. Other plugins that you use will have their own methods of support. As WordPress is the most popular CMS on the net, the online community is huge and there are any number of forums where other users and developers will help you with your problems. But don’t be expecting a 24 hour helpline that links you to a WooCommerce expert.

WooCommerce Summary
Pros: Self-managed-so you own your store. Can be cheaper than Shopfiy. Best built-in blogging functionality. Endlessly customisable due to being open source. Thousands of free themes and plugins.

Cons: Takes some time to set up and configure. External set up costs for hosting, SSL and domain name. No built in support. Some third-party plugins conflict with each other and don’t work as they should.

WooCommerce may appear a more intimidating solution than a platform like Shopfiy. If Shopify is like moving out of home but staying next door so you can still pop back for dinner then WooCommerce is like moving a few towns away. You’re going to have to make new friends and figure things out for yourself a bit more. However, you’ll also have more freedom to make your home look exactly how you want and best of all – you’ll own it forever!

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