If you’re a maker of arts or crafts or a curator of vintage collectibles, you know that Etsy is a great platform for transforming your passion into profits.
With more than 29 million buyers and excellent brand recognition, the site offers sellers a great place to launch and build a business. In addition to a ready marketplace, Etsy offers makers a website builder called Pattern, making it easy for those just starting out.
But Etsy has its shortcomings. In 2018, the site increased transaction fees as well as prioritized shops that offer free shipping, both of which can cut into makers’ bottom lines if customers aren’t willing to pay a higher price for their goods. Etsy also pits makers against each other by recommending other vendors who offer similar items at the bottom of a product page.
Etsy stores are also more difficult to market outside of the platform since it doesn’t offer marketing tools or Facebook remarketing and sellers aren’t allowed to communicate with buyers after a sale.
Website-building alternatives to Etsy
Merchants who start their retail journey on Etsy and decide to explore other options often do so because of the limitations or increasingly restrictive rules on the Etsy platform. One of the most common reasons is to gain ownership of your store. When you have a store on Etsy, or any marketplace, they own all of the data, which makes it hard to run advanced marketing campaigns, such as automated emails or retargeting ads.
In addition, if your business grows to the point where you want to convert handmade production to an outside manufacturer, your products will no longer be available to list on Etsy. Etsy prohibits reselling, except in the case of vintage items. These constraints make it hard to scale a startup business to the next level.
If you’re a maker who is looking at life beyond Etsy, building your own website may be the next best step. An online store often makes for a great “home base,” a place where you own the content, data, and your customer list. And, you still have the option to sell on marketplaces to supplement your revenue.
Price: Monthly plans start at $29 USD plus transaction fees
We’re biased, but for many makers, the next step in growing their business is to scale their sales with a Shopify store. Shopify is an all-in-one commerce platform that allows you to sell online, in a retail store or pop up shop, and through social media.
Shopify’s multi-channel solution is user-friendly, with hundreds of templates that can easily be customized to reflect your branding. Shopify also lives on your domain, which means you own your store and customer list, and it offers flexibility with plans and pricing tiers to support a variety of business needs. In addition, Shopify offers merchants powerful analytics and built-in marketing tools. In fact, many current Shopify merchants started on Etsy and migrated when they were ready to grow their businesses.
Ready to start your online store? Start your free 14-day trial of Shopify—no credit card required.
2. Big Cartel
Price: Monthly plans start at $9.99 USD for up to 25 products
Another option is Big Cartel, which caters to artists, crafters and entrepreneurs by tailoring its community and resources to sellers of unique or handmade goods. The platform offers templates that can be customized to match your branding, you can use your own custom domain name, and Big Cartel offers marketing tools.
Sellers pay a flat monthly fee, depending on the number of products you sell. Shoppers buy directly from your store and can communicate with you through a contact form.
Price: Monthly plans start at $18 USD plus transaction fees
Squarespace is another ecommerce platform that can be used by makers. Its user-friendly templates offer drag-and-drop design tools, making it a good option for beginners. Also, Squarespace allows you to import your Etsy site, allowing you to keep your products and product URLs in the process.
Sellers also can take advantage of its strong inventory system and market products with its built-in social media tools. Squarespace offers a tiered pricing plan that depends on the features you need. For example, the ability to sell gift cards or subscription products are in the service’s highest pricing tier.
Price: Monthly plans start at $23 USD plus transaction fees
Finally, Wix is a website builder with ecommerce abilities and user-friendly templates that make it easy to build a website with drag-and-drop editing. You can customize the templates to match your branding.
Wix lets you track orders, accept PayPal and credit card payments, create promotional coupons, and set tax and shipping rules for different locations. Wix offers tiered monthly pricing plans as well as an active community, knowledge base and phone support.
Marketplace alternatives to Etsy
Owning your own website has a lot of benefits, but maybe you’re looking for alternatives to Etsy as a marketplace. It’s always a good idea to give your goods more exposure. Selling on more than one marketplace can improve your chances of being discovered by new buyers. Different platforms will attract different shoppers who may not find you if you limit yourself to one venue. It’s good to go where the customers are.
In addition, dedicating your entire business to one sales “basket” could be risky. If the marketplace changes its algorithm or policies, it could negatively impact the amount of traffic you get to your store and you would have no way to control or change it. If you’re ready to branch out, here are four marketplace-alternatives to consider.
Price: Sellers pay 3.5% of the final sales price, including shipping, with a minimum of $0.50 USD
Similar in functionality to eBay, Bonanza is an Etsy marketplace alternative that focuses on the sale of unique items, such as arts, crafts and collectibles. Its built-in market provides sellers with a ready customer base, and Bonanza allows you to create a stand-alone online store. It’s free to list items on Bonanza, and the site charges final value fees.
Bonanza allows you to import your items directly from Etsy, which makes it easy to get started. It also creates automated listings on Google Shopping, eBay and Nextag, and it includes marketing and analytics tools.
Price: Monthly plans start at $4.95 USD, with a per-item listing fee and final valuation fee
Another alternative to the Etsy marketplace is ArtFire, which caters to customers looking for products created by crafters and artisans. In fact, while ArtFire does allow commercial products to be sold through its site, it encourages handmade items by charging a lower commission on those items.
ArtFire also has a vibrant community where makers share advice and support. ArtFire, however, charges a monthly fee as well as a variety of fees, depending on the item and plan. Customization is limited on ArtFire, as are its promotional options.
Price: Artists are charged a 15% referral fee with a $1.00 USD minimum
Amazon dominates many areas of retail, and it might not be the first place a shopper would look when searching for something handmade and unique. However, that didn’t stop the retail giant from entering into the craft and artisan marketplace. Handmade at Amazon offers a makers an Amazon storefront to sell their items.
Benefits include shipping through Fulfillment by Amazon as well as Amazon sponsored ads. The costs are higher than other marketplace platforms, though, with Amazon taking a 15% commission per transaction as well as a monthly membership fee, depending on the number of items listed.
Price: Monthly plans are $5 USD per channel
Finally, Zibbet offers makers the ability to have a stand-alone site as well as access to its marketplace customer base. Sellers import products from existing accounts, such as Etsy or eBay, and then manage inventory across all platforms from a single location.
Zibbet also includes several built-in tools to help with inventory, shipping, order management, data tracking and analytics. Zibbet charges a flat monthly fee per channel, such as your Etsy account.
Taking the next step
Etsy is an excellent marketplace for crafty founders who are looking for their first customer. But, you may find that as you grow, it won’t be enough on its own. A good way to test the waters is to add a personal website or marketplace to your current Etsy store, paying attention to analytics on traffic and marketing campaigns. In fact, many Shopify merchants who started on Etsy elected to keep their Etsy shop while growing their Shopify store, creating a higher growth potential.
Etsy is a great place to test your concept, build an audience and develop the foundation you need to succeed. At a certain point, though, it may be time to take the next step. Outgrowing your Etsy shop is a good sign—one that says your business has proven its potential to grow and thrive.