The last two years have been a learning process starting and running my own e-commerce store. I've tried many platforms, made many mistakes, and also have had success along the way creating a passive income stream. Every day I receive messages from friends or internet strangers asking "How can I start a store?" and "What platforms should I use to get started?"
To make your search easier, I've compared three of the most popular e-commerce platforms that I use: Amazon, Etsy, and Shopify.
Etsy is an online marketplace specializing in handmade, originally designed, vintage items and craft supplies. It's where I first started. I liked that it was so easy to get started--I had my first listing live within an hour.
Pros: Etsy's focus on a few select product categories means its users are likely to be interested in what you're selling. It has a suite of marketing tools that make it easy to create coupon codes and other promotions for your customers. And if you decide to move to another platform, you can easily download all your listings to a CVS file with one click.
Cons: As its popularity has skyrocketed, Etsy's market has become more and more saturated. There's an abundance of sellers with similar products, which means more competition. Etsy stores are slightly more design-customizable than Amazon, but they're still quite limited if you're looking to own the look and feel of your store.
How to get started: To start selling on Etsy, you'll need to create an account. Etsy currently charges a $0.20 listing fee per item and a five percent commission per sale, plus Paypal fees. You can start selling right away with a free Standard plan, or choose a paid plan to get access to more tools for your store.
We all know Amazon is the biggest store in the world, selling everything from books and video games to specialist electronic equipment to rare food items. Personally, I didn't feel comfortable moving there until I'd had success with Etsy.
Pros: Selling on Amazon gives you access to millions of customers every day. It's easy to get started and there's almost no restriction on what you can sell. Amazon listings also tend to show up on the top of Google searches. If you can leverage this platform well, it can bring a huge new influx of customers to your brand.
Cons: Because Amazon is so big, there's a lot of competition. You'll have to work hard to stand out from other sellers. Unlike Etsy, you'll also need to buy custom UPC codes for each item that you're selling. Amazon charges a hefty referral fee for each product sold, so if you're going to sell on Amazon, I'd recommend selling at a higher cost than you would on Etsy.
How to get started: Visit Amazon's Seller Central to sign up for a seller account. You'll have the option of shipping your products yourself, or using Fulfillment by Amazon to give your customers the benefit of free Prime shipping.
You can sell products in up to 20 different product categories, or more if you become a "professional seller" on a paid plan. Individual sellers pay no monthly fee and $0.99 per product sold plus fees, while professional sellers pay a flat $39.99 per month plus fees.
Shopify allows you to create a fully-customized e-commerce website with your own domain name. It's a great choice if you want to have your own online storefront for your products.
Pros: Shopify allows you to create beautiful websites with customizable themes, which you can't do on Etsy or Amazon. Creating your own website with a custom domain name adds to your brand's credibility. Shopify stores can also integrate with Amazon and other marketplaces to get the best of both worlds.
Cons: It takes much more work to get started on Shopify than Etsy or Amazon because you'll need to design the store before you can start selling. Since the website is independent of larger marketplaces, you won't get much traffic without a killer marketing strategy--or a brand that's already recognizable.
How to get started: Shopify offers 14-day free trial to try out the service before you buy. Payment plans start at $29 a month for basic features, plus credit card fees (if you use Shopify's payment platform, transaction fees are free). After you sign up, you can create your online store with one of Shopify's website templates, connect your products and domain name, and start selling.
You can probably tell by now: There's no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to selling. Hopefully, these pros and cons will help you narrow down your options--try out a platform and see if it works for you.