Thinking of going digital? Maybe you’ve already made up your mind but still want to read up on a few informed opinions? Allow us to save you a good chunk of time by narrowing your options down to two of the best online eCommerce platforms in 2023: Amazon and Shopify.
Few marketplaces can hold a candle to these two giants—don’t take our word for it. According to an article published on the website, Shopify businesses are spread across more than 170 countries and generate a collective $444 billion in economic activity.
On the other hand, Amazon boasts 350 million active customer accounts, resulting in 2.5 billion monthly visits. Since the introduction of its FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) service back in 2006, the eCommerce platform saw an even greater rise in both popularity and seller subscription count.
So, in the Amazon FBA vs. Shopify debate, who comes out on top? In our opinion, we think Amazon is the superior eCommerce platform for sellers due to several factors.
In this post, we’re going to go over these factors and compare the features as well as the pros and cons of both platforms to maximize your chances of success!
Both Shopify and Amazon FBA let users make money by selling products online, both platforms grant access to advanced selling tools and analytics, and both platforms also allow sellers to customize their brand to varying degrees. So what sets them apart?
The biggest differentiating factor is that Amazon is classified as an online marketplace whereas Shopify is considered a specialized eCommerce platform. Amazon is akin to a large ‘mall’ that lets you open shop on any one of its floors whereas Shopify focuses on providing merchants with the tools necessary to build a ‘shop’ from the ground up.
Chances are you’ve probably made a judgment call in favor of Amazon. After all, unlike Shopify, there’s no need to build a shop from scratch. The millions of visitors entering this ‘mall’ each day would surely guarantee sales? Well, it’s not that simple.
While Amazon does in fact provide sellers with much-needed visibility, it comes at a cost (otherwise known as selling fees). Sellers must pay a percentage-based product and referral fee on each sale. Also, sellers must adhere to set guidelines (but more on that later).
On the other hand, Shopify lets you create a standalone store meaning that visitors coming to your website won’t arrive by accident—they’re here because they want to make a purchase. The trade-off, however, is engaging in costly marketing campaigns to bring in traffic.
In the Shopify vs Amazon business model, the choice between Amazon and Shopify is heavily influenced by sellers’ needs and expertise. Large sellers or those wanting greater control over design and brand imagery (and possess marketing know-how) might be more inclined towards Shopify.
Amazon will appear more attractive to small or medium-sized sellers that don’t want to deal with the hassle that comes with handling the minutiae of marketing and logistics.
Now, let’s go over the Pros and Cons of Shopify and Amazon.
We’ve discussed some of the marketplace place dynamics of selling on Amazon vs. eBay in another blog. A dominant theme of that topic revolved around the buyer and seller-centric nature of both platforms. The Amazon vs Shopify discussion, however, is completely different.
There are no sellers to compete against—the platform is all about creating a quality web store in a way that is simple, user-friendly, and intuitive to even the most basic users.
Remember, while there isn’t a steep learning curve, knowing how to bring traffic to your website is a prerequisite to success. That being said, the following section highlights the pros and cons of selling on Shopify.
To determine whether Shopify is the eCommerce platform of choice we’ll also need to take a look at the pros and cons of Amazon selling.
Although Shopify is more user-friendly, it won’t take long—even for sellers with zero technical ability or experience—to figure out how Amazon’s seller central dashboard works. Users may have to read up on a guide or watch a YouTube video to tackle the more tricky parts of listing creation like adding images and back-end search terms, but even then, setting up an Amazon store is easier to do than on Shopify.
That being said, there’s a world of difference when it comes to ease of selling. Not only are sellers presented with ample opportunities to rake in traffic but the FBA model also takes over most of the marketing, logistics, and customer support concerns. The following are a few pros and cons of Amazon selling you should know about.
Now, let’s compare the pricing and selling fees for both Amazon and Shopify to see which one comes out on top.
When comparing two different online marketplaces, sellers give considerable weightage to the cost of a monthly subscription or selling plan. Not least because they want to determine the amount that will siphon out of the bank each month, but also the fact that new sellers are oftentimes constrained by smaller budgets.
Shopify knows where most sellers stand, which is why it offers the choice of three pricing plan options, ranging from $25 to $399 a month plus a transaction fee on each sale. To get more people to sign up, Shopify charges newcomers $1 for its Basic package for the first 3 months.
Shopify also offers custom-designed solutions starting from $2,000 for high volume businesses called Shopify Plus.
Pricing plans for Amazon seller central accounts include the Individual Plan and the Professional Plan.
If you want to go into more detail to find out what percentage does Amazon take from FBA, check out this Amazon FBA fees blog.
Pro tip: Subscribe to the Amazon Professional plan from the get-go. It only costs $39.99 per month and unlocks a host of useful tools that help sellers gain traction and makes it easier to generate those early sales!
Amazon and Shopify vie to be the most customer-friendly ecommerce platform on the planet. To achieve this goal, both platforms provide a basic seller dashboard along with advanced seller tools to make online selling easier. A wide range of products can be sold on Amazon including everything from baby toys all the way to complex electronics. Users can even offer services instead of physical products.
Out of all the tools and support features Amazon extends to its users, none offer more utility than its hallmark FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) program. Sellers who enroll in the program can sit back and relax while Amazon takes care of the packing, shipping, and storage and also provides increased visibility and traffic by targeting Amazon Prime customers.
When it comes to seller comfort, Shopify isn’t that far behind. It offers an immense range of features and sales tools that are crucial to sell and grow any retail business. Some of these include:
What’s more, Shopify’s acquisition of Oberlo allows sellers to also engage in dropshipping. Overall, Shopify offers a wider range of features than Amazon but it’s difficult to overlook the convenience that comes with FBA selling.
The success of online stores—irrespective of the eCommerce platform—depends a lot on virtual footfall, i.e. the number of monthly online visitors. More visitors equals greater opportunities to market products to relevant audiences.
In 2021, Amazon boasted a staggering 2.45 billion monthly visits, easily outperforming its competitors, including Shopify.
Amazon sellers utilize paid ads to target millions of potential customers and bring in sales. Also, the process of creating and managing ad campaigns is relatively easy thanks to an intuitive Amazon seller central dashboard.
With Shopify, however, things tend to get a bit complicated. Here, you’re responsible for all the marketing and SEO. Sure, Shopify equips sellers with the tools needed to bring in traffic but to effectively utilize these tools you need:
Simply put, Amazon has millions of potential buyers waiting to make a purchase—you just need to target them. On Shopify, no one knows you exist (yet) so you need to develop a strong marketing strategy to convince people to visit your storefront.
Store customization and design are important factors for both buyers and sellers. That’s because a poorly designed product listing or online store is reason enough for visitors to bounce and head over to your competitors.
Also, unlike SEO practices that must conform to set guidelines, store customization is much more subjective, offering room for self-expression and the opportunity to build a strong brand image. So what do Amazon and Shopify offer in terms of design flexibility and how do they differ?
Shopify lets users design their website using dozens of free and premium themes (which can then be customized to varying degrees) that cost anywhere from $150-350. Once your store is set up, you can edit your theme to create a unique brand image (theme purchases extend to mobile Apps as well).
Amazon, on the other hand, offers much less customization features. Brand owners can create visual content and market their products based on a standard layout. More emphasis is placed on well-written and SEO-compliant product titles, bullet points, and descriptions.
Amazon brand-registered sellers have more digital real estate in the form of A+ content. This added section lets sellers upload more photos and convey more information regarding their products. Design limitations on Amazon can be a drawback as they prevent you from really standing out from the competition.
Yes you can. Both platforms offer unique and complementary features. By combining the two, you mitigate the risk of failure and also add depth to your overall selling strategy.
Shopify lets you integrate your store with Amazon. By doing so, you’re able to maintain your proprietary store and sell products on one of the largest global marketplaces with a just few clicks of the button.
Once you subscribe to this feature, you’ll be able to create listings on Amazon from your Shopify store and also synchronize product details and inventory to gain unprecedented levels of exposure, ultimately boosting sales and expanding your customer base.
To do so, sellers need to sign up for an Amazon seller central account first and then proceed to integrate the Amazon Sales Channel to their Shopify Store. But there is a caveat: you’ll need to subscribe to the $39.99/mo. professional plan in addition to your monthly Shopify subscription plan.
Such a strategy opens the door to numerous possibilities but should ideally be employed once you’re ready to bear all the costs involved and have achieved some degree of success on either platform.
You’ve seen how Shopify holds its own vs. a behemoth like Amazon, but how does it compare with other popular ecommerce platforms? Let’s take a look.
Before transitioning into a multifaceted eCommerce marketplace, Etsy was solely dedicated to handmade crafts. It shares many similarities with Shopify like inventory management and online sales. However, if we’re strictly talking about features then Shopify takes the cake due to its robust reporting capabilities and multiple sales channels allowing for the formation of more complex business strategies.
In terms of quality of support and pricing, Etsy edges past Shopify due to a simpler and easier to learn interface. It also features 3 subscription plans like Shopify but at considerably lower rates. However, Etsy’s simplicity is also its drawback; Shopify users have a greater arsenal of app integrations that can amplify the effectiveness of selling strategies.
To conclude, if you want to go big, go for Shopify. If you want to conduct small business online or maybe focus more on arts and craft products then you’ll find Etsy to be right down your alley.
The Shopify vs. Squarespace debate is a close one. Both have proven to be excellent platforms for building a website. The main differentiating factor lies in the philosophies each chooses to follow—Squarespace is focused more on building beautiful websites whereas Shopify places greater emphasis on the eCommerce engine powering its websites.
Shopify isn’t too far off when it comes to customizability and design. It lets users select from free and paid templates. There’s an array of themes suited for all types of industries such as clothing, cosmetics, sports, electrical gadgets, and more. However, if we’re strictly discussing aesthetics, then Squarespace is in a league of its own.
Aside from everything Shopify offers in terms of design, Squarespace also caters to clients from the creative industry. Users can add a more personalized touch to their websites by creating beautiful, static pages thanks to Squarespace’s page editors.
Squarespace is the superior platform if aesthetics are the only metric. Holistically, Shopify wins by a large margin considering its breadth of features it offers and the ease of creating online stores.
In a popularity contest, Shopify edges past WooCommerce but popularity isn’t the sole metric when judging between two eCommerce platforms. Shopify and WooCommerce take two drastically different approaches to managing and creating a store. WooCommerce is essentially self-hosted. This means sellers get to store all of their files on their own server and access and modify these files whenever they like.
Shopify is hosted i.e. the store, software, and everything in between is managed by them and not the user. While this does leave room for flexibility, changes can be made only to a certain degree. Although this may seem like a clear win for WooCommerce, you’ll definitely need to possess some coding knowledge or hire a coder to build your online store.
There are few—if any—eCommerce platforms that can provide the same level of scalability as WooCommerce. Plus, it’s excellent value for money. You can download and install it for free and most of the extensions are reasonably priced. Sure, it’s not as holistic as Amazon FBA or Shopify but if you’re willing to put in the extra work you can end up creating a dream store.
In the end, it’s most certainly a tradeoff between customizability and convenience so choose wisely.
As we approach the end of our blog, let’s go over some of the most commonly asked questions related to Shopify and Amazon.
If marketing and logistics aren’t your strong suit then go for Amazon FBA. However, if you’ve already established a social presence and know how to bring traffic to your website, then go for Shopify. There's also the option to integrate Amazon with Shopify for greater effect, but we’d only recommend this strategy to seasoned sellers.
Amazon FBA is more suited to sellers with some cash in hand ($2,500 - 5,000 on average, but you can also start with less) and dreams of building their own brand and online store. Dropshipping, on the other hand, is more suited to risk-averse sellers with less capital and even lesser patience for brand building and advertising.
Want more clarity on the dropshipping vs Amazon FBA topic? Then check out this comparison blog!
Availing Amazon’s FBA service lets you conduct online selling from the comfort of your own home. The system promotes new sellers and makes it easier for them to make initial sales and get the ball rolling. It also takes care of packaging, shipping, and customer-related concerns all for a nominal fee, letting you focus on boosting sales and improving your overall business.
Amazon FBA pays every two weeks. The biggest upside of a 2-week period is that you don’t have to wait till the end of the month or the middle of next month to obtain your earnings. A small period like this also helps sellers reorder inventory faster, tweak ad campaigns more frequently, and assign resources where they’re most needed.
Opening up an LLC is not a prerequisite for starting an Amazon business. When you sign up for an Amazon seller central account, there’s an option to register as a ‘sole proprietor’, which will serve you just fine. Establishing an LLC has its benefits, but it’s not a requirement during the early stages of online Amazon selling.
And with that we wrap up our selling on Shopify vs Amazon comparison for 2023. We’ve listed the strengths and weaknesses of both platforms, discussed some of their features in greater detail, and also gone over some of Shopify’s more popular competitors. To summarize, you should go for Amazon FBA if:
Shopify makes more sense if:
Having read this far, you know enough about Shopify and Amazon to make the right decision. To reiterate, we think Amazon is the best eCommerce platform mainly because it makes online selling much, much easier. Agree with our assessment? Then check out our secret research launch checklist that’ll ensure you start your eCommerce selling journey on the right foot!
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