The eCommerce world has exploded in the past few years. And the rapid rise in the number of online stores has been followed by the equally impressive emergence of various eCommerce platforms. But while there are certainly many options to choose from, two remain by far the most popular – Shopify vs Amazon.
Both Shopify and Amazon offer numerous advantages to their users, making it simple for virtually anyone to open up an online store and start selling as soon as today. But which option should you go with? Ask a dozen online sellers, and you’re likely to get drastically different opinions depending on what they use themselves and the experiences they might have had.
So, to help clarify some of the most critical aspects of the debate of Shopify vs Amazon, let’s break down the main pros and cons of both and also answer why these two should be at the top of your list.
Shopify vs Amazon: Why These Two?
There are many eCommerce trends that impact your sales and growth opportunities. But choosing the right platform can be just crucial since a lot of the trends revolve around having the right tools to provide the best possible experience for your users.
And that’s one of the primary reasons why these two platforms make so much sense to the vast majority of online sellers. It’s also the reason why they are so popular.
As a small to medium-sized online store, you don’t have the innovation opportunities that multi-million dollar corporations can take advantage of. And that means you probably won’t be able to stay in front of the fast-changing world of eCommerce on your own.
Having Shopify or Amazon as the platform of your store means that you don’t have to worry about implementing new technology on your own and can instead rely on these companies to do the research for you, implement the new capabilities into the platform, and make it very simple for users like you to use them.
Sure, some of the other platforms have great features as well. But when you look at it as a whole, the design elements, analytics, payments processing, and UX possibilities that Amazon and Shopify can offer will usually outmatch most available alternatives.
And then there’s the fact that when using these two, you won’t have to think about implementation too much, either, which will allow you to focus on running your online business and making more sales.
But when it comes to picking one, it can get a bit more tricky. In fact, there’s probably no one-size-fits-all answer at all, as a lot depends on your situation and preferences. So let’s dig into the pros and cons of both so that you can make the most informed decision possible.
Shopify: Pros & Cons
When opening a store from scratch, most entrepreneurs turn to Shopify first because it can seem less complicated and allow more freedom in some situations. Let’s see if that’s really the case.
Easy to Use
One of the primary reasons why so many people choose Spotify is the simplicity that comes with using it. Even complete newbies can use the comprehensive features thanks to Shopify’s in-depth articles and resources, which can guide users every step of the way from creating the store to using the advanced functionality it offers.
And the best part is, Shopify still looks great, offering beautiful themes with various customization options and integrating the most cutting-edge usability and UX trends to ensure that customers have an easy time shopping in the store.
Even though this may not be a big deal long-term, having the opportunity to test out the platform without having to invest anything can be just the right nudge for someone who’s still on the fence about starting an online business.
Shopify offers a 14-day free trial which allows users to check out what the platform can provide and whether it’s a good fit. There are also flexible plan options, including Shopify Lite, which only costs $9 per month and can be the perfect way to get started selling online on a low budget.
More Branding Opportunities
Compared to Amazon, Shopify provides much more freedom in terms of branding. Even though some people say that Shopify could be more customizable, it’s miles ahead of the limited branding options on Amazon Sellers.
Shopify has plenty of beautiful and diverse themes to choose from, all of which can be further customized to match your brand image and perfectly capture the essence of how you want to be seen online.
There are countless examples of gorgeous Shopify stores that have set the stage for how eCommerce design is set to evolve in the future.
Finally, in line with all the beginner-friendly features that Shopify offers comes its outstanding 24/7 support. Whenever you encounter a problem, you can rest assured that help will be available and offer you timely solutions to help your store get back on track quickly.
Operating an online store is stressful enough, so every minute your site is down only adds to the challenges. Therefore, the importance of having support that’s available and can solve problems quickly is a vital consideration when choosing which platform to go with.
Even though we talked about the variety of designs Shopify comes with compared to Amazon, it doesn’t set the industry standard either.
For beginner-level users, having an easy-to-use interface and pre-built themes is great. Still, for sellers with more experience and more customization needs, the choices on Shopify can seem a bit limiting. For instance, you can’t add videos as extra content alongside your product listings, which might not be a big issue for most, but it could make the user experience better.
Can Be Costly
We talked about how Shopify is great for novice sellers because of the low upfront costs when starting a business. However, when looking at the long-term expenses, Shopify doesn’t look as good.
Sure, you can take advantage of the free trial, the affordable Lite plan, and even possibilities like pausing your account for a few months. But at the same time, serious sellers that want advanced features will have to get used to paying for extras every step of the way.
Many add-ons are premium, meaning they require a subscription just like the main service. And once they start piling up, you may find yourself paying a lot more than you would on Amazon.
No Built-In Audience
Spotify is simply a provider of an eCommerce platform, without any built-in audience you could market to. That means that even when you launch your store, you’ll need to figure out how to attract buyers on your own.
In the beginning, getting the ball rolling and accumulating sales might be the most challenging part. You have upfront costs of setting up a store you need to cover and no brand following to generate sales on autopilot.
So, while Shopify does offer a lot in terms of simplicity, you will have to understand marketing principles and develop a comprehensive strategy for attracting the right buyers to your site.
No Reputation Leveraging
Finally, because you’re only using the Shopify platform and aren’t associated with them in any other way, you won’t have the advantage of leveraging its reputation when making sales.
As a new business, you’ll have to prove that you’re reliable and trustworthy and generate interest within your audience.
Unlike on Amazon, your reputation will take time to develop, as shoppers are less likely to shop in stores they don’t know and can’t verify online.
Amazon: Pros & Cons
Amazon has been around forever and has the absolute trust of most consumers around the world. But while access to Amazon’s audience is hard to beat, the Seller account does have its flaws that make it a tough sell in many situations.
A Big Marketplace
Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer, and that is not going to change anytime soon. And because of the way Amazon operates, sellers on the platform gain access to the massive audience that looks for products every day.
Unlike Shopify, where you have to build everything yourself from the ground up, any store listed on Amazon will get at least some traffic just because it is listed.
And if your products are well-priced and appealing, you are likely to start making sales very quickly, which is a great position to be in as a new seller.
Trust from Buyers
Amazon sellers also enjoy the ability to leverage the reputation Amazon has as a trustworthy e-retailer. When you sell on the platform, you become an extension of that reputation, meaning that people will be more confident buying from you just because you are listed.
Shoppers know that on Amazon, whenever anything goes wrong, they will be protected. That means that they’ll also be much less resistant to taking you up on your offers and won’t have to second guess whether you can be trusted.
Simplified Logistics with FBA
One of the most frustrating parts about opening an eCommerce store is having to fulfill orders. Even though you can control most aspects of your sales process within your own store, shipments can go wrong for a variety of different reasons, many of which are outside of the seller’s control.
And that’s why the Amazon FBA program is so lucrative to many buyers.
Sure, you have to give up some control (and money), but you get to take advantage of the most advanced order fulfillment network in the world and the speed and protection that the network offers.
Whenever someone places an order, it’s processed by Amazon, and your products are shipped from their warehouse. That dramatically increases shipping speeds and makes your buyers even less hesitant to buy from you.
Because of the influx of sellers who want to sell on Amazon, the marketplace had to implement stricter rules about which stores they accept. Each seller must be approved, which can often be a long and painstaking process, with candidates having to send various documents and proof of identity before their store can go live.
And even when you do get approved, Amazon has been known to suspend accounts on questionable grounds and ask questions later. If you’re relying on your business to produce daily sales, that’s a huge risk to take on, especially compared to Shopify, which provides sellers much more freedom (although rules still apply).
Sometimes, you might not even do anything wrong and have products suspended and removed simply because a brand has decided not to allow their products on third-party sellers.
Limited Branding and Design Options
Since you’re selling on the Amazon marketplace, you should expect to have to operate under Amazon’s branding as well.
Sure, there are some limited customization options, but you will mostly have to do with the style and feel that Amazon has all over their site.
However, Amazon has revamped its branding options not too long ago, and now you can make it more comparable to the options available on Shopify.
Even though the top of the page still features Amazon branding and menu, sellers now have options to add their own navigation and branding elements that make the store stand out a bit more.
When selling on Amazon, you will rarely find sellers that are offering unique products. Most of the time, they’ll either be reselling popular items or using white-label items that are available elsewhere as well.
Because of that, even though there’s a massive audience of eager buyers, the competition is steep as well, and newer sellers with fewer reviews from buyers will have a tough time making sales or even getting noticed in the first place.
Amazon is Expensive
Selling on Amazon can be incredibly convenient, especially if you become part of the FBA program. But you pay a premium for the convenience as well.
In addition to the monthly subscription of $39.99 for the professional plan, you will pay around 15% or even up to a third of a sale if you use the FBA program.
You’ll need to have excellent margins to remain profitable while taking the fees into account. And if you’re in a competitive niche, you’ll always be jostling with stores that try to offer the best deals possible, which can turn into a lose-lose situation quickly.
The Shopify vs Amazon debate is a challenging one. Both platforms are well established, have thousands of sellers, and have unique advantages not offered by most others.
However, when you consider the flexibility and simplicity of Shopify, it’s probably the better choice for most beginner online sellers, especially because it will also allow building an independent brand that won’t necessarily have to be tied down with any platform in the future.
However, if you have a great supplier for a hot product and just want to take advantage of the massive built-in audience of Amazon, that could make it the smart choice in your situation.
Whichever platform you end up choosing, the important thing to remember is that the only real path to success is to prioritize making your eCommerce customers happy above all else.