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Shopify vs Amazon

Shopify vs Amazon - Which E-commerce Platform is Best?

E-commerce Platforms

Author: Preslav Nikov min read
Shopify vs Amazon - which platform is best to sell online in 2024?

If you’re looking to get started with e-commerce, you’re probably wondering which platform is the best for your business. This is no easy choice with so many options to consider.

Shopify and Amazon are both excellent but cater to different types of businesses while having fundamental differences.

Shopify is all about D2C marketing and creating a unique store that can sell on multiple channels. In contrast, Amazon is a giant marketplace that’s full of visitors and competitors where you are one of many.

Amazon allows you to be more hands-off by streamlining the marketing and promotion of your brand on its platform for a fee.

Whereas Shopify allows you to optimize every step of the buyer’s journey for maximum conversions. However, you are responsible for driving traffic on your own.

Shopify is better for marketing-led brands that want to differentiate themselves or sell luxury products, while Amazon is better for practical brands selling mass products.

In this article, we’ll compare the two based on how easy they are to use, how much they cost, how much you can customize them, and more. So let’s dive in.

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Shopify: Pros and cons summed up

Shopify is one of the leading e-commerce platforms in the world for building your store. It currently supports over 4,000,000 stores worldwide and it’s quickly growing.

Merchants on Shopify have access to one of the most comprehensive e-commerce toolsets in the world. Shopify’s dedicated e-commerce functionalities aid you at every step of the e-commerce journey, from your homepage to your customer’s home door.

What makes Shopify stand out is how easy it is to use, putting all sorts of functionalities and customization options just a few clicks away. Out of the box, Shopify has everything you need to set up an online store in just a few days.

Shopify requires zero coding knowledge to manage your products, collections, orders, shipments, and more. If you do hit an obstacle, Shopify’s excellent support team is always available through email, phone, or live chat.

Moreover, as your business grows, Shopify stays relevant with its advanced and enterprise plans which come packed with even more powerful features for international and high-volume commerce.

Lastly, an especially important benefit of Shopify vs. Amazon is that your store is completely independent from any given marketplace.

Whereas Amazon merchants are completely dependent on the Amazon platform and sometimes get restricted or banned and lose all of their business. This never happens on Shopify.

The drawback of Shopify is that you are responsible for driving traffic to your store. Whether that is advertising, SEO, or any other form of marketing, it is essential that you take the initiative and continually work to make your Shopify store popular.

Moreover, some merchants consider Shopify expensive, since there are many associated monthly subscription costs. However, these costs aren’t unique to Shopify and are often smaller than Amazon’s when you sell a higher volume of products.

Another drawback is that compared to Amazon, Shopify is a bit more complicated to start selling. You have to go through the ordeal of setting up your own store, which is generally easy, but will still take you a few days to configure.

In contrast, Amazon does your marketing and branding for you on their marketplace. While you don’t have to set up your own store, you will face many other limitations which we will discuss below.

Amazon: Pros and cons summed up

Amazon is the world’s largest marketplace with close to 200 million consumers annually. It’s incredibly accessible and easy to get started with. All you need to do is to make a seller account and upload your product pictures and descriptions.

Moreover, merchants on Amazon have access to extra services which include inventory storage, packing, and shipping on your behalf. While these come at an extra cost, they allow you to be even more hands-off.

When it comes to costs, Amazon is very accessible from the start. You can get started with its individual plan, which only costs you a dollar per item you sell, so you pay as you earn.

However, their individual plan comes with certain limitations, which you can overcome with Amazon’s monthly paid plan.

Tapping into Amazon’s marketplace is a great idea, but it does have a few downsides. First, you have nowhere near the customization and presentation options that Shopify brings. While this levels the playing field for all merchants, it makes it difficult to be different.

It’s almost impossible to express your brand’s story, which can be a significant challenge for luxury product merchants and marketing-led brands.

The result is that it’s very hard for your products to stand out on Amazon and you become one of many sellers competing largely on price. Sometimes you’ll be competing with Amazon itself, as it pushes its own product lines in front of yours.

Moreover, when selling on Amazon, you are completely dependent on the platform and its multiple restrictions. In the worst case, you can end up banned from Amazon and lose all of your business.

Costs are a huge issue for Amazon merchants. While its monthly costs are affordable, your total costs quickly ramp up as your sales volume increases. When you factor in all the fees that Amazon charges, you can end up paying up to 60% of your order value to Amazon.

Another drawback of Amazon is that it doesn’t integrate with other shopping cart systems, which makes it more difficult to track your sales if you’re selling on multiple channels.

Shopify vs. Amazon - the definitive comparison

In this section, we’ll compare different aspects of Shopify and Amazon directly, so you can understand each platform’s advantages and disadvantages.

Which brands usually work better with Shopify and Amazon?

The big differences between Amazon and Shopify mean that certain brands are better suited for each platform.

In particular, Shopify works better with brands that rely on differentiation and have a strong brand story that further sets them apart from the competition. Examples include fashion brands, skincare brands, luxury and boutique brands, as well as dropshipping businesses.

On the other hand, Amazon works better for practical brands that don’t need to differentiate themselves. It also works well for companies that don’t have resources to devote to marketing, since Amazon does for them.

Examples include businesses that sell basic commodities like accessories, consumer electronics, cleaning supplies, and more.

Which one is easier to use?

Both Amazon and Shopify are super easy to use and don’t require any technical or coding skills on your end to get your store started.

However, Amazon is a bit easier to start selling with, as you don’t need to set up a store. Instead, you just set up an account, upload your products, sell them, ship them, and get paid. However, some products are gated and require special approval to sell.

Moreover, if you use Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), they’ll also take care of your order fulfillment and shipment, albeit for a serious extra cost. Yet, Amazon can feel limiting, since it takes control of how you present your listings, which makes it harder to attract customers.

While Shopify is a bit more complicated, it brings a lot more options to the table. By creating a store and customizing how it looks, feels, and interacts with your customers, you can take total control of the shopping experience and maximize your conversions.

Shopify’s features also support your e-commerce operations and like Amazon, can be outsourced and automated, thanks to its network of fulfillment and shipping partners and integrations.

Which one costs less?

Amazon and Shopify both offer flexible pricing plans and their Starter plans are very affordable. Shopify’s more advanced plans have a higher monthly subscription cost, but Amazon is costlier per order, especially if you use Amazon’s FBA.

The higher your order volumes, the more expensive Amazon gets.

Amazon Pricing

A big caveat for Amazon pricing is whether you use their service Fulfillment by Amazon, which takes care of inventory storage, fulfillment, and shipment for a cost.

Moreover, all products sold on Amazon are subject to extra fees depending on a variety of specific factors. For example, their referral fee can range from a few % to 45% of a sale.

There are also other fees on Amazon for rentals, refunds, and high-volume listings, so you can check out Amazon’s pricing page.

Apart from that, Amazon has two selling plans, the Individual and the Professional.

Shopify Starter
Shopify Basic
Monthly Subscription
Per Sale Closing Fee

The individual plan allows you to get started with zero upfront costs. You only pay $0.99 per item as you sell it, which means that you pay as you earn. The individual plan is great for testing Amazon out and if you’re expecting less than 40 sales per month.

The Professional plan comes at a higher price point but doesn’t have a per-item sales fee, which is great if you want to push a high volume of orders. Moreover, the Professional plan comes packed with exclusive features that make your life as a merchant easier.

Shopify Starter
Shopify Basic
Shopify Advanced
Shopify Plus
Paid monthly
Paid annually

However, there is an extra transaction fee when you aren’t using Shopify Payments but a third-party payment processor instead.

All of the percentages are based on the total value of your order.

Shopify Pricing

Here are Shopify’s paid plans at a glance:

If you aren’t sure whether Shopify is right for you, you can take advantage of its free three-day trial and then pay just $1 for your first three months.

Keep in mind that the Shopify Starter plan is rather limited in its functionalities and you’ll need at least Shopify Basic if you want to set up a fully functional store.

Another caveat you need to know about Shopify’s costs is its transaction fees.

Shopify Plan
Shopify Basic
Shopify Advanced
Transaction fee when using Shopify Payments
Shopify Card Processing Fee
2.9% + 30 cents
2.6% + 30 cents
2.4% + 30 cents

Each sale you make on your store will be subject to a card processing fee, which varies with your Shopify plan. Keep in mind that card processing fees are the norm in commerce worldwide, but are seldom mentioned.

Another cost you might face is Shopify’s extra transaction fee if you use a different payment provider other than its in-house solution Shopify Payments.

Shopify Plan
Shopify Basic
Shopify Advanced
Transaction fee when not using Shopify Payments

Overall, Shopify’s monthly plans are somewhat pricier than Amazon’s but pack much more tools and features. Moreover, it’s unclear whether you’ll pay more to Shopify per transaction or to Amazon if you use its FBA.

Which one has better themes and customization options?

Shopify beats Amazon in terms of themes and customization options by a mile. With Shopify, you get an arsenal of tools to customize how your store looks and feels, and how your products are presented in a way that maximizes your conversions.

In Shopify, you get over 140 themes to choose from that come with their own colors, fonts, functionalities, and design options. Moreover, you have the ability to create your own custom theme and tailor it to your business goals and brand.

Amazon retains control of how your products are presented, which is the same as everyone else’s. All Amazon pages share the same layout and push Amazon’s branding instead of your own.

The only thing you can do on Amazon is upload images and descriptions. Moreover, your products sit alongside those of your direct competitors.

It’s important to know that with Amazon, you can build a brand storefront, which won’t be standalone, but limited by Amazon’s templates. However, you can extend your content’s functionalities by using A + content by Amazon.

Amazon's A+ Content feature allows sellers to enrich their product detail pages with rich text, imagery, HD videos, and other engaging elements that enhance the customer experience. Additionally, A+ Content includes a dedicated Brand Story section, allowing sellers to share their stories and foster customer loyalty and trust.

However, in order to build a storefront in Amazon and use Amazon A+ Content you must be a registered seller in its brand registry.

Which one has better Sales & Marketing Features?

In Shopify, people who buy from you are your customers which allows you to build rapport with them post-purchase and sell to them repeatedly. In Amazon, people who buy from you are Amazon’s customers and you can’t affect their future buying decisions.

Shopify has a definite edge over Amazon when it comes to sales and marketing features. It gives you all the tools you need to manage and customize your sales and marketing processes. Moreover, these functionalities can be further extended by leveraging Shopify’s ecosystem of over 8,000 free and paid apps.

Amazon also gives you a variety of ways to list and sell your products. Through Amazon’s Seller Central App, all Amazon sellers can enhance their product images, create coupons and promos, receive product reviews, and more.

You can think of the difference between Amazon and Shopify in terms of robustness vs. flexibility.

Which one has better Apps and Add-Ons?

Shopify boasts an ecosystem of over 8,000 third-party apps which are vetted and tested. These apps help you add custom functionalities to your website, like checkout experiences, dynamic promos for cross-sells and upsells, gift cards, and almost anything else you can think of that aids e-commerce.

In comparison, Amazon does not integrate any third-party apps or add-ons that its sellers can use. The functionalities that you get out of the box are always the same as those of everyone else unless you use A+ content or A+ content premium.

Which one has better payment processors and transaction fees?

Shopify has more access to diverse payment processors than Amazon. With Shopify, you can work with hundreds of payment processors worldwide.

Moreover, they have an in-house payment processor solution called Shopify Payments, which is free of transaction fees. However, if you use a different payment processor, you’ll have to pay between 2% and 0.5%, depending on your Shopify Plan.

As mentioned above, all transactions on Shopify are also subject to a card-processing fee which is different in person and online and becomes more favorable, the more advanced your plan is. These card-processing fees are also featured on Amazon.

In contrast, Amazon has access to fewer payment processors and doesn’t accept PayPal. Instead, it promotes its own payment gateway called AmazonPay. Moreover, its transaction fees are much less transparent than Shopify’s.

‘Professional Sellers’ on Amazon have to pay a monthly subscription and selling fees on top of it. These vary by product category and consist of referral fees and shipping fees. If you use FBA there is also a fulfillment fee per unit sold, as well as a storage fee. These prices are dependent on size, weight, volume, type of product, and even seasonality. For more accurate info, check out Amazon’s pricing page.

Which one has better Shipping & Logistics Integrations?

Both Amazon and Shopify offer excellent shipping solutions. However, Amazon’s FBA is definitely the more comfortable solution as it takes care of storage, packing, shipping, customer service, and returns for sellers.

It’s an all-in-one solution that saves you all the hassle and enables you to sell internationally. Moreover, if you use FBA, your products will be eligible for Amazon Prime, which comes with free priority shipping.

The downside of Amazon is that you give it total control and are completely reliant on it for packaging and shipping options.

Shopify allows you to integrate a range of shipping carriers into your store. Moreover, some of them have discounted rates for Shopify users. You also get more flexibility for packaging, branding, and shipping with Shopify.

You can further extend your store’s functionality with third-party Apps for shipping and logistics, giving you total control over your fulfillment and shipments.

However, if you wish to delegate shipping and fulfillment, Shopify also offers a complete solution where they take care of everything after you make the sale. For more information, check out the Shopify Fulfillment Network.

Which one has better marketing options?

Amazon and Shopify both offer different marketing options. While Amazon takes care of most of the branding and promotion of your products, you can still do paid ads (PPC). However, you owe bigger fees for your orders because of Amazon’s added utility.

On Shopify, you have total control of your marketing, which gives you great flexibility in how you want to drive traffic to your store. Moreover, Shopify has built-in various features for tracking user behavior and campaign results.

Although it might be more difficult to configure at the start, marketing on Shopify is more rewarding, because you own every aspect of it.

Which one has better SEO options?

Shopify and Amazon present different SEO opportunities. With Shopify, your main SEO objective will be to rank on Google or another search engine, whereas Amazon also serves as a search engine itself.

A huge amount of product searches is done through Amazon. As such, queries on Amazon are much more transactional and commercially oriented than on Google, which is a great advantage.

Moreover, your Amazon store will also be indexed by Google and will have a great Domain Rating. Your store will be easily discoverable on both search engines.

While Amazon is more limited with regards to customizing your SEO elements, it still makes your products visible to a huge audience.

In Shopify, you can tweak your website to follow best SEO practices with few limitations, but getting the same amount of eyeballs will be harder.

Which one has better customer support?

Shopify has better customer support than Amazon. Shopify’s customer support team is reachable by phone, email, live chat, and social media 24/7.

Amazon’s seller support is rather hands-off and prefers that you solve your problems through forums and video tutorials, but you can also request a call from them.

Customer support has never been something that Amazon has promoted in its value proposition. By contrast, stellar customer support is one of Shopify’s cornerstones.

Conclusion: Shopify or Amazon? - Why not both?

The platforms of Amazon and Shopify are vastly different in their purpose, the former being a global marketplace, while the latter is a specialized e-commerce solution for integrating online and offline sales across all channels.

While they can go toe-to-toe in a variety of aspects, there’s no reason why you should limit yourself to just one of them. Moreover, you can check one of our case studies to see what can Amazon and Shopify do combined for you.

You can stick to either Shopify or Amazon when starting out, but with the right strategy, you can leverage both. Generally, Shopify is better for brands that rely on differentiation, while Amazon is better for practical brands that don’t require advanced marketing.

If you have to choose one, you should decide whether you value the flexibility and customizability of Shopify, or do you want a more robust ‘set it and forget it’ solution such as Amazon?

If you’re leaning towards Shopify and want professional help to set up your Shopify store, you can get in touch with craftberry’s team.

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Preslav Nikov

With a decade of of e-commerce experience, Preslav, CEO of Craftberry, produces informative content. His writing focuses on practical insights and strategies in the e - commerce, aimed at helping professionals and businesses in the industry.

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