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The Pros and Cons of Amazon vs. Shopify

Amazon vs. Shopify: which eCommerce platform is better for your online business? To decide which is the best fit for your eCommerce business, here's a comparison of Amazon and Shopify in terms of online store creation, marketing, and costs.

The Pros and Cons of Amazon vs. Shopify

Amazon vs. Shopify: which eCommerce platform is better for your online business?

The question requires careful consideration; after all, the eCommerce platform you choose doesn’t just impact your virtual storefront's appearance but also your business’ overall performance.

For most businesses, the choice often falls between Shopify and a popular eCommerce marketplace like Amazon.

Shopify is the leading eCommerce platform for self-hosted online stores worldwide. Amazon, on the other hand, is one of the most trusted eCommerce marketplaces—catering to millions of online shoppers per day. 

To decide which is the best fit for your eCommerce business, here's a comparison of Amazon and Shopify in terms of online store creation, marketing, and costs.

Table of Contents

  • Why choosing the correct eCommerce platform is crucial
  • Comparison Overview: Amazon vs. Shopify
  • Online store creation
  • Marketing features
  • Costs
  • Shopify vs. Amazon: which is better?
  • Manage all your eCommerce data with Polymer

Why choosing the correct eCommerce platform is crucial

Apart from appearance, features, and costs, here are other factors affected by your eCommerce platform of choice:

  • Inventory management features: Some eCommerce platforms offer built-in inventory management tools to ensure your products are stocked and delivered efficiently. Platforms that don't have a robust inventory management system often rely on third-party integrations to fill the functionality gap. 
  • Payment processor support: Although most platforms support popular payment channels like Stripe and PayPal (natively or through add-ons), others cannot connect with certain payment services. For an eCommerce business, choosing a platform that supports payment channels your target market prefers is crucial. 
  • Security features: Cybersecurity measures protect your customers' privacy and data and your reputation as a trustworthy eCommerce brand. Volusion, for example, is an eCommerce platform hacked in 2019, leading to a $4.3 million settlement.

Try this free Paypal dashboard template from Polymer.

Comparison Overview: Amazon vs. Shopify

Shopify and Amazon are among the top eCommerce platforms on the web. To make the right decision, conducting a thorough review and comparison of each platform is important. 

What is Amazon?

Image Source: Sell.Amazon.com

Amazon is an industry-leading eCommerce marketplace that caters to a global audience. Today, the company lets sellers create a custom eCommerce storefront within the marketplace—providing customers with unique, branded shopping experiences. 

What is Shopify?

Image Source: Shopify.com

When Shopify launched, the vision was to make eCommerce more accessible and easier for everyone—be it entrepreneurs, hobbyists, or large retailers. It still holds true today with the platform's flexible pricing options and expansive range of integrations that streamline the technical aspects of eCommerce, including shipping, inventory management, and accounting. 

Here's a closer look at the main differences between Shopify and Amazon: 

Online store creation

Every eCommerce platform involves different steps in creating an online shop. 

Others require programming skills or a team of professional eCommerce website developers. 

Modern platforms, however, offer eCommerce tools that make online store creation achievable for everyone, regardless of technical expertise. 

Both Amazon and Shopify feature visual store builders that require zero coding knowledge. But, there are significant differences between the two platforms regarding customizability and difficulty.

Amazon pros and cons

Amazon's online store creation process focuses on configuring your store pages, adjusting layouts, and plugging in engaging content.

You skip a lot of legwork involved in building online stores from scratch, like registering a domain and purchasing web hosting. 

Pros of Amazon for online store creation

  • Guided setup phase. Building your own online store on Amazon is similar to creating a business page on social media. The platform’s native features completely guide your workflow—you simply need to choose which templates and content to use or add. 
  • Optimized for mobile. The Amazon platform is optimized for mobile devices right off the bat. This ensures a smooth user experience for mobile users, maximizing your online store's sales performance. 
  • Conversion-optimized store layouts. Amazon's online store builder only uses templates and layouts that are proven effective for generating sales. You don't need to conduct split tests or dive into countless pages of user analytics to build a store layout that works. 
  • Scale your store with Amazon FBA. With Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA), Amazon's fulfillment centers handle the logistics and customer service side of your online business. This lets you focus on the virtual side of your Amazon storefront, like creating product listings and promoting on social media.  

Cons of Amazon for online store creation

  • Limited customizability. When using Amazon to build your online shop, you must stick with several limitations, such as the number of sections per page. Your store will also look similar to other Amazon-powered stores, making it harder to make your brand identity stand out. 
  • Strict store design guidelines. Before your Amazon store goes live, it undergoes a careful moderation process that could take several days. Violating a single restriction in their Stores creative guidelines could delay your launch date by days or weeks.  

Shopify pros and cons

Unlike Amazon that's primarily an online marketplace, Shopify is purely an eCommerce store creation platform with powerful, easy-to-use features. 

While Shopify has a higher skill floor than Amazon, it rewards you with a wider range of customizability options and more legroom for creative freedom. 

Pros of Shopify for online store creation

  • Dozens of customizable themes. A sizeable library of free and paid themes backs Shopify. Each theme has customization options that help instill your brand into your virtual storefront. 
  • Mobile-friendly themes. All of Shopify's themes are pre-inspected and approved for mobile-friendliness. Although some themes do a better job of providing a mobile experience, every theme delivers an adequate mobile experience to online shoppers. 
  • Custom page creation. Apart from store pages, Shopify also lets you build custom pages to help your audience get to know your brand. This includes a contact page, "About Us" page, and blog posts. 
  • Drag-and-drop customization options. Effortlessly add content sections, configure page navigation options, change colors, choose fonts, set button styles, and more. Shopify's extended customizability lets you modify every facet of your customer's experience without writing any code. 
  • Custom CSS and JavaScript support. If the built-in customization options aren't enough, skilled eCommerce developers can upload custom CSS and JavaScript for versatility. This enables more advanced customizations for advanced Shopify users.

Cons of Shopify for online store creation

  • Steeper learning curve than Amazon. With Shopify, there's substantially more to learn and steps to complete to build a fully functional online store. On the flip side, Shopify is backed by a ton of learning resources, including free online courses and in-depth tutorials.
  • Slow support response times. Due to Shopify's versatility, avoiding problems or roadblocks in the online store development process can be difficult. Unfortunately, many Shopify users report slow response times from their support team.

Marketing features

Effective digital marketing is one of the cornerstones of eCommerce success. eCommerce platforms often provide tools to help you reach your marketing goals, promote products, generate leads, convert customers, and attain a healthy profit margin.

Amazon pros and cons

Image source: Sell.Amazon.com

Amazon sellers enjoy the benefit of association with a globally-recognized brand. This makes winning potential customers' trust easier while ensuring their information's security and privacy.

Pros of Amazon for marketing

  • Be visible to millions of Amazon marketplace users. Amazon eCommerce storefronts can appear to customers who use the Amazon marketplace. The better your online business performs, the higher your chances of appearing in the Amazon search results. 
  • Bring Amazon traffic to your own eCommerce business via ads. Amazon sellers can take advantage of marketplace ads to get discovered by potential customers. Promote individual product listings or your entire brand page through different sponsored ad models. 
  • Track sales and user analytics. Brand Analytics is Amazon's built-in analytics tool to help brands make better data-driven decisions. It generates reports with insights on user demographics, sales intelligence, product comparisons, Amazon search terms, and more.   
  • Build buyer confidence with product reviews. Professional sellers on the Amazon marketplace get more sales with positive reviews and star ratings. To get more reviews, consider enrolling your products for the Amazon Vine program and receive authentic feedback from credible customers. 

Cons of Amazon for marketing

  • Limited control over Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Although you can implement traditional SEO tactics to generate organic traffic to your storefront, certain on-page strategies are basically out of reach. For example, if you want to publish blog posts to increase search rankings and build brand authority, you'll have to do it on another blogging platform or existing website.
  • Branding tied to Amazon. Unless you launch your own website, you don't have complete control over the branding and customer experience on the Amazon platform. You're also subject to Amazon's future policy and platform changes regardless of their impact on your sales performance. 
  • Saturated marketplace. As an Amazon seller, you must compete with other businesses to earn spots in the internal search listings. This can be extremely difficult for new sellers, especially those in popular niches like electronics, beauty, and health.

Shopify pros and cons

Image source: Shopify.com/Market

Shopify features a plethora of marketing features.

Since Shopify lets you use a custom domain and self-hosted site, you're free to explore a lot more opportunities to promote your eCommerce brand.

Pros of Shopify for marketing

  • Built-in blog publishing. Create and publish blog posts within your Shopify website. Blogging is a proven strategy for generating organic traffic, educating leads, and establishing brand authority.
  • Email marketing. Shopify includes a fleshed-out email marketing system to keep you in touch with your customer base. Use eCommerce-optimized email templates, create automation workflows, manage your contacts, and analyze email analytics—all in one place. 
  • Create seamless forms. With the integrated form builder, inspire action and generate conversions on your Shopify store. Promote discount codes, acquire subscribers, get to know your audience, and use automation to put your online store to work. 
  • Segment your customers and leads. Understand your Shopify store visitors and launch personalized campaigns based on their preferences and behavior. Target segments for promotions or automated workflows to maximize marketing ROI. 
  • Robust analytics reports. Shopify provides a diverse list of analytics and reporting capabilities to help empower your decision-making. Obtain reports on your inventory, user behavior, retail sales, revenue analytics, and custom Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). 

Cons of Shopify for marketing

  • You're fully responsible for your traffic. Unlike Amazon, which serves millions of active users globally, your Shopify store relies solely on your marketing and traffic generation efforts to gain traction. Establishing a brand from scratch with a standalone online store is significantly more challenging than through a reputable marketplace like Amazon. 
  • Higher barriers to entry. When using Shopify, online sellers need a budget for other areas of eCommerce before they start making money. This includes their content marketing strategy, web hosting, inventory management, website development, Facebook Ads, and cybersecurity. 

Must-read: KPIs vs Metrics: Learn Their Difference with Tips and Examples

Another advantage of Shopify is it integrates directly with a broader range of third-party apps through the Shopify App Store.

This includes tools for email marketing, survey data analysis, social media marketing, e-commerce apps, and more.  

Shopify seamlessly integrates with Polymer, allowing you to centralize all your eCommerce data and view the status of your business from one unified platform.

Polymer is a powerful Business Intelligence (BI) and data dashboard platform that provides creative ways to present your eCommerce data.

With Polymer, you can compile, personalize, and share your data dashboards to democratize data analysis within your organization.

Polymer has free Shopify dashboard templates that are highly customizable and easy to use. The Shopify templates allow you to set up your reports and data visualizations in seconds.

It's worth noting that Polymer also integrates with Amazon Ads.

This lets you track, manage, and analyze your ad performance data via visual dashboards.

Must-read: How to Build an eCommerce Dashboard

Costs

Amazon and Shopify use different pricing structures for their platform services. 

Amazon charges a flat fee of $0.99 per unit sold for individual users. However, a subscription to the "Professional" plan costs $39.99 per month regardless of the amount of products sold. 

Shopify uses a more straightforward pricing model with different subscription tiers:

  • Basic: $25 per month  
  • Shopify: $65 per month
  • Advanced: $399 per month 

Shopify vs. Amazon: which is better?

Overall, Shopify is a better and more versatile solution for sellers who wish to scale their business in the long run. 

Although Amazon has a handful of advantages for new eCommerce brands, its limitations in customizability, marketing, and third-party apps hinder your online store's growth potential. 

Must-read: Better Alternatives to Power BI in 2023

Manage all your eCommerce data with Polymer

Whether you're starting from scratch or managing an existing eCommerce business, Polymer has the tools and functionalities you need to turn your analytics data into actionable insights

Polymer is an advanced, robust BI platform that consolidates and unifies all your data into one platform.

Polymer lets you create visualizations, set global filters, and use AI-driven recommendations to extract meaningful insights in a snap. 

See it in action today without spending a cent.

Click here to create a free trial account.

Posted on
October 26, 2023
under Blog
October 26, 2023
Written by
Rand Owens
Founding team member at Motive (Formerly KeepTruckin) and passionate about all things Marketing, RevOps, and Go-To-Market. VP of Marketing @ Polymer Search.

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