If you sell handmade items you’ve probably heard of Etsy and Handmade on Amazon (HOA). You’re likely to be selling on at least one of these sites as well. Etsy started in 2005, while HOA has only been around since 2015. Many sellers started their journey on Etsy and now that Handmade on Amazon has been introduced, many sellers wonder if another selling platform is a good idea.

To make a well-informed decision on whether to start selling on Etsy and/or Amazon Handmade, you need to understand the differences between the two platforms. While both platforms allow you to sell your handmade products, there are numerous differentiations between the two.

How They Define Being “Handmade”

  • Etsy

    • Etsy’s definition of handmade has evolved selling on etsy or handmade on amazonover the years but encompasses all categories. Any item must be made or designed by the seller. This allows for manufacturing companies to be involved (AKA as long as it’s designed by you, another company can produce that good for you).
    • Etsy doesn’t have any limits on categories for selling handmade items, but their definition of handmade is looser than Amazon’s.
    • Allows you to sell digital/downloadable products.
    • Allows you to sell craft supplies.
  • Amazon 

    • Amazon requires that all products be made entirely by hand, hand-altered, or hand assembled by companies with 20 or fewer employees or collectives with less than 100 people. Collectives simply referring to a collaborative group of artisans such as a nonprofit, charity, or cooperative.
    • You can’t contract the work out to a third party for manufacturing.
    • Amazon does not allow digital or downloadable product

Etsy allows the selling of items made or designed; whereas Amazon restricts items to handmade only. Etsy allows digital products; Amazon does not.

Application Process:

  • Etsy

    • The application process on Etsy is very simple and straightforward. It only takes a couple of minutes to open your shop.
    • To open your shop on Etsy, all you need to do is create an account on Etsy, choose your shop name, and start adding items.
    • Anyone, at any time, can immediately set up their shop and get started in 10 minutes.
    • To learn more about how to start selling on Etsy by visiting their website.sell on etsy
  • Amazon

    • To sell your handmade goods on Amazon, you must first apply and wait for their approval. This process only usually takes a couple days before you’ll hear from Amazon.

    • To fill out the form, you will need photos of your products, your workspace, and the crafting process. You will also need to describe your crafting process. The application process is not very difficult, but it is more robust in scope.

    • Invited artisans will receive an invitation email that includes a link to begin the registration process. Once you have been accepted to sell on Amazon Handmade, you’ll receive an email explaining how to set up your account and open shop.handmade on amazon application

Both application processes are fairly straightforward. The main difference is that anyone can immediately sell on Etsy, but you must fill out forms and get approved to sell on Handmade, which makes it more exclusive.

Categories:

  • Etsy

    • All categories are allowed. There are no restrictions on handmade categories.
  • Amazon

    • Not all categories are available on amazon.
    • Categories that ARE allowed:
      • Jewelry, Home products (Art, Baby Bedding, Bath, Bedding, Clothing & Shoes, Furniture, Home Décor, Kitchen & Dining, Lighting, Patio, Lawn & Garden, Storage & Organization), Party Supplies, Stationery, Accessories, Toys & Games, Sports, Beauty & Grooming and Pet Supplies.
    • Amazon says they will be opening more categories in the future.

Etsy allows any category. Amazon has many, but not all. Amazon is planning on adding more in the future.

Fees:

  • Etsy

    • $0.20 per listing to make listing available to sell.
    • Another $0.20 when a listing is auto-renewed due to sales.
    • 5% of the listed shipping costs for an item.
    • 5% of the total item costs.
    • 3% + $0.25 USD in credit card processing fees for orders paid with Etsy payments.
    • No monthly selling fees.
    • Subscription plans (optional)
      • Etsy Standard – Free. What you start with.
      • Etsy Plus – $10 a month. Includes:
        • Listing credits, promoted listing credits, restock request, a custom web address, and access to discounts on custom packages/promotional materials.
      • Etsy Premium – Coming 2019
  • Amazon

    • Free to list items for sale. Fees only come from sales.
    • $39.95 seller fee is currently waived until end of 2019
    • 15% referral fee includes payment processing, marketing, seller support & fraud protection.

Amazon’s fees are higher than Etsy’s, but with Etsy’s recent increase in fees, the difference in fees is the smallest it’s ever been.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): how people find your items on each platformsearch engine optimization (SEO)

  • Etsy

    • Titles
      • Etsy encourages you to use short, descriptive titles, but I have found better results using all of the title characters possible.
    • Tags
      • Use all 13 tags to match your title
      • Use multi-word phrases up to 20 characters in length. Ex: “custom wood sign” is a much more effective tag than “custom” “wood” “sign.”
      • Use long tail keywords that are highly specific to your item. Ex: custom wooden sign.
      • Don’t repeat tags. Ex: Don’t use “bathroom decor” and “rustic bathroom decor” for tags on the same listing.
  • Amazon

    • Titles
      • Amazon encourages you to keep your titles under 100 characters. The title should include the product type (choose 2, 2-3 word phrases that best describe what you’re selling), color, size, quantity, and other helpful, searchable information.
    • Search Terms
      • Up to 249 characters.
      • Don’t use redundant information that is already in the title. Don’t repeat phrases already used, but it can be helpful for relevancy to repeat words in different phrases.
        • Use a single space to separate keywords. There is no need for commas, semicolons, etc.
      • Check if being indexed for search term by: FIX THIS!!!

SEO is very different from Amazon Handmade to Etsy. Commonly, the SEO you use for Etsy isn’t relevant for Amazon SEO and those search terms aren’t being used by both platforms.

Audience/Competition:

  • Amazon

    • 250 million people
    • 2.63 billion total visits in the last 6 months. According to similarweb.com
    • Less competition for handmade products as it’s a much newer platform.amazon and etsy traffic

Amazon has a much larger audience with less handmade products for competition, but Etsy is still the first website that comes to mind for custom handmade items.

Order Fulfillment Options:

    • Etsy

      • Fulfill the orders yourself.
      • Use a production partner that manufactures and/or ships your product to the customer
        • What’s a production partner? A production partner (or manufacturer) is anyone (who’s not a part of your Etsy shop) who helps you physically produce your items. Examples of production services include printing, casting, engraving, sewing, and more.
      • To sell handmade items produced with a production partner on Etsy, you must explicitly state that you’re using a production partner. You do this by creating production partner profiles and link them to the relevant items in your shop.
    • Amazon

      • FBM (Fulfilled by Merchant)
        • You fulfill orders as they come in and ship products yourself from your location directly to the customer.
        • Available for non-customizable and customizable items.
      • Can also offer seller-fulfilled prime
        • Allows you to deliver directly to domestic Prime customers from your own warehouse. By displaying the Prime badge, you are committing to fulfill orders with Two-Day Delivery at no additional charge for Prime customers. 
        • You must pick, pack and ship your orders same day if ordered before the time deadline you set (default is 11 AM).
        • ***Shipping is expensive.*** You typically have to choose 2-day shipping options, making this very cost ineffective for most sellers.
      • FBA (Fulfilled By Amazon)
        • Ship completed items to Amazon’s warehouses all over the country.
        • Ability to make your products Amazon prime eligible.
        • Only for non-customizable products.amazon fbm and fba

Etsy allows either the shop to fulfill the orders themselves or allow their manufacture to ship orders. Amazon allows you to fulfill orders or they will fulfill orders for if you use FBA.

Platform Ease of Use:

  • Etsy

    • Building and tweaking your shop is much more user-friendly on Etsy and definitely more eye appealing.
    • You need to meet order ship-by dates, but you can update ship-by dates once if needed in case of sickness, unexpected events, weather conditions, etc.
    • A shop can be suspended but happens very rarely as there are no performance metrics to maintain.
    • You can set your processing time as long as you want; you can even enter an “unknown” processing time.
  • Amazon

    • Not user-friendly nor intuitive. Using Seller Central (where you manage your shop) requires a longer learning curve.
    • You cannot change the ship-by date. For any reason. EVER.
    • Amazon also tracks the shipments to make sure they arrive within the estimated timeframe.
    • Amazon holds you to certain metrics to ensure trust with customers. Seller performance metrics include:
      • Order defect rate: < 1%, pre-fulfillment cancel rate: < 2.5%, and Late shipment rate: < 4%.
      • Failure to meet these targets may result in the removal of your selling privileges.
      • Customer messages must be answered within 24 hours.
      • Amazon can suspend your account if any of your metrics fall below the target or you get enough “dings” on your account.
      • Processing times must be 30 days or less.
      • Overall, Amazon is much more strict about maintaining your performance levels. They are much harsher and have real consequences.
    • It’s a platform for businesses, not hobbyists.

Etsy is definitely easier to get started on and makes setting up your shop/items/policies very simple, whereas Amazon has been described as confusing and more overwhelming to get started on. Amazon also has metrics that must be met at all times or you could be at risk for getting suspended.

Customer service:

  • Etsy

    • Submit a request through the Etsy Help Center. In my experience, it takes days to get a response and it’s typically a generic response that isn’t helpful. Etsy doesn’t offer phone support if you need help right away.
  • Amazon

    • You can talk to Amazon seller support by email or phone. I typically get an email response within 1-2 days that is very helpful to my situation. If a problem is urgent and you need help right now, you can also request a call from Amazon every day from 5 AM – 6 PM (PST). They typically call in a few minutes and stay on the phone until the issue is sorted out.

      customer service

In my experience, I have found Amazon’s customer support to be vastly superior to Etsy’s. I don’t even bother trying to contact Etsy for issues. I just go straight to Facebook groups with sellers if I have any issues on Etsy. Amazon is very easy to get a hold of and very helpful for any questions that I have.

Payment schedule:

  • Etsy

    • You can decide when and how often to receive deposits. You can have your money deposited every day, once a week, every 2 weeks, or once a month.
    • Money deposited from sales. That means you get paid as soon as the order is processed
    • All fees are taken out before the deposit.
  • Amazon

    • The payout is every 2 weeks.
    • Money deposited from delivered products. Money from sales is held in your account until 7 days after the maximum estimated delivery date of the order. This means you may not get paid for orders for weeks, depending on your processing time.
    • All fees are taken out before the deposit.
      • Third party applications (such as Payability) can get you paid under 24 hours if needed. They take 1-2% gross sale proceeds.getting paid

Etsy is much more flexible with the payment scheduling and you get your money much faster than selling the exact same item on Amazon. Payability can get your money from Amazon in less than 24 hours, but they charge a percentage of sales for this service.

Types of customers:

  • Etsy

    • Generally, in my experience, customers on Etsy have been very pleasant to work with. They are usually understanding of mishaps. I’ve had to postpone shipping items, replace damaged items, tell customers I was out of inventory and never received a poor review/angry message from any of them. If you explain to customers and give them a heads up, most are understanding that your a small business owner (usually a one-man band) and that life happens.
    • I’ve heard plenty of horror stories from other sellers and their customers, but personally, I haven’t had many myself. Those types of customers are on every platform but are a very small percentage on Etsy.
    • More likely to ask for discounts. More likely to ask questions about the items before purchasing.
    • Very few returns.
    • Message system with customers works smoothly and most customers check their messages.
  • Amazon

    • Customers associate you with Amazon and tend to treat you like such. They uphold you to the same standards as large companies. They are used to getting their items fast without any problems.
    • They are not as understanding with issues with their items.
    • A much higher percentage of returns as Amazon makes it very easy to return orders on their website.
    • Amazon customers are buyers, not browsers. They typically ask fewer questions.
    • Customers can opt-out of Amazon messages so even if they ask you a question, they may not know you answered it. Or, more likely, there was an issue with their order and they message you about it. You respond, but they don’t get it in their email inbox and send you another angry message about you not responding, although you did.

In general, Etsy customers are typically more lenient and understanding. Amazon customers expect the best with no issues with their orders. The message system on Etsy has a much higher response rate because Amazon buyers can opt out of these messages. Etsy customers use messages before purchasing much more often than Amazon customers do.

Affiliate Commissions: The ability to earn a referral fee for sending your customers to Etsy/Amazon.

  • Etsy

    • Etsy sellers are eligible for the Affiliate Program but are not eligible to earn commission on sales from their own shops.
    • Cookie period is 30 days.
    • Sign up for the affiliate program.
  • Amazon

    • Amazon will pay you up to 10% on purchases your customers make.
    • You can promote your items and other items on Amazon.
    • Cookie period is 24 hours.

Etsy doesn’t allow you to receive a commission from your leads to your products, whereas Amazon does allow it. Amazon is great to affiliate your own products, but the cookie period is short. Etsy allows up to 30 days to make a purchase to receive commissions.

Is Amazon Handmade better than Etsy? Is Etsy better than Amazon Handmade?

selling on etsy or handmade on amazonThey both have their benefits and disadvantages, but it’s not about which one is better than the other. That’s very hard to say and it depends on your business and how you want to operate it. If you want to grow your business and have your products in front of as many people as possible, I would recommend using both platforms to sell your products. If you are just beginning and want to cautiously start selling, I would recommend Etsy. It’s easier to learn, the fees are lower, and customers are more understanding if anything goes wrong. If you’re serious and ready to take on Amazon’s strict policies, higher fees, and less lenient customers, but want a much larger audience to get more sales, you may want to give Amazon a shot first.

I don’t recommend starting both at the same time. Each platform operates very differently and takes time to understand and master each platform. Start on one platform and dedicate your time to learn it. Once you have a good grasp on that platform and are happy with the results, consider adding another selling platform for your business.