Shopify vs Amazon - Which is Best for Building a Brand
When deciding where to sell its products, a business has many options to consider including the most commonly used and the biggest, Shopify and Amazon.
There are many great reasons to sell on Amazon, just as there are many good reasons to sell on Shopify. The purpose of this article is to look at which is best for building a brand in a Shopify vs Amazon contest.
Before launching into the details, its important to understand the most important difference between the two, Amazon is a marketplace, whereas Shopify is a eCommerce platform.
So why compare Shopify vs Amazon at all?
Simply because Amazon is expanding its business model increasingly encroaching on Shopify’s turf.
The problem for Amazon is that in 2021 businesses need to be building a brand.
Consequently, Amazon has improved its branding ability and is therefore, increasingly targeting the typical Shopify customer, but can Amazon act as a substitute for an eCommerce store on Shopify?
Table of Contents
Why You Need to Build a Brand
No matter what you are selling, the manufacturers of the products you are selling are increasingly selling direct to customer (D2C). In many cases they are using alternative cheaper branding, but often the products are similar if not identical.
Therefore, the manufacturers of the products you are selling are becoming your competition.
Why You Need to Build a Brand
Your greatest advantage over direct to customer (D2C) manufacturers is the choice of products you can offer and the level of service you can provide.
Here we enter the realm of personalization since your choice of which products and categories to stock, is a question of who you choose to sell to, and build trust with.
Consequently it becomes a question of “for whom are you building your store for” and part and parcel of answering this question is selecting archetype and providing product personalization.
Understanding your customers is central to any brand building strategy, use your Conversific Analytics to help!
Ultimately, these are both integral tasks for building a brand your customers can identify with.
With trust comes loyalty, and brand advocacy, which in turn enables you, – the merchant to upsell, cross sell and even increase prices, – to sell at a premium.
Building a Brand with Shopify
One of the biggest benefits of Shopify is that you get an entire ecosystem of Shopify apps that supply the latest and greatest eCommerce features, cutting edge niche SaaS tools that Amazon simply can not keep up with.
These addon features make it easy to target / retarget your chosen segments/personas in every way conceivable.
In addition, Shopify allows you to use your own domain, whereas Amazon does not, with Amazon you have to use a Amazon domain to brand your store.
By having a Shopify store you are independent of Shopify, – just as a business renting a storefront, and therefore your store brand is not connected to the Shopify brand.
Nor are you rated as a seller, like you are when you have a store on the Amazon marketplace.
Which leads to Shopify’s greatest benefit in the Shopify vs Amazon analysis, the control Shopify gives you to build trust in your brand and the flexibility you have to adjust prices.
Unlike Amazon, your ability to price items to sell isn’t reliant on search algorithms like an Amazon store is.
The problems associated with building a brand on Shopify
- While customizing Shopify is possible on higher plans, not every Shopify page is accessible and the programming language is a bespoke form of php known as liquid, making customization a costly proposition.
- Shopify’s pricing plans limit access to KPI reporting, with only the most basic of store analytics on the cheaper plans making it difficult to understand customers and scale up.
- No native email hosting, they opt out of supplying the much needed business email services.
Although Shopify does have some negatives, these negatives can be seen as positives in the right light (two sides to every story). For example :-
- Shopify limits KPI reports according to plan, BUT due to its extensive 3rd party app store there are apps that supply best in class KPI reports (even better than Shopify themselves supply) such as Conversific that also utilize GA data.
- Bespoke liquid programming language, – a closed system that is harder to hack.
- No native email hosting, BUT there is an app for this too called “Hosted Email”
Final Word on Shopify
The biggest drawback to using Shopify is the features it lacks, those feature that rely on 3rd party services supply. The additional cost from using these 3rd party apps soon add up.
That being said, using 3rd party apps from the Shopify app store provides a far greater choice, enabling you to either opt for best in class solutions, or choose the cheaper just barely adequate option.
You can pay what you need, or can afford and upgrade when you need to.
Building a Brand on Amazon
In the last few years Amazon has made their marketplace more brand centric and has rolled out some great features for brand building, taking aim squarely at Shopify.
As a professional seller you can open an “Amazon Store” (microsite) which includes branding opportunities for those stores on the Amazon Brand Registry, but only while retaining Amazon’s own branding.
This includes multiple pages and internal linking. You can advertise your Amazon store on Facebook and track the results with Amazon “Brand Analytics” which provides detailed analysis of things like search terms.
However, the biggest benefit of Amazon vs Shopify is that traffic is included in the price.
The problems associated with building a Brand on Amazon
Amazon is designed to be good for the customer and good for Amazon, rather than good for the seller. It’s search algorithms make it highly competitive, which is great for customers, or like a rat-race that squeezes profit margins to the max for merchants.
Therefore, it’s not exactly the most appealing sounding environment for brand building!
Fraud and Bad Behavior
The other side effect of being so competitive is that naturally, sellers try to get any advantage they can get, even if it means gaming the system or the customer.
Fake reviews and star system cons erode trust in the system making buyers increasingly wary.
Its human nature to share when unhappy with a purchase, therefore from personal experience, most people know someone who have been conned on Amazon, if not directly themselves.
That being said, Amazon has made improvements, making it harder to open a store, requiring more documentation and verification, but that negative legacy remains.
Trust is a huge problem for Amazon, many customers still comment that bad behavior is inadequately policed.
While policing is also an issue with Shopify stores, it is less obvious, this is because they are not a marketplace they don’t need to deal with the issue to the same extent or in the same way.
What I mean by this is they don’t compare your products and pricing to the competitor store owners (no recommendations).
For Shopify, when a fraudulent store opens on its platform and fails to deliver products, it is a Store brand problem rather than a Shopify brand problem.
When people complain about a seller on Amazon that complaint is intrinsically linked to Amazon and its reputation.
No Control of Search
One intrinsic problem with marketplaces is that merchants are entirely reliant on the search algorithm provided by the marketplace platform and these can be used to benefit the platform or the customer over the merchant.
There are many horror stories of businesses being decimated by Amazon, simply by tweaking their algorithms.
Therefore, some might say investing in Amazon is a far riskier proposition because you never have full control of your brand or pricing.
That being said, others say that it no different than relying on Google Search for Shopify traffic?
When all is said and done the main reason to choose Amazon is simply to be found by buyers looking for your product rather than for the purpose of brand building.
So, the answer to the question which is best Shopify vs Amazon for brand building, the answer has to be Shopify.
That being said, the ideal situation is to not choose at all, but rather to be omnipresent and leverage Amazon traffic to build your brand by increasing awareness of your products on your Shopify store.
Thanks to the Shopify app store you don’t need to choose, with there being several apps designed to sync Shopify products with your Amazon listings, quickly and simply.
While you can not direct traffic away from Amazon (see terms and conditions of use), you can still build traffic for your Shopify store by promoting your brand name everywhere on your Amazon product labels and descriptions.
Ultimately, you will benefit by having both a branded web store on Shopify as well as a Amazon marketplace because they complement each other, supporting the goal to be omnipresent as part of an integrated marketing strategy.
Base your brand on Shopify, sync Amazon, install Conversific and benefit from both Shopify and Google Analytics data displayed holistically with insights, right in your Shopify dashboard improving marketing and sales while, at the same time benefit from increased traffic and brand awareness supplied by Amazon. A Win Win Win scenario.
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