Shopify vs. Amazon FBA

Looking for ecommerce software? Here's how Shopify and Amazon FBA stack up.

Matthew Taylor
Mark Hammersley

Matthew Taylor and Mark Hammersley

Last updated 21o August 2020


Shopify

4.8  Stackupp rating


Pricing from

$ 29.00 / month

Free Plan?

Trial


Best for

Small and medium-sized retailers that need a fully-hosted solution that’s easy to customize.

Amazon FBA

3.4  Stackupp rating


Pricing from

$ 0.99 / month

Free Plan?

No


Best for

online sellers with limited product ranges. It is also a good option for retailers with established stores that want to take advantage of Amazon’s significant reach.

Shopify or Amazon FBA: Which is best?

Can't decide between Shopify and Amazon FBA?

Find the best platform for you with our side by side comparison of Shopify and Amazon FBA. See how each platform stacks up across ease of use, design, support and value for money.

Let the comparison begin. Don't worry, we'll guide you.

Is Shopify right for you?

With over one million users, Shopify is one of the most popular hosted ecommerce platforms on the market.

Shopify has gained a reputation for being extremely beginner-friendly, allowing retailers with no coding or development experience to build and manage a professional store with unlimited products.

If you’re looking for a solution that’s ready-to-go, easy to set up, and isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg, then Shopify could be the way to go.

Notably, Shopify offers features as part of its basic package, like multi-channel selling, that are often only available on higher-level plans on competing platforms.

Advantages

  • Fully hosted platform that’s easy to set up and manage.
  • Well-designed templates.
  • Extensive feature set on all plans.

Drawbacks

  • Difficult to make backend code changes.
  • Extra costs for using third-party payment gateways (instead of Shopify payments).
  • Reports not available on the lowest-priced plan.

Use Shopify if you’re just getting started or are transitioning your small or medium-sized store to a new ecommerce platform.

Is Amazon FBA right for you?

Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) is Amazon’s in-house fulfillment service for sellers. Instead of taking care of the storage and delivery of products themselves, sellers who opt for Amazon FBA can use Amazon’s warehouses and logistics networks. This can significantly reduce financial and administrative burdens.

It’s important to recognize that Amazon FBA is an additional service for Amazon sellers. It will only meet your needs if you already intend to sell products on Amazon. It is not a self-contained ecommerce solution that will allow you to list a wide array of different items and keep all the revenue from sales. What’s more, Amazon takes a significant cut of the final purchase price. You will also have to compete with other sellers in the marketplace.

With all that in mind, it’s essential to weigh up the benefits associated with access to the world’s single largest retail market with the cons of hefty fees, limited control, and high levels of competition.

Generally speaking, small retailers that don’t want to deal with the hassle of managing an entire ecommerce store (and all the technical, marketing, and logistical tasks this involves) will find a lot to like in Amazon FBA. Equally, retailers with established stores that want to bring their best products to a broader market should consider Amazon FBA.

Finally, keep in mind that running a successful business on Amazon FBA requires a unique skill-set. It’s a different ballgame to running a “traditional” ecommerce store, and this should be accounted for. You will need to familiarize yourself with topics like competitor research, keyword analysis, product page optimization, results page optimization, and so on.

Advantages

  • Access to one of the largest retail markets in the world.
  • Limited logistical and administrative burden.
  • No need to run your own ecommerce store.

Drawbacks

  • High listing and fulfillment fees.
  • Lack of control over design of product pages.
  • Relatively high startup costs for initial order.

you are a small independent retailer who doesn’t want to run their own store and handle complex back-end logistical tasks. Amazon will do a lot of the hard work for you while providing access to a large retail marketplace.

Ease of Use

Our first comparison criteria, ease of use. Why? Because it’s the most important.

Think about it. You don’t want to invest a lot of your precious time setting up an online store and tweaking the design only to find out that it’s a pain in the butt to manage day to day.

We take a look at how simple the Shopify and Amazon FBA platforms are to run.

How easy is Shopify to use?

Rated 5/5 for Ease of Use

Ease of use is one of the areas where Shopify really shines. All users have access to a website builder and intuitive content management system. Adding products is a doddle. And all orders are managed from an automatable fulfillment dashboard (which connects with popular fulfillment solutions). SEO and mobile responsiveness are both taken care of.

What Shopify customers are saying...

“I have built two websites using Shopify and it was a great experience. They have someone available all the time if you run into problems. I’m not a web designer and I was able to figure it out without any lengthy tutorials.”
“I've had a great experience with this platform and I highly recommend it!”
“I honestly don't know why there are so many bad reviews about Shopify. It is an absolutely amazing platform with an even better support team. I think people need to stop being so negative as there is nothing more you can ask from them.”

How easy is Amazon FBA to use?

Rated 4.5/5 for Ease of Use

Amazon FBA is managed through “Seller Central”, an online dashboard that all Amazon merchants use to manage their inventory, product listings, storefronts, and analytics.

The interface is very user-friendly, and you can add and configure products quickly. There is a substantial amount of help documentation online through the “Seller Central” portal and Amazon also offers an “Amazon Seller App” for mobile devices. All in all, it’s a very good option for beginners, along with retailers who have limited technical expertise.

Configuring fulfillment options is also a straightforward, linear process and is completed within the “Seller Central” area once products have been added to a catalog.

Finally, you can manage your own independent store, which will show all your Amazon listings, via the “Stores” tab.

What Amazon FBA customers are saying...

"This website is good for beginners who want to earn."
"This platform is the most solid on the web to sell products online."
"They have never failed to pay me and they have been supportive when deviant customers have tried to steal from me."
Shopify is our winner for ease of use

Design

Powerful features are great, but we all know first impressions count. So, do Shopify and Amazon FBA templates actually look any good? See for yourself. We outline each platforms design options, plus showcase a few real life examples.

How good are Shopify's themes?

Rated 4/5 for Design

There’s no doubt that Shopify offers some of the most beautifully-designed templates on the market. There are over seventy templates to choose from. The downside, however, is that most themes cost around $180. At the time of writing, Shopify offers eight free themes.

The design features in the website builder are intuitive and suitable for people with no coding background. Making tweaks to colors, buttons, images etc. is a doddle. What’s more, it’s possible to make straightforward CSS and HTML additions.

The main difficulty arises when it comes to making “deeper” backend changes. Accessing and amending the Shopify backend requires specialized knowledge which many retailers don’t have.

Shopify Examples

  • Haus London
    Haus London
Item 1 of 3

How good are Amazon FBA's themes?

Rated 2.5/5 for Design

Amazon doesn’t offer much in the way of design freedom. Sellers can only customize specific product page elements, such as the title and description, images, and in-depth “body copy”. The layout and overall page design cannot be altered.

Once they have registered their brand, sellers can also open their own Amazon storefront, which affords a greater (albeit still limited) level of design flexibility.

If you’re looking for complete control over your store, you will likely find that a self-managed ecommerce solution like Shopify or WooCommerce better fits your needs.

Amazon FBA Examples

  • Rogaine
    Rogaine
Item 1 of 3
Shopify is our winner for design

How much do they cost?

Everyone’s favourite topic - pricing. Let's dive in to see if Shopify or Amazon FBA offers better value for money.

How much does Shopify cost?

Rated 5/5 for Pricing

Shopify offers great value for money. The basic package comes with a fantastic array of features, including unlimited product listings, 24/7 support, discount codes, and abandoned cart email automation. There are no set-up fees, and you can take advantage of a 14-day free trial. You’ll also get a discount when you pay for an annual plan.

The main downside to Shopify is that you’ll be charged additional fees for using any payment gateway other than Shopify Payments. While Shopify allows for a range of gateway integrations (including popular services like Paypal), it’s important to account for these extra charges before signing up.

How much does Amazon FBA cost?

Rated 3.5/5 for Pricing

“Value for money” is a slightly mixed bag when it comes to Amazon FBA. It’s important to stress that all serious Amazon FBA sellers will have to purchase a subscription to an Amazon Seller account. There are two plans available. The “Individual” plan is free, but a charge of $0.99 per item sold is collected. The “Professional” plan is $39.99 per month.

On the surface, these figures don’t seem significant. It’s when you get down to the nitty-gritty of item fees that a more precise picture starts to emerge. FBA sellers have to account for several charges: a referral fee (which can be up to 15% of the item sale price, a storage fee), storage costs, and a fulfillment fee. All of these can quickly add up, so it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the fine print and do all your calculations to ensure you can make a sustainable profit.

Shopify is our winner for cost

Help and Support

If things go wrong (and they often do) you need to know someone’s there to help get you back on track. So, how does Shopify's and Amazon FBA's support measure up?

How good is Shopify support?

Rated 5/5 for Help and Support

All Shopify plans come with 24/7 email, phone, and live chat support. Customer reviews are generally favorable when describing the quality of support. 24/7 email support is also offered in a variety of other languages. Shopify has one of the most active communities of users, and the forums are an excellent place to ask for help.

How good is Amazon FBA support?

Rated 3/5 for Help and Support

Amazon provides support to sellers through online tickets and has published extensive online documentation and training for new users. There is also an active community forum where it’s possible to get answers to questions.

While the support options are reasonable, we would like to have seen phone and email support in conjunction with the options already on offer.

Shopify is our winner for support

The Bottom Line

The final say. Let's wrap up our thoughts on each platform.

Shopify: Our Verdict

Shopify is a model ecommerce platform - a fully-hosted, feature-rich retail solution at a reasonable price. Among the standout points are the intuitive site builder and content management system, the quality of the templates, and the complete package of features included even in the basic package.

A highly active online community, along with 24/7 support, makes it an ideal option for small and medium-sized stores that don’t have the resources to manage everything themselves.

It’s also notable that Shopify includes omnichannel selling (for social media and Amazon), discount codes, and a free SSL certificate as part of its value proposition. Retailers also have access to shipping discounts when using Spotify Shipping.

Here are two points before wrapping up. If you’re thinking of giving Shopify a test-drive, be careful to check the costs of using third-party gateways. Also, ensure you’re able to make backend changes if that’s something you need to do.

Amazon FBA: Our Verdict

The FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon) program has done a lot to open up Amazon’s sizable marketplace to new sellers and streamline the often-complex process of storing items and fulfilling purchases.

If you are starting out in the ecommerce space, and find the prospect of running an independent store daunting, then Amazon is a viable option. Equally, if you already have an established online presence and want to reach new customers, selling your top-performing products through Amazon is also worth considering.

Just keep in mind that running a profitable Amazon FBA business is different from running your own online store. It requires a unique skill-set and the ability to evaluate competition and find gaps in the market.

Overall, we found Shopify to be the better ecommerce platform.

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