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Will Shopify Or Squarespace Fill Your Online Store Requirements?
If you are looking to set up an online store for selling products or services then you want the best ecommerce platform to meet your needs.
Two of the renowned providers in this arena are compared in our Shopify vs Squarespace review. We will take a detailed look at what each has to offer and then give our assessment of which is best for your particular business needs.
The size and complexity of your online business will dictate a winner!
Before we get into the side-by-side comparison details of these 2 platforms it is important for you to establish your aims. Here are some important issues you should be clear on:
- Clearly understand your business goals.
- Clearly identify your customer target base.
- Understand the initial and projected number of products and/or services you are selling.
- Clearly define a sensible budget for set-up and initial running costs of your online store.
Achieving this will go a long way in helping you to decide which of these platforms will best suit your online ecommerce business.
Here’s why we say this:
Without a doubt, Shopify is the platform for those who are seriously into online selling and have an established, well-recognised base.
The other type of company that Shopify will suit are those with big ambitions and a strong confidence in their new brand(s). These enterprises will also have reasonable amounts of cash in reserve to get their online selling business off the ground.
So, should we stop this review here?
Most certainly not. Squarespace has its place in this arena and a very attractive one it is too.
Take a long look at their very, very stylish design templates. In this Squarespace vs Shopify comparison section, there is no doubt whatsoever that Squarespace take the Gold medal.
Their platform is an ideal match for those with a less complex business set up, who sell only a smallish number of products or services, those with ‘boutique’ products or services to offer and is a good fit for those who do not have bigger budgets to throw at establishing an online ecommerce presence.
Not everyone needs all the ‘bells and whistles’:
Let’s be honest, there are some features of an online store that have to be placed in the ‘must have’ category, then there are some that are ‘nice to have’. After this? You can drill down to the ‘possibly advantageous but I don’t yet need them’ category.
By defining exactly what you need in priority order can go a long way to helping you decide whether Shopify or Squarespace is the platform for you.
We fully expect the following category comparisons to be of assistance when you are making your Shopify or Squarespace decision.
Ease of use:
Because of the Shopify hosted against WordPress.org self-hosted consideration, those users who are not WordPress.org familiar will initially find Shopify easier to use.
Here’s our take on the Shopify vs WordPress benefits in terms of ease of use.
The Shopify user interface is easy to use and with a little time investment it becomes quite intuitive.
Most users who are new to the platform will find their way around very quickly.
This is thanks to the fact that all tools provided allow you to have your online store up and running in no time whatsoever.
- It is very straightforward to insert product images in order to fully personalise your store.
- Any new products or services can quickly be added to your offering.
- Payment set up is quick and easy.
- Cross-platform selling is made very easy.
While Squarespace offers beautiful templates that come with excellent creative tools this should be seen both a positive and a potential negative:
- Positive: In terms of stunning looks.
- Negative: In terms of ease of use.
There is no doubt that it will take longer to get to grips with Squarespace vs Shopify when initially setting up your online presence.
The Squarespace platform uses the same ‘drag ‘n drop’ design as that of Shopify.
While this method allows you to fully customise the stunning design templates, the fact is, it is just not as easy to manipulate content as it is with the Shopify user interface.
Verdict: In our Shopify vs Squarespace ‘Ease of Use’ comparison;
Winner - Shopify
Features & Flexibility:
|Out of the box:|
|Themes & Templates:||Shopify offers more than 60 themes. These are all well-designed to meet your needs and can all be fully customised. What this means is that you will find a theme to meet your initial needs and from there you can individualise it. The benefits of this customisation are many: You are at liberty to add individual product pages - this is particularly useful for ‘best-selling’ products. Place an ‘About Us’ page where you can clearly describe your company and aims. Flexibility is yours to change page elements – You can move, add, remove or re-size page elements to reflect your business style. Another benefit is that the integration of social media feeds is very straightforward. Do bear in mind that while there are free themes to select, it is highly likely you will want to use one of the ‘paid-for’ themes. We say this because the split is 10 free themes against 50+ paid for themes. While this may add to cost it does give value in terms of flexibility for your specific needs.||While Shopify offers a good choice in template flexibility, Squarespace takes this to a higher level. Put plainly, Squarespace have to be classed as an industry leader when compared with any ecommerce platform out there. Whichever template you choose you will find it fits your needs and some. The Squarespace themes are made for the creative business sector, but they also cater fully for just about every other industry. What this means to you is that the template chosen will ensure your products or services stand out from the crowd. There is no doubt that the Squarespace design capabilities are the nearest you will get to professional quality. This is seen as a crucial factor for many small businesses, boutique companies and particularly those who make full use of creative art.|
|3rd Party Apps Market:||The Shopify app store certainly offers a wide selection of add-ons. Last count was around 2,500 apps which range from free through paid-for. It is a near certainty that you will regularly dip into this store but do remember that doing so increases the likelihood that some apps chosen will cost. This means careful selection is required to ensure the additional cost is worthy of the benefits gained. Choosing carefully will certainly add app power to your store. One positive feature that Shopify offer that many other platforms lack is their ‘Apps Search’ feature. Shopify make it very easy to find apps for specific functions when browsing their store. Just one thing to note: Do check the ‘Shopify-Specific’ apps available. Some of these require coding snippets to be added.||There is no beating about the bush here! Squarespace do not have an apps store so in this Shopify or Squarespace race there is no comparison to be made! However, it is certainly not all doom and gloom (indeed, it is something that may not affect your online operation). As we have previously mentioned, Squarespace design and release all apps from ‘in-house’ sources. While this may appear restrictive, what it does give you is a sense of confidence that the apps used are reliable. As you are all probably aware, there are some less than reliable apps out there with more are being released on a fairly regular basis. Just a final point on this: While we have to place Shopify as the ‘winner’ in this category, it should be noted that there are ample in-house apps available from Squarespace and they are included in your overall cost. This is a point that really should not be lost from a budget perspective.|
|Backups:||Don’t dismiss this category when looking at any ecommerce platform. By doing so you are leaving yourself open to lost data, it can cost you valuable time spent restoring your site and can potentially lead to lost custom. As far as what is offered from Shopify, things are reasonably straightforward. It is pleasing to know that the platform backs up data on a daily basis. To be honest, it is still wise to implement your own back-up in any event and this should be done from the start of your online operation. The good news is that there are lots of apps that can help automate the process.||Squarespace could do a lot better in this category. We say this because basically the onus is loaded on you to look after back-up. You should always consider backing up and restoration of your CMS (Customer Management System) as an integral part of business strategy, but help from your chosen platform certainly does not go amiss. The word from Squarespace is that they do not support this and if you wish to back-up content for any possible restore then you should paste that relevant data into a google doc. Not the most inclusive of advice or assistance from a platform that does many things very well. There are of course other options when it comes to saving and securing data, but you need to go outside of the platform to achieve this.|
Verdict: No contest in the Shopify vs Squarespace ‘Features & Flexibility’ comparison. Shopify is the winner.
Winner - Shopify
Shopify offer powerful store functionality and its features are easy to set up.
As would be expected, you get such things as:
- Shopping carts.
- Checkout modules.
- Product pages.
- A collection ‘feature’.
- Coupon & Discount code provision (Note: this is NOT available on the Shopify ‘Lite’ payment plan).
Two highly important features are: Shipping Charge Calculation and Payment Gateway Options. Shopify scores heavily in these departments and gives a solid shipping calculation charge feature. They also offer support for in excess of 100 payment gateways. Far outnumbering those of Squarespace. The only potential issue here is ‘cost per transaction’. If you use ‘Shopify Payments’ (the platforms own payment gateway) transaction fees are 0%. However, using any other gateway will cost you 2% for each and every transaction.
Beware: Multiple transaction costs can certainly add up.
Inventory management: Let’s face it, inventory management may appear boring, but it is the backbone of a well-run online store. In this respect, using either Squarespace or Shopify have very good inventory management systems. Both offer such things as: What stock you currently have (number of units available) and a feature that gives email alerts for low stock. Many current users of Shopify claim that inventory management is easy, straightforward and a great help. It is particularly useful for those businesses selling multiple products but we feel that in terms of inventory management Squarespace matches Shopify and this is no mean feat.
The Squarespace approach to features and tools is to build them into the platform. This means that those available are standardised across the board. Because they have been built and tested in-house this means you can be confident that they are reliable. While it may seem a disadvantage to only have platform designed features and tools available, you should consider the fact that all of these will work as described. We say this because it is often the case with add-on features or tools that they promise far more than they actually deliver. The features and tools offered by Squarespace are certainly sufficient for most dedicated businesses. One tool that all those selling online will appreciate is the Squarespace analytical visitor tool.
Verdict: In the Shopify vs Squarespace Features & Tools category – This is a close call and therefore classed as a ‘draw’.
Winner - Draw
SEO & Mobility:
Mobile responsive online stores are absolutely essential. This is because more people than ever before are using mobile devices to go shopping. The good news in the Shopify vs Squarespace comparison is that both platforms offer this to the full.
As far as we are concerned, without good SEO features you are dead-in-the-water. Good SEO is essential in terms of getting your brand and online business out there and in front of visitors. In the Shopify or Squarespace SEO comparison, Shopify certainly offer solid SEO capabilities. When applied correctly you should certainly improve your online store ranking.
All of the available Shopify themes come optimised for mobile. This means that no matter what mobile device your customers (and prospective customers!) are viewing your site from they will have a good customer experience. A very useful addition to the Shopify portfolio is a ‘product zoom’ feature. Use of this allows customers to zoom in to a specific product and view it in closer/greater detail.
There is a dedicated SEO app available and when uploading new products or services to your site you are given ‘best practice’ prompts. The SEO features also allow you to make effective use of:
- Page edit of title & description.
- Alt text additions to images.
- SEO issue scan.
- Site speed checks.
All themes also include social media links and sharing buttons. Great for increasing your reach. All of these features and more make Shopify a better than average SEO platform.
As mentioned, all of the template designs available from Squarespace are fully mobile responsive. You can be assured that mobile visitors will have a satisfactory viewing and shopping experience no matter which theme you choose. The fact on mobile responsiveness is that whether you choose Shopify or Squarespace for your online store you will be providing visitors with a good experience. One that should keep them coming back for more and after all, that is what you must aim for.
Just a word on the ‘product zoom’ feature. While this does not come as ‘standard’ with Squarespace you can install one using an app.
We cannot impress enough the importance of good, effective SEO. The available Squarespace SEO options include the ability to edit meta titles as well as descriptions; the latter is the text seen on Google searches. They also provide other basic functions, but unlike Shopify, Squarespace does not offer ‘best practice’ advice when you are in the process of uploading any new products or services to your store. Having said this, it does offer a fairly comprehensive SEO checklist and some good tips on the best utilisation of SEO techniques.
While Squarespace holds its own in this category with other platforms of a similar nature it is not as flexible / does not offer as much in SEO terms as Shopify. There are 3 things that could cause issues dependent upon your business approach.
The last point certainly needs addressing.
- You have access to a very good blogging tool but there is no page edit title function for Blog Posts.
- You will need time and patience to get to grips with the Squarespace SEO tool offered.
- Check and test the Google speed tool. In many cases it has been stated that lower response rates than from other platforms are achieved.
If this is the case then your page ranking and mobile viewer access speed could be negatively affected.
Verdict: The SEO category for Shopify or Squarespace must place Shopify as the winner.
Winner - Shopify
Support & Resources:
Another category you would be wise to investigate. This is regardless of the platform you eventually choose. Help and support is vital to get you up and running. It is even more important when you are fully functioning.
In this respect Shopify are hard to beat. There is telephone, email and live chat support available 24/7. If you opt for the platform’s ‘Plus Level’ price plans you will also have a dedicated support agent to lean on. While this type of support is invaluable it should also be noted that there are comprehensive knowledge-based tutorials that include tips and screenshots. You will have access to the platforms Community Forum for ‘real life’ advice and information. A final plus here is the Shopify Ecommerce University. An online learning platform that offers the opportunity for you to study and increase your ecommerce knowledge.
The Squarespace approach to help and support is very much backed by their excellent forum. The level of advice given here will certainly help with the vast majority of issues you come across. This platform of knowledge has to be one of the most comprehensive you will find. From a company perspective the help and support options are much more limited than those offered from Shopify. You can also take advantage of email support where 24-hour response is guaranteed. One other option which is highly useful when it is ‘open’ is the Squarespace ‘live chat’ support function. This is available from Monday-Friday 0400-2000hrs (EST).
Verdict: In the Help & Support category we have to give the winner as: Shopify.
Winner - Shopify
There is no doubt that in the Shopify or Squarespace considerations, Shopify will cost you more. Having said that, there is no straight comparison in terms of what is offered for what you pay. To see a comprehensive breakdown of Shopify costs please click here for the Shopify ‘price structure’ section of Shopify review article.
There is also the advantage of access to the Shopify apps store. As we have already mentioned, while some apps are free to use – others cost. This means that these expenses may well need to be considered in your overall set-up and running of a Shopify online store.
While costs are higher, you certainly have access to tools that will allow you to expand your business at whatever pace you wish. Here’s a brief breakdown of standard ‘monthly’ costs for Shopify:
• Basic Shopify costs $29 per month.
• Shopify costs $79 per month.
• Advanced Shopify costs $299 per month.
Note: The above prices are based on paying monthly. If you pay 1 year up-front you will save. The 3 prices are then reduced to $26.10, $71.10 and $269.10 respectively.
You should also be aware that there are 2 other price plans – The ‘Lite’ plan is just $9 per month but this does not allow for ecommerce store set-up. This plan is for those who already have a website and wish to add the ‘Shopify Buy Button’ to their existing site.
At the opposite end of the scale is the ‘Enterprise’ plan. This is aimed at huge online stores and to understand exact pricing of this, separate discussions with Shopify are required.
As would be expected, the cost structure for such huge volumes will be dependent upon your needs.
There are 4 monthly Squarespace price plans to consider. These are:
• ‘Personal’ at $16 per month.
• ‘Business’ at $26 per month.
• ‘Basic Store’ at $30 per month.
• ‘Advanced Store’ at $46 per month.
Again, if you decide to buy into an annual plan you will benefit from cost reductions and the 4 plans would then come in at $12, $18, $26 and $40.
For a comprehensive breakdown of Squarespace pricing and what you get for your money please click here for the Squarespace eCommerce Review article.
While it is clear that Squarespace is cheaper, you do have to bear in mind that you will not have as many ecommerce tools to take advantage of. In this respect you should think carefully, what is already offered. This may well be sufficient for you. You will also not have to worry about third party apps as there is no apps store!
Verdict: Because of the difficulty in terms of comparing like for like in the Shopify, Squarespace category, we have to class this section as a ‘Draw’. What will suit some businesses will certainly differ to others.
Winner - Draw
|Builder||Battle Score||Full Review||Visit Official Website|
|Shopify||6 / 6||Read full review||Go to Shopify|
|Squarespace||2 / 6||Read full review||Go to squarespace.com|
Conclusion & Recommendation:
As our in-depth Shopify vs Squarespace comparison review indicates, there are clear advantages in using both platforms.
If you have limited products or services to offer, your online store is more in the ‘boutique’ sector, and particularly for those who are in the artistic design arena then Squarespace is a solid choice.
Having said that, many will find Shopify a more dedicated selling platform with tools and apps galore on offer.
It is seen as being particularly beneficial for those with a wide variety of products or services to offer.
Yes, Shopify will cost more, but a BIG YES; they offer more and also allow for growth as your online business prospers.
Also, don’t forget, both platforms offer a free 14-day trial. This means it makes real sense to take them for a spin before deciding.
Thanks for reading and don’t forget to keep an eye out for our ever-growing blog of review and comparison articles. If you have tried either of these platforms we would love to know your thoughts and experiences.