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Shopify vs Squarespace | The Old vs the New Kid on the Block

  • 7 min read

Updated 10/24/20

When it comes to eCommerce, your success relies on the foundations you build to run your business smoothly. Shopify has been a leading eCommerce platform for years, and while Squarespace is technically older, it is relatively new to eCommerce but slowly catching up. Read our guide to understand their different functions to see which fits your needs.

Although both Shopify and Squarespace help you build your online store, they started differently, which speaks to some of their major differences.

When Squarespace came out in 2004, it was used as a website builder, focusing on content-based sites like blogs, news, magazines, and the like. The platform added eCommerce features in 2013.

 Shopify, by contrast, was designed with eCommerce in mind. It has grown into one of the most popular platforms with robust tools that are technically easy to use.

This simple history makes a big difference when choosing between the two. Are you planning a content-based site with some eCommerce features or is online selling your primary goal?

Here, we dig deeper into some of their important features.

Usability

Both Shopify and Squarespace have a clean and easy-to-use interface. Because of its blogging and strong content-driven features, Squarespace editor gives you more freedom when it comes to the design and layout for your pages, but Shopify’s editor is also user-friendly and has drag and drop functionality. While in Squarespace you can see the website as you are designing it, in Shopify, you don’t see the site as it will appear when you are populating the pages.

While neither of the platforms needs strong technical know-how, Shopify offers a great knowledge database and round-the-clock support with live chat and email if you run into any issues.

Both platforms are mobile-responsive, so you can easily adjust your screen to the device you are using, be it a tablet, mobile or desktop.

Pricing

Squarespace offers four types of monthly plans: Personal ($16), Business ($26), Basic Commerce ($30), and Advanced Commerce ($46). You’ll get a discount on any of the plans you choose if you purchase the plan annually.

Squarespace’s Personal plan doesn’t support online selling and is only for building websites. For our purposes, then, we’ll focus on its Business, Basic Commerce, and Advanced Commerce.

You’ll pay a 3% transaction fee plus credit card rates on all purchases with its Business Plan. Basic and Advanced Commerce plans have no transaction fees.

Shopify’s three-level plan includes Basic ($29), Shopify ($79), and Advanced Shopify ($299). For large businesses, it also offers Shopify Plus, a costly plan that starts at $2000 a month.

If you don’t need a storefront but want to sell on an existing website or a Facebook page, or want to sell in a physical store and only use the online setup for payments and inventory (point-of-sale) you can opt for “Shopify Lite”, which costs only $9 per month.

If you use one of the hundreds of third-party payment options available in Shopify, you’ll pay 0.5%, 1%, or 2% transaction fees based on your plan. There are also credit card rates that can range from 2.4% to 2.9%.

Keep in mind, however, that Shopify Payments is only an option if you are selling from certain locations. If not, you’ll have to use third-party payment options, and that means paying transaction fees.

Shopify Supported Countries

Both platforms offer a 14-day trial period. Shopify has extended this to 90 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Apps and Features

Here’s the kicker. Squarespace doesn’t have an APP store. It offers limited extensions that don’t compare to Shopify’s hefty list of features, no matter what size your business is in.

With over 2200 plugins, Shopify is the king of e-Commerce Apps and features. You can find any functionality imaginable because the platform was designed for online businesses from the outset. The variety and convenience alone beat Squarespace by far.

For those who prefer dropshipping, Shopify makes it easy to ship with external suppliers with its Oberlo App whereas Squarespace has limited shipping features.

You can also find other useful features like advanced reporting options, point-of-sale features, or automatic tax calculation, all of which are not yet available in Squarespace.

But still, Squarespace provides enough features to get you started. Its Advanced plan supports Abandoned Cart Recovery, a favorite in e-Commerce platforms.  Also, Squarespace Business Plan offers unlimited product listing, just like Shopify, and it’s boosting its shipping features, even though it has a long way to go to reach Shopify’s incredible Shipping Discounts that can be up to 90% with domestic shipping.

Shopify Shipping Discounts

 

All Squarespace plans offer a free domain for one year, compared to Shopify, which costs $11 or more depending on your domain. Remember also, that adding more plugins and apps in Shopify will add to your overall costs.

Also, Squarespace offers great built-in tools for marketing purposes. Campaigns is an easy-to-use newsletter tool for email marketing, and their strong blogging tools are great assets for content marketing. 

Even if not a built-in feature, you can always find a great App or integration in Shopify to boost your marketing efforts. 

If you are on a budget or have a small store with no plans to scale in the future, Squarespace gives you the basic e-Commerce features you need for a fraction of Shopify’s costs.

Design and Customization

For those with an eye for design, Squarespace shines with its remarkable design themes and tools you can use without breaking the bank.

It offers more than 100 beautiful themes that are all free. But keep in mind that because Squarespace was initially a website builder, its themes are more tailored for portfolios, blogs, or magazines that need  to have a visual “wow-factor.” Few e-Commerce themes are available right now, so you might have to modify the designs to make it work for online selling.

Squarespace Themes

Because Squarespace was initially designed for content, it gives you powerful editing features. The templates are elegant, and its photo editing tools come in handy, so you are bound to create the best display possible.

Unlike Shopify, Squarespace has no third-part app installment,  so you can start selling right away and with little site maintenance. It also offers print-on-demand selling, which can be a great option for artists selling their work.

Shopify has 10 free themes and over 50 paid themes to choose from. Although perhaps not as elegant and stunning as Squarespace, Shopify’s themes are also very easy to use with some of the best e-Commerce tools available.

Scale

Because Shopify was founded to support e-Commerce sellers, it has great scalability and offers many built-in features for small businesses looking to expand. Its unlimited product listing and complex inventory management, marketing tools, and shipping features allow you to find the right arrangement for your sell volume.

Although Squarespace also has unlimited product listings, it is not as scalable, because it has limited e-Commerce features, no third-party applications, or more complex shipping arrangements.

It is also more difficult to export pages, products, or blogs out of Squarespace. You are restricted to exporting only 2000 physical or services products, and you cannot export digital goods. So for those looking to grow their business beyond a certain product type or have a huge product inventory, this can be a problem.

Not so with Shopify. It allows product import and export with no limitations, and for large volume uploads of digital goods, you can use a third-party app like FetchApp.

Security and Payment features

Both platforms include SSL certificates and secured payments, but Shopify offers a lot more options with third-party Payment Gateways.

The e-Commerce giant offers 100 payment options that include Amazon Pay and Google Pay, but it does charge transaction fees (0.5%-2% depending on your plan) and credit card fees. 

Squarespace, by contrast, does not charge transaction fees in its Basic or Advanced Commerce plans but charges a 3% transaction fee in its Business Plan. It only supports Paypal, Apple Pay, and Stripe.

Both Shopify and Squarespace are closed systems, so they are tightly controlled when it comes to third-party installments. Shopify has built-in security features for Shopify Payments and Squarespace protects transactions with Stripe.

When considering your payment options, Squarespace is cost-effective if you plan to use one of the three payment options it offers AND you are using one of its Commerce Plans. 

Multi-Store Setup

Overall, Shopify is better suited if you are thinking about branching out to other countries. It is a multi-channel platform, which means you can sell on hundreds of channels including Amazon, Facebook, or Instagram.

It has a strong point-of-sales feature included in all Shopify plans, but an additional  $89 per month is required to use multi-location selling or unlimited staff accountants.

With Shopify, you can also purchase in multiple currencies. It makes it much easier for your global customers to let them choose their own currency. You can use either Debut or Brooklyn themes to display goods in multiple currencies. 

In Squarespace, we don’t have a multi-currency setup. And Although it lets you sell on Facebook and Instagram, Shopify lets you embed a “buy button” to buy directly from their site when selling on other platforms.

Bottom-Line

Shopify is an ideal platform for any business looking to scale without hiccups. The variety of apps and plugins allows you to add features as your needs change. Its basic plan ($29) also has the core features necessary to make your online business a success.

Squarespace cannot match Shopify in scalability, but it’s a great alternative if you want a great-looking content-driven website, or if you have a small business and on a tight budget. If you want the same comprehensive features you get with Shopify’s Basic Plan, you’ll have to sign up for Squarespace’s Advanced Commerce Plan, which costs more.

 

 

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