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Shopify vs. SquareSpace: Know the Big Differences Between the Two

Shopify is one of the most popular e-commerce platforms to choose from and literally millions of users rely on it year after year for their online business or physical store. But if you’re examining Shopify vs. SquareSpace, you may wonder what the difference is between these two platforms, and if one is better suited for your business than the other.

On the surface, the two companies have numerous similarities. Both Shopify and SquareSpace allow you to create a website from scratch. You can sell products with both platforms. Both allow you to use templates so you do not have to rely on any coding skills to get started and fuel your online dreams. If you have zero experience with starting from scratch, both platforms will walk you through it step by step.

But the differences between the two are substantial enough to warrant a decision on your part. Is Shopify vs. SquareSpace an easy question to answer? Is SquareSpace the better choice for certain merchants? Let’s take a closer look at the two and find out for ourselves.

How Shopify works for business owners

Shopify is a commerce platform that allows you, the merchant, to set up a business and execute multiple shipping, marketing, and selling tasks all from within the same service. With Shopify, you can sell and showcase products, but also manage everyday items to make your business run. 

Shopify offers multiple services, but specializes in five core products:

  • Templates to create the look and feel of your specific store
  • Tools that allow you to sell both online and in-person
  • Integrated payment processing that accept a wide variety of payments across the globe
  • High-conversion checkout process
  • Marketing and SEO tools that allow you to “rank” higher with search engines

In addition to these core products, Shopify has an app store for you to further customize your business experience. 

These apps cover almost every possible aspect to help your business run more efficiently or to market your business. From social media management, to store design, or building landing pages to attract customers. If you can dream it, chances are there is an app in the Shopify app store to help you realize it. These third-party apps are easy to install and many of them are free or cost very little.

Essential features of Shopify

The features of Shopify are what make it such a giant in the commerce platform space. The list of functions of Shopify is quite long, including:

  • Web hosting: With shopify, you can create an online store which includes web pages, a blog, and all the tools for selling products. 
  • Themes: Shopify offers over 70 themes for you to choose from, for you to set up your business basically “out of the box” as soon as you sign up. These themes use templates to make it as simple as possible to build your store and site.
  • The POS Lite plan: For those of you who need a point-of-sale option, Shopify offers an app for your in-store, brick-and-mortar sales. This is a free add-on and you simply have to register your store to connect the two. 
  • Payment processing: Shopify offers over 100 payment gateways, which allows you to accept all major payment methods and receive payment from 133 different currencies.
  • Marketing tools: Shopify offers an entire marketing platform to reach as many customers as possible, including running Facebook and Google ad campaigns. These tools also feature all the analytics you need to determine if your marketing is working.  
  • Shipping features: From arranging pickup with carriers to creating scan forms, Shopify offers a wide range of options to complete your shipping tasks. 
  • 24/7 customer support.

You can view Shopify as a “shop in a box” type of product. Everything you need to run a store, both online and/or a brick and mortar location, is available to you to get started.

How does SquareSpace work?

Now that you know how Shopify works, let’s look at SquareSpace and what it offers for business owners. Whether you have zero technical knowledge, or like to add coding to create the exact look and feel for your website, SquareSpace gives you the tools to make your site come to life.

Although SquareSpace began solely as a website design company, it has now morphed into an online commerce platform similar to Shopify that provides several tools for running a business — in addition to creating your own website. These tools include everything from content creation and management, to shipping, to analytics to creating custom product forms. 

Features of SquareSpace

SquareSpace has numerous benefits to users, including:

  • Full website design: Use the website builder or customizable templates to create the website of your dreams. You can build a website based on the type of business you are starting, or customize the exact layout you want. 
  • Add a wide range of content: If you want to add more to your website besides products, SquareSpace offers you the ability to add blogs, photographs, videos, newsletters, and almost any other type of media and content to your site. 
  • Design tools and design panel: If you have a specific design or look you’re trying to accomplish, SquareSpace allows you to create banners and other special features to your site to achieve the look you want.
  • Sell products and digital content in one place. You can also sell subscription programs and your own services.
  • Extensions: Extensions for your site are available for tasks such as bookkeeping, shipping, inventory management, and promoting products across your multiple sales channels.
  • 24/7 customer support.

These features are a tip of the iceberg for what SquareSpace offers. A large amount of the features are there to enhance your website and content. But with SquareSpace, if you do need other functions, such as shipping services, then you have to add extensions.

Pricing plans for Shopify vs. SquareSpace

Expenses are a real concern for business owners, and rightly so. You want to focus on getting your store and website up and running, without spending a small fortune. 

SquareSpace offers several different pricing options as well, and each one builds upon the other as far as features. 

The prices are reduced 30% if you bill your service annually, as opposed to each month. Here is the pricing breakdown for an annual plan with SquareSpace:

  • Business: For $18 per month, you have access to the SquareSpace Business plan. This gives you a free custom domain name, unlimited storage, SEO tools, templates, and you can sell an unlimited number of products. 
  • Basic Commerce: The Basic Commerce package is $26 per month, and includes all the features of the Business plan. However, you also pay 0% in transaction fees (it’s a 3% fee with Business only), point-of-sale app to sell in person, and the ability to sell on Instagram, plus other features. 
  • Advanced Commerce: The Advanced Commerce package is $40 per month, and gives you access to all features and benefits of the SquareSpace commerce platform. The additional features include automatically calculating shipping rates, automatic emails for abandoned shopping carts, and several other features. 

Shopify offers three pricing plans, with each of them tailored to the size of your business and level of need.

  • Basic Shopify: The basic Shopify plan is $29 per month and ideal for those just starting out. While this plan is less expensive and meant to be affordable, you do have higher transaction fees, which could end up costing you more in the long run. 
  • Shopify: The mid-range plan for Shopify users is $79 per month and is designed for growing businesses. This plan gives you all the features of the basic, but you have access to detailed analytics, more competitive shipping costs, and you spend less in transaction fees.  
  • Advanced Shopify: If you’re a larger e-commerce store then you may need the Advanced plan, which is $299 per month. Naturally, the number of features increase, such as being able to add up to 15 staff accounts, integrating your own shipping company, and paying the lowest amount of transaction fees versus the other plans. 

Which is best for your business, Shopify or SquareSpace?

When it comes to deciding which platform is right for you, the first question you should ask yourself is what your main focus is. If it is to sell as many products to as many people across the globe as possible, then Shopify would be your best choice. Shopify’s main focus is to sell products, both online and in-store, while offering a wide range of payment options. 

If your goal is to sell products, then Shopify is the obvious choice.

However, if your goal is to create a beautiful website that draws people in and then you proceed to sell them a product, SquareSpace may be the better choice. SquareSpace gives you the tools to design a site first, and then add products later. For instance with SquareSpace, you can showcase your services or portfolio in an eye-catching way, and then add a feature for someone to book your time or service. 

Both products offer competitive pricing and a long list of features for you to take advantage of. But SquareSpace is less expensive per month, which is important if you are on a restricted budget. 

Ultimately, it comes down to your main focus for your business, and what platforms gives you the exact tools you need to see your business succeed. 

Sara Coleman (Content Contributor), March 26, 2021 Share this article

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