You’ve decided you’re ready to start your eCommerce business. Or, maybe you’re expanding your brick & mortar business onto the web. Or, maybe you just need to refresh your current eCommerce presence.
Either way, now you need to select a platform to run your eCommerce site on. Two of the most recognized names in building websites will likely boil to the top: Shopify and Squarespace.
This post will dive into their similarities and differences to help you make an educated decision about which is best for you.
Shopify vs. Squarespace Comparison Criteria
There are a lot of ways to slice and dice a comparison between two technology platforms. Here are the comparison criteria this post will dive into:
- Feature Set
- Integration Capability
- Feedback from the Web
In the interest of disclosure, nChannel is a Shopify partner. However, this post will evaluate each platform fairly, laying out what you need to consider to make the best decision for you. Our partnership will have no bearing on the content.
Shopify vs. Squarespace: Feature Set
Shopify and Squarespace have a lot of overlap, in terms of features. But, there are a few aspects of each that separate them.
Both platforms offer a template library where you can select pre-designed starting points for your website. Both platforms also offer reasonable levels of customization to these templates, without having to write code. This makes it easier to get started with your eCommerce store without having to hire a web developer.
Shopify and Squarespace are both very mobile friendly. Themes use responsive design or other modern mobile-friendly strategies, and both platforms include features that enable you to make sure people can buy your products on the web.
Both include blogging features that help you utilize an inbound marketing strategy to draw visitors to your web store. If you aren’t already on board with this idea, definitely check out this article about why inbound marketing is effective for eCommerce sites.
Search engine optimization should be a big part of you eCommerce strategy, and both platforms include tools to help you optimize your webstore for search engines. Specifically, these features help you with on-page optimization, like setting appropriate headers and titles.
Both platforms offer native integrations to important analytics platforms, like Google Analytics. They also provide some native reporting capabilities, as well, to help you understand how to sell more products.
Some other common features are:
- Shipping integrations and calculated shipping rates
- Inventory management tools
- Cloud-hosted (you don’t need to set up or pay for your own infrastructure)
- Integration with major social networks
For a complete list of features, straight from the horses’ mouths: Shopify Features and Squarespace Features.
Shopify Only Features
Shopify is built do be a dedicated eCommerce platform, which is different from Squarespace (more on that later). Therefore, it touts some features that are unique to the platform.
- Integrated Shopify-Facebook store functionality… If this sounds intriguing, read this first.
- Much more robust payment gateway options
- Huge library of community-developed plugins to customize your store functionality
- 24/7 phone support (Squarespace doesn’t offer phone support)
- Open-source architecture, including a proprietary template language for customization, called Liquid
- Large and growing community of certified Shopify experts
Squarespace Only Features
Squarespace is a little bit of a different beast. Unlike Shopify, Squarespace is technically considered a web content management system. In other words it was a platform built to host websites, not just eCommerce sites. eCommerce stores are just part of their customer base.
Depending on your business, this could be a good thing or a bad thing. If you’re looking strictly for robust eCommerce functionality, Squarespace will probably not go as deep as Shopify. But, many businesses rely on some of these Squarespace specific features, and what they give up by not choosing Shopify is negligible.
- More robust native social integration (including Google+, Foursquare, 500px, Vimeo, SoundCloud, and the list goes on)
- An exceptionally functional style editor
- Full web content management functionality for handling the non-eCommerce parts of your site
- Free Typekit fonts and a discount when using Getty Images
Shopify vs. Squarespace: Pricing
Pricing definitely sets these two platforms apart. As of the time of this article’s writing, Shopify’s pricing, ranging from $29/month to $179/month, is definitely higher:
Versus Squarespace’s pricing, ranging from $8/month to $26/month:
While neither platform is a huge drain on the bank account, Squarespace’s pricing may be more suited to the eCommerce hobbyist, who doesn’t anticipate enough sales volume to justify the higher costs of Shopify.
One other important pricing consideration is transaction fees. These aren’t hidden, per se, but they are in addition to the monthly platform costs, and you’ll need to plan for them.
Squarespace integrates with Stripe for payment processing and Stripe’s transaction fees are 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction, at the time of this writing. Squarespace itself does not charge any additional transaction fees on top of your monthly payment.
Shopify is a little more flexible. If you use Shopify Payments, your transaction fees will range from 2.4% to 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction, depending on your plan. Optionally, you can integrate with third-party payment gateways like Stripe, Paypal, Authorize.Net, and more. Your transaction fees will vary, depending on each service offering.
Shopify vs. Squarespace: Integration Capability
Both Shopify and Squarespace have some impressive integration capabilities, but they are very different in nature.
Shopify has a huge library of integrations, because of the plugin marketplace (they call it an App Store). These plugins, which are usually developed by the vendor of the integrated solution, include things like:
- Social network and community management platforms
- Analytics and reporting systems
- Accounting systems and ERPs
- Shipping, inventory, and order management systems
Squarespace doesn’t have the same kind of “app store” for integrations, but it offers quite a few native ones. Some of the notable ones include:
- Video platforms like Vimeo and YouTube
- Image platforms like 500px and Flickr
- Restaurant platforms like OpenTable and Yelp!
- Audio platforms like SoundCloud
Notice a pattern here? Shopify’s integrations are very eCommerce focused and Squarespace’s tend to drift into very specific business use cases (e.g. a restaurant).
For example, if you’re restaurant who wants to sell merchandise online, in addition to your typical web presence, Squarespace is appealing. If you’re a rock band who wants to sell merchandise online, next to your tour dates and photo library, Squarespace is appealing. On the other hand, Shopify (and the integrations it provides) tends to be more suitable for a dedicated eCommerce site.
Integration can be really powerful, but it can also get merchants into some trouble as they grow. Using plugins and native integrations to set up point-to-point integrations is fine, until your business scales. As you add more channels (perhaps Amazon or a new brick & mortar store), those point-to-point integrations make it difficult/impossible to tie all your systems together.
Check out this blog post, where we cover these complexities in more detail.
Shopify vs. Squarespace: Feedback
When evaluating two platforms, where better to look for information than from those who use the platforms?
This Quora discussion includes some helpful quotes about this comparison. Jason Barone, Founder at SquareFront says:
The number one thing Shopify has that Squarespace doesn’t is integrations with applications and services that are crucial to many ecommerce websites…
Squarespace Commerce is absolutely the easiest way to build a store because of the incredibly intuitive interface and back end.
Wayne Haye says:
Squarespace looks very pretty, I think it is perfect for artists and quick slick designs, however only a start into ecommerce. Shopify is a bit more comprehensive with several templates and many integrations available with its world of plugins/appsbuilt around their strong API.
G2Crowd is another great place to look for feedback, because it’s a site specifically built to compare technology platforms. They crowdsource reviews from actual platform users, so the feedback is candid. Both Shopify and Squarespace are represented, but there’s a caveat (back to that later).
Shopify has a 4.3 out of 5 star rating, from 36 reviews, with quotes like:
Shopify is my #1 recommended eCommerce solution for any online merchant that doesn’t require an extensive amount of external system integrations and/or doesn’t have a catalog of more than 10k SKUs.
Squarespace has a 4.6 out of 5 star rating, from 8 reviews, and quotes like:
Squarespace makes gorgeous websites, it’s as simple as that…the emphasis on design is evident.
(Both of these ratings are as of the time of this writing.)
But, here’s what you have to keep in mind with the G2Crowd feedback. You can’t directly compare Shopify and Squarespace, because they are listed as different types of software. Shopify is listed as an eCommerce platform and Squarespace as a web content management platform.
Remember, even though they share a lot of functionality, you are kind of making an apples-to-oranges comparison. (Or at least an apple-to-grapple comparison.)
The feedback on G2Crowd about each platform roughly matches that of this article, but I encourage you to read them both, in depth.
Which one is best?
Most people would take the easy way out here. “It depends on what’s right for you business.” I’m sure I’ve taken that easy way out before, too.
This time I’m going to recommend that Shopify is probably best for you. In terms of eCommerce functionality it’s just simply more robust, and the pricing just isn’t that much higher. It also touts a better community of plugins and developers to help you reach your goals. I would start with investigating Shopify until you are proven otherwise.
However, for certain niches, where eCommerce isn’t necessarily the primary function, Squarespace will be your better bet. Remember examples like the restaurant or the rock band? Those are excellent use cases for Squarespace. If that’s you, start there.
If you’re comparing more than just Shopify and Squarespace, check out these other articles:
Initially I thought that squarespace would be better from me, but a year in, I realized I really needed the advanced features that shopify offered. So I migrated. The only hitch was exporting your inventory… that wasn’t easy at the time, but it looks like there is a chrome extension to help with that now (http://export-squarespace-products.com). Good luck!