As you set up your ecommerce business, you want to ensure you have the best website platform. With countless companies focusing on their online store, you have a lot of competition. How can you make sure your ecommerce business can hold its own?
When you are selling online, a lot of marketing relies on your website, how easy it is to use, and what tools are available for online shopping. On your end, you also want the platform to be comprehensive and easy to use.
For years, one of the top ecommerce platforms has been Shopify. As the industry evolves, other website builders, like Squarespace, are giving Shopify some competition. So, which platform is the best for ecommerce businesses?
Designing Your Ecommerce Website: Which Builder is More Flexible?
Most people who are starting their own business or running an ecommerce site are not technology professionals – and they don’t have to be! With the right website builder, anyone can set up a beautiful website.
As you consider which website builder to choose, it’s essential to think about each option’s original purpose. Squarespace’s priority is to provide you with a stunning website that attracts clients. On the other hand, Shopify focuses more on the logistics behind the aesthetics.
These distinct purposes directly affect your journey of designing a website.
As Squarespace focuses on looks, it is quite easy to manipulate and create that website layout of your dreams.
You can add each segment as a block, and the drag-and-drop editor lets you put it exactly where you want it. There are numerous blocks to choose from, including charts, menus, and buttons. Select the layout and rearrange the blocks easily, or choose a design from Squarespace if you aren’t sure where to start.
Additionally, Squarespace lets you change virtually any aspect of the site. If you want to change the color or font of the text, you can do so simply. You can edit the templates until your website looks just as you imagined.
Shopify takes a different direction to set up your website. It recently introduced sections to give you more liberty when designing your site. However, your ability to move individual objects and completely adjust the page layout is limited.
You might not be able to change each aspect of the page, as some things – like personalizing the font – require you to edit the CSS code. If you aren’t familiar with how to do that or are afraid of accidentally making a mistake, you’ll have to settle with the templates Shopify offers upfront.
If you are looking for a website builder that will give you the website you envisioned, it may be hard to do that with Shopify. Also, some of the themes that Shopify offers cost extra, which may put a damper on designing your page.
A considerable part of marketing a product has to do with its visual appeal. While Shopify does focus more on the logistics of selling a product, you don’t want to jeopardize sales because of the visual aspects. Squarespace makes designing your ideal website for your product easy and ensures it looks just how you want.
Features and Tools: Who Has More?
The different focuses of the website builders become quite evident when you look at the available features. While they both offer a wealth of tools for their users, each prioritizes different factors.
Squarespace prides itself on being a platform for all types of websites. As such, many of the features offered concentrate on visual appeal and general needs.
By using Squarespace, you have access to social media integration, event planning, page restorations, and email campaigns. For blogs, you have the block editor, Google author rank, RSS blocks, and workflow settings. Furthermore, Squarespace offers simultaneous posting, synchronization with Dropbox, and secure connection to third-party sources like Google Analytics and Amazon.
Nevertheless, Squarespace still offers numerous features for your ecommerce site. For example, there is no limit to the number of products you can sell, and you can choose from templates created explicitly for selling products. You will also have access to commerce analytics, 3D packing algorithms, calculated shipping rates, inventory management, and checkout page directly on your domain.
Squarespace helps you manage the tax rates in different regions, create discounts, customize the checkout, and even offer express checkout. You can accept various payment methods and currencies, allowing you to build your client base.
While Shopify does offer a blogging platform, the majority of its features focus on selling your products.
Shopify helps you manage order fulfillment, refunds, email campaigns, and customer profiles. They also offer Shopify Mobile, dropshipping, and up to 70 payment gateways.
There are numerous business features, like the invoice generator, business card maker, and pay stub generator. Shopify will also give you a template for your terms and conditions, gift cards, purchase orders, refund policies, and business loans. Additionally, you can calculate your profit margins, discounts, and CPM.
While Squarespace offers plenty of features for multiple website types, Shopify has all the tools that an ecommerce business needs. Since Shopify focuses almost exclusively on selling products (and things like blogging come second), it offers what you need to sell your product easily and efficiently.
Ease of Use: Which is More User-Friendly?
Excellent design capabilities like Squarespace or extensive ecommerce tools like Shopify are fantastic selling points individually. However, if they are challenging to use, it makes them a null point.
Squarespace won the design category, but having so many options for design and creativity can backfire. While the drag-and-drop design is easy to manage, the variety of options can get confusing. There is no clear description of how to get started, and you will have to do some experimenting to become comfortable with the platform.
The product description window on Squarespace also lacks streamlining. You can tell that the platform isn’t entirely focused on sales, as it requires you to input repetitive information. Nevertheless, you can edit products to include SEO information like metadata.
Shopify’s layout prioritizes getting your product sold. As such, it is easy to use, and the process is comprehensive. There are fewer options with Shopify, which makes the whole process simpler. Additionally, it walks you through each step, so you know just what you need to do.
This platform also uses a drag-and-drop editor but in a more straightforward way. It is easy to understand the hierarchy of the pages and text, and creating product descriptions is very simple.
Squarespace is an excellent option for people who are more comfortable with web design or who specifically want the extensive design options it offers. However, Shopify easily wins this category as it makes the whole setup process extremely easy to complete for business owners of all computing levels.
Pricing Options: Which is More Cost-Effective?
A website builder can offer numerous features, but at the end of the day, a huge factor is the price of each platform’s plans. Which plan can you afford? Are you getting enough value for your dollar?
Both Squarespace and Shopify offer various types of plans. The good news is that if you aren’t sure which website builder you would like to choose, you can try both of them free for 14 days. While other companies require credit card information to start the trial, both of these options don’t ask for any payment information.
Once you’ve explored each website builder and taken advantage of the free trials, it’s time to choose your plan.
Squarespace offers four plans for both bloggers and ecommerce businesses with no hidden fees.
- Personal Plan: As the cheapest plan, it doesn’t offer any ecommerce options. This plan is an excellent option for your personal website or blogging page.
- Business Plan: This is the first plan that offers ecommerce tools. At $18 a month, it includes premium blocks, appointment booking, and CSS customization. The one downside is that it does have a 3% transaction fee.
- Basic Commerce Plan: By upgrading to this plan, you can avoid the transaction fees and have access to more tools. The Basic Commerce Plan allows you to sell both physical and digital products, track your inventory, and have POS support. You can also have the checkout page on your own domain. This plan is ideal for people starting a business or looking to grow their small business.
- Advanced Commerce Plan: For small to medium-sized web stores, this plan will give you the Abandoned Card Recovery option and allow you to sell subscription-based products.
Annual Savings for Squarespace
|Month-to-Month Payments||Annual Payments per Month||% Savings|
|Basic Commerce Plan||$36||$26||28%|
|Advanced Commerce Plan||$46||$40||13%|
Shopify offers three general plans, with two additional options for more unique cases.
The cheapest plan is not for a website builder, but for embedded links that you can use on Facebook applications. This option, called Shopify Lite, costs $9 per month.
For website-specific work, you’ll want to choose between the four other options available.
- Basic Shopify: As the cheapest plan for a website, this option is perfect for new business owners. It offers an unlimited amount of products and the “Abandoned Cart Recovery” tool. While it does not include the Gift Card feature, you can add it to your site with an additional app.
- Shopify: For an additional $50, you can opt for the general Shopify plan, designed for a growing business. A vital feature of this option is the professional reports about your website and its performance. However, it may not be worth the extra money if you have Google Analytics, which offers in-depth reports for free.
- Advanced Shopify: If you are looking to scale your business, Advanced Shopify might be the way to go. It provides good shipping options and a customized report.
- Shopify Plus: As the most expensive plan, Shopify Plus is for large enterprises. The price starts at $2,000, and the plan comes with a high-quality support team, and your developers can access the Shopify system.
While there is a 10% when choosing an annual plan, Shopify has added fees for specific features that can be frustrating. If you don’t set up Shopify Payments (which isn’t available in all countries), there is another extra cost. Furthermore, there is a high fee for using a credit card online.
Fees for Shopify
|Monthly Fees||Online Credit Card Fees||Transaction Fees for Not Using Shopify Payments|
|Basic Shopify||$29||2.9% + $0.03||2%|
|Shopify||$79||2.6% + $0.03||1%|
|Advanced Shopify||$299||2.4% + $0.03||0.5%|
|Shopify Plus||$2,000 +||Request information||Request information|
While the Shopify plans offer more tools for businesses, the prices are very steep. With the added fees, the value for the price just doesn’t measure up to the competitive rates and useful tools that the Squarespace plans offer.
Shipping Options: Who Does It Best?
Speaking of prices, how does each platform consider shipping rates? This can get complicated with the vast differences in shipping rates around the world and with different companies. You want a website builder that can help you manage the complex world of shipping.
Squarespace enables you to decide your shipping rates depending on various factors, such as weight or a flat rate. The Advanced Commerce Plan lets you calculate the prices based on different shipping companies, like FedEx.
Shopify’s shipping options are very comparable to Squarespace. There are two main differences, though. The Advanced Plan with Shopify (which has the best shipping options) costs over $200 more per month. The other thing is that Shopify offers numerous shipping apps, which can be confusing.
Both platforms have very similar shipping options, but Squarespace wins this round due to the incredibly low prices for advanced shipping options.
Mobile Management: Is It an Option?
Running an ecommerce business is a non-stop job. You need to be able to edit your site and manage orders on the go, even when you don’t have access to your laptop.
Ensuring you can supervise crucial areas of your business on your phone or tablet could be a deciding factor when choosing between Squarespace and Shopify.
Squarespace offers various apps to manage each aspect of your business. Your options are the general Squarespace App for changing pages and sites, the Analytics App to monitor the traffic, and the Commerce App to handle shipping and inventory.
While these apps are very comprehensive, it can be frustrating to download three different apps from the same business to handle one website.
Shopify consolidates those three applications into one comprehensive application called the Shopify App. With this tool, you can manage your webpage, inventory, orders, products, and traffic. What Squarespace split into multiple apps, Shopify consolidates into one.
Both website builders offer fantastic mobile options, but Shopify is the slightly better option because it provides all management capabilities in one application, not three like Squarespace.
Marketing Capabilities: How Do They Compare?
Setting up a beautiful, functional website is just the beginning. How will you bring in new clients and retain the ones you have?
Marketing is multifaceted, so let’s look at how each platform performs in email campaigns, blogging, and social media integration.
As previously mentioned, Squarespace offers email campaigns to keep your clients updated on your latest products and sales. The one downside is that you will have to pay $8 per month after your free trial.
Blogging helps inform your client base and bring in new customers by using keywords. While it is not necessarily the focal point of marketing, it can help. Since Squarespace’s initial design was a blogging platform, it offers extensive features for blogging, such as a search bar and analytics.
Squarespace does let you integrate social media, but only Instagram and Facebook. These platforms are a great place to start, but it does limit you some if you want to expand your business over multiple social media platforms.
Shopify doesn’t offer the same type of email campaigns as Squarespace directly on its platform. If you would like the same kind of capabilities, you would have to use outside apps, like Omnisend or Privy.
Blogs aren’t quite as crucial to Shopify, but the platform does offer blog pages, just without the added features that Squarespace has.
In contrast to Squarespace, Shopify looks more at the big picture of sales. Therefore, it offers social media integration on numerous platforms to expand your clientele and generate more business.
This decision was a close one, but Squarespace takes the win because it offers all three types of marketing without external applications. While Shopify does have more social media options, it falls short on the blogging features and email campaign options within the platform.
SEO: Which is Better for Optimization?
Managing an ecommerce business requires some management of search engine optimization (SEO). Unless you already have a large client base, working on SEO as part of your marketing plan is how you increase your organic traffic.
Unfortunately, using a platform like Squarespace or Shopify does not necessarily make that optimization easy.
We’ve already talked about how Squarespace emphasizes a sleek, beautiful website. Unfortunately, though, while it may look fantastic, the visual aspects can hinder the SEO.
Headings aren’t necessarily the most appealing aspect of a website, so Squarespace doesn’t offer titles on all its templates to create more attractive sites. However, headings are vital to improving SEO. They help Google understand the hierarchy of your website, and using keywords in the titles help you rank higher. So, not being able to use headings and subheadings to establish hierarchy can hurt your SEO.
Similarly, several of the Squarespace templates are out of date. They still look great, but the older setup (which doesn’t offer headings) causes specific sites to rate lower. Additionally, the speed of the sites isn’t fantastic, but it isn’t horrible either. The speed is just average. Since Google analyzes all aspects of the site, including the speed, they can all affect your website’s ranking.
On the other hand, there is a positive side to Squarespaces’s SEO potential. The platform does a lot of the heavy work for you, taking care of things like the SSL certificate and the sitemap. For those of you who aren’t sure how to do these more complicated steps, Squarespace is a good option.
Instead of using plugins or walking you through the steps on the website, Squarespace embeds these tools on the platform, and you don’t have to worry about them.
One of the best ways to improve your site’s SEO is creating content with new keywords. Since Shopify focuses on selling objects, writing blogs to provide more content is not the easiest.
Furthermore, because selling objects is a more visual game, there aren’t many options for headings and subheadings. Both Shopify and Squarespace share this problem. Most ecommerce platforms will struggle with this because their emphasis is on selling and visual appeal.
Another problem with Shopify’s SEO is the way they write their URLs. Google needs simple URLs that explain the site’s organization and are straightforward. However, Shopify has lengthy, confusing URLs with mandatory terms that interrupt the hierarchy.
Nevertheless, Shopify offers lightweight templates to improve the speed and help you rank higher. Additionally, like Squarespace, the platform comes with most of the SEO features already embedded.
Verdict: It’s a Tie
Both platforms offer maximum support to their users by doing a lot of hard work for SEO. Since they are website builders and focused on things other than SEO, they are somewhat difficult to manipulate to improve the search rankings. The pros and cons are quite similar for both platforms, so we give them an equal score.
Available Support: Who Has Better Customer Support?
When working with technology, there’s a lot that can potentially go wrong. This thought can be intimidating when you are creating a business entirely online. However, with a capable support team provided by the website builder can put your mind at ease.
Even though Squarespace doesn’t offer 24/7 live assistance, it does give you several other resources. During the working week, they provide you with live chat support from 4 am to 8 pm Eastern Standard Time.
If you have an issue on the weekend, you can either wait until Monday to talk to a representative or use the community forums on their site. Once in the forum, you can search for your specific question or scroll through numerous categories and choose one that best fits your inquiry.
While you may have to wait for a reply from a Squarespace employee if you have issues overnight or on the weekends, they will respond promptly and professionally when they receive your message.
Shopify offers one of the best support systems of all website builders as it provides help via phone, email, and chat 24/7. There is no waiting time or any need to explore forums because you have the employees’ expertise at your fingertips whenever you need it.
If you choose to go with the Shopify Plus plan, you get the added support of a personal team dedicated to helping your business. Another option for extended support is hiring a Shopify Expert to do the heavy work for you.
The clear winner in this category is Shopify, as it has just about every support system you can imagine. However, that does not mean that Squarespace doesn’t offer sufficient support. Both options are very comprehensive, professional, and helpful. Shopify just takes customer service to a new level.
Our Decision: Overall Ecommerce Performance
When choosing a winner for an overall ecommerce website builder, we need to look at all of the above areas. Ecommerce encompasses numerous areas of a website, so we need to look at the big picture.
Below, you’ll find a chart with the scores from each category for Squarespace and Shopify with a final ecommerce average at the bottom.
|Features and Tools||9/10||10/10|
|Designing Your Site||10/10||9/10|
|Ease of Use||9/10||10/10|
|Help and Support||9/10||10/10|
|Overall Ecommerce Score||9.2/10||9.1/10|
As you can see, this is an extremely close competition. One of the main reasons that Squarespace took a slight lead over Shopify is because it offers a lot of features in its platform for less money.
While Shopify does have an app store where you can find extensions for all your needs, these often come at an added price, and it is more difficult to manage numerous apps on top of the website builder.
Who Should Use Squarespace?
Squarespace is an ideal choice for businesses just getting started or on a smaller size. The affordable prices and comprehensive marketing options give you everything you need in one place to establish your company online.
Who Should Use Shopify?
With the steeper prices and extreme focus on commerce, Shopify is a terrific option for pre-existing companies or ones that are growing substantially. The straightforward design and numerous features geared towards business will make scaling your company easy.
Overall, the affordability and extensive features of Squarespace give it a slight lead over Shopify, but make sure to choose a website builder that provides what you and your company need.