If you’re a business owner, you know that you need a really great ecommerce site that can reel in customers with its good looks and superb functionality. But with countless options for really fantastic website builders out there, how could you ever choose the best for your business? Well, we’ve narrowed it down to two of the best — Shopify and Squarespace — to get your search started.
At first glance, the battle of Squarespace versus Shopify appears to be a pretty uneven matchup. In one corner, you’ve got Shopify with its powerful ecommerce tools, ready to get down to business. And in the other corner is Squarespace, dazzling visitors with its flashier and fancier aesthetic, but less focused on ecommerce.
Given its name alone, it’s clear that Shopify was designed from its very core to be used for setting up shop. You’d think that this would make it the hands-down winner when it comes to ecommerce website building, but Squarespace does give Shopify a run for its money, especially for those who intend to run a small online business. When you really dig into their features, you’ll find that Squarespace has seriously stepped up their ecommerce game in recent years, making this a pretty fair fight between the two website builders.
But before we dig into their strengths and weaknesses, let’s take a quick look at what Shopify and Squarespace have in common:
One realm, in particular, where both website builders equally excel is security. That’s obviously something you want in your online shop, not only for your own peace of mind, but for building trust with your customers as well. Both Shopify and Squarespace feature SSL certificates in all plans. (That’s the Secure Sockets Layer that encrypts your site, letting visitors know it’s safe for browsing and buying.) Plus, both are closed systems run by their own developers so you can trust they’re keeping a really close eye on any potentially nefarious mischief.
Both Shopify and Squarespace are also praised for their awesome customer service. Timely, helpful, and overall easy to reach, you can rest assured that you’ll have some great support behind you and your online business, regardless of which site builder you choose. Both also offer some nice on-site resources, including how-to videos, FAQs, and tutorials to offer a hand without directly reaching out.
Also, neither Shopify nor Squarespace requires you to be a tech wizard to get your site up, running, and looking really great. Although, they do both offer the ability to play around with HTML and CSS if coding does happen to be your thing.
So, while the two main differences between the website builders are how they look and how they handle ecommerce, it really all comes down to what matters most to you and your customers, and how you want your products to be on display. That said, let’s dive in and see exactly which ecommerce website builder is the right choice for your online store.
Where Shopify wins: Better apps, SEO, and payment processing
If you want to set up a full-fledged, fast-loading shop for your business, you really can’t go wrong with Shopify. They offer an impressive number of flexible and scalable ecommerce tools that are ideal for online stores of any size, but are especially suited to handle big inventories. In fact, several large, recognisable names in ecommerce are powered by Shopify, including Lindt and Heinz. Granted, these big brands utilise the more enhanced (and far more expensive) Shopify Plus, but it just goes to show that Shopify absolutely has the tools to run a super successful online store, and you may just need to seamlessly upgrade to the added capabilities of the Plus platform in the future.
But before you get ahead of yourself, even the most basic Shopify plan is well-equipped to get your online business up and running with great success. Shopify also offers a lot of extra ecommerce features in the form of both free and paid apps. Some of these apps are even built by Shopify themselves, so you don’t have to worry about poor third-party integration messing up your style. But seriously, their app store has pretty much anything you can think of (and tons more functionality that wouldn’t even cross your mind) to help an ecommerce site or dropshipping business thrive. This really shouldn’t come as any surprise, though, as it’s literally what the platform was made to do.
Simply logging in to Shopify makes it clear that the platform puts your business front and centre. You’ll immediately be greeted with crucial info like your store’s inventory, analytics, and other need-to-know elements. Beyond this, Shopify provides robust analytics tools, including revenue reports and stock monitoring emails to help you keep a close eye on inventory demands.
Shopify allows shoppers to zoom in on product pictures and easily view product videos alongside them. You can also add external apps to include customer reviews, photo galleries, and even Augmented Reality that’ll help your potential customers see your products in their own home.
Shopify’s search engine optimisation (SEO) tools are also really great, so you can trust that your site will pull in visitors from Google, Bing, and whichever other search engines people are using to find content these days. They even serve up best-practice prompts when you add to your inventory, and there are plenty of apps to help boost your SEO and get your products in front of the people who want to buy them.
Shopify also shines with comprehensive payment options for your customers, including credit card payments, PayPal, Apple Pay, and even offline payments and sales through all the top social media platforms. They also have their own versatile retail POS and payment gateway — Shopify Payments — and lots of paid apps to integrate advanced shipping options, if needed.
Where Shopify falls short: Fewer templates and blogging not included
Shopify’s ecommerce functionality is undeniably robust, but it’s also vitally important for your online shop to look good so that it can attract customers. That said, Shopify only has ten free themes to choose from, so there isn’t a ton of design flexibility straight out of the gate. There are dozens of premium themes that are more visually appealing, but you will have to pay for them.
Once you have a template you like, you can make it your own in Shopify’s WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) page editor. It’s pretty straightforward to use, but it can require a little coding knowledge to tweak it just right. A WYSIWYG editor is similar to Microsoft Word in that the functions look generally the same. Also, it allows you to immediately see your changes in the editor as they will appear on your live site, but you won’t see the source code unless you switch to the Rich Text Editor. This can make it trickier to create a really robust layout without a lot of coding knowledge, and the act of moving elements doesn’t always occur as smoothly as you’d hope. Overall, you’re not given a ton of freedom to build really impressive pages, though the editor is very simple to use at its core. On the plus side, however, the Shopify app store does include some page builders that can give you the ability to drag and drop elements, but it’s unfortunate that users have to seek that functionality out on their own.
We’ve also got some bad news for bloggers. If you want to add blogging functionality to your Shopify site, you’ll need to tack on a paid app to do so. This is somewhat unfortunate, as adding a blog to your business can really boost your shop’s credibility and bring in more awareness and interest for the products you have on sale. Not to mention the fact that you’re already paying a premium (Shopify’s plans range from around £20 all the way up to £220 per month), so to have to pay more for what should be a pretty basic function is a bit of a tough blow.
Where Squarespace wins: Aesthetic and affordable
Squarespace boasts a very visual and easy-to-use drag-and-drop editor, and it doesn’t require any coding knowledge to create a truly stunning website. With a wealth of beautiful Squarespace templates to get you started, you can expect a really sleek and professional result that’s sure to entice your customers without putting forth a lot of effort on your end. And, though they’re not required to make impressive edits, you can tweak the HTML and CSS if you opt for the Business, Basic Commerce, or Advanced Commerce plan. (However, be aware that customer support won’t really be able to help you with any issues you may have with your site until you remove your custom coding.)
Squarespace also sets itself apart from Shopify with better blogging tools, including easy integration from platforms like WordPress, Tumblr, and Blogspot through the built-in importer tool. It’s nice that this is baked into the standard functionality as opposed to needing an extra app or extension.
When it comes to ecommerce features, Squarespace’s Advanced Commerce plan (about £30 per month) impresses with carrier-calculated shipping rates at checkout. That’s not something you can get with Shopify until you upgrade to the Advanced Shopify plan (£194 per month). That’s a massive price difference.
Speaking of prices, Squarespace’s plans are cheaper overall, ranging from £13 to £29 per month. (Note that we’ve omitted the £9 per month Personal plan from this consideration since it doesn’t allow you the ability to build an online store.) So, if budget is a concern, Squarespace is a nice option. However, you do get what you pay for, as the broader availability of ecommerce tools will not be as great compared to Shopify.
Where Squarespace falls short: Fewer ecommerce tools and apps
While Squarespace may have fewer ecommerce tools, that’s not to say they can’t handle ecommerce at all. It’s just that its breadth of capabilities pales in direct comparison to Shopify, the clear leader in the field of ecommerce builders. So, to be fair, any other platform would probably pale in comparison. With that in mind, Squarespace’s simple and intuitive tools are better suited for small- and maybe medium-sized stores, and it’s actually a really great choice for ecommerce in that realm. Bigger businesses, however, should look elsewhere.
Moving on to another somewhat backhanded compliment, Squarespace offers some surprisingly nice inventory management tools that are right on par with Shopify. However, they fall short in most other ecommerce areas simply because Shopify is designed specifically for ecommerce. As an all-around, jack-of-all-trades type of website builder, Squarespace just can’t rise to greater demands like a dedicated ecommerce website builder can.
When it comes to product pages, Squarespace only allows shop owners to display product images front and centre. If you have product videos, they’ll be hidden in the “Read More” section and less readily available for your potential customers to benefit from them. And, while Squarespace does offer a lot of stunning, free templates (and users can add an online shop to any one of them), they don’t all play nice with ecommerce features. The plus side is that you can change templates at any time, so you’re not locked into a dysfunctional site. But, to ensure max functionality, you may feel somewhat bound to the 10 templates that they’ve designed specifically for ecommerce.
Compared to Shopify’s wealth of apps, Squarespace’s high-quality, but limited selection is a bit of a letdown. However, the vast majority of apps available in Squarespace Extensions are focused on ecommerce (i.e. stuff to help you with shipping, accounting, marketing, etc). You won’t find any capabilities to run a dropshipping business, however.
Squarespaces’s SEO tools are good overall, but sites are a bit slow to load (especially on mobile devices) and that can ding your score in the eyes of the SEO gods. And, once you do get eyes on your site and the time comes to get that money, Squarespace offers fewer payment options than Shopify. While they do accept PayPal, Stripe, Apple Pay, and Square POS, they cannot accept credit cards or offline payments. There’s also no automatic tax calculator, but you can integrate a third-party option like TaxJar. Furthermore, Squarespace also does not give stock monitoring alerts, which is kind of crucial to ensure that you’ve always got the goods that are most in-demand.
And though we noted earlier that both site builders excel at customer service, you may want to note that Squarespace does not offer phone support. If that’s your preferred communication, this news may be a letdown, but overall, it really doesn’t hurt Squarespace’s ability to serve its users in a helpful and timely fashion.
The final word on Squarespace vs. Shopify
It’s pretty easy to see that Shopify is the ideal platform for serious sellers. This doesn’t necessarily make it your personal winner, as it may be more than you need for your business. Its robust features could be overwhelming for a shop with a smaller inventory, and it simply may not fit your budget.
Squarespace offers a lot of nice, built-in features straight out of the box with their ecommerce plans, so if you’re just starting out, or selling isn’t the main focus of your site, they’re worth a look. If you’re not entirely sure of what you need, their straightforward offerings may be the better pick to help guide you through the beginnings of your small online store. Simple, stylish, and affordable, they’re a really nice choice for selling a small set of items, and they make it generally very easy to manage. Plus, they’ve really stepped up their ecommerce game in the past few years, so you may find their functionality growing alongside your small business. But, if you expect (or hope for) your business to get big, you may outgrow Squarespace fairly quickly.
In that case, Shopify may be the winner for your bigger business. Overall, the ecommerce platform places less focus on the aesthetics of your site, and more focus on the business end of things. Good looks just don’t seem to be a priority for them, which is fine if your site doesn’t need an eye-catching design. That said, you’ll still be able to create a good-looking site with their tools. And, if you know you need a bit more functionality and scalability for a larger inventory, Shopify really can’t be beat. However, do keep in mind that a lot of that added functionality will probably come in the form of apps that may or may not require additional cash to come out of your pocket. With plans that are already much pricier than those of Squarespace, this may be off-putting. Then again, Shopify is more advanced and more comprehensive so it only makes sense that it costs more money.
And finally, one last thing to keep in mind if you really can’t choose between the two, is that you can integrate Shopify into a Squarespace site. The £6.50 per month Shopify Lite plan gives you the ability to add a shopping cart to any existing website, Squarespace included. We can’t guarantee that the integration will always be super smooth since you’re working with two competitive platforms. But, it is definitely something to think about, especially if you’re already working with a Squarespace site and are hesitant to make a big switch.
Ultimately, your optimal choice in the battle between Shopify and Squarespace comes down to the types and variety of products you’re selling, and what will encourage your potential customers to buy from you. If you’re in a more visual or creative field, Squarespace may have the look to dazzle your customers with a small selection of products. However, if you’re serious about your business, you know you’ve got to spend money to make money, so Shopify may be your pick. Regardless of the price you pay, however, you’ll hopefully get your money back in stellar sales thanks to the effort you put into your shiny new ecommerce site.
Check out Squarespace
Check out Shopify