In this post, I am going to be comparing two popular options for building an ecommerce website, which are Square and Shopify, but which one is the best ecommerce platform for your business? Let’s find out!
Square vs Shopify: What’s the Difference?
Square are one of the world’s leading ecommerce payment gateways but following the acquisition of Weebly in 2018, they now offer a fully fledged ecommerce platform for small businesses. Shopify is one of the biggest names in the world of ecommerce, with over 1 million active websites. Their fully hosted platform is built for businesses of all sizes and the large community of third-party developers mean that it is very flexible.
EcommerceGold is reader supported, meaning that we may earn a commission (at no additional cost to you) from products or services purchased through links on our site. Learn More.
Square and Shopify are quite close in terms of pricing, especially as two plans from each cost the same per month!
But Square is definitely cheaper on the entry level as their lowest price plan is quite a bit lower than Shopify and they also offer a free plan to help you get started, which includes:
- Unlimited Products
- 500mb Data Storage
- No Transaction Fees
There are a couple of drawbacks with the free plan as you can’t use your own domain name and there is a Square advert in the footer.
With Squares paid plan, there are no product limits, transaction fees or turnover limits, which from a pricing perspective makes them attractive.
There is one big drawback with the Shopify pricing and that is that they charge a transaction fee on all payments that are received using any payment gateway other than Shopify payments, so if you are using PayPal or Apple Pay, then you will need to pay the transaction fee on top of the payment gateway fees but this fee does reduce on the larger packages:
- Shopify Basic – 2%
- Shopify Standard – 1%
- Shopify Advanced – 0.5%
If your business really starts to grow, then you can move on to Shopify Plus, which is a custom package designed specifically for big business and starts from around $1500/m.
Square don’t offer a free trial, instead they offer a completely free plan, as mentioned above, which means you can test it out with paying customers if you want to.
Shopify have kept things simple and offer a 14 Day Free Trial and you don’t need to provide any payment info before being able to test the platform out.
As two of the biggest names in the industry, it is expected that they all offer a good range of features for their users and below is a summary of the features that they offer for the packages listed above.
For a platform primarily marketed at small businesses, you might think that Square might be limited in terms of features, but that isn’t true and even the free plan comes with a good selection but if you want to see a more in-depth breakdown of the features available, check out my full Square Review.
Below is a summary of the features that are available with Square (any features marked with an * are only available on the Performance and Premium plans):
- Unlimited Items
- Multiple Items Types
- Age Confirmation
- Password Protected Pages
- Item Quick View
- Item Badges
- Product Reviews*
- Abandoned Cart Recovery*
Marketing & SEO
- Sell on Facebook & Instagram
- SEO Tools
- Facebook & Google Ads
- Facebook Messenger
- Apply Pay
- Google Pay
Square also has a selection of reporting and ecommerce analytics but these are only available on the paid package.
So Square comes with a good range of features but they also offer a little bit more with their App Marketplace and this includes a selection of apps across a range of categories that allow you to link your Square store to third party companies.
Some of these apps are not available for Square ecommerce (just the Square POS) and some are paid options.
As the biggest name in the industry, it is not surprising that Shopify comes with a good selection of features as standard and below is a short summary of what is available:
- Dropshipping Integration
- Flexible Shipping Rates
- Product Reviews
- Digital Products
- Gift Vouchers
- Shopify Management App
Marketing & SEO
- Google Adwords Credit
- Sell on Facebook
- Discount Codes
- Abandoned Cart Recovery
- Auto Generated Sitemap
- Social Share
- Custom Meta Data
- SEO Friendly URL’s
- Product Reports
- Traffic Sources
- Google Analytics
- Day, Week and Monthly Reports
- Shopify Payments
- PayPal Express Checkout
- Amazon Pay
If you would like to see a more in-depth breakdown of the features that Shopify has to offer, then check out my full Shopify Review.
Shopify App Store
As you can see Shopify does come with a very good selection of features but due to Shopify allowing third-party developers to develop apps, the amount of features that can be added to a Shopify store is pretty incredible.
To make these apps accessible, Shopify has created their own App Store, which currently has over 3,000 apps available. This selection is a combination of apps made by Shopify and third-party developers.
Unfortunately, not all of these apps are free to use but many offer free trials or packages, if you want access to all of the features, then you are going to have to pay and if you are not careful, it can make Shopify become quite expensive.
Theme Selection & Customisation
When it comes to theme selection, you don’t get much with Square as they have 1 base theme, which you can then customize to fit your business and brand.
Now this might not seem great but theme customization with Square is very good and there are plenty of options to help you build a good looking site, this is because the drag and drop customizer allows you to add, remove and rearrange sections within your page and there is a good selection of sections to choose from.
Each section also comes with its own set of customization options as well, which gives a lot of flexibility. You can also customize different pages on your site, not just the homepage and also use many of these sections to build blog pages, which is a nice touch.
In late 2021, Shopify rolled out their new OS 2.0, which was focused on providing a better selection of themes and also theme customization for Shopify users and it helped take Shopify’s theme customization to a whole new level (and it wasn’t bad before!).
With the new theme selection comes 6 free and 68 paid options ranging from $150 to $350 that are available directly through the Shopify Theme Store but there is also a large selection of OS 2.0 themes on marketplaces such as Themeforest and directly from theme developers.
While the new theme selection is good, it is the theme customization where the big changes have happened as you can now customize pretty much every page on your site, directly from the customizer.
There is also more sections available that offer much more in terms of options and functionality and these sections can be easily added, removed or rearranged.
Alongside this is a good selection of theme options that includes colors, fonts and header and footer options.
Running an ecommerce website can be challenging at times and you require some help, so what support do you get from these platforms?
Square offer a range of support options, including:
- Email Support – which aims to get back to you with 48 hours
- Phone Support – available 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday
- Community Support Forum
These are available to all users, Square also has some very good help documentation, which covers many of the more common issues that users experience when using Square.
As Shopify is a fully hosted platform, you do get some very good support options including over the phone, via live chat and email along with twitter. This is offered to all users and is available 24/7.
Accessing their support is not completely straightforward as you need to go to the help centre, type in a search query and then the button will appear that shows all of their contact options.
They also have a community forum that is frequented by their support staff and other users will also offer help and advice where they can.
Hosting & Performance
Both Square and Shopify provide information about the hosting environment that they use for their websites and they both offer the following:
- PCI Compliant Hosting
- Unlimited Bandwidth
- Unlimited Storage
- Free SSL Certificate
Shopify also offer a global CDN but there was no information about whether this is also the case with Square.
Usually, we put these platform to the test to see how good their hosting is but Square don’t have any customer example sites showcased, meaning that they couldn’t be tested properly, if you would like to see how Shopify compares to its competition, then check out our Fastest Ecommerce Platforms post.
Ease of Use
Facts and figures are one thing but what are these platforms like to use and how do they compare to each other? Well that is what I am going to be looking at in this section.
Getting started with Square isn’t the most straightforward process because when you sign up, you are not just signing up to the ecommerce platform but also the payment gateway and this means there many more steps in the sign up process, which isn’t ideal if you just want to try it out.
Once you have gone through the sign up process, you will go through to the main Square dashboard and to access the website builder, you will need to click on the Online Store option, you will then be taken through to the Ecommerce dashboard.
The dashboard itself is very easy to use as it has a nice, clean interface and the clearly labelled sidebar navigation menu makes it very easy to learn where everything is.
Getting started with Shopify is really easy to do, as it is simply a case of going to the Shopify website and entering your email address and creating a password.
Once you have done this, you will be taken to a page where you are asked what stage your business is at such as just getting started or turning over X amount a year along with some other questions. You will then be asked to enter your business information, which is your name, store name and address.
After you have done all this, you will be taken into your dashboard for the first time and be greeted by a short set up guide.
As you can see in the image above, the set up guide doesn’t include that many steps and is missing out on very important ones such as setting up your payment gateway and delivery methods.
Fortunately, they have created a very useful set of videos in their academy, that are worth watching as they not only show you how to get started with Shopify but also include some tips and tricks to get you up and running.
Outside of the set up guide, the Shopify dashboard is a very nice place to be. It has a simple, uncluttered layout and the sidebar navigation menu is clearly labelled, making it very easy to not only find out where everything is within the dashboard but also to move from one section to another.
Managing Your Inventory
Being able to manage your stock efficiently and effectively is a hugely important part of running an online store and for me there are three main areas to this and they are:
- Adding products
- Organising your Products
- Managing your inventory
Creating a new product is very simple and easy to do with Square as they have opted for a single, well laid out one page layout.
With Square offering many different product types, including Physical, Digital and Membership products, the sections available on the page does depend on the type of product you are creating.
Organising your inventory is very simple as Square have opted for the traditional category system and you can create main and sub-categories, making it very easy to create a nice, easy to use hierarchy for your customers. You can also create multiple sub-categories, which makes this even better.
Managing your inventory isn’t great in Square as they don’t offer any real bulk editors and most change including stock quantity and price need to be done on a product by product basis, which isn’t ideal for large inventories.
Adding a new product is really easy to do on the Shopify platform as they have gone for a simple, one page layout, which has a nice flow from one section to the next. They haven’t gone overboard with the options and you get the right amount of sections to really help sell your product.
Shopify do things a little differently when it comes to organising your inventory as they have developed their own collections system and there are couple of different options on how this can be used.
The easiest way is the manual method, that works very similar to a traditional category based system but the automatic method takes a little getting used to as it works of rules that you set up using product tags and to get it working effectively, it is worth reading through the documentation.
Managing your inventory is pretty easy to do in Shopify as they have included an inventory section, that allows you to update your stock quantity in bulk but if you want to make changes to the pricing, SKU code or any other field from the product, then you need to select the products you want to edit from the product overview screen and then click the edit product button, which allows you to make updates in bulk.
Square – Unfortunately, we were unable to test the order management system as we only set up a test environment and didn’t complete the sign up process for the Square payment gateway, which meant we couldn’t create a test order.
Shopify – While the order management system in Shopify isn’t bad, it does miss one very useful feature and that is the option to print order invoices in bulk, directly from your order dashboard. The only way that you can add this feature is by installing the Order Printer App, that adds this functionality.
There are some bulk features such as being able to update order statuses and exporting all of your order information in CSV format.
• Easy to use admin area
• Good theme customizer
• Low Cost
• App integrations
• Limited payment gateways
• No pre-built themes
• Limited bulk editors
• Theme Customisation
• 24/7 Support
• Easy to use Admin Area
• The App Store
• Transaction Fees
• Automatic Collection system is a bit complicated
• No option to bulk print invoices
Both Square and Shopify are very good options for building an ecommerce website but as an overall package, Shopify does offer more, because it does everything well and is also a scalable ecommerce solution.
Square is very good but there are a couple of drawbacks, the biggest being the very limited payment gateway options and the second being the lack of bulk editors but it is still worth considering for a small business, especially if you already use the Square POS.
So there it is, my complete comparison between these two ecommerce platforms and as with all business decisions, it comes down to what YOU and YOUR business require and we recommend trying them both before choosing which on to use for your ecommerce business.
Try Square for Yourself!
Start a Free Store
Try Shopify for Free!
14 Day Free Trial, No Credit Card Required