Squarespace vs Shopify: Which is right for online stores

With the staggering spike in online shopping these past several years, it is quite understandable why an increasing number of people are starting eCommerce businesses. 

However, before your target customers can start buying from you, it is imperative to be up to par with your main competitors. This means incorporating an excellent design, an intuitive UX, and effective SEO. It also means ensuring a smooth payment system and an overall professional customer journey.

The above can all be achieved by choosing the right eCommerce platform, however, how do you choose the suitable eCommerce platform for your business?  

The Popular eCommerce Platforms

All the top eCommerce systems that exist today provide a variety of features and integrations, with the aim of simplifying the process of building your online store just the way you want. Most also make it a point to require minimal coding knowledge (or none at all) and provide timely customer care.

Shopify and Squarespace typically rank high in the list of the most popular eCommerce platforms. Some of their rivals include the following:

  • WooCommerce
  • Adobe Commerce, previously known as Magento
  • Wix
  • BigCommerce
  • Weebly
  • Salesforce Commerce Cloud

In this article, we will focus on Squarespace and Shopify, let’s dive deeper into their most relevant features.

Quick Comparison to Squarespace and Shopify

*This price is based on Squarespace's personal plan and Shopify's basic plan.
* Price updated on 13/1/2023.

The Basics of Squarespace

Squarespace

Squarespace was started in 2004 as a do-it-yourself website builder and blog-hosting service. It provides a drag-and-drop widget system to help users create versatile websites with no prior coding experience. In 2021, Squarespace reached 3.79 million subscribers.

Squarespace is a popular option for companies and individuals who need an all-in-one platform to manage and expand a content-driven website. It can be an online portfolio, web presentation, magazine, as well as an online shop. 

Due to its excellent design options, Squarespace has emerged as the industry leader in website creation over the past several years. Its most acclaimed features are seamless templates and user-friendly mechanisms that allow anyone to create a website according to their unique preferences.

The Basics of Shopify

Shopify

Shopify was founded in 2006 as an all-in-one eCommerce platform, offering extensive tools with the aim of covering every facet of operating an online business. Today, Shopify is a leading provider of eCommerce hosting due to its comprehensive suite of services related to payments, shipping and fulfilment, marketing, and tools used for customer engagement.

Despite having a vast and robust system, Shopify remains a top choice for both beginners and established online business owners. Apart from its default features, Shopify’s app store enables users to incorporate many additional options to tweak and enhance the look and feel of their online storefronts.

Shopify has the least POS system data errors compared to other platforms
Shopify has the least POS system data errors compared to other platforms. (Source: DataFeedWatch)

According to a report published by DataFeedWatch in 2022, sellers using Shopify have the healthiest Google Shopping feeds compared to the industry average (which stands at 7%), with just under 5.5% of products affected by errors. 

Squarespace vs Shopify Payments

Payment Gateways

A payment gateway is a type of software that processes debit and credit card transactions. It is an important aspect of any online shop because it directly affects the way customers complete their purchases.

Squarespace uses Paypal, Stripe, Apple Pay, and Afterpay (in a limited number of countries) as its payment processors. While these will handle a variety of card types and allow retailers in some countries to accept payment instalments, Squarespace does not yet support other major payment processing systems such as Google Pay.

In comparison, Shopify enables its store owners to utilize more than 100 different payment gateways. This means that it can be used practically anywhere in the world and in most currencies. Shopify provides a comprehensive list of payment gateways offered in each country.

Transaction Fees

For Squarespace, only their Business plan is subject to transaction fees, which are charged at a rate of 3%. There are also processing fees to take into account, and they depend on the payment processor in question (all of which normally base their rates on your location). 

If you’re using a third-party payment processor such as PayPal on Shopify, you get charged a fee depending on your country of residence and the type of plan you have. However, if you choose to use Shopify’s native payment processor called Shopify Payments, you can avoid all accompanying transaction fees.

If you use Shopify Payments, credit card fees and currency conversion fees (1.5% in the US and 2% everywhere else) still apply. The exact amounts depend on the type of card used, your country, and the plan you’re subscribed to.

Since these fees tend to change every so often, you can click here to get the latest updates on Shopify’s fee policy, and here for that of Squarespace.

Squarespace vs Shopify Design

Squarespace Interface and Themes

Squarespace templates

Aesthetic designs are at the core of Squarespace’s business, and it really shows: each of their templates is slick, visually appealing, and contemporary. It is clear they were all made to fulfil the standards of great design, usability, performance, and mobile responsiveness.

As we already mentioned, Squarespace was started with blog hosting in mind, and many of its themes retain this legacy by being a great choice for website owners who wish to post content or showcase their professional portfolios online.

Before you can access their theme catalogue, Squarespace provides a few steps to examine what kind of website you are looking to build. Once you’ve chosen the options that fit your preferences, you are given a selection of themes that match them. 

Although not as 100% eCommerce-focused as Shopify, sellers can use Squarespace to add aesthetic touches to their online stores.

Additionally, depending on your intended selling objective, Squarespace themes are free to preview and change because the charges are covered in your monthly subscription price.

Shopify Interface and Themes

Shopify templates

Shopify offers a good selection of themes, with 101 premium templates that range in price from $200 to $350, and 11 free templates (at the time of writing). 

Shopify’s pre-made themes cover a range of niches, including apparel, cosmetics, tech, food and drink, home decor, and many more. At a glance, the themes are modern, functional, and mobile-friendly. 

The Shopify Theme Store also has a filtration system that allows users to select specific features they would like their themes to have, such as a particular kind of sidebar, a store locator, a back-to-top button, and so on.

You also have the option of tweaking the code of any theme you choose in order to further personalize your online store. The Shopify Admin panel allows store owners to alter the theme’s HTML and CSS.

Squarespace vs Shopify Key Features and Benefits

Importing and Exporting

Different site materials can easily get imported to Squarespace from places like WordPress, Blogger, and Tumblr. If you have a Business or Commerce account, you can import items from Shopify and Etsy using a CSV file.

As for exporting from Squarespace, pages, articles, and photos can be extracted into a WordPress format, which provides some freedom if you ever want to migrate your website to another platform. However, there are some restrictions to be aware of, i.e. a cap of three product variants (e.g. size, colour, and material) per item, as well as a maximum of 10,000 products. Product reviews cannot be exported from Squarespace.

On the other hand, Shopify makes it simple to import and export products using CSV files (and, unlike Squarespace, has no limitations on exporting material). Third-party programs can be used for more comprehensive importing features on Shopify if you have a Shopify Plus subscription, such as mass uploading of products.

Additionally, Shopify offers tools that automatically back up your whole website, whereas Squarespace doesn’t provide an equivalent solution.

Dropshipping

Shopify dropshipping

Many people choose to get started with eCommerce by going the dropshipping route. With dropshipping, you don’t keep your products in stock at a factory or storage site of your own; instead, you accept an order through your online storefront, send it to a supplier located somewhere in the world, and they ship the product to the customer.

Your possibilities in Squarespace are somewhat limited. While they do offer some solid dropshipping options with apps like Printful and Spocket, it is clear that they are still not focusing as much on this aspect of eCommerce as Shopify.

On the other hand, Shopify has plenty of dropshipping applications that can help you find and sell merchandise, and they include major websites like AliExpress. They even have a comprehensive starter kit that takes you through all the steps needed to build a successful dropshipping business using their platform. 

Search Engine Optimization

Squarespace and Shopify both do a great job when it comes to handling the fundamentals of search engine optimization, providing good control over all the important on-page SEO components.

While Shopify offers plenty of apps that serve to improve your SEO, and their sites load slightly faster than Squarespace’s, Squarespace does marginally better in this respect by making it very simple for site owners to meet all of Google’s Core Web Vitals requirements.

Final Verdict

To sum up, when comparing Squarespace and Shopify for eCommerce, Shopify comes out as the preferred option for professional eCommerce companies. However, you wouldn’t lose out too much by choosing to go with Squarespace, especially if you’re keen on having a uniquely designed website that can easily be distinguished from its competitors.

Squarespace is a fantastic option for websites that are primarily about content but also require certain eCommerce functionalities. Shopify is useful in this regard as well, but it is definitely much more oriented toward building and managing effective online stores, regardless of content.

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Article by Jacques Wilt