When starting an ecommerce business, one of the first and most important things you need to do is choose a platform that will allow you to get started quickly and evolve with your business.
So, you look at each of the most well-known platforms and compare them against each other for your brand’s unique needs.
And, odds are that you’ve come across both Shopify and Squarespace in your search for the best ecommerce platform—two amazing platforms for selling your products or services.
But you can’t pick them both (actually, you kinda can, but we’ll get to that later).
Therefore, if this is your final head-to-head comparison, you’ll need to make a decision. Lucky for you, we’re here to help.
In this post, we’ll compare Shopify and Squarespace based on the following:
First, a quick introduction to both of these lovely platforms.
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Squarespace is a website builder for starting anything from a blog to a full-fledged ecommerce store.
Started in 2003 by Anthony Casalena while still living in the University of Maryland’s dorms, Squarespace grew from a one-man blog hosting operation to a hugely successful website building platform with over 1,600 employees.
While most Squarespace sites consist of blogs and portfolio sites, they introduced ecommerce functionality in 2013 (called Squarespace Commerce), and many businesses have piled into the platform to host their stores.
Squarespace's emphasis on modern design templates and simple drag and drop site building has made it popular with merchants that don’t want much fuss as they create their stores.
Overall, Squarespace will be best for smaller brands that want to create a beautiful website without a ton of work. That includes personal brands that sell merch and businesses with small inventories.
Started in 2006 by Tobias Lütke, Shopify was initially created because there was nothing else on the market for creating his snowboarding store.
Feature-rich and scalable, Shopify has proved itself a powerful force in ecommerce.
In recent years, they’ve consolidated critical ecommerce operations like payments, marketing, and fulfillment into their offering, making it super easy to create a store right out of the box.
Overall, Shopify is the ideal platform for ecommerce brands that want to grow their business. That includes direct-to-consumer brands, dropshipping operations, and resellers with larger catalogs.
Starting an online store can be a lot all at once. There are many things to consider, and the ecommerce platform you use is a big one.
To help make this decision easier, we will dig into all the most important aspects of a great platform to see which store builder is best for your brand.
A prevailing concern when starting a business is the expenses you’ll take on. The difference in pricing between Shopify and Squarespace depends on the size of your store and your needs.
Let’s look at each platform individually to better understand the pricing differences.
Shopify has three main plans for small to medium-sized businesses: Basic ($29/mo), Shopify ($79/mo), and Advanced ($299/mo). They also have Shopify Plus for larger companies, starting at $2,000/mo.
Merchants that pay annually can get a 10% discount on their plan. If you choose to pay for two years up front, you’ll save 20%.
Get a detailed look at all the pricing options available in our Guide to Shopify Pricing.
For ecommerce merchants, the pricing plans you’ll want to pay attention to on Squarespace are Basic Commerce and Advanced Commerce, coming in at $36/mo and $65/mo.
The difference between these two plans is the addition of abandoned cart recovery, subscription functionality, automatic shipping rate calculation, advanced discounting, and API functionality.
When you choose to pay annually with Squarespace, you save 25% on the monthly rate. So those two plans would come in at $27/mo and $49/mo, respectively.
Squarespace is the cheaper option here. With their most advanced plan costing $65 per month compared to Shopify’s $299 per month Advanced plan, Squarespace will save merchants plenty each month.
That said, Shopify comes with a much more comprehensive set of built-in features than Squarespace, which accounts for its additional cost and may justify the spend.
Nobody wants their store to look like everyone else’s. You’ve built your brand aesthetic and want your unique vision to come through in your store.
Squarespace and Shopify both emphasize creating a totally custom store with their inclusion of loads of beautiful themes and templates as well as drag and drop functionality to make it uniquely yours.
How do they measure up on customization?
With over 70 themes—nine of which are totally free—Shopify comes with plenty of options for creating a store that looks like your brand. Paid themes can cost anywhere from $150 to $350.
They helpfully break down their themes by industry and store intent (i.e., catalog size, in-person selling, international selling, etc.), introducing new themes regularly and making helpful updates for better functionality.
Beyond that, you can pick a theme from tons of third-party developers. Each theme has its own features, so do your research to find what you need.
Once you have a theme, you can use Shopify’s theme editor to customize it to fit your brand. Now that most of their themes are Online Store 2.0 enabled, you can add, move, and customize sections for every store page.
Where the theme editor is limited, you can upgrade your customization capabilities with an app like Shogun Page Builder to quickly and easily build the most essential pages on your store.
Page Builder gives merchants total control over landing page design to get results more quickly.
Technical types can take to the code editor to make edits to theme files (including CSS and HTML), but we recommend letting a professional developer do these updates.
Squarespace has its roots in design portfolio sites and gorgeous blogs, so it’s no surprise that their ecommerce templates are stunning.
Currently, they have 34 ecommerce templates to choose from, all of which you can preview in a demo store to see if it fits your brand. Each theme includes the same functionality, so you need only choose the design that you most love.
Squarespace templates are free, so cost is no issue here.
Customization is super simple on Squarespace. Add new pages by type and make changes to sections in a slick full-page editor. You can also add custom CSS and HTML to customize pages further.
The fact that Squarespace was built for creative-focused websites really shows here. They’ve simplified the process of picking and customizing a site so you can get on with it.
There are limits to your customizations, so you might have a harder time with Squarespace if you want something unique.
If you want something a little more custom, you can hire a Squarespace designer to create what you need.
For design simplicity, Squarespace is a great pick. The editor is a bit more intuitive than Shopify’s, and the templates are especially gorgeous and modern. Plus, their templates are free.
Shopify’s extensive selection of themes are all built for ecommerce, but their designs can’t quite compete with Squarespace’s templates. The theme editor is powerful but less intuitive than Squarespace’s (though they are getting there).
What Shopify has that Squarespace doesn’t is access to powerful apps that can make store customization a breeze (like Shogun Page Builder).
"Squarespace is best suited for smaller businesses that need an easy-to-use platform with streamlined design tools. By contrast, Shopify is better suited for larger businesses that want more flexibility and customization options." Max Benz, Founder and CEO at BankingGeek
Giving your customers easy ways to give you money is vital for a successful ecommerce business.
When choosing an ecommerce platform, you want to make sure that checking out is a frictionless process and that you won’t get hit with all the extra fees.
There are so many ways that customers can pay on a Shopify store. Shopify supports hundreds of payment gateways and even allows for payment via cryptocurrency.
They’ve even built their own solution called Shopify Payments. Merchants that use Shopify Payments are rewarded with zero transaction fees—yay!
Merchants that choose not to use their payment solution will see transaction fees of 2% (Shopify Basic), 1% (Shopify), or 0.5% (Advanced Shopify).
Whether or not you use Shopify Payments, payment processing fees are unavoidable. These per transaction fees vary based on your pricing plan: 2.9% + 30¢ (Shopify Basic), 2.6% + 30¢ (Shopify), or 2.4% + 30¢ (Advanced Shopify).
If you also sell in-person, you’ll pay between 2.7% and 2.4% per transaction via Shopify POS.
Payment options are a little sparser with Squarespace. They only offer a few payment gateways: Stripe, Square, PayPal, Afterpay, and Clearpay.
We don’t recommend using their Business plan for ecommerce, not least because the transaction fee is 3%.
Luckily, there are no transaction fees for both Commerce plans. Simple!
That just leaves payment processing fees, which depend on the payment gateway. It can be as much as 6% + 30¢ (Afterpay and Clearpay) to as little as 2.9% + 30¢ (Square and Stripe).
For in-person selling, they use Square, which charges 2.6% + 10¢ per transaction.
Shopify has a much more robust selection of payment options, and, as long as you are using Shopify Payments, your fees will be a bit lower (or, at worst, equivalent to) Squarespace.
It gets worse for anyone using Squarespace’s Business plan as they get hit with a 3% transaction fee, significantly higher than Shopify users that opt out of using Shopify Payments.
When you run an ecommerce store, you want the day-to-day work to be manageable and intuitive.
Ease of use encompasses both the getting started aspect of using a platform and the daily management of a store.
It’s reasonably easy to get started with building your Shopify store, even if there are a lot of moving pieces to attend to.
For such a complex ecommerce solution, getting your store ready for the public is quite intuitive, with help from Shopify to make it all happen. With their guidance, you won’t forget a thing.
If you do run into difficulties, you can easily find help from their customer support or the community forum. Other sellers have undoubtedly been where you are and can give a helping hand.
The dashboard has everything you need along the lefthand side, letting you quickly access your products, apps, themes, sales channels, and more.
And as we already discussed, editing your store templates in the theme editor with their drag and drop functionality is quite easy, especially with Online Store 2.0-enabled themes.
Getting started with Squarespace is incredibly easy—gobsmackingly so.
Given that Squarespace is lighter on the ecommerce features than Shopify setting up a store is really easy. Obviously, that also speaks to its drawbacks, but we’re talking ease of use here.
Their page editor is super intuitive if slow, and anyone can easily customize their store pages without breaking the theme.
Both platforms are really easy to use. Squarespace may have an edge here for the simplicity of getting started, but it comes with the understanding that there is simply less to set up with a Squarespace store.
For all the complexity of a Shopify store, set-up and daily use are pretty intuitive.
A major consideration of what platform you will use to sell online is what it is capable of, both out of the box and through the addition of apps.
It determines how much and how fast you can scale operations behind the scenes. A pretty store is great, but what’s going on under the hood?
Where scalability is concerned, Shopify is a partially assembled jumbo jet. It’s got a lot of functionality out of the box, but the real potential is in the apps that can be plugged into the machine.
As far as built-in functionality, Shopify has tons of sales features ideal for ecommerce sellers. These include:
Additional store functionality is available through Shopify’s app ecosystem, which is massive. Over 7,000 paid and free apps are available on the app store, covering everything from store design and conversion optimization to fulfillment and merchandising.
#cta-paragraph-pb#Instead of digging through all 7,000 apps, you can just check out The 33 Best Shopify Apps to Increase Sales & Simplify Your Operations.
With Squarespace, you’ll have access to nearly all of its functionality right out of the box. They essentially give you the keys to a fully built sedan. It’s ready to go right away, but there isn’t much in the way of add-ons.
For built-in functionality, you are looking at:
Squarespace’s extension store is in its infancy, with just over 30 extensions available that can help with things like marketing, fulfillment, dropshipping, and accounting.
Having begun as an ecommerce platform, Shopify has had a significant headstart for building out sales features that make selling online more efficient and scalable. On top of that, they’ve got so many powerful apps for upgrading the built-in power of the platform.
"Shopify's heritage as an ecommerce solution beats Squarespace's when it comes to the ecommerce features of both products. In addition, the Shopify ecommerce attribute set is greatly more comprehensive, with better-developed selling devices and some fundamental elements that are not yet available on Squarespace." Tristan Harris, Sr. Marketing Manager at Thrive Agency
Squarespace is moving fast to make their platform great for selling, with tons of built-in features for no extra cost and other features added as extensions. Nonetheless, Shopify gets this one.
Making Google and the other search engines happy and willing to index and rank your pages is so essential to the success of your store.
With excellent SEO capabilities, a store can build store pages and blog posts that drive free traffic. That’s extremely valuable and can grow with time.
Having such a robust offering right out of the box, Shopify excels in the arena of search engine optimization.
Some of the top SEO features that Shopify merchants get are:
You can learn more about what’s included and what merchants can do in our Shopify SEO Guide.
A drawback for Shopify stores is the inherent URL structure, which is overly long and not terribly pretty. It is based on site hierarchy and can create duplicate pages across a store. Luckily, canonical URLs are automatically created with Shopify.
On top of what Shopify includes, you can also get apps that can amplify your SEO efforts.
With Squarespace, you get a fair amount of built-in SEO functionality.
Here are some SEO features that are included:
A major bonus of Squarespace over Shopify here is that Squarespace stores have clean URLs, making them look much prettier than Shopify’s.
But, with Squarespace, if you update any URL handles, you will need to manually add a 301 redirect or else hazard sending visitors to a 404 page.
As for adding SEO functionality to your Squarespace store, they currently only have one SEO extension available on their extension store.
While Squarespace has made strides in the SEO space and can boast about their uncomplicated URLS, Shopify has so much built-in SEO power that it wins here. Beyond that, with Shopify, you can add apps to boost your SEO even more.
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The platform you use may depend on what you sell, where you sell, the number of SKUs you have, and the complexity of your inventory.
For some brands with simple product offerings, the difference between the two platforms is negligible. For businesses with more unique products or lots of complexity, the difference may be a deciding factor.
With Shopify, you can sell unlimited products—be they physical goods, gift cards, or digital products. You can even sell NFTs, for which there are special apps and Shopify programs.
You will need to find an app to enable download links for digital products, but there is a free option available for this.
Selling services with Shopify is simple too. Services will be added just like any other product, but you’ll uncheck the box for physical products. Apps need to be added to handle appointment booking, memberships, ticketing, and the like.
For merchants that sell online and from a brick and mortar, Shopify POS allows for easy selling in real life and is connected to your Shopify backend. The hardware is extensive, with a full POS register and cash draw.
On top of that, you can use Shopify’s Buy Button as a sales channel to add Shopify checkout functionality to other websites (even a Squarespace blog).
Shopify has great built-in inventory management, which can track stock across multiple locations—warehouses, physical stores, fulfillment centers, etc. By adding your ideal app, you can outsource your inventory and fulfillment to a dropshipping service too.
When it comes to product variants, Shopify limits you to three options (i.e., size, color, style) and 100 total variants. While 100 seems like a lot, product combinations can add up quickly. Luckily, if you find yourself coming up against this ceiling, you can use an app to increase your variant limit.
Like Shopify, you can list unlimited products on Squarespace. This includes physical and digital products as well as services, all right out of the box.
The nice thing about Squarespace is that these capabilities are available without additional software. For selling services, you’ve already got access to booking and scheduling notification functionality.
The same is true for selling subscriptions, which is available to merchants on the Advanced Commerce plan. The only drawback is that the subscription functionality is limited, and there are no extensions to make it what you want.
Selling in-person with Squarespace POS is pretty straightforward. You use a Square card reader to take sales in real life, and it syncs with your online store. Unlike Shopify POS, your hardware is limited to the card reader.
Squarespace allows you to take payments across the globe and set shipping zones to encompass your market for selling outside of your country.
Squarespace’s inventory management is quite good, with an intuitive dashboard to track your stock levels and an automated ‘Limited Availability’ label for products running low. It can also sync with other platforms where you have stock via an inventory API.
Squarespace stores can really handle product variant complexity, actually beating out Shopify’s native capabilities. You can have up to six options for a product (like color and sizing) and up to 250 total variants.
Overall, Shopify has the more impressive potential for selling a variety of products, given its built-in functionality and the features you can add via apps. But, many stores won’t be able to tell the difference here.
"Shopify is a lot more robust and easy to use when it comes to managing products, orders, and fulfillment. Plus, you have the advantage of Shopify’s app ecosystem, Shop Pay one-click checkout, and Shopify's in-app social selling tools." Meaghan Brophy, Retail Expert at Fit Small Business
With both platforms, you can sell both physical and digital products as well as services. You can sell online and IRL, in multiple countries and other sales channels, and with lots of product variants.
Squarespace could do everything you need, but scaling your selling capabilities will be more difficult.
Getting your products into the hands of your expectant customers in a timely manner will determine whether or not they come back for more.
So, knowing that you have great options for fulfilling your orders is non-negotiable.
Shipping on Shopify is super simple and can all happen right from your admin dashboard.
Shopify Shipping is built into every store, with up to 88% discount on shipping rates from USPS, UPS, and DHL. Labels can be printed right from Shopify without adding anything to the platform.
The cost of shipping will just be added to your regular monthly Shopify subscription, keeping things simple. They also have discounts and built-in customs forms handled if you need to ship internationally.
You can set your shipping rates in many ways with Shopify, from conditional free shipping and flat rate pricing to discount calculated and carrier-calculated rates. You need to have the more costly Shopify Advanced plan to get automatic carrier-calculated rates.
If you don’t want to fulfill your own orders, you can use a variety of fulfillment services, including Shopify Fulfillment Network, which was created to compete with Amazon—two-day delivery and simple returns to keep customers happy.
On Squarespace, you can set your shipping rates in various ways: free shipping, flat rate, weight-based, or real-time carrier-calculated rates (available through the Advanced Commerce plan).
With worldwide shipping zones, you can sell throughout the world and set your shipping rates by country.
To print shipping labels, Squarespace uses ShipStation, but you can also use Easyship or Shippo through the extension store. If you choose to outsource your fulfillment, the ShipBob extension will integrate with your store easily.
The extent of Shopify’s shipping options is head and shoulders above that of Squarespace, with all of the action happening right inside the dashboard. It’s also hard to beat Shopify’s deeply discounted rates and availability of a fulfillment network.
Squarespace does just fine for shipping, but Shopify really hits it out of the park here.
As with anything online, security is of the greatest importance, both for you and your customers.
Open-source platforms that require your own hosting solution can have security holes that hosted solutions like Squarespace and Shopify don’t. Let’s see how these platforms measure up to each other on security concerns.
Shopify takes web security seriously.
They are Level 1 PCI DSS compliant, which means that cardholder data is protected, and they regularly test for vulnerabilities to keep their network secure.
For Shopify Payments, fraud detection is built into the product.
Merchants can be assured that their stores are PCI compliant and that their domain is SSL enabled for encryption across your store.
Lastly, merchants can enable two-factor authentication (2FA) to make sure hackers don’t get access to their store admin.
With Squarespace, you can expect absolute security for your store.
Squarespace is also PCI compliant and stays up to date with current customer data security and privacy standards.
This includes SSL certificates and GDPR requirements. When it comes to payments, customer security will depend on the merchant's payment gateway. Unfortunately, fraud analysis is not built-in with Squarespace.
For account access, merchants can use two-factor authentication (2FA), and Squarespace hashes all passwords for extra security.
Both platforms do a top-notch job of protecting merchant and customer data with constantly updated protocols. Shopify may have a slight leg up with their fraud analysis, though.
Knowing someone has your back when you run into trouble is essential when running a store.
You want to be able to get in touch quickly and resolve your issue so you can move on to the business of growing your brand. Both platforms have options for great customer support, but let’s look at how they differ.
There are multiple avenues to get the answers you need about your Shopify store.
If your issue is more common, you can find answers on the Shopify Help Center or community forums. They have a dedicated support team available 24/7 via phone, email, and live chat for more complex questions.
Beyond that, they have Shopify Learn, which has tons of free business courses taught by expert entrepreneurs.
Squarespace also has many ways to get answers to your burning questions.
Their community forum and help center can solve your more general questions. For more specialized help, they have live chat available on most weekdays and 24/7 email support.
For help running and growing your business, they have free webinars for learning the basics.
While both platforms offer excellent customer support, Shopify runs away with this one. With 24/7 support via not only email and live chat but also phone, you are sure to get help right away.
As often is the case with these head-to-heads, the answer to this is: it depends.
For ecommerce brands that have big dreams for growing their store to rival the top stores out there, Shopify is far and away the best platform for you.
Its built-in sales and marketing features, massive library of apps, and 24/7 customer support will allow you to get started quickly and scale without issue.
For smaller ecommerce operations that want a beautiful website but don’t need all the advanced features, Squarespace is going to be perfect for your needs.
Its stunning modern themes, out-of-the-box ecommerce features, and low price point are a great deal for many small sellers.
"If your business is primarily an ecommerce store, then Shopify is the way to go. If your business is primarily something else, and you sell products on the side (read: ecommerce is not your primary source of revenue), go for Squarespace. Because... Shopify was made for building ecommerce stores. Squarespace was made for building and hosting websites." Katheriin Liibert, Head of Marketing at Woola
Finally, if you want, you can have it both ways. If you want to sell with Shopify but also want to use Squarespace, you can add the Shopify Buy Button to any Squarespace page as an additional sales channel.
Hopefully, this breakdown has made up your mind about what platform you want to use for your shiny new store. If you decide to go with Shopify, hit up Shogun Page Builder to level up your landing pages for better conversions.
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Sean is one of Shogun's tireless content marketers. When he isn't creating exciting ecommerce content, he's probably biking or at the park.