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Shopify vs Squarespace: which is better? In this detailed comparison, we take an in-depth look at which of these leading website building tools is right for your project.
We’ve tested both platforms’ key features in depth — their templates, ecommerce tools, content management systems, SEO capabilities and more — and in this post, we share all our findings in a friendly, jargon-free way.
So, read on to get a full overview of the pros and cons of both solutions — and do feel free to leave any thoughts or questions about either in the comments section.
First you’ll find our quick verdict on the two platforms, followed by the full shootout and a video comparison.
The quick verdict
Reasons to use Shopify instead of Squarespace
The main reason to use Shopify instead of Squarespace is that it is much better for ecommerce. It lets you sell in lots of ways that are simply not possible with Squarespace, especially where dropshipping, tax calculation, point of sale and international commerce are concerned.
And, thanks to the huge number of apps that are available for Shopify (8,000+), it’s also much easier to integrate the platform with other tools and services, or add extra functionality to it. In short, it’s a considerably more professional, powerful and scalable ecommerce solution than Squarespace.
Reasons to use Squarespace instead of Shopify
Squarespace’s main advantage over Shopify involves content: the platform is significantly better than Shopify for presenting and managing it. If your goal is to build an attractive content site and do some simple selling on the side, Squarespace is often the better choice.
It gives you far more free templates than Shopify, it’s easier to use and it comes with a much more sophisticated drag and drop editor. In short, while it’s not the best option for ‘pure’ ecommerce applications, it’s an excellent choice for web design and ecommerce beginners.
Now, let’s dive into both platforms in more depth.
Shopify and Squarespace: an overview
On the face of it, Shopify and Squarespace look like similar tools. They let you create a website and sell products, even if you don’t have any design or coding skills.
But they have different histories — and started life with different purposes.
Squarespace was initially created as a solution for building and maintaining content–based websites, while Shopify was specifically designed as a solution for making an online store.
But with the addition of ecommerce to Squarespace’s feature set, and an increase in the number of content-creation tools available for Shopify, the two platforms have become increasingly similar — and technically, you can now use either to create a content-driven website or sell products online.
But which one is better for your business?
Answering this question starts, helpfully, with another question…
Are you trying to build a ‘website’ or an online store?
When deciding between Squarespace and Shopify, the first question you need to ask yourself is this: what am I trying to build, a website or an online store?
Of course, an online store is technically a website too, but in this context, by ‘website’ I’m talking about an online presence that prioritizes conveying information — for example, a blog, a news site, a brochure site, a magazine, a photography portfolio etc.
By ‘online store’ I mean something where selling products is the primary goal.
Let’s take a look at the website-building stuff first.
Building a content-driven website
If your focus is on building an informative website, then design features and content management tools are going to be the priority — and it’s fair to say that Squarespace beats Shopify in both areas.
Its templates are excellent; its content management system (CMS) is intuitive and easy to use; its photo editing and displaying tools are superb; and its blogging features are — on the whole — very strong.
However, what you have to bear in mind with Squarespace is that it takes a fairly strict ‘walled garden’ approach to website building.
By this, I mean that it’s quite a ‘closed-off’ system — integrating third-party apps is not always straightforward and, unlike Shopify, Squarespace doesn’t give you full access to your site’s code.
Despite this, many users will find Squarespace a really good website builder for creating a content-driven site, because:
- it’s extremely easy to use
- its templates are well designed
- changes to colors and typefaces are easy to make
- the walled garden approach, despite its drawbacks, means that the platform is reliable and you won’t really have to worry about site maintenance.
The bottom line is that, used well, Squarespace can help you put a professional-looking site very quickly and it gives you a lot of nice ways to display content — especially blog posts and images.
Now, although Shopify has traditionally been weaker in this area, over the past couple of years it’s been catching up. This is due to the rollout of an improved theme format — Shopify OS 2.0 — and a new drag-and-drop editor (more on which shortly).
But as things stand, Squarespace still remains the better option for creating content-driven sites.
But what about building online stores?
Building an online store
As you might expect, when it comes to the ecommerce features of both products, Shopify’s heritage as an online store building solution generally beats Squarespace’s.
The Shopify ecommerce feature set is considerably more extensive, giving users better-developed selling tools and important features that are not yet available from Squarespace.
Unlike Squarespace it offers:
- the option to take payments in multiple currencies
- extensive dropshipping options
- integrations with a huge range of third-party apps (8000+) that extend the functionality of your store significantly
- more sophisticated inventory management options
- more advanced point-of-sale features (these allow you to sell goods in a physical location using your online store to process payments and manage inventory)
- more comprehensive tax calculation functionality
- a much wider range of payment gateway options.
I’ll go through all the above in depth in just a moment.
But first, let’s take a quick look at pricing, because how much ecommerce functionality you get with both Squarespace and Shopify depends entirely on how much you’re prepared to pay.
Key differences between Squarespace plans
Squarespace provides four monthly pricing plans:
- Personal — $23 per month
- Business — $33 per month
- Commerce Basic — $36 per month
- Commerce Advanced — $65 per month
You can also make use of a two-week free trial (with extensions available if you need more time to finish your site).
Now, significant discounts for all of the above are available if you purchase a plan on an annual basis. If you do, the above four plans work out at $16, $23, $27 and $49 per month respectively (see screenshot below).
There is also a ‘Squarespace Enterprise’ plan available, which, as its name suggests, is aimed at more corporate users. This plan provides additional levels of support with design, SEO and security; pricing for it is negotiable based on requirements.
In terms of the key differences between the main Squarespace pricing plans that are aimed at more ‘regular’ users, the key things to watch out for are as follows:
- You will pay 3% transaction fees on any sales generated using the ‘Business’ plan (in addition to any credit card processing fees).
- To avail of several important ecommerce features, including abandoned cart recovery, real-time carrier shipping, advanced discounts, commerce API access and the option to sell subscriptions, you will need to opt for the most expensive ‘Commerce Advanced’ plan.
- You get a year’s free Google Workspace account on the ‘Business’ plans and higher (for one user only).
- You can only sell on Facebook or Instagram on the ‘Commerce Basic’ and ‘Commerce Advanced’ plans.
- On the ‘Commerce Basic’ and ‘Commerce Advanced’ plans, US users get point-of-sale functionality (this lets you sell your products in a physical location as well as online).
- If you pay upfront for an annual term on any plan, you get a free custom domain (i.e., yoursitename.com).
- The ‘Business’ and ‘Commerce’ plans come with more sophisticated tools for creating pop-up messages and announcement bars.
Key differences between Shopify plans
Shopify offers five monthly plans:
- Starter — $5 per month
- Basic — $39 per month
- Shopify — $105 per month
- Advanced — $399 per month
- Shopify Plus — custom pricing based on requirements (with fees usually around $2,000 per month).
As with Squarespace, a free Shopify trial is available. However, this is quite different in nature to the Squarespace one, in that it only lasts 3 days rather than 14.
However, at the end of these three days, you get the option to pay $1 per month for 3 months’ access to Shopify (‘Starter’ and ‘Basic’ plans only). This effectively gives you a very long period to build and use your store, for virtually no fee.
A 25% discount is applied if you pay upfront for your Shopify plan (meaning that the ‘Basic’, ‘Shopify,’ and ‘Advanced’ plans work out at $29, $79 and $299 respectively).
The key differences to watch out for between Shopify plans are as follows:
- The ‘Shopify Starter’ plan doesn’t let you build a fully-editable, standalone online store. Instead, it allows you to create a store containing basic product pages, accept payments in physical locations via a card reader (i.e., at ‘point of sale’), embed products on existing websites and sell on social media services / messaging apps.
- How many users you can have on your account varies considerably by plan. For example, ‘Basic Shopify’ only lets you add two users to your account, but ‘Advanced Shopify’ lets you add 15.
- Like the Squarespace Enterprise plan, the ‘Shopify Plus’ plan is focused on corporate users — with pricing for it being negotiable (but usually starting at around $2,000 per month). On this plan, you can run up to 10 stores and access advanced security, API and fulfilment features, along with dedicated account management.
- The quality of the reports improves as you go up the pricing ladder.
- Multicurrency features are better on the ‘Advanced’ and ‘Shopify Plus’ plans than the others.
Point-of-sale (POS) functionality — which lets you use Shopify to sell not just online but in physical locations too — is included on all plans except the ‘Starter’ one.
However, to access advanced POS features, you’ll need to pay an additional fee of $89 per month, per location.
These include multi-location selling, the ability to work with an unlimited number of staff, buy-and-collect options and more.
(I’ll discuss POS in more depth shortly.)
Transaction fees and credit card fees
On top of the standard pricing plans, there are transaction fees and credit card fees to consider.
Transaction fees are a percentage fee of your sales charged by your ecommerce platform (in this case Squarespace or Shopify).
Credit card fees are a percentage fee of your sales charged by the company you choose to process your credit card payments, otherwise known as a ‘payment gateway.’
With Shopify, you have the choice of either using Shopify Payments — Shopify’s built in payment processor — or a third-party payment gateway.
If you use Shopify Payments, you’ll avoid transaction fees entirely on all plans except the ‘Starter’ one (the latter applies a rather high 5% fee to all transactions).
You will still be charged credit card fees when using Shopify Payments, however. These vary by country and plan, but in the USA you’re charged a processing fee of between 2.4% and 2.9% on every sale made through your online store.
If you use a third-party payment gateway to process your credit card transactions, you’ll have to pay Shopify an additional percentage of the transaction. On the ‘Basic’ plan or higher, this fee will be 0.5% to 2%, depending on plan; the ‘Starter’ plan involves a 5% transaction fee.
With Squarespace, transaction fees are only applied to its ‘Business’ plan — the rate is 3%. In terms of the the credit card fees, the rate is determined by either Stripe or PayPal (the two options provided by Squarespace for processing credit cards).
One thing to watch out for with regard to Shopify Payments is that you can only use it if you are selling from certain countries, namely:
- Hong Kong SAR
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- United States of America
Shopify users who are not based in a supported country will have to use a different payment gateway — but the good news is that 100+ external gateways integrate with Shopify.
And speaking of payment gateways…
Shopify can be used almost anywhere and in most currencies, because it allows you to use over 100 ‘payment gateways’ (a payment gateway is a piece of software that that processes credit card transactions).
By contrast, Squarespace offers just two payment processing options: Paypal and Stripe.
(Note: US-based merchants who use Squarespace’s Point of Sale feature can also use Square to accept in-person payments. More on this in a moment).
While these payment processing options will cater for a wide range of credit card types and let merchants in some countries accept staggered payments via AfterPay (known as Clearpay in the UK), it’s important to note that there is no Squarespace support for Google Pay.
So overall, Shopify is the more attractive, professional option from a payment processing point of view — the flexibility provided for accepting payments is significantly greater.
Now, with our look at pricing and payments out of the way, let’s dig into the key features of Shopify and Squarespace and see how they compare.
Key features of Shopify and Squarespace
Interface / ease of use
Shopify and Squarespace’s interfaces aren’t terribly different in terms of layout — both give you a menu on the left-hand side of the screen that you can use to access different parts of the content management system (settings, site design, analytics etc.).
The right-hand side of the screen can be used to edit content, view data, add products and so on.
On the whole I would say that Squarespace’s interface is the more elegant of the two; it’s also a bit easier to use than Shopify’s, especially where general content management is concerned.
Its approach to setting up site navigation and its superb ‘layout engine’ — which allows you to drag and drop content into pages in a very user-friendly way — make it extremely easy to use.
And, with the recent release of its new ‘Fluid Engine’ drag-and-drop editor, Squarespace now provides users with unprecedented flexibility regarding how they design their site.
Significantly, Fluid Engine allows for the creation of different versions of a site for desktop and mobile (something that Shopify doesn’t currently facilitate without coding).
Squarespace’s ecommerce features are arguably slightly easier to use too — but that said, this is probably because there are fewer of them available.
While by no means difficult to use, Shopify’s user interface is arguably not quite as slick or intuitive — and setting up pages with it can take a bit longer than in Squarespace.
That said, Shopify’s content management system has been much improved over the past couple of years, thanks to the the rollout of its “Online Store 2.0” interface.
This improved version of Shopify provides a drag-and-drop editor that lets you — in a similar way to Squarespace — use content sections and blocks to create highly customized, attractive page layouts.
Now, Shopify OS 2.0 is unquestionably a big step up from Shopify’s old, text-focused, WYSIWYG editor. But even with the improvements made to it, my view is that Squarespace’s layout engine remains the more flexible and intuitive tool for general presentation of content.
This is because Shopify’s drag-and-drop editor doesn’t let you edit individual pages. Instead, you use it to edit templates which you then apply to pages (with the core page content still being edited using a WYSIWYG editor).
If this sounds a bit confusing, you’re right, it is! But you do get used to it (and according to information provided in the company’s latest ‘Shopify Editions’ news bulletin, an improved version of the Shopify drag and drop editor is in the pipeline).
Now — and sticking with the topic of presentation — let’s take a look at templates.
Templates and visuals
As discussed above, Squarespace templates are gorgeous.
Although this is a very subjective area, I feel they are more contemporary or varied in nature than the free templates available from Shopify.
And, as things stand, there are considerably more free templates to choose from in Squarespace — you can choose from 157 bundled templates to Shopify’s 12.
And there’s definitely a ‘wow’ factor with certain Squarespace templates that sets them apart from those offered by similar website builders and ecommerce platforms, including Shopify.
However, a lot of the Squarespace templates — and this is in keeping with the issues discussed above regarding content presentation vs selling online — are geared towards creative users who want to blog, or showcase an art, music or photography portfolio.
Of the 157 Squarespace templates currently available, only a few are dedicated online store themes (that’s not to say, however, that you can’t sell products using the others — you might just have to play around with the design a bit more first).
Depending on your chosen Squarespace template, you’ll find lots of nice visual effects in play, with images and text that gracefully fade in and out as users scroll through a site.
These integrations provide you with a very easy way to add stock images to your website — when adding a picture to a page, you can simply use a search box to find something suitable on either service.
Both integrations are great and are particularly helpful to bloggers who need to find strong images quickly to accompany their posts, or Squarespace designers who are working on sites for clients who have not supplied any photos.
The Unsplash integration is particularly welcome, given that the quality of its free images is in most cases pretty high.
And if all that wasn’t enough, Squarespace makes it really easy to create stunning video backgrounds on any page, either by uploading your own video or using a Youtube / Vimeo URL. A range of video playback speed options and colour filters let you further customize your video background.
Creating custom templates in Squarespace
In addition to letting you build a site using a template, Squarespace now lets you create a website using a ‘guided website design system’: Squarespace Blueprint.
This tool effectively encourages you to build your own unique template, by suggesting layouts in response to your goals, along with font pairings and color palettes. We tested this recently — see video below — and were pretty impressed with the speed at which it can build a website from scratch.
However, you will still need to edit the content of any site created using Squarespace Blueprint fairly extensively — don’t expect it to handle every aspect of website design for you.
Although Squarespace has a great reputation when it comes to templates, Shopify is by no means a slouch in the visuals department. The free Shopify templates are aesthetically pleasing and much better than a lot of the ‘out-of-the-box’ templates provided by competing platforms.
Additionally, if the 12 free Shopify templates don’t meet your requirements, there is a Shopify template store that you can buy a snazzier template from.
The template store gives you 145 paid Shopify themes to choose from, many of which contain a few variations. When these variations are taken into account, there is arguably a wider range of templates available from Shopify than Squarespace — so long as you are prepared to pay for them (prices vary but usually involve a one-off fee of between $150 and $380).
The paid-for Shopify templates are similar in quality to the Squarespace ones, offering contemporary design features such as full-bleed content and video backgrounds; and helpful ‘feature filters’ are provided to help you narrow down the template selection to themes that are most likely to meet your requirements.
As with Squarespace, you can make use of a built-in library of royalty-free stock images to further enhance Shopify templates (see screenshot below).
Significantly, all the Shopify and Squarespace themes are responsive, meaning that templates automatically resize themselves to suit the device they are being viewed on — mobile, tablet or desktop computer.
This gives both platforms a key advantage over competing platform Wix, which doesn’t currently offer truly responsive templates.
For me, the bottom line with templates is that both Shopify and Squarespace provide a wide range of attractive template options, with Squarespace — as you might expect having read this far! — being the more obvious choice for content-driven websites and Shopify being the more obvious choice for those wishing to make an online store.
Switching templates in Squarespace and Shopify
One thing to watch out for in Squarespace is that in the latest version of the platform (7.1), you can’t switch templates!
However, because all Squarespace templates are built on the same technical foundations, you should be able to recreate the look of another one by simply changing colours and fonts.
This isn’t ideal however and it would be much better if, as is the case with Shopify, you could just switch to new templates easily (and preview them on your website first).
Let’s move on now to getting content in and out of both platforms.
Importing and exporting content
It’s easy enough to get content and products into Squarespace.
Helpful ‘wizards’ are provided to help you import pages, posts and other content from WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr; and, so long as you are on a ‘Business’ or ‘Commerce’ Squarespace plan, you can import products via CSV or, using an import tool, from Shopify, Etsy or Big Cartel.
When it comes to exports, you can export pages, posts and images to WordPress format. This gives you a bit of flexibility should you ever wish to migrate your site.
There are limitations to watch out for when it comes to exporting products from Squarespace, however:
- Only physical and service products can be exported.
- A limit of three variants per product (color, size, material etc.) applies.
- Product reviews won’t export.
- You can only export up to 10,000 products.
The product export limit is fairly large and will be fine for many users — but if you’re planning on hosting a huge product inventory, or if you are dealing with products that come in a lot of shapes and sizes, you’ll find that the better option is Shopify.
Shopify lets you import and export products easily enough via CSV and, unlike Squarespace, doesn’t place any restrictions at all on exporting digital products.
For more extensive importing functionality — for example, bulk upload of digital products — third-party apps like ‘FetchApp’ can be used.
As for importing and exporting pages and blog posts, this isn’t really doable out of the box with Shopify (unless you’re on a Shopify Plus plan).
But again, third-party apps can help here: for example, the ExIm app (pictured below) gives you a good range of options for getting your content in and out of Shopify.
And with Shopify you can make use of apps — like ‘Rewind’ — that back up your entire site automatically and according to a defined schedule. There’s nothing comparable available for Squarespace.
The key takeaway here is that if you are planning on hosting thousands of products or blog posts on your site, or envisage migrating to another platform in future, the safer option is Shopify.
Shopify tutorial for beginners
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in Squarespace and Shopify
Squarespace and Shopify both handle the basics of search engine optimization well, giving you good control over all the key ‘on-page’ SEO elements.
Both platforms make it easy to access and modify:
- page URLs — the web address for each of the pages on your site
- page titles — the titles you see in search results
- meta descriptions — the descriptions of pages you see in search results
- 301 redirects — information that tells Google where to find a page after you’ve changed its URL and lets you preserve any ‘link juice‘ associated with it
- alt text — text that describes images to search engines (and to those using screen readers).
I’d argue that Shopify makes staying on top of SEO a little bit easier than Squarespace, however.
First, for all products and pages, Shopify generates a page title and meta description automatically based on the content of your page. A lot of the time — particularly where products are concerned — this provides a very good starting point for SEO.
Squarespace doesn’t do this.
And I feel that Shopify handles URL redirection better than Squarespace, too: when you change a web page’s address, redirects tell search engines about the new URL and help protect your search rankings.
If you change a page’s URL, Shopify will immediately prompt you to create a 301 redirect to that page — and if you tick a checkbox, this is done automatically for you.
By contrast in Squarespace, if you change a page URL, you will have to manually create the 301 redirect (the process for which is a bit fiddly; and creating 301 redirects is quite easy to forget to do).
Shopify also gives you more control over your robots.txt file (which lets you specify which pages you want to exclude from indexing by search engines).
And significantly, you can integrate Yoast SEO with Shopify — this is a popular, sophisticated SEO tool that assesses your pages and gives you an easy-to-action list of recommendations for improvements.
WordPress aside, no other website building platforms except Shopify let you use Yoast SEO, so this integration represents something of a USP for the platform (there is a monthly fee involved with using Yoast and Shopify together however — $19 per month).
When it comes to the very technical aspects of SEO — Core Web Vitals (Google’s site speed and stability requirements) and page speed — you have limited control over these with both Shopify and Squarespace. This is because both platforms use their own servers and proprietary code and templates.
So long as you don’t overdo it with web fonts and large images however, it does seem to be possible to meet Core Web Vitals standards with both platforms. But based on tests I’ve conducted using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool, I’ve found that Squarespace sites seem to more reliably pass Core Web Vitals ‘out of the box’ (i.e., without any tweaks or technical work being required.)
As for page speed, though, the same tests seem to indicate that Shopify sites seem to load quicker than ones built in Squarespace.
So overall, when it comes to SEO on Squarespace and Shopify, it’s probably a draw. Shopify definitely gives you more control over how you configure SEO on your site and stores built with it load faster — but when it comes to getting your site to pass Google’s Core Web Vitals standards easily, the winner is arguably Squarespace.
Point of sale (POS) in Shopify vs Squarespace
Point-of-sale functionality allows you to use card readers — and other selling hardware — in conjunction with your online store, to sell in a physical location (a retail outlet, market stall, event etc.).
Not only does POS let you take payment for goods, but it lets you link your selling hardware (card readers, tablets etc.) to your online store’s back end, meaning that your inventory levels remain accurate, regardless of whether you make an online or an offline sale.
Both Shopify and Squarespace offer POS features — Shopify via a built-in system and Squarespace via an integration with Square (an ecommerce company that specializes in providing POS hardware).
The main difference between the Shopify and Squarespace offerings in this area boils down to what selling hardware you can use.
The Shopify point of sale hardware range is very extensive — it lets you sell in person using hardware like barcode scanners, card readers, cash drawers and receipt printers (to name just a few of the available POS items). You can buy any of these tools individually, or as a package.
You can purchase this POS hardware directly from the Shopify Hardware Store in an increasing number of countries, including Australia, Canada, the EU, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK and the US.
Outside these territories, supported hardware is available from authorized resellers.
US merchants can also use a new ‘all-in-one’ POS solution from Shopify called ‘Shopify POS Go‘ (pictured below). This is a hand-held device that provides a built-in card reader and barcode scanner; it also gives you a touchscreen interface which you can use to access your Shopify dashboard.
As for Squarespace, it only allows you to integrate the Square card reader into proceedings — and only if you are based in the United States. You can use an iOS or Android device in conjunction with the reader to accept payment at point of sale.
Shopify also offers several other POS features that are not available from Squarespace yet, including staff accounts, permission setting, staff PINs and store management. The platform also lets you sell in a huge number of locations — up to 1,000.
However, you will need to invest in an $89 per month, per location add-on — ‘Shopify POS Pro‘ — to avail of most of this functionality.
Interestingly however, if you only want to use Shopify as a POS solution, this is possible too — you just sign up to its ‘Starter’ plan, which costs $5 a month. Squarespace doesn’t give you a similar low-cost solution for accepting in-person payments.
Shopify POS pricing — video guide
So ultimately, if POS is important to you, the better option is definitely Shopify, especially if you are not based in the US.
You can learn more about Shopify POS here.
Dropshipping in Squarespace and Shopify
Many people who dip their toes into the waters of online retailing do so because they want to start dropshipping products.
Dropshipping is a method of online retailing where you don’t keep what you’re selling in stock — instead, you take an order, send it to a supplier, and they send the goods to the client.
(Check out our video below for more details on how it works).
A video guide to dropshipping
With dropshipping, your online store essentially becomes a front end or ‘middle man‘ for another business.
The plus side of this model is that it doesn’t involve much investment to start a business; the down side is that profit margins tend to be quite low due to high levels of competition and it’s hard to be sure of the quality of the dropshipped goods you’re promoting (and whether they were produced ethically).
How to dropship with Shopify — video guide
Pros and cons of dropshipping aside, if you’re interested in starting a dropshipping business, Shopify is better than Squarespace.
There is a very large range of dropshipping apps available for Shopify to help you source and sell inventory — 477 at time of writing. These include integrations with key services like DSers (AliExpress), Spocket, Modalyst and many others.
Although Squarespace doesn’t offer nearly as many dropshipping integrations to its users, the number of ‘extensions’ that facilitate dropshipping has been gradually increasing.
Available dropshipping extensions for Squarespace now include:
It’s great to see Squarespace starting to provide more dropshipping options — but because of its much more extensive range of dropshipping apps and integrations, the winner in this area remains Shopify.
The Shopify dropshipping starter kit
If you’re interested in dropshipping, I’d recommend that you take a look at Shopify’s dropshipping starter kit — with this, you get a free trial of Shopify plus lots of bundled resources and tools that show you how to launch a successful dropshipping Shopify store.
Selling on other sites with Shopify and Squarespace
Both Squarespace and Shopify let you you sell on other ‘sales channels’ — you can use either website builder to sell on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, eBay and Amazon.
Depending on the sales channel involved, you may need a paid-for app or extension to do so (and this can be expensive where Squarespace is concerned, because the extension you’ll need for doing this, Trunk, starts at $35 per month).
What’s particularly nice about Shopify when it comes to selling on other websites is that you can use its ‘Buy Button’ feature to embed products on any sort of online presence that permits you to add a snippet of code to it.
So, for example, if you were reaching out to bloggers asking them to review a product, you could give them the option to add a ‘product card’ (example below) to their posts — this would allow their readers to purchase it really quickly and easily.
Currently, there’s not an equivalent feature available from Squarespace.
Abandoned cart saving
A key difference between the Shopify and Squarespace pricing structure involves abandoned cart saving — a feature that lets you automatically email people who left your store midway through a purchase, encouraging them to complete it. This functionality can significantly increase the number of sales from your store.
Now, abandoned cart saver functionality is available on nearly all Shopify plans — only the $5 ‘Starter’ plan doesn’t feature it.
On Squarespace however, you only get abandoned cart recovery features on its most expensive ‘Commerce Advanced’ plan, which costs $65 per month (or $49 per month if paying for your plan annually).
What’s more, the abandoned cart recovery feature in Shopify is considerably more sophisticated than Squarespace’s — it gives you the option to create fully editable workflows that let you specify the exact conditions that should trigger an abandoned cart reminder. You also get more control over how many reminders are sent.
So, if abandoned cart saving is an important feature for you, it’s a clear win for Shopify.
Shopify and Squarespace both provide users with mobile apps for managing their sites or stores on the go.
There are three key Squarespace apps available for managing content:
- Scheduling Admin
- Scheduling Client
(These all work on both iOS and Android devices).
The ‘Squarespace’ app is the main app you’ll need to manage a Squarespace site on the go — it lets you edit content, view analytics and manage orders (and if you’re US-based, you’ll get access to point-of-sale features through it too).
Shopify provides quite a few apps too, but the most relevant ones to merchants are usually the ‘Shopify’ app and the ‘Shopify POS’ app.
The ‘Shopify’ app allows you to edit certain aspects of your Shopify site, view basic stats and check on orders.
As the name suggests, ‘Shopify POS’ is an app for using Shopfy’s POS (point of sale) features — it allows you to take orders and accept payment for goods in a physical location.
The above two apps are all you need really to run a Shopify store on your mobile device, but if you want more, you can pick up some other Shopify apps — these include a customer chat app (‘Shopify Inbox’), a shopping app (‘Shop’), a stock photography app and a logo maker.
Of these additional Shopify mobile apps, ‘Shopify Inbox‘ and ‘Shop‘ are probably the most useful.
The ‘Shopify Inbox’ app lets you add a live chat service to your Shopify store and makes it easy to manage queries and share your product details with customers when chatting with them over other chat services (Facebook Messenger and Instagram).
The ‘Shop’ app provides its users with an accelerated checkout option, the option to pay for products bought on Shopify stores in instalments and ways to follow or discover brands. It also provides a mechanism for letting shoppers tip merchants.
Tax calculations in Squarespace and Shopify
This is because when your business sells a digital product to consumers in EU member states, VAT MOSS (‘VAT Mini One Stop Shop’) requires you to charge value added tax at the rate due in the consumer’s country.
Shopify will calculate apply this automatically for you when you use its free ‘Digital Downloads’ app — and this is a massive time saver.
As for Squarespace, if you’re on one of its commerce plans, an integration with the automatic tax caluclation service TaxJar is included — but only for US merchants. This means that many non-US users will end up having to set up their sales taxes manually in Squarespace.
So, when it comes to calculating sales taxes — and especially for non-US merchants — it’s a clear win for Shopify.
Secure Socket Layer — SSL — is industry-standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between web servers and browser. Using it ensures that all data passed between a web server and browser remains private.
(You can spot a site using SSL when you see a URL beginning with “https://” rather than “http://”).
There’s also another benefit to having SSL installed on your site — Google treats it as a ‘positive signal’ when determining how visible your site should be in search results.
The good news here is that both Shopify and Squarespace provide a free SSL certificate that you can use with any domain.
Once potentially tempting feature of Squarespace is that when you purchase one of their annual plans, you get a free custom domain name — yoursitename.com etc. — with it. This lasts for one year, after which you’ll have to pay for your domain name yourself.
Although you can also use Shopify to register a custom domain name, there is a cost associated with this (domain names start at $15 per year).
You can also buy domain names separately through Squarespace too, if you like — but they’re a bit more expensive, starting at $20 per year.
(This means that even with its free domain offer factored in, domain costs will usually end up higher with Squarespace).
The advantage of sourcing a domain from either Squarespace or Shopify is that you won’t have to worry about configuring domain name settings (DNS) when launching your store. Connecting your domain to your Squarespace or Shopify site will be extremely easy, with all the settings pre-configured for you.
The disadvantage is that you are placing all your eggs in one basket — if for whatever reason you lost access to your Shopify or Squarespace account, and you had bought a domain from either platform, you would be losing access not just to your content management system but your domain name too.
Given that a domain is hugely important to a business (particularly well-established ones), this is a risk best avoided — I personally think it’s safer to buy a domain using a reputable third-party provider and tweak the DNS settings (which is not a terribly difficult job anyway) to map the domain to your Squarespace or Shopify website.
In terms of the range of domain names that you can buy from Squarespace or Shopify, you’ll find that neither platform offers as many top level domain (TLD) options as a dedicated domain name provider. For example, you might find that your country’s TLD domain is not catered for.
2023 Shopify video review
So what can you actually sell with Squarespace and Shopify?
Well, both platforms let you sell physical goods, digital goods and subscriptions.
Shopify has an edge when it comes to digital goods, because it is much more generous regarding the size of the product you can sell — it lets you sell files of up to 5 GB in size, which dwarfs Squarespace’s 300 MB limit.
As for subscriptions, Squarespace lets you do this ‘out of the box’ (but only on its ‘Commerce Advanced’ plan). In Shopify, you’ll need to make use of a third-party app to facilitate them (which will mean an additional fee).
However, the built-in subscription feature in Squarespace is only for use with physical goods or services — if you want to offer your visitors a subscription that provides regular access to digital products, you can:
- pay extra for Squarespace’s membership site feature (starting from $9 per month, this lets you charge users to access a gated area of your site)
- pay extra for Squarespace’s ‘Courses’ feature — as its name suggest, this lets you sell online courses to your audience.
If you’d like to create a members’ area or online course in Shopify, you’ll always need to use a third-party solution — for example, the Locksmith app (which also starts at $9 per month) or the ‘Courses Plus’ app (which starts at $29.99 per month).
Using AI to help you write product descriptions
Perhaps spurred on by the overnight success of ChatGPT, Shopify has recently introduced an interesting new AI-based feature, ‘Shopify Magic,’ that aims to make the process of writing product descriptions less painful.
To use this, you enter a few of your product’s features and keywords into the product description field, select a ‘tone of voice,’ and the tool will generate a product description for you based on your input.
You can then ask Shopify Magic to rewrite these automatic descriptions until you find one you are happy with (and you can also edit the generated text yourself).
Not to be outdone, Squarespace is currently beta testing an AI-language generator too. Called ‘Squarespace AI,’ this is available in the Squarespace editor (accessible via a lightening bolt icon).
The main difference between the two AI features is that while Shopify Magic is designed to write product descriptions, Squarespace AI is for writing general-purpose copy.
(It’s worth noting too that as yet, Squarespace AI doesn’t give you a ‘rewrite’ option).
One thing that I feel is handled considerably better by Squarespace than Shopify is product images.
With Shopify, unless your images have a consistent aspect ratio, they will be laid out in a pretty incoherent manner — visitors to your site will see an unattractive mish-mash of differently-sized photos in your product catalogs.
There are two ways to get around this problem: first, you can manually edit all your images (either using a photo editing app like Photoshop, Canva, Adobe Express or Shopify’s built in picture editor) so that they all have the same aspect ratio — but this is a bit of a pain.
Alternatively, you can make use of a third-party Shopify app such as ‘Pixc’ to resize images on your store automatically after you upload them (Pixc lets you resize 50 images for free — once you’ve exceeded this limit, you’ll have to pay 5c per image, or subscribe to a monthly plan).
Neither workaround is ideal however; it would be better if Shopify just allowed you to set a standard product image ratio out of the box that could be used across all images in your store.
Squarespace provides a much better approach: you pick an aspect ratio for your product images and the system will automatically crop all your pictures to that ratio.
If you like, you can also specify a ‘focal point‘ for individual product images in Squarespace — this part of the photo will be emphasised within the cropped image.
In an era of responsive websites, this focal point feature is important, because it helps ensure that the main part of your image is foregrounded whenever your image is automatically cropped for viewing on smaller screens.
(Shopify lets you set focal points for regular images, but oddly not for product ones).
So, when it comes to image management, it’s a definite win for Squarespace.
Another area where Squarespace has an edge over Shopify involves product options.
In Shopify, you can create just three options for your store products — for example, colour, size or material. By contrast, Squarespace lets you create up to six.
Shopify lets you list 100 ‘variants’ of your products based on the options you’ve created. (Variants are combinations of product options — for example a large blue t-shirt would be one variant, a small red t-shirt another and so on).
Squarespace is again more generous here, giving you a 250 variant limit.
That said, you can get around these limitations entirely in Shopify, so long as you are prepared to pay for a third-party app to do so (a popular solution for this being the ‘Infinite Options’ app).
But when it comes to ‘out-of-the box’ flexibility for product options and variants, it’s a win for Squarespace.
Squarespace video review
Selling in different currencies and markets
You tend to get more online sales if you sell in the currency used by your site visitors.
So, if you’re selling in multiple countries, it’s good to let your potential customers choose their own currency (or, better yet, to present your products in your site visitors’ currency automatically).
Now, as things stand, Squarespace doesn’t let you do any multi-currency selling at all.
By contrast, thanks to its ‘Shopify Markets’ feature — which lets you define geographical regions (‘markets’) featuring languages and currencies of your choice — Shopify does.
This only works however if you are using Shopify Payments as your payment processor. If you live in a country where Shopify Payments is unavailable, you’ll need to use a third-party app to handle multi-currency selling instead.
It’s worth noting however that to apply duties or import taxes with Shopify, you’ll need to be on a more expensive plan — ‘Advanced’ or ‘Shopify Plus’ — the costs for which are significant.
But overall, the multi-currency features in Shopify are extremely useful and the winner when it comes to international selling is, without question, Shopify.
Tip: if multi-currency selling is a core requirement, I’d suggest that you also check out BigCommerce — it’s a similar platform to Shopify, but features really strong multi-currency features out of the box.
Both Squarespace and Shopify allow you to set the following shipping rates:
- Free shipping rates
- Flat rates
- Weight-based rates
- Local pickup rates
- Calculated (‘real time’) shipping rates
Shopify goes one better by allowing you to set price-based rates too.
Zooming in: real-time shipping rates in Shopify and Squarespace
Shopify’s real-time shipping quotes
When it comes to real-time shipping rates — where carriers provide live estimates at checkout, based on distance, weight and the number of boxes needed to ship items — you have two options in Shopify.
If you’re based in the US, Canada, Australia, UK, France, Italy or Spain, you can ship via local postal companies that partner with Shopify to provide calculated shipping rates and preferential rates on shipping.
This service — ‘Shopify Shipping‘ — is available on all plans and the discounts provided can be quite generous (up to 88.5%, in fact!).
The other option is to provide calculated rates using a carrier of your own choice. To do this, you’ll need to pay an additional monthly add-on fee, pay annually for your plan or subscribe to a monthly ‘Advanced’ plan. This adds to your costs, but on the plus side lets you automatically calculate and display your own pre-negotiated shipping rates at checkout.
Squarespace’s real-time shipping quotes
Out of the box, Squarespace integrates with three US carrier services — FedEx, UPS and USPS — to provide real-time carrier shipping quotes for merchants with their own carrier accounts.
However, this feature doesn’t facilitate pre-negotiated rates with carriers, only covers domestic shipping and you’ll need to be on a ‘Commerce Advanced’ plan to use it.
More shipping options are available if you use a Squarespace extension, though (for example, Shipstation).
Conclusion on real-time shipping quotes
Shopify has an edge when it comes to real time carrier shipping options — not only does it provide discounted real-time carrier shipping rates (depending on your country), it also lets you calculate and offer pre-negotiated rates from a wider range of providers and in more countries.
If you’re looking for a website builder with professional reporting functionality, then Shopify is a better option than Squarespace.
Although the Squarespace reporting offering has improved quite a bit over the past couple of years, the stats provided are still of a more basic nature than those found in Shopify.
In Squarespace, you can expect to see a simple but effective overview of site visitors, traffic sources and sales — but Shopify’s analytics offering is much more extensive, giving you a set of detailed reports that include:
- finance reports
- sales reports
- customers reports
- acquisition reports
- behavior reports
And what’s more, you can use Shopify to create your own custom reports too.
There is a negative aspect of Shopify’s reporting offering which is worth pointing out however: the best reports are only available on the more expensive Shopify plans.
Detailed reports are available on the $105 ‘Shopify’ plan and higher, and to avail of custom/advanced reporting you’ll need to purchase an ‘Advanced Shopify’ or ‘Shopify Plus’ plan.
If you don’t opt for one of these plans, you only get access to fairly basic ecommerce reporting data.
You could of course use Google Analytics to get around this — but you’d need to do more manual configuration and ‘goal-setting’ to get at the sales data you need.
Similarly, Squarespace charges a premium for more advanced reporting features — if you want enhanced ecommerce analytics, you’ll need to be on one of the more expensive ‘commerce’ plans.
And even if you do opt for one of these commerce plans, you’ll find that although they let you access a couple more ecommerce reports (containing purchase funnel and abandoned cart data), you’ll find they’re pretty basic in nature and not as informative as the kind of data you can access in Shopify.
Blogging in Squarespace and Shopify
Blogging is an often-overlooked, but extremely important part of running an online store. It’s absolutely vital to inbound marketing activity — where you use quality content to drive up traffic and, by extension, sales.
The good news is that both Squarespace and Shopify provide built-in blogging functionality (something that is not true of all ecommerce platforms).
In terms of which is better, I’d say Squarespace’s blogging functionality has a slight edge over Shopify’s. This is chiefly because you can do more with the blog content — you can drop it easily into any page or section of your site using attractive and flexible ‘summary blocks’.
Shopify does let you drop blog content into other pages easily enough, but Squarespace gives you much more control over how you display it (you can show featured posts, ones written by a particular author or containing a certain tag etc. — Shopify doesn’t give you these sorts of presentation options).
You can also add both categories and tags to posts in Squarespace while Shopify facilitates the addition of tags only.
As with much else in Shopify, if you want more blogging functionality, you’ll need to resort to an app.
And speaking of which…
Third party integrations and apps
Both Shopify and Squarespace allow you to buy apps — or avail of free ones — that add functionality to your site.
Shopify’s app store contains over 8,000 apps. These add extra functionality to Shopify stores (for example SEO enhancements, dropshipping, print on demand functionality etc.) or let you connect your Shopify store to other important business apps (for example Mailchimp, Zendesk or Xero).
Squarespace’s apps come in the form of ‘extensions.’ These represent a relatively new development for the company, so at time of writing there is only a limited number available — just 36 — but you can expect the range to grow over time.
Additionally, there are a few ‘official integrations’ available out of the box with Squarespace (available on the ‘Business’ plan or higher) — these include Mailchimp, ChowNow, OpenTable and quite a few others.
For anything else, you can either embed code from other apps into your Squarespace site using a HTML code block, or use the app-syncing service Zapier to connect its forms to other online tools.
For bespoke functionality, you can code something yourself, or buy some third-party code snippets (these are increasingly referred to as ‘Squarespace plugins.’).
Ways to save money on Shopify and Squarespace
If you’re interested in saving money on either Shopify or Squarespace, there are a couple of ways to do this — but you should note that the offers involved may be available for a limited time only.
With Shopify, you can pay just $1 per month for your first three months by starting a trial via this link.
With Squarespace, you can get 10% off your plan (in addition to regular Squarespace annual discounts) by following this link to start a trial and then using the STYLEFACTORY10 code when purchasing it.
AMP in Shopify and Squarespace
Accelerated mobile pages (AMP) is a Google-backed format for content which makes it load really fast on mobile devices. It does this by stripping out certain bits of code from your site and delivering a slimmed down version of your content to smartphone users.
AMP pages create a better mobile experience than normal responsive web pages; because they load more or less instantaneously, people viewing AMP pages are more likely to stay on your site (and, by extension, buy stuff!).
In Squarespace, you can enable Accelerated Mobile Pages (‘AMP’) format really easily — it’s simply a case of ticking a checkbox in your site’s settings — but at time of writing it is only available for blog posts, not products.
To use AMP on Shopify sites, you’ll need to do a bit more work — you’ll need to install a third-party, paid-for app like Fire AMP (pictured below).
However, Shopify AMP apps typically allow you to display ALL your site content (including, crucially, product pages) in AMP format.
So, as long as you’re happy with paying an additional fee for an AMP app, the winner here is Shopify.
Using Shopify and Squarespace with Google Workspace
Squarespace has in the past made quite a lot of noise about the fact that it partners with Google to offer Squarespace users a Google Workspace integration.
You can sign up for Google Workspace when you purchase your Squarespace plan — and if you’re on a ‘Business’, ‘Commerce Basic’ or ‘Commerce Advanced’ plan, you’ll get a year’s free Google Workspace plan (for one user).
When you sign up for Google Workspace through Squarespace, you can manage certain Google Workspace admin tasks without leaving your Squarespace site, including:
- adding users
- renaming or deleting users
- accessing Google Workspace invoices.
All this functionality is easily accessible through the standard Google Workspace admin panel, so the integration isn’t all that mind-blowing.
All this functionality is easily accessible through the standard Google Workspace admin panel, so the integration isn’t all that mind-blowing.
More appealing is the year’s free account — this offers a reasonably good saving, particularly for solopreneurs who only need one email account.
Squarespace does integrate very nicely with Google Workspace in one particular respect — you can connect data capture forms to a Google Sheet, meaning that you get a handy real-time overview (or indeed archive) of any form submissions made via your website.
Similar functionality isn’t available out of the box with Shopify without the addition of an app.
Editing HTML and CSS in Shopify and Squarespace
Shopify gives you very extensive control over the code of your site — you get full access to the HTML and CSS of your website on all plans except the ‘Starter’ one.
With Squarespace, on the ‘Business’ and higher plans, you can edit the CSS and certain bits of HTML. These plans let you insert code blocks onto pages, or inject HTML into the header of your site.
One thing to be aware of however is that the level of customer support you can expect from both Shopify and Squarespace may become more limited when you add CSS or HTML (more on support in just a moment).
Another point to note is that coding in Shopify involves using its proprietary ‘Liquid’ template language.
But overall, when it comes to giving you control over your code, Shopify takes the win.
Email marketing in Squarespace and Shopify
An extremely important aspect of running a website is capturing email addresses — your ability to communicate effectively with leads via e-newsletters is vital to business growth.
So let’s look at how Squarespace and Shopify compare on this front.
Integrating an email marketing tool with Squarespace and Shopify
With the exception of Mailchimp, which is very easy to integrate with Squarespace, connecting email marketing solutions is generally easier in Shopify, due to more integrations for them being available in Shopify’s app store.
In most cases, to use a third-party email marketing tool with Squarespace forms, you’ll have to use Zapier to create an integration between the app and your Squarespace site — something that can result in additional costs and set up time.
Alternatively, you can use HTML code to embed forms from other email marketing providers onto Squarespace site pages.
But you mightn’t need to bother with integrating an email marketing tool at all, because both Shopify and Squarespace give you built-in features that let you create and send newsletters.
Let’s take a look at these.
Squarespace Email Campaigns
Squarespace’s built-in email marketing feature is called ‘Squarespace Email Campaigns’ — and you have to pay extra to use it. There are four plans available:
Starter — $7 per month to send up to 3 e-newsletters to a maximum of 500 subscribers per month
Core — $14 per month for 5 e-newsletters / 5,000 subscribers
Pro — $34 per month for 20 e-newsletters / 50,000 subscribers
Max — $68 per month for an unlimited number of newsletters / 250,000 subscribers
These plans are pretty cheap by comparison to the plans available from dedicated email marketing solutions (especially at the top end of the pricing scale).
The key benefit of using Squarespace Email Campaigns is that you can manage both your website and mailing list — arguably the two most important online assets of any business — in one place.
And because it automatically pulls design settings from your website into its email editor, the newsletters you create end up being immediately consistent with your existing brand.
(That said, this brand consistency will depend on which typefaces you use on your site — not all fonts that you’ll find in the Squarespace website editor are available for use in e-newsletters).
It’s fair to say that Squarespace’s e-newsletter templates are attractive and easy to edit; a drag-and-drop interface that is quite similar to Squarespace’s web page editor is provided to help you with the editing aspect.
Helpfully, you can insert content from your Squarespace site extremely easily into your newsletters (blog posts, product information etc.).
In terms of functionality, although it’s nice to see some autoresponder functionality being included with Squarespace Email Campaigns (on the $14 per month ‘Core’ plan or higher), it’s currently basic by comparison to that provided by dedicated email marketing tools like Mailchimp or GetResponse (we’re talking simple ‘drip’ campaigns only). And there’s no split testing or comprehensive email segmentation available.
Perhaps hoping not to be outdone by Squarespace — or perhaps just following the ‘all-in-one’ trend we increasingly see in app development — Shopify has introduced a similar email marketing tool into its product too, ‘Shopify Email.’
Slightly annoyingly, this comes in the format of an app that must be installed on your store before it can be used, but once this is done, it integrates pretty seamlessly with the Shopify environment.
As with Squarespace Email Campaigns, the main advantage of using Shopify Email is that it allows you to manage your website and mailing list in one place (and keep branding fairly consistent too).
The best thing about Shopify Email is its price. You can use it to email 10,000 subscribers a month for free, with a $1 per month fee for every additional 1,000 subscribers you message (with even lower fees available for high-volume email senders). And, unlike Squarespace, there’s no monthly fees to worry about when you use the service.
And recently, automation features have been introduced too: you can configure Shopify Email so that it sends welcome emails, upsell emails etc., based on specific subscriber actions.
Overall, while Shopify Email and Squarespace Email Campaigns don’t yet offer the levels of email automation sophistication that you’d find in a professional solution like Mailchimp or AWeber, they are competitively-priced tools that add a lot of value to both platforms.
But because it’s available for free, comes with generous send limits and has slightly better automation features, the better-value email marketing tool of the two is currently Shopify’s.
Creating multilingual sites in Squarespace and Shopify
Shopify has made great strides recently to provide functionality that enables you to present your content in multiple languages — using its new ‘Shopify Markets’ feature, you can create up to 20 different language versions of your website on all paid-for plans except the ‘Starter’ plan.
When you enable multi-language selling in Shopify, a language folder is added to your domain. So you’ll end up with www.myshop.com/fr/, www.myshop.com/de/ etc.
If you prefer, you can also use an international domain — myshop.fr, myshop.de etc. (doing so can provide some SEO benefits).
As for Squarespace, although you can technically use the platform to create different language versions of your website, you’ll have to use a paid-for third-party app to do so: Weglot.
As the video below shows, this is very straightforward, because Squarespace has recently teamed up with Weglot to provide a ‘deep,’ official integration.
Costs for using Weglot can be really high however — as you can see from the pricing table below, if you translate your Squarespace site into 20 languages, you’re looking at a monthly fee of $769.
(That’s not really sustainable for a lot of the types of users who turn to DIY website builders like Squarespace).
So, although Squarespace does now make it fairly easy to translate websites, because of the cost differentials involved, the win here definitely goes to Shopify.
Shopify has the edge over Squarespace when it comes to customer support.
Shopify provides you with live chat, email and, importantly, phone support — while Squarespace offers only live chat and email support.
The availability of in-person, live support in your own language depends on your territory; as for online help centers, Squarespace’s support materials are provided in 6 languages; Shopify’s are presented in 21.
Oddly, however, Shopify’s online help materials don’t feature any screenshots or photographs. By contrast Squarespace’s are packed full of images and videos — making Squarespace’s help portal more user friendly than Shopify’s.
A note of caution is worth sounding regarding the customer support offered from both Shopify and Squarespace — the quality of support you’ll get often depends on what you’re doing with your template.
For example, if you’re using one of the standard free Shopify templates (i.e., the ones developed by the company itself), you can expect fairly comprehensive customer support if it’s not behaving as it should.
But if you opt for a third-party, paid-for template, you may have to deal with the designers of that template if you run into trouble. And how good that support is will depend on the designers in question.
Similarly, Squarespace’s customer support team are pretty good at assisting with template related queries, unless you customize your template by adding your own CSS or HTML to it — in which case the Squarespace support team may not be able to support you as fully.
I’ve had more personal experience of Squarespace’s customer support than Shopify’s and it’s varied from being brilliant (when dealing with technical issues to do with SSL) to dreadful (when dealing with Squarespace GDPR related enquiries).
One thing that is likely to annoy both Squarespace and Shopify users is that before you get to see any contact details for their support teams, you need to search for an answer to your problem first on the Shopify and Squarespace help sites.
I can see the rationale behind this, but I think that many (perhaps most?) users will have already searched for a solution to their problem before getting to the point where they want to contact a support team — and this approach feels like it’s making customers jump through unnecessary hoops.
Shopify and Squarespace GDPR compliance
I am not a lawyer, so please note that the below observations should not be interpreted as legal advice — but I’m going to do my best to spell out some of the key GDPR issues facing Squarespace and Shopify site owners in this section.
Since the introduction of GDPR — the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation — website owners have had to adhere to strict data protection guidelines to protect the privacy of EU site users. (US merchants selling to California consumers face similar regulations via the CCPA act).
There are many legal steps that the GDPR requires business owners to take to ensure compliance — and fairly serious penalties for not doing so. The key ones for prospective Shopify and Squarespace users are probably as follows:
- Display adequate privacy and cookie notices on your website.
- Process and store data securely.
- Get explicit consent from people signing up to mailing lists that it is okay to send them e-newsletters.
- Provide a means to opt in or revoke consent to use of non-essential cookies on a website (and to log that consent).
Now, meeting the first three requirements with either Squarespace or Shopify is fairly easy.
Meeting the fourth requirement however is harder and in my view Squarespace and Shopify should be doing more to assist their customers to meet this GDPR obligation (particularly Squarespace).
Essentially, whenever you use non-essential third party cookies on a website — for example a Facebook pixel or Google Analytics — you are legally obliged to give EU visitors to your website the option to switch these off BEFORE they continue to browse your site (even if your site is based outside of the EU).
You are also obliged to log EU users’ consent to any non-essential cookies being used and give them the option to revoke that consent at a later stage.
Sadly, out of the box there is no way to facilitate this kind of GDPR cookie consent for third party scripts on either Shopify or Squarespace, meaning that many (if not the vast majority of) Squarespace and Shopify users end up breaking the law as soon as they add a third-party cookie to their website!
To get around this problem, you will need to either:
- code something yourself (or get a developer to do this)
- make use of a third party solution.
It’s probably fair to say that most Shopify and Squarespace users (people who are probably using code-free store builders for a reason!) are likely to go for the second option; and based on my research into this area so far, Shopify is the more flexible platform when it comes to integrating third party cookie banners.
For a start, there are quite a few apps in Shopify’s app store that provide GDPR-compliant banners and cookie consent functionality.
There are no dedicated Squarespace ‘extensions’ to solve the GDPR problem, however. And my own appeals to their support team for help on this issue have proved pretty fruitless!
Thankfully though, there is a solution, involving third-party products (our current favourite being CookieYes) that you can add on to Squarespace via the insertion of a few lines of code to your site. These can be configured to block cookies until a user has accepted them.
The bottom line on GDPR is this: you can make a Shopify or Squarespace site GDPR-compliant, but it will involve some work (and ongoing fees, if you’re using a third party cookie banner solution), with Shopify providing you with more options to solve the problem.
I would much prefer it both website builders took followed the example of competing platform BigCommerce and offered cookie consent tools as a built-in feature.
Shopify vs Squarespace: conclusion
If your primary aim is to build an attractive website to showcase content, then of the two products here, Squarespace is the better option. I’d argue that this is especially the case if you’re working with images — Squarespace is extremely good for creating online photography portfolios. It’s also a great option for those working in a creative industry — musicians, authors and other creative types are particularly well served by Squarespace.
If you are hoping to build a content-focused website or a blog and sell a couple of products on the side as well, then Squarespace is probably still the best option — so long as you are happy to sell in just one currency, and aren’t dealing with too many different tax rates.
However, if your aim is to create a professional online store with automatic tax calculation, point of sale functionality, detailed reporting and a large inventory of products, then Shopify is unquestionably the better platform — its feature set and payment gateway options are significantly more extensive (and it its SEO features are a bit stronger too).
Although both platforms could perform better where GDPR is concerned, it’s fair to say that merchants who want to ensure a high level of compliance on their website will find that this is easier to achieve with Shopify (especially where cookie consent is concerned).
I’ll leave you with a list of the key reasons why you might pick one of these platforms over the other; but as always, before committing to either product, I recommend trying them both out thoroughly. A free trial of Shopify is available here and you can try Squarespace here.
Pros and cons of Shopify vs Squarespace
Advantages of using Shopify over Squarespace
- Multi-currency selling is possible in Shopify, using either the built-in ‘Shopify Markets’ option or a third-party app. This is not the case with Squarespace.
- If you intend to sell products in-store or at events, you will find Shopify’s Point of Sale features considerably better than Squarespace’s equivalent POS offering (which is currently very basic and limited to US users only).
- Shopify’s automatic tax calculation features work in many countries — but Squarespace only facilitates automatic tax calculations for US users.
- The dropshipping options are considerably more extensive in Shopify.
- Abandoned cart saver functionality is better in Shopify and available at a much lower price point.
- It’s easier to meet GDPR requirements with Shopify than it is with Squarespace, especially where capturing cookie consent is concerned.
- Thanks to the fact that EU VAT is automatically calculated on digital goods, Shopify makes selling downloads to EU customers a lot more straightforward.
- Reporting features are better in Shopify than in Squarespace, although you’ll need to be on an expensive plan to access the best analytics.
- Shopify’s SEO features are stronger than Squarespace’s — and you can use Yoast to assess your SEO efforts too.
- You can switch templates easily with Shopify; this is not the case with Squarespace.
- There is a huge library of third party apps that work with Shopify and extend its functionality significantly — although some integrations are available for Squarespace, you won’t find a similar catalogue of apps to beef up your website or store.
- Shopify provides you with far more choices when it comes to payment gateways — over 100 payment options are available, while Squarespace offers just two.
- Shopify lets you create multilingual websites without the need for an expensive third-party app.
- Shopify gives you much more control over your website’s code.
- Shopify provides phone support; Squarespace doesn’t.
- You can — albeit with the use of a third-party app — create AMP versions of product pages in Shopify. This is not the case with Squarespace.
- Unlike Squarespace’s email marketing tool, Shopify’s is available for free.
- You pay just $1 per month for the first three months of service.
Advantages of using Squarespace over Shopify
- Squarespace is easier to use — certainly when it comes to editing page content and laying out text and images. Its drag-and-drop editor is considerably more powerful than Shopify’s and more intuitive too.
- If your main aim is to showcase content, particularly images, then Squarespace is a much better and more flexible option.
- Blogging features in Squarespace are better than the Shopify equivalents.
- You get access to a much wider range of free templates with Squarespace — 157 to Shopify’s 12.
- The quality of bundled templates is arguably a little bit higher in Squarespace than in Shopify — they have more ‘wow’ factor.
- The default product option and variant limits are higher in Squarespace.
- Unlike Shopify, Squarespace gives you easy-to-use, built-in features for selling access to gated content or online courses (but note that extra fees will apply to unlock them).
- Product images are handled better by Squarespace — the platform lets you set focal points for these and you don’t have to worry about product image ratios.
- A free domain name is included with annual Squarespace plans.
- You can avail of a free Google Workspace plan for a year by purchasing it through Squarespace.
- Squarespace’s online help resources contain images and videos; Shopify’s don’t.
- The Squarespace free trial is longer.
Alternatives to Shopify and Squarespace
There are plenty of alternatives to Squarespace and Shopify available.
If you’re hoping to build an ecommerce site, you might like to investigate BigCommerce; it is feature-rich and very easy to use (and particularly good when it comes to providing merchants with the option to add a wide variety of product variants and taking multi-currency payments).
BigCommerce vs Shopify video comparison
If you are on a low budget and hoping to build a simple website, then Wix is worthing investigating.
Check out our Wix review, our Shopify vs Wix comparison, our Wix vs WordPress comparison, our Squarespace vs Wix post and our Wix vs Shopify vs Squarespace shootout for more information on this platform.
Wix vs Shopify video comparison
Have you seen our Wix vs Squarespace video comparison?
If designing a bespoke content site is your key aim, Webflow is a good option – it comes with a host of very attractive templates that can be tweaked to the nth degree.
(Our Webflow vs Squarespace comparison might be of interest here).
If your main concern is finding a platform that combines an online store builder with a strong POS system, then Square is well worth investigating — especially if you work in the catering business (it offers a lot of useful features for restaurant and takeout services). You can learn more about this platform in our Square vs Shopify shootout.
If you already have a website — for example a WordPress site — Ecwid is worth a look. This allows you to add comprehensive ecommerce functionality to an existing online presence. You can read our Ecwid review here, or our Shopify vs Ecwid comparison here.
And speaking of WordPress, the WooCommerce plugin for WordPress is a great option for turning a WordPress site into a professional ecommerce store. Check out our WooCommerce vs Shopify comparison for more details about how to go about doing this.
Finally, you may be wondering if online marketplaces like Etsy, eBay and Amazon are good options for building an online store — our Shopify vs Etsy, Shopify vs eBay and Shopify vs Amazon articles will give you some insights on this.
More Shopify and Squarespace resources
You might also find the below Style Factory resources on Shopify and Squarespace useful:
our Shopify review
- our guide to starting a Shopify store
- our guide to Shopify dropshipping
- our Shopify stats overview
- our Squarespace stats overview
- our Squarespace free trial FAQ
our article on Shopify pricing / fees
- our Big Cartel vs Shopify comparison
- our GoDaddy vs Shopify comparison
- our Youtube video review of Shopify
- our Shopify tutorial for beginners on YouTube
- our YouTube video review of Squarespace
- our YouTube Wix vs Shopify shootout
Any thoughts or questions?
Got any thoughts or queries on Shopify vs Squarespace? Feel free to post them in the comments section below! We’ll do our best to answer any queries you have.
Shopify vs Squarespace FAQs
Can I use Shopify and Squarespace for free?
Which is better for SEO, Shopify or Squarespace?
While it’s possible to create sites that rank highly in search results using either Shopify or Squarespace, Shopify arguably has a slight edge, because it automatically fills key SEO fields in for you and prompts you to create a 301 redirect every time you change a URL on your site.
What’s the main advantage of using Shopify instead of Squarespace?
The main advantage of using Shopify instead of Squarespace is that its key ecommerce features are much stronger. With Shopify, you can use more payment gateways and access a much wider range of ecommerce apps; its international selling features are much better too.
What’s the main advantage of using Squarespace instead of Shopify?
The main advantage of using Squarespace instead of Shopify is that it is much better for building content-driven sites — if you want to create a blog, brochure or portfolio site that also lets you sell on the side, you’ll find that Squarespace’s template offering is much better suited to this. Laying out and editing text and images in Squarespace is also easier than in Shopify.
Why is Shopify better than Squarespace for ecommerce?
Shopify beats Squarespace when it comes to ecommerce because it works with considerably more payment gateways and unlike Squarespace lets you sell in multiple currencies. It also lets you create multilingual versions of your store without the need for expensive plugins and offers abandoned cart saving at a lower price point.
How we tested these platforms — and why you can trust our reviews and comparisons
We tested these platforms via independent research and, more importantly, through hands-on experience of them.
We regularly help clients build online stores and have extensive knowledge of how both Shopify and Squarespace work. So this comparison is based on using both platforms to build many stores from scratch and customize existing ones.
If you’re interested in learning more about the criteria we use to test ecommerce platforms, take a look at our ecommerce platforms buyer’s guide, which lists many of the factors we evaluate when reviewing and comparing ecommerce products. Our ecommerce glossary may also help you get a better understanding of the topic.
Finally, we operate a strict honest reviews policy.