If you’re looking where to set up an online store, you’re likely to see Squarespace and Shopify thrown around as potential candidates a lot.
However, comparing Squarespace vs Shopify I took a closer look at eCommerce features, marketing options, template designs, and overall ease of use. And the way I see it, these two platforms gained popularity for different reasons.
Squarespace focuses on web design and simplified selling tools, making it perfect for small businesses with just a handful of products. Shopify is an eCommerce-first platform, with a simple design process and a huge variety of add-ons to help you scale your business.
Both are great platforms, however, designed with different users in mind.
When it comes to selling products, Shopify easily wins out over Squarespace.
Shopify’s enormous plugin marketplace allows you to dramatically extend Shopify’s base functionality – shipping, marketing, merchandising, and so much more.
However, these apps can try all they want – from a design perspective, it’s really hard to beat Squarespace.
This platform offers dozens of truly eye-popping templates, beautiful image galleries, and tons of flexibility to customize the look and feel of your site.
Squarespace’s drag-and-drop editor may take some time to master, but it’s a near-perfect tool to make a beautiful looking website.
Shopify is hardly a slouch when it comes to design, too. And yet, I did feel noticeably more limited with Shopify than with Squarespace. The editor, while easier to use, also restrained me from making the website pixel-perfect and suited to my individual desires.
But for most people, perhaps the biggest Shopify drawback is going to be the price.
Squarespace’s starting price is already lower – and includes all of its templates and selling tools in your monthly subscription. And then there’s Shopify, where you have to pay a monthly fee plus extra fees for premium templates, plugins, and integrations.
Those charges can add up fast so that it’s not hard to spend 10 times as much per month on Shopify as on Squarespace.
Ultimately, Squarespace and Shopify are both highly capable platforms for eCommerce and whether you opt for Squarespace vs. Shopify comes down to what you’re looking for.
But let’s go look at how they compare in each angle.
Squarespace is almost always cheaper than Shopify for business owners. Squarespace eCommerce plans start at $18/month and top out at $40/month. Meanwhile, Shopify plans start at $29/month – and even that doesn’t include the cost of premium templates or plugins.
Let’s look at what you get with Squarespace’s pricing structure first.
The ‘Business’ plan, for $18 per month, gives you a lightweight online store without many selling tools. It’s really only suitable for businesses with few sales, especially since Squarespace takes a 3% commission with this plan.
Squarespace’s ‘Basic Commerce’ plan, which costs $26/month, steps up your online selling game a lot. You eliminate the 3% commission fee and add customer accounts, analytics, and checkout on your own domain.
But, if you’re comparing against all of Shopify’s potential selling tools, you’ll probably want to jump to Squarespace’s $40/month ‘Advanced Commerce’ plan. This plan includes abandoned cart recovery, gift cards, and advanced shipping management.
Now, let’s move to the Shopify’s pricing.
Shopify’s ‘Basic Shopify’ plan starts at $29/month, which is competitive with Squarespace’s Basic Commerce plan. At this price point, it’s noteworthy that you get abandoned cart recovery (available for $40 in Squarespace), shipping discounts, and a point-of-sale app.
The $79/month ‘Shopify’ plan adds in gift cards and professional sales reports, as well as increases the number of user accounts you can have.
For larger businesses, there are a few options. The $299/month ‘Advanced Shopify’ plan gives you up to 15 staff accounts and third-party shipping rates.
If that seems a bit pricey, you should see Shopify Plus, where plans start at $2,000/month. But of course, that’s Shopify’s enterprise solution, tailored to specific business needs. Of course, Shopify can cover famous clients only by providing exceptional service and that comes with the price.
There is a handful of important differences to note between how Squarespace and Shopify pricing works.
Although it doesn’t look like it at first, the Squarespace ‘Advanced Commerce’ plan is still cheaper than the ‘Basic Shopify’ plan. That’s because you’re probably going to have to pay for a premium theme in Shopify, whereas Squarespace includes all of its templates with your plan.
Premium themes cost between $140 to $180 through Shopify. However, you can find budget third-party themes for around $40 to $60 (beware that they may not be fully optimized like the genuine Shopify themes are).
On top of that, Squarespace comes with tools for marketing and inventory management. In Shopify, you’ll need to pay for apps to provide these functions. App prices vary widely but expect to pay between $10 and $50 per month for each individual add-on.
When it comes to ease of use, I definitely have to go with Shopify over Squarespace. Squarespace isn’t hard to figure out, but honestly, the platform makes tasks somewhat more difficult than they need to be. Meanwhile, Shopify streamlines the online store setup process and makes it simple to add new apps to your shop.
Getting started is simple with both Squarespace and Shopify.
With Squarespace, all you have to do is choose a template and the platform will launch your site. And don’t worry too much about this, since you can always change templates later.
For Shopify, just answer a few questions about your business and you’ll be good to go.
You don’t have to make any design decisions to get your website up and running.
Shopify has a traditional dashboard from which you can monitor your business and keep track of what improvements you can make to your site. That’s a big help when you first start out since it points you in the right direction for customizing your online store and adding products.
Squarespace, unfortunately, doesn’t have anything similar. So, you’re essentially left exploring menu options to figure out where to start.
In addition, there’s a silly but frustrating problem with the Squarespace navigation. When you click on a menu item, you ‘enter’ the sub-menu and the top-level menu disappears.
Given that some menus are three or four levels deep, it’s surprisingly easy to get lost in Squarespace’s navigation.
The next step in setting up your online store for both platforms is to customize your site. Here, Squarespace gives you a ton more options — I’ll go into detail about that later — but Shopify does a much better job of simplifying and streamlining the process.
To start, you can choose a new theme on either platform. Shopify’s themes are separated into free and paid, so you don’t have to sift through a store to find a few free options. Better yet, uploading a third-party theme is simple, and changing themes won’t affect your content.
In Squarespace, it’s easy to change templates. But, beware that you’ll lose a lot of your style customizations every time you do so.
While both Squarespace and Shopify allow you to change up your website with drag-and-drop editors, the two systems are completely different.
Squarespace’s editor takes some getting used to since you actually drop content on your page and rearrange it in rows and columns.
When I first started, it wasn’t clear at all what I was supposed to be doing. And there is an issue with getting content to go to a specific place since you have to move the mouse around until a placement bar appears.
But I quickly got used to it, so I would say that Squarespace has their specific interface but it’s actually easy to use.
In Shopify, the website building logic is much different than that of Squarespace.
Here, you’re basically just dragging and dropping to rearrange the order of page sections. This is way simpler and more intuitive, even if it means you have only a fraction of the design control.
I also loved the fact that you can simply hide a page section that’s under construction, rather than delete it or push it over to a hidden page on your website.
As far as site-wide customization goes, this also was easier in Shopify. However, that’s largely a consequence of the fact that there were so few options to worry about, whereas I had to scroll through more than 100 different customization choices in Squarespace.
Again, Shopify trades design flexibility for simplicity.
I liked the way that Shopify handles product design and I think it does that much better than Squarespace.
In Shopify, all of your product options are on a single page. That makes it much faster to copy information and to move through adding multiple new products to your store.
As for the Squarespace product design interface, I’m really not a huge fan.
It’s not that it’s missing features, but it separates your product information into somewhat repetitive tabs.
When you need to add multiple new products to your site, this can really slow things down. Moreover, the pop-up product design window just isn’t as helpful as having a dedicated product page.
Still, there were a few things I like about the Squarespace product designer.
For one, you can use the same drag-and-drop editor as for pages to create your product description. That means you get access to content elements like videos, galleries, forms, and buttons.
I also appreciated that Squarespace allows you to add SEO metadata to every individual product.
Shopify was clearly more oriented towards international business and selling products from brands other than your own. You could easily include information about the product type and vendor for each of your items, as well as add customs data like Harmonized System codes.
Squarespace also has a small but annoying detail about inventory management. If the product variant is no longer in stock, you need to mark them as ‘out of stock’. Meanwhile, Shopify allows simply deleting such variant combinations.
Helpfully, you can manage your online store on your smartphone for either platform.
The Shopify app is pretty limited to eCommerce, focusing on approving orders and managing inventory and shipping. You can make changes to product images and descriptions, but unfortunately, that’s about it for changing the look of your site on the go.
But other than that, there are very few things you can’t do with the Shopify app, and I felt pretty satisfied with it.
Squarespace actually divides itself into three apps. I thought this was silly at first, but I came to appreciate it. The Squarespace app is basically a mobile editor, from which you can change your website content and even edit your style customizations. It’s a lot less friendly than the desktop editor, but it provides a solution on the go.
The Commerce app is basically Squarespace’s answer to Shopify’s mobile platform. The main difference is analytics is also separated into its own app, which I feel like could have been made into a tab in the Commerce screen.
There’s very little question in my mind that Squarespace is king when it comes to design. Shopify’s templates are good, but nowhere near as stunning as Squarespace themes. Plus, Squarespace gives you complete control over the fine details of how your online store looks, while Shopify mostly sticks to your theme.
Squarespace offers more than 70 themes, and they are each extraordinarily well-designed. I love that you have a choice between templates with full-screen images and templates that use negative space to pull in customers.
Plus, all of the templates are responsive and automatically look great on mobile devices.
Compared to Squarespace’s versatile templates, Shopify’s themes definitely look designed more for eCommerce websites. But I liked how Shopify’s templates put a lot of emphasis on using the full width of your visitors’ screens for images.
Importantly, all of Squarespace’s templates are included with your plan. That’s not the case for Shopify, where you can only choose from 10 themes for free. There are 64 other themes available through Shopify for prices ranging from $140 to $180 each, which is pretty pricey.
Of course, you can get third-party templates for Shopify as well. Searching Theme Forest I found plenty of options under $60.
However, there’s no guarantee that these templates are optimized for the latest version of Shopify or that they’ll last through the next update.
Where Squarespace really shines is in its design tools. The platform’s drag-and-drop editor gives you far more flexibility to place content around your page and to resize it compared to Shopify.
Notably, you can place multiple different content elements side-by-side, whereas Shopify limits you to placing page sections on top of one another.
This does mean that designing a website in Squarespace will probably take longer — it took me a few hours compared to under an hour in Shopify. However, with Squarespace, you can achieve far more customized site designs, both for static pages and for your online store.
Even better are Squarespace’s content blocks.
The platform’s galleries are truly unmatched among the website builders I’ve looked at, and I absolutely loved the many ways that you could combine text and images in Squarespace. On top of that, there are call-to-action buttons, newsletter signup blocks, and social media buttons that you can place just about anywhere on your website.
Shopify doesn’t even come close to matching that versatility.
The most exciting page sections available were slideshows and images with text overlays. But, you can’t even control the size of those since each page section is forced to be full-width.
Also, you can add some more page sections from Shopify’s app store. But ultimately you won’t get anything near the design functionality of Squarespace.
Squarespace surges ahead again when it comes to customizing your theme and your content. With Shopify, you get just a few basic options. For example, you can change your theme’s background color, some of your fonts, and your social media buttons.
In Squarespace, there are hundreds of options for tweaking almost everything about your website.
You can go far beyond fonts and colors, changing everything from the padding around call-to-action buttons to the gutter width in image galleries to the height of your page headers and footers.
The Squarespace’s level of control is extremely impressive, and it allows you a ton of leeway in making your site stand out.
I should note here that both Shopify and Squarespace allow you to add custom CSS to your template.
Shopify makes this significantly easier by giving you a code editor with your theme’s code.
Squarespace doesn’t actually make the code for its themes public, so you’ll have to rely on the Squarespace user community to find CSS code snippets that work for your template.
Squarespace has a lot of good things going for it as an eCommerce platform. But, it doesn’t even come close to matching Shopify in this respect. Shopify is the most popular online store platform in the world, and its tools for selling your products and managing your business are a big part of the reason for that.
Shopify truly puts Squarespace to shame when it comes to payment processing. Squarespace only offers two options for accepting payments on your website: PayPal and Stripe. These are fine payment gateways and they allow you to accept credit cards, but they can’t keep pace with the multitude of payment options that customers are now using.
Shopify has done a much better job of expanding its reach.
It offers PayPal, Stripe, and more than 100 other payment gateways, including its own proprietary payment solution. Shopify even supports cryptocurrency payments, which is a pretty good indicator of how this platform is on the cutting edge of processing transactions.
However, there’s a catch.
Shopify won’t charge commissions on your sales beyond your processing transaction fee if you use Shopify Payments. However, if you use another payment gateway, you’ll be hit with a 2% fee from Shopify.
I was shocked to find that Squarespace can compete with Shopify when it comes to tracking your inventory. That’s not because Shopify dropped the ball here — rather, Squarespace nailed this particular eCommerce function.
Both platforms allow you to easily set and track inventory for individual product variants, as well as add limited stock labels to products that are almost gone.
You can also get email alerts or push notifications to your smartphone when inventory for any product is running low.
Overall, these features aren’t particularly exciting. But, they’re highly functional in both platforms and help ensure that you won’t be caught with your most popular products unavailable to customers, even for a short time.
Squarespace has decent shipping options, but it’s nowhere close to Shopify.
What Squarespace offers is pretty basic.
You can define flat-rate shipping prices for products or weight-based shipping rates. If you have an Advanced Commerce plan, you can see real-time shipping quotes from FedEx and UPS.
But the interface is pretty confusing and doesn’t work particularly well for high volumes of orders.
In fact, I’d actually recommend that you skip Squarespace’s built-in shipping altogether if you have a lot of orders coming in. The platform integrates nicely with ShipStation and plans there start at just $9/month.
Shopify offers a much more robust shipping tool. To start, you get discounts of 60% or more with UPS and DHL, as well as 20% discounts with USPS.
You can set rates for different sets of countries, as well as define your commonly used package sizes to automatically generate real-time handling rates.
I was particularly happy to find that you can sync your carrier accounts with your Shopify store, which really streamlines shipping.
Importantly, Shopify enables dropshipping businesses in a way that Squarespace simply doesn’t. With Shopify, there are dozens of apps for dropshippers that can help you populate your store with products from manufacturers around the world.
You can design your store as you normally would, but these apps will take care of fulfilling all of your orders automatically.
This is still sort of possible in Squarespace, but you lose almost all of the automation. You’d have to import products manually and trigger fulfillment yourself when an order comes in.
Really, there’s very little point in using Squarespace for dropshipping.
Squarespace and Shopify are pretty evenly matched on a lot of their selling tools. However, Shopify’s apps allow you to extend the platform far beyond anything Squarespace can offer.
Where Squarespace keeps up are in essential store functions. These include coupons and gift cards, which work pretty much the same between the two eCommerce solutions. In addition, the abandoned cart recovery is similar, with each platform allowing you to define just one email that gets sent out to customers.
Squarespace has a few additional nice features when it comes to product presentation.
You can easily enable customers to zoom in on your product photos, as well as offer images for each product variant. Shopify doesn’t offer these functions by default, but they can easily be added with low-cost apps (less than $5 per month for most options).
Shopify starts to pull away when it comes to booking services.
Squarespace allows you to sell bookings through integration with Acuity Scheduler, but unfortunately, you can’t use any other booking service.
Meanwhile, Shopify has a lot more options here through its app marketplace, many of which are free.
And if you have a physical store, Shopify stands out for offering a point of sale app. That way, you can sell products in-person using the same interface as your online store, and track those sales along with the rest of your revenue.
While you can use Stripe’s point of sale with Squarespace, it’s a lot harder to sync those sales back to your Squarespace account.
That’s about it for Squarespace, but Shopify is far from done. There are paid apps for bundling products together, cross-selling and up-selling customers, and creating urgency within the purchasing funnel.
Even more important, you can easily cross-list your products from Shopify on other sales channels, like Google Shopping, eBay, and Amazon. That’s huge since customers can buy from you without actually visiting your store directly.
Shopify also vastly outperforms Squarespace in terms of marketing capabilities and SEO. Squarespace includes email marketing for free, but Shopify gives you apps for social media marketing and advanced contests and giveaways.
On top of that, Shopify has tons of apps for optimizing your store’s SEO.
Squarespace is largely limited to email marketing using its built-in email designer.
I find this to be a great tool, especially considering it’s included with every eCommerce plan. It uses the same drag-and-drop editor as the website designer, and there are plenty of templates to help get your emails started.
Better yet, the fact that you can place newsletter signup blocks anywhere on your pages makes it significantly easier to collect email addresses.
However, the tools for customer segmentation aren’t amazing since you can’t really segment based on purchasing data.
Shopify offers email marketing through OmniSend, but you’ll have to pay if you want to access anything more than the limited free plan. Alternatively, there is a huge number of email marketing apps you can add, including integrations for MailChimp and Constant Contact.
Shopify takes marketing way further, too.
You can create Facebook ads, SMS marketing campaigns, and Snapchat story ads right from your Shopify dashboard. There are also apps for setting up contests and giveaways, or for connecting with other social media platforms.
At the end of the day, there are very few limits on marketing thanks to Shopify’s add-ons, as long as you have the budget to pay for additional apps.
Squarespace offers middle-of-the-road SEO tools. They’re not bad, but I found it pretty hard to get excited about them. The most impressive thing I found is that you can add meta titles and descriptions to individual products, which helps customers land on your product pages right from Google.
Unfortunately, though, Squarespace doesn’t take any sort of active role in helping you develop your site’s SEO. There’s no analysis of your page content or blog posts, and no extension tools to check your site for keywords or internal links.
Shopify doesn’t have much SEO power by default, but again, there are plenty of apps for this purpose.
Many options offer free plans that can check for broken links and other basic SEO slip-ups. But, you’ll need a paid plan if you want more advanced functionality, like the ability to identify which keywords are being used by customers who find your site.
When it comes to marketing and SEO, Shopify’s app integrations win the day. They allow you to take your online business to new customers through a variety of media, whereas Squarespace is limited to email marketing.
However, you can spend quite a bit on Shopify’s tools, while Squarespace’s email builder is free.
Shopify and Squarespace offer pretty comparable analytics dashboards. I think they’re pretty functional, although you can do a lot more to break down your product data and segment customers using Shopify’s apps.
Both of the default dashboards focus on relatively basic information, like who is visiting your site and where they’re coming from. I liked that
Shopify also allows you to see who’s on your site in real-time, although I’m not really sure how I would put this feature to use.
I was surprised to find that Squarespace’s analytics dashboard was more actionable since there’s a lot of data about your purchasing funnel.
It’s possible to clearly see where you’re losing customers, as well as to see what pages and products on your site are garnering the most views. To get that product-level data in Shopify, you’ll need to pay for an analytics app.
What I’ll say about Shopify, though, is that you can actually use your site data to segment customers.
There are a ton of apps for this purpose, and it really allows you to put your data to work.
If you combine customer segmentation with a few good targeted marketing campaigns, it’s possible to see a significant bump in conversions.
Both Squarespace and Shopify offer built-in blogs for your online store. But, Squarespace’s blogging platform is far superior. It offers a better post designer and a far more comfortable interface, as well as social media integration.
The real advantage of Squarespace’s blog editor is that you get the same drag-and-drop controls and content elements as for the rest of your website.
So, you can design really intricate blog posts, complete with galleries, sign-up forms, and call-to-action buttons. That’s not nearly as easy to do in Shopify, where all you get is a rich-text editor.
The only extra thing I would have liked to see in Squarespace’s blogs was an SEO checker. You don’t get this in Shopify, either, but it would have really put Squarespace over the top for me.
In addition, the blog interface in Shopify just didn’t feel right to me.
The space is cramped, with only a tiny portion of the page devoted to the actual text you’re writing. Strangely, there also are no options to share your posts on social media, which somewhat defeats the purpose of blogging in the first place.
If you’re serious about blogging in Shopify, I’d highly recommend looking at some of the blogging apps. Unfortunately, you’ll have to pay for them, but it’s worthwhile to get back the functionality that Shopify left out of its blogs.
Shopify is an extremely high-performing platform, while Squarespace has a few critical issues that hold it back. The difference probably isn’t enough to scare away customers, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
I tested Shopify and Squarespace websites and a Squarespace website using GTMetrix – a platform that looks at site optimization.
On the other hand, Shopify aced the test, with a 96% PageSpeed score and an 85% YSlow score.
I also tested the two sites with LoadImpact and found that Shopify has significantly faster response times.
Squarespace response times were typically around 150 milliseconds as virtual requests to the server increased.
Meanwhile, Shopify remained at or below 50 milliseconds.
Although the difference is noticeable, overall both of my websites worked fine, and also were well within the industry’s standard.
With all said and done – which one is the better platform? Well, it depends.
Squarespace is primarily a website builder that costs less but still includes a relatively impressive set of eCommerce features. In contrast, Shopify is a dedicated eCommerce platform that has a superior app store you can use to further improve your website.
Therefore, the main takeaway is this:
In comparing Squarespace vs. Shopify head-to-head, it’s clear that Squarespace is best suited for small businesses and personal projects. The platform is affordable and you have all the main tools to run an online shop and grow your customer base.
For larger businesses, I’d say go to Shopify. The platform has strong marketing solutions as well as selling tools and overall this is a versatile and effective platform that will serve you for years to come.
So, it’s important to think about your goals, budget, and customers when choosing between Shopify or Squarespace.
If you have the budget to support a Shopify store and your goal is to grow, there’s very little drawback to this platform. On the other hand, if you expect to remain relatively small and want to emphasize site design or product aesthetics, Squarespace is a great option.
If neither Squarespace nor Shopify seems like exactly what you need, there are plenty of alternative eCommerce solutions. Three options I’d recommend checking out are Strikingly, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce.
Strikingly is an online store builder that’s designed specifically for one-page shops. It’s perfect if you only have a handful of products to sell, but don’t want to deal with Squarespace’s complicated design features.
Strikingly can be pretty restrictive at times, but the platform makes it easy to launch your online store and offers a nice suite of selling features at a reasonable price.
BigCommerce is a direct competitor to Shopify, and a lot of the features are very similar. One of the ones I think sets it apart is its abandoned cart recovery, which allows you to define up to three different customer emails.
While I like Shopify’s interface more than BigCommerce’s, it’s worth exploring if this is one of the things that push you away from Shopify.
WooCommerce is another close competitor to Shopify. It’s an eCommerce extension designed for WordPress, which makes it extremely powerful.
Setting up an online store in WordPress can be a lot of work, but this is one of the few eCommerce solutions that gives you even more flexibility and selling tools than Shopify.