In this Square eCommerce review, I will check on this payment platform’s online store builder, see whether it’s easy to use and whether you should choose it.
For the most part, Square was always known as one of the largest online payment gateways in the world. But now, it’s going full digital, offering a website builder and an eCommerce solution all wrapped up in one nice package. And while it released in 2019, it actually has a lot more experience than it might seem.
In 2018 this company acquired Weebly, one of the world’s top website builders, and integrated it fully with its eCommerce platform – making it clear that the perspective of Square was now focused on helping businesses move from the physical to the digital world.
So… how has this company done it? Is Square eCommerce a perfect solution for you, the best of both worlds – combining innovative payment solutions with a solid online store builder? Or is it just a weak attempt to piggyback an existing product and join a different market?
Well, to find out the truth, I conducted a Square eCommerce review of my own. And this is what I found out:
Square has certainly focused on making things as simple as possible. Anyone can use it, creating and publishing a store from scratch takes only a few clicks.
Managing the website is also very simple – the dashboard is the best example of that. Simple to use, displaying on the most crucial information and filled with intuitive shortcuts, it’s going to be easy to master even if you never managed an online site before.
However, simplicity comes a price. And that price is limitations in website customization.
There is no drag and drop editor, meaning you can’t place various elements of your website wherever you wish. And HTML/CSS code cannot be modified.
However, your Square online store will look good and will be made in a very short time. The on-screen guides and step-by-step tutorials are also there to make the experience the best it can be.
Overall, I found Square online store to be a fascinating option. With some limitations in terms of design, it certainly isn’t for everybody. But if you’re looking to simplify your online store building and management experience, Square has a place with your name on it.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
If you’re interested in finding out all about this product’s pricing, themes, ease of use, business tools, and performance – keep on reading this Square online store review. Because I talk about all of those things (and a little bit more).
Square can be used for free. And Square premium plans will cost you from $12 to $72 per month.
Now, I know what you’re thinking (because I thought so as well). “A free platform to build an online store? What’s the catch?” Well, for this part of the Square eCommerce review, let’s examine the cheese in the mousetrap.
For starters, each store transaction will cost you a commission of 2.9% plus an additional 30 cents. In fairness though, the commissions apply to all plans, even the most expensive one.
The Free plan, however, won’t let you connect your store with your domain – so you will be stuck with the website name branded with Square’s credentials. The same goes for your website design – there will be a Square logo visible at all times on your site.
So, if you’re interested in your online store’s brand, free plan may not be a great idea.
For most online stores, the Professional plan will be sufficient since it covers most of the needs of a small to medium-sized business. It offers unlimited products, free custom domain, and no Square advertisement on the website.
However, if you want to have a little more feedback in your online store and receive reviews from your customers then you will have to choose the Performance plan that has a cost of $26 a month. This plan will also add abandoned cart recovery (to remind the clients about the purchase they’ve nearly completed, so they can finish it).
The most expensive plan, called Premium, is ideal for stores with large sales volumes since they reduce the commission percentage of each transaction to 2.6%. There are also shipping discounts and a real-time shipping price calculator for your customers, so you can optimize your workflow even further.
But the expenses don’t stop there.
While Square has all these paid plans, it also has some premium features at additional cost.
For example, if you want to carry out advertising campaigns by sending out emails, you will have to pay a cost that starts at $15/month.
Whereas if you want to implement Square’s new loyalty system, you will have to pay $45/month.
Depending on your needs and goals, Square can be either incredibly cheap or very expensive. You hold all the power – and all the responsibility to choose wisely.
Creating an online store from scratch in Square is quite easy and also really, really fast. For this Square online store review, I signed up for a website – and it was pretty straightforward and simple. The process of customizing your website and products is also very basic, albeit a little limited.
Overall, Square is very well suited for beginners. If you’re one of them, you’ll be happy with it.
After signing up, Square requests to know a little about the business that I was setting up online.
Now – this is the place where most builders would ask you to choose a theme similar to what you want your website to look like. Not Square.
Instead of choosing a theme, I had to choose my preferred type of website. Within the options, I had an option to make a multi-page website, as well as a single-page website – as if it were a brochure.
The option to choose for most online businesses would be the full website plus online store, because this way you can do more things than sell, such as receiving customer feedback and doing marketing campaigns.
And so – after choosing the option, I was greeted with the Square control panel. All transactions, products, marketing, and email were easily accessible with big buttons right on the sidebar on the left.
This control panel allowed to manage everything related to the online store – except designing the website itself. For this, there’s a helpful blue button on the top left that says “Online Store”.
Let’s check it out.
Customizing your website using Square is pretty simple, and there’s a lot of help provided. This is where a lot of that Weebly knowledge really shines through. It’s a proper website builder, with its only drawback being the level of customization.
This panel does everything possible to provide the information in a striking and clear way. For example, for the first time setup, Square suggests following a series of 8 steps – the first being related to personalizing the website with a design editor.
Access this editor for the first time, and you’ll get to select from several features that can appear on the home page. You’ll also be able to change the combination of colors, fonts, and setup the domain of the website.
This website builder divides each page into sections. Parts of these sections can be modified – you can change the overall layout, title, description, images, or even colors and appearance. Sadly, I can’t drag and drop whatever elements I want inside them. Editing here is quite restricted.
Creating new content like a new page is quick and easy. Adding new pages is simple and there are several options on how you can get your content to be displayed.
You can choose from several content layouts, and editing the text on them is as simple as double-clicking. Then you can overwrite it, change its font size, color, etc.
There is a good selection of features (let’s call them blocks) you can add to your page – including but not limited to text, images, testimonials, social media integration, and information about your business.
So, the editor is not very flexible. But it has a lot of great options for displaying, and is seriously easy to use.
The products in Square can be loaded directly from the main dashboard. Hint: it’s a green button that says “Items”.
From there, it’s pretty straightforward. You get either to upload a file with all of your items in a list (great if you’re migrating from a different platform), or by adding them one by one. Doesn’t get much more simple than that.
You can also easily add product variations, allowing to have different options of one item (shirts coming in different colors, noodles coming in different flavors).
There are also modifiers available – they are often used in food, such as toppings or special requests.
After you’ll be done with setting up all the product attributes, then you’ll have to check out the Online Checkout. This feature generates a unique link to each product, so your visitors can visit the link in order to purchase it.
This is useful when you want to share a very popular product on social networks such as Facebook, so your customers do not need to access the online store to find it, being a more aggressive and direct sales strategy.
When I finished filling in all the product information, I was tempted to see it reflected in my online store.
Not so fast.
The created products will not automatically appear on your site. You’ll still have to mark them as visible through the Square Online Store editor.
Once inside you must check the visibility option so that your product can appear in the online store. This is something that may seem a bit confusing to first-time users.
However, first-time users will still get some of the great professional features in a very simple to use package. For instance, I absolutely loved how Square attempts to tackle the idea that not all store vendors have access to professional product photography.
Meet Square Photo Studio:
Square Photo Studio offers a high-quality, professional product photography service so you can get your buyers’ attention. All you have to do is send the product to them, they take the pictures and you download them. This was definitely the highlight of this Square eCommerce review.
This service costs $9.95 for 3 high-quality photos at multiple angles. If you want to have a complete 360-degree view of your product it will cost you $29.95. And considering the costs of a proper product photoshoot, this is a complete bargain, making this difficult process very, very simple.
Square has a very particular approach in terms of templates. Although the platform itself state it has a variety of templates available for different types of websites – the reality is that you cannot select a specific template. You’ll have to work with what you’re given instead.
This is what you can see on the main website:
But this is what you’ll see when creating your online store:
Every type of business is associated with the template style. For example, retail, restaurants, services, or non-profit.
Once you have chosen the type of business, the template will be automatically selected and you will not be able to change it in the future.
This is a direct result of the Square online store builder aiming to be a simple, straightforward platform with no twists and turns. There is also no HTML/CSS editor with which you can make advanced edits of website elements.
Now – and this is important – you can make modifications, such as the color scheme, fonts, page layouts, or the style of the buttons. But what you absolutely can’t change is your starting point.
If you want a simple tool to quickly create an online store and you are not worried about having a selection of hundreds of templates or doing advanced HTML code, then this is an option for your business. If you, however, are looking for dozens of templates to choose and edit – this is not it.
Square is a platform made specifically for online commerce, so it should surprise literally nobody that it has many features that will help any business going digital. This includes transaction management, customer administration, cash balances, reports, and many, many other things.
Describing them all would probably require an entire book. But I don’t have the time to write it, and you don’t have the time to read it. So let’s go scratch the surface of what this platform can do – together.
Most of the Square business features are located in the main dashboard, and marked by the colorful icons.
Others (often requiring additional payments) are located in the list just below.
If social media is the bread and butter of your business, this is probably the part that interests you the most. Well, Square does a pretty decent job of combining your online store with your socials.
You can easily add your Instagram feed to the website. The connection process is super quick, requires no API keys or secret codes – just login and forget about it.
You can also edit the way your links will display on Twitter or Facebook, allowing to have a glimpse of what the users will see, way before you start.
And also, you’ll get a chance to do some full-blown Facebook campaigns: for coupons, quick updates, events, or announcements.
Overall, Square online store offers a fair amount of integration with social media. Facebook campaigns are going to be very helpful to reach the audiences, and Instagram feed on your website will give it more information and a good visual boost.
Inventory management at Square is pretty basic – but it absolutely does the job. You can modify or replace the product gallery by importing an excel file or a comma-separated plaintext (CSV) file. This allows you to migrate from other platforms without losing the products that were already loaded on another system.
It can also be useful in case you use a separate system for the accounting of your business – and you have the products with the prices available elsewhere. This way, matching everything with Square online store should be pretty simple.
Also, you can also get an alert generated if the stock of a certain item is under a certain limit.
In addition, you can also keep history of all products coming in and out, and check what happened by seeing the Stock History section.
Regarding shipments, you can use the UPS worldwide logistics service to send packages pretty much everywhere. Not only it’s one of the quickest and most reliable options out there, it also provides a complete package tracking system – a standard with some of the world’s top retailers.
It’s worth noting that UPS is a higher-cost service than regular mail. For example, sending a medium package (251 to 650 cubic in.) with 4-day ground shipping across the US (Florida to California) will cost $17.50.
But this is where Square online store can flex its muscles – namely, the partnership with UPS. It offers a 55% discount on every shipment, dropping the cost of the aforementioned delivery to $9.63.
You can also use other mail services, such as the United States Postal Service, FedEx, or DHL. Prices will vary, depending on your location and needs. But there’s a solid chance that UPS price is the best one you’ll be able to get here.
Of course, chances are that you’re not interested in delivery at all. For you, there’s a neat solution called Pickup & Delivery. This option allows your customers to pick up the orders by visiting your physical store or allow them to send someone out that picks up the package for them.
Overall, Square really does well when it comes to inventory and shipping. It’s certainly one of the platform’s key strengths.
When it comes to payment processing, Square online store has nearly everything you would ever need. Through this platform, you can collect money via VISA, MasterCard, Discover, and AMEX credit cards. On top of that, you can also use the Google and Apple payment platform.
Every transaction made through Square’s payment gateway charges you a commission of 2.9% + 30 cents. This cost decreases if you upgrade your free plan to the most expensive one, with Premium, it comes down to 2.6% + 30 cents for a transaction.
The Balance panel will allow you see all the Square payments you’ve received as well as the pending ones.
To view all other payments, including those made with other payment gateways, like PayPal, you’ll have to use the Transactions section. Which looks pretty much…identical?
So technically, this separates your first and third-party payment solutions in two different pages. Which can get a bit frustrating.
However, to even offer PayPal on your online store, you must upgrade to a Square Performance plan for $26/mo – and that may be a bigger problem than a separate dashboard.
Overall, Square does fine, when it comes to payment processing. However, the transaction fees may be a bit too steep for many – as well as Paypal only available if you commit to an expensive plan.
When companies move to the digital world, they rarely give importance to the recording of tax information. So Square has a section completely dedicated to making automatic tax calculations based on the physical address of your store.
Since each state will have different rates, every sale can include an automatic tax calculation and thus can save you a lot of time.
As an example, I based my business in Florida, and now the calculator will automatically include the 6% tax rate on every sale I make on my store.
If for some reason this is wrong you can easily correct it, and even add tax percentages from other countries.
Square presents a very quick and easy way to make automated taxes based on location. That will be very useful for any type of business that wants to have their papers in order. And let’s admit, no one likes to deal with taxes on their own.
A good relationship with the customer is essential for any business. Square offers some interesting features in this regard. It collects all the information when your customer makes a purchase. You can also collect feedback after each purchase the customer makes.
Usually, this is a premium feature in many eCommerce services but here at Square, it is free with every plan. You can use all that collected feedback to improve your store or refund and fix negative user experience – and turn it into a positive one.
Now, it uses a “good/bad” system – some may call it a “smiley system”, visitors can show satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the service or product by pressing either a smile or a frown
It does make collecting feedback easier. 🙂
But it’s a bit limiting to have just 2 experience choices. 🙁
Customers can also leave public feedback on their purchases in your store. This will not only help you get more knowledge but will also show a bit more transparency towards your users – a trait which may help both your reputation and sales.
Another thing that might help both your visitors and you is the abandoned cart recovery. If a customer didn’t finish the purchase but had a basket with products waiting for the checkout, you’ll be given a chance to close the deal.
For example, through this function, you can send emails to customers reminding them that they can resume the pending purchase. You might even have a small discount code ready, as an incentive to return.
However, you must upgrade to the Performance plan to be able to send these emails and not just collect statistics.
Finally, there’s a customer engagement feature called Loyalty. This tool allows you to assign points to customers based on certain actions they do in your online store. This helps you create more returning customers and a bigger community.
There are several ways you can set up to collect points. They can be earned by a customer spending a specific amount, a purchase of a certain product, or a visit to a store page for the first time.
Unfortunately, this is a premium tool and it’s going to set you back by quite a bit. You can test it out for free for 30 days, but later, the pricing starts from $45/mo for 0-500 locations loyalty visits. How much you actually pay depends on these visits each month. One loyalty visit corresponds to a customer’s enrollment in your Square Loyalty program or when a reward is earned.
Overall, Square has many excellent tools to manage the relationship with your clients. It’s ideal for small businesses that want to retain their new customers or create a community around existing ones. No issues here.
Square has a very comprehensive statistics section called Reports. Here you can get information about sales, trends, taxes, and more.
It’s actually very easy to use and understand, even if you don’t have any previous knowledge working with a similar platform. If not, take my word for it – Square Reports is an intuitive platform that does a brilliant job.
This analysis tool allows you to follow the entire performance of your online store, even customizing the reports to your liking.
It presents more information than Google Analytics since in addition to reporting the behavior of the website you can also see transactions, your inventory movement, and much more.
It is also possible to add analytical tools through the App Marketplace such as ZipBooks to automate sales or customer reports.
It’s great that Square gives you an extensive analytics tool that is easy to understand. It will definitely help beginners to improve their business. And considering, that this powerful tool also comes free with all plans – it’s even better.
Organic traffic through search engines such as Google can generate your business a massive amount of passive income. Therefore, you should be making sure that the platform of your choice does well with search engine optimization (SEO). How is it doing?
Well, you can configure the general SEO of the online store or each page individually right in the website editor.
Every page in Square has SEO settings options. And you can see a live result preview of how it will look if you modify the title or the description of the page. You can also choose whether you want the page to appear in the results or not. This comes very handy if you’re new to SEO.
Another problem that can negatively affect SEO is dead links. Let’s say that you have removed a product and added a very similar one, but now, your new item has a new URL – rendering all of your previous Google positions useless.
Also, it would take time for Google to index the new page, and visitors would be visiting a deleted page, leading to negative feedback.
However, in Square, you can do a 301 redirect to keep the old link alive and to maintain its position among the Google results. To be honest, I have not seen a lot of website builders that have this tool. So simple – but very good to have.
Overall, Square allows you to configure the SEO of your online store very easily. I wouldn’t say that there’s an abundance of tools, but the ones they have are actually useful.
Square allows email marketing with the Marketing and Customer Engagement subscription (starts at $15/month).
This tool is built so that anyone can run a campaign in three simple steps: selecting an objective, designing the email, and choosing the target audience.
You can work with predefined goals or build custom ones from scratch. A good example of a predefined goal, may be to send a welcome email to all new customers.
Although this is a tool that will cost extra, some may find it to be very much worth it.
You can pay for each email sent at a cost of $0.10 per email, just like we used to do for text messages back in the days. Or you can choose a fixed monthly plan, it starts from $15/mo for 500 recipients.
But there’s even more choice, Square allows the use of other marketing tools via its App Marketplace. For example, you can integrate the MailChimp app to do campaigns directly through that platform. So, for example, if you’re already using this platform – you won’t need to swap.
Creating campaigns and marketing your product by email in Square is easy thanks to its step-by-step assistant. Although you will have to pay an additional cost, you can balance it and control your spending. But, being able to use third-party marketing tools is the biggest plus in my book.
Another important factor for a successful online store is performance. The quicker your website loads, the happier are your customers, and in turn – you make more money.
In this Square online store review, I checked the server response time under various user loads, website optimization, and overall load time.
My two tools of choice are, LoadImpact to determine how the server responds to a high load of traffic, and GTMetrix which will show overall page loading speeds and optimization. After I created a simple scenario with 20 virtual users and let it run for 10 minutes, here are the results I got.
Square delivered pretty mixed performance results. The server response times were great, averaging at around 257 ms – just about what Google recommends.
The best part, the response time was stable and smooth throughout the text, so you can count on stability for sure.
GTMetrix, on the other hand, gave some reason to be doubtful of Square’s abilities. Unfortunately, it achieved below average, with a C (71%) in PageSpeed and a D (65%) in YSlow scores.
The loading time was also not ideal, with a air over 6 seconds – twice as slow as Google’s recommended 3-second threshold. And it’s not like my website was full of unoptimized full-screen images either!
In all fairness though, real-life tests were a bit nicer to Square. I didn’t have to wait for ages for a blank screen to start displaying something. While the loading process took a while, I (and your visitors) won’t be bothered by it all that much. This, however, is still as issue that needs addressing.
In this Square eCommerce review, I found that the platform absolutely dominates when it comes to eCommerce and business features. These include inventory tracking, lots of shipping alternatives, feedback from customers, and customizable SEO options.
However, it still lags behind in terms of website customization – you won’t get the artistic freedom to make your website the way you want it to be.
Also, it is an ideal platform for personal or small businesses that are just starting out and do not want to make large investments right away. Square offers everything you need to manage an online business for free, and in exchange, asks for a portion of your transactions and extra money for advanced features. This might be a good middle-ground option for some.
It’s easy to see why Square splashed the cash to acquire Weebly. Weebly’s DNA is all over Square eCommerce, the editor and the website builder process are both very intuitive.
Maybe it just needs to copy Weebly just a little more? During this Square online store review, I figured that the combination of Weebly’s multiple templates, coding freedom, and design options, mixed with Square’s eCommerce features sounds absolutely deadly.
For now, however, it still serves as a terrific option for beginner vendors, and people looking to turn a physical business digital. It’s not ideal. But is anything?
out of 10
Square is the perfect choice for businesses or individuals wanting to expand and sell online. Even the free plan has quite a lot of features for beginners and professionals, allowing to start a business without an initial investment. It's a simple and very easy to use - but beware, it has limited customization options, when compared to other competitors.
While Square is a great option for your business, it still lacks advanced editing tools, alternative templates, and better performance. If you are looking for something that covers those flanks then you can take a look at some of my recommended online store builders.
Wix has an easy to use drag-and-drop editor and more than 500 themes to use. It also offers a specialized online store management solution called WixStore. With it, you get inventory tracking, promotions, and a huge App Market with third-party integrations.
Wix prices are also very affordable, starting from the Business Basic plan, which will cost you $17/month for SSL certificate, a free domain for a year, unlimited bandwidth, and 20GB of storage space.
Shopify is one of the most complete online store solutions in the industry. It has its own extensive theme gallery and you can even use third-party templates. Also, it allows more than one sales channel, multiple stores, and social network integrations.
However, Shopify is on the expensive side. The basic plan that starts at $29/month includes unlimited products, up to 2 staff members, SSL security, discount codes, and gift cards for your customers.
If you are looking to create an online store that stands out for its designs, then Squarespace is the alternative to go. It has professional templates focused on usability and clean aesthetics. It also includes useful eCommerce features to sell physical, digital products, or subscriptions.
Squarespace’s cheapest plan for eCommerce is called Business and it costs $18/month, with it, you get a free domain, SSL certificate, unlimited storage, as well as unlimited bandwidth.