Both Shopify and Squarespace are powerful and well-known content management systems (CMS) for building websites, used by hundreds of thousands webmasters around the world, yet before Squarespace added e-commerce capabilities, choosing between the two wasn’t hard at all: if you wanted an online shop, you went for Shopify, if not – Squarespace would be a sensible choice. RIght now, it’s tricker than that, and we’re here to help you understand the key differences in order to make the right choice.

E-commerce Features

For the purposes of this analysis, we will assume that our goal is to create an e-commerce solution – otherwise, if you’re simply looking to create a plain vanilla website, you definitely don’t need Shopify for that. Let’s look at the features which are directly related to selling stuff online first – as those are the core of each value offer.

While both platforms offer virtually the same basic ecommerce functionality, Shopify’s toolkit contains a wider set of options covering the needs of various online sellers, including:
Integration with third-party services such as Zapier (task automation), Zendesk (client support), and Quickbooks (smart accounting) enables saving costs and making the business processes more efficient.
Point of sale (POS) add-ons which can turn a tablet or a smartphone into sales registers, allowing you to conduct transactions in person.
Hassle-free VAT calculation for EU-based vendors selling digital goods, automating VAT MOSS compliance.

Both platforms allow you to accept credit cards and PayPal payments, based on their in-house gateways using Stripe technologies. Shopify, however, also supports dozens of local payment options in most countries of the world, which can be a real advantage if you’re planning to sell globally or are based in any of the countries not currently supported by the Squarespace gateway.

Transaction fees are a crucial element of the mix, too: despite being small on first sight, they can compound to significant sums of money over monthly and yearly sales cycles. When it comes to transaction fees, it’s important to understand that there are two layers of expenses for the seller: the fees imposed by the payment processor and the additional commissions of the e-commerce platform. Both Shopify and Squarespace have their built-in payment processors based on Stripe, yet Squarespace applies higher platform fees (3% for Basic and 2% for Advanced plan) than Shopify (2% for Basic and 1% for Shopify plan).

Pricing

Another important component is the platform’s subscription price. Shopify offers four plans, starting with Lite for $9 per month, which lets you sell you products on Facebook or an existing website. This plan is easy to miss since it’s not included in the pricing table on Shopify’s official site – you’ll need to look for a link below the table, on the right. Other plans include Basic ($29 per month) which has all the features needed for a new online store, as well as Shopify ($79 per month) and Advanced ($299 per months) for e-commerce companies with significant growth and volumes. There’s also Shopify Plus for enterprise-grade solutions, which uses custom pricing based on the specific requirements of the client.

Squarespace, in turn, has two separate plans for online stores, which cost higher than the standard subscriptions yet are still quite competitive compared to Shopify: $30 per month for the Basic and $46 for the Advanced.

In terms of price-features combinations, both CMS are very similar on the first glance, yet Shopify offers more flexibility by allowing to start selling without even having a website, on Facebook, Pinterest and other third-party platforms. Moreover, the fee structure disadvantage of Squarespace automatically makes it a less attractive solution for any e-shop with sales above several thousand dollars per month, since the transaction fees become a much more significant part of the expenses than the monthly subscription payments.

Which Should I Choose?

Having both been launched in 2004, Squarespace and Shopify have both had plenty of time to prove the quality and resilience of their platforms. The former, however, started out as a design-centric website builder and added e-commerce capabilities just recently, while the latter was an online store constructor from the onset, and did some catching up in terms of design quality. At the moment, both CMS can easily be referred to as great toolkits for selling online and their basic subscription plans are virtually identical in terms of pricing and feature sets, yet Shopify, having had a formidable head-start in the e-commerce area, still offers better value to businesses and individuals which focus on selling their products online.

Compared to its competitor, Shopify is significantly more flexible when it comes to scaling and growing together with your online store, from the Lite plan which allows testing your idea and product without even having a website (for just $9, unmatched by Squarespace), to sophisticated solutions for large e-shops. Adding to that the lower transaction fees, much wider geographical availability, an e-commerce focused extension library, and rich integrations ecosystem – makes Shopify look like a more attractive option to virtually any online store.

Let’s Discuss!

Left with unanswered questions or have an opposite opinion? Want to share your experience with either (or both!) of the platforms? We’re looking forward to hear from you in the comments below:

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