For business owners looking to start an online shop, the tech you need to actually sell your products can feel overwhelming. Many store owners — whether they’re selling physical or digital products — choose third-party platforms like Etsy or Creative Market. Others, who know they want to retain ownership of their traffic and sales, start with Squarespace or Shopify. Both of these platforms help you create a beautiful and functional storefront without being a coding genius.
If you know that a premade storefront is right for you, though, which one do you choose? As someone who has personally had experience with both Squarespace and Shopify to sell my digital products, I’m sharing the pros and cons of Shopify and Squarespace here.
Both Shopify and Squarespace are online platforms that let users create their own websites at the push of a button. Both have templates and professional themes that help even beginner business owners to help sell products, design websites, and connect with customers about their sales.
At first glance, these two platforms may seem to be super similar, if not two sides of the same coin. The biggest difference is in their origins: Squarespace was geared towards content-based websites, while Shopify was focused on creating online stores.
Today, however, both platforms have developed tools beyond their original goal. I’ve personally used both, getting my start on Squarespace before recently migrating over to Shopify as my business grew. In the end, do both platforms accomplish the same thing?
To answer that, let’s look at some of the key benefits to each storefront, as they stand today.
The backend is where you will spend most of your time as a business owner; this is where the magic happens. So how does this experience differ between the two platforms?
Squarespace lives up to its “plug and play” reputation here. Setting up a product is simple, intuitive, and done in a few clicks. Part of this is because Squarespace takes a “walled-garden” approach, keeping your shop and your site all in the same place, with little third-party integration.
Shopify has a similar process, but it is a little less beginner-friendly. Part of the complexities actually comes from Shopify’s biggest strength: the third-party integrations. Shopify works on all sorts of applications, so you’re not limited to your own fishbowl.
Shopify has also wowed me in one other way: it has never gone down on me. A crash-free shop platform comes in handy these days! Squarespace also has good tech staff at the helm, but in my experience, Shopify continues to impress me in this arena.
Both platforms charge a monthly fee, which is based on the package you select to start. I’ll be honest: Shopify does cost a bit more per month, especially compared to Squarespace. Still, I encourage you to look a little deeper at the packages, since the sticker price can be deceiving.
NOTE: These prices are in effect as of January, 2022. Please check pricing on each platform on your own, as these may have changed.
Squarespace offers three business packages: Business ($26/month), Basic Commerce ($35/month), and AdvancedCommerce ($54/month). I was paying about $40/month when I was using Squarespace, which I was pretty happy with.
Some of those packages come with different features, some that are more helpful than others. For example, the Business plan includes 3% transaction fees ON TOP of credit card fees, while the AdvancedCommerce plan includes abandoned cart recovery and subscription options.
Shopify’s packages range a little more in price. For shop owners, the basic plans started around $79/month, while more inclusive plans can go up to $299/month or more. The good news: unless you’re encroaching Bezos territory, you likely won’t need that kind of package!
All of these packages include handy features like abandoned cart recovery and professional reporting. The higher price tag can seem a bit scary at first, but if Shopify can help your shop grow more than the cheaper options can, then the extra $20/month may very well be worth it for you (like it was for me!).
Once upon a time, Squarespace dominated this field. Squarespace got its start in content-based websites, so creating gorgeous themes and templates came with the territory! To this day, they still offer notoriously easy-to-use templates that still look stunning.
However, Shopify has also made great strides in this field! You can find beautifully designed themes for your Shopify store that help you stand out, even if you’re not a graphic design pro yourself. You can customize your shop more if you’re code-savvy, but even if you’re not, Shopify is quickly catching up to Squarespace in this department.
One of Shopify’s biggest selling points is its checkout functionality tools. (Translated: they make checking out easy for your customer, which makes them more likely to stick with their cart!)
No matter where you’re buying from, Shopify uses the same checkout style page, and that consistency builds trust. They also include a variety of payment options, including ShopPay (which automatically fills in your buyer’s shipping info, which is a LIFESAVER!) This means that you can practically accept any currency, in any location, from any third-party application.
Squarespace, on the other hand, is a little more limited. It offers two main payment processing gateways: Paypal and Stripe. Most consumers will still be able to use this, but some local restrictions may apply. (On the plus side, most Squarespace plans negate transaction fees, which means you’re only dealing with the payment processing fees from Paypal and Stripe themselves).
While I do recommend starting with Squarespace for your digital product shop platform, it’s important to check off all the other steps when it comes to creating and selling digital products. That’s why I created a complete guide that walks you through exactly how to create passive income with digital products.
It’s important to choose the right shop platform for you, but it’s equally as important to choose the right digital product FIRST! Check out my guide on how to set up your online shop for success with MVPs to get your shop off on the right foot in 2022!