So you have an idea, a product, something you think you can sell. There are many obstacles in your way; How much should it cost? How are you going to manufacture it? Who is the target audience? Who are the competition? Where should I sell it? The rest may be hard questions but that last one doesn’t have to be. If you’re in the market for an online storefront, then you are in luck. I’ll be taking a look at a fair number of them over the next few weeks, comparing and contrasting, to find the right one for you.
First up for me will be Shopify and Sqaurespace. Both of these companies have some amazing features, are easy to use and powerful enough to make a sleek modern looking storefront for selling any product you can imagine. Squarespace has a broader outlook, being first a website creation tool and second an e-commerce creation tool. Shopify, by contrast, is laser focused on making an online shop tailored to your exact needs.
So let’s get stuck into the review, beginning with a look at their overall look.
Shopify Vs Squarespace – Appearance, Professionalism, & Overall Look
Building an appealing website usually requires months of design work, where are the products on the site? How much should we be throwing at the customer when they first visit? Thankfully the templates provided by both of these firms are extremely high quality. They are all meticulously designed, from sleek modern looks, to a more homey front page, all of your needs can be met with one of these companies.
Squarespace is the more out the gate sleek of the two. They offer nine templates, all customization in a myriad of ways. As much as I like the look of them, I can’t help but think they all have a distinctly boutique feel. That us by no means a bad thing, you get what you pay for after all, but I just have trouble seeing someone selling outdoor goods with one of their templates. You can see from the embedded image what I’m talking about.
There are no free or premium templates here, you pick your price, and grab a design. It simplifies it, and makes it seem like everyone gets the same impressive level of work. It is undeniable that all of the bespoke-esque layouts are sleek and professional, but the worry here is that they might be a little intimidating for the consumer. A major selling point here is that all of their store templates convert nicely to mobile browsing, whether on a phone or tablet. Being able to have that level of synergy between formats is a nice touch.
In the end, while it is possible to craft a site that is both welcoming and professional, it requires a little more work on the user’s end. The extra effort seems to fly in the face of their business model, that of making the process of building an online business simple.
The biggest difference between Shopify and Squarespace in this field is that Shopify offer free and premium themes to their customers. The paid designs are similar in terms of quality to the Squarespace ones, but the free templates are far from unsightly. On the contrary, I find most of them a little more inviting. They have a more rugged, Amazon feel, as though the site is less concerned with the artistry and more interested in making product browsing easy. As a consumer I find that most appealing, and from a business perspective it seems to make a little more sense.
That extra layer between you and having your online store up and running, that of picking a theme that suits, does make it a little more time consuming setting up your shop, and if you’re anything like me trying to get the perfect design is likely to be still more time consuming. Not an actual aesthetic issue, and I imagine anyone with an real business idea in their mind knows exactly what kind of site they want.
Again we have some feature match up, as both sites offer templates that maintain their design across devices, it wasn’t too long ago when this would not have been the case. Both of these companies offer a wide variety of templates, but I would argue that Shopify have more diversity in terms of feel.
Winner – Shopify
Shopify Vs Squarespace – Features & Integrations
When it comes to setting up an e-commerce site you cannot have enough features. Whether it’s social media integration, discount code generation or even a companion blog, both of these sites offer a wide variety of advanced settings, putting them ahead of the competition. During my investigation into the firms, I have noticed distinct similarities in the kinds of things they offer. So let’s dig in.
An all in one solution to setting up an online store. Squarespace have everything, all easily laid out and thoroughly explained. In their basic package you get almost everything. You can sell unlimited products, have an integrated companion site and blog, with a matching theme, excellent commerce metrics and integrated accounting. The full list of features is extensive. With their more expensive package there are more features, such as abandoned cart retrieval. Their full list of features is available on their site, but trying to figure out which ones are not included in the basic package is a real headache. It is literally just a list of features separated into sections. I thought one of the sections might differentiate between the two pricing tiers, but no. Clicking on view all features under the Basic package has the details on features I know are not included in that package.
Overall that is a minor issue, their Basic package still provides first class service, and comes with a $100 adwords credit, Google’s own pay per click online advertising software. It has almost everything you could possibly need.
As an all in one solution Shopify’s features do not differ greatly from Squarespace’s. You get the unlimited product listings, order reports, auto tax calculations, built in SEO, and all manner of other things. In short you get everything you need to get your shop up and running. The features contained in the more expensive packages are well worth it though. Auto basket recovery is a back end heavy process, but having it on your site makes for a smoother end user experience, and physical gift cards are a must around the holiday season.
When it comes to social media implementation Shopify is no slouch. It can mesh with just about any social media platform you care to mention, from Facebook to pinterest, something that it shares with Squarespace. The full time back end support from Shopify is some of the best on the market. The offer 24/7 support for their customers, they pride themselves on the quality of their customer service. Most interestingly they have an offline point of sale system, for those of you who already have a physical store, making it more attractive for those who already have a business up and running but want to expand into the online marketplace.
Allowing you to take offline credit transactions through the site is great for the entrepreneur who likes to travel, setting up stalls at festivals and the like. Overall I would say that Shopify offers better integration between and offline presence and an online one, making it slightly more versatile. But when you compare the online features between the two companies Squarespace offers one or two more features in their lower band option.
Winner – Draw.
Shopify Vs Squarespace – Dropshipping
Dropshipping is one of the most important things when setting up a storefront. Some folk don’t like it, but I think anything that helps bring in customers, and creates a market, is a good thing. I go over it in detail in other articles, but in summary,it is the art of crafting a store front out of warehouse items, via the internet. Sites like Alibaba hold all kinds of things in their warehouses, and you buy from them, list on your site and ship from their warehouses. It allows you to either supplement a store or create one from scratch. The difficulty lies in selecting the right times to make a cohesive experience for your customers. In the old days doing so was a long and arduous process, cutting, pasting and all kinds of hassle, nowadays you can do it with a single click, if you choose the right eCommerce provider. Shopify have many options in this field, Squarespace, not so much.
There are really only two options when it comes to Shopify, from my perspective. The Shopified App, or Oberlo. The Shopified app is the most robust option, allowing integration from Aliexpress, Alibaba, Amazon and dozens of other sites. It comes with a downside though, the price is a bit steep, and the set up is a little more complicated, there are also numerous glitches than can pop up, I experienced a few during my trial, but it was nothing a refresh couldn’t solve. I can see what they are selling, options, but integrating Amazon products to your page feels a little pointless, what with the profit being so low in that case. Oberlo is a more focused product, specializing in Aliexpress, the most common source of drop shipped items. The user interface is sublime, and the set up is quick, but you are restricted. I prefer Oberlo, it’s better for the supplementary drop shipper, but both have a market.
Squarespace are a boutique builder, at their very core. I expect their feature set and their themes to expand, as I mentioned earlier, but everything they do is about ultra modern quality. It means that they do not have much in the way of drop shipping support. You can, with difficulty and some programming knowledge, set up a service, but it takes a long time, and knowledge that most don’t have, and those that can do so would be better off using Magento or Prestashop.
For a service that I am so enamored of I am disappointed in the lack of options from Square Space here. They are still an attractive options to the right kind of consumer, but for the avid drop shipper, or those interested in trying it out, Shopify is your only choice here.
Winner – Shopify
Shopify Vs Squarespace – Flexibility, Ease of Use, & Scalability
One of the major benefits to using one of the companies here to set up your online store is the fact that you don’t really need to know how to program to do it. Sure, it would make a few things easier, as they both allow you to implement custom code, but it is not necessary. They both allow the layman to stretch their creative muscles, and really make the site their own. Other options on the market aren’t quite as user friendly, but in this department both Squarespace and Shopify are essentially equals.
When it comes to scalability there is little to differentiate them too. They both offer unlimited listings right out of the gate. If you’re able to track shipping and do your own reports then it’s even possible to maintain a wider presence on the Basic packages from both companies. I would still advise you upgrade your package as you grow, you would not believe how useful auto report generation and in-house gift cards are, but the fact that you don’t need to is very telling with regards to the over all design of the product, i.e. your online store.
Again we have a section with no clear winner, it’s obvious that these companies are very aware of each other in this market, and it is always nice to see healthy competition keeping the prices low and the quality of service high. Unless it’s competition in whatever market you intend to go into, in which case may your competitors be short-sighted and incompetent.
Winner – Draw
Shopify Vs Squarespace – Cost & Value
Here’s where the decision is likely to be made. Keeping costs as low as possible should be in the forefront of your mind at all times. That goes double when moving into the global marketplace. Think about that for a second, buying an e-commerce site is literally opening yourself up to the world market. You can see from the images above the broad price of setting up on Squarespace.
Their Basic package is displayed as $26 per month, but the advertising here is a little misleading, that price is only for those who pay it all up front. Meaning a starting fee of $312 up front. If you’re paying month to month, you’re looking at $30. So if you pay in advance you’re saving nearly fifty dollars for the year, not a bad deal. Shopify’s Basic package comes in at $29 per month flat. Not that big a difference their. The higher level package from Squarespace is $80 per month compared to the next tier from Shopify, which is $79. If you have the cash to pay up front, then by all means take advantage of the bargain, but a dollar is a dollar, and if you have to buy monthly then Shopify is the better option, barely. If you’re looking to take advantage of Shopify’s offline features, then you’re looking at an extra $40. Shopify POS is a fully integrated online/offline system, but requires an iPad to function, though it does allow you to replace your tills and card reader.
This is a hard one to judge. When it comes right down to it the option you should go for depends on your needs, and your available capital. If you’re flush with cash, then Squarespace is the cheaper option, if you’re less so, or you want to integrate your offline store with your online one, then Shopify’s the better option. It’s that extra feature set that pushes it over the line for me.
You can also get an extended free trial by clicking here. Perfect time to stop waiting and get your online store rolling.
Winner – Shopify
Shopify Vs Squarespace – Recap & Review
- All in one solution
- More variation in Themes
- Dedicated support team
- Offline integration via Shopify POS
- Quick to set up
- Excellent pricing
- Instead of a more familiar language like php, the Shopify back end uses Shopify Liquid, a kind of object reference language that can be hard to get your head around, there is an abundance of support for it though. I think it must have been implement to give non programmers a high end language to work with.
- Lackluster blogging support. It is there, but it isn’t quite as good as the competition.
- All in one solution
- Very nice templates, a boutique-esque feel from most of them.
- More programmer friendly back end features, for those in the know.
- Excellent customer service
- Top notch blogging and general sites
- Great for those with some cash up front
- Amount of options may be slightly bewildering
- The designs, while beautiful, can seem a little high brow or intimidating
- No offline integration
Eventually Squarespace will be a competitor on the same scale as Shopify, I really do have no doubt, but as yet they are not. They can boast some of the easiest design tools on the market, and their prefabs are all absolutely gorgeous to look at, no question, but if you are looking to start and online business it is better to go with Shopify. They offer the better tools overall, right now, and they have better scaling options. Keep an eye on Squarespace though.
2017 Update: If you want to take advantage of a no obligation, free trial of Shopify you can click here to automatically apply a free trial to your account.