Are you looking to launch an ecommerce website, either as a fulltime business or a side business? If so, you are probably asking yourself “Which platform should I use? Should I use Squarespace or Shopify for my ecommerce site? What about this WordPress platform I’ve heard so much about?”
For eCommerce website creation, the clear leader of these three options is Shopify.
1. Shopify was created to build eCommerce sites- period. Not regular websites, only eCommerce sites. It has the plugins you’ll need to get your online shopping portal to do exactly what you need it to do. tl;DR – Shopify is dedicated to eCommerce.
2. Shopify has developer created and supported plugins (some are free while others are an additional fee). These are all professionally built, quality apps (over 1,100 to choose from) and backed up by 24/7 support. tl;DR – All plugins are professionally created, but that also limits it a bit.
3. Shopify has a marketplace that gives you access to hire a professional developer to work on building your website if you don’t want to do it yourself – or – if you want to build in advanced functionality that is not included in an available app. tl;DR – Shopify has professional developers you can hire if you can’t do it yourself.
4. Shopify’s pricing plans all include an unlimited number of products you can sell. This is very different from Squarespace’s starter plan which only allows you to sell 1 product. Multiple product sales require you to choose a higher priced plan in Squarespace. tl;DR – Shopify’s pricing includes unlimited products, but it starts higher.
5. Shopify’s SEO friendliness is superior to Squarespace. Shopify lets you edit page titles and meta descriptions for EVERY PAGE, though you also have less control if you are an advanced SEO over things like sitemaps. tl;DR – Shopify is dedicated to eCommerce and therefore eCommerce SEO. If you are a professional SEO it may be hard to make changes sometimes though.
6. Shopify has really nice features that are associated with payment. They have abandoned cart recovery, VAT collection for European businesses, and the ability to sell in a physical location as well as your online presence with the help of some iPad/iPhone apps. With payments made using Stripe and Paypal, accepting payments has never been easier. tl;DR – Never worry about payments with Shopify, though they do charge a percentage of sales above the Stripe fee.
Squarespace can also become the leader if entry cost is a huge barrier, or if ease of use is your number one priority.
1. Squarespace is much more reasonable in terms of monthly plan pricing. Squarespace does not charge any additional transaction fees, unlike Shopify which charges a percentage on top of the fee charged by Stripe to collect credit card information. But, as they say – “you get what you pay for”. Although Shopify costs more per month and per transaction, it has 24/7 available help and technical support lines. Squarespace only has live chat help between 3AM and 8PM EST and the Squarespace help line is limited on what they will and will not support. They do, however, have a hreat answers community forum. tl;DR – Squarespace is cheaper, but more limited in terms of support.
2. Ease of use is one other area where Squarespace excels over Shopify. Squarespace has a drag and drop template for website builds. They also have custom website templates which allow you to choose a design you like and make it yours in minutes. The only problem with these easy to use features, is that you may run into trouble when trying to build in eCommerce functionality. Squarespace does have eCommerce features, but not nearly as many choices for functionality as Shopify. tl;DR – building Squarespace sites is easier, but more limited in terms of options.
3. Squarespace has odd SEO features that are missing, such as it being difficult to edit main elements like titles for blog posts. Squarespace also has some templates that require the meta descriptions to actually display on the webpage itself, which is in most cases, not desirable. Lastly, it is important to note that SEO falls outside of Squarespace’s support line. So, if you have questions or trouble with this feature, it will be difficult to get help with it from Squarespace directly, though there are many SEO resouces available online or in forums to help you here. tl;DR – Squarespace is more limited for eCommerce SEO than Shopify.
If your focus is to create a really great looking website, and just sell a few things. Squarespace would probably be a great choice. But if eCommerce is your ultimate goal, Shopify will ensure you get all the functionality you need.
What about WordPress?
WordPress is unfortunately dead last in our eCommerce website builder line-up. Although it is absolutely free to use, it is notoriously difficult to learn and easy to make some pretty big mistakes while using. Because WordPress is an open source platform, anyone can create content for it. What that means, unfortunately, is that there can be lots of really bad plugins created for WordPress. If you are not technically savvy, this can lead to a lot of headaches.
The steep learning curve and multitude of options are potentially a bonus, but they are also a huge downside for many people who are looking to start an online store. You should probably shy away from using WordPress unless they are very skilled already in website development.
Because it is so difficult to use, it will be costly to build an eCommerce site with WordPress. Why? Because you will need to hire a developer to create it, and then pay an outside hosting agency to give it a home as well as a domain name.
Squarespace vs Shopify vs WordPress for eCommerce: Who Wins?
In order of recommendation:
Shopify is dedicated to eCommerce, so while it is a bit more expensive than Squarespace it is tailored to your needs. Squarespace is also a fine option for dual content and eCommerce sites. WordPress comes in last, unfortunately, simply because of the multitude of options that are a barrier to entry for many.
What eCommerce platform do you use or recommend?