Up until now, Squarespace was only a SaaS based content management system (CMS) which offered a designer friendly website builder, blogging platform and hosting service. Now they’ve dipped into the world of ecommerce with Squarespace Commerce.
Squarespace was founded by Anthony Casalena in 2004 and has been slowly adding updates along the years. The biggest update was in July 2012 when they launched Squarespace 6 which added portfolio templates, responsive designs, and opened way more control up for developers. But this isn’t about Squarespace, this review is about Squarespace Commerce. Some might not know this, but people with Squarespace sites have always been able to sell online simply by adding something like PayPal or Ecwid. But that wasn’t ideal. In fact it was quite awful. And so now Squarespace offers its users the option of selling online. This also opens Squarespace Commerce up to the world of potential online retailers looking for a shopping cart to suit their needs. Which is why we are going to review Squarespace Commerce.
Squarespace Video Preview
My colleague Stephanie summed up my review in a short video. Check it out if you're in a hurry:
As a CMS Squarespace has plenty of features (widgets, integrations). You can integrate Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more. It is not as robust as WordPress or Blogger, but it’s not lacking in any important functionality. As an ecommerce platform, their feature list is extremely small. But I think that’s what they’re going for. In their release they say:
“The Squarespace Commerce interface is ideally suited for use with small stores (<200 SKUs).”
With regard to features, you simply can’t put Squarespace Commerce up against Shopify or Bigcommerce. I would compare their feature list t oBigcartel. It’s very lightweight, but still offers the important stuff for a lot people looking to sell online (basic coupons, packing slips, MailChimp integration, customizable emails, and more). I think right now this solution’s feature list is for merchants looking to sell only couple products within the US, who do not need a solution that is scalable.
Squarespace Ease of Use
Building a website and online store with Squarespace Commerce is pretty straightforward. The user interface isn’t as intuitive as I expected (given their reputation) but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy. I love their drag and drop functionality. Some of the other carts we review here could learn a lot from them. Things do get complicated if you’re trying to do anything, well, complicated. Custom domains not purchased through Squarespace are tricky, and although they say “not a line of code is needed” some features simply do need some coding. Example, if you want to notify your customers that an order has processed, you need to configure your email settings which involves some complicated stuff for someone with little technological knowhow.
Squarespace Commerce only has one pricing plan, which is $30 per month. This comes with unlimited physical and digital products, unlimited bandwidth, storage, 24/7 support, and more. It’s important to note that the free custom domain only comes with a one year annual plan ($24 per month, but you have to pay a whole year in advance). Squarespace offers a 14 day trial with no credit card required.
Squarespace has never been known as a bargain website builder. It’s a premium solution and costs more money than many other solutions. Some of their free templates are of very high quality, so I believe often it is worth the price. They are similar to Shopify’s templates, you are getting a website design that is likely worth over $10,000 for a fraction of the cost. Quite honestly however, given Bigcommerce offers a plan at $25 a month, Shopify offers at $29, and Bigcartel offers plans anywhere from free, $10, $20 – I find it difficult to believe they will keep their pricing like this. $30 per month may be good to get Squarespace blog owners to add the ecommerce functionality to their site as an upgrade, but for people shopping for an ecommerce platform and for people who are comparing the service to Bigcartel, Shopify and others I’m just not sure the value is there.
Squarespace Templates & Design
This is Squarespace Commerce’s strong suit. These guys are known for design. The templates that Squarespace offers are exceptional. I counted 23 different themes, all with hipster names like Devlin, Five, Wells, Hudson and Dovetail. They are beautiful. They can be easily customized and they are responsive so they’re all (I think) mobile friendly. But, most are created with blogging, photography, or art in mind… not ecommerce. I’m not sure how much of a difference it makes, but at first glance it seems like Shopify’s themes are clearly made to sell, where as Squarespace themes were made for other reasons. I imagine in the next few months or years, Squarespace will be releasing some ecommerce specific themes which I can’t wait to see. Selection wise, Squarespace offers a very small amount of templates. Shopify has over 150 now I believe, Bigcommerce has over 100, Volusion has 120… but some of those you need to pay extra, and especially with Volusion some are just awful quality. At least every one of Squarespace’s templates are high quality. Right now, I would say Squarespace’s design is one of the best and even with their small selection I would put them above most ecommerce platforms.
Squarespace Commerce supports multi-dimensional product variants (size, color, weight). They do not limit your number of SKUs but looking at their interface it’s very clear that their inventory management is built for small stores. This is a good solution for people selling a few different products, but if you have hundreds or thousands of SKUs you are going to end up pulling your hair out.
Squarespace SEO & Marketing
Squarespace Commerce’s SEO and marketing functions are pretty impressive. You can edit page titles, meta descriptions, make custom URLs, and they all include XML sitemaps, and valid XHTML code. You can even use 301 redirects easily. They have full social integration so you can connect with customers via Twitter, Facebook and other sites. You can also sell on Facebook. Some important marketing functionality is missing however, like abandoned checkout recovery. Since it is a new ecommerce platform they don’t have any ecommerce / marketing specific apps to extend the functionality of their stores, so right no their marketing platform is very lightweight. Also wrote another post if you want to learn more on which is the best ecommerce site builder for SEO.
Squarespace Commerce only offers one payment gateway and that is Stripe.
Stripe is easy to set up and is very popular these days in the US & UK. You will be charged 2.9% plus 30 cents per successful charge. There are no monthly fees or anything with Stripe. It does however take 7 days for the funds to be deposited into your account. Other limitations include only being able to accept Visa, Mastercard, Amex, and Discovery.
Given this is a brand new ecommerce platform I can’t really say what their security and uptime is like. Squarespace has a pretty good reputation for uptime, but I have no idea how they might handle large volumes of sales. My guess is that they cannot handle extremely high volumes of requests without going down yet. I am surprised that they don’t mention security in their announcement of Squarespace Commerce. But since Squarespace Commerce only offers one payment gateway, Stripe, your checkout and payment pages will be served over SSL. It’s all PCI-certified and quite secure.
Squarespace Customer Support
Squarespace has a comprehensive knowledge base for building websites, but their documentation on ecommerce is still thin, which is fair enough because they just launched. They offer 24/7 support free with every plan, live chat support, and an active forum for peer-to-peer help but nobody is talking ecommerce yet. Telephoning into their 24/7 support can sometimes take a while to speak to someone, but their support personnel are very good. They do not outsource support to India like some companies do.
I really enjoyed building my site and online store using Squarespace. The company has always had a very good reputation as a blogging / portfolio site builder and moving into ecommerce was a natural choice. Squarespace Commerce could be a good ecommerce platform for those who wish to create a stylish online store with few products and functionality in the US. I do not think it’s ready to compete with platforms like Bigcommerce, Shopify,Corecommerce or the likes because they simply don’t have the features. Their ‘app’ just isn’t very robust, so I can’t see anybody migrating from a full-fledged ecommerce platform to Squarespace. But, I do think it stands up nicely next to Bigcartel as a lean and stylish solution for artistic people. I also think it could be a very strong platform for people currently selling on Etsy or eBay who are looking to upgrade. We look forward to seeing Squarespace Commerce grow. Although we have currently ranked them in the middle of the pack, you should note that it’s above some platforms that have been around for quite some time, like 3dcart and Magento. That’s impressive for a new cart. Lots of potential with this shopping cart and we think in the next year or two it will become strong contendor against some of the top ecommerce platforms.
What do you think of Squarespace Commerce? Let me know what's your opinion in the comments.