When it comes to online selling, Square is one of the biggest names out there.
Starting as one of the few ways that people could accept “mobile” transactions on the go, Square revolutionized the marketplace with quick, affordable monetizing methods.
Now, virtually anyone, from one-off sellers to budding businesses can launch their Square account and begin taking payments wherever they are. It's no wonder that Square is the go-to solution for POS systems and offline payments.
However, did you know that you can also transform your digital transactions with Square too?
The fact that Square now allows merchants to set up online stores for just the cost of their payment processing, means that it's easier than ever to go digital.
But is this eCommerce option all it's cracked up to be?
Read our Square online store review to find out.
Square Online Store Review: Features
Square makes eCommerce simple.
The store you get when you sign up for their digital plan is straightforward, intuitive, and functional – so that anyone can access a new way of selling. Like the rest of the Square portfolio, this offering comes with ease-of-access in mind.
You don't need to know anything about web design or coding to get started – which is an excellent news for beginners. However, that also means that the experience you get with Square might not be quite as advanced as offerings from more enterprise-focused designers.
👉 Despite a few limitations, Square offers just about everything you need to get your online store up and running, including:
- A free URL
- Free unlimited hosting
- Inventory management and tracking
- Responsive web design
- Inventory management and tracking
- Integrated and advanced reporting
- Seamless integration with Square's other products
- Support for in-store pickup
Square Online Store Pricing
One of the things that have always made Square so appealing for merchants is its pricing.
💡 Setting up an online store with Square marketplace can be as inexpensive as you like. There's a free plan that means you only pay transaction fees. In other words, you're paying for the payment processing (2.9% of each sale plus $0.30), and nothing else.
For business leaders who need a little more functionality from their online store, there are a few more options available. For instance, you can upgrade to:
- Professional: $16 per month, or $12 per month annually
- Performance: $26 per month, or $29 per month annually
- Premium: $72 per month, or $79 per month annually.
The difference between the “free” plan and what you get on the paid options comes in features and functionality. For instance, the free plan doesn't include unlimited storage, but all paid plans do. Additionally, you'll have square ads on all of your content if you choose the free option.
The Professional package, on the other hand, comes with added features like custom domains, site statistics, and extra marketing features. If you ramp up to “Premium”, then you get access to third-party integrations, custom code, product badges, Facebook ads, pop-up notifications, advanced ecommerce analytics and so much more.
Essentially, it's the difference between having a basic solution for your online store, and something tailor-made for ecommerce.
Square Online Store Review: UI and Ease of Use
No matter what you pay for your Square online store, you're going to get great user experience.
The Square Online Store system allows you to sell anything from physical goods to digital products, carryout orders, event tickets, and more. You can even accept donations. Although, there are some prohibited business options and items you can't get involved with.
Once you've got an account with Square, it only takes a few minutes to set up your site.
The most work you're going to need to do involves managing your inventory – and that's true for any eCommerce site. When you log into your dashboard, you'll see a complete menu of your options on the left-hand side.
Just click on the “Online Store” option to go to your welcome page.
Click on the “Get Started” button, and you can dive straight into building the kind of site that you want to run. The great thing here is that Square actually offers a wide range of fantastic themes to get you started. They don't look old or outdated, like other free themes on WooCommerce or WordPress. Plus, you can change your look at any time by clicking on the Store Editor.
As you would expect from a modern eCommerce store application, every design you choose is pre-built to be responsive, so you can use it on any device your customers might have.
Once you've chosen the theme that suits you, you'll be asked to enter the information for your online store, which includes the URL you want, and the DNS settings. This can be a bit complicated, but you can always check out Square's guides if you need extra help.
Alternatively, there are a few alternative options you can use to set-up your store too. For instance, the solution integrates with Weebly and BigCommerce so that you can set up your online store through those applications too. You'll even be able to use the Square API if you want to create a custom environment for your site.
Square Online Store Review: Product Management
The most complicated part of establishing an online store is importing and managing products.
The good news with Square Online Store is that your inventory will automatically sync up based on any pre-existing Square solutions you have. In other words, if you're already using a Square POS, then you can just sign into your account and start pulling in items.
However, if you're starting from scratch – this is still a big benefit. It means that when you start selling products, Square will update your inventory for you – without you having to worry about constantly tracking how much you have a single product.
💡 When you set up your store, Square will ask you to begin adding the items you want to sell as quickly as possible. However, you might need to figure out what kind of Sales Tax you're going to be implementing first, and whether you need any “Modifiers.” For instance, Square allows you to offer your clients “extras” along with their purchase. You might offer a spare makeup brush with a cosmetics package, for instance.
Square also allows you to separate products into categories, which makes it much easier to manage. If you import your items and don't add a category or sales tax info straight away, you can find the options to do so in your Square Dashboard.
Overall, adding products to your store is pretty simple. You can create unique sections with specific products and place everything in one part.
Under each section, click on “Add Item” to see a new box pop up.
The more details you can include for each product listing, the better.
Remember, you're going to need a description, photos of your items, pricing, tax information, and any variants – including different colors and sizes.
The more “advanced” options are at the bottom of the page, where you can enable or disable an item's visibility in your store if you're not quite ready to launch it yet, or you run out of stock.
The thing that makes Square particularly impressive is the fact that you can import your entire product library directly from the Register App, just by clicking on the “Add Item” button, and choosing to import from your library. You can also import directly from CSV files if you've got hundreds of items to add at once.
Once you've got your entire product library set up in the Square Online Store, you can really get to work on bringing your digital venture to life.
Square has plenty of features to make running your business a little simpler. For instance, you can set low-stock alerts that give you emails whenever you're about to run out of an item. You can also quickly check on inventory levels just by visiting your dashboard.
Square Online Store Review: Shipping
💡 If you're selling digital items in Square, like eBooks and downloads, then this part probably won't apply to you. However, if you're going to be shipping products, either in-land or overseas, then you're going to need to check out the Square Shipping features.
Unfortunately, some people find this aspect of the Square online store to be the most frustrating. You'll have to choose either free shipping for every item in your store or set a flat rate for all of your products upon setup. That's a major problem if you're selling pieces of a different weight or size, where the price may vary.
The easiest way to manage this problem is to simply offer the “free shipping” option for all of your products. That way, you can adjust the pricing of your items to cover the fees associated with shipping. That might leave you with some slightly bizarre prices, but the lack of shipping fees might appeal to your customers – even if it means paying more.
While the option to add “additional shipping” costs is available in Square's online store, it doesn't look very good:
That little “+ $5” is sure to rub your customers the wrong way.
You'd be far more likely to get good results if Square could simply combine the two numbers and present your audience with a basic fee. However, for now, this seems to be one of the major areas where Square falls short with its digital strategy.
I guess everything can't be perfect on a free online store after all.
Square Online Store Review: Completing Online Orders
Shipping issues aside, one point that you'll notice is that there's a lot of ways to manage your orders and make sales on Square. If you're running a restaurant, you can even let your customers order online and pick their items up in person – as long as you have a Square Point of Sale integration set up.
For companies selling services, you can also allow clients to pay online by simply clicking a button to add a specific option to their cart. Although honestly, it seems simpler to just take payments on your Square POS in person instead.
When you're running a Square online store, clicking into your dashboard will present you with a list of pending orders – whether those are food orders, product requests, or something else.
One slightly frustrating thing here is that you need to mark each order as “fulfilled” if you want to get payment from it. Until you've completed the order officially, Square will hold onto the money from the customer. On the plus side, however, this does mean that you can offer your customers a better level of service by holding yourself to a certain processing standard.
For instance, Square automatically assumes that you'll have an order dealt with in seven days or less. You can change this number yourself, but if you don't complete the order by the deadline, then Square will refund your customers automatically.
Additionally, when an order is completed, you can add tracking information to the transaction. However, to do that, you'll need to find the information you want to send and contact the customer individually. There's no one-click option to update your client. That's a bit of a headache if you're trying to update dozens or even hundreds of customers at once.
💡 For people who don't have the extra time to spare, there's the option to integrate the ShipStation feature, which will automatically track and manage electronic orders for you. Square also automatically generates confirmation emails for you when you've completed a transaction. If you're selling a digital download; however, the email won't include the download; you'll need to deal with fulfillment yourself.
Overall, processing payments isn't the most streamlined experience with the Square online store – but it's not terrible, particularly when you're not paying anything for your store. Additionally, if you're selling in-store items, things are a bit simpler, because you have the option to auto-accept orders if you want to.
Square Online Store Review: Customer Service
So, how about if you need some extra help setting up your online store?
The chances are that you'll need at least some guidance, particularly if you're starting to sell your products digitally for the first time. The good news is that Square does give you a few options to get in touch. For instance, you can tweet @SqSupport, or fill out a form to contact the sales team.
Clicking on the “Contact Sales” option on Square's page might be a bit confusing at first, as it takes you to a Weebly (read our Weebly review) contact form, not something branded by Square. This means that the website building functionality comes through Weebly and isn't a proprietary solution for Square.
💡 If you would prefer to take the DIY approach to getting your support, then you can try visiting the Square Knowledgebase. It's a pretty comprehensive database for people who are getting started in the sales marketplace. There are plenty of articles to browse through, screenshots, and other useful tidbits. Plus, you can visit the robust seller community for extra guidance as well.
Square Online Store Pros and Cons
- Predictable pricing
- No monthly fees for the free option
- Excellent for smaller businesses
- All-in-one payment system
- Easy to load up products
- Great for linking your POS and online store
- Unique advanced features for paying accounts
- Integrates with other eCommerce solutions
- Plenty of great themes to choose from
- Terrible shipping strategy with no adjustable rates
- Account stability issues are common with Square
- The customer service could be better
- Some features are restricted to high-cost accounts
Is the Square Online Store Right for Your Ecommerce Business?
So, should you try the Square online store?
If you're just starting in the current marketplace, the Square Online Store solution is an excellent launching pad to help you get your digital business up and running. There's no need to build your technical or coding knowledge before you get started, and it's easy to get your inventory set up too.
You can use your Square solution to process payments, integrate with other shopping cart options, and create some impressive looking product pages. However, you will need to upgrade to a more professional package if you're looking for advanced options like tracking and analytics.
Of course, Square's online store doesn't have everything. You won't be able to instantly link your store with your social media accounts unless you're paying for a premium package for instance. Additionally, it can be a little challenging to manage some aspects of customer support and order fulfillment too.
One particularly significant problem with the Square online store is it's approach to shipping. Ultimately, you can't set different prices for items that are going to cost you more to send, without making it look like you're just piling extra fees onto your customer for no reason. Saying that it's still worth giving Square's online store a go if you're new to digital selling. It's free, to begin with, excellent for beginners, and a great way to get control over your eCommerce strategy.