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 dived into the world of ecommerce with Squarespace Commerce.
That's why I felt that it's time to explore the system with an in-depth Squarespace Commerce review.
Squarespace was founded by Anthony Casalena in 2004 and has been slowly adding updates over 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 of you may 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.
So now, Squarespace offers users the option of selling online.
Squarespace Video Preview
My colleague Stephanie summed up my review in a short video. Check it out if you're in a hurry:
Squarespace Commerce Review: Features
As a content management system (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 functionalities.
As an ecommerce platform, their feature list is growing rapidly, and it seems to focus on the most important elements of ecommerce.
Squarespace still caters to small businesses, but it supports an unlimited number of products and transactions. Not only that, regular business and personal sites now have integrations with ecommerce tools (Back in the day you needed to pay for the Squarespace Commerce plan).
With regard to features, you simply can’t compare Squarespace to Shopify or Bigcommerce. I would compare their feature list to Bigcartel. It’s somewhat lightweight but still offers all the important functions for most people looking to sell online (basic coupons, packing slips, MailChimp integration, customizable emails, and more).
That said, Squarespace Commerce has improved since its inception, with free domains, SSL security, real-time carrier shipping, abandoned cart recovery, automatic discounts and more. The only main feature that Squarespace lacks compared to Shopify is the app store. Squarespace has none.
Squarespace Commerce Review: 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. For instance, you're not going to customize much outside of what the Squarespace theme gives you. So, developers looking to tap into the API or files are not going to have much luck. Custom domains not purchased through Squarespace are tricky, but you still get free custom domains through Squarespace, so it's not all bad.
For most of the time using the Squarespace interface doesn't require any coding knowledge, but some of the areas are going to look a little confusing. For example, customizing an email receipt for customers actually, forces you to look at some HTML code. It's not all that complicated, but it could be intimidating for some people.
Squarespace Commerce Review: Pricing
Squarespace Commerce used to be the only way to accept payments for online transactions, but that's all changed. In fact, every plan offered through Squarespace is able to have some sort of ecommerce functionality.
For example, the two “regular website plans,” as listed below, still give you the opportunity to sell online. The monthly fees is lower but the catch is that Squarespace takes a transaction fee:
- Personal – $12 per month for fully integrated ecommerce with a 3% transaction fee. This gives you a website with 20 pages, along with support for an unlimited number of products. It also has a tool for accepting donations.
- Business – $18 for a fully integrated ecommerce store with a 2% transaction fee. The company also throws in promotional pop-ups, Google email accounts, and Google AdWords credits. Sell unlimited products and create a website with unlimited pages.
This is good news for companies that want to dabble in the ecommerce world. You can take your previously built Squarespace site and test out which products might sell well on your website. You get slammed with the transaction fee, but at least your monthly costs remain the same.
As for the regular Squarespace Commerce plans, there are no transaction fees, and the functionality is improved:
- Basic – $26 per month for a plan with no transaction fees (besides credit card fees,) all features from the Business plan, unlimited products, free custom domain, mobile optimization, SSL security, powerful commerce metrics, a checkout module on Squarespace's domain, Xero integration, label printing, inventory, orders, taxes and discounts.
- Advanced – $40 per month for all of the features in previous plans, plus the checkout is placed on your own domain. In addition, you receive automated discounts, real-time carrier shipping and auto-recovery for abandoned carts.
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 often believe 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 that Shopify offers a plan at $9, and Bigcartel offers plans anywhere from free, $10, $20 – It's tough for Squarespace to compete. The $12 and $18 Personal and Business plans are great starts, considering not everyone wants to pay close to $30 for an ecommerce store. But you're still stuck with the transaction fees in those lower plans.
Squarespace Templates & Design
This is Squarespace Commerce’s strong suit. These guys are known for design. The templates offered are exceptional. I counted 84 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 mobile friendly. Many have been designed with blogging, art, and creativity in mind, with a nice little category made just for 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 beauty. Squarespace has improved its selection of themes since it used to only have around 15 or 20. Therefore, this 84 mark puts it up there with juggernauts like Shopify and Bigcommerce. In my personal opinion, the Squarespace themes look much better.
Shopify has over 150 now, Bigcommerce has over 100, and Volusion has 120, but you need to pay extra for some of those, and especially with Volusion, some are of awful quality. At least all of Squarespace’s templates are of high quality. Right now, I would say Squarespace’s design is outstanding, and even with their small selection, I would rate 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, the platform might not be a good choice.
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 also use 301 redirects. It has full social integration so you can connect with customers via Twitter, Facebook, and other sites.
You can also sell on Facebook. Abandoned checkout recovery can be found on the most expensive plan, and it even has automated discounts for your customers.
Since Squarespace is a newer ecommerce platform it doesn't have any ecommerce/marketing specific apps to extend the functionality of the stores, so right now the marketing platform is very lightweight. I also wrote another post if you want to learn more about which is the best ecommerce site builder for SEO.
Squarespace Commerce only offers two payment processor choices: Stripe and PayPal.
Stripe is easy to set up and is very popular these days in the US, UK, Ireland, and Australia.
It all depends on your country for Stripe, but you can expect to see a transaction fee of around 2.9% plus 30 cents per successful charge. The same goes for PayPal.
There are no monthly fees or anything with Stripe or PayPal. You can accept most major credit cards and your money gets transferred into your bank account within one or two business days. Apple Pay is also an option for payment.
Squarespace has proven that it can handle high traffic volumes on your website while also protecting customer information. SSL security is included with both primary commerce plans, and it's prominently shown to your customers in the browser bar, so that they're more likely to trust you.
Squarespace also follows PCI-DSS Compliance standards, meaning sensitive card data is never handled by Squarespace, and they have procedures in place for attack prevention, detection, and appropriate reaction.
Squarespace Customer Support
Squarespace has a comprehensive knowledge base for building websites, and its documentation on ecommerce is rapidly growing. For example, Squarespace has a wonderful video series to walk you through the ecommerce configuration and ensuring everything from inventory to shipping goes well.
The brand offers 24/7 support, free with every plan, live chat support, and an active forum for peer-to-peer help. Telephoning into their 24/7 support can sometimes take a while to actually get someone on the line, but their support personnel are very good. Squarespace doesn't outsource its support team like most competitors.
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, so 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, or Corecommerce, 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 stacks up nicely against Bigcartel as a lean and stylish solution for artistic people.
In addition, Squarespace has recently also offered the option to include an ecommerce integration with personal and business sites. Therefore, you can convert a regular website into a sales platform.
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 it 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 newer cart. There's lots of potential with this shopping cart, and it's already starting to compete well with the big dogs like Shopify and Bigcommerce. Heck, many would argue that Squarespace provides a sleeker front end interface. Combine this with the new ecommerce tools and you might be sold.
What do you think of Squarespace Commerce? Let me know what's your opinion in the comments.