Initially, Squarespace was only a SaaS-based content management system (CMS) which offered a designer-friendly website builder, blogging platform and hosting service. Now Squarespace has spent some time in the ecommerce space to make it an experienced contender in terms of ecommerce platforms. Its platform is called Squarespace Commerce, and it offers beautiful templates, an easy way to launch a store, and some solid features. In this detailed Squarespace review, we'll talk about things like pricing, features, and what type of customer support you can get for your store.
Squarespace was founded by Anthony Casalena in 2004 an
d 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 up more control for developers.
But this article isn’t about the regular Squarespace platform for building a regular website. It's a review about Squarespace Commerce–Squarespace's primary ecommerce package.
Technically, people with Squarespace sites have always been able to sell online by adding something like PayPal or Ecwid. But that wasn’t ideal.
We want to learn about the real deal–the platform that supports fast-growing businesses and legitimate online stores. If this all sounds interesting, keep reading to learn more.
Squarespace Review: Features
As a content management system (CMS,) Squarespace has plenty of features, widgets, and integrations. You can integrate Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more. It is not as customizable as WordPress, but it’s not lacking in any important functionalities. In fact, Squarespace offers more built-in tools than WordPress. However, WordPress tends to have the advantage with extensions, since Squarespace doesn't have an app or plugin store.
As an ecommerce platform, the feature list is growing rapidly, and it seems to focus on the most important elements of ecommerce.
Squarespace still caters to small/mid-sized 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 (Awhile back you needed to pay for the Squarespace Commerce plan).
The Business Squarespace sites require a small transaction fee, but you can avoid this completely by upgrading to a basic online store.
With regard to features, you simply can’t compare Squarespace to Shopify or BigCommerce. I would compare its feature list to Big Cartel. 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.
Overall, I like the interface of Squarespace for small and midsized stores that crave a beautiful website without excessive development required. The pricing is decent, and you're still receiving the essentials. Want to create a gift card? Squarespace lets you. Are you trying to print out labels with ShipStation? That's no problem.
Squarespace Review: Ease of Use
Building a website and online store with Squarespace Commerce is pretty straightforward. The dashboard is clean and modern, with a menu tab on the left-hand side for you to jump from page to page.
For instance, you might want to check out your inventory, then add a discount, then work on your marketing. All of these tabs are just a click away in the dashboard. I might even argue that this interface is easier to understand than the almighty Shopify.
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–that is, without any custom coding.
Squarespace offers a fairly powerful design module for adjusting items like your lock screen, logo, template, and a whole bunch of settings in the style editor. In fact, most elements on your template are customizable. If you're absolutely stuck, there's a CSS module to mess with.
This is a live editor, but it doesn't have drag and drop elements. Having said that, the settings are intuitive enough for most beginners to handle.
Squarespace 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 Business Plan, as listed below, still gives you the opportunity to sell online. You can still technically embed something like a PayPal button into the Personal account, but there's no longer any full ecommerce support.
The monthly fee for the Business plan is lower, but the catch is that Squarespace takes a transaction fee:
- Personal – $12 per month. 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. They don't offer any ecommerce tools for this plan anymore, but an SSL is provided, so you can try out a PayPal button if you want.
- Business – $18 for a fully integrated ecommerce store with a 3% 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, customer accounts, and discounts. Also, the checkout is on your domain.
- Advanced – $40 per month for all of the features in previous plans, plus the checkout is still placed on your own domain. In addition, you receive powerful commerce metrics, inventory, orders, taxes, coupons, abandoned cart recovery, real-time carrier shipping, flexible discounts, gift cards, and the orders API.
Squarespace has never been known as a bargain website builder. It’s a premium solution and costs more money than many other platforms. Most of the free templates are of very high quality, so I actually believe it is worth the price.
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 Big Cartel offers plans anywhere from free to $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 Review: Templates & Design
This is Squarespace Commerce’s strong suit. These guys are known for design. The templates offered are exceptional. I counted 16 online store themes and over 80 standard 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, whereas Squarespace themes are made for beauty. Squarespace has improved its selection of themes since it used to only have around 10 total. Therefore, this 80+ mark puts it up there with juggernauts like Shopify and Bigcommerce. And, 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 its small selection, I would rate them above most ecommerce platforms.
Squarespace Review: Inventory
Squarespace Commerce supports multi-dimensional product variants (size, color, weight). They do not limit your number of SKUs or products, so it's not unthinkable to assume that you could run a large store with the platform. The inventory management is made easy with the ability to send shipping notifications and handle refunds right from the dashboard. There are also options for updating stock and quickly printing shipping labels.
Finally, the real-time shipping and barcode scanning comes together to show that Squarespace seems to have graduated from supporting only small stores.
Squarespace Commerce Review: SEO & Marketing
Squarespace Commerce’s SEO and marketing functions are pretty nice. 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.
The thing with SEO, in general, is that there's only so much that your ecommerce platform can do. After that, it's up to you to start blogging, working with Google Webmaster Tools, adding alt text to images, and more. The good thing is that Squarespace has an SEO guide to walk you through all of that.
You can also sell on Facebook and put your products on Pinterest or Instagram. Squarespace has added a promotional popup for grabbing customer attention. Abandoned checkout recovery can be found on the most expensive plan, and it even has automated discounts for your customers.
Since Squarespace is a somewhat 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 limited to the built-in features. I also wrote another post if you want to learn more about which is the best ecommerce site builder for SEO.
Note: Squarespace adds marketing tools on a regular basis. One of the features coming soon is for email marketing.
Squarespace Review: Payments
Squarespace Commerce only offers a few payment options, but they're some of the most popular on the market. As the default payment gateway, Stripe has been integrated with Squarespace and serves as the main payment solution for you to choose from. However, you also have the option to go with either PayPal or Apple Pay. All major credit cards are accepted, regardless of the payment gateway.
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 all 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 Commerce Review: Security
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.
If you're wondering, this is a 2048-bit SSL encryption, which is the highest standard for online security. Not only that, but all payments that go through Stripe are PCI compliant.
Squarespace Review: 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 webinar 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 unlimited products and an ever-growing selection of marketing tools.
I'm starting to think that Squarespace is beginning to compete with the big dogs like Bigcommerce, Shopify, or Corecommerce. Squarespace still lacks an app store, but the built-in features are rather impressive and it keeps adding high-profile integrations to make up for no app store.
I also think it could be a very strong platform for people currently selling on Etsy or eBay who are looking to upgrade. Overall, it's definitely the best option in terms of templates, and it's difficult to find a feature in Shopify or Bigcommerce that's lacking in Squarespace.
What do you think of Squarespace Commerce? Go to the comments and let us know your opinion about this Squarespace Commerce review.