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Shopify and Squarespace are two of NerdWallet’s picks for the best e-commerce website builders. The big difference between them is what’s native to each platform versus what you’ll need third-party apps for, which introduces an extra layer of complexity.
Shopify's built-in inventory management, shipping and omnichannel selling features make it better for businesses that sell physical products. Squarespace, on the other hand, is more useful for businesses that sell services and digital content because you can set up appointment booking and members-only parts of your website.
Here’s how Shopify and Squarespace stack up on these and other questions.
Shopify vs. Squarespace: Deciding factors
Shopify’s cheapest website builder plan, Basic, costs $29 per month when billed annually.
Squarespace’s cheapest e-commerce plan, Business, costs $23 per month plus a 3% transaction fee on all sales. The next plan, Commerce Basic, eliminates those fees and costs $27 per month.
Shopify Payments takes a cut of 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction. Shopify charges Basic customers an extra 2% if they choose a different payment processor; that fee drops to 1% then 0.5% for the two more expensive pricing tiers, respectively.
Stripe and PayPal. Stripe charges 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction and PayPal charges 3.49% plus 49 cents per transaction. Squarespace charges an additional 3% per transaction for customers on the Business plan.
Online marketplace integrations
Native integrations with Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Google and Walmart. Amazon integration requires an app that has free and paid plans.
Native integrations with Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Google Shopping. You’ll need a third-party extension to integrate with eBay, and if you use Amazon, you’ll have to list those products individually.
Where Shopify wins
Inventory and order management
Shopify users have access to advanced inventory management software. You can track and manage your inventory, including incoming and committed stock, and move products between warehouses and sales sites. Once orders have been placed, you can see the status of each in your dashboard and edit them before they ship.
Squarespace offers basic inventory management features, like adding unlimited stock-keeping units, or SKUs, in unlimited colors and sizes, and the platform can send low-stock notifications. But for more, you’ll need to turn to third-party apps.
Shopify’s shipping features are sophisticated, too. Businesses that use Shopify have access to special shipping rates with a variety of carriers, plus shipping label printing, shipping insurance and more. Shopify sellers that also have physical storefronts can offer customers local delivery and in-store pickup.
With Squarespace, you can facilitate local pickup and display shipping rates to your customers. But to manage returns or print labels with shippers other than the U.S. Postal Service, you’ll need a third-party app.
Integrations with other online shopping platforms
Shopify sellers can list products on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, but you’ll still manage payments, shipping and returns from your Shopify dashboard, and sales on these platforms will be included in your reports. The same goes for Walmart Marketplace and Google.
Shopify’s app store offers integrations with Amazon and more specialized selling platforms, like Spotify for Artists and WhatsApp.
Squarespace offers integrations with Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, too, but you’ll need a third-party app to connect your store to other marketplaces like eBay.
Where Squarespace wins
Squarespace is a better choice than Shopify for businesses that sell services or digital goods. Read NerdWallet’s review of Squarespace.
Online appointment booking
You can publish your calendar on your Squarespace website, which customers can use to book time with you. You’ll get notifications about new appointments and can sync your website calendar with other digital calendars. You can also set up intake forms that clients have to fill out before your meeting and schedule reminder emails for your clients.
Shopify users, on the other hand, have to rely on a third-party app to take bookings. Shopify apps often charge additional monthly fees, and in general, apps can introduce friction if they don’t communicate properly with the primary platform.
Exclusive content for members
You can use Squarespace to create a walled, members-only area of your website. You can use this space to publish premium content or exclusive online courses or to launch members-only features, like small-group coaching sessions.
As it does with appointment booking, Shopify offers apps that can facilitate membership experiences, but those will up your monthly cost.
Payment processing with Stripe
Squarespace requires the use of Stripe or PayPal to take user payments. Stripe is NerdWallet’s pick for the best credit card payment processing company for e-commerce businesses because of its customizable checkout experience. It charges 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction.
Shopify essentially requires the use of Shopify Payments by charging up to 2% in additional fees if you choose a different provider. Shopify Payments charges the same amount in transaction fees as Stripe, although fees drop as you upgrade to subscription plans that cost more monthly.
Shopify vs. Squarespace: Pricing
If you run a small e-commerce business, the price differences between Shopify and Squarespace likely won’t be a huge factor.
Shopify’s entry-level option — the $29-per-month Shopify Basic plan — is more expensive than Squarespace’s $23 Business option. But Squarespace Business tacks on a 3% fee per transaction. Squarespace’s next tier — Commerce Basic — eliminates that fee and costs $27 per month.
Payment processing costs for Shopify Basic and Squarespace Commerce Basic are also the same — 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction whether you use Shopify Payments or Stripe on Squarespace.
Beyond that, though, Shopify starts to get significantly more expensive than Squarespace. Shopify and Shopify Advanced both include lower payment processing fees and discounted shipping rates — but costs jump to $79 per month and $299 per month, respectively. Shopify also offers an enterprise tier with quote-based pricing.
If you’re a high-volume seller, do the math to make sure those Shopify discounts offset the higher monthly bills.
Squarespace e-commerce plans include:
$23 per month: Business. At this level, you’ll get access to Squarespace’s drag-and-drop website builder, inventory and order management tools, and payments via Stripe or PayPal. However, Squarespace will assess a fee of 3% per transaction on top of the fee Stripe charges — which means that if you generate more than $133 per month or $1,600 per year in revenue, it’s worth it to upgrade to the next plan.
$27 per month: Commerce Basic. In addition to dropping the 3% transaction fee, at this level Squarespace offers product reviews, individual customer accounts, waitlists, low stock alerts and checkout on your own domain, plus the ability to sell products on Facebook and Instagram.
$49 per month: Commerce Advanced. You can upgrade to Commerce Advanced to offer your customers abandoned cart recovery, subscriptions, free shipping, dynamic shipping rates and automatic discounts.
All of Squarespace’s e-commerce plans include unlimited staff accounts.
Shopify e-commerce plans include:
$29 per month: Basic. This plan is limited to two staff accounts. It includes abandoned cart recovery, shipping label printing, inventory and order management tools, and social media and online marketplace sales. Payments processed via Shopify Payments cost 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction.
$79 per month: Shopify. This level adds three additional staff accounts, for a total of five, plus discounted shipping rates and more sophisticated performance reports. Shopify Payments processing rates drop to 2.6% plus 30 cents per transaction.
$299 per month: Advanced. You can upgrade to Advanced for a total of 15 staff accounts, dynamic shipping rates and the ability to charge import taxes. Shopify Payments processing rates fall even further, to 2.4% plus 30 cents per transaction.
$2,000 per month and up: Plus. Shopify Plus doesn't charge additional fees if you use a payment processor other than Shopify Payments. You can reach out to Shopify for a price quote tailored to your business.
Where Shopify and Squarespace tie
Both services offer unlimited product listings with plans that offer e-commerce features.
Built-in print-on-demand services
Squarespace offers businesses a “custom merch” service, which lets users sell print-on-demand products using a third-party app called Printful. Shopify lists Printful in its app store, too.
Shopify vs. Squarespace: Which is right for your business?
Shopify is best for businesses that:
Sell and ship products to individual customers.
Frequently list products on other platforms, like social media and third-party marketplaces.
Generate enough revenue to take advantage of reduced payment processing fees and shipping discounts at Shopify’s higher pricing tiers.
Squarespace is best for businesses that:
Earn revenue from memberships or exclusive content.
Generate little enough revenue that cheaper payment processing fees with Shopify or Shopify Advanced wouldn’t pencil out.
Shopify and Squarespace offer trial periods — three days and two weeks, respectively. If you have time, try setting up your e-commerce website using both services. This can help you see which platform feels most intuitive to you before committing to a paid plan.
A version of this article was first published on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.