Square Online: Pros, Cons and Alternatives

Square Online is an easy-to-use e-commerce platform. A free version is available.
Feb 1, 2022

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Square Online is an e-commerce platform that lets you create a website, manage a variety of sales channels and take payments online — all without needing technical expertise. Its long list of features makes it able to adapt to a variety of industry-specific needs. For example, restaurants can choose from multiple delivery options, retailers can get real-time shipping quotes and discounted rates, and those in service industries can pair Square Online with Square Appointments to keep track of bookings.

Square Online is a good fit for growing small businesses. You can select a plan that meets your current needs knowing you can seamlessly bolt on additional features in the future. It’s also a great fit for new businesses, as its fully functional free version is among the best free platforms currently available.

Square
Shop Now

on Square's website

Deciding factors

Pricing

Four subscription tiers: $0, $12, $26 and $72 per month, billed annually. All plans can be canceled without penalty at any time.

Payment processing

  • 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction for most plans.

  • 2.6% plus 30 cents per transaction for Premium plan.

Top free features

  • List unlimited products.

  • Sell and accept digital gift cards.

  • Sell on Instagram and Facebook.

  • Text order updates to customers.

Online marketplace integrations

  • Facebook stores.

  • Google product listing.

  • Instagram shoppable links.

  • TikTok shoppable links.

Square Online: pricing details and core features

(Photo courtesy of Square)

There are four different versions of Square Online. The fee for payment processing is 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction for all plans except Premium, which costs 2.6% plus 30 cents per transaction.

Free version. A good fit if: You’re on a budget.

Features:

  • List unlimited products.

  • Offer pickup, delivery and shipping options.

  • Access tools that can improve your website’s search results.

  • Sell on Facebook and Instagram.

  • Manage multiple sites.

  • Send text alerts to customers with order updates.

  • Calculate taxes automatically.

  • Print shipping labels.

  • Accept payments with Apple Pay, Google Pay and Cash App.

Professional — $12 per month. A good fit if: You want a high level of personalization for a low cost.

Features:

  • Free features.

  • Get a custom web address.

  • Have a website with no ads from Square.

  • Get custom fonts.

  • Use password-protected pages.

  • View site performance, like page visits.

  • Access unlimited storage.

Performance — $26 per month. A good fit if: You want to invest in driving online sales.

Features:

  • Professional features.

  • Accept payments with PayPal.

  • Allow customers to recover abandoned carts.

  • Allow customers to make purchases as gifts.

  • Allow customers to leave reviews.

  • Access advanced reports like sales trends.

Premium — $72 per month. A good fit if: You do more than $1,500 in online sales every month.

Features:

  • Performance features.

  • Reduced processing fee for online payments: 2.6% plus 30 cents per transaction — a better deal than the Performance plan if you process more than $1,534 per month in online sales.

  • Shipping discounts.

  • Real-time shipping information.

Additional features

Restaurant-specific features

(Photo courtesy of Square)

  • Table-specific QR codes allow dine-in guests to order and pay from their own devices.

  • Customers can place an order to be fulfilled at a future time.

  • Customers can include a tip.

  • You can manage multiple locations from one website.

  • If your menu changes throughout the day, you can set time boundaries for what people can order when.

Delivery options

  • Square’s on-demand delivery service. This service sources deliverers from multiple services and charges a flat fee per order. Customers order directly from your website.

  • In-house delivery. If you employ your own food couriers, use Square Online to set your delivery boundaries, gather delivery information and text customers with updates. Customers order directly from your website, and Square charges a flat fee of 50 cents per order.

  • Integrate directly with delivery services. You can connect your account to Caviar, Postmates or DoorDash, and orders made on those apps will push directly to Square for Restaurants POS.

  • Integrate indirectly with other delivery services. You can use Chowly to connect to delivery services that Square Online does not support directly, like Ubereats and GrubHub.

Retail-specific features

  • You can use coupon codes to encourage sales.

  • You get access to a real-time shipping calculator.

  • You can manage inventory for in-person and online sales in one location.

Notable add-on features for all versions

  • Product photography. Mail in any item and get a professional photo you can use on your site, starting at $9.95. Or use Square’s free product photography app.

  • Appointments. Square Appointments centralizes scheduling, payments and customer communication. Starts at $0 per month.

  • Email marketing. This service benefits from integrating with Square’s ecosystem: You can gather customer contact information at checkout, segment your audience and create targeted promotions based on shopping history, and track performance when customers act on an email or text message. Starts at $15 per month.

  • Loyalty program. Create repeat shoppers by giving them digital punch cards that incentivize repeat visits. Starts at $45 per month.

  • Gift cards. Create and sell gift cards, starting at 80 cents per card, or sell digital gift cards for free.

Pros

Easy to take your business online, especially for Square users

Square Online’s easy-to-customize templates make it accessible to users without technical or design skills. While you don’t need to use Square POS to use the platform, those who do will find it even easier to get up and running: Inventory, customer data, loyalty programs and other Square features you already use automatically feed into Square Online.

Competitive, transparent pricing

While some competitors offer free trials, Square has a fully functional version that’s free indefinitely. If you opt for a paid version, what you’ll pay is easy to understand — and you don’t need to commit to a long-term contract.

Flexible plans

The combination of Square’s simple pricing and its a la carte options, like its loyalty program, helps you nimbly scale up and down as your business changes. You can start using a specific feature (or cancel) as necessary. Many of these add-on features come with their own tiered pricing system, which means you can test them out without a big upfront commitment.

Cons

Limited third-party marketplaces

With Square online, you can sell through a variety of channels, like Instagram. However, there are some notable absences, including Amazon, Walmart and eBay. You can still sell at those outlets; you’ll just need to manage those channels independently or use another e-commerce service, like BigCommerce.

Alternatives

BigCommerce or Shopify:

If you have a big omnichannel presence.

If your business has a presence on third-party marketplaces not directly supported by Square, like Amazon and eBay, you should look into e-commerce services that let you manage the platforms you need from a single location. BigCommerce works with a long list of online marketplaces, and it also integrates with Square's POS, which is helpful if you're already a Square user. If you're a digital-first business with some in-person needs and are looking for an all-in-one product, Shopify could be a good option because, like Square, it has its own POS system.

Shopify Dropshipping

Shopify
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on Shopify's website

Squarespace or GoDaddy:

If your needs are more about sharing than selling.

If you want a website that is primarily for showcasing your work, consider Squarespace or GoDaddy. With GoDaddy, you can get your own domain name for less, while Squarespace has an impressive template library for needs that aren’t as payment-centric.