Square Online and Shopify are two popular, dedicated ecommerce platforms that you can use to create an online store, sell online, manage inventory, ship products, and market your business.
Choosing between Square Online and Shopify can be tricky – the right platform for you will depend on your business, and in this article we’ll help you discover which one suits your needs. We carried out in-depth research into each one, examining pricing, sales tools, website and marketing features, design, and ease of use.
That means if you want a quick answer to whether Square Online or Shopify is better overall, we can tell you based on which performed better in our research categories. Spoiler alert, it’s Shopify:
Shopify is the more powerful platform, blowing Square Online’s sales and website features out the water. It’s also better for design, and was more popular with our users who gave it a higher customer score. However, it’s not perfect. Square Online still beat it for value for money, support, and ease of use. So let’s find out which is better for you!
Square Online Pros and Cons
|Pros|| Cons |
|Affordable price plans provide great value for money – with a free plan and a $12 per month starting plan, it’s super budget-friendly||Lack of creative freedom – in our research, Square Online only scored 2.7 stars out of 5 for design functionality|
|In-house Square integrations – perfect for in-person sellers building an online store who need POS||Limited payment options – you can accept Square Pay, PayPal, Stripe, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and credit cards|
|Easy to use – Square Online is nice and easy to use, so beginners can build a store quickly and without tech experience||Lack of power in its sales features – if you have a large store or ambitious plans, it may not have the tools to supercharge your growth|
Shopify Pros and Cons
|Pros|| Cons |
|Best platform for customer satisfaction – our users awarded Shopify a 4.6 star customer score, the best of any platform we tested||Lots of reliability on apps – one of Shopify’s biggest assets is its huge app store, but this reliance can quickly add app or weigh your site down|
|Powerful sales features – Shopify has plenty of tools and apps to help you grow your store, with multi-channel integrations, dropshipping, and more||Transaction fee unless you use Shopify Payments – you’ll be charged 2.0% per transaction unless you use Shopify’s in-house payment provider|
|Optimized ecommerce themes – not only are Shopify’s themes visually pleasing, they also come packed with features, and are totally customizable||$29 per month starting price can be too expensive for new businesses|
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Which Gives You Better Value?
Square Online provides better value for money than Shopify
Square Online vs Shopify: Price Plan Breakdown
Both Square Online and Shopify have three paid plans, although Square Online also has a free plan:
Shopify comes with a 3-day free trial so that you can try it out risk-free.
Square Online is cheaper than Shopify, but still packs a punch with its features, even on its free plan. For example, you can sell an unlimited number of products, sync with Square POS, create coupons, and more, no matter which plan you choose.
What does this mean? Well, it means that Square Online offers awesome value for money! It packs some pretty cool features into its cheap plans, although some key tools, such as abandoned cart recovery and reviews, are reserved for its more expensive plans.
The only catch is that Square Online charges 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction, whereas Shopify charges between 0.5% and 2% depending on your plan. You can remove Shopify’s fees if you use its in-house payment gateway – we’ll explore transaction fees in more detail later!
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Which is More Beginner Friendly?
Square Online is easier to use than Shopify
One of the main reasons our users found Square Online easier to use than Shopify is that Square Online is much faster and easier to set up. While Shopify takes a little more time to build, customize, and configure your settings, Square Online does a lot of the work for you.
First, Square Online asks you for the name and address of your business. It then shows you a demo store, taking you through steps where you pick the features you want for your store:
The next step is to add your logo if you have one, and then choose the style and color scheme you like best:
After these three simple steps, Square Online creates your store based on your input during this setup process. And hey presto, you have a customized store from the moment your page loads! All you have to do is add your own text and products, and you can publish your store.
In contrast, Shopify leaves everything to you. It asks you a few questions at the start – which is a nice touch – and provides you with a checklist to help you build your store.
You pick a theme, customize it, and so on, meaning that while it’s easy to create a store, it takes longer – there’s not the same sense of instant gratification that you get with Square Online.
It’s worth noting that Square Online also includes a free domain for one year if you choose one of its annual paid plans. This makes your life easier, as you don’t have to worry about finding, registering, and paying for a domain name separately. Shopify doesn’t throw in a domain, so this is one more thing to sort out yourself.
Managing Your Store
If you have a large or complex inventory, with multiple product variants, you’ll likely find Shopify easier to use in the long-run than Square Online. This is due to its heavy-weight inventory system, which is optimized to handle bigger stores’ catalogs.
For a small or local business, however, Square Online makes life nice and easy, with helpful features such as text alerts for customers, curbside delivery, and POS integrations.
Which Has Better Templates?
Shopify has better design functionality than Square Online
As we’ve already seen, Square Online creates a site for you, based on the design choices you make during setup. This means you don’t get to view a template library, unlike Shopify. During setup, Square Online gives you 15 color palette options, and five style options:
While this keeps things quick and easy, it also limits your creative control. In contrast, Shopify has a whole theme library where you can browse and preview different store themes – there are 81 in total, nine of which are free!
While Shopify covers most of the main industries – the only one we found missing was DIY – Square Online is much less diverse, offering only retail and restaurant templates.
In short, there’s no contest here – with only five styles to choose from, Square Online’s template choice is super limited compared to Shopify’s. If you want lots of creative control over the finer details of your design, Shopify is the better choice.
Find Out More
- Looking for inspiration? We handpicked 15 of the Best Shopify Store Examples for you to browse!
Both Square Online and Shopify let you switch templates, which is great for rebrands later down the line, but Square Online also lets you create and edit your store on your mobile, which is a feature Shopify doesn’t support. Perfect for busy sellers on the go!
When it comes to actually customizing your template, Shopify allows more detailed design changes than Square Online. Both are easy to personalize – neither require coding or tech skills – but Shopify places more creative control in your hands.
Square Online has a very simple editor – you use the left-hand sidebar to navigate and customize your theme:
Shopify is a little more advanced – again, you use the left-hand sidebar to navigate and customize your theme, but, when you interact with it, you also open a right-hand sidebar for customizing specific elements:
At the end of the day, Square Online is faster to use because it’s more limited, while Shopify takes a little longer to perfect because it gives you more customizations to explore.
Which Has Better Sales Tools?
Shopify has more powerful sales tools than Square Online
All Square Online plans, including the free plan, include:
- The ability to sell unlimited products
- Automatic inventory, order, and item syncing with Square POS
- Pickup, delivery, or shipping
- Instagram integration
- Facebook ads
- Gift cards
- Order status text alerts
- SEO features
- The ability for customers to customize their orders
To use a custom domain, remove adverts, and claim a free domain, you’ll need the $12 per month Professional plan. For more serious features, such as abandoned cart recovery and customer reviews, you’ll need at least the $26 per month Performance plan.
All Shopify plans include:
- The ability to sell unlimited products
- Inventory management
- At least four inventory locations
- Multichannel integration
- Shopify POS Lite (to accept in-person payments)
- Shipping labels
- Abandoned cart recovery
- At least two staff accounts
- SEO features
- Discount code creation
To unlock reports, international pricing, and international domains, you’ll need the $79 per month Shopify plan. The $299 per month Advanced Shopify plan unlocks international variant pricing.
That’s a lot of features to take in! The short version is that Shopify provides more powerful sales features than Square Online. Here’s a closer, side-by-side look at some of the key features offered by Square Online and Shopify:
|No. of products on cheapest plan||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Customer log in||❌||✅|
|Omnichannel sales|| Facebook Ads || Facebook |
|Bulk product import||✅||✅|
|Customizable checkout page||❌||✅|
|Guest checkout option||✅||✅|
|Abandoned cart recovery||✅||✅|
It’s clear that Shopify takes its sales features to the next level. While Square Online generates invoices, Shopify makes these invoices customizable, so that you can provide a more consistent brand experience. Similarly, Shopify lets you customize your checkout page, provides customer logins, and has many more multichannel integrations.
While Square Online has features to support small or local businesses, Shopify goes the extra mile to make your business stand out from the crowd and sustain long-term growth.
Are There Any Extra Costs?
Shopify offers more payment options than Square Online
It’s perhaps unsurprising that Square Online’s main payment option is Square Pay. However, it also accepts payments via:
- All major credit cards
- Apple Pay
- Google Pay
This is a decent range – it just looks small compared to Shopify’s huge choice of payment options!
Shopify offers over 100 different payment gateways, giving you tons of choice. Some of the main options include:
- Buy now, pay later
- Google Pay
- Shopify Payments
- Cash on delivery
Both Shopify and Square Online charge fees per transaction – Shopify’s fees are cheaper, and you can totally remove them if you choose Shopify Payments.
Shopify charges transaction fees unless you use its in-house payment gateway Shopify Payments. The level of transaction fee depends on your plan – it becomes lower the more expensive your plan.
Square Online charges a fee per transaction too, although it’s more of a processing fee rather than a transaction fee. Either way, the outcome is still the same – you’re charged 2.9% + $0.30 for each transaction through your store. Again, the fee depends on your plan:
|Free plan||Cheapest plan||Mid-level plan|| Top-tier plan |
|Square Online Fees||2.9% + $0.30||2.9% + $0.30||2.9% + $0.30|| 2.6% + $0.30 |
|Shopify Fees||N/A||2.0%||1.0%|| 0.5% |
The key difference to note, other than the fact that Square Online’s fee is higher than Shopify’s, is that you can remove Shopify’s transaction fees by choosing Shopify Payments. This isn’t an option with Square Online.
Find Out More
- Interested in Shopify Payments? Read our Shopify Payments Review to find out if it’s the right choice for your business
Which Helps You Promote Your Store Online?
Shopify’s website features are more effective than Square Online’s
Square Online and Shopify are evenly matched when it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimization), which is crucial for boosting your store’s rankings in search engine results pages. In the end, Shopify just beats Square Online thanks to its SEO specific app – it also has more social media integrations.
|Custom meta titles||✅|| ✅ |
|Meta descriptions||✅|| ✅ |
|Custom URLs||✅|| ✅ |
|Image alt text||✅|| ✅ |
|Mobile friendly||✅|| ✅ |
|301 redirects||✅|| ✅ |
|Google Analytics||✅|| ✅ |
|SEO prompts||✅|| ✅ |
|SEO specific app||❌|| ✅ |
|Keyword support||❌|| ❌ |
Shopify easily wins this one, because Square Online doesn’t offer any blogging features – this is a big problem for businesses who want to use content marketing.
Sure, Shopify’s blogging tools aren’t the best we’ve ever seen – it doesn’t provide blogging specific analytics, archiving, social bookmarking, or a blog-specific search feature. But it does offer:
- RSS feed
- Blog-specific SEO
Considering Square Online’s glaring lack of blogging tools, this is enough for us to name Shopify the winner of this particular category!
It’s hard to call it between Square Online and Shopify when it comes to email marketing. Both come with their own, built-in email marketing tools, and offer a wide range of third-party integrations. We’d recommend Shopify here, purely because it supports a larger number of third-party apps.
Which Makes Your Store Run Smoothly?
Good news: both Square Online and Shopify have great security!
You don’t need to worry about security, no matter whether you choose Square Online or Shopify. Both are fully equipped to protect your store and your customers. Both platforms:
- Are fully PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliant
- Provide built-in, free SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) security to encrypt sensitive data passing between your customers and your store (like login or payment details)
Shopify also provides internal fraud analysis. If you’re on the Basic Shopify plan, your fraud analysis includes indicators and support for third-party fraud apps. If you’re on the Shopify plan or above, your fraud analysis includes:
- Support for third-party fraud apps
- Fraud recommendations
If you choose Shopify Payments, you automatically get the full set of features, no matter which plan you’re on.
We carried out performance analysis on seven major ecommerce platforms, including Square Online and Shopify. We tested over 3,000 URLs in total, across mobile and desktop, to see how ecommerce platforms are performing against Google’s Core Web Vitals.
Overall, Square Online performed better than Shopify, across both mobile and desktop, for the majority of areas we tested. The areas we ran tests for include:
- Overall performance
- Speed Index Time
- Time to Interactive
- Server Response Time
The only area where Shopify scored better than Square Online was for server response time – Shopify was actually the fastest out of all the platforms we tested, at just 396 milliseconds on desktop.
Which Makes It Easier to Migrate?
Switching to Shopify is much easier and hassle-free!
If you already have an online store, chances are you don’t want to rebuild from scratch on a new platform!
That’s where the ease of switching, or migrating, your store to either Square Online or Shopify comes in. Sadly, neither platform offers to carry out your migration for you, which is a shame!
However, Shopify makes it as easy as possible to move your existing store over. It has specific guides, including how to migrate to Shopify from:
- Big Cartel
The easiest way to do this is to use Shopify’s Store Importer App, which you can find in the Shopify App Store. That said, you’ll still need to handle exporting your product, customer, and order data in CSV files, so it’s not exactly a walk in the park. The good news is that Shopify’s guides are well explained to walk you through the process.
With Square Online, you’ll need to import your items using the bulk import tool – there’s a helpful guide on how to do this, but, sadly, not much specific guidance on migrating from another platform onto Square Online.
Which Has Better Customer Support?
Square Online has better help and support than Shopify!
Both Square Online and Shopify have a great help and support offering. Let’s take a look at exactly what they have to lend you a helping hand:
|Live chat||✅||✅ (24/7)|
|Onsite editor help||❌||❌|
|Advanced specialist support||✅||✅|
We like the fact Square Online provides a full range of help support options on its free plan – some platforms limit support for more expensive plans, so this is worth a shoutout.
When we tested both platforms’ knowledge centers, our users found that Square Online was more helpful. We asked our users to search for specific queries, and use a rating system based on how quickly they found relevant answers.
The outcome of this test was that Square Online received a five star rating for its knowledge base specifically, while Shopify’s knowledge base only scored 3 out of 5. It was this result that really tipped this overall help and support category in Square Online’s favor!
Who's the Overall Winner?
Square Online and Shopify have their own set of strengths and weaknesses, which we’ve explored in this comparison. By now you know that Shopify is more powerful, Square Online is easier to use, and you should have an idea of which one suits your business’ needs better!
Here’s a quick recap of how these platforms performed in each category:
| Pricing and Value for Money |
Winner: Square Online
|Square Online has a free plan, and three paid plans starting at $12 per month. It offers amazing value for money!||Shopify has a 3-day free trial, and its plans range from $29 - $299 per month. Its value isn’t as good as Square Online!|
| Ease of Use |
Winner: Square Online
|Square Online is quick and easy to use – perfect if you want to start selling as soon as possible.||Shopify is easy to use, it just takes longer to get to grips with than Square Online, because it gives you more control.|
| Website Design |
|Square Online doesn’t give you much creative control, and its designs cater to a very limited number of industries.||You can create consistent branding with Shopify – it has customizable invoices and checkout pages.|
| Ecommerce Features |
|Square Online’s sales tools are best for small and local businesses, especially those with a bricks-and-mortar store as well as an online presence.||Shopify has more powerful sales tools designed to support long term, ambitious growth – its features are more diverse, including dropshipping and multichannel selling.|
| Payment Options and Transaction Fees |
| Payment options include: |
•All major credit cards
All transactions come with a 2.9% + $0.30 fee, unless you’re on the most expensive plan, which reduces the charge to 2.6% + $0.30.
| Over 100 payment options, including: |
•Buy now, pay later
•Cash on delivery
There are no transaction fees if you use Shopify Payments – otherwise, you’ll be charged between 0.5% and 2%, depending on your plan.
| Website and Marketing Features |
|Although it has good email marketing and SEO tools, Square Online doesn’t have any blogging features.||Shopify provides SEO, email marketing, and blogging features to help you promote your store online.|
| Performance and Security |
|Square Online provides a free SSL certificate on every plan, is PCI DSS compliant, and performed well in our site speed tests.||Shopify provides a free SSL certificate with every plan, is PCI DSS compliant, and provides fraud analysis on all plans.|
| Switching Process |
|Square Online requires a fairly manual process of importing products and re-uploading product images.||Shopify has specific guides on migrating from different ecommerce platforms, and has a Store Importer app to help you.|
| Help and Support |
Winner: Square Online
|In our user testing, our participants found Square Online’s help center easier to find answers.||Shopify has 24/7 phone and live chat support, but our users found its help center a little more hit and miss with their queries.|
|Are you ready?||Try Square Online||Try Shopify|
Who Should Use Square Online?
- Local businesses wanting an online presence
- Small retail and restaurant businesses
- Merchants selling in person, who want to sync with Square POS
- Sellers wanting to set up an online store quickly and easily
- Budget-conscious sellers needing a cheap way to get started
Who Should Use Shopify?
- Brand-conscious sellers with clear design plans
- Established online stores with a large or complex inventory
- Ambitious sellers with big, long-term plans
- Online-only stores with needs for multichannel and online marketing
- Merchants needing a wide range of payment gateways and lower fees
Our overall winner in this Square Online vs Shopify comparison is Shopify. It’s the more well-rounded platform, and can handle a variety of store’s needs. It can easily support a new store, while also providing large businesses everything they need to continue growing.
Square Online has great features for a more niche audience. In our research, Shopify’s impressive 4.6 out of 5 star rating beat Square Online’s 4.2. They’re both good platforms, but Shopify is the more powerful and robust choice overall.