Shopify, WooCommerce & Squarespace, which 1 is better?
Which one is better? Shopify or WooCommerce? What about Squarespace? That’s a question asked by many entrepreneurs that are starting their online e-commerce sales strategy. And with COVID-19 going around, more and more entrepreneurs are taking this route to sell their goods & services.
As an entrepreneur and business owner, choosing the right eCommerce platform that fits your needs is extremely crucial for your success.
In this guide, we will show you a detailed, up-to-date comparison between Shopify, WooCommerce and Squarespace. The objective is to break down the pros and cons of each of these platforms and help you choose the best option for your eCommerce store.
We will look at the following comparisons between Shopify, WooCommerce & Squarespace.
Shopify is an all-in-one eCommerce platform that makes it easy for you to create an online store or move your store online. It allows you to accept payments, and manage your inventory all from a single platform. Shopify also provide entrepreneurs the ability to create and manage their website via the platform without worrying about the technical aspects such as web hosting, website maintenances, caching, etc. Shopify offers a free trial for 14 days, after which, you will need to choose 1 of 3 subscription plan to continue.
WooCommerce is an open-source eCommerce plugin built for WordPress. It allows you to leverage the most powerful content management system (CMS) and use it to run an online store. Due to its open-source nature, WooCommerce allows you to customize every aspect of your store and leverage third-party custom extensions. WooCommerce is free however requires you to have a domain and a hosting server for it to reside on, which is cheap and easy to set up.
Squarespace is a website builder that simplifies web design and site creation to just a handful of super-easy steps. The platform is known for its stunning design templates geared toward business and creativity. It is however somewhat restricted on the customizability of the eCommerce store itself. Similar to Shopify, Squarespace covers the technical aspects of a website such as the web hosting, website maintenance, caching, etc. Unfortunately, Squarespace is limited in the number of marketing tools that are available comparing to the other two platforms and requires you to signup for a subscription plan after your 14 days trial.
Price: True cost of using these platforms
Shopify makes it super easy to start your online store. 3 subscription plans are available to start at $29, $79 & $299 USD per month respectively.
Each of these plans includes domain name, SSL certificate and web hosting. The domain name that comes with the plans will have Shopify extension at the end of your domain, so if you want to have a professional domain name, this will set you back another $20 annually.
The subscription plans come with enough features to set up a new online store. You can add unlimited products, multiple user accounts, unlimited file storage, and more. However, this pricing doesn’t include any third-party tools and add-ons that you will need to enhance & grow your Shopify store to the next level. The store themes, third-party tools, plugins and add-ons don’t come cheap, generally speaking, each plugin would set you back between $7-$20/month. As your business grows, these costs will start adding up, and you’ll soon be paying a lot more than just the price of the plans.
Payments are another factor that affects your costs. Shopify offers their own Shopify Payments solution which costs 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction. If you want to use a third-party payment gateway such as Stripe, Braintree or your own merchant account, then you will be charged a flat fee of 2.0% for all transactions on top of the third-party gateway fee of your choice. The Shopify fee differs based on the subscription plan, see table above for detail.
WooCommerce is an eCommerce plugin for WordPress OR WordPress.org (also known as a self-hosted WordPress). It is open source as a WordPress plugin and is free of charge. So, to use WooCommerce as a platform, you will need to use WordPress.
To set up WordPress, you will need the following:
A domain name which can cost you between $1 – $20 annually. A hosting services which can cost you around $7 / month. And, that is pretty much it.
If you are not sure which hosting service is the best, may we suggest SiteGround? SiteGround offers free SSL encryption, free daily backs & free WordPress installation. We at ShienaDesign are proud partner of SiteGround, and has been with them for more than 3 years now. Their customer service, server speed & security are exceptional.
You can have a look at SiteGround yourself at the link below:
(Full disclosure: we are an affiliate for this company, which means if you use the above link to give it a trial run, we do earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks in advance if you do choose to go through the link above!)
In terms of themes, third-party tools, plug-ins and add-ons, WordPress has a huge variety of them, significantly surpasses the number of themes & plugins available on Shopify & Squarespace. Depending on the creator of these themes & plugins, their cost may vary, however, you can often find free alternatives to the paid plugins.
WooCommerce platform by default comes with PayPal & Stripe, the platform on its own do not charge any fees associated with payment gateways, the only transaction fee you are paying is the payment gateway transaction fee of your choice.
Squarespace allows you to create your eCommerce store using its default templates easily once you sign up with their subscription plan. Squarespace offers 3 plans at $26, $30 & $46 USD per month respectively.
With the subscription plan, Squarespace provide a free domain of your choice for the first year, standard SSL security, hosting services & a library of templates for you to leverage in order to make your eCommerce store nice and sleek, however, these templates are quite restrictive so you are stuck with what is given.
Squarespace has no cost associated with plugins, add-ons or extensions. Why? You (might) ask. Well, because Squarespace doesn’t have any plugins or extensions, not from the official Squarespace platform at least. Each feature is built-in, although you can still get most required eCommerce tools like shopping carts, abandoned carts & discounts, you are missing out on many third-party tools that may increase your store’s conversion rate.
In terms of payment gateway, Squarespace offers 3 types of gateway, PayPal, Stripe & Square and your transaction fee is charged base on the rates of these 3 payment gateways. (Unless you are on the Business subscription plan in which case, Squarespace will charge you another 3% transaction fee.)
Ease of use: User friendliness from a non-technical perspective
Shopify is a fully hosted platform which means you don’t need to install, manage, or update any software. From your domain name, hosting (where your site lives online) to any security (SSL) certificates, Shopify got you covered.
As soon as you sign up, the Shopify guided wizard will help you pick a design for your website. After which, it will walk you through customization and then help you add products.
In addition, Shopify’s dashboard is designed to help non-technical users manage their store so it is very accessible to users. For example, you can change a product’s price, name and images all within one screen.
You don’t need to navigate around different pages and there’re tons of help widgets to guide you through editing and personalizing your store. However, like we mentioned before, with so much guidance, a lot of Shopify customizations are somewhat restrictive, you can only modify your website via the design and development tools provided by Shopify or add-ons available in their marketplace.
As such, you are not able to customize your website the way you like without spending big bucks for an average non-technical user.
By contrast, with WooCommerce you need to do a lot more of the legwork yourself. Sometimes, WooCommerce can feel a little bewildering. Especially if you’re a first-time website or ecommerce store creator or if you deemed yourself not the most technically-confident.
This means you will need to install WooCommerce, manage updates, keep backups, and make sure that your website is secure. But using a hosting service provider like SiteGround can definitely make the process a lot easier. If you are interest in using SiteGround, scroll up or down on this page for our referral link!
In comparison to Shopify & Squarespace, WooCommerce is extremely flexible when it comes to customizations. You have full control of the whole platform. You can add any functionality imaginable to your website with the help of more than 55,000+ WordPress plugins. If you want to use an intuitive drag & drop to build your website similar to that of Shopify, consider using a builder like Elementor. Elementor is free and should be able to handle most of your needs, of course, if you want to unlock cool features on Elementor, you will need to opt for the pro option.
You can have a look at Elementor yourself at the link below:
The downside of WooCommerce is that it comes with a more hands-on management of your website, while the WooCommerce guided setup is helpful, it does not come close to the intuitive and ease of use of Shopify.
Squarespace is similar to Shopify in ways that it is a fully hosted platform and you don’t need to worry about installation, management, or update of any software.
Squarespace also has some of the most beautiful templates in their template library but it is a bit trickier to get grips with. This is largely because it has a more powerful creative tool than most other platforms but takes many trial and error to understand exactly what each click does. Along with that, you are quite restrictive on what you can do due to Squarespace templates and the lack of plugin library.
Unlike Shopify or WooCommerce builder, there are no drag and drop in Squarespace, non does it offer builder plugins or extensions.
Plugins / add-ons: enhance your store
Shopify comes with a powerful API and an App Store where you can acquire or purchase third-party add-ons for your Shopify store. There are over 4000 apps available in the app store that covers every feature you’ll want to add to your store.
Many of the well-known third-party apps for generating leads and increase conversion rates such as mail chimp, abandon cart recovery, sales timer and many others are available from Shopify’s App Store, you can simply install them with 1 click of a button.
While Shopify’s App Store contains both free & paid apps, the are limited number of free apps available for you to use. Most “free apps” are usually created by third-party services that have their own pricing, and the apps only integrate your store to their APIs, which means the apps can only be used on one website.
In terms of plugins / add-ons, WooCommerce is the most superior of the 3 platforms, giving you access to more than 55,000 WordPress plugins. You can use these plugins to help you with any additional features you want on your website that may increase your lead generation or conversion rate.
Due to the low barrier of entry, there are far more integrations and add-ons available for WooCommerce (WordPress) than Shopify. Almost all third-party tools and service providers have their own plugins to seamlessly integrate with your WooCommerce store.
While most of the plug-ins on WooCommerce are free, there are some paid apps that will make your life a whole lot easier, these paid apps are created by third-party services and have their own pricing. That being said, if you have the patient to research and try out many of the free apps, I can promise you that there are many free alternatives to paid apps.
As mentioned throughout this guide, Squarespace do not offer any plugins or add-ons on their platform. Squarespace on its own offers many essential features to get your store up and running, payment gateways, abandon carts, checkout menus all come standard with Squarespace.
That being said, if you want third party plugins to increase the conversion rate of your store, you will need to go through external app stores to add these plugins or add-ons on to your website via snippet codes. Essentially, you will need to copy a piece of code from these external plugins and paste them onto your website for any additional features outside of the ones provided by Squarespace, however, doing so, may compromise your website’s security.
Payment gateway / methods: Getting paid
In terms of payment gateways, Shopify allows a huge variety of them. Shopify has its own payment gateway called Shopify Payments that is powered by Stripe which charges transaction rate according to the chart below.
Shopify also offers all popular third-party payment gateway via its App Store. The issue though, is that Shopify charges an extra 2% fees on each transaction made through third party payment gateways on top of the transaction fees charged by that payment gateway.
On the other hand, WooCommerce offers PayPal and Stripe payment gateway as default. Just like Shopify, it also offers all popular third-party payment gateway and many less popular ones via its WordPress App Store. Since there is no barrier to entry into the WordPress App Store other than security restrictions, technically speaking, any payments company can create add-ons for WooCommerce and provide support for it.
As a self-hosted platform, you are only charged transaction fees by your payment gateway, WooCommerce does not charge any transaction fee which is a major advantage. If choosing your own merchant account and the use of third-party payment gateway is an important for you, then WooCommerce will save you a significant amount of business expense.
Squarespace offers 3 payment gateways, PayPal, Stripe and Square. Due to its limitation on third-party tools, you are not able to integrate Squarespace with any other payment gateways.
If you are using the Business subscription plan, Squarespace will charge you a 3% transaction fee on top of the transaction fee charged by the 3 payment gateways. Where as for the other 2 subscription plans, you will only be charged the 3 payment gateway’s transaction fee. A cool feature about Squarespace is that if you sign up with their Square payment gateway, they will provide a Square Reader hardware that can accept payment physically through a credit card magstripe action. If you have a physical store as well, this allows you to accept customer payment from both online and local to the same Square merchant account.
Analytics: Understand customer behaviors
Shopify’s analytics and reports give you the means to review your store’s recent activity, get insight into your visitors, and analyze your store’s transactions real time. Regardless of your subscription plans, Shopify offers this option free of charge to all its users.
The default Shopify analytics provides you with information such as your sale, revenue and store conversion rate. In addition, Shopify also provides many reports for your store, some of the more useful reports are inventory reports, behavior reports and profit reports.
Some of the most powerful and popular analytics tool available are Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel If you are driving your customers onto your store via advertisement. These analytics tools offer in-depth data for business owners like you and I to leverage and assess the quality of the website experience of your customers. Shopify made it extremely easy for you to jump on board with these analytics tools, simply go to its App Store and install the analytics tools you desired. Once you set up your API with these analytics tools, you are ready to optimize your store and increase your conversion rate.
In terms of analytics, WooCommerce is no different than Shopify, WooCommerce comes with a default analytics tool that behaves and provide pretty much the same information real time as Shopify does. It also offers reports specific to WooCommerce related activities like Sale Trends, Percentage of customers to guests, Inventory trends, Taxes assessed and many more.
WooCommerce also offers Google Analytics, Facebook Pixel and many other third-party analytics tools in the WordPress App Store to help you perform in-depth analysis of your website.
Since Squarespace has no App Store, you are not able to use any third-party analytics tools like the other two platforms out of the box. If you absolutely have to use analytics tools from third-party, you can do so by following the instructions provided by these third-party services on adding Snippet codes to your website.
That being said, the default Squarespace Analytics is quite powerful and should satisfy most essential analytics needs for your store. The Squarespace gives you insight into how your store is performing. With Analytics, you can get a clear picture of your visitors and their behavior through visual reports on statistics like pageviews, conversion, sales, revenue and other popular content. One small catch though is that the basic Business subscription plan restricts your ability to view the Purchase Funnel report and the Sales by Product report.
A disadvantage with Spacesquare Analytics is that the data shown is not real-time analytics, it cannot tell you exactly the number of visitors you have at the exact moment that you view your store’s analytics.
Shopify, WooCommerce and Squarespace are all powerful platforms to start your eCommerce store. Ultimately, it comes down to your personal skills and preferences.
Squarespace is disadvantageous in the plugins, add-on area, but offers sleek and simple design with many essential features for your store. However, out of the three platforms evaluated, we consider it to be the least favorable.
Shopify offers a wide range of additional features via the App Store that allows you to enhance your website’s conversion rate and analytics. But your costs could be much higher than that of WooCommerce due to its high transaction fees, add-ons and integrations.
WooCommerce is open source and gives you full control over your website but requires you to install WordPress, purchase hosting servers and domains separately, more like a DIY approach. However, it offers excellent selections of paid & free third-party tools via the App Store and is completely free in terms of the platform cost, you simply just need to pay transaction fee for the payment gateway of your choice (which is a lot less than Shopify because the platform itself does not charge a fee).
If you are looking for a cost-effective solution and want to have full control over your online store, then WooCommerce is the best platform for you. If you are not sure which hosting service is the best, may we suggest SiteGround?
SiteGround offers free SSL encryption, free daily backs & free WordPress installation. We at ShienaDesign are proud partner of site ground, and has been with them with more than 3 years now. Their customer service, server speed & security are exceptional.
If you want to explore the popular WordPress page builder, Elementor, check out the banner below:
(Full disclosure: we are an affiliate for this company, which means if you use the above link to give it a trial run, we do earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks in advance if you do choose to go through the links & banners above!)
Still confused? Follow our DIY guide to install WordPress for your online store NOW!