If you want to launch an online business, Squarespace and Shopify are two of the best website builders available. The platforms take very different approaches to design, selling, and more, so it’s important to fully understand what they have to offer.
In this article, we compare Squarespace vs Shopify head-to-head, to help you decide which website builder is right for you.
Squarespace: top for templates and tools
Squarespace's visually-appealing designs are well suited to small business sites, and it also offers ecommerce tools. With over 500 professionally-designed templates, Squarespace also provides native tools designed for businesses, alongside options for extra customization.
Shopify: the top ecommerce site builder
Shopify is ideal for building ecommerce websites, and over 1 million merchants in 175 different countries use it. An extensive range of third-party apps, a clutter-free interface, and a built-in shopping cart and checkout manager are supplemented by additional security and marketing tools.
Squarespace vs Shopify: What we compared
We dove deep into Squarespace and Shopify to determine what these platforms offer for website designers and business owners. Here’s what we’ll cover as part of our comparison:
- User interface and setup
- Site builders
- Marketing tools
- Traffic and sales analytics
- Which platform is best for me?
- What our reviewers said
- Alternatives to Squarespace and Shopify
User interface and setup
Setting up your site is relatively easy with both Squarespace and Shopify.
For Squarespace, you’ll select a template from a library of around 110 options organized by category. The backend dashboard consists of a simple menu in which you’ll find options for designing your site, setting up your online store, analyzing visitor traffic, and more. Squarespace also offers a checklist to help you get your site up and running.
Shopify doesn’t require you to choose a template before you get to your dashboard. The dashboard menu is set up similarly to the one in Squarespace, but the menu items are more business-focused than design-focused.
For example, while menu items for discounts and customers are secondary items in Squarespace, they’re primary menu items in Shopify. That makes these functions easier to access in Shopify.
To modify your site’s design in Shopify, you first need to preview your site and then open the page editor. Once in the page editor, you can change your template and customize your content.
One other aspect of Shopify’s menu that’s different is a section labeled "Sales Channels". Here, your Shopify website is just one channel. You can add Google Shopping, Facebook, eBay, and other online marketplaces to Shopify to manage all of your online sales in one place.
Squarespace, in contrast, doesn’t have any comparable options for integrating sales made on other platforms.
Neither Squarespace or Shopify have a free plan, but they each offer several pricing options. At Squarespace, the Personal plan doesn’t include ecommerce support, but all other plans do, and enable you to add unlimited products. All Shopify plans support ecommerce with unlimited products.
Squarespace’s most expensive plan costs $40 a month, whereas Shopify’s mid-tier plan costs $79 a month. In addition, features like selling subscriptions require paid add-ons at Shopify. Squarespace can be much cheaper if it offers the features your business needs.
|Squarespace - Personal||Squarespace - Business||Squarespace - Basic Commerce||Squarespace - Advanced Commerce||Basic Shopify||Shopify||Advanced Shopify|
|Price per month||$16||$26||$35||$54||$29||$79||$299|
|Ecommerce||✖||Unlimited products||Unlimited products||Unlimited products||Unlimited products||Unlimited products||Unlimited products|
|Transaction fee*/processing fee||N/A||3%||0%||0%||2.9% + $0.30||2.9% + $0.30||2.9% + $0.30|
|Sell subscriptions||N/A||✖||✖||✔||✔ (requires add-on)||✔ (requires add-on)||✔ (requires add-on)|
*In addition to any credit card processing fees
One of the biggest differences between Squarespace and Shopify is the capability of their website builders.
Squarespace offers an intricate drag-and-drop website builder, with 110 professionally-designed templates and tons of design flexibility. Shopify’s builder offers around 100 templates—only 10 of which are included with your plan—but limits how much control you have over your design.
With Squarespace, you can drag and drop content elements like images, galleries, videos, text boxes, buttons, products, testimonials, and much more. The platform also offers page sections, which include multiple prearranged content elements to help you design your site more quickly.
What’s even better is that templates in Squarespace are extremely customizable. You can change everything from font styles to menu colors to the shapes of call-to-action buttons. If you can’t find a setting you want, Squarespace enables you to dive into your site’s Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to make changes to your site’s design.
In Shopify, page sections are defined by your theme, and you can toggle them on or off or move them up or down your page. Each section can have up to three content elements, and you don’t have much control over how they’re arranged. Options for adjusting your template’s style settings are somewhat limited, but you can access your template’s CSS.
Squarespace and Shopify each boast a wide range of features for online businesses.
Both platforms allow you to sell an unlimited number of physical and digital products and gift cards. You can customize your products with text, images, and videos and create an unlimited number of variants. Both also enable you to add shipping rules and SKUs for inventory management.
Squarespace and Shopify each offer abandoned cart recovery. This feature requires an Advanced Commerce plan in Squarespace, but is standard for Shopify. In addition, both platforms offer discounts, but Shopify gives you more options for tailoring which products and which customers qualify for offers.
Shopify also goes further than Squarespace in a few key areas. For example, Shopify enables you to group products into collections, which isn’t possible on Squarespace. In addition, you can automatically track inventory transfers from suppliers or between physical stores, so that you always know what quantity of each product you have on hand.
Both Squarespace and Shopify offer built-in email marketing tools to help you reach customers. You have access to dozens of email templates, and the ability to segment your customers into groups. Neither platform offers advanced features like A/B testing, but Squarespace enables you to schedule campaigns ahead of time.
While Squarespace’s outbound marketing features are limited to emails, Shopify offers integrated ad building tools for Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat. You can also launch SMS marketing campaigns.
What really sets Shopify apart from Squarespace when it comes to marketing is that Shopify makes it easy to track the impact of your campaigns. You can see how much revenue is directly attributable to your marketing efforts.
There’s also a marketing dashboard, so you can monitor all of your ongoing campaigns and see how recipients are responding to them. This offers critical information about which of your campaigns to double down on if you have leftover money in your marketing budget. It can also offer insights into what discounts or offers might drive sales.
In Squarespace, you can track how many recipients click a link in your emails, as well as how many visitors to your site were directed there from a specific link. However, determining whether an email campaign translated into sales on your website requires some detective work using Squarespace’s analytics tools.
Traffic and sales analytics
Shopify also offers more tools than Squarespace for analyzing your web traffic. Both platforms let you see how many visitors you’ve had, what pages or products they’ve viewed, and what sources your traffic is coming from.
Shopify also enables you to break down your statistics into customers who made a purchase versus those who did not. You can even create custom reports to dig further into your sales, top customers, and more. Better yet, Shopify can incorporate sales data from across all of your different sales channels, and all of your data can be exported to Excel or Quickbooks.
Squarespace, on the other hand, doesn’t offer custom reports, sales channel integration, or data exports. However, you do have the option to integrate Google Analytics, which offers custom reports and data exports.
Squarespace and Shopify each offer third-party apps to help expand the functionality of your site. On Squarespace, the apps can be useful, but they aren’t essential for many businesses. On Shopify, you’ll need paid apps even for somewhat basic features, like selling subscriptions and enabling customer reviews.
The Shopify app marketplace is massive. It contains more than 4,000 apps, compared to only 28 in the Squarespace marketplace. Squarespace’s apps are limited to shipping, accounting, and a few dropshipping options. Shopify offers hundreds of apps for dropshipping, return shipping, and logistics alone.
Which platform is best for me?
Squarespace and Shopify are powerful platforms with a lot to offer for businesses.
Ultimately, we think Squarespace is the better platform if you want to focus equally on your site design as well as selling online. Squarespace can also be a good choice for small businesses that don’t have many products, or that are in the early stages of ramping up.
Shopify, on the other hand, is the platform of choice for businesses that are growing rapidly, and want to take advantage of advanced marketing and analytics tools. Shopify is also the better choice for businesses with multiple sales channels, including physical stores.
|UI and setup||Straightforward, with setup checklist||Straightforward, with setup checklist|
|Pricing||$16 to $54 a month||$29 to $299 a month|
|Site builders||Very flexible drag-and-drop builder||Simple builder with customizable page sections|
|Ecommerce||Unlimited products, inventory and shipping management||Unlimited products, inventory and shipping management, product collections|
|Marketing tools||Email campaign builder||Email, SMS, social media campaign builders|
|Traffic and sales analytics||Basic traffic and sales data||Custom reports and data exports|
|Apps||28 apps available||4,000+ apps available|
What our reviewers said
“Shopify is by far the world’s most popular ecommerce platform, and one would expect it to offer excellent service across the board. Our analysis revealed a few small flaws, but we didn’t come across any major deal-breakers. For one, Shopify offers excellent value for money. Its cheapest Basic Shopify plan comes in at $29, which may seem a little expensive at first glance, but it has an excellent range of online selling tools.”
Alternatives to Squarespace and Shopify
Squarespace and Shopify bring a lot to the table for online businesses. However, if neither platform offers exactly what you need, there are alternatives available.
Another website builder that’s worth considering is Wix. Like Squarespace, it puts website building and design flexibility first and foremost. Wix offers a drag-and-drop editor and more than 800 templates. However, Wix offers somewhat more business features than Squarespace.
You’ll find a larger app library for marketing and shipping, as well as more advanced sales analytics tools. Wix still isn’t quite as capable as Shopify for scaling your business, but it’s close.
You might also consider BigCommerce, a Shopify competitor with very similar pricing. BigCommerce isn’t quite as easy to use as Shopify, but it gives you a little more control over your product design. In addition, BigCommerce makes some features that require apps in Shopify—like customer reviews and real-time shipping quotes—standard.
BigCommerce could be a better choice if you find that Shopify app costs are piling up quickly for your business.
Further reading on website builders and web hosting
Want to learn more about the best website builders for businesses? We’ve reviewed the best ecommerce website builders and the best small business website builders. We’ve also covered free website builders for businesses that are just starting out; and if you've got the experience to build your own site already, it might be worth looking into the best web hosting services to plow your own path to a new site.