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Shopify vs. Square

Choosing the platform for your budding eCommerce business is a decision that can set you on the path to celebration or catastrophe. So, with countless platform options vying for your (literal) business, how can you make the right choice? Today, we’ll review two of the most popular commerce solutions on the market — Shopify vs. Square. By the end of this in-depth comparison, you will confidently be able to select the best platform on which to grow your legacy.    

What is Shopify

Before we can begin the Shopify vs. Square comparison, it’s essential to first understand the fundamentals of each platform in question. So, what is Shopify?


Simply put, Shopify is an out-of-the-box eCommerce builder and solution. In other words, Shopify’s software provides users with all that is needed to start and manage an eCommerce website from scratch. The platform is designed to allow users with little to no coding knowledge to create a beautiful and powerful website for selling and managing goods and inventory.


Here are some quick, key facts to know about Shopify:

  • Easy, intuitive, and quick-to-personalize website builder
  • Fully-hosted (Shopify takes care of all the confusing technical details)
  • Powerful management and analytical capabilities
  • Cloud-based (manage your store from anywhere that you have internet access)
  • Built-in payment processor (including major credit cards, PayPal, Apple Pay, and more)
  • Optional, easy to use POS system for in-person commerce

In a nutshell, Shopify provides everything business owners need to quickly start and scale an online store — all wrapped up in one attractive, easy-to-use system. 

What is Square

In comparison, Square is most well known for its mobile payment card readers. Chances are likely that you’ve used the small white phone attachment or larger, tablet-like checkout mechanism to pay for your purchase at a street fair, art show, or even a local coffee shop!  


However, to better support businesses of all kinds and sizes, the Square corporation has since expanded. They offer powerful tools for all sorts of commerce, banking, business management, and more.


At a glance, here are some of the available products from Square:

  • Free, easy-to-use POS app for all things related to business management (taking payments, staff organization, finances, customer information, and more)
  • Square’s “Dashboard” compiles real-time analytics on all in-store and online sales
  • Easy, no-code-required website builder for eCommerce
  • Marketing, messaging, and loyalty programs 

To summarize, Square is a comprehensive point-of-sale solution with available products for eCommerce, business management, marketing, and more. 

Shopify vs. Square — Which is Better for eCommerce?

Now that we’ve discussed the foundations of each platform, let’s delve into the pros and cons per eCommerce feature. We’ll also briefly touch on in-person commerce since the two are often related. Doing so will help us most accurately settle the debate: Shopify vs. Square — which is better? 

Online Store Setup

When it comes to setting up an online store, customer appeal is extremely valuable. Shopify offers a massive amount of themes, some free and some paid so that you can personalize your store to best represent your brand and attract target customers. 


Plus, Shopify’s theme store contains only templates that are vetted for safety and responsiveness, prioritized for speed, attractive, customizable, and easy to install. It only takes a few clicks of your mouse to have a personalized website up and running. 


On the other hand, Square offers a much more limited selection of themes. However, users do report that they are just as easy to setup and install. If you want to customize the design of your online Square store further, you will need to enlist the help of a software developer, which can quickly become pricey.


Thankfully, both platforms fully host your site, which means you don’t have to worry about any of the confusing website details.

Business Management 

Efficiently taking care of the “behind-the-scenes” aspects of a business is crucial to its success. Shopify, as an all-in-one eCommerce builder, offers an intuitive, easy-to-read dashboard, full of options for handling the business side of, well, business! It offers extensive, detailed information and analytics for entrepreneurs, as well as for your customers. This includes helpful updates such as purchase, shipping, and delivery notifications. 


Square doesn’t rival Shopify’s business management options as is, but does offer additional products from their suite of solutions that you can implement. Without these, however, users are limited to staff-side-only monitoring and updates.   

Online & In-Store Expansion 

The Shopify vs. Square comparison wouldn’t be complete without a discussion of the growth and scalability offerings from each platform.

Online Apps & Integrations

Shopify’s app store offers an extensive list of available integrations to help you run your store more effectively. These apps handle everything you’ll ever need for business, marketing, analytics, design, shipping, management, and more. Here are some Shopify apps that every store needs to flourish and grow. 


Plus, Shopify has built-in functionality for social media and IoT selling. So, no matter if you want to reach customers on Facebook, Instagram, eBay, Amazon, video game consoles, home assistants, or even their new smart refrigerator, you have the easy ability to do so. 


On the other hand, Square’s eCommerce builder offers some integrations for extra usability — including social media. However, most of the integrations enhance the very basic eCommerce functioning of the site. Since Square is primarily focused on payment processing, the platform integrates with popular (yet pricey) eCommerce platforms like Wix, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce, just to name a few. (We’ve reviewed all of those platforms, so be sure to check out the links if you’re curious!)

In-Store POS Software & Hardware

As a POS-based company, Square might seem to take an advantage in this category. However, in line with its dedication to all things commerce, Shopify brings strong competition. Here’s how the platforms compare.


Shopify POS accepts all forms of payments, while Square accepts credit cards and mobile payments only. Both allow discounts, full or partial refunds, and the ability to split tender. Shopify allows for printed or emailed receipts, while Square goes further with an SMS receipt option, too.


Both in-person POS systems track inventory and barcodes, and sync reports back in real-time. Plus, Shopify and Square support offline capabilities, which means you can take and record payments in areas with spotty (or no) internet service. Syncing resumes upon a stable connection. Further, both systems facilitate employee accounts, including helpful features like timekeeping, permissions, sales history, and more. 


When it comes to the hardware for in-store POS, Shopify relies on you owning your iPad or smartphone. While Square offers some hardware that connects to your devices, the platform also provides full systems as needed. You can read more on the specifics in the Investment section, below.

Customer Support

Put simply, Shopify excels at customer support. With 24/7 telephone, email, and live chat support, users always have the availability to ask for help from a Shopify expert. Plus, the site’s extensive documentation, FAQ, and user forums cover every topic in detail and help you locate your answers in no time at all.   


Comparatively, Square hasn’t quite reached the level of support of its competitor. Though the platform boasts a thorough bank of self-service resources, users of Square dislike the lack of telephone support and even report up to a 24-hour delay in response to email inquiries. 

Investment

An “apples-to-apples” comparison of pricing for Shopify and Square isn’t easy. While Shopify offers different tiers based on levels of business, Square charges flat rates based on where the sales are completed. Plus, the exact costs will vary depending on your hardware needs and actual profits. 


However, depending on your expected needs, here’s a brief idea of what you may expect:


Shopify Plans

Shopify Lite

Basic Shopify

Shopify

Advanced Shopify

$9/month

$29/month

$79/month

$299/month

Turns a current website or social media into a store with Buy button (no online store builder); facilitates in-person sales & POS

Newer eCommerce businesses with occasional in-person sales

Growing, mid-sized businesses with both online and in-person sales

High-growth businesses in need of advanced reporting

N/A 

2.9% + $0.30 online credit card rate

2.6% + $0.30 online credit card rate

2.4% + $0.30 online credit card rate

In-person credit card rate starting at 2.4%

2.7% in-person credit card rate

2.5% in-person credit card rate

2.4% in-person credit card rate

Shopify POS Hardware

Chip & Swipe Reader

Tap & Chip Card Reader

Retail Stand (iPad Stand only; iPad not included)

Retail Bundle (iPad Stand only; Chip & Swipe Reader)

$29

$49 (with optional dock for $39)

$149 (must purchase your iPad)

$159 (must purchase your iPad)



Square Pricing

Square For Retail Free (In-Person)

Square For Retail Plus (In-Person, Add’l Inventory & Reporting Features)

Online


Manually Entered Card

2.6% + $0.10

2.6% + $0.10 and $60 per month per location with $20 per additional register

2.9% + $0.30 cards or 1% with $1 minimum per ACH transaction


3.5% + $0.15

Square POS Hardware

Square Swipe Reader For Phone


Tap & Chip Card Reader

Retail Stand Bundle (iPad Stand only; Insert, Tap, or Swipe Card Reader)

Terminal (Handheld screen with Insert, Tap, or Swipe Card Reader and Receipt Printer)

Fully Integrated Register (2 included display screens for employee and customer use; Insert, Tap, or Swipe Card Reader)

Free


$49

$169 (must purchase your iPad)

$299

$799


And, the Winner is…

Since Shopify and Square both excel at what they were designed to do, it may seem difficult to choose a winner. However, the ultimate decision in the Shopify vs. Square showdown depends on your needs and goals. 


If you are focusing primarily on in-person sales, Square seems to be the more cost-effective solution. Plus, Square offers a little more variety on the POS hardware available for use. 


However, if your goal is to grow a strong legacy online, Shopify is the platform for you. Plus, Shopify’s in-person POS is a competitive rival to Square, so, should you decide to expand to brick-and-mortar sales in the future, Shopify has you well-covered. 


If you have further questions about your business path, feel free to reach out to our eCommerce experts


Don’t forget to check out our other eCommerce comparison posts linked above, or these intriguing ones, too: