Square Online is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for an ecommerce platform to help bring your business to the internet.
You’ll be able to set up your site quickly and easily with Square, which is focused on providing the essential tools for an online store. You’ll also find that Square undercuts some of its main competitors, including Shopify and BigCommerce.
Before we go into too much detail, we’ve got some housekeeping to do: Square Online is made by the point-of-sale giant Square. It has nothing to do with the similarly named (and similarly capable) Squarespace.
Square Online is still, however, an excellent ecommerce platform which can help bring your business online.
Square Online: Features
Square Online (click to compare plans) has all the features you need to create… well, an online store. However, it doesn’t quite manage to pack in all the website customization and optimization features that other platforms offer.
Overall, Square Online is a great option for someone looking to get set up quickly and easily with an online store, especially if they have an existing bricks-and-mortar business. Let’s take a look at Square Online's feature set in more detail.
Square Online’s building tools are, if we’re honest, a bit basic. However, they are more than good enough to get the job done.
Unlike a lot of ecommerce platforms, Square Online doesn’t really offer site templates. However, you will find a default site layout which is attractive, but can look a bit generic – floating product images on a white background. Users can play around with the design, but you’ll need to be prepared to put a bit of work in.
Product and inventory management
Square Online allows you to upload any amount of products onto your store, with no restrictions on how you build your inventory. You’re also able to add variations of the same product to allow for different sizing options, or even to allow different items to be shown at different physical shops (this could be handy if you’re running a restaurant business with multiple locations).
What’s more, you can get analytics reports on a product-by-product basis. For example, you can check customer engagement and drop-off rates for each product you offer to help optimize your shop.
Read more – Best Ecommerce Website Builders
In this Square Online review, we’re going to cover:
As Square is a payment processing company first-and-foremost, it’s the only payment processor you can choose to work with a Square Online.
If you already use Square for a physical business, it might make sense to stick with the same processing company for your website – but then again, your needs might change, and you might find yourself stuck. Shopify and BigCommerce, in particular, give you far better payment processing options.
Shopping cart and shipping
Square Online doesn’t allow you to customize your checkout page, which is a real shame – the default checkout page could potentially put some customers off, since it breaks up your branding.
However, it does offer all the features you’d expect from an ecommerce platform when it comes to checking out. For example, it can automate emails to keep customers up-to-date with their purchases, and customers can add notes for shipping instructions.
Speaking of shipping, Square Online has a deep integration with Fedex to help streamline the shipping process, rather than offering loads of different options. It gives you all the tools you’ll need to make shipping one less thing to worry about.
Square Online offers an automatic tax calculator, meaning that Square will automatically calculate any taxes that need to be paid if you’re shipping cross-state in the US or from the US to Canada.
If you’re shipping outside the US and Canada, however, you’re sadly on your own. But this is fairly standard practice across the industry.
SEO and Marketing Tools
Square Online can be something of a mixed bag when it comes to getting your store’s name out there. When it comes to SEO, it’s not great. However, its marketing tools are much better.
As we’ve mentioned above, Square Online doesn’t allow users to have too much creative control over their site.
This means that Square Online isn’t the best for SEO tools. The options to change how your site appears in search engines are hidden away, and can be easily missed. What’s more, there’s no capacity to change image alt tags (which can help search engines work out what the images on your page actually are).
This feature deficit might not be an issue for some businesses – if you receive a lot of traffic from social media or email campaigns, for example. But for others, it might be a make-or-break issue.
Square Online has great pop-up (or lightbox) tools to help you promote events, or capture information about prospective customers when they visit your site.
For example, you can collect email addresses from users to add to an email marketing database, offer sales coupons, make announcements about your site, and even verify a customer’s age if you’re selling alcohol.
Square Online allows you to create email marketing campaigns through MailChimp and its own bespoke platform. This includes abandoned cart emails, for customers who have fallen out of the sales funnel at the final hurdle.
Reports and analytics
One of Square Online’s big benefits is that all of its reporting tools are available to all customers, irrespective of the pricing plan they’re on.
This means that you’ll be able to understand which pages are most popular on your site, how people come to your site (whether from social media, search engines etc.), and which websites users might come from.
You can also access sales reporting that shows you order volume, revenue, conversion rates, and more. This means that you can have all the tools to optimize every aspect of your site to help boost sales.
Customer service & technical support
Square Online offers a good range of support options to customers, and better yet, it doesn’t restrict certain levels of support to certain payment plans.
If you have a problem with your site, the first place to check would be Square Online’s online knowledge center, which has around 180 different pages to help you fix common problems yourself.
If you can’t find the answer within the knowledge center, Square Online also offers phone, live chat, and email support. Phone support is available from 9am-9pm eastern time on weekdays and from 11am-8pm on weekends. You can also request a call back, which will help save time on non-urgent issues.
Price paid annually
The price per month you'll pay if you choose to be billed annually
Abandoned cart recovery
$12 per month
$26 per month
$72 per month
2.9% + $0.30
2.9% + $0.30
2.9% + $0.30
2.6% + $0.30
It’s pretty remarkable that Square Online offers a free plan at all, since most of its ecommerce rivals offer 14-day free trials at most.
With the free plan, you’ll have to pay 2.9% + $0.30 on the value of every transaction you make – which is pretty expensive. However, you are able to list unlimited products, then track them through the automatic inventory. What’s more, all of your orders and items sync with Square’s POS system.
You’ll be able to sell products through Instagram and Pinterest, as well as getting a free SSL security certificate and 500MB of Storage.
It’s very generously featured for a free plan, and while there is some cost with the transaction fees, the lack of overhead makes it great for small, fledgling businesses.
The Professional plan costs $16 per month, or $12 per month if you choose annual billing.
While the transaction fees remain the same as with the free plan, Square Online adverts are removed, and you get unlimited storage. Plus, you get a free custom domain for a year.
The Performance plan costs $29 per month, or $26 per month when billed annually.
With the Performance plan, you’ll be able to accept payments through PayPal, and receive priority support in the event of an issue.
You also get access to some extra marketing features, including product reviews, abandoned cart emails, and integrated Facebook adverts.
There are also a range of upgrades to shipping and distribution functions. You get access to the shipping tax calculator, shipping labels, and shipping discounts with big suppliers such as Fedex. You also get access to advanced ecommerce statistics to help understand your store’s performance.
The Premium plan costs $79 per month, or $72 per month when billed annually.
The transaction rates drop to 2.6%, and you get improved shipping discounts. You also get a real-time shipping calculator, allowing customers to see exactly how much they’ll pay when they go to checkout.
Hardware and Software Requirements
Square Online is, like all other ecommerce platforms we recommend, a cloud-based software-as-a-service solution.
This means that all you need to create a brilliant ecommerce site is a decent computer, and the latest versions of your favorite web browser.
However, as your store becomes larger and more complex, it’s likely that you will need some bits of hardware to help ship and manage the stuff you’re selling. If you’re running a bricks-and-mortar store alongside your online store, you might need some payment terminals and a receipt printer. Square produces its own range of hardware, which should help keep everything nice and simple.
UI and Ease of Use
Square Online’s backend is pretty minimal. Everything is accessed from the same dashboard, and while it might seem easy to store everything in one place, it can make things confusing.
“My one critique is that the main menu isn’t organized enough,” said one user during our independent testing. “It looks simple, but once you expand one of the menu items, the long sub-menus start to blend in with the main navigation. Also, some of the links send you to a new page, while others let you stay on the main editor page.”
Still, most online stores are far trickier to manage. Square Online’s simple approach of keeping as much stuff together as possible means that you aren’t having to flit around different areas of a website to edit different things.
What’s more, as you get the hang of Square Online’s layout, everything becomes like second nature.
As we’ve previously mentioned, Square Online’s range of customization tools are pretty limited. This means that you won’t be able to go about creating completely unique websites.
However, it also means that you’re unlikely to make a hash of designing your site. Your site will be super easy for users to understand, albeit slightly generic.
“I would appreciate more options so the site becomes less generic,” said one user in our testing. “It felt like you have one template that everyone who creates an online store using Square would use.”
That said, when you’re trying to make shopping as painless as possible, it literally pays to keep things simple.
Integrations and Add-Ons
Square Online has a dedicated app marketplace that will let you integrate a load of third-party add-ons to your store.
These add-ons include options for accounting, point-of-sale features, invoicing, and marketing tools.
Deliverect, for example, allows you to connect third-party food delivery platforms (such as Uber Eats) to your Square Online. You’ll have to pay for some of the integrations per month, but others can be free.
Especially important, given the current COVID-19 situation, is Square Online’s selection of integrations to facilitate contactless commerce. These will help your business survive and thrive, whilst also giving customers a reminder of normalcy.
How to Set Up Your Square Online Store
Setting up a Square Online atore is surprisingly easy. In fact, you can get started in just a few clicks.
Step1: Create your Square account and provide your business information
If you don’t have one already, you’ll need to create a Square account to start creating your website.
All you need is an email address and a password. You’ll then have to provide some business information – its name and address, for example – and then you’ll be good to get started.
Step 2: Customize your online store website
The next stage is to start making your website your own. You can change around the colors and fonts to suit your business, as well as add customer review sections, for example.
As we mentioned above, Square Online doesn't provide you with huge amounts of customization options – head to Wix or Squarespace for those – so this step shouldn’t take too long.
Step 3: Add your products
You’ll then need to start adding the products you hope to sell on your website.
Square Online allows you to bulk-upload products, and to have multiple product variations (to allow for sizing and color options, for example). This means that the whole process shouldn’t be very labor intensive.
Step 4: Choose a domain name
Before you launch your website and start selling products, you’ll need a domain name. Every website has one (ours is Tech.co, for example) and it pays to get a good one. Make sure it's memorable and professional-looking – you don’t want a long string of numbers in there, otherwise you’ll look like a scammer.
Step 5: Set up shipping, taxes, and checkout options
If you haven’t got these set up, you won’t be able to start selling products online.
Fortunately, Square Online can take care of most of the heavy lifting. It has built-in tools for shipping and tax calculators, as well as easily editable checkout options.
Step 6: Launch your online store
Now you can actually press go and launch your store. However, don’t think that all the work is done.
Step 7: Promote and manage your store
This is where the hard work begins. You need to manage your store effectively to keep customers happy, and to keep attracting business.
Fortunately, Square Online has loads of tools that can help you do this, from automated shipping and tax calculators to email and social media marketing tools.
Square Online Pros and Cons
Let’s take a quick look over the pros and cons of a Square Online store. Needless to say, there are more pros than cons.
Pros of Square Online
- It has fantastic reporting tools
- It can integrate seamlessly with social media platforms, such as Instagram
- It syncs perfectly with Square’s POS tools
- Your online store will have an easy-to-understand design
- It has excellent email and social media marketing tools
- It has a large app store to help add features to your site
- It doesn’t restrict support options to specific pricing tiers
Cons of Square Online
- It has pricey transaction fees, and you’re limited to Square or PayPal for payment processing
- Its SEO tools could be seriously improved
- Online store design is generic
- There’s no ‘undo’ button – instead, you need to remember to constantly save any changes you make
Perhaps the most important thing to know, however, is that the US is the second-largest ecommerce market in the world. In fact, more than $340 billion worth of goods are sold online in the US every single year – there has never been a better time to start an online store.
Square Online User Reviews
Here at Tech.co, we put each ecommerce platform to the test with a panel of regular, non-expert users to help separate the good from the bad. Most ecommerce platforms claim to offer the same things, but only genuine user reviews can help you work out which is right for you.
Our user panel praised several aspects of Square Online:
“The analytics were quite easy to find, as Square Online has its own built-in system.”
“Adding products was SO EASY.”
“It’s easy to add a section for customer testimonials, and to add a contact form.”
However, it wasn’t all positive. Fortunately, none of our users were able to fault Square Online on the process of actually selling products. Instead, the complaints focused around their lack of creative control.
“I’m only able to change the ‘style’, which is basically the font and color. It feels very restrictive.”
Square Online: Alternatives
Of course, Square Online isn’t the only ecommerce platform on the market. In fact, it’s got some big competition from the likes of Shopify and Squarespace. So, how does Square stack up to the leading providers, and which ecommerce platform is right for you?
Shopify is our favorite online store option – bar none. It is more expensive than Square Online, but it has unrivalled accounting, inventory, and analytics tools that will make the day-to-day running of your site an absolute breeze.
What’s more, you’ll find that Shopify gives you a greater level of creative control than Square Online.
Find out more – How Much does Shopify Cost?
BigCommerce is very similar to Shopify – it costs about the same, produces similar-looking sites, and has similar features.
However, our big gripe with BigCommerce is its slightly finicky controls. Making changes can be a pain. A Square Online store is easier to set up than BigCommerce, but BigCommerce might be better in the long run (if you can work out how to use it).
Squarespace isn’t like Shopify or BigCommerce. It’s more like a website builder that has fantastic ecommerce abilities.
Squarespace would be a great choice if you were looking for an easy to set up and use platform with an eye for design. A Square Online store would likely help your business scale better than a Squarespace platform, however.
Final Verdict: Is Square Online Right for Your Ecommerce Business?
If you’re looking to set up an ecommerce platform with minimal fuss and instant access to excellent sales, inventory, and reporting tools, look no further than Square Online.
It’s also excellent value for money, with a very viable free plan – something that no other serious ecommerce platform can offer.
However, its transaction fees are expensive, and its website designs can feel uninspired.
Square Online is also a brilliant choice if you already use Square card readers and other hardware in a bricks-and-mortar store.
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