Square Online Store & eCommerce Review
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- Date Established
- San Francisco, CA
- Free plan available
- Easy to use
- Ideal for low-volume merchants
- Limited customization
- Limited features
- Limited payment options
I think it’s fair to say at this point that Square has been instrumental in democratizing the payments space. Virtually anyone can open an account and start accepting payments anywhere, any time. These days, Square is taking that same attitude and applying it to a whole range of business services, creating an ecosystem that allows an entrepreneur to manage almost every aspect of the operation — from marketing and sales to employee timekeeping — with a single login.
That includes online stores. You can now set up an online store that functions perfectly within the Square ecosystem.
Although Square has offered an online store builder for a while, they have recently (March 2019) re-launched that platform following their acquisition of Weebly in 2018. The new online store builder uses Weebly’s software to provide an easy to use website builder with eCommerce functionality. In this review, we’ll be discussing primarily the new online store builder (called Square Online Store). Although the legacy version of the software is still available to legacy users, new users are not able to sign up for the older software. It seems that the new software is intended to replace the old.
Along with this software re-launch came a restructuring in pricing. Like the legacy software, the new online store builder offers a plan that is totally free; you just have to pay Square’s payment processing fees (as you would with any other eCommerce platform). However, this new online store builder also adds on paid plans which give you access to greater storage and features.
There are a few distinct advantages and disadvantages to using Square Online Store. Most sellers (especially those already set up with other Square products) will find Square Online Store to be incredibly easy to use. You don’t need the slightest bit of web design, coding, or software experience to create your shop. On the other hand, higher volume sellers (or those who are not already using Square for payments) may find the software to be too limited compared to other eCommerce options. Your perspective on this matter depends entirely upon your business’s current situation (and involvement with Square), and what you need from an eCommerce software.
In this review of Square Online Store, we’ll discuss everything the software has to offer, as well as where it falls short. We’ll cover pricing, features, ease of use, support, and more. Read on for a complete, unbiased review of Square Online Store, or head over to our full review of all of Square’s products and services.
Square Online Store and eCommerce
A quick note: Square Online Store is only available to merchants in the US and Canada. It also only supports orders that are made within the same country as the merchant. If you are based outside of the US or Canada, or if you make a lot of international sales, you should look elsewhere for your eCommerce solution. Take a look at our recommended shopping cart software for some ideas.
Table of Contents
Square Online Store has a unique pricing structure. Many merchants are able to use the platform completely free of charge. If you only need 500 MB of storage, and you don’t mind processing your payments exclusively through Square, you can use the free plan. You’ll only pay the usual credit card processing fees.
But, if you need more storage, or if you want to remove the Square advertisements from your site, you have to subscribe to a paid pricing plan. Each step up in pricing gives you access to more features. If you want to save a bit of cash, you can pay for a full year of service up-front and get discounted rates. If you choose to pay annually, however, you should be sure that Square is the right payment processor and ecommerce platform for you. It is often very difficult (or impossible) to get refunds on annual subscriptions. Here’s a quick breakdown of pricing for Square Online Store:
- 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction (via Square)
- Free SSL security
- 500 MB storage
- Unlimited products
- Product options
- Inventory management
- In-store pickup
- Quick shop
- Automatic tax calculator
- Coupon codes
- Square gift cards
- Lead capture and contact forms
- Instagram integration
- Support: Community forum, email, chat, phone support
- $12/month (billed annually)
- 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction (via Square)
- All of the features of the Free plan PLUS
- Unlimited storage
- Custom domain
- Remove Square ads
- Site statistics
- $26/month (billed annually)
- 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction (via Square)
- All of the features of the Professional plan PLUS
- Third-party integrations
- Custom code
- Accept payments through PayPal
- Product badges
- Product reviews
- Shipping calculator
- Shipping labels
- Good shipping discounts
- Abandoned cart emails
- Pop-up notifications
- Integrated Facebook ads
- Advanced eCommerce statistics
- $72/month (billed annually)
- 2.6% + $0.30 per transaction (via Square)
- All of the features of the Performance plan PLUS
- Best shipping discounts
- Real-time shipping
Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed
Square Online Store is a cloud-based (online) software. There is nothing to download or install.
Hardware & Software Requirements
Since Square Online Store is a cloud-based solution, there are no software or hardware requirements that you need to meet. You should, however, make sure that you’re using the most recent version of the following compatible internet browsers: Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari.
Specific Size Of Business
I think many people have an idea that Square is only for specific groups of merchants: coffee shops and take-out restaurants, or artists and crafters, for starters. But that’s not really true. Square’s product set is so expansive, and there are so many integrations available, that you can easily manage a restaurant, a café or coffee shop, a little artist booth, a retail popup store, and even a full-fledged brick and mortar retail operation — plus your online store. And that doesn’t include service companies (hair and nail salons, for example) or nonprofits and events.
That said, there are some people for whom Square Online Store works best. For starters, Square Online Store is only available to merchants based in the US and Canada. In addition, Square Online Store only lets you sell to customers who are within your country.
Square Online Store is also best for low-volume merchants who plan on using Square to build a modest online presence. Because Square Online Store is not the most robust eCommerce solution, it works best for businesses that plan on using the online store as an additional channel, but not as their main selling platform. What’s more, Square Online Store can only sync with inventory for one physical location, so it’s best for businesses that have a single brick-and-mortar store.
As you might guess, Square Online Store is designed for merchants who are already processing payments via Square. For these sellers, the online store makes perfect sense, adding an easy-to-use site to the Square ecosystem that they already have in place. However, merchants who do not primarily use Square to process payments (or to manage POS and inventory), may not find much value in the platform. In fact, for these merchants, I do not think Square Online Store is a very good option. There are plenty of more customizable eCommerce software out there for about the same price. Merchants who are not already part of the Square ecosystem should instead look into Shopify, 3dcart, and BigCommerce. These are a few of our favorite eCommerce software, and they work for nearly all sellers.
Finally, Square Online Store is not a good solution for high-risk merchants. In order to use the software, you have to be using Square to process payments, and Square will boot you from your account if your services are included in their list of prohibited items and businesses. Make sure you check out that list before you sign up for any Square product.
Ease Of Use
Like Square’s other products, Square Online Store is designed with the user in mind. It is easy to create a store, import your products, and adjust your site to fit your brand.
When you first sign up for a trial of the platform, you are immediately directed to begin creating your site. You can choose a general layout for your site, as well as your preferred colors and fonts. You can also import a logo. Don’t be afraid to try something out in this stage. You can adjust everything later.
If you’re at all familiar with the website builder Weebly, you’ll recognize Square Online Store’s design tools. Square now uses Weebly as their online store builder software. (We also have a separate review of Weebly if you’re interested).
Once I had a rough design in place, I decided to add an item. You can add items from your storefront view or from your admin panel. You can also import products from your Square POS to make setup just a little bit easier. Here’s what the “add a product” page looks like:
It was easy to fill out the product details. I added an item type (physical, digital, donation, membership, event, or service), a name, a photo (or multiple photos), and a description. This is also where you can add variants (such as multiple colors or sizes) and select a category for your product. Scroll down a bit further and you’ll see some more of Square’s advanced options, such as modifiers and SEO setting. You can also disable or enable an individual item’s visibility in the store if you’re not quite ready to launch a particular item.
In general, my experience with using Square Online Store was easy-going. For me, there was just one sticking point. When I tried logging in again after I initially began building my site, I had some trouble finding my online store. From my main Square admin panel, I would select “Online Store,” and I’d arrive at the page you see below. However, when I clicked the “Preview Your New Store” button, I would arrive at one of two pages. Sometimes I’d land in my new page’s dashboard, and sometimes I’d end up in the design tool. As far as I can tell, it is not possible to navigate to the dashboard from the design tool. This made it difficult (and occasionally impossible) to access my dashboard, which was pretty frustrating.
In short, my experience with Square Online Store was occasionally frustrating when I was trying to locate specific features (most notably, the dashboard). However, once I had arrived at the correct pages, I found Square Online Store to be very intuitive and easy to use. In terms of ease of use, Square Online Store still has a few bugs to work out, but once those problems are resolved, I think it will be highly usable.
Square Online Store offers enough features to get most small businesses moving. While features on their free plan may be too limiting for some merchants, offerings significantly improve on the paid plans. I have to admit that overall, I am not particularly impressed with Square Online Store’s features. Although I think they are sufficient for getting a small online store up and running, I don’t think this platform is best for handling a large volume of online orders. So without further ado, here are the main features you’ll get with a Square Online Store:
- Dashboard: As I mentioned in the Ease of Use section above, I had some difficulty actually locating my dashboard. Once, I found it, however, I was pleased with its usability. From the dashboard, you can access your marketing tools, insights, website design tools, and your store backend. In the store backend, you can find important pages like your items, orders, coupons, store emails, and settings.
- Products: Square Online Store offers a lot of functionality when it comes to listing different products. You can list many different types of products, including not just physical and digital products, but also donations, memberships, services, event tickets and carry-out orders (Square even integrates with Caviar and Postmates). In addition, you can list multiple product variants (like size and color) and allow customers to use modifiers (like the ability to add custom text to a product). Display your products with multiple product images, and get everything running quickly with bulk import and export features. Here’s what a product looked like on my site when I had everything set up:
- Multi-Channel Selling: Square Online Store syncs with your Square POS system to easily enable multi-channel selling. These two systems work together to track your inventory, even as you sell online and in person. You can also allow customers to pick up their online orders in-store. You should know, however, that in-store pickups and inventory syncing only work with one physical location. If you have multiple brick-and-mortar stores, you’ll need to find another solution. In addition, Square Online Store provides tools for creating password-protected pages. This means that B2B sellers can make their wholesale products only visible to approved buyers.
- Checkout: Charge accurate rates with Square Online Store’s automatic tax calculator. This tax calculator works for states within the US.
- Inventory Management: Track inventory across your online store and one physical location. Inventory totals update with each sale. However, you have to manually adjust inventory levels to account for returns.
- Marketing: Square Online Store provides many tools for marketing. One of these tools is the ability to create and advertise coupon codes. Admittedly, these coupons are pretty basic; you can take a percentage or a flat rate off, or you can offer free shipping. In addition, you can allow customers to leave product reviews, and you can sell and accept gift cards to encourage repeat purchases. There are also features for email marketing and collecting information via contact forms. Users on the paid plans also get access to Facebook ads and an abandoned cart saver. There’s a pretty wide scope of what you can do with Square Online Store’s marketing.
- Shipping Features: The level of shipping features that you can access depends on your subscription level. All plans include the ability to choose shipping carriers, purchase and print labels, track shipments, and send order-status text alerts. The free plan only lets you charge shipping rates based on a few factors. You can set rates based on weight, order total, or item quantity. You can also set a flat rate for shipping or just allow free shipping. On the paid plans, however, you get access to much more accurate real-time shipping rates with FedEx, UPS, and USPS.
- SEO Tools: Square Online Stores include a number of SEO tools, including an optimized HTML format and mobile-friendly design. You can also add permalinks, SEO titles, and SEO descriptions to your products.
- Reports & Analytics: In order to access Square Online Store’s insights, you have to be on a paid plan. These insights give you a look into your unique visits, page views, average pages per unique visit, and more.
Unlike most other online store builders, Square Online Store does not have any themes to choose from. Instead of selecting a pre-made theme, you choose a starting point for your site. You can take your pick of layout, fonts, and colors as you set up your account. All of these elements can be changed over and over again as you hone in your design.
From this starting point, you can add website pages to build out your site. Each webpage is essentially a collection of content blocks. In order to change your layout, you can add, remove, and rearrange these blocks. These blocks make it really easy and fast to get started with your site. Take a look at a few options below:
While these content blocks certainly have their advantages, they aren’t the perfect tool, particularly for those who have a specific vision for their site. When you go to edit each content block, you’ll notice a number of limitations.
For example, although you can change the size of your text, your three options for sizing are small, medium, and large. In addition, you cannot adjust the size, shape, or location of text boxes. This makes it very difficult to fit text into your site in the exact way you had in mind. There were also times that I wanted to bold my text, but I was not allowed to.
There are a few other limitations that you should keep in mind as you consider Square Online Store. In order to add a piece of content to your site, you have to select one of Square Online Store’s pre-made content blocks. You can’t simply add a text box to your website; you have to add an entire block. In addition, there are no tools available for editing HTML or CSS. This means that you cannot use web developers or designers to adjust the code of your site. All of the changes have to be made in the design tool.
Again, there are advantages and disadvantages to Square Online Store’s web design. Although the tools are easy to use (and make it quick to set up your site), they are not very customizable, which may be frustrating for some. Keep in mind your own needs and priorities as you consider Square Online Store.
Integrations & Add-Ons
Square Online Store integrates with a total of 139 add-ons and third-party software, including options for accounting, point of sale, invoicing, marketing, loyalty, and more. While 139 is not the largest integration collection we’ve ever seen, it’s still a respectably-sized pool. Included within these integrations is a pretty cool integration with Instagram. When you integrate with Instagram, users who click on images of your products in your Instagram account are redirected to your Square Online Store to complete checkout.
In addition, Square integrates with many other eCommerce software (like BigCommerce, 3dcart, and WooCommerce). This means that you can choose to use different eCommerce software to build your website while still processing payments through Square.
Finally, Square offers a number of APIs, which developers can use to build custom connections and add-ons.
Your options (and rates) for processing online payments depends on your subscription level.
Merchants on the Free and Professional plans can process payments only through Square at the typical rate of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.
Merchants on the Performance plan can also process payments through Square at 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction, and they have the ability to accept payments through PayPal at 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.
Merchants on the Premium plan gain access to a discounted processing rate with Square. It costs 2.6% + $0.30 per transaction. Rates for PayPal remain the same.
All merchants are able to enable Google Pay and Apple Pay to accept payments as well.
One of the big advantages of using Square to process payments is their instant deposits. Many merchant accounts and payment service providers can take up to 3 business days to make funds available to you. With Square, you can get funds immediately. Square also offers a chargeback protection program and does not charge any chargeback fees. For more information, read our article on How To Accept Online Payments With Square.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Customer support is available to all users, whether you’re on the free plan or a paid plan. You can access this support primarily through phone, email, live chat, and the help center. Here’s a full list of all your support options:
- Phone: Phone support is available Mon-Fri 6am-6pm PDT and Sat-Sun 8am-5pm PDT.
- Email: You can get support via email 24/7.
- Live Chat: Live chat is available Mon-Fri 6am-6pm PDT and Sat-Sun 8am-5pm PDT.
- In-Software Help: Within the Square Online Store dashboard you’ll find a link to the help center.
- Help Center: Square Online Store’s help center is organized into sections to make it easier to find answers to your questions. For even faster results, you can use the search bar. I was impressed by the support articles available in the help center. Many included up-to-date screenshots, which were particularly helpful. I did run into a few errors, however. A few times, clicking on a link led me to a “Page Not Found” result, which was a bit frustrating.
- Community Forum: This community forum is actually Weebly’s community forum; however, the software is the same. The community forum contains answers to commonly searched questions. Like the help center, the forum is organized into categories. They even have designated categories for developers, which discuss app development and APIs & Auth. The forum is also a place to give feedback and vote on features. For payments-related issues (and some online store features), Square has the Seller Community, its forum for Square sellers from all walks of life.
- Videos: Square has a YouTube channel which they use to discuss all their products. So far, I have only seen one video that specifically talks about Square Online Store. It’s an introductory video that was posted about 5 months ago. We’ll keep an eye on the channel for any more online store specific videos.
- Blog: Clicking on a link to the Square Online Store actually takes you to the Weebly blog. This blog is updated very infrequently, and it contains tips on writing, design, SEO and more. Also, there’s the Inspiration Center, which is like a continuation of the blog. However, you can also check out Square’s Townsquare blog, which does post regular updates on payment processing and managing a business with Square.
- Social Media: Square is active on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
Square Online Store is a relatively new offering (especially the most recent version, which uses Weebly’s software). Because this service is so new, it was difficult to find user reviews that discussed specifically the online store features. After a thorough search, I was only able to find three reviews from real customers that talked about the advantages and disadvantages of the software. Here’s the only negative review I found:
- Account Stability Issues: This is one of the huge complaints about Square in general. Like many other payment service providers (PSPs), Square has the ability to revoke your account if they consider you to be high-risk. When you’re a high-risk merchant on the Square Online Store, not only can they revoke your payment account, but also they’ll remove you from the online store platform.
To add to this one negative review, I am listing the disadvantages that I have found with using Square Online Store:
- Limited Features: Square Online Store has enough features to satisfy the needs of many lower volume sellers, however, merchants who do a lot of sales through their online portal may encounter some difficulty. There simply aren’t as many options available as there are in other eCommerce software. For example, you are only able to create three types of coupons: a flat-rate discount, a percent discount, and free shipping. Other eCommerce options allow for more complex coupons such as “buy one get one free” and discounts on specific products and categories. In addition, shipping features are fairly limited on the free plans. You need to be on the highest paid plan in order to access real-time shipping rates.
- Limited Payment Options: Square Online Store also has limited payment options. In order to use the software, you have to process payments through Square. On the Performance and Premium plans, you also are able to use PayPal. In contrast, most eCommerce solutions offer at least 40 payment options to choose from.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
As I mentioned, there were only three user reviews listed anywhere online. Those three user reviews had mostly positive things to say about Square Online Store. Here’s what they mention:
- Free Option: It’s pretty awesome that you can build an entire online store for no more than the cost of processing payments. This isn’t a very common offering, and it’s cool that it’s an option with Square.
- Easy To Set Up: Square Online Store’s design tools make it easy to get your store online quickly. Syncing your store with your Square POS makes importing products quick as well.
- Versatile: You are able to sell a variety of types of products on your online store. You can sell physical and digital products and even carry-out orders and event tickets.
Square Online Store offers all the security features you can expect from an eCommerce solution. Square is level 1 PCI compliant, and they use SSL/TLS encryption. Square Online Store also tests their security with regular vulnerabilities testing and a public bug bounty. They also regularly release updates and patches to strengthen security.
Square Online Store and eCommerce
So, is Square Online Store the right choice for you? To put it simply: it depends.
Overall, I think Square Online Store is an excellent solution for Square merchants. The store integrates seamlessly with Square’s other products, and if you only need 500 MB of storage, you can get the software (and hosting and support) completely free of charge!
That said, for merchants who are looking for a stand-alone eCommerce solution, there are many better options. Square Online Store is rather limited in its features, and even Square Online Store’s paid plans don’t include enough functionality to justify the cost. For comparison, both Shopify and 3dcart offer plans at $29/month that have much more to offer than Square Online Store’s similarly priced plan. So, if you are hoping to build your online platform into your primary sales channel, we recommend looking elsewhere. Take a look at our top recommendations for eCommerce software to get started.
Still have questions? Do you have personal experience with Square’s Online Store? Leave your comments below and let us know what you think!
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