Shopify VS Square: Which Is Better?
|Ease Of Use:||Excellent||Excellent|
|Reviews & Complaints:||Excellent||Good|
|Best For:||Retailers and larger-scale merchants||Newer and smaller-scale merchants|
If you’re looking for a merchant services provider to facilitate your sales, either online or in a brick-and-mortar environment, you’re going to encounter a lot of options. Hundreds of shopping carts, POS solutions, and mobile apps are now available to potential merchants. Square and Shopify, two of the largest all-in-one merchant solutions, rise above the pack in terms of the value they promise, so we decided to examine the similarities and differences between the two.
Shopify and Square both provide POS systems, but their full range of services offered encompasses so much more. In this article, we’ll be exploring these two companies, comparing their respective features, pricing, ease of use, customer support, integrations, and more.
Table of Contents
Shopify VS Square
I’ll preface the Shopify vs. Square debate with this: Both companies have grown considerably in recent years. The result is that two services that started off catering to very different audiences now have similar offerings. Both provide the tools needed for a brick-and-mortar shop or online store.
Let’s take a quick look at the two companies’ services before we do an in-depth comparison.
Shopify originally launched in 2006 as eCommerce software. Since then, Shopify has branched out from eCommerce with a powerful POS system and its own payments service, so merchants don’t need to have a separate merchant account.
Shopify has made selling online much easier for merchants, especially those who are just starting their business. To this end, Shopify provides all the basic tools a merchant will need. For more advanced eCommerce functions, Shopify offers over 2,000 integrations and apps to fill any feature gaps. That’s right — over 2,000!
As far as brick-and-mortar retail goes, Shopify’s POS system is well-suited to the needs of small- to medium-sized retail businesses. It sports solid inventory management and can handle reporting, CRM functionality, gift cards, and more. Countless integrations are available, and Shopify provides free 24/7 tech support. Read our Shopify review to get the full scoop.
- Great reporting and CRM features
- Stronger POS system than that of Square
- Massive amount of integrations
- 24/7 customer service
- A monthly fee is charged
- Cost of add-ons can add up fast
- Shopify POS’s offline mode is weak
Square is the most comprehensive free mPOS app out there. Founded in 2009, it was the first company to make card processing widely available to everyone using just a free card reader and a smartphone.
Having grown exponentially since then, Square now offers a comprehensive suite of business products for merchants looking to sell in-store, online, and on the go. And unlike Shopify, Square and its POS app, Square Point of Sale, charge no monthly fee, making Square great for merchants who sell in-person but only process credit card payments sporadically — such as artists who sell at conventions and art shows.
Businesses of all sizes stand to benefit from the services Square offers. However, for new businesses, those that process payments infrequently, and those processing a low volume each month, Square is a particularly attractive solution. Read our full Square review to get the big picture.
- Affordable chip card readers
- No monthly fees, unlike with Shopify
- Great feature set
- Lots of integrations
- Customer service is not 24/7
- Account stability issues
- Costs can accumulate with add-ons
|Mobile POS App:||✓||✓|
|Industry-Specific POS Apps:||✓|
|No Monthly Fee:||✓|
|24/7 Phone Support:||✓|
There’s a lot to discuss in this section, so you’ll have to bear with us. Let’s look at each of the core offerings — POS app, payment processing, eCommerce, and hardware — and see how they stack up individually. We’ll pay particular attention to the aspects of each company’s POS and eCommerce offerings, so you can get a sense of what each system is capable of.
Shopify’s POS, which we have reviewed, used to be strictly for iOS, but as of January 2016, the app is available for Android smartphones and tablets as well. Square also supports your choice of Android and iOS devices with its free Point of Sale app (we have a review of Square’s POS app up as well). Square’s premium app for retailers, simply called Square for Retail, is an iPad-exclusive piece of software with some advanced features. Our Square for Retail review has further details. Square also offers a well-featured premium iPad-exclusive app for restaurants, appropriately called Square for Restaurants. You can read our review of it here.
To make the best use of either Shopify POS or Square Point of Sale, you’ll need an iPad, as many of the best features are only available there. You’ll also find that you can use the apps on any number of devices without needing to pay for additional license fees; however, you won’t be able to differentiate among employees without specifically paying for that feature.
Now, let’s take a look at what Shopify’s POS system includes.
- Accept All Forms Of Payments: You can accept credit cards, debit cards, cash, check, and other customized payment methods.
- Split Tender: This is useful — you can accept two or more forms of payment in a single transaction.
- Discounts: Apply discounts on individual items or the whole order and by percentage or dollar amount.
- Store Credit: The only fault with the store credit option is that there’s really no accountability in it. You can simply mark a payment as paid via store credit, with no need for proof of it at all. Still, this is a useful feature.
- Invoicing: Through Shopify POS, you can send invoices to customers to pay with a secure checkout link.
- Reporting: Track sales, compare how products are selling, monitor traffic to your store, customer data, and more. With the higher-tiered plans, you can even build custom reports.
- Item Variants: Set different colors, styles, pricing, etc., for your various items.
- Syncing: Shopify automatically syncs inventory and product information across all your sales channels.
- Email Or Print Receipts: Send digital receipts, or if you have an iPad and Shopify’s retail package, print them out.
- Connect With External Payment Processors: You can choose to forgo Shopify Payments in favor of a third-party payment processor. Beware that if you choose this route, you will have to pay an additional transaction fee to Shopify.
- Inventory: Shopify’s inventory features are pretty impressive. In addition to tracking your stock levels across every channel where you sell, you can print barcodes and more. Multi-location inventory management is only available with a Shopify Standard or Advanced plan.
- Employee Accounts: In a retail setup, knowing who is ringing up sales is especially important. With Shopify’s retail package, you can assign individual staff PINs, track register shifts and sales, and more.
- Full & Partial Refunds: Issue a refund or store credit.
- Gift Cards (iPad Only): You can only get gift cards if you opt for the Standard Shopify plan or higher. However, you can sell physical and digital gift cards.
- Offline Capabilities: You can’t log in during an outage, but if you are already logged in, you can still accept payments other than credit cards. This feature has very limited functionality, but it could get you through an outage mostly fine.
- Tax Rate Calculation: Shopify will auto-detect your tax rate based on your store’s location (if using the POS) or based on your shipping zones for eCommerce. Shopify doesn’t calculate tax for international orders. You can also set up tax overrides for entire collections of products or individual products (or product variants, such as digital books vs. print editions).
For comparison, here’s what Square’s POS includes.
- Accept Credit Card Payments: You can also log cash and check transactions, but this feature isn’t nearly as robust as Shopify’s.
- Split Tender: Your customers can split a bill or use multiple forms of payment to complete their transaction. For each type of tender accepted, a separate receipt will be issued, with each receipt displaying the total sale amount, all items sold, and the form of tender used.
- Discounts: Apply discounts on individual items or the whole order and by percentage or dollar amount.
- Reporting: Square’s reporting features are pretty good, but they’re not on the same level as Shopify’s. Still, Square’s reporting will cover all the basics and does have some advanced filters, so you can customize the data. Square for Retail gives you three more advanced reports, the most significant of which is Cost of Goods Sold reporting.
- Item Variants: Set different colors/styles/pricing for your various items. Square prefers to call these “price points,” and you can track them in inventory. You can also add item modifiers, which are add-ons that don’t affect your inventory counts, though restaurants are far more likely to use this feature than retail shops.
- Syncing: Square’s inventory feature will automatically sync across your online store and Square Point of Sale, and you can view it in the online dashboard.
- Low-Stock Alerts: Square will send you daily email alerts for low- or out-of-stock products. A daily alert is handy for busy merchants, especially because Square lets you set the threshold for low-stock alerts.
- Email/SMS/Print Receipts: Send digital receipts via email or SMS or print physical copies from any smartphone or tablet connected to a printer.
- Inventory: Square has a solid free inventory management system, but you can also upgrade to Square for Retail (see below for more information) for more features or integrate with other inventory services, such as Shopventory.
- Employee Accounts: You can use Square on any number of devices, and for employee accounts, multiple permissions, and timekeeping, Square offers Team Management. Basic Team Management is free, while team management with more advanced features (called Team Plus) will cost you $35/month per location. Alternatively, you can upgrade to Square for Retail, which includes advanced team management for no extra charge.
- Invoicing: Send invoices from within Square Point of Sale or online.
- Full & Partial Refunds: This is pretty self-explanatory. Square will refund your processing costs in the event of a refund, too.
- Gift Cards: No subscription is required, and there are no redemption fees. Just pay the cost of the cards themselves and load them on demand. Note that these are physical cards only, but you can use them online.
- Offline Capabilities: Square’s Offline Mode is one of the most powerful I’ve seen. You can still process credit cards during an outage, and they’ll go through so long as you connect to the internet within 72 hours. The caveat, of course, is that you’re assuming responsibility for any transactions that don’t go through. This feature isn’t available with Square for Retail, only Point of Sale.
- Tax Features: You can disable or enable tax collection with Square and set the price to include tax or have it added on separately. As with Shopify, you can enable or disable tax on specific items. However, there’s no auto-detect feature, so you need to look up your applicable tax rates manually based on location.
- Loyalty Programs: Square’s loyalty program is priced on a sliding scale that starts at $25/month after you cross the threshold for a free account. All consumers have to do is opt for a digital receipt. You can set the purchase requirements to earn a reward (which could be a free item or a discount). It’s not the most advanced system, but it’s still pretty flexible.
Square also has a host of features/subscription services targeting restaurants and other service-based companies, none of which you’ll find in Shopify. This includes kitchen ticket printing, adding a tip (by percentage or dollar amount), appointment booking, delivery services, and much more.
Compared to Square Point of Sale, Shopify is more robust in most areas, such as its support for many different payment methods and store credit, whereas Square shines with the simple things, such as supporting SMS receipts as well as email, low-stock alerts, and its offline mode. Square for Retail (which we’ll cover in a moment) comes closer to matching Shopify’s POS with free employee management and advanced inventory. However, it does so by sacrificing a few of the features that make Square Point of Sale stand out, such as offline mode.
Industry-Specific POS Apps
Shopify doesn’t offer any industry-specific POS apps — instead, features specific to certain industries, such as enabling tips, are available via the Shopify POS app.
By contrast, Square has rolled out two industry-specific apps, both available for a monthly subscription fee. The first is called (rather blandly) Square for Retail (read our review). This iPad-exclusive app offers a totally redesigned search-and-scan-optimized user interface and advanced inventory reports. Square also throws in free, unlimited employee management. However, it comes with a $60/month per-register fee, which adds to your costs.
The second is called Square for Restaurants, and it offers relevant features, such as table mapping, menu creation, delivery integration, and advanced employee management. Your first station (which runs on a standard iPad) will cost $60/month, with all subsequent stations costing $40/month.
Shopify and Square are both aggregators — that means when you sign up to process payments through either of them, you don’t get your own merchant account; your transactions are simply lumped in with everyone else’s. Shopify Payments actually process through Stripe Payments.
We’ll look at specific processing rates later on, but for now, here’s what you need to know:
Shopify will let you use its payments service at no extra charge beyond your transaction fees and monthly subscriptions. If you choose to use a third-party gateway, such as PayPal or Authorize.Net, or if you want to use your own merchant account, you’ll be charged an extra 0.5%-2% transaction fee, depending on your Shopify subscription. Note that you get a choice of more than 100 gateways, which is quite impressive. There’s no charge at all for accepting cash, check, or alternative payment methods using the POS app.
Square, unlike Shopify, will lock you into using its service for payments. You’ll pay standard rates for credit card processing for both in-person and online transactions and nothing for accepting cash and check. However, you can’t set up any other alternative payment methods and log them using Square (unless you want to mark them as cash/check). Please note that if you connect shopping cart software instead of using Square’s free eCommerce app, you’ll be responsible for any monthly charges that you incur.
Shopify has the advantage in terms of sheer versatility, and you get predictable processing costs. However, if you don’t need all the bells and whistles, Square is a quality option for payments. You’re covered for all the basics, and you still know exactly what you’re going to pay for each transaction.
It’s a little hard to make direct apples-to-apples comparisons of Square and Shopify’s eCommerce offerings. One is a payment processor, and the other is shopping cart software. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that, on its own, Square offers a very limited standalone store, though you can integrate other shopping cart options that support Square Payments. In those cases, you’ll still need to evaluate the eCommerce software you select.
Let’s start with Shopify’s eCommerce. Shopify started as an eCommerce product, and it’s stayed true to that idea with robust shopping cart software and an easy-to-use design that even newbies of online selling can handle. Features include:
- Hosted Site: Shopify provides hosting for your site with unlimited bandwidth and unlimited products.
- Domains: Use your Shopify-hosted domain only, purchase a domain through Shopify and set up a redirect, use an existing domain with a redirect, or buy your own domain and set up the redirect. There are a lot of options.
- Buy Buttons: Even if you don’t have shopping cart software set up on a site, you can use Shopify’s buy buttons to enable purchases on the web, in an app, or via email with the Buy Button feature. Square has eliminated its buy button feature.
- Sell On Social Media: With Shopify, you can set up a store directly on Facebook.
- Abandoned Cart Recovery: Win back abandoned purchases. Only available for Shopify Standard and up.
- Import/Export Via CSV: Upload and download information with CSV files.
- Automatic Data Sync: Inventory is automatically updated and synced across all your sales channels, including your POS and social media.
- Reporting: We’ve mentioned this already, but it bears repeating that you get some strong reporting features and can separate data by sales channel.
- Order Management: Shopify has comprehensive order management tools that work in the app as well as through the dashboard. You can also get integrations to help with it.
- Third-Party Integrations: There are a lot of integrations out there for Shopify (just check out the app store). Some are free, and some will cost you. But in addition to your standard accounting, inventory, and order management integrations, you can opt for a Fulfillment by Amazon integration and recurring billing/layaway services.
- Many Themes: Design-wise, Shopify gives you a vast selection of store themes, and you can even customize them further if you have programming knowledge.
By contrast, Square’s eCommerce support initially felt more like an afterthought, but lately, the company has expanded its offerings, which we love to see. Let’s examine the Square Online Store.
- Hosted Site: Square acquired website builder Weebly in 2018. Accordingly, Square’s eCommerce websites now use Weebly’s software. Square Online Store will give you an eCommerce website on its domain (though you can get your own custom domain by subscribing to the $12/month package). The website templates are easily customized, and the amount of effort to set one up is minimal. The biggest step will be importing products and adjusting shipping. After that, you just need to fill in your store’s information and arrange the products however you like. If you have little to no grasp of website building, this is a good option. Just keep in mind that if you use the free version, you’ll have to carry a Square ad on your site. Paid subscriptions go from $12/month to $72/month.
- Multi-Channel Selling: Square Online Store syncs with your Square POS system to allow for multi-channel selling. The two systems work together to track your inventory as you sell, both online and in-person.
- eCommerce Integrations: You can also integrate your store with Wix, WooCommerce, Bigcommerce, GoCentral, Magento, 3dCart, Drupal, ZenCart, OpenCart, or Ecwid. With Square’s API, you can also create custom integrations. However, you’ll need a developer to make one. If you have limited tech knowledge, stick to the ready-to-go integrations.
- Third-Party Integrations: Square’s list of integrations includes some robust inventory and order management tools to supplement your online store. There’s a custom API you can use to create your own.
- Import/Export Via CSV: Get your online store loaded up quickly, or update your inventory counts en masse. This is also helpful for migrating stores.
- Automatic Data Sync: Inventory is automatically updated and synced across your online store and Square POS.
- Reporting: All of your data is available and can be downloaded from the Square dashboard.
- Order Management: You can manage your orders through Square’s online dashboard, but not in the app. Integrations can extend your functionality.
- Inventory Management: You can track inventory across your site along with one physical location. Your inventory totals update with each sale. Unfortunately, you have to manually adjust inventory levels to account for returns, which isn’t ideal.
Shopify offers more eCommerce features here than Square’s free store. However, some of Square’s supported integrations — BigCommerce (read our review) and 3dcart (read our review) in particular — are on par with Shopify’s offerings.
To learn more, read our full Square Online Store review.
Both Square and Shopify offer a range of hardware options, from free credit card readers to full-fledged retail kits with everything you need for a conventional register setup.
At the very least, you’re going to need a card reader to use with your smartphone or tablet. If you decide to go that route, these will be your options. Let’s start with Shopify’s card readers:
- Chip & Swipe Reader: $29 (though remember that Shopify POS includes one free reader)
- Shopify Tap & Chip Card Reader: Normally $49 but is currently on sale for just $24
Let’s now take a look at your card reader options with Square:
- Reader For Magstripe Reader: Free
- Reader For Contactless & Chip: $49 (includes free magstripe reader)
If you’re interested in a register-like setup, both provide ready-to-go retail bundles that you can use to set up your system, from receipt printers to cash drawers and more.
We’ll start with Shopify’s retail kits.
Shopify offers a basic retail kit bundle that displays on your iPad, keeps your devices charged, and accepts tap and chip payments. It currently goes for $180 and includes the following:
- Tap & Chip card reader ($24 when purchased individually)
- Dock for tap and chip reader ($39)
- Retail stand for iPad ($149)
- Mounting kit ($9)
- Mini dock cable ($9)
For a more robust setup that allows you to accept cash as well as cards — and print receipts for your customers — there’s the Custom Kit. It sells for $589 and includes the following:
- Shopify Retail Stand for iPad ($149)
- Cash drawer ($119-$129)
- Bluetooth receipt printer ($349)
- Chip & Swipe Reader ($29)
There are also lots of other hardware options available, including card readers, shipping label printers, receipt printers, cash drawers, and stands.
Now, let’s take a look at Square’s retail kits.
The Square Stand Kit for iPad, which currently costs $806, includes the following:
- Square Stand with contactless + chip card reader ($199)
- USB receipt printer ($299)
- Bundle of receipt paper ($49)
- 16-inch printer-driven cash drawer ($129)
You can choose to buy your iPad directly from Square or purchase it somewhere else.
For a more slimmed-down package, there’s the Square Terminal, a remarkable all-in-one device that goes for $299. It accepts magstripe, chip, and NFC payments, and can even print receipts.
Let’s take a look at Square’s most fully-featured retail kit, Square Register.
Square Register is the company’s slick, sophisticated point of sale solution. Currently starting at $799 just for the display setup, it’s certainly a hefty price tag for a piece of hardware. But Square Register is essentially a 10-inch Android tablet running Square Point of Sale. At this time, it’s not capable of running the iPad-exclusive Square for Retail app, but you can subscribe to Retail and get the back-end features (including reporting and employee management).
Square Register has a secondary, consumer-facing tablet and built-in card reader. Register accepts magstripe, EMV, and NFC transactions and processes transactions at a different rate than Point of Sale transactions processed on a phone or tablet. Read our full Square Register review for more details.
Your purchase options include:
- Buy outright for $799
- Finance for $39/month for 24 months
- Buy a bundled kit for $1,329 and get a cash drawer, receipt printer, and paper
Something worth noting is that Square does not officially support bar code printers, whereas Shopify does. Some Square users have had luck with a Dymo printer, but there’s absolutely no guarantee. Square for Retail subscribers, however, do get access to barcode printing with select printers.
Square offers a selection of both wireless and Ethernet-based receipt printers as well as a kitchen receipt printer and multiple cash drawers. With Shopify, there’s only one receipt printer, but you do get to choose from various cash drawers.
I’ll give Shopify points for offering a free EMV reader for POS users because, in 2020, there is no reason merchants shouldn’t be able to accept chip cards.
I also want to mention that Square offers a financing program for hardware purchases greater than $49. That means the contactless + chip reader is eligible for financing. Square’s financing seems to come at a markup, but not an unreasonable one. I’ve seen leasing programs from traditional merchant accounts that offer far worse terms.
At first glance, Shopify and Square appear to have similar transaction fees.
However, that doesn’t account for Shopify’s monthly fee, the fee for its retail add-on package, or the transaction fees if you choose another processor over Shopify Payments. Depending on which features you need, the cost of Shopify can start to add up over time, especially with add-ons. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you should look closely at your budget and projected sales to see whether you can justify the expense. (The same applies when using Square to integrate with another shopping cart.)
Square will charge you $0 in monthly fees, PCI compliance, etc. If you are using Square Point of Sale on a smartphone or tablet, you will pay nothing beyond the credit card transaction fees, unless you opt for one of the add-on services (appointment booking, email marketing, employee time management/payroll). There are no tiered plans that give you access to more features. Check out Square’s Pricing Page for more information.
It really is that simple. You can even store your customers’ credit cards in Square’s secure vault, so they don’t need to pull out their card each time they want to make a payment. It’ll cost a bit more, but it’s a fair price for security and convenience.
Point Of Sale Fees
- 2.6% + $0.10 per swiped/dipped/tapped transactions
- 3.5% + $0.15 for keyed or card-on-file transactions
- 2.9% + $0.30 for eCommerce transactions
However, Square has adapted its offerings with a couple of new lineups that target retailers in particular:
Square For Retail Fees
- $60/month per register per location
- 2.5% + $0.10 per swiped/dipped/tapped transaction
Square For Restaurants Fees
- $60/month per location
- $40/month for each additional device per location
- 2.6% + $0.10 per swiped/dipped/tapped transaction
- 2.6% + $0.10 per swiped/dipped/tapped transaction
It’s important to note that Square’s new pricing model (it had previously been 2.75% with no fixed $0.10 charge) isn’t going to be favorable to all merchants because of that $0.10 per-transaction fee. If your average ticket size is below $40, you could end up paying more than you would for processing at 2.75%. The smaller your average ticket is, the more you could potentially overpay — hundreds to thousands of dollars per year, depending on your volume.
Read our primer on Square pricing for an even more thorough breakdown.
There are four Shopify plans. As you can expect, with higher-tiered plans, you get a greater number of features. Check out the Shopify pricing page for a full breakdown of features:
Shopify Lite Plan — No Online Store Included ($9/month)
- Facebook store
- Buy buttons
- Chat and email support
- Credit card rates with Shopify Payments
- 2.7% + $0.00 swiped
- 2.9% + $0.30 eCommerce
Basic Shopify Plan ($29/month)
- Unlimited products, bandwidth, storage
- Two staff accounts
- 24/7 support
- Online store and blog
- Discount codes
- Credit card rates with Shopify Payments
- 2.7% + $0.00 swiped
- 2.9% + $0.30 eCommerce
Shopify Plan ($79/month)
- Everything in the Basic Shopify Plan
- Five staff accounts
- Professional reports
- Gift cards
- Abandoned cart recovery
- Credit card rates with Shopify Payments
- 2.5% + $0.00 swiped
- 2.6% + $0.30 eCommerce
Advanced Shopify Plan ($299/month)
- Everything in the Shopify Plan
- 15 staff accounts
- Advanced report builder
- Real-time carrier shipping
- Credit card rates with Shopify Payments
- 2.4% + $0.00 swiped
- 2.4% + $0.30 eCommerce
The plan I really want to draw your attention to is Shopify Lite. If you are just getting started, this is the most affordable option, and you can still sell online via Facebook or your website. However, you won’t have access to Shopify’s website builder. If you find that Shopify is right for you, you can upgrade to the Basic or Standard plans. If that’s still too much of an expense, or you want a hosted eCommerce site without paying for it, you’re better off with Square.
For large businesses, there’s Shopify Plus, which is the company’s enterprise solution with custom pricing based on your volume and features. Read our Shopify Plus review if you’re in the market for that kind of solution.
Shopify Retail Package
If you want to track staff shifts and run a proper register setup with receipt printers and other hardware on your Shopify POS, it won’t come cheap. You need the Retail Package, which will give you individual PINs for your staffers and allow you to use hardware and integrations for $49/month. That is unless you have a Shopify or Advanced Shopify plan, in which case it is included for no extra charge.
Shopify Transaction Fees
We’ve already covered what you’ll pay if you use Shopify Payments to process credit cards. (Note: there’s no fee at all for cash, check, or alternative payment methods.) But what if you already have a credit card processor and just need an eCommerce solution and mobile processing? Shopify will let you do that, but you’ll need the Retail package — that’s $49 if you have a Shopify Lite or Basic Shopify plan. You’ll pay your credit card processor whatever they usually charge and then an additional percentage to Shopify.
- Shopify Lite Plan: 2.0%
- Basic Shopify Plan: 2.0%
- Shopify Plan: 1.0%
- Advanced Shopify Plan: 0.5%
Check out our guide to Shopify pricing for more details.
There’s a lot of numbers here to digest. I highly encourage you to do the math and figure out where the best deal lies for you!
Ease Of Use
It’s tough to make a definitive call here. After all, both Square and Shopify cover so much territory with their products — POS systems, mPOS, eCommerce websites, payment processing, the list goes on — that it’s very hard to judge which company’s products are easier to use. And yet, I’m proclaiming this round to be a tie. Why? (I swear, it’s not a copout!)
Having come from different directions, Square and Shopify now target very similar audiences with similar product lines, all to make it easy for small businesses to operate. And, by and large, their products succeed in terms of easing the burden on the end-user. Both companies’ payment processing charges are easy enough to understand — much more straightforward than those of your average merchant account provider. Both companies provide POS setups that you won’t have to spend much time training your employees on. Both companies offer DIY website building software that, for most purposes, won’t require you to hire a developer or know how to code. In every respect, Shopify and Square’s offerings are easier to get a grip on than what is typical for the industry. While there are differences — important differences — between Shopify and Square’s products, those differences don’t really present themselves in the ease-of-use front.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Shopify is the clear winner in this category. No matter what Shopify plan you have, you get 24/7 access to the support team, which is astounding. Not only that, but the support team’s overall reputation is quite good, with timely responses and helpful answers. I also like that Shopify’s knowledgebase is incredibly detailed. You should be able to get answers to a lot of the questions you’ll have without having to get anyone on the line. You can also get live chat, email, and phone support. There’s a community forum where you can get answers from other merchants and the Shopify team. Also, if you need specialized assistance, the company will even pair you with experts who will help you complete your project. This is a convenient way to get up and running if you have more capital but not a lot of time or know-how, though you should expect to pay for these experts’ time and insights.
Square has invested a lot in improving its customer service, and I am happy to say those investments have paid off. But it’s still a flawed system. Square’s phone support isn’t available 24/7, and before you can even call in, you need to go through an online system to get a code. Email support allows you to contact the support team in the off hours, but Square says to expect a 24-hour turnaround for email answers. That said, Square’s self-service resources are astounding. Unless you’re dealing with a complicated, account-specific problem, you’ll be able to find an answer without having to contact Square directly. You can start with the self-help knowledgebase, which is still the gold standard by which I judge other knowledgebases. You can also reach out via The Seller Community, a forum populated by other Square merchants and customer support reps alike.
Reviews & Complaints
Complaints about Square mostly fall into two categories: account holds/terminations and poor customer support. The issues are related, too: Merchants find out their accounts have been shut down or funds are being held until additional verification is required, and they run into a brick wall when it comes to trying to reach someone from Square. This is because once Square terminates your account, it locks you out of phone access, and representatives will only communicate via email. Even then, they tend not to give very specific answers. We’ve seen an overall improvement on this front, but these are not minor concerns.
The complaints about Shopify are more varied. One of the biggest complaints is that, while Shopify comes with every basic feature you need for online selling, advanced features come at a cost. To have greater functionality, merchants often have to purchase several add-ons, which drives the price up. Another common complaint is the added challenge of learning Shopify’s programming language, Liquid. It’s not a difficult language, but Liquid is different than people are used to (of course, learning Liquid isn’t required to build an eCommerce site). Merchants also occasionally complain about poor experiences with customer support. And, of course, Shopify Payments is a third-party processor, meaning you run the same risk of having your account held or terminated as you do with Square.
Both Square and Shopify are awash in integrations. Both companies’ eCommerce platforms have integrations for just about any function you can think of. However, I have to give the edge to Shopify here, and the reasons are twofold. First, Shopify integrates with over 2,000 eCommerce apps, while the Square Online Store has over 130. Second, with Shopify, you can integrate more than 100 payment gateways with your POS app. With Square, you must use Square’s in-house payment gateway.
The Key Differences Between Shopify & Square
|Shopify starts at $9/month, and Shopify transaction fees start at 2.9% + $0.30 online and 2.7% in-person||Square has no monthly fees, and Square transaction fees are 2.9% + $0.30 online and 2.6% + $0.10 in-person|
|Shopify has a powerful and well-featured POS system that can be adapted for many settings||Square’s POS ecosystem is robust, well-featured, and has more industry-specific apps and features than Shopify|
|Shopify’s eCommerce system is strong, versatile, and has over 2,000 integrations||Square’s Online Store integrates seamlessly with Square’s other products, has no monthly fees, but it’s more limited in its functions than Shopify|
|Shopify features 24/7 customer support||Square has a great knowledgebase, but it does not have 24/7 live support|
We’ve examined the primary components of each payments giant — POS apps, payment processing, eCommerce, pricing, customer support, etc. Let’s distill the differences between Square and Shopify down to some key points that every small business should consider.
- Pricing: While both Square and Shopify have similar processing rates, Shopify makes you pay a monthly fee as well. Square does not charge a monthly fee.
- POS Apps: Shopify has one POS system that can be adapted to a variety of retail settings, while Square has a base POS app as well as some more advanced POS apps for the retail and restaurant industries.
- eCommerce Integrations: Shopify has over 2000 feature integrations. Square’s Online Store has over 130.
- Payment Processing: Both Square and Shopify have payment processing systems that work seamlessly with their respective POS/eCommerce apps, but Shopify can be used with other payment processors, while Square cannot.
- Hardware: Both Shopify and Square offer mobile card readers, along with more advanced POS retail kits. Both companies’ hardware offerings are strong, but Square has a few more options in terms of the retail packages offered.
- Customer Support: Shopify offers 24/7 live support as well as an extensive knowledgebase and community forum. Square offers a truly industry-leading knowledgebase and a community forum, but it only provides live support during business hours.
Which Is Best For My Business Needs?
The Square vs. Shopify battle has lasted several rounds now. The question remains: Which merchant services giant should you use to turn your humble small business into an unstoppable, swaggering colossus?
Choose Shopify If…
- You want to use your POS app on multiple devices without having to pay extra
- You’re building a large, complex eCommerce site
- You want to take advantage of Shopify’s 2,000+ eCommerce integrations
- You want to connect your existing payment processor to a POS
- You want the security of knowing you can get live help 24/7
Choose Square If…
- You already use Square for payment processing (and you like it)
- You want to sell items online and not pay a monthly fee
- You’re in the restaurant industry
- You want a POS system with a solid inventory system, team management, and impressive offline capabilities
Comparing Shopify VS Square: The Final Verdict
It’s difficult to say unequivocally that Shopify or Square is better than the other. We recommend them both to merchants, as they have a lot of great aspects and generally are transparent, fairly-priced options. That said, Shopify does have a few more advantages than Square — a more robust POS app for retailers, more extensive eCommerce features, and round-the-clock customer service for starters. But that doesn’t mean Square isn’t a good choice for some merchants. Especially for newer or smaller-scale merchants, Square makes a lot of sense.
In the end, you need to know what your budget is and what features are most important for you to have. What direction is your business headed in?
Shopify and Square look quite similar at first glance, but when you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll find they both have so much to offer. You absolutely need to consider costs when making a decision, but keep in mind your long-term goals and the features you are most interested in pursuing.
Have experience with either or both of these services? Please drop us a comment and let us know what you think! And as always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us!