Square Online ecommerce platform review
This low cost, no frills, easy to use ecommerce builder could be the perfect choice for very early-stage businesses looking to build an online store
If you own a very early-stage business, or are looking to dip your toes into the world of ecommerce before taking the plunge with a more premium product, Square Online is a great place to start.
That’s because Square is one of the only ecommerce platforms that actually lets you sell without signing up for a paid plan, and offers a decent range of features even on the free version.
That’s why, after rigourous user testing of some of the top builders on the market, we ranked Square Online as our fifth best ecommerce platform for small businesses.
It does, of course, have some limitations that make it unsuitable for larger businesses – but is it right for your online store?
This in-depth review will help you decide.
Square Online overview
Founded by Jack Dorsey (the man that brought us Twitter), Square has some fine payments pedigree, with 11 years of experience in making affordable products and services that help businesses sell.
The latest in this lineage is Square Online, a low-cost, fuss-free ecommerce platform that offers small businesses a cheap and easy way to start selling online.
What do we mean by fuss-free? Well, everything is quite… simplistic. It offers decent marketing support, but little in the way of SEO; it has standout product management tools and analytics, but lacks those helpful little extras that other platforms provide; and the help and support on offer just isn’t very… helpful.
However, while the design capabilities might be minimal – there are no set templates or themes, for instance – this makes it a great option for those that just want to set up an online store without being overwhelmed by innumerable aesthetic choices. The set layout that is provided also has user experience (UX) at its heart.
Overall then, Square Online is relatively low-cost, easy to use, and has some neat features, making it a great option for businesses on a budget. But if you have bigger ecommerce aspirations, you might want something a little more sophisticated.
Square Online pricing
Let’s start by investigating that free plan. The first thing you should know is that, while the plan itself really is free, you’ll pay a *1.9% transaction fee for every sale you make, which is higher than average for an ecommerce platform.
But it still represents a great value way to sell online. The transaction fee increases to 2.5% for the Professional (£9/month) and Performance (£19/month) plans. Then it drops to 2.25% for the Premium plan (£54/month).
That said, it’s a decent package for beginners. It allows you to sell unlimited products, and offers inventory features, sync with Square POS, and online shopping cart functionality.
Check out the full list of plans below. See one you like the look of? Just click ‘try it’ to get started with your Square Online today.
*1.9% for cards issued in Europe, 2.9% for cards issued outside of Europe
- Sell unlimited products
- Automatic inventory
- Transaction fee: 1.9%
- Custom domain
- Remove Square branding
- Transaction fee: 2.5%
- Recover sales with abandoned cart emails
- Transaction fee: 2.5%
- All previous features
- And more!
- Lowest transaction fee: 2.25%
Square Online pros and cons
Our methodology: How did we evaluate Square Online for small businesses?
Square Online ranked a respectable fifth in our analysis of the 7 best ecommerce platforms for small businesses, achieving an overall score of 4.3/5, and beating the likes of BigCommerce and GoDaddy.
How did we determine this score? Our researchers put each online store builder through extensive user testing, assessing them on the six key factors that matter most to you: website features, sales features, design flexibility, help and support, value for money, and ease of use.
So, how did Square perform against these key areas of investigation?
Square’s website features are middling. It provides some of the basic tools and services you’d expect, but often lets itself down in key areas.
SEO is probably the most glaring example. Although it has some basic tools, you can only amend anything SEO-related within the backend, which is restrictive and can be easily missed. In comparison, other builders offer keyword prompts and automatic SEO suggestions.
It also doesn’t support the ability to post blogs, and there’s no customer login area. The Square App Store has some useful integrations, but these are mostly for use with its other products.
Square’s marketing support is much better, with the ability to sell and promote your products via social media, email marketing integrations with Mailchimp, and useful marketing templates to get you started. In fact, our researchers described it as “the easiest in-house marketing function of all ecommerce brands”.
The platform’s other distinction is that, if you opt for a premium plan, your domain name is free for the first year. Square is the only ecommerce builder to do this.
Products and inventory
Despite its focus on simplicity and affordability, Square is generous when it comes to its product functionality. It supports a huge variety of sales types, including physical, digital, donation, event, service, and even restaurant. And there’s no limitations on the number of products you can sell, even on the free plan.
Square Online for Restaurants allows you to automatically create a website for your restaurant that incorporates essential functions like online ordering and payments, pickup and delivery options, and even tipping.
With no additional monthly fees, getting online with Square is a great option for restaurants looking to recoup business lost over the last few months.
You can choose to use third party or in-house delivery drivers, limit the number of orders you can accept at any given time, and offer your customers multiple payment options including Square Pay, Apple Pay, and Google Pay.
As should be expected from a payments specialist, Square supports all the core payment options, including Apple and Google Pay – but only when you use Square as the payment gateway. In fact, you’ll get the most out of your Square Online if you use other Square products and services, such as Square POS and Square Payments.
As mentioned above, Square does not allow you to waive the transaction fee – the only one of our top ecommerce platforms not to do so. However, there is no card transaction fee if you use the Square payment gateway.
Square has recently given merchants the option of selling via Instagram, provided you have an Instagram business account, and that account is approved.
All you need to do is connect your Instagram account to Square Online, tag any items in your posts that you want to sell, and click ‘publish’ to launch an instantly ‘shoppable’ page. All payments are then processed through your Square account.
You can also use the integrated Facebook Ads Manager tool to target your customers with effective and highly relevant online ads.
The Square Online Checkout is a specific product offered by Square, allowing you to easily create a shareable link for whatever you want to sell, which takes customers directly to a checkout page when they click it.
This differs from the online store in that it allows you to sell without creating a full website. It’s a good option if you want to charge for one-off goods and services, or for items from your Square library.
You can edit the checkout by enabling digital wallets and creating optional fields. However, unlike other providers, name fields are not amendable.
Square supports the ability to amend shipping costs by region, product value, and weight. And you can print out shipping labels through the platform, which saves you money and time.
Integrations such as Cuboh are also great additions if you are using multiple third party vendors to sell your goods. This is the best way to keep everything aligned and track orders and shipments.
Square supports 25 different currencies, although only one currency is displayed to customers.
In terms of international shipping, Square supports the ability to deliver to any country with no restrictions. You can also set tax rates for each country, and add tax charges on delivery fees and shipping rates.
Analytics is one area in which Square Online really shines. Want to learn more about your site's visitors? Understand which pages are most popular? Or see how people find your site, and where they come from? No problem. It’s all there. And the best thing is that this data is available to you no matter what plan you’re on.
It also provides key statistics on metrics like revenue, order volume, and conversions, as well as vital sales insights on average customer order, average order volume, sales made using coupons, and more.
The one fiddly aspect is managing stock. Unlike Shopify, for example,Square provides no dedicated stock management area.
Nothing to complain about or sing about here. Square’s websites are all PCI compliant, and come with SSL certificates. Your customers are able to store card details for future purchases, though the platform doesn’t support a customer login functionality.
Square Online actually has pretty decent accounting support. Using its invoice tool, you can create an estimated invoice or a general invoice, and set up recurring payments.You can also view the status of invoices, i.e if they have been paid, are outstanding, or pending approval.
The Square Online is an interesting case when it comes to design. As we stated above, it doesn’t have any templates or themes to speak of, which our researchers marked it down for. But the layout it does have is so UX optimised and aesthetically pleasing – and it’s so easy to make the minor amendments it does allow – that our researchers had to bump it up to a higher mark.
Square’s image editing capabilities are minimal – you can resize, but that’s about it. However, it does have a nice bank of unique stock imagery that you can use.
Help and support
Square’s customer support is nothing to write home about. It offers everything you would expect, including phone and email support, though it’s only email that’s available 24/7. Beyond that, there is a live chat option, but it’s only available to paying customers.
On the other hand, the articles in the knowledge centre are broken down into a very clear step-by-step format, and the knowledge centre itself is nicely laid out and easy to navigate. However, the search function doesn’t often return the desired result, and it rarely offers a direct ‘how to’ solution.
Value for money
As you can actually create a website and start selling products for free (minus the transaction fee), we ranked Square as one of the best value for money ecommerce platforms, coming in joint first alongside Wix and Weebly.
Ease of use
Considering the simplistic design functionality, not to mention the limited features offered, Square is pretty easy to get to grips with.
In fact, our researchers ranked Square as their easiest to use of all the top ecommerce website builders.
Square Online verdict
“It does what it says on the tin” is a phrase that could have been coined for Square Online.
If you’re a very small or early stage business, this basic ecommerce platform offers you a quick and easy route to start selling online. What’s more, it’s the only one of our top ecommerce platforms to allow you to start selling without signing up for a premium plan.
However, if you have bigger ambitions for your online store, you’ll quickly outgrow the limited range of sales features on offer, and we’d recommend starting with a platform that offers more scope for scaling businesses.
Is Square Online free?
Square offers a free plan, which allows you to build an online store and start selling for free. You will be charged a 2.5% transaction fee on every sale you make, but it still represents a great value way to start selling online.
Is Square Online good?
Square is a good ecommerce platform to use if you’re a small or early stage business, as it’s easy to use and offers good value for money. However, larger businesses will find its basic sales functionality quite limiting.
How to set up a free Square Online
It’s quick and simple to set up Square Online. Just follow these steps:
- Create a Square account
- Visit the online Square Dashboard and click ‘Get Started’
- Choose to set up either a single ordering page or a full ecommerce website, and then click ‘Next’
- Choose your business and fulfillment type
- Start adding products to your item library
- Start selling!