If you’re a small business owner, you’ve more than likely heard of Square. Since their founding in 2009, Square has become a household name in payment processing and technology for small businesses. With Square Online (formerly known as Square Online Store), the brand continues to expand their omnichannel offerings, allowing business owners to sell their services online with this ecommerce platform in addition to using their POS or payment services.
Therefore, whether you’re looking to add an ecommerce operation to your brick-and-mortar business, or simply are interested in starting an online store for the first time, you might consider using Square Online Store. To help you decide if this is, in fact, the right ecommerce platform for your business, we’ve created this ultimate guide to Square Online Store. We’ll break down both the features and pricing of Square’s ecommerce solution, as well as explain how to set up Square Online for your business. Plus, we’ll offer top ecommerce platform alternatives, so you’ll have all the information you need to find the best option for your business.
With Square Online Store, which is powered by the website builder Weebly, you can quickly and easily build and launch your ecommerce website, as well as manage the whole of your digital selling operations. Square Online Store allows you to list your products, accept payments, fulfill orders, and more. As part of the Square product suite, Square Online Store integrates and syncs with Square Point of Sale, allowing brick-and-mortar businesses to expand into the online space.
Square offers four different service plans for their online store platform, including a free version, where you only pay the cost of payment processing.
With these basics in mind, let’s dive deeper into the feature set Square Online Store has to offer business owners.
Square Online Store gives you the ability to create your ecommerce website, choosing from one of their pre-built layouts and customizing it for your business—editing colors and fonts, as well as adding your logo. The “what you see is what you get” editor allows you to modify your online store without needing technical knowledge, plus all of the Square Online Store designs are mobile-responsive.
Additionally, Square provides you with free SSL security for your site, unlimited storage for all of their paid plans, and the ability to connect a custom business domain name.
With Square Online Store, you can list and sell physical and digital goods and services, as well as utilize online ordering for in-store pickup. Square Online Store includes unlimited product listings, product options, badges, and tools for inventory management. If you’re using this ecommerce platform with Square POS, you can sync online and in-person orders, items, and inventory and track everything in one place with your Square dashboard.
As you might imagine, Square Online Store gives you the ability to accept payments through Square. Therefore, Square serves as your merchant of record, simplifies PCI compliance and data security, and allows you to accept a variety of different payment methods. Additionally, with the higher levels of the Square Online Store plans, you can accept payments through PayPal as well.
Square Online Store includes online shopping cart functionality, giving customers the ability to add items to their cart and complete their order on your website. In addition, Square provides an automatic tax calculator, coupon code capabilities, Square gift cards, and an in-store pickup option, as we mentioned above.
For fulfilling your orders, Square Online Store offers a shipping calculator, integrated shipping labels via UPS, shipping discounts, and even real-time shipping. You can select your shipping carriers and track shipments all from your Square dashboard. Moreover, Square Online Store also offers abandoned cart email functionality, allowing you to send emails to customers reminding them to complete their order.
Example of Square Online Store dashboard. Source: Square
To help with the success and promotion of your ecommerce business, Square Online Store provides built-in SEO features, lead capture and contact forms, and Instagram integration. Additionally, Square offers pop-up notifications, Facebook ads, and product reviews.
Furthermore, using the Square dashboard you can monitor your site statistics, transaction history, customer information, and generate a variety of pre-designed and custom reports. The Square dashboard also gives you the ability to connect to other products in the Square suite, like their marketing, payroll, and loyalty add-ons. Moreover, you can integrate your online store with the apps in the Square marketplace, ranging from shipping and inventory tools to invoicing and accounting software.
Square provides several customer support resources on their website, including a support center, how-to guides, and community forum. With your Square Online Store account, you also have access to the Weebly support website and can contact customer service via email, chat, or phone.
Now that we know a little more about what Square Online Store has to offer, let’s talk about one of the most important elements of any ecommerce solution: cost. As we mentioned earlier, Square Online Store is offered in four different plans—Free, Professional, Performance, and Premium.
The Free plan has no monthly cost and only requires that you pay for payment processing at Square’s flat rate of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. The free plan includes the following features:
The first paid plan, the Professional plan, can be purchased annually or on a month-to-month basis. If you opt for the annual payment, you’ll only end up paying $12 per month, as opposed to $16 per month if you choose monthly billing. This plan includes all of the functionality of the Free plan, as well as:
The next plan, the Performance plan, costs $26 per month if billed annually and $29 per month if billed month-to-month. The Performance plan offers all of the capabilities of the first two plans, plus:
The final plan, the Premium plan, offers the most functionality, at a cost of $72 per month if billed annually and $79 per month if billed month-to-month. This plan also has the added benefit of a discounted processing rate, 2.6% + $0.30 per transaction, compared to 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for all of the other plans. On top of the features of the three previous plans, the Premium plan also includes the best shipping discounts and real-time shipping.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that if you decide to utilize any of Square’s add-ons (loyalty, payroll, marketing, etc.) that you’ll have to pay the associated monthly cost for each. Moreover, if you want to connect any third-party integration to your Square Online Store, you may also have to pay for those services, as well.
Considering everything we’ve discussed thus far, you may be wondering exactly how to set up Square Online Store for your business. Luckily, one of the benefits of Square Online Store is that it’s pretty quick and easy to get started—plus, you can set up your ecommerce site for free and upgrade to a paid account later if necessary.
This being said, let’s walk through the steps of how to set up Square Online Store, to provide a better sense of exactly how this platform works.
To get started with Square Online Store, you’ll need to create a Square account. Once you’ve clicked “start a free online store” from the Square website, you’ll be redirected to a page that asks for your email and country, and prompts you to create a password.
After you complete these fields and agree to the Square terms, you’ll provide more information about you, your business, and the online store you want to create. First, Square will ask for basic information about your business, including: business type, category, name, EIN (also known as a business tax ID number), estimated annual revenue, and employees.
Next, you’ll enter your personal information—name, address, date of birth, last four digits of your social security number or individual tax ID number, and phone number.
Then, you’ll be directed to answer questions about creating your store. Square will ask if you’re looking to create a single ordering page or a multi-page site. If you’re looking to create a fully functional online store, you’ll want to click “multi-page site.” Once you’ve made this choice, Square will ask you what you’re looking to sell in your online store, as seen in the photo below. You can choose multiple options and they can be changed later.
Once you’ve created your account and provided all of the information we described above, you’ll be able to design and edit your website through Square’s Weebly-powered builder. First, you’ll choose from a series of layouts, customize the basic colors and fonts, and add your logo. Next, you’ll be redirected to the Square Online Store editor where you can make additional customizations and add sections and pages. As you can see in the photo below, you’ll be able to edit features like your header, banner, footer branding, and more.
From this editor view, you’ll be able to preview your site, view a desktop and mobile version, and eventually set your store live.
After you’ve made all of your modifications to the design of your online store, you’ll need to start adding your products. This is perhaps one of the most important and time-consuming steps.
To add a product, you’ll click the plus sign in the upper left hand corner and then select “product.” You’ll then want to add all of the relevant information about your product: type, title, description, photos, SEO options, and fulfillment settings. If the product has any variations, like size or color, or modifiers, you’ll be able to adjust these as well. Once you’ve completed all of your product fields, you’ll be able to save and view it using a test site link.
You will want to add all of the products you plan on listing on your website, or at least enough to get started selling online.
Once you’ve set up your products, you’ll want to choose a domain name. It’s important to remember that if you’re using the free plan, your URL will automatically generate to your-store-name.square.site. To utilize a custom domain, you’ll need to purchase one of the paid Square Online Store plans.
If you opt for the paid plan, you’ll then be able to purchase your own domain or connect to one you already own.
Before you set your online store live, you’ll need to indicate how you’ll be shipping your products, collecting taxes, and allowing your customers to check out. From your store dashboard, you’ll find these modifications under “Store,” then “Setup.”
For shipping, you’ll need to indicate where you’ll be shipping your products from, the regions that you’ll ship to, and your associated shipping rates. You’ll also be able to utilize real-time shipping settings, like shipping services and packaging, if you have a paid plan. Additionally, if you’ll allow customers to pick up their orders in-store, you’ll indicate this setting—including dates, times, and other relevant information, under “Setup,” then “Pickup.”
Next, under the “Taxes” section, you’ll list all of your physical store locations to calculate U.S. tax rates for your orders. You’ll also be able to set the tax rates for every country and state that you ship to, as well as indicate if you’ll charge taxes on shipping rates. If you use the automatic tax calculator in the U.S., Square Online Store will perform all of these calculations for you—all you have to do is indicate your shipping address and regions.
Finally, you’ll need to edit your checkout settings. Again, on the left hand side you’ll see the label “Checkout.” Once you’ve navigated to this page, you’ll see that you’re automatically connected to Square to accept payments online from your customers. Here, you’ll also be able to enable Apple and Google Pay, connect PayPal (with a paid plan), add store policies, and adjust advanced settings including checkout mode, gift cards, and other checkout options.
After you’ve adjusted all the necessary settings, you’ll be ready to take your store live. From the store editor (as seen above), you’ll be able to click the button in the upper right hand corner that says “Publish” to officially launch your site.
Once you’re live, you’ll be able to see the front end of your site and your customers will be able to start placing orders.
With your live storefront, you’ll be able to promote your business and utilize the other tools and settings in Square Online Store. You will be able to connect Square POS, create coupons and store emails, connect your business Facebook and Instagram, and set up email signups and customer forms. If you have a paid plan, you’ll be able to utilize some of the more advanced tools like abandoned cart emails and product reviews.
Additionally, you’ll be able to manage your orders, view your transactions, and generate reports from your Square dashboard. As you progress with running your store, you’ll be able to determine if you need to adjust any settings, add pages or products, and even upgrade your plan.
Now that we’ve explored how to set up Square Online Store for your business, let’s discuss how Square compares to other ecommerce solutions on the marketplace. All things considered, here are some of the most notable benefits of the platform:
As you can see from our step-by-step break down, it’s really quite simple to start an ecommerce business using Square Online Store. On the whole, the interface is intuitive, clean, and gives you the prompts necessary to edit, customize, and publish your online store. Additionally, by clearly illustrating the options you need to launch your site and enabling you to change them at any time, Square Online Store allows you to start selling very quickly. Moreover, Square Online Store makes ecommerce approachable for business owners of all backgrounds—you don’t need any technical experience to get started with this platform.
There are very few ecommerce platforms out there that allow you to run your online store and only pay credit card processing fees—but Square Online Store is one of them. If you’re looking to get started selling online for the first time, the free version of Square Online Store gives you the ability to do so, at an extremely low cost. Plus, with Square’s payment processing, Weebly editor, and feature set, you can quickly and easily start and manage an effective ecommerce business using the free version of this platform.
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of this ecommerce solution is that it comes from Square, and therefore, is easily connected to the Square suite of products. Square, of course, is not only known for their robust point of sale system, but their other offerings as well, including Square Payroll, as well as their payments platform. As such, Square Online Store carries over many of the qualities that Square is known for: tech-savvy, easy to use, and approachable.
Furthermore, Square Online Store’s ability to connect and sync with Square Point of Sale makes it a simple and affordable option for brick-and-mortar or service-based business owners who want to venture into the ecommerce space.
Although these benefits are certainly impressive, there are also drawbacks to using Square Online Store for your business as well. Here are a few worth considering:
Even though Square Online Store is user-friendly and easy to set up, it is definitely limited in its offerings. Despite the fact that there are four different Square Online Store plans, each plan is not that different from the next, and even the most expensive plan is lacking in capabilities. In fact, many of the paid plan features—like abandoned cart emails, ecommerce statistics, and shipping tools, come standard in competitors like BigCommerce or Shopify.
Moreover, many other platforms on the market can offer greater capabilities at a lower cost for paid plans. As an example, BigCommerce’s most basic plan, at $29.95 per month, includes much more functionality, like real-time shipping quotes, a built-in blog, product ratings and reviews, and multiple payment integration options. On the whole, Square Online Store doesn’t offer quite a comparable advanced feature set or scalability compared to other platforms on the market.
Although Square Online Store’s direct connection to Square can be an asset, it can also be a disadvantage if you’re not already using Square. Square Online Store essentially requires that you use Square as your payment processor, which alienates business owners who already work with a different merchant services provider. Therefore, whereas other ecommerce platforms give you the ability to connect to a variety of processors, including more international options, you’re once again limited in this way with Square Online Store.
Square relaunched their online store in March 2019 and has used their acquisition of Weebly to power the platform. Although this seems to have given Square the ability to offer a robust ecommerce solution, as of the writing of this review, it seems unclear exactly how this connection will continue to work.
It certainly seems that the integration between the two systems could be more seamless, instead of having to separately use the Weebly editor and base, as well as the Square dashboard. Plus, although easy to utilize on the whole, the setup system seems to toggle back and forth between Square and Weebly, making the process a little more confusing than it should be. Moreover, both Square and Weebly describe their online store services on their respective websites without indicating that they’re essentially becoming one in the same. With a competitive and growing marketplace for ecommerce, this integration could definitely be improved.
What do users have to say about Square Online Store? Unfortunately, with the popularity of other Square products, it’s rather difficult to find specific Square Online Store reviews. However, the reviews that are available are positive, with customers highlighting the platform’s simplicity, ease of use, and affordability.
Kisha Mays, founder and CEO of Just Fearless, uses Square Online Store for her business and says that she likes it because it’s simple and doesn’t require code to maintain. “I love it, and my team loves it,” she says.
Similarly, Jessica Rhoades, owner of Create IT Web Designs, told us she just set up a client using Square Online Store. “We chose Square because it is a free online store with low credit card rate processing fees. The customer wanted a quick solution to collect funds for a medium-sized event that is coming up. We found Square simple to set up [and] the website is a clean design.”
She also mentioned, however, the limitations in web design, saying: “We were able to get the branding close but not perfect, as there is limited functionality in the web design pages versus WordPress.”
Nevertheless, she said she would recommend it for collecting money for small events as well as for a quick and simple way to collect funds or sell items.
In terms of negative online reviews, on the other hand, the one point that you’ll see frequently in regard to Square products overall is issues with account stability. As a third-party processor, Square houses all of their payments in one merchant account and then transfers your respective funds into your business bank account. This means, however, that Square reserves the right to terminate or hold your account if they deem any of your activity high-risk. Although this a common complaint that you’ll see with many similar providers—and something that has certainly been improving—it’s still worth noting.
Before you decide if Square Online Store is the right ecommerce platform for your business, you’ll certainly want to look into some top alternatives. Here are two in particular that are worth considering:
If there’s a tried-and-true way to get started in ecommerce, it’s by selling on Shopify. Just as Square is a household name in payment processing and point of sale, Shopify is perhaps one of the most well-known ecommerce platforms—and with good reason.
Similar to Square Online Store, the Shopify platform is known for approachability, usability, and the ability to get ecommerce sites up and running quickly and easily. Although Shopify does not offer a completely free service plan, you do have the option to choose from three core plans, starting at $29 per month.
This Basic Shopify plan offers many of the same capabilities as the paid Square Online Store plans, including unlimited products, a free SSL certificate, and discount codes. However, Basic Shopify also offers additional functionality—a built-in blog, 24/7 customer support, multiple sales channels, and abandoned cart recovery.
Like Square, Shopify offers in-house processing with Shopify Payments, as well as a direct integration with their POS app. This being said, Shopify is a worthy Square Online Store alternative if you’re looking for a paid option with more functionality, scalability, and overall greater ecommerce focus.
On the other hand, you might consider Selz as an alternative to Square Online Store. In fact, Selz and Square Online Store are very similar—like Square, Selz offers a free version and three paid plans. Selz also offers in-house payment processing with Selz Pay, a free SSL certificate, automatic tax settings, discount codes, and device-responsive themes.
However, on the whole, Selz includes greater ecommerce capabilities compared to Square Online Store. With the Selz Standard plan, at $23 per month, you receive features like: unlimited storage, bandwidth, and customers; advanced analytics; customer management; a custom domain; PayPal integration; worldwide shipping; and abandoned cart recovery.
The one major drawback of Selz, however, is that they charge an additional transaction fee on top of their per-transaction processing fees, even if you use Selz Pay. This being said though, if you opt for the $35-per-month Pro plan, you won’t pay the additional transaction fee, and you’ll have functionality on par with or even greater than the highest level of Square Online Store plans.
Moreover, like Square Online Store, the Selz platform is known as easy to use for all types of business owners. Therefore, if you’re not already using Square for your point of sale system and are interested in a comparable paid ecommerce solution, Selz is certainly worth considering.
At the end of the day, only you can decide which ecommerce solution will best fulfill your business’s needs. However, Square Online Store seems to be a great option to consider, especially for business owners who already use Square, as well as those who are looking for an affordable, simple platform to try their hand at selling online.
Plus, since the most basic of Square Online Store is completely free (other than the per transaction Square fees), you can easily test out this solution for yourself to see how it works and determine if it will be the right fit for your business.
Randa Kriss is a senior staff writer at Fundera.
At Fundera, Randa specializes in reviewing small business products, software, and services. Randa has written hundreds of reviews across a wide swath of business topics including ecommerce, merchant services, accounting, credit cards, bank accounts, loan products, and payroll and human resources solutions.