Square Online Store Review – The Good and The Bad for 2023
Square Online has become a popular choice for small businesses that want to set up an online store without paying monthly fees. The result of Square POS acquiring Weebly in 2018, Square Online delivers an easy setup process and an intuitive interface, plus a capable plan that is free of charge to use (except transaction fees).
Perhaps the best part of Square Online is its versatility. Retailers, service-based businesses, and any owners that need both an online store and a point-of-sale (POS) system will love this platform. Square POS syncs seamlessly with Square Online, even on the free plan.
Square Online Compared to the Best Ecommerce Platforms
Square Online is an ecommerce platform that best suits early-stage businesses and those who want seamless integration between digital and in-person sales channels. However, there are a lot of other options in this category to consider. Here are a few of our favorites, pulled from our full post reviewing the best ecommerce platforms.
Shopify is our top pick overall because it combines affordability with a user-friendly interface, robust features, and extensive customization options. Try it risk free for three days today.
Wix was made specifically for beginners, providing one of the easiest paths to setting up an effective storefront on the web. Sign up for a free trial or use Wix free forever.
Bluehost has always been one of the best hosting providers for WordPress sites, and their WooCommerce packages provide a convenient way to build a robust online store on the most popular website platform on the internet. Sign up today and get 60% off your first year.
Squarespace is a venerable name among website builders, and they’ve mastered the art of providing users with visually stunning online store templates and design options. Get started today on a 14-day free trial.
Square Online: The Good and the Bad
Square Online makes it easy for anyone to create an online store, even without paying a dime for access to the platform. However, it does lack some functionality that you’d expect from an ecommerce site builder and digital sales platform. Let’s dig into where this platform shines and where it falls short.
What Square Online Is Good At
Beyond its user-friendliness and affordability, Square Online’s seamless support for in-person POS makes it perhaps the best choice for retailers and service vendors. And it delivers tools that other builders rarely offer, like age verification pop-ups and a unique product photo editor.
Easy to set up and use
Getting a Square Online store started is a breeze, thanks to the extensively helpful wizard that walks you through the initial customization process. Answer a few questions to establish your brand persona and you can feel confident that the platform will build a site suitable for your type of business.
After completing the wizard, you’ll find that everything is laid out clearly in the Square Online dashboard, from order fulfillment and payments to site design and more. Don’t worry if you feel a bit overwhelmed—you’ll find tutorial videos to guide you along the way. Plus, there’s a progress bar on the dashboard to let you know exactly where you are in the setup process. No matter your experience level, we’re confident you’ll be able to get up and running with ease.
One of the platform’s standout features is its selection of styles you can use to jumpstart your site design. These are basically preset color schemes you can use to customize the look of your Square Online store. Easily match your website to your branding without spending hours learning how to use the platform or spending hundreds of dollars to hire a professional designer.
Between Square Online’s user-friendly site building interface and its guidance for first-time users, you can design a website in minutes that showcases your brand and appeals to your customers. And, if you still feel intimidated by the idea of doing this yourself, Square offers access to a marketplace of designers and other specialists who can help you create something effective that is one-of-a-kind.
Free forever plan
With its free plan, Square Online can be a great option for businesses just starting out or testing the waters of ecommerce. You can sell your products online with no monthly fees and pay just 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction when you use Square’s payment gateway.
You’ll also have access to social media selling integrations, the ability to extend options for local shipping and curbside pickup to shoppers, and the ability to list unlimited products on your web store. And, if you’re already using Square’s POS system, you can easily sync that account with Square Online on the free plan.
There are some key limitations, such as the inability to connect a custom domain or replace Square’s branding with your own. When you’re ready to take your online business to the next level, just upgrade to the $29 per month paid plan and unlock those essentials, plus features like abandoned cart recovery, the ability to offer discounts and gift cards, and much more.
If you run a small business that sells both online and in person, Square Online is the perfect solution for you. It seamlessly integrates with Square POS, so you can manage all your orders—no matter where they come from—in one dashboard.
One of the best ways Square Online utilizes this integration is its pickup and delivery options. Online orders for either are pushed to your Square POS. If it’s a delivery, Square Online dispatches a courier to pick up the order while you prepare it. Then, the courier delivers the order to your customer, making the entire process quick and painless.
Another great feature is the self-ordering option. This lets you place QR codes around your brick-and-mortar store, pop-up location, or on your website. When scanned, these codes initiate a seamless ordering and checkout process for your customers. You can even specify order time availability and location. Restaurants, in particular, will also love the open tab option, which allows customers to keep a tab going and pay at the end of their visit using a QR code.
If you run a small business that sells physical products, you know how important it is to offer convenient shipping options to your customers. With Square Online, you have access to a broad array of fulfillment settings that can be customized to suit your needs. Whether you’re sending products domestically or internationally, you’re able to specify options for many countries in Square’s shipping profiles.
You can control whether digital items, donations, memberships, events, and services are available for purchase worldwide or just in specific regions, offering the potential for you to expand your customer base beyond your locality and potentially reach a global audience.
Plus, with the ability to print shipping labels for all the major carriers—including USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL—you can streamline your shipping processes and get your products out to customers quickly and efficiently.
Let’s say you’re a small business owner who sells handmade candles. With Square Online, you can set shipping options for your candles, including offering free shipping for orders over a certain amount or expedited shipping for customers who need their candles quickly. You can also specify which countries you’re willing to ship to, which can help you avoid any logistical challenges that may arise with international customers in certain regions.
Overall, with Square Online’s shipping options, you can provide your customers with a seamless shopping experience that sets your business apart from the competition.
Sales trend reports
On Square Online’s paid plans, you gain access to marketing insights that can enhance your selling abilities. Track your customers’ behavior and create personalized shopping experiences for them. You can even create loyalty groups to reward your most reliable or valuable repeat customers.
Data is presented in easy-to-understand graphs, making it a snap to see important metrics like traffic, activity, and sources. You can quickly identify which products are selling well and which ones need better promotion. By keeping a close eye on your sales trends, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions about how to allocate your resources and focus your marketing efforts.
And this becomes really useful when you’re using both Square Online for digital sales and Square POS for your retail location. For example, if you own a small boutique clothing store and notice that your online customers are buying more dresses than pants, you can order more dresses and put them on display in your store to drive sales there, too. This strategy can help you increase revenue across the board and keep all your customers happy.
Certain products require you to know a customer’s age before they can be sold. That’s why Square Online includes an age verification popup that sets up a gate for pages with sensitive content or age-restricted products. This customizable widget allows you to choose the design, wording, and placement of the popup.
If you’re selling alcohol or CBD products, for example, creating an age gate is crucial. And the best part is that this feature is available on all plans, including Square Online’s free forever tier. But it’s important to note that this age verification is based on the digital honor system and is not electronically verified in any way.
That’s not all. Square Online offers a variety of other pop-up widgets, such as email list subscription opt-in and on-site coupon offers, that can help you engage with your customers and drive sales. By using these strategically on your site, you can create an enhanced, modern shopping experience for your customers while also protecting your business.
Product photo tools
Square Online can help you achieve professional-grade product photos without any photography experience. By using their free iOS app, Photo Studio, you can snap and style your own photos. This is perfect for businesses that need high-quality images but don’t have the resources to hire a professional photographer.
What makes Photo Studio even more impressive is its advanced AI technology, which can modify backgrounds and remove unwanted parts of photos. This feature is particularly useful for tabletop product photography, where a clean and consistent background is essential for properly showcasing the product. With Photo Studio, you can create stunning product photos that will make your online store stand out.
Beyond that, Square Online also provides access to over 100 million royalty-free photos from Getty Images. Enhance your online store with professional images without worrying about copyright issues or paying hefty fees for usage. The combination of Photo Studio and Getty Images gives small businesses the power to create a visually stunning online store that can compete with larger retailers.
What Square Online Is Lacking
While Square Online has a lot going for it, there are some key limitations to assess before you commit to building your online store on the platform.
If you’re a small business owner looking for an easy way to get your online presence up and running, Square Online can be a solid option as long as you’re not expecting deep customization options.
First and foremost, Square Online’s page designs are entirely vertical, which can feel restrictive if you’re used to more flexible builders. Once you’re in the page designer itself, you can add elements and rearrange them by moving them up or down the page, but there’s no true drag-and-drop functionality here. You also can’t copy elements from one page and paste them onto another, even though they can be easily duplicated on the same page.
Furthermore, Square Online doesn’t offer as wide of a selection of themes as other big names like Shopify or Squarespace. Instead, they have a “style picker” that basically replicates the same layout in 20 different color configurations. This lack of deep customization tends to make all Square Online websites look the same.
Site builder stability
One of the biggest problems users note with Square Online is slow response times. Navigating to another page in the site designer can take up to 10 seconds to load, and it’s not uncommon to arrive at a page in the builder and receive a 404 message. Once, we got kicked back to the home page just as we started trying to edit our test site design.
You may also encounter strange requests to reload the page, with messages like “The editor requires an update. We’re making some updates and need you to reload this page.” It can be confusing and time-consuming to navigate these issues.
Workarounds for these issues really just involve having a bit of patience and refreshing the page if you encounter an error or strange reload request. That being said, if these errors commonly recur, it can get really frustrating to try and build something on Square Online. We recommend testing this out on the free plan to make sure you don’t waste any money on a maddening user experience.
Advanced SEO options
While Square Online does offer some basic on-page SEO features for meta titles, descriptions, and other elements, it doesn’t offer options for sitemaps that can help search engines better understand the structure of your site and index your pages more efficiently.
Additionally, there are no options for setting canonical URLs—which is how you determine the primary page from a set of duplicate pages—which can lead to Google punishing you for identical content, thus hurting your optimization efforts.
You can manually create a sitemap and submit it to search engines, plus use 301 redirects to consolidate duplicate content and establish a preferred URL for your pages. Those are possible workarounds for these issues, but not every site owner will have the time or desire to do them.
Key features on the free plan
We briefly touched on this already, but Square Online’s free forever plan is seriously limited. That’s to be expected, but it’s still important to spotlight what you’ll miss out on if you don’t opt for a paid plan.
Some essential features that are missing on the free plan include:
- Custom domain name
- Custom branding
- Selling subscriptions
- Customer product reviews
- Self-serve QR code ordering
- Site statistics and insights
- Abandoned cart recovery emails
We had hoped to try out these capabilities during testing without committing to a paid plan, but that unfortunately wasn’t possible.
That being said, keep in mind that the free plan can still offer value to very new or limited businesses. Overall, though, Square Online’s free version is best thought of as a starting point before getting serious about ecommerce on one of the paid plans.
Digital download delivery
If you’re selling digital products like ebooks, WordPress plugins and themes, PDF files, photos, or videos, you may struggle to make Square Online work for you. It doesn’t have an automatic online delivery process for these types of orders, meaning you’ll need to manually send an email or link to your customers so they can access the files they purchased.
If you’re someone who wants to work around Square Online’s lack of customization by using HTML and CSS, you may be disappointed by the limited options for editing these elements.
While Square Online does allow you to embed HTML using the page builder (albeit only when you’re on a paid plan), there’s no way to edit the source HTML of the site. Additionally, there’s no way to modify or customize CSS, which could be a serious blocker if you’re particular about your design.
Amazon and Etsy integrations
While Square Online offers social selling on all plans, letting you push products on popular marketplaces like Facebook and Instagram, it’s important to note that they don’t have integrations with Amazon or Etsy. For small and large sellers alike, the absence of these large marketplaces can be a significant limiting factor.
While you can set up separate accounts to have storefronts on these channels, you won’t get unified visibility into all your selling platforms within Square Online. Other ecommerce platforms give you a bird’s eye view of your total revenue and business health by pulling data and tracking sales from off-site channels like these. While this may not drastically affect service-based or local businesses, most retailers will be limiting themselves without access to Amazon or Etsy.
Square Online Plans and Pricing
Square Online offers three differently priced plans for access to their ecommerce platform and online store builder. Let’s dive into the cost and the features you’ll get on each of them.
Businesses can get started on Square Online with no investment by signing up for the free forever plan.
This free storefront builder lets you list and sell unlimited products and sell on social media, plus it comes equipped with SEO tools to help your businesses reach its target audience. Offer customers a range of pickup, local delivery, and shipping options, ensuring that their orders are fulfilled in a way that works for them.
The platform syncs seamlessly with Square POS and other popular tools, making it easy to manage online and offline operations in one place and extend your online store’s functionality.
Accept multiple payment types, including Cash App Pay, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Afterpay, in addition to the company’s own Square Pay option. Whether customers prefer to pay with credit cards, debit cards, or mobile wallets, Square Online has both you and your shoppers covered.
And, with transaction fees of just 2.9% plus 30 cents, businesses can keep their costs low while still offering a seamless payment experience (and not paying a monthly bill for Square Online).
Keep in mind that you’ll miss out on true custom branding for your online store, plus a bevy of other useful features. If you want the ability to accept PayPal, use a custom domain name, tap into advanced page layout options, or provide more convenience to your customers, you may want to consider one of Square Online’s two paid plans.
Square Online’s Plus plan is the perfect upgrade for those looking to expand their business while keeping costs low. For $29 per month (billed annually for a total of $348 for a year of service), this plan offers major upgrades over the feature set of the free plan.
You get expanded site customization options to make an online store that truly reflects your brand personality. Beyond enhancing the site’s look and feel, you can tweak advanced settings for the things you sell, such as selling subscriptions, scheduling new product releases or sale pricing, and time-sensitive product categories (think breakfast items before noon and lunch items for the rest of the business day).
Customer engagement is improved by the addition of features for product reviews, item recommendations, three-tap reordering, and more. This plan from Square Online also offers self-serve QR code ordering, which allows customers to order and pay directly from their phones. And, with customer accounts, you can offer a personalized experience that thrills your online shoppers.
With Square Online’s Plus plan, you unlock the full array of features you need to grow your business and establish meaningful connections with your customers.
While Square Online Plus delivers just about every feature in its arsenal, you can gain some serious benefits if you step up to the Premium plan. Priced at $79 per month billed annually (meaning you’ll pay a total of $948 for one year), this tier’s main highlight is unlocking better transaction fee rates.
You’ll lower the processing fee for online payments to 2.6% plus 30 cents for each transaction. If you’re churning through a high volume of online orders, this can make a huge difference for your revenue and bottom line.
Beyond that, you also unlock free in-house delivery (which costs 50 cents per order on the other plans), as well as real-time shipping cost estimates and premium support. The last of which gives you access to the team at Square 24/7 via phone call, while the other plans only allow you to call for assistance between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Pacific time, Monday through Friday.
If taking your business to the next level is your top priority, Square Online Premium may be well worth the expense. With lower transaction fees, more accurate shipping information, and premium support, you’ll have everything you need to grow your business and keep your customers coming back for more.
Square Online is a relatively basic ecommerce platform that has a few unique benefits which others can’t match. Obviously, its integration with Square POS (even on the free Square Online plan) is a big difference-maker for businesses running both online and brick-and-mortar sales operations. But we also really like the novel inclusion of site pop-ups (including age verification gateways) on every plan and the access to both Getty Images and Square’s Photo Studio app for product photography and site imagery.
Make sure to weigh these benefits against the limitations we pointed out above, especially if you’re thinking about opting for the free forever plan. Square Online can get the job done for a wide array of businesses, as long as you’re mindful of what it can and can’t do on its various plan options.