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Should a Square Online Store be Your First Webstore?

Online shopping and credit card payments go together and so does Square Online store with Square payment processing

Square is best known as a company that helps merchants take credit card payments. But, over the years, it’s added to its service offerings. One of these offerings is an easy-to-use website building software that lets non-techies build a nice-looking webstore in less than a day. Square’s webstore building platform is called Square Online. And a Square Online store is a great way for the right type of small business to build its first webstore.

This article is a part of our series on how to quickly start an online store. We’re focused on finding platforms that are easy to use, inexpensive, and easy for your customers to remember and find. This webstore is supposed to be your business’s first, but not necessarily the last, home on the internet.

To find the best platforms, we set up several criteria and picked three platforms that fit these criteria best. Square Online is not one of our top three picks. But we know that our readers have different business needs, and, for some of you, Square Online might be a great choice.

Hence, this article. Below, you’ll find a quick summary of Square Online such as how much it costs, what the service offers, and the pros and cons of using the service. Note that Square offers a lot of other services. This article focuses only on Square Online.

We start with the types of business that might benefit most from using Square Online.

What Type of Business is Best for Square Online?

Square Online can be especially suited for the following types of businesses:

  • Businesses that are already using Square’s payment processing services.
  • Restaurants and retail stores. Square Online has some very restaurant and retail focused features such as delivery, curbside pickup, or in-store pickup.
  • Businesses that take in-person payments as well as online payments. Square has good payment processing hardware.

Square has integrated a lot of different services into its original payment processing software, services like inventory management, marketing/loyalty programs, and invoicing. If your business already uses Square for payment processing and especially if you’re also using Square’s other services, these services can easily be integrated into Square Online.

Square has also made a lot of effort to tailor its payment processing services to restaurants and retail stores. So, with Square Online, it added a lot of features geared towards these segments. Such features include easy online ordering for takeout or curbside pickup orders. So, if you’re a restaurant or have a retail store with a physical location, it makes sense to seriously consider Square Online.

Finally, Square makes a lot of excellent hardware for credit card processing. So, if you have a physical store or sell in-person at tradeshows, craft fairs, or the like, you might want to use Square Online. This way, all your payment processing hardware and software can integrate smoothly.

How Much Does a Square Online Store Cost?

There are four (or five, depending on how you count) tiers of service for Square Online. Here’s the pricing for each tier:

  • Free
  • Professional at $12/month if billed annually
  • Performance at $26/month if billed annually
  • Premium at $72/month if billed annually
  • Customized plan (must contact Square for pricing)

The platform fees do not include payment processing fees. For the Free, Professional, and Performance tiers, the fee is 2.9% + $0.30 per payment. For the Premium tier, the fee is 2.6% + $0.30 per payment. This is a fair rate for third-party payment processors like Stripe, PayPal, and, of course, Square.

What’s Included in a Square Online Store?

Square Online stores usually include the following services (some services not available for the Free tier):

  • Payment processing.
  • Ability to list an unlimited number of items for sale.
  • Online storage space. Free tier is limited to less than 500 MB but other tiers are unlimited.
  • Connect to your domain name. Free tier connects to a subdomain.
  • Marketing and selling directly from social media. Currently available for Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
  • Online ordering. Customers have the option to pick from delivery, in-store, or curbside pickup.
  • Shipping rate discounts.
  • Tax calculations.
  • eWallet payment integration. E.g. Apple Pay, Google Pay payment button integration.
  • Sales analytics software.

Here’s the detailed breakdown of the services available for each tier of Square Online store.

We recommend that you get a domain name for your store. Square’s domain registration starts at $12, but it’s not clear if this is a first year introductory price or the regular price. Neither Square nor (Square’s registrar) gives any additional information.

So, be careful. We recommend you use another registrar for predictable renewal pricing.

Square also doesn’t host your business emails. So, if you want a email, you’ll have to make other arrangements.

Is a Square Online Store Expensive?

Square, Shopify, and Wix all offer easy-to-use software for builidng online stores. So, one way to compare Square Online’s pricing is to compare the platform fees for all these services.

Generally speaking, all three services have similarly priced tiers sharing more or less similar services for each tier. Shopify tops out at a higher tier pricing than Square Online or Wix, but Shopify offers more robust services at the higher tiers too.

It’s harder to get a good comparison between Square Online and the free, open-source platforms.

Payment Processing Services

One way to compare Square Online with open-source platforms is to look at payment processing charges. Square Online uses Square’s own payment processing service. Open-source platforms like WooCommerce on WordPress can connect to other payment processors.

In the payment processing world, there are two major types of processors: third-party processors and merchant account providers. To a consumer, both types of processors look the same. But the internal workings of a third-party processor is different from a merchant account provider.

Practically speaking, if you take in less than $10k per month in card payments, it’s more convenient to use a third-party processor like Square. But if you take more than $10k per month in card payments, you can often save money by using a merchant account provider.

With Square Online, you have to use Square to process your payments. You can’t switch to a merchant account provider. So, if your business goes well and you begin to make a lot of sales, at some point, processing payments on Square Online will cost more than processing payments through another processor.

The only way to get this better pricing is to move off Square Online. But, because Square Online uses proprietary software, to move off Square, you’d have to recreate your entire website. This can be expensive and time consuming. So, either way, Square Online may eventually cost you more money.

Web Hosting Charges

Square Online mixes its software platform charges with web hosting charges. If you use a free, open-source platform to build your webstore, you’re only looking at web hosting charges.

According to our research, Square hosts its services both on their own servers and on the Amazon cloud. We can’t find a web hosting service that uses Amazon Web Services to host websites. The closest cloud hosting provider (other than AWS itself) is Kinsta, which hosts websites on the Google Cloud.

Kinsta charges $30/month for server space that can handle 25,000 visits per month. This pricing is roughly comparable to Square Online’s Performance tier.

Kinsta charges $60/month for server space that can handle 50,000 visits per month and $100/month for server space that can handle 100,000 visits per month. Square Online’s Premium tier is at $72/month. So, to stay competitive with Kinsta, it needs to be able to handle roughly 70,000 visits per month.

This comparison isn’t perfect, of course. But, if you’re paying for the Premium tier and only get 5,000 visitors per month to your website, then you’re paying a lot extra for Square’s website building software.

Is Square Online for Every Business?

Square Online isn’t for every business. But, it does seem quite excellent for certain types of businesses or businesses at certain stages of their normal growth.

If you already use Square to process payments and need to set up an online store fast, then building a Square Online store might be a good option. This is especially true if you wish to sell online but do not have a lot of technical expertise to build and run your own website.

But, be aware that you’re building your website using Square’s proprietary software. This means that it could get time consuming and expensive if you ever wish to move off Square Online. The way we see it, it’s usually not a great idea to tie yourself to proprietary software that limits your future options.

Interested in starting and running a small business? Here’s the beginning of our step-by-step guide: What to do right after getting that great business idea.

Questions? Comments?