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Square Community Moderator

How to choose the right online store platform for your business

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“I want to start selling online. Can Square help me?”

 

We hear this question all the time from our sellers. There are so many options, and getting started online can feel overwhelming, especially for sellers who have not owned an eCommerce business before. One of the first decisions you’ll make once you’ve determined you’re ready to make the move online is choosing a web platform.

 

Fortunately, since Square works with a wide range of eCommerce platforms to power online payments, we’ve learned a thing or two about the various options. Here are some questions to ask yourself to guide your decision-making:

 

Do you already have a website?

Are you tech savvy and comfortable building your own website?

How much to spend? Monthly fees or one up-front investment?

Want to hire a developer or build a bigger website instead?

Do you need your in-store inventory to be synced up with your online sales?

 

Let's go through each question!

 

Do you already have a website?

 

If you like your current website, or are not ready to invest in overhauling a new site right now, you may want to consider adding eCommerce capabilities to your existing site. 

 

eCommerce capabilities are basically checkout page extensions for your already existing website. It will allow customers to check out on your page, but you will need a source to not only offer the extension but also a place for the money to go once the extension is completed. 

 

Here are a few ways to do this while using Square for payments:

 

  • Upgrade to the eCommerce plan on your current website platform: if you use a platform like WooCommerce or Wix, you can simply upgrade to a plan that includes online store functionality. The cost for this varies per online store extension, so please check with your website developer to see what the prices are.
  • You can also visit the Apps section on your Square Dashboard to view all extensions we currently support. Some of our popular brands include WooCommerce, Magento, BigCommerce, and Wix.
  • Some extra information on extensions:
    • WooCommerce: Is your site built on WordPress? WooCommerce is the eCommerce extension for WordPress sites and may be a good option to add an online store to your site. The best part? They have a Square-WooCommerce plugin so you can take your payments through Square and sync up your in-person and online inventory.
    • Ecwid: Another platform that integrates with Square, Ecwid allows you to add a shopping cart to any existing site, such as Squarespace, Joomla, Wordpress, and more.
    • Use Square APIs: If you work with a developer, he or she may be able to build the shopping cart functionality you desire, and then connect it to Square payments via API.

 

Are you tech savvy and comfortable building your own website?

 

Square offers a built-in, automatic inventory, and order syncing option. This is for sellers who may not want to build their website from scratch or hire a developer to maintain it, and who are looking for a "drag and drop" feel.

 

You can start by using our Square Online Checkout links, which allow you to sell specific items online without having an online store yet. Any orders purchased through these links will show up on the Orders tab on your Square Dashboard just like other online store orders. Learn how to get started with Square Online Checkout

 

For a full website experience and a direct, user-friendly integration between your eCommerce site and your Square account, you can set up a free Square Online site from the Square Online Overview page

 

After clicking “Set up my online store,” you will be walked through the process from start to finish: you can organize your store and sync your items. After choosing a domain, you are ready for online sales! (Keep in mind that if you’re transferring a domain it can take a few business days to verify and may require an upgrade to your online store package.)  

 

Just like with our Online Checkout links, with the Square Online site you will also be able to view all of your orders from the online Square Dashboard and Point of Sale app as well as have mobile orders print from your in-store printers. You can also expand your online sales to Instagram and Facebook for free

 

If the free version doesn’t meet all of your needs, you can upgrade to a paid tier that will give you more power on customizing your online store. Check out our plan tiers here

 

We have a detailed getting started article in our Support Center if you feel this is a great fit for your company!

 

Want to hire a developer or build a bigger website instead?

 

Square works with several DIY platforms that make it easy to build a professional site, no coding required. This is a flexible option for sellers who want to get started quickly, make changes on-the-go, and manage their website backend on their own. These sites also have their own customer support in case you run into any issues with your site.

 

Even if you’re not comfortable designing and building the site yourself, you may want to think ahead to when you’re managing the site later. Do you want to keep a web developer on call, or hire one to your staff? If not, you could consider hiring someone to build the site for you but ask them to use a website builder like BigCommerce, Wix, or GoCentral (GoDaddy) that will be easy for you to make updates to later.

 

Are you more tech-savvy or comfortable outsourcing site maintenance to an agency, developer, or employee? Open source or self-hosted platforms like WooCommerce, OpenCart, Magento, Drupal Commerce, and ZenCart offer much greater flexibility and customizability compared to the DIY-style platforms.

 

If this seems like a good fit for you, check out all Square-compatible eCommerce platforms.

 

How much to spend? Monthly fees or one up-front investment?

 

The answers to these questions depend on how much you intend to make selling online a core piece of your business.

 

There are a wide range of costs associated with eCommerce platforms. For some sellers, an inexpensive monthly rate will make the most sense; for example, you may want to offer online purchasing but do not plan to invest significant time or resources on promotion, or logistics to make it a big portion of your business. For sellers who are serious about building an online sales channel, a low-price plan is tempting but you may want to consider a more expensive, full-featured option that will help you with the tools you need to grow and manage your online business (e.g. SEO, marketing integrations, shipping, inventory management, etc).

 

The decision of paying a monthly fee vs. a one-time investment involves some personal preference. With hosted platforms that have SaaS pricing, the cost is spread out over time which is convenient, and you can choose to upgrade, downgrade, or turn off your site based on business performance. But some sellers feel they do not fully own their website, as they cannot simply move it to another platform if needed. In that case, you may prefer a self-hosted option. If you go with a self-hosted option, be aware that while there may not be a monthly SaaS cost, there will certainly be add-on costs, both up-front and recurring. Be sure to research and add up all the various extensions, themes, hosting services, etc. that you will need for your site to get a sense for the all-in cost before moving forward.

 

Do you need your in-store inventory to be synced up with your online sales?

 

Our eCommerce partners allow you to sell in-store as well as online with Square. You'll see all your sales in the online Square Dashboard but not all partners sync inventory. You will be able to see all gross sales in the Square Dashboard, but your API sales will come through as “Custom Amount” and not as “Blue T-Shirt Small.” You will also need to manage your orders on your eCommerce site instead of on Square. 

 

Some sellers don’t mind sacrificing integration for more website development. Other sellers find that having their catalogs and inventory counts syncing automatically across in-person and online channels is a major time—and headache—saver. This can help you avoid accidentally selling the same item online and in-store, and make inventory management easier. Plus, if you already have a catalog built in Square POS, you can import it into your online store with a few clicks, making setup a bit easier.

 

eCommerce platforms that currently allow you to sync your Square in-person and online catalogs and inventory counts are:

 

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I hope these questions can help you evaluate which platform is best for your business!

 

What are we missing? Please leave additional questions if you have them, and comment if you can share your own decision-making experience with other sellers!

AshleyK
Community Moderator, Square
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Great info. @AshleyK 

Helpful and useful and really appreciate your efforts thanks for sharing keep sharing...!!!

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Helpful info I appreciate your  advice.

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I'd like to chat with someone about my new business service....

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