Square is known globally for its fast, convenient and secure payment solutions. Not only is the platform available to individuals, but Square has also developed a list of services that facilitate businesses’ operation and processing. If you need amazing merchant payment solutions, Square Online Store is worth learning more about.
The company provides card readers, a point-of-sale mobile application, payroll services and other business payment solutions. All of these tools all are continually synced on your Square account.
Now, these tools can work for online merchants as well, which makes a serious online store a lot easier to operate. With newly launched Square Online Store, you can create an eCommerce store on the Square platform, integrate it with other existing sales channels and start selling over the Internet.
Sounds great, right?
It is pretty cool.
If you are planning on opening an online shop, Square Online Store is worth keeping in mind. If you are already acquainted with Square, great. You probably know how easy it is to use. If you want to learn more about Square Online Store, let’s have a good look at what the platform has to offer!
What is Square Online Store?
To start with, you may be interested in the backstory of Square Online Store. Square used to run an eCommerce platform solution before, but until it acquired of Weebly in 2018, Square wasn’t the strongest eCommerce payment solution out there.
For those who might feel a bit confused, Weebly is an online tool that helps build easy and simple online stores. It’s considered to be one of the most affordable and user-friendly ways to create web sales channels. A person with no technical knowledge can start selling with the platform, however, simplicity comes with limitations in terms of options and functions.
For that reason, Weebly is best suited for small merchants who just want to start an online business or have small sales volumes without a multi-channel system.
After having acquired Weebly, Square announced the re-launch of its Online Store builder nearly a year later, in April 2019. By combining 2 services, the company’s aim is to provide its current brick-and-mortar shops with new solutions to expand to online customers.
Undoubtedly, Square Online Store has inherited the best characteristics from both Square and Weebly. At the same time, as a totally fresh service, there are some things that could be improved on.
What Does Square Online Store Cost to Use?
Square Online Store has an easy-to-understand pricing scheme. The best thing about the pricing plan is that there is a free package, which allows merchants will pay zero, aside from the payment processing fee.
Of course, this plan does have its limitations, like limited storage capacity and several locked features. Free Plan is a good option for people that are just starting out in eCommerce, otherwise, there are higher priced plans that offer a lot more.
Here is a quick overview of all pricing plans that Square Online Store offers:
The Free Plan costs you nothing, except for the payment charged by Square upon completed orders. The payment processing rate for Free Plan is 2.9% per sale plus $0.30 USD (in fact, this rate is the same as in almost paid versions, except Premium Plan).
There are a number of features included as well:
- No limit on product items (for pick-up & delivery)
- Automated synchronization of your inventory, order, and product with your Square point-of-sale, aka POS (for who doesn’t know: Square POS is an application that can be installed on your mobile phone or tablet to track every component and cycle of your business. Square POS is also free to download from app store; users only need to pay 2.6% + $.010 USD per each transaction)
- Integration with Pinterest and Instagram
- Maximum 500MB for storage
- Free inventory management
- Free SSL secure method
- Free marketing tools: coupon, gift card, emailing, built-in SEO
- Free support channels, including phone, live chat, mail and forum
The Free Plan is quite sufficient for a small online business. Keep in mind that with Free Plan, you aren’t given with a personalized domain name (the free URL will end with a Square sub-domain “.square.site”). The Square brand and advertisements will appear on your site too.
By paying $16 USD/month (comes down to $12 USD/month if paid annually), you are upgraded to the Professional Plan, which includes the same payment processing rate and features of Free Plan, plus:
- No more Square ads appearing on your website
- One year of a free customized URL
- No limit on storage
The Performance Plan will cost you $29 USD/month (falls to $26 USD/month when paid annually). The payment processing rate remains at 2.9%/transaction + $0.30 USD.
Besides all features in Professional Plan, it this plan adds:
- Enables payments via PayPal
- Display customer feedback on-site
- Order fulfillment
- Discounts for shipping
- Send emails for abandoned carts
- Integrate with Facebook ads hub
- Sophisticated e-commerce analysis & statistics
The most expensive option for Square Online Store comes at a monthly subscription cost of $79 USD (or $72 USD if paid annually). Along with a decrease in average payment processing fee (2.6% + $0.30 USD/transaction), the Premium Plan offers:
- The highest discount rate for shipping
- Real Time Calculator to help better determine the shipping price
Compared to other popular eCommerce platforms, such as Shopify, BigCommerce or 3dCart, it’s easy to see that in some cases, a bigger business might be better off going with something besides Square Online Store. For smaller eCommerce businesses, or those just getting started, Square offers a lot.
The higher priced plans aren’t necessarily competitive when compared to more advanced plans on other platforms. Although Square’s Premium Plan costs $79 USD a month, it doesn’t add much in the way of advanced solutions.
None of this applies to the Free Plan or the lower priced offerings. They remain a great deal and should be considered by any eCommerce business that is looking for a reliable, low cost payments solution.
How to: Get Started
Square Online Store, like all the Square products, is easy to get up and running. Here are the basics of getting your store going, and starting to make online sales!
1. Sign up for an Account
First thing on the list is to create an account so you can log in to Square.
If you are a new client, then you need to fill out a short registration form, enter your email address and create a password. Also, note your country is required to be disclosed at this step. After that, some more questions will be asked to verify your business.
So far, it seems that users in the US and Canada have access to all the services on the platform, with the online store included. Unless you register with a US or Canadian address, you won’t be able to find a website builder anywhere on your Square dashboard.
For American or Canadian users, after the first registration form, there are more detailed questions, such as your name, exact street address, phone number, social security number (4 last digits required) and business tax identification number.
Some store settings will be restricted until you verify all the information that was provided. As a large and successful payment processor, Square has protocols for any new merchants, and you will need to have all the right information handy.
After you create an account (assuming you are from an eligible country) you can move on to the next steps.
Once you have signed in to your account, everything in your store will be automatically synced, from product items, orders, transactions, inventory to app integration. In case you already have a brick-and-mortar shop, it can be connected here.
Remember: one account allows a link to only one physical location.
Square will display some initial options to choose from for your site preferences. You can select to create a single page (in case you already have your own website and only need a channel for online order processing), or a multi-page web site (for those who want to establish a whole new e-commerce site).
You’re also asked to specify your main business sectors – for example, restaurant, retail (physical or digital products), services, etc. Finally, you are given the choice to enable a fulfillment and shipping plan, like sending products directly to the customer or in-store pickup and ship.
Don’t worry, all of these are just preliminary decisions, you’re free to adjust them anytime later on. Now you are done creating your new account and you can move on to…
2. Build and Customize an Online Shop
When logging into your Square account you’ll see a list of Square products available on the left pane, including an Online Store section. Click on it, and you’ll be directed to Weebly design tool, where you will actually create your e-commerce website.
Just like the Weebly platform that Square started with, the online store creator and editor for are also super easy to use. It has a setup guide as well as step-by-step instructions for store owners. All you need to do is click and choose your favorite stuff, and make it a reality.
At first, the default builder will ask you to pick up your preferred web layout, font and color. Depending on your business, relevant examples of templates may be presented.
There is also a list of features you may wish to include, such as sell to ship, sell for pick-up, collect email, show Instagram, etc. You can add or exclude any content at will, for example, header, banner, footer, and so on, to make it fit with your purpose. Everything can be adjusted anytime, so don’t worry too much at this stage.
Square’s Weebly-powered builder makes it extremely simple to get up and running by dividing your website into smaller content blocks. Your job is to configure these blocks the best way you can imagine.
You’re able to rearrange each section by changing layout, texts or background. The builder allows you to choose templates from Square’s free library or by uploading images on your personal device.
While block contents are intuitive to novices, they are much less flexible for those who might want to put more personalization into the site. For instance, in terms of image section size, you’re only provided with 4 fixed options: XS, S, M or L besides using default height.
You are able to zoom in and out of images, or relocating pictures so they will display well. Some limitations apply to the textbox as well. There is no way to adjust the boxes’ length, which is irritating when you try to present your headline with only “space” and “enter”.
Sometimes, features are locked without a reason (ex. you cannot make a “bold” line in your main banner). It can leave users with questions that may take a little bit of work to answer.
As Square Online Store builder requires absolutely no IT skills, it takes away the power of customization. That means hiring a dev or designer would be pointless. Again, its simplicity is undeniable, which may or may not be what you are looking for.
3. Set up Your Store’s Domain
After getting the basic store design settings in place, a pop-up will jump in with three options for your online store’s URL.
Here they are:
- Buy a custom domain on Square: Should you want to stamp your own website address to make it more unique, you can choose to look up for a custom URL via Square channel. It will prompt you to search for domain availability with an annual price (range from $12 USD to $36 USD/year and so on). Then, you are required to upgrade to a Square paid plan in order to use a custom domain for your site.
- Use a pre-existing URL: This is for someone who already purchased a domain from other providers. You can connect it with your Square online store by upgrading your account to a paid plan.
- Use a sub-domain provided by Square: It’s free of charge. You can still think of an attractive name that relates to your product branding, but keep in mind that a free domain will be accompanied by “.square.site” at the ending.
The real question is whether you are satisfied with using a free domain or if you will need to move up to a paid version. In case a “.square.site” is not what you are looking for, upgrading will be your only option if you want to use Square Online Store.
4. Start Listing Products
Now it’s time to make fill your store by adding items onto racks. Square continues with easy to follow procedures, but it may take a considerable amount of time to make modifications.
Find the “Item library” section on the left hand, then click on “Add item”.
On Square Online Store, you can publish different types of physical and digital goods, as well as other services, including memberships, events, donations or carryout food and drink. You can insert product titles and descriptions, along with photos for a better selling environment.
You can give your potential customers detailed product descriptions, such as size, color, price, and quantity. It’s easy to create or remove labels in your list in order to display your items along any lines you want.
One great feature is the custom modifier, which allows your buyers to input their personal preference for customized products, like changing logos or the text. It’s a great function that can boost customers’ interaction and satisfaction with your store.
At this stage, you can also set up a fulfillment method by choosing shipping or pick-up & delivery with a pre-set time frame, which ranges from “Immediate available” to 5 minutes and up to 12 weeks. For SEO, Square offers you additional options to be displayed in search results, including a short permalink, SEO title and SEO description.
After finishing adding items, you may want to go back and preview how your site is sorted. If you don’t like the default arrangement, just switch it off and reorganize it your way. With a couple of changes to product categorization, the category page or the product page, you can transform your store into just about whatever you like.
There’s one critical point that any merchant should bear in mind: In order to protect its merchants, Square has explicitly specified a list of prohibited products and services on their POS, which also applies to online stores.
Therefore, be sure to check up carefully whether your items are included in the high-risk tags, otherwise, you may put yourself in a difficult situation. If you choose to ignore these banned items and services, your account may get flagged or suspended if Square finds out about breach of its rules.
5. Complete the Basic Settings: Shipping, Check Out, and Tax
The final step prior to your store’s launch is sorting out the details for shipping and taxes
In the ‘Setting’ section on the left column, you will see specific plans for each part of this last stage.
For businesses that use the Free Plan, Square is the only available payment option.
Along with that, you can select to enable purchase through Apple Pay or Google Pay and show these buttons on your page. Should you want to include PayPal and credit cards in your check out, it’s necessary to move up to the Performance Plan, or a higher plan.
Store owners will find advanced settings with additional custom check out options, such as making phone number obligatory or optional in pick up & delivery options which allow customers to leave a note to sellers or opt-in to marketing emails
To prevent any confusion, you can clarify by adding transparent store policies, which will clearly explain your policies for returns and exchanges, or whatever relates to your business.
Shipping – Pick Up & Delivery
If your store is selling digital goods, then this section may not be necessary.
Otherwise, you will need to have these two sections sorted out.
In order to activate shipping, you need to validate your location information, including your “Shipping from” address and add “Destination regions”, which refer to cities/states you will service.
Setting up shipping rates is easy. For starters, with Free Plan, there’s nothing much to do except choosing either free shipping or fix a flat rate that will apply to all the products in your store.
The Free Plan isn’t going to be a good fit for sellers who have a mix of items that are different weights, sizes or prices, as the shipping fee is fixed. Needless to say, should you need more powerful tools like real time rates, order fulfillment or choice of carriers, you’ll need to consider a paid plan.
Pick-up & Delivery is used when you offer online buyers the ability to come and get their order at your physical store. In that case, you also have to verify your address, then indicate the date, time and how your customers can come and pick up their purchases.
You can customize an automatic timeline depending on how much time is needed to prepare orders, or allow buyers to schedule their own pickups. It’s better you have clear instructions and keep your customers up-to-date with their order’s status, which will definitely save them time!
Under the ‘Taxes’ section, you can indicate your brick-and-mortar store locations and tentative destinations of shipment along with tax rates. You can also apply the automatic tax calculator for orders within the US, which may make your job a lot easier.
6. Preview and Publish Your Online Store
Congratulations! Now your store has been all set up and is ready to launch.
Just push the “Publish” button on site editor, then your online business is live. Customers will be able to access and place orders, and your next job is to run promotions and manage your store’s operation in the best way possible.
To support merchants in achieving sales targets, Square Online Store also offers various tools and features that help enhance business operations.
Here are some of the tools that Square Online Business gives its clients:
Running an online store with Square is pretty easy. You let buyers surf through your store’s items, fill their cart and proceed payment. From your Square dashboard you can see all orders and watch the newest requests, pending orders, and other metrics.
One thing you should notice is that you will have to manually check and mark orders as completed in order to receive payment from Square. Prior to that, the processor will keep customers’ money on pending status for a while (you can nominate how many days to fulfill your orders – Square’s default setting is within 7 days).
When the deadline is up, unless the order is completed, Square will automatically send a refund to buyers.
Some integrated tools might save extra time, however, they won’t cover 100% of the sales you make. Square also provides automated transaction confirmation emails, but this function will not work with digital downloads.
Inventory management is a big advantage as Square provides automatic synchronization with all of its products. This system will cover your physical store, the POS app and an eCommerce site. It takes a second to sign in your account and every item. This helps merchants easily manage multi-channel inventories, track sold, and in-store metrics.
SEO & Marketing
Square has abundant marketing features to help your business grow. It provides built-in SEO functionality with basic options such as permalinks, and SEO title and description, both of which will improve your appearance in search engine results.
You can also create online coupons and utilize pop-ups for advertisements and gather a lot of email sign-ups. Square’s pop-up designs are modest, so don’t worry a bunch many pop-ups will turn your buyers off.
One of the most fantastic tools the platform offers is emailing, which gives users a number of options to optimize their sales process and promotion campaigns. Sellers can set up automatic emails with custom content and templates for order confirmation, shipment, cancellation or refund.
Furthermore, if you’re able to afford the Performance Plan, or another premium plan, you can have emails sent for abandoned carts, which will remind customers who have added items in their cart but left without buying the items
There are also automated emails to ask buyers for feedback when shopping on your site. With paid plans, you can access to Facebook ads to expand your reach into the outside community.
Analytics & Reports
For Performance or Premium Plan users, Square supports reports of their site’s statistics, with overall insights about the number of page views, page view per visitor, number of unique visitors and so on.
Square has done excellent with customer service. All the plans can access support with telephone support, live chat, email or a support center at your service. Email is available 24/7, for phone and live chat, you can reach for help during 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM on weekdays and 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM on weekends.
The help center is also a handy source if you have questions. It’s divided into several content sections, such as an online store, point-of-sale, etc. You can click on any topic, or input relevant keywords in the search bar. Most of the included guidelines are detailed and regularly updated, and you can find all the necessary explanations there.
Moreover, Square is active on its blog, forum, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. There are loads of support options, and also a big community of existing users to call on if you need a little help!
Square Online Store Pros & Cons
Square Online Store is a great tool for anyone who wants to get into eCommerce and isn’t a master of the development side of the web. If you are looking for a way to get selling, with zero cost if you use the Free Plan, Square Online Store makes a lot of sense.
Here are some of the pluses and minuses of the platform:
Square Online Store Pros
- Super easy for creating an online store, uploading items. No technical skills required
- Offers free plan
- Connect with other Square products and services, including automatic inventory sync
- Basic, and totally sufficient SEO and marketing tools
- Secured payment processing
- Convenient for revenue/cost calculation
Square Online Store Cons
- Limited design options
- Barely any choice for check out options
- Shipping rate settings may be challenging
- Restricted features only available on Performance or Premium Plan (e.g PayPal payment, discounted shipping rate, analytics, etc.)
- Limited advanced sale-supporting features
- Probably not the best choice for big operations
- Restriction on countries that can open an account
Square Online Store Could be a Good Choice
So, who might get the biggest benefits of Square Online Store?
Let’s look at some of the things to consider before you decide on an online sales platform:
- Only merchants in US and Canada can access Square Online Store builder. In addition, you can best utilize its resources if you’re targeting customers within North America.
- Square Online Store is more suitable for small merchants. For those who are seeking something more scaleable, eCommerce platforms such as Shopify or BigCommerce could be a better fit. On the other hand, Square allows online stores to be connected with one physical address, so it seems like a perfect plan for brick-and-mortar shops that want an online store.
- Square Online Store is built to best adapt with merchants who are currently using Square products and services. It’s a natural fit as everything is integrated and synced into a single ecosystem.
Despite having limitations, it’s undeniable that Square is putting a big effort into improving its eCommerce service quality.
Square has announced new support campaigns to ease businesses’ difficulties during the coronavirus outbreak. In particular, current users will automatically get a refund for March’s subscription fees and April’s fees will also be waived.
It will also provide curbside pick-up & local shipping for online stores, without a monthly charge until the end of June 2020.
Overall Square Online Store is a solid eCommerce platform that will be a good fit for a few different kinds of businesses. While it isn’t a one-size-fits-all eCommerce solution, it does have great features for the right type of merchant.
Square Online Store
- Super easy for creating an online store
- Offers free plan
- Connect with other Square products and services
- Secured payment processing
- SEO and marketing tools
- Limited design options
- Shipping rate settings may be challenging
- ot the best choice for big operations
- Restriction on countries that can open an account