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Over the past ten years I have supported many makers in building their eCommerce stores across various platforms. In that time, I have worked extensively with the leading options – Shopify, Squarespace, and WordPress. My goal here is to provide you with a balanced, impartial overview of each platform based on real-world use. I will share transparent insights on the key features, strengths and limitations. This should equip you with an understanding of what each platform offers in terms of design capabilities, built-in features and costs. With this knowledge, you can confidently evaluate what you need and choose the platform that best fits your individual needs so you can focus on sharing your amazing creations.
Shopify is a fully hosted, cloud-based e-commerce solution. This means Shopify provides the servers, software, security, and infrastructure to run your online store. You don’t need to manage technical backend details. Shopify handles optimising performance, applying security updates, and ensuring uptime so you can focus on your creative business.
- Fully customisable online storefront on your own unique domain name
- Built-in features to accept payments, calculate shipping, track inventory and fulfil orders
- Powerful analytics dashboards and reporting to monitor sales and traffic
- SEO optimisation tools, blog functionality and automatic sitemaps for search visibility
- Responsive templates and seamless integration with online point-of-sales (POS) for in-store sales
- Mobile optimised storefronts and management app for selling on-the-go
- Integrates with email marketing, accounting, shipping and other business platforms
Shopify is a great choice if you want maximum control and flexibility for your website, features and functionality. The dashboard interface is beginner-friendly, but also has advanced capabilities for scaling up as your business grows. However, Shopify does require paying a monthly subscription starting at around $56 AUD/month for the basic Shopify plan with $575 for the Advanced (there’s a small discount on monthly fees if you pay annually).
Overall startup costs for Shopify typically range from $500-1,000+ AUD. This factors in potential minor fees for developers, marketing setup, themes and apps.
For email marketing, Shopify lets you connect your store data with providers like MailChimp, Klaviyo or Omnisend to track sales, automate emails and collect subscriber data.
Squarespace provides an all-in-one solution for building websites, galleries, portfolios and online stores. Some key e-commerce features include:
- Professional modern templates that can be customised with colours, fonts, pages and layouts
- Built-in shopping cart, checkout process and payment gateway integration
- Tools to showcase and sell digital or physical products
- Simple drag-and-drop editor to modify pages and content
- Mobile responsive designs optimised for smartphones and tablets
Squarespace is a great choice if you want to elegantly showcase your artwork, creative portfolios or run a simple online shop with low sales volumes. However, the eCommerce capabilities are fairly basic and limited compared to Shopify. Inventory management, order processing and fulfilment need third-party app integrations. SEO control is there but is also lacking relative to Shopify and WordPress.
Overall Squarespace startup costs range from around $400-600 AUD covering the monthly subscription (starting at $22 – 61 AUD/month), theme customisations, marketing setup etc.
For email, Squarespace integrates with services like MailChimp, Campaign Monitor and Constant Contact.
WordPress + WooCommerce
WordPress is a free, open-source content management system. Open source means the software is free and the code is publicly accessible for customisation. WooCommerce is the eCommrece plugin that enables store functionality on WordPress.
The combination offers:
- Nearly endless customisation possibilities for store design, features and functionality
- Ability to choose hosting provider separate from platform
- Very low monthly costs for site hosting and domain only
- Built-in SEO fundamentals like sitemaps, Schema markup and URL structuring
- Integrates with almost any marketing, analytics, accounting, shipping tool imaginable
WordPress has a steeper learning curve and requires more technical skill to manage a site versus Shopify or Squarespace. You must secure your WordPress site and manually update plugins/themes. Recommended startup costs range $500-800+ AUD covering theme customisation, hosting, security measures and marketing setup.
For email, WordPress works seamlessly with providers like MailChimp, Constant Contact, Drip and many others through integrations.
WordPress is an ideal platform if selling online is only one aspect of your creative business. With WordPress, you can have a website that serves multiple purposes – like a feature-rich artist portfolio, a blog, and an online shop together seamlessly under one roof. You can showcase your artwork in a gallery, publish articles about your process, and also sell your pieces or merch, all on the same site. You can of course do this with Shopify and Squarespace but WordPress gives you more control over these other elements. The WordPress dashboard lets you manage store orders alongside your other content. If you want a website that incorporates diverse functionality beyond just eCommerce the open source CMS is infinitely adaptable to the varied needs of your artistic brand.
When considering Shopify or Squarespace, it’s important to be aware that many developers and agencies promote these platforms in order to earn commissions. Both Shopify and Squarespace offer referral bonuses and affiliate programs to incentivise partners to sign up new users. This could lead to situations where you may be steered toward a platform that provides a profit for the referrer but isn’t necessarily the best fit for your artistic business.
While these platforms do have benefits in many cases, you ultimately need to evaluate them objectively against your specific needs. Don’t let a sales pitch for Shopify or Squarespace sway you – take time to understand the pros and cons yourself or consult an advisor who doesn’t receive incentives. Your goal is choosing the right ecommerce solution based on an unbiased assessment, not what puts money in someone else’s pocket through a referral scheme.
In summary, weigh these leading eCommerce platforms against your specific business goals, technical abilities, and budget. Shopify offers the best blend of usability and advanced selling features for many creative entrepreneurs. But based on your unique needs, WordPress or Squarespace may be a better fit. The key is matching the solution to your requirements.