BigCommerce vs Squarespace — Which is Best Online Store Builder?
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BigCommerce vs Squarespace: which is best? In this detailed comparison review, we go through the pros and cons of each platform in depth and help you find out which one is right for your online store.
On first inspection, BigCommerce and Squarespace look like similar products. They let you build a website and they let you sell products — without needing coding or web development skills.
And they work in a similar way: you pay a monthly fee to use the software, which runs in a browser. There’s nothing to install locally — so long as you have access to the internet, you can build and manage your site anywhere.
But both products started life with different purposes: Squarespace was initially conceived as a solution for building and maintaining content–based websites, and BigCommerce was specifically created as a platform for creating an online store.
However, with the addition of e-commerce functionality to Squarespace’s feature set in recent years, the two products have become increasingly similar and technically, you can now use either to create a website or host an online store.
But which is best suited for your needs?
To answer this question, we need to ask another one…
What are you trying to build?
Before choosing either of these platforms you need to work out what you’re trying to build — a content-driven ‘website’ or an ‘online store’.
Of course, an online store is technically a website containing lots of content too, but in this context, by ‘website’ I’m talking about an online presence where conveying information is the main goal (think blog, a news site, a brochure site, a magazine, a photography portfolio etc.) — and by ‘online store’ I mean something where selling products is the key aim.
Let’s dive into the website-building stuff first.
Building a content-driven website
If your focus is on building a website to showcase content (i.e., text, images, videos etc.), then design and content management functionality are going to be a huge priority — and this being the case, it’s fair to say that Squarespace is definitely the more obvious choice out of the two products discussed here for that.
Squarespace templates are best-in-class (and there are lots of them — 125+ to BigCommerce’s 12); its CMS is intuitive and flexible; its photo editing tools are excellent; and its blogging features are strong.
Used well, Squarespace can help you put a professional-looking site very quickly, and gives you a lot of nice ways to display images and blog content in a way that BigCommerce doesn’t. You generally have a lot more control in Squarespace over how you present your text, images and videos.
But what about building an online store?
Building an online store
Where the BigCommerce vs Squarespace decision gets more complicated is when you want to start selling products.
Both platforms allow you to create a fully-fledged online store, but each comes with its own set of pros and cons in the e-commerce department.
Let’s look at a few key issues to consider if your aim is to build an e-commerce site with one of these products, starting with pricing.
Squarespace offers four monthly pricing options:
Personal — $16 per month
Business — $26 per month
Basic Commerce — $35 per month
Advanced Commerce — $54 per month
A two-week free trial is also available.
Discounts for all the above are available if you pay annually — the monthly fees for the above plans work out respectively at $12, $18, $26 and $40 respectively when you pay upfront for a year’s service.
BigCommerce also provides 4 monthly plans:
BigCommerce Standard — $29.95 per month
BigCommerce Plus — $79.95 per month
BigCommerce Pro — $299.95 per month
BigCommerce Enterprise — pricing varies, depending on your business needs
As with Squarespace, a two-week free trial is also available for BigCommerce.
If you pay upfront for a year’s Bigcommerce service, and you’re buying a ‘Plus’ or ‘Pro’ plan, you can avail of a 10% discount.
All BigCommerce plans permit you to sell an unlimited number of products. With Squarespace, the ‘Business’, ‘Basic’ and ‘Advanced’ plans also permit you to sell an unlimited number of products, but the ‘Personal’ plan doesn’t provide any e-commerce functionality at all.
The good news for users of BigCommerce is that there are no transaction fees to worry about at all (i.e., the company will not take a cut of your sales revenue).
You can avoid transaction fees from Squarespace too, so long as you are on one of their two most expensive plans (‘Basic’ or ‘Advanced’ Commerce).
If you’re on the ‘Business’ Squarespace plan, you will be charged a 3% transaction fee each time you sell an item.
However, with both products you will need to choose a payment gateway. This will involve working with a third-party company that will take a cut of your sales. Let’s take a look at the options.
Credit card fees / payment gateways
A payment gateway is a service that you essentially ‘plug in’ to your website to accept online payments.
This is an area where using BigCommerce is significantly better than Squarespace – it works with around 40 payment gateways, whereas Squarespace works with just four: Stripe, Paypal, Square (point of sale applications only) and Afterpay.
Let’s look at the Squarespace options first.
Squarespace payment gateways
Because of its ubiquity and large userbase, Paypal is a very useful payment gateway to be able to integrate into your site. It also doesn’t involve any monthly fees.
Stripe fees also vary according to the country you are selling from. To give you rough idea however, in the US the Stripe credit card fees are 2.9% + 30c per transaction. In the UK, a more reasonable 1.4% + 20p rate is charged when European cards are used (2.9% + 20p for non-European cards).
It’s worth noting that you can only use the full version of Stripe if you are based in certain countries – i.e., you can sell your products to any user in any country worldwide with Stripe but you can only do so from the countries supported by the company. As things stand, you can sell from 44 countries using Stripe (these include the USA and several big EU member states).
If you enable Stripe, you can also use Afterpay in Squarespace — this lets your customers split their payments into four separate payments (note that this is only available for merchants based in the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia).
And finally, if you use Squarespace for Point-of-Sale selling (more on which later!) you can use Square as a payment gateway for that.
BigCommerce payment gateways
With BigCommerce, you can use around 40 different payment gateways, so this means you can shop around to a degree to find the best deal when it comes to transaction fees (note however that not all payment gateways are available in all countries — how many you can use will depend on where you are based).
There may be a bit of configuration work involved in integrating your chosen payment gateway into BigCommerce, but generally speaking this won’t involve much time or effort.
The other main option is to use BigCommerce’s ‘out of the box’ solution – this means using Paypal, powered by Braintree. Their credit card rates are as follows:
BigCommerce Standard: 2.9% + 30c per transaction
BigCommerce Plus: 2.5% + 30c
BigCommerce Pro: 2.2% + 30c
BigCommerce Enterprise: 2.2% + 30c
Using this option means a bit less hassle when it comes to setup.
One important thing to note about BigCommerce when it comes to pricing is that the product has a ‘maximum annual online sales’ limit; depending on the plan you plump for, you will have to pay extra if you are fortunate enough to exceed certain sales limits.
These thresholds are as follows:
BigCommerce Standard: $50,000
BigCommerce Plus: $150,000
BigCommerce Pro: $400,000
BigCommerce Enterprise: negotiable
This contrasts negatively with Squarespace, where no such limits apply.
I wouldn’t describe this as a show-stopper however — to be honest, if your sales are in the region of $150,000 per year you are not really going to quibble over a few hundred dollars.
But that said, it is worth pointing out that BigCommerce seems to be fairly unique amongst online store building products in applying these limits and fees.
So which is cheaper for e-commerce, Squarespace or BigCommerce?
The answer to this question is a big fat case of ‘it depends.’
Here are a few things that I’d highlight about the comparative pricing though:
You can start selling slightly cheaper with Squarespace, on its $26 ‘Business’ plan. However, the transaction fees are high on this plan — so, depending on your sales figures, this may be a false economy.
You can avail of real-time carrier shipping quotes considerably cheaper with BigCommerce – it’s available on its cheapest plan (the $29.95 BigCommerce Standard option). By comparison, you need to be on the most expensive $54 per month Squarespace plan to obtain this.
You can avail of abandoned cart recovery functionality (which can boost revenue significantly) more cheaply with Squarespace — it’s available on the $54 monthly plan. By contrast, you’ll need to be spending $79.95 per month with BigCommerce before you can get your hands on similar functionality.
But with online store builders, pricing is rarely the sole consideration to base your decision on.
Let’s look at some features.
There’s no doubt about it: Squarespace offers the better-looking templates: they are beautiful and represent their strongest selling point.
That’s not to say that BigCommerce’s are at all bad — they’re just not quite as slick as Squarespace’s offering. There are also far fewer to choose from: BigCommerce only provides 12 free templates, whereas Squarespace offers around 130.
BigCommerce does however provide a wide selection of paid-for, ‘premium’ templates: there are around 150 themes available to purchase, which vary in price from $150 to $300.
I have couple of cautionary notes about both sets of templates.
First, I would argue that within the range of free and paid-for BigCommerce themes, there is not a huge degree of the variety between templates — a lot of differently named templates look very similar.
And because Squarespace is a product which is focused at a much wider range of users than BigCommerce — photographers, bloggers, bands, artists, restaurant owners etc. — a lot of the Squarespace templates are not really of the ‘online store’ variety.
Accordingly, there are just a few dedicated online store themes available in Squarespace. That said, you can sell using any of them fairly easily, but if you plump for say, a Squarespace template that is designed with photographers in mind, you may find it slightly harder to use it as the basis for building an online store.
This variety of purposes behind the Squarespace templates arguably reinforces the whole “Squarespace for content, BigCommerce for an online store” emphasis discussed at the start of this review.
Perhaps most significantly, you can’t switch templates in Squarespace — once you’ve picked one, you’re stuck with it. However, as all Squarespace templates are effectively based on the same ‘master’ template, it is possible to style your existing template so that it matches another one. This isn’t ideal, though.
Editing HTML and CSS
In terms of editing, both Squarespace and BigCommerce provide a style editor — a set of controls that allows you to tweak colours, typefaces and other aspects of the design.
Squarespace makes it it harder to edit the code behind the templates; although it is possible on the ‘Business’ plan and higher to add custom CSS to Squarespace sites, the company don’t exactly encourage this (and may restrict their support offering somewhat if you do).
In terms of adding HTML, it is possible to add ‘code blocks’ to Squarespace sites, although not on every type of page (‘cover pages‘, for example, don’t support this).
So long as you are on a Squarespace ‘Business’ plan or higher, you can also inject code to the header and footer of every page, which does open up quite a lot of configuration possibilities to those who are familiar with coding.
BigCommerce gives you full control over HTML and CSS, making it technically the more flexible solution on this score.
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Interface and content management
Both BigCommerce and Squarespace are pretty straightforward to use, and their interfaces are relatively similar, in that you have a menu on the left which you can use to access key functionality, and an area on the right which can be used for uploading/editing content and products or viewing data.
The best thing about Squarespace’s interface is its drag and drop style ‘layout engine’ which is really fantastic for organising and showcasing your content in a variety of ways.
You can choose from a wide range of elements (text, images, buttons, quotations and more) and insert them into your content really easily. You can then move them around the page until you’re happy with the layout.
BigCommerce’s interface is not quite as flexible as Squarespace’s when it comes to laying out text, images and other elements — but then again, that’s because it’s primarily an online store builder, not a publishing platform.
But with the introduction of new page building functionality (pictured below), BigCommerce is actually a bit closer to the Squarespace way of doing things than some other e-commerce platforms. It’s nowhere near as slick yet, but some drag-and-drop functionality is nonetheless welcome.
The below video gives you a short walkthrough of the BigCommerce interface.
In terms of blogging functionality — very important for inbound marketing or content marketing applications — both platforms let you blog out of the box, which is great.
Squarespace’s blogging functionality is definitely better than BigCommerce’s, however.
First, it is far more flexible when it comes to how you present your blog content. You can drop blog content easily onto any section of your site your site, using lovely ‘magazine blocks’ and ‘featured posts’ widgets.
These allow you to pull (and filter) text and images from your blog posts and display them in a variety of attractive ways. BigCommerce doesn’t let you do that — the best you’ll get is links to your blog articles on your site footer.
Squarespace also provides RSS feeds for its blog posts (these can help your content appear on other sites, or power automated e-newsletters); BigCommerce’s blog, for some reason, doesn’t.
Enhancing functionality via apps and plugins
Both BigCommerce and Squarespace provide app stores that you can use to purchase integrations with other apps.
BigCommerce’s app store contains nearly 1,000 integrations with other platforms; additionally, it contains apps which have been developed to add specific pieces of functionality to BigCommerce stores (covering everything from data capture to dropshipping to label printing).
All these can be integrated with a few clicks in BigCommerce; you generally don’t have to worry about inserting or tweaking code when you use them.
Squarespace recently launched a range of paid-for integrations — ‘Squarespace Extensions.’ At present, there are not too many available — around 25 — but the range is growing and some useful integrations are already available (extensions are available for Freshbooks, Printful and Taxjar, for example).
Additionally, there are a few ‘official integrations’ available out of the box with Squarespace (available on the ‘Business’ plan and up) — these include Mailchimp, Xero, Dropbox, OpenTable, Soundcloud, Twitter and several others.
For apps without an official Squarespace integration, you can either embed code from them into your Squarespace site using a code block, or use Zapier to connect Squarespace’s forms to other apps.
For bespoke functionality, you can code something yourself, or buy some third-party code snippets which are increasingly referred to as ‘Squarespace plugins.’
A way to save money on Squarespace
If you’re interested in using Squarespace as your website builder, the company is currently offering 10% off its plans. This can amount to quite a saving, especially if you opt for one of its ‘commerce’ plans.
This discount is available for a limited time only – to avail of it,
1. Grab a free trial on the Squarespace website using this link.
2. Enter the code ‘STYLEFACTORY10’ when purchasing a plan.
One of the strongest arguments for using BigCommerce over Squarespace involves multi-currency selling.
You tend to get more online sales if you sell in the currency used by your site visitors.
So, if you’re selling in different countries, it’s great to be able to let your potential customers choose their own currency (or, even better, to present your products in your site visitors’ currency automatically).
As things stand Squarespace doesn’t let you do any multi-currency selling at all — BigCommerce does, however, and makes it pretty easy to do so.
So if you’re hoping to sell in multiple currencies, the better choice here is definitely BigCommerce.
Point of sale options in Squarespace and BigCommerce
Many online retailers take their business out into the ‘real world’ occasionally —selling products in physical locations such as retail outlets, markets, events and so on.
This requires your online store platform to be able to work at ‘point of sale’ (POS).
A typical POS scenario would be where you want to use a card reader in conjunction with your online store system to take payments or email or text receipts to somebody who’s just bought something from you in person.
Both BigCommerce and Squarespace provide POS features, but BigCommerce’s offering is much more flexible — you can use quite a few different POS systems with it (including Square, Vend, Hike and Clover). Squarespace, by contrast, limits you to using Square (and only on an iPhone and in the US).
The wider range of POS integrations for BigCommerce also means that you can use more hardware with the platform than Squarespace (barcode scanners, receipt printers etc.). With Squarespace, you’re currently limited to using a smartphone and the Squarespace Commerce app to take payment at point of sale.
Accordingly, if point of sale is important to your business, you will be better catered for by BigCommerce.
Dropshipping in Squarespace vs BigCommerce
Many people who get involved with e-commerce do so because they want to start dropshipping products.
Dropshipping is a method of selling online where you don’t keep what you’re selling in stock — rather, you take an order, send it to a supplier, and they deliver the goods to the client. Your online store, in effect, becomes a middle man for another business.
If you’re interested in starting a business based on dropshipping, then BigCommerce is a better bet than Squarespace. With BigCommerce there are lots of dropshipping apps available to help you source and sell inventory; but with Squarespace, you’re more or less limited to a couple: Spocket, Printful and Printique.
So of the two products under discussion, the stronger dropshipping features are to be found in BigCommerce.
Tip: if you’re interested in dropshipping, you might also want to check out Shopify, which offers a really wide range of apps and resources to help you set up a successful dropshipping business. You can get Shopify’s free dropshipping starter kit here.
SEO in BigCommerce vs Squarespace
BigCommerce handles search engine optimisation (SEO) better than Squarespace.
First, BigCommerce refers to the core SEO elements by their proper names; this is always not the case with Squarespace. In BigCommerce, you’re dealing with titles, meta descriptions, alt text — all the proper SEO terminology you’d expect.
By contrast in Squarespace you often encounter things like ‘captions’, ‘descriptions’ and ‘excerpts’ — all of which can be used for SEO purposes, but depending on the content type and template used, can also end up visible on your website.
Second, creating 301 redirects (which notify search engines that the URL of a page has changed and to update their serach results accordingly) is a simpler affair in BigCommerce. The interface for doing so is easier to use than the Squarespace equivalent, and you can also use it to create ‘dynamic’ redirects, which will update themselves to reflect any future changes to location of the page that you’re creating the redirect for.
Thirdly, BigCommerce integrates AMP — accelerated mobile pages — better. AMP is a format which massively speeds up delivery of web pages on mobile devices, something which can boost performance of a website in search results; although you can use AMP with Squarespace, it’s limited to blog pages. BigCommerce, by contrast, allows you to use AMP on any page type (depending on template — AMP is facilitated on all the free BigCommerce templates, and a selection of the paid ones).
Fourth, BigCommerce allows you to create a simpler and ‘cleaner’ URL structure for products — something which Google prefers. In BigCommerce, you have total control over the format of your URL, but Squarespace product and blog post URLs always involve a prefix (of ‘products’ or ‘blog’ respectively).
And finally, BigCommerce makes use of Akamai Image Manager. This automatically optimizes each image you upload for the best combination of size, quality, and file format suited for each image and device — and makes your site load faster (something that search engines approve of).
(For a more detailed overview of Squarespace and BigCommerce search engine optimisation features, you might like to check out our Squarespace SEO and our BigCommerce SEO guides).
A way to save money on BigCommerce
Like many of its competitors, BigCommerce offers prospective users a free trial. This is fully functional and can be used for 15 days.
However, for a limited time, when you sign up to a paid plan, you can get an additional month for free — this can save you up to $299.95 depending on the plan.
To avail of this offer, you’ll need to start your trial by clicking this link — your free month’s service will be applied automatically when you take out a subscription.
Adding product reviews
Both BigCommerce and Squarespace allow you to add a ‘review product’ option to your store items. However, with BigCommerce this functionality is built in – on Squarespace you will need to use a third-party tool (which might not be a bad idea if it’s something like Disqus).
One really nice feature of the BigCommerce reviews and ratings tool is that after a user buys a product, they’ll automatically receive an email a few days later asking them to review it.
Both Squarespace and BigCommerce allow you to edit aspects of your site on the go, using mobile apps.
Squarespace offers three, which work both on iOS and Android:
The ‘Squarespace’ app is a general-purpose app that lets you manage content, review basic stats and update your store’s inventory.
As the names of the other two apps suggest, ‘Commerce’ and ‘Scheduling’ let you manage aspects of your store and appointments made via your site, respectively.
BigCommerce provides one app — the suitably named ‘BigCommerce mobile app.’ This essentially lets you manage orders and view customer data — so you don’t get quite as much functionality on the go with BigCommerce as you do with Squarespace.
BigCommerce is the winner when it comes to support – it provides more methods of contacting the helpdesk, and crucially, offers phone support, which Squarespace doesn’t.
Additionally, Squarespace makes you jump through quite a few hoops before it lets you view the contact details for their support team — you are encouraged to submit your question via an online form and review lots of potential answers before relevant contact information is displayed.
By contrast, BigCommerce provides an easily accessible ‘contact’ option within the dashboard of your site, which allows you to see its support team’s contact details more quickly.
Bigcommerce vs Squarespace: the conclusion
If selling goods is your primary objective, then BigCommerce is nearly always the better bet. With more options around payment gateways and a wide range of other tools focussed specifically on selling goods in general, BigCommerce is a better platform for ‘power’ online store users and is the more professional e-commerce solution.
However, if you’d like to start an online magazine, publish a blog, run a music website or host a photographic portfolio – but maybe sell a few products on the side – you are probably going to be better off with Squarespace, as its templates (aesthetically speaking) are arguably better than BigCommerce’s and easier to present content with. The blogging functionality is better too.
Below you’ll find a summary of why you might want to use one of these tools over the other:
Advantages of using BigCommerce over Squarespace
It provides more advanced selling features.
It facilitates multi-currency selling.
It comes with considerably better SEO features.
It offers a significantly wider selection of payment gateways.
Bigcommerce provides significantly more comprehensive point-of-sale options.
Phone support is provided on all Bigcommerce plans.
You can use AMP on any page type in BigCommerce; Squarespace limits this to blog posts.
Reviews and rating functionality is built in.
There are more dropshipping features available
You can try Bigcommerce for free here.
Advantages of using Squarespace over Bigcommerce
A larger selection of free templates is included with Squarespace, and aesthetically speaking, they are arguably stronger than the BigCommerce equivalents.
Squarespace’s blogging functionality is stronger, and includes RSS feeds.
You can start selling products slightly cheaper with Squarespace.
The Squarespace mobile apps provide more ‘on-the-go’ functionality.
Unlike Bigcommerce, no sales limits apply on Squarespace plans.
Abandoned cart saver functionality is available more cheaply on Squarespace.
You can try Squarespace for free here.
Both BigCommerce and Squarespace offer 14-day free trials of their product.
Try BigCommerce for free here
Try Squarespace for free here
Alternatives to BigCommerce and Squarespace
There are no shortages of alternatives to BigCommerce and Squarespace.
Shopify is probably the closest product in terms of feature sets to both products, and is similarly priced. It’s is particularly good for POS and dropshipping applications.
If you’ve already got a website and want to add e-commerce features to it, Ecwid is definitely worth a look.
You could also consider selling on Amazon — this of course is an online marketplace rather than a website, but it’s nonetheless often a highly effective platform for selling goods. Check out our Shopify vs Amazon comparison for more background on this.
And finally there’s WordPress — but you’ll usually need some developer help to get a successful WordPress e-commerce site off the ground.
More BigCommerce and Squarespace resources
Our e-commerce platform reviews section is packed full of posts about leading online store builders. Some articles which may be particularly relevant here however are:
BigCommerce vs Shopify
Shopify vs Squarespace
Wix vs WordPress
Wix vs Shopify
- Squarespace pricing