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Should I use SquareSpace for my online store?

Building an online ecommerce store can be a minefield of information and frustration and at times you will just look for the quick solution. But the platform you choose for your online store is key in the functionality, usability, and scalability of your store and ultimately your entire brand in the future. You need to be totally sure that the product you are buying/using is right for you before fully committing to it. 

Online recommendations of SquareSpace

I watch a lot of Youtube videos and so much of Youtube is just products being sold to you over and over. I have worked in web development for years and I will never discourage you from using one tool over another, but you just need to think about what it is you are actually trying to achieve with the website.
Just because somebody online says a product or service is great, it doesn’t mean its the right tool for you to use. Ultimately they are just being paid to tell you how great SquareSpace and these other services are, most of them probably don’t even use it. You can’t blame them, they are being paid and sponsored to continue doing what they love. It’s not a personal recommendation, SquareSpace will have approached them, not the other way around. Just don’t be sold something on the recommendation of someone on Youtube without doing your research first.    
Here are some real customer reviews for the SquareSpace service https://uk.trustpilot.com/review/www.squarespace.com 

SquareSpace pricing broken down

At the time of writing this, SquareSpace has 4 different pricing tiers broken into SquareSpace and SquareSpace commerce. You can actually sell products on all of the tiers excepts the lowest one called ‘personal’.  
The next one up from ‘personal’ is the ‘business’ plan at £21 a month (£15 a month annually + free domain) but if you want to sell anything you will be paying 3% transaction fees to SquareSpace, plus the credit card transaction fee which is also around 2.5% – 3% and a flat fee or around 20p – 30p. So you are losing around 6% of every sale unless you move up to the SquareSpace commerce plan.
The ecommerce tier starts at £24 a month (£20 a month annually + free domain) for the ‘basic’ plan or £37 a month (£30 a month annually + free domain) for the ‘advanced’ package.
Now if you are looking to set up an ecommerce store you will likely have to pay for that top tier package because otherwise, you have extortionate transaction fees and/or cannot utilise basic online store functions like coupon codes and basket recovery. Both are essential for a successful online store.  
So for that ‘advanced’ plan its £444 a year if you pay monthly + the cost of the domain or £360 a year if you pay annually and the domain is included in the price. This is quite a considerable amount of money to shell out if you are not yet making much money or just getting started.  

Scaling up and migrating from SquareSpace

If you are setting up an online store, the long term goal is to scale it up to make more sales. The way they get people in is by giving free trials and then by the time you have picked a theme, added some content and products you are quite invested in the platform. Of course, you cannot just easily export everything and place it into a new platform later down the line. There are export options but you will either need to modify it yourself to work or to use a paid migration service. 
If you are looking for a very large scale ecommerce platform for multi-currency, stock logistics, and large sales/traffic volumes then none of these are really well suited to what you want. But as a startup or solo entrepreneur, you need to start somewhere and these platforms offer you that opportunity to get started. 

Alternatives to SquareSpace

If you really want to go the managed hosting approach I would thoroughly recommend looking at Shopify. Shopify has superb integrations with other software, customisable templating and great support online. Don’t be misled by the Trustpilot reviews for Shopify, some of them are valid, but many of them are actually reviewing scammers or dropshippers that ripped them off using the platform, you can read more about dropshipping here.
If you are looking for or open to a self-hosted option then you need to look at WooCommerce. WooCommerce is a free plugin for the WordPress (also free) content management system. There are paid plugins for it to add some more advanced functionality. But the flexibility of it makes it’s a great option. 
In terms of SEO and general functionality, you will get a lot more flexibility outside of a self-hosted platform as you have fewer restrictions.
Going it alone and making a self-hosted site can be very challenging and if it is not maintained it can easily be targeted by hacking scripts. So there are benefits of both to consider. There are plenty of other options out there but these are just my personal favourites for the job.
There is always going to be an investment, its either an investment of time or investment of more money. Personally, I think it is a good thing to know how your online store works so you know how to improve it, but you may want it to just work and get on with managing other things. 
If you do want to just get on with other areas of the business and not worry about the website aspect then it may be worth considering having someone do it for you. Then you can just offset that work to them and focus on the products and branding.

So should I use SquareSpace?

Let me clarify I am not bashing Squarespace or any other product, its all about the right tool for the job. SquareSpace, in my opinion, is not a good fit for starting an online store both for flexibility and cost unless you plan to keep it small long term or are happy paying the higher transaction fees. In either case, I would have a rethink about why you are doing that before going ahead and taking the plunge.  
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