This article is part of a larger series on POS Systems.
If you’re comparing Shopify vs Square, you are likely looking to sell online or need a multichannel sales tool for online and in-person sales. Both Shopify and Square offer user-friendly point-of-sale (POS) software, online store and ecommerce functionality, and integrated payment processing with industry-leading omnichannel and contactless payment tools. Overall:
- Shopify: Best if ecommerce is the backbone of your business or you’re serious about online sales
- Square: Best if your primary sales channel is brick-and-mortar and you need basic online store functionality
Shopify vs Square Quick Comparison
Ecommerce-focused businesses, large retailers, complex inventories
New or small businesses, brick-and-mortar shops, businesses on a budget, food-based businesses
Fit Small Business expert scores*
4.47 out of 5 (POS); 4.68 out of 5 (ecommerce)
4.48 out of 5 (POS); 3.8 out of 5 (ecommerce)
Ecommerce software monthly fee
$9–$299 (monthly billing)
$0–$72 (annual billing)
Available sales channels
Shopify site, add “buy” buttons to an existing site, Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, eBay, Walmart, mobile POS, in-store
Square Online store, payment links, add checkout to an existing site, Facebook, Instagram, mobile POS, in-store, local delivery
POS software monthly fee
$0–$60; custom plans available
Retail, restaurants, appointment, and general-purpose
Payment processing options
Shopify Payments or connect a third-party processor for an additional fee (online payments only)
Must use Square Payments
Ease of use
24/7 phone support, community forum, help center, and resource library
Monday–Friday phone support, 24/7 automated chat support, seller community, and resource library
Why We Recommend Shopify for Online Sales
If ecommerce is the backbone of your business, choose Shopify because its web builder, sales tools, and inventory management functions are more robust. In fact, Shopify is our pick for the best ecommerce platform for small businesses.
While Square Online can accommodate curbside pickup orders and occasional online sales, it has limited inventory management tools and overall basic functionality that a scaling ecommerce business would quickly outgrow.
Why Square Is Best for Brick-and-Mortar Businesses
Square is the best choice for most storefronts that don’t need robust ecommerce functions. It offers a free plan, top-rated POS apps, and solutions for industries outside of retail, including restaurants and appointment-based businesses. It is an affordable, user-friendly software with tons of add-ons, which makes it our top-recommended POS system for small businesses.
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Best for Affordability: Square
Monthly POS subscription
Monthly ecommerce subscription
Card reader pricing
Terminal and register pricing
$229 (iPad not included)
Card-present transaction fees
2.5% + 10 cents–2.6% + 10 cents
Ecommerce transaction fees
2.4% + 30 cents–2.7% + 30 cents
2.9% + 30 cents
*Shopify POS Pro is included under Shopify Plus Plans. It is plus $89 per location.
Both Shopify and Square affordable solutions that offer:
- Month-to-month billing
- Discounted processing fees for high-volume sellers
- Several pricing plans and add-ons so you can customize your solution as your business grows
However, only Square offers an entirely free online store and POS system. Anyone can sign up for a free Square account and start selling through an online store or smartphone in minutes.
Shopify has tiered software plans for ecommerce stores and two options for POS, while Square offers multiple free POS and online store options with optional upgrades. However, Square also provides solutions (like payroll, loyalty programs, and team management) that you can add and remove as needed. Learn more in our full breakdown of Square’s pricing and fees.
Best for Ecommerce: Shopify
Most ecommerce businesses, online retailers, and growing multichannel retailers
Storefronts needing a simple online presence
Domain, hosting, SSL certificate included in all plans
Domain, hosting, SSL certificate included in all plans; custom domain only for paid plans
70+ professional templates, free and paid options, full access to HTML and CSS to customize
Several templates, mobile-friendly design, limited customization options
ShopPay, over 100 gateway integrations, accept Apple Pay, Google Pay, and all major credit cards
Square Pay, Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, and all major credit cards
Up to 88% off DHL Express, UPS, and USPS
Up to 55% off US shipping rates
Built-in SEO, blogging tool, automated abandoned cart recovery, product reviews, email templates
Customer reviews, abandoned cart emails, email marketing, Facebook ads, customer messaging, and loyalty programs.
When comparing Square vs Shopify just on ecommerce, Shopify is the best solution by far. It has more templates, better customization options, sophisticated order management, detailed product pages and inventory tracking, more significant shipping discounts, and a streamlined checkout process.
When we tested Shopify to build an online store, we found it has all the bells and whistles you need to build an ecommerce website. What’s best about Shopify is that it is simple enough to be understood if you are a non-techie small business owner, yet scalable when you get serious about growing your online sales. Its third-party app marketplace, the Shopify App store, provides all the features you need to grow your ecommerce business.
If you’re ready to get started building or growing your online store, follow our guide on how to set up a Shopify store.
Both Shopify and Square Online offer templated web builders with a selection of themes, user-friendly order tracking and management, shipping discounts, marketing tools, and seamless integration with POS software. While Shopify is our pick for the best ecommerce platform and earned a 4.68 out of 5 in our evaluation, Square Online also made that list and earned the top spot in our list of best free ecommerce website builders.
When to Use Square Online
Square offers a user-friendly and economical solution for storefronts that want to add online ordering for shipping or pickup. Its product management features are relatively limited, especially if you have a large inventory or many variants. Square Online is not as customizable as Shopify and does not offer as many built-in marketing features—and its ecommerce app marketplace is not as extensive.
However, Square does have seamless tools for customer communications, including messaging and automated order updates, seamless buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) features, and options for local delivery. So, Square Online is a user-friendly, low-maintenance option for storefronts wanting a simple online presence. It also has a solution specific to restaurants and is one of our recommended restaurant online ordering systems.
If you want to get a website for your store up and running in a few minutes, follow our guide on how to set up a Square Online store.
When to Use an Alternative
Although Shopify and Square take the top spots in our best ecommerce and free ecommerce platform guides, respectively, there are other strong providers that might be a better fit for your business.
Best for: High-revenue businesses
Best for: Small businesses that have an existing website
Best for: WordPress users or those that want custom-developed stores
Monthly software fees: $29.95–$299.95
Monthly software fees: $15–$99
Monthly software fees: $0
Best for Multichannel Sales: Shopify
Growing retailers needing a feature-rich multichannel solution
New and small businesses wanting a free solution
Unlimited products, variants, and collections; multilocation inventory with transfer options; demand forecasting and detailed reports
Unlimited products and categories; multilocation inventory with transfer options; demand forecasting
Show in-store availability on product pages; email carts for browse in store, buy online; in-store QR codes that bring shoppers to product pages
Cross-location returns and exchanges
Buy online, pickup in store; buy online, return in store; buy in store, ship to customer; traditional ecommerce
Buy online, pick up in-store; buy online with local delivery
Shopify offers more sophisticated multichannel features that enable retailers to offer a truly seamless shopping experience, eliminating the barriers between online and in-store functions—like order fulfillment and delivery, inventory, and marketing.
However, both Shopify and Square offer some of the best multichannel sales tools on the market for small businesses with seamlessly integrated ecommerce and POS solutions. Shopify tops our recommended multichannel POS systems list with a score of 4.8 out of 5. But, Square, which earned a 3.9 out of 5, offers great value with free and low-cost solutions.
When to Use Square
While Shopify offers the best solution for most multichannel retailers, Square could be a good choice for new and small businesses on a budget, especially if your focus is brick-and-mortar instead of online sales.
Square also has one key advantage over Shopify—its industry-specific products. While Shopify is designed just for retailers, Square has an all-purpose POS and specific solutions for food and beverage (such as cafes and food trucks), appointment-based (spas, salons, and other health and wellness providers), and retail businesses.
Best for Brick-and-Mortar Businesses: Square
Shopify ecommerce sellers
POS, POS Pro
Square POS, Square for Retail, Square for Restaurants, Square Appointments
Industry-specific POS apps
Print and email
Print, email, and text
Tax rate calculation
Auto-detection based on store location
Accepts all forms of payments
In general, Square offers the best POS systems for small businesses, and in our evaluation, it earned a 4.48 out of 5, narrowly beating Shopify with a 4.47 out of 5. Square’s POS offers the best value because anyone can create a free account to start selling in just a few minutes. Square also has a few standout features, including a more reliable offline mode and a user-friendly digital receipt process that automatically collects customer feedback.
Learn more in our full review of Square POS
Square’s industry-specific Square for Retail product tops our list of the best retail POS systems—with a score of 4.54 out of 5 compared to Shopify’s 4.48. Square for Retail’s low price point ($0–$60) and user-friendly back-office features make it the best choice.
See more in our full Square for Retail review.
When to Use Shopify
If you have an ecommerce business through Shopify, using the connected Shopify POS is by far your best option. All of your data and transactions will seamlessly sync between online and in-person. Plus, you can use Shopify POS for free on your smartphone or tablet, which is ideal for Shopify ecommerce businesses that need a POS for pop-up sales or events.
Learn more about Shopify’s POS features in our detailed Shopify POS review.
Best for Mobile Payments: Square
Online businesses expanding into mobile sales
Most individuals and new businesses needing a mobile sales solution
POS app pricing
Free POS app available only with ecommerce subscription
Several free mobile POS apps are available
One mobile card reader option
Multiple card reader options
iOS and Android devices
iOS, Android, and Square devices
Card-present transaction fee
2.6% + 10 cents
Square’s payment processing is our leading payment processor for small businesses, earning a score of 4.43 out of 5. It also provides a more flexible solution with industry-specific features, a more stable offline mode, and more hardware options for mobile payments. While Shopify Payments is tied to its ecommerce and POS products (and requires a subscription), Square offers a standalone payment solution for mobile, in-store, and online. See more in our guide to the best mobile POS apps.
Both, however, offer payment processing services that allow small businesses to accept card payments online and in person without applying for a traditional merchant account. They also provide predictable fees with no contracts, monthly minimums, or cancellation charges and offer discounts for high-volume sellers, options for customers to store payment methods, and mobile card readers.
When to Use an Alternative
Square and Shopify offer some of the most intuitive systems for accepting payments in-person. However, there are instances when it would not be a good fit for your business.
Best for: Businesses selling age-restricted products
Best for: Businesses looking for robust inventory management
Best for: Restaurants
Best for: Businesses needing a simple online and international mobile payment app
Monthly software fees: $99–$129
Monthly software fees: $139–$319 (custom pricing available)
Monthly software fees: $0–$165 (custom pricing available)
Monthly software fees: $0
Hardware costs: Varies (third party)
Hardware costs: Quote-based
Hardware costs: Quote-based
Hardware costs: Starting at $29 for card readers and $249 for terminals
Best in Ease of Use: Square
Both platforms are easy to use (their setup wizards are straightforward and have links to tutorials and tips—e.g., step-by-step guides and videos) and beginner-friendly. Square, however, lets you set up an online store and start selling in a few hours, and its store management function is straightforward—primarily because of its basic functions. Meanwhile, Shopify provides robust ecommerce features, but it may require more time to set up. We still find its interface easy to use and navigate.
Square Offers Intuitive Store Setup
Square Online’s dashboard is very intuitive. When we built our demo store, its setup guide was particularly helpful because it outlines the steps to launch your store with automated prompts—allowing you to build your store without any technical assistance. You can choose to watch video tutorials (all of which are accessible from the user dashboard) or go straight to building the website using the setup wizard. We did both, and found that we can intuitively go through the setup without any challenges, even without the videos.
Shopify offers a similar setup, but since it gives you all the bells and whistles to build a full website and online store, it can take a while to find features you want to add to your site. That said, we found Square Online’s website builder easier to navigate. We were given options to add or remove from an existing template, with real-time changes reflecting—so you can easily change your choices if needed.
We built the same demo store on each platform. You can see how it looks and learn how to set up both stores by following our guides on how to set up a free Square Online store and how to set up a Shopify store.
Shopify Provides Better Store Inventory Management
If you have a complex inventory with multiple product variants, go with Shopify. It has one of the best POS inventory management systems, with all account levels allowing users to import items, manage returns, and view basic inventory reports.
Square Online’s inventory features are very basic, and if you are a retailer looking to manage inventory for free (and sell in-store, online, via invoice, or through mobile), this fits the bill. It allows you to make the following stock updates: stock received, inventory recount, restock return, and loss of stock due to damage or theft; there are no barcode, supplier, or purchasing features.
Square for Retail ($60 per month) offers advanced tools for inventory—such as kitting or bundling items, vendor and purchase management, COGS tracking, and cross-location inventory tracking.
Best in Help & Customer Support: Shopify
Shopify wins because of its 24/7 phone, live chat, and email support. Third-party user and expert reviews also rave about its professional and competent support team. As a small business or startup, it is reassuring to know that you can ask for help if something goes wrong with your store, no matter what time of day.
Both providers’ self-service resources are excellent. They have active and helpful community forums, comprehensive help centers, easy-to-follow video tutorials, and setup help wizards. Both provide a selection of communication channels as well—live chat, email, and phone.
Shopify vs Square Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Which is better: Shopify vs Square?
When it comes to choosing between Shopify vs Square, the best choice greatly depends on your business needs. We recommend Shopify for growing online businesses, merchants with complex inventories, and those that are looking for a seamless POS and ecommerce system for multichannel selling.
On the other hand, we recommend Square for businesses on a budget looking to accept payments offline and online. Restaurants, food trucks, and coffee shops would particularly benefit from Square’s curbside delivery and click-and-collect options, while service-based businesses such as hairstylists, makeup artists, and massage therapists, can use Square Online’s checkout function to accept prepayment for services or automatically charge for monthly services.
Does Shopify work with Square?
No, Shopify and Square can’t be integrated.
Is it easy to switch from Square to Shopify or vice-versa?
Yes. As your business needs change, you might find one platform is better for you. As such, you can import CSV files with your items or customer information to Shopify or Square. If you have a larger inventory, Shopify and Square recommend that its support team be contacted for help.
Square and Shopify offer user-friendly POS, ecommerce, and payment processing solutions. Shopify has more sophisticated ecommerce tools, making it a better fit for online and multichannel businesses. Meanwhile, Square offers a free POS and mobile app that are best for businesses that primarily sell in person.