Square Online Review: Best Free Ecommerce Platform
This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
Square Online is an ecommerce platform and website builder that provides an all-in-one online store and payment processing solution. Our Square Online review shows it offers the best free ecommerce platform for small businesses and is ideal for brick-and-mortar retailers that need basic online store functionality.
In our evaluation of the best ecommerce platforms for small businesses, Square Online came in fourth place with a score of 4.01 out of 5 based on our evaluation of 38 data points building and testing a demo store.
What We Like
- Forever-free plan
- All-in-one ecommerce and payment processing
- Very easy to set up and use
- Includes free POS software for in-person sales
- Sell on Instagram and Facebook
- Dynamic shipping rates and discounted postage
- Expensive premium features
- No advanced inventory functionality
- Must use Square Payments
- Limited customization options
When to Use Square Online
- If you need a free ecommerce platform: Square Online is the best free ecommerce site builder
- For curbside delivery and order-ahead functionality: Small shops, cafes, coffee shops, and food trucks can easily accept online orders to-go
- Service providers: Square also has free online appointment booking via Square Appointments
- Businesses already using Square POS or payments: Add an integrated online store for free
When to Use an Alternative
- If ecommerce is the backbone of your business: You’ll outgrow Square quickly. Shopify is our recommended ecommerce platform
- Complex inventories: Shopify, Lightspeed, and BigCommerce are better equipped to handle large and complex product assortments
- Restaurants: Consider an industry-specific solution for controlled order flow and on-demand third-party delivery
In addition to coming in fourth overall in our evaluation of the best ecommerce platforms, Square Online is our top pick for the best free ecommerce website builder.
We have personally found that Square Online is one of the easiest solutions to use, allowing you to create an online store in just a few minutes.
Learn how to set up a Square Online store and see our test site.
Square Online also gives you the option to create a website, incorporate checkout pages, and send direct checkout links to customers—all the while maintaining online and offline sales in sync with its POS system.
However, while Square is free and easy to use, it has significant limitations compared to more sophisticated ecommerce platforms like Shopify. Square’s simple, user-friendly toolset makes it ideal for storefronts wanting to add an online ordering solution for pickup or delivery. However, if you’re serious about selling products online, you’ll likely grow out of Square pretty quickly.
Since our last update:
Square Launches Customer Accounts
As of July 2022, Square Online now has a customer account feature so customers can log in to track the status of their orders, view order history, set favorites, and manage their payment information.
Square has also added additional online ordering tools like TikTok integrations, Google My Business shopping, and specific functionality for food and beverage businesses, which we detail below.
Square Online Deciding Factors
Supported Business Types
Versatile and flexible
Small retailers, independent sellers, mom-and-pop businesses, cafes and coffee shops, food trucks, breweries, professional services, beauty, and more
Monthly Software Fees
$0–$72. No contracts. Month-to-month or annual billing options.
Payment Processing Options
Must use Square Payments.
Certain plans have the option of adding PayPal checkout. All plans can add Afterpay as a buy now, pay later option.
Payment Processing Fees
2.9% + 30 cents per transaction
6% + 30 cents for Afterpay transactions
Dozens of apps, including options for shipping, fulfillment, inventory, and accounting
Need to login to your Square account for fast support.
Default support is an automated chat assistant.
Phone support is difficult to find.
Square Online is just one product among Square’s extensive suite of tools. Learn all it offers in our guide to Square for small businesses.
Square Online Alternatives
Best for: Ecommerce businesses and multichannel retailers
Best for: Online retailers with complex inventory
Best for: Beautiful templates and website builder functionality
Best for: Online ordering and POS for restaurants
Monthly fees from: $39
Monthly fees from: $29.95
Monthly fees from: $33 (for ecommerce functionality)
Monthly fees from: $0
Square Online earned a perfect score for pricing because of its forever-free plan with unlimited products and transactions, month-to-month billing with no contracts, along with scalable features and add-ons to tailor the solution to your needs.
Its pricing has four tiers: Free, Professional, Performance, and Premium. All tiers include unlimited products (digital goods, physical products, services, and events), hosting bandwidth, and storage.
Every plan also comes with integrations with Instagram, TikTok, Google, and Square POS, a free SSL certificate, a one-click checkout option, and the ability to accept payments made via Square, Afterpay, Apple Pay, and Google Pay.
Square Online Pricing Plans
2.9% + 30 cents
2.9% + 30 cents
2.9% + 30 cents
2.6% + 30 cents
Afterpay transaction fees
6% + 30 cents
6% + 30 cents
6% + 30 cents
6% + 30 cents
Bandwidth and storage
Social media sales
Manage multiple websites
Shipping label printing
Automatic tax calculator
All Free plan features, plus:
Connect a custom domain
No Square branding
Password protected pages
All Professional features, plus:
Abandoned cart recovery
All Performance features, plus:
Lower processing fees
Square Online’s free plan includes all the basic features you need to build your ecommerce website. However, if you want to use your own custom domain and remove Square branding from your website, then you will have to subscribe to a Professional plan or higher.
Signing up for Performance gives you more marketing features such as product reviews and abandoned cart recovery and entitles you to priority customer support and discounted postage labels. Premium adds a shipping calculator to your dashboard on top of every feature included in other plans.
One of the main drawbacks of Square Online is that you can only use Square as your payment processor. However, Square does support PayPal, Google Pay, and Apple Pay payments. You’ll also have the benefit of accepting Cash App payments and buy now, pay later payments through Afterpay.
Though Square’s payment processing fees aren’t the most competitive on the market, they are average. And, once your business grows to process more than $250,000 annually, you may be eligible for custom rates.
Square earned a 3.5 out of 5 in our evaluation of site builder tools. Its website builder earned points for unlimited bandwidth and storage, a free SSL certificate, and a free domain. However, limited design functionality, flexibility, and customization options lowered Square’s website builder score.
There is minimal drag-and-drop functionality. And, you cannot access the code to make custom changes. However, this simplicity also means Square is incredibly easy to set up.
Overall, Square Online is one of our top free website builders as it lets you manage your online store, accept payments, and create a website with multiple pages—contact forms, email sign-ups, and more—complete with your logo and branding colors.
Square acquired Weebly to strengthen its online store solution. As such, navigating and setting up a Square Online store is straightforward. Your dashboard offers video tutorials and step-by-step instructions on building your single-page or multi-page online store.
It allows you to choose the features you need, such as pickup orders, collecting emails, shipping products, or displaying a contact form.
You can add sections or features to your pages from the available blocks provided by Square Online. It is easy to just drag and drop too. However, you cannot fully edit the layout or add integrations as you can with Shopify.
Since Our Last Update:
Square Online’s site builder launched an optional tool named Styles. Styles allow businesses to select a general color and font scheme, which you can then customize to fit your branding. It makes the process of designing your site even faster.
However, you cannot access coding to adjust your Square website. If you are on a free plan, Square branding is also displayed on your website footer.
You can create and publish your online store with the help of Square’s site builder and immediately start selling on the internet.
Additionally, you can ship orders to customers, offer local delivery, or provide curbside pickup, all while ensuring that both in-store and online sides of your operations are in sync.
Square Online Checkout
Use checkout links to enable your customers to purchase anything you want to sell online without having to create an ecommerce website. You can send clients a checkout link through email, your Square Marketing campaign, a QR code, a checkout button on your website page, or by posting on social media or your blog. Using the service is free, and you will only need to pay the standard processing fee of 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction.
Square Online SEO
Your website is mobile-responsive—which is essential for Google ranking—and SEO headers and descriptions can easily be set up per product.
Square Online’s SEO tools are basic but are enough to help your pages get indexed on Google, which is all most small businesses need, especially if ecommerce is not your primary sales channel.
Since Our Last Update:
Square has added 301 redirect capabilities.
In our evaluation, Square Online store earned a 4 out of 5 for its product and sales features. It earned high points for social media selling, multichannel sales (thanks to its top-notch Square POS system), and fulfillment options like curbside pickup, local delivery, and built-in shipping labels with discounted rates.
Every Square Online plan also allows for unlimited products, sales, and native functions for selling digital products, tickets, and food and beverages.
However, while Square has great in-store inventory management features for small shops, its ecommerce inventory functionality is very basic and not as user-friendly as its flagship POS products.
Square also lacks integrations for marketplace sales like Amazon, Walmart, or eBay.
Its product, sales, and order management tools are fine for small storefronts, but if you need a scalable ecommerce platform, consider Shopify or BigCommerce, both of which scored much higher for sales and product features.
Products & Inventory Management
The integration with Square POS automatically keeps online and in-person purchases and inventory in sync. Square Online’s inventory features are very rudimentary. You can update your stock to reflect the following changes: stock received, inventory recount, restock return, and loss of stock due to damage or theft.
However, Square Online does offer the ability to add unlimited products, variants, and modifiers—even the free version. Most free website builders have a cap on the number of products you can sell.
There are no barcode, supplier, or purchasing features in the basic Square Online store. If you need advanced tools (such as kitting or bundling items, vendor and purchase management, COGS tracking, and cross-location inventory tracking), we recommend you go with Square for Retail ($60 per month).
Read our full Square for Retail review to learn more about the platform’s advanced retail features.
We still consider Square to be the best fit for retailers looking to manage inventory for free and sell in-store, online, via invoice, or through mobile.
Buy Online, Pick Up In-store
What’s great about Square Online is the seamless experience you can provide your customers whether they are shopping in-store or online. You can set up click-and-collect options (like curbside pickup), specific pickup hours and order windows, order prep times, customer notifications for when their order is ready, and whether or not shoppers can schedule pickup times.
You can also send order-status text alerts to customers with details such as order confirmation, pickup location/time, and shipping carrier.
Interested to learn more about setting this up for your store? Learn how to set up click and collect and curbside pickup.
Square Online’s shipping tools are not as comprehensive as other platforms since it requires you to set up your own shipping rates (which can be flat-rate or based on weight)—unless you upgrade to the Premium edition ($72 per month), which lets you charge the actual prices from mail carriers. US-based merchants can get discounts with USPS and DHL.
You can manage the order status for your products in bulk or individually. You can print a shipping label, mark items as “canceled” or “shipped,” and even process refunds. All of these need to be done manually.
If you would like to process orders automatically, integration with a shipping platform such as ShipStation can be a good solution—it can automatically manage and track online orders for you. If your business gets high-volume orders, you may be better off considering other ecommerce platforms like BigCommerce.
Ecommerce Sales Tax
You can configure and manage taxes straight from the Square app and Square Online dashboard. With Square Online, payment processing fees are taken out of each transaction, including tax and tips. It also lets you track your taxable and non-taxable sales in your dashboard.
You have the option to create multiple tax rates, set up sales tax per item, and disable taxes for custom amounts. If your business is based in the US, Square Online’s automatic tax calculator will charge sales tax based on all store addresses you have configured (when you were setting up your settings) and where you ship an order to.
(Note: Tax-exempt items in Square only apply to Square Online pickup, delivery, or self-serve orders.)
You can connect your item library to your Meta account to make your Facebook and Instagram posts shoppable and eventually turn your followers into buyers. If you have a food and beverage business, you can also connect your Facebook account to set up online ordering.
Since our last update:
“Order Food” CTA buttons for Facebook and Instagram: Square launched new call-to-action buttons that restaurants and cafes can add to their Facebook and Instagram pages that direct customers to their Square Online ordering site.
To start, you will need a Facebook or Meta Business account. Simply connect your Facebook account and manage your Instagram and Facebook shop from your Square dashboard. And, you can message customers through Facebook Messenger via Square as well.
Square also has a TikTok integration to sell and promote products via the social media app.
However, Square doesn’t have native integrations to marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, and Walmart. If you plan on expanding to these marketplaces, BigCommerce is a better option.
Since our last update:
Google My Business and Local Inventory Integration: In June 2022, Square launched a new integration with Google that allows retailers to manage their Google My Business profile right from Square.
This integration also enables retailers’ products to appear in Google search results for local searches like “near me” or “where to buy.”
- Intuitive user interface
- Easy set up and guided prompts
- Seller community forum
- Comprehensive help guides
- Developer platform
- Customer support: Email, live chat, and phone support; Mon–Fri, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern time; Sat–Sun 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time. Email responses in 24–48 hours, per its website.
Square Online earned a 4 out of 5 in our ease of use evaluation thanks to its easy setup flow and comprehensive help center. Limited live support hours and difficulty reaching phone support prevented Square from earning a perfect score.
Its dashboard is easy to navigate, intuitive, and straightforward. Once you sign up, you are given a setup guide, easily viewable from your dashboard. The guide outlines the steps you need to launch your store in the form of automated prompts—allowing you to build your store without any technical assistance. You can choose to watch video tutorials before setting up your store (all of which are accessible from the user dashboard) or go straight to building the website using the setup guide.
Building a Square Online website requires no technical knowledge. You are given choices to add or remove from an existing template, with real-time changes reflected—so you can easily change your choices if needed. In our guide, we outline the steps on how to set up a Square Online store.
Overall, Square Online offers an incredible value—after all, it’s a completely free ecommerce platform with few limitations. And, Square as a whole is extremely popular for small businesses and has a great reputation.
When considering our expert score, we also looked at Square Online’s features: What do we expect an ecommerce platform to have? Does Square offer anything unique or do anything exceptionally well?
While Square Online falls a little short with its design flexibility and product and order management, it does have excellent multichannel tools via its POS and local delivery options through Postmates, Shipday, and in-house management. Most platforms designed specifically for online sales don’t have such strong tools for catering to local shoppers.
What Users Say in Square Online Reviews
Users agree with our assessment of Square Online being one of the best ecommerce platforms, highlighting its ease of use and great payment processing fees. Its biggest drawbacks, however, are limited customization and inconsistent customer support. At the time of publication, Square Online reviews earned the following scores on popular user review sites:
When reading through Square Online reviews, I noticed these trends:
|Easy to use platform||Limited customization|
|Low-cost all-in-one platform (for website, ecommerce sales, and payment processing)||Few payment processing options|
|Can include a checkout link on social media pages||Customer support|
Square Online Store Examples
Square Online is best for storefronts that want to expand their presence online. The brands we cite below are perfect examples of brick-and-mortar stores that added online store functionality to their businesses.
Stay Golden is a Nashville-based bar, restaurant, and coffee shop that set up a Square Online ordering page to adapt to customers’ needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was so widely accepted that they will adopt it in the long term. Customers can order online and do curbside pickups.
Botanic and Luxe
For Botanic and Luxe, a boutique offering beauty and wellness products, high-quality photos and stellar product descriptions are important to help it present its curated items. It noticed that customers often buy products with detailed product descriptions and photos.
Ray’s Cutz is a barbershop that expanded its presence online using Square, allowing clients to book appointments and buy branded merchandise and hair products. Its owner admits that clients still buy more products in-store, but adding an online component gives them options in case they want to try something new or want to restock their items.
Two Roads Brewing
Two Roads is a large craft brewery that uses Square Online to offer online ordering for beer and merchandise. Although Two Road’s main website is built with WordPress, the company opted for Square for online product sales. Customers can order beers that can be picked up in-store or curbside, while merchandise can be picked up or shipped.
Methodology: How We Evaluated Square Online
We evaluated Square Online by testing the system ourselves.
Next, we graded it against the criteria we use to evaluate the best ecommerce platforms. Here, we considered price, how powerful the site builder is, and whether or not the sales and product features can accommodate a growing business.
Finally, we also looked at ease of use, customer support, and the overall value each system offers were also considered.
Click through the tabs below for a more detailed breakdown of Square Online review criteria:
15% of Overall Score
We graded ecommerce platforms based on whether they offer a free plan and monthly scalable pricing options under $100 because most small businesses operate on a budget. We also gave points to platforms that integrate with mobile wallets and popular payment solutions, with bonus points for buy now, pay later financing options and one-click checkouts, as these are revenue-driving options for small businesses.
Square Online earned a perfect score here thanks to its forever-free plan.
30% of Overall Score
We considered the available templates, customization options, and overall flexibility of the website builder. We also reviewed the quantity and quality of third-party extensions compatible with the software and whether it includes a free domain and SSL certificate, unlimited storage, and built-in SEO tools and site analytics.
Square Online earned a 3.5 out of 5 here because of its customization limitations and somewhat basic SEO and site analytic tools.
30% of Overall Score
We evaluated features essential to online stores, including easy product set up, inventory and fulfillment options, tools for mobile and in-store selling, integrated social media selling, marketplace selling (such as Amazon), and the ability to sell unlimited products (including downloadable files). Since most small businesses take care of marketing themselves, we considered the availability of marketing tools, such as abandoned cart recovery, promotions, and discounts.
Square Online earned a 4 out of 5 here with high marks for mobile, in-store, social selling, and its ability to handle lots of different product types. The lack of marketplace sales and basic product management tools prevented Square from earning a perfect score.
15% of Overall Score
Because online stores operate 24/7, we prioritized platforms that offer 24/7 customer support and have multiple customer touchpoints, such as phone, email, and chat. We also awarded points to easy solutions to set up or have guided prompts and a comprehensive help center.
Square earned a 4 out of 5 because the platform is incredibly easy to use. The lack of quality phone support prevented it from getting a perfect score.
10% of Overall Score
Finally, we considered any standout features and whether or not the software offers an excellent overall value for its price. We also rated the tool’s popularity with small businesses and its compatibility with other small business software. We also awarded points based on our personal experience interacting with the platform and the company’s customer support.
Square earned a 4.06 out of 5 here. Overall, we love Square for small businesses, and Square Online is no exception. It offers great value, though it does come with limitations if you’re serious about scaling an ecommerce retail business.
Square Online Review Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who should use Square Online?
Square Online is best for storefronts that want to offer online ordering, hobby or budget-conscious sellers that want a free solution, and businesses that need a hybrid online store and appointment booking portal.
Square Online is our top pick for the best free ecommerce website builder. We have personally found that Square Online is one of the easiest solutions to use, allowing you to create an online store in just a few minutes. And, it syncs with Square’s POS and other software.
Learn more in our guide to Square and why small businesses love it.
Who should use a Square Online alternative?
Consider alternatives in the following scenarios:
- Ecommerce is your business’ backbone and online sales is your profit driver: Square Online has limited inventory management tools and overall basic functionality that a scaling ecommerce business could quickly outgrow. You’d likely be happier with Shopify or BigCommerce. Learn more in our Shopify vs BigCommerce comparison.
- Businesses that manage complex inventories: Businesses with thousands of SKUs and assembled products, as well as those needing to manage work orders, would be better served by Lightspeed, our top-rated POS for inventory management, which also has a powerful ecommerce solution.
- You need a more customized website: Square’s website builder has limited customization options, and if you need a personalized website, then consider choosing from our best website builders.
- Restaurants that need a comprehensive online ordering system: Restaurants needing controlled order flow or on-demand third-party delivery riders will be better served by one of our other recommended restaurant online ordering software.
Square offers some of the best POS systems for small businesses, and Square Online is an easy-to-use, low-cost, all-in-one ecommerce and payment processing solution that is a natural extension of Square’s POS products.
It is best for those that want to add online ordering to brick-and-mortar stores such as cafes, retail outlets, and professional service shops.
In its free plan, Square Online has very few limitations compared to other budget ecommerce solutions. It’s our top recommendation if you want to create a complete and professional online store without needing to enter a credit card.
You May Also Like…
- Read our review of Square Payments
- Ready to get started? Learn how to set up a Square Online store
- Check out our guides on how to start a retail business and how to launch an online store