Shopify vs Square – An In-Depth Comparison

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Choosing the right POS system for your business is an important decision. No doubt in your search you have come across Shopify and Square as two of the leading contenders.

Both excel in the features they offer, the value they promise and are both big players in the all-around solution field for your business POS needs.

But which is Better?

In this guide we will run you through the features of each, comparing and contrasting to help you make the best decision for your business.

Let’s dive into it…

What to consider in your POS System?

Before we look at Shopify and Square specifically, we wanted to highlight some of the key features you should be looking for from your POS system.

Your POS or point of sale system is quite simply the place/platform you make your sales through.  It’s a cash register in your shop or a checkout page on your website.

Your POS system, however, can do a lot more than just take payments. It is a window into how your company is functioning, a way to manage your inventory and employees, and can often integrate with many other programs to make your business management as seamless as possible.

  • Payment Processing – taking payments from major credit cards is the base functionality you are looking for.  You want something that can also swipe, chip and pin, and make contactless payments ideally.
  • Checkouts – you want your system to be able to handle receipts, discounts, tax calculations, shipping options, etc, without any hassle.
  • Employee Management – keeping track of your employee’s time and handling tips is also very useful
  • Inventory Management – having your POS keep track of your inventory directly will mean you won’t find yourself short at any point.
  • Reporting – knowing how your business is running through access to a wider range of reports is important.  You want to be able to categorize as necessary.
  • Integrations – having the ability to integrate additional apps on your POS is a great way of increasing its functionality

Now that we have an idea of some of the key features we are looking for let’s dive into the detail and see who stands up better under scrutiny, Shopify or Square.

Shopify vs Square

First, let’s have a quick introduction to both companies.

Shopify

Shopify is a bit of a powerhouse when it comes to its eCommerce platform, and one of the most popular.  They are quick and easy to use and set up, have a huge number of integrations, designs, and third-party support.

What they are less known for is their in-person POS system, which allows you to integrate your online and in-store presence.

Square

Square was founded in 2009 with the aim of setting up a low (or no) cost smart operation system for phones.  Square have their own online eCommerce platform, though they are better known for their in-store POS than online checkout integrations.

Let’s dive into their features in more detail.

Payment processing

Both Square and Shopify are payment service providers, so each allows small businesses to accepts card payments without the need for a separate merchant account.  This is good as it saves on the additional cost of a merchant account.

Diving deeper, however, there are clear differences that start to emerge.

By signing up for Square POS you limit yourself to only using their payment processor.  Shopify will allow you to use a third-party processor if you prefer for a small additional fee.

Both are able to take payments online and have the hardware to take in-person payments.  When It comes to online payments Square can integrate with a range of eCommerce platforms like WooCommerce and BigCommerce for example.

Shopify on the other hand will again charge a fee for using a third-party payment gateway.

In terms of being able to take offline payments (when the internet is down for example) Square shines a little brighter being able to accept all payments when in offline mode and then process them once back online.  Shopify on the other hand can only process cash or custom payment methods offline.

Price

Now we’re getting into the stuff you really want to know. Which costs more?

There are one-off payments for their hardware, but for our purposes here we are going to focus on the ongoing monthly costs of using both providers.

Shopify has three primary plans for your to choose from, Basic Shopify, Shopify, and Advanced Shopify.

Basic Shopify is $29 per month and ideal for new businesses that want to focus online with some in-person sales.

Shopify is $79 per month and is their most popular plan.  You get additional analytics and reporting features as well as better transaction rates.  You can also have staff accounts too.

Advanced Shopify is $299 per month and is designed for larger and scaling companies.  The transaction fees are greatly reduced, and you get some great discounts on shipping suppliers.

They do also offer a full POS solution for your store which is $89 per month. You can get a lot more information about it here.

Looking at Square’s pricing you will be forgiven for double-taking as their monthly cost is free.  Yes free.

They do still have transaction fees, however, though they are also reasonable at 2.6% +$0.10 for in-person card transactions, 2.9% + $0.30 for eCommerce transactions, and 3.5% + $0.15 for all keyed in card transactions.

Square does have some additional services that have fees associated with them if you are needing more functionality.

Their Square for Retail costs up to $299 per month depending on what plan you take, and offers advanced employee management, inventory management, and customer management.  Your processing fees are lowered on this plan too.

Square for Restaurants is similar in that it can cost up to $299 per month depending on the plan but is specifically geared towards restaurant use with additional features like menu and delivery management.

Hardware

Shopify’s hardware offering is arguably a little lacking, though this is understandable as they are newer to the in-store purchasing market.

Their hardware options range from the chip and contactless card reader which is $69 (the same as Square) and their basic swipe reader is $9 (unlike Square which is free for your first one).

Shopify also offers a Retail Kit which includes the contactless reader, iPad stand, mounting kit, and dock cable and costs $229.

Square on the other hand has a far more comprehensive list of hardware options and is more sophisticated.

Their Square all in one solution, Square Terminal, is $299 and comes with all the bells and whistles.  A touch screen, accepts all payment types, customizable POS system solutions.

They also have a full Square Stand Kit that comes with an iPad, stand, till, and receipt printer for $1235.

They have simple card readers which, as we’ve mentioned, are free for your first one.

Checkout

Both Shopify and Square measure up pretty evenly for their checkout capabilities.  Both systems allow you to customize receipts (both digital and physical), and both can handle discounts, gift cards, store credit, etc.

For tax calculations, Shopify takes it as they will process the tax requirements automatically based on your location, whereas Square requires you to input manually.

Integrations

The benefit of modern POS systems is the additional modification and integration to the feature from additional apps.

In this area, Shopify has the advantage and is arguably the most customizable piece of software on offer.  Their app store has hundreds of options for additional functionality like loyalty programs, countdown timers, chatbots, etc.

Square also has its fair share of apps on offer too through its marketplace, just not quite as many as Shopify.

The reality is, however, that whatever customization you want to make to your POS both will almost certainly have a solution available to you.

Our thoughts

Deciding between the two is no easy feat!

Square may just pip Shopify to the post on pricing, but Shopify’s eCommerce capabilities and integrations are ideal in the current climate.

In terms of features, both are fairly comparable too, though Square’s hardware solutions may also just put them narrowly ahead.

The reality is it comes down to personal preference, and how you are wanting to sell your products.  If you are an online-first company then Shopify is almost certainly the better choice.  For anyone else, Square is arguably the better choice.

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Kareena Maya is a freelance writer focused on the personal finance and travel spaces. He frequently writes about credit cards, banking, student loans, insurance, travel rewards and more. His work has been featured in publications such as Forbes Advisor, Bankrate, Credit Karma, Finance Buzz, The Ascent and Student Loan Planner.

Kareena Maya is a freelance writer focused on the personal finance and travel spaces. He frequently writes about credit cards, banking, student loans, insurance, travel rewards and more. His work has been featured in publications such as Forbes Advisor, Bankrate, Credit Karma, Finance Buzz, The Ascent and Student Loan Planner.