Square vs Shopify

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With online shopping more prevalent than ever, it's never been more important to have a streamlined POS, or point of sale, system in place.

Square and Shopify are two popular POS solutions on the market, but how do they compare? We've delved into the world of these two leaving providers and have put together a comprehensive guide to what they can offer you, and how much they'll cost.

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What do Square and Shopify offer users?

Square and Shopify offer integrated POS (point of sale) systems that give you the tools you need to start selling online or from a permanent storefront. As well as assisting with payments, from credit and debit cards to Apple Pay, they've also expanded to include customer directories, staff management programs and website building tools.

Check out our detailed guide to Square's payment and payroll features as well as a guide to selling successfully on Shopify for more information.


Key differences between Square and Shopify

Square

  • Square features more industry-specific add-ons to cater to your business needs and integrates with plenty of third-party apps.
  • Square has more hardware to buy to get you started straight away.

Shopify

  • Shopify charges a monthly fee starting from $9/month (USD). Shopify's POS Lite is included in all plans. POS Pro is an extra $89 USD per month unless on a Shopify Plus plan.
  • Shopify offers a more dynamic online store building system with over 15 years of experience in the field.

What are the key features of the POS app systems?

Both Shopify and Square both run their systems through an app. While the Square POS app is free, Shopify charges a monthly subscription fee, and both services charge a percentage fee for every payment you accept. Let's take a look at some key features of both systems. Both are designed to work seamlessly on an iPad or tablet device.

Cost and compatibility

Square

  • Free to setup with no monthly fees. You pay a processing fee when accepting a payment.
  • IOS and Android

Shopify

  • Basic monthly fee starting from $9 (USD) plus processing fees when accepting payments.
  • IOS and Android

Key features

Square

  • Works best with contactless payments, but will accept chip and pin
  • Split tender for sharing bills or paying part card, part cash.
  • Applies discounts
  • Emails and prints receipts
  • Enables employee settings for limited use
  • Sends invoices
  • Automatically syncs with your inventory
  • Keeps track of stock and sends out low-stock alerts
  • Deals with full or partial refunds
  • Tailored tax settings
  • Industry-specific features are available including ticket printing, delivery services and appointment booking
  • Square for Retail Plus has additional features including exchanges, advanced inventory tools and retail reports but will set you back $109/month per location.

Shopify

  • Accepts credit and debit cards, cash, cheque and other alternative payments
  • Split tender for sharing bills or paying part card, part cash
  • Applies discounts
  • Live reporting to monitor sales
  • Syncs data automatically
  • Emailing and printing receipts
  • Keeps track of your inventory and sends alerts when stock is low
  • Manages employee records
  • Deals with full or partial refunds.

Overview

When it comes to their POS system, Shopify and Square share a lot of similar features, ranging from split tender to stock management. While Shopify is slightly ahead with its custom payment options, Square has the added advantage of offline transactions.


What hardware do they offer?

If you have a brick and mortar store, or regularly sell at markets, these merchant services will deck you out with the right hardware you need to keep your payments running smoothly. Here, we take a look at the hardware available with each provider.

Square

  • Square Reader. A wireless reader that accepts chip and pin, contactless, Apple and Google Pay. You'll also have a charging dock included. You can also link it up to your smartphone for easy use.
  • iPad stand. To enable you to set up a cash register, Square provides a rotating iPad stand. The stand also includes a handy place to store the card reader and a charging dock.
  • Square terminal. A device that accepts payments and can produce receipts. This can be used anywhere with a signal.
  • Accessories. Optional add-ons include receipt printers, cash drawers, and bar code scanners.

Shopify

Shopify's own hardware including its card reader is not currently available in Australia, so you'll need to buy hardware that supports Shopify at authorised resellers including Gorilla Lab.

Overseas Shopify currently offers the below hardware:

  • Card reader. Wireless card reader that can be integrated with an iPhone, allowing payments on the go.
  • iPad Stand. Perfect for setting up a cash register, this allows your employees to use the system with ease.
  • Retail kit. This includes everything you need to get started selling straight away, including a card reader, dock, mounting kit and dock cable.

Overview

Square currently offers a more complete range of hardware which integrates with its systems for ease of use. Shopify is yet to launch its hardware in Australia.


How does pricing work?

Both Square and Shopify offer a range of hardware and software products. Here are the prices for both.

Shopify software prices

Shopify allows you to choose from four different monthly payment plans depending on your business needs.

Shopify Lite Plan - $9/month (USD)

If you're looking to test the waters, this entry-level plan allows you to add products to a website or blog and accept credit card payments.

Basic Shopify Plan - $29/month (USD)

If you need an online store to operate your business, this could be a good plan to consider. Included in the monthly rate is an online store, blogging abilities, unlimited listings, bandwidth and storage, two staff accounts and 24/7 support. You'll be charged the following credit card rates:

  • 1.75% + $0.30 for online Australian credit cards
  • 2.9% + $0.30 for online international and Amex credit cards
Shopify Plan - $79/month (USD)

This plan is aimed at medium-sized businesses. You'll get the same features you benefit from in the Basic Shopify Plan along with five staff accounts, professional reports, gift card ability, abandoned cart recovery and lower credit card rates:

  • 1.6% + $0.30 for online Australian credit cards
  • 2.8% + $0.30 for online international and Amex credit cards
Advanced Shopify Plan - $299/month (USD)

If you're running a large retail operation, this plan can help keep things running smoothly. Alongside the features of the Shopify Plan, you'll benefit from 15 staff accounts, an advanced report builder, real-time carrier shipping calculations and the following credit card rates:

  • 1.4% + $0.30 for online Australian credit cards
  • 2.7% + $0.30 for online international and Amex credit cards

Square software prices

The pricing at Square is a lot easier to get your head around. When you sign up with Square, you'll get all of their software for free, and will need to pay a percentage depending on the type of transaction that carried out. Here's a quick breakdown of their basic pricing:

  • 1.9% per chip-and-pin or tap-and-pay transaction
  • 2.2% for key-in, invoice, e-Commerce or virtual terminal

Square and Shopify hardware prices

As noted above, Shopify's hardware is still not available for use in Australia, but we've included the pricing of its hardware in the USA to give an indication of what the price differences between the two providers could be.

SquareShopify
Card reader $59 (or free magstripe card reader that can be attached to iPhone)Not yet available in Australia, from $29 USD in the USA
iPad stand$299 (including reader and dock)Not yet available in Australia, from $149 USD for retail stand in the USA
Terminal$439N/A
Full retail kitSquare Register not yet available in AustraliaNot yet available in Australia, from $229 USD in the USA

Overview

Shopify's monthly fee might make it the more expensive option out of the two. However it has slightly lower fees for accepting some payments compared to Square.

To find out which will be more cost effective, you'll need to crunch the numbers and see how many of each type of payment you accept or plan to accept.


How does payment processing work?

A huge advantage to using these type of POS systems is that, as a business, you don't have to pay to open a separate merchant account.

Both Shopify and Square operate as an aggregator. This means that they put all of the payments into one account, and then pay each client individually from that account. The plus side of this is that it saves you money. The downside is that you may find your funds being held all too regularly.

The most significant difference between payment processing with Square and Shopify is that Shopify allows you to use an additional third-party service, at an additional fee. In contrast, you can only use Square as your payment processor when you choose Square. However, Square does integrate with some third-party gateways.

So while you may benefit from Square demanding fewer processing fees, Shopify allows for added flexibility to your card processing.


How do they compare as online store builders?

You can create an e-Commerce store with both Square and Shopify that will be compatible with your POS system. Let's take a look at some of the key features you can enjoy with both providers.

Key features

Square

  • Fully-hosted site
  • Custom domain names on paid plans
  • Automatic data synchronisation with Square POS
  • Limited themes
  • e-Commerce integrations
  • Feedback reports
  • Order management for consumers
  • Third-party integration
  • Instagram and Pinterest selling
  • Abandoned cart emails on some paid plans

Shopify

  • Fully-hosted site
  • Use your own domain name
  • Hundreds of themes
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Automatic data synchronisation
  • Order management for consumers
  • Unlimited products
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Social media selling
  • Third-party integration

Overview

Established in 2006, there's no doubt that Shopify has the most experience when it comes to online stores, and this certainly shows in its services. While Square is currently trailing behind in this area, it still offers many features.


What support do they offer?

With unbeatable 24-hour support, Shopify takes the lead when it comes to its customer services. You can contact the support team via email, live web chat or over the phone to receive instant advice and solutions for your problems.

Before you resort to contacting Shopify directly, however, you can head over to their self-help knowledge base first. Home to a community forum, along with how-to guides, you may find your answer here first.

While Square doesn't offer around the clock support, it does have a number of useful channels in place for its customer support. This includes a Support Centre with guides, help articles and troubleshooting tips, as well as a helpful Youtube channel. You'll also find a Seller Community where you can interact and learn from other business owner's using Square services.

For when you need to contact them directly, you'll find in-app support enabling you to contact an advisor over the phone, via email or over live chat.


Bottom line

Choosing between Square and Shopify depends on your own personal business needs.

While Square may offer great hardware options, no monthly payments, useful add-ons and attractive and simple rates, it doesn't have the same experience dealing with e-Commerce as Shopify - a business that knows how to cater to digital entrepreneurs.

Both companies are growing strength by strength each day, so it's worth keeping an eye on for new features and advances in the POS world.

With online shopping more prevalent than ever, it's never been more important to have a streamlined POS, or point of sale system in place.

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