Building an online shopping website for your business can either be a rewarding experience, can be a waste of time and money, or anywhere in between.
It is generally something you should seek advice on or research before getting into.
A common question we receive is how to go about building an online shopping website for a business, and the option from Square may be the shopping website solution you need, but there is still a lot to consider.
First, a little background on building an online shopping website for your business
A very popular goal for many business owners these days is to sell their product or service online. While a “standard” website (i.e. doesn’t include shopping carts, credit card payment facilities etc) goes a long way towards selling by showing off your product, telling the company story, providing calls-to-action and contact details for more information, it still requires the customer to contact someone to actually make a purchase.
The shopping websites are different purely for the fact that that shopping facility that allows for actual online shopping is integrated into the website.
However, these shopping websites do have some barriers to entry…
Most shopping website platforms will charge you a monthly fee while ever you use their shopping website option. The monthly fee varies depending on which company you choose to provide the platform, and then what level of plan you sign up to with them. The higher the plan level, the more features available to you, and the higher the cost.
As an example, a popular option for building a shopping website is Shopify. A Shopify shopping website starts at around AUD $40 per month for their cheapest plan, so this is expensive, especially if you are a startup or new business intender. Other options like Wix offer cheaper plans (starting at around $26 pm) and ECWID even goes so far as to offer a free plan, allowing you to sell up to 10 products on your site at the free level.
No matter the platform you choose, nearly all options have two things in common that can pose problems for the store owner.
The first problem is their plans are designed to entice you onto the higher plans, so often the free or cheapest plans will be missing some crucial element that many business owners would want, for example, the ability to integrate your online shop into social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram.
The second problem is the payment gateway options available.
Payment gateway aka merchant facility
The payment gateway aka merchant service is the facility your business uses to collect payments through things like credit cards, a necessity if you plan to use a shopping website. Each shopping website platform will allow the use of a variety of different payment gateways, but not necessarily the same, and not necessarily the one you may have been using in your business for many years.
By way of example, here is the list of payment gateways available to use when you sign up for a Shopify shopping website:
A quick look through this list and many business owners may well be scratching their heads as very few of these are known here in Australia, let along likely to already be used by business owners.
Additionally, the payment gateway is another monthly fee to factor in on top of what you will have pay to own a shopping website.
The Square option
For starters, the option from Square is not entirely new as the feature was actually released in around April 2019 (still relatively new compared to some of its competitors), but if you are considering starting your own online shopping website for your business then you may not have come across this to date.
The way Square has developed and released its products is actually very clever. By starting as a payment gateway provider, and aiming to make this a simple, easily accessible and in some cases the cheaper option for business owners (not to mention a bit more stylish looking), they quickly obtained a strong following of users here in Australia.
By then adding the online shopping website facility they are removing one of the issues we mentioned above, which is the integration of the website and an accepted payment gateway because Square offers both.
To make the deal even better for business owners, if you are already a Square customer (i.e. using their payment gateway) then they give you the shopping website for free, making the package from Square one of the most enticing on the market.
Of course, it’s not all as simple as that. The free plan from Square, like its competitors, is not going to suit all businesses. For example, it only provides limited storage for your website, so if you have a lot of products you might find you run out of place and will be forced to move up to their next level plan, which is then going to incur a monthly fee. That being said this is $15 pm (when paid annually) making it still one of the cheapest options out there.
So too, other options missing from the free plan include a shipping calculator and abandoned cart emails. Like its competitors the higher the plan cost, the more features you receive.
When looking for a platform to use when wanting to build your online shopping website for your business, it’s tricky to compare the options. While each company will give you a range of plans to choose from, no two plans are alike, making it very difficult to compare apples with apples.
Before signing up to any of them it is important to find where they have listed the features of each of their plans, and work out which features you need now, and which features you will likely need after your business grows a bit more.
Square has helped make the whole process a bit cheaper and easier for anyone already using Square as their payment gateway, and for those, it may be a good reason to start using Square.
For other business owners, Square might be totally unsuitable e.g. you might already have spent a lot of time, money and effort investing in your existing payment gateway with another service provider and it makes little sense to you to throw all that away and move to Square just to access their online shopping website facility.
Like all things in business, no two businesses are alike and the best decision you can make for your own business is an informed one.
If you would like to learn more about selling your products or services online then all of the businesses mentioned in this article have their own websites where they will typically explain with varying degrees of success what they offer business.
Otherwise, feel free to contact your local BEC Business Advice advisor here.
Neither the author nor BEC Business Advice has any affiliation with Square, Shopify or any other business mentioned in this article, and we receive no benefit in any form by mentioning businesses by name.
The purpose of this article is merely to provide some helpful information to the public, based on a common question we are often asked here at BEC Business Advice.