Shopify vs Squarespace (2017) - A Comparison Review
Shopify vs Squarespace (images of the Shopify and Squarespace logos side by side)

In this review we take a look at Shopify vs Squarespace, to see which is the best solution for your website or online store. Read on to get a list of pros and cons of each platform - and do feel free to leave your thoughts on both products in the comments section (I'd love to hear from users of both platforms).

On the face of it, Shopify and Squarespace look like similar products: they let you create a website and they let you sell products (even if you don’t have any design or coding skills). But they have a different history and started out life with different purposes: Squarespace was initially conceived as a solution for building and maintaining content-based websites, where as Shopify was specifically created as a solution for making your own online store.

Recently however, with the addition of e-commerce to Squarespace’s feature set, the two tools have become increasingly similar and technically, you can now use either to create a website or host an online store. But which is best suited for your business?

Answering this question starts, helpfully, with another question…

Are you trying to build a website or an online store?

When deciding between Squarespace and Shopify, the first question you need to ask yourself is this: what am I trying to build – a website or an online store?

Of course, an online store is obviously technically a website, but in this context, by ‘website’ I'm talking about an online presence where conveying information is the priority – for example, a blog, a news site, a brochure site, a magazine, a photography portfolio etc. – and by online store I mean something where selling products is the primary goal.

Building a website

If your focus is on building an informative website, design and content management functionality are going to be a priority – and this being the case, it's fair to say that Squarespace is the obvious choice out of the two products discussed here. Its templates are excellent; its CMS is intuitive and easy to use; its photo editing and displaying tools are superb; and its blogging features are strong. 

There are two versions of Squarespace to consider: the 'normal' version, used by the vast majority of Squarespace customers, and the developer's platform, which is used by agencies and, as the name suggests (!), developers. The latter is the best version to use if you intend on customising Squarespace very extensively, but you obviously need to be familiar with web development and coding in order to use it.

Laying out content in Squarespace is easy, and the options for doing so are extensive (click to enlarge image).

In this article I'm focussing on the standard version of Squarespace; and it's probably fair to say that whilst it provides a fairly powerful bunch of tools for presenting web content in an attractive manner, it is generally suited to working on fairly simple sites only. 

Firstly, navigation is effectively limited to two levels; arguably one, in fact, as when you create a 'parent' page containing sub-pages, you can't actually view the parent page (depending on the template used, clicking on it will just reveal a list of sub pages, or worse, the first 'child' page - both approaches only serving to confuse users!).

Secondly, whilst you can edit basic aspects of the templates (colours and typefaces etc.), you are generally going to be stuck with whatever Squarespace decides looks best. Despite marketing themselves at ‘creatives’, Squarespace don’t really encourage particularly creative use of their templates – in most cases, you're dealing with a 'walled garden' in which everything is locked down pretty tightly, and if you try to get around this by adding your own lines of CSS to your template, Squarespace support are a bit hesitant in providing support.

(To be fair to Squarespace, I've noticed an increasing number of style controls being provided to users lately, so this may over time become less of a problem.)

But those gripes aside, most users will find Squarespace a very nice platform indeed, primarily because the templates do look tremendously good, basic tweaks to colours and typefaces are allowed, and the walled garden approach, despite its faults, means that it's easy to build and maintain sites on the platform.

The bottom line is that, used well, Squarespace can help you put a professional-looking site extremely quickly, and gives you a lot of nice ways to display images and blog content - in a way that Shopify arguably doesn't.

[While we're talking about Squarespace...did you know that Style Factory now offers Squarespace development services? Find our more about our Squarespace developers here.]

Building an online store

Where the Shopify vs Squarespace decision gets rather more complicated is when you want to start selling stuff. Both platforms are capable of it, but each comes with a set of pros and cons. Let’s look at a few key issues to consider if your aim is to build an online store with either Squarespace or Shopify.

Pricing

Squarespace offers four monthly pricing options, banded into two types of packages, 'websites' and 'online stores'. This is a little confusing, as you can technically sell products using any of the packages.

  • 'Personal' - $16 per month ('Websites')
  • 'Business' - $26 per month ('Websites')
  • 'Basic' - $30 per month ('Online Stores')
  • 'Advanced' - $46 per month ('Online Stores')

Discounts for all of the above are available if you purchase a plan on an annual basis (the above four plans, respectively, will work out at $12, $18, $26 and $40 per month when you pay upfront for a year's service). EU users should note that these prices are exclusive of VAT. 

In terms of the key differences between the Squarespace plans, the main things to note are that:

  • if you use either of the 'websites' plans - 'Personal' and 'Business' - you will pay transaction fees (3% and 2% respectively) on any sales
  • the 'Personal' plan restricts the number of pages to 20; all the other plans permit you to create an unlimited number of pages (note that this limit doesn't include blog posts - you can have as many of those as you like)
  • the 'Personal' plan restricts the number of contributers (i.e., authors / admins) to 2; on all other Squarespace plans you can have an unlimited number of contributors
  • to avail of an important feature, abandoned cart recovery, you will need to go for the 'Advanced' plan
  • you'll get a year's free Google Apps account on the 'Business' plans and up
  • you'll get better reporting functionality on the 'Online Stores' plans than the 'Websites' ones
  • on the 'Basic' and 'Advanced' plans you can avail of integrated accounting via Xero
  • if you intend to use e-commerce functionality extensively with Squarespace, the 'Business' plan might be best avoided as it is not that much cheaper than the 'Basic' plan yet involves 2% sales transaction fees
  • if you pay upfront for a year's service, you can get a free custom domain (yourbusiness.com)
  • the business plans and up come with a $100 Adwords voucher
  • the business plans and up come with more sophisticated options when it comes to pop-up messages 

Shopify offers five monthly plans:

  • Shopify Lite: $9 per month
  • Basic Shopify: $29 per month
  • Shopify: $79 per month
  • Advanced Shopify: $299 per month
  • Shopify Plus: pricing varies depending on requirements

10% and 20% discounts on these prices are available if you pay upfront for an annual or two-year plan.

In terms of what to watch out for in terms of the differences between Shopify plans, you should note that:

  • the Shopify Lite plan doesn't actually let you build an online store; rather, it allows you to sell on your existing website or Facebook page (thanks to the 'Shopify Buy' button) or at 'point of sale' (a physical location; more on that below)
  • Gift cards are only available on the more expensive plans ($79+ plans)
  • The 'Shopify Plus' plan is essentially for big companies with advanced e-commerce requirements, and prices vary depending on needs
  • as with Squarespace, the abandoned cart saver only becomes available on a more expensive plan - the $79 'Pro' option
  • detailed reporting features only become available on the $79 Shopify plans and up.

Transaction fees and credit card fees

On top of the standard pricing plans, there are transaction fees and credit card fees to consider - the former being a percentage fee of your sales charged by your e-commerce platform (in this case Squarespace or Shopify), and the latter being the percentage fee of your sales charged by the company you choose to process your credit card payments (otherwise known as a payment gateway - we'll discuss these in more depth below).

With regard to Shopify, you have the choice of either using a Shopify Payments - Shopify's built in payment processor - or a third party payment gateway.

If you use Shopify Payments, you avoid transaction fees entirely (i.e., Shopify will not take a cut of the sale). However, you will be charged

  • 2.2% +30c per online credit card transaction on 'Shopify Lite'  and 'Basic Shopify' plans
  • 1.9% + 30c on 'Shopify'
  • 1.6% + 30c on 'Advanced Shopify'

If you use a third party payment gateway to process your credit card transactions, in addition to whatever transaction charges are made by that gateway, you will pay Shopify

  • 2% of the transaction on the 'Shopify Lite' and 'Basic Shopify' plans
  • 1% on 'Shopify'
  • 0.5% on the 'Advanced Shopify' plan.

With Squarespace, transaction fees are applied to their 'Personal' and 'Business' plans - 3% and 2% respectively. In terms of the the credit card fees, the rate is determined by either Stripe or Paypal (the two options provided by Squarespace for processing credit cards).

With Stripe, these fees vary based on what country you are selling from or to - for example, in the UK it's 1.4% + 20p for European cards (for now at least; let's see what happens after Brexit...) and 2.9% + 20p for non-European cards. The Paypal rates (US) are available to view here.

Oddly, on the face of it, when using Squarespace, it seems as though you can use Stripe from more countries than with Shopify. Shopify state that you can only use Stripe as your payment gateway if you are selling from United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia. Shopify users elsewhere will need to use a different payment gateway - the good news is that 70+ integrate with Shopify.

And speaking of payment gateways...

Payment gateways

Shopify can be used almost anywhere and in most currencies, because it allows you to use over 70 different ‘payment gateways’ (third-party processors that process credit card transactions).

Up until December 2016 Squarespace e-commerce worked with just one payment gateway, Stripe; this was not ideal, as merchants could only sell from a limited number of countries. More seriously, it was not possible to use Paypal - the world's best-known payment gateway - as a payment processor. Fortunately however, Squarespace recently introduced a Paypal integration, which opens up a lot more selling possibilities to Squarespace users. 

It is very encouraging to see Squarespace widen its range of payment gateway options, but overall Shopify remains the more attractive, flexible and professional option from a payment processing point of view - the number of payment gateway integrations is significantly larger (70+ versus Squarespace's 2) and as such the flexibility when it comes to accepting payments is much greater.

So which works out cheaper, Squarespace or Shopify?

Up until fairly recently, Shopify had a clear edge on pricing, because all their plans allowed you to sell an unlimited number of products, whereas limits applied to the cheaper Squarespace ones. Squarespace recently changed their pricing structure, however, making their cheapest plan offering full online store functionality and an unlimited number of products $16, and their most expensive $46. 

This means that technically you can start selling a large number of goods in a fully functional online store a considerably cheaper with Squarespace, because you can host a store featuring an unlimited number of products with Squarespace for $16 per month compared to Shopify's $29 per month. But you should note that the transaction fees will probably be higher.

Of the two products under discussion, Shopify still technically offers the cheapest way into online selling however, with the $9 Lite plan. This plan is more geared towards people who want to sell on an existing website (or social media site) rather than build a new one, so functionality is more limited than the entry level Squarespace offering; but if this approach suits you you'll appreciate that the monthly costs and transaction fees are both lower than on the cheapest Squarespace plan (transaction fees will be non-existent if you are prepared to use Stripe as your payment processor).

It's important to remember, of course, that there is a lot more to consider than just the monthly fees, as we'll see below...

Key features

When it comes to the feature sets of both products – and as you might expect – Shopify’s heritage as an online store building solution generally trumps Squarepsace’s. The Shopify e-commerce feature set is more extensive, with features that are not yet available on Squarespace - unlike Squarespace it offers:

  • ‘point of sale’ technology (iPad / iPhone apps and add-ons that talk to your Shopify store and allow you to use Shopify in a physical location like your shop, market stall or office)
  • automated EU VAT calculation for digital products (more on that below), so that you can comply with VAT MOSS requirements
  • integration with a very extensive range of third party apps that extend the functionality of your store significantly (apps include integrations with Quickbooks, Zoho and Zendesk to name just a few).
  • advanced reporting features
  • a much wider range of payment gateway options, as discussed above.
Shopify's Point of Sale kit, for selling your wares in a 'real' shop

Shopify's Point of Sale kit, for selling your wares in a 'real' shop

Interface / ease of use

On the whole Squarespace is arguably a bit easier to use than Shopify. Its drag and drop approach to setting up site navigation and its easy-to-use layout engine (which allows you to drag and drop content into pages in a very user-friendly way) means that it is very straightforward to use.

Whilst by no means difficult to use, Shopify’s user interface is arguably not quite as slick, and setting up pages and products can take slightly longer than in Squarespace. Setting up the site architecture / navigation is a bit annoying in Shopify – instead of being able to drag and drop things about the place, you have to deal with ‘link lists’ and ‘handles’ that lead to a process which, whilst not too complicated, is not really all that intuitive and may have some users scratching their heads for a few minutes.

That said, when it comes to the desktop version of your store, Shopify lets you work with more layers of navigation than Squarespace, because it allows user to click on a primary level navigation item even if there are sub-pages below it. (Annoyingly however, this functionality disappears on the mobile version of your Shopify store.)

One aspect of the Shopify interface which definitely trumps Squarespace's is 'responsiveness'. Squarespace often feels rather sluggish, and occasionally a little bit buggy. I've also found Squarespace to crash more often than I'd like, particularly when uploading or editing images; I've also lost a few blog posts in Squarespace when the platform hung up on me mid-posting.

Finally you really have to be using quite a decent machine to get the most out of Squarespace; older or slower computers will cause it - and you - headaches. In the stability and smoothness stakes, Shopify is in my view the winner. In essence, its less flashy CMS also seems the more 'solid' and reliable.

Templates and visuals

As discussed above, Squarespace templates are gorgeous. Although this is a subjective area, I feel they are more contemporary or varied in nature than the free templates from Shopify.

There are also more templates to choose from in Squarespace: you can choose from around 80 free / included templates to Shopify's 10. That said, there's a very wide range of Shopify paid-for templates available - more on that in a moment - and the 10 templates that are provided with Shopify contain a few variants for each theme, meaning there are actually more free options than the number ten suggests.

Squarespace template (click to enlarge)

There's definitely a 'wow' factor with certain Squarespace templates that sets them apart from similar website building and e-commerce platforms. That said, a lot of templates - and this is in keeping with the issues discussed above regarding content presentation vs selling online - are geared towards users who want to blog or showcase an art, photography or music portfolio. Of the 80 or so Squarespace templates available, only 8 are dedicated online store ones (that's not to say, however, that you can't sell products using the others).

Depending on your chosen template, you'll find lots of nice visual effects in play, such as parallax scrolling and text that gracefully fades in and fades out as users scroll through a site.

Squarespace templates can be further enhanced, thanks to an integration with Getty images. This provides you with an easy and affordable way to add stock images to your website - images cost $10 each, plus VAT where applicable. This actually works out considerably cheaper than buying pictures direct from Getty Images or iStock and uploading them to your Squarespace site.

And if all that wasn't enough, Squarespace recently upped the ante in the template stakes by introducing video backgrounds - you can now use a Youtube or Vimeo video as a background for your template, with stunning results. You just enter a Youtube URL into your page settings and Squarespace will use it as the background (and to boot will give you quite a few styling options and filters to apply to it).

However, Shopify is by no means a slouch in the template / visuals department. The Shopify free templates are aesthetically pleasing and arguably better than a lot of the ‘out-of-the-box’ templates provided by competing products such as Volusion or Bigcommerce.

Additionally, if the 10 free Shopify templates don't meet your requirements, there is a Shopify template store that you can buy a snazzier template from. There are around 50 paid themes to choose from, most of which contain several variations, which means there is arguably a wider range of templates available from Shopify than Squarespace - so long as you are prepared to pay for them (prices vary but typically involve a one off payment of between $140 and $180).

These templates are similar in quality to the Squarespace ones, offering a wide range of layouts which include contemporary design features such as video backgrounds and parallax scrolling. The Shopify theme store is really easy to use - you can browse all the available templates really easily thanks to a range of controls which let you filter by layout style, industry type, size of store and so on. 

All the Shopify and Squarespace templates are responsive, meaning that your templates automatically resize themselves to suit the device they are being viewed on - mobile, tablet or desktop computer. 

For me the bottom line with templates is that both Shopify and Squarespace provide a wide range of attractive options, with Squarespace is being the more obvious choice for content-driven websites, and Shopify being the more obvious choice for those wishing to create an online store.

Importing and exporting products

Both Squarespace and Shopify give you the option to import products. With Shopify, you can import products

  • using a CSV file
  • from Ebay

Squarespace allows you to import products from:

  • CSV
  • Big Cartel
  • Etsy
  • Shopify

The fact that you can import from more third party stores into Squarespace means that it has a bit of an edge in this department.

When it comes to getting your product data out of both platforms however, Shopify is the more flexible tool. This is because Shopify lets you export all your product data (to a CSV file); Squarespace, by contrast does not (it permits you to export pages, blog posts and images but not products).

This lack of a fully-featured export tool in Squarespace is worthy of serious consideration, because if your business grows to the extent that you need to switch to an enterprise grade solution (such as Shopify Plus or Bigcommerce Enterprise, for example), you may potentially face a very big roadblock, particularly if you have a very large store. There are some merits in Squarespace's "walled garden" approach to website building, but the lack of product export functionality is in my view, one wall too many.

Furthermore, the information provided on the Squarespace site about this issue is rather misleading. Under a 'Can I download Squarespace' heading, the following statement is made:

"Squarespace is a fully-managed web service. We do not have plans to make a downloadable version. Squarespace does provide many standard methods for exporting your data." (Emphasis mine).

In my view, this is inaccurate: the export functionality is limited to Wordpress XML format and doesn't, as discussed above, permit the export of product data (you can export static content pages and one of your Squarespace blogs).

Despite the lack of an official exporting tool in Squarespace, it should be noted that there are third party tools which allow you to export your product data - for example, this Squarespace product exporting Chrome extension - or the script referenced here, but if you use these you won't be able to rely on support from Squarespace whilst doing so. 

Ultimately however, product exporting should be a standard part of any e-commerce platform, definitely a win for Shopify here.

SEO (Search engine optimisation) in Squarespace and Shopify

Another area which I feel is handled considerably better by Shopify than Squarespace is search engine optimisation (SEO).

Firstly, for all products and pages, Shopify generates a page title and meta description automatically, which a lot of the time - particularly where products are concerned - often provides a very good starting point.

Secondly, Shopify refers to the core SEO elements by their proper names; this is not the case with Squarespace. In Shopify, you're dealing with titles, meta descriptions, alt text - all the stuff you'd expect. In Squarespace you encounter things like 'captions', 'descriptions' and 'excerpts' - all of which can be used for SEO purposes but can also, if you're not careful, end up visible on your template.  Ultimately, it's just easier in Shopify to spot the key fields that you need to complete in order to add meta data - this is because they are labeled as they should be: i.e., page title and meta description.

It's definitely possible to optimise a Squarespace site well for search - but to be honest, its SEO options should be much better implemented; and there should not be a crossover between meta descriptions and page content unless the user specifically wants that crossover to exist. 

Finally, Shopify handles URL mapping better than Squarespace. If you change a page's URL, Shopify will automatically create a 301 redirect to that page for you. This lets search engines know that the page has moved, and preserves any 'link juice' associated with it. By contrast, in Squarespace, if you change a page URL, you will have to manually create the 301 redirect (the process for which is fiddly; and creating 301 redirects is quite easy to forget to do).

Bottom line: Shopify's approach to SEO is much better than Squarespace's/

Point of sale (POS) in Shopify and Squarespace

One nice feature offered by Shopify which is not currently provided by Squarespace is 'point of sale' (POS) kit. This works with both iOS and Android mobile devices and allows you to sell easily not just online but in actual physical locations too. The point of sale kit comprises a barcode scanner, card reader, cash drawer and receipt printer - you can buy any of these items individually or as a package (or alternatively use compatible third party hardware).

There are a wide range of applications for Shopify's POS system: it allows you to sell in a pop-up shop, from a market stall, at an event or even in a permanently located retail outlet, whilst keeping your inventory and stock count automatically synced. To be fair, you could theoretically use your Squarespace store to sell in physical locations too, but you could not use chip and pin or print paper receipts for clients; you would have to ask them to enter their card details into a laptop or tablet, and they'd receive an email receipt.

Mobile apps

Shopify and Squarespace both provide users with mobile apps for managing their sites or stores on the go. With Squarespace it's very much a case of 'apps plural'. There are five - yes, five - Squarespace iOS apps available:

  • Blog
  • Analytics
  • Portfolio
  • Commerce
  • Note

And if that's not enough for you, there are three Squarespace apps for Android available:

  • Blog
  • Commerce
  • Note

Of the above, most users are realistically going to appreciate 'Blog' and 'Commerce' the most, as these allow you to publish blog content and manage e-commerce orders on the go. 'Analytics' is pretty useful too and does what you might expect it to: look at your site stats on a smartphone. (Of course because 'Analytics' is not available in Google Play, Android users unfortunately won't currently be able to do this.)

Squarespace's 'Blog' app

Squarespace's 'Blog' app

'Portfolio' allows you to download the content of your Squarespace galleries to your phone so that you can show people your images on your phone when you don't have internet access. (Not 100% sure I quite see the point of this). 

'Note' is a note-taking app which allows you to publish content to a variety of different tools including Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive. (It's got a slightly odd interface but it's actually quite a useful app in its own right, and you don't actually need a Squarespace account to use it. Perhaps Squarespace see it as a gateway drug of some sort).

Shopify by contrast provides 2 apps - first there's the main Shopify app, which allows you to edit certain aspects of your Shopify site, view basic stats and check in on orders. The second Shopify app is its dedicated POS (point of sale) app, which allows you to take orders and accept payment for goods in a physical location. These two apps are available in both iOS and Android versions. In terms of user satisfaction, the Shopify apps are rated slightly more highly by their users than the Squarespace ones (averaging all the current user reviews out, it's roughly a case of 4 stars for Shopify's apps; 3 stars for Squarespace's).

It's fair to say that Squarespace and Shopify seem to be taking quite a different approach to mobile app provision, particularly where iOS is concerned. With Squarespace, you will need to download several apps to manage your site on a smartphone; with Shopify, you should be able to make do with just one; this will be more convenient for many users. The flip side of this is that the Squarespace apps are designed more with specific actions in mind (publishing a blog post, viewing stats etc.), meaning that they are arguably better suited to the task at hand.

VAT and selling digital goods in the EU

If you're selling digital goods to consumers in the EU, there's something you need to watch out for when making a decision between Squarespace and Shopify: VAT MOSS ('VAT Mini One Stop Shop').

Basically, when your business sells a digital product to consumers in EU member states, value added tax (VAT) must be charged at the rate due in the consumer’s country. With Squarespace, these different rates all have to be entered in manually as individual 'tax rules', but Shopify will calculate these automatically for you, potentially saving you a lot of time.

(An alternative workaround for VAT MOSS in Squarespace is to charge the same fee for products regardless of the countries involved, and retrospectively calculate and pay the relevant amount of VAT for each country to the tax authorities. Check with your bookkeeper or local tax authority first though to see if this is kosher...).

SSL access

SSL is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between web servers and browser, and using it ensures that all data passed between a web server and browser remains private. You can spot a site using SSL when you see a URL beginning with "https://" rather than "http://"). There's also another benefit to having SSL installed on your site: Google treats it as a 'positive signal' when ranking your site in search.

Up until recently, it was another win for Shopify here, because Squarespace only used SSL on its e-commerce pages and didn't allow you to install custom SSL certificates to cover other parts of your site. The good news now is that like Shopify, Squarespace now provides a free SSL certificate which you can use with any domain. 

Domains

Once nice feature of Squarespace is that when you purchase one of their plans (and pay annually) you get a free custom domain with it; although you can use Shopify to register a custom domain too, there is a cost associated with this (which starts at $13 per year). You can also buy domain names through Squarespace too, if you like.

You should note however that only certain domain extensions are available with both Squarespace and Shopify. Squarespace doesn't permit you to buy country domains (.co.uk etc.), for instance; Shopify does, but its domain buying options are also in general quite limited. 

As such many users will find it simpler just to buy a domain using a third-party provider and tweak the DNS settings to map the domain to their Squarespace or Shopify website.

Product images

One area that I feel is handled considerably better by Squarespace than Shopify is product images.

With Shopify, unless all your images have the same aspect ratio, they will be laid out in a pretty incoherent manner: visitors to your site will see a mish-mash of differently sized image photos in the product catalogues. You can get around this by manually editing all your images in Photoshop or other image editing program so that they are all in the same aspect ratio...but this is a pain in the derrière to say the least and for me represents one of Shopify's biggest weaknesses. It's a good idea in general to focus on getting your imagery right before building an online store, but this image ratio issue makes it particularly important to focus on this with Shopify.

Squarespace provides a better approach: you pick an aspect ratio for your product images and the system will automatically crop all your pictures to that ratio. If you like, you can specify a 'focal point' for individual product images in Squarespace - this part of the photo will be emphasised within the cropped image. 

Editing an image's focal point in Squarespace.

Editing an image's focal point in Squarespace.

Reporting

If you're looking for a platform with professional reporting functionality, then Shopify is a better option than Squarespace. Although the Squarespace reporting offering has improved quite a bit recently, the stats provided are of a more basic nature than those found in Shopify.

In Squarespace you can expect to see a simple but effective overview of site visitors, traffic sources and sales - but Shopify's analytics offering is much more extensive, giving you a set of detailed stats which include:

  • finance reports
  • sales reports
  • customers reports
  • acquisition reports
  • behavior reports

And what's more, you can use Shopify to create your own custom reports too.

Reporting in Shopify is significantly more comprehensive than in Squarespace (click to enlarge)

There is one negative aspect of Shopify's reporting offering which is worth pointing out however: it's only available on their more expensive plans. The pre-defined reports are available on the $79 'Shopify' plan and up; and to avail of custom reporting you'll need to purchase an 'Advanced Shopify' or 'Shopify Plus' plan.

If you don't opt for one of these plans, you'll just get access to a basic 'dashboard' report which provides similar data to that which you'll find in Squarespace. You could of course use Google Analytics to get around this, but you'd need to do more manual configuration and 'goal-setting' to get at the sales data you need.

Similarly, Squarespace charges a premium for more advanced reporting features - if you want enhanced commerce analytics, you'll need to be on the more expensive 'online store' plans.

Using Shopify and Squarespace with G Suite

Squarespace has recently been making quite a lot of noise about the fact that it partners with Google to offer Squarespace users G Suite (Google Apps) functionality out of the box. If you're new to Squarespace you can sign up for G Suite when you purchase your Squarespace plan - your account will be free for one year (it's not clear how many users this covers). 

When you sign up for G Suite through Squarespace, you can manage certain G Suite admin tasks without leaving your Squarespace site:

  • adding users/email addresses
  • renaming users
  • reviewing G Suite invoices

This functionality is fairly limited, and easily accessible through the G Suite admin panel, so the integration isn't that mind blowing. More appealing is the year's free account. 

Squarespace does integrate nicely with G Suite in one particular respect: you can connect data capture forms to a Google Sheet, meaning that you get a handy real-time overview (or indeed archive) of any form submissions made via your website. This will work with any G Suite account, regardless of whether you purchase it via Squarespace or independently. If you already have a G Suite account, note that you won't be able to connect it retrospectively to your Squarespace account, or avail of any free G Suite plans.

In terms of using Shopify in conjunction with G Suite, there's nothing to stop you doing that - you will need to edit your DNS settings manually to get the email accounts to work, but that's a fairly simple, 5 minute task.

Editing HTML and CSS in Shopify and Squarespace

With Shopify you get very extensive control over the coding of your site - you get full control over the HTML and CSS of your website. With Squarespace, you can edit the CSS and certain bits of HTML (you can insert code blocks onto pages, or inject HTML into the header of your site) but you should be aware that the Squarespace support team essentially reserve the right not to support you fully if you've added HTML or CSS to your site.

As discussed earlier, there is a developer version of Squarespace available which does provide users with extensive control over every aspect of the design of their site - but you will need strong coding skills to be able to work with it. As the name suggests, you will ideally need to be a developer.

(For the record, what I'd *love* to see one day is a halfway house between the standard version of Squarespace and the developer's platform - maybe a product called 'Squarespace Pro' which, like the original version of Squarespace, allowed you to tweak every element of your website and edit the CSS of your site easily).

Support

Shopify definitely has the edge over Squarespace in the support department.

Shopify provides you with live chat, email and (crucially) 24/7 phone support - Squarespace offer only live chat and email support. If I was paying $46 a month for a Squarespace account, I'd expect phone support. 

It's a bit unclear however what countries you can avail of Shopify phone support from - phone numbers are only listed for North America, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

A note of caution is worth sounding regarding the support offered with both Shopify and Squarespace - the quality of support you'll get often depends on what you're doing with your template. 

For example, if you're using one of the standard free Shopify templates, you can expect fairly comprehensive support if it's not behaving as it should. But if you opt for a third-party, paid-for template, you may have to deal with the designers of that template if you run into trouble. And how good that support is will depend on the developer.

Similarly, Squarespace's support team are pretty good at assisting with template related queries...unless you customise it by adding your own CSS or HTML to it, in which case the Squarespace support team effectively reserve the right not to support you.

Which is better, Shopify or Squarespace?

The answer to this question is a big fat ‘it depends’. If your primary aim to build an attractive website to showcase content, then Squarespace is definitely your best bet. I'd argue that this is particularly the case if you're working with images - Squarespace is particularly good for creating online photography portfolios with - or are a musician / band. 

If you are hoping to build a content-focused website or a blog and sell a couple of products on the site as well, then Squarespace is probably still your best bet, so long as you are happy with the fairly limited payment processing options - and you don't need to charge EU VAT on digital goods. 

However if your aim is to create a large online store with advanced functionality, professional reporting and a big inventory of products, then Shopify is unquestionably the more robust solution, not least because it allows you to export your product data, something Squarespace does not currently permit.

Interestingly, if you prefer the general vibe of Squarespace, or have an existing Squarespace site that you're really happy with, but would you'd like to add e-commerce functionality to, you could also consider using Squarespace AND Shopify in conjunction with each other: you could use the 'Shopify Lite' Plan to integrate the Shopify Buy Button, cart and checkout onto a Squarespace site. I've seen quite a few users do this.

In summary, here are the reasons why you might pick one tool over the other:

Reasons to use Shopify over Squarespace

  • With Shopify, you can export products; in Squarespace you can't, meaning it's very difficult to migrate an online store if you need to move platforms.
  • There is a huge library of third party apps that work with Shopify and extend its functionality significantly - although some integrations are available for Squarespace, you won't find a similar catalogue of apps to beef up your site / store.
  • Shopify provides you with significantly more choices when it comes to payment gateways.
  • If you intend to sell products in-store or at events, you will find Shopify's Point of Sale options extremely useful; Squarespace doesn't yet offer this kind of functionality.
  • Shopify permits more advanced control over the HTML and CSS of your website.
  • Reporting is significantly better in Shopify than in Squarespace, although you'll need to be on a more expensive plan to access this functionality.
  • Thanks to the fact that EU VAT is automatically calculated for you on digital goods, Shopify makes selling products to EU customers a lot more straightforward.
  • Shopify provides more comprehensive support than Squarespace, including phone support.
  • Shopify's 'Lite' plan allows you to start selling online and at point-of-sale very cheaply (but note that it won't provide you with a fully-fledged online store).
  • Although fiddly to work with, Shopify's navigation builder allows you to use more levels of navigation than Squarespace (for desktop versions of your store).
  • Shopify has a much better approach to SEO.
  • There are more template variations available in Shopify (but you will have to pay a premium to use many of them).
  • Only one smartphone app is required to manage key aspects of your site on the go - with Squarespace you'll need at least three.

A free trial of Shopify is available here.

Reasons to use Squarespace over Shopify

  • The quality of bundled templates is arguably higher in Squarespace than in Shopify - they have more 'wow' factor (note that the paid-for Shopify templates are of a similar quality, however).
  • If your main aim is to showcase content, particularly images, then Squarespace is the more elegant, flexible solution.
  • The video background feature is capable of providing you with some stunning visual results.
  • You can buy Getty images very cheaply with Squarespace and integrate them easily onto your site. 
  • Squarespace is, in general, slightly easier to use than Shopify, particularly where creating a site navigation is concerned.
  • Squarespace allows you to sell an unlimited number of products more cheaply than Shopify.
  • Abandoned cart recovery functionality is available more cheaply on Squarespace than Shopify.
  • Product images are handled better by Squarespace.
  • You can set up a store and sell unlimited products with Squarespace cheaper than with Shopify.
  • Depending on whether or not you have an existing G Suite account, you may be able to avail of a free G Suite plan for a year by purchasing it through Squarespace.

A free trial of Squarespace is available here.

Hopefully this comparison review has helped somewhat, but if you are still agonising over your decision it is definitely worth availing of a free trial of both products, having a play, and seeing which one you prefer:

More Shopify and Squarespace resources

You might also find the below posts on Shopify and Squarespace useful:

Squarespace web development from Style Factory

We now offer Squarespace web development services, providing custom coding that can significantly improve the look, feel and functionality of your Squarespace site. We also offer a 'white glove' service where we can build your new Squarespace site for you from scratch.

Find out more about our Squarespace developers.

Alternatives to Shopify and Squarespace

If you’d like to try another solution before committing to either Squarespace or Shopify, Bigcommerce is definitely worth a look because it is feature-rich and very easy to use (it's particularly good when it comes to providing merchants with the option to add a wide variety of product variants). You may also find some of our other e-commerce platform reviews helpful – just see the 'related articles' section below for a list of recent posts.

Any thoughts or questions?

If you've used either Shopify and Squarespace (or both!), it'd be great to hear your thoughts on both products - feel free to post your comments or questions on either platform below. Also, if you've found this post useful, it'd be wonderful if you could consider sharing it on social media or creating a link to it on your blog / website. Thanks for reading!


Related articles

Office 365 vs G Suite (Google Apps) 2017 - An In-depth Comparison Review
Office 365 vs G Suite - image of the two company logos beside a typewriter

Office 365 vs G Suite (or, as it used to be known, Google Apps)...which is better? This is a question that many businesses, particularly startups, have trouble answering.

In this post I’m going to try to help you decide which is best for your business, by putting the two product suites head to head in a detailed comparison review.

Read on to see how G Suite and Office 365 fare against each other in the key areas of pricing, features and ease-of use. We’ll explore all the pros and cons of each product in depth and explain why, and when, you might want to use one over the other. Let's start by taking a look at what these products actually let you do.

While you're here...

We now offer G Suite migration and installation services, which will get your business set up on G Suite quickly and with a minimum of fuss. We can migrate all your existing calendars and email across in a well-planned, hassle-free migration.

Find out more about our G Suite services here.

What do Office 365 and G Suite do?

Office 365 and G Suite are a suite of productivity tools that let you perform common business tasks 'in the cloud'. Up until recently, G Suite was called Google Apps for Work, and many users and prospective users still refer to the product suite simply as as Google Apps.

Both Office 365 and G Suite allow you to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations and collaborate with team members whilst doing so; they also provide video conferencing functionality and cloud storage.

Pricing - how do G Suite and Office 365 compare?

G Suite

Choosing a G Suite plan is relatively straightforward, as there are only three plans available:

  • Basic: $5 per user per month ($50 per user per year if paid annually)
  • Business: $10 per user per month ($120 per user per year if paid annually)
  • Enterprise: prices available upon request from Google.

On the 'Basic' plan, you get

  • Business email addresses (yourname@yourcompany.com)
  • Video and voice calls (via Google Hangouts)
  • Shared online calendars
  • Online documents, spreadsheets and presentations
  • 30 GB of online storage for file syncing and sharing
  • Project sites (a way to build simple websites or intranet)
  • Security and admin controls
  • 24/7 phone and email support.

On the 'Business' plan, in addition to the above you get

  • Unlimited file storage (or 1 TB if your organisation has less than 5 users)
  • Audit and reporting insights for Drive content and sharing
  • eDiscovery covering emails, chats, docs and files
  • Email archives / message-retention policies

On the 'Enterprise' plan, you get all the features of the 'Basic' and 'Business' plans plus

  • data loss prevention for files and email
  • integration with third party tools
  • S/MIME for Gmail (improved encryption for emails)
  • advanced admin controls and security
  • additional reporting on email usage via BigQuery

For many users, the most significant difference between these plans will involve file storage. With the G Suite 'Basic' plan, users are restricted to 30GB of file storage; but - as long as there are 5 or more G Suite users in your organisation - there are no limits on the 'Business' plan (if you have a 'Business' plan but have less than 5 users on it, file storage is restricted to 1TB per user).

It’s important to note that Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Drawings - i.e. documents created using Google’s set of apps rather than third party applications - don’t count toward your G Suite file storage limit. Neither do files shared with you by other Google Drive users.

‘Power users’ and big organisations are likely to find the e-Discovery features that the 'Business' and 'Enterprise' plans come with handy - these lets you archive all communications in your organisation according to rules you define. This may be useful if for legal reasons you need to store an extensive communications history and dig up old emails sent to or from your team.

I suspect that prospective G Suite users will be a little alarmed to see that data loss tools are only included with the most expensive Enterprise plans. If you want to back up a 'Basic' or 'Business' G Suite plan, you'll need to invest in a third party tool such as Backupify.

Microsoft Office 365 pricing

The pricing options for Office 365 are more complicated, because there are home, business, enterprise and education versions available. For the purposes of this review however, I’m going to focus on the 'Business' and 'Enterprise' plans, which are:

  • Business Essentials - $6 per user per month
  • Business - $10 per user per month
  • Business Premium - $15 per user per month
  • Enterprise E1 - $8 per user per month (requires annual commitment)
  • Enterprise ProPlus - $12 per user per month (requires annual commitment)
  • Enterprise E3 - $20 per user per month (requires annual commitment)
  • Enterprise E5 - $35 per user per month (requires annual commitment).

As you might expect, there are a lot of different options to get your head around with the above 7 plans, but a few important things to note are as follows:

  • The ‘Business’ plans let you pay on a rolling per-month basis; the ‘Enterprise’ ones do not - you have to pay upfront for a year. This means that if your workforce tends to shrink or grow throughout the year, the ‘Business’ plans might be more suitable for your organisation.
  • The ‘Business’ plans all limit the maximum number of users to 300.
  • All plans provide you with with the desktop versions of the Microsoft Office product suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint etc.) except for the ‘Business Essentials’ and ‘Enterprise E1’ plans, which only provide the online ones. So if a key motivation behind choosing Office 365 is to avail of the desktop apps as well as the cloud features - a key advantage of using Office 365 over G Suite - make sure you avoid those particular plans.
  • Not all of the Office 365 plans provide users with an email account - if you want to use Office 365 as your email service provider, you’ll need to steer clear of the ‘Business’ and the ‘Enterprise Pro Plus’ plans.
  • Similarly, the ‘Business’ and ‘Enterprise ProPlus’ plans don’t feature calendar functionality.
  • The three ‘Business’ plans listed above come in a bit cheaper if you commit to paying upfront for a year.

So which works out cheaper in the Office 365 vs G Suite fight?

The most directly comparable G Suite and Office 365 plans are arguably

  • the G Suite ‘Basic’ ($5 per user per month) and Office 365 ‘Business Essentials’ ($6 per user per month) plans

and

  • the G Suite 'Business' ($10 per user per month) and Office 365 ‘Enterprise E3’ ($20 per user per month) plans.

In essence there is a $1 per user per month saving to be made at the lower end of the pricing bands by plumping for the G Suite 'Basic’ plan over Microsoft’s ‘‘Business Essentials’; but at the more ‘enterprise’ level, the Office 365 ‘Enterprise E1’ plan comes in at $10 higher per month than the G Suite 'Business' plan (and you'll have to pay upfront for the year for the Microsoft product too).

This doesn’t really tell the full story however, because there are so many variables and potential tradeoffs at play here. Although the above plans are broadly comparable, there are still big differences in important areas such as email storage, file storage and archiving to consider; so coming up with an answer to the ‘which is cheaper, Google Apps vs Office 365’ question is probably best answered by taking a more in-depth look at the features of each product and seeing how well they fulfil your business needs.

Office 365 vs G Suite: the features

File storage

If we’re talking entry-level plans, then Office 365 is a clear winner here: you get 1TB of storage with the ‘Business Essentials’ plan compared to Google’s rather paltry 30GB on its 'Basic' plan (to add insult to injury, Google also counts emails as taking up space in this 30GB limit).

However, if you move up a notch to the G Suite 'Business' plan, you'll find that the Google plans beat all the Microsoft plans hands down in the file storage department (so long as you have 5 or more users - more on that in a moment).

With the G Suite Business plan you get unlimited storage, which is extremely useful to any business that has a need to store large multimedia files in the cloud. Although Microsoft Office 365’s 1TB limit (which applies on all its plans) sounds very generous, you’d be surprised how quickly you can burn through 1TB of storage if working with video or audio.

That said, if you're just talking about working with standard documents and spreadsheets, a 1 TB limit per user should be perfectly adequate for most small to medium sized businesses. But if having acres of cloud storage is your primary concern, then it’s a win here for G Suite, so long as you are prepared to live with the more expensive $10 per user per month plan.

 
Google Drive lets you access your files anywhere and on any device.

Google Drive lets you access your files anywhere and on any device.

 

One important thing to note - and this seems to be a relatively recent development - is that the G Suite 'Business' plan only provides you with unlimited file storage if you buy more than 5 user accounts. Otherwise you're restricted to 1TB per user. This is a bit of a shame really, as it renders Google's USP rather less unique for any companies with less than 5 employees.

Both Office 365 and G Suite give you the option to buy more storage on a per user basis. As far as I can make out from the information provided by Microsoft - its website isn’t madly clear on this - every 1 GB extra on Office 365 costs $0.20 per user.

With G Suite, you'll generally only need to worry about storage limits if you’re using the basic plan or are on a 'Business' plan and, as discussed above, have less then 5 users in your organisation.

If you're on a 'Basic' plan, there are several tiers of additional data storage purchase options which start at 4GB ($4 extra per user per month) and go up to 16TB per user ($1430 per user per month!).

As the table below shows, depending on how much storage you need for particular users, you may find it works out cheaper to simply upgrade all your G Suites users to the 'Business' plan than buying a few users additional storage. Similarly, if you're on a G Suite 'Business' plan with less than 5 users and are hitting your storage limit, you might find it cheaper to buy a couple of new accounts than buying additional storage.

License size

Monthly price

USD

EUR

GBP

20 GB

$4.00

€3,00

£2.50

50 GB

$7.50

€6,00

£4.75

200 GB

$17.50

€13,50

£11.50

400 GB

$35.00

€26,50

£22.50

1 TB

$89.00

€67,00

£57.00

2 TB

$179.00

€134,00

£113.00

4 TB

$358.00

€268,00

£226.00

8 TB

$716.00

€535,00

£452.00

16 TB

$1430.00

€1068,00

£903.00

Email

The entry level $6 per month Office 365 plan is considerably more generous than G Suite's entry level offering when it comes to email storage - a dedicated 50GB inbox is available on top of the 1TB file storage provided. By comparison, the $5 per user per month ‘G Suite Basic’ plan caps total storage at 30GB, emails and files included.

However, if you’re on the $10 G Suite 'Business' plan (and have 5+ users in your team) there isn’t a cap on your inbox size; this contrasts positively with all the Office 365 plans - none of them provide unlimited email storage (the best you'll get, without buying additional storage, is a 50GB mailbox - still a lot of storage space, to be fair).

In terms of the email apps that are available to you, Gmail is robust, fast and very easy to find messages with, thanks to its powerful search functionality (you’d expect that side of things to be good, given that it’s Google we’re talking about here). Also, given its popularity there are a huge range of third-party apps available for it which add all manner of useful functionality to proceedings.

However - and incredibly frustratingly - Gmail doesn’t allow you to sort or group mail, something most users will routinely require from an email client. As such you may find yourself wanting to use Gmail in conjunction with another email program - for example the excellent (and free) Thunderbird, or, whisper it, Outlook.

And speaking of which, getting your hands on Outlook is a key attraction of Office 365. On most Office 365 plans you get access to two versions of Outlook: an online version, which is okay, but - mail sorting functionality aside - Gmail probably betters in most respects; and an offline version, which is feature rich and provides a lot of flexibility when it comes to how you sort, group, label and generally manage your email.

 

Gmail is great - but Outlook (pictured above) gives you a lot more options when it comes to grouping and sorting mail.

 

Desktop applications: the main argument for using Office 365?

Here is where things get pretty interesting, and where a LOT of potential users of Office 365 and G Suite will be tempted to go for Office 365.

With most of the Office 365 plans you get all the desktop versions of their products as well as the cloud-based ones. In essence, you can install the full versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook etc. on your desktop machine and work offline on these applications. Despite this being the age of cloud computing, a multitude of businesses still send each other files created locally using these applications, so there is a strong argument for having desktop versions of all the above available; it allows your team to work more easily with these file formats.

Another argument in favour of having the MS applications installed in your organisation boils down to functionality. It’s fair to say that the Google apps are definitely more basic in terms of what they can do than their Microsoft desktop app equivalents. If you’re looking to do some advanced number crunching, Excel will beat Google Sheets; if you want to add some ‘Smart Art’ in a document, you’ll need to be working in Microsoft Word rather than Google Docs; and if you need slick slide animations in a presentation, Powerpoint will do a much better job than Google Slides. 

However, that shouldn’t deter you entirely from using G Suite, because it is possible to open Microsoft Office documents using them, and even save files created with G Suite to Microsoft Office format. The problem with working this way is that you can’t always preserve the exact formatting of Office files when you edit and save them using a Google app. How much of a big deal this is for you will depend on the nature of your business: if you are expected by clients to routinely provide them with extensively-formatted MS Office files then you’re not always going to be able to do that with G Suite. But if you just need to occasionally open an MS Office file, or send something basic over to a client in MS Office format, you would be able to make do with Google’s suite of products.

The other thing to remember about the Microsoft Office desktop applications is that as nice as they are, and as familiar with them as your team may be, they have to be installed locally. This means that that somebody in your organisation will need to take care of this aspect of things - and this person (or persons) have to know what they’re doing. In essence, using the Microsoft desktop apps may bring with it some hidden IT costs (at the very least, there’s a time implication - your team will need to devote some hours to downloading, installing and periodically updating the applications correctly).

There’s also something else you might want to consider about giving your team access to the desktop apps: habit or human nature. Most people like to work with tools they're familiar with, and, given the long history of Microsoft Office products, your team is likely to plump for the locally installed versions of the Office 365 products over the cloud-based, collaborative tools it also provides. This will possibly encourage 'local' or offline working at the expense of the more collaborative cloud approach (and working offline can throw up some security headaches too).

Conversely, if you create a working environment where your organisation only uses browser-based applications (such as those offered by G Suite) that save documents to the cloud, then your data is arguably more secure (so long as you have backup procedures in place) and your team are more likely to make fuller use of collaboration features.

Finally on the subject of apps, don’t forget that there is nothing to stop you from using both G Suite and MS Office apps in conjunction with each other. If you are tempted by the unlimited cloud storage provided by G Suite, but want to save Word documents in it, you could buy the offline versions of the Microsoft applications that you use regularly, and save files created in them to your Google Drive via Google Desktop Sync (more on that anon).

Web applications in Office 365 and G Suite

Office 365 and G Suite both offer a set of web applications which have equivalents in both product suites, namely:

Word > Google Docs
Excel > Google Sheets
Powerpoint > Google Slides
Outlook Online > Gmail
One Note Online > Google Keep
Sharepoint > Google Sites
Skype for Web > Google Hangouts
Microsoft Teams > Google Keep (sort of)

These are broad equivalents, in that their feature set is not exactly going to match the corresponding app. 

One app included in Office 365 for which there isn't really a G Suite equivalent is Yammer. This allows you to set up a sort of social network for your business - similar in some ways to an intranet, but much more dynamic / social in nature.

Collaboration

A huge advantage of working in the cloud is the collaboration possibilities it opens up. Instead of faffing about with markup and ‘tracking changes’, people who want to work on the same file can simply open up a document in a browser and see, in real time, the edits that everybody looking at the file is making.

Both G Suite and Microsoft Office 365 make this sort of online collaboration straightforward using their online apps. Additionally, you can now use Microsoft’s desktop apps to work on documents in real time with other team members - but some users, including the Wall Street Journal’s Personal Tech columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler, have found that to be a bit of a clunky experience, as the video below demonstrates:

In the interest of balance however, it's worth sharing another video with you too, which takes a look at the collaboration features of the online, browser-based versions of the Office 365 apps:

I would on balance say that collaboration functionality in G Suite is a bit easier to get your head around than Office 365’s, possibly because the product is 1) less feature packed and 2) was conceived with collaboration as a key feature (Office 365, by contrast, has evolved from being a suite of desktop applications into a solution that features collaborative tools).

All in all though, both product suites definitely allow you to collaborate with co-workers effectively.

See below for a video highlighting some collaboration options in Google Docs.

Video calls

Both G Suite and Office 365 provide video conferencing functionality: Hangouts and Skype respectively. In my experience I’ve found Hangouts to work a bit better than Skype - it seems to drop calls less frequently and crash less. It also loads faster. But I have also found that more people are on Skype and are more comfortable with using it. This means, predictably, that I’ve ended up using both tools for making calls.

However, Office 365 is much more generous when it comes to participant limits on video calls. The maximum number of people that can participate in a video call using a Google Hangout is 25; on Skype it’s 250. And if you’re looking for serious voice calling functionality in general - both in terms of conference calling or general telephony services, Office 365 offers far more options...but note that you will have to be on one of the most expensive plans to avail of these features.

That syncing feeling

Both Office 365 and G Suite provide desktop apps for syncing local data with the cloud and vice versa - OneDrive and Google Drive Sync respectively. These apps allow you to save a file in the cloud which then appears on your local drive, or vice versa. This is handy for when you want to work on documents offline, or want to back up or upload local files to your cloud storage (the downside of this is that it makes your data less secure - if your laptop gets stolen for example, so does your data).

I prefer Office 365’s desktop sync option to G Suite's, because it makes it easy to share a file with others directly from the desktop - you just right click on the file and you see an option to share it with others. If you want to share a file on Google Drive you have to go into the web app to do so, which can interrupt workflow.

Mobile apps

As you'd expect, there are mobile apps (iOS and Android) available for both G Suite and Office 365, which allow you to access and edit your files on the go. My experience with both has been fairly positive; it's certainly possible to access the information quickly on both sets of apps easily, but I'm not sure how inclined I'd be to do a lot of editing of spreadsheets, for example, on a mobile device (particularly a phone: far too fiddly). 

Most users will end up using the mail applications the most - and these are the apps I've had the most experience with. I don't particularly like the Gmail mobile app, as it doesn't let you turn off the horrendous conversation view. On the flip side it is brilliant when it comes to searching for old messages (as you'd expect from a company specialising in search engine functionality). 

The mobile version of Outlook is a bit disappointing too - no sorting or grouping of mail is possible. To be honest, whether I was using G Suite or Office, I'd probably be inclined to ignore both their offerings when it comes to mobile email and use my favourite mobile email client, Inkymail, instead.

The good thing about both sets of mobile apps is that they make editing your work on-the-go in areas where you don't have Internet access very straightforward - so long as you save the files you want to work onto your mobile device before you go offline (see the section below on working offline for more details).

Advanced features in Office 365 and G Suite

There are various features that are available on certain G Suite and Office 365 plans which will be of relevance to users with advanced requirements.

Features common to both products' more enterprise-grade plans are:

  • Intranet building functionality
  • E-discovery tools
  • Advanced reporting
  • Email archiving
  • Legal holds on inboxes

Microsoft offer some additional advanced functionality on their most expensive plans, including

  • Advanced virus protection
  • Rights management
  • Cloud based phone call hosting services

It’s probably fair to say that you can avail of some advanced functionality a bit cheaper with G Suite - for example, you get intranet building functionality with the $5 per month G Suite option; and e-Discovery tools, advanced reporting, email archiving and legal holds on inboxes all come as standard on the $10 per month 'Business plan'. But if you are hoping to avail of most of the functionality listed above using Office 365, you’ll have to bear in mind that it is only available on the most expensive plans - the $20 per user per month E3 plan or the $35 per user per month E5 plan.

Support

24/7 phone support in English is offered for users of both G Suite and Office 365; hours for support in other languages vary depending on country. Email support is also offered for both products; and there are various support forums available for both products too.

Interface and ease of use

So which is easier to use, G Suite or Microsoft Office 365? Which product comes with the steeper learning curve? As with much else in this comparison, the fairest answer (unfortunately!) is probably ‘it depends.’

Because of the ubiquity of Microsoft Office apps, there is a strong case to be made that people using Office 365 are likely to already be familiar with how Microsoft software works, and be in a better position to hit the ground running with them.

Google Docs has a very clean user interface and the collaboration tools are easy to use (click image to enlarge).

You could also argue however that the simpler productivity tools bundled with G Suite generate a less steep learning curve for users who are new to online collaboration.

In terms of user interfaces, the Google apps feel less cluttered than those bundled with Microsoft Office, simply because they are not as feature packed. I personally much prefer working in Google Docs to the desktop version of Word, because there’s no load time and only a few menu options to be distracted by. My Google document is always saved to the cloud and I can pick up where I left off on it at any point, on any device.

The online version of MS Word lets you work in a similar fashion, it has to be said - but it just feels a bit more ‘fussy’ and in my experience takes a bit longer to load. But it is unquestionably better - as you might expect - for editing MS Office documents and saving them without creating problems with the formatting.

Ultimately I think both products are fairly straightforward to use - if editing MS Office files is going to be a big part of your job, then Office 365 will feel a lot more familiar and present less of a learning curve; if collaboration is more the concern, then G Suite is arguably a slightly better bet.

Working offline with G Suite and Office 365

Given that G Suite is essentially designed to run in a browser, a key question many potential Google Apps users typically have is "will I be able to work offline?" The answer is: yes. On a desktop computer, you'll need to do two things: 1) ensure that you've installed Google's Chrome browser and 2) switch on file syncing. This will allow you to access and edit Google documents, sheets and slides offline; any changes you make to them will be synced to the cloud when you reconnect to the Internet.

With regard to Gmail, there is an offline app available for it, which also requires Chrome to run - and again you'll need to ensure you download all your mail before going offline. The Gmail offline app is very similar to the mobile version of Gmail - and it's similarly annoying, because you can't switch the conversation view off. 

You can also work offline using Google's mobile apps - however, you have to let G Suite know that you want a particular file to be available offline first (by checking an option that downloads it to your mobile device). 

With Office 365, the best way to work offline on a desktop computer is by using the standard desktop applications in conjunction with the desktop version of OneDrive. As with G Suite, ensure you've synced everything to your desktop before going offline - you can then work on any file in Word, Excel etc. and when you reconnect to the Internet any changes you have made will be synced.

Office 365's mobile apps also let you work offline, but as with Google's mobile apps, you'll need to download individual files to your mobile device first to access them on the go.

Extending the functionality of G Suite and Office 365

If you are not happy with the functionality provided by the G Suite apps and Office 365, there are two ways you can extend the functionality of both suites of products.

The first, and simplest, is by installing an 'add on' to the products. Both Microsoft and Google have online stores that provide a wide range of apps to beef up their productivity tools - the 'Office Store' and 'Apps Marketplace' respectively. Both free and paid-for apps are available for both systems.

The other way to enhance the functionality of both products is to code something yourself. If you have the know-how, you can use the Microsoft or Google APIs (application program interfaces) to add a bespoke piece of functionality to your chosen set of productivity tools. You can read more about the Google Apps API on the Google Developers site; the relevant information about the Microsoft Office API can be found here.

G Suite vs Office 365: the conclusions

After reading the above G Suite vs Office 365 comparison, I hope you have a clearer idea of why or when you might pick one of these products over the other.

For me, I would probably focus on six areas in making the final decision:

  • The need your organisation may have to edit MS Office documents
  • Your file storage requirements
  • Your email storage requirements
  • The nature of your working environment
  • IT implications
  • Scalability

If you work in an organisation that absolutely has to work with MS Office files regularly - and particularly if you need to use the advanced functionality that MS Office applications provide - then the natural choice is definitely going to be Office 365 (just make sure that you select a plan that includes the desktop applications). Although G Suite can be used to produce and edit MS Office documents, this functionality is limited and you can expect hiccups when you try to edit and save a complex Office document or spreadsheet with a Google app. That said, G Suite technically allows you to edit both documents produced with Google Apps *and* MS Office apps - this is not true of Office 365. 

If your organisation sends and receives a large amount of mail, then might find yourself drawn towards a 'Business' G Suite plan, as these come with unlimited email storage. If you're on a budget however, and email storage is a big issue for you, you'll find that the Office 365 entry-level plans are considerably more generous when it comes to email storage.

If having a serious quantity of cloud storage available is your overriding concern, then the G Suite 'Business' plan is hard to argue with. So long as you intend to buy 5 or more G Suite accounts, for $10 per user per month, you get unlimited file storage and unlimited email storage - all the MS Office 365 plans, even the most expensive ones, cap the standard storage figure at 1TB.

The environment that you are hoping to deploy G Suite and Office 365 in should also be factored into your decision. If your organisation uses a wide mix of devices and operating systems, then you could potentially make life easier for your users by plumping for G Suite, which is designed to run online (ideally in a web browser but apps are available for all the major OS devices). With G Suite, it simply won’t matter whether your team members use Mac OS, Windows, Linux, Chrome OS...everything will look, feel and function exactly the same. But if your organisation is entirely MS Windows-based, there's a lot to be said for Microsoft Office 365 - a plan which involves the desktop apps will slot very neatly into such an environment. 

IT implications: whilst it’s always a good idea to have some IT resource available, the resource and IT cost implication for deploying, maintaining and supporting G Suite will in my view be lower than for Office 365, particularly if the desktop apps are involved. 

And finally, scalability: the more affordable Office 365 plans (the 'Business' ones) currently cap the numbers of users at 300 - no such limit applies to G Suite plans.

It’s a tough decision! But hopefully this review has helped resolve the Office 365 vs G Suite debate just a little bit for you. I’ll leave you with a summary of some reasons which you might prioritise one solution over the other. And if you have any thoughts on the Office 365 vs G Suite debate, please do make sure you share them in the comments section below!

Reasons to pick Office 365 over G Suite

  • Most Office 365 plans come with desktop versions of the Microsoft Office applications, making the product a much better fit for any organisation with clients that expect it be able to send, receive and edit MS Office files without difficulty. This is in my view by far the strongest argument for choosing Office 365.
  • The file storage and email storage quotas on the Office 365 entry level plan are much more generous than those provided by the G Suite entry level plan.
  • Outlook provides you with an easy means to sort and group mail - Gmail doesn’t (unless you use a client like Outlook or Thunderbird to access it).
  • You can have far more participants on a Skype call than a Hangout - 250 vs 25 respectively.
  • More advanced phone call management options are available with Office 365.
  • It’s easier to share files on desktop computers using the sync app for Microsoft’s OneDrive than the Google Drive equivalent.
  • More advanced functionality regarding virus protection and rights management is available with MS Office 365 (for a price, though).
  • Office 365 may provide a natural fit for businesses that are exclusively Windows-based.

Reasons to pick G Suite over Office 365

  • File storage: at $10 per user per month, the Google Unlimited Plan is better value data-wise than most of the Microsoft plans, giving you an unlimited amount of cloud storage to play with (as long as you are buying 5+ G Suite accounts).
  • It’s very scalable - there are no limits on the number of users regardless of what plan you’re on (the cheaper Office ‘Business’ plans cap the number of your users at 300).
  • G Suite was built as collaboration-focused solution, and as such its collaboration features are arguably a bit stronger.
  • eDiscovery, site building tools, email archiving and legal holds on inboxes (amongst other advanced features) are available for a lower cost with G Suite.
  • The Google Apps interfaces are clean and, so long as a good internet connection is being used, the apps load fast (certainly faster than Microsoft Office desktop equivalents).
  • It’s a good solution for businesses where multiple devices and operating systems are used.
  • There are a large number of third party web applications which integrate neatly with the G Suite apps and enhance their functionality.
  • The fact that everything is cloud-based may encourage users to use the cloud more, with all the collaboration-related benefits this brings.

    Alternatives to Office 365 and G Suite

    The main alternatives to Office 365 and G Suite are probably Apple's iWork suite of products and Open Office.

     

    iWork from Apple

     

    iWork is a nice, 'clean' set of productivity tools; as with the G Suite apps, you'll encounter a more minimalistic interface than in MS Office. As with both Office and G Suite, you can use iWorks in a browser on any device and collaborate in real time with other users; desktop apps (Pages, Numbers and Keynote) are also available, but these work with Apple products only. In terms of costs, the browser edition of iWorks is free, but you will need to potentially pay for iCloud storage. The desktop apps cost $10 to $20 each.

    Open Office is a well-known open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics and databases. The good news is that it's completely free - the less good news is that there isn't an official 'cloud' version of the software. If you are particularly keen on using Open Office though, some cloud functionality will be available to you using Rollapp, an 'online application virtualization platform', which - in theory at least - allows you to run any application on any device in a web browser.

    Got any thoughts on G Suite, MS Office 365 or any of the alternatives? Do feel free to leave a comment below!

    Get set up on G Suite with Style Factory

    We now offer G Suite migration and installation services, which will get your business set up on G Suite quickly and with a minimum of fuss. We can migrate all your existing calendars and email across in a well-planned, hassle-free migration.

    Find out more about our G Suite services here.

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    Shopify vs Volusion (August 2017) | Comparison of Two Leading Online Store Builders
    Shopify vs Volusion - image of a shopping cart beside the two company logos.

    In this Shopify vs Volusion comparison review, we pit two well-known online store builders against each other.

    Read on for an overview of their pricing and key features, and find out which of these well-known e-commerce platforms is best for your business.

    About Shopify and Volusion

    Shopify and Volusion are platforms which allow you to create an online store. They work in a similar way, in that they are hosted solutions - they run in a browser and there is no software for you to install locally. They are 'software as a service' (SaaS) solutions - you pay a monthly fee to use them,  and this gives you the tools to create and maintain your store: templates, a content management system, hosting, e-commerce functionality and support.

    The fundamental idea behind both tools is that even if you don't have coding or design skills, you can create an online store easily enough using them.

    In previous reviews of Shopify and Volusion, I've always come down on the side of Shopify - it's proved itself to be a classier, easier to use product. But with the recent rollout of a new version of Volusion, has its upped its game? Is it now a better option than Shopify for building an e-commerce site? 

    Let's find out.

    Pricing

    Shopify offers 5 pricing plans:

    • Lite: $9 per month
    • Basic Shopify: $29 per month
    • Shopify: $79 per month
    • Advanced Shopify: $299 per month
    • Shopify Plus: pricing varies depending on requirements

    With Volusion, there are 4 plans to choose from:

    • Volusion Mini: $15 per month
    • Volusion Plus: $35 per month
    • Volusion Pro: $75 per month
    • Volusion Premium: $135 per month

    Entry level plans

    Shopify can get you selling online cheaper via their $9 'Lite' plan; this is  $6 cheaper than the $15 'Volusion Mini' plan.

    However, the Shopify plan doesn't allow you to actually set up a fully functional online store but rather allows you to:

    • sell on Facebook
    • use Shopify's back end in conjunction with a Shopify 'Buy' button which you can embed on your website (this works in a similar way to a Paypal button)
    • make use of the Shopify point of sale kit (more on that anon).

    Volusion's Mini plan, by contrast, allows you to create a fully-fledged online store for $15 per month - but there are limits on the number of products you can sell (100) and the bandwidth available (1GB). No such limits apply on any Shopify plans.

    Transaction fees

    One key advantage of using Volusion over Shopify is the lack of transaction fees on any of its plans.

    With Shopify, you can also avoid transaction fees on all plans - BUT only if you are happy to use Stripe as your payment gateway. There is a problem with this, because the Shopify-Stripe integration is only available to users selling from certain countries: the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia. Other Shopify users can make use of a wide range of third-party payment gateway processors - but if you use one, transaction fees will apply (2% on 'Lite' and 'Basic' plans, 1% on 'Shopify' and 0.5% on 'Advanced').

    Key things to watch out for with Volusion and Shopify pricing plans

    The key things to look out watch out for when comparing Shopify's pricing to Volusion's are probably the following:

    • Bandwidth: if you are selling digital goods or expecting a high level of traffic to your store, bear in mind that Volusion limits bandwidth: you are restricted to 1GB on the 'Mini' plan; 3GB on the 'Plus' plan; 10GB on the 'Pro' plan and 35GB on the 'Premium' plan.
    • Abandoned cart reports: you can't access these in Shopify unless you are on the $79 'Shopify' plan, whereas Volusion give you access to this data on their $35 'Plus' plan.
    • Manual order creation: Shopify allow you to create manual orders on all plans, but Volusion only allows you to do this if you are on their $75+ plans.

    Core features

    Shopify and Volusion offer a similar set of key features out of the box, and allow you to:

    • design your store using a range of pre-existing templates
    • create catalogues of products
    • manage your store using a CMS
    • optimise your products for search
    • accept online payments via a range of payment gateways

    Let's zoom in on a few key features, and see how they stack up against each other.

    Templates

    Both Shopify and Volusion offer a wide range of templates, all very professional in appearance. They are responsive too, meaning that they will automatically resize themselves to suit the device your store is being viewed on. You can choose either a free theme or a paid-for one.

    In terms of quality, both the Volusion and Shopify themes are of a high quality and I wouldn't have any particular reservations about using any of the themes I've encountered from both companies as a starting point when designing an online store. 

    Shopify's free 'Minimal' template

    Shopify's free 'Minimal' template

    Let's look at quantity though - this is where Shopify has a bit of an edge.

    Free templates from Shopify and Volusion

    At first glance Volusion seems to offer slightly more choice in the free template department - there are 11 free templates to Shopify's 10. However, most of the Shopify templates come in 2 or 3 variations, so there's actually a fair bit more choice available from Shopify. 

    Paid-for templates from Shopify and Volusion

    Both Volusion and Shopify offer a wide range of paid-for templates, but again Shopify provides more options: there are 49 paid-for themes available from Shopify to Volusion's 38. Shopify's paid-for themes are also considerably cheaper: they range in price from $140 to $160, whereas all the Volusion themes cost $250.

    Finding the right template

    Finally, the Shopify theme store is set up in a way which makes it easier to find the right template for your online store: you can browse using a wide range of filters, including price, style, industry and more; by contrast, Volusion only allows you to filter by free or paid-for theme. 

    A Volusion paid-for theme

    Payment gateways

    Both Shopify and Volusion integrate with a large number of 'payment gateways' - third party tools that process credit cards on your behalf. However, you can use more payment gateways with Shopify (over 70 to Volusion's 37).

    Both tools come with an 'out of the box' payments solution too: 'Shopify Payments' and 'Volusion Payments'. Shopify Payments, as mentioned above, can only be used by merchants based in United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia.

    Volusion Payments is only available to merchants in the US, and unlike Shopify Payments there is a transaction rate (2.15%) AND a monthly fee. You also have to go through an application process, with approval taking between 5-7 business days.

    All this means that Shopify is a hands down-winner in both the third payment gateway department, and its out-of-the-box option is more attractive than Volusion's too.

    Apps

    Apps allow you to bolt on a lot of additional functionality to an online store, and integrate third party web applications with it. 

    Both Volusion and Shopify have app stores, but Shopify users can benefit from a much wider range of apps than Volusion users: there around 2000 Shopify apps you can integrate with your store, but only around 60 Volusion ones.

    Although Volusion's apps do cover the basics and offer integrations with key tools such as Quickbooks, Xero and Mailchimp, the reality is that Shopify users will benefit from a significantly larger number of options when it comes to apps. There are also hundreds of free apps available for Shopify...but only four free apps for Volusion.

    Point of Sale options

    When it comes to using either tool for point-of-sale (POS) transactions, Shopify has a clear edge, because it allows you to connect a card reader to an iPad, which then allows you to process credit card payments anywhere, any time.

    Additionally, there are other pieces of hardware directly available from Shopify to faciliate point of sale transactions, including a barcode scanner, a receipt printer, a till and a label printer. All these allow your Shopify store to become more than just an 'virtual' entity; it can double up as a tool for running a business in the 'real' world too. All your customer and order data is synced with Shopify, so everything to do with sales and inventory is kept neat and tidy. 

    Shopify's point of sale options are very comprehensive

    POS functionality is available in Volusion too - you can use a variety of UPC scanners, card readers and receipt printers with it, so you will be able to use the platform in much the same way as Shopify's.

    The key difference between Shopify and Volusion when it comes to POS applications however is that whereas Shopify make it a key part of the offering, and more of an 'out of the box' feature, it's more of an 'add on' service for Volusion which will require you to give more thought to the third party hardware you use (and possibly spend more time on making this hardware work with Volusion).

    Adding a blog to a Volusion or Shopify store

    Shopify offers an extremely important feature out of the box that is missing from Volusion: a blogging tool.

    You might not immediately think that a blog is a key part of an online store - but in this day and age of content and inbound marketing, regular posting of quality blog content is absolutely key to generating traffic to a site – and thus product sales.

    It is possible to link a third-party blog (i.e., a Wordpress blog) to your Volusion store and mess around with DNS settings so that everything works neatly enough and your blog lives on a nice-looking subdomain…but it is a headache and probably one that a less experienced user will want to avoid. Shopify’s built-in blogging tool is a much better solution - you simply get a blog on your store that very easy to update.

    Additionally, there are arguably SEO benefits to having your blog hosted on the exact same domain / platform as your store, so Shopify is a clear winner here.

    Ease-of-use

    In previous versions of this review, I've always concluded that Shopify’s back end beats Volusion’s hands down. With the new version of Volusion, have my thoughts on this changed?

    No.

    Although the Volusion user interface has improved a bit, Shopify still has got a much better user interface, and I found that putting a simple store together was much, much quicker in Shopify than in Volusion.

    Volusion now provides you with a step-by-step wizard to help you get started with your store - this is a welcome change from the old interface, which sort of threw you in at the deep end.

    The new Volusion interface

    The new Volusion interface

    However, if you follow the Volusion wizard process to the end, it concludes by asking you for your credit card details. This is extremely annoying and goes against the spirit of offering a free trial! It is possible to get around this by clicking an item on the Volusion main menu..but it's not ideal and some users will find the whole thing irritating or confusing.

    The new Volusion interface looks a bit prettier, but it's still oddly difficult to do some very simple things with it – like edit the navigation or add a simple ‘About Us’ web page. I've used many a site / store builder in my time, but with Volusion I've had to resort to Google searches to work out how these simple tasks are performed – instant proof that this system is not, shall we say, all that intuitive. The same tasks did not present any problems at all in Shopify, which comes with a much more straightforward CMS and WYSIWYG editor.

    Finally, both products allow you to tweak CSS and HTML, so if you are a relatively experienced web developer, you’ll be able to configure your store extensively.

    Overall verdict on user friendliness: Shopify is way, way easier to use than Volusion. (The below vlog-style video gives a walkthrough of the Shopify interface - unfortunately I can't source a similar video for the new version of Volusion).

    Marketing features

    Volusion offers some rather interesting marketing features out of the box, notably a tool that allows you to create your own affiliate programs, a CRM system and a basic email marketing tool that allows you to send newsletters to your contacts directly from within Volusion.

    The affiliate program could be useful for some users, but I'm a bit skeptical when it comes to the CRM side of things, because it doesn't support email systems that require SSL integration (with Gmail, used by millions of businesses worldwide, being an obvious casualty).

    Volusion email marketing tool is quite a useful feature to have built into an online store solution - but there are limits on how many e-newsletters you can send out per month:

    • Mini Plan: newsletter emails not included
    • Plus Plan: 200 emails / month
    • Pro Plan: 1000 emails / month
    • Premium Plan: 2000 emails / month 

    Given that these limits are not overly generous, this feature is probably only going to be of use to merchants who are starting out on their e-commerce journey; successful merchants will have larger lists and will most likely make use of a dedicated email marketing tool.

    Comparable marketing functionality is not really available out of the box with Shopify, but you can integrate it easily with a wide range of third-party CRM and email marketing tools by using an app from Shopify's app store.

    Support

    Volusion offers online support on all plans, but phone support is only available on their $35 'Plus' plan and up. Shopify's phone support is available on the slightly cheaper $29 'Basic' plan and up. 

    Finding out how to contact Volusion by phone is a bit harder than it should be - clicking the 'get help' button within your store interface brings you to a search bar where you can look up topics - but there's no phone number in sight. That said, the company does list a number on its home page: a US toll free number, 1-800-646-3517. Whether or not this works outside the US, I'm not entirely sure.

    By contrast it's easy to find phone numbers for Shopify - numbers are easily accessible via their contact page. The only oddity is that numbers are only provided for a few countries - North America, New Zealand, UK, Australia and Singapore...it's not entirely clear what number you need to ring if you live outside of these territories.

    Which is better then, Shopify or Volusion?

    So which is better, Shopify or Volusion? Well, as you’ve probably guessed as this post has developed, I'd argue Shopify is the clear winner.

    There are five main reasons why I think it's a better product:

    • its user interface / CMS is much easier to use
    • it provides a wider range of free templates
    • there are no limits on bandwidth or products to worry about
    • it allows you to integrate a significantly larger number of apps into your store than Volusion does
    • it allows you to blog ‘out of the box’

    All this, I feel, makes Shopify far more suitable for use by people who want to set up an online store, but have little or no experience of building a website.

    And speaking of building a website, Shopify generally makes it easy to do just that – you could, if you really wanted, ignore the online store aspect of things altogether and build a whole website fairly easily using Shopify. It would be a silly thing to do, as there are more comprehensive, cost-effective options out there for building a site without e-commerce functionality (see our Squarespace review or our Squarespace vs Wordpress comparison for some ideas), but the point is that with Shopify you get a very complete, generally easy-to-use package which allows you to build an entire website that is simple to maintain and comes with a fully-featured online store and a blog.

    Volusion’s offering is more exclusively about the online store side of things and as such it comes with more online store-related functionality out of the box; this is fine, but many people who want an online store also need it to double up as a website (and blog) too. 

    I guess my main issue with Volusion though is that despite its new interface it feels more like a tool for web developers rather than 'normal people' (!) who simply want to get a store off the ground quickly - and it's my guess that people who want to say, sell pottery online are too busy making and selling pottery to take a night class in web development.

    For me, any system which presents a user with information about CSS files when he/she tries to create a simple navigation menu (as Volusion does) screams “hi developers!” rather than “hi novice”. Any ‘techy’ stuff like that in Shopify (and there is plenty of that if you need it) is kept largely out of the way in the back end – it’s accessible alright, but not shoved in your face. This is far less intimidating for anyone who doesn't know what an ASP file is (the majority of people on this planet, I suspect).

    That’s not to say that Volusion is an entirely bad product. If you are technically savvy, or a web developer, you should find it relatively straightforward to set up and use, and you may find that it has a bit more online store functionality (though not content management features) than Shopify. Additionally, it can work out a bit cheaper to run a Volusion store, because (payment gateway provision aside), no transaction fees are charged on each purchase. If, however, you are a small business owner without any web skills, and you want to get a simple online store off the ground yourself with a minimum of fuss, Shopify is a much better, easier option.

    Reasons to use Shopify over Volusion

    • It's significantly easier to use than Volusion.
    • There are more themes to choose from, and its paid-for themes are cheaper than the Volusion equivalents.
    • Unlimited storage and bandwidth come with all plans.
    • Blogging functionality is built in.
    • A wider selection of payment gateways is available.
    • A significantly wider selection of apps and integrations is available.
    • Point-of-sale functionality is more comprehensive and 'built in'.
    • Its own payment system, Shopify Payments, does not involve transaction or monthly fees.

    Reasons to use Volusion over Shopify

    • Its entry level plan - the $15 per month 'Mini' option - allows you to create a fully-functional online store, whereas you can't do this with Shopify unless you are on a $29+ per month plan.
    • There are no transaction fees on any plans.
    • Some users may find its marketing features (CRM, affiliate program and email marketing tools) useful.

    Free trials of Shopify and Volusion

    As I always say at the end of these sort of comparison reviews, it’s usually best to try both products out before committing to one of them, and fortunately both come with a free trial.

    Any thoughts on Shopify vs Volusion?

    If you've used both Shopify or Volusion (or both!) in the past, I'd love to hear your thoughts on both systems - feel free to comment below.


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    How to create an e-newsletter (and a great email marketing campaign)
    How to create an e-newsletter (image of an @ symbol on a wooden surface)

    In this post we show you how to create an e-newsletter that you can send to your business leads or clients; we also advise on how to run an effective e-marketing campaign in general.


    1. Start with the most important thing: your data

    Before you think about ‘how’ you are going to send an e-newsletter, you need to think about the ‘who’.

    You probably have an existing database of leads and clients tucked away in an Excel spreadsheet somewhere – or more likely, your database is spread across several very messy spreadsheets.

    If this sounds like you, it's a good idea to consolidate all your files into one clean, well-organised spreadsheet before you try to send newsletters to any of the contacts on them.

    You should also ensure that your cleaned database is ‘segmented’ as well as possible – i.e., ideally you should have a field in it containing information which lets you flag data as leads, current clients, past clients and so on.

    (That’s just an exampleof how you could organise things though: how you segment your database should depend on what you are selling and the nature of your business – for example, if you sell different types of products, you may wish to flag your data by product type.)

    The basic aim of the exercise is to get your data into shape, so that you are able to send an appropriate message to an appropriate prospect at the right time.


    2. Create a content plan and e-newsletter schedule

    The next step is to plan your communications carefully. It’s a good idea to create an ‘e-communications schedule’ which maps out what you are going to send out in an e-newsletter, to whom, and when.

    You can then refer to this schedule throughout the year, and ensure you have all the necessary content ready to go. And because you’ll have segmented your data nicely in advance (see above) you will be sending your beautiful and interesting e-newsletter to precisely the right group of contacts.


    3. Pick the right tool for sending your e-newsletter

    For many small businesses, sending e-newsletters means compiling a mailing list in Excel, then copying and pasting the addresses into the BCC field of a clunky-looking Outlook message.

    This is a time-consuming way to go about things; it’s also very ineffective, because

    • it doesn’t allow you to send very professional-looking e-newsletters
    • it prevents you from accurately measure important stats like open rate and clickthroughs
    • it increases the likelihood of your email triggering spam filters (email programs usually hate emails that are bcc'd to loads of people).

    It is a much better idea to use a dedicated tool for sending your e-newsletter. There are many web-based solutions available now: big-hitters include GetresponseAweber, Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor and Mad Mimi.

    These all allow you to import your database, create attractive templates, and send out proper ‘HTML e-newsletters’ that stand the greatest chance of being delivered (and crucially, read!). They also provide free trials / plans (of various degrees of quality) - it's worth trying a few out and seeing which suits your requirements best.


    4. Create an attractive e-newsletter template

    Once you’ve decided upon which bit of software you’re going to use for your e-newsletters, you need to design a nice HTML template for it. With the exception of Mad Mimi, most of the above solutions provide a wide range of e-newsletter templates which you can tweak - using a drag and drop editor - so that your e-newsletter matches your brand.

    If your design skills are not all that strong of course, you might consider hiring a designer to set up your email templates. Either way, you should try to get to a point where your e-newsletter template looks professional and uncluttered and adheres to your organisation's branding guidelines.


    5. Split test!

    Once you’ve got your database, your e-communications schedule, your choice of software and your template sorted, it’s finally time to start sending some e-newsletters. But it’s really important to send them in the best way possible! This generally means 'split testing' your subject headers and/or your e-newsletter content.

    Split testing involves trying out different versions of your message on a relatively small sample of your data before sending it to the remainder of your database. You might, for example, create three versions of the same newsletter, each with different subject headers, and send it to 500 people on your database – after a day or so, you can identify which subject header led to the best open rate, and then use that header for the remainder of your data.

    Note that this is only worth doing if you have a relatively large database – if your business database is only a few hundred records in size, you might find split testing doesn’t really lead to particularly informative results.

    You needn't restrict split testing to your e-newsletters - you can also split test forms (to see, for example if shorter sign-up forms work better than longer ones) or your landing pages (the pages where people can sign up to your list).

    And speaking of landing pages...


    6. Use good landing pages

    It’s not just essential to have attractive, well-constructed e-newsletters: it’s important that the links in those e-newsletters take you to pages that actually ‘convert’ readers into taking further action too.

    Generally speaking you don’t want to send people to a page that contains a huge number of competing calls to action or links – it’s better to present a page that encourages users to take one specific action, be that buying a product or completing a form. Your landing pages should be attractive, easy-to-use and focused firmly on conversion.

    As mentioned above, you can split test your landing pages to see which pages 'convert' visitors to leads most effectively. This involves creating two or more landing pages, testing them against each other and ultimately rolling the one with the highest conversion rate out as your preferred landing page. 

    Some email marketing products, such as Getresponse, provide this functionality out of the box (see image below) or alternatively, you can use a dedicated tool like Instapage or Unbounce to create and split test landing pages.

    Getresponse's landing page creator

    Getresponse's landing page creator


    7. Measure success

    Most e-newsletter tools come with detailed reporting functionality – after sending an e-newsletter, you will be able to access statistics that let you measure the performance of your e-newsletters.

    Study these stats carefully, as they will help you create better e-newsletters that generate more conversions in future. The key things you need to look out for are:

    • open rates - which type of subject header / content encourages the most opens of your emails
    • clickthrough rates (CTRs) - what sort of links in your emails are popular?
    • unsubscribe rates - what content really turns people off?
    E-newsletter statistics 

    E-newsletter statistics 


    8. Allow people to sign up to your mailing list via your website

    Email marketing tools allow you to easily embed sign-up forms for your mailing list directly on your website. Make sure you do this, as it will save you having to repeatedly upload spreadsheets of data to your e-newsletter service.

    Additionally, by connecting your website’s mailing list form directly to your e-newsletter software, you can make use of autoresponders or ‘drips’ – automated emails that you can ‘pre-program’ in advance so that when somebody signs up to your mailing list via your website, they will automatically receive messages of your choosing at intervals of your choosing.

    For example, a subscriber could get a welcome message immediately upon signup; a special offer one week later; an encouragement to follow your company on Facebook two weeks later and so on.


    9. Allow people to share your e-newsletter easily

    Most e-newsletter tools will allow you to add ‘forward to a friend’ or social media sharing buttons to your e-newsletter.

    Add them! It means that your content and offers get a good chance of being seen by an audience outside of your mailing list.


    10. Always follow best practice

    And finally, if you want to run an effective e-newsletter campaign, there are four important things to remember:

    • When you capture email addresses, make it very clear on any sign up forms and landing pages that people are subscribing to your mailing list (ideally you should provide people with a link to a privacy policy)
    • Don’t spam: always ensure that anyone on your list has actually signed up to it
    • Don’t over-commmunicate: leave decent gaps between messages
    • Always send relevant, interesting content to people on your mailing list: this will minimise unsubscribes
    • Always make it easy for people to unsubscribe

    Hope you find these e-marketing tips useful. If you enjoyed this article, please do share it with others!


    Free trials of email marketing tools

    Below you'll find links to free trials of email marketing tools. 


    Email marketing tool reviews

    You may also find our email marketing reviews and comparisons helpful:

    Mailchimp vs Aweber (2017) - Comparison Review
    Mailchimp vs Aweber comparison (image of an envelope showing both products' logos).

    In this Mailchimp vs Aweber comparison review, we’re going to look at two of the best-known e-marketing solutions currently available and see which one is the best fit for your business.

    Read on to get a full overview of both Mailchimp and Aweber’s feature set and why you might decide to use one of these tools over the other.

    What do Aweber and Mailchimp actually do?

    Aweber and Mailchimp are tools that allow you to:

    • import and host a mailing list and capture data onto it using sign-up forms
    • create e-newsletters (both HTML and plain text) which can be sent to your subscribers
    • automate your emails to subscribers via use of ‘autoresponders’ (see below for more information)
    • review statistics related to your email marketing campaigns – open rate, click through, forwards etc.

    What are autoresponders?

    Before progressing with this comparison review, it’s worth zooming in on something very important offered by both Mailchimp and Aweber: autoresponders. What are they?

    Autoresponders are e-newsletters that are sent to your mailing list subscribers at pre-defined intervals – for example, you can set them up so that straight after somebody signs up to your list, they receive a welcome or ‘onboarding’ message from your business; a week later they could receive a promo code for specific products; two weeks later they could receive an encouragement to follow you on social media. And so on!

    The idea behind autoresponders is that much of your email marketing gets automated – it’s a sort of ‘set and forget’ scenario that saves you the bother sending out e-newsletters manually (although you can still of course do this as and when required). Regardless of whether you plump for Aweber or Mailchimp, it’s well worth investing some time in understanding autoresponders and using them effectively.

    We’ll dig into autoresponder features a bit more comprehensively below. But before we do that, let’s take a look at pricing.

    Pricing

    Pricing options in Aweber are fairly straightforward - there are 6 plans available:

    • Hosting and emailing a list containing up to 500 subscribers: $19 per month
    • 501 to 2,500 subscribers: $29 per month
    • 2,501 to 5,000 subscribers: $49 per month
    • 5,001 to 10,000 subscribers: $69 per month
    • 10,001 to 25,000 subscribers: $149 per month
    • 25,000+ subscribers: call Aweber for quotation

    With Mailchimp, things are a little bit more complicated - there are three tiers of plan available, each with multiple pricing sub-tiers, which all depend on list size:

    • "Starting up" (a free plan)
    • "Growing Business"
    • "Pro Marketer"

    Some of the key differences between the Mailchimp tiers involve

    • subscriber count - the free plan limits the number of subscribers to 2000
    • send limits - you can only send up to 12,000 emails per month on the free plan
    • support - you can only avail of this on paid plans
    • advanced segmentation - this is only available on the 'Pro Marketer' plan
    • reporting - the most advanced reporting features are only available on the 'Pro Marketer' plan
    • advanced multivariate testing - this is not available on the "Starting Up" or "Growing Business" but available on "Pro Marketer".

    The Mailchimp ‘Starting Up’ plan - which is completely free - is arguably the strongest reason why you might want to choose Mailchimp as an email marketing solution. Although this plan limits the number of subscribers you can send e-newsletters to 2,000 records, and the total number of sendable emails per month to 12,000, many of the other features you'll find in Mailchimp are actually present in this plan for free. As such it's a good option for any business starting their list entirely from scratch, so long as support is not an issue (you won't get any on the free plan).

    Aweber doesn't offer a free plan but does allow you to try out the product for 30 days free of charge - you can sign up for the free Aweber trial here.

    On the plus side, this is a fully functional free trial. On the down side, to access the free trial you have to enter your credit card details first. This contrasts negatively with similar free trials offered by competing products such as Getresponse.

    I suspect that the Mailchimp plan which is most relevant to readers comparing Aweber to Mailchimp would be the ‘Growing Business’ plan - this allows you to make use of most of the main features of Mailchimp.

    Like Aweber, how much a plan costs depends on your list size, but unlike Aweber the pricing bands are much narrower, i.e.,

    • 0 to 500 subscribers: $10 per month
    • 501 to 1000 subscribers: $15 per month
    • 1001 to 1500 subscribers: $20 per month

    ...and so on, with the pricing bands becoming even narrower for list sizes over 2,500 records (where going up 100 records increases the price by $5 until you hit 2,800 records).

    It’s all a bit confusing to be honest - but generally speaking, Mailchimp and Aweber are similarly priced (up to 25k records at least), with Mailchimp definitely being cheaper for users with databases containing less than 1,501 records.

    An interesting option for users who mail their databases relatively infrequently is Mailchimp's 'Pay as You Go' plan, where you pay a set fee per email sent. This varies according to the size of your mailouts - for example, if you send an e-newsletter to 1,000 recipients the price per email is 0.03c; at the other end of the spectrum if you email 50,000 the cost per email drops to 0.01c.

    The pay-as-you-go payment model won't be for everyone, but it's potentially useful for users who are not interested in making use of autoresponders and only wish to send ad hoc, one-off blasts.

    Finally, there’s the Mailchimp ‘Pro Marketer’ plan to consider. This plan is considerably more expensive than anything Aweber (and indeed competing products like Getresponse, Campaign Monitor and Mad Mimi) have to offer: on this plan, on top of the standard ‘Growing Business’ costs referred to above, you have to pay $199 per month.

    For this, you get better segmentation, more split testing options (more on these below), access to additional API related functionality and other advanced features.

    But as ever, price is not the only thing to bear in mind. Let’s look at some features.

    Autoresponders in Mailchimp and Aweber

    Both Mailchimp and Aweber allow you to create simple ‘time-based’ autoresponders - a series of emails based on time intervals (as discussed above).

    I’d argue that for this kind of autoresponder, Aweber makes things a bit easier - setting up automation in Mailchimp is a bit fiddly whereas Aweber’s ‘Campaigns’ tool, which is used to create your autoresponder workflow, is very easy to use.

    However, as things stand, Mailchimp offers significantly more functionality when it comes to autoresponders (this might, to a degree, explain why things are slightly more complicated to set up).

    In Mailchimp you can choose from a wide range of pre-defined workflows - ‘e-commerce’, ‘education’, ‘non-profit’ amongst others - or create your own using goals you define yourself.

    An example of a Mailchimp goal completion might be a purchase: you can add a Mailchimp script to a post-purchase page on your site, meaning that if a user arrives on that page after clicking on a link in one of your e-newsletters, Mailchimp is notified and the user is automatically sent a specific follow up communication.

    At the moment Aweber’s autoresponder functionality is quite basic - you can just use it to send e-newsletters x days after somebody joins a list, or apply tags to them at various points in the autoresponder cycle.

    The tags are useful, because they allow you to switch users on to different lists depending on the context - using a combination of Aweber’s automation rules and third-party integrations (for example, a Shopify one), it is possible to make Aweber behave in a similar fashion to the Mailchimp examples described above. My hunch however is that most users will have to work a bit harder to get Aweber to work in this way. Mailchimp’s autoresponder functionality is considerably more advanced, straight out of the box.

    That said, Aweber have plans for their autoresponder functionality - they promise that their new ‘Campaigns’ tool is going to introduce more advanced types of workflow in the near future (see video below). But overall I’d say in a Mailchimp vs Aweber autoresponder shootout, Mailchimp is currently the winner.

    Templates

    Both Aweber and Mailchimp offer a wide range of e-newsletter templates, which are designed to suit many different applications and organisation types - e-commerce, events, sports, education and so on. Aweber offers far more templates than Mailchimp: around 700 to 80 respectively.

    With both systems you can tweak the templates extensively, and indeed code your own, so users of both platforms should be able to settle on a template which works for their business without too much difficulty.

    The other good news about both products is that all the email templates provided are responsive, meaning that they will automatically resize themselves to suit the device your e-newsletter is being viewed on.

    One of Aweber's more contemporary templates.

    One of Aweber's more contemporary templates.

    Mailchimp makes it easier, however, to preview the mobile version of your e-newsletter - there's a preview option you can use as you build it. By contrast, with Aweber, you'll have to send yourself a test email and open it on a smartphone to see what your e-newsletter looks like on a mobile device.

    (As an aside, neither tool is as good as Getresponse when it comes to previewing the responsive versions of your messages - in Getresponse, when you build your e-newsletter you see both the full version and the mobile preview on screen at the same time).

    Mailchimp has a slight edge over Aweber when it comes to fonts - you can use web fonts in your templates (albeit a small selection), which can improve the look and feel of them considerably. Aweber by contrast limits font usage to 'web safe' ones - the boring but admittedly reliable Arial, Times New Roman, Trebuchet, Georgia etc.

    However, the web fonts that you can use in Mailchimp are exceptionally dull ones - so dull in fact that you might be better off using the web safe ones...

    The Aweber and Mailchimp interfaces

    When it comes to interfaces, Aweber and Mailchimp take quite different approaches.

    Aweber’s interface is quite traditional in nature - when you log in you encounter a horizontal primary navigation containing key options such as ‘messages’, ‘subscribers’ and ‘reports’’; hovering over menu items reveals sub-menus that let you ‘get at’ important secondary options (for example, email templates, import options and statistics).

    Mailchimp on the other hand offers a very minimal interface - there is a smaller primary navigation to contend with, and no drop down menus are involved. Whilst this makes for an initially 'cleaner' user experience, it also means that you have to click through to a second screen and then locate the option you’re looking for from another set of options (which are presented in the main page copy).

    So despite the fact that the Mailchimp interface is undoubtedly easier on the eye, I find that actually locating key functionality with it is harder to do.

    With Aweber, all the important options are easily located from the moment you log in - but with Mailchimp there is quite a bit more clicking around the place to do.

    Editing e-newsletters

    Both Aweber and Mailchimp take a ‘drag and drop’ approach to editing e-newsletters. You can add, move and edit elements such as text, images, logos and so on easily with both products.

    One aspect of Aweber’s builder which I prefer over Mailchimp’s is the way that you can 'type onto' your e-newsletter - you just point at the copy on the e-newsletter you want to tweak and you can edit it there and then, in situ.

    By contrast, with Mailchimp, you have to select the component you want to edit, and then make your changes in a separate box. Not a showstopper really, but it can occasionally slow you down a bit.

    However, and as discussed above, it’s much easier with Mailchimp to see what your email will look like on different devices.

    A nice touch in Aweber: stock images

    One nice feature in Aweber which isn’t currently available in Mailchimp is a free stock images library. You can use this to insert royalty-free photography into your e-newsletters - this is handy for all those times you need a generic looking picture of a computer keyboard to use as a thumbnail…

    Split testing

    An important feature of email marketing tools like Aweber and Mailchimp is split (or 'multivariate') testing. This allows you to try out a different subject headers or content on some sample data - for example, 10% of your list - with the best-performing version being sent automatically to the remainder of your list (‘best performing’ generally means the version of the email that generated the most opens or clickthroughs).

    On the cheaper ‘Growing Business’ Mailchimp plans - the ones that are broadly comparable to  Aweber in price - you can test three different versions of your email against each other. Aweber allows you to run a split test using four versions. So a bit of a win for Aweber here.

    That said, more sophisticated split testing options are available with Mailchimp - if you're prepared to pay for them. Subscribers to the 'Pro Marketer' plan can test 8 variants of e-newsletters against each other; useful, but as this will cost you $199 per month on top of whatever you are paying to host your list, it's probably going to be a feature that only large organisations will avail of.

    RSS to e-newsletter

    One thing that is definitely better in Mailchimp than in Aweber is the way that you can use an RSS feed (typically from a blog) to create e-newsletters.

    Both platforms allow you to send out e-newsletters automatically based on an updated RSS feed. In Mailchimp, you can use any template to do so, but in Aweber, you're restricted to using a set of very dated, hard-to-edit templates. This has negative implications for the consistency of your branding across your communications - you might spend some time, for example, creating a slick template in Aweber for your e-newsletters only to find that you can't use it for broadcasting blog posts.

    If RSS-to-email is an important feature for you, Mailchimp is definitely preferable to Aweber.

    Reporting

    Both Aweber and Mailchimp provide you with detailed statistics on the performance of your mailouts, with, in my view, Mailchimp having the better reporting interface and one that is more feature packed. It’s laid out in a way that makes drilling down into particular bits of data very straightforward - you can view e-newsletter results by activity (opens and clicks etc.), URLs clicked, social activity, e-commerce, conversations and Google Analytics.

    There are two particularly nifty features in Mailchimp that are worth singling out for attention:

    • a ‘member rating’ system - Mailchimp reviews how engaged each member of your mailing list is (based on opens, clicks and purchases) and assigns them a member rating (using a five point scale). This allows you to identify particularly ‘good’ members of your mailing list easily and craft specific communications for them.

    • the option to compare your list’s performance against industry standards (i.e., you tell Mailchimp what sort of business you’re operating and it will compare your stats against campaigns by similar businesses).

    Aweber is not without its strong features when it comes to reporting either however, and I particularly like the way that you can create segments directly from reports (i.e., you can look at a report for a particular e-newsletter broadcast, go to a list of people who’ve opened that email, and target them with a new communication on the spot).

    But overall, I’d argue that Mailchimp has the better reporting options.

    Integrations

    Aweber and Mailchimp both integrate with important e-commerce and social platforms - key examples include Shopify, Bigcommerce, Paypal and Facebook.

    However, Mailchimp offers a much bigger selection of integrations. It’s seen, for whatever reason, as more of an industry standard tool than Aweber, so some web applications - key examples being Squarespace and Shopify - will offer Mailchimp as the only ‘works out of the box’ e-marketing option.

    That said, it’s often possible to use a workaround to get Aweber to work with a third party application - just do your research first.

    Send time optimisation

    One feature that Mailchimp includes which is sadly not present in Aweber is ‘Send Time Optimisation’.

    Send time optimisation is a sophisticated feature which automatically sends your e-newsletter at the time at which it is most likely to be opened. This time is calculated by Mailchimp based on looking at when the subscribers on your list have previously opened mail - it can work this out based on looking at the campaigns you’ve previously sent and also by using data from campaigns sent by other Mailchimp users which feature email addresses that are also present on your list.

    As Mailchimp explain:

    Since MailChimp has 4+ million users, we look globally at each email address’ engagement in deciding the best time to send to your list. Chances are the email addresses on your list receive email from other MailChimp users. That means that even if you’ve never sent to your list or only sent a few times, we can still provide a recommendation.

    It’d be great if Aweber could consider adding this functionality as it has the potential to drastically increase open rates.

    Using different languages in Mailchimp and Aweber

    For users wishing to provide versions of their confirmation emails and thank-you pages in different langauges, Mailchimp is a better choice than Aweber, as it provides this functionality out of the box.

    Setting this up is a bit fiddly however and generally relies on the language of the web browser being automatically identified and used to display content in a local language, rather than users being sent to a particular URL based on the version of the website they have signed up on.

    Autotranslate in Mailchimp (click to enlarge)

    Support

    It’s a clear win for Aweber when it comes to support: you can get phone support, live chat and email support whereas Mailchimp only provides email support (and only after you’ve been forced to search their website for an answer to your query first).

    Aweber have won Stevie awards in both 2016 and 2017 for their customer service too, which speaks well for the quality of their support. If you are a complete novice to e-marketing but don't have the resource to hire somebody in to set your e-newsletter campaigns up, the availability of phone support for Aweber is something bear strongly in mind as an important advantage of using the platform.

    Aweber vs Mailchimp: the summary

    So which is better, Aweber or Mailchimp?

    Well, overall, both products are solid, well-established tools that you can use to create and send professional e-newsletters with. Either, used correctly, will help you grow your email database and contribute the success of your business. But there are key plus and minus points to consider with each, and here are the reasons you might want to use one over the other:

    Reasons to use Aweber over Mailchimp

    • Autoresponders are a bit easier to set up (but are currently more basic in nature than the Mailchimp offering).
    • There are significantly more templates available in Aweber (700+ to Mailchimp’s 80+).
    • Although Aweber's user interface is more ‘old-school’ and not as pretty as Mailchimp's, it’s arguably a bit easier to use and key features are more readily accessible.
    • The e-newsletter builder makes editing text slightly easier than in Mailchimp.
    • You get access to a library of stock images with Aweber that you can use in your mailouts for free.
    • Aweber offers more extensive split testing options than Mailchimp (unless you are prepared to fork out $199 extra a month on Mailchimp to unlock better split testing functionality).
    • The Aweber support options are much more extensive - phone support and live chat are available; Mailchimp offers neither of these.

    Reasons to use Mailchimp over Aweber

    • A functional free plan is available with Mailchimp.
    • If you have a small list (less than 1,500 records), you can host it more cheaply with Mailchimp.
    • Autoresponder functionality is more comprehensive.
    • You can use web fonts in your emails (albeit a small selection).
    • It’s easier to preview what your email will look like on a mobile device with Mailchimp.
    • Mailchimp's reporting features are better.
    • RSS to email functionality is significantly better than Aweber's.
    • A much wider range of integrations with third party apps is available.
    • Send time optimisation functionality is available.
    • Using different languages for thank-you and confirmation pages is more doable out-of-the-box.

    Alternatives to Mailchimp and Aweber

    For me, the obvious alternative to Mailchimp and Aweber is Getresponse. Depending on your list size, it will usually come in cheaper than both Mailchimp and Aweber, and it’s feature packed (offering landing pages and webinars in addition to the features outlined above).

    You can read our full Getresponse review here, and we've also got a full Aweber review for you to look at too.

    Got any thoughts or questions on Mailchimp and Aweber?

    If you’ve got any thoughts or queries on Mailchimp vs Aweber, I’d love to hear them - just use the comments section below.