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How to Start a Free Online Store from Your Square Account

Cindy Lewis, Editor-in-Chief

If you’re already using Square — whether it’s to accept payments, ring up sales and orders, schedule appointments, or keep your front and back of house running smoothly — and you’re looking to grow your business, it’s easy to reach more customers and increase sales with a free eCommerce website with Square Online.

Setting up an eCommerce store using your Square account allows you to keep your online and in-person orders, items, and inventory in sync. You also save time and work more efficiently by continuing to have all the tools you need to run and grow your online business in one place.

We’ll walk you through creating your digital storefront so you can easily showcase your business and start selling online fast.

  1. Choose a layout
  2. Choose colors
  3. Choose fonts
  4. Edit your header
  5. Edit your main banner
  6. Add a featured products section
  7. Organize your products
  8. Add product details
  9. Set up checkout
  10. Set up shipping
  11. Set up pickup
  12. Set up taxes
  13. Preview your website
  14. Publish your online store

Customize your design: Choose layouts, colors, and fonts

1. Choose a layout

When you get started with the online store builder, you’re presented with appropriate layouts for your business (e.g., if you have a restaurant and indicated you want to sell food online, you see food-related images).

These layouts are modular and flexible. You can easily add or remove sections to fit your content needs or change the section’s layout to ensure all the elements on a page look great together.

For now, select a home page layout to use as a starting point for your site design. We’ll edit the sections on this page later.

2. Choose colors

Select a color palette that works for your brand. You can save time by using a color set, which comprises complementary main and secondary colors. Or you can select your own main and secondary brand colors using the color selector or Hex code (the code starts with a pound sign, “#”).

Pro tip: The main color is your primary action button color. Attract attention and make primary action buttons pop by using a contrasting background color. For less important action buttons, use a secondary color to give these actions less visual weight.

3. Choose fonts

The fonts you use should work well with the color palette you’ve chosen. From the list of font pairs, select a pair that complements your brand. These include fonts for both titles and paragraphs that harmonize well together and are easy to read on desktop and mobile phones. Or choose the fonts you want to use individually for headlines, section titles, paragraph text, etc.

Pro tip: The font you choose can set the tone for your brand online. Sans serif fonts are among the most widely used because of their modern, crisp style, while serif fonts are considered more formal.

You can revisit any of these options at any time in the site design section of the online store builder if you change your mind or want to try a different look.

Build your business with a free online store.

Get set up in minutes and start selling today.

Add content: Edit page sections, images, and text

4. Edit your header

The header houses a few key elements for your eCommerce website:

  • Logo
  • Navigation
  • Cart and search icons

Adding/editing your logo: Add an image if you have a word mark or logo file on hand. Upload your logo as a PNG, GIF, or JPG that’s fewer than 10 MB, and with a minimum width of 600 pixels. Then use the logo size slider to adjust as needed. An alternative to using an image is to add your business name as text.

Adding/editing navigation menu items: Edit the navigation menu items that appear in the header and link to pages on your website. Many eCommerce websites include Shop All, About, or Contact pages, but you can also keep things simple with a one-page shop. No matter how many pages you have, use clear and succinct page names to make it easy for customers to find what they’re looking for.

Using cart and search icons: In addition to changing the color, if you aren’t ready to sell yet, you can hide the cart icon altogether. And for businesses with a lot of products, you might consider allowing customers to search your website from the header by adding a search icon.

Pro tip: You can change the header layout to align your logo and navigation menu links left, center, or right. You can also change the header background color, selecting from your color palette. Adjust these settings to maximize the readability of your logo and navigation.

5. Edit your main banner

The main banner section sits just below the header on your website and can include images, text, and an action button. Use this section to make a statement about your business or invite customers to browse your products.

Once you’ve decided how you want to use your main banner section, edit each element to suit your needs:

  • Layout
  • Background
  • Headline
  • Action button

Pro tip: You can toggle the action button on and off. You can also completely hide the main banner section if you don’t need it.

Choosing a main banner layout: There are several layout styles, some which feature a full-width background and some that also include a separate image. If you don’t have an eye-catching image on hand, don’t worry — you can search for and use free, professional stock photography powered by Unsplash.

Editing the main banner background: Select a color or image to use for the background. If you’ve chosen a layout that includes a separate image, you may want to use a color instead of an image to keep things from looking too busy.

Pro tip: You can change the main banner height to make this section more or less prominent (choose from small, medium, and large). If your image is detailed, turn on the option to improve readability with a filter that makes overlaid text more legible.

Editing the banner headline: To edit the headline, click and type directly. Your headline should be descriptive and tell customers what you do or describe what you sell. Depending on the type of business you have, consider using your value proposition, highlighting your location, or being very clear about your product or service. For example:

  • The best burgers and craft brews in Toronto
  • 100% organic hand-crafted soaps and candles
  • High-quality wedding photography to capture your special day
  • Dog-grooming services: Pets pampered from their heads to their paws

Editing the action button: As with the headline (and all other section text), you can click and type directly in the action button to edit the text. Make this a strong, concise instruction that provokes an immediate response, such as:

  • Shop All
  • Order Now
  • Book Appointment
  • Learn More

Pro tip: You can easily see what your design looks like on a mobile device with the mobile preview (the default is desktop). To make it easier for customers to interact with the action button on mobile devices, enable the option for this to appear full width on mobile.

Displaying featured products on your home page is a great way to get customers to start shopping right away. You can also use this section to highlight a sale or showcase a new or special release. Product images can have hover effects, and you can edit the style for titles, pricing, and action buttons.

Pro tip: You can change the layout to highlight a single product, or showcase multiple products in either a multicolumn gallery or scrollable carousel.

Display your products: Add categories, pages, and details

7. Organize your products

Once your items have been synced with your online store, they’re automatically displayed on a Shop All page. This is a common way to display products on eCommerce websites because it gives shoppers an easy way to browse, but you can turn this off if you’d like to display your products in other ways.

How you further organize your products depends on how many items you have, as well as the types and variations. As you get up and running, keep your site structure streamlined with some basic organizational tools:

  • Product categories
  • Category pages
  • Product pages

Pro tip: You can find these and all your other pages by opening the page list; every product and category you add to your store has its own page that’s automatically generated. You can also add and edit products from your Product Library (go to Store > Product Library > Products).

Using product categories: If you have more than one product category, they’re automatically displayed on your Shop All page. You can also add new categories from the page list. If you have a large number of items, clearly labeled categories are a crucial component for a smooth buying experience — shoppers can quickly click into products they’re looking for.

Editing category pages: Click into the product list of a category to edit. Style changes, such as colors and fonts, are applied to all your category pages to ensure a consistent user experience. From here, you can style the page as well as adjust how much product information is displayed (images, titles, prices, etc.), and how many products show at a time.

Editing product pages: Click into the product details of a product to edit. As with category pages, style changes on product pages are applied to all of them. From here, you can style the title, price, buy button, description, and more to customize the look of your product pages.

Pro tip: Follow SEO best practices for eCommerce websites by optimizing your category and product pages. Add titles and descriptions that include relevant product category and item keywords by editing your category and product details.

8. Add product details

Your website’s most valuable traffic is on product pages that convert online shoppers. People who are viewing your products are thinking about buying from you, and things like not having a product image, not descriptively labeling items, or not clearly describing product details such as size/dimensions/color/care are likely to deter potential customers from making a purchase.

Click the “edit product details” button to view and edit these options:

  • Title
  • Price
  • Description
  • Images
  • Options
  • Modifiers

Editing product titles: Names for items in your Square inventory might not work as well for selling them online. In other words, they may need to be more descriptive and customer-friendly. Keep in mind how people might search for your product, while balancing the length with specificity and clarity. For example:

  • Okay: BBQ Sauce
  • Better: Whiskey BBQ Sauce
  • Great: 18 oz. Tennessee Whiskey BBQ Sauce

Editing product prices: Set prices directly by editing the product details. You can also set a price by product option or variant, as well as set a sale price at any time by editing the product details — shoppers will see a sale badge and the markdown price.

Editing product descriptions: Your product descriptions should pique a shopper’s interest and share details that a photo can’t convey. A few eCommerce best practices:

  • Highlight product features with accurate adjectives
  • Don’t overlook the benefits
  • Use sensory adjectives to help the customer experience

Pro tip: If you have special instructions, or guidance on things like sizing/fit, batteries, cleaning/care, etc., include that in the product description to give shoppers confidence in their purchase.

Uploading product images: Clear product photos help establish trust with potential buyers — blurry, discolored, or tiny images make shoppers feel uneasy about making a purchase, especially with shops they’ve never bought from before. Upload multiple images to automatically populate a product’s image gallery, and choose to display thumbnails on the left, bottom, or right.

Pro tip: Now that you’re selling online, you might need help putting your products in their best light (literally) to give shoppers a clear view of what they’re buying. Professional product photos from Square Photo Studio are cost effective and showcase your products the right way.

Adding product options: Add selectable product options if you have variants (color, size, weight, etc.) for shoppers to choose from. These are tied to your inventory levels.

Adding product modifiers: If you sell items that are customizable or offer additional choices, product modifiers allow customers to select choices from a list. Once created, modifiers can be applied to any product.

Pro tip: You can use product variations together with modifiers to create products with a range of options for customers to choose from.

Build your business with a free online store.

Get set up in minutes and start selling today.

Set store settings: Checkout, shipping, pickup, and taxes

9. Set up checkout

Your online store is automatically set up to accept online payments through Square, including methods such as credit cards and Apple Pay. With our free plan, you only pay 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction.

Pro tip: Using advanced settings for checkout, you can choose options to collect additional information from customers to help with other aspects of the buyer experience, including a phone number, note to seller, or address for product types that aren’t physical goods.

10. Set up shipping

Before you can ship products, you need to set up a few basics:

  • Shipping address
  • Destination regions
  • Shipping rates

Updating your shipping address: Your “Shipping From” address is prefilled using your business address, but it can be updated if your shipping address is another location or needs to be changed later on.

Selecting destination regions: Add regions you ship to, and deselect any cities/provinces you might want to exclude if they don’t fit within your business strategy.

Setting shipping rates: These are variable depending on the type, and this might change as you evolve your pricing strategy. To quickly get started, keep things simple by using a flat rate. Using this type of shipping rate only requires you to enter a name (e.g., Standard, 2-Day Shipping, etc.), set a price, and select how the rate is charged (either per order or per item). You can set multiple flat rates for each region to cover all the ways you fulfill orders.

Pro tip: Flat rates shouldn’t under- or overcharge your customers but, most important, make sure to set rates that don’t eat into your profits.

11. Set up pickup

Whether you have one or dozens of locations, you can give customers the ability to pick up orders placed through your online store. Pickup settings help with logistics between a physical location and your online store by adding two important aspects of pickup to the ordering and checkout experience:

  • When customers can pick up
  • How customers can pick up

Setting up when customers pick up their orders: Confirm your location’s time zone, and select the days and times customers can pick up their orders (add multiple ranges for specific pickup windows, or if you open and close throughout the day). Then choose an order prep time — this is how customers are shown the right time for pickup at checkout automatically. If you’d like customers to schedule their pickup within the days and times you’ve set, select the “allow customers to schedule pickups” option.

Pro tip: Keep operations running smoothly by specifying an order prep time that works for your business type. For restaurants, give your kitchen team enough time to prepare, box, check, and bag food. For retail, allow enough time to neatly package up items for customers to carry home safely and conveniently, whether that’s hours or days.

Setting up how customers pick up their orders: Pickup instructions are a simple and effective way to ensure a smooth pickup experience. Specify where to go, if they need to provide information for their order (e.g., name, order number, etc.), and anything else that makes it easy for customers to quickly pick up their order.

Pro tip: Keeping customers up to date on their order status builds trust in your business. If you’d like to automatically notify customers when an order is ready, select the “mark orders as ready” option.

12. Set up taxes

Disclaimer: Square is not a tax advisor, nor an accounting firm. Tax compliance is your responsibility. We do not guarantee the applicability or accuracy of our tax tools. This article should not be construed as tax or legal advice. If you have any questions about your tax obligations, you should consult a professional tax advisor.

Whether or not you need to charge sales tax to a specific customer is based on your nexus profile with the local, state, country, or economic zone. To ensure taxes are set up properly, you need to confirm settings related to how you’re fulfilling online orders:

  • Store addresses
  • Tax rates

Using store addresses for taxes: Physical store locations, shipping addresses, and pickup locations all have tax implications. An important thing to remember about U.S. taxes is that you need to collect them if you have a presence (i.e., nexus) in the locale and/or state that you’re shipping an order to. Same applies for pickup locations.

Setting tax rates: When you receive an order, the U.S. automatic tax calculator first checks to see if your store has turned on the tax setting for the location you’re shipping to. The calculator checks each location and if you don’t have a presence where you’re shipping to, no taxes are charged.

Start selling: Preview and publish

13. Preview your website

Now that we’ve covered the essentials for your online store, it’s time to give everything a final check before you hit publish. While in preview mode, review your design, content, and products (note that some features don’t function in preview mode, e.g., checkout, contact forms, etc.). A couple of things to check for:

  • Missing product images, prices, options, or modifiers
    Fix: Add by editing product details
  • Misspelled product titles or descriptions
    Fix: Update product information by editing product details
  • Poor text size or readability
    Fix: Change the text or section style to ensure readability

Pro tip: In addition to the online store builder preview, you have two more ways to preview your site. Use the Share feature to view preview in another tab, or to copy a shareable link to your preview site that you can email to a third party. Try sharing your website with a friend, colleague, or family member before you publish to make sure your site works on other people’s devices.

14 . Publish your online store

Congratulations on getting your free online store up and running — you’re officially ready to start selling online with Square! Log in to Square Online and activate your site today.