It's already one of the major companies dominating website hosting, with advertising that blankets the country from subway cars to print magazines. Now Squarespace is getting even more ambitious, looking to take on GoDaddy and move in on the domain registration business with a new product that allows users to buy and process their desired URLs through the site.
The company’s new product, Squarespace Domains, entered soft launch in early April. CEO Anthony Casalena tells Fast Company that he is enthusiastic about the new product while also taking some veiled digs at other domain services.
"We looked around at the competitive landscape," Casalena said. "And we were like ‘My God, this industry is so old and has so little innovation,’ and there were very antiquated products for people doing this even though it’s such a fundamental piece of doing a website."
Depending on the name of the URL that’s purchased, Squarespace charges between $20 and $70 a year. Pricing is set depending on the top-level domain used and includes an ad-free parking page that follows Squarespace’s aesthetic along with WHOIS privacy. By comparison, the company’s fully hosted plans hover between $96 and $144 yearly for personal accounts.
By offering this product, Squarespace is able to offer a workaround for a price point issue that’s challenged them for some time: Customers with a Squarespace account (Disclosure: This writer uses Squarespace to host his own website) have to pay separately for each site they open with the company. No volume discounts or package deals are normally offered.
This means that, in the past, a customer such as a small business that’s looking to set up a separate site for something like a pop-up sale had to either buy a separate account (which can be quite pricey) or be lost to competing products such as About.me, Wix, Weebly, or WordPress. Most importantly, those customers registered their domains through third-party providers—even though they were already paid-up Squarespace consumers.
It also gives the company a lower-priced product to hook customers who aren’t completely sold on a full-featured website yet. Promotional materials sent to Fast Company mentioned that "a 2014 survey by Vistaprint found that 43% of small businesses choose a domain name before doing anything else online, and anecdotal evidence suggests that many of our customers prefer to start with a domain as well."
Casalena added that "domains aren’t the most exciting thing in the world, but we have a good take on it and we’re excited to bring it into the modern age." In the coming months, the company plans to add free SSL certificates—and, crucially for keeping users in their ecosystem—the ability for current Squarespace customers to shift their non-Squarespace domain registrations to the company.
Domain hosting is the latest in a number of new product launches that Squarespace has made in the past year to target specific customer niches. In late 2015, the company introduced single-page websites with limited functionality that cost $60 per year at press time (making them cheaper, in some cases, than the domain product) and a new e-commerce product targeted at small businesses that starts at $312 yearly.
Squarespace’s goal seems to be simple: Keep their customers in their ecosystem for as long as possible, and introduce progressively lower-priced products with limited functionality to attract customers who’d otherwise use competing products (including free and freemium alternatives). Their hope is that by offering domains, they’ll attract users who will be more than happy to build a full-featured website later on.