Shopify vs. Volusion: Pros and Cons of Two Ecommerce Heavyweights
Table of Contents:
- First Impressions
- Design & Features
- Support and Resources
- Apps, Integrations and Add-ons
- Client Satisfaction
- First Impressions
- Design and Features
- Support and Resources
- Apps, Integrations and Add-ons
- Client Satisfaction
Do you have a great business idea but are struggling to decide on which ecommerce platform will get you the most bang for your buck? Running your own online business is a palmary achievement that deserves the best systems to help boost your chances of success.
There are a lot of options out there today, and so many factors to consider. In general the major three elements you should pay attention to are:
- Storage Space
- Safety Protocols, and
- Site Design
While these are extremely important, there is so much depth offered from the various ecommerce ecosystems that you’ll need to be scrupulous when gauging whether or not they’re suitable for what you need.
Today we’ll be taking a look at two leading platforms: Shopify and Volusion. I’ll walk you through the basics of each site and offer comparisons in some major areas. Enjoy the read!
First up we have Volusion. In 1999 a 16-year-old Kevin Sproles founded the company after identifying the need for an all-in-one package for users to run their business. Today it has more than 180,000 entrepreneurs using its platform.
The concept emphasizes simplicity and ease of use.
I registered for Volusion’s 14-day free trial and was truly impressed with the almost immediate response from Javier, an ecommerce advisor who had reached out to me via email after failing to contact me by telephone (not surprising as our time zones are probably way out of sync).
This was a welcome experience and really made me feel like the company is there to nurture it’s clients and support them in being successful. Thanks, Jav.
Design & Features
I was pleasantly surprised when I first accessed my Volusion dashboard. The layout was easy on the eyes and well organized. There were also handy solutions to their recommended first steps on the right.
Volusion has a good selection of modern and attractive themes. 11 out of the total 45 themes available are free, so there is ample opportunity to start designing your store without breaking the bank on a $180 theme right off the bat.
All of the tabs along the top of the dashboard contain links to essentially every feature you will need to design, track, market and tweak your store.
The “Storefront” section bears a striking resemblance to Shopify’s theme editor, albeit with a “funner” look, so a user familiar with Shopify could easily jump right in to designing their store. Despite the handy step-by-step guide to getting started, there is more restriction and not as much maneuverability when trying to make adjustments.
This may very well be an advantage for ecommerce newcomers but I believe it would become a limitation as they learned more and wanted to further design and optimize their store.
Also, a simpler menu does not equate to an easier experience. I couldn’t seem to figure out how to add a new section to my store, and when I tried it just duplicated the section in the list and did not appear on the page:
I think it’s important to have worded functions instead of icons everywhere that don’t quite explain what they do. This is my humble opinion but I don’t mind a learning curve if it means I feel I have complete control over my store. It feels to me like Volusion tried to oversimplify the process and I found myself more frustrated with it.
Support and Resources
Volusion has a “V1 Help Center” which uses a search function to steer you toward resolutions to your questions or concerns. Solutions are presented as a main topic with a collection of articles relevant to that topic.
Unfortunately I seemed to have some trouble finding answers to what I assumed were common queries. My suggestion would be trying different keywords until you find the right one. Searches of “customize template” and “customize store template” didn’t get me to where I needed to be, but “design template” found me some video tutorials on how to edit templates.
You also have the option to contact the Volusion team by message or to schedule a call. Judging by the above email, I suspect this would be the best means of finding answers to significant questions you might have. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to touch base with anyone on the phone for this review because of time/scheduling conflicts… wa wa waaa.
These options are available from the “Get Help” tab at the top right of the admin dashboard as pictured above.
The next major resource is the “V1 Guides” page. From here you can search for tutorials and solutions through a number of topics.
Once again I seemed to have some trouble finding information about another common topic: payments. When I searched the keyword in the “customer service” topic I didn’t get any results.
I figured I’d increase my chances by using a more specific keyword in “all topics”.
One video…. On what is an extremely important topic in ecommerce. Disappointed again. If I’m interested in becoming a client, I would feel a lot more comfortable if there was some literature, blogs, or anything aside from a 2.5-year-old video.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I repeated the search on the Help Center and was pleased to see some quality results immediately. My suggestion is to use both resources to find the best solutions.
Apps, Integrations and Add-ons
So, I began my search for Voluson apps with a smile on my face and a childlike sense of adventure in anticipation of exploring the functionality of some top-rated applications. However, my first Google search of “Volusion app store” led me through a series of confusing pages and instructions.
I was first directed to the Marketplace, which certainly had ecommerce apps but appeared to be a fairly limited collection of third-party developments, none of which caused my heart to flutter.
Not to be discouraged, I consulted the Helpcenter once again. I was delighted to find instructions to find the following icon for the Volusion app store:
The only problem is that I could not for the life of me locate that button/icon… like, anywhere.
Before you ask, no, the icon on the help center response was not a functional link nor was there a link anywhere else in the explanation of how to access this elusive app store.
Surely it must be accessible from my dashboard, right?
Wrong, I couldn’t find it anywhere on the whole site and Google only led me to the Marketplace and Helpcenter. Regrettably, I won’t be able to go into more detail on the Volusion app environment during this review, which is heart-wrenching when I see headline like this:
Are the ~74 apps available on the Marketplace the extent of what I can use with a Volusion store? If you’re reading this and can offer me any insight, it would be greatly appreciated and I will happily update the article in the future.
At this point I cannot in clear conscience vouch for Volusion Apps or integrations.
Volusion’s price model is very competitive and at the time of writing is basically identical to Shopify.
The biggest advantage is that Volusion doesn’t take a flat transaction fee, and while they used to charge for additional bandwidth, they’ve recently upgraded all plans to have unlimited. This can be a major plus for merchants in the long-term. They also offer a 10% discount if you pay one year up front.
There are revenue caps associated with each plan, starting at $50k for Personal and going to $500k at Business. It’s important to identify your projected annual revenue to avoid needing to upgrade your plan.
The main drawback is that Volusion stores don’t come equipped with SSL certification. This can put the store owner at major risk for data breaches and/or fraud, so it’s absolutely necessary in ecommerce. Volusion merchants will need to seek third-party certification, which will come with an additional cost:
Major credit cards are accepted using the Volusion Payments system which charges a 2.15% transaction fee. Here is a screencap from the FAQ section on the payments page.
Some important information:
- Volusion Payments is not available to merchants outside of the USA
- All major credit cards, including AMEX and debit cards are accepted
- An SSL certificate is required to be eligible for Volusion Payments
The first point is a major drawback and I suspect it’s because they lack the reach and financial infrastructure at this time.
I consulted the Helpcenter to figure out which payment gateways are available to Volusion merchants.
Volusion works with PayPal pro among other major players.
You may have noticed this foreboding statement before the URL in some of the screenshots in this article:
This pesky warning means that there is no SSL certificate present on mine, or anyone else’s Volusion store. As mentioned above this should be a heavily weighted factor for anyone considering Volusion not only due to the extra cost but for your own peace of mind.
It seems quite difficult to find a significant number of client reviews regarding Volusion. At a glance, professionals seem to rate the system between 3-4 / 5.
But when searching for customer reviews, I seemed to uncover a more conflicted consensus. It seems like Volusion reviews from 2-5 years ago were mostly good, but anything I could find from this year has been lackluster to say the least:
Of course I earnestly believe that people with negative experiences are more compelled to leave a review.
And then I came upon this review. Perhaps a harbinger for things to come, and a great way to lead us into the second major section of this article.
At SellerSmith we are well-acquainted with Shopify and its systems. I’ll summarize the overall experience below and if anything is unclear don’t be afraid to read through our more thorough articles linked in each section.
My “What is Shopify?” article will provide a better idea of the history and position of the platform.
Firstly, I was super impressed with a member of Volusion team reaching out as mentioned previously in this article. In fact, Javier attempted to get in touch again after I hadn’t responded to the initial email, so Volusion takes the cake for my first impression.
During my research, I also noticed a quite aggressive advertising strategy from Shopify:
This cheeky (but clever) ad popped up when I searched for almost any Volusion-related. Clicking it brought me to a landing page devoted to ex-Volusion users testimonials.
Bullying is too strong a word, but the devotion to disparaging Volusion with this ad campaign felt a tad selective and propagandized.
Personally I’m a Shopify fan but part of me always wants to root for the underdog, so a pleasant, sincere email from a member of the Volusion staff definitely made a better impression than seeing Goliath attempting to consume David through contentious advertising.
Design and Features
Although Volusion has some great looking themes and variety, the Shopify theme editor just has so much more flexibility and is loaded with more features.
The two platforms certainly have a comparable volume and quality of themes. The tipping point is when you start to customize the themes through your Shopify admin.
The sections and theme settings format provides a lot more options and freedom in how I control the layout of my site.
Read our breakdown of how to select the best Shopify theme for your store.
And a Brooklyn theme review with instructions on how to use the Shopify theme editor.
Support and Resources
Shopify has an awesome support network. I personally indulged in nearly every resource and tested the support channels in my article on Shopify Support. Read it for a more comprehensive understanding of the extent that Shopify goes to assist its clients.
Aside from the 24/7 accessibility through several mediums, the learning resources are what add the most value for Shopify merchants. These resources, especially Shopify Academy, are all available for free and can take an ecommerce amateur to savvy seller very effectively:
Apps, Integrations and Add-ons
Based on my confusing experience attempting to add applications to my Volusion store, this one is a no-brainer.
The Shopify App store is expansive and intuitive. There are thousands of applications that can assist merchants in every facet of ecommerce.
From the myriad of applications present on the store, many are subscription-based but also offer free plans. You can search keywords to yield hundreds of results complete with reviews, testimonials and plan options.
We made a list of the best Shopify apps to boost sales.
The base prices of Shopify plans appear identical to Volusion’s, however there is a higher fixed transaction fee associated with each plan compared to Volusion. These are contingent on credit card processing and use of payment gateways outside of Shopify payments.
All Shopify stores come with SSL certification free of charge which is a benefit for its users.
Depending on the volume of purchases that take place on your store, these fees will accumulate indefinitely, therefore giving Volusion a slight edge on pricing at this time.
Here’s how to determine the best Shopify plan for you.
Shopify Payments is a totally secure and versatile processing system. It’s available in a much larger range of countries than Volusion:
- United States (Not US territories except Puerto Rico)
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
- Germany (just in Oct 2018).
The US fees associated with Shopify payments are as follows:
Note that these fees depend on which country the users store exists in. You can view the different prices from the Shopify pricing page and selecting the menu at the very bottom right:
Shopify is also integrated with a better variety of third-party payment gateways for merchants outside of their core regions.
Read our article on the requirements, how to set up, test, and use Shopify Payments.
Shopify takes data protection, account security and fraud prevention seriously. All Shopify merchants get a free SSL certificate to easily encrypt their store and redirect traffic to HTTPS.
Shopify Payments is also Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliant.
They also boast solid security reporting and response programs to protect users from being compromised.
At a glance Shopify has a 4-5 star rating from industry professionals:
The overall client response seems favourable as well:
The overwhelmingly positive reviews seem to stem from the advanced design tools and support network that Shopify justifiably takes pride in. As mentioned above, there are also comprehensive review systems on the Shopify app store to help you determine which application are most reputable.
It seems that the trend of ecommerce users migrating to the Shopify platform is steadily increasing. This is likely due the fact that the platform is consistently evolving and innovating to offer its client base the best tools and features.
Volusion has seen some hiccups in the stability of their management structure and this may be a significant reason for them failing to maintain significant improvements or stay ahead of competition.
Check out our other articles for all things Shopify and ecommerce.
If you have experience with both platforms, please feel free to share your story below. We regularly produce content on anything Shopify and ecommerce-related so if you have any ideas or problems you’d like us to examine leave us a comment below as well.
Happy selling. Bonne chance!