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- Date Established
- Austin, TX
Volusion is one the largest eCommerce shopping cart platforms on the market today. Founded by Kevin Sproles in his bedroom, Volusion has now grown to around 500 employees, serving over 40k stores. They serve everyone from eCommerce neophytes to big names such as intel, 3M, National Geographic, and the Chicago Tribune. With over $90 Million in total funding, they are definitely continuing to expand.
Based out of Austin, Texas and operating since 1999, Volusion is a fully cloud-based eCommerce shopping cart. It is one of the most popular all-in-one solutions out there, with features including; building a website, web hosting, the ability to add products and manage inventory, checkout, payment processing, order management, customer management, newsletters, and much more. It has seen a lot of changes in its 16+ years of operation, which have kept it consistently near the top of a rapidly changing market.
Volusion has come a long way throughout its evolution. My recent round of research has yielded another optimistic boost in my overall impressions. If you’re gathering candidates for a Shopping Cart “short list,” Volusion is likely to make the cut. Check out the full details below.
All Volusion plans come with a fully functional 14-day (no credit card required) trial. There are no setup or cancellation fees either. The prices listed below are for monthly subscriptions, but if you opt to pay annually, you’ll receive a 10% discount.
- Mini – $15/month, unlimited storage, 100 products, no transaction fees, 24/7 online support, free templates, mobile store, facebook store, social media tools.
- Plus – $35/month, unlimited storage, 1,000 products, no transaction fees, 24/7 online and phone support, free templates, mobile store, facebook store, social media tools, abandoned cart reports, ratings and reviews, newsletters.
- Pro – $75/month, unlimited storage, 10,000 products, no transaction fees, 24/7 priority online and phone support, Amazon and eBay integration, API access, CRM.
- Premium – $135/month, unlimited storage, unlimited products, no transaction fees, 24/7 priority online and phone support, dedicated account manager.
Keep in mind that you will definitely need to purchase a yearly SSL certificate before you can start doing business. They offer the most affordable one, coming in at $89 per year, but they also offer certificates provided by more trusted names in the industry.
Volusion does not charge any transaction fees with their monthly subscription, if you use own payment gateway. If you opt to use their in-house gateway, Volusion offers a competitive 2.15% rate. However, from what I’ve read, they do have a tendency to hit you with bandwidth overages and “up-sell” charges, which can become very pricey. If you anticipate that your store will be eating up a lot of bandwidth, then do yourself a favor and opt for a higher price point.
Note: You can check your bandwidth stats by going to: my.volusion.com > view stats > Stats for www.yourdomainname.com. Make sure you keep an eye on your bandwidth.
They used to charge you $25/month to remove the “Powered by Volusion” link at the bottom of your site (in the footer). i inquired about this with their customer support, and got official confirmation that this is no longer the case. Apparently, all you have to do is ask them to remove it, and they will do so free of charge.
Lastly, if you are looking for an Enterprise-sized platform, Volusion has recently launched Mozu to fill that need.
Web-Hosted or Licensed:
Note: Volusion used to outsource their hosting to Rackspace, but in 2009 they brought everything in-house. Though they’ve had some bumps in the road, things are finally starting to get better. A recent emphasis on improving their reputation here has been successful; I spoke with their Senior Brand Manager, who informed me that they have invested millions into their hosting infrastructure in the last few years, and are now experiencing a reliable 99.98% uptime.
Ease of Use:
After you sign up, you are automatically logged in to your dashboard, which is filled with demo data. I’m always glad to see this simple onboarding feature, since it feels like so much of a commitment to load in tons of my own legitimate data when all I want to do is poke around. From this demo dashboard, you can either dive into the deep end and toy around with settings, or you can follow their suggested links, which are impossible to miss at the top of the screen: choose from Watch a Video, Choose a Template, Update Your Logo, Add Some Products, and Start Selling. The video is merely a trailer, the basic message of which is “data crunching in Volusion is pretty much a digital watermelon mojito.” The rest of the quick links don’t really function as walkthroughs or tutorials, but only take you to the sections of the dashboard to get your basic info customized. It’s handy, but slightly underwhelming if you are looking for guidance.
If you’re looking for something more substantial, the right sidebar has much more useful links, including quick access to several video tutorials, the Knowledge Base, and – oh there it is! – a “Getting Started Guide,” which brings you to a more systemized procedure for all the things a new user will need to know.
As for daily use post-setup, the Volusion admin interface is clean and easy to navigate. It had a few glitches when used on a mobile device, such as sticky menus that don’t want to un-stick even after you’ve made your selection, and the inability to scroll the page if you happen to catch any piece of content (make sure your navigation swipes start from completely empty page space.) aside from that, I have few complaints. You can always easily view any changes to your store with a “live preview” button, always available at the top left of your window.
Products were easy to add, as well. The Volusion den team has listened to some customer feedback in this area, and has actually made some of the more advanced features more difficult to find. This is actually a good thing; if you’re just pluggin in some basic product info, you won’t get bogged down in information overload. But if you’re looking for those advanced settings, they haven’t gone away.
Searching through orders, customers, products, and vendors is a cinch with their built-in search feature.
Overall, Volusion does a great job of making their software user friendly.
Hardware and Software Requirements:
You only need a good internet connection and an updated browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari) to run Volusion. There are no hardware or operating system requirements, but it’s obviously better to have updated technology.
I’ve picked the Volusion features that are most important and listed them below. If you want a full list, go here, but to be honest they don’t do a great job of listing all of their features. Here are the highlights:
- Unlimited product options. Some other carts (Shopify) limit you on product options.
- Integrated one-page checkout.
- SmartMatch technology. Another great feature which detects which product option combinations are currently in stock and only displays those combinations on the front end.
- Marketing & SEO:
- Daily deals feature.
- eBay integration.
- Ability to create coupons and discounts.
- Gift cards supported
- Built-in customer reviews and feedback functionality.
- Wish lists support.
- Abandoned/live cart feature. See which one of your customers abandoned their cart, or which customer currently has a cart that is live (with products in it).
- Built-in affiliate management system. Gives you the ability to bring on affiliate marketers who can resell your products for a percentage.
- Built-in SEO features. Customize all meta data, create search engine friendly URL’s, auto-generated 301 redirects, canonical links, edit Robots.txt, create manual 301 redirects and generate an XML sitemap within the admin section, customizable 404 error page.
- Built-in “MyRewards” loyalty rewards program. Give points to loyal customers that they can then use for discounts on future purchases or cold hard cash.
- Web analytics.
- Order reports, RMA reports, product view reports, category view reports, CRM ticket reports.
- Social & Mobile:
- iOS support for iPhones and iPod Touch
- Android Wear support.
- Amazon integration makes it possible to sell products on the ubiquitous amazon.com
- Sell your products on social media.
- Direct integration with Facebook and Twitter. Allows you to share announcements, daily deals and promotions without leaving your admin area.
- Social sharing app built-in. Adds social sharing buttons (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest , etc…) to your product pages.
- Mobile version of your eCommerce store.
- Improved Mobile Checkout experience. Http://www.Volusion.com/mobile-commerce-solution
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Like most other shopping carts, this area lets you communicate with your customers, manage their support tickets, see their order history, and schedule follow-ups.
- Manage inventory.
- Manually create orders with built-in POS. A lot of business owners want this feature. Sometimes they want to use their shopping cart as a phone order platform, and that’s where manual ordering comes in handy.
- Built-in recurring billing. Volusion is one of the only carts to offer a recurring billing feature. For those of you that offer membership/subscription type services, you’ll love this. Just keep in mind that some payment providers like Paypal, Google Checkout and the Realex Gateway will not be compatible with this feature.
Volusion offers nearly 120 free templates to choose from, but only 23 of them are “device responsive,” meaning that they automatically detect the screen size you’re using (between phone, tablet, and desktop) and display accordingly. They aren’t the most beautiful designs in the world, but many of them are commensurately free of charge. If you don’t want to go with a free template, you can always purchase a premium one. Prices range from $50 to $900. Yowza. I could find a Graphic Design student and toss them some beer money, and I’d probably be just as happy with the result.
You can browse all the templates by thumbnail, or you can narrow your search with the Filter sidebar: search by predominant color, price, keyword, industry, and a few more criteria.
As far as editing is concerned, there’s a built-in template editor that lets you change your raw code within the admin interface (no need for FTP access). There you’ll be able to edit the HTML and CSS of some of your template files. Alternately, there is a WSYWIG layout manager for easy customization.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
The Volusion app-store is still in beta, and has been there for years. It’s still growing, but is missing a number of crucial integrations. This is an important point to consider, especially if you need to integrate your shopping cart with a POS system like Shopkeep or Vend.
Integrations and add-ons is an area where Volusion is definitely behind the competition, but I was happy to see these familiar names listed as supported:
Volusion offers an “in-house” credit card processing service called Volusion Merchant Services. The cost is 2.15% per transaction, plus $3.41/month PCI compliance fee. There was once a monthly minimum to meet, but that criteria has been removed.
If you don’t want to go with the Volusion/First Data combo, then you can always go with one of our high-rated processors. Volusion is compatible with a large number of payment gateways (see here), so chances are, one of our high-rated providers will be able to integrate with them as well.
In order to be PCI compliant, you’ll need to purchase a SSL certificate for your web store. Volusion offers the most affordable one- a 1 year SSL for $89.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
Volusion offers 24/7 live human support via phone, chat, or email, to all tiers above Mini (which provides online support only). Pro and Premium tiers get priority support, which means shorter wait times. Here are the main support lines:
In addition to 24/7 support, Volusion has the following resources to help you:
- Knowledge Base – Filled with dozens of videos and articles, this is one of the most extensive knowledge base’s that I’ve seen. Good job Volusion!
- Webinars and Video Tutorials– Volusion hosts regular webinars that cover eCommerce, marketing, and how to setup and run your store. There is also an extensive collection of videos that can help you with the setup and marketing of your store.
- Social Media Profiles – You can find Volusion on both Facebook and Twitter.
- Dev Wiki – For all you developers, there’s a Dev Wiki where you can find code samples, and other documentation relating to the Volusion platform.
Moments after I started my free trial, I probed their customer support. I had a slew of questions to throw at the agent, and I wanted to do so at a peak time (end of business day.) I opted for the Live Chat method, and an actual person (with excellent command of the English language) was ready to help me in four minutes flat. This agent was able to quickly answer everything I threw at them. All in all, I’m satisfied. Which is not easy for most Customer Service departments to do. Rated by itself, Volusion’s Customer Support gets 5/5 stars from me.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
No company can earn a 100% satisfaction rate. As you’d expect from an industry leader, there was a wide spectrum of user feedback. I’ve gathered the common problems customers have had with Volusion, and trimmed it down to the most recent (read as: relevant) user complaints:
- Bandwidth Overage Charges – There were quite a few people that complained about being charged a bandwidth overage fee. That fee has been reported at $7 for every GB you go over your limit.
- Poor Customer Service/Support – Definitely some mixed reviews on this one. The most recent reviews and my own experience lead me to believe that this issue is in the past. I only mention it here because you’ll see these reports arise if you do any digging on your own. Just take note of the date those reports were made, and judge their relevance for yourself.
- Free Templates are Bland – I tend to agree with most people that the free Volusion templates are a bit bland, but then again they’re FREE. You get what you pay for. These are a great place to get started, but I recommend hiring an experienced web designer just as soon as your budget allows.
- Poor Startup Tutorial: I definitely agree with this one. Volusion should revisit their “Get Started” tutorial.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
There are a number of success stories and testimonials on the Volusion website. I also took some time to research other reviews, comments, and experiences in other parts of the web. These are the areas most frequently praised by Volusion customers:
- No Transactions Fees — Everybody is happy about the fact that Volusion doesn’t charge any transaction fees on top of those imposed by their in-house payment gateway.
- Good Customer Service/Support — For every person that complained about Volusion’s support, there was at least one that praised it. Between their self-help resources and their uncommonly astute Customer Support team, I am personally on Volusion’s side here.
- Easy to Use — Many customers praise Volusion’s easy interface. I tend to agree.
Here are some less frequent positives that I read about Volusion:
- Built-In Daily Deals Module.
- Built-In Shopping Cart Abandonment management.
- Built-In POS and Phone Order Features.
- Built-In Customer Relationship Management Feature (CRM).
- Automated Back-Ups.
- Mobile Friendly.
- Ability to Sell Digital Downloadable Goods.
- Compatible with Many Payment Gateways.
- Unlimited Product Variations.
- PCI Level 1 certified.
- Volusion Content Delivery Network (CDN). Learn more about it here.
- Manage account permissions for different users.
- 100% redundancy of all network hardware, systems, and data.
- Automatic daily back-ups.
- Continuous hourly data backups.
All of my interactions with the Volusion team and with the software have been surprisingly positive. I tried to break their customer service, but found it to be quite solid. I did some behind-the-scenes investigating, and was quickly routed to a very helpful Senior Brand Manager. I am pleased to report that there are actual human beings working at Volusion, and not mere disaffected office monkeys.
That alone wins a lot of favor with me. I’d rather deal with a company which has mediocre products, if I know that I’ll be interacting with friendly, helpful, reliable people. But thankfully, I don’t have to worry about this kind of trade-off with Volusion. You get the people AND the product with this business deal.
Volusion can, and does, serve a wide variety of retail businesses. Some specialized businesses might be better served by products geared specifically towards them, but the vast majority of users will be quite pleased with Volusion. I have few complaints, and I confidently expect that my few grumbles would be heard and responded to.
You’re still reading my article, when you should be signing up.