|Featured Shopping Cart Vendors|
Merchant Maverick's Rating: (3.5 out of 5)
Last Updated: October 31st, 2012.
Based out of Austin, Texas and operating since 1999, Volusion is a fully cloud-based ecommerce shopping cart. It performs all the basic functions that you would need to run an online store 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. You can also choose from a few add-ons in the Volusion app store, which will increase the functionality of your cart (e.g. Accounting, Drop Shipping, Live Chat, etc...).
Volusion is one the largest eCommerce shopping cart platforms on the market today. Founded by Kevin Sproles in his bedroom, Kevin's little side project has now grown to over 40k stores and 300 employees. With clients like intel, 3m, National Geographic, and the Chicago Tribune, Volusion is definitely a platform to take seriously. That's precisely why I spent hours researching Volusion and tinkering with their free demo so I could put together the most comprehensive review possible.
What you have before you is a reflection of all of that research. I encourage you to read the entire review, however long it is, to get the most out of it. Although this is just one person's opinion of Volusion, I think that I've uncovered some important details about the software that will help you make a better decision.
All Volusion plans come with a fully functional 14-day (no credit card required) trial. There are no setup or cancellation fees either.
- Mini - $15/month, free setup, 100 products, 1 GB data transfer, no transaction fees, 24/7 online support, free templates, mobile store, facebook store, social media tools.
- Bronze - $35/month, free setup, 1,000 products, 2 GB data transfer, 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.
- Silver - $65/month, free setup, 2,500 products, 5 GB data transfer, 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, phone orders, import/export, CRM.
- Gold - $125/month, free setup, 10,000 products, 25 GB data transfer, no transaction fees, 24/7 priority online and phone support, free templates, mobile store, facebook store, social media tools, abandoned cart reports, ratings and reviews, newsletters, phone orders, import/export, CRM, deal of the day, myrewards, eBay integration, onboarding coach.
- Platinum - $195/month, free setup, unlimited products, 40 GB data transfer, no transaction fees, 24/7 priority online and phone support, free templates, mobile store, facebook store, social media tools, abandoned cart reports, ratings and reviews, newsletters, phone orders, import/export, CRM, deal of the day, myrewards, eBay integration, onboarding coach.
Volusion does not charge any transaction fees, which is always a plus. 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.
Last but definitely not least, they charge you $25/month to remove the "Powered by Volusion" link at the bottom of your site (in the footer). Are you kidding me?!!
Web-Hosted or Licensed:
Note: Volusion used to outsource their hosting to Rackspace, but in 2009 they brought everything in-house. Since then it seems they've had some bumps in the road. They haven't had the best track record for uptime, but things are finally starting to get better. Good news is, they have a 99.9% uptime guarantee where they will basically refund your money if they don't meet their end of the bargain.
Ease of Use:
The Volusion admin interface is clean and easy to navigate. There's a "Quickstart" tutorial that walks you through choosing a design and adding your first product, but that's about it. The Volusion tutorial definitely loses in comparison to the one that BigCommerce has. I personally like it when a tutorial walks me through a step-by-step process in setting up my ENTIRE store. There's something about a checklist that simplifies and streamlines an otherwise chaotic task. Volusion is missing that checklist.
I like the fact that most input fields in the admin area have a question mark icon next to them which can be clicked to get additional details about that field. It makes it easy to learn more about what I need to input into that field without having to navigate away from the page.
Products were easy to add, but I got a bit lost in the "Advanced Info" section. Similar to Magento, Volusion gives you a ton of extra settings and options for each product, which is good but can also cause a little analysis paralysis. My advice is that you fill out the basic product info, add some product images, then click save. After that, you can come back and tweak with each advanced option one-by-one.
Categories were also very easy to add, and navigation/category liks can be rearranged via drag n' drop.
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 web-enabled internet connection and a browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari) to run it. 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. I personally liked some features myself that were not listed in the Volusion feature list. I've put those features in bold.
- 120 free templates. The free designs aren't the greatest (in my opinion). I like Shopify's free designs better, but you don't have to settle for free designs, you can always go custom, or you can purchase one.
- Unlimited product options. Some other carts (Shopify) limit you on product options.
- Soft add to cart. I like this feature. It allows your customers to add products to their cart without actually sending them to the checkout page.
- 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:
- Built-in daily deals feature.
- Built-in eBay integration.
- Ability to create coupons and discounts.
- Built-in customer reviews and feedback functionality.
- Built-in wish list feature.
- 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 (Note: A key SEO feature that Volusion is missing is the auto-generated H1 tag for all category and product pages).
- 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.
- Built-in web analytics (SmarterStats).
- Order reports, RMA reports, product view reports, category view reports, CRM ticket reports.
- Social & Mobile:
- Sell your products on Facebook with SocialStore.
- 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.
- 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 over 120 free templates to choose from. They aren't the most beautiful designs in the world, but they also don't cost anything either. If you don't want to go with a free template, you can always purchase a premium one. Premium templates start at around $195.
As far as editing is concerned, there's a built-in template editor called "File 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. However, because Volusion doesn't give you FTP access, it is less flexible in code customization than other carts.
Your website content can be easily changed under the "Site Content" tab. Just pick the page you want to change and add, delete, or edit the content as you see fit.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
The Volusion app-store is still in beta and doesn't have that many add-ons yet. It's still growing, and 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 WAY behind the competition. Step it up guys!
Volusion offers an "in-house" credit card processing service called Volusion Merchant Services. The cost is 2.17% ("Qualified" transactions only) per transaction plus $10/month statement fee, $17.99/month payment gateway fee, $3.41/month PCI compliance fee, $1.87/month regulatory compliance fee.
Essentially, your fixed monthly costs will be $33.27/month, to which you'll have to add any processing costs as well. Additionally, there's a $99 cancellation fee, and a $25 monthly minimum, neither of which are ideal, in my opinion. Btw, none of the fixed fees or cancellation/monthly minimum fees are listed anywhere on the Volusion website. I managed to get a copy of the full fees list that you can see here.
What's also not mentioned on their site is that this "in-house" processing is actually more of a partnership between Volusion and First Data Merchant Solutions. In a nutshell, Volusion resells First Data's processing platform under their own brand name. So, if you sign up with Volusion Merchant Services, then you're pretty much signing up with First Data.
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 guys will be able to integrate with them as well.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
Volusion offers 24/7 live human support via phone, chat, or email, to all tiers above Mini (online support only). Gold and Platinum tiers get priority support, which means shorter wait times.
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 - Volusion hosts regular webinars that cover eCommerce, marketing, how to setup and run your store, and much more.
- Video Tutorials - Volusion has an extensive collection of videos that can help you with the setup and marketing of your store. They also have a Youtube channel.
- Community Forum - There's a community forum that looks like it's pretty active, so if you have a question, you can ask it there as well.
- Social Media Profiles - You can find Volusion on both Facebook and Twitter. If you have any issues, you can engage them there.
- 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.
Finally, I've read mixed reviews about Volusion's customer support. It seems to be split between those that love Volusion's support and those that hate it. See the "Negative Reviews/Complaints," and "Positive Reviews/Testimonials" sections for more info.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
I spent hours searching the web for negative reviews. My goal was to come up with common patterns amongst those complaints, so I could relay that information to you.
After reading dozens of complaints about Volusion, here are the most common ones:
- Server Downtime - By far the most complaints were in regards to the uptime of Volusion store's. Back in 2009, Volusion switched from using Rackspace as their web host to doing everything in-house. Apparently that was a bad choice on their part, because they've been having downtime issues ever since. The good news is that those issues have slowly resolved over time, and Volusion offers a 99.9% uptime guarantee, so if your site does go down, you may be subject to a pro-rata refund.
- Bandwidth Overage Charges - There were quite a few people that complained about being charged a bandwidth overage fee. That fee is $7 for every GB you go over your limit.
- Poor Customer Service/Support - Definitely some mixed reviews on this one. Some people hate Volusion's service, other's praise it. It's a toss up.
- 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. Beggars can't be choosers. If you want your templates to be nice and free, then go with Shopify.
- Poor Startup Tutorial: I definitely agree with this one. Volusion should revisit their "Get Started" tutorial...AND make it better.
To do your own research, you can search on Google for terms like: volusion reviews, volusion complaints, volusion comments, volusion scam, volusion testimonials, etc...
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. From all that research, I picked out the features and topics that were most frequently praised by Volusion customers:
- No Transactions Fees - Everybody is happy about the fact that Volusion doesn't charge any transaction fees.
- Good Customer Service/Support - For every person that complained about Volusion's support, there was someone that praised it. I personally think they have an awesome resources section (e.g. knowledge base, video tutorials). The 24/7 support is also a huge plus!
- 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 Feature.
- 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.
Besides the great resource/education materials, there wasn't anything about Volusion that really blew me away. It's a good cart that works as advertised. There are features that come standard with Volusion that you won't find with other carts, so that's definitely a positive. The fact that they don't charge any transaction fees is also in your favor. However, the bandwidth overages, random upsell fees, and server downtime issues are something I would definitely be concerned with. Either way, my suggestion is to give Volusion a trial run to see how you like it.