Volusion eCommerce Website Builder Overview
Volusion was established in 1999 and with almost 17 years eCommerce development experience under their belt you would expect them to be good at what they do. With a massive seven-year head start on Bigcommerce, five on Shopify and a following wind they should be the clear market leader.
Interestingly the earliest recorded entry for the Volusion.com website on archive.org is April 6th, 2004
The fact that they are not lies in growing pains from implementing a massive data network capable of hosting a customer client base which is now well over 40,000 stores and also due to bandwidth pricing strategies that have been less than transparent.
The move away from Rackspace Hosting in 2010 hurt the company badly and resulted in numerous customer outages.
Rackspace really know their stuff when it comes to hosting and having been a customer for over eight years I can testify that their support is awesome and the product superb. However, it comes at a price, and that is why Volusion decided to part company.
Having overcome those difficulties the company now has over 450+ employees and has processed $21 billion in merchant sales since they began trading.
Kevin has been described as an eCommerce “visionary”, and there can be no doubt that he has produced one of the best-featured eCommerce platforms on the market. Check out his Linkedin page, and you will see that Volusion is a very forward thinking company. Recently they launched “Mozu” which is a high-end cloud-based enterprise eCommerce solution to cater for the higher end of the market.
Volusion is often touted as the eCommerce platform that caters for the mid-range eCommerce store market but why does it trail behind Shopify and Bigcommerce in percentage market share?
They should be leading the race and by a distance.
Summary Of Features
On the face of it, Volusion looks like the internet retailers dream choice of eCommerce software platform. It has almost every feature you could want to run your online store including an inbuilt affiliate program.
There are plenty of beautiful template designs for you to choose from and managing products is a breeze. You can create product listings with images and videos, and inventory management is also included.
There are excellent marketing features – SEO and Social media marketing are not just afterthoughts here, and the “daily deal” feature is a winner.
One of the features most overlooked by automated eCommerce website builders is the ability to be able to edit the Heading tag and place paragraph text on the page to “beef it up” so that you don't just have images on the page.
Don't take that last sentence lightly because I've experienced first hand how Google can penalise your site for thin content no matter how good you think it looks and text added in any measure is a massive plus where SEO is concerned.
That's all taken care of with Volusion, and you can write customised page descriptions and enter custom meta descriptions and keywords.
Email marketing is administered from the control panel, and so you don't need an add-on or plug-in for that (although Aweber has a plug-in), and the Android and Smartwatch Apps make it easier than ever to process orders and view real-time sales while on the go.
Recurring transactions are supported (something that Shopify does not currently offer). Point Of Sale (POS) is supported, and Amazon and Ebay integrations are also an integral part of the Volusion package.
Everything you need to run a successful online business is all present and correct.
When you are relying on one company to support your online business, then you need to know that they are on the ball.
The massive advantage of dealing with an “all in one” provider is that they get to deal with all the headaches (server problems, software incompatibility, software versions not updated) and you get to make one phone call, or support ticket or live chat.
That is the big drawback of open source solutions (Magento, Woo Commerce), trying to figure out if it is your hosting company that is running an unsupported version of PHP or your software that hasn't kept pace with PHP versions can end up in a never-ending loop argument.
When I tested the Volusion live chat support for response time, it was about a minute which no one can quibble with.
There are nine videos which will walk you through getting to know your Volusion account through setting up inventory and how to configure tax and shipping.
The section on Abandoned Carts and how to save sales by sending order retention emails particularly caught my eye but when I examined further, the articles on Social Media marketing and their “crash courses” were woefully out of date.
There is a lot of effort being put into the eCommerce blog, and weekly posts are a regular feature.
The support forum is “currently suspended”, and that is a big red flag. Any business that has its entire operation online and can't find a forum solution after 17 years in business is in trouble.
Both Shopify and Bigcommerce have thriving user communities.
Apps And Tools
There is an App marketplace with add-on tools like “mail-chimp” and “shop gate”, but there is nothing innovative here. We are moving away from having everything “integrated” to having add-ons connected through an API.
This means an eCommerce company like Volusion can focus on what they are good at (building shopping carts) and leave the development of other functions to specialists (affiliate programs, accounting integration, etc.).
Themes And Templates
There are 81 templates to choose from of which 23 are responsive. Of these 23, six are free and the other 17 cost £575 +VAT (£690) to purchase. That compares with the most expensive at Shopify at $180 and Bigcommerce at $170. Clearly, there needs to be some thought put into the thinking behind such a pricing strategy because Volusion's competitors are vastly cheaper and of comparable if not superior quality.
Volusion scores a massive win over its rivals with “unlimited” storage on all its plans. It then destroys that advantage by making an additional charge for bandwidth over and above your allotted allocation.
The bandwidth restriction starts at 1GB for the Mini plan, 3GB for Plus, 10GB for Pro and 35GB for Premium.
The overage bandwidth charge is not stated publicly, and if you go over the limit, then you'll incur an additional charge. You can see this charge in your control panel.
Both Shopify and Bigcommerce have unlimited bandwidth provision.
While bandwidth may not be a concern at the beginning of your enterprise if your shop grows and becomes a success, then you'll be on the Pro plan in no time at all.
Volusion is behind the times. Using the latest hosting technology (Content delivery networks, proxy servers, multiple data centres in different world locations, etc.), the overall traffic load can be shared equally, and this is why their competitors can and do offer unlimited bandwidth.
You'll also need to purchase an SSL certificate at the cost of $89. The charge is made because unlike its competitors Volusion attaches the SSL certificate to your domain name so that all the payment processing happens on your domain. This is a good thing although it's not needed for new start-ups.
Shopify and Bigcommerce use a shared SSL certificate which means that payment processing is redirected to the shared server. It's a minor point, but processing on your own server is a much more professional presentation method.
You can upgrade to a dedicated SSL on Shopify Plus and Bigcommerce Plus and Enterprise plans, and this is how Volusion should do it.
Payment Processing Fees
No transaction charges were one of Volusions big selling points, but again their rivals have caught up with them, and this is becoming an industry standard feature.
Volusion may once have been the shopping cart of choice for mainstream eCommerce, but it is living on past glories.
The bandwidth restrictions won't affect anyone who has little traffic to speak of but for those building a serious business the overage bandwidth charges are a major concern. This is a bottom of the barrel marketing ploy and should be discontinued immediately.
The astronomical template pricing needs looking at because £690 is too much when compared to its competitors. It's too much anyway for a template; you should get a custom graphic design for that price.
The closed forum tells me that Volusion is not serious about supporting its customer base and the out of date blogs and guides are also cause for concern.
Building features like affiliate programs and email marketing may have been the way to go, but today it makes much more sense to provide integration to partner with “best of breed” third party solutions.
Building an affiliate program or designing an email marketing solution is a job for an entire company on its own.
What could be the mainstream eCommerce solution of choice is spoiled by poor pricing decisions, lack of support for third-party integrations, outdated guides and a forum they can't find a solution for.
Update 19/10/2016 Volusion Sells Mozu