In the world of ecommerce platforms, Volusion is among the first of its kind. The business launched in earnest in 1999, long before competitors like Shopify and WooCommerce, which launched in 2006 and 2014, respectively. Today, 30,000 different merchants have generated over $28 billion in sales using the Volusion platform.
So how has Volusion had such staying power in the increasingly competitive ecommerce platform market? And it is the right choice for your small business? In this review we are going to answer both those questions. We’ll also give you some alternatives to compare to Volusion to ensure you are making the most informed decision possible when it comes to your small business’s ecommerce platform.
What Is Volusion?
It never hurts to start by understanding just what a product is. Volusion is a cloud-hosted ecommerce platform. What that means is that you can access Volusion from the web and use it to build and manage an ecommerce store.
Although that sounds simple enough, there is a lot that goes into running an ecommerce website. Fortunately, Volusion has thought of (almost) everything merchants need to get started.
Photo credit: Volusion
How to Get Started With Volusion in 7 Steps
Volusion offers a 14-day free trial to all prospective customers. There is no credit card required—just enter some basic information about yourself and your business. You’ll then be redirected to your dashboard, where you’ll see a list of sections that allow you to customize your store.
Photo credit: Volusion
Step 1: Store Settings
When you go to update your store settings, Volusion will provide you with a questionnaire that asks for your location, payment service options (more on this later), shipping preference (also more on this later), and the name of your store. Note that based on your location, Volusion will automatically determine how much tax you charge. After completing the questionnaire, you’ll be redirected to a page where you can upload your store logo and add your domain name.
Photo credit: Volusion
Step 2: Select Your Theme
Next you will select your store theme. To do this, select the “Theme Store” option from your dashboard. The theme defines the colors, fonts, spacing, positioning, and content types that can display in each area of your store on all device types. It also determines the capabilities and limitations of your content section.
Volusion boasts 14 free themes and 38 paid themes, all of which cost $180. Although not the biggest selection, there are enough options here to give your store its own look and feel, and all themes are mobile responsive. When you find a theme you like, you can preview it and use a visual editor tool to tweak your store’s appearance.
The more technically inclined can also update the site’s CSS.
Photo credit: Volusion
Step 3: Add Products
Next up is adding products. To do so, select the “Add Product” option in your dashboard. You will be prompted to enter a product name, price, photo, description, and category. If you’re migrating over from another ecommerce platform, Volusion also allows you to upload your product catalog from a spreadsheet. In addition, you can create an unlimited number of product variants for each product.
Step 4: Design Your Store
Once you have your theme picked out and your products added, configure your store using the “Store Editor” option in the dashboard. In the Store Editor you will be able to edit the menu, add content, and upload pictures to your store.
The menu is the section that shows up at the top of your website that helps customers navigate your store. The content sections can change the text that appears on your website, making your store easier to navigate and informing customers of special deals and promotions. While modifying your images and updating your content, you’ll be able to preview your store to see how it will appear to a live audience.
Step 5: Set Up Payment
Now that you have the basics of your store figured out, it is time to tend to more complicated matters. To start, go back to the “Settings” tab to update your payment service. Volusion offers you three integrated payment options: Volusion Payments, Stripe, and PayPal.
Volusion Payments is the default payment option on Volusion websites. Even still, you’ll have to apply to use the service and wait one-two business days. If approved, you will also be instructed to integrate Authorize.Net as your payment gateway. With Volusion payments you can accept all major credit cards.
If you use Stripe, you will also be able to accept Apple Pay. Both Stripe and PayPal accept all major credit cards. Volusion also integrates with 30 additional payment processors. Regardless which processor you go with, Volusion will not charge you an additional transaction fee.
Step 6: Set Up Shipping
To set up shipping, you’ll first have to decide how you want to handle shipping. You can offer free, flat rate, price-based shipping, weight-based shipping, or charge a flat rate for orders over a certain amount. By default, your Volusion store is configured to allow domestic shipping within the United States. To enable shipping to other countries, select “Add A Country.” You can also specify where you will ship by region, state, or city.
At checkout, your customers will be able to ship to any of the locations you allowed. Volusion also integrates with several third-party shipping applications, including Shippo and FedEx. These tools can provide real-time shipping quotes based on order information. Volusion also offers tools for dropshippers.
Step 7: Launch Your Store
Once you input all of the aforementioned information, Volusion will give you the option to launch your store. Once you launch, search engines can index your site and show your site on search results.
Note that you cannot launch your store without first picking a pricing plan (more on this later).
Once your store is live, you can take advantage of the variety of features Volusion offers its customers. A full list of features can be found here, but some of the more notable ones include:
- Search Functionality: This feature allows you to input a search bar to help your customers navigate your site with ease.
- Barcode Creator: Creating custom barcodes for your products will make managing inventory a breeze.
- Related Products: Upsell customers by showing related products on product pages.
- Inventory Management: The inventory system in the dashboard displays product status, tracks stock reorder quantity levels, provides quantity verification, and sends low stock alarms.
- Manage Customer Accounts: Through the dashboard you can view customer purchase history and contact information.
- Collect Customer Reviews: Volusion offers customers the option to leave a review about your website. All reviews can be managed from the dashboard.
- Knowledge Center: Volusion allows you to set up a knowledge center on your website where you can add guides and tutorials for your products.
- Mobile App: The Volusion mobile app allows you to access your store dashboard on the go.
- Sell in Multiple Currencies: Volusion allows you to display prices and accept payment in multiple currencies, including pounds, yen, and the Canadian dollar.
- Security: All Volusion websites are Level 1 PCI compliant and every plan comes with an SSL certificate.
- SEO Tools: With Volusion’s SEO tools, you can manage all of your metadata, including descriptions, title tags, and URLs, to keep your pages, products and categories SEO-friendly.
- Social Media Integration: Volusion integrates with most social media platforms, allowing you to manage your social presence from your dashboard.
- Ecommerce Marketplace Integration: You can extend your store by connecting it with major ecommerce marketplaces, including Amazon, eBay, and Facebook Market.
- Abandoned Cart Recovery: Volusion allows you to send emails to customers who have abandoned their carts.
- Reporting: Get insights on everything from purchases to inventory.
- Discounts: Create discounts with custom start times and dollar amounts, or create special discount codes that customers can input at checkout.
- Gift Cards: Generate and provide customers with gift cards they can use on the site.
- Newsletters: Volusion comes with a built in newsletter feature you can use to market to customers.
- Customer Service: Volusion offers 24/7 phone, email, and live chat support. In addition, Volusion operates a help center with guides on everything from how to set up your store to how to manage SEO. There is also a blog, video tutorials, webinars, and general information on how to launch an ecommerce business and sell products online.
- Developer Tools: Volusion offers an API and 1:1 guidance from in-house experts.
While this list seems pretty exhaustive, we haven’t even mentioned all the apps Volusion integrates with. In the Volusion app store there are 19 apps that you can integrate with to extend the functionality of your store. However, one of the apps Volusion works with is Zapier, which can facilitate connections with over 1,000 additional third-party apps. Some of the other apps listed include:
- Rocket Lawyer
Although Volusion used to be a cheaper alternative to competitors like Shopify and BigCommerce, in September of 2018 it rolled out unlimited bandwidth plans with increased prices. The new plans offer unlimited bandwidth and product storage and are delineated by the level of sales activity they can support. Let’s take a look at them.
The Personal plan costs $29 per month and can support businesses with up to $50,000 in online sales each year. Some of the features included in the personal plan are the automatic tax calculator, inventory management system, the ability to provide coupons, and an unlimited number of products and bandwidth.
The Professional Plan costs $79 per month and is designed for businesses with up to $100,000 in annual online sales. With this plan you get everything in the Personal Plan plus abandoned cart recovery, the ability to collect and manage reviews, accept phone orders, and work with fulfillment centers.
The Business plan will cost you $299 per month and with it you can support up to $500,000 in online sales. Along with all the perks in the Professional and Personal plans, you’ll also have direct access to a dedicated team who will assist in the management of your account.
The Prime plan is Volusion’s customized solution for enterprise businesses. This plan is designed for large business looking to take big strides in growth and offer a unique and branded experience. Along with all the aforementioned perks, Prime customers will get direct support via Slack. Pricing is quote-based. For more information, contact them via their website.
Note that Volusion offers cheaper monthly rates if you sign a one-year contract. If you run multiple stores on Volusion, you can apply for a 10% discount on each store. And don’t forget about the 14-day free trial.
We started off by asking how Volusion stacks up against their competitors. Well, given all the information we have gone over, here is where we think it stands out:
Volusion’s feature list is impressively long. Even better, a lot of very useful features, like SEO tools and discount services, come standard on all plans. That is not a given with every ecommerce platform, and a distinct advantage Volusion has.
Volusion has been in the ecommerce game for 20 years, which basically makes it the old guy on the block. But being old also means you have racked up years of experience. This is reflected in the tutorials and guides in the Volusion help center, where we found answers to a wide variety of questions relating to the creation and management of an ecommerce store.
Volusion receives four stars out of five on TrustPilot, with 59% of its 349 reviews considered “excellent.” In those reviews, customers raved about Volusion’s customer service, beautiful themes, and its range of functionality.
Relative to the competition, here is where Volusion misses the mark.
Although Volusion did offer more when it increased the price on its plans, the new pricing means it costs roughly the same as Shopify and BigCommerce. This is a difficult spot to be in, given that Shopify and BigCommerce are better-known brands. Although that does not necessarily make them better products, we will say that their size has afforded them more partnerships with third-party applications.
Similar to BigCommerce, Volusion has sales limits on each of its plans. However, unlike BigCommerce, it is not explicitly stated what will happen if you exceed your annual sales limit. Back when Volusion had limited bandwidth plans, they would charge customers $7 for every extra gigabyte they used over their allotted amount for the month. We would imagine a similar type of fee would be imposed here. Either way, this is not ideal for growing businesses.
Although there were many happy customers talking about Volusion on TrustPilot, there were also a few exceptions. Among the critiques of Volusion we saw were difficulty understanding how to use the platform, limited integration options, outdated features, and general bugginess.
Top Alternatives to Volusion
If you want some alternatives to compare with Volusion (and you certainly should consider a range of options before you commit to one), here are three for you to consider:
WooCommerce is a free shopping cart plugin designed to turn a WordPress website into an ecommerce store. The tool allows for a fairly deep level of customization and flexibility, and costs nothing unless you want to add on extra features. For those who were attracted to Volusion for its old price, and who know how to use WordPress, consider WooCommerce.
Shopify is one of the most popular options in the ecommerce industry for a reason. It provides all the tools you need to build a website that makes sense for your business. If you don’t want to waste time trying different ecommerce platforms on for size, Shopify is probably your best bet.
BigCommerce is one of Shopify’s main competitors. It provides most of the same tools Shopify offers at a similar price. Like Volusion, BigCommerce places sales limits on their pricing plans, and will hit you with a fee if you exceed your monthly sales limit. On the plus side, BigCommerce does not charge payment processing fees, and customers tout it as an extremely easy-to-use platform.
Is Volusion Right for Your Business?
Volusion could be a good fit for small business owners who have tried other ecommerce platforms and are unsatisfied with the results. Although there is a bit of a learning curve, Volusion offers a wide range of features and functionality that any tech-savvy merchant would appreciate. Plus, their knowledge and expertise rivals anyone in the business.
Matthew Speiser is a former staff writer at Fundera.
He has written extensively about ecommerce, marketing and sales, and payroll and HR solutions, but is particularly knowledgeable about merchant services. Prior to Fundera, Matthew was an editorial lead at Google and an intern reporter at Business Insider. Matthew was also a co-author for Startup Guide—a series of guidebooks designed to assist entrepreneurs in different cities around the world.