If you’re in the market for an ecommerce platform, two options you have likely encountered are Volusion and Shopify. We’ve taken the time to evaluate the merits of both Volusion and Shopify to try and determine which is the best option for small business owners. In this review we will provide you with the pros and cons of each, plus a few alternative options. After all—aligning your business with the right platform can make a huge difference when it comes to ecommerce success or failure.
Volusion is a cloud-hosted ecommerce platform that allows merchants to sell almost anything—from handmade goods like furniture and art to digital products like subscription services and software. The company launched in Austin in 1999 and to date has helped 30,000 merchants generate $28 billion in sales.
To get started with Volusion simply sign up for a 14-day free trial. There is no credit card required—just enter some basic information about yourself and your business. Volusion then guides you through a multi-step process to set up your store. You’ll be prompted to set tax, payment processing, and shipping options, customize the look of your store, and create your product catalogue.
Once you launch your store, you’ll benefit from a variety of features, including inventory and customer relationship management functions, a mechanism to collect customer reviews, a mobile application, tools to improve SEO, reporting functions, and a developer’s toolkit for the technically inclined. Note that the features you have access to will depend on the price plan you select (more on this later).
Outside of these features Volusion also offers an application store where you can extend the functionality of your website with a variety of integrations. If you ever run into any trouble, Volusion provides 24/7 support via phone, email, or live chat, as well as a Help Center with an impressive amount of documentation. There’s even a blog.
Having said that, Volusion is simple enough to use that even an ecommerce rookie could launch a store without too much hand holding.
A lot of what we just said about Volusion is also true of Shopify—another cloud-hosted ecommerce platform that allows for the sale of most products. However, many more people have probably heard of Shopify than have heard of Volusion. Why? Well, simply put, Shopify is just bigger.
Since launching in 2006, the Shopify platform has been used to build over 600,000 ecommerce stores and generate $82 billion worth of sales. Major brands that use Shopify include the New York Times, Budweiser, Nestle, Tesla, and Red Bull.
When you build your store with Shopify, you’ll go through a process that is fairly similar to Volusion’s. It includes arranging your shipping, taxes, payment processing, site design, and product catalogue. You’ll also have an array of integrations to select from, and 24/7 support, just as you would with Volusion.
So what’s the difference here? To put it in layman’s terms, you simply get more “stuff” with Shopify. For example, Shopify also offers their own Shopify point of sale system, in-house payment processing, and shipping tools. That’s to say nothing of the greater variety of features you get to manage your ecommerce store with.
Shopify can offer more because it is bigger and has a more diverse range of customers to service (10% of all ecommerce stores use the Shopify platform). However, this does not necessarily make it superior to Volusion. To figure that out, let’s look at the virtues of each platform in several important areas: Ease of use, price, features, design, and payment processing.
It’s not a zero-sum game when comparing Volusion vs. Shopify. There are several areas where the two platforms are actually comparable.
Both Volusion and Shopify offer straightforward setup processes that make it possible to launch your store in a single day. Once your store is live, both platforms provide a dashboard where you can manage store operations. From the dashboard you can perform of myriad of essential business functions, including updating your store settings, adding inventory, fulfilling orders, and viewing your website’s analytics and performance. A particularly helpful feature of both services is the theme editor, which allows you to apply different designs to your website and see how the changes will look in real time.
And as we mentioned before, if you ever run into any trouble managing your store, both Volusion and Shopify offer 24/7 support.
Volusion and Shopify offer pricing plans that are strikingly similar. Volusion offers three different plans, ranging in price from $29 per month to $299 per month, and Shopify offers four different plans, ranging from $9 per month to $299 per month (the $9 per month Shopify plan allows you to sell via an existing website or Facebook page, and does not come with a Shopify store).
With each service, the more expensive the plan you choose, the more features you have access to. Volusion and Shopify will also lower your credit card processing fees if you sign up for a more expensive plan (more on credit card processing later). It’s also worth mentioning that both Volusion and Shopify offer enterprise plans that feature quote-based pricing.
The one big differentiator between Volusion and Shopify when it comes to price is that Volusion enforces sales limits based on the plan you choose. For example, subscribers to the Personal Plan ($29 per month) have a limit of $50,000 in annual sales. If they exceed this limit, they will be hit with a fee. Shopify does not have this policy.
As we alluded to earlier, Shopify is bigger than Volusion, and therefore can offer quite a bit more with its services. Let’s take a look at some of those offerings:
In no particular order, here are some of the features included in the Shopify platform: a content management system, inventory and customer relationship management functions, the ability to accept bitcoin, multilingual checkout, a POS, SEO tools, the ability to sell an unlimited number of products, free PCI compliance and an SSL certificate, customizable analytics reports, and a developer suite. There is also Shopify Experts, a service that allows you to hire Shopify-approved ecommerce designers, an “Ecommerce University” featuring a series of ebooks, video series, and webinars, plus hundreds and hundreds of website integrations.
Volusion offers a generous amount of features in its own right, but it simply cannot match the volume of features within Shopify. For example, Volusion can integrate with 19 apps in its app store, compared to over 1,500 apps in the Shopify app store. Volusion also works with 30 different payment gateways. However, Shopify works with over 100 different payment gateways. Even with overlapping features, Shopify offers better value. For instance, to get abandoned cart recovery with Volusion you need to sign up for the $79 per month plan. Shopify offers abandoned cart recovery at $29 per month.
Another area where Shopify offers more variety than Volusion is the look and feel of your ecommerce website. With Shopify you can select from 71 different store themes, 10 of which are free. Volusion offers a total of 14 themes, however, all of them come at no charge. Still, from a branding perspective it’s better to have variety so that your store can look unlike anything else on the web. All Shopify templates also come with their own intuitive settings so you can customize every facet of your storefront.
Both Volusion and Shopify templates are mobile-responsive, and each service offers the option to edit the HTML and CSS of your website.
While there are clearly some distinct advantages to using Shopify, Volusion is friendlier to merchants in one important area:
We mentioned that Shopify integrates with over 100 payment gateways. What we didn’t mention is that Shopify will charge you an additional fee if you use one of those providers and not their in-house system—Shopify Payments. Volusion, on the other hand, will let you use any of the 30 payment processors it works with at no additional charge. This is obviously preferable, as getting hit with an additional fee (on top of the credit card processing fee) can add up very quickly.
Furthermore, Volusion’s credit card processing fees for online transactions are cheaper with their in-house payment system—Volusion Payments—than Shopify’s are (2.15% + $0.30 vs. 2.9% + $0.30). Even if you use Shopify’s $299 per month plan, your credit card processing fee is still only 2.4% + $0.30. Volusion’s rate is lower regardless of which plan you choose.
With both Volusion and Shopify payments you can take all major credit cards. Note that you can also accept in-person payments with Shopify via their POS system.
Our take on Volusion vs. Shopify only counts for so much. To help you make your decision we also asked some ecommerce merchants who have experience using both platforms. Here is what they had to say:
“When it comes to Volusion, I love their ”onboarding” process – they have prepared a clear checklist of things to do before you launch your shop. They also have awesome built-in marketing tools, like email newsletters and a social media posting tool, that make it easy to manage your marketing from the Volusion dashboard. Overall, I would recommend Shopify because of their awesome customer support (that matters, a lot!) and the variety of third-party apps and integrations with different service providers (including drop shippers Oberlo and Printful).” — Krista Krumina, freelancer
“After using both Shopify and Volusion to make ecommerce websites for my clients, I have personally come to prefer Shopify as I find their pricing structure more beginner friendly to new online merchants. Also since many other retailers are using Shopify, there is no shortage of support, guides, tutorials and optimization techniques out there on YouTube and forums.” — Lewis Thomas, web designer, Webaroo
“Because I run multiple websites for different countries the platform needs to be super simple to use, otherwise costs are multiplied across all the sites and it can be very frustrating to implement fixes or changes. I find Shopify much easier to use for fulfilling orders and modifying pages. Also, Shopify has a ton more apps than Volusion. That means that I can automate a lot more and do more myself without hiring a developer. Sure, the monthly fees add up but if it adds value it’s worth it.” — Christian Sculthorp, owner, Vaped
There are plenty more ecommerce platforms out there besides Volusion and Shopify. Here are a few additional ones to consider:
If you want to avoid software fees altogether, choose WooCommerce. This is a free plugin that turns any WordPress website into an ecommerce store. Because it works in conjunction with WordPress, you also get an impressive level of customization with WooCommerce. You can also extend the functionality of your store with a library of over 300 additional apps and integrations. Be aware that if you have never used WordPress before, you may face a steep learning curve with WooCommerce.
If you’re looking for something less complicated than Shopify or Volusion, consider Big Cartel. Big Cartel is a minimalist ecommerce platform for creatives looking for a place to sell their wares. You won’t get as much functionality with Big Cartel, but you also won’t pay as high a price: Plans start at just $9.99 per month. Note that Big Cartel does place restrictions on the number of products you can sell depending on your pricing plan.
In short, Shopify offers more features, integrations, and design options, while Volusion gives you cheaper payment processing, and both services come out about even on ease of use and price. So what it all comes down to is what you are looking for in an ecommerce platform.
Working with Shopify means you are aligning yourself with an industry leader that can provide all the tools you need to grow your business. Work with Volusion and you can probably operate your store more cheaply, although you might not get the level of customization you’re looking for.
Ultimately, every user has their own preferences, and every business is unique. You might prefer Volusion’s interface over Shopify’s, or you might choose Shopify because you want their POS. These are questions only you can answer, but now you’re equipped to do just that after reading this Volusion vs. Shopify review.
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.