Shopify vs Volusion (2017)
In this updated Shopify vs Volusion comparison review, we pit two well-known online store builders against each other. Read on for an overview of their pricing and key features, and find out which of these well-known e-commerce platforms is best for your business.
Shopify offers 5 pricing plans:
- Lite: $9 per month
- Basic Shopify: $29 per month
- Shopify: $79 per month
- Advanced Shopify: $299 per month
- Shopify Plus: pricing varies depending on requirements
With Volusion, there are 4 plans to choose from:
- Volusion Mini: $15 per month
- Volusion Plus: $35 per month
- Volusion Pro: $75 per month
- Volusion Premium: $135 per month
Entry level plans
Shopify can get you selling online cheaper via their $9 'Lite' plan; this is $6 cheaper than the $15 'Volusion Mini' plan. However, the Shopify plan doesn't allow you to actually set up a fully functional online store but rather allows you to:
- sell on Facebook
- use Shopify's back end in conjunction with a Shopify 'Buy' button which you can embed on your website (this works in a similar way to a Paypal button)
- make use of the Shopify point of sale kit (more on that anon).
Volusion's Mini plan, by contrast, allows you to create a fully-fledged online store for $15 per month - but there are limits on the number of products you can sell (100) and the bandwidth available (1GB). No such limits apply on any Shopify plans.
One key advantage of using Volusion over Shopify is the lack of transaction fees on any of its plans. With Shopify, you can also avoid transaction fees on all plans - BUT only if you are happy to use Stripe as your payment gateway. This is fine for users who are selling goods online from the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia - but it's a bit of a bummer for everybody else.
Key things to watch out for with Volusion and Shopify pricing plans
The key things to look out watch out for when comparing Shopify's pricing to Volusion's are probably the following:
- Bandwidth: if you are selling digital goods or expecting a high level of traffic to your store, bear in mind that Volusion limits bandwidth: you are restricted to 1GB on the 'Mini' plan; 3GB on the 'Plus' plan; 10GB on the 'Pro' plan and 35GB on the 'Unlimited' plan.
- Abandoned cart reports: you can't access these in Shopify unless you are on the $79 'Shopify' plan, whereas Volusion give you access to this data on their $35 'Plus' plan.
- Manual order creation: Shopify allow you to create manual orders on all plans, but Volusion only allows you to do this if you are on their $75+ plans.
- design your store using a range of pre-existing templates
- create catalogues of products
- manage your store using a CMS
- optimise your products for search
- accept online payments via a range of payment gateways
There are a few things worth paying particular attention to though:
Adding a blog to a Volusion or Shopify store
Shopify offers an extremely important feature out of the box that is missing from Volusion: a blogging tool. In this day and age of content and inbound marketing, regular posting of quality blog content is absolutely key to generating traffic to a site – and thus product sales. It is possible to link a third-party blog (i.e., a Wordpress blog) to your Volusion store and mess around with DNS settings so that everything works neatly enough and your blog lives on a nice-looking subdomain…but it is a headache and probably one that a less experienced user will want to avoid. Shopify’s built-in blogging tool is a much better solution - you simply get a blog on your store that very easy to update.
Additionally, there are arguably SEO benefits to having your blog hosted on the exact same domain / platform as your store, so Shopify is a clear winner here.
Apps allow you to 'bolt' on a lot of additional functionality to an online store, and integrate third party web applications with it.
Both Volusion and Shopify have app stores, but Shopify users can benefit from a much wider range of apps than Volusion users: there are 1500+ Shopify apps, but only around 85 Volusion ones. Although Volusion's apps do cover the basics and offer integrations with key tools such as Quickbooks, Xero and Mailchimp, the reality is that Shopify users will benefit from a significantly larger number of options when it comes to apps. There are also hundreds of free apps available for Shopify...but only one free app for Volusion.
Both Shopify and Volusion integrate with a large number of 'payment gateways' - third party tools that process credit cards on your behalf. However, you can use more with Shopify (70+ to Volusion's 30+).
Both tools come with an 'out of the box' payments solution too: 'Shopify Payments' and 'Volusion Payments'. Shopify Payments is basically Stripe - and as mentioned above, can only be used by merchants based in United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia.
Volusion Payments is only available to merchants in the US, and unlike Shopify Payments there is a transaction rate (2.15%) AND a monthly fee. You also have to go through an application process, with approval taking between 5-7 business days.
Point of Sale options
When it comes to using either tool for point-of-sale (POS) transactions, Shopify has a clear edge, because it allows you to connect a card reader to an iPad, which then allows you to process credit card payments anywhere, any time. Additionally, there are other pieces of hardware directly available from Shopify to faciliate point of sale transactions, including a barcode scanner, a receipt printer, a till and a label printer. All these allow your Shopify store to become more than just an 'virtual' entity; it can double up as a tool for running a business in the 'real' world too. All your customer and order data is synced with Shopify, so everything to do with sales and inventory is kept neat and tidy.
POS functionality is available in Volusion too - you can use a variety of UPC scanners, card readers and receipt printers with it, so you will be able to use the platform in much the same way as Shopify's. The key difference between Shopify and Volusion when it comes to POS applications however is that whereas Shopify make it a key part of the offering, and more of an 'out of the box' feature, it's more of an 'add on' service for Volusion which will require you to give more thought to the third party hardware you use (and possibly spend more time on making this hardware work with Volusion).
Both Shopify and Volusion offer a wide range of templates, all very professional in appearance. In some respects Volusion has a bit of an edge here, because it offers more free templates than Shopify: 13 vs 9 respectively. That said, within Shopify's 9 templates there are quite a few variations - i.e., one theme will come in two or three slightly different styles, so there is more theme choice with Shopify than the above figures suggest.
You can also avail of a paid-for theme more cheaply with Volusion - their premium templates start at $50, whereas Shopify's start at $100. However, there are considerably more paid-for options available with Shopify: 44 to Volusion's 27. Again, many of the Shopify paid-for templates contain a few variations.
In terms of quality, both the Volusion and Shopify themes are of a high quality and I wouldn't have any particular reservations about using any of the themes I've encountered from both companies as a starting point when designing an online store.
Shopify has got a much better user interface, and I found that putting a simple store together was much, much quicker in Shopify than in Volusion. Upon starting your Shopify free trial, you are presented with a step-by-step guide (not quite a ‘wizard’ but similar enough) to adding products and setting up your store. In Volusion, it sort of feels like you’re thrown in at the deep end – presented with a lot of useful tools for building a store, yes, but given no real guidance on how to use them.
I found it oddly difficult to do some very simple things with Volusion – like edit the navigation or add an ‘About Us’ HTML web page. I've used many a site / store builder in my time, but had to resort to Google searches to work out how this was done – instant proof that this system is not, shall we say, all that intuitive. The same tasks did not present any problems in Shopify, which comes with a much more straightforward CMS and WYSIWYG editor.
Shopify has its quirks when it comes to usability too however – and again the main one involves editing the navigation. Adding a sub-menu to the navigation in Shopify entails a user-unfriendly activity involving 'link handles' - it's a pain in the bum! Doable, but as I’ve mentioned before in my more detailed Shopify review, it’s strange that the company hasn’t made this task much easier. Most other tasks related to putting a store together, however, are very straightforward in Shopify.
Finally, both products allow you to tweak CSS and HTML, so if you are a relatively experienced web developer, you’ll be able to configure your store extensively.
An interesting aspect of Volusion that's worth dwelling on for a moment is that it offers some rather interesting marketing features out of the box: namely, a tool that allows you to create your own affiliate programs and a CRM system. The affiliate program could be useful for some users, but I'm a bit skeptical when it comes to the CRM side of things, because it doesn't support email systems that require SSL integration (with Gmail, used by millions of businesses worldwide, being an obvious casualty).
Volusion offers online support on all plans, but phone support is only available on their $35 'Plus' plan. Shopify offers phone support on all plans. The support provided by Shopify is listed as 24/7 but it's not clear if this includes phone support; Volusion's information regarding contact times seems to imply that their support is indeed 24/7 (all year round).
Which is better then, Shopify or Volusion?
- its user interface / CMS is much easier to use
- it provides a much wider range of free templates
- it provides a much wider range of responsive templates
- it allows you to blog ‘out of the box’.
All this, I feel, makes Shopify more suitable for use by people who want to set up an online store, but have little or no experience of building a website.
And speaking of building a website, Shopify generally makes it easy to do just that – you could, if you really wanted, ignore the online store aspect of things altogether and build a whole website fairly easily using Shopify. It would be a silly thing to do, as there are more comprehensive, cost-effective options out there for building a site without e-commerce functionality, but the point is that with Shopify you get a very complete, generally easy-to-use package which allows you to build an entire website that is simple to maintain and comes with a fully-featured online store and a blog. Volusion’s offering is more exclusively about the online store side of things and as such it comes with more online store-related functionality out of the box; this is fine, but many people who want an online store also need it to double up as a website (and blog) too.
I guess my main issue with Volusion though is that feels more like a tool for web developers rather than 'normal people' (!) who simply want to get a store off the ground quickly - and it's my guess that people who want to say, sell pottery online are too busy making and selling pottery to take a night class in web development. For me, any system which presents a user with information about CSS files when he/she tries to create a simple navigation menu (as Volusion does) screams “hi developers!” rather than “hi novice”. Any ‘techy’ stuff like that in Shopify (and there is plenty of that if you need it) is kept largely out of the way in the back end – it’s accessible alright, but not shoved in your face. This is far less intimidating for anyone who doesn't know what an ASP file is (the majority of people on this planet, I suspect).
That’s not to say that Volusion is an entirely bad product. If you are technically savvy, or a web developer, you should find it relatively straightforward to set up and use, and you may find that it has a bit more online store functionality (though not content management features) than Shopify. Additionally, it can work out a bit cheaper to run a Volusion store, because (payment gateway provision aside), no transaction fees are charged on each purchase. If, however, you are a small business owner without any web skills, and you want to get a simple online store off the ground yourself with a minimum of fuss, Shopify is probably the tool for you. It is not without a few quirks, but it is much, much easier to use than Volusion.
Reasons to use Shopify over Volusion
- It's significantly easier to use than Volusion.
- There are more themes to choose from.
- Unlimited storage and bandwidth come with all plans.
- Blogging functionality is built in.
- A wider selection of payment gateways is available.
- A wider selection of apps and integrations is available.
- Point-of-sale functionality is more comprehensive.
- Its own payment system, Shopify Payments, does not involve transaction or monthly fees.
Reasons to use Volusion over Shopify
- Its entry level plan - the $15 per month 'Mini' option - allows you to create a fully-functional online store, whereas you can't do this with Shopify unless you are on a $29+ per month plan.
- There are no transaction fees on any plans.
- Some users may find its marketing features (CRM and affiliate program) useful.
Free trials of Shopify and Volusion
As I always say at the end of these sort of comparison reviews, it’s usually best to try both products out before committing to one of them, and fortunately both come with a free trial.
Any thoughts on Shopify vs Volusion?
If you've used both Shopify or Volusion (or both!) in the past, I'd love to hear your thoughts on both systems - feel free to comment below.