If you want to open or revamp your online store, you’re in luck: it’s now 2019, also called the future, and there are many ways in which you can do this easily.
Shopping cart and ecommerce software are part of today’s software renaissance, and that means business owners who need ecommerce tools have plenty of options.
The most famous of these options is Shopify. With over 600,000 users, Shopify has facilitated over $82 billion in transactions—perhaps the most of any fully-featured shopping cart software.
Of these competitors, Volusion has proven itself to be quite a star in its own right. It may not have Shopify’s stats—yet—but it still boasts over 30,000 active users and has facilitated a whopping $28 billion in sales.
Clearly, Volusion must be doing something right. And although we’ll consider Volusion the little brother in this comparison owing to its popularity, it has actually been around since 1999—so it’s 7 years older than Shopify, it’s “older” (bigger) brother.
Which wins? The newer, bigger, Shopify, or the older and still pretty successful Volusion? If Shopify is better as an all-around easy ecommerce solution (hint: it is), where does Volusion find its own niches?
Comparing the two can get a bit complicated, but that’s what my experience (and consequentially, this review) are here for. Without further ado, let’s jump in.
Pricing and Features Comparison
I’ll tackle what is a major priority for most of you: what are the prices, and what do these prices come with?
If Volusion and Shopify are the archetypal warring brothers, then their pricing structures are…well, just twins. Shopify and Volusion both have three tiers with the same prices (as of the time of this writing), plus custom pricing for enterprise-grade solutions.
Shopify also has a smaller plan for $9 a month that lets you sell on Facebook but won’t build a full shop for you.
As you can see, these two are remarkably similar in their pricing structures.
The main differences lie in what each company offers for its prices. For both, the first tier provides a fully hosted online store with unlimited products, basic security, customer support, coupons or discount codes, and a few other basic tools.
Right off the bat though, we can see Shopify offering a little more for its entry-level plan.
Among the most important of these is the abandoned cart recovery tool: if a user fills out their contact information but does not complete the full check-out process, Shopify will save it to make it easier for them to complete the purchase in a later date.
There are still a few areas where Volusion pulls out some quick victories. One would be transaction fees, of which Volusion has none. Credit card fees on Volusion are 2.15% plus a 30 cent transaction fee, which is lower than Shopify’s 2.9% + 30c.
Aside from that, Volusion has also recently permitted unlimited staff accounts from the first tier upwards. This is much better than Shopify, which limits users to 15 at the highest tier and 2 at the lowest. This makes collaborating with multiple team members significantly easier.
Beyond the entry-level tier, however, Shopify’s features begin to compose a more notable difference. Volusion overall keeps up by adding bulk order processing, more advanced discounts, and better support.
Shopify also has good report-generating software, the aforementioned abandoned cart recovery tool, shipping labels, and a couple more minor things. Volusion lacks a blogging feature and cannot sell digital products. These are pretty gaping, and put Shopify ahead in my book.
On the other hand, Volusion has more payment gateways. Shopify has a better app store, but actually making use of it will likely pile onto your costs. In contrast, while Volusion’s app store is worse, you also will probably be paying a price closer to what you signed up for.
While Volusion’s app store is very limited, one of the apps (Zapier) allows you to install other extensions to fill in the gap. But it’s an extra step that shouldn’t be necessary, and adds additional costs that shouldn’t be necessary.
Of course, the other thing about Shopify’s app store is that it lets you scale much more easily, and in general greatly expands the horizon of ecommerce tools.
It’s not just the official feature list that matters, but how strong the features are respectively. This is part of why Shopify is better in the features department. Volusion and Shopify have roughly comparable pricing plans and even toolsets, but Shopify’s tools can be a little more robust.
For example, both Shopify and Volusion have solid contact management tools, but I find Shopify’s to be a bit more far reaching in what it lets you edit and manage about your contacts.
Both have reporting and analytics functions, but Shopify offers more and with a bit more detail as well. That’s as far as store reports go: I think Volusion has much better SEO and site ranking analytics.
Finally, Shopify easily has better themes and templates. Shopify first off has a larger selection of themes. Volusion does have more free themes, but Shopify has more overall. Plus, in my opinion, Shopify’s themes are better.
Above: Shopify has 10 free themes and an additional 59 paid ones.
Above: Last I counted, Volusion has 14 free themes (not all are shown, of course).
Frankly, comparing these two used to be a bit simpler. In recent months, Volusion has changed, mostly for the better, the features it offers and is much closer to Shopify than it has been before.
Having said that, Shopify overall has a more solid set of features and a more capable app store. It’s generally better at store-building for ease of use reasons (which I’ll get into shortly) and thus is roughly worth more per price.
On the other hand, for small businesses looking to save money, the first tiers of Volusion and Shopify aren’t so different. Yes, Shopify’s first tier has a better set of features, but some of Volusion’s other points—a wider range of payment gateways, unlimited staff accounts, lower credit card fees—even the odds.
Medium businesses or small businesses with more stringent ecommerce needs should probably use Shopify. Those willing and able to afford the more expanded toolset Shopify’s app store can bring, will probably prefer Shopify. Otherwise, those who need the essential ecommerce tools will find Volusion a pretty solid option.
Ease of Use
Ease of use has become something reliable these days: many companies have gotten the grasp of it. Of course, some others lag behind. One would hope that for shopping cart software, ease of use is a priority. After all, that’s kind of the point.
So who’s winning here? By a slight margin, I would say Shopify. Now, as far as ease of learning and ease of onboarding goes, these two might be a bit farther apart.
While Volusion isn’t bad at either of those things, Shopify is pretty good at both. Shopify has very good customer support that is well-integrated with the main platform (more on that next) and has a lot of tools to help total beginners.
In my opinion, few people will truly benefit from some of Shopify’s free tools, such as a repository of stock photos. If you’re serious about your business, you’ll have enough figured out that Shopify’s “getting started” accessories won’t mean everything.
Nonetheless, Shopify goes out of its way to accommodate a variety of experience and makes learning the software as well as setting up the e-store painless.
Shopify is still easier as far as either of those goes, but Volusion isn’t by any means difficult to learn how to use. Aside from your preference between different user interface aesthetics, both are pretty easy to get the hang of.
As far as day-to-day usage goes, I think the two stack up evenly. It’ll come down to personal preference, and to an extent experience does matter, but I don’t think the differences are too huge.
Volusion used to be more difficult to use: its navigation used to feature less labels and lacked an undo button, among other things. Shopify’s experience is still simpler, but both are about equally easy to navigate now.
As far as the actual store-building goes, I think they’re about even. Volusion used to be more convoluted, but I think its current site builder is good at bringing in functionality and customizability.
Aside from that, there is one last unique point: Volusion is, in my opinion, easier for developers. Anyone wishing to edit the code of their site (or their team’s site) will have to learn Shopify’s own language (called Liquid).
Liquid isn’t super difficult to learn, especially if you’re experienced, but it’s a pretty unnecessary and inconvenient step to take. In contrast, you can edit your Volusion site using their CSS editor, which is much less of a hassle.
In all, I’d say Shopify and Volusion get close, but Shopify is still easier to use. In daily use these two aren’t so different, but Shopify makes the learning process faster and the initial shop-building easier.
A large part of what makes Shopify or Volusion easy to use, and thus what allows them to market themselves as easy to use building tools, is good customer support. Shopify in particular has a reputation for good customer support, but is this still a well-earned status? And can Volusion effectively outweigh Shopify in this area?
We’ll look at two main things: the quality of contacting representatives directly, and the quality of other resources on the company websites. I’ll start with the latter.
Shopify has a ton of support features on its site, aside from contacting representatives.
The jewel of these is, of course, the knowledge base (also known as the help center).
Shopify’s knowledge base is one of the more solid ones out there, even outside of the field of ecommerce. It’s highly organized and has a good amount of material.
Aside from that, Shopify has a forum page that is surprisingly robust; a selection of guides for doing different business activities; a stock photo repository; Shopify Polaris, which explains in full detail Shopify’s design standards (useful for those building stores for clients); and a list of free business tools.
There are a few other things—a podcast page with two podcasts, a blog, etc—but they aren’t super helpful in my opinion. Overall, Shopify has top notch on-site resources even aside from representatives. How about Volusion?
Volusion’s knowledge base is called the “help center,” and it is alright. Shopify’s knowledge base is much more detailed and organized, but Volusion’s isn’t bad.
As with Shopify, Volusion’s other on-site information is separated from its knowledge base. Although Volusion doesn’t have as many of these other resources as Shopify, it still has more than one might expect.
One of these is Volusion Guides, which I think should simply be part of the knowledge base because of how useful the whole thing is. In fact, Volusion’s Guides section is much more useful than Shopify’s, and it has dozens more documents to available.
Anyway, another resource is Volusion’s “tools” page, a direct corollary to Shopify’s.
Although Volusion has a couple other “resource” pages, they’re mostly fluff, so I’d consider the guides, free tools, and knowledge base to be the bulk of Volusion’s on-site information or resources.
These resources are good, and close to Shopify’s level despite not quite being there.
As far as dealing with customer representatives goes, Volusion takes a clearer loss. Both Shopify and Volusion offer phone support, and both have special experts available for consultation. Each also has live chat and a ticket system; I’ll use live chats to highlight the disparity in quality.
As you can see, this was not a super ideal live chat experience. Although it did seem the representative was a real person, something I appreciate, it took over 10 minutes for me to get an answer to a relatively simple question.
In contrast, Shopify’s live chat was very simple and speedy.
The whole process with Shopify took a minute or two. True, the question was simple, but so was the question I gave Volusion’s support. I’ll grant that Volusion’s phone and ticketing support is better than its live chat, and closer to Shopify, but hey, bad chats still count.
It seems pretty clear to me that Shopify is better for directly contacting representatives, and somewhat better in its on-site information or resources, though Volusion does come close in this regard.
Security and Reliability
Security and reliability are the last things on our list, but as any businessperson knows, they are far from the least.
Having talked about Shopify’s security a few times by now, I’ll get the bad news over with quickly: Shopify says almost nothing about its security protocols.
Shopify takes the time to tell you it’s PCI-compliant, which is almost a given for a major ecommerce solution, and that you get SSL certification for all plans (again, a given).
From there, you’re basically left to assume that Shopify has good enough security because they’ve managed to facilitate $86 billion in transactions over the course of more than a few years.
Okay, that is admittedly a pretty strong case in Shopify’s favor. However, transparency is important and the lack of it is very unfortunate.
Volusion isn’t a beacon of transparency, but it does reveal a lot more about its security measures than Shopify. Unfortunately, there isn’t a page on their site dedicated for it, but a blog post does detail a wide range of protocols.
Assuming the blog post is still accurate, Volusion definitely has security standards that make me feel more comfortable (including 24/7 monitoring of the physical infrastructure, regular internal and external audits, regular and rigorous product testing pre-launch, and more).
I would assume these measures are still being upheld, because Volusion has been very reliable over the months that I’ve formally tested it. To its credit, so has Shopify; although I find the lack of transparency disturbing, it’s still true that Shopify consistently performs well.
Uptime is consistently high for both, and the actual use of Shopify’s or Volusion’s software is also consistent without any notable defects (in my experience).
Overall, both Volusion and Shopify perform very highly, but we can only say Volusion for sure has great security protocols. For Shopify we must, unfortunately, make an (optimistic) educated guess.
Conclusion: Which Do I Recommend?
So, our analysis of the two warring brothers is coming to an end. Who has won—Shopify, the ecommerce giant, or Volusion, the smaller competitor who has some impressive stats of its own?
Volusion has undergone recent changes in prices and features that have brought it much closer to Shopify. The two have about the same prices and very similar allocations of tools for each price.
While Shopify does have overall more and better tools in its tiers, Volusion has managed to bring its own advantages, albeit smaller ones.
The two are both very easy to use, although Shopify’s onboarding and set-up process is a bit easier. As far as customer support goes, Shopify clearly takes it, but Volusion isn’t too far behind…it’s mostly the live chat that sets them apart.
Both perform very well, but we don’t know how good Shopify’s security is. In contrast, Volusion’s security is, from what we know, rigorous and trustworthy.
Because Shopify overall does better in most areas, even if not by a huge margin, I’d say it’s the solution I recommend. Certainly Shopify is the best all-rounder here.
However, small businesses that seek lower transaction fees, more staff accounts, and strong search engine analytics without needing the entire feature-set Shopify brings, will find Volusion a great solution that can mostly do what Shopify does with a few twists.
If a business really needs to scale, or thinks it will, Shopify is the better solution, especially because of its robust app store.
The good news is you don’t need to complete your decision now. Both Shopify and Volusion have a two-week free trial period. So go out there and give both of them a shot!