Over time, Shopify and Volusion may have seemed aimed at different market segments. In an alignment of the stars (or perhaps marketing managers), these two eCommerce site builders have now been priced to clash almost directly.
In the past, Volusion has been geared toward the mid-end of the market, but times have changed. The digital revolution has seen an upsurge in small scale e-Tailers. With Shopify having an already healthy lead in this highly competitive market segment, is Volusion equipped with the right feature set?
Having used Shopify many times in the past, I have always felt the system that’s available there to be comprehensive. More importantly, everything from the ground up is extremely user-friendly and intuitive.
In fact, new users should have no difficulty at all working their way around Shopify unless they have perhaps never used a graphical user interface (GUI) before. Given the low likelihood of that, Shopify’s layout is almost close to ideal.
Volusion on the other hand reminds me of a modern design slapped onto a very old-school navigation system. In itself, that’s not a major problem. Unfortunately, the layout is also a little poorly thought out.
Volusion also lags far behind Shopify in the capability of its sitebuilder capabilities, with templates offered, but little leeway in terms of customizability. Even trying to change your logo requires you to head to a different page.
Given that this is mainly a comparison of online store builders between Shopify and Volusion, I won’t go into greater detail regarding ease of use. However, I urge anyone who is considering Volusion to sign up for their 14-day trial and check out the system for yourself before making a purchase decision.
Which is Better?
I do not feel that Volusion is easy to use at all, nor is it suitable for use without extensive time spent reading their documentation and asking for help. Shopify is a clear winner in terms of Ease of Use.
Managing the items for your online store is one of the most critical aspects of eCommerce site builders. For potential store owners, this is where you’ll likely be spending significant amounts of time in the beginning.
2a. Adding Products
Shopify has a very streamlined process to add products, with almost everything you need to add to list something right at your fingertips. Each set of related data is organized neatly into their own zones on the same page.
Volusion’s product handling is a little similar, except that it introduces dropdown labels to separate sets of related data (e.g. Basic Info, Image Management, Inventory Control). However, if you pay closer attention, some of the selectable variables will create pop-up menus for greater detail. This tends to slow down the process and can be slightly annoying at times.
As I was experimenting with adding products and changing settings, I was confronted with no less than 3 pop-ups and another two extra browser menu tabs created! Shopify meanwhile transferred me seamlessly within segments depending on what I was editing.
It also has some unusual labels which not everyone might be familiar with (requiring you to head back to their knowledge base for help yet again). Some of these labels include Vendor Rules and Inventory Control grid.
Which is Better?
Product management is much simpler and streamlined in Shopify compared to Volusion. Strangely, the latter also only allows GIF images for use on the site, potentially resulting in the use of low-quality images.
2b. Inventory Control
In retail, the relationship between product and inventory are clear and well defined. Products are items you sell, and inventory is managed based on sales. The management process should be seamless.
Each of these sections is defined well in Shopify and Volusion but the latter has added what it calls an Inventory Control Grid within a segment on the product page. This adds a whole other level of complexity instead of convenience.
I can certainly see the potential of the idea, but as it does with many things, Volusion has implemented it in a way too difficult for most non tech-savvy people to manage.
Which is better?
Although Volusion’s system is more complex, the inventory grid can be useful for large stores handling big volumes. Yet the sheer complexity of tasks which should be seamless remains a curiosity.
2c. Handling Digital Products
Natively, Shopify doesn’t handle digital products but there is an add-on you can use for free to manage this. After installing it, adding a digital product is almost the same as a physical one – with a few extra steps. You need to actually upload the digital product to be sold on the product page.
Here again, Volusion has created a startlingly complex way of managing something which should be no different than the norm. Instead of simply having an option to add it, Volusion requires you to remember a complex web of settings you need to manage to classify a product as digital.
Which is better?
I have no idea why Volusion manages digital downloads in this way and have no desire to ask. Suffice to say, I’d much rather just click to add than remember a bunch of fields to add ‘0’ to.
3. Point of sale (POS)
The POS system is perhaps one of the biggest saving graces of Volusion. It is very tightly integrated and only requires one-time settings in order for you to get running. The settings involve either enabling pure POS mode or a hybrid.
Once that’s done, you can use a POS scanner at a retail outlet for order entry, or you can have a storefront interface there as well for the same purpose. Either way, it ties into your Volusion store and inventory natively.
Even in this area though, Shopify POS does give Volusion a run for its money. In addition to the standard POS integration between physical and digital, Shopify adds an extra element in – mobile.
It allows store owners to make use of a mobile app both for purchase entries as well as for payment acceptance. While the overall implementation lags a little behind Volusion, the mobile element is more relevant in this day and age.
Which is better?
I’d call it a draw between Shopify and Volusion in terms of POS support.
4. Payments Processing
Shopify payments are managed in their settings section; appropriate since this isn’t likely to be an area modified frequently. Be default, PayPal is available plus you can make use of a range of third-party payment providers such as Stripe. There are also options for you to make use of manual payment methods like bank deposits and money orders.
However, if you decide to use a third-party payments processor you will be charged a transaction fee depending on which you choose to use.
Volusion doesn’t charge you a base transaction fee but you do have to sign up with their own payments processor to use it. This charges a per-transaction fee starting from 2.15% each time an order is made. If you wish, you can also opt to use a third-party payment processor such as Stripe or Skrill.
Which is Better?
5. Customer Support
Both Shopify and Volusion have comprehensive customer support channels. You can contact them via various channels and they both have very extensive online knowledge bases and guides to help you along.
In fact, Volusion even has a knowledge base article about how to get in touch with them should you need support.
Which is better?
It’s an even shootout between the two in terms of support.
6. Other Features
Volusion may be hard to handle but it is certainly comprehensive. There are a number of extras that do make it stand out in comparison to Shopify, such as the ability to handle phone orders and product returns (RMAs).
If your site is large enough to consider these areas then Volusion is a step ahead of Shopify. However, I feel that these facilities aren’t something most new or small-time online stores would be much interested in due to potentially lower volumes.
Conclusion: Is Volusion Still Worth a Go?
By now you’ve probably decided that I hate Volusion and am stomping on them. I can assure you that this isn’t true. In fact, in many areas, I feel that Volusion is designed to handle online stores that are specifically higher volume in traffic due to the way in which they have their options configured.
However, looking at the entry-level plans of these two side by side and considering the market segment at these levels that both are targeting, I have to consider the audience. At an entry-level, Volusion offers too much complexity and little in user-friendliness to support the new online store owner.
Creating their online stores should be something they spend little effort on – and a comprehensive database alone just won’t cut it. From an entry level perspective, I’d go with Shopify, no hesitation at all.
Timothy Shim is a writer, editor, and tech geek. Starting his career in the field of Information Technology, he rapidly found his way into print and has since worked with International, regional and domestic media titles including ComputerWorld, PC.com, Business Today, and The Asian Banker. His expertise lies in the field of technology from both consumer as well as enterprise points of view.