I know how frustrating it is to find the right shopping cart solution for your business. I have worked with many small businesses and helped them finding the right solution for their needs.
Every ecommerce business has different needs just like real life brick and mortar businesses. Some of them start as home based, and some start larger with an initial investment. But they all have this question in mind;
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What is the BEST shopping cart solution?
Very brief answer to this question is; There is not a solution called BEST shopping cart solution. If you want to start an ecommerce business, or if you are ready to upgrade your shopping cart, your question should be;
What is the RIGHT shopping cart solution for MY business?
The right shopping cart for my business may not be the right one for your business. Therefore, you should write down your needs step by step before starting to shop for a shopping cart solution. If you are planning to upgrade your shopping cart, start writing down the pitfalls, and bottlenecks within your business workflow. Maybe your shopping cart is not the problem, it is something else within your organization which you need to fix.
After a brief instruction about choosing the right shopping cart, I will review Volusion Shopping Cart, and share my experiences. Because it is sometimes very hard to find unbiased opinions of current users of a shopping cart written step by step. You can always find great information at forums, but most of them come from newbies, and might misdirect you.
Why Do I Review Volusion?
I am a current customer of Volusion Shopping Cart. I don’t work for Volusion nor I get paid for this review. After doing some research online, I was able to find only two very good and detailed reviews about Volusion Shopping Cart. They were both paid reviews, but very good ones. The only thing missing was these reviews were written by users who are not Volusion customers. So I thought, a detailed review written by a Volusion customer would give some more insights.
Before Volusion Shopping Cart
Our ecommerce site was launched as a Yahoo Store on August 2006. We decide to move to Volusion during May 2007. Yahoo had its pros and cons, but I won’t get into them for now, I might write another review for Yahoo Stores. I wanted to disclose this information before reviewing Volusion. Because you will read comparisons with Volusion and Yahoo Store within this review.
Volusion Shopping Cart Review Step by Step
Volusion, Inc. Corporate Information
My business ethic always tells me to check the company behind the product before dealing with it.
I have visited Volusion’s website to find more information about the company.
If you take out the nicely put marketing sentences from 4 paragraphs of Volusion’s About Us Page, this is the only solid information you will get:
- Volusion, Inc. is in business since 1999.
- Company has offices in Simi Valley, CA and Austin, TX
I had to leave About Page and find Contact Page to find the contact details for the company:
Corporate Contact Details for Volusion, Inc.
1736 Erringer Rd
Simi Valley, CA 93065
4926 Spicewood Springs
Austin, TX 78759
If you think about so many shopping cart software’s out there without even a toll free number, Volusion’s corporate background and overall company information gives me the trust I need to get into business with them. Volusion gets a thumbs up for my first criteria.
Volusion as an All in One Ecommerce Solution
Volusion claims its shopping cart as an All in One Solution, and even though it has missing parts for an all in one ecommerce solution, it is as close as you can get for the price.
Pros: Volusion has all the basic components needed for an ecommerce business. You can upload products, track inventory through the backend, do your purchase orders, make the products live with one click, bulk edit products and/or categories. Order fulfillment is pretty straight forward, and 100 times better than Yahoo Store’s. Reporting functionality needs some work, but offers basic data. Users with SQL knowledge can generate more detailed reports. Before we have upgraded to Version 5, we were promised a much better reporting, but it wasn’t much improved.
Cons: Some basic components of an ecommerce business have either limited functionality or missing. Email marketing is an important part of online business. Volusion’s email marketing is limited, but Aweber has announced their integration with Volusion, and I was happy like a baby. Aweber is my favorite email newsletter and autoresponder solution. For higher volume ecommerce businesses barcode functionality is missing, or it is not functional at all. Questions asked about barcode functionality at Volusion Forums such as this one were never answered by Volusion Staff. Volusion packages comes with very limited disk space and bandwidth, I will get into this detailly.
Volusion has a limited 14 Day Free Trial, so you have the chance at least to try the software before you buy.
I couldn’t decide to give thumbs up or thumbs down for Volusion’s pricing. Very important factor to consider is; Volusion charges a monthly fee, and they do not take a percentage of your sales. This was the most tempting part for my business, because Yahoo’s Pricing structure was monthly fee plus the percentage of your sales. You may end up paying high fees if you have a fast growing business. Do your homework, and calculate your numbers to see how much this might affect your business.
Volusion has 5 main monthly packages from Steel to Platinum. Volusion packages’ details:
- Steel Package: $29.95/month includes 20 products
- Bronze Package: $49.95/month includes 100 products
- Silver Package: $79.95/month includes 250 products
- Gold Package: $99.95/month includes 1000 products
- Platinum Package: $197/month for unlimited products
Very important: Volusion creates a new Product ID (SKU) for each product option. Something you may not find at Volusion Pricing is these options count as products.
So you have 10 shirts with 10 available colors each. You will need the Bronze Package, because Volusion will count your product total as 100 products. This is an important piece of information to consider if you have too many options within your products.
Volusion has servers hosted by Rackspace, and over their package bandwidth limits, Volusion currently charges just $0.01 per additional MB of bandwidth, or $10 per GB.
This number is very high comparing the hosting industry average prices, and Site sell, who in many ways are competitors to Volusion offer unlimited bandwidth.
Even though this might not look like a big issue, it might become a big issue very soon.
We have the Platinum package with around 2000 products, and very low traffic for the months of July and August, and as a big surprise, today I have received an invoice for $288 instead of $197 (Platinum package monthly price). I went to check my stats in Google Analytics and was very surprised to see the overage charges with my traffic.
Volusion’s Platinum Package has 15Gb bandwidth limit, and my Google Analytics details are:
Last 30 Days Average
371 unique visitors/day
2499 page views/day
I have posted a question/comment about this at Volusion Forums, and it didn’t get a reply from Volusion Staff.
There is a work around for bandwidth problem. You can host your images at a different server, and instead of uploading your images to each product, you can enter the image URL’s. But it brings an extra step of work. Because Volusion automatically resizes your images for each needed size while uploading, but if you will upload to a different server, you need to download Volusion’s offline thumbnail generator.
Bandwidth, email newsletter, and live chat features comes with extra pricing if you outgrow their minimum numbers. Remember to consider these within your budget planning.
Volusion also offers Semi dedicated and dedicated servers, and for my business it looks like we need to move to semi dedicated server ASAP. You might view corporate solution pricing page for these options starting at $349/month. You also have the option to purchase Volusion Software, host it yourself, and fully customize it. I saw it around $10.000 but I couldn’t find the information right now.
Overall, I can’t say Volusion is cheap, or expensive. Consider the extra charges, and decide yourself.
Volusion claims it is; Completely Search Engine Optimized. Compared to other shopping cart solutions, Volusion does a pretty good job about SEO. But there are still missing parts, and important parts.
Volusion lets you customize meta tags (title, description, keywords, alt tags) which is a big plus for search engines. Volusion’s category and product URL structure is very search engine friendly if you turn on the SEO feature. But search engines still catch your SEO friendly and Non-SEO friendly URL’s. Volusion needs to work on this little bit more. Google might consider the same product page as a duplicate content, and degrade the value of this page by sending it to the supplemental index.
Volusion does not use the Header tags with their templates. This is a very important issue needs to be fixed. Most of the shopping carts already assigns H1 tag to the product and category names within the page. We manually create an H1 tag for categories at the category description field. This is an extra step of work, it should be within the template. Since Volusion’s template system is not 100% flexible, this is the best solution for now.
Overall, Volusion is search engine friendly, but not “Completely Search Engine Optimized” as advertised.
If you have a basic question support is very helpful. They read and reply from the manual right away. But if you have a complex problem, then you are in trouble.
If you are lucky and your question is handled by a knowledgeable support staff, you might get an answer, otherwise you need to constantly email and call until you find your question’s answer.
I was going to give a thumbs up for the Volusion Support but we had an incident which changed my mind. One Friday morning couple of weeks ago our site was down around 8.30am (eastern time). And without any explanation or any given reason we had to wait until 12.30pm to get our problem fixed. Our site was down (not accessible) for exactly 4 hours. We had to wait for their server people wake up and go to the office to fix the problem (in California). During or after the problem we did not get any detailed explanation about the problem. There was a server problem.
After many emails and phone calls I couldn’t reach anybody from the management team. But my request to speak with a manager was returned that afternoon. Gary Spillman called from Volusion, he was very friendly and tried to help. I also had the chance to explain him other problems we were having. My special thanks guest to Gary Spillman who’s spent time and sent detailed answers about my questions.
Volusion’s servers are at Rackspace. I haven’t heard any 4 hours downtime with Rackspace servers before. But it has happened to us anyway. I hope it will not repeat, especially during the Christmas season.
In case of emergency issues, you are on your own. Do not accept much from Volusion Support.
When I was researching before I have moved to Volusion, I have spent quite some time on Volusion Forums. Everything sounded so perfect, or close to perfect. After I’ve become a customer, I was trying to spend time, but suddenly one of my posts has disappeared. Overall I’m happy with Volusion and I keep recommending it to my friends, and readers. I haven’t written anything against the product, nor did bad PR.
Sometimes it is hard to have a forum for a commercial product. You will have competitors acting like customers and talking against your product. These posts might be moderated, but there is a thin line between moderation and censorship.
As a customer I must have the right to share my problems with the software, and ask for new features, improvements, etc. If you don’t want this public, then make a private forum for only customers.
Moderating your happy customers’ perfectly fine questions at the forum might turn against Volusion.
One of the main reasons which made me to write this unbiased review about Volusion was the censorship at the Volusion Forums. I hope the management team will reconsider their policies about moderation.
Templates & Design
Volusion’s template system is pretty flexible. With the version 5, they have more free templates. If you know basic html, you can easily modify the Volusion Templates. Volusion also offers customization services, but they are pricey compared to freelancers out there.
Volusion needs to separate code, and design fully. I believe they are working on it since I see improvements with the version 5. But overall their template system is much easier and better than many solutions out there.
Checkout, Shipping and Payment Options
Volusion has one page checkout, and very user friendly. You can customize and add extra options to the checkout.
Your visitors have 3 options for the checkout. If they are returning customers, they can login and complete their purchase. If they are new customers, they can easily create and account or do an anonymous purchase without registering an account.
You can accept credit cards if you have a merchant and gateway account without any problems. PayPal integration is pretty good. With version 5, volusion promised a better Google Checkout integration. We currently offer all credit cards and PayPal as payment options. We were planning to offer Google Checkout also, but when we realized that we had to create all shipping rules and tables for Google, we decided not to use Google Checkout. I don’t know if this is Volusion’s or Google’s fault, but it doesn’t make sense for us to create each shipping rule table for Google.
If you use FedEx, UPS, or USPS Volusion’s shipping system is great and very flexible. As a DHL user, we were promised a full DHL integration with version 5, but it came with bugs. Volusion shipping system pulls DHL rates, but most of them are not accurate. We have already lost money on it, and our support ticket about this was simply refused by saying “There is no problem with Volusion’s DHL Live Rate integration, please contact DHL”. We are 100% sure that DHL is working fine (other shipping software’s we use with DHL API proves it). As I have mentioned at support review, if you have a problem which the customer support can’t fix or doesn’t want to get into, they will simply refuse the problem, or blame others about it.
One very positive feature with Volusion 5 is the multiple warehouse option. We haven’t tried it yet, but I’m sure it will help many small businesses which use multiple warehouses or drop shipping.
Volusion CRM System
We have been using Kayako Support Suite for our email ticket and live chat system. It does a great job. We have Kayako’s hosted version, and pay $39.95/month for both ticket and live chat systems. Our live chat button was at our site’s header (on all pages). It worked fine with Yahoo Store. We had to remove it at the checkout page due to SSL error prompt window, but we couldn’t do that with Volusion. Currently we can only use Kayako live chat image on the homepage, and we are looking for a solution.
Volusion heavily promotes its “Free Live Chat” feature. It might be enough for beginners, but if you like to run a fully functional Live Chat system, then you will need their Premium Live Chat software. It costs $29.95 per operator. You can compare free and premium live chat features here at Volusion’s site.
We will either pay $499.95 for Kayako and purchase it. Then host it on an SSL enabled server. This way we will keep our great email ticket management system, and live chat. Or we will move to Volusion CRM and pay monthly fees. Main concern here is the per operator cost of Volusion Live Chat.
I also need to check Volusion Email Ticket System since I couldn’t find detailed information about its features and pricing as of now.
Even though Volusion’s CRM system might come with an extra cost per month, Volusion is one of the few companies that offer a fully integrated CRM system. Overall, it is a big thumbs up.
There are many great marketing features integrated with Volusion. Some of these features needs improvement or a paid membership for their full versions, but overall Volusion has one of the largest feature set for marketing.
Some of Volusion’s Marketing Features:
- Gift Certificate: Great feature, both online and offline delivery options.
- Coupons: Perfect coupon system. Create many types of coupons, very flexible.
- Export Feeds to Third Party Shopping Marketplaces: I haven’t tried this yet, but looks very promising.
- 5 Tier Affiliate System: Not very advanced, but very simple and easy to use. Would be a great marketing tool for small ecommerce businesses.
- Built-in E-Mail Marketing/Newsletter Marketing: Said before, limited but built-in. You can easily integrate Aweber if you need a more powerful email newsletter system.
- Phone Order System with Sales Rep Tracking: Excellent new feature. Automatically credits the customer rep who took the phone order. You can run reports about this and give bonuses to customer reps.
- Quantity Discounting: Works fine, but needs little improvement on the product page.
Volusion’s inventory management is as close to PERFECT as it gets. There are so many options and features within inventory and categories, and I honestly don’t know which ones to list. Just a few of the most important inventory management features comes with Volusion:
- Pricing Flexibility: You can have list price, regular price, discount price, rename the wording for these features (e.g. show OUR SPECIAL PRICE to the customer). Also you can have multiple pricing levels. e.g. Setup wholesale and retail prices, and show retail prices to all visitors, and retail customers, and show wholesale prices to only wholesale customers. This is a great feature, and we use it to setup retail, wholesale, and VIP customer levels and pricing. No more wholesale phone orders, and manual tracking of wholesale orders. You can also have recurring pricing. We do not use this feature but it might be very helpful for subscription type sites.
- Realtime Inventory Tracking: You can track your inventory real time, add vendor price, and always see the profit margins, and many more detailed reports.
- Vendor Information: There’s a whole section for vendor information. Vendor price, UPC Barcode, automatic purchase ordering, manual purchase ordering, and many more features.
- Digital Products: Volusion supports digital products. Customers receive an email with a link to a downloadable digital product. They can also re-download these products within their account. Great feature, and not offered by many shopping carts.
- Multiple Categories and Multiple Warehouses: You can assign a product to multiple categories, and multiple warehouses.
There are so many options within inventory management. We have found almost all available features offered for inventory management within Volusion Package.
Order fulfillment becomes easier with Volusion. It is easy to do batch processing. Each order has a private comment field to enter comments about that order for inhouse staff communication, and also a comment field to update the customer about order. All emails are automatically sent when an order is updated. There is a great search feature within orders.
With the new version, you can easily take phone orders. It is also very easy to keep track of problem orders. Until an order is fully completed you can leave it as opened. Also an order can be partially shipped which helps in many cases. You can upload several tracking numbers per order also.
Overall, Volusion’s Order Fulfillment System is one of the best I have ever seen. Much much better than very expensive software’s’ such as Order Motion.
Web 2.0 Friendly? User Generated Content
Web 2.0 is all about user generated content. Volusion has Product Reviews, but not much more. You cannot even easily integrate a blog within volusion. You either need to setup a subdomain and host it somewhere else, or face many problems trying to redirect your blog to your store URL with blogger.
Before it is too late, Volusion might consider adding more Web 2.0 social marketing and user generated content features.
Even only a “customer reviews” feature which comes fully integrated with Volusion makes it a great marketing tool for your business. Only this feature might cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars for a Yahoo Store customization.
Multiple Staff Management
Volusion has one of the best multiple staff management system. When you create an account for a staff, you can customize all permission levels within one page.
Before, even our temporary staff had access to ALL parts of our business including reporting, daily sales, etc. But now, each staff has his/her own access level, and never sees anything more than they need to see.
This feature is a big thumbs up compared to many other solutions out there.
One of the key factors to decide a shopping cart software for us was the “international language support”. We have mentioned this as a first question to Volusion, and decided to go with Volusion when we saw this feature.
But unfortunately when we moved to Version 5, international language support was gone. Such an easy issue (integrating hardcoded UTF-8 meta tags to storefront and backend) has become a big problem with Volusion. After being on the phone and email for 2 weeks, they have fixed the problem. Now, it’s broken again. We have told them exactly what the problem is and how to fix it. Even though it was fixed for a while, now they offer a temporary solution. If we decide to move to another solution from Volusion, we will have to correct each product manually, because Volusion’s great inventory export feature will export our products with all broken characters. Hoping to see a permanent solution for this.
International language support might not be a big issue for many businesses, but think about having the most important feature of Volusion removed while upgrading to a latest version. Maybe that feature was the main one which made you decide to move to Volusion, and now it’s gone.
Stability is an extremely important part of software business, and we hope to see Volusion take this as a friendly advice.
We also hear complaints at Volusion forums from members who have upgraded to Version 5 and lost all of their custom work. These people trusted Volusion and spent time/money to have custom code for better usage of Volusion, but now Volusion tells them, hey we have a new system and your custom work will not work. This is not a good stability practice for Volusion.
I did not intent to write a review this long, but I wanted to share as much experience as I can about my experiences.
I hope this unbiased Volusion review will help my visitors to make their decisions.
I will be glad to update/edit any information above if I made any mistakes. I will also try to update this review when Volusion rolls new features, this way we will try to keep this review most up to date.
Please share your questions, comments, and reviews here under this topic.
This review contains solely my personal opinions, and Volusion is more than welcome to answer any of the topics officially or unofficially, I’ll be including their replies/comments.
Since there is not a “Best Shopping Cart Solution”, instead the “Right Shopping Cart Solution for My Business”, please decide yourself if Volusion is the right solution for your business.
I currently use Volusion for my business, and do not have any short term plans for moving. Therefore, currently Volusion is the right solution for my business.