Shopify vs Volusion (2017) | Comparison of Two Leading Online Store Builders
In this 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.
About Shopify and Volusion
Shopify and Volusion are platforms which allow you to create an online store. They work in a similar way, in that they are hosted solutions - they run in a browser and there is no software for you to install locally. They are 'software as a service' (SaaS) solutions - you pay a monthly fee to use them, and this gives you the tools to create and maintain your store: templates, a content management system, hosting, e-commerce functionality and support.
The fundamental idea behind both tools is that even if you don't have coding or design skills, you can create an online store easily enough using them.
In previous reviews of Shopify and Volusion, I've always come down on the side of Shopify - it's proved itself to be a classier, easier to use product. But with the recent rollout of a new version of Volusion, has its upped its game? Is it now a better option than Shopify for building an e-commerce site?
Let's find out.
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
A comparison of the Shopify vs Volusion 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)
- the bandwidth available (1GB).
No such limits apply on any of the 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 Shopify's own payment processing option, Shopify payments.
There is a problem with this, because this is only available to users selling from certain territories: the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia.
Other Shopify users can make use of a wide range of third-party payment gateway processors - but if you use one, transaction fees will apply (2% on 'Lite' and 'Basic' plans, 1% on 'Shopify' and 0.5% on 'Advanced').
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 'Premium' 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
Let's zoom in on a few key features, and see how they stack up against each other.
Both Shopify and Volusion offer a wide range of templates, all very professional in appearance. They are responsive too, meaning that they will automatically resize themselves to suit the device your store is being viewed on. You can choose either a free theme or a paid-for one.
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.
Let's look at quantity though - this is where Shopify has a bit of an edge.
Free templates from Shopify and Volusion
At first glance Volusion seems to offer slightly more choice in the free template department - there are 11 free templates to Shopify's 10. However, most of the Shopify templates come in 2 or 3 variations, so there's actually a fair bit more choice available from Shopify.
Paid-for templates from Shopify and Volusion
Both Volusion and Shopify offer a wide range of paid-for templates, but again Shopify provides more options: there around 50 paid-for themes available from Shopify to Volusion's 38.
You can also pick up a Shopify paid-for theme slightly cheaper: they range in price from $140 to $180, whereas all the Volusion themes cost $180.
And finally, not all the Volusion paid-for themes are responsive (i.e., mobile and tablet-friendly). Given the proliferation of mobile devices I personally wouldn't buy a non-responsive template in 2017. When you filter out the non-responsive Volusion paid-for templates, this leaves you with a total of 37 templates.
Finding the right template
Finally, the Shopify theme store is set up in a way which makes it easier to find the right template for your online store: you can browse using a wide range of filters, including price, style, industry and more; by contrast, Volusion only allows you to filter by
- free or paid-for theme
- responsive or not (as discussed above, ignore the non-responsive templates!).
Overall, when it comes to templates, it's hard not to conclude that Shopify's offering is better than the Volusion equivalent.
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 payment gateways with Shopify - over 70 to Volusion's 30 or so. It's important to note that the number of available payment gateways available for use in Volusion varies significantly depending on what part of the world you're operating in - in the US, for example, you can make use of around 30 Volusion payment gateways, whereas in Europe, this number drops to just 8.
Both tools come with an 'out of the box' payments solution too: 'Shopify Payments' and 'Volusion Payments'. Shopify Payments, 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.
All this means that Shopify is a hands down-winner in both the third payment gateway department, and its out-of-the-box option is more attractive than Volusion's too.
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 around 2000 Shopify apps you can integrate with your store, but only around 100 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 five free apps for Volusion.
Dropshipping in Volusion vs Shopify
Many potential users of Volusion and Shopify will want to know how well it handles dropshipping.
Dropshipping is a way of selling products where you don't keep the actual products in stock. Instead, you take an order, redirect it to a supplier, and they deliver the goods to your customer. A lot of people are attracted to this way of selling products because you don't need much capital to start up your business (the down side is that competition in the dropshipping marketplace is fierce).
If dropshipping is what you want to do then - as with much else discussed in this review - you'll find that the options are considerably more extensive in Shopify. There are tons of apps that let you add dropshipping to your Shopify store, including quite a few free ones like Oberlo. Oberlo lets you source goods from the Aliexpress network of suppliers and add them to your site easily.
With Oberlo, you're limited to just two dropshipping apps / suppliers: Doba and Kole.
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).
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.
You might not immediately think that a blog is a key part of an online store - but in this day and age of content and inbound marketing, regular posting of quality blog content is absolutely essential to generating traffic to a site – and by extension to generating 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.
Although the Volusion user interface has improved a bit, Shopify still 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.
Volusion now provides you with a step-by-step wizard to help you get started with your store - this is a welcome change from the old interface, which sort of threw you in at the deep end.
However, if you follow the Volusion wizard process to the end, it concludes by asking you for your credit card details. This is extremely annoying and goes against the spirit of offering a free trial! It is possible to get around this by clicking an item on the Volusion main menu..but it's not ideal and some users will find the whole thing irritating or confusing.
The new Volusion interface looks a bit prettier, but it's still oddly difficult to do some very simple things with it – like edit the navigation or add a simple ‘About Us’ web page. I've used many a site / store builder in my time, but with Volusion I've had to resort to Google searches to work out how these simple tasks are performed – instant proof that this system is not, shall we say, all that intuitive. The same tasks did not present any problems at all in Shopify, which comes with a much more straightforward CMS and WYSIWYG editor.
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.
Overall verdict on user friendliness: Shopify is way, way easier to use than Volusion. (The below vlog-style video gives a walkthrough of the Shopify interface - unfortunately I can't source a similar video for the new version of Volusion).
Volusion offers some rather interesting marketing features out of the box, notably a tool that allows you to create your own affiliate programs, a CRM system and a basic email marketing tool that allows you to send newsletters to your contacts directly from within Volusion.
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 email marketing tool is quite a useful feature to have built into an online store solution - but there are limits on how many e-newsletters you can send out per month:
- Mini Plan: newsletter emails not included
- Plus Plan: 200 emails / month
- Pro Plan: 1000 emails / month
- Premium Plan: 2000 emails / month
Given that these limits are not overly generous, this feature is probably only going to be of use to merchants who are starting out on their e-commerce journey; successful merchants will have larger lists and will most likely make use of a dedicated email marketing tool like Getresponse or Aweber.
Comparable marketing functionality is not really available out of the box with Shopify, but you can integrate it easily with a wide range of third-party CRM and email marketing tools by using an app from Shopify's app store.
Volusion offers online support on all plans, but phone support is only available on their $35 'Plus' plan and up. Shopify's phone support is available on the slightly cheaper $29 'Basic' plan and up.
My hunch is that if you're a Volusion user, you are more likely to require phone support than if you're a Shopify user, simply because the Volusion interface is less user-friendly. Unlike with some competing products, it's easy enough to find a phone number for Volusion - you can either call a number listed on the home page of their site or you can use a 'schedule call' option (you can access this when logged into your Volusion Dashboard by clicking the 'Get Help' link at the top right of the screen).
It's also easy to find phone numbers for Shopify - numbers are easily accessible via their contact page. The only oddity is that numbers are only provided for a few countries - North America, New Zealand, UK, Australia and Singapore...it's not entirely clear what number you need to ring if you live outside of these territories. I'm guessing it's the US one.
Which is better then, Shopify or Volusion?
There are six main reasons why I think it's a better product:
- its user interface / CMS is much easier to use
- it provides a wider range of free templates
- there are no limits on bandwidth or products to worry about
- it allows you to integrate a significantly larger number of apps into your store than Volusion does
- it's a better bet for dropshipping
- it allows you to blog ‘out of the box’
All this, I feel, makes Shopify far 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 pretty silly thing to do, as there are more comprehensive, cost-effective options out there for building a site without e-commerce functionality (see our Squarespace review or our Squarespace vs Wordpress comparison for some ideas), 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 despite its new interface it 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 a much better, easier option.
Reasons to use Shopify over Volusion
- It's significantly easier to use than Volusion.
- There are more themes to choose from, and its paid-for themes are cheaper than the Volusion equivalents.
- Unlimited storage and bandwidth come with all plans.
- Blogging functionality is built in.
- A wider selection of payment gateways is available.
- A significantly wider selection of apps and integrations is available.
- Point-of-sale functionality is more comprehensive and 'built in'.
- 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, affiliate program and email marketing tools) 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 add comment below (note, if you're viewing this on a smartphone and can't see the comments section, you may be reading an Accelerated Mobile Pages version of the page - if so, click here to view the regular mobile version, where you'll be able to view and add comments. Thanks!).