Shopify vs Volusion (2018) | Comparison of Two Leading Online Store Builders
In this Shopify vs Volusion comparison review, we pit two very 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 (i.e., on your own computer). This means that you can build and manage your store from anywhere, and on any suitable device, so long as you have an internet connection.
Both 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.
Let's find out how the two products compare.
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 (but is usually priced at around $2000 per month).
With Volusion, there are 4 plans to choose from. The pricing structure is very similar to Shopify's:
Volusion Personal: $29 per month
Volusion Professional: $79 per month
Volusion Business: $299 per month
Volusion Prime: custom pricing, based on requirements
A comparison of the Shopify vs Volusion entry level plans
Shopify can get you selling online cheaper than Volusion via its $9 'Lite' plan; this is $20 cheaper than the $29 Volusion 'Personal' 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 'Personal' plan, by contrast, allows you to create a fully-fledged online store for $29 per month - but there are limits on
the number of products you can sell (100)
the type of support you receive (with this plan, no phone support is available).
No product limits apply on any of the Shopify plans (the Shopify Lite plan does however restrict support to email or live chat only however).
In addition to charging you a monthly fee to use their software, some online store solutions take a cut of each of your transactions. One key advantage of using Volusion over Shopify is the complete lack of transaction fees on any of its plans.
With Shopify, you can also avoid transaction fees on all its plans - but only if you are happy to use Shopify's own payment processing option, Shopify Payments.
There is a bit of a problem with this, because it is only available to users selling from certain territories, namely
Shopify users based in countries not included on the above list 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:
Product limits: no limits apply on any Shopify plan, whereas Volusion limit the product numbers to 100 and 5,000 on its 'Personal' and 'Professional' plans respectively.
Volusion apply sales limits to their plans: $50k, $100k and $150k on the Personal, Professional and Business plans respectively. By contrast, no sales limits are applied on Shopify plans.
Abandoned cart functionality: you can access this on the $29+ Shopify plans, but it's only available on the $79+ Volusion plans.
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 free Shopify templates come in 2 or 3 variations, so there's actually a 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 are 57 paid-for themes available from Shopify to Volusion's 34, nearly twice as many.
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 all cost $180. (Volusion themes used to be incredibly expensive, so this reduction in cost to $180 per theme is a welcome development.)
And finally, the Shopify premium themes are arguably a bit slicker, featuring more contemporary design features like video backgrounds and parallax scrolling.
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 doesn't provide any filters (other than 'free' or 'premium').
Overall, when it comes to templates, it's hard not to conclude that Shopify's offering is significantly 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 100 to Volusion's 34.
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 the United States of America, Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.
Volusion Payments is only available to merchants in the US, and unlike Shopify Payments you'll have to pay a monthly fee to use it. You also have to go through an application process which takes 5-7 days.
All this means that Shopify is a hands down-winner in both the third-party 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 thousands of Shopify apps you can integrate with your store, but only 71 Volusion ones.
Although Volusion's apps do cover the basics, the reality is that Shopify users will benefit from a significantly larger number of options when it comes to apps (and these cater for major third party apps like Xero and Freshbooks).
There are also hundreds of free apps available for Shopify...but only ten 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, and sourcing products that are made ethically by reliable suppliers can be a challenge.
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 available for Shopify to facilitate it, but with Volusion, you're limited to just two dropshipping apps / suppliers: Doba and Kole Import.
For more information on dropshipping as a business model, I'd suggest you check out Shopify's free webinar on dropshipping.
Point of Sale options
Both Shopify and Volusion facilitate Point of Sale transactions - in other words, you can do business in the real world (selling goods in a retail outlet, pop-up store or event) use these platforms to both accept payment and sync inventory.
You can buy hardware directly from Shopify to faciliate point of sale transactions - this includes 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.
You can use POS on any Shopify plan (using an app and a card reader provided by Shopify), but it's worth noting that if you want to make use of more sophisticated POS hardware (tills, barcode scanners and so on) you will need to be on the more expensive 'Shopify' plan or higher.
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 tweaking configuration settings to make 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.
That said, the Shopify blog is fairly basic - if you want to do advanced post categorisation and tagging, or particularly need an archive of older versions of posts, you might be better off with a third-party blogging platform such as Wordpress.
The majority of users will be able to make do perfectly well with a Shopify blog however, so for me this gives Shopify yet another edge over Volusion.
Shopify has got a considerably better user interface, and when testing these two products against each other, I've always found that putting a simple store together is 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 improvement - older incarnations of the Volusion back end 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 a back button...but it's not ideal and some users will find the whole thing irritating or confusing.
Once you've gone past the wizard stage, you'll find it oddly difficult to do some very simple things with the Volusion interface – like reorder 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.
My overall verdict on user friendliness is that 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's email marketing tool is also 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. The Volusion help pages, rather unhelpfully, don't provide the limits for the current plans, but list the limits for their old pricing structure instead.
Mini Plan: newsletter emails not included
Plus Plan: 200 emails / month
Pro Plan: 1000 emails / month
Premium Plan: 2000 emails / month
Assuming that these limits broadly correspond with the new plans, it's clear that they are not overly generous — and accordingly, 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. You can also use an affiliate app like Tapfiliate to create an affiliate program for a Shopify store.
All in all Volusion's idea of providing marketing tools that let you operate your store and marketing campaigns using one platform is a nice one - but the tools themselves feel rather underpowered and you'd in all probability have a better experience (and gain more functinality) using dedicated third-party ones.
SEO in Volusion vs Shopify
Both Volusion and Shopify allow you to extensively tweak key SEO settings, including page title, URL, alt text, meta descriptions, 301 redirects etc. — all the stuff you'd expect to be able to change without any difficulty in a professional e-commerce solution.
As with much else however, I generally prefer the Shopify setup in this regard. There are two areas in particular that I feel Shopify handles better: 301 redirects and search-friendly URLs.
When you change the URL of a product or page, it's vital to let Google and other search engines know about this, by creating what's known as a 301 redirect.
In Shopify, this is done automatically for you every time you change a URL; but in Volusion, it's a case of going into a 'Redirect Manager page' and uploading an XML file. This is the kind of stuff that reinforces my general feeling that Volusion is not really geared up (yet) for users without much in the way of a technical knowledge around website building.
Search friendly URLS
Another oddity regarding SEO in Volusion concerns search friendly URLS. Search engines generally prefer short, 'clean URLs' containing keywords rather than variables (i.e., 'www.mystore.com/green-dress' rather than 'www.mystore.com/cat125/?productid=1234'). By default it seems that Volusion prefers the latter approach, and if you want the former you have to go into settings and ensure that a 'search-friendly URL' setting is switched on. Again, needless legwork.
And on top of that, the process involved in tweaking URLs in Volusion in order to get them into a search-friendly format seems overly-complicated — as their help page on the topic demonstrates.
Userbases and history
There are two important 'due dilligence' questions to ask yourself when investing in any hosted e-commerce or website building solutions:
How many people actually use this product?
How long has it been about?
The answers to these questions are important, because they let you know how much you can 'trust' the solution you're considering using - for example, a relatively new company with only a few users on their books is more likely to go bust or shut down their service, with serious consequences for your online store.
User figures / revenue
Volusion claim that there are currently 30,000 active Volusion users. This is dwarfed by the figure provided by Shopify, who claim to have over 1,000,000 active users.
According to Shopify, their product has been responsible for $63bn in sales; Volusion's claim is $28bn.
Shopify is a somewhat newer kid on the block than Volusion; whereas Volusion has been around since 1999, Shopify opened its doors for business in 2006.
This puts the userbase and sales figures into context: Shopify has grown its business more quickly in a significantly shorter period of time, to the point where its userbase and sales have considerably eclipsed the corresponding Volusion figures.
Ultimately you'll need to draw your own conclusions from these figures, but they probably point to Shopify being a safer bet than Volusion over the next few years.
Volusion offers online support on all plans, but phone support is only available on its $79 'Plus' plan and up. Shopify's phone support is available on its $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 way 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).
Accessing phone numbers for Shopify involves a slightly fiddlier process - you have to search for a solution to your problem and fail to find one before you can see any phone numbers. When you do get to see them, you'll note 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 seven 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’
optimising a Shopify site for search engines is a more straightforward process
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 an informational website (and blog) too.
I guess my main issue with Volusion though is that 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 my feeling is 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”. Requiring users to upload an XML file to create a redirect is another example of this tech-heavy approach.
Any ‘techy’ stuff 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.
You can sell an unlimited number of products on each plan.
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.
Abandoned cart functionality is available on the $29 Shopify plan; you'll need to be on a $79+ plan to avail of this important feature with Volusion.
Its SEO features are easier to use.
There are no sales limits on any plans.
It has a larger userbase - which arguably makes it a safer bet.
Reasons to use Volusion over Shopify
There are no transaction fees on any plans.
Some users may find its built-in marketing features (CRM, affiliate program and email marketing tools) useful.
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!).