Ecommerce Platform Review: Volusion
Opening an online store isn't rocket science! In fact, the only thing you need is a product - everything else is easily taken care of thanks to convenient ecommerce platforms that don't require a lick of know-how in the programming or web design departments. Volusion promises "Ecommerce for everyone", however, is the software as a service (SaaS) platform really so universally applicable as its promotional materials claim?
What is Volusion?
Volusion is a cloud-based ecommerce platform from Texas that has been in operation since 1999. It provides access to all features necessary for creating and operating a professional online store - from a site builder to business tools. In this review, we'll explore how well these work together, and the ease with which it allows for online stores to be created, by beginners and more advanced users alike.
Pros and Cons
Solid sales features, including dropshipping, multi-channel, and point of sale (POS) support
Powerful marketing and analytic tools
Relatively complicated user interface
Underdeveloped site builder
Configuration & Usage
Registering with Volusion is fairly straightforward. The service offers a free 14-day trial, allowing you to test the service for two weeks without inputting your payment data. You'll only need to enter your name, email address, and location (country) as well as a password. After that, voila, you're in Volusion's dashboard.
Registration only takes a few seconds.
The dashboard, which is clearly arranged, doesn't adhere to the typical 'industry standards': Whereas other e-commerce platforms situate the site builder in the center of the screen or subordinate shop management to the backend, Volusion combines them in one screen, which, at first glance, is more organic.
The start page is your Storefront, through which you can view your online store in the live preview. In the sidebar menu, you can work through the most important steps prior to opening your shop: Select a template, set the colors and fonts, add your logo, some products, change texts, and create the main menu.
Of course, you can't do everything here, but you can take care of the broad strokes, so far as personalizing your store is concerned. Some texts can be edited directly in the live preview, whereas others are only modifiable in the admin area.
In other words, your Storefront is a simplified site builder, in which you can handle the most important aspects of designing/arranging your site, with a matter of clicks. All remaining settings and features are spread throughout the menu.
The most important settings can be modified in the Storefront.
All-in-all, we found Volusion easy to use, even if the user interface's good first impression fades somewhat with continued usage. In particular, modifying your store's design is somewhat complicated, but more on that in the fourth section. Some content can be edited directly in the site builder, whereas other aspects can only be altered in the slightly-cryptic submenus, the underlying logic for which is not always readily apparent.
Score: 3.3 / 5
It's possible to manage your products in the Inventory area by clicking on Products. By selecting Add Product, you can include a new item in your store, naming it, giving it a SKU, price, and description, and inputting its weight. Under Image Management you can add pictures of the product, however, these can only be uploaded one at a time.
A number of additional features can be found in the Advanced Info area. These include the ability to edit SEO settings such as the product's URL and meta tags, as well as to add more details about pricing, such as sales tax, or delivery charges.
In Volusion, adding new products is straightforward.
You can further segment your products with categories and options. In Volusion, categories are little more than menus and submenus that can be managed and created either through Inventory > Categories or directly in the product menu. Here, it's possible to assign each product to a specific category, so that it will display in the correct submenu.
Under Options, you can create variations of your products, which include categories (such as "size") and various options ("S", "M", "L", etc.).
After you've created variations for your products, you'll find some additional fields in the product menu. In the Color Swatches section, you can link specific product images to individual options. With Inventory Control Grid, it's possible to set the quantity available, price, and SKU for each variation.
Although the product options are well-meant, we encountered a few issues with them during testing.
Product management is fairly straightforward, even if at the same time we started to notice that Volusion made a few things more complicated than they need to be. For example, we weren't able to change the arrangement of product options in the product menu. Our product sizes were automatically ordered alphabetically ("L", "M," "S", "XL", "XS") which doesn't make any sense at all. To rectify this, we had to go into Inventory > Options and specify a Display Order for each option in the submenu.
This is just one example. In general, the platform hides a lot of settings and options in slightly cryptic submenus, which makes creating and managing a shop, as well as individual products far less intuitive than it could be.
Although perhaps not important to a largely American audience, during testing, Volusion had some difficulties displaying non-English characters, although these didn't appear to follow a set format. For anyone thinking of designing an online store in a language other than English, this could cause problems, so it's important to mention.
For example, the German word 'Größe' (size) was displayed as "Gr��e"
Selling digital products is only possible in Volusion through a fairly complicated workaround. Since a weight must be input for each product, you'll need to set this to 0 (so that your customers aren't charged an automatic delivery surcharge). Then, navigate to Advanced Info > Misc and select Download Filename. Here, you'll be able to upload a file, albeit with a size limit of 10 MB. For larger files, you'll need to use an FTP account.
Customers who purchase a digital article will receive immediate access to it, so long as you've selected the options Automatic Authorize and Capture or Automatic Authorize, Manual Capture under payment settings.
In other words, it is possible to sell digital products, however, other ecommerce platforms have made this much easier with more straightforward solutions.
Digital products can be sold albeit to do so requires a small workaround.
Volusion definitely covers the most important aspects of creating an online store, however, makes some of these more complicated than they need to be. Adding to this were the difficulties we encountered with special characters, which could come as a nasty surprise to anyone planning to set up a store in a language other than English.
Score: 3.7 / 5
Personalizing Your Store
The tools which Volusion provides for designing your online store's facade can be found under Design. Here, you're given a choice of 45 Templates, of which 11 were available for free at the time of testing, as well as the ability to upload your logo.
Advanced design settings can be found in the Style Editor, which is actually a site builder. These include the ability to edit the color scheme as well as your online store's fonts. Themes are designed for specific color combinations, but you can change these for your site through Custom Styles.
Should you want complete design freedom, you can take a look at the Advanced CSS Editor.
Thanks to the different color combinations, you can give your website a unique look.
In a site builder so named, it should be possible to add new content blocks. Volusion allows this, even though you'll have to dig a bit to find out how. On the right corner of the screen, you'll see a small blue box with a white arrow. Click on this, and a menu will fold out, which includes content blocks that can be dragged and dropped onto your site.
Alongside simple text blocks, you can also add ready-made elements such as testimonials, maps, or portfolios. The number of available elements is not as impressive as those of other ecommerce platforms.
New content can be easily dragged and dropped into your shop.
Unfortunately, we did have to contend with a few issues: For example, we were unable to open the content block menu in the Storefront area and add new content to our site. In the style editor, the blue box disappeared shortly after opening the site. When contacting support, they told us that the blue box isn't designed for the style editor, so, why does it appear at all?
We also needed to get a bit used to how Volusion handles website content. Texts and additional content is partly edited directly in the live preview of the style editor, and partly (for text that should appear on multiple pages) under Design > Site Content and Design > Page Text.
In the first area, you'll find Articles, which cannot be directly modified in the editor. These include longer texts like Terms & Conditions, but also shorter ones for shopping carts or wish lists. The texts under Articles are therefore comparable to the official texts of your site. Additional, short page texts (buttons, address fields, etc.) can be found under Page Text.
So far as managing content is concerned, owing to the unclear structure of the menus and lists, Volusion doesn't make a particularly strong showing. In this aspect, Volusion is more geared towards experienced website operators, who aren't fazed by this lack of intuitive use. Set alongside more streamlined store building systems, Volusion could definitely overwhelm beginners.
Navigation menus can be modified in two places: Through Inventory > Categories you can add new menus and submenus, as we've described above. You can also easily adjust the arrangement of menu items and subordinate them to one another. Additional changes, relating to the appearance of your menus can be made through Design > Navigation Menu. Here, for example, you can specify how many drop-down levels your menus should have.
With intuitive menus, you can make navigating your online store a lot easier for your customers.
We might be a little bit too accustomed to other website builders, however, designing and editing content with Volusion is too much hassle for our tastes. We liked the templates, and for anyone who doesn't want to make significant changes to them, you won't have a hard time using the platform.
However, for users who are creating their first online store, or who are looking for a more intuitive ecommerce platform, there are definitely better solutions available. Compounding this, the degree of design freedom afforded users lacking programming know-how is extremely limited.
Score: 3 / 5
Volusion's payment options can be found under Settings > Payment. Here, you're given a choice between a number of different payment gateways, including Volusion's own "Merchant Services". Other options include Stripe and Skrill, and more that can be manually configured. In addition to credit cards, you can also accept payments through PayPal, bank transfers, or even cash.
Volusion's payment options.
Delivery settings can be configured under Settings > Shipping. Here, you can select flat rate shipping for different regions, or link costs to the weight or price of the product. The Live Rates feature is a nice touch, which allows you to add services like DHL, UPS, or FedEx to calculate delivery costs in real-time.
In terms of shipping, Volusion does a lot of things right.
In the Dashboard you can view a number of important statistics in one place, as well as tutorials, and create contact options and to-do lists. There are additional areas for your orders, customers, inventory, marketing, design, reports, and settings. The last of these includes your tax settings which are limited to the US market. It is possible to add different tax regions (for example, the EU) and charge prices that include (or exclude) VAT.
To market your products outside of the US, you'll need to configure a few tax settings.
Orders that you've received can be found underOrders > Process Orders. Here, all orders are listed chronologically and can be filtered according to their status or other factors. A search function is also included.
You can keep an eye on orders that you've received in the dashboard.
Clicking on an order number will open a detailed menu, in which you can view lots of additional information. Along with the delivery and invoice address, Volusion also provides you with a Fraud Score, that will alert you to suspicious orders. By comparing common (known) methods of fraud, the provider returns a score indicating the risk of each order.
The Fraud Score helps to keep you and your business safe from scammers.
Multi-channel sales are also possible in Volusion. You can easily link Amazon, eBay, Google, or Facebook, and manage your inventory in the various channels through Volusion's admin console. This feature is limited to subscribers of the most-costly "Business" package, however.
You can also use Volusion to sell at POS, with UPC barcode scanners and card readers supported. Through Orders > Point of Sale you can select if payment is made by cash or card and then accept the order.
Selling at POS is also facilitated.
If you're a drop shipper, you're in luck, because Volusion, unlike some of the other platforms we examined, supports this. To set this up, simply input your vendor under Inventory > Vendors. You can then create and set guidelines for your products in the product menus, which will be relayed to your vendor.
In one area of generating sales, Volusion has come up short, namely facilitating multiple language localizations: It is possible to translate your store into another language, however, you cannot create multiple localizations of a single store. Additional currencies can be added under Settings > Currency, however, you'll need to input a snippet of HTML code to allow for your store to show multiple currencies.
For selling, Volusion flexes its muscles somewhat, showing that using its ecommerce platform can be enjoyable and straightforward after the store has been created and products added. We're positive that drop shippers and multi-channel sellers will like the service's capabilities.
Score: 4.3 / 5
Marketing & Analytics
In order to help you get the most out of your online shop, Volusion pulled out all the figurative stops in terms of marketing. A number of options for coupons and discounts are provided, visible under Marketing > Coupons/Discounts. Here, it's possible to create discounts in the form of codes for general, or campaign-specific usage.
In total, the service provides five types of discounts: Fixed-sum or percentual, either for a single product, or an entire order, and free shipping. These can be limited to specific items or even groups of items. Under Advanced Info, you can set validity periods for each sale, or minimum/maximum amounts for orders or quantities.
Volusion goes all-out in providing options for discounts and sales.
The Deal of the Day feature is also worth mentioning. This allows you to select a product (or products) and offer them at a special price for a day, through your homepage. In order for the deal to be displayed, you'll need to click on the three dots at the top right of the menu, and then on Deal of the Day Settings and select Enable Deal of the Day as well as specify the navigation menu.
But that's not all! Volusion also offers MyRewards, an integrated loyalty platform that rewards your customers with points. Gift certificates can also be offered to your customers, however, this does take a bit of additional effort.
Surprise your customers with a deal of the day.
If you are confident of your products and the ordering process in your store, you can add customer reviews as a marketing tool. Under Customers > Customer Reviews you can keep tabs on what they write, and also delete ratings that don't appear relevant or accurate. It's also possible to add a content filter to reviews so that those which use inappropriate language are automatically flagged for admin review prior to publication.
Volusion comes standard with basic email marketing. You can create campaigns under Marketing > Newsletters and send them to all your customers or subscribers, or only selected groups. It's possible to gauge the effectiveness of these through the tracking reports.
The number of newsletters you can send depends on your subscription package:
- Personal: 0
- Professional: 200 emails per month
- Business: 1,000 emails per month
- Prime: 2,000 emails per month
Volusion comes equipped with basic email marketing.
Extensive SEO settings can be found under Marketing > SEO. These include tags, titles, meta tag descriptions, and keywords for your subpages and the areas of your website with unique content. Unfortunately, it isn't possible to create user-defined URLs for subpages, however, you are able to do this for some product pages in the respective product menu. There, you'll find advanced SEO options under Advanced Info in the Search Engine Optimization tab.
Volusion displays all of the most important trends and statistics in the dashboard, including your Top 5 products and categories, sales figures for specific periods of time, and purchase trends. Additional statistics can be found in the Reports area, as well as the ability to create user-defined reports. Volusion definitely impresses thanks to its wide array of options, the only downside being that other ecommerce platforms present these even more clearly.
After a slightly shaky start, Volusion makes up some ground in the later stages of our review, impressing and demonstrating its versatility in the areas of marketing and analytics. Our only issue is that other providers make accessing such tools and features slightly more intuitive/easier, however, this doesn't detract too much from what Volusion offers.
Score: 4.7 / 5
Volusion's help center contains around 600 articles, divided into categories like "Get Started", "Grow Your Business", or "Design Your Website". During our review, it was necessary to consult these quite frequently, and they do a good job of explaining pretty much everything. Our only issue is that all of the links should be reviewed since a good number of them have migrated, or following updates to Volusion, the features they explain no longer exist.
Lots of helpful articles, but in sore need of a careful review to replace outdated links.
It's possible to get in direct contact with support by clicking on the chat symbol in the lower right corner of the screen or through Get Help > Message Us in the upper menu. Even though this opens a chat window, don't get your hopes up: Volusion doesn't offer a live chat, but rather a ticket system that is designed to look like a live chat.
Replies you receive will show both in the chat window, as well as the email account you used to register. We waited around half an hour for a response, which was friendly, and informative. We particularly liked how after receiving the first response with an answer, the support staffer followed up a bit later with additional information.
Hotline support is offered starting with the Professional package, whereas Business subscribers can take advantage of the service's VIP support.
Score: 4 / 5
As we've hinted at throughout the article, Volusion offers four different subscription packages: Personal, Professional, Business, and Prime. The differences in these mostly relate to the gross value of your products: $50k, $100k, and $500k, with Prime for everything exceeding that amount. It's possible to pay your subscription either on a monthly or yearly basis, with the latter including a 10% discount.
Each package provides unlimited bandwidth, however, different product limits (100, 5,000, or unlimited, for the two most-expensive packages), varying numbers of user accounts (1, 5, 15, unlimited), or the number of emails that you can send per month using the integrated email marketing tool (0, 200, 1,000, or 2,000).
The features provided also depend largely on the subscription: Product reviews, imports and exports, uncompleted purchase reports, and telephone orders are all available starting with the Professional package. If you're looking for eBay and Amazon integrations, API access, the deal of the day, a loyalty program, advanced reports, live calculation of shipping costs, or additional payment gateways, you'll need to book either a Business or Prime subscription.
Volusion doesn't charge transaction fees, however, the different payment gateways do. Volusion's platform charges 2.15% if used.
An overview of Volusion's rates can be found here:
|Price per month||$26.10||$71.10||$269.10|
|Transaction Fee||0 %||0 %||0 %|
|Contract period (months)||12||12||12|
|Number of Products||100||5,000||unlimited|
It's hard to give a simple evaluation of Volusion since its performance was so inconsistent during testing. In some areas, like its ease of use, particularly in regards to customizing a store, we were disappointed.
We're fairly certain that the labyrinthian submenus of the service will be nearly impossible for beginners to make sense of. For our taste, certain actions or processes that are easily performed in other ecommerce platforms are made unnecessarily complicated in Volusion, requiring odd workarounds.
At the same time, there are some aspects of Volusion that impressed us: Its versatile and numerous options for selling goods, as well as support for multi-channel sales and dropshipping are certain to appeal to some. The service also has pronounced capabilities in terms of marketing, ranging from the deal of the day, to integrated newsletters and emails.
All in all, if you want to sell goods online, you can rely on Volusion. With that said, you'll need to be able to come to terms with how the service is structured and operates, which for beginners at least, could be a challenge.
We looked at Volusion, but don't just take our word for it! Here, we've compiled user reviews from reputable sources to help you in making your decision.
Our biggest critique of Volusion was its user-friendliness. If you're looking for a beginner-friendly alternative that offers a wide selection of sales, marketing, and analytic features, Wix and Shopify are worth taking a closer look at.
A selection of popular alternatives to Volusion can be found here: