Shopify and Volusion are two of the biggest players on the e-commerce market, aimed at small to medium sized retail businesses. Similar to each other in many regards, both operate as SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions, billed on a monthly term and include a full arsenal of tools to build your very own web store.
While the packages vary by price and features, the core platform is a commerce oriented CMS (Content Management System). Everything you need to get started is available, from website hosting and template designs to commerce features such as inventory management and shopping cart checkouts.
On the surface, it’s hard to discern any major differences between Shopify and Volusion as the offers appear almost identical. With minor
Shopify and Volusion are both full scale, feature rich and competitively priced e-commerce solutions. Since they each provide a free 14 day trial to test out the software, you can compare them yourself before making a decision.
Since they bill on a monthly cycle, it is important to understand the breakdown of costs when launching your store. The advertised plan prices will cover the hosting, e-commerce tools and numerous other features, but there are two additional fees to consider, transaction fees and credit card processing fees. We will look at these a bit more under Payment Gateways, but for now just keep in mind there is more to it than just a sticker price.
Shopify offers a total of 5 different package tiers, 2 of which are niche plans that include an entry level and enterprise grade options. Looking at the Pricing page, we find the 3 most popular options available, ranging from the basic tier at $29/mo, designed for startups and new business, to the advanced plan at $299/mo and built for market growth.
While there are plenty of differences between the 3 options, many are just small incentives to justify the hike in price. Aside from extra staff accounts, gift card access and advanced reporting tools, there is only one major perk that stands out… the payment fees we mentioned above.
Using the internal Shopify Payments, transaction fees drop considerably as the plan tiers increase. For online credit card purchases, the majority of payments on a retail based website, there is up to a 0.5% decrease in fees, bringing your total cost per sale to 2.4% + $0.30. When using a 3rd party payment processor such as Paypal or Amazon Pay, the fee is reduced from a full 2% to just 0.5% on the Advanced plan. For high volume stores with potentially hundreds of sales per day, these extra costs can have a considerable impact on your profit margins.
In contrast to the detailed breakdown we saw above, Volusion highlights only two major differences between their range of packages, the maximum products and website bandwidth. Offers range from the entry level plan at just $15/mo, supporting 100 products and 1GB of bandwidth, up to a Premium service at $135/mo that is basically unlimited. As the tiers scale upwards, the support channels do as well, from basic online assistance up to a dedicated account manager.
While the price of entry at Volusion is nearly half that of Shopify, they aren’t as upfront with what is NOT included. Once you scroll past the selling points and the section titled Amazing Features Included with Every Plan, we find a table of features that are accessible to each service tier. Basic tools like product reviews, newsletters and abandoned cart recovery aren’t even available until the Plus package. Looking to integrate with your stores on Ebay and Amazon? This isn’t an option until the Pro plan at $75/mo.
Shopify plans are considerably more inclusive than Volusion with a few minor exceptions, mostly pertaining to inconsequential “upgrades” like staff accounts and gift cards. The archaic fee system is unfortunately a deterrent, having been phased out by almost every other competitor in favor of better options, yet it does encourage the use of the Shopify Payments to minimize transaction costs.
Offering a wide range of website templates to theme your store, Shopify and Volution both provide a vast library of free and paid options. These are high quality, professional looking designs that have been built to integrate with their software from the ground up, making it easy to modify via their platform’s editing tools.
All themes are made to be responsive, meaning they will scale your website based on the size of the visitor’s device, be that a mobile phone or a laptop computer.
Shopify has some of the most visually stunning templates on the market, with a sense of style that is both eye catching and easy to use. With a total of 64 mobile responsive designs to choose from, there are plenty of options that can be further customized to meet your needs.
While the 10 free themes may not seem like a lot, each one has several styles that can completely change the way it looks, from the color scheme to the text itself. For those serious about the look of their store, they also have 54 paid options that range in cost from $140 to $180.
Volution may not have as many choices as the competition, but the selection of themes are quite elegant and well suited for a wide range of categories. With a total of 11 free and 36 paid designs available in the template store, they have a slightly bigger variety of free options although lacking the various styles Shopify has. Their paid category by comparison is also half the size of Shopify and all priced at $180.
Both offer a sizable library of themes to choose from, but Shopify has considerably more options available and an overall better quality of design. In a competitive, retail oriented space such as e-commerce, standing out can give your store an advantage over the rest.
Onboarding refers to the ease of use, providing a user with the necessary knowledge and skills to utilize the platform effectively, or building an e-commerce store in this case. Shopify and Volusion do an excellent job in this regard, making the process as straight forward as possible from start to finish.
The biggest difference is the user interface, better known as the admin panel. While Shopify is fairly simple to figure out, they use some terms that may not be self explanatory at first. For example, product categories are known as “Collections”, which are basically groups of items that have a similar theme. Likewise, “Sales Channels” are just 3rd party platforms that you can integrate with your Shopify store, such as Amazon, Ebay and Facebook.
Otherwise, the side navigation is easy enough to understand, with features grouped into various subsections. If you have any trouble finding a specific tool or option, the interactive search bar at the top is the perfect backup, able to take you where you are trying to go.
Volusion may not be as comprehensive, but the features are aptly named and there is next to no learning curve. This will appeal to those looking to get up and running quick, but may not be as versatile later on down the road. Still, when it comes to onboarding, there is something to be said for keeping things simple and the Volusion dashboard does just that.
As a merchant, payment gateways are the key to getting paid, where they handle credit card transactions on your behalf. Shopify and Volusion both integrate with a variety of 3rd party processors, in addition to offering payment processing themselves.
While Shopify encourages the use of their own internal Shopify Payments system, they also integrate with over 100 payment processors worldwide. There is a variable fee attached to the use of 3rd party gateways, but that charge is reduced in higher tier plans and waived entirely when using Shopify Payments for transactions.
In contrast, Volusion offers a measly 37 payment processors total, and that number can vary a lot depending on what part of the world you operate. Like Shopify, they promote the use of their own Volusion Payments instead, but this has a $30 monthly fee and like many of their payment gateways, is restricted to the United States only.
Shopify Payments has no monthly charge and waives transactions fees, making it a more robust payment solution out of the box. They also integrate with a large number of 3rd party gateways, offering a wide range of options to handle credit card transactions.
Customer Service & Support
Customer support is often an afterthought when choosing an e-commerce platform, yet one of the most beneficial perks of the entire package. In the event an unexpected problem should arise, a business can easily spend thousands of dollars to contract outside help. Not every matter will be a crisis, but they can save us hours of precious time with the simple questions too. Their support is included in our plan and it absolutely makes sense to use it when needed.
Shopify has a very customer oriented support department, with 24/7 phone and live chat, e-mail and discussion forums. If that wasn’t enough, you can also reach them on Facebook and Twitter, where they actively provide assistance there as well.
We have used Shopify support extensively and never waited more than a few seconds to speak with a representative. They are always prompt and courteous, while going above and beyond to make sure our questions are answered. In the rare circumstances when they can’t provide a solution, they will make sure to research and follow-up with more information.
With a similar set of options, Volusion also provides 24/7 help via phone, chat and e-mail. All plans have complete access to the list of support channels with the exception of Mini customers, where they are limited to online resources exclusively. Unfortunately this doesn’t guarantee you will connect with an agent immediately, but they do advertise an average wait time of less than 30 minutes.
Both companies offer top notch, 24/7 support channels with a team of friendly professionals ready to help. Shopify has a slight advantage with social media support and somewhat faster replies, but overall they both manage to maintain excellent customer service.
Our Pick & Final Thoughts
When it comes to choosing between Shopify vs. Volution, which one is the better platform for an an e-commerce store?
For a retail business just entering the market, Volution does manage to lower the cost of entry with their $15 Mini package. Before the sales start rolling in, this can be an attractive option to save costs wherever feasible. Unfortunately it is near impossible to “migrate” your store at a later time, meaning that initial starter package has locked you into their services for the long haul.
Despite Shopify’s lowest tier coming at almost twice the cost, it does remove a lot of the barriers you would otherwise encounter quickly at Volution. Features that come standard on Shopify Basic don’t become available at Volution until you reach the $75 Pro package, such as the Amazon and Ebay integrations. This may or may not be applicable to your particular needs, but it is nice to have the options already should it be required at a later time.