Ecommerce options exist on a spectrum of convenience and control. Both Shopify and Volusion are right in the middle of the spectrum because they bundle all the technical parts of an online store – hosting, speed, security, inventory, shopping cart and payment processing – and bundle it into a single monthly price. This contrasts with solutions like WordPress + Woocommerce where you buy, operate, and maintain each piece of the store but also have true 100% control over your website.
But like a self-hosted eCommerce website, Shopify and Volusion also bundle as part of your website on your domain where you have full control of products, pricing, and customer experience. So unlike running a store on Etsy, eBay or Amazon – you control the build, design, and content of your store.
They are both excellent companies with an excellent product. And like all my other eCommerce and hosting reviews, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” – there’s only the best option for you based on your situation, goals, and resources.
Here’s how Shopify compares to Volusion across 6 different variables that most customers look at – and what you should consider with Shopify vs. Volusion.
Ahh – price. It’s both the simplest and most complex way to compare two products.
The short story on price is that both Shopify and Volusion operate on a monthly price structure with a ~2 week free trial. They also have a very similar “sticker” price with tiers at ~$29/mo and ~$79/mo and up.
That said, their plan structure is just different enough to make a direct comparison a bit difficult.
The main tradeoff comes from fees – And there are 3 different types of fees to consider.
First is your monthly store fee. This fee is the “sticker” price. Both Volusion and Shopify are generally the same. Volusion is slightly cheaper, but they also do not include every single feature on lower tiers that Shopify does.
Second is your store transaction fee. Shopify does not charge transaction fees if you use their credit card processor. Otherwise, their transaction fees are the same.
The third is your credit card processing fees. If you use a 3rd party processor like Authorize.net, PayPal or Stripe – then you’ll pay whatever they charge. If you use Volusion, you’ll have to use a 3rd party processor. If you use Shopify, you can use Shopify payments for 2.9% + $0.30 – about industry average.
If you plan on using a 3rd party processor (ie, for price or for sticking with your current provider), then Volusion will be about the same – or even slightly cheaper than Shopify every month.
If you are open to going “all in” with Shopify, then you’ll save a significant amount of money in fees depending on your revenue level.
Either way – price is not the deciding factor for Shopify vs. Volusion. Instead, I’d look at other factors.
Customer support is one of the most underestimated benefits of using a hosted eCommerce platform.
The total control of a self-hosted eCommerce site is wonderful until it gets hacked and you are paying $$$ to a developer or you find yourself in the WordPress forums hoping someone points you in the right direction.
All customer support is customized since both run on proprietary platforms.
At sign up – they both have an “onboarding” sequence and a consultant to help with any issues.
I’ve had good experiences with both and there are a couple differences that I’ve noticed –
- Volusion has more thorough and instructive DIY education. They have videos and screenshots for even small changes on the Dashboard whereas Shopify will have text instructions.
- Volusion comes across as more beginner-friendly due to onboarding and heavy consultant walk-throughs
- Shopify has more thorough and instructive content on running your overall business. They invest a lot of time and resources in case studies, long-form guides, tutorials, and helping your business succeed beyond just implementing a new feature.
- Shopify also has a more well-developed network of 3rd party developers and marketers who specialize in Shopify. They’re otherwise known as “Shopify Experts.” It’s not without problems, but it is a better starting point for advanced help than a Google or UpWork search.
- Shopify has *many* more integrations with other 3rd parties and other platforms. And often, those other platforms will actually provide support for the Shopify integrations. This is critical for labeling providers, fulfillment providers, bookkeepers, etc
Overall, I’d say that beginners will likely find Volusion’s support system to be less daunting. But a growing store will likely find Shopify’s support system to be much more versatile. In other words, Shopify has a bit more of a learning curve to learn their system, but once you learn it – you can do more with it.
Shopify and Volusion both serve businesses that range from very small retailers selling niche products to multi-million dollar brands. Both have enterprise plans (I wrote about Shopify Plus here) and they both have customer support teams trained to help absolute beginners.
That said – there is a significant difference between the companies in terms of resources and mission. Shopify did an Initial Public Offering in 2015 to become a very well-funded public company. Their platform is built to serve all retail businesses both on and offline – but with a focus on startups or online-first businesses that want to expand offline.
Shopify runs their own payment processing service and even has their own Point-of-Sale (POS) system so that small offline retailers can sell offline and online from within the same system. They were the first to roll out “buyable buttons” on Pinterest and Facebook so that merchants could sell inventory directly anywhere online – not just from customers who checked out via the merchant’s website.
Shopify’s backend (which I’ll cover in the next section) reflects this focus. The products / orders / customers / inventory area is separate from the “website” area. The idea is that your website is only one of many sales channels. You can definitely run your website as your only sales channel in Shopify – but the options to sell elsewhere are already built-in.
Ever since the launch of Volusion V2, Volusion’s focus seems to be exclusively on entry-level to mid-size ecommerce stores. They have a heavy focus on usability and simplicity, but start to fall down on advanced implementation that every growing store needs.
Both Volusion and Shopify are excellent platforms for entry-level stores. However, Shopify’s focus is on having a broad platform that will work for any type of store.
User-friendliness & Onboarding
Related to Customer Focus are the issues of user-friendliness and “onboarding” (ie, getting a new customer to an active storeowner).
Both Volusion and Shopify have excellent onboarding processes and user-friendly management areas.
The main difference is how each backend is structured. Volusion has a single Dashboard where you manage everything – your products, inventory, website pages, settings, billing, etc.
Shopify breaks out products/customers/orders and your website into separate areas. Additionally, Shopify has their own lingo.
For example, instead of “product categories” – Shopify has “Collections.” Instead of a “website” – Shopify has “Online Store” that is one of your “Sales Channels.”
For an absolute beginner, it takes a few more minutes to figure out Shopify’s lingo and structure compared to Volusion. That said, once Shopify’s lingo clicks, it does provide a bit more versatility for day to day operations. Shopify’s inventory setup, their product filtering, and template editor are all faster and more versatile – once you figure them out.
If you have never run a website before and only have a small to mid-size product collection, then Volusion will likely make more sense than Shopify.
If you want more long-term versatility, you’ll likely appreciate Shopify’s system more once you tackle the learning curve.
Approach to Features
Both Shopify and Volusion have almost all the tools (marketing, SEO, inventory, order, etc) an online store would need to be successful. They differ though in how they each approach adding new features.
Shopify takes the “platform” approach. They have essential features that all store owners will need built-in. But for features that not all store owners need – they focus on making sure store owners can add feature extensions to their store as needed. They have a large and active App Store that not only has well-known extensions but also plenty of indie apps for every situation (ie, apps for international tax and shipping features). The sheer number of apps available makes the comparison a no contest.
Here’s Volusion’s 14 apps…
Here’s Shopify’s enormous marketplace of apps which trounces both Volusion and their other competitor, BigCommerce.
Shopify’s template editing language, Liquid, also allows developers to add features directly to a store if necessary. Shopify also has a solid “CMS” to manage non-product content (ie, blogs, pages, etc).
But their approach to features goes beyond Shopify having this and Volusion having that.
The thing is that Shopify’s platforms actually works. And it has worked really well for a long time. Volusion made a huge leap in usability with V2, but they still fall down hard on actual nuts and bolts implementation.
I wrote about issues extensively in my Volusion Review, but the short version is that Volusion has serious Technical SEO issues related to their use of AngularJS. Additionally, the implementation of their software has a ton of random bugs that Shopify hasn’t had in a very long time. For example, here’s Volusion revealing my private information in the source code of my website for reasons that I do not understand –
In fact, I really don’t want to be too hard on Volusion – they would be a good fit for stores that need maximum usability and little marketing help – but I would actively decline any new markting client using Volusion. It would be too heavy of a lift to succeed with organic or paid marketing. On the flip side, my most successful ecommerce projects have all been with Shopify. Their features are so robust and so well-designed that I can move fast and move to things that actually matter – like content strategy rather than validating XML sitemaps.
Unless you are totally sold on Volusion’s simplicity and usability, there’s really no contest on feature set, especially compared to Volusion V2. Shopify is the way to go.
Approach to Design
Both Shopify and Volusion use a system of themes/templates for design. You select a base theme and then edit it to look as you like.
While the end result is the same, they do take a slightly different approach.
Shopify has a well-developed “Theme Store” which, like their App Store, has a wide selection of free and premium themes made by companies, individuals, and Shopify.
Shopify’s backend allows you to make changes to the theme. You can do it via drag and drop or via a hybrid approach to editing. Small customizations (colors, logos, etc) require just a click while bigger changes (layout, widgets, etc) require editing Shopify’s custom Liquid language. Here’s Shopify’s drag and drop tool.
Volusion has a Theme Store as well. You can edit the themes also. But, like the App Stores, there’s really no contest against Shopify. Here’s Volusion’s Theme Store.
Overall, I think most store owners will find more flexibility with Shopify’s approach to design. You’ll also have more choices for a pre-built theme or design with Shopify.
Shopify vs. Volusion Conclusion & Next Steps
So Shopify vs. Volusion – who is a better fit for who? If you have time – I’d actually recommend doing a free trial (no credit card required) with both and just clicking around.