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BigCommerce vs Volusion vs Shopify – 2014 Comparison Guide

For years, choosing the right shopping cart platform for an e-commerce website has been a challenge that entrepreneurs have always had to grapple with. Unless you plan on spinning up your own custom solution, you essentially have three options worth considering: VolusionBigCommerce and Shopify. As they’re constantly changing and evolving, it can be difficult to know how well each stacks up. This makes pairing the right e-commerce shopping cart with any given scenario particularly troublesome. Whether you’re building an e-commerce site from the ground up or renovating an existing installation, the following comparison will clear things up.

Core Functionality

Volusion

As you’d expect, Volusion boasts an easy-to-use website builder that allows users to quickly assemble a fully functioning store in minutes. With more than 120 free themes to choose from, customization is a breeze. Volusion is a fully-hosted solution that takes the headache out of setting up servers, SSL certificates and email accounts. Thanks to the robust Akamai CDN, a Volusion e-commerce installation is incredibly fast. It’s also quite easy to administer inventory with the proprietary Smart Match technology. For a more in-depth rundown of Volusion’s primary features, check out our earlier review.
Points: 2

BigCommerce

On the user-friendliness front, BigCommerce doesn’t put many obstacles in the way of beginners that are just getting started. Their website builder and its guided installation wizard are straightforward enough for even the least tech-savvy merchants. Once you sign up, you’ll find that BigCommerce has everything you’ll need to get an e-commerce shop launched in minutes. You get a domain name, hosting, email accounts and a scad of online marketing tools with your chosen plan. For small to medium-sized businesses that want a ton of functionality as well as flexibility, BigCommerce is difficult to pass up.
Points: 3

Shopify

The primary difference between Shopify and its rivals is a holistic approach to e-commerce. From day one, their goal has been to deliver the e-commerce equivalent of WordPress. As a hosted e-commerce CMS, it boasts powerful blogging capabilities that augment its considerable transaction-handling firepower. As intuitive as the setup process is, the back-end admin panel is just as easy to navigate. Thanks to slick inventory management, shipping notifications and order tracking, doing business with Shopify is a dream. Furthermore, the App Store and Theme Store make customization a breeze. Shopify even has its own payment gateway.
Points: 3

Store Customization

Volusion

In the design department, Volusion is great thanks to the professional look it can deliver right out of the box. With so many free polished themes to choose from, it’s easy to switch up the look of your store with just a few mouse clicks. If you feel like diving a bit deeper, you can tweak HTML and CSS markup on the fly as needed to make your layout truly unique. If you don’t want to sweat the design details yourself, you can hire a professional affiliated with Volusion to do it for you.
Points: 2

BigCommerce

Above and beyond the default layout, there are plenty of ways to improve your store’s look in short order. Within the extensive template library, you’ll find more than 100 ways to easily personalize your shopping cart. As with Volusion, installing a new theme is a simple matter thanks to BigCommerce’s intuitive back-end admin panel. If you need to craft a distinctive design in a hurry, you can always take a free theme and tinker with the HTML and CSS. For truly unique themes, you can always hire a BigCommerce Expert that specializes in web designs and layouts.
Points: 2

Shopify

To put your own personal stamp on your store, Shopify has the Theme Store ready and waiting to make your design dreams come to fruition. With more than 100 themes, many of which are free to download, the Theme Store allows shop owners to quickly attain the right look for their stores. There are loads of suggestions for your store based on your niche, including everything from electronics to clothing and fashion. For greater customization, you can manually edit HTML and CSS markup as well as upload third-party font packs, brand logos and images as needed.
Points: 2

Extensibility & Add-Ons

Volusion

Volusion makes it easy to add extra functionality thanks to its rich ecosystem of optional plugins. Everything from MailChimp to Authorize.Net can be quickly added to your store by simply visiting the Volusion App Marketplace and downloading the appropriate plugin. Thanks to Volusion’s bevy of third-party Partners, there’s little that can’t be achieved with a default installation if you’re willing to poke around a bit for the right tools. If you have a development problem that can’t be addressed with an available app, the Volusion API makes it fairly easy to craft a custom solution.
Points: 3

BigCommerce

Like its competitors, BigCommerce boasts tons of add-ons that can be installed via a specialty app market. BigCommerce Apps include Constant Contact, Ordoro and FreshBooks, to name just a few. Though there are apps for pretty much any service you can think of, you may need to spin up a custom solution to a problem. If so, the BigCommerce Developer Portal should be able to provide you with all the tools you’ll need to create custom apps. Thanks to the popularity of the platform, it’s easy to find third-party developers that are familiar with BigCommerce.
Points: 3

Shopify

As you might expect, Shopify has its own one-stop shop for add-ons called the Shopify App Store. Within the App Store, you’ll find an app for everything from social media marketing to inventory management. Popular plugins include Facebook StoreShipStationMapify and Chimpified, to name just a few. If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty with some code, the Shopify API will enable you to slap on any needed functionality not covered by existing apps. Shopify’s own development forums are a tremendous resource for advice from fellow developers when customizing a stock storefront installation.
Points: 2

Customer Support

Volusion

Especially in the early stages of your store’s existence, it’s important to have solid customer support to iron out any wrinkles that might crop up. Volusion manages to deliver strong customer service and technical support that rival the offerings of BigCommerce or Shopify. If you run into trouble, you can always call up a phone support technician as long as you have your store ID handy. Alternatively, there’s email, traditional support tickets and live chat. In addition, Volusion’s Knowledge Base features tons of helpful documentation. For particularly vexing problems, you can always try Volusion Experts for one-on-one assistance. Still, as we explained in last year’s review, users continue to have mixed reviews on Volusion support, so it’s far from perfect.
Points: 2

BigCommerce

BigCommerce manages to provide a broad range of excellent real-world customer support. Whether you prefer email, live web chat or 24/7 phone support, they’ve got you covered. Calling up the toll-free number will put you in touch with one of their many technical experts. A nice feature of BigCommerce’s support lineup is the Success Squad, which is dedicated to helping beginners get their stores up and running. There are also loads of documentation, a ton of video tutorials and community forums to help you work out your problems. In addition, BigCommerce even holds regularly scheduled webinars and online workshops for store owners.
Points: 2

Shopify

The depth and breadth of Shopify’s support options are some of its most compelling selling points. Besides its automated Q&A search functionality for sifting through documentation, there’s also email, live web chat and 24/7 phone assistance. One thing that sets Shopify apart is its one-on-one mentoring provided by the Guru program. When you sign up for a Shopify plan, you’re assigned your own “Guru” that will guide you through the setup process as well as any other problems that may arise. Lastly, the Shopify Manual covers pretty much any question you might have regarding storefront configuration.
Points: 3

Pricing & Value

Volusion

Before signing up for any Volusion plan, you should check out their 14-day free trial to get a sense of how the service works in everyday operation. Once you’re ready to proceed with a live store, you can choose from the Mini, Plus, Pro and Premium plans. Mini starts at $15 per month, boasts 1GB of bandwidth and supports up to 100 products. The popular Pro plan is $75 per month, comes with 10GB of bandwidth and supports up to 10,000 products. All plans feature unlimited storage, zero transaction fees and free 24/7 technical support.
Points: 3

BigCommerce

All in all, BigCommerce boasts some of the best pricing out there when you consider what you get for the money. Available e-commerce hosting plans include Silver, Gold or Platinum. If the standard plans don’t do it for you, a custom Enterprise Plan can be crafted to provide extra horsepower. The entry-level Silver plan starts you off with 5GB of storage, unlimited bandwidth and support for unlimited products for just $34.95 per month. The most popular Gold plan kicks things up a notch with unlimited storage, a slew of SEO tools, Abandoned Cart Saver and more for just $79.95 per month.
Points: 3

Shopify

There are essentially three plans offered by Shopify: Basic, Professional and Unlimited. For $29 per month, Basic provides users with 1GB of storage space, 2.9% + 30¢ credit card rates, unlimited bandwidth and support for unlimited products. The more popular Professional package, which will run you $79 per month, ups the ante with 5GB of storage, 2.5% + 30¢ credit card rates and abandoned cart recovery functionality. If you need something very simple to get started, Starter is a mere $14 per month. For clients with high-volume businesses, Shopify offers the more advantageous Plus plan.
Points: 1

Notable New Features

Volusion

One of Volusion’s primary claims to fame is their tireless effort to improve their service. As such, new features are constantly being added. If you haven’t checked out Volusion’s feature roster in awhile, the most prominent new features would probably be the revamped mobile capabilities. Besides a completely redesigned mobile checkout and native mobile apps, Volusion has made it easier than ever for store owners to edit their mobile layouts. Tapping into the burgeoning mobile market is vital to the growth of many an e-commerce store nowadays. Consequently, Volusion’s dedication to mobile perfection is laudable.

Aside from upgrades in the mobile realm, Volusion has also added a few new payment improvements. Chief among these are Stripe integration as well as support for PayPal Express. The latter is a godsend for merchants that derive much of their revenue from mobile users. While Volusion’s existing payment gateway options are quite expansive, these two additions to the lineup are especially welcome. Stripe features roughly the same commission structure as PayPal and can make mobile commerce particularly frictionless. Add that payment option diversity to the default Amazon integration of Volusion’s upper-end plans and you’ve got quite a potent combination.

Last but not least, Volusion has upped its game in the customer service department by streamlining the product shipment process. The all-new, completely redesigned Shipping page makes life a lot easier for both merchants and consumers alike. Sellers can now exclude certain geographic regions from their shipping range, which allows for easy market segmentation. Meanwhile, buyers can rank shipping methods based on which is the least expensive during checkout. This helps them to strike the right balance between shipping time and cost. The major upside for merchants is that this functionality can dramatically boost sales by reducing shipping-related sticker shock.
Points: 3

BigCommerce

BigCommerce has always been quite robust, which is a result of its long and storied history as an all-in-one e-commerce engine. However, the inclusion of built-in blogging capabilities has been conspicuously absent from its feature list until now. Finally, BigCommerce can boast integrated blogging functionality courtesy of IntuitSolutions. In the past, users had to tack on a WordPress or Blogger installation to post new content to their store sites. Though still in its early stages, the new blogging functionality is a step up from the old “News” section that BigCommerce was once limited to for blogging purposes.

Like Volusion, BigCommerce has made great strides in the last year when it comes to making mobile e-commerce more seamless. In particular, the new Stripe integration is a great leap forward for merchants looking to expand their reach around the world. It allows businesses to accept payments from over 130 countries. Stripe’s one-click payment functionality makes buying online about as easy as can be. Paired with the best-in-class Abandoned Shopping Cart of BigCommerce, Stripe ensures that potential sales opportunities aren’t squandered. In addition, BigCommerce also accepts PayPal Express as well as more obscure gateways like Braintree, SecurePay, IntelliPay and NoChex.

Besides blogging and payment gateways, BigCommerce added loads of little features over the past year or two that have brought it into the future incrementally. If you haven’t checked out their roster of new capabilities in a bit, some of the changes may surprise you. BigCommerce now has social order sharing, automatic product review reminders, Quickbooks integration and Pinterest integration. Better yet, BigCommerce now features advanced in-store search by default that allows customers to peruse your wares based on highly specific parameters. All in all, these changes make BigCommerce one of the most capable e-commerce platforms out of the box.
Points: 3

Shopify

Shopify’s most noticeable improvements in recent months have been in the payments department. As of August 2013, store owners have access to Shopify Payments, which allows for the acceptance of all major credit cards without having to rely on a third-party payment gateway. Even more exciting is the new Shopify POS system. Much like Square, it’s a way to accept payments offline using a dedicated card reader that plugs into a smartphone or tablet. In a nutshell, Shopify POS allows merchants to track and analyze financial transactions wherever they occur from one simple, unified e-commerce command center.

Shopify has also made great strides lately when it comes to boosting sales for its merchants. The most important new feature in this regard is Abandoned Checkout Recovery, which allows store owners to send automated emails to potential customers who’ve abandoned shopping carts for one reason or another. As many e-commerce entrepreneurs can attest, this approach yields surprising dividends. In addition, Shopify now boasts an Advanced Report Builder that simplifies the process of creating detailed conversion reports. By studying the data, merchants can boost their overall conversion rates by segmenting their customers based on location, buying habits and related items.

While those payment and conversion improvements are impressive, they’re eclipsed by Shopify Mobile. In conjunction with the aforementioned Shopify Payments, Shopify Mobile makes accepting payments in the field a piece of cake. It also allows merchants to oversee their e-commerce affairs from their phones. You can receive order notifications, manage your inventory and make price changes instantly. Beyond those mobile upgrades, Shopify has also added unlimited email forwarding. This means that merchants can send out unique branded emails that put a professional face on their businesses’ marketing. Furthermore, Shopify now allows store owners to issue their own specialty gift cards.
Points: 3

Quick Comparison Table 

– Platform – – Functionality – – Customization – – Extensions – – Support – – Value – – NewFeatures – – Total –
Volusion 2 2 3 2 3 3 15/18
BigCommerce 3 2 3 2 3 3 16/18
Shopify 3 2 2 3 1 3 14/18

 

Where Volusion Excels

The most appealing aspect of using Volusion for e-commerce is its overall value when all things are considered. Every available plan features unlimited storage, support for plenty of products for the money and tools for SEO and marketing. More importantly, Volusion doesn’t charge transaction fees. That can save you a lot of money down the road as your sales grow. Just as impressive is the sheer number of high-quality themes that are available for free. If you’re looking for a shopping cart that packs a punch at a reasonable price, Volusion is tough to beat.

Though Volusion is indeed a terrific bargain, that’s hardly the only reason to give it serious consideration. Another major strength of the platform as a whole is its easy extensibility. The vast majority of users will be able to assemble the shopping cart of their dreams in a modular fashion without ever having to dig into the Volusion API. Due to Volusion’s extensive network of partners, there aren’t that many third-party service providers that don’t have a plugin in the App Marketplace. As either a standalone storefront or an add-on to an existing site, Volusion can pretty much do everything.

Where BigCommerce Excels

In terms of overall power and functionality, BigCommerce is arguably the most capable e-commerce storefront program available when all is said and done. While that doesn’t always translate into the most user-friendly experience, BigCommerce is nevertheless pretty easy to get started with even if you’re a first-time store owner. Value is also quite excellent considering the fact that every price plan features unlimited bandwidth and reasonable storage. Thanks to its many years in business, BigCommerce is also one of the most stable and bug-free e-commerce shopping cart packages you can get your hands on at the moment.

Powerful features notwithstanding, BigCommerce’s other main strength is its ability to be molded to fit just about any scenario. Flexibility is a central tenet of their overarching philosophy of store design. The everything-but-the-kitchen sink approach makes it easy for even relatively inexperienced developers to craft the perfect store for any business regardless of size. Whether you’re running a start-up or an established bricks-and-mortar outfit expanding into e-commerce, BigCommerce is always a viable choice if you don’t mind having so many options. Most importantly, their app offerings continue to keep pace with competitors like Volusion and Shopify as new add-ons are introduced each month.

Where Shopify Excels

Few would deny that Shopify’s most appealing quality is its user-friendly approach to e-commerce storefront creation. While that ease of use does come with a price tag compared to competing platforms, small businesses that need to get up and running as quickly as possible don’t seem to mind. Another of Shopify’s main claims to fame is its high-quality hosting. Simply put, Shopify sites are incredibly fast. When you’re trying to retain sales, every fraction of a second counts. Ultimately, keeping page load times to a minimum is the best way to reduce checkout bounce rates.

One area where Shopify manages to beat the competition is web design, at least insofar as out-of-the-box functionality is concerned. Shopify makes it quite easy to achieve a highly professional look for your store quickly thanks to the polished free templates available from the Theme Store. While Volusion and BigCommerce are as flexible as Shopify in the design department, they require a little more effort for beginners. If you’re not interested in playing around with HTML and CSS to get a particular look, Shopify’s many theme options allow you to put together something that looks amazing with very little effort.

Who’s It For?

While our scoring table is designed to give you a quick comparison of the three platforms, it doesn’t provide the details behind it.  As you can see, each platform has its own unique traits and benefits that are best suited for certain types of customers

Volusion

Though Volusion has a lot going for it, it’s not necessarily the best choice for very small operations. It’s more of a higher-end solution for businesses that boast decent sales volumes and have extensive product listings. The unlimited storage of Volusion is a definite godsend if you’ve got extensive inventory to manage. More importantly, Volusion is a good fit for businesses that have higher than average profit margins. Basically, it’s ideal for medium-sized SMBs that ship their own merchandise. However, Volusion is flexible enough to be appropriate for a wide variety of businesses in many disparate industries.

BigCommerce

In many ways, BigCommerce is the Goldilocks of hosted e-commerce platforms. It’s the most comprehensive of the three big e-commerce shopping carts, which explains why it’s so popular among businesses of all sizes. BigCommerce also tends to deliver the best value for the average online business. The unlimited bandwidth that comes with any of BigCommerce’s plans will save high-volume businesses a lot of money. That’s not to say that it’s without its flaws. The default blogging capabilities of BigCommerce aren’t nearly as comprehensive as Shopify’s, for instance. However, most of its limited drawbacks are easily rectified with third-party apps.

Shopify

Though it’s used by many high-profile brands and companies, Shopify is best known as a favorite of the upstart SMB and the mom-and-pop shop. It’s the perfect choice for beginner store owners that want to do everything themselves but don’t have the technical know-how to dive deeply into development. Naturally, you’ll pay a bit more for that user-friendliness in terms of transaction processing costs and monthly hosting fees. If you’d like a gorgeous e-commerce storefront right off the bat and plan on using extensive content marketing to promote your business online, Shopify makes a whole lot of sense.

Putting It All in Perspective

When all is said and done, any of these comprehensive shopping cart solutions can be a good fit depending on what you’re looking for. The key to picking an appropriate e-commerce platform is knowing where you are and where you plan on going in terms of the size and scope of your business. Considering this crucial variable at the outset will make the transition to another cart later on easier if the situation warrants it. If you go into the decision-making process with a plan, any of these e-commerce services can fit the bill.

Do you agree with our assessment?  Do you want to share your experience with one of these e-commerce platforms?  Or any questions we might answer?  Please leave your comments and questions below!

Also, once you choose your platform, be sure to download our free white papers to give your new e-commerce store a leg up: