3dcart vs Volusion: Two Sides of the Same E-Commerce Coin
More so than the battle between popular CMS engines like Drupal and WordPress, the war of E-commerce platforms is as vicious as can be. We’re all familiar with hosted e-commerce mainstays like Shopify, BigCommerce and Prestashop as well as DIY options like Magento. These are the giants of the industry. However, there are plenty of other shopping cart solutions worth a look. Volusion and 3dcart, for instance, are highly popular options that demand some attention. Supporting tens of thousands of high-profile shops across the web, both platforms have a lot going for them and deserve some respect from prospective e-commerce website builders.
Choosing a Hosted E-commerce Provider
Before you settle on a particular e-commerce solution and hitch your wagon to it for the long haul, you should consider a number of different factors when making a decision. Generally speaking, the size and complexity of your website and your business will be the greatest determinants. Cost and overall value are the other major considerations to mull over. Before you choose between Volusion and 3dcart, you’ll need to explore the many pros and cons of both. As it turns out, the decision isn’t nearly as clear-cut as one might think.
Primary Feature Overview
Let’s kick off the proceedings by looking at Volusion’s bona fides. Essentially, Volusion offers a comprehensive e-commerce platform that can integrate seamlessly with any existing site or be the springboard to a brand-new portal. The centerpiece of Volusion is the Easy Editor, which allows you to create a full-featured site from one location. Thanks to its integrated Facebook Social Store, default email marketing system, SEO-friendly configuration and an intuitive back-end, its learning curve is fairly shallow when you consider its power. It also boasts a blogging engine, domain name finder and more. If you need an all-in-one solution with over 100 free templates for customization, Volusion fits the bill excellently.
In addition to its foolproof user interface, Volusion boasts a built-in product comparison tool that makes shopping far easier for your customers. In particular, its vZoom technology allows users to get an in-depth look at their purchases before they actually buy. Also, Volusion lets webmasters upload as many pictures of merchandise as they want for a comprehensive experience. On-page add-to-cart functionality keeps the buying experience as seamless as possible. More than that, the Social Store Builder and SmartMatch technologies make it a powerful way to up-sell real buyers in the middle of their shopping experience.
In terms of security, Volusion is a nearly impervious platform that’s Visa Credit & PCI-Certified. Protected by bulletproof 128-bit SSL encryption, it allows website admins to sleep well at night by ensuring that their security and that of their customers is safe. Written in ASP/VBScript, it’s got a rich community of developers backing it up. Payments can be handled with Authorize.net, PayPal and a host of other choices, giving users flexibility as far as the purchase options are concerned. One can even configure tax settings via Volusion’s handy back-end. Last but not least, various item shipping options can be set with the click of a button.
When it first came about back in 1997, 3dcart was a custom e-commerce solution that wasn’t publicly available. Since then, it’s matured into one of the greatest e-commerce engines on the market. 3dcart is all about providing an easy backdrop for designing your own pages in whatever form they may happen to take. Organizing products in various ways via Smart Categories is an absolute breeze. As for refining the consumer experience, their 3dZoom feature allows you to add loads of thumbnail images to product listings and customize how users size up your offerings as they peruse merchandise.
The real meat of the 3dcart sandwich is the default drag-and-drop functionality. It makes shop design about as much of a no-brainer as you’ll get in the e-commerce world. There’s also scores of free and custom templates to play with. Using 3dcart’s Quick Edit Bar, reconfiguring various layouts and site designs is a cakewalk. Furthermore, in-page shopping is greatly assisted by soft add-on functionality, which allows customers to drop new items into the final checkout basket without interrupting one’s browsing flow. 3dcart also makes the implementation of Daily Deals, Group Deals and a wide array of additional coupons effortless.
For the most part, 3dcart’s under-the-hood technical features aren’t something that most people have to worry about in the long run. Regardless, over 50 different kinds of payment gateways are available to shopping cart developers. While POS systems aren’t baked into the cake per se, plugging in various processors is fairly trivial. Thanks to a mature code base, 3dcart is remarkably stable and responsive no matter what gateway you decide on for transactions. More impressively, predictive search a.k.a. Quick Search makes sifting through your various product options easier than ever. They also provide hosting, SSL certificates and more.
Ease of Installation & Setup
For the most part, Volusion deserves high marks for its clear-cut installation process. Basically, all you have to do to get started with Volusion is sign up and get to work. Setting up your Volusion shop and tweaking your settings is almost laughably simple and straightforward. The setup wizard explains the ins and outs of adding products and categorizing them for a basic e-commerce shop. However, fine-tuning more specific aesthetic settings is a bit tougher. Still, if you’re knowledgeable in the disciplines of HTML5 and CSS3, creating the exact look that you’re shooting for won’t be that rough. All in all, the installation and configuration of a Volusion shop isn’t difficult.
3dcart happens to be just as easy to install and configure as Volusion, although the technical aspects such as provisioning your payment processors is a bit more difficult. What’s nice about 3dcart is that it’s more of a blank slate than Volusion when it comes to creating a unique look, which is key when it comes to establishing a lasting first impression. Furthermore, a fresh 3dcart install has the advantage of presenting a cleaner UI for those who aren’t that familiar with e-commerce portals. The aforementioned Quick Edit Bar in particular makes the first few artistic decisions you’ll want to make a total cinch.
Extensibility & Configuration
Taking a stock Volusion e-commerce shop and expanding its possibilities is pretty easy due to its default support for most of the capabilities users are looking for. It features YouTube integration that’s effortless, built-in gift registries and more. Available resources that guide you through the process of modifying a template and reshaping it exactly as you’d like are quite comprehensive. In addition, slapping on extras like auto-responders is trivial. You can also use plugins to incorporate Volusion into a WordPress site if you so choose. Its ecosystem is versatile enough to handle all manner of permutations, which makes e-commerce design reasonably headache-free overall.
Regardless of how much built-in functionality any platform might have, it’s tough to compete with 3dcart on the flexibility front. It more than rivals Volusion insofar as the ability to pick and choose features to include goes. Its add-ons include Live Chat, Web Statistics and ROI tracking, to name just a few. More importantly, 3dcart is specifically configured to handle Quicken integration, which makes bookkeeping all the more effective. Also, 3dcart allows more technically inclined users to delve into its innovative API and really customize the hell out of an already flexible system.
Marketing, Branding & SEO
Getting found in the organic search engine results is of paramount importance nowadays, and your e-commerce platform can have a lot to do with making it happen. Volusion boasts numerous tools to make sure that occurs. For starters, it’s engineered from the ground up to adhere to the latest SEO standards for Google success. Also, it sports features such as Deal of the Day and Sell on Ebay that enable e-commerce businesses to extend their reach into all parts of the web. With Volusion, customers can build their own customized Wish Lists and marketers can use the built-in email marketing system to promote their wares.
While it’s true that 3dcart lacks a robust spam email filter, their marketing, branding and SEO tools are still formidable selling points. For starters, 3dcart’s Storefront Design feature assists webmasters in creating a shop that’s geared for success with minimal effort. Its Product Management utilities also help to automatically arrange your inventory for the best results. Better yet, its dynamic back-end SEO engine spits out URLs, meta tags and XML sitemaps that are specifically tuned for the highest SERPs rankings. In addition, 3dcart’s mCommerce tools make mobile selling as easy as can be regardless of whether customers are using Android or iOS.
Pricing & Fees
Pricing plans come in a variety of levels, ranging from Mini to Platinum. They’ll cost you anywhere from $9 to $149 per month. The Mini plan supports 25 products, delivers 1GB of data transfer per month and provides access to the vaunted Facebook Store feature. The Platinum plan offers unlimited products, 20GB of data a month and all the bells and whistles that Volusion has to offer. Regardless of which plan you choose, you’ll get some form of technical support as well as the stellar software that’s the backbone of the Volusion ecosystem.
The pricing scheme of 3dcart is just as much of a bargain as Volusion’s, with a few differences. Starting at$19.99 and ranging up to $99.99 per month, 3dcart has a tighter spread between its beginner and premium packages. Considering the fact that 3dcart’s Professional Plus Plan includes unlimited products, unlimited storage, a relatively high data cap at 20GB and all manner of 24/7 support options, it’s pretty competitive in the value department. As long as you don’t need to support truly massive traffic numbers, 3dcart is a very compelling option for most e-commerce storefronts.
Technical Support and Assistance
As for technical assistance, Volusion provides 24/7 support to customers in a number of ways. You can get online support, phone assistance and priority support depending on the plan you choose. In addition, their Ecommerce for Dummies: Volusion Special Edition e-book is a fantastic resource for those who really like to dig into the fine print. The company currently offers the book free to clients who purchase the software. Even better, their e-commerce blog is a virtual cornucopia of valuable, timely advice that assists users in making their e-commerce shops successful.
Unfortunately, 3dcart doesn’t have the greater resources of Volusion to address customer service concerns. It’s one of the few weak marks on 3dcart’s reputation. Still, that’s not to say that they don’t offer respectable support for major problems. Rather, it’s that they’re not as hands-on as Volusion. If you run into issues with 3dcart that aren’t covered in their excellent documentation and need step-by-step assistance, you can use their 24/7 phone support to troubleshoot any problems that arise. It’s at least reassuring that 3dcart has been progressively improving their customer relations and working towards providing the best technical support in the e-commerce industry.
The Final Straw
Considering how evenly matched Volusion and 3dcart are overall, it’s nearly impossible to make a recommendation for everyone. Let’s look at the drawbacks rather than the advantages of each platform. Volusion takes an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach, but doesn’t really offer a lot of flexibility outside of a set template. While 3dcart does manage to deliver more options and flexibility in many respects, it does require more configuration and tweaking for various services. Clearly, the choice between the two is a tough one, so let’s clarify it a bit.
Choosing the right E-commerce program for your business is one of the most important decisions any entrepreneur will have to make. If you value ease of use and don’t mind having less leeway as far as customization is concerned, then Volusion is for you. If you’re more adventurous, desire a high degree of customization and aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty, then 3dcart is the e-commerce engine you’ll want. Ultimately, the right e-commerce platform for you depends on your circumstances, so weigh the pros and cons of each carefully before you commit to either.