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Volusion vs BigCommerce vs Shopify – A Detailed Review for 2013

Even experienced web developers will readily admit that deploying a full-fledged e-commerce storefront can quickly become a complicated nightmare. Shopping cart solutions like Magento and Prestashop can take weeks of hassle and development time to integrate into an existing website. Oftentimes, it makes a lot more sense to opt for an all-in-one e-commerce solution when putting together an online shop. Comprehensive hosted e-commerce services take a lot of the headache out of the equation, which is why they’re so popular with both amateur developers and professionals alike. Finding the right tool for the job, however, can be daunting.

Choosing a Hosted E-commerce Provider

First off, consider the size of the business that your shopping cart will need to accommodate. You’ll have to base your decision to some degree on the size of your business’s operations. If you don’t expect to grow beyond a certain number of sales per month or support more than a certain number of customers, the issue of scalability factors into the decision less when you’re window shopping for a hosted e-commerce system. If you’ve set your sights on limitless growth, you’ll need a hosted e-commerce program that can grow with your business without any show-stopping hiccups.

Next, you’ll need to think about ease of use and administration on the back end. Not all hosted e-commerce solutions are created equal when it comes to user-friendliness. Even though the entire point of such programs is to facilitate the easiest setup and management possible, no service can make every conceivable tweak a push-button affair. If you’ll need highly customized designs and functionality, think about how expensive it will be to hire a professional to do the work if a plugin or theme isn’t available. Before pulling the trigger on any system, review how flexible it is in terms of design and configuration.

Last but not least, one must consider price and value. This isn’t entirely a cut-and-dry issue based strictly on dollars and cents. What looks like a good deal on paper may not seem like such a bargain further on down the line. Identifying the best bargain for your specific circumstances requires you to carefully research each feature of a number of competing hosted e-commerce platforms and compare their respective pricing structures before taking the plunge. For the first-time entrepreneur or small-scale startup, getting the best deal on a hosted e-commerce platform is the most vital consideration.

While there are dozens of solid shopping cart systems available online, the market is dominated by three highly respected programs. These are Shopify, Volusion and Bigcommerce, each of which brings quite a bit to the table in terms of functionality and value. Each platform has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the right program for your particular situation will depend on the factors alluded to above. The following in-depth analysis should make the decision a little easier. We’ve take the trouble of ranking various aspects of each platform on a scale of 1 to 5 to indicate overall relative quality.

Primary Feature Overview

Shopify

In many ways, Shopify is kind of like the WordPress of hosted e-commerce installations. It’s both feature-rich and incredibly easy to use, allowing merchants to quickly configure their online shops as they see fit. Shopify’s versatile drag-and-drop functionality allows for hassle-free creation of product pages and collections. It can also be used to publish articles and blog posts, making it a full-fledged CMS as well as a shopping cart. Shopify supports payment processing via PayPal, Google Checkout and every major credit cart by default. Thanks to its solid foundation built on the excellent Ruby on Rails framework, it’s responsive, stable and secure all at the same time.

Shopify also makes branding and promotion fairly painless, thanks to its robust SEO tools. Featuring keyword tag suggestion utilities, the expected XML Sitemap engine and a whole lot more, it’s quite adept at getting your online shop found quickly. Additionally, Shopify boasts automated backups, a stellar Content Delivery Network and 128-bit SSL encryption. Regardless of how expansive or complicated your online store happens to be, you won’t have to worry about the integrity of your data with Shopify. Most importantly, Shopify doesn’t rest on its laurels and is constantly rolling out new features like Free Shipping coupons that continue to improve the platform as a whole.
Score: 4

Volusion

Volusion ReviewsAs with the other web-based e-commerce platforms detailed here, Volusion abstracts away the back-end code and makes site administration about as easy as can be. Written in ASP.NET, Volusion is a Windows-based e-commerce system that’s simultaneously powerful and user-friendly. Its one-page checkout format is the stuff of legends. Like Shopify, Volusion offers SSL certificates and payment processing. It’s 100 percent PCI compliant, boasts unlimited product listings and is backed by a hardy CDN running on the Akamai network that ensures reliable shopping cart performance under any circumstances.

Volusion places an emphasis on presentation, delivering a superlative end user experience that leads to higher conversions than many competing shopping cart platforms. Thanks to the vZoom image resizing feature, potential customers who are browsing your inventory can get an up-close look at your products. It also boasts built-in product comparison for easier shopping and decision making. Volusion comes equipped with intelligent inventory tracking via their SmartMatch technology. Other notable bonuses include advanced analytics and ROI tracking as well as affiliate program management tools. Furthermore, theme layouts are optimized by default for mobile devices, and Volusion includes plenty of SEO tools for achieving high SERPs rankings.
Score: 4

BigCommerce

BigCommerce ReviewsWritten in PHP, BigCommerce should prove to be quite easy to use for those who are familiar with the LAMP stack. Users can edit HTML and CSS on the fly to change the look of their online store. Additionally, BigCommerce gives clients more than 100 different theme layouts to choose from. The included drag and drop functionality makes the design process uncomplicated and seamless, and their live demo page is a terrific source of creative inspiration. BigCommerce automatically creates product photo galleries and allows administrators to automate email marketing. Furthermore, comprehensive mobile support allows your shop to render perfectly on iPad tablets and Android phones.

As its name implies, BigCommerce takes a “batteries included” approach to shopping cart design and implementation. It can handle everything from drop shipping with Ordoro to inventory and warehouse tracking thanks to Shipwire integration. The platform saves Abandoned Cart information in the event that a customer doesn’t finish a transaction, which helps to substantially increase conversions and sales. With support for multiple currencies and numerous payment options, BigCommerce is a truly global shopping cart platform. The impressive default SEO capabilities of BigCommerce make website optimization truly effortless.
Score: 5

Ease of Installation & Setup

Shopify

When it comes to ease of installation, it’s hard to argue that Shopify is anything other than the most ridiculously simple service to set up. Even the most novice of webmasters can have a shop up and running in under 15 minutes. Once you launch the installation wizard, you’re greeted with a quick seven-step tutorial that gives you a rundown of the basics as well as tips on how to customize your site to your liking. As a hosted, cloud-based cart, you don’t have to worry about setting up SSL certificates, hosting the installation yourself or dealing with back-end code and databases.
Score: 5

Volusion

In the setup and configuration department, Volusion is every bit as intuitive and easy to use as Shopify. To get started, just select a domain name, check out the free 14-day trial, select a service plan and go through the self-guided installation process. Volusion takes care of all the details for you, making the installation process about as painless as can be. Obviously, tuning the platform to exactly suit your needs will take a bit of time and research via Volusion’s superb documentation. However, getting a basic online storefront going only takes a few minutes.
Score: 5

BigCommerce

Not every e-commerce platform can be all things to all people. BigCommerce has a lot going for it, but it’s not quite as foolproof for beginners when it comes to setup and installation. That’s not to say that it’s really difficult to work with. Regardless, it’s not quite as intuitive as Volusion or Shopify. However, anyone can work through the process in a relatively short period of time if they follow the instructions found within BigCommerce’s documentation and online support forums. Whether you’re a web development pro or merely a beginner, BigCommerce is pretty easy to figure out. Check out the 30 day free trial.
Score: 4

Extensibility & Configuration

Shopify

While the basic, default capabilities of Shopify are impressive, the available extensions that can be installed are even better. Shopify features a large App Store where users can purchase and install extra modules for added functionality. Everything from printing out FedEx shipping labels to product upselling can be accomplished with the App Store’s numerous offerings. Alternatively, web developers can utilize the full-featured Shopify API to roll their own extensions for any functionality required.
Score: 4

Volusion

Practically every hosted e-commerce shopping cart comes equipped with an app store of some sort for extending the basic functionality of the platform. Volusion gives users the ability to tack on extra features via the Volusion Exchange. In addition, store owners can integrate features from Volusion’s many e-commerce partners quickly and easily without having to shell out a fortune on plugins. Everything from QuickBooks import and export support to Grasshopper VoIP service can be installed with the click of a button.
Score: 4

BigCommerce

Much like its primary rivals, BigCommerce offers an incredibly diverse lineup of third-party plugins and modules. At present, there are over 100 extensions available that deliver Facebook integration via SocialShop 2, analytics from VisiStat and email marketing from Direct Mail Manager. Regardless of your own unique shopping cart requirements, BigCommerce provides a modular way to achieve your goals. For those who like to get their hands dirty and craft their own apps and plugins, the developer API of BigCommerce provides all the tools you’ll need.
Score: 5

Marketing, Branding & SEO

Shopify

Promoting your website is the toughest part of any successful e-commerce project. Shopify makes this portion of the journey less challenging by providing novice webmasters with all of the SEO tools they’ll need to be successful. The Shopify CMS is tuned for effective SEO right off the bat, so webmasters don’t have to sweat the small stuff like meta tags and on-page optimization factors. Over 100 site designs are available from the Theme Store. It also provides built-in Google Analytics integration, $100 worth of Google AdWords credit and capable default email marketing tools.
Score: 5

Volusion

When it comes to marketing and SEO, Volusion boasts many of the same search engine optimization tools found in Shopify and BigCommerce. Volusion also features the ability to publish newsletters, incorporate customer feedback into listings and offer a Deal of the Day to boot. The Social Store feature allows webmasters to harness the power of Facebook for pumping up sales. One major perk of Volusion is its ability to embed YouTube videos into product pages, which assists customers in making buying decisions.
Score: 5

BigCommerce

For SEO specialists, BigCommerce is a godsend when it comes to tuning an e-commerce storefront for the best possible SERPs rankings. Webmasters can choose from a number of different URL formats, manage “no follow” attributes to avoid duplicate content and intelligently generate meta tags. In addition, BigCommerce makes email marketing dead simple thanks to its superb iContact integration as well as its MailChimp support. BigCommerce also increases sales conversions with its Abandoned Cart Saver system and its wide array of payment options.
Score: 5

Pricing & Fees

Shopify

In the world of e-commerce shopping carts, convenience will ultimately cost you. Shopify can be a bit uneconomical if you’re in a low-margin industry or don’t process a large volume of transactions. Pricing across the board is easily Shopify’s weakest point. They offer four pricing plans: Basic, Professional, Business and Unlimited. The Basic plan is $29 per month, includes 1GB of storage space and supports 100 products. Unfortunately, it also charges 2 percent transaction fees. At the other end of the spectrum, the Unlimited plan is $179 per month but provides unlimited everything and features no transaction fees whatsoever. Every plan comes with unlimited bandwidth, which is a definite plus.
Score: 4

Volusion

Volusion boasts the best prices of any hosted shopping cart on the market at the moment. They offer five distinct plans ranging from the entry-level Mini package to the top of the line Platinum package. Mini begins at $15 per month and delivers 1GB of transfer bandwidth, 25 products, zero percent transaction fees and zero startup fees. Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum plans run $35, $65, $125 and $195 per month, and each plan ratchets up the included bandwidth and stock-keeping units incrementally. The best value can be had with the Gold plan, which includes 25GB of bandwidth per month and space for 5,000 products.
Score: 5

BigCommerce

As far as pricing is concerned, BigCommerce falls somewhere between Volusion and Shopify in terms of costs. They offer five price plans, starting with the Bronze package at $24.95 per month ranging up to the Diamond plan at $299.95 per month. BigCommerce doesn’t charge transaction or setup fees for any of their plans, and each comes with a $100 Google AdWords credit to get you started with PPC promotion. You’ll need to select at least the $79.95 per month Gold plan to get access to certain features like the Abandoned Cart Saver. Ultimately, BigCommerce provides the best overall value regardless of your expected sales volume.
Score: 5

Technical Support and Assistance

Shopify

Even if you’re an old hand at developing websites, it still helps to have some technical support handy if you come across a stumbling block. Shopify provides decent support via thorough online documentation, toll-free assistance numbers and the Shopify Experts program. In a nutshell, Shopify Experts is a comprehensive directory of designers, marketers, developers and other e-commerce gurus who can be hired to assist you in achieving the perfect online storefront. In addition, Shopify has some of the best community forums of any hosted shopping cart platform out there.
Score: 4

Volusion

Whereas Shopify and BigCommerce both have excellent support programs, Volusion is less than impressive in this particular department. Their 24/7 Live Chat services are to be commended, but they ultimately fall short. Volusion does host a bevy of videos and tutorials to assist you in building your store, but the company as a whole is less “hands on” when it comes to customer assistance. Clients can open up a support ticket for minor issues that don’t require immediate attention. The feedback we’ve received regarding Volusion’s support has been less than acceptable, so it may be best to approach Volusion with a technical partner like a website design company that specializes in Volusion.
Score: 2

BigCommerce

All in all, BigCommerce delivers the most helpful support of all if you need assistance troubleshooting your e-commerce shop. Their documentation is incredibly thorough, and users can get Live Chat assistance 24 hours a day during the business week. On weekends, Live Chat is available between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Central time on Saturdays and 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Central time on Sundays. Users can also contact a toll-free technical support line during daytime hours or submit a support ticket for immediate help from BigCommerce’s well-trained staff.
Score: 5

Weaknesses & Drawbacks

Shopify

Easily the most glaring disadvantage of Shopify is the 2 percent transaction fee per purchase of the base plan. Unlike its competitors, Shopify takes a cut of the action unless you are willing to pay a lot for the most expensive plan available. In addition, some of the optional third-party apps are on the expensive side. The back-of-the-envelope arithmetic doesn’t work out for vendors with lower margins and volume. Keep this in mind when you’re planning an e-commerce site for the long haul.

Beyond financial considerations, potential buyers should also be aware of Shopify’s limits on the number of products supported in cheaper plans. Another problem is its relatively pedestrian social media integration and cross-platform support, which can occasionally be patchy. Nowadays, social media and mobile marketing are the keys to promoting any brand online. An e-commerce site should display flawlessly on any device whether it’s a smartphone or a PC. As it stands, Shopify’s mobile and social capabilities could be better.
Score: 3

Volusion

The greatest drawback of Volusion is customer support. Many users are less than satisfied with the responsiveness of the company as far as addressing concerns goes. As alluded to previously, Live Chat support isn’t always helpful and responses to complaint tickets can take a long time to come. If nothing major goes awry and you know how to troubleshoot most issues as they arise, this shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Most users, however, would prefer that their hosted e-commerce service provider make hands-on support a priority just in case.

The other major weakness of Volusion is the fact that their framework isn’t as flexible as BigCommerce. While tweaks can be achieved with enough work, messing around in the back end can break functionality in unexpected ways. Furthermore, their entry-level Mini plan is severely limited. The design capabilities of Volusion leave a lot to be desired if you really need something custom. Lastly, users must buy their own SSL certificates to process credit cards, which means an extra $80 – $1000/year at the minimum in addition to your monthly bill.
Score: 2

BigCommerce

As far as disadvantages are concerned, BigCommerce has the fewest issues with technical support, performance and reliability. Still, that doesn’t make it perfect. For one thing, it takes more effort to come up with a unique design due to the utilitarian default templates. Again, setting up a BigCommerce site isn’t quite as simple as with Shopify, even though it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work through the process. However, this point is partially negated by BigCommerce’s excellent customer service delivered via a number of different avenues.

Besides the mildly more complicated setup, BigCommerce suffers from the same beginner plan limitations of most hosted e-commerce platforms. You get what you pay for, after all. Probably the most vexing thing to those not familiar with BigCommerce going in is the extra legwork required to add certain capabilities to any given shopping cart. Fortunately, it’s possible to take advantage of the rich plugin ecosystem available to BigCommerce users to enable any desired functionality.
Score: 4

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Obviously, the right hosted e-commerce platform for your online business will depend heavily on a number of different factors. It’s tough to give catchall advice on which system to choose that will be widely applicable to every scenario. However, some basic generalizations can be made based on the above information. If you’re looking for simplicity over total features, the best choice is Shopify. If you’d like to find a happy medium between customization and ease of use, Volusion is a solid option. If you need a hosted e-commerce CMS that can handle everything you throw at it, BigCommerce is undoubtedly the best option.

The Wrap

Picking the best hosted shopping cart program for your project is just the beginning. Once you’ve made your decision, you’ll need to leverage the built-in features of your chosen platform to make your shop a success and perhaps engage a marketing firm. Fortunately, each of the aforementioned e-commerce systems boasts plenty of documentation and support to help you ensure that your store eventually thrives. These hosted e-commerce platforms are the best of the best, and it’s difficult to go wrong regardless of which one you eventually select. With the right hosted e-commerce system, your vision can be achieved with the minimum of pain and frustration.  Your business goals and resources will be the ultimate guide in deciding on an ecommerce platform.  We tend to lean towards BigCommerce in most cases because in the big picture they offer all the functionality you need, a reliable platform and good all around support to back things up.

What are your thoughts? Do you have experience with any of these? Questions we might answer? Please leave your comments and questions below!

  • Fran

    Great recap. How would you say CoreCommerce compares? I’ve had a webstore for 7 years now that’s growing nicely. I outgrew my first Frankenstein site a while ago, and recently re-launched my website using Prestashop with some added modules, and I wish I hadn’t. I’m a Mac person, focused more on the design side of things, so I feel overwhelmed and frustrated that every developer I’ve worked with snubs Mac, tells me how messed up whatever the previous developer did is, and recommends a different direction. I want to migrate to a reliable platform with a beautiful template that is easy to maintain myself. I have under 100 products, most physical but also an app tool that’s subscriber-based. I also need a streamlined shipping system that includes pre-paid label printing (none of the PS modules or 3rd party sources I’ve found offer batch printing for Mac). I respect your perspective, and I’d love your thoughts.

    • Hi Fran,

      I would say CoreCommerce is right up there feature-wise but I can’t speak much about it specifically since we don’t run into it all that much. Both BigCommerce and Volusion will handle your subscription needs, or you may simply want to integrate one of those with a billing software like Freshbooks depending on how you manage your subscribers vs physical good purchases. Any of the 3 platforms can be customized to look great. If you’re looking to do it yourself, you’ll just need to dive into the knowledge base of one of the platforms and familiarize yourself with the platform. You can always just hollar if you’d like a quote from us, or check out http://www.leapgo.com/ecommerce-design-packages/ for some ideas on pricing. Thanks for chiming in!

  • Imajize

    Hey Jason, thanks for the extremely thorough article. We’ve got a few customers who weren’t sure about their current eCommerce platform, so I did some searching and found the write up you did. It’s ultra informative! I emailed them the link to your site – I don’t want to take all the credit 😉

    While I’m on the topic, I thought you might be able to offer some advice for my company. Do you think you could offer your 2 cents on this? Our company is a hosted publishing platform for 360 views of products. Replacing the standard product image with our 360 viewer (which is basically an iframe) requires making a plugin for each eCommerce platform. There are A LOT of hosted platforms out there, so we have to be careful with which ones we first develop plugins for. Do you have any recommendations? We’re thinking of starting with Shopify because we already have a good number of clients that use it. Any suggestions?

    • Hi @ee00cb454f9fe84ae57934a899f9bc42:disqus and thanks for your kinds words. As for your decision, I’d go with Shopify first for sure if you have some existing clients. Getting paid clients that can use and test the software, and hopefully refer more business is definitely the avenue I’d pursue first. After that, I’d reach out to all the potential platforms. You’ll find some support their developer networks more than others. Get yourself some contacts at each of the vendors, run your ideas past them and see who’s the most receptive. Obviously your plugin can benefit them all but you’ll have a good indication where to start after a few conversations. Best of luck and be sure to post your plugin here s our community can check it out also!

  • Mir Khan

    Hey Jason,I am brick and mortar furniture store,looking for high visibility At this point we are not looking to sell online but to have solid visibility.Which one you think best fits our needs?

    • You’ll definitely want a platform that supports adding products but not allowing online purchase. I know BigCommerce does this and I think the others do as well. If you don’t need an ecommerce type layout you’d probably be much better off with a wordpress site and a premium theme. You can also use plugins like WooCommerce to add ecommerce capabilities in the future.

  • Roxbourne

    The SSL Certificate we use for Volusion is £65 per YEAR, not monthly. There are however other ones at a higher price. Its certainly not ever $80 a month.

    • @334ab1261ca65600d7e616197a7edd47:disqus Thanks for pointing this out. We reworded it to make it more clear it’s an annual cost, not a monthly cost.

  • Sissy

    While BigCommerce states they have LiveChat it’s never available. I also think another good thing to rate would be template options since asthetics has so much to do with a site’s overall look and appeal.

  • P

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention one of the biggest drawbacks of shopify: the limited customization of the checkout page!
    after spending over 40 hours in building a custom shopify-based front-end theme for a client, I found out that the checkout page can ONLY be “customized” via CSS. while all other front0end theme pages can (fairly easily) be customized using shopify’s “liquid” templating language, we are not able to use our own header and footer on the checkout pages. we are limited to a logo at top and that’s it. you’ll see a lot of soothing responses to that particular complaint but the fact that our site-wide layout and design is changing on the checkout page makes the entire site look unprofessional and cheap.
    you can tell I’m pretty livid about this and wished you had mentioned it here…

    • That’s something to consider for sure. We’re big advocates of conversion rate optimization and having a change to the look and feel of the checkout process is something to be avoided. Thanks for bringing this up to our readers.

  • John

    I would have thought you as a developer would hate Volusion’s abysmal templating system. It’s got to be the least flexible, most annoying of any hosted e-commerce solution. Unless they added new templates, changing the design is almost a must, too. The few clients we have on V also weren’t impressed with the store management side of things. I’ve read a number of great reviews of Vousion and can’t connect what I read with our experience.

    The break between store and checkout with Shopify is a big deal as someone else said. Other than that, it’s a better experience than Volusion by light years. Talk to their sales reps to negotiate commission rates. Same for BigCommerce and bandwidth/storage limits.

  • Marius Kubilius

    Why the hell someone includes Volusion as #1 in reviews. There is huge problems with Volusion trying to customize templates, and they are freaking tabular… who does that. While trying to customize theme, you may start to think that Netscape browser is still alive 🙂

  • alexa

    Jason, HELP! I appreciate the comparison much but wondering about downloads. We are a church that will primarily release cds and dvds but we want people to have the option of buying a hard copy which we’ll ship or download after purchase. ALSO, it would be excellent if they could preview the cd/dvd by hearing/seeing 20 seconds or so before purchasing. Do these three allow for that?

    • Hi @1d0e97386714295aa0a4e7cf6c07fe30:disqus
      I’m quite sure you can do this with BigCommerce. Since you’re a church I’d be happy to take some time and set up a trial store for you and see if we can get it functioning the way you wanted. Just call in and ask for me & reference this comment. 🙂

  • Peter BandwidthDiet

    Many of our clients who we help to save bandwidth for pay for overage bills regardless of the pricing plans they choose. If you’re on a high pricing plan with a host like Volusion, you may exceed your allotted minutes. But overage fees won’t be a concern if you use a second server to host your files. Hopefully this will help anyone who is choosing amongst hosts and is hung up on the bandwidth part of it.

  • Marz

    Which one would you recommond for a start- up businesss?… also website building etc is not my strong point..!!

    • Hi Marz,

      That’s a loaded question, for sure! 🙂 My best advice would be to get a trail going with all 3 and see what you like the best. They are all strong ecommerce offerings and the decision process between the two usually comes down to some specific feature that’s needed by your business. However, if you just want some place to start – try Shopify. You said website design isn’t your strong point so I’d start there because they have a very simply administration area and some great templates to choose from. Best of luck!

      • That’s indeed helpful and positive reply Jason and I totally appreciate with you. And the given article is good for you – Marz.

  • Josue

    Great post Jason! I am looking to set up an e-commerce site that is specific to Arab speaking countries (and eventually enter Latin America markets or vice versa). Do you know if any of the solutions you covered are capable of supporting a venture like this? Also, because we want the store to target those international markets we would be building the site in those languages. If we ran e-commerce geared towards those markets would we be required to set up two separate subscriptions?

    • Hi Josue,

      For a venture like that I might actually lean towards doing a Magento multi-store setup. Magento will give you more flexibility to edit source code and language files and it sounds like that’s going to be very important for you. We are launching an article on Magento vs Magento GO in the coming weeks which will have some great info for you.

  • Carlotta Delano

    Everyone knows Volusion “ecommerce” is a complete scam by now: it is impossible to use and they try to sell you their products rather than solve your problems. There are many customers’ complaints about them sabotaging their code so they can purchase more products from Volusion. Did you actually try using it? And did you do your actual research on real reviews rather than paid reviews that have been searched optimized by Volusion. I’m disappointed that no one has called them out on this from the press.

    • Hi Carlotta,

      We work with Volusion on a regular basis and stand by our review above. We have several clients that do extremely well on the Volusion platform. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to sell you on Volusion. THey certainly have their shortcomings, but speculation and theories don’t have any place in reviews, that’s what comments are for, right? 🙂 Thanks for sharing your opinion! Out of curiosity, do you have a platform that you prefer? What is it and why do you like it? That info would be helpful for our readers.

  • Ben

    Thanks a bunch for the detailed blog. Very helpful to get the low-down for clients looking for the best possible solution for them.

  • Nick

    Jason, thanks for the great article and pros/cons of each solution. My company currently sells on various online marketplaces (amazon, ebay, buy.) We currently have a (mediocre) amazon webstore, but want to make a stronger push with our own website. Do you know if any of these platforms supports integrating (inventory, pricing, etc.) with marketplaces sites for sellers like us? Thanks in advance for your help!

    • Hi Nick,

      The bad news is that none of these platforms have a great way to support this out of the box. The great news is that any of these platforms will work, and work quite well with the simple use of a plugin. Something like http://www.stitchlabs.com/ or https://www.ordoro.com/ will give you all the options you could ever dream of and allow you to run everything from a single drivers seat. Hope that helps!

  • Bojan

    Hi Jason, nice&detailed review.

    I have some idea and need youre opinion on which of stated solutions would be best suited for it.

    Thought about e-commerce solution that can handle customization in order to support vendors login&filling stocks in hard-coded input or via .csv file. I want to make point in skipping long talks and missunderstanding with vendors on one side, and accelerate delivery of crucial information in real time to customers on other side. Example…. booking system, rental service, i would appretiate youre opinion on best fitting “ecommerce” solution for stated bussines model.

    • Hello Bojan,

      It sounds like you’re talking about more of a hybrid than a true ecommerce platform. The down side is using a hosted platform like one of the above is that you can only go so far with your customizations. While customizing design and layouts is no problem, changing the core functionality, checkout process, etc gets much more difficult, if not impossible. If you’re looking for something that still has a true ecommerce core but you can make significant changes, that’s when we usually shift gears to something like Magento.http://www.leapgo.com/magento-design/. The other route you can go is by checking for booking software that meets your needs – https://www.google.com/search?q=booking+software. Best of luck and let us know if you need any help with your project!

  • Shane

    I would like to open a store where we will be selling many different categories of items. An example would be walmart where it sells just about anything. I have seen the reviews and am not sure which of these three will best suit what i need. I was hoping to use a mega flyout menu and have little experience with html and css. I am tech saavy, but i am afraid to use something too difficult which will cause too many headaches and for that reason big commerce scares me just a little. So far i am gearing towards shopify but i am not sure exactly what you would recommend.

    • Hi Shane,

      Opening a store like that has many challenges. The main being getting ranked for any good keywords because your website doesn’t have a “theme” to work from. That means as a new website, Google will have a hard time deciding what your site is about and how important it is. So, you should make sure you have a strong SEO strategy or ppc strategy (or both). That said, all of these platforms have templates that support flyout menus. Best thing to do would be to start a trial, add some categories/subcategories, then play musical chairs with the templates and see which one displays your categories to your liking. Just be careful, because while flyout menus are handy, too many categories can result in menus that expand further than a visitors monitor. That means some categories go off the screen and it creates a poor user experience. Poor user experience = low conversion rates. Also remember that not everyone has the same size/resolution monitor that you do so don’t assume if it looks good on your computer it will for everyone else. We do cross browser testing on all projects before launch and even we find issues on certain configurations that we’re able to resolve before they’re ever an issue. Check out http://crossbrowsertesting.com. It’s what we use and we just love it.

  • Hi John,

    Never heard of that one. If you’re looking for an alternative, I would recommend checking out Magento Go. It’s a great offering and we have more info about it here http://www.leapgo.com/magento-design/.

  • Adam Vigiano

    Hi Jason,

    Thanks for the great review. I’m in the initial stages of attempting to build an ecommerce site, and am hoping to use one of the applications you’ve mentioned above. My product is a personalized “birthday poster” with individual runs, and a non-standard size…

    Do you have any suggestions for a backend provider of this type of thing? Using Merchify as the back-end for Shopify would allow me to sell posters, but only a standard size. So I haven’t been able to find a back-end provider that offers customized posters. Any thoughts you have would be very appreciated!

    Best,
    Adam

    • Unfortunately I can’t help on that one. I know ZooPrinting has very flexible sizing for posters and you can sign up for a website through them, but I think it’s a more traditional “print shop” type offering where people have to upload their own artwork. Have you tried asking anyone directly at BigCommerce, Volusion or Shopify about this?

      • Adam Vigiano

        Jason,

        I’ll ask them, and check out ZooPrinting. Thanks so much for your quick response and help!

  • Dom Reidman

    tremendous article. Simply the best I have read. It was refreshing to see OP point out weakness of each group and not just ‘selling’ you for affiliate purposes. I have been researching this for 6 months and his points are spot on.

  • Dom Reidman

    Hi Jason,
    Forgot to mention our ecommerce situation. Currently running opencart (with $40 theme) and looking to upgrade the ‘look’ of the website to be more on level or more established brands. We are natural cosmetic company so design/presentation is everything to us. I was uninspired with Shopify themes as they look like old minimalist wordpress themes with shopping cart bolted on. I am really leaning toward Big Commerce but what cost am I looking at to get the site looking professional enough to start sending traffic via google/bing advertising. We also sell internationally so foreign language capabilities would be ideal. I also looked into Magento but feel I would need IT person on staff to manage that as its more complex. Thanks a bunch.

    • Hi @domreidman:disqus,
      Curious to know what you decided on?

      • Dom Reidman

        Jason, I decided on shopify because I found their themes to be better and we are in health & beauty sector so appearance is everything for us. Plus I sleep better knowing they handle security & updates now. I previously ran opencart.

        • Thanks for reporting back! Our visitors will appreciate it ,too. All the best! (Give us a shout if you ever need assistance with digital marketing or conversion optimization.)

  • Digital.Gods

    While Volusion is a good service, the pricing is another story. Why anyone would brag about $195 a month for their ‘Platinum’ service and only give you less than 4GB of total website space is beyond me? If you have a lot of images (and what could be more important?) you will chew through disk space faster than you will believe. Of course you can always use an image server, but Volusion only allows you two images to be directed that way for each item, so essentially, you have a large and a small image that you can ‘point’ to but side views, back views and all those other views that can set you apart from other sites, you have to upload. Volusion’s solution? Use smaller images. So in other words, you buy an “Unlimited” number of products privileges, but you have less than 4GB for images and website space? This is in an age where Microsoft and Google and others are giving you 5GB and more space for free on their cloud drive services. The other thing about using an image server, which you will be forced to do, if you have a large number of products, is that you have limited views in the product detail on each page. If your customer wants a very large view, they can scan the picture with a virtual magnifier, but if you want to blow up the whole image, the views are completely different from the uploaded version than they are if they are hosted by an image server. The large image view of an image server image, is unwieldy and just plain ugly. It also makes your website inconsistent with regard to look and feel, because, for those products that you have uploaded pictures, the performance and views will be significantly better than image server hosted ones. To add insult to injury, you can’t buy more disk space! Oh…and did I mention only two email addresses for all this cost? If you want to use the CRM product, and many will, if they have the customer base, Volusion states that you will have to give up one of your two email addresses to use the CRM product, thereby leaving you with a whopping one email address for you and others who might be managing the site! If you plan on using webmail instead of a pop3 client, you only get 500MB for each email address as well, so if you plan on taking a vacation and use webmail while you are away, then break out the prayer book and hope to heck you don’t go over your limit. You can buy more email addresses, and that’ll add $10 a month for 25 of them. Volusion is a slick product, but it manages to fall down in all the wrong places. It is also apparent to me, that the author of this article, did a paper review of side-by-side features and came to very wrong conclusions about these services. The real world is so much more realer, ain’t it?

  • TWIA Podcast

    Hey man Shopify is raping me right now. I’m only using them for Merchify. do you know anyone I could use that offer gof facebook functionality and has the same offers as merchify. All I really need is that “Just in Time” Tee Shirt making

  • snh6th

    Hi Jason, Thanks for the extremely helpful article. I have a digital product that I’d like to sell online with monthly recurring payments of $9.95. No shipping, just one product. Can you tell me if I need to use an ecommerce provider – or can I manage with a Paypal widget on my WordPress site? Thanks.

  • Aldoogie

    Great article! Just curious, do you have any recommendations on fulfillment options (e.g. shipwire, FBA, etc.)? I’m looking for an integrated solution. Thanks!!

    • Hey @Aldoogie:disqus, check out http://fulfillrite.com/. Shipwire is also a great option.

      • Aldoogie

        Thanks Jason! Fulfillrite is actually at the top of my list. Good to know. What are your thoughts on Ultracart? My biggest ambition when it comes to e-commerce is that I have the ability to have my retail/wholesale buyers login with unique access and purchase products at 30% off on dedicated page. Is this something that’s fairly turnkey/easy with Bigcommerce?

        • I don’t have any experience using Ultracart, so unfortunately I can’t vouch for it. At a quick glance it looks great, but we all know the proof is in the use of it. I’d definitely check out a trial of any solution before committing to it. Also, don’t just test the platform, test the support crew. The reatest software is useless if you can’t get help when you need it. As for the wholesale options, yes this is a standard offering with many carts. Look for a feature, usually called something like “customer groups”. It would allow you to set specific products/categories/pricing to your wholesale customers, then hide that info from anyone that’s not logged into an approved wholesale user account. It’s pretty cool when done right, it’s like entering a completely new site after logging in. You can set pricing, order minimums, even different shipping and payment options for different groups.

          • Aldoogie

            Now you’re talking! Thank you!

          • No problem! Give us a shout if you need any assistance with planning, design, development, conversion optimization, etc 🙂

  • Paul Smith

    Hi I am with Bigcommerce.It is an excellent cart but IT IS NOT TRULY MULTI-CURRENCY. It is a bit stupid actually. You see you can have for customers viewing convenience a drop down that will give the exchange rate of the day of a currency you choose.That is nice but no big shakes-lots of carts offer or have apps that do that easy peezy. Now this is where Bigcommerce goes really stupid. It claims you can even set your own exchange rate and you can- i did. Because i have a printed brochure with 3 different currencies with a set price eg item 1 $10/£6.50 / 9 Euros. So i set my conversion rate accordingly and the cart shows the correct brochure prices in 3 currencies..are you ready for looney time? Though the customers see their price in their currency, that is not the price they end up paying because Bigcommerce , though they have given the possibilty to choose your own exchange rate, when they process your order, they simply do what every bog standard cart does- simply looks at the exchange rate and charges accordingly! So customers have been given wrong misleading prices. So please before saying Multicurrency- i know they say it in the splurge- try it out . It aint what it says on the tin. I like them for most other things but for me i might have to move because of this if i can find a cart that is truly Multi currency thanks Paul

  • Jean Morgan Compton

    Do I need an llc or some kind of partnership agreement to start an online e-commerce site?