eCommerce for Beginners: Volusion

(part two)

Here we are again!

We’ve scraped the surface on BigCommerce, and what it might be like to setup a store as a beginner. Now, we’re test driving Volusion. Let’s see if it stacks up, and is the best platform for you, an eCommerce beginner…

 

Initial Setup

The initial setup is similar to BigCommerce. You put in your general contact information like your name, email, phone number, etc. They didn’t ask what I was selling unlike BigCommerce, but I don’t think it’s necessary to know that. After filling in the usual general information I was immediately taken to this page:

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It all seems relatively easy… So far. The basics are laid out in front of you: design, logo, products, and how to start selling. If you click the “start selling” button, it takes you to the plan pages: screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-2-02-03-pm

Although this can come across as little “sales-y”, I think it’s really smart to know what you might be investing in! It’s better to know the cost of everything up front than it is to use a platform, get incredibly comfortable with it, only to find out what you need is extremely out of budget.

To get back on track… I followed the numbered list presented to me, and the first thing I did was choose a design.

 

 

Design

There are about 75 themes for Volusion. The range in price is quite astronomical. They range from free to $895. There are 16 free themes, which I think is a decent amount to choose from. That being said, some of the free themes aren’t necessarily universal to use. They either carry certain characteristics, or a certain aesthetic, that limits its versatility. For example:

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This is the “Retro” free theme from Volusion. I’m trying to sell books. I just don’t think that books would necessarily work here. I don’t think that an electronics store that sells like, high end cameras or laptops or stereo systems would work with this theme either. Is it a bad theme? Absolutely not, it’s rather cute. But when I was scrolling through all their free themes, I found myself having difficulty deciding what theme would best suit my business.

Also, simple things like a font change to a theme, or a color change to links, or background color require me to adjust code. BigCommerce has the simple Style Editor available to its users for certain themes. So even if I found a theme that I liked, and would be perfect, since I can’t read CSS it would be really difficult to adjust the little things.
For those curious, this is what the design of my store looks like:

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Simple, and to the point. Just like my other store. Can you tell I have a certain taste?

 

User Friendly

I can see how amazing a platform Volusion is. I know it has so much to offer in regards to customization, or handling a bunch of products, or presenting information to you. I can tell all these things just by exploring the backend of the platform. That being said, my biggest issue with Volusion is that going about certain things is unintuitive to the complete novice user. To those who have been around the eCommerce block a couple of times, or those who can eat sleep and breathe code, I think this is the platform for them. Especially to those who have a large scale/high traffic business, who need to manage their inventory, or their warehouse, all in one place.
It was very easy to add new product categories. Although it was a similar process to BigCommerce, I thought it was easier to add in bulk. When you add a product category and are looking to do a subcategory under a certain section, you didn’t have to keep clicking where the subcategory was supposed to be listed under. Under the “save” button, you had options on how you want to save your progress and the one I selected was “save & add new”.

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Doing that, the system remembered the section I was adding this subcategory to. I didn’t have to constantly go back to select the specific area. However, like BigCommerce, there’s no copy/paste function for doing categories! This is probably because very few people need repetitive subcategories.
There’s a lot of little things that Volusion has that makes setting up the backend pretty user friendly. For instance, when you’re marking a price for a product.

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There’s so many options on how to set price here, it’s nice to be able to get it all done at once instead of going back and updating price when an item is on sale, or can be offered at a discounted rate with a code, or something along those lines.
Another thing that I liked was their quick edit feature with products:

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From there you can change the image of the product, upload multiple images if you want that, change the name, price, product description, etcetera. And after you’re done working on one product, you can scroll to the next one in the upper half of the screen split, click, and do the edits on the bottom half quick edit window. Very easy, very convenient, very user friendly!

Customization

Even though I consider Volusion to be a better platform for those on the intermediate level, instead of the novice level, it does have an amazing tool that is incredibly convenient to the beginner in you. They allow you to edit right from the homepage with their store editor.

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As you can see from the image above, I’m directly on my site editing my “About Us” section. This is convenient as I can see what it looks like on my live site, instead of going to the backend, then editing, then checking it out through my store view. This tool makes your life so much easier, especially if you have a small edit.

 

Shipping & Payment

There’s a lot of different ways you can go about shipping as you can see from the image below.

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Volusion has another amazing feature for shipping that might be beneficial to you. Since I was building a bookstore, I thought it would be cool if I could have a downloadable shipping feature for eBooks. Turns out, Volusion offers that! I found this Volusion support article detailing how to make your products downloadable.

Volusion has a lot to offer in regards to how your customers can submit a payment. They accept your basic cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover) and on top of it: Amazon payments, money orders, checks by mail, COD, purchase order numbers, wire transfers, cash, PayPal, electronic checks, or they even let you make a custom way to be paid. While Volusion doesn’t charge for payment transactions, your payment gateway will. Volusion offers their own payment gateway too, so you can have everything all in one space.

Special Features


Volusion may not have a built in blog like BigCommerce, but it does have a lot of marketing strategy / product tracking available to you. All of these things are immediately available on your dashboard, which I personally think is awesome. A lot of eCommerce business owners want to see trends in their products, and they want to see what’s selling. To have this information readily available to you on the first page of your backend is extremely convenient, and helpful. And to be able to track marketing efforts through the backend of your store is beneficial; everything is in one place!

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Since I had contacted customer support for BigCommerce, I thought I should do comparison of how their customer support stacks up against Volusion. Volusion has a lot of help articles, and helpful tips all around their site.

They do have a little section readily available for you on your dashboard at all times that takes you to support articles, or tells you how to get in contact. If you need help, or a have a question, they definitely make it easy for you to find your answer! If you’re on the site for some time, a chat window appears to ask if you need help with anything:

 

Although Samantha F. didn’t have an answer for me off the bat (and why should she? It’s obviously a chatbot) she was active about sending me to a place where I could find my answer. And when I did get on with a live chat support specialist, they answered my question extremely quickly.

 

Overall Opinion

I see all the potential in Volusion. There’s so much there, but I think I’m too much of a beginner for a platform of this caliber. This is definitely for those who have been in the eCommerce business a while and have a specific vision of what exactly they want, and know how to achieve it. Or have a staff on hand who know how to achieve it. Or have the budget available to hire someone to be able to achieve it.

 

I don’t want that to come across as a bad thing, because it certainly isn’t. I can see, right in front of me, how much you can actually do with this platform. Volusion is so well developed in regards to capability, however the user interface, although decent, hasn’t designed itself to make it intuitive for complete beginners. Ultimately, I think Volusion is an excellent platform, but maybe not for a complete novice.
If you need help with your Volusion eCommerce store, feel free to reach out to 1Digital Agency! They’re eCommerce and Volusion experts, and they want to hear from you. You can send them an email at info@1digitalagency.com, or you can call their toll free number at 888-982-8269.