Volusion Vs BigCommerce – A Comparison Of Two Hosted Ecommerce Platforms That Don’t Charge Transaction Fees

In my previous article on My Latest Take On Hosted vs Non-Hosted Ecommerce Solutions, I recommended two hosted shopping cart solutions, Volusion and BigCommerce, that do not charge any transaction fees for using their service. Not being charged a percentage of your sales is nice because you can run your store at more or less a flat monthly rate(not taking into account credit card fees) that does not scale proportionally to your revenues.

A few weeks ago, I signed up for trial accounts with both Volusion and BigCommerce and decided to compare the two services. Before I get into the guts of the review, I’ll just tell you up front that you can’t really go wrong with either service and choosing between the two really depends on which features and factors you value more.

I also wanted to mention that I’m not going to really go into that much depth in terms of the backend features of either solution as both Volusion and BigCommerce offer more than enough features to manage a big time store. Instead, I’m going to focus on the differences between the two from a price/usability/support standpoint.

What Volusion And BigCommerce Do Well

As soon as you sign up for either service, you are assigned a personal consultant who will contact you by both email and phone. All I can say is that this is really cool. If you are a clueless new shop owner and you have questions, you are given a direct point of contact with which to obtain help and support.

I ended up chatting with my assigned consultants on the phone for 10-15 minutes each and pretended to be a customer looking to migrate an existing shop. The consultants from both companies could answer basic questions as well as some of the more technical ones.

For example, I asked Volusion if I could issue 301 redirects for products from my old store to my new one. I also asked if I could have SSH access directly to the server instead of having to upload my changes via FTP or use the web interface (The answer was no unfortunately). Turns out that direct access to anything server side is pretty much off limits which is understandable. The only code or scripting that you can perform is HTML/CSS and javascript.

Customizing Your Store

Before I get into the more GUI oriented features, I just thought I’d say a few words about customizing your store with either Volusion or BigCommerce. With both services, there is a learning curve in regards to figuring out where all of the files reside and what they do. But in general, both shopping cart solutions do a great job of separating out the core shopping cart functionality from the aesthetics.

In other words, you will never have to deal with ASP code or php code at all. In fact, all you have to really know is a little HTML/CSS in order to fully customize your store. Both Volusion and BigCommerce have completely abstracted out all of the shopping cart functionality from the files that you have access to. Using simple directives, you can move around menus, rearrange your store and give it a whole new look without worrying about breaking any core functionality. This may not seem appealing to someone like me who wants full control of everything, but to someone who is tech averse, this is awesome! Using their templates and a smidgen of HTML/CSS, you can throw up a decent looking store very quickly.

What BigCommerce Does Better

From a design and usability standpoint, the BigCommerce design interface struck me as more modern and hip compared to Volusion. Not only does BigCommerce offer more templates but they also look better as well.

Whereas Volusion’s templates come across as kind of vanilla, Big Commerce’s templates are more eye catching and attractive. Of course this only really matters if you are going to go with a standard template with your store, but my first impression was that you can create a better looking store out of the box with BigCommerce.

Another feature that makes BigCommerce shine from a design perspective is that they offer a drag and drop interface with which you can reposition key shopping cart elements using just your mouse. For example, let’s say you want to move a menu from the top of the screen to the left hand sidebar. All you have to do is click on the menu bar and drag it to the left and it will snap into place. Having the ability to massage your shopping cart graphically is nice if you want to quickly rearrange things around with your store in order to see what looks best before you freeze your design.

From a feature perspective, BigCommerce and Volusion are both pretty much on par. Bigcommerce has a few additional minor features like social media toolbars and easy YouTube video integration but realistically, adding these things to your cart is as easy as copying over some javascript code. In other words, they aren’t a big deal.

However, BigCommerce does have one nice useful feature that Volusion doesn’t have and that’s an abandoned shopping cart report. If a customer enters their information and then bails, you can generate a nice report that outlines when, where and how often this happens. This information is useful because you can then try to get them back somehow by either contacting them or giving them a coupon.

To sum it all up, BigCommerce is a sleeker entry into the hosted ecommerce arena from a design and graphical perspective. Their out of the box stores just look better.

What Volusion Does Better

The big advantage that Volusion has over BigCommerce is that they’ve been around longer and it shows. Since they’ve been in business for over 10 years and host thousands of shopping carts already, their library of tutorials and videos is pretty vast. Basically, they have years and years of experience answering commonly asked questions and have created tutorials and FAQ pages that cover almost anything you might want to know.

Since they’ve been around for so long and have a large customer base, this gives off the impression that they are a more stable player. Remember, whenever you sign up for a hosted ecommerce solution, you are essentially getting yourself pregnant. You become tied to their service. If your ecommerce platform goes out of business, then so do you. Stability matters and Volusion has definitely been around longer.

The other advantage that Volusion has is with their support. Volusion offers support by phone and email 24 hours a day,7 days a week. Just to test this theory, I contacted them on a sunday afternoon and was able to get someone to answer questions. BigCommerce offers phone support as well, but if you want to be able to contact someone any day at anytime, Volusion is your best bet.

Some other things that Volusion has that BigCommerce doesn’t is a fully PCI compliant store. This shouldn’t really be a major decision making factor as long as you can accept credit cards with your store. In addition, BigCommerce is working on being compliant and will probably be compliant at some point in the near future.

One useful thing that Volusion has that BigCommerce doesn’t have is the ability to send out email newsletters to customers. Email marketing is very important to an online store and is an easy way to get repeat customers for your business. BigCommerce only allows you to export email addresses to a file so you’ll need to sign up with a separate email marketing service in order to send out newsletters.

Some Comments About Pricing

If you go based on price alone, BigCommerce seems to be cheaper than Volusion in terms of what you get. For example for 25 bucks, Volusion allows you to sell 25 products with 1GB worth of bandwidth a month. For the same 25 dollars, BigCommerce allows you to sell 100 products with 2GB of bandwidth. However, don’t be fooled by the low pricing. As your store matures and you require more bandwidth, Volusion actually ends up being cheaper later on. In other words, Volusion’s higher level plans are cheaper.

For example, if we were to use Volusion with our online store today, we would need to sign up for the Gold package which costs 99 dollars a month. With BigCommerce however, we would require the platinum package which costs 150 dollars a month. As your store grows, you will discover that you are limited by bandwidth more than the number of products(for most stores at least). Volusion’s entry level packages are more expensive but get cheaper as time goes on.

Conclusion

Like I said in the introduction, both Volusion and BigCommerce are incredible hosted ecommerce solutions. When making a decision it depends on what you value the most. BigCommerce is definitely flashier, with better design tools and templates. They are also cheaper in the beginning when you are just starting out.

Volusion offers superior 24/7 support with more tutorials and online help. Volusion also becomes less expensive as your bandwidth requirements increase. They have also been around the block longer and come across as the more stable incumbent. The choice is up to you.

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41 thoughts on “Volusion Vs BigCommerce – A Comparison Of Two Hosted Ecommerce Platforms That Don’t Charge Transaction Fees”

  1. Thank you for the review and for sharing this information. I think you hit the nail on the head by mentioning that shopping carts that charge transaction fees make things harder for people starting out online.

    My name is Matt and I work here at Volusion. As someone who is very familiar with the software, I can say that we do have a robust abandoned cart report that can be pulled by any customer for data. You can see how this feature works in this article from our knowledge base: http://support.volusion.com/article/abandoned-carts.

    Thanks again for taking our software for a spin and for sharing this with others! Regardless of provider, now is a great time for anyone to capitalize on the growing ecommerce industry.

  2. Jason Leigh says:

    Have you seen BigCommerce 6, released today? BLOWS Volusion out of the water easily. Might want to look at it and even review it in a separate post. These guys just get ecommerce pure and simple. Volusion have been around 10 years, BigCommerce 10 MONTHS and they have outpaced Volusion.

    1. @Jason
      Looks like I evaluated BigCommerce two weeks too early. I’ll take another look but at first glance, it seems as though BigCommerce added a ton of new and useful functionality.

    1. @Alexa
      After rereading the review again this morning, I would like to retract my last comment as it was a bit harsh. In any case, when you start comparing many different platforms, after a while you come to realize that most of them have the necessary features that you need to run a decent store. It’s basically up to you to make your store successful.

  3. BigCommerce use Interspire :) Did you know it? It’s bit by bit the same thing.

  4. ChaCha says:

    Thank You so much for this review! It has really helped me in finalizing my decision, and covered the bases that I was more interested in!

  5. TC says:

    Great review! It has helped me make my decision.

  6. I love BigCommerce shopping cart myself but the only little issue with them is they need more web 2.0 style templates. I know I can do them myself or get a designer to make new ones but most times it is better if one gets them in built. Other then that I believe the software has everything one needs to have a great e-commerce site.

    1. Yes, the templates are a bit dated but they are actually better than some of the other services out there. I think Shopify looks the best personally but they charge a percentage of your revenues which is unacceptable

  7. Hello Steve I watched your utube video tutorial on how to get a cart and bluehost is whom I signed up with as you showed on your video. My question to you is I have about 150 products I already sell. I got the cart however what about the other items bluehost offers on there panel . I need to set up my store ( pics and descriptions ) would you recommend other things that bluehost offers or just go and get the other items somewhere else?

    thank you for your time

    Diana

  8. Volusion ripped me off! I signed up for a 14 day free trial. Then within a day a Volusion woman from the UK called me three times to get me to bypass the trial and pay $100 for improved intesive support. So I paid it. Then Volusion added a second level login and has not informed me of the login details. So I paid to get locked out of the account I created ! The support? A Volusion support person based in the US wasted three days till we finally settled on a time to talk online and then he cancelled and said he was going to get a UK based Volusion person to contact me. No one from Volusion has contacted me. I have wasted a week with Volusion and Volusion ripped me off.

    Dean

    1. Have you considered tweeting your problem to Volusion? Tweets are more public and they’ll be more likely to respond.

      1. Tina says:

        I am currently am on the trial for volusion. I too am being hassled to join them on the $100 plan for the first month. 2 consultants have emailed me many times about it. Today is the last day and I received an email this morning about it too. I was about to just do it as i thought it would be a good deal. After reading your comment, I think I will give it a miss. I think I will go with big commerce as I have had no problems with them before with my other site.

  9. Mark says:

    Re: However, BigCommerce does have one nice useful feature that Volusion doesn’t have and that’s an abandoned shopping cart report…..

    I have a Volusion Store that I migrated over form big commerce and would like to say Volusions abandoned cart features exist and not only report the situation but you can set up automated triggers that send emails with offers to win the sale back and also the same for cross selling items linked to prior purchases. There are other similarirties between the two but Volusion stands a mile as the better of the two.

    1. That’s interesting that you say that Mark. I run a class that teaches how to create an online store and lately Volusion has been dropping the ball. I have one student in particular that has been experiencing a really slow response time for her site. In addition, the payment system has been periodically down as well. If you look in the forums, this problem seems to be widespread. This has to do with their most recent upgrade which is having lots of problems. Hopefully, they’ll sort these issues out soon.

      Volusion offers better support but their templates are just plain ugly. I guess if you have your store already designed, then it might not make a difference. The abandoned shopping cart features are supported in the latest BigCommerce release I believe as of last month.

  10. I’m using BigCommerce for my online store and very happy with their service.
    Volusion was on my list, but their price is too expensive for me.

  11. Kristen says:

    Steve, I think your site is great and am thinking about taking your course to help me figure out my own store and mostly to know how to find a good product! I tried it on my own and well…

    Anyway, I thought I would add my experience with BigCommerce here to help out anyone starting out like I did.

    I am new to e-commerce and after a lot of research I went with Big Commerce. There were numerous problems starting up, including being given incorrect information about what I could and couldn’t do with the store (given wrong information to a specific question about urls we could use—this caused us to change the url of our store with assistance from BigC techs). Despite this we decided to go ahead with Big Commerce.

    Several months later after a prolonged illness and trouble with our product manufacturer, we decided to close the store while we searched for another product (always intending to use Big Commerce in the future). It was at this time that I realized we had been charged twice each month! When we changed urls (because of the wrong information they gave us and with their assistance), somehow a second store was opened that we were unaware of. I NEVER at anytime agreed to open a second store and have my credit card billed. I should have noticed the billings, but being and small business and with being in and out of the hospital, I got quite behind.

    BigCommerce flatly refused to refund the costs for the second store even though it was obvious it was never used. Even getting a response from them was difficult! I tried to speak to managers (who didn’t answer their phones) etc., but nothing helped!

    Basically, I would not suggest this to anyone starting their first e-commerce business and trying to learn the process. Incorrect information is given, accounts are open without your knowledge and approval, and the customer service response is difficult to get and not helpful.

    1. Hi Kirsten,

      I have many students on BigCommerce and things have been very smooth. I hope that your bad experience is an isolated one.

  12. Ronald Zink says:

    I find it interesting that neither the article or the comments are dated. I am a BigCommerce user and I’m desperate to leave (hence the research that led me to this site) and frankly many of these “reviews” are FAR too shallow. Take a 10 minute dig into BigCommerce’s forums and you’ll see while BigCommerce is working on “vast improvements” in their dashboard (that no one was complaining about and no one that anyone knows of asked for), they are woefully unprepared for Google’s shopping feed change that is a mere 4 days away, their use of a CDN server for your images makes Pinterest useless, and their eBay “integration” is archaic at best.

    Add to that they don’t have integrated mail campaigns (or anything else integrated for that matter), no daily deals, abandoned cart notifications that take hours to get to you (which I know for a fact has cost me $1,000s in sales, due to what would have been customer communications had the notifications arrived minutes as opposed to hours later) and no customer support for anything that customers ask for. (as evidenced by a quick perusing of their forums)

    If Volusion is anywhere as near as bad as BigCommerce, or if this is just the status quo for shopping cart hosts, then my company and I are in for a heap of trouble.

    Thanks anyway,
    Very disappointed BigCommerce User

    1. Hey Ronald,
      Thanks for your comment. One of the big disadvantages of any fully hosted platform is that you sometimes have to wait for features that you need to be implemented. Even the most minor of changes requires extensive testing before it can be rolled out to the masses.

      That is why I advocate hosting the source code yourself whether it be an open source or custom platform. If you go on the forums of any major platform, you will always see gripes across the board. The real question is whether or not you really care about the features your cart lacks.

      I can tell you some horror stories about all the platforms actually. They all have their disadvantages/advantages.

  13. kemi says:

    You will be defrauded if you go with volution. They are a very very fraudulent company. You have been warned. All they care about is money, and they will take money from your account illegally, even when you haven’t asked them to.
    They push you to sign up, they call you within 2 days into your trial and give you false promises, trust me, they are false promises.
    Once you are sucked into it, they take your money, and they leave you to your fate.
    You cannot get the help you need from them
    They are pretty much useless and if you ask them that you are leaving they will make sure they fraudulently charge you several times from that.
    They charged me another month even though i told them i was moving to another ecommerce, im taking them to court!!

    STAY AWAY FROM VOLUTION, You have been warned!!!
    go with shopify or bigcommerce.

  14. I’ve used Volusion for years. You said they’re fully PCI compliant, and they claim they are, however they fail the third party PCI scans required by my provider every time and haven’t cooperated very much in resolving the found problems. Instead they just keep saying they don’t exist, but the scans prove they do.
    Another issue with Volusion is their firewall. While they allow you to manually block an IP, there is no system in place to control abuse or attacks. The result is charges for excessive bandwidth that the user has no hope of avoiding.

  15. Mark says:

    Having used Volusion for several years, I’d like to add a footnote about their decade of experience in the hosted e-commerce business.

    In addition to their robust knowledge base and generally helpful 24/7 support, Volusion used to have a very useful public forum in which store owners swapped tips on running a store and workarounds to known limitations of the platform. Many users wrote and participated in the testing of custom scripts and code snippets to supplement Volusion’s functionality. Not surprisingly, they also swapped complaints about the platform and level of service (or lack thereof).

    Volusion responded by deleting the forum in its entirety. Thousands of man-hours worth of users’ work and accumulated knowledge disappeared overnight. It was replaced with a private forum in which all comments are tied directly to the store owner’s full name. Volusion didn’t migrate the content of the previous forum to the new one, obviously, because this would have meant migrating the complaints alongside the reams of helpful information.

    Volusion’s decade of experience in e-commerce evidently taught it that there’s more value in being able to muzzle your users when the going gets tough than there is in allowing them to provide free support for your platform in exchange for frank discussion of its faults.

  16. Robert says:

    The article and the comments aren’t dated. That makes the review completely useless. These two companies update their sites and services; so without a date for the reviews, there’s no way to know if you are commenting on ancient versions of features, design, etc.

    Whoever told you not to put dates on your posts in order to “keep your content from looking old” doesn’t know what they;re talking about.

    As it is, you’ve wasted my time and others.

    1. Not only that, I apparently wasted even more of your time by having you leave a comment as well:) This post gets a lot of traffic so it’s in my best interests to keep it up to date. As it stands, I update it every time there are major changes worth noting. Currently, I favor BC over Volusion simply because Volusion has had many customer service hiccups in the past year and sub par uptimes. Customer service has been on the downswing as well.

  17. Robert says:

    Hi, Steve…

    Thanks for the super-quick response!

    Thanks for the updated info. With your comments and others, I’m probably staying with BC, at least for now.

    To avoid the no-date issue, I would suggest that you at least add a “Updated:” date at the top of the body.

    But you really should consider allowing WordPress to add the publication date in the post-meta section. And you can always change that date if you update the article.

    Thanks again…

    …Bob

  18. Andrew says:

    We’ve been running our business with Volusion for 3 years. Until this year, the service was great. But then we purchased the mobile module and at first it was great but then started to develop errors when customers went to check out. Tech probs happen – we get that. But the responses and service to our issues – terrible. Not even “Clay the CEO” will respond to us. I’m asking for a refund of our mobile module and the monthly charges as this terrible silent treatment is costing us business. If you want a provider that is there in every season… then give Volusion a miss. Great features, great initial support, terrible service from the top down when it really counts. We are now searching for an alternative. WWA.

  19. Georgia says:

    WARNING!!!!

    To all those who are looking to open an online store stay clear away from VOLUSION. My experience with them has been horrific to say the least….

    I opened my store with Volusion approx. 1 year ago as they had great templates and looked like an easy way to build your own site without paying $$$$$$$

    For the first 6 months as my online clothing store was new and had little traffic I had a great experience with Volusion bills approx. $150 per month never dropping out or anything.

    Approx. 12 months later I had grown my online stores branding and name to a new level having higher traffic with my bills going from approx. $500 per month to $1,500.

    Although I had started experiencing success with my online store the $1,500 bill per month did not reflect this. I tried making my images as minimal as possible, nothing fancy, no flash or slider. Pretty boring for an online store which this should be your stores front selling point. Just a basic template store I had built myself.

    I tried contacting them multiple times and they claimed I had a large amount of visitors.

    Eventually I decided enough was enough and I would contact someone to built a new online store and host for me.

    My bills being approx. $1,500 for the past 4 months I decided to really find out what was happening. I set up Google Analytics.

    To my surprise I was getting approx. 1,000-2,000 visitors per day while Volusion was claiming I was receiving 4,500-6,000 per day.

    I tried contacting them multiple times regarding this but they had a new excuse everytime which never made any sense and there was never the right person to speak to me about this issue.

    VOLUSION HAS SERVER ISSUES WITH VISTOR COUNTS BEING EXTREMELY INCORRECT LEADING TO MASSSIVE BILLS!!!! If you plan on having visitors to your store do not join with VOLUSION

    They have ripped me off BIG time and are LIARS. They have huge issues with their server system which capture the analytics for billing.

    I recommend joining Big commerce for example which was capped billing with no server overages.

    DO NOT JOIN VOLUSION!!!!! You will get slaughtered with the billing overages with bandwidth which are not even measured correctly.

  20. Thank you for the blog I found it very helpful. I ended up going with BigCommerce for my ecommerce solution. I set up an account with FedEx for shipping. I am going to be shipping mostly large and heavy items so I am going to use FedEx LTL Freight, aka Economy Freight. When I went to put in my shipping information I discovered that BigCommerce does not have a real time quote for FedEx LTL Freight. I was wondering if you knew of any BigCommerce compatible apps that I could integrate into my site so I can offer my customers real time quotes for the solution I am going to use. Thank you in advance for any feedback on this.
    Brandi

  21. Sara says:

    Volusion features such as Amazon integrations don’t work and they recognize it and they don’t care to fix it. This is on top of other issues we had to develop workarounds to make this product somewhat work. Would not recommend them.

  22. Teri says:

    Merchant Beware! Volusion Merchant Services is the worst. They have poor customer service. You are going to pay no less than $63/ month for credit card processing. Meaning even if you are just setting up shop and no transactions are being processed your bill will be at least $63/ month. Also, they do not list their $99 penalty fee for closing your merchant account in their list of fees. It is buried in the fine print close to the end of the contract document you will sign. I do not recommend them. They are the worst and you can find a cheaper service.

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