24/7 tech support by phone, live chat or email, one of, if not the top rated shopping cart solutionCons
design templates get lower marks compared to Volusion's competitors.Verdict
I highly recommend Volusion
Volusion Review - Top building supplies to set up your online store
Start at the start:
Initially, the following may be a bit remedial if you're well versed on the topic, but please bear with me through the first few paragraphs or skip ahead if you like. The world of ecommerce can be quite complex, sometimes needlessly so. I just want to take a minute to clarify the process so you can get down to your decision making with a more complete understanding of your options.
Here are the basics:
Starting your online store requires 3 components.
1. You need to create the store itself, which includes a way for customers to view all the items, detailed descriptions of the products, all the options for ordering, i.e. color, size, quantity and other special features as well as shipping options, gift wrapping, discount coupons, etc. You also want to customize the look and feel of the shop so it represents your brand, visually and/or integrates seamlessly with any preexisting website you may have and you want the shop to be easy to find on the web. All this falls under the category called Shopping Cart.
2. In addition to your shopping cart you need a payment gateway. The payment gateway is the software that enables you to collect credit card data from your customer. Obviously this needs to be a highly secure system which is why it is a separate entity from your shopping cart. You can think of your payment gateway as the virtual cashier and register.
3. Finally, you need a merchant account. The payment gateway passes the customer's sensitive data to your merchant service provider. A merchant service provider processes the credit card information, assumes the risk on your behalf and transfers money from bank to bank, completing the transaction. Your merchant service provider can also give/sell/lease you point of sale equipment for credit card swiping if you are also bricks and mortar or doing trade shows, etc.
You can use any of these three services as a point of entry to online sales. What do I mean by that?
1. You can start with your shopping cart, some of which have a built in, seamlessly integrated payment gateway. Then all you need is the merchant service provider, which many shopping carts also offer. There are many negotiating points when it comes to your merchant service provider so you need to be armed with that information. You can read about how to negotiate the terms of your merchant account in my article on USMS.
2. You can also start by selecting a payment gateway and then find a shopping cart and merchant service provider among their partners. The advantage to that is data control. You can read about that in my article on Authorize.net, one of the top payment gateways.
3. Finally, you can start with the merchant service provider and find the other two pieces of the puzzle through their partners. Some merchant service providers also offer their own payment gateway or offer the payment gateway for free and there are also some MSPs that have their own proprietary shopping cart software.
While comprehensive turnkey solutions look very appealing for the ease of having everything under one roof, there is a downside. For example, by going with a MSP which has their own proprietary shopping cart you are placing all your eggs in one basket (pun intended… this stuff is dry. Gotta keep it entertaining, at least for myself!) Anyway point being if you run into problems you are basically stuck! Since merchant service providers are not in the business of shopping carts but rather in the very important business of handling your cash, chances are, their software will not give you the range of options your online store needs to thrive.
Starting with an Ecommerce Platform:
Now that we've got the basics out of the way, assuming you're starting your online store by finding a shopping cart first, let's focus in on one of the top ecommerce platforms on the market, Volusion. Off the bat, it may be helpful to know you can take this or any other ecommerce platform for a test run, completely free. The best way to know whether Volusion will meet your specific needs is to try it out. Even if you hire a designer you are going to want to have some autonomy to make small changes and check your website sales/billing reports and stats, so it's worth your while to give it a go on your own and see whether you like the interface.
And for designers, investigate a few shopping carts not only from the perspective of your ability to design the store but equally important, from the perspective of giving your client ease of use. Don't entrap your clients in a system they can't navigate… they will get increasingly annoyed over time at having to lean on you for every little thing! Short term gains could lead to long term bridges burned.
What does Volusion offer?
Volusion's pricing is very competitive. Their basic plan is $19/month with 24/7 support including an 800 number and live chat (this is an extremely appealing feature that not all companies offer). You can show 100 products with the basic plan, there are no transaction fees and you get 1GB of data transfer, which means your store can handle between 3000-4500 customers/month. Volusion is PCI certified but you will need to purchase your own SSL for secure transactions.
Volusion has some key features that really make them shine. Beyond multiple free templates to get up and running quickly, they offer integrated one page checkout which greatly mitigates against abandoned shopping carts and lost sales (I'm not sure why all carts don't offer this as a basic option!) Customers can also add more to their cart without leaving the product page as they continue to shop, they can do a product comparison and you have unlimited product options for presentation (color, size, quantity, # of product photos, etc. etc.).
For marketing, Volusion offers great social media integration as well as custom coupons and discounts (another no-brainer feature that should be standard for all carts, but isn't). Volusion also has what's called CDN which means your customer can pull your site from the server that's nearest to them (out of 10s of thousands in the Volusion network across the globe.) This boost's your site's speed by up to 60% making both Volusion and your business, truly international.
What's the dirt?
On the down side, researching complaints I came across a few people who griped about the look of Volusion's templates being dated. In response, Volusion is regularly adding new free templates to increase your options and here's a surprising fact: a good looking website does not necessarily translate to a high converting website. Some incredibly ugly websites are raking in the dough because (sorry designers!) ultimately, marketing and ease of use win out over appearance. If you've got a limited budget, bear that in mind.
Volusion Wins Out:
In all, it's easy to see why Volusion is one of the most popular ecommerce platforms available. In fact, according to the Authorize.net payment gateway, Volusion is their most popular shopping cart, bar none. Personally, they had me at 24/7 phone based tech support, which isn't outsourced! I'm not a techie and I find it tremendously reassuring to know I can find help any time I need it. I also find it preferable to speak to someone. Over the long haul this is a feature you will really appreciate having.
Check out Volusion for a free trial by following any of the links to this krit.
Visit the official site for Volusion
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wikipedia comparison of shopping cart software
another thumbs up for volusion
Reviewer has never tested this product, all content in this review is purely based on speculation and should be treated as entertainment only.
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