Volusion Review And Suggestions

Over the weekend (I think it was actually Saturday), I received a request for a sponsored review for Volusion. I haven’t got a huge amount of experience with specific shopping carts, so I knew if I was going to do any justice to the review, I would need a little time.

One tip – if you receive a request for a sponsored review with ReviewMe, don’t accept it straight away – let the acceptance clock tick for a little while because once you have accepted the review, the clock gets reset to 96 hours. There is a big difference between 96 hours to research for a review, and what effectively amounts to a week if you drag things out a little.

Volusion Shopping Cart Review

Volusion is sold as a one-stop, comprehensive, SEO optimized, shopping cart solution.

Be wary of providers who charge add-on prices for additional features.

We will see…

Problems In Reviewing

Time – as previously mentioned, this review is based around a number of hours/days research, rather than extensive use of the product. I did however create a test account to have a look under the hub.
Demo restrictions – The demo actually is a lot more restrictive than is suggested on the sales pages. As an example I didn’t find a way to even examine the template structure.

Primary Caveats

Volusion is a shopping cart, and not a website builder or even an online business solution. Parts of their business model seriously detract from the potential to create an all encompassing service which for me is a shame.

Volusion is a VAR – Value Added Reseller, in fact they are a VAR in many ways more than a shopping cart solution provider, which again slightly, and sometimes greatly discourages me from writing a highly favourable review, even based upon my limited evaluation.
Update: Please refer to Volusion comments regarding this statement

Value

Volusion Value For Money?

With Volusion you get lots of features, but unless you are willing to purchase a license outright, and pay for subsequent yearly upgrades, you are going to be hosting your shopping cart on their servers.
If you have any sense, unfortunately that is all you are going to host on their servers, because the basic bandwidth allowance is… pitiful.

I think I need to put some perspective on this because I think this is the biggest Achilles Heel of the service.

This blog currently only receives on average 500 unique visitors per day. I use some graphics but they are compressed and most are not full screen. My front page has a fair amount of content, and because it is full content I don’t gain a huge amount more page views on each visit. Most of my readers subscribe to my content, but that is picked up by Feedburner, and their servers are used for bandwidth for the RSS feeds.
I don’t host any video, and I don’t do any Podcasts.

My bandwidth usage in February 2007 was 9GB

A reasonable percentage of that bandwidth usage was from search engines, which is a good thing, because the relationships between my pages change a lot with links to related articles.

Despite the fact that Volusion allows you to build up an HTML based content website on their servers, and maybe even something with ASP.net or with a databased backend, the standard bandwidth available isn’t realistic.

Be wary of providers who charge add-on prices for additional features.

Volusion currently charge just $0.01 per additional MB of bandwidth, or $10 per GB

That doesn’t seem typical for the hosting industry, and Sitesell, who in many ways are competitors to Volusion offer unlimited bandwidth.

So I tried asking Rackspace directly, and I didn’t try to hide anything

you: Hi John, I am currently writing a review of one of your clients, and it would be helpful to get some idea of how much you charge for additional bandwidth
John: I’m sorry I don’t have that info
John: please have your customer contact their bdc

Hmm, seems like a touchy subject that Rackspace don’t want to discuss at the detriment of their customers who are “value added resellers”. Most small business dedicated servers from Rackspace come with 150GB of bandwidth.

Media Temple who also offer very good hosting with their Gridserver Package state:-

Expand the audience for your creative content by serving more visitors faster than ever before with a Terabyte of multi-routed bandwidth.

That is a $20 per month package as long as you are not running very CPU intensive services.

I am currently using Hostgator for this site – I only get 125GB on a reseller account and 100GB on another much smaller package – I have other hosting packages in other places as well, and there is a high chance I will move a few sites over to MT soon as they can probably cope with traffic surges better.

Hosting companies do play a little Russian roulette with bandwidth. They know that most accounts won’t use up the maximum. Even then, with current growth, I doubt additional bandwidth is going to cost you most than $1 per GB.

With Rackspace there are other additional support costs, and their support is supposed to be exceptional, but it is my belief that most of that should be covered by the basic fees.

As I stated at the beginning, Volusion are a VAR – if your bandwidth increases, you have more customers, if you have more customers you are most likely going to have more support queries for Volusion. Support costs money.

Because we provide both dynamic Ecommerce software, coupled with premium Ecommerce hosting by RackSpace at no extra charge, the total cost of ownership (TCO) turns out to be much lower than competitors.

I am not sure they are telling quite the whole truth.

Email Marketing

Various forms of email marketing are one of the best ways to boost your sales income, with various new product offerings, special offers, and upsells.

I haven’t looked deeply into the existing shopping cart email system, because on first inspection I discovered it is heavily crippled with very limited capacity. For the basic service you are limited to a mailing list of only 200, and even when paying almost $200 per month, you can only email 5,000 prospects – that might seem like a lot, but can hardly be looked on as good value.

I have also read of problems with email delivery on the Volusion forums, not only of marketing messages, but also sales receipts and normal customer interaction.

Volusion highly recommend customers purchase a subscription to Intellicontact as an example here on their support page.

You would think Volusion would support more than one 3rd party email package as they have made theirs so limited and recommend using a 3rd party. I decided to contact Aweber, one of the most trusted 3rd party email solutions for deliverability, and one of the most economic.

I asked Shaneka Altino of Aweber whether they currently have integration with Volusion available, and here is his reply (with permission)

Shaneka Altino: we do not have one now, if someone wanted to set one up they could, we have shopping intergration for several shopping carts
Shaneka Altino: as long as its hosted shopping cart such as Paypal and Clickbank

You see one of the things specific with Aweber is that for the majority of addresses brought into the system, they have to be brought in using Aweber’s own forms. What scripts normally do to achieve this is to do the processing in parallel.
With an email system you would certainly want to have customers automatically moved from various prospect lists to purchase lists, specific support lists etc, and not have problems with them being sent multiple emails for the same offer.

Correct integration is important… why isn’t it already available?

Intellicontact might be more flexible allowing you to import existing customers without forcing them to opt-in again, at least last time I looked at their service that was possible, but as soon as you out-grow their basic free offering, costs escalate.

If Volusion want their referral income from Intellicontact, they should ensure every link is clickable.

Aweber Update 17/08/2007

Aweber integration with Volusion has now been announced.

SEO

Good SEO is one of the primary selling points.

They do have SEO friendly URLs, though for some reason I saw a number of sites using internal part numbers for URLs rather than product names.

Of course the Volusion test site ranks high for every item they display, but they have an insane number of backlinks from Volusion shopping carts – I read in an old review that that is a requirement – I didn’t confirm that on the Volusion site.

Volusion have a blog running on WordPress (logical choice) – the blog is on a subdomain (not necessarily logical)

Volusion is running on Windows servers, thus running what I would regard as standard software like WordPress becomes a little more complicated. Whilst it can be done, and it is done frequently by specialists, I don’t think I would be tempted to do so. Plus I think you have to pay extra for an SQL server.

All the templates I saw that came free with Volusion had the top and sidebar menu appearing first in the source code – that isn’t good SEO practice.

You could build your site on another server, and just link through to products you have on your shopping cart. The current recommendation by most professional SEOs is to have all your content on the same site.

Here is their example store to have a look around.

Templates

Volusion currently has 7 free templates available, all of them in the same overall format.

I couldn’t find any site offering free, linkware or other open source templates available.

Volusion do have a shop where you can buy templates, and I saw a few people making enquiries on places like Elance for “Volusion Certified” templates. Certified? That suggests that a template has to be approved with the system.
Please refer to Volusion Comments – no certification is required for templates

Volusion really need to do something to encourage people to develop free templates, though that would limit the upsell potential

Feeds

When I went to demo sites, I was amazed not to see the availability of RSS feeds. They seem to offer all kinds of feeds to shopping search systems, but site owners are currently not offering their customers site updates by RSS.

Ideally you would have your content on the same site as your cart and offer updates by RSS or email. The RSS feeds would also give SE spiders something to spin into their webs.

I saw ways to import various data feeds, but I couldn’t see how this could be integrated live. There was limited functionality in the demo. Honestly every time I saw the words limited functionality, I just “switched off”.

Digital Products

No functionality for delivery of digital products or premium “membership” items jumped out at me. There may be functionality that I didn’t see.
Volusion have pointed out that some level of digital product support is possible with product keys – please refer to comments for continued discussion

User Generated Content

There is an ability for users to leave comments and reviews on each item, but I have no idea how this data can be used in other ways, for instance latest reviews, hot items, highest rated items etc.

Categories But Not Tagging

Items are placed in categories, but there was no way to tag items for some other more modern method of user navigation. I am a big fan of folksonomy.

Adwords

Volusion offer an Adwords service, you pay a fixed fee and they send a specific number of visitors to you. It doesn’t seem to mention if the visitors are from search or content network (different quality), whether they are from “buying traffic”, or what type of keywords it is based around. If you buy their largest package the visitors cost $1 each.

I wonder if it would work for Adsense Arbitrage or CPA offers? It might be an interesting experiment.
On the other hand I am not sure if it is good value for niche customers.

Volusion in the comments have confirmed that the traffic is “search traffic” and state that as it is a monthly retainer, it most work or customers wouldn’t keep up the subscription

Training Materials

Volusion offer great training materials. I didn’t have time to work through them all, but I am sure based on what I did see that they would be sufficient to get up and running, no matter what your level of technical competence.

Support

The support forums seem to be active, and are open, so you can pop along yourself and actually read about the questions customers raise, and how they are answered.

Conclusions

Volusion don’t agree with many of my conclusions, please refer to comments

If you run an offline business, and just want a web presence to which you will drive PPC traffic, and you sell items in low volume with a solid profit margin, Volusion might be ideal.

Volusion might even be a viable solution for a shopping cart attached to a secondary website that contains content and user support features such as a forum. It would be interesting how their sales funnel tracking works across multiple domains.

If it wasn’t for the bandwidth problem I highlighted, I am sure this review would have turned out differently. If it was my service I would be sorely tempted in this day and age to have unlimited bandwidth just like Sitesell offer. I will have to check how Sitesell handle video these days, maybe that isn’t unlimited bandwidth and they encourage you to host elsewhere. As sites become more successful they are going to purchase more features – charging extras for storage for me isn’t as much a problem, nor is more items in the database.

More effort should be made on the core product and especially the templates. Demos really should be full featured without limitation.

I don’t think I am the ideal customer for Volusion with their current package, but with a few changes their potential marketplace would broaden.

Links to Other Reviews

SEO Shopping Cart highlights the friendly URLs – to be honest I don’t think they examined the system in depth and should have spent more time on their review.

There is one user submitted review on Marketing Mule that is fairly extensive, but effectively suggests to look elsewhere. The review wasn’t dated, so it is hard to tell whether it is current.

ASP Index has 3 user submitted reviews, 2 are anonymous, and the most current one (which is fairly negative) is from an authenticated users.

Yaro is much in the same boat as I am, in that he has had very little time to prepare a detailed review from a long-term customer perspective, but some of the comments he has so far received seem very positive.

Small Biz Technology did a Q & A with Volusion a couple of years ago. Even then the feature set was quite impressive though some of the prices seem to have reduced.

ECartReviews was one of the most recent reviews I found, and actually one of the most detailed highlighting important features such as the different feeds supported.

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Comments

  1. says

    Andy I must say you do a solid job with these reviews. Especially considering the mentioned restrictions we faced due to lack of time.

    It shows you truly care about delivering valuable information, and that is a quality I admire :-)

    Yaro

    • Mark says

      This is an example of my most recent disaster with Volusion support:

      Review your Volusion experience now!

      moderated chat session as offered, though it was available for some time – it is not acceptable to post private communication here on the blog without the authorization of the third party – at the time it was posted someone from Volusion was subscribed to the post, though I haven’t been running subscribe to comments for a few months now

      As I first mentioned, I’ve gone through this several times with their after hours supports…I’ve even had email chats with the support manager who seemed very unhappy with how my case was handled. Each time it was a different rep.

      There were 2 times I got a rep that just did what I needed and made things right very quick. Every other time it has been a list of why they can’t support any given issue. This seems to go against the meaning of support.

      As you read in the chat I had with david on 7/4/07, he was evasive in providing with documentation on his policy stance. Why? Does it exist in writing anywhere?

      I been setting up shop and love the software and what it allows me to do, it just when I need things tweeked a little or something is just plain amiss, support offers no to very little help.

      They either need to revamp there policy if it exist, or just end the after hours support and spend that money making other improvements to their product.

      • says

        Mark I can related to both sides of this.

        I don’t generally do consultation because I don’t want to be responsible to total cock-ups.

        Support staff are specifically trained not to get “hands-on” with a customer site for that kind of reason. The rules might be written down in staff handbooks which are not publicly available, and I rarely see a company publish such document.

        If they do publish something, it is normally a much shorter policy note that cannot cover every situation.

        Whilst I have questioned some of the costing, you would probably have to pay far more if you wanted hands-on support.

        I must admit I am in 2 minds whether to leave this feedback in place. I am not sure of the legal situation regarding the differences between email communication which by law is private, and a live chat application.

        I know Cris from Volusion is subscribed to this post by email, so will have notification of your concerns.

        If I am asked to remove it, I will remove the specific conversation with Volusion support.

        I know this might not be the answer you are looking for, but there are the Volusion forums, and I am sure there are contractors who lurk there who can probably help you for fairly minimal charge.

        Some things in webdesign are quite complicated, especially with compatibility between browsers.

      • says

        I’m curious as to whether or not this “support Poop” continues or has been improved. I desperately need an e-commerce solution that “does it all” – but this sounds scary to a novice like me!

  2. says

    Andy–

    Thank you for mentioning IntelliContact in your review of Volusion, a respected name and site in ecommerce solutions. Allow me to first invite you and your readers to take a look at Intellicontact (http://www.intellicontact.com) for its industry leading web based multi-channel ecommunications approach to email marketing. In particular, you addressed the escalating cost to users of Volusion is they exceed the allowable limit. It is true that there is a cost and that Volusion and IntelliContact are partners with a revenue share agreement, however, the cost to their consumers is the same as our pricing to all customers. Furthermore, in our effort to democratize email marketing and in consideration of small business needs, we have provided a tool that not only has the highest industry deliverability but offers a feature rich environment that is normally associated with much higher priced ESP’s. Our technology is sophisticated yet our slogan, “We Simplify Email Marketing” is a testament to our software development. All functions are under four simple tabs and represents the easiest to use and most intuitive tool in the market. Finally, our subscriber base model makes all of this very affordable.

    What Volusion is doing is consistent with where the market is going. Email is not a ‘core’ function of ecommerce sites and they cannot be expected to divert their attention to what is another business function with its own set of requirements. More and more hosting sites, ecommerce solutions, web developers and consultants are turning to respected email service providers to supplement their email programs because of the cost of having to manage servers and lists and spam…and the list goes on. They do it primarily out of regard for their customers and the value add it brings and not for the revenue share. We are the professionals and we likewise serve their customers with integrity of reputation, execution and reliability. We are pleased to be associated with Volusion and are honored to be able to serve their customers.

    David Roth
    VP Business Development
    IntelliContact
    Broadwick Corporation

  3. says

    @ Yaro
    I do try my best to include as much information as possible. In many ways it is harder than doing an affiliate review. With any review, if you are going to include criticism it is important to do it as constructively as possible, even if that takes you outside the scope.
    Also I am increasingly going to be basing my pricing on the time I invest in each review, rather than the traffic I send, or the value of links.

    @ David
    I do respect that Intellicontact is a popular choice, although I feel other Autoresponder services might well dispute your deliverability claims.

    However your website claims more than 9024 Clients, whereas there is a high possibility that some Aweber affiliates have referred more than 10,000 customers to Aweber, and GetResponse also have more customers. Email Aces also have a very strong pedigree on deliverability.

    Intellicontact Costs

    Clever         500   $9.95  $107.46
    Sharp        1,000  $14.00  $151.20
    Intelligent  2,500  $29.00  $313.20
    Smart        5,000  $47.00  $507.60
    Wise        10,000  $74.00  $799.20
    

    Whilst you have reasonable introductory pricing, I would look on that as being a “hook”. As soon as someone moves beyond 1000 contacts, Intellicontact becomes uncompetitive compared to Aweber, Getresponse and Email Aces

    I am not sure which of these is cheaper at every subscriber quantity currently, but they don’t place restrictions on only being able to send out 6 emails to your list per month.

    For 10000 subscribers with Aweber you currently pay just $20 per month.
    Prices at GetResponse are very similar and possibly slightly cheaper.

    I am not sure how many customers Aweber have, and they also have customers who purchased white label services.
    GetRespose quote 500,000 customers.

    I totally agree that email shouldn’t be a core functionality of an Ecommerce site, and that using the services of a 3rd party specialist is the direction to take.
    What I don’t agree with necessarily is only suggesting one alternative, and having no existing infrastructure to support other popular platforms.

    The integrity of email mailing lists is more important than which shopping cart you currently use in many ways.

  4. says

    Bravo Andy. Those guys really got their moneys worth if you ask me. That’s what I call a well written, blanaced and comprehensive review of a product. You’ve really taken the time to look at all manner of aspects that really make a difference in this online marketing world of ours. I’d hazard a guess that Volusion themselves even learnt a little about their product and its perception too.

    People use the net to weigh up pros and cons on products and potential purchases. Reviews like this, are a definite asset in that process.

  5. says

    Hi Andy,
    Thanks for writing the review. Btw we can totally understand how it’s hard to take in everything b/c there is a lot here. This review has helped us see a few places where we can change our information so that it doesn’t confuse others. Anyway we wanted to take this opportunity to clear up a few incorrect conclusions.
    1. Volusion is not a VAR. Volusion has developed all our ecommerce solutions in house (USA). Although we don’t own a datacenter we do obviously offer hosting services to our customers since we sell an on demand solution. Since have close to 100 servers we chose RackSpace since they are the best we could find and actually a lot more expensive than previous hosting companies we had used. We prefer to offer the best instead of the cheapest due to the importance of hosting for our customers. Most people don’t understand all the differences in quality of bandwidth and the # of backbones offered between one host and another but that is just good marketing on the lower level hosts out there. Our monthly hosting also includes extensive firewalls, nightly backups, offsite tape rotation, advanced security, not to mention the 24×7 monitoring both on our side and RS’s side, etc. Our merchants process hundreds of millions in revenue every year, so they require first class hosting. You definitely get what you pay for and hosting is no different.
    2. Regarding Volusion designs our customers and their designers make their own designs all day long. Our customers do not have to check with us since they are free to design the sites themselves.
    3. Volusion definitely supports downloadable products with product key distribution. Here is a link to the manual giving details. Just scroll down to downloadable products – http://manual.volusion.com/Products-Inventory/9.htm
    4. Volusion Fast Traffic is search traffic not content traffic. We definitely strive to drive very targeted traffic that converts. This is a month to month service, so we have to earn our customer’s business each month. We do this by producing sales.
    5. Yes we do have great support from our 24×7 live phone, chat, and email technical support based in the USA down to our free training videos that cover almost everything.
    6. Your comment about low volume is not accurate. We have individual customers that do 1000s of orders per day and our largest customers process tens of millions in revenue each year.
    We hope this clears up some of the confusion. Thanks again for writing the review.
    Best Regards,

    Cris Angelini
    Business Development
    Volusion

    • Iris says

      Volusion is VERY VERY good. But don’t try to get any answers on Saturday and Sunday. You will either stay on hold or your chat conversation will close before anyone chats with you.

    • Rathi Niyogi says

      We are a Volusion customer and our experience has been mixed. Volusion has some fabulous capabilities and overall has a great deal of flexibility. The problem with Volusion is that Ecommerce as an ecosystem has evolved to a point where merely providing an excellent ecommerce engine is not enough. In order to market and track the effectiveness of an ecommerce site there are steps such as adding tracking codes from third party vendors and optimizing content. Volusion’s problem is that it provides only basic support. Volusion is great if you have technical proficiency with SQL and html. Otherwise essentially you are being handed keys to a sports car and expected to teach yourself how to drive.

      Here’s an example. We had decided to add live chat capability to our site and decided to use Volusion’s live chat application. In order to install live chat we needed to paste a few lines of code into our Volusion application. Volusion support provided the code but would not tell us where to install it. Mind you, this was Volusion’s code to be installed within Volusion’s own hosted eCommerce application. Thouroughly miffed, we decided to spend our money with another provider and enlisted the help of a web designer who had some html experience. After some experimentation we had our live chat software.

      We are marketers not technical types. This is essentially why one chooses a solution such as Volusion. If we had technical resources we would have built our own solution and managed it in house.

      Adding code has become a nightmare and as our site grows it becomes more and more apparent that we may have to “graduate” to a provider that supports its customers. Volusion could solve this issue very easily by offering Professional Services for a fee.

  6. says

    Hi Cris

    One additional dilemma I did contemplate was to actually contact Volusion before publishing the review. I remembered the days when I was having software reviewed in magazines, and in general we were never allowed to speak to the reviewers.
    If paid reviews were a totally accepted system in the blogosphere, more contact would have been easier for readers to accept.

    In response to the notes you made

    1. VAR and Hosting – I do honestly understand that you get what you pay for with hosting – most of the features you are quoting however are not necessarily bandwidth related, and higher bandwidth use does not automatically relate to more conversions.
    All it takes is a “Digg” to clock up $100+ in bandwidth charges on Volusion, if you don’t take action to minimise the load.
    It wouldn’t be too technically difficult to host media files on a different hosting platform with a redirect created from media.domain.com to the alternate cheaper hosting.
    A content site would be hard pressed to cover their bandwidth fees with advertising with your pricing.
    This site frequently takes 100MB hits from Stumbleupon traffic, and that only takes one person to like an article you wrote.

    It has been standard practice for some time to offer free downloads from 100kb ebooks to 10MB software as a free incentive to sign up to a mailing list. Only a fraction of those convert to customers.

    2. Templates – Good to hear, I will make a correction – please think about giving more access to “play” on the demo.

    3. Digital Products – it is a partial solution, though for many digital products such as ebooks DLGuard with its expiring unique download pages are maybe a better solution, and many use such a system even for free reports.

    4. Adwords – thanks for the clarification – maybe it could be a useful arbitrage system at those rates for high paying programs.

    5. I saw lots of evidence of very responsive support and that was one point I knew you wouldn’t disagree with.

    6. Are the larger clients really hosting every media file on your servers? Larger sites would typically use Amazon EC2, S3, or maybe Akamai for media files.
    Amazon S3 hasn’t been the most reliable recently but they have competitors, and whilst there are differences in prices we are not talking the order of magnitude between S3 and Volusion currently.

    For S3

    * No start up fees, no minimum charge
    * $0.15 per GB for each month of storage
    * $0.20 per GB of data transferred

    It is possible to try to shape a system such that it is attractive to as many business profiles as possible, but it is impossible to suit every kind of business.

    Volusion have support for working with drop shipping, which can be lower margin especially if you included an affiliate program.

    A good example of conversion rates actually was discussed on Crunchnotes today with Intellicontact you business partner.
    http://www.crunchnotes.com/?p=366

    128,300 Impressions
    0.04% CTR
    64 Clicks
    $10.39 Per Click
    $665.10 Total Cost
    1 Conversions to Trial (1.56%)

    Not all traffic converts, though if they do get a review on Techcrunch then that would be a very successful marketing campaign.

    I don’t think I am the ideal customer for Volusion with their current package, but with a few changes their potential marketplace would broaden.

    I acknowledge there are core customers for the package. I have to write reviews based on my core audience. Some of my readership is actually the same as Yaro’s, and are even considering using the service, but for the majority with a purely online business, I think some of the changes I have suggested would make the service a much better prospect.

  7. says

    Andy – Seriously, this was a great thing to read from a perspective of wanting to get into this sort of thing. I don’t know how you find the time to be so extensive, but I think it is great that you are.

    Thanks for the perspective Andy.

  8. says

    As a two plus year customer of Volusion, I read your review with interest.

    Re: bandwidth charges. You are right. The ridiculous rates they are charging are from the last century. I have another web site that uses 125 gigs a month and I pay $60/mo for everything.And that’s not even that great a deal.

    Re: Newsletters. Based on their charges, I have used-off-the web software instead (GroupMail $99) to mail promos, letters etc to my 3500 customers.

    One thing you couldn’t tell from your brief visit was how Volusion treats their customers problems etc. If you visit their “Support” forum again, note that their are not any forums dedicated to technical problems that customers might be having with the Volusion software. IMO, that would usually be a hub for customers trying to work through problems and would be natural for “support” activities. Say a customer describes being ejected by the software in the middle of ordering, Volusion support has no clue and says that it really can’t be a Volusion software issue, so you post in a forum to see if anybody else is having this problem.

    I read that before I signed on, the forums were run by a non employee outside the Volusion org and had the usual traffic you would expect in forums for technical glitches. Then, Volusion brought the forums in house, and those sections disappeared. For a while, customers with software issues get around this by posting in a another, related forum, but after a while Volusion started to delete those posts without explanation. You could discuss how to master a particular feature, but not why the server was hanging for a minute at a time. Now all posts are screened before apearing by the Admin and they don’t allow technical talk like that.

    I asked the forum admin about this and was told that the “Support” forums were not for discussion of Volusion related performance or technical issues, that those should be dealt with directly with tech support. (Forget about users identifying a problem by comparing notes in a forum.) I can see where they could (and should) delete rants or scurrilous attacks, but not tech talk.

    Of course, I think the real reason for this policy is obvious. Volusion doesn’t want anything that could be perceived as even remotely negative about their service posted in public. They are more than willing to inconvenience current customers and run the risk of not fixing problems that are costings them money in order to attract new customers. I think they are wrong about that. People want to know if a company listen & acts. Geez, I’ve been on plenty of forums run by for profit companies that air problems all the time. Read Tom Peters.

    As it is, if say I get a rash of customer complaints about the way the order page is performing and the tech guy says, “If you can’t replicate the problem on demand, I’m not going to spend time trying to ferret it out,” I can’t verify or dismiss the problem with any other customer.

    And I’m afraid their tech support has deteriorated. Two days ago, Scanalert pulled my “Hacker safe” Icon because of a potential security leak detected in the database software. That’s Volusion’s responsibility, so I emailed them. Not only did I not get the usual automatic trouble ticket email back, I didn’t hear anything from them. This morning, I emailed again with the details I got from Scanalert. No response. I called them on the phone, but died on hold. I posted a message in a forum about not being able to contact Volusion support, hoping that even if the message was screened out by the Admin, they would contact tech support and they would contact me. Didn’t happen. Finally, I emailed tech support again this noon (seven hours ago) and still haven’t heard a word.

    It’s a real pain to move a store that you have spent two+ years developing to a new vendor , but……

  9. says

    Hi Andy
    Great review as usual. I think your review was the most comprehensive one about Volusion. But, I wanted to write a comprehensive review about Volusion because all the reviews out there were written by non-volusion customers.

    It was frustrating for me not to be able to find unbiased information about Volusion before I decided to purcahse. Your review was the ONLY unbiased review. I have been a customer of Volusion for a while, and it was time for me to write my own version of the review. I hope it helps biz owners who are researching about Volusion:

    Volusion Shopping Cart Review by a Volusion Customer

  10. Jeff says

    I definitely hope that Volusion takes the bandwidth conversation to heart. Remember when your $79.95 cell phone bill turned into $500.00 because you were too “gabby” and went over your minutes? Remember when AOL charged by the minute and $29.95 suddenly became $295 on your bill because you were too “chatty”? Well those models eventually broke down as competition evolved.

    But, now I feel caught in that same old trap because we are too “trafficky.” Those SE spiders are crawling us daily and I’m not about to stop them, and we advertise on search engines to bring in traffic.

    The result… our bandwidth overages bill is over $1000 per month. We found that we went over our allocated bandwidth almost from the get-go and upgraded from plan to plan until we could upgrade no more and now the bill just goes up-up-up each month as bandwidth increases.

    I’ve seen it suggested that the solution to the problem is to host your images on another server that offers unlimited bandwidth, but shouldn’t $1000 in hosting per month buy oneself unlimited (or at least higher) bandwith in today’s day and age?

    Mind you, we are not offering digital downloads or serving up porn movies — this is just from plain old traffic and product .jpg files.

    We have asked for a customized proposal but have been told that there are no plans to offer customized pricing plans at this time, but we hope for a change of heart as pricing trends evolve in the future, because we have many good things to say about Volusion too and would prefer to be focused on those.

    • Jeff says

      In the above post, I should specify that our “hosting bill is over $1,000″, not our overage bill. Technically the overage is $500 since we are on the $499 per month plan.

  11. says

    Thinking about Volusion? I couldn’t tell you, I’ve signed up with the “High Roller” package two months ago. Let me tell you, I certainly don’t feel like a high roller. I’ve been billed twice, and looking at a third bill and just got my logo and 1st homepage revision back. Is that right, getting billed twice for software that I can’t even use?

    What’s really weird is the management team, you can’t speak to anyone there. It’s like they are avoiding me. After six weeks of virtually nothing, I’ve decided to hire a different designer, and still use Volusions software. And even this has become a problem. I was promised a $1495 rebate by the “management” there, and now no one will return my call.

    Watch this, I’m going to stop payment on the third billing cycle just to see how fast I get a call back from the company.

    Seems Volusion is in the game for one reason, and that’s not to benefit the customer. What a shame, you wonder if this kind of business practice is brought down from the top, or if the top has gotten so big it’s unaware of it’s own customer service.

  12. Legg says

    I have been with volusion now for a couple years. Things started out good I was setting up the store and started uploading my products. We are a small business but deal with a number of distributors and offer around 200,000+ Dvds, CDs, and games. I thought it would be no problem since we signed up for the “unlimited products” plan. WRONG. Turns out once I got about 100,000 products up there I could no longer reindex the database. This means I could not do stock updates or change anything in the database. Worst of all when I would try and reindex the server would time out and my store would be empty of all products.

    I talked to tech support a ton of times and they had no answer. Eventually they ended up telling me I was running into the limitations of sql. That doesn’t make much sense to me and seemed like a straight up lie but what do i know about sql? In order for me to get our database manageable I had to manually delete 100,000 products! Worst part is I had to delete them 500 at a time because they said there was no other way.

    I now have 90,000 products which means I cannot offer CDs and Games only our DVD inventory. That doesn’t sound like “unlimited products” to me.

    All I’m saying is they should have some kind of disclaimer about “unlimited products”.

    Don’t get me wrong, volusion does alot of things right but If I had it to do all over again I maybe would explore some other options.

  13. says

    Thank you for the review, Andy.

    I’m a experienced web store creator and have built stores on at least 20 different catalog environments in the past 10 years.

    I have found that Volusion is a poor choice for large catalogs of products – at least on their hosted service. Our product space is apparel. The store environment requires many manual operations required for things that should be done by the software. While most of this isn’t apparent until you really “get into it,” I felt the need to post a few notes in this space.

    In hopes to speed our project, I used the “design” service on one part of the store but, I’ll be kind to say the results ‘mediocre’ ($1000 wasted.) They also took weeks to do what I ended up repeating in photoshop in 2 hours. I do not recommend that service *at all.*

    The smartmatch inventory system setup is very difficult to get right. Though the feature itself seems to work (if you can get through the set-up) you will likely find it takes years off of your life. You must go do a series of cut/paste operations whenever you wish to use it which are error prone and impractical for large inventories. If you forget any of those steps, you can find yourself very frustrated trying to figure out what went wrong several steps down.

    In all the examples, of course, they are talking about one product or small chunks of inventory. If you have more than 50 products you will start to feel the pain.To their credit, style matrices are very difficult to do in any system. I’m just bothered that they pitch the smartmatch system as “easy.”

    The online videos on any of the advanced are not much better IMO, and half of my calls to support have met with what can only be described as snobbery. Even the videos have a touch.

    All in all the project has been a nightmare and I’ve been sorry that Volusion was used. I am now fully 1 month behind and can attribute much of that delay to the difficulties with the store system.

  14. Dan says

    I am just about to sign up for a Platnium ( we have just over 1200 products) Account and started to check around on issues.
    I like the software features and operation.

    I thought that we would have a great little store and not exceed bandwith from what the salesman expresed.
    When I talked about traffic and use his response was :

    “The platinum store has 15 GB of bandwidth a month, which equals to between 1500-2250 customers per day on the site.”

    He failed to mention the “other traffic” the spiders, and other creatures of the web.
    Well I didn’t really ask that and he is a salesman after all.

    Is it the pictures that cause the traffic? Would it be less for a members only store or do they still creep in and squander bandwidth?

    thanks for any replys

    Dan

    • says

      Dan here are some things that eat up bandwidth

      1. Search Engine Crawlers – on this blog it can sometimes be up to 10GB a month, and I have actually reduced pagecount partially because of this. I used to have lots of translated pages, but it was making backup files extremely large.

      2. Images – you need lots of images on a content site that is intended to convert.Small thumbnails are not so much a problem as you can reduce those down to 10kb in size, but for larger files, even using jpegs with low image quality, you are often looking at 100kb or more, especially with photographs.
      Bandwidth can be used by both normal visitors, and those using image search.
      That shouldn’t be looked on as a bad thing, visitors = traffic = potential $$$, but some forms of traffic are lower quality than others.

      3. Syndication of content by RSS – if you use RSS, various RSS crawlers are going to check your RSS feeds for changes. This can eat up a lot of bandwidth.

      4. Googlebase – I haven’t looked into detail with Googlebase, but I would think there is a potential bandwidth usage, maybe even pulling in images

      5. Shopping engines of various kinds updating their database could potentially be a server hog.

      6. Affiliates will be pulling data from your site in various ways

      7. People hotlinking your images – this might be looked on as a bad thing, but if you were running a gallery site for instance, the traffic and links you could get by making your images viral and possibly allowing them to be used on Stumbleupon and other social sites would be welcome, even if the traffic is poor quality. It is hard for commerse sites to get natural links.

      I still have no data on how much Rackspace charge their normal clients for “overage” or excess bandwidth, but if it really is $10 per GB, I can’t imagine many people using them.

      Whilst you can limit bandwidth use by using offsite storage for images, and maybe even for syndicated content, in this day and age it is unreasonable to have to do that for all but the highest bandwidth sites.

      I know Volusion have done some updates since this review, you might like to also check this review from a user of Volusion.

  15. says

    I was thinking of switching my store over to Volusion but I am worried about the bandwidth issues. I’m running OSC right now and it has it’s limits but I like having total control over my store and its hosting.

  16. says

    I am on their 14 day trial right now and just talked to my sales rep. over there. I really like their 1 page checkout and features but their cost overall seems to add up. Specifically I’m worried that I’ll start at the Bronze and move up and up due to bandwidth and product number issues.

    In reading the comments here, I just can’t imagine what would happen if your store became largely successful in 2 years and you’re still stuck with a 15GB limit. They really need to have an unlimited plan at the top.

  17. says

    About two weeks ago I finished opening accounts, get all the licensing… and organize my files. I am ready to open a on line store for medical equipment and I have a hard time deciding which company I should choose for that. Volusion was and still is a great contender but after reading all this comments I realize the bandwidth I a problem. I assume I will have around 1000 products on the site with a single image for each product. I really don’t know much about setting up a website and I completely rely on the videos and step by step instructions offered by the software. All I am trying to do is to start with the right foot. Can anybody advise me what other company I should consider if Volusion is not the right one (considering the bandwidth issue).

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    • says

      Volusion may still be a good option for you depending on the kind of traffic you expect on the site, the size of images, and cost for conversion metrics.

      I would certainly suggest starting your mailing list using Aweber, thus making any clients portable to other systems.

    • Cheryl Williams says

      You may want to look at CoreCommerce. You get a lot more bandwidth, they also use Rackspace.

      • says

        Cheryl sorry to disappoint you, but to just host this blog on those servers along with e-commerce I would have to go for the $1000 a month corporate package.

        That just isn’t acceptable as this site is actually quite low traffic.

        I don’t host any audio or video, or sell digital products here yet.

        250GB a month transfer for $1000 isn’t good value, it is still $4/GB

      • H. Andy Jaxson says

        I agree with the above poster. I checked out Core Commerce along with Volusion and Core Commerce is a newer service, and they seem to offer a lot more from a bandwidth and hard drive point of view. I also talked to a sales guy who told me that with Volusion, they count product options as product also, so like if you were on the small plan for 20 products, you can run out of products really quickly if you have options like sizes and colors. With Core Commerce, the product options do not count, so on their small plan (which is 50 products), you can have 50 products with as many option as you need to have. So if you havent checked out Core Commerce I would. It seems finally there is someone to compete with Volusion that has the same if not better features and competitive pricing. And right now the first month is free with no setup fee…..so I am seriously considering giving it a shot.

  18. says

    Noticed your blog and just want to clear something up. Actually there’s is $2GB you can pre-purchase on the small business platinum plan (or corporate). So if you don’t need a dedicated server, which some don’t you can prepay $2/GB for extra bandwidth at the platinum level. So if you wanted 250 GB that would be $400 + platinum plan. Compare this to volusion as in this blog and at volusion that would have been $2350/month + the platinum level (they charge $10/GB). That is quite a difference.

  19. says

    Thank you!

    Your comprehensive review saved me yet another costly mistake. I’m wanting to update my site and would have definitely gone over my BW limit. This process is at best overwhelming and your review has helped highlight the type of issues I need to consider. Did I already say Thank You?

    Mendy

  20. jaytee says

    Man, this was a good review. Thanks for outlining their bandwidth issues. The prices they are charging border on scandalous. Signing up would have been a costly mistake.

  21. HandyJaxson says

    you should do a review of corecommerce.com. I like them over Volusion and they are a monthly fee service also. Can you post a review of them if you have not done one already?

  22. Sohoce says

    I am currently using Prostores. They have a pretty good platform although some features are missing (Reviews, multiple tabs for product detail, multiple pictures).
    They do have several positive points such as 200GB BW, 10GB storage, 100 email boxes and 50000 items for $74.95 per month plus 0.5% per transaction. It offers full integration with Ebay, being an Ebay company plus several extra add-on application for additional cost.
    I was about to sign up with Volusion, but the BW is definitely a huge deal breaker, as we offer an inventory of 20,000 items.
    I guess i will just keep looking for the “perle rare”!
    Thank you for avoiding me a costly mistake. Keep up the good work!

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