More Hosted Shopping Carts: BigCommerce and Volusion
After publishing my previous hosted shopping carts article, it was suggested I should also have compared BigCommerce and Volusion. I didn’t include them in that article because I already had Shopify lined up, which presented a better alternative to Magento Go and Yahoo Small Business.
That doesn’t mean you should rule out BigCommerce and Volusion, or that I think they’re inferior. This article allows us to get an overall impression by comparing the two.
In this article, I’ll compare their features and pricing. Then in a second part, we’ll see how easy they are to set up and how well they do mobile.
At first, BigCommerce and Volusion seem very alike when it comes to features. Since both are pretty successful in their own right, there must be something that sets each one apart. Let’s dig.
Let’s start by finding out if both BigCommerce and Volusion offer some of the most important hosted shopping cart features:
|Feature||BigCommerce has it?||Volusion has it?|
|Up-/cross/-deepsell||Cross-sell, recommendations on shopping cart||Cross-sell, related products|
|Discount options||Yes (a lot!)||Yes|
|Layered navigation||No||Yes (Limited to price/category)|
|Social integration||Yes, Facebook shop, sharing of products and orders, followers||Yes, Facebook shop, sharing of products, followers, post to Twitter/Facebook|
|Advanced SEO options||Yes, sitemap, Google Shopping integration, rich snippets products and review markup||Yes, sitemap, Google Shopping integration, full rich snippets markup|
|Wish-lists||Yes, public and private||Yes, private|
|One page checkout||Yes||Yes|
|Mobile theme and/or admin||Yes, mobile theme / limited mobile admin||Yes, theme and (limited) admin app (Android/iOS)|
|Themes & Apps||110 free themes, no paid themes / 18 free apps + tens of paid apps/integrations||82 free + 207 paid (expensive) themes / 12 free apps + 33 paid integrations (read below)|
|Rating / review system||Yes, + reminder after purchase||Yes|
|API access||Yes (Developer portal)||Yes (Developer Wiki)|
|24/7/365 support||Limited, chat is 24/5, phone is extended business hours||Yes, phone/email/chat|
|Hosting w/ CDN||Yes||Yes (Akamai)|
|Partner program||Yes (Partner program)||Yes (Partner program)|
|Fancy sales page||Yes (I love it :-)||Yes (Kind of)|
Each of the hosted shopping cart providers also has a noteworthy set of features that the other one doesn’t have (or doesn’t do as well).
Content Management System
While Volusion allows you to edit most of your pages and templates, you can’t add new pages. BigCommerce, however, gives you a full built-in CMS, where you can even build separate pages for mobile and desktop visitors. You can make your own homepage, and are able to restrict certain pages to customers only. And you can insert You tube/Vimeo videos. It’s a really powerful editor, which couldn’t be any easier to use.
Even though this is only used once (and you might not even think you need it if you’re a developer), it’s still a nice feature. You can make an appointment with their Success Squad, where you will receive 30 minutes of assistance in setting up your store. And you can ask any questions you have right away. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and can give you a nice start if things look overwhelming.
Another way of getting you start is the Quick Launch Wizard, which takes you through all the required steps from within the dashboard. And it keeps track of your progress.
Apps & integrations
Adding apps is really easy: For some popular apps you just select the appropriate category from the navigation menu, and select the apps you want to install. After installing an app, you can configure it.
Volusion doesn’t actually give you an easy way to install an app at all, but shows a list of providers with whom they cooperate. Integrating them has to be done manually. But here comes the catch: For most of its apps, BigCommerce works the same way. So even though they call it apps, it are just integrations. If they could only put their real app system to work with all of their partners, they would have a decent selling point.
But for now, it’s too limited. Shopify is the one that really gets this (read review), and both BigCommerce and Volusion could learn from them.
Deal of the day
Volusion offers an interesting Deal of the Day feature, where you can display products for a limited time (with counter) for a special price. This could really increase your revenue, if you have the products for it. The only downside (to me) is that it is displayed in a separate Deal of the Day page, which is access from the store’s navigation. It would be really great if you had the choice to put it directly on your homepage, and maybe even run your own GroupOn. But still, very nice feature. Only downside: It only comes with their most expensive plans.
You have to search for it (let me help), but part of their offering is free live chat software. You have to install it yourself, even though this really should be integrated.
Volusion gives you a very powerful tool, called ROI Tracking. It allows you to easily keep track of your sales efforts, like advertising campaigns, newsletters or your affiliate program (yes, there is a built-in affiliate program!). You can read reports about the effectiveness of each of your campaigns, and it keeps track of all of your history.
Volusion allows you to run a (although basic) loyalty program, where you can reward customer based on your spending, or buy selected products. Customers save up points, which you can give a value and let customers use this to buy products. An excellent way to keep customers coming back. And as with the Deal of the Day feature, is only comes with their most expensive plans.
Bonus: Abandoned cart saver
Both BigCommerce and Volusion give you an abandoned cart saver. This gives you an insight in the shopping carts customer fill up, but which don’t come to an actual sale. Volusion allows you to send a follow-up email manually, while BigCommerce has the option to send an automated series of follow-up emails. The latter is preferred, since it doesn’t require any of your time, while still being an excellent way to ramp up sales.
And BigCommerce allows you to include a coupon code in your emails, like free shipping. BigCommerce works with emails only, while Volusion also gives you the ability to restore a cart (if lost) when a customer calls you. Both have a different approach, but the result can be very rewarding.
BigCommerce really stands out in helping you set up your store, while Volusion is the real feature leader of the two. But keep in mind, some of their features require very expensive plans, and sometimes a specialized provider may be a better alternative because most listed features are (still?) very basic.
When it comes to pricing, both providers have a different strategy. BigCommerce has all of it’s features included in all plans, but has a higher price. Volusion starts cheap, but limits its functionality and only gets really interesting after you whip out $35 or more a month. Let’s make a comparison for some of their plans:
|Feature set||Full||Very limited|
|Price||$24.95 per month||$15 per month|
|Price||$79.95 per month||$65 per month|
|Price||$299.95 per month||$195 per month|
Both offer very competitive pricing, with BigCommerce allowing a lower number of products than Volusion on each comparable plan. But it’s compensated by given access to all of it’s features right from the start, where Volusion only comes alive after signing up for their Bronze plan or higher.
And just as with Magento Go (see review), the amount of bandwidth is just too small compared to the price you’re paying, and the number of products you can offer. Both charge no transaction fees.
Okay, that’s it for features and pricing. In the next article I will show you how these stores are set up, and how they deal with mobile.