When starting up, most businesses need to build a website and set up a credit card processing system to accept customer payments. While the average startup or small business can get away with using the basic plans from standard website builder services, e-commerce businesses will need additional tools to build their online presence.
If you’re running an e-commerce business (i.e. you sell products and/or services mainly online) you will need the following key features:
- Product Catalog: displays your products or services in an organized and attractive way
- Shopping Cart: lets customers select items and place them into a virtual shopping cart for easy ordering
- Payment Processing: lets you accept payment online from credit cards, PayPal, eCheck, etc.
Most basic business website builders do not include these tools and require an upgrade to an e-commerce plan to get them. Basic website builder services are generally focused on informational websites or websites that sell only a handful of products or services. Most of these services do offer e-commerce plans that range in price and functionality, but comparing these upgrades and selecting a plan that fits your needs can be cumbersome.
We’ve come across a solution that aims to simplify the process of building and marketing an online store–Volusion–and highly recommend it to e-commerce businesses.
Volusion Online Store Builder
Unlike other website builder services, Volusion focuses specifically on e-commerce sites. Hence, they offer the following services: domain names, web design, credit card processing, SSL certificates (lets you encrypt data for secure online transactions) and online marketing services.
Visiting Volusion.com gives you a glimpse of the service’s robust offerings. I was immediately impressed by the variety of high quality e-commerce website templates, which range in price from free to around $1000. Volusion currently offers 300+ e-commerce site templates, giving you a number of stylish, affordable options for your website.
Other nifty features include:
- “Soft Add to Cart”: customers can place items in their carts through a popup screen rather than leaving the page
- Wish Lists: lets customers mark their favorite items and add them to a list
- One-page Checkout: helps reduce your customer abandon rate
- Integrated Payment Processing: accepts credit cards and other payment methods
- Deal of the Day: you can easily post a daily deal, as well as coupon codes and other discounts
- Customer Reviews: your customers can post product reviews that give you insight into the popularity of your products and overall buying trends
- Social Store: you can easily sell products and run promotions on a customizable Facebook page
- Mobile-Optimized Site: customers can easily view your site on their mobile devices and make purchases
Volusion vs. Basic Website Builder Services
Volusion starts at $19/month for an e-commerce site that supports up to 100 products and goes all the way up to $149/month for an unlimited number of products. You can also call them to request information and a quote on an enterprise-level plan. Compared to basic website builder services that offer e-commerce upgrades, Volusion offers a wider range of plan options and services.
To give you a point of comparison, 1&1 (a popular basic website builder) offers a starter e-commerce site with 50 products for $12/month. Their second plan level costs $30/month for 300 products. And their third (and highest) plan level costs $50/month and limits you to 20,000 products. While 1&1 gives you a good deal in terms of price, it doesn’t give you nearly as many of the tools and functions that Volusion provides.
If you need to create a basic business website (i.e. one that conveys basic information about your business, such as what you offer, where you’re located, etc.), then a website builder service that costs about $10/month will work for you.
If you need to sell products or services online for a low cost, and you don’t need all the bells and whistles of an all-in-one e-commerce service, then upgrading to an e-commerce plan from a website builder like 1&1 may be a good option for you.
If you want a variety of compatible e-commerce tools and robust features, an integrated e-commerce solution like Volusion will be your best bet.