EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 270 - September 12, 2010 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 8

Volusion Offers Flexible Full-Featured Ecommerce Platform

By Greg Holden

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Having written about a number of "shopping carts" (or more accurately, "full featured ecommerce platforms") recently, my impulse is to focus on what makes a company unique or different from the rest of the crowd. But what's really important for small business owners is the whole package: the service, the ease of use, the reliability and security, and everything that goes into a store creation-hosting-management tool. That includes the company's approach to its customers.

Volusion certainly offers the whole package, and that is just an extension of how founder and CEO Kevin Sproles approached the business when he first started the company.

Like other shopping carts, Volusion was created by a talented young computer programmer who started out developing websites for different businesses, one at a time. In fact, Sproles was only sixteen when he founded the company in 1999 - a time when, he recalls, "the dot-com boom was going on and everyone wanted Web sites."

Sproles started out coding and designing websites in high school. He wanted to scale up his business, but realized he couldn't do it by creating websites individually. By creating a website creation tool (at the time, commonly called a "shopping cart") that he could sell repeatedly, Sproles was able to get his first few clients and some feedback.

The same approach that he followed in Volusion's early days - focusing on one business at a time and providing individualized solutions on top of a standard ecommerce platform - drive the company today. Sproles has much to say about what Volusion calls its "Out of This World Support."

"Every day, we work with customers to understand their business needs in order to provide the innovative solutions they need," he comments. "We want to help store owners increase their sales, ease up business processes and focus on selling their products. We crowd source for ideas, but as we build the product roadmaps, we research which improvements will have positive impact and make our customers even more successful."

Just about every ecommerce company I've profiled talks about their superior end-to-end customer service and their dedication to their merchant-clients, however. What features does Volusion offer that set it apart from the competition? Sproles cites the following examples:

  • Identifying potential fraud. Volusion's Fraud Score service allows merchants to identify behavior associated with fraudulent orders before processing them.
  • Mobile versions of online stores. I've heard ecommerce providers say they're working on mobile commerce for their customers. But Volusion mCommerce is operating now. It allows customers to browse merchants' stores through a mobile-optimized version of their online store.
  • In-house services. Volusion's in-house services agency makes SEO, PPC and design experts available to merchants.

All these services are made available through a variety of hosting packages. They are targeted at new businesses, established small companies, and mid-market retailers. Five packages are available; they range from $19 to $169 per month. The least expensive package lets you sell 100 products, the top-priced package an unlimited number of items.

Volusion allows merchants to set up features such as a gift registry and customer loyalty program; an image viewer and "color swatch" tool so shoppers can view products in different colors; gift certificates and a coupon generator; and a built-in email newsletter generator. It is search engine optimized and includes social media tools and Blogger and Twitter templates.

Over the years, Volusion's customer base has grown to more than 20,000 merchants. The sluggish economy hasn't affected the company's growth, according to Sproles. "We've seen strong growth during the slowdown as entrepreneurs have continued to view ecommerce as an affordable and essential business function."

Of course, Sproles (who is now 27 and engaged to be married) isn't alone any more in running Volusion. A total of 180 employees work in Simi Valley, California and Austin, Texas. They follow Sproles' original approach, though. "In Volusion's early stages, I worked by request to build software that fit clients' needs, often staying up all night implementing a new feature. This mentality remains a core value at Volusion to this day and drives our developers to continually implement new features and functionality to benefit those who know it best - their customers."

Seeing customers make their business visions come true is what motivates Sproles and his staff and keeps them excited about providing this ecommerce platform. In the future, the company looks to provide more mobile commerce solutions. "Mobile commerce is going to be the next big thing in our industry and we're excited about providing this capability for our merchants. We have so many examples of grateful merchants who have seen their business vision become a reality and we're truly proud to say we played a role in that success."

About the author:

Greg Holden is EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.

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