I’ve tried a lot of shopping carts!
Part of the reason I’ve tried so many is that I’ve never found one that I truly like. I won’t list them all … yet. Basically, if it’s free to a couple thousand dollars, I’ve tried it.
One of my clients was on Shopsite, a horrible shopping cart relic written in perl from the ancient past (1999). They were having a lot of problems with Shopsite. Even though Shopsite updates regularly, needed software like StoneEdge stopped working with it – even though they still officially are partners. I researched the clients needs and identified Volusion as a good match. There is a dashboard, easy to use interface, CRM, email capabilities, cart abandonment reports among others, and an API interface with Facebook, twitter, and YouTube integration. Seems like a nice system. Plus, Entrepreneur Magazine gave it a stellar review.
Sounds good right?
Here’s the reality:
3,000 products to import and set up with a CSV in Volusion formatting. But first, import all the images by using the thumbnail generator that makes 5 images out of each image. Associate the images with the primary key of the product it belongs to (by hand). FTP up the images, import the CSV – to find … only 30% of the images work and the weights of the products all say 1 pound. Try to sort that out by importing more tweaked CSV’s that import fine, but don’t work. Found through trial and error that it works if you do it by hand. Fix all images by hand by roundtripping from product to browse “upload” button, to the directory, find the image (out of 3000 images) click upload … wait … next. Then do the same roundtripping with the weights.
The design and page creation in Volusion is odd. Not as moronic as Shopsite, but odd in a unique way. That took a few weeks.
Realize the descriptions are coded in HTML and have images embedded within them – that’s how Shopsite does it – but the images are being called from the old server which is to be shut down. This can only be fixed by hand …
Now, think about what has to be stopped in order to move from one server to another: all online advertising including Google Adwords, and 301 redirects for every page from the old server to the new.
Plus, set-up email addresses on the new server so that they will work when the DNS propagates (note to self: GMail!)
After all this, we are ready to launch. So, I change the DNS entries in Network Solutions and wait for propagation. A process which reportedly can take 24 – 48 hours, but in 15 years of doing this has only ever taken about 1 – 2 hours.
1 – 2 hours passes and the new site is displaying! But wait, what’s this … the URL says something like dsfibad-asfndiui.servertrust.com. I recall a setting that I need to change in the company settings – to set it from a temporary URL to the domain. I make the change and – wait for it – get an error message: “The site must fully propagate, if you have changed your DNS settings in the last 24 – 48 hours … yada, yada, yada”
I call Volusion. I’m on hold for 45 minutes – seriously! I’ve called them dozens of times throughout this process and it always takes 20 – 35 minutes for them to answer the phone. Seriously! It doesn’t matter what time of the day you call. 3am? 30 minute wait. 10am? 30 minute wait. I’ve tried all hours of the day. 15 minutes was the fastest I ever got through.
They give me a line about how the site hasn’t propagated. But here’s the kicker. I type in the domain name, I get the new site with the temporary URL. I call a friend in Seattle, he types in the domain name, and he gets the new site with the temporary URL.
They tell me I must wait. I get upset and refrain from saying bad words. I point out that what they are saying makes no sense. They agree and escalate it. A manager calls me back and can’t explain why it won’t work it just won’t. I persuade him to get tier 2 “the NOC” involved and they take 8.5 hours to send me an email that says: “The site probably hasn’t propagated yet. Wait another 24 hours.”
Meanwhile, customers are coming to the site from all over the world by typing in the clients domain name. They are purchasing even though the URL is sfskdjf-sdjfaso.servertrust.com and not the actual domain name.
That’s a plus.
Oh, but all of my clients employees email accounts are empty. There’s no email. For days! All those emails just quietly disappearing into a black, lifeless void without even a whimper. (That last bit is my stab at comedy – whaddaya think?)
Yes, after all the hooplah and hype about how great Volusion is. After the time I spent selling my client on Volusion – earning their trust; listening to their needs; being an expert, adviser, consultant; doing the research; making a suggestion; keeping them engaged in the project …
Volusion turns out to be another problem – not a solution. I think the cart works like it should. I haven’t had it in use in the real-world long enough to know, but it seems like the cart is sound. The problem is: the tech support.
Back in 1999 – 2000 Interland grew too big too fast. Their wait times would frequently be 30 – 45 minutes. They had a tiered system where a newbie would try to identify if your issue needed “escalating” or if it was a minor issue they could fix with a question like: “Is your computer on? Is it connected to the Internet, etc.”
Volusion seems to be following in Interland’s footsteps. Long hold times and tiered support.
All the tech support people I have spoken with seem nice – except for one snotty girl – oh and the on-boarding coach. But they don’t really know what they are doing. They don’t fully know the software, they have to “check with someone real quick, please hold” and they don’t know that a site that displays with a temporary URL when you type a domain name in is propagated.
How could I be at a temporary URL if Volusion didn’t get a request and redirect the request to the specific server holding the site at the temporary URL? ARGHH!
So, that’s the story of my experience with Volusion. It hasn’t started out very good. Hopefully I can save face with the client. It’s gonna take some work though!
At the end of the day, Volusion isn’t the Godsend it’s been suggested to be. In fact, so far, it’s just another disappointing shopping cart.
My only concern now is: do I explain to the next customer that experience has shown that switching carts is a huge undertaking and ordeal that will require they be without email for days and have a sketchy site that could potentially hurt their brand? In addition, I’ll need to estimate 8 – 14 hours of on hold time as I try to troubleshoot the inevitable issues and standard maintenance rates will apply. Does that sound right to you? Me neither! But according to shopping cart manufacturers, it’s all par for the course.
So far, I give Volusion 1 out of 5 stars. The one star is for their marketing.