TL; DR: Founded by Kevin Sproles nearly two decades ago, Volusion was created to give aspiring web entrepreneurs easier access to online marketplaces. Today, the platform has cemented its position in the eCommerce space, having hosted more than $28 billion in purchases. A big part of Volusion’s success is due to its company code that focuses on the needs of its primary user group — business founders and entrepreneurs. We recently caught up with Kevin, who told us how zeroing in on Volusion’s core customers has helped the company build some of the industry’s most effective tools and has empowered business owners worldwide to set up successful online enterprises.
Kevin Sproles wasn’t your average high schooler. When he was a student 18 years ago, Kevin spent his nights building a web design business. And, though he found quick success, it was apparent to him that the blossoming eCommerce space was the place to be.
So, in 2002, he switched gears and turned his business venture Volusion into a full-fledged eCommerce site-creation platform focused on the expanding community of web entrepreneurs. And he hasn’t looked back.
“For 15 years, we’ve been the leader in providing eCommerce software to small companies,” Kevin said. “For a while, we worked with some of the largest businesses in the world, but we sold that enterprise off so that we could go back to our roots and give 100% of our attention to small and medium-sized businesses.”
Over the last three years, Volusion has added a number of services and tools to its platform.
“We’re the industry leader because we never stop evolving,” Kevin said. “More than 185 million orders and $28 billion in transactions have gone through Volusion platforms.”
Because Volusion’s turn-key package delivers everything entrepreneurs need to get online storefronts up and running, the company continues to attract ambitious business-savvy customers.
“We pride ourselves on giving small business an opportunity to succeed,” Kevin said. “With us, they can reach their maximum potential.”
The Mission: Staying Focused on the Customer Breeds Success
In addition to adding new solutions to its platform, Volusion has also revamped its company culture.
“We created a culture code, which anyone can read,” Kevin said. “The first and most important part of it is a focus on our customers.”
Most of Volusion’s customers are entrepreneurs and founders. Kevin told us the goal is to help these users “create amazing companies.”
“That means we have to do more than just provide software,” he said. “We need to learn about our customers’ goals and empathize with the problems they’re trying to overcome.”
That philosophy separates Volusion from the competition. While Volusion actively updates products and toolsets to remain competitive, Kevin said that’s to be expected of any company trying to stay relevant in the eCommerce space. But Volusion’s aim to really understand its customer base is what differentiates the company.
“We’re focused on bigger-picture issues that challenge founders and stop them from achieving their goals,” Kevin said.
One of those goals is a milestone that every startup must reach — making the very first sale. All founders know how difficult it is to get products into the hands of their initial customers, and Kevin told us Volusion is tasked with helping them make that happen.
“That’s the moment of truth,” he said. “So much has to happen between having an idea for a business and actually selling something. We decided to focus on helping speed up the trip from A to B.”
Another important value in Volusion’s culture code is transparency. Volusion wants its employees to share data about customer successes. That starts at the top.
“Sharing openly is huge,” Kevin said, “I’m curious about our customers, and I encourage all of my employees to go out and learn everything they can about the founders who use our products.”
As a result, Volusion started its internal Build-a-Business program that encourages Volusion employees to start their own retail businesses. This helps them understand the challenges of launching a new company and gives them insights into how to help founders.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people who build software don’t understand the end user’s goals,” Kevin said. “They get distracted and focus on things that aren’t important.”
Build-a-Business solves that problem by turning Volusion’s coders into entrepreneurs.
“We’re excited by how much of a customer focus we’ve brought to our culture,” Kevin said. “It’s helped us create a lot of uniquely powerful solutions for the entrepreneurs who use our platform.”
A Year of Exciting New Solutions and Tools
And many of those solutions have been launched in just the past 12 months. The biggest is V2, the second version of Volusion’s platform.
“Everyone has known the importance of building mobile for customers for a long time now,” Kevin said. “But V2 is the first that’s built for merchants as well.”
Merchants who access V2 through their phone will be able to use 100% of the platform’s functionality. Users can run the entire store from their smartphone — an industry first, Kevin said.
During the past year, Volusion has also built a better app marketplace. The company’s new marketplace is built from the ground up to be developer-friendly.
“Until now, our marketplace was never fantastic,” Kevin said. “We’re proud to say that has changed. It opens up all kinds of exciting opportunities both for us and our customers.”
But the most exciting new development, according to Kevin, is Volusion’s new drop-shipping app. The application allows merchants to sell a wide array of products without having to house and manage a ton of inventory.
“Drop-shipping apps built by competitors ship their products from China,” Kevin said. “That means it takes almost a month to get a product delivered to the end customer and merchants lose a lot of potential customers who don’t want to wait that long.”
Volusion’s drop-shipping app works exclusively with US-based suppliers and delivers most shipments within three days.
“That’s obviously a huge difference,” Kevin said. “Everyone wants fast shipping and we’ve modernized the entire process.”
While V2, the app marketplace, and fast drop-shipping are three major developments, Volusion is also adding smaller tools to its arsenal of solutions. For example, during the last quarter, it improved its check-out processes.
“By doing a lot of UX resource and A/B testing, we were able to increase checkout conversion rates by 60% on both mobile and desktop,” Kevin said. “We’re always trying to improve in every way, so that we’re able to drive more sales for our merchants.”
From big changes to small tweaks, Volusion does everything with one goal in mind – accelerating merchant success.
“The most important thing for every merchant is to grow business and drive sales,” Kevin said. “We never stop thinking of ways to help merchants do exactly that.”
Delivering Everything from Graphic Design to Social Media Marketing
One of the things that makes Volusion unique is its in-house agency. Customers who need to get a logo designed, who want to optimize their site for SEO, or want help marketing on social media, can pick up the phone and call Volusion.
“We’ll be there to do that work for you or teach you how to do it,” Kevin said. “With our competitors, that’s not the case. When you call them for help with these services, they’ll tell you to go elsewhere, and you’ll end up having to pay a tremendous amount to an agency.”
The reason Volusion offers these services is that its primary goal is to get customers to use its platform. Kevin and his team know entrepreneurs who run small companies are incredibly busy, which is why they make themselves available to help where they can.
“If they decide that they don’t have time to run one area of their business, we can immediately step in and take care of it for them, while they can focus on making their site more profitable,” Kevin said. “In the end, everyone wins.”
The Philosophy: Great People Build Great Businesses
These powerful services and solutions help growing businesses become even more successful. Customer outcomes show the strength of Volusion’s tools — the average Volusion merchant brings in twice as much revenue as the average merchant running on a competitor’s platform.
“What I love is that merchants reach out to us to tell us that we care,” Kevin said. “We’re available from the moment they’re up, we’re there throughout their trial, and we’re helping out while they’re growing their businesses.”
Kevin thinks this dedication has a lot to do with the people who work at Volusion and the company’s commitment to sourcing local talent.
“We’re 100% based in a town full of fantastic people — Austin, Texas,” he said. “A lot of other companies outsource their support. There’s nothing wrong with that, but our US-based support team is different. As a founder, you want to work with people who understand your business. You want to work with a team that can help you reach the next level. We’re waiting by the phones, ready to help you get there.”