September 24, 2013, 4:53 PM

Volusion targets larger companies with its new e-commerce platform

It’s designed to enable selling across web sites, mobile devices and stores.

Lead Photo

Volusion Inc., a provider of e-commerce software to small retailers, today stepped into the market for larger companies with its launch of Mozu, its new Internet-hosted e-commerce technology platform for online operations with annual sales of up to $100 million, CEO Clay Olivier says.

Volusion is offering Mozu for now under an “early-access” program, with a limited number of companies beginning to migrate to the new platform, he says. The company is positioning Mozu to appeal to existing clients who are considering migrating off of the company’s Volusion e-commerce platform, which caters to online companies doing up to $5 million in annual sales, as well as to prospective clients who may be considering e-commerce platforms from such companies as Demandware Inc. and MarketLive Inc., Olivier says. Like Demandware and MarketLive as well as the Volusion-branded e-commerce platform, Mozu is offered under a software-as-a-service model, under which clients rent the technology over the Internet without having to install the software on their own servers.

Industry analysts who have reviewed Mozu say it appears to have been designed to compete well in the highly competitive e-commerce technology market for small to mid-size companies.

“It certainly appears they have architected the system to be competitive with companies including Demandware and MarketLive,” says Leslie Hand, research director and e-commerce technology analyst at research firm IDC Retail Insights.

Adds Peter Sheldon, an e-commerce technology analyst at Forrester Research Inc., “Mozu will allow Volusion to go up-market, and retain growing customers that might otherwise have moved off the Volusion e-commerce platform to go to Demandware, MarketLive or others.”

Hand and Sheldon both cautioned, however, that Mozu has just been released and that clients have no history with it as yet. That makes it too soon to say how well it will meet Volusion’s objectives of being a flexible and scalable platform designed for managing orders and inventory across online, mobile and store channels. Volusion plans to make Mozu generally available in January.

Volusion says Mozu is the latest offering in the company’s efforts to upgrade its technology offerings, in which Volusion has invested more than $10 million in the last year alone and added 100 employees. The Austin, TX-based company now employs more than 450 people.

Among the expanded staff are a several technologists from the retail industry, says Steve Krebsbach, who joined Volusion in June 2012 from mobile commerce technology company Motricity, where he was senior director of infrastructure operations. (Motricity has since been renamed Voltari.)

One of those technology experts is Jason Wallis, who joined Volusion in 2011 as chief technologist and vice president of architecture from similar roles at Dell Inc. At Dell, Wallis worked as chief architect of Dell.com, No. 8 in the Internet Retailer 2013 Top 500 Guide, before being promoted to Dell’s chief technical architect and director of I.T. “I left Dell in April 2011 to begin building Mozu,” Wallis says.

Among Mozu’s features:

● Software development kits based on open-source technology, which makes software code available to developers for more flexibility in customizing web pages and site features and functionality, Volusion says.

● The ability to manage cross-channel order and inventory records, so that as products are sold in stores, online or via mobile devices, inventory availability is automatically updated in each channel.

● Responsive web design for extending the look and functionality of an e-commerce site on mobile devices.

Volusion has yet to release pricing for Mozu, though Olivier notes that it will be based on a client’s usage.

The company’s Volusion e-commerce platform is used by more than 40,000 clients with average annual sales of $77,000, though some have sales as much as $5 million Olivier says. So far this year, merchants on the Volusion platform have averaged $1 million more in daily sales than the same period last year, an increase of about 20%, Olivier says. The monthly subscription to operate on the Volusion platform runs from $15 to $195.

Volusion has also upgraded its Volusion e-commerce platform and I.T. to avoid site outages that have knocked some of its retailers offline in recent years, Olivier says.

Since Krebsbach joined the company as vice president of I.T. in June 2012, Volusion has added to its technology team for handling spikes in traffic and upgraded its data center, the company says. In the past 11 months, Krebsbach says, Volusion has reported an average site availability rate of 99.9%, and has improved its ability to address any down times within a range of 30 seconds to three minutes. During the second quarter of this year, Volusion had an average up-time of 99.98% in the second quarter, Olivier says.

Retailers contacted by Internet Retailer say they've noticed improvements in the Volusion platform's reliability, though with some lingering problems. "I feel they have made improvements and the platform is once again reliable," says Matt Cross, owner of Red Rocket Hobbies Inc., which sells online at RedRocketHobbies.com. While sales growth has been strong, his site has experienced "very few outages over the past four to six months," he says.

“Volusion has been a lot better; I don’t think my site has gone down in months,” adds Brent Gensler, president of home furnishings retailer DefySupply.com. “I was quite skeptical as they kept on saying they were fixing their internal issues, but it looks like they actually have.”

One sporting goods retailer who has operated on the Volusion platform for several years and who asked to remain anonymous says he also has noticed a general improvement in site availability over the past year, even as his online sales have also shown strong growth. But he adds that he still occasionally sees outages of 15 minutes or more, and has considered migrating to a platform such as Demandware for getting an expected higher level of service and site reliability.

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