When Written: April 2010
VERDICT: Some fixes and a few more features, live stock levels at last and an improved checkout. More of a 0.5 upgrade though.
PRICE: £799 exc VAT ( upgrade from version 9 or earlier – £375 exc VAT )
Feefo from £10 – £80 per month depending on number of transactions
SUPPLIER: www.actinic.co.uk Tel 0845 129 4800 ( Sales)
Desktop application: Windows
Hosting of live site: Any web server capable of running Perl
Actinic Business is a well known internet ‘shop in a box’ and has a large established user base. There are not many products still around like Actinic, such things as Coffeecup’s offerings are much cheaper at $ 128 but only create the shopping cart. Actinic’s offering handles the whole transaction from building the shopping site , processing the orders stock control to even handling phone and email orders. Many of the other offerings out there like ShopFactory (http://www.shopfactory.com/ ) or 1&1 ( www.1and1.co.uk ) are tied to a particular hosting company which is fine if you are happy with their service but lacks the flexibility of the Actinic approach, who although they also offer hosting for their shops, their product also supports hosting on your own server, although in our experience setting this up initially can be a little tricky.
Actinic version 10 is their latest incarnation and whilst it is fair to say that there are not any huge changes to the application itself,( those changes were made in version 8 ) there have been some significant enhancements to the functionality of the on-line web site that it produces. The first of these, at long last, is live stock levels. Whilst Actinic has been able to track stock levels since version 4 the displaying on the web site a warning of any items where the stock had run out was only done after a manual download of the orders and an update of the web site. This meant that should you have an unexpected rush on a particular item you could end up with orders that you could not satisfy, with the resultant upset customers.
Now after years of claiming that live stock levels were fraught with problems mainly because of competitors placing a number of items in their check out basket on your web site and hence ‘tying up’ your stock, Actinic have implemented this functionality, in doing so they have also thought about retailers who sell via ‘multi-channels’ for example they might sell not just via their web site but by telephone, mail order and a traditional shop. Keeping track of your stock through all these channels could be a problem but Actinic seemed to have solved it with automatic synchronisation of stock levels between the desktop application and the web site.
To help encourage sales Actinic, has previously implemented suggestions like ‘people who bought this also bought’ and lists of best sellers as well as new items, they have now added ‘last looked at items’ so a visitor to your web site can see what they have previously looked at and hopefully this will increase time and sales on your site. Visitors to your web site also need to have confidence in you as a company and offering a form of visible feedback like sites such as eBay, is a good way at building confidence. Rather than building their own feedback system, Actinic has decided to use one of the market leaders in this area called ‘Feefo’. By adopting this method of providing customer feedback will apparently have a positive effect on your web site’s search engine ranking.
Although the implementation of Feefo into your Actinic shop is very simple once you have registered an account with them, there is no way to view the status or your feedbacks received from within the application. You need to go to the Feefo web site and log in to view these events. We would like to see more complete integration between these third-party services and the Actinic application, it would be much better for the application to perhaps flag up any bad feedback left without the shop owner having to log into yet another web site. Also bare in mind that all these extra services are not included in the initial price.
As each version of Actinic comes along the application and the resulting web site evolve to keep up with what is expected by the users. One area of complaint in the past has been the multi-page checkout, in version 10 this has been replaced with a single page, albeit with multiple stages. We would have liked to see something a little slicker like an AJAX enabled checkout, the reason for not providing this, Actinic claim, is because of compatibility with multiple browsers. There is already a third-party extension that provides AJAX functionality for the checkout, at times Actinic seem to take an overly cautious route.
Whilst version 10 delivers well and the upgrade of a live version 9 site was painless, we would like to see better integration with third-party services. At times adding these services like Postcode lookup, and Customer Feedback seem like an easy way to build features but with them not being included it the price it is difficult to consider them as part of the main product. Unless live stock or the ability to offer customer feedback are features you have been waiting for then we feel that there is little new to justify the cost of the upgrade. If however you have Actinic cover then the upgrade is free and for us was a painless process. If you are considering Actinic for your business then it is still a very strong and full featured product, it’s just that the difference between version 9 and 10 is smaller than we would have liked.
EASE OF USE: 5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4
The recently view capability shows products that you have just viewed
The Feefo customer satisfaction system is now built into Actinic but it is a chargeable service
Setting up Feefo is easy but we would have liked to see more integration with the Actinic application.
The new tidied up checkout is more modern looking and a welcome improvement
Article by: Mark Newton
Published in: Mark Newton