Ecommerce Spot

An Indepth Look at Ashop Commerce

An Indepth Look at Ashop Commerce

Ashop Commerce, while maybe new to some, has been around for quite a few years in their homeland, Australia. A major reworking of the product has seen them go global with impressive expansion plans.

Initial Impressions

Ashop is doing a great job of keeping up with the changing nature of the industry. Out of the box, as well as the normal front end and admin section, you get a mobile version and a Facebook store. This is a great way to open new opportunities and reach new customers easily. With mobile traffic sitting around 10% and growing it’s foolish to ignore the mobile consumer. Even if they don’t buy on the mobile device, they might research there and buy later.

The site is super easy to use and setting up a new store is a breeze. I managed to get a site set up with shipping, accepting payments, a theme I selected, a logo uploaded and a product created in about 5 minutes. I’m in business!

The admin interface is very clean and easy to use.

Setting up & Managing Products

For most shop owners, setting up and managing products is an ongoing chore. Fortunately, creating a new product is pretty straight forward. There are quite a few fields available to fill in, but many of them are optional. Having the extra fields there gives you extra flexibility when you need it. Apart from the expected fields (name, description, price, etc), there’s more advanced ones such as B2B price, quantity discounts, support for digital goods and more.

Speaking of quantity discounts, there’s a neat rules engine for applying discounts to quantity purchases. If you want, for example, 5% off for 3 – 5 items, 10% off for 6 – 10 and 20% off for 11+ items, no problem. There is also a similar system for managing variants on goods – sizes, colors, etc.

Payment, Shipping and Taxes

These are features that are boring until they don’t work at which point they are the worst things in the world. Fortunately you are well catered for. There’s a wide range of payment gateways supported featuring the usual suspects, and even allowance for a surcharge for each different card type. The tax settings seemed flexible but a bit confusing compared to other setups I’ve seen. Shipping supports real time lookup of many major shipping providers, allowing you to workout real time pricing from Fedex, etc.

Skinning

People love to design! People usually spend, in my experience, a disproportionately large effort on design. With many shopping cart products, you need to hire a designer and then a programmer to implement the design. A few thousand dollars later and you have your design. They usually have some built in themes to choose from, but customising them requires some programming or at least CSS knowledge.

Ashop has a nice interface where you can drag and drop and change design with no code.

You start with one of the built in themes, there are roughly 70 to choose from. From there, you can literally drag and drop components around the page to where you want them, and then use an editor to change colors, etc.

If you are super picky about what you want it to look like, or time poor, you can have a totally custom design made by Ashop at various prices depending on your needs from $1,295 up. The templates plus drag and drop should suffice for most.

Marketing Tools

“Build it and they will come” makes a nice line for a movie, but for a website, that’s rarely true. You need to bring people to you. Marketing tools help with this. While good marketing involves a lot more than tools, they certainly help make life much easier.

Affiliates

Ashop has its own built in affiliates program. This makes setting up an affiliates program very easy. There’s pros and cons between using your own program versus going through a 3rd party system such as Commission Junction, etc, but if you want your own program, having it already integrated makes it very quick and simple to setup.

Search Engines

Ashop has a built in module that allows it to send all your products to Google AdWords. This is a fantastic feature as it allows you to setup AdWords campaigns without leaving Ashop.

Other Marketing Tools

There are a range of tools such as:

  • Gift certificates which allows a fair bit of customisation – can make your own design, limit to categories or products, etc.
  • A built in newsletter tool which offers some basic targeting features
  • Already set up feeds to ready to send to shopping.com, Google shopping, etc
  • A non-reciprocal link swap function with 5 other non-competitive Ashop sites. This allows you to automatically get links with 5 other stores on the Ashop platform, which can help with your SEO.

Reporting

There are two main reports. Order Reports gives you, as you’d expect, information on orders placed. This can be broken up in several useful ways – overall orders, by product, by customer, etc.

Statistics gives you more general information. It gives you information on visitors, search engines, where people come from, countries, and more.

The information overall is good, but doesn’t replace something like Google Analytics, although Ashop does allow you to easily integrate with Google Analytics if you want that extra data.

Conclusion

Ashop Commerce seems to be squarely aimed at the sort of person who wants to get online fast and start selling. For the sophisticated and experienced online marketer, Ashop probably isn’t the best choice. However, if you want to get online, have all the options you need to run a successful online business, don’t want to have too steep of a learning curve, and are more interested in getting stuff sold quickly, Ashop is a serious contender.

Review as at January 2012.

Please note: a detailed review like this takes substantial amounts of time. As a result, the cost of time was partially offset by a payment from the makers of Ashop Commerce. At no time did they put any pressure on me, there was no incentives of future work or other kick backs, and payment was received before they saw the review. They thoroughly respect and value the independent nature of this site.

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