A lot has happened since we last looked at the Windows-based e-commerce application formerly known as Actinic, not least the renaming of both the company and its products to SellerDeck. The Actinic brand, meanwhile, has been sold to one-time partner Oxatis which, somewhat confusingly, will use the name to market an equivalent cloud-based solution. That leaves SellerDeck to concentrate on its popular desktop products, all of which are configured and managed from a local PC rather than the cloud, and now updated to SellerDeck 2013.

Under the SellerDeck skin

The name may have changed but the way in which SellerDeck 2013 works and its target market remain much the same. The focus is very much on the SME, with SellerDeck a completely self-contained product for anyone looking to design, build and run an online store. That’s predominantly those selling physical goods although support for electronic downloads has been in the product for some time now and you can also use it to market services and other intangibles. More than that, unlike some alternatives, SellerDeck can also integrate mail-order sales and orders taken over the phone. It can even be used to power tills in a “real” shop.

The software involved is installed onto a Windows PC and it is on this system that all the product details, stock levels, sales and other data will be stored and managed, eliminating performance and security worries associated with cloud-based solutions. Easy to use tools to design an online store are also built in and, once happy with how it looks and works, the competed site can be easily uploaded to any Web host (including SellerDeck itself) but still be run and updated from the Windows desktop.

There’s support too for all the leading payment providers and optional integration with Sage 50 Accounts. You even get real real-time stock control (added a couple of releases back) along with all the promotional bells and whistles the modern online retailer needs from discounts and “bogof” deals to coupons, related purchases, “Also bought” lists and so on.

Versions to go

The SellerDeck product line-up itself doesn’t change that much in this release, and there are only a few tweaks when it comes to pricing. At £499 (ex. VAT), SellerDeck Catalog remains the staple for sole traders and small start-ups, delivering the basic ecommerce capabilities needed plus support for up to 20,000 products. Buyers looking for more sophisticated marketing features, however, will need to shell out a lot more for SellerDeck Business (£899 ex. VAT) which adds extra merchandising features, the ability to process mail and telephone orders and links to the retail SellerDeck EPOS product.

SellerDeck Business Plus (from £1,399 ex. VAT) adds support for multiple stores run and managed by up to four users, while SellerDeck Enterprise (£5,000 ex. VAT) adds a more scalable SQL database plus tools to cope with high volume order processing. Upgrades and support contracts are also to be had, with SellerDeck Cover plans priced according to the level of product purchased. All include UK-based telephone support, updates and emergency hosting provision.

So, what’s new?

Effectively the twelfth release of this popular e-commerce application, the user interface doesn’t change much. A simple ready-made store (selling jewellery) is presented to start with and you can play with this to familiarise yourself with how everything works then customise the design and content to suit your needs.

All references to Actinic have been changed to reflect the SellerDeck revamp and the logo also updated. On the design front there are some big enhancements. As in earlier releases several built-in design themes are available but the previous versions had very few layout options, requiring the use of a totally separate design wizard to gain more flexibility. SellerDeck 2013 takes a much more integrated approach with eight page layouts, each of which can be used with any of eleven built-in themes and further refined using an updated and enhanced design wizard.

E-mails can now also be designed to match the store, with support for HTML as well as plain text to handle, for example, company logos and other marketing graphics. Other changes are more subtle, affecting what customers see rather than the way an online store is designed, setup and managed. For example, long store sections can now be automatically divided into more manageable chunks by specifying the number of products per page, with the end results still displayed as static HTML pages for search engine optimisation.

Customers can also be given access to custom search filters to only show products in a particular size, colour and so on. Added to which a list of suggestions can now be displayed when filling in the quick search box and customers allowed to choose the sort criteria when displaying the results.

Search filters can also be used to dynamically create and fill a page. A page showing only ladies fashion, for example, could be built this way or separate pages dynamically created for specific brands, without having to pre-populate or order products in the database. Plus you can now get SellerDeck to dynamically compute prices based on selections made by the customer, such as colour and size, and do so before they are added to the basket.

And lastly there are enhancements to server-side indexing and filtering based on AJAX technology to support the new dynamic filtering and pricing options. These options will still work in browsers where JavaScript support is disabled, plus there’s a new API which can be used by SellerDeck Developers to access underlying product data from server-side applications and browser plug-ins.

Is it worth it?

As with previous, Actinic, releases it can take a while to get to grips with how SellerDeck 2013 works and even longer to get a store up and running. That said, it’s no harder than a lot of the competition and it ticks most of the boxes when it comes to selling online, making it a popular choice with small to medium sized traders. This latest release doesn’t add all that much more in terms of features, but what you get is worth having and, if SellerDeck is to be believed, could be just what you need to “turn more browsers into buyers”.