Actinic – Actinic v10 review

small business e-commerce application to create and run an online web store
Photo of Actinic – Actinic v10
from £399 + VAT (Actinic Catalog v10)

If you’re running a web store, chances are you’re doing so using software from Actinic, which leads the field when it comes to small business e-commerce. In which case you’ll be interested in the latest release – Actinic v10 – which adds a number of useful new features and enhancements to this already usable and popular product.

Sensibly, little has changed as far as the underlying technology and user interface are concerned. You still need just a single Windows PC to get started, with an integrated application to not just design and build your website, but run it on a day to day basis. As such you’ll find extensive product management and order processing facilities built in as standard, along with facilities to handle phone and other offline orders (Actinic Business) as well as those taken online, and accept payment via the leading automated payment systems.

Sites can be hosted by Actinic if you want (from £15 + VAT per month) but you’re free to use any hosting company, even host sites on your own servers if you want.

Having used the product before we found it easy to get started, but there’s lots of help available and a ready-made sample site to enable newcomers to get to grips with things. There are changes, of course, but they’re squirrelled away in the detailed management of the website, with real time stock control the most eagerly awaited of the new features.

Product stock levels could be entered and managed in previous versions of Actinic, but levels shown on the website had to be manually synchronised with those on the management PC. Because the software can also be used to manage mail and telephone orders, that meant a product could easily be shown as available when it was really out of stock. As of v10, synchronisation is automatic, with stock levels on the website more accurately reflecting what’s available, regardless of any offline orders which might be taken. More than that, when stocks fall below pre-set levels further online ordering of those items can be suspended.

Component items can also be processed and shipped independently in this release, regardless of stock levels and availability of others. Except for the Enterprise Edition, there’s still no option to link to an independent product database, but this is unlikely to be a major concern for most small traders.

Little changed since Actinic was introduced, the checkout procedure comes in for a major makeover in v10. Before it was very clunky, requiring shoppers to enter the same details onto multiple pages. Now it’s much more streamlined, with invoicing and delivery address information all collected on one page with, as previously, integration with Postcode Anywhere for postcode entry.

Product thumbnails can now be shown in the Actinic shopping cart and there’s a new order confirmation page from which shoppers can review their order and make changes. This also replaces the “bounce” page between the Actinic checkout and any online payment system used, making the whole experience much slicker and user friendly.

On the marketing front there’s an option to record what shoppers have been looking at and display a “Recently viewed” list as well as the “also bought”, “best selling” and “related items” lists of previous versions. Plus there’s an all new customer feedback and review system to automatically request feedback after a set number of days and, optionally, display the results on the website. This is done via a third party service called Feefo which, according to Actinic, adds to its credibility. Feefo charges a fee for this service, starting at £10 per month for up to 350 reviews.

Finally, additional tools to filter and search for orders have been added along with a new tool to delete stored credit card numbers, to conform with latest PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) regulations. Supported by all the major banks, the Actinic card number shredder will permanently delete all but the last four digits of stored card numbers which can be retained for cross-referencing purposes.

Pricing stays the same, with Actinic Catalog (£399 + VAT) for small online traders and Actinic Business (£799 + VAT) for those looking to run high volume sites and manage offline orders. The multi-site, multi-user Actinic Business Plus starts at £1,249 + VAT with packages for professional Web designers and an Enterprise implementation also available.

Customers with Actinic Cover can upgrade to v10 for free. Others will find upgrades available at a reduced rate.

Company: Actinic

Contact: 0845 129 4800

No big changes in how Actinic works or is managed in this release. That said, automated real time stock control is a welcome addition and the checkout revamp a much needed improvement. You also get to show shoppers recently viewed items and gather feedback, albeit via a chargeable third party service, further enhancing this already very capable e-commerce solution.