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Caption by: Christian Harris
Internet retailing is predicted to make up 15 per cent of all UK retail sales and be worth £40bn by the end of 2007, according to research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). The study also predicts that online sales will make up 40 per cent of retail sales by 2020 (equivalent to £162bn). If you run or own a small business, you may already be up and running in the online world. But if you’re not trading online, then you may be missing out on a massive opportunity. And even if you are already selling your products online, the design and usability of your store may be losing you customers and sales.
EROL (Electronic Retail Online), like many of its 'shop-in-a-box' e-commerce competitors, is available in a number of versions. For those interested in launching their first e-commerce store, EROL Startup (£149 ex. VAT) is an excellent value choice, allowing you to sell up to 25 products. EROL Small Business (£349 ex. VAT) supports up to 10,000 products and as many product and information pages as you need, while the top-of-the-line EROL Business (£629 ex. VAT), reviewed here, also supports up to 10,000 products but with order, customer and supplier management tools. There’s also EROL Developer (£1,499 ex. VAT), which allows designers with e-commerce clients to build multiple EROL stores from one installation with all the features of Business Edition.EROL 4.5's Build Manager is fully integrated to the application interface; you can switch between Preview and Edit modes, or work in Split Screen view as required.
What’s so great about EROL Business is that it provides all the design and product features you would expect, plus order, customer and supplier management tools for up to 10,000 products. In other words, you really don't need to worry about anything (except sales and marketing). EROL will even host and support your new store if you pay a yearly contract. Not only that, but its design tools are among the simplest I’ve ever seen — we were able to create and host a very respectable store in less than 2 hours.You can use the Build Manager to create store pages and add all your products.
EROL's developer, Dreamteam Design, has even made great inroads into simplifying the software’s administration by collating orders from all stores created using Business Edition into one Order Manager utility that processes your orders from receipt to shipment.
Creating a store is done using WYSIWYG design tools alongside HTML Editors. Complete offline basket functionality lets you test-drive your store before publishing, and you can also preview your store design offline as you build it. The excellent range of Store Themes, with hundreds of design and colour scheme combinations, get you started quickly and easily; EROL even integrates with Dreamweaver and other Web-page editors for more advanced editing. You can add unlimited product categories and sub-categories, unlimited product variations, such as size and colour, unlimited customisable store pages, and additional text or images can be added anywhere on any page or in a pop-up window.EROL allows you to set up multiple courier methods for any world delivery zone or country.
Marketing tools let you create Related Products to automatically show shoppers similar products they may also like; you can also create Product Kits with variable components and pricing, plus Product Matrices and Variants. Flexible price points for product variations and volume price breaks are all available, as are ‘Snippets’ to show Product options as radio buttons, checkboxes or dropdowns. The Product Import Wizard lets you add, update and remove products from your store from one, or multiple, data sources, while Product Lists let you add multiple products to the basket with one click. You can also add shopper-customisable features to sell personalised products. Both online (card) and offline (cheque, bank transfer, CoD, account and so on) payment methods are supported, and can be configured in the preferences section.Customers who order from your EROL store automatically get a customer profile. You can send emails to customers, assign personal discounts and privileges and create reports.
In addition to its attractive store layout and easy-to-use design tools, EROL is strong behind the scenes. Its powerful store management features process your orders from receipt to shipment, so you don't need to use any other software to run your store. For instance, it monitors, adjusts and publishes stock levels while processing orders individually or in batches, and allows you to print invoices, delivery notes, pick lists and address labels. You can create and view sales reports and charts, track customer purchase history, create individual privileges/discounts in the store, export different data sets to CSV for use in other applications, and connect to Sage Line 50 and QuickBooks accounting packages.You can view and print charts from a selection of preset options, including Top Customers and Best Selling Products.
If you are currently an EROL 4.x user and have upgraded, or want to upgrade to Windows Vista, you will need to purchase an EROL 4.5 CD (£49 ex. VAT). This contains a new Vista installation routine as well as all the features of EROL 4.5. Alternatively, if you buy an EROL Cover Plan (from £249 ex. VAT) for your edition of EROL, the company will send you the EROL 4.5 Vista CD free of charge.
Caption by: Christian Harris