As the third part in a series exploring how easy today’s Shopping Cart Software allows us to set up an ecommerce website, I will discuss SEOshop today. Although SEOshop is less known globally than the Ecommerce software providers discussed over the last two weeks – Shopify and Bigcommerce – it is software well-worth paying attention to. SEOshop claims to be Europe’s fastest growing e-commerce platform. Today, I will share my findings on the ease of use and design of SEOshop. In one sentence, I try to find out whether it is possible to set up a reasonably professional-looking online store in an afternoon with SEOshop.
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Introducing my SEOshop “Socks are Sexy” Store
The short answer is: yes, it is possible to set up an online store build with SEOshop in one afternoon. See the screen shots below to get an impression of the end result. As with Bigcommerce and Shopify, I launched a store selling socks. For the longer answer, my impressions, and tips, read on in this extensive review of SEOshop.
The front page of my SEOshop “Socks are Sexy” store – I kept it clean and simple. The carousel is generally easily adapted, at least when you know where to edit it (more on that below). It has everything an online store needs to have, just like Shopify and Bigcommerce. It is a pity that one needs to pay 15 EUR/month to remove the “powered by SEOshop”.
1. Registration and first impressions
The registration process is very much similar to Shopify’s and Bigcommerce’s. SEOshop offers you the option to try out their software and build your online store in 14 days. To get access, you are asked to provide some contact details and you are asked what kind of ecommerce experience you have. Two things stand out in SEOshop’s registration process. One, SEOshop asks you whether you are migrating from another platform (possibly to give you more targeted hints on how to make the transferring process more painless/less painful). Two, SEOshop requires you to enter a valid phone number as they will send you an activation code by SMS. They seem to be very active in their customer contact. After I opened my test account, which I in fact did when I was abroad (and I didn’t want to take calls), they tried to call me about 5 times in two days. Back home, I called them back and they asked me both about my plans and how they could assist me. More about SEOshop support & sales below.
SEOshop’s main competitors are apparently Woocommerce, Biedmeer (another Dutch ecommerce software provider), Magento, Prestashop (a French ecommerce solution) and Shopify. No Bigcommerce in this list.
The first impressions I got from the store admin panel is that there is quite a lot of tabs and things. This may be slightly confusing for the beginning user. While SEOshop did their best to make everything look smooth in the front-end, the back-end doesn’t look as smooth as Shopify or Bigcommerce. Maybe that is also one of the reasons they want to get in touch quickly, so that if something is not clear potential customers don’t turn away from the platform but are directed to the proper use of the platform.
If you look at the screen shot below, you will understand what I mean – it doesn’t become very clear where to start or what to do. The video seems to be taken directly from a certain conference and bombards you with some 2 minutes of information. Not so helpful. The 1 (design) – 2 (products) – 3 (payments) – 4 (shipping methods) – 5 (domain names) – 6 (your first sale) step plan didn’t really guide me.
To be fair to SEOshop though, when I got a bit more used to the platform, I did find pretty much everything I needed. And I was happily surprised with the amount of options available in SEOshop. So I advise you to put in the little extra effort, or to let you guide by the professional staff, to find out what SEOshop has to offer. Start with getting acquainted with SEOshop by reading this blog post 😉
2. Choosing a theme
If you are looking for the best, and the best free templates, Shopify has more to offer than SEOshop does. And probably Bigcommerce is a little stronger on the design front, too. Still, SEOshop has free themes that are perfectly well suited for a professional online store. If you don’t like the free themes, however, do take into account the high(er) costs associated with a paid theme. Look at one of the paid themes, that is highlighted in the screen shot below. It costs 14,50 EUR per month. If you would use this theme for 3 years, that would mean you would have spent 522 EUR on this theme. Shopify paid themes are on average probably about 140 USD. SEOshop sells this pay-per-month policy by arguing that they are a SaaS provider, and that as it is a hosted solution, there are continuous updates, including on the themes.
As with the Bigcommerce and Shopify “Socks are Sexy” stores, I chose a free theme that is labelled as suitable for Fashion. My theme “Conform Fashion” seems to have everything I am looking for – it is responsive, it has a carousel, and it looks clean and well-suited to display sexy socks 😉
3. Modifying your theme
At first, it was not clear to me where to find what. I wanted to change the carousel images, but ended up editing the banners for a while. Either I didn’t study the admin –> design and layout structure well enough, or it isn’t organized intuitively. Probably a bit of both. Anyway, when you go about setting up your online store, what you should bear in mind is that all the general settings, such as fonts, colours of certain elements, social media settings and the like can be found under “general –> settings”. If you want to change the carousel image, for example, or other contents, you need to go to contents. They called the carousel images “headlines” so go there to edit them.
Once I figured this out, everything worked out fine for me. There remained one fairly small issue – for some reason the theme blows up one of the carousel images and I couldn’t quickly find out how to deal with that.
This is what the theme looked like with preloaded products and “headline” images.
It is possible to edit the template itself (see screen shot above). When you click on the template editor, however, you first get a warning (see screen shot below). The template will no longer receive any updates and will become specifically associated with your store only. So to get back to the discussion on the costs of paid templates – this message seems to suggest that SEOshop indeed regularly updates their templates.
Anyway, if you are not a programmer, I would advise you to leave the coding to the programmers and just make the modifications within the limits of the code of the template.
4. Choosing your domain
I chose to let me guide for this step by SEOshop. In the manual, I found an example search query “eg: setting up a custom domain name”. I chose to search exactly with the terms indicated, but this didn’t return the result required:
Finding out how to add your domain – manual search doesn’t work
That’s something small the SEOshop team should fix. The FAQ was fine though, and quite elaborate. I found out quickly how I would be able to add a domain. The price of the domain is included from the SEOshop basic plan (49 EUR/month).
So for now, if you need any info, I would advise you to first try to find an answer in the FAQ, and if you can’t find it there just call up SEOshop.
To get back to the phone call I had with SEOshop. I asked some questions, for example about the manual search – a problem that was apparently known but not yet repaired. I also asked some questions about monthly recurring costs. I focused on whether it is really necessary to pay 4.99 EUR per month for a blog feature if you use the basic plan (49 EUR/month). She answered that in principle most serious online store owners will quickly upgrade to the 89 EUR/month plan which includes the blog feature and that if somebody with a basic plan really needs the blog feature that there is generally room for some negotiation. So if you are thinking about using SEOshop, they seem to be able to offer a quite tailored package for you. It would be good to call them up.
Another plus that the SEOshop account manager mentioned is the cost of the internal payments (SEOshop payments vs Shopify payments). She argued that if you are operating from the Netherlands, for example, online store owners save up to 10.000 EUR per year compared to the likes of Shopify when taking into account the cost of the most popular local payment method – online banking (iDeal). Of course, no one forces you to use Shopify payments with high iDeal fees when operating mainly in the Netherlands (or similar situations in other countries). With each of the three ecommerce software providers discussed, there is the option to choose an external payment service provider. I don’t discuss payments in this – already long – reviews. Ecommerce Income offers info on payments here.
5. Adding Categories
When setting up your online store, it is wise to have a look at how it will be structured. Sometimes it is easier to first add products, sometimes it is best to start with the categories. In the case of SEOshop I would start with adding the categories, as you need to add your products to a category (the category page doesn’t allow you to bulk add products).
One cool feature in SEOshop, is that you can use both catgories and tags (by the way the tags allow you to bulk add products). It is necessary to enable the tags first, otherwise you will not see them in the store view. I really think offering both is a distinct advantage over Shopify, whose site structure with “collections” is probably not advantageous for SEO purposes. But what site structure is better for SEO will be the topic of a future post.
How the categories look in the front-end
6. Adding products to your store (and why I, despite its minor flaws, recommend you to consider SEOshop)
Before adding my products, I had to remove the pre-loaded products. There was no bulk action possible so I needed to manually remove every single one of them.
When adding products, or, for that matter, when making any changes, don’t forget to save before proceeding. Because even when editing content for one product within the various tabs of the admin – adding products environment, you need to save before you proceed. (But it is possible to upload images, and while they are being uploaded, already edit something else – the product description for example).
With SEOshop, you are in control. When I was building up the Shopify Socks are Sexy store, it would show empty slots if I didn’t load content yet. In the theme above, you can see how this SEOshop theme adjusts after I deleted the preloaded products. They are not there, so the “slots” also disappear.
Similarly, SEOshop doesn’t force you to use collections, if you don’t want to use them. But you can still use tags, which is, in a way, similar to how Shopify’s collections work.
In the screen shot below you can see how you can easily add related products for a product.
The above screen shot shows both what I love and hate about the SEOshop back-office. There are so many tabs, and the navigation between them (with the required saving after editing) makes more mouse-clicks necessary. This slows down your setting up your store, adding new products or making changes. But at the same time, the many possibilities to edit are also great as it offers so many opportunities to create your ideal online store.
This is just a wonderful feature – you can easily add new languages to your online store (see screen shot above). The basic buttons and menu items will be translated for you. As you see in the screen shot of the product page editor below, after I added German (“Deutsch”), the option to add a German product title and German product description appeared along with the English one. If you remove (or simply don’t add) a title and/or description, the product will not appear in that language version of your online store. In the front-end, customers can easily switch between languages by clicking on the flag of their language.
7. Choose a plan and launch your business
There are enough reasons to try out SEOshop. While it is not perfectly but reasonably easy to use, SEOshop offers you a lot of control over the end result. On this first exploration, it seems indeed built to turn your online store into a killing SEO machine. SEOshop is well-suited for multi-language stores. In a next series, I will discuss what software packages are best-suited for Europe. Things such as language features, as well as integrations with locally operating shipping companies and payment providers are among the aspects that will be researched.
Trying out SEOshop is free! You can learn a lot by reading these blog posts, profit from both my experience and mistakes as well as get some tips, but trying out for yourself is invaluable. You can of course also try out one of the other Ecommerce Software packages. Are you curious how they compare side-to-side for the many features they have? Look no further! We made an extensive Ecommerce Software comparison for you.
You probably got curious about SEOshop after reading this review. You can read more about SEOshop on Ecommerce Income here. Click on the SEOshop logo below if you want to go to SEOshop to check out their site and possibly open a trial store.