CMS Functionality 5/5
Ease of Use 5/5
Time scales 3/5 (go live date was late but the support and after care made up for it)
Our website www.mrsmarcos.co.uk was originally built on a locked down version of drupal, it had very limited functionality and we were left paying through the roof for changes to the site which should really built in as standard.
We chose to move to store-express as they originally built our 3 eBay stores, which we were very pleased with. I was already familiar with a lot of the team and so the new project was born.
The store-express CMS is built on ASP.net and has all the functionality you could need from a website, don't be put off by a "templated" site, especially one that is robust and allows you to take control of every aspect of your site, from pages to banners. There are many built in import/export tools for product uploading and stock re-conciliations, all work as you would expect.
When we did go live, it was slightly late, there were some bugs that needed resolving, nothing out of the ordinary here. The team worked very hard on flattening these issues. We required some changes to our site, they never had a problem doing this for us, the site now works how we want it to work.
The CMS is very easy to pick up, I am technical anyway but have trained colleagues to use it, no problems here.
Despite the delay in going live, my experience with store-express is mostly positive, there are a number of extra "modules" you can purchase, which aren't necessarily as standard, I'd recommend the "e-merchandising" module, especially if you plan to sell on daily deal websites.
Terrible service, avoid this company, project started feb 2013, october 2013 still not finished.
I am a mum of 3 who started to run a part time business back in 2004 and built it into something I was really proud of. I started to look into ways of making it more professional and easier to run (as with 3 children 1 of whom was only 3 at the time it was a real struggle) and I wished to expand further with as little hassle as possible. I need full integration with EBay and Amazon (an ecommerce package) to keep up with stock levels etc. We also needed a shop store front design on ebay and seo search engine optimisation.
I found Store Express (Eye Candy Studios (Advansys Limited) as they are also known, they have lots of names) in Wokingham berkshire and thought it would be great to go with a local firm (I am in Reading). My Husband and I had a meeting with them to discuss what would be involved; we had a few important questions which we asked about at the meeting. All of our questions were answered well and we then asked to be quoted for everything we would need. We received our quote and in the quote it said the process would take approx. 6-12 weeks. We thought it all sounded great and decided to go ahead.
I knew that I would have a lot of hard work to do and put my life on complete hold for 2-3 months which I was fully prepared for as I thought at the end of it I was going to have a great smooth running business. As soon as it all started I knew the process was going to take a longer than the quoted time as there was so much involved, this was fine at the beginning as I didn't really mind it overrunning by a few weeks.
But in May when my predicted go live date had been and gone and we didn't even seem close to having a finished product and there were lots of technical problems, I began to get very worried about timescales. I also found out I would need to pay out more money, as there were lots of things I was expecting with the package that were not included. I was especially cross about this as some of the things were discussed in our meeting at the beginning so they knew they were required. We had no choice but to pay out more money to get the final package we wanted. I had also paid extra for jobs to be done by Advansys regarding Amazon/eBay upload as I thought this would help to get it done quicker and be a weight off of my shoulders, yet this was not to be, I may as well have done these myself as 4-5 more months down the line they were not done and the website was still not finished. It would take weeks/months to sort out one problem then another one would crop up.
I worked evenings and weekends to get everything ready for "the new website" and meet all the deadlines they gave me. I didn't realise that I was going to have to chase everything and virtually do the whole job myself whilst not having a clue what was going on with the project from Advansys side. My business really suffered as I was spending so much time on the new website I didn't have the time to keep it running as I should (which was fine for the planned 2-3 months, not virtually the whole year) . There is a lot of work involved especially stock wise in launching a new website so being given dates that did not happen and never knowing when the go live was going to happen meant it impossible to plan anything and I had to keep doing the same work over and over again.
I sent email after email begging them to sort out the problems and telling them the damage this was causing, as this was affecting my business and my whole life. I had to constantly be online making sure things were being done. They constantly made mistakes and kept reloading wrong information. I lost thousands of pounds and lost precious time with family. This carried on all through the summer holidays which was a logistical nightmare, and my husband had to take care of the children on quite a few occasions, so he lost money too as he could not work as much as he normally would. I normally work evenings and weekends around my children especially in the holidays, but as Advansys worked normal office hours I had to be in the office constantly in these hours.
There were staff changes in September and in just one week I had 3 different project managers, so I had to go over things numerous times and resubmit information over and over again. But at least I thought things may move on now as they told me changes and improvements were being made within the company. Things did move on a little quicker but not as much as it should have.
Even my contact/agent through Amazon contacted Advansys 2-3 times telling them that I was going to lose all Xmas trade if it was not up and running soon. He could see the damage this was doing to my business. (He was right I did lose a lot of the xmas trade).
This went on for months, October came and I still did not have a website and there were still loads of technical problems.
The only thing I ever saw completed was the download of my products to amazon (eventually) which took them 2 months to complete, this then took me several weeks to correct it all, as a lot of the pictures/descriptions and titles were all mixed up.
Advansys said all they could do was apologise. With regards to their quote saying 6-12 weeks all they said was this was estimated time and they could not be accountable for times, this seemed ridiculous it was now October and we had started in February. They did offer me an SEO day course with their seojunkies department as a goodwill gesture, but made it very clear that they would have to get enough people on the course with me so it didn't cost them any money. Everything they did always came down to money, it was alright for me to be losing thousands of pounds because of their lack of knowledge and incompetence, but they made sure they always got their money and anything I asked about was always answered with "that is not standard, you will have to pay extra for that". Even down to changing a column on a spread sheet and the colour of a font.
I had paid out £5520 in total. I asked for some of my money to be refunded as I had not had the service I had paid for especially the extra items I had paid for to save me time and hassle (which it hadn't at all, I virtually had to do them myself), they refused and said they had done the work and I should now pay the final instalment of £1500. I never once saw a finished working website, they said we would go live then correct the faults and complete the eBay upload etc. I told them I was not prepared to pay. Then their attitude towards me changed completely, they became rude and then the shutters came down and they refused to do anything or talk to me until I paid the final instalment. I was shocked as I had built relationships with some of the staff in the 10 months I had been dealing with them. I felt very let down. After all they had put me through; they treated me as if I was in the wrong. I gave them so many chances.
As you can imagine by now I had lost all trust in their abilities to complete the project. I was also very concerned about the aftercare as I was going to have to pay them £150 a month for 2 hours support/hosting etc. (also I found out that the support was on a ticket system and they never told me what the charge would be if I went over 2 hours, they always avoided this question) and be tied to them for years. After all the problems I had incurred 2 hours a month didn't seem nearly enough and the thought of paying this company any more money was extremely worrying. I had to make a huge decision.
Either pay them the final payment of £1500 and then continue to pay £150 a month for 2 hours support/ hosting as long as I wanted to use their website. But have the risk of a website that didn't work and being charged more money for support etc. It felt like I would be throwing more money down the drain.
Or walk away from the months of work and time I had put in to the project and possibly lose £5520 that I had already put in. But be free of stress and hassle that this company were causing me.
I had to walk away, there was no choice I could not take the gamble with a company that cared so little for its customers and was completely incompetent.
All I had wanted was help in running my business more efficiently as I didn't have the knowledge or time to do so myself. In the 10 months this went on I could have researched and done all the work myself in a quarter of the time for virtually no money at all and could have planned it all around my family without any of the stress and worry. I gained absolutely nothing from this project only huge losses and untold stress.
I wanted to improve my business, not almost ruin it! I wish I had never heard of Advansys (Store express , Eye Candy Studios or whoever they call themselves at the time).
I paid for a service I did not receive!
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