Shopblocks Review – A Good UK Alternative to Shopify?

Shopblocks Review

Shopblocks is one of the newest names in town when it comes to ecommerce, even though development began in 2011, the platform itself didn’t officially launch until 2016 and has been growing ever since.

But is Shopblocks any good? Well that is what I am going to be looking at in this review as well as seeing if it is a good alternative to the likes of Shopify and EKM for UK Businesses?

Shopblocks logo

Pricing
Features
Theme Selection & Customisation
Support
Hosting & Performance
Ease of Use

Total out of 5

4

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Shopblocks Pricing

Shopblocks logo

Pro

£39/m

Unlimited Products
No Turnover Limit
No Transaction Fee
Free SSL Certificate
Standard Support
1 Admin Accounts

Shopblocks logo

Plus

£79/m

Unlimited Products
No Turnover Limit
No Transaction Fee
Free SSL Certificate
Multi-lingual Support
Multiple Admin Accounts

Shopblocks logo

Orbit

£199/m

Unlimited Products
No Turnover Limit
No Transaction Fee
Free SSL Certificate
Priority Support
Multiple Admin Accounts
Multi Channel Integration

When it comes to pricing, Shopblocks is very much inline with their main competition, with only their introductory Pro package coming in slightly more expensive than their competition at £39/m as opposed to the industry average of £30/m.

One thing that does separate Shopblocks from all their competition when it comes to pricing is that non of their packages include a transaction fee (on top of normal payment gateway fees) or annual turnover limits, which is very unusual but a welcome feature.

Onboarding

Shopblocks offer an on boarding service for all new sign ups, which includes designing your website, migrating all of your products and information if you have an existing ecommerce website and then getting your website ready for launch.

Now this does come at an additional cost and it depends on your individual requirements as to how much it will cost but some of the example figures I heard when speaking to the team at Shopblocks was very reasonable and in some cases may be cheaper than having a custom website designed.

Free Trial

As of writing this review, Shopblocks don’t offer a free trial. Instead you book a demo with one of the team at Shopblocks, who will take you through a give you a brief overview of what the platform is like to use.

I have been told that they are planning on rolling out a free trial in the near future.

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Customer Reviews

Before I get full on into my review, I thought I would take a look at what some of Shopblocks existing customers thought of the platform. For this I look on Trustpilot, Facebook and Google.

Trustpilot Logo

3.8 out of 5

FaceBook Logo

N/A

Google Logo

3.4 out of 5

Definitely a mixed bag when it comes to reviews, lots of 4/5 star reviews but quite a few 1 stars mixed in there. Some of these down to being effectively cold called by the sales team, which as a former ecommerce website owner myself, is something that can be frustrating.

Shopblocks Features

As a fully hosted ecommerce platform, it is unsurprising that Shopblocks comes with a good selection of features. Some of the features mentioned below are automatically installed on your website but others can be installed and configured using the Shopblocks Plugin Store.

Within the plugin store, there are also integrations with third-party software and services but some of the features and third-party integrations are limited to the Plus or Orbit packages.

Ecommerce Tools

  • Age Verification – for age restricted products
  • Product Add Ons – Up sell related products directly in your basket
  • Multi-Currency
  • Digital Products
  • Quantity Discounts – for bulk orders
  • Multi-Language – either using Google translate, Localize or Weglot
  • Pin-protected – add another layer to your sites admin login
  • Deposits – allow customers to place a deposit and then complete the transaction at a later date
  • Sell Subscriptions

Marketing and SEO

Having a good selection of tools and features to market your site is extremely important when it comes to ecommerce and the Shopblocks platform offers a good selection, including:

Marketing

  • Google Shopping Feed
  • Loyalty Scheme
  • Time Sensitive Offers
  • Customer Specific Discounts
  • Discount Codes
  • Back in Stock Notifications

SEO

  • Blog
  • Custom Meta Data
  • SEO Friendly URLs

Reporting and Analytics

Reporting and analytics are an important aspect of measuring how well you site is doing at any given time. Shopblocks offer a good selection of both, with:

  • Google Analytics – with full ecommerce tracking
  • Sales Breakdown – today, yesterday, last 7 days, last 30 days, last 90 days & custom
  • Custom Report Builder – multiple options for Income, Payment & Stocks reports

Payment Gateways

Shopblocks offer a good selection of payment gateways for UK businesses to use on their stores, including:

  • PayPal Express Checkout
  • Stripe
  • Klarna
  • Worldpay
  • Sagepay
  • Barclaycard ePDQ
  • Payment Sense

While the selection of payment gateways is good, one notable exception is Amazon Pay, which is gaining traction in the world of online payments.

Do Shopblocks charge transaction fees?

No, unlike some other platforms, Shopblocks do not charge any transactions fees.

Shopblocks Theme Selection & Customisation

Shopblocks have taken a completely fresh approach to building ecommerce websites as they are the only platform that doesn’t have a selection of pre-built/designed themes or templates.

Instead, users can build a completely custom website using their live builder, which they have called Blocklabs. Which effectively uses a selection of modules to allow you to add different types of content sections to your pages and the blocklab can be used to build:

  • Header
  • Footer
  • Homepage
  • Product Page
  • Category Page
  • Main Blog Page
  • Blog Post Page
Shopblocks Blocklab

The selection of modules is pretty good, as you can see in the image below and simply clicking on a block will add it to your page. It can then be edited using the options at the top of the page for alignment etc or you can double click on the block and it will bring up a selection of options.

Shopblocks Blocklab Modules

This editor is very useful as you can instantly see how the changes will look on your site across the three main types of display (desktop, tablet and mobile) and being able to see this is one place makes editing much easier.

Shopblacks Blocklab Customisation

While the potential is definitely there with Blocklabs, it isn’t the most intuitive of tools and it does take some experience of web design/building to be able to get the most out of it and build a professional looking website.

And it is for this reason why I think that Shopblocks has missed an opportunity with not have any pre-built layouts available because customising an existing theme to fit your business is easier than building a page completely from scratch, especially a some people get inspiration and ideas from existing themes/layouts.

Shopblocks Support

All of the Shopblocks packages include users support, which on the Pro package is standard support up to the Orbit package that includes priority support but it seems that none of these options are 24/7.

Contacting support is relatively easy as their is a live chat option directly in the admin dashboard and you can drop them an email. One thing that is missing is a link to the Shopblocks help section from the admin dashboard, which means that you need to go to the main Shopblocks site in order to access the help documentation.

The quality of the support from Shopblocks is very good but as with the Hosting section below, information around it isn’t easy to find, which is always a bit of a downside for me.

Shopblocks Web Hosting and Performance

So, I looked around the Shopblocks website and found no information about their hosting set up, other than that every plan includes a free SSL certificate.

While not important to all users, it is helpful to know what is included with your hosting such as is it PCI Compliant? What is the Uptime? Does it include a CDN? as these are all important aspects of ecommerce web hosting.

But that didn’t stop me testing the platform out with my usual testing method, in which I take three customer example sites and ran them through Pingdom’s speed test tool (London Server) and Google Page Speed Insights to see how well they performed. To get a good selection of data I ran the three sites through the tool, once a day for three days and you can see the results of the three websites below.

Average Load Time:

Average Load Time:

1.18 sec
Google Logo

Mobile Score (Avg):

32/100
Google Logo

Desktop Score (Avg):

63/100

Not a bad result from the Shopblocks platform, especially on load time with an average load time of 1.18 seconds. There is room for improvement on the Google scores but they are still around the same kind of area as most of their competition.

If you want to see how well Shopblocks performed against their competition, then check out my Fastest Ecommerce Platforms UK post.

How Easy is Shopblocks to Use?

Now we have looked at everything has to offer, how easy is the platform to use?

For this, I am going to look at 4 main areas:

  1. Getting Started
  2. Settings and Configuration
  3. Adding and Managing Products
  4. Managing Orders

Getting Started

As I mentioned in the pricing section at the start of this review, Shopblocks don’t currently offer a simple sign up a try it for yourself system.

Instead, you can book a demo with one of the Shopblocks team and they will go through the platform with you but this doesn’t give you the opportunity to try the platform out for yourself but they are planning on rolling out a free trial in early 2021.

Shopblocks Dashboard

The current admin dashboard doesn’t include a start or set up guide but this may change with the addition of the free trial. However, even the current layout does include some prompts to get things done before making your store live, including:

  • Activating payments
  • Adding products
  • Creating content (pages & blog posts)
  • Creating categories

Once these are all set up, your dashboard will present a snapshot of your current site including products and orders.

The dashboard itself is nice and easy to navigate as they have gone for a simple sidebar navigation menu and kept the number of headings to a minimum, the headings are also well labelled.

Settings and Configuration

Configuring the settings in Shopblocks is pretty simple as most of the options for things like payment gateways, shipping and tax are in here. The prompt to set up a cookie banner for GDPR is a helpful feature but it would have been nice to see a prompt to set up the sites privacy policy under here as well.

Shopblocks Settings

There are a couple of options in here that only a very small selection of website owners would probably use and they are Webhooks and Twig layout options. There is a section for the plugin marketplace, when it has its own heading in the navigation bar?

One nice little addition in here is Redirects, which is a very useful tool to help with your sites SEO to save having broken links on your site. There is also an optimisation option called Varnish, which basically caches your site (should have just called it optimisation).

All of your billing information is stored in the My Account section, which helps keep it all separate and easy to access/manage.

Another section that requires attention when setting up a site with Shopblocks is Content as this contains some very important options, such as:

  • Pages – About me, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy etc
  • Menus – Navigation menus for the front end of your site
  • Downloads – Manage your digital products files
  • Forms – Create custom forms, Contact, Enquiry etc
Shopblocks Content

Adding and Managing Products

Being able to manage your inventory effectively is an important part of running an ecommerce website and I have broken it down into three parts:

  • Adding New Products
  • Organising Your Inventory
  • Managing Your Inventory

Adding a new product is nice and easy as they have opted for a single page layout, which hasn’t been overloaded with too many sections. You can also set up product variations, which can be linked to images along customisations directly on the add new product page

Shopblocks New Product

Organising your inventory within Shopblocks is very simple as they have gone for the tried and tested category system and you can create multiple layers of parent and child categories. Meaning that you can easily create a hierarchy of categories for your products to go into. You can also add a long and short description for your product categories along with images.

The final part of this section is managing your inventory such as stock levels etc and there are a couple of bulk edit options within Shopblocks. The first is by checking the boxes next to the products on the product overview page and then selecting an option from the dropdown menu, this is great for changing their availability, putting them on sale or changing the category. There is a price editor but there is a better tool for that.

By clicking on the stock tab on the product overview page, it will bring up a more complete bulk editor and you can update stock levels and update prices per product, which gives more control over the other price editor.

Managing Orders

The order management system in Shopblocks is pretty good, it does have some good tools such as being able to print invoices, shipping labels and picking lists in bulk as well as being able to update order statuses.

You can also search for specific orders or apply filters to create a custom selection of orders.

One thing that is missing, is the ability to export orders in CSV format, which isn’t great if you use third-party order management or accounting software that doesn’t integrate with Shopblocks.

Conclusion

Shopblocks Review

Paul @ EcommerceGold

Shopblocks logo
Pricing
Features
Theme Selection & Customisation
Support
Hosting & Performance
Ease of Use

Summary

So is Shopblocks a Good Alternative to Shopify?

Shopblocks definitely has the potential to be a very good ecommerce platform but I feel that it still needs some polishing. While it is not bad, it is not as easy to use as some other platforms and their main selling point the Blocklab isn’t the most intuitive page builder I have used.

The lack of pre-built themes or layout templates doesn’t help with this as designing a site from a blank page is going to be a bit daunting for a lot of ecommerce store owners.

It is still relatively early days for Shopblocks and as I have already said, the potential is definitely there but at the moment, in my opinion Shopify just offers a better overall package.

The Good:

• Easy to use admin dashboard
• Nice selection of plugins
• SSL Certificate included
• No transaction fees or turnover limits
• UK based support
• Good performance

The Not so Good:

• No pre built themes or layout templates
• Lack of free trial
• Lack of information surrounding hosting & support

4

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