In the second quarter of 2015, the U.S. retail...
Magento for e-commerce: from server to Cloud (and back)Magento is an open-source e-commerce platform written in PHP. It was launched in 2008 by Varien, a private company from California. Magento soon gained popularity as one of the few ready-to-use web development tools for small and medium-sized online stores (up to 50 thousand items in catalog). However, entrepreneurs who opted for the platform had to store their websites on local servers (and that always translates into additional costs). That’s why Magento PaaS alternatives for e-commerce stores like BigCommerce and Shopify came into prominence. With the launch of Magento 2 and its Enterprise Cloud Edition, Permira (the platform’s new sole owner) is ready to reclaim the throne – and it looks like there are no barriers to success this time.
The benefits of using Magento
- Flexibility. In a nutshell, Magento is a content management system similar to WordPress. The platform is currently available in three versions (Community, Enterprise and Enterprise Cloud). The paid Enterprise and Cloud editions are often chosen by large e-retailers (50+ thousand catalog items) who need permanent assistance with website management. The platforms support plenty of functions by default and are considered expensive (some companies claim Permira charges $ 10 thousand per year for complex support, while you can operate a simple Shopify store for only $ 600). Why use Magento then? Well, its Community Edition is open-source and free! Obviously, it has fewer functions and is self-hosted (like it’s 2008 again). The good news is, there are some 3 thousand third-party vendors who build Magento plugins and upload them to the Extension store (aka Magento Marketplace). The software allows retailers to fully customize and expand their catalogues, integrate websites with WP blogs, enable social media sharing and even manage several online stores from one console. Basically, you only need to find a skilled developer who knows how to connect & synchronize dozens of modules and make the system work;
- Massive support. The e-commerce content management system is used by 2.8% of all websites out there. It was developed with the assistance of high-profile volunteer developers from all over the world. Between 2011 and 2015, Magento was a part of eBay – a multimillion e-commerce corporation that is known for its focus on user experience, timely delivery and customer data protection. The platform has devoted fans among the world’s best software vendors, so there’s a large talent pool for you to choose from. And yes, every question you may ask about Magento has probably been answered by someone else already;
- Marketing automation. One of the reasons why you should use Magento is the platform’s SEO-friendly nature. You don’t have to enter metadata manually or generate SEO-friendly URLs. You can also use third-party plugins like Enhanced E-commerce to learn how users interact with your website content and subsequently get a better insight into customer buying behavior. Once you automate a good share of routine website management tasks, you can devote more time to high-quality content generation. Since 90% of online shoppers say their buying decisions are driven by customer reviews, you can install the Review Booster extension – or ask your vendor to develop a similar solution from scratch. By the way, every Magento online store can now set up a Facebook Chatbot in no time! 83% of your customers admit they need some type of assistance to complete a transaction – and that’s exactly what chatbots are meant to do;
- Payment systems integration (and more). Complete automation is one of the key benefits of using the Magento platform. The clever CMS supports PayPal and credit card payment modules, transaction management and comprehensive delivery solutions like ShipWorks that print postage labels and connect you with the world’s leading shipping carriers. You can even turn your online store into a CRM system and integrate it with ERP software. It’s no wonder Magento is often referred to as an “out-of-the-box” solution! If done right, the platform makes doing business a lot easier;
- Security. Although the platform is built with PHP (the language is not typically used for enterprise solutions), Magento is totally secure and highly scalable. PHP was specifically created for the Internet and currently powers 82.1% of all websites. Let’s make it clear straight away: there’s no such thing as an insecure programming language; it is developers who mess with the code! That’s why you should hire a skilled developer who knows what is the best way to secure an e-commerce platform-based website (tracking patches, two-way authentication, restricted administrator access, etc.) and has several Magento cases in his portfolio. Also, Magento extensions that eventually make it to the Marketplace are approved by the publisher and are 100% bug-free.
Things to consider before choosing Magento
- Complexity. Despite its out-of-the-box nature, Magento has a complex architecture. An experienced programmer who’s familiar with the PHP Zend framework and cut his teeth on Java needs at least a couple of months to master the technology. Even if you opt for the paid Enterprise Edition, you might have difficulties with the website administration. The only way to put up (and not to mess up!) a Magento website is to trust the project to a team of experienced developers – and get some training on content management, of course;
- Performance issues. The larger your store is, the harder it gets to maintain the website speed. If you address the issue while building the website, however, you can successfully overcome possible challenges. Magento compiles source code to enable faster interpretation. The platform also arranges large amounts of data into tables so it consumes less storage. And yes, you can always port your website to a more powerful server or use various caching techniques like Varnish, Redis and such.