Are you evaluating Magento?
If so you are likely to be drowning in a sea of conflicting information – some of which says that Magento is the best thing since low sugar salt free bread, and some of which makes you wonder why anyone in their right mind ever uses Magento at all. First of all it’s cards on the table time – here at Williams Commerce we specialise in Magento – and believe it is a fantastic platform that is perfect for most (but not all!) retail businesses. We want businesses adopting Magento to do so with their eyes open – and with proper expectations!
So here are a 9 factors you should take into account when looking at Magento.
1. Do it properly! Surround yourself with a professional team
Magento Community Edition is a powerful open source software and can be downloaded for free. However, you will need to configure it properly and you may need to customise it to your requirements by adding features and bespoke functionalities. This is not always a simple task (unfortunately!) and you will probably need guidance from an experienced Magento company with an expert developer who can:
- Translate your requirements into a Magento configuration and/or source the appropriate extensions
- Ensure that changes are made in a Magento compliant manner
- Ensure that site performance is not compromised either by speed or conversion howlers
You should remember that Magento is continually evolving, so you will need someone who deals with it on a daily basis to get all the latest benefits of the platform.
2. Magento is a value for money solution but it's not free
Magento is Open Source software so you will not get “locked-in” to a supplier’s proprietary platform. You, the stakeholder of your business can decide how far you want to go to get the most for your business. However, you will need to assign time, resource and budget in order to get an outstanding result.
3. Magento will not achieve high levels of traffic on its own
Magento is one of the most search engine friendly e-commerce platforms out there – and there are a myriad of extensions out there to improve it (Including – coincidentally Custom Canonical URLs for SEO). Magento offers an easy way to introduce Meta information, SEO-friendly URLs, XML sitemaps and much more. However, if you want to increase the levels of traffic your site attracts you need to work at it – Magento does not take away the need for a proper traffic generation strategy. There is also plenty you can do within Magento to help this strategy – like categorise your product properly according to keyword demand.
4. Magento will not create the perfect customer UX
Magento is a highly sophisticated piece of software but conversion rates will be defined on your capability to convince your visitors to take the action you want them to take. You need to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and create the right scenario for them. Remember that emotion is crucial in the buying process. So, intuitive design, clear signposts and calls to action, clear and relevant page copy and high-quality product imagery is a must.
5. If you fail to prepare - prepare to fail
Like in any other project, planning is an essential part. Magento is an extensive tool which can provide solutions from large companies to SMEs. You may not have the same needs as a large company and in consequence you may not need all of what Magento offers. You will need some guidance on which Magento’s functions and extensions are the rights for you and your business. There is no point in using free features if they do not add any value to your customers.
6. Integration needs to be done precisely
Magento core function is to offer a productive catalogue manager and shopping cart. What it does not provide is integration with the rest of your systems (accounting, inventory, order management, procurement, etc.). Magento API helps with this process – but it does not solve the whole problem – for 2 reasons:
1. Different platforms handle information in different ways – data needs translating
2. The API is resource intensive – and Magento needs to control how and when it sends or receives data
Whatever happens, it’s a must to find someone who not only have experience of Magento and APIs in general, but also understand your business objectives – this expertise makes a huge difference between success and failure.
7. Magento is not a ready for use solution
You can download Magento now, but unless you select Magento Go (with its limitations) you have a huge amount of work to do to understand, prepare and launch the platform. Even if you precisely understand the kind of customer experience you want to offer, there is inevitably a wealth of tasks that you will need to appreciate and complete; Design and design implementation, product data and upload, training for your key staff, configuration of shipping, tax, payment gateways, email marketing just to name a few. You will require a variety of professional skills and to that end professional support in invaluable.
8. You may need in-house expertise
Too many small businesses set off into a major investment in eCommerce and Magento without any technical resource in-house at all. That is like doing your makeup without a mirror! E-tailers need to accept that they are technology businesses (in the same way that Net-a-Porter did) and get someone who can help get the most from both Magento, and from their technical support partner. A design orientated front-end developer is a great first step – and a good technology partner can ensure that this resource can contribute fully in code and infrastructure management.
9. Don't Skimp on Hosting
The number of small businesses who say “I’m sticking to my £50 per month hosting contract” is closely correlated with businesses that have problems with Magento! Magento is a big processor hungry beast, and its architecture, while great for plug in functionality, needs a lot of grunt to make sure it runs properly. Nobody would stick their hand up if asked “Who wants a slow page load time”, would they! If you are paying less than £200 per month for your hosting – then either you have the deal of the century – or it is too good to be true!
We hope this brief document has been useful and that you are now in a better position to evaluate a Magento solution for your eCommerce shop. Williams Commerce, a Magento Enterprise partner, have a team of Magento experts that manage and develop eCommerce technology for our clients providing guidance and, where necessary contribute with tailor-made solutions. We would love to discuss your requirements and business challenges – and tell you how we can help you achieve them.