Software extensions can add to or complement the functionality of your ecommerce website.
For example, the leading open source ecommerce platform, Magento, has thousands of extensions available to download and use.
There are currently over 3,800 Magento 2 extensions in the Magento marketplace. By far the largest number are for content and customization, followed by sales, marketing, payments and security, shipping and fulfilment.
Some of these extensions are created by Magento Premier technology and extension partners and others by solution partners. However, only 15% have four star or better ratings. So, are extensions the best way to create a high performing ecommerce site to meet your business requirements?
You spent a lot of time and effort choosing your ecommerce platform, so you will want to be confident that any extensions you use add value to your ecommerce platform and meet your business needs. To make the right choices it’s important to:
- make a list of the features you want and confirm that they aren’t already available on your ecommerce platform
- set your budget
- understand any compatibility issues
To avoid unnecessary compromises, you should discuss what you want to achieve with your implementation partner to confirm that there isn’t a more effective way to achieve your objectives.
Why use extensions?
When you want to add functionality to your ecommerce site, extensions can save time and additional development costs. However, the provider and product must be top quality because unprofessional extensions can introduce viruses and security issues to your site that could damage your business. You should also confirm that the extensions you are considering are fully supported.
Considerations for ecommerce extensions
Many of the popular ecommerce platform providers offer marketplaces for recognised extensions which they have verified. If you choose an extension from a third-party carefully check that the provider offers ongoing support and development and that you can speak with satisfied customers.
Pricing and quality - many people who buy extensions will be influenced by cost and might think that a low-cost option will be simple and low risk. Many make the mistake of failing to check their quality.
You can check user communities, reviews and ratings but, to be sure you are making the right choice, you should take the advice or experienced developers who will be able to judge whether the extension has the features and functionality to meet your needs and that it is free from viruses and other security risks.
Check the demonstrations - most reputable extension providers will offer demonstrations of both front-end user experience and back-end configuration and customization options. If they don’t fully meet your requirements you will need to look for alternatives.
Support - effective support from experienced developers should be available for any extensions you buy. Many providers offer some free support for a few months, but many don’t offer any support, so if you have problems you will have to pay to resolve them.
Product change log - the product ‘change log’ will give you an idea of the lifecycle of an extension, helping you to see how it is designed and focused. This will improve your understanding of the quality of current version and planned improvements including fixes, coding quality, new features, and updates. Version control is an important issue because an extension that hasn’t been updated for six to nine months, for example, might not be compatible with your ecommerce platform. You should also look for regular security updates to be confident that your site won’t be compromised.
Why you shouldn’t use extensions
Your ecommerce platform is critical to your business success so it must be reliable, secure and effective, now and in the future. You could find that support is withdrawn for the extensions that you rely on.
While adding extensions to your ecommerce platform can deliver extra functionality quickly, you will be adding to the complexity of your ecommerce solution. This could affect the speed and agility of future developments for your business.
A siloed approach to your ecommerce solution could also reduce the effectiveness of your processes and slow down future improvements and innovation. You are also increasing the risk of points of failure due to:
- poor quality
- limited support
- lack of development
- conflicts between extensions.
The alternative to ecommerce extensions
There are many well-proven platforms available to meet retail and business to business (B2B) ecommerce needs. Software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) solutions all come with powerful functionality straight out of the box. They are kept up to date in the Cloud, which means you no longer have to worry about ongoing overheads for maintenance and support for your extensions.
By taking time to assess your current and future needs and capacity you can choose a solution that will suit your growing business. Implementation can be fast, and you will have a very clear view of your immediate and future costs.
In addition, for established platforms there are a wide range of experienced developers to tailor and customize any additional functionality that you might need. Building a long-term relationship with a trusted developer will add value and provide stability for your business in the longer term.
Gain a competitive advantage
Taking a complete view of your whole business and every touchpoint with your customers can give you an important competitive advantage. Valuable data can be captured during every interaction. While managing this volume of data was once a limiting factor, machine learning and artificial intelligence can now provide valuable business insights.
You will then have comprehensive data to help you understand your customers’ behavior and to evaluate, test and improve their experiences. You will be able to move from reacting to past trends to anticipating and proactively creating new ones.
Delivering complete purchasing journeys and after sales support based on accurate real-time information is becoming a point of differentiation for many customers. A customer experience strategy based on integration of your ecommerce platform and your key business systems will deliver a seamless experience from initial online discovery to delivery and continuing customer support. You will build long-term brand loyalty and create brand ambassadors.
Whether you have existing legacy systems or are planning a whole now business data strategy, you can optimize performance and profitability. You can combine your ecommerce platform with the power of leading enterprise resource planning systems such as Microsoft Dynamics and integrate stock and order control pricing and product management with Sage, for example. Time-consuming administrative tasks can be automated and processes streamlined. Accuracy and efficiency will be improved by reducing the amount of data that must be entered manually.
Integration enables the type of personalized experience that customers now expect to enhance their online experience and to improve your conversion rates. You can create the type of personalized recommendations seen on Amazon on your own site along with streamlined searches and up-selling and cross-selling suggestions.
Consolidate and transform
We have extensive experience of integrating business systems and consolidating data from multiple sources to transform business insights and processes. We would like to learn about the ecommerce functionality you are looking for and recommend options that can add value to your business.
For an initial discussion, please get in touch.