Are you trying to figure out whether Magento is the right eCommerce platform for your business? If you are, this post will give you all the information you need to make an informed and well thought out decision.
Choosing the right eCommerce solution
The recent global economic challenges caused by COVID-19 came as a surprise to us all. Yes, there was (and still is) a short window of time you can use to prepare for the economic uncertainty ahead. But in general, many businesses were left exposed and in a vulnerable state all over the world.
Although the pandemic took a serious toll to our day-to-day activities, some organizations managed to capitalize on the situation and boost their sales. In a recent report, Adobe claimed that the eCommerce industry was accelerated by 4 to 6 years in terms of total online spending. This means that many more now prefer shopping online for goods they used to purchase in-store.
So it is no surprise that more and more companies are shifting their focus on developing and supporting a stable eCommerce experience for their customers. This is an important step and as such, you need to be well prepared to make the right decisions. This post will take a deep dive into Magento 2 to help you decide if it’s the right platform for your business.
How to know if Magento is the right solution for my organization?
We know that selecting the right software for your online store is a complex task. This is why we are going to examine Adobe’s eCommerce solution from multiple angles. What you will have to do is evaluate how each aspect of the framework fits with your organizational goals.
- The Magento 2 platform
- Business Operations
The Magento 2 platform
Magento is one of the leading eCommerce platforms on the market. It’s built on proven open source technologies and provides a quality solution to online merchants. From a flexible shopping cart system to absolute control over the functionality, user experience, and sales content, Magento offers powerful features that solve some of the biggest hurdles faced by online merchants.
To be the right solution for your store, Magento needs to align with your business needs and customer expectations in some key categories:
When you are integrating a new software within your organization, it is of utmost importance that you are confident in the long-term support of the product.
Coupling your business with a solution that is close to its end of life means additional overhead for technical support and feature updates. Both of which might require a dedicated development team depending on the vendor’s policy.
Currently, the latest version of Magento Commerce is 2.3. Version 2.2 was released in September 2017 and reached the end of its lifecycle in December 2019 when the latest release took over. As per the current Magento Software Lifecycle Policy, there is no date listed under End of Software Support for version 2.3.
With Magento 2.4 due for release in Q3 2020, some merchants are wondering whether now is the right time to start with the current latest release. But it is important to know that bug fixes for 2.3 will be provided for 12 months from the general availability announcement date of 2.4. For security updates, this period is 18 months. This gives you plenty of time to plan your migration and the confidence that your eCommerce solution will be supported in the long run.
Security & Compliance
Magento is a tried and tested platform. By default, it implements good practices in terms of password management, cross-site scripting (XSS) prevention, clickjacking exploits prevention, SQL injection prevention, and others. But it’s also important to evaluate how things are handled when new security lapses are found.
While no software is 100% safe, 3 key components affect the security performance of the Magento platform.
The first one is Adobe themselves. Adobe is a company with serious software development experience and know-how. So when a lapse in the security is identified, the team behind the eCommerce software releases security patches and fixes on time.
Adobe had its fair share of security breaches and while these situations create a lot of stress for the company and its users, they are also a powerful learning opportunity. This is why the last 3 patches released for Magento version 2.3 (namely 2.3.3, 2.3.4 and 2.3.5) bring more than 100 security enhancements in 8 months.
The second component is the open-source Magento community. Each published line of code is accessible for contributors to discuss and improve upon in an open forum environment. This conversation facilitates the early discovery of potentially insecure functionalities and allows for a quick response by the development community.
The last element are security companies like Foregenix and Ambionics. Such organizations research market-leading platforms like Magento and have a great impact on early loophole identification. This doesn’t mean that they don’t make bad decisions sometimes (Critical flow in Magento handled badly), but the effort of hundreds of security researchers across the industry helps keep the platform safe.
2018 was the year when personal data privacy was put center stage. Key legislation like GDPR and CCPA forced many merchants to take swift and decisive action to comply with the new standards.
Magento 2 is ready for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Below you will find a list of resources that will provide valuable information regarding your compliance:
- Magento GDPR Compliance
- Magento GDPR Overview
- Magento 2.x Personal Information Reference
- 3 key actions for merchants
- 5 things to know about GDPR and Magento
The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) went into effect on January 1, 2020. Your business is subject to CCPA requirements if you do business in California and collect, sell, or share California consumers’ personal information. Below you will find resources that will help you enable your CCPA compliance for your Magento store.
High performance is a key ingredient in improving customer experience and boosting conversions. Today more than ever users are expecting an instant response to the action they are taking on your store. Magento Commerce 2.x made huge leaps forward in terms of site performance compared to Magento Enterprise Edition 1.x:
- Increased order processing per hour by up to 39%
- Provides nearly instant server response time for catalog browsing
- Add-to-cart server response times are up to 66% faster
- End-to-end checkout duration sped up by up to 51%
Magento offers a wide variety of options that can help you improve your website performance straight out of the box. Utilizing a sensible operational architecture, Magento provides options for faster workflow not only to your customerс but also to your suppliers and Magento developers.
In a test published by goivvy.com, Magento shows great performance while loaded with 1 000 000 unique products with an affordable server configuration:
- TTFB for admin dashboard – 1.37s
- Loading the list of products in 2.12s
- Loading product categories in 3.43s
- Home page response in under 850ms
- Category page loading in 10.03s
- Add-to-cart interaction completion in 1.34s
With Magento you get plenty of optimization options for basic deployments like extensive caching, asynchronous order data processing, frontend asset bundling, etc.
But if you are aiming for more advanced multi-server deployments you can leverage integration with Varnish caching system, Redis caching for sessions, or even a separate Redis instance for your default caching (we recommend not to use this instance for page caching) and boost performance even further.
That being said, many factors can influence your store performance. And while your software configuration has a vital role, your hardware resource availability is also key.
The scalability of your online store is highly coupled with your server infrastructure (we will discuss functional scalability later). If you are selecting Magento 2 for a small store with a limited number of products you might be able to provide a satisfactory customer experience on a more affordable server configuration.
But if we are talking about a medium or large store with millions of unique SKUs and a big user base, your web store is going to need a more robust hardware infrastructure.
One of the major advantages of Magento is that you can retain full control over your store hosting. Many eCommerce SaaS providers do not allow for hosting flexibility, leaving you to deal with the limitations of their servers.
The technological requirement for Magento 2.x allows you to deploy your store with a server provider of your choosing. But if you are still looking for the convenience of a managed and automated hosting platform that is specifically designed for Cloud-based solutions you don’t have to look further than Magento 2 Commerce Cloud Edition.
This version provides all M2 Commerce features and adds a layer of enhanced Cloud infrastructure that takes care of the server performance while making your site highly available to users in multiple geographic regions. You also get to leverage features like Git integration, key environments, etc.
Running a successful online shop is a complex endeavor. The platform you select will have a big impact on your business operations. It should help you run your ops efficiently and provide you with enough opportunities for automation. Magento offers certain features that help decrease the administrative overhead while integrating well with your 3rd party service vendors.
Payments are a critical component of every online store and are important to both customers and merchants. Your customers expect a swift and easy payment process. Friction in the checkout process costs merchants around $200 billion in sales or about 50% cart abandonment rate (PYMNTS).
Merchants, on the other hand, face an additional layer of complexity when it comes to accepting payments. Often companies use a particular payment processing partner. This limits their flexibility and puts pressure on the eCommerce platform.
Luckily, Magento 2 is extremely flexible when it comes to payment integrations. By default, Magento supports some basic payment methods like:
- Check / Money Order
- Bank Transfer Payment
- Payment on Account (B2B feature)
- Cash On Delivery Payment
- Zero Subtotal Checkout
- Purchase Order
But often the default payment options don’t fit with your processes. If that’s the case, you can leverage one of the many payment integration modules available on the market. Currently, there are more than 240 payment integration modules for Magento 2. Here’s a shortlist of payment processors that you can integrate with your Magento store:
- Google Pay
Before you move forward with purchasing a module you can also check with your Payment Processor. Often such companies already have solutions for the most common eCommerce platforms, so chances are your partner might be able to provide you with a module for your Magento 2 store.
And on the off chance that there are no modules that can integrate your online store with your preferred Payment Processor, Magento 2 offers a flexible programming API that can be used to create custom integrations. While this approach requires help from a developer, it is the most flexible way to integrate payments to your website.
Inventory & Stock Management
Inventory and stock management are some of the challenging aspects of running an eCommerce store. Managing product availability creates significant overhead and can put a strain on your resources.
Magento 2 offers a variety of configuration options that help you keep your inventory under control. And there are plenty of features to assist you in always being on top of the available quantities in your store.
Magento implements a flexible stock management system. You can control the general inventory settings for all products and also dive into the details and tweak the inventory of each product.
When discussing the general inventory settings, you will find options to decrease stock when order is placed, set items back to “In Stock” when an order is canceled, hide or show out of stock products, display a phrase when only a given amount of stock is left and to control whether the stock of a product is available on the Storefront.
Switching to the product stock options, you can configure your preferences for backorders, maximum or minimum allowed quantity in the shopping cart, an out-of-stock threshold, quantity notifications, quantity increments, and others.
Moving to the product level, you can manage quantity, backorders, maximum or minimum allowed quantity, the out-of-stock threshold, quantity notifications, quantity increments, stock availability, and the quantity use of decimals for each product.
As your business is evolving, you might find yourself needing more control over the shipping locations. Magento offers options to setup multi-source inventory so you can include all your stores, warehouses, drop shippers, and other product sources. Alternatively, if you want to scale down your shipping to a single location, you can configure a single-source inventory.
Amazon and other eCommerce leaders changed greatly customers’ expectations on shipping. Today consumers expect their delivery to arrive fast (same day/next day) and often with a low or no charge. That’s why online retailers are very concerned with the challenges to deliver orders quickly and cheaply.
The platform you select for your online store plays an important role in helping you tackle the shipping issues. If it supports just a couple of shipping options your business will lose certain flexibility and you may also see a drop in conversion rates. Fortunately, Magento 2 is one of the most flexible systems when it comes to shipping.
Magento offers the following carrier-neutral shipping options:
- Flat Rate
- Free Shipping
- Table Rates
Due to the complexities of shipping, many sellers opt-in for partnerships with local or international leaders in logistics. Often it is more cost and time effective to outsource delivery fulfillment but it requires software integration between your store and your preferred carrier.
Straight out of the box Magento helps you integrate with the following carriers:
With each of those you can easily connect your carrier account and your Magento 2 shop. This way you can leverage software automation and decrease overhead while providing customers with up-to-date delivery times and rates (may vary depending on your carrier and account type).
This high level of integration with major carriers allows you to tap into the shipping system and offer order tracking, shipping label creation, and more.
Generating a shipping label can be done for regular shipments and products with return merchandise authorization. Besides the information provided by the carrier, the generated labels can include the number of the current package and the total number of packages, along with the Magento order number. All this contributes to a friction-free shipping process for your business and a good delivery experience for your customers.
Successful online stores are ever-evolving. Staying on top of the market means having a good understanding of how your customers interact with your online shop and what bottlenecks they might face in the ordering process. This is why having a robust Reporting and Analytics system is crucial for running a profitable online store.
Merchants using Magento 2 can benefit from a wide variety of generated reports. The data can be opened in a spreadsheet or imported in other analytical software. The following report types are available with your default Magento 2 installation:
- Marketing Reports
- Products in Cart
- Search Terms
- Abandoned Carts
- Newsletter Problems
- Review Reports
- Magento Reviews by Product
- Magento Reviews by Customer
- Sales Reports
- PayPal Settlements
- Customer Reports
- Order Total
- Order Count
- New Accounts
- Product Reports
- Product Views
- Low Stock
- Ordered Products
- Private Sales Reports (Available in Magento Commerce only)
- Invited Customers
- Customer Engagement Reports – provides data import and report options for dotdigital.
- Business Intelligence Tools
- Advanced Reporting
- MBI (Magento Business Intelligence)
- Yotpo Analytics
Custom Business Requirements
While Magento 2 comes up with plenty of features, businesses often require specific platform customization and custom feature implementations.
There are two approaches there – purchase a third party module or hire developers to create a custom module for your specific use case.
The Magento Marketplace is home to almost 3,400 modules that help merchants customize and expand their stores. Other digital marketplaces sell Magento 2 modules from various vendors and for various functionalities as well.
Using a pre-made third party module has some benefits – functionalities are ready-to-use, require no additional testing, and need only to be configured. The downside is that often there is no guarantee that the module will suit your specific needs. You may have to conduct the required due diligence before buying the module.
Deciding to bring developers on board to implement your custom functionality also has its downsides but guarantees a “perfect fit”. Development takes time so it won’t be the best solution when you need something ASAP. But if you have the ability to plan, the result will be custom-tailored to your specific needs and current processes. You will also have constant opportunity to provide feedback during the development to ensure a successful result.
This is the end of Part 1. If you want to be notified when we release Part 2, follow us on LinkedIn.