Magento® eCommerce: Your Next Step Forward

How Choosing the Right Platform Can Help You Achieve Your Business Goals

Is my ecommerce platform fully capable of supporting my online business? Is a question that every growing business has to ask at some point.

As you start to lose time and revenue juggling the elements of your older system, having a storefront custom built to support the specific needs of your business may be the most lucrative option. When you feel your business has outgrown its basic platform, we highly recommend taking your next step forward with Magento.

Canned vs. Custom: Which System is Right for You?

To show the difference in limitations and requirements between a canned and custom website and help you determine if you’re ready for an upgrade, we’ll compare a custom ecommerce website, Magento, against a canned ecommerce website, Shopify.

While Shopify makes sense for the short term goals of smaller businesses - perhaps targeting smaller, singular business sectors - eventually the features of a canned ecommerce platform limit your options. Magento requires more time and capital in the beginning to get started but it offers a solution with literally unlimited capabilities.

Storefronts Built With Shopify

Shopify offers a wide range of features and a simple user interface that makes it one of the best options on the market for smaller businesses. However, Shopify is limited in ways that are crucial for businesses looking to expand.

The Benefits of Shopify

  • Cost: Shopify is inexpensive to setup and has lower operating costs compared to a Magento solution.

  • Strong Hosting Capabilities: Shopify’s hosting is built to optimize both security and page load speed, without having to sacrifice either.

  • Customer Support: They provide customer service themselves to help with any questions or system malfunctions.

  • Offers Marketing Tools: Shopify offers their own package of marketing tools - SEO, email marketing - that you can use to drive traffic to your website.

  • Variety of Themes: Much like the CMS (Content Management Platform) Wordpress, Shopify offers a variety of themes that you can choose from. For businesses without a web designer on hand, this is a useful for establishing a clean and professional looking storefront, right from the moment of installation.

  • Additional Apps Available: In addition to their system’s core features, Shopify also has an App store where store owners can purchase specialized plug-ins.

The Limitations

  • Difficult to Make Theme Changes: Although Shopify offers a variety of themes, changing them can be difficult and requires technical knowledge of their system, Shopify Liquid. Although they offer instructional resources, there’s still a steep learning curve and proprietary platform that few developers will have experience with.

  • Limited Content Management Capability: Adding additional product descriptions under tabs, new content types, or even creating links between content pieces all requires customization of the theme’s code.

  • Basic Search Parameters: Shopify offers a search engine, but out of the box search capabilities are basic.

  • One Currency Check-Out Option: At the point of check-out, Shopify will only display your prices in the base currency setting of your website.

  • One Language Per Installation: There’s only one theme available that offers multi-lingual abilities right from installation, and it’s limited to two translations.

  • Incomplete Access to Your Data: With a canned system, you generally don’t have the same access to your data that you do with a custom ecommerce website. On a custom website, your data exists in your own database and on your own servers, giving you total control and private access to your own data.

  • Integrations: Although there are integrations available, you’re limited by what is offered. In the end, you end up shaping your business to fit the website, instead of fitting your website to your business.

  • Proprietary: Shopify is a proprietary system, you have no access to the underlying source code and can't modify it (which is also a benefit for companies with limited technical teams who just want to "plug it in" and get started).


Storefronts Built With Magento Commerce

There’s a reason why a majority of larger business enterprises use the Magento Commerce platform (For more information, read our post to see what businesses use Magento). Magento’s flexible code supports a system that can be customized to accommodate any business specifications.

The Benefits

  • Merchant-Driven Features: Magento has done an excellent job of capturing the set of features that are most popular among merchants (and skipping the features that would bloat the system). One of the reasons we chose it to support the platform in 2008 was because of its wide set of core features that most every merchant needs.

  • Theming Capability: If you have a strong brand and want your store online to reflect that brand and have ability to control every aspect of the user experience, Magento is a great option. Magento’s open source design allows you to modify the theme to fit your exact brand requirements.

  • Customization Ability: Aside from having a flexible code that makes it easy to customize, there are hundreds of extensions created for Magento.

  • Built-In Translation Support: It’s easy to configure Magento for managing translations. For online businesses looking to branch out beyond their local regions, having this capability is vital. Magento also enables admin to configure how content is displayed to their customers.

  • Open-Source: Magento’s open source code enables developers to easily customize it in any way needed. Managing shipping options, toggling between regions, theme customization, currency options - any of these things can be programmed to your specifications.

  • Flexible API: The API enables the platform to be integrated with other systems, like linking your ecommerce platform with your ERP systems for order processing after the sale.

  • Multiple Stores: Manage multiple websites and URL’s from a single back-end admin panel.

  • Adding and Editing User Accounts: Magento can support user accounts and enable a faster check-out process. From their personal accounts, your users can store personal information - gift lists, addresses - that cut down on check-out time.

  • Innovative Check-Outs: Magento has expanded check out capabilities. Order Ahead (Ordering a pizza online and then later going to pick it up) and Point of Sale (Using mobile devices like iPhones to charge customers) are just a few examples.

  • Configured for Design Changes: Design files are kept separate from core files allowing changes to the look and theme of your website to be accomplished without a total system overhaul.

The Requirements of Magento

  • A Self-Hosted Platform:As the merchant, you’ll need an account with a hosting provider to deploy Magento, as well as a staging and production environment for creating your website.

  • Technical Knowledge Required for Initial Set-Up:Magento isn’t an ecommerce solution that can be easily installed by a merchant with little technical knowledge. Customization and installation will require familiarity and knowledge of coding languages, like PHP and CSS, and is usually set up initially by a development team. Merchants will run their store day-to-day.

  • System Maintenance: Since you are running a full installation of the software on your own hosting account, it is up to the Merchant to have the appropriate plans in place for security -- meaning periodic Magento system patches and updates.

Why We Recommend Magento

Before Roy Rubin founded Magento there weren’t many merchant-friendly options for customizable ecommerce platforms. Most platforms were developed from the perspective of the tech teams that built them and lacked the features that marketers and storefront owners needed in an ecommerce platform - managing content, making website theme changes, and incorporating marketing tools.

With these drawbacks in mind, Rubin developed Magento to be different from its predecessors in two major ways:

  1. Magento is open source, and built to accommodate future upgrades. Having open-source software essentially makes Magento “future proof.” Because the system’s code is open to customization and modification, the platform isn’t in danger of becoming technologically obsolete.

  2. Magento is built to be easily customizable. Product customization is a standard of modern online business. Giving your customer the ability to customize their product - selecting from a range of options like size or color - reflects increased customization abilities on the admin’s side. Magento has enabled owners and customers to do the same thing: customize.

Magento changed the game for eCommerce platforms, providing an ecommerce solution with tech that supports marketing and merchandising instead of making them fit tech limitations.

If you have any questions about Magento or are wondering whether or not you are at the right stage for an ecommerce upgrade, feel free to contact us directly!