Episode #4 of the course Guide to choosing an eCommerce platform by Adam Bastock
Magento is a powerful and versatile eCommerce platform that launched in 2007 with heavy investments from eBay in 2011. Due to its status as an enterprise-level system, it is hugely customizable with massive potential but high operating costs.
Magento comes in two main “flavors”:
• Enterprise – Based on their Community edition, Enterprise is designed for larger businesses that require more dedicated technical support.
• Community – This is a free and open-source platform for smaller business to self-host and manage. While probably the most powerful eCommerce platform you can access for free, it comes with a lot of associated costs.
Ease of Setup and Use
Designed for sites with thousands of products, a Magento store will require help from an agency or your own in-house team to work effectively. Once all of the set-up is done and you have a robust maintenance procedure in place, you have a powerful enterprise site that will make managing large quantities of orders a lot easier.
Magento developers do not come cheap, so factor this in when launching, as any features you have not planned for may incur hefty costs.
Out of the box, Magento is SEO-friendly; however many sites suffer with speed issues. Large product inventories and plugins can bloat sites. Technical steps can help address this and ensure a smooth user experience.
As highlighted, a Magento store will take considerable time and money as an upfront investment. Continued support and improvements to make sure everything’s running smoothly will also be needed. It is not designed to be easily managed by single users like Shopify is, so an in-house team or close relationship with an agency is vital.
Magento websites start at around $25,000 depending on the level of customization you require.
The excellent multi-channel functionality Magento offers provides substantial scope for growth to compensate for these high costs. It can often be set up to integrate with your back-office systems as well as external sites such as eBay and Amazon.
The ability to manage multiple domains from a single admin area also means that your multichannel business can be centralized into one system rather than rapidly switching and spreading across several services. This will only really be of benefit to large businesses.
Magento Connect is the third-party “app” ecosystem for finding additional functionality. Many apps are free, but paid apps can easily be hundreds of dollars.
Apps range from typical marketing to advanced search features and cart customizations all the way to more complex features such as accounts and back-office integrations, helping to automate tasks and make scaling easier.
Magento is the market’s leading eCommerce platform. However, it is really only practical for established businesses with large SKU ranges. For smaller stores, the complexity and high costs are barriers to entry.
Prohibitive development costs mean small businesses are better off looking at WooCommerce or Shopify as alternatives until they have the larger SKU range or complex multi-channel setup that a Magento platform would solve.
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