Part 1: Magento

At Mahalo Media Group, we’ve been working with a long-time client to replace their existing online store with a more affordable and easier to maintain ecommerce platform. While development of the online store is going on, we want to share with you the range of ecommerce platforms that we presented to help them find the right solution for their business.

This article series covers four popular ecommerce platforms: Magento, WooCommerce, Shopify, and BigCommerce. If you’re currently considering an ecommerce platform for your business, these options may help you find the best fit for your budget and resources.

About our client

If you’re wondering why we didn’t present our client with platforms such as Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly, here’s a little bit about our client to understand our choices:

  • Our client is a mid-sized company with about 300 employees nationwide.
  • They have revenue in the tens of millions annually.
  • Sales are done online, by phone, or by mail.

Enterprise ecommerce platforms are better suited for our client’s needs, eliminating those solutions targeted to smaller businesses.

Why did our client want to replace their existing store?

Our client’s original online store was built on a proprietary ecommerce platform. Because our client didn’t have the in-house resources to build and maintain an online store themselves, they outsourced the work to a third-party vendor.

Any time a change was needed to their online store, whether it was a content update, such as editing a product description, or a new feature to be added, our client had to rely on the vendor to modify their solution. Because the solution was proprietary, our client paid an upfront cost to built the online store and had ongoing costs to maintain it.

Because the vendor opted for a proprietary solution, they had to code new features themselves. Unlike open source ecommerce platforms or self-hosted ecommerce solutions, off-the-shelf plugins or extensions aren’t readily available.

Another issue that our client encountered: no one but the third-party vendor had access to the online store. If the agency wasn’t available or went out of business, then our client had no one to maintain their store for them—or worse, no store.

Eventually, our client found their online store cumbersome and too expensive to maintain. They asked us to help them find a new ecommerce platform. From open source solutions to self-hosted platforms, our client had a lot of options to choose from.

What is Magento?

Magento is an ecommerce platform with two primary offerings: Magento Open Source (formerly known as their Community Edition) and Magento Commerce (formerly known as Enterprise Edition or Enterprise Cloud Edition depending upon your web hosting).

One major difference between these editions: Magento Open Source is free, and Magento Commerce is not. Of course, because you are paying for it, you get more features and functionality with Magento Commerce.

Magento Open Source is marketed to developers and small businesses, while Magento Commerce is marketed to enterprise-level clients who may need more technical support. Among those larger clients are Burger King and Shinola, an American luxury goods manufacturer located in Detroit.

According to the Magento website, “Magento is the most popular commerce platform in the world, with more than 250,000 merchants around the globe.”

Advantages

So what separates Magento from other ecommerce platforms?

Flexibility

Magento offers a lot of flexibility to customize your online store to your needs. The best part is that with little or no coding ability, you can launch an online store with Magento.

In the Magento Marketplace, you can purchase themes and extensions to get up and running quickly. Pick and choose the features that you want and build a store that’s uniquely suited to your business.  

If you need professional help, there’s the Magento partner program, a global network of experienced Magento developers, consultants, and other professionals for hire.

Scalability

If you need an ecommerce platform that can grow with your business, Magento has you covered. Whether you have 10, 100, 1000, or 10,000 products, Magento is built to scale with your business.

It’s also optimized for top-notch performance. Magento is capable of handling hundreds, if not thousands, of orders an hour without slowing down.

Resources

Magento has been around for about 10 years, so it’s a mature ecommerce platform, which means that it’s well documented with plenty of community support. If you run into a problem, you’ll find an answer in their community forum.

Disadvantages

Of course, Magento has its disadvantages as well. If you’re considering this platform, here are a few things you need to know.

Costs

You can download and get started with the Magento Open Source edition at no cost to you, but it’s free for a reason. When considering cost, keep in mind the following:

  • Technical support costs. Support for the Open Source edition comes from the community forum or whatever you can find on the web. In other words, there is no technical support for that edition. Purchase Magento Commerce and you can expect technical support with a hefty price tag.
  • Development costs. A more complex system can require an experienced Magento developer. Even if you build it yourself, you may find that you need a developer to add new features. Hourly rates for Magento developers can vary widely depending upon location and experience.
  • Site costs. If you opt for the Magento Commerce edition, be prepared for the costs. While Magento doesn’t list pricing on their site—which may tell you something—by some estimates, a license costs as much as $18,000 per year and may go as high as $75,000 per year. We’ve seen even higher estimates than that online.

Hosting

With the Magento Commerce edition, you have two hosting options: Magento’s cloud hosting or the Magento Commerce On-Premises solution where you select the web host.

If you choose the latter and if you have a large online store, then you may want a dedicated server to handle the complexity and scalable design of your store. That’s an additional expense both when you launch and ongoing for as long as you operate the store.

Time-intensive

The learning curve for developing with Magento is higher, so relative to other ecommerce platforms, developing with Magento may take longer. Modifying your store may not only be time consuming, but also costly when you have to rely on a Magento developer.

The bottom line is that compared to some other ecommerce platforms, Magento is less nimble. It may take you longer than expected to get your online store where you need it to be.

What’s next?

We still have a lot left to cover in this article series, so look for our next installment on WooCommerce, an open source ecommerce platform for WordPress. After that, we’ll examine Shopify and BigCommerce.

This series is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more options available to fit every budget and need. Do your due diligence to find the ecommerce platform that’s right for your online store.