All Change at Magento – What are the Magento Alternatives?

Magento alternatives

Magento Alternatives? Where Should We Be Looking?

26th June 2018 by Roger Martin

All Change at Magento – What are the Magento Alternatives?

26th June 2018 by Roger Martin

Magento alternatives are fast gaining credibility and traction following the ongoing Magento 2 stability issues since launch, exacerbated by bugs that are taking too long to address and now further bolstered by the recent acquisition by Adobe, which has got the Community and SME merchants thinking, “What are the Magento alternatives?”

 

Worried about Magento?

If your ecommerce business is being managed using Magento Open Source, latterly called Magento Community, it might be prudent to start looking at Magento alternatives. Particularly if you are running Magento Community 1.9 or below, as its unlikely that this will be fully supported with security patching for much longer. Magento 3 looks like it will be on its way now that the might of Adobe is in play, but there is uncertainty as to how the Community Edition will fare under their ownership.

As a digital agency of 12 years standing, we have seen a number of acquisitions by large players in the market. Most notably the IBM purchase of Silverpop and its eventual demise as it became a small cog in the enterprise wheel that is IBM Watson. Smaller clients were effectively priced out of using the tool, and it led to big wins for DotMailer, MailChimp and recently SendGrid who were well placed to pick up the SME clients. The natural move towards agile cost effective platforms is something that SME’s will always do. Adobe’s real play is likely to be in the larger enterprise market where clients can use the might of their cloud marketing platform (remember Omniture?) combined with the Magento ecommerce platform. Big billing up at the top right of Gartner’s magic Quadrant is where Adobe is headed…

Magento Enterprise has now been forked into several different incarnations, including Magento Commerce, Order Management, and is moving towards a fully managed cloud hosting system. Something Adobe will be looking to leverage. Mid size merchants might need to consider cross grading back into M2 Community if the license costs are hiked, or looking at Magento alternatives.

At Star Digital we’ve seen a marked decline in RFI requests for new Magento business in the past two years. Clients have been nervous about launching or upgrading to Magento 2, and the fees for enterprise have been lumpy, and heavily negotiated client to client. The Magento partner channel have pretty much locked any non-partners out of that ecosystem, making it harder for agencies to work in that space.

We love Magento, and we’ve done some outstanding, award winning work on the platform since 2008, but we think anyone looking to build a new store should be looking at the Magento alternatives as part of their RFI process.

We are not saying don’t choose Magento, it is still the most extensible platform in the market today – just look at your options, the landscape is changing…

Magento Alternatives – Shopify

Magento Alternatives - Shopify

Following the plethora of issues caused by the Magento 2 launch, in 2017 we signed a partner agreement with Shopify, as we believe it is a fantastic ecommerce platform for B2C clients that need the ability to launch fast, experiment, integrate with social shopping and scale without worrying about their server capacity. For B2C clients this platform is a very credible alternative that can be delivered with a lower time overhead and cost than a traditional Magento build. It comes ready installed on the Shopify cloud, and there is a vast plugin marketplace of pre-approved apps to deliver extended functionality to the platform.

With fully responsive templates and ‘Liquid’ the Shopify theming language it is easy to load dynamic content and modify the look and feel of the web site. Furthermore there are excellent plugins to create mobile apps of your Shopify store for a small monthly fee, and Shopify POS is an out of the box solution to provide a true omnichannel solution for retailers.

Shopify comes in two versions, the standard platform which is designed for businesses with a turnover of less than a million, and Shopify Plus for larger merchants. Shopify Plus comes with additional features including a wholesale channels for B2B orders. We love working with Shopify, its clean, easy to build on, and our clients love using it!

Call us on 01604 696385 to have a chat about Shopify and its growing ecosystem and advantages as a Magento B2C alternative platform. Discover more about Shopify here.

Magento Alternatives – Woo Commerce

Magento Alternatives - Woocommerce

WordPress is the most utilised platform for the delivery of web content in the world, and the Woo Commerce extension is a full ecommerce platform that has improved massively in the past 18 months, representing an incredibly effective solution for SME merchants looking to leverage online sales. With a heap of ready made templates and extensions this plugin is easy to configure and create a great looking fully mobile responsive ecommerce.

Woo Commerce gives B2C merchants a credible alternative to magenta and is definitely making inroads in the Magento Community or Magento Open Source space. The system is easy to use and can create great looking ecommerce experiences that are easy to edit and modify. The options to customise and extend are extensive using the storefront extensions, and combined with WordPress and Visual Composer or WP Bakery its really easy for businesses to manage and edit content.

Once again the platform comes in two versions with an enterprise version available for larger merchants. If you’d like to know more about how Woo Commerce can help your business please give us a call on 01604 696385.

Magento Alternatives – OroCommerce B2B

Magento Alternatives - ORO Commerce

OroCommerce is a B2B Commerce platform with a host of B2B commerce focussed features directly out of the box such as;

Corporate Account Management

Access Controls, Roles and Permissions

Multiple Organisations, Websites and Stores

Content Management System (CMS)

Personalised B2B Catalogue Management

Developed by members of the original Magento team and headed up by Maganto co-founder and CTO Yoav Kutner the platform has been developed to be a very credible Magento alternative.

Furthermore the Oro technology stack includes a full blown CRM called OroCRM with direct integration to OroCommerce and when combined with OroPlatform, a rapid application development platform that is purely open source developers can build out complete customisations to deliver on ERP, WMS and PIM systems.

The three elements combined mean that developers like us can create web applications to solve specific industry issues, and businesses get a quality application platform to solve unique business problems, deliver USP and value add for their clients and integrate to any 3rd party platform faster and more cost effectively.

The OroCommerce platform is available in both Community and Enterprise editions with enterprise pricing similar to that seen with entry level Magento Commerce solutions.

At Star Digital we think OroCommerce combined with its stablemates will be one to watch and we have begun working on the codebase in readiness for enquiries from our larger B2B Magento clients. This is a truly credible Magento alternative for B2B commerce, firmly rooted in the open source community and being built to enable developers and merchants to build groundbreaking and unique digital commerce solutions.

If you’d like to discuss requirements around Magento alternatives please drop us a line, call or email. The landscape is definitely changing in ecommerce….

Upgrade to Magento 2 – A guide for merchants

When thinking about an upgrade to Magento 2 it is important to understand what is involved and what advantages upgrading to Magento 2 actually offers. The expected landrush to upgrade to Magento 2 through 2016 and early 2017 has not materialised. The current thinking is that it will happen through Q3 of 2017, as the platform reaches full stability and the developer community has enough experience to manage the upgrades successfully and in an economically viable manner. The Magento platform has always been promoted as the most flexible ecommerce platform in the world, accessible to all due to its foundations as an open source project. Whilst this has been a major strength, the process of moving towards Magento 2 and the focus by the new owners to grow the Enterprise channel and achieve top Magic Quadrant status at Gartner shows us the intended trajectory of travel for the business. Its also important to understand that Magento Enterprise 1.13 and above are only supported until November 2018. Magento Community 1.x is unsupported anyway, but there are no further releases to this version and any security patching for this platform ends in November 2018. The move to Magento 2 is not an option, its a reality. We want to help you understand what is really involved in an upgrade to Magento 2.

So what is involved in the upgrade to Magento 2?

It is often referred to as an upgrade but the increasing view across the Magento Community that this is a re-platform and needs to be approached as a new project. That is not to say it is as difficult as a total new build, but there are elements that need to be considered as part of the process. Firstly, the data from the Magento 1 build can often be migrated across without too much difficulty giving us a skeleton Magento 2 build in a reasonable amount of developer time. This is akin to an upgrade experience. However, the front end template cannot be migrated. It has to be completely rebuilt, and the majority of the learning curves that developers and agencies have had to go through are in this area. This has also been one of the most ‘buggy’ areas of Magento 2 since launch. With the release of Magento 2.1.4 our front end developers have stated that Magento 2 is now stable and are beginning to ramp up the number of new clients on the platform. But, you need to be aware that this is a time consuming area of the Magento 2 upgrade. The next area that is a challenge surrounds plugins and custom modules/components. In many cases the original software developers have not yet released a version for Magento 2, or will not be doing one. Therefore a full audit of any 3rd party plugins is essential before any upgrade to Magento 2 begins. It may be necessary to custom code the functions or look for reputable, fully tested 3rd party plugins compatible with Magento 2. Developers then need to test all of the upgraded and new plugins in the round to make sure they are not conflicting with each other or causing issues with the Magento 2 core code functions. Time needs to be allowed for this. Any custom code written to extend the functionality of Magento 1 will need to fully audited, and in some cases rewritten from the ground up to work in Magento 2. This could be one of the most expensive parts of a Magento 2 upgrade. It does cause agencies and developers concern as the Magento platform has built its success on the ease of extensibility and this is a major hurdle in the Magento 2 upgrade process, and is the main reason why we are now terming it a rebuild. The last part of the puzzle relates to data integrations or connections to third party data, or systems integration. Typically to platforms such as SQL, MS Dynamics, SAP or NetSuite. In the majority of cases, especially for B2B clients, these integrations are highly customised and will require a rewrite, so make sure you have fully scoped out the technical requirements for this as part of the upgrade plan. Testing will be vital and time consuming. Pre-launch to your upgrade to Magento 2 make sure that the agencies SEO team are on top of any redirects and changes to meta tags across the new site. Loss of search rankings could be a major issue if not considered as part of the process. Again this is a time consuming process requiring accuracy and diligence.

Advantages of an upgrade to Magento 2

It can’t all be bad news, after all a major platform upgrade such as this is put in place to provide advantages and improvements and Magento 2 does deliver in this regard. If you use the Magento Enterprise system the new owners have decided to fork development in your favour and introduce a lot of exciting new features for the Enterprise platform users. So if you are on this platform you can expect to see some very interesting features rolling out to help with merchandising, promotions, live testing, B2B functionality and options for a full order management system. For Magento Community users its not quite as exciting, but still worth the journey in the hope that some of the Enterprise features might make their way into Community at a later date, or that the 3rd party software developers well release plugins with similar functions. The Magento 2 Community edition upgrade does make major improvements to the user dashboard and back office functions, you get a cleaner, streamlined checkout process that works very well for returning customers. For the technical minded amongst you, Magento 2 supports PHP 7 which does provide real speed increases for properly optimized stores. Combine this with full page caching and you will see significant page load performance improvements. Payment gateways such as PayPal and Braintree are embedded and integrations to WorldPay and Cybersource are available. Manual product creation has been made much easier, approximately 4x faster than M1, but in the real world the majority of our customers manage products in third party systems and import them to Magento. Some areas of the Magento 2 admin interface now support drag and drop functionality making it easier for non-technical users to manage content. It is alos touch screen friendly for user that want to mange their business using tablets. Magento 2 has also been built using a LESS framework to make it more mobile responsive. Front end developers are divided on how effective this has been, and at the time of writing it is being improved further by the Magento team. One advantage of having to rework the front end of your Magento 2 web site is that it gives you the opportunity to focus on the site usability and navigation, as well as performing a user experience audit, taking advantage of conversion rate optimization techniques that have come on stream since you built your Magento 1 store. The best news is that once you have made the move to Magento 2 it is fair to say that the upgrade process will be much easier moving forwards. Instead of numerous patches as seen in Magento 1, all security updates and feature releases are packaged into easy to run Magento upgrades. This will be a major advantage moving forwards.

When should we begin planning our Upgrade to Magento 2?

This depends on the complexity of your existing Magento 1 build. If you are a straightforward B2C client with no plugins and integrations to 3rd party data, there is no urgency. Your upgrade to Magento 2 should be reasonably straightforward. We would advise looking at a Q1 2018 window. For customers that have plugins, third party integrations and customised module code we are recommending going into discovery through Q3 of 2017 with a view to beginning work as soon as possible. We cannot stress enough the importance of ensuring that the Magento 2 upgrade/re-platform is properly scoped and specified. It is vital to understand the challenges and risks before beginning work. It is distinctly possible that if you wait until Q2/3 2018 that there will be a shortage of quality certified Magento developers available. This could result in a large number of project failures undertaken by novice Magento developers, rushed migrations or very high prices from established Magento agencies that are having to pay developers more for extra working hours. We would advise caution and proper planning. If you would like to know more about any of the topics covered in this article, or get further advice from a Magento certified team please contact us by email, via a form on the web site, or by calling +44 1604 696385.

A guide to adding goal tracking to Magento websites.

Goal tracking on Google Analytics is a vital element for any online commerce business. Through measuring the effectiveness of your site in gaining conversions, marketing teams can see what content converts and what elements need improving. For Magento websites, this goal tracking process is relatively easy to complete. All you need is a google Analytics account, access to your Magento admin area and access to either the html code or a developer. Here’s our simple 3 step guide to setting up Goal Tracking on a Magento site: 1. Add Google Analytics Tracking code to your site The first step in implementing any goal tracking on your site is to add the Google Analytics tracking code generated for your Google Analytics profile. All you need to do is add your Analytics account ID into the Magento backend via the Google API menu on the Sales tab. The difference between Magento 1 and 2 is simply down to where the Google API is found in the back end. On Magento 1 – You navigate to System > Configuration > Sales > Google API, compared to Magento 2, where it’s found in Stores.

Magento 1 configuration panelMagento 1 configuration panel Magento 2 configuration panel

Implementation of standard google tracking remains the same on Magento 2 – a simple process of adding your Google Analytics Account ID.   2. Enable Ecommerce tracking on Google Analytics To do this, simply navigate to the admin section on your Google Analytics account, under VIEW go to E-commerce Settings and swipe the button to on. Magento automatically pulls through ecommerce tracking.   3. Set up your goals The final step is to set up the goals and what they track within the admin section of your Google Analytics profile. To do this, simply click Admin > Goals > + Goal. If completed actions go through to an individual thank you style page, then you can set up a destination goal. For Ecommerce sites, it is recommended to add a funnel of important pages which allows you to see where and when people drop out before completing a goal. Through the identification of drop off points, you can analyse the reasons for these drop-offs and develop possible fixes, thereby optimising for your all-important conversion rate.

goal tracking set up

Goal details screen

Alternatively, event goals are useful for content that can be tracked separately from the webpages, such as downloads, button clicks and video plays. To implement this, you set up the event fields in the admin section like the example below.

 

goal event conditions

Then using JavaScript, you create the tracking code which would mirror the details inputted in Analytics.

ga event tracking code

If using Google Tag Manager, the goals can be added via the platform, without Google Tag Manager, you will need a developer or webmaster to add the JavaScript event tracking code into the html of the site. So, if you are tracking a goal that completes on a button click, that code is placed within that element.

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Goal tracking code

Once your goal tracking is in place, you have a ready source of insight into how your customers interact with your website. If you have any questions or issues, call our friendly digital marketing team on 01604 696385 or email info@star-digital.co.uk