Magento Review: Powerful, Enterprise-Level Ecommerce Tool
What’s the perfect e-commerce host for a substantial project? Shopping cart platforms tend to have a strong target, but for every niche, there are still tons of options. Even if you narrow it down to the top five or ten, how do you pick the best solution for your business?
If you’re a blogger who is proficient in development — or have a developer on your team — Magento might just be the way to go. Claiming to be the number one e-commerce platform in the world, and boasting an impressive 250,000 merchants, it’s easy to be star-struck by its elegant, feature-rich design.
But Magento isn’t for everyone, so before you test it out, make sure to familiarize yourself with its offerings.
A Robust Tool For Devs
The most important thing to note about Magento is that it’s best suited for advanced developers and those with some business experience. The company itself is willing to admit that its products will definitely be overwhelming for beginners. There’s no pretending that this program is easy to set up.
You don’t need to be running a booming business to start using this platform, but expect to have your skills put to the test. Consider hiring a PHP developer if you don’t think you’ll be able to do it on your own, if not a whole team of them.
Another thing to keep in mind: Magento isn’t cheap. Its enterprise-level plans cost more than some people make in a year. The open-source plan may be free, but don’t forget hosting costs, an SSL certificate, and everything else you’ll need to get it running. Couple that with the apps you might need to purchase from the marketplace, and “free” suddenly becomes pretty costly.
But if you’re prepared to jump those hurdles, you’ll have access to one of the most powerful, high-end e-commerce platforms available. Now you just have to decide which version is right for you.
Instead of traditional plans, Magento is divided into two major programs: the smaller, free, open-source tool and the paid program meant only for large businesses.
You might be tempted to think that open-source edition skimps on the features. Quite the opposite. The paid program does, of course, contain some important things that this one does not, but open-source still boasts an impressive list of features. It was surprisingly hard to find that document, as the website goes for a simpler approach, rather than offering a parade of bland features. But the information contained in it really highlights how practical Magento is.
There are five pages of features, so it’s impossible to list them all. Let’s just take it one step at a time. There are tons of marketing tools: up-sells and related product sidebars, coupon codes, bundles, free shipping support, wish lists, and persistent shopping carts. An easy-to-manage catalog with configurable products; inventory management; and support for wholesale, retail, and virtual/digital goods makes life easier.
Take a breath; the list isn’t done. There is also a one-page checkout screen, support for guest purchasing and customer accounts alike, and tons of global payment and shipping gateways get the product to customers’ doors with no fuss — and bring them back for more.
Finally, a relatively easy-to-use admin panel, helpful SEO services, information-rich analytics, mobile optimization, and lots of other miscellaneous perks wrap up the package. Take a look for yourself. There’s quite a bit to process.
One big downside for the free version of Magento is that support is not included. This is pretty typical of free programs. Luckily, much like OpenCart, Magento’s community forums are fairly active and the people there are ready to help.
Just keep one thing in mind: powerful toolkits require powerful hosting. Even the free version of Magento will probably need a pretty strong VPS server. Shared hosting is not what you’re after.
A Plan for Experienced Businesses
Built with the needs of larger clients in mind, the paid version offers exclusive features that can’t be found in the free program.
Group customers by demographic and get detailed information on who buys what. Target returning visitors and new browsers. Input dynamic rules that can display certain products to certain people. Privatize your sales to certain customers (great for wholesale!) and include gifting options.
But that’s just the marketing. Rewards and store credits, a CMS, backup, and restore to test new add-ons, order tracking for customers, order archiving, and so, so much more.
Along with all that, you get access to exclusive customer support, the ability to find a partner to help with anything from logo and site design to full-on management. But most importantly, full, unrestricted access to one of the most up-to-date e-commerce platforms and everything that comes with it.
If you want cloud hosting right in the package, there’s a special, fully managed and hosted plan. It also includes Git integration and three different environments to test and deploy new features. Just the normal version is quite expensive though, so be prepared.
From medium-sized new projects to active popular businesses, Magento provides the best services — if you have the expertise.
If Magento doesn’t quite fit the bill for you, there are plenty of e-commerce sites out that that may be more your speed. None of them quite meet the versatility and freedom provided by this service, but you get great results at less cost and less manpower.
- Zoey: “Like Magento but smaller”, Zoey runs off this powerful platform while providing options meant for smaller businesses. Hosting comes in the package, so that’s no concern at all.
- OpenCart: If open-source is your thing, but Magento is a bit too confusing, OpenCart is the perfect fit. It’s free as well, and a lot easier for beginners to get the hang of.
- PrestaShop: Free, open-source, and extremely customizable, PrestaShop might just fill the role of a similar platform to Magento.
The Most Powerful E-Commerce Platform
As an e-commerce platform made for large businesses and talented developers, Magento fills a position that most others of its kind can’t. That makes unique, and that also it fits a niche demographic. If this is the right fit, you’ll definitely know it.
If you can bring the money, the talent, and the team to complement it, Magento is definitely the best choice you can make. No other e-commerce tool can meet its power, its advanced features, or its professional, customer-centric design.
Magento is intended only for a small target of customers. If you’re in that range, you’ll find a platform that can do almost anything, if you have the skillset (and budget) to pull it off. That’s the nature of this program: it may have an extremely high learning curve, but nothing is impossible with Magento.