A critical component of any online business is the eCommerce platform. Whether you're creating a site from scratch, doing a refresh or update, or implementing new technology to your existing online store, your eCommerce solution is the foundation from which you build.
As with anything else, you want your website to be built on a strong foundation that will be able to hold up as you grow.
Since coming to life in 2008, Magento has quickly grown into one of the most popular eCommerce platforms available, with more than 200,000 retailers worldwide. The platform has continued to grow since being acquired by eBay in 2011 and boasts globally recognized customers like Rosetta Stone, Harper’s Bazaar, Ghiradelli and more.
Like any eCommerce solution, whether it’s custom or off-the-shelf, Magento has advantages and disadvantages. The fact that I consistently mispronounce it as Magneto and conjure images of the X-Men probably counts as both.
Advantages to Using Magento
Magento uses free, open source technology to support its eCommerce platform. For eCommerce sites on a budget, the community edition is free and includes most of the necessary features to get your store up and running.
Mobile Friendly Configuration
As we’ve said before, mobile optimization is a critical component for any online business. Not only to mobile-friendly sites increase sales and lower your bounce rate, Google will soon be ranking pages higher according to their mobile compatibility. Magento makes it easy to create a simple mobile site by automatically developing responsive shopping carts, providing the best possible mobile viewing experience. Considering about 30% of online shoppers will abandon their cart if a site isn't mobile friendly, this configuration is a big plus.
Because Magento is open source and has a vast number of engaged users, the community support is substantial. There are an estimated 800,000 developers worldwide with Magento experience, so it’s fairly easy to find solutions to your technical issues. When you're choosing an eCommerce platform, you'll want one with a big community and plenty of support so that when issues arise there are resources available to find a solution. This can be both a pro and a con. Being highly adopted in the marketplace makes it a higher target for hackers (if an exploit was found it could be used to attack many sites). The offset is that there are plenty of eyes validating code in the open source community at large.
One of the most important features of any eCommerce platform is how many products it can hold and how many transactions it can process. Even if you’re just starting out with only a handful of products, you want a platform that can grow with your business and handle unexpected surges in traffic. Magento can support up to 500,000 products and 80,000 transactions per hour, giving you a lot of room to grow.
Disadvantages to Using Magento
High Costs for Upgrades
While the community version of Magento may be free, the upgrades certainly are not. The enterprise level product includes a yearly fee that can be very expensive for small to medium businesses, especially considering that even with upgrades Magento is still an off-the-shelf solution that may not meet all your needs.
Many customer reviews of Magento include examples of reaching out to Magento technical support multiple times without any response, running into problems and not being able to get answers, and that it is very difficult to get in touch with a live person to answer questions. Chances are that during the entire course of your business being online, you’re going to have a question or two. When that time comes, this lack of responsiveness will be a great frustration.
Generally speaking, it may be fairly easy to get an eCommerce shop up and running using Magento. However, Magento is a one-size-fits-all solution and your business is unique. Your customers, products, website, and process are all unique to your business. The absolute best solution to meet all your needs exactly as you want them met will always be an eCommerce solution customized for you.
Difficult to Use
Setting up and/or customizing Magento can be very slow and overly complicated. Developing even simple modules requires a serious time commitment and could potentially make you want to pull your hair out. Some users have described the platform as “tricky” at best and “painfully complex” at worst (not including descriptions that are NSFW). Of course, not everyone who uses Magento has problems and there are plenty who have good things to say about it. However, there are plenty who don’t, too. These challenges are certainly something to think about and talk over with your development team.
As with any eCommerce solution, there are pros and cons to implementing Magento. This particular product has become very popular lately and some businesses are able to run their online stores with it successfully and smoothly. For others, a more robust, custom solution is going to be necessary to create the best possible experience.