COVID-19 and eCommerce: What We Know

COVID-19 and eCommerce: What We Know

There is no doubt that the Covid-19 virus is affecting many aspects of our lives. Most non-essential places of business including many traditional brick-and-mortar locations are shut down partially if not completely at this point, and the eCommerce world is bracing for even more uncertainty. There are a lot of pontificators out there offering theories on what’s next for eCommerce but here’s what we know for certain.

Here is what we know

People are leaving their home less.

Whether due to personal fears or because of mandatory “shelter in place” quarantines, fewer and fewer people are leaving their house. In a study released last week by Coresight research, 47% of US internet users said they were avoiding malls and shopping centers. When asked if their behavior would change if the outbreak worsens, 74.6% confirmed they would avoid shopping centers and malls altogether. 

And it’s not just centralized shopping centers that people are avoiding. 32.7% of poll participants said they were avoiding any physical store with 56% of confirming that they would take these same actions if the COVID threat spread.

People are shopping online for the essentials

Adobe analytics monitors the eCommerce trends and transactions of 80 of the US top 100 retailers. And while many retailers are seeing their foot traffic come to a complete halt, others are seeing surges in their online shopping. Grocery chains have seen an increase in online and home delivery orders. Amazon has seen a surge in online shopping, so much so that they have an increased demand for employees and are one of the few companies in American actively hiring at the moment.  The grocery chain Stop & Shop is seeing a surge in demand for its online order and delivery service Peapod. Stop & Shop spokeswoman Jennifer Brogan said Peapod orders during the first week of March were 33% higher compared to the same week last year.

Ecommerce activity, particularly related to health and grocery, is booming in the US in general. According to data from ecommerce ad tech provider Pacvue, there have been spikes in Amazon searches for products like hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap.  Adobe’s analysis of eCommerce transactions found that purchases for cold, cough & flu products have increased 198%, while online purchases for pain relievers increased 152%.U.S. consumers are stocking up on over-the-counter meds, most likely to be prepared in case they do catch the virus and need to self-quarantine.

 

Hierarchy of Needs

Non-essential items experience the most sales during stable times and times of growth, as we’ve seen over the last several years. But with the economic downturn and way-of-life uncertainty currently permeating all of western civilization we would expect to see a drop in these industries. While actual sales numbers are yet to be reported a Contentsquare report from March 20th brings light to some interesting statistics. Web traffic has decreased to eCommerce sites dedicated to apparel (-14%) luxury goods (-19%) and jewelry (-25%) compared to the same time period last year. Traffic over the last 4 weeks clearly shows that online shoppers have been most interested in fulfilling products in the most pressing categories among the hierarchy of needs. But as the COVID quarantine continues and people are stuck on their couches for a longer period of time it will be interesting to see if this trend begins to reverse itself. Stay tuned to InteractOne for more updates as the eCommerce marketplace continues to evolve and we adapt.

Expect shipment delays

Many Amazon customers have received notifications stating: “We’re very sorry your delivery is late. Most late packages arrive in a day. If you have not received your package by tomorrow, you can come back here the next day for a refund or a replacement.” What’s more, those hoping to order groceries or essentials from Amazon Prime, Peapod and others can also expect  delays. While chains are currently saying that the problem,is a demand issue, not a supply line problem’ these are all unique stresses being put on systems that have never been tested to this degree before. And if interstate or local commerce is limited even more, then customers can expect shipment delays no matter the location or product of purchase. 

Will Any of These Trends Be Long Term?

It’s fairly safe to say that once the COVID panic calms down that the public’s purchasing behavior for toilet paper will return to pre-COVID levels. But what other new behaviors and consumption patterns that emerge during this time will have long term staying power? This crisis could cause permanent changes in the way people consume media, shop, as well as overall public perception of brands. People who normally wouldn’t purchase clothes or perishables online will be forced to rethink their approach when the need arises. The more customers are forced to do their shopping online in the coming months, the more likely that it will become a regular part of their routine. Especially if the threat and worry over COVID becomes something long-term. 

We’re already seeing changes in the entertainment industry, with Disney making their recent theater releases available on-demand and other companies following suit. Once the public becomes accustomed to ‘social distancing’ and purchasing habits that are more eCommerce centric, it may be next to impossible to put that horse back in the barn.

Conclusion

There aren’t many certainties about life or the economy right now, but as US consumers increasingly look to digital methods to conduct daily business, order essentials and prepare for an emergency, retailers will be required to ensure positive, frictionless experiences via their websites and mobile apps. 

We here at InteractOne are dedicated to protecting our employees. Thanks to a work-from-home policy that we instituted more than one year ago, we have been able to transition to our new reality with relative ease while continuing to provide support and meet all of our clients’ needs.

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Magento, BigCommerce or Shopify. Which One is Right for You?

Magento, BigCommerce or Shopify. Which One is Right for You?

If you’ve reached the limit of your current eCommerce platform then it’s time to upgrade to a system that is capable of handling your current needs as well as your long term goals. Your next platform is a major commitment and one that will require the investment of your resources and time. And while you may be ready to graduate to another platform there are some key questions you must first answer.

Shopify

Shopify is the easiest platform for users to get a store up and running on in no time at all and with little technical know-how. Shopify is based off of a tiered pricing format, meaning that you can start off small and quickly expand when the need arises. In this segment we will be discussing the companies that use Shopify as well as some of the features that, depending on your needs, make it great.

Mobile Optimization and Responsiveness

Shopify is optimized for mobile and allows your customers to experience a complete shopping experience directly from their hand-held device. Shopify was one of the first eCommerce platforms to fully integrate mobile, meaning their mobile support is tried and tested and ready for your online store. This is vital because the number of mobile shoppers increases by the day and the responsiveness of your site will play a huge role in its ability to convert. The website themes that Shopify offers are mobile responsive. Shopify also offers iPhone and Android apps that can be used to manage your own store from your fingertips.

Ease of Use

If you would describe yourself as ’non technical’ then Shopify might be the best fit for you. Shopify’s platform is one that is much more of a ‘drag and drop’ interface, similar to what you would experience building a website in Squarespace or Wix. This user-friendly functionality makes it easier for you to build and customize your store if you or your team lack programming experience and/or you have a do-it-yourself identity. Shopify also features a robust App Store, where plugins can be purchased and installed with ease, extending the functionality of your site. Think the iTunes App Store but for eCommerce. The platform allows for website customization as these apps can be easily integrated. This means that merchants can easily add extra features and functionalities to their  store and enhance its value, offerings and increase the overall user experience. If you’re currently limited with the amount of resources and man-hours you can dedicate to your eCommerce site, then a move to Shopify might be what’s best for you in the long run.

Storefront design

The basic tier of Shopify comes with more than 25 free storefront template designs with additional templates available for purchase. There is a built-in blog template but the platform also fully integrates with WordPress, allowing you to blog on the platform of your preference. The available storefront templates make it easy to get your site started and all templates can be modified, relatively easily, to your liking. There is also a large community of third-party developers available on Shopify’s website that you can tap into as well.

POS

One thing that’s unique about Shopify is that you can also use it as your in-store POS system by adding its Retail Package to your plan, making it a great choice for small businesses that have both online and brick-and-mortar stores.

Fully Hosted

By being a fully hosted site, Shopify allows merchants to not have to worry about finding their own web host, upgrading software or installing security updates. The technical elements and roadblocks that normally cause merchants to hesitate about running their own store are eliminated with Shopify. By being a globally-hosted platform, Shopify has created a reliable infrastructure along with optimized software and hardware. This also results in super-fast loading speeds and an improved user experience.

Customer Support

Shopify also offers 24/7 phone support, live chat and email options to all users experiencing problems. To provide some perspective, to get the same level of Shopify support for your Magento eCommerce site you would need to enlist the services of a certified Magento developer (just like the certified pros right here at InteractOne). With Shopify, experts are available for round-the-clock customer support to ensure your store is running as designed at all times.   

Shopify Pricing Plans

Shopify offers basic plans ranging from $29 to $299 per month. They also have more expensive “enterprise” level plans for larger entities.

What companies use Shopify?

Budweiser, Bulletproof Sunday, Somewhere WaterAid, New York Times Shop, The Economist, Leesa Mattress, Penguin Books

 

Shopify Pros

  • No design experience is needed.
  • There is a consistent cost profile, month to month.
  • Software patches are included in fees.
  • It is easier to administer.

Shopify Cons

  • Apps available for popular customizations like year, make, and model may require customization, which can get expensive, and development options are limited to the module developer.
  • There are ongoing annual or monthly fees – whether or not you are making changes.
  • You don’t own your own website.
  • SAAS platforms do not support large catalogs (500K+ SKUs), and Enterprise-level versions can become very expensive compared to the base-level fees.
  • Some desirable features, such as faceted navigation or additional product attributes, aren’t available out of the box.

Magento

Magento is currently in the middle of permanently shifting versions from Magento 1, which has been active and supported since 2008. But Magento 2 promises to maintain the same features that made Magento 1 so popular, while adding many new features as well. Magento 2 will still offer an Open Source (Community) version of M2 which will allow for custom extensions to be added to native features. The Magento 2 Commerce (Enterprise – paid/licensed) edition will continue on as well. Let’s explore some of the great features that made Magento so popular as well as some of its latest features as well.

Accessibility

Magento 2, both the Community and Enterprise versions, will allow for the management of three separate databases; products, orders, and checkout. This is being done to prevent data overload and reduce incidences of system failure. The result being increased data security, speed, and scalability. By separating these three databases, Magento 2 sites will give visitors a smoother, faster, and more accurate experience as well as improve the ability your certified Magento developer has to make refinements to the platform.

Company Accounts

For B2B online merchants there may be many individuals who need to have access to an individual account. Supervisors, buyers, accountants, and managers may all require individual access. With Magento 2, store administrators will have the ability to moderate accessibility to the account. Buyers will also have the ability to assign full access or limit the access of their team members.

Quick Order

Magento 2 features a new SKU quick order feature, which allows users to add an item directly to their cart by entering the SKU numbers rather than having to navigate the site manually to locate the item and then add it to their cart. This feature extends beyond an individual item as well. M2 allows users to upload a file containing all the matching SKU’s and their desired quantity directly to the platform. Thus, improving the speed and quality of the purchasing experience for those visitors with a long list of items.

Quotes & Price Negotiation

When it comes to dollar amount and in actual product volume, B2B orders are quite often much larger than B2C orders. This dynamic increases the likelihood that your business may need to negotiate or provide terms with a custom quote. Magento 2 will allow customers to request a quote from you, directly from the product page while also allowing the customer to submit their own price request. The administrator on the page then has the opportunity to refuse, accept, or continue negotiating the offer. If the offer is accepted, the customer then has the option to complete the purchase at the negotiated price directly from their cart, just like a normal purchase.

Requisition Lists

The wishlist feature on Magento 1 is pretty standard. It allows customers to move items back and forth between their wishlist and cart, while removing the item from the wishlist upon completing a purchase. With the new Requisition List in Magento 2, customers can set up lists of favorite items and recurring products that will be continually purchased. This streamlines the purchasing process for renewables and other frequently ordered items making it easier and faster.

Speed

The result of many of the aforementioned enhancements will be increased speed. M2 will optimize your webpages for a faster delivery with accelerated server response times, which will ultimately result in an increase in loading time between 30% and 50%. M2 users can also expect to see a 38% decrease in checkout time compared with M1.  These improvements will also be extended to mobile as well with Magento 2’s responsive design structure. Magento 2 has the ability to handle 10 million views per hour, which is 50x the capacity of Magento 1. Magento 2 also can also handle more than 90,000 orders per hour, more than double the ability of Magento 1.

Support

Magento boasts an extensive library of user guides and their Magento Forum is famous for hosting a large database of educational, user generated content.  The guides are easy to find, are usually simple and very comprehensive. Whatever your problem is, there is no doubt that another Magento user has experienced this same issue and has created a how-to for solving it. But while these user-generated guides are readily available, there is one major piece of support that Magento is lacking and that is customer support. There isn’t a phone number to call or an email address to reach out to if you want the guidance of a trained professional. There’s something reassuring about knowing that there’s a trained person you can reach out to with intimate knowledge about your platform.

Magento Pricing Plans

Magento Open Source is free to use, though you will need to choose and pay a site hosting provider. Magento Commerce edition has an annual license fee of $30,000 or more depending on your site’s revenue.

What companies use Magento?

Nike, Jaguar, Canon, Jack Daniels, HP

Magento Pros:

  • The ongoing cost of ownership is higher than it would be on SaaS or auto-specific platforms so merchants who plan to achieve at least $2 to $3 million in sales may want to consider other paths.
  • Concerns and costs go hand in hand with managing site security, hosting, and ownership of your website code.

BigCommerce

BigCommerce is a hosted SaaS solution for small to medium sized merchants who are still growing. It’s a feature-rich solution with built-in selling for third party marketing places like Amazon and eBay that is great for medium-sized and larger merchants. BigCommerce also offers educational resources to assist merchants. BigCommerce offers two levels of eCommerce solutions including BigCommerce and BigCommerce Enterprise.

Hosting

Like Shopify, BigCommerce takes care of hosting for its merchants. And since it is a Software as a Service (Saas) product, you don’t own the software, but pay a monthly fee to use it.

Training and Support

BigCommerce puts a ton of focus on helping you learn how to build a successful online store. They offer access to BigCommerce University; in-depth videos, how-to guides built right into your store’s dashboard. Also available is a setup wizard, an autoresponder email series at signup, and a consultant assigned to your account to answer any questions right off the bat. 

Knowledge is power (and money), and BigCommerce puts a huge focus on it.

Customer Service

BigCommerce not only assigns you a dedicated “consultant,” they also have active forums, a huge learning knowledge-base, and support via Facebook, Twitter, chat, email, and phone. And this level of support is a huge pro for BigCommerce – especially in comparison to non-platform options or DIY options. If you go the build-it-yourself open source route (ie, building your eCommerce site with Magento), you and your team are going to be on your own to sort out any bugs or problems, unless you’re working with a trained developer. If you don’t have the development resources or talent and don’t want to spend your time actually dealing with a checkout page errors, then BigCommerce with their strong customer support is worth a look.

Abandoned Cart Saver

Another BigCommerce feature worth singling out for praise is its abandoned cart feature – it’s arguably one of the best out there. The tool allows you to create and automate up to three emails to site visitors who go part of the way through the buying process only to leave your store without completing a purchase. This has the potential to dramatically increase your revenue with little effort – other than the ‘one-off’ time investment in setting up the automated messages – being involved. Ultimately, if you are confident of receiving a large number of visits to your site, or are already experiencing high traffic levels, then purchasing the Pro or Enterprise plan featuring the abandoned cart saver makes a lot of sense.

Store Design

BigCommerce has recently released a new visual merchandising tool called Store Design that allows merchants to immediately see the effects of your edits. This new feature makes BigCommerce much more customizable.  The product comes with a range of customizable templates to help you design your online store; you can use it to sell either physical or digital goods; and there are also some tools provided to help you market your store. BigCommerce has the best in-house features of any ecommerce builder. These provide a high level of quality and reduce the reliance you may have on third party apps. You effectively have everything you need right at your fingertips, and for no extra cost.

Product Types

BigCommerce is the only ecommerce builder on the market which lets you sell physical, digital, and service-based products without having to use an app. All of these sales types are already built into the editor. This means less hassle and less cost, because you don’t have to worry about using third party apps.

Payment Options

Unlike some other ecommerce builders, BigCommerce doesn’t lock you into its own payment gateway. It also doesn’t impose transaction fees on any of its plans. Instead, it lets you choose your own payment gateway without imposing any extra charges or transaction fees. There are over 65 integrated payment gateways to choose from. With one-click setup, mobile payments, and multiple currencies supported, BigCommerce does its best to get you paid fast. Payment providers include PayPal, Stripe, Square, Apple Pay and Amazon Pay.

Pricing Plans

Bigcommerce offers four month-to-month pricing plans, which are as follows:

Bigcommerce Standard: $29.95 per month

Bigcommerce Plus: $79.95 per month

Bigcommerce Pro: $249.95 per month

Bigcommerce Enterprise: pricing varies, depending on your business requirements. The Enterprise version includes marketing tools, real-time analytics, reporting, and 24/7 support.

What companies use BigCommerce?

Sony, Toyota, Ben & Jerry’s & Paul Mitchel

BigCommerce Pros:

  • All-in-one solution
  • Hosted platform
  • User-friendly interface
  • Comes with many out-of-the-box features
  • Customizable with add-ons

BigCommerce Cons

  • Lacks scalability and customization
  • Has limited add-on availability
  • Hosted platform has been subject to outage issues
  • Security

Magento, BigCommerce, Shopify: Finding the right fit

Magento, BigCommerce, and Shopify all have their pros and cons. The critical decision is choosing a platform that you can live with, and perhaps as importantly, can afford. Magento is a market leader for a reason. It is scalable, customizable and ready for global eCommerce. Magento is typically an excellent option for medium to large businesses with high-volume stores that value customization. Although potentially pricey for small merchants, Magento is a smart investment for merchants with large inventories and whose growth is dependent on a flexible and powerful platform.

BigCommerce offers a strong option for mid-sized merchants who may need something more scalable than Shopify, but maybe not up for the robustness of Magento. BigCommerce provides all-inclusive pricing for hosting and support. However, some reports indicate that the support for BigCommerce isn’t as advanced as the Magento support community or of the Shopify customer service team. Mid-sized merchants on an upward trajectory could outgrow the platform and need to migrate to a more scalable platform.

Shopify provides real benefits for smaller companies with all-inclusive pricing for hosting, support and set up. Shopify is considered user-friendly and a smart choice for the busy or less tech-savvy merchant.  However, some users report running into a “Shopify Ceiling” noting that the platform can be very limiting for growing merchants. Flourishing merchants could quickly outgrow the platform and need to migrate to a more scalable platform.

Shopify and BigCommerce take care of site hosting for merchants. These platforms target merchants who lack design experience and need an easy-to-use website builder. Smaller or niche merchants can find great success on these platforms.

If you would like to talk about your specific needs to determine which platform is right for you, please connect with us using our contact form.

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Should I Migrate from Magento to Big Commerce or Shopify?

Should I Migrate from Magento to Big Commerce or Shopify?

At InteractOne, we’ve encountered many merchants in the past couple of years who were facing the need to migrate off of Magento 1 and wondering if they should migrate to an SaaS (software as a service) solution like BigCommerce or Shopify.  The question is very common since support for Magento 1 is ending in June of 2020 and merchants must migrate to Magento 2 or a competitive platform like Shopify or BigCommerce. In the past 5 years BigCommerce and Shopify have evolved into feature-rich, high performance platforms capable of hosting both small and enterprise level sites.  As they have grown, so has their flexibility and the community around them. Like Salesforce, they have created platforms and APIs that can support robust 3rd party applications and integration making it possible to build scalable websites tailored to complex business needs. There are several important factors to consider when choosing between Magento and a SaaS alternative.

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Features

One of the biggest considerations you must take into account when comparing these platforms  are the features you get right out-of-the-box. Magento is a more feature rich application than SaaS options such as BigCommerce and Shopify. Those features provide flexibility and power, often times required by enterprise level organizations but not necessarily needed by mid market or small businesses.  It is typically preferable to use software that out-of-the-box solves the majority of a business’s requirements. That means for larger companies with more complex requirements, the feature rich Magento is oftentimes a much better solution since it requires less 3rd party code and customization than a SaaS solution might in order to solve for the same set of business requirements.

With many features comes more complexity. Magento, because it is more feature-rich and complex takes longer to learn how to administer.  Shopify and BigCommerce on the other hand have a much smaller learning curve for administering features. For smaller companies with fewer and possibly more inexperienced resources, a SaaS eCommerce platform can be a much more practical solution.

Third Party Apps

If the out-of-the-box features of your eCommerce platform are not able to meet your business needs, Magento, BigCommerce and Shopify all have marketplace app stores where you can purchase additional features and integrations from third party app providers.  While Shopify, BigCommerce and Magento have lots of third party apps to choose from, how the apps are billed, installed and managed is unique to each platform. With Magento you purchase an app one time and have a developer install it using a technical process. Whereas with Shopify and BigCommerce you pay for the apps on a monthly basis and simply install them with a click of a button.  It’s important to note that on Magento, installing 3rd party apps may require significant developer support if the app being installed conflicts with other existing third party apps already installed on your site. That support combined with the need to install updated versions of the apps typically makes Magento apps carry some significant maintenance and support cost over the long term.  So, even though Shopify and BigCommerce apps may seem more costly (because of the monthly fees) when compared to Magento apps (that you purchase one-time), they are typically cheaper than Magento apps when considering the additional maintenance and support costs required to install and maintain Magento apps.

One nice benefit of Magento third party apps is that they are more easily extended or customized than Shopify or BigCommerce apps.  This can be a great benefit for you if there are Magento apps that support some but not all of the functionality needed or if you need to integrate the functionality of two separate third party apps.  As with other similar scenarios a key benefit of Magento is the flexibility it provides for efficiently meeting custom or unique requirements.

Cost

Another consideration typically top of mind when considering platforms is cost to build and manage.  Magento is usually similar to Shopify and BigCommerce when comparing site build, licensing and hosting costs.  However, there is a significant difference when considering long term total cost of ownership. That is because Magento requires developer maintenance and support to install patches and upgrades, which occur on a somewhat frequent basis (usually quarterly).  With a SaaS solution, the development maintenance and support costs are significantly lower since they are built into the monthly fee that includes maintenance, licensing and hosting.  

Also consider that Magento typically costs a good deal more to manage from a human resources standpoint.  As previously mentioned in the ‘Features’ section, Magento is feature rich and requires technical oversight, which means it typically requires more senior level personnel with software management experience to manage.  And senior level personnel with software management experience will command higher salaries. BigCommerce and Shopify on the other hand do the software management for you and are both easier to administer, so their sites can be run by less experienced personnel who don’t necessarily need to have a background in software or software management.

Scalability

While SaaS platforms can handle large volumes of traffic for smaller catalog sites (ie. Kylie Cosmetics), they typically don’t provide the resources needed to manage large enterprise sites.  Enterprise websites with large catalogs, traffic volume and robust data integrations require the flexibility needed to support large scale operations. This is where Magento is a clear winner.  Its flexibility and ability to maintain separate databases for customers, orders and catalog make it a great platform for supporting enterprise-level businesses. With Magento you can configure your hosting services to automatically spin up and dedicate the resources needed to keep the site running fast no matter the demand for resources.  That said, a good hosting solution is required to make Magento scalable. Third party hosting providers like Webscale are what we recommend for Magento sites that need to be highly scalable. Webscale provides that flexibility by hosting Magento in the cloud and adding and removing resources on the fly per demand.

B2B

Another clear area of differentiation for Magento versus Shopify and BigCommer is B2B.  Magento Commerce Edition (the paid version) comes with a suite of features for B2B users.  These features include spending limits, shared catalogs, shopper permissions and customer segmentation which offer a lot of value to B2B merchants. These out-of-the-box features have allowed Magento to clearly differentiate itself in the B2B eCommerce arena. While Shopify and BigCommerce do have some features or 3rd party modules that can provide things like customer group specific pricing, they are nowhere near as feature rich when it comes to supporting B2B functionality.  For businesses with moderate to substantial B2B eCommerce requirements Magento is a clear winner in terms of value and performance.

Multi-Site and International

Magento has always provided the ability to support multiple websites from one admin.  This allows site owners to create separate sites for different countries or brands all managed from a single admin and shared catalog.  There are many efficiencies to be gained from this feature as it reduces the time and overhead needed to manage several different sites.  While Shopify and BigCommerce do support the ability to provide different currency display per country on the front-end, they do not provide a multi-site feature that allows for several separate sites to all be managed from one admin.  If a Shopify or BigCommerce merchant wishes to have country or brand specific sites, they must create separate websites with separate admin logins and then integrate these sites together via APIs and 3rd party apps for the sake of managing inventory and fulfillment.

Controversial Product

If you are selling controversial products such as guns & ammo or vaping there is concern about SaaS software and their policies.  Shopify for example has been known to discontinue support for certain types of these products and give their clients selling these products a very short time to migrate off their platform or stop selling those products completely.  That is a huge risk that can be mitigated by using an open source product like Magento. If you are selling controversial products on Magento and need to change hosting providers, payment gateways or any other tech in order to find support or meet compliance you have the ability to easily do that without being forced to face a complete platform migration.

Compliance

Similar to the prior point about controversial products, some industries are heavily regulated (ie. health care) and require additional measures of compliance not provided by Shopify or BigCommerce.  In these cases, it is necessary to use a software like Magento where you can manage and make any changes needed to the entire tech stack (servers and software) in order to meet necessary compliance standards.  Also, some larger companies have internal compliance regulations that require complement ownership and control of their tech stack. For those companies an SaaS solution won’t work with internal policies making a software like Magento a much better fit.

Flexibility

While Shopify and BigCommerce do have robust APIs and flexible front-end code they don’t provide developers with full access to override core functionality. Conversely, Magento developers have full access to the Magento code and tech stack and can override any core functionality for the sake of customization. So if you have a need for highly custom features such as to create your own product designs, complex product configurations, headless front-end or tightly coupled ERP integration Magento is typically better suited to meet your needs.

Community and Marketplace

Another key factor to consider when choosing an eCommerce platform is the size of its community and third party marketplace.  A large community and marketplace help move a platform forward while also keeping the costs of custom development, third party apps and licensing in check.  Magento and Shopify both benefit greatly from large communities of developers and very robust third party app marketplaces. BigCommerce is catching up fast however as its platform is experiencing tremendous growth and its support community is also growing.  Other enterprise eCommerce platforms such as Oracle, SAP, IBM and Salesforce suffer from somewhat smaller communities and marketplaces which contributes to higher development and licensing costs.

Summary

Magento, Shopify and BigCommerce are all robust market leading eCommerce platforms and as we have discussed above, choosing the one that is the best fit for your business depends on many factors.  In general, larger, more enterprise businesses with more complex or B2B requirements will typically find Magento a better fit while smaller or more mid-market merchants with less complexity will find BigCommerce or Shopify a better value. Our recommended approach for making an eCommerce platform decision is to work with a solution partner like InteractOne to document key business requirements and demo the platforms via free trials and presentations.  From there, we can work to fairly compare all valid factors and requirements and ensure you choose a platform that is the best fit for your business now and also supports your growth plans for the future. If you would like to discuss your situation and options with the pros at InteractOne, please drop us a note.

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What’s Next for Tech? PWAs, Headless eCommerce & Cryptocurrency

What’s Next for Tech? PWAs, Headless eCommerce & Cryptocurrency

Continuing with our ‘what’s next’ series, this week we’re going to be taking a look at some of the newest forms of technology that are impacting the world of eCommerce.

In case you missed Part 1 of our series, “What’s Next for AI, Machine Learning and Data” or Part 2, “GDPR and CCPA FAQs“, click the links to read all about how these topics are changing the game in 2020 and beyond.

PWAs

With mobile traffic surpassing desktop traffic —  60% of all current traffic is now coming from mobile devices — it is crucial for merchants to provide the best mobile shopping experience to engage their audience. Even though mobile traffic is growing, conversion rates are not. With mobile traffic only accounting for only 16% of total conversion. It is because of this gap that Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) were developed. In short, a PWA is a website made to look and feel more like an app. Users will browse a PWA just like they normally would, on their browser, with a URL, but the experience they receive is one more akin to an app. All of this without having to download and install the app itself. Some of the most popular and effective PWA’s currently in use are Starbucks and Uber. They each give the user the full app experience and usability straight from a mobile browser. Google reports that when an ecommerce store switches to a Progressive Web App, they generally witness a 20% boost in overall revenue, with conversion rates on mobile doubling in some cases. Any new and existing webshop must consider delivering their services, not just as a standard online store, but as a Progressive Web App. Magento and BigCommerce currently offer PWA extensions/apps designed to deliver a next generation shopping experience to an increasingly mobile, world wide customer base.

Headless eCommerce

In recent years the ‘future of eCommerce’ has been touted as headless eCommerce. A headless browser is basically software-enabled browsers that offer separate user interfaces. Depending on the circumstances, merchants are able to automate various actions of their website and monitor their performances. When working under command line instructions in a headless browser there is no GUI. Through a headless browser you are able to test web pages and view several elements such as font family, dimensions, web layout and more. In the past, eCommerce sites operating on Magento or Shopify would have their back-end and front-end tightly integrated. But after the introduction of headless architecture, the front-end and back-end are now separated with both working independently. As a web designer there are a number of benefits for going headless. PHP code, complex JavaScript and widgets are no longer in use, making the HTML easier to understand. The HTML page could also be served statically, reducing the load time by a significant margin. And from an eCommerce perspective, the path to purchase is expanded. When operating on Magento, merchants would see a clear performance boost with a headless browser as the static elements of a page would be loaded quicker than with the dynamic elements being loaded lazily through Ajax.

Alternative Payment Methods

Ecommerce transactions used to be limited to credit cards and bank accounts and Paypal. But all that has changed. Now, digital payment methods have become more varied and ubiquitous. And as these digital payment methods continue to evolve, so must your processing abilities in order to keep pace. In the coming years more and more customers will come to your site looking to do business and armed with alternative payment methods. It will be up to you to have a payment gateway that meets your short-term and long-term business goals while also meeting your customer’s needs for security, convenience, functionality and price. 

Mobile Payments

Mobile Payments are a rapidly growing trend in the eCommerce world. There are a number of mobile payment apps that allow users to send money from their phone directly to other users or to digital merchants or directly to a cashier at a brick-and-mortar store. For brick and mortar locations, these transactions are enabled through the use of near-field communications (NFCs). It’s estimated that ⅓ of consumers are now using their NFC-enabled phones for contactless payments in stores. A customer’s phone will communicate and be verified with an NFC-enabled card machine via a close-proximity radio frequency. A customer’s mobile phone only needs to be within a few inches of the checkout terminal in order for the transfer to be completed. This exchange is nearly instantaneous and is more streamlined than the chip/PIN technology that most transactions are built upon.

Google Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, CashApp, Venmo and Zelle are among the most popular mobile payments apps available. Each comes equipped with their own unique security settings and the ability to connect and process a wide range of credit cards.  There are a number of current Magento extensions that offer flexibility and the ability to process these emerging mobile payment methods. Braintree and Stripe each offer merchants the ability to process Android Wallet, Venmo, Bitcoin and Apple Pay payments.

Cryptocurrency

Bitcoin continues to influence the macroeconomy, and pretty much everybody believes (or wants to believe) that digital currency has an extremely bright future. With that in mind, more and more industries and businesses are incorporating this technology into their eCommerce marketplace and order functionality.

There are numerous benefits of Bitcoin, including zero-fee fast transactions that are processed within a couple of seconds. Operations performed in the cryptocurrency network are immediate because they don’t have to pass through any instances like banks and settlement organizations. And while credit and debit cards are dependent on third parties that charge transaction fees, Bitcoin is free of those restrictions and charges.

Magento 2 CopPay Payment Gateway is a specialized plug-in allowing store owners to integrate the CopPay payment system into Magento 2-based websites. Leveraging the extension, registered CopPay merchants get the ability to easily accept cryptocurrency from their customers with no hidden costs and no additional fees. Customers can pay for their orders in cryptocurrency while merchants store owners receive payment either in crypto or converted to fiat currency. Braintree, Stripe and Bitpay all offer similar Bitcoin support to Magento merchants.

Conclusion

Stepping into new technologies can involve a higher level of risk and reward. Risk, because of the cost associated with unknowns and potential failures. Rewards, because early adopters can attract large amounts of business if properly leveraging the new technology to create a greater user experience. Don’t just implement new technology because it’s new. Instead, do the research to see if it’s possible to substantially improve your shopper’s experience with new technology.  If the gains are foreseeably substantial, then it may be worth the risk.

To learn more about how to integrate these extensions and technologies into your eCommerce site, contact us today.

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Top 10 Magento Extensions for 2020

Top 10 Magento Extensions for 2020

With the new year approaching it seems everyone is in the business of list-making and we didn’t want to be left out. So here is our list of the Top 10 Magento third party apps and extensions for 2020.

10. Urapidflow Product Import/Export

One of the most feature-rich, robust product export/import extensions for Magento. This extension allows you to set up multiple profiles and export/import product data to/from different locations using FTP. It can also send and receive product information based on logical conditions created within the extensions simple to rules generator tools. This extension is the easiest to use when importing Magento product information.

9. Xtento

Xtento is the most stable and powerful order export solution available for Magento. It allows merchants the flexibility to set up multiple profiles and export orders to many different places using one extension. These exports can be done in any text-based format (Text/TXT, Tabbed, CSV/Excel, XML, JSON, SQL, ASCII/Fixed-Length-Files) and can include any required field. Xtento can be used to connect your store to almost any CRM, ERP, warehouse, drop-shipping or shipping system. Merchants are also empowered to set up an unlimited number of export profiles. All of this can be accomplished from within the admin interface of the extension.

8. Subscription & Recurring Payments

If you’re selling a product or service on subscription then this extension may be a great solution for you. Subscription & Recurring Payments by aheadWorks allows you to create subscriptions with multiple products, create separate shopping carts for subscriptions and more. Built-in to the extension is the ability to handle multiple languages and stores, allowing you to localize recurring payments and subscriptions to all possible markets. A big win for B2B businesses.

7. Mageworx SEO Suite

Mageworx is your all-in-one SEO extension. Its advanced templates allow you to mass-optimize any meta values, descriptions, URL keys, SEO names, etc. for any of your products, categories, CMS, and category filter pages. It also comes complete with a full arsenal of SEO tools, allowing you to tackle such tasks as eliminating duplicate content, adding breadcrumbs and setting redirects and more. It also includes the Wave Crypto Payments extension which enables merchants to collect crypto payments via their eCommerce store as well.

6. ShipStation

ShipStation is excellent for merchants who need a shipping label printing solution that can scale. Its built-in automation engine allows merchants to have a hands-off approach with low overhead. All while providing branded and customized labels, packing slips, and shipping confirmation emails. And, if you have multiple Magento stores, ShipStation allows you to manage and organize them all from a single account. ShipStation also boasts integrations with ERP systems like Acumatica and Netsuite. The extension is also fully integrated with more than 25 shipping carriers.

5. ShipperHQ

We touched on ShipperHQ slightly in our recent Top Shipping Rate Quote Solutions blog but this app is a must-have for most Magento merchants. ShipperHQ gives you control over the shipping rates and methods you show customers at checkout while also providing you with a wealth of options such as multi-location rating, in-store pickup, dimensional shipping, carrier rules and more. 

ShipperHQ also allows for customization in their Magento extension, allowing you to make adjustments within the Magento checkout code and cover every feature you may require for powering shipping quotes.

4. Klaviyo

Klaviyo’s power lies in its segmentation and targeting. Its web-tracking system is top notch as it uses specific browsing behavior to segment visitors so they receive specific ad campaigns and emails based on their on-site activity. Klaviyo will help you identify the visitors to your site, who looked but didn’t buy, who is a frequent visitor, who hasn’t visited recently, who left their cart full without purchasing, etc. Then, you can implement a campaign designed around the visitors’ site-specific actions.

3. TaxJar

For businesses, it’s always tax season. And our #1 choice to to help with your eCommerce taxes is TaxJar. Currently being utilized by more than 15,000 businesses worldwide, TaxJar is used by large and small businesses alike. The app features Magento’s SmartCalcs API, which determines if, when, and how much sales tax needs to be applied and collected on any purchase, foriegn and domestic. It allows users to program individual products for different tax rates for different states. But the automation doesn’t stop there. TaxJar will also accumulate your annual taxes over the course of the year and can file your taxes directly with your home state.

2. Yotpo

Native Yotpo integration is a fairly new, but powerful addition to the extensions library. Yotpo integrates with Magento to collect, display and manage customer content. This content includes photos, videos and reviews. Social proof is increasingly important when it comes to driving revenue in eCommerce and Yotpo curates and places that social proof right on your product pages, meaning that visitors don’t have to leave your site to go looking for it.

1. Klevu

While we covered Klevu in a previous blog that doesn’t mean we’re going to shy away from singing its praises again here. Klevu remains our favorite  on-site search option. Klevu is low-maintenance, easy to implement and it will provide you with unique insights over time as its machine learning develops a greater understanding of the topics  your visitors are engaging with on-site. We particularly like the Autocomplete feature, which will make suggestions to your site’s visitors while they are typing in their search. Overall, Klevu is a great resource for merchants and adds to the overall shopping experience for your customers.

To learn more about any of these extensions  and how to make the absolute most of your eCommerce site in 2020, contact us today.

Hosting Scalability – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Hosting Scalability – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

These days cloud based elastic scaling is advertised as a standard offering by many eCommerce hosting companies.  The premise behind the offering is that the hosting service will be able to scale out (more servers) or up (more resources – ie. RAM – added to the existing server) to meet high traffic demand and scale back to save money on resources once traffic goes back to normal.  This ensures your site is always stable and fast while minimizing cost of server resources. While elastic scaling may be perceived and marketed as a standard cloud feature, we have found that the mechanics and effectiveness of it can vary vastly from one hosting provider to the next.  In fact, we know of very few truly awesome and seamless elastic scaling solutions for eCommerce.

The Good 

Some hosting services like Webscale can provide truly seamless elastic scaling. Their technology automatically detects surges in traffic and server utilization and delivers additional scaled out resources in real time without any manual intervention or site performance degradation.  Once the demand subsides the resources are automatically scaled back, again with no manual intervention, keeping cloud resource costs at a minimum. And it actually works as advertised delivering great performance and value.

The Bad

Many cloud hosting companies have the ability to scale out/up automatically but scaling back down requires manual work through an admin dashboard or ticketing system.  The issue with having to manually scale back down is that you will spend a lot more on resources, since during peak traffic seasons (ie. holiday) it doesn’t make sense to be manually scaling back resources until the season is over.  So while it’s nice to know you have the assurance of performance and uptime from the ability to autoscale out/up, the cost for resources is much higher during high volume events.

The Ugly

Some cloud hosting companies that advertise elastic scaling are limited to manual scaling out/up and back in a fashion very similar to bare medal where servers can be added to the cluster but only on a planned schedule manually by technicians.  Scaling out/up often times requires planning months in advance to increase the resources for a high traffic season (ie. holidays) and includes signed approvals for increased cost of resources and must be performed in coordination with the hosting company technical team.  There are typically no tools for site administrators to manage resources on their own through a dashboard and if traffic peaks are higher than expected the site can experience slow performance or even worse downtime. Adding resources to immediately address demand (ie. Black Friday peak) is typically not possible since it requires days, if not weeks (depending on how busy the hosting company’s technicians are), to manually add more resources.

Conclusion

If you’re in the market for eCommerce hosting be sure to ask your prospective providers lots of questions about what they are advertising for cloud (elastic) scaling and carefully examine the elastic scaling fine print in the contract.  Also, if you think you are on a service that provides automatic elastic scaling double-check with your provider on the mechanics and details of how it works. You don’t want to wait until a peak traffic event to find out that your servers don’t auto scale the way you thought they would.  To get more details or find out who the “The Ugly” providers are mentioned above (off the record of course:) please contact us.

 

Do I Need to Load Test?

Do I Need to Load Test?

It’s that time of year again, the holidays are soon approaching and you – the online merchant – are preparing promotions and marketing for the unofficial kick off to the Holiday Season – Black Friday Week. One of the concerns you likely have leading up to the holidays is how your site will perform when handling large volumes of traffic. Will your site experience slow load performance or downtime on Black Friday or during the week of Cyber Monday?  This is indeed a valid concern since slow performance, or even worse yet, site down time, can be very costly, both literally in terms of lost sales and, as importantly, from an overall brand perspective. Many times users abandon their shopping activities on sites that are running slow or timing out.  As well, performance issues or site downtime cause major damage to brand reputation as many users never return to sites that have failed during their shopping experience – and may tell their friends about the poor experience.

While you may have prepared your site for traffic peaks with auto scaling and other enhancements, there is no way to tell how much traffic and order volume your site can take without performance load testing.

Website performance load testing is a process that utilizes technology tools (bots) to simulate traffic, usage and orders on your site so you can measure the performance page speed and response of your site under different volumes of traffic.  Performance testing should be setup and performed on a site-by-site basis because every website has different usage patterns and behavior. So the first step in successful load testing is to review Google Analytics data and see how users are engaging with the site to make a purchase.  Then the load testing bots can be programmed to simulate the site usage of the actual site users. Once all the simulations have been created, the testing bot is sent to browse a replica of the production site like an actual user, browsing products, adding items to the cart, applying coupons, using the wishlist and checking out, etc.  (A replica site is used because you wouldn’t want to sack your production site with thousands of fake transactions.) The bot is set to mimic as many usage patterns as needed and programmed to maintain certain levels of activity that replicate different volumes of user traffic.

When we run load tests for our clients, we are able to measure the site page speed and errors at various simulated levels of traffic and ultimately ascertain the level of traffic a site can serve before breaking down. After successfully load testing a site we are able to – with a high degree of confidence – tell exactly how much traffic a website can safely serve at any given time.

That’s all well and good you might say, but is it really worth the investment?  For sites expecting high traffic volume promotions or for sites with deals that go viral on social media, we absolutely see the payoff.  Knowing how much traffic your site can handle before performance starts to degrade is critical for promotion planning. If you know the peak number of shoppers per hour your site can handle without performance degradation then you can be very strategic about how you schedule email promotions and social announcements so that you avoid pushing to many users to the site with a marketing blast.  For example, we’ve had merchant clients go through the performance testing process and develop an understanding of their safety threshold for max traffic. This allows them to change their marketing strategy to promote discounts and sales days ahead of time, or days after Black Friday, to reduce the risk of getting too much traffic at one time.

While load testing does require some investment in time and money it can prove a very wise method for maximizing revenue by avoiding performance related issues that negatively affect conversion and site reputation.  For more information on how we can help you determine your peak traffic threshold, optimize performance and help you better prepare for the biggest retail time of the year, please contact us.

 

Best Magento 2 Site Search Modules

Best Magento 2 Site Search Modules

The Search module for your eCommerce site can be a powerful tool that can significantly contribute to  your long-term success. The Search module has a unique ability to directly connect customers with their desired product while also giving you the information needed to improve multiple aspects of your business.

In this week’s blog we’re going to be discussing the best Magento 2 Site Search modules and how they can impact your eCommerce business.

(To learn more about how your Magento search function can help to go even further towards improve your SEO and inventory management, don’t miss last week’s blog, “4 Ways to Improve Your SEO with Magento’s Search Terms Report”.)

Elasticsearch

Elasticsearch is native to Magento 2 and it is used on such high-volume sites as eBay, Wikipedia, and GitHub. All big names, but none of these sites are eCommerce sites. Elasticsearch requires a the use of a number of additional extensions to expand its capabilities and make it truly useful  for smaller businesses.

Another major downside to relying on Elasticsearch for your site’s search functionality is that the module is server intensive, so you need to be on a dedicated server or have upgraded to a cloud hosting platform. Because of these server constraints we do not recommend Elasticsearch for merchants whose sites are doing less than $3 million in total revenue, see less than 150,000 visitors per month or feature less than 10,000 SKUs. If your site  meet any of these criteria then we recommend using a 3rd party search engine because of the additional features they offer as well as the server assistance they provide, as any 3rd party search provider is going to handle all of the search activity on their servers, leaving yours to be dedicated to page itself.

Klevu

Klevu is an easy to implement, low maintenance on-site search tool that is incorporates machine learning to accomplish a lot of the optimization and maintenance that is normally done manually on Elasticsearch.

Klevu’s machine learning abilities develops an ongoing understanding of how your customers are engaging with the search features, expanding its knowledge as it accumulates more information. The result of this process  optimizes search results to get customers’ better search results.. The autocomplete feature offers helpful suggestions and creates a more convenient and pleasant shopping experience for your customers. This all leads to more sales which benefits of your business.

Klevu is extremely scalable and prices start at just $499 per month. The platform offers a great, self managed dashboard that is easy to understand and navigate. While the lower tiered Klevu offerings do not come with a dedicated account manager or onboarding technician, there are more Enterprise-level plans that come with a dedicated account manager and technical support if that is something that you and your company desire.

Nextopia

Magento is known for its customizable abilities and Nextopia’s site search module was created in that same vein. Nextopia was built to cater to the unique needs of B2B merchants, and is a fully customizable search solution designed to be coded to match the HTML of your eCommerce site.

In addition to the B2B focus and superior customization capabilities, Nextopia offers exceptional North American customer support (based in Canada) with a dedicated account manager, no matter what level of customer you are. Nextopia’s support extends beyond the initial set-up and launch of your search module, throughout the life of your contract. This includes monthly status meetings designed to recap your search results and teach first-time users how to better understand the search reports and integrate them into an eCommerce strategy. After Nextopia clients feel comfortable with the module, these monthly recaps change to quarterly status meetings and can be booked as needed.

Conclusion

While there are other 3rd party site search options available for Magento, we recommend ElasticSearch to someone that’s on a dedicated server or higher level hosting that can support that service, and has a team capable of ongoing management. Klevu is our favorite ‘plug and play’ option with awesome capabilities, while Nextopia is very scalable for B2B businesses or sites with more complex catalogs, such as automotive sites with vehicle fitment data. Many other site search options have a more expensive, more drawn out on-boarding process that we find to be overkill.

We could talk about Magneto extensions all day. If you have questions about what Search Module is right for you, need assistance with Magneto 1’s upcoming end-of-life or anything else eCommerce related, call us at to speak with team member today. Or, submit your request via our Contact page and we’ll get in touch with you ASAP.

 

4 Ways to Improve Your SEO with Magento’s Search Terms Report

4 Ways to Improve Your SEO with Magento’s Search Terms Report

Are you ignoring that little Search bar at the top of your eCommerce page? Because you shouldn’t be. That little application is too powerful to ignore and can do more than just show visitors what’s in your inventory. It can save you money, improve your search ranking and increase your sales – all while making your customers’ shopping experience easier and more convenient. In this blog we’ll cover the four ways to improve your SEO using Magento’s Search Terms report.

What Customers Want

The Magento Search Term Report is a list of search terms and how often they have been used on your site.  The search terms come from when your site visitors directly type keyword phrases in the search box for products on your site. The Magento Search Term Report is thus a very effective and accurate tool when it comes to understanding what customers want from your business and what they likely will search for on the public search engines like Google. The most popular and frequent terms on your search report can become the backbone of your SEO strategy. By building an SEO strategy around the most frequently used terms on your Search Term Report, you can be assured that you’re not wasting resources on keywords aren’t relevant to your business.  Paying attention to the Search Terms Report is also an opportunity to adjust your offerings and inventory. If visitors are continually searching your website for a product or service you do not offer, perhaps it’s time to add it to your product catalog.

Zero Results

If there is a disconnect between ‘what you think your customers want from your business’ and ‘what your customers actually want from your business’ the Search Terms Report will shine a light on it. Compare the results for your Search Terms Report with your SEO keywords. If you’re including keywords in your SEO that no one is searching for on your site, this gives you the opportunity to adjust your keyword strategy and perhaps even your inventory.

Synonyms

A simple but effective way to improve your catalogue search is to include alternate terms that a customer may use to describe an item in your inventory. You don’t want to lose out on the sale of a ‘dish’ when your item is listed as a ‘plate’. The Search Terms Report will show you any synonyms that customers may be using to search your site for products. This wider range of terms provided by the Search Terms Report will allow you to direct a much broader range of terms to the same landing page. Meaning that your ‘plate’ product page will show up in searches for ‘bowl’, ‘dish’, ‘cup’, ‘platter’ and more.

Misspellings

To err is human and checking the spelling of any Search inquiries will more than confirm that statement. But misspellings can also be used to improve your SEO. Using your Search Terms Report you can easily capture common misspellings that visitors are typing into your Search and use them to redirect visitors to the appropriate page. For example, if you sell silverware and you see that many visitors to your site are misspelling the word ‘knives’ and are instead searching for ‘knifes’ or ‘nives’ you can include theses misspelled terms in your list of synonyms for ‘knives’. This will allow for visitors using misspelled searches to be directed towards the pages and products they were initially searching for.  Better yet, we recommend using a search technology like Elastic Search that automatically factors in most of the common misspellings. But even with a search technology like Elastic Search that auto corrects for typos, it’s a good idea to check for misspellings.

To learn more about how to maximize the knowledge and business that be cultivated through the Magento Search Terms report, reach out to one of our certified Magento developers at 513-469-7042 or fill out our contact page and a team member will be in touch with you shortly.

Shipping and Fulfillment That Attracts More Customers: What You Should Know

Shipping and Fulfillment That Attracts More Customers: What You Should Know

Given the advances of Amazon Prime over the past few years, merchants have been forced to innovate and become more competitive in the shipping and fulfillment arena.  Online shoppers now expect low cost or free shipping delivery options within 2 days as well as very short lead times for buying online and picking up in store (BOPIS).  Fortunately, Magento provides many great tools and capabilities to help merchants deliver what customers expect. When leveraged appropriately merchants using Magento are now able to provide delivery and pickup options that better compete with leading market places such as Amazon and Walmart.

Magento Order Management

The first piece of being able to provide competitive shipping, delivery and pickup options is for the website to have immediate access to product inventory stock and location information. Launched at the beginning of 2019 Magento Order Management makes it possible to orchestrate demand and supply across multiple sales channels and sources of inventory. Merchants are able to:

  • Turn stores into mini-distribution centers
  • Create and expose a single view of orders and inventory across channels
  • Provide customers with flexible omni channel fulfillment options
  • Handle complex order & fulfillment needs such as back-orders and BOPIS.
  • Intelligently automate sourcing across channels

Providing customers with low cost shipping delivery options and BOPIS requires a robust integration between backend fulfillment systems and the website.  The Magento Order Management product integrates to backend systems and adds a layer of logic below the website that allows Magento to track inventory across the entire warehouse and store network.  By knowing where all product inventories are located Magento is able to offer customers shipping, delivery or pickup options from the closest warehouse or store. This lowers the cost of delivery and BOPIS turn around time, resulting in higher customer satisfaction and options that are competitive with Amazon.

Front-end Logic

In addition to tightly tracking inventory location, a robust delivery and BOPIS strategy also requires complex front-end logic.  Many factors such as store hours, lowest cost carrier, package dimensions, hazmat restrictions, product customization lead time, perishable product specifications and international regulations must be factored in when providing shipping options to customers at checkout.

That logic can either be powered by a 3rd party plugin and/or custom developed on Magento.  Two very popular 3rd party plugins that connect to Magento via API are ShipperHQ and Termando (also known as “Magento Shipping”).  These tools allow site administrators to configure rate quotes based on many factors such as:

  • Product and cart weight 
  • Product and cart price
  • Product dimensions
  • Product groups
  • Package dimensions
  • Customer group
  • Shipping zones
  • Location (warehouse and shipping)
  • Freight
  • Major carriers  (Fedex, UPS, USPS and DHL)

Rates can further be filtered via restriction, surcharges, discount and renaming rules to provide customers with highly competitive delivery and pickup options.

If a 3rd party tool does not provide all of the features required, additional customization can be performed.  For instance, a merchant may want to compare rates from the major carriers and pick the lowest cost options for ground, overnight and 2nd day delivery while providing those options to the customer with a discount depending on the total value of the cart or the customer’s life-time value.  For this type of need a custom module can be developed for Magento that works in conjunction with native features or 3rd party plugins. Being flexible enough to accommodate this type of high value customization is one of the things that makes Magento so great.

Conclusions

By leveraging Magento’s great order management and stock tracking technology plus 3rd party tools and customization, merchants are now able to be more competitive with fulfillment giants like Amazon and Walmart.  Smaller merchants might not be able to offer the exact same level of shipping value as the big marketplaces, however by improving their shipping options and relying on other strengths that large marketplaces do not have (ie. brand and customer service) we believe smaller merchants  can win back and gain online market share.