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 shopping season  – Black Friday. 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?  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 major sales events, 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.

Avoiding Technical Debt on Magento

Avoiding Technical Debt on Magento

According to wikipedia “technical debt (also known as design debt or code debt) is a concept in software development that reflects the implied cost of additional rework caused by choosing an easy (limited) solution now instead of using a better approach that would take longer.”

Many of the merchants we’ve engaged in project discovery discussions in preparation for migrating to Magento 2 have been faced with serious technical debt from Magento 1.  The story usually goes something like this…”we have a lot of Magento 1 extensions and customizations that have built up over time…so much that we don’t actually know what extensions are even still needed…and now every time we need to upgrade, or patch Magento 1 it takes a long time, because stuff breaks and out of date extensions and customizations have to be upgraded or fixed”. 

It’s not uncommon for these merchants to have annual technical debt costs that are 25-50% (or more) of the initial site build.  Over the span of a few years this debt becomes a serious factor in the total cost of ownership and makes Magento a not so economical solution.

So how can merchants now migrating to Magento 2 avoid building all the technical debt that we see with Magento 1?  Below are a few guidelines for steering clear of technical debt on Magento 2.

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

The big idea here is to start with the “must haves”, those extensions or customizations that are absolutely necessary in addition to the base Magento product.  We recommend merchants build a new site with the bare necessities and launch that first. Once the site is live we recommend closely monitoring user engagement with tools like Google Analytics, Hotjar (session recording) and techniques like A/B testing.  Following that process makes it possible to then hone in on feature improvements that are truly needed and sure to provide a return on investment.. 

We’ve seen a lot of extensions installed to Magento 1 because the merchant was trying to copy the user experience of mega brand ecommerce sites.  While it would be nice to have a site with all the features of rei.com, target.com, walmart.com and amazon.com combined, it often is not practical and all those add-on features (extensions) lead to very little or no improvement of site usability and conversion.  Mid-sized merchants are much better off with a minimalist approach (MVP) to add-on features so they can focus their efforts and budgets on better marketing, product catalog content and merchandising.

Template Edits Instead of Installing Extensions

Let’s say a merchant wants to fully expand the filtered navigation (shop by functionality) in Magento 2.  There are several extensions or 3rd party themes out there that could be installed to achieve this design.  However, some simple CSS edits could also be made to the template to achieve the same design. Those CSS edits will be much lower cost to maintain over time and might not need to be updated for 5 or more years.

So for front-end customization, it’s always good to consult with a developer first before using an extension.  The customization might be much more efficiently achieved by simply editing the Magento template files.

 

Don’t Use 3rd Party Theme Template Extensions

While it may be tempting to purchase a theme template extension for your Magento front-end user interface (ie. from Theme Forest), using a theme template can lead to a large amount of technical debt.

These templates are extensive in that they assume complete control of the front-end. They are usually a compilation of 20 to 30 3rd party extensions, plus customization.  Most, if not all, of the code for these extensions is developed by low cost developers and can have some or all of the following issues:

  • Code bloat (loading lots of unnecessary javascript libraries etc…)
  • Doesn’t follow best practices
  • Slows performance speed
  • Javascript conflicts
  • Doesn’t work correctly with Magento or with Varnish cache
  • Disables native Magento features (ie. widgets, click for price, content staging, etc. 

Even though theme extensions seem to contain a lot of value for all the options and features they provide, their technical debt almost always outweighs their advantages. In our experience it is much better to take a less invasive approach to front end theming. This can be accomplished by only making CSS edits and leveraging a minimal amount of customizations and extensions to achieve the right look ,feel and required features.

Purchase Extensions from the Same Company

When possible it’s a good idea to purchase extensions from the same company.  This typically ensures compatibility between all of the extensions that you purchase.  Some of the larger extension providers like Aheadworks have many quality extensions for Magento that are usually compatible with one another.  So if for example, you are looking for a more robust search solution, a homepage hero banner slider, a blog and advanced add to cart, you could buy several of their extensions and avoid compatibility issues that might otherwise exist if you were to purchase all of these extensions from separate companies.

 

Vet Before you Install

    Here at InteractOne we have our senior developers review the architecture and code of extensions before we approve them for install.  It’s easy for a good Magento developer to spot a shody Magento extension by checking its architecture and code. We’ve saved our clients from many low quality extensions through this practice.  If the extension is low quality we send it back to the provider for a refund.

    Housekeeping

    Scheduled, periodic review and cleanup of a Magento site is a best practice that can save a site from becoming bloated or unstable as it matures.  It’s a good idea to review all the extensions in use on a Magento site on an annual or bi-annual basis to ensure old unused or unstable extensions and customizations are being cleaned up, fixed or removed.

    It’s also important to stay up to date with the upgrade releases from Magento and extension providers.  While it’s not necessary to always be on the latest minor release we do recommend never getting more than 2-3 minor releases behind.  Staying up to date ensures security is maintained and extensions are not getting unstable as browser and mobile technology is always advancing.

    Letting a Magento site get a few years behind in releases can end up requiring two to three times the normal effort to upgrade as old upgrade paths are not always well supported by extension providers. Additionally, the launch of a really big upgrade jump can be nearly as complex as a new site golive since there are so many major changes to factor and test for.

    While this list of recommendations for avoiding technical debt with Magento is not all-inclusive it does cover the key points that should help you keep your Magento 2 site running fast, stable and secure for years to come.


    If you’d like to discuss the status of your site or you are ready to migrate to Magento 2, we would be happy to schedule a no-obligation initial consultation. Drop us a note.

    Connecting Your Warehouse to Your Storefront: Integrating Magento with an ERP

    Connecting Your Warehouse to Your Storefront: Integrating Magento with an ERP

    Many merchants migrating to Magento 2 from Magento 1 or from other platforms are faced with the challenge of how to integrate their back office and warehouse enterprise resource planning (ERP) data with their Magento storefront.

    The data that most often needs to be integrated is orders, customer catalog and product catalog. Orders must flow from the storefront of Magento down to the ERP for processing. Tracking number information must then flow back from the ERP to Magento. Inventory and pricing information must be kept in sync between Magento and the ERP as well. 

    Several options exist for building the integrations described above between Magento and an ERP:

    • Pre-built Middleware
    • Pre-built Magento Extension
    • Custom Development

    Pre-built Middleware

    If a merchant is using a popular ERP software like SAP, Netsuite, Microsoft Dynamics (GP, NAV and SL), Epicor, Sage or JD Edwards, there are middleware products available in the marketplace that provide most of the basic integration requirements.  These services typically charge a setup fee plus monthly fees based on usage volume or levels of support. 

    The middleware product offerings have grown substantially in the last 5 years and are now so robust that many times they can handle all of the integration requirements for small to midsize merchants.  The market leader in this category is eBridge Connections. They provide connection to Magento and other ecommerce platforms from almost all of the popular ERP software packages.

    There are many advantages of using middleware;

    • Quick Setup – setup time is usually between 4-6 weeks.
    • Good Quality – when the connections have already been installed many times.
    • Lower Costs – using a shared connection can lower costs. 
    • Quality Support – many times support staff is available 24/7 to resolve any reported issues.

    There are, however, some disadvantages to consider when compared to having a custom built connector.

    • Flexibility – this is typically the biggest downside.  Many times there are features that cannot be provided to suit specific business needs because the connector must work in a certain fashion to serve all and cannot be customized in any major ways.
    • Not As Robust As a Custom Integration – prebuilt solutions typically come with a standard feature set that covers basic integration needs.  However, more advanced connection points like gift cards, rewards points can be lacking.

    When considering an integration it is wise to first consider the middleware options available.  Given the lower costs, good quality and quick setup time, middleware is often a good value if it can meet many of the businesses requirements of an integration.

     

    Pre-built Magento Extension

    Some of the benefits of using a Magento extension are:

    • Low Cost – you purchase the extension once, no monthly fees.
    • Value – if coded correctly you can get a lot of features for the cost compared to custom development.

    Some of the disadvantages might be:

    • Support – often times it takes days for the extension providers to respond to support requests via tickets or emails.
    • Low Quality – there are  some really awful integration extensions for sale that were of alpha release quality.
    • Costs – a low quality extension can actually create a lot of cost because of customer service issues, bad data and Magento developer time needed to manage and fix urgent issues.

    Because of the issues mentioned above, we recommend a high degree of caution and vetting before using a pre-built Magento extension from the marketplace for integration.  While some of our merchant clients have benefited greatly from a low cost extension integration to MOM and Quickbooks, we’ve also had clients suffer costly issues with other extension integrations to Microsoft GP and like systems.

    Custom Development

    Many legacy ERPs don’t have pre-built solutions or APIs and thus can only be connected through flat file FTP integrations.  Or many times pre-built solutions do not contain the features and work flows needed to support the integration business requirements. In these situations custom development is needed to connect Magento to an ERP.

    With this option merchants typically have the choice of developing code on the Magento side that interacts with the ERP or developing code on the ERP side that interacts with Magento’s APIs.

    We are often tasked with developing code on the Magento side that interfaces with an ERP’s API or flat file requirements.  This custom code can be in addition a pre-built middleware or extensions or it can stand alone as the entire integration.

    There are many advantages to building custom ERP integrations:

    • Robust Features –  features developed specifically to meet business requirements.
    • High Quality – since it can be controlled tightly from the beginning of the project.
    • Efficient Code – because it only needs to support the specific needs of the client.
    • High ROI – the custom integration can be constantly improved over time to reduce manual labor and improve efficiency of backend operations.

    The disadvantages of custom development are mainly up front cost.  Because the integration is being custom developed there is no cost saving advantage of reusing code from other integration projects.

    In summary, there are many things to consider when planning to integrate Magento to your back office systems (ERP) but one should always step back and consider the long term cost of ownership and potential return on investment. While pre-built solutions are always good to initially consider, it may be that a combination of pre-built and custom development or solely custom development of an integration will provide the best return on investment over time.

    Want to discuss your ERP integration challenges, let us know. Happy to connect you with one of our experts. 

    3 Reasons to Move Your Magento 1 Site to Shopify

    3 Reasons to Move Your Magento 1 Site to Shopify

    As the owner of a Magento site you’re going to have to make a decision as to what move is best for you before support for Magento 1 ends in June of 2020. And this decision must be made relatively soon. Your migration to M2 or to Shopify will take time to be completed properly. You must be aware of your current needs and limitations. You also need to have an expectation as to where your business needs to be in the future in order to determine which platform can best meet your needs.

    With all of that in mind, you may want to consider migrating your Magento 1 site to Shopify, rather than Magento 2, before the end of life support occurs for Magento 1 in June of 2020. In this blog, you’ll learn the 3 reasons why you may want to move your Magento 1 site to Shopify.

    Mobile Optimization

    Mobile optimization – Shopify has been optimized for mobile and allows your customers to experience a complete shopping experience directly from their device. As a Magento 1 user, you know that this is a feature that has not been utilized to its full potential under the current platform. The good news is that Magento 2 offers greater mobile capabilities, but Shopify’s mobile support is tried and tested and ready for your online store.

    Ease of Use

    If you would describe yourself as ’non technical’ then Magento can be a bit overwhelming. The open source platform comes with a learning curve for even some of the most basic of customizations and a much steeper learning curve for more involved customization. Meanwhile, 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 lack programming experience. 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. 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.

    Customer 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. That is something Magento isn’t able to offer. Alternatively, Spotify offers 24/7 phone support, live chat and email options for users experiencing problems. To get the Spotify level of 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).  

    Shopify’s features cater directly to smaller businesses with limited budgets and resources. While Magento 2 is better equipped to handle larger, more complex eCommerce sites. It really all depends on your needs, size and capabilities. To learn more about where your eCommerce site would be best served and how to unlock your digital potential call the team at InteractOne at 513-469-3345 or submit a form here for a consultation.

    4 Reasons to Migrate Your B2B Site From Magento 1 Today

    4 Reasons to Migrate Your B2B Site From Magento 1 Today

    The end is nigh for Magento 1!

    Just because Magento is ending their support for M1 in June of 2020 doesn’t mean there’s reason to panic. Quite the opposite. This shift provides B2B Magento 1 merchants with an opportunity to upgrade their current platform to one that more meets the demands of modern B2B stakeholders.

    Since M1’s public launch in 2007, the digital B2B marketplace has changed dramatically. B2B customers now more closely resemble B2C customers. Demand Gen’s 2018 survey shows that 93% of B2B customers prefer to purchase online, directly from vendors (compared with 85% of B2C customers). And 45% of B2B buyers report an increase in the amount of online research they complete before making a purchase.

    The B2B landscape has evolved and the end of life for Magento 1 support provides an excellent opportunity to upgrade your B2B eCommerce site to meet the new demands of the marketplace and keep pace with your competitors. In this blog you’ll learn the 3 reasons why you need to migrate off of Magento 1.

    New B2B Features

    Magento 2 promises to maintain the same features that made Magento 1 so popular. There will still be an Open Source (Community) version of M2 which will allow for custom extensions to be added to native features. The Magento Commerce (Enterprise – paid/licensed) edition will continue on as well. But it is the M2 Commerce platform that will include a number of new features built directly into the architecture. These new features include:

    Company Accounts

    In any B2B online store 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

    As previously mentioned,  B2B customers are more and more likely to arrive at your website having already engaged in and in many cases completed their research and ready to complete an order. For these users, 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 for 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 for 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.

    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 will give B2B visitors to your website a smoother, faster, and more accurate experience as well as improve the ability your certified Magento developer has to make refinements to the platform.

    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. With these kinds of improvements it’s easy to see why an upgrade to Magento 2 is better completed sooner rather than later.

    M1 is going bye-bye and all you can do is prepare

    June 2020 may seem like a long way off but it will be here before you know it. Upgrading your site to M2 or migrating to another platform will take a great deal of time to plan, build, implement, execute, test, and launch. The experts at Magento estimate that a simple website migration will take between 5 and 7 months and our experience reflects and supports that timeline Any site with customizations that needs migrating could take up to 9 months. And any migration with integrations could easily take more than 10 months to complete. Keep in mind that there will also be tens of thousands of business owners in a similar need for migration before support for M1 falls off in June of 2020. The sooner you can get started on your migration or conversion, the better. Think of your M2 move like you would a semester project in college. You feel like you have all the time in the world to complete it, but why wait until the weekend before finals?

    Simply put, the benefits of both the Enterprise and Community versions of M2 far outweigh the costs of migrating. Magento 2 is mobile-friendly, more scalable, boasts an improved checkout experience, and is easier to upgrade. If you’re ready to upgrade your M1 platform or just want to learn more about the process, speak to one of the certified Magento developers here at InteractOne at 513-469-3345 or submit a form here for a consultation.

    Additional Resources: 

    Why Migrate from Magento 1 to Magento 2

    4 B2B Features for Merchants Moving to Magento 2

     Magento 2 for B2B

    3 Ways to Improve Your B2B eCommerce Website Today

    3 Ways to Improve Your B2B eCommerce Website Today

    For your B2B eCommerce site, the online store is the critical factor to your success. Most companies shop online once they’ve decided what they want. In a market that is already saturated, waiting around for clients to come to you is not an optimal solution.

    New eCommerce websites go live every day, and in order to thrive and stay ahead of your competition, you must be more creative with your sales strategy and enhance the online experience you deliver to online B2B consumers. In this blog we’ll cover three ways that you can you enhance your B2B eCommerce site to boost conversions and ultimately generate more quality leads and sales.

    Factors Influencing User Experience

    For online buyers, a B2B eCommerce site is often the first point of contact. And since you never get a second chance to have a good first impression, it’s important to craft a great experience from the get-go. Here are some factors that can make or break a user’s experience on your site:

    • Discoverability
    • Website load time
    • Website UI
    • Checkout workflow
    • Overall site navigation
    • Payment options
    • Delivery time
    • Product quality
    • Grievances redressal

    User Experience, also known as UX, is critical to eCommerce—maybe even more than you might think. UX can impact these areas of business and more:

    • The number of visitors on your site
    • Sales conversions
    • Profits
    • Revenue growth

    Optimize Your B2B Site

    Improve site usability:

    Simply put, a site that is hard to use does not make for repeat buyers. Visitors are less likely to return to your site, or trust you as a partner/client if your website isn’t friendly (including mobile compatibility) and doesn’t provide a positive overall experience. The best time to work on the usability of your website is during the initial site development phase. Collect feedback from early users to determine what needs to be improved. Use this insight to make improvements to the website and create an eCommerce site that doesn’t leave users unhappy or confused.

    Focus on User Needs:

    Start by asking yourself, why are users visiting your site? Some users want discounts, some users want information, some users are doing preliminary research. Others already know exactly what they need and want to find it fast and efficiently. Serving each user’s interest in the most efficient way helps to optimize your eCommerce site.

    Dropout Points:

    Observe user behavior with the help of analytics tools to identify areas that need improvement. Through tools like Google Analytics, you can see exactly where users are leaving your site, called ‘dropout points’. Analyzing dropout points provides an excellent opportunity to see where there may be a gap in your website design or content. You can gradually test new copy, designs, imagery, or forms on a particular page for improvements in a user’s time on your website and leads generated.

    Enhance the B2B Buyer Experience

    It is not enough to optimize the site; businesses also need to ensure buyers are taken care of throughout the buying process. Some ways to enhance the user experience include:

    Create Informative Content:

    No matter what space your B2B site occupies, chances are high that there’s another B2B entity selling a similar product or service to you. A Forrester report indicates business buyers are highly self-directed with over 68% doing their own research online. 62% plan to make a purchase decision based solely on digital content. Investing in an experienced content team gives you an opportunity to educate potential business buyers through informative and original content. Free downloads, how-to guides, and relevant news links can showcase to B2B buyers that you’re an industry thought leader and insider and that you have the knowledge and know-how to solve their particular problem. Original informative content inspires confidence in new users. Just make sure that your eCommerce content is readable on all devices including mobile, tablet, and desktop. Because you never know how your B2B buyers are consuming your content.

    Deliver Excellent Customer Service:

    No matter your product or service, there are multiple competitors on the web providing similar products and services. The level and quality of customer service influences sales, brand loyalty, and conversion rates. In the long term, providing exemplary customer service wins over buyers. A large percentage of business buyers will refer a company to other businesses if they experience good customer service. Make sure that you’re getting notifications if a prospect submits a question or a form to you via your website or social media channels and and be sure to respond in a timely fashion. Provide a contact phone number that is easy to find on your website so that existing clients can reach out to you quickly, if they need to. These are small but important actions you can take to provide excellent customer service that will reassure current customers and perhaps sway potential customers in your favor, while setting you apart from your competitors.

    Improve the User Experience

    Ultimately, you want to make it as easy as possible on the site visitor to complete a purchase with you. There are four places you can optimize the user experience to fulfill orders, satisfy recurring customers, and bring new customers into your client base.

    Check Out:
    Business buyers prefer a speedy and efficient checkout process. Incorporating features such as requisition lists, instant purchase, and quick checkout makes it possible to conclude business in minutes.

    Delivery:
    Make it easy for B2B buyers to schedule deliveries and pick-up options. This can be achieved through visible options on the site and checkout page and ensuring users can easily change delivery or pick-up preferences at any time during the purchasing process.

    Inventory:
    Display inventory by location if there is a physical address. This offers convenience for contractors and anyone who is looking to make a purchase at a particular brick and mortar location.

    Account Management:
    Offering account management services for repeat customers shortens the buying process. It also makes it easier to track order status, pay invoices, and access product catalogs.

    No matter what services or products are featured in a B2B eCommerce site, the profits determine success. Focusing on usability, the checkout process, and customer service can significantly increase your eCommerce conversions. But all the good intentions and customer service won’t result in profit unless you have a functioning and user-friendly website. To learn more about how to unlock your digital potential call the team at InteractOne at 513-469-3345 or submit a form here for a consultation on how to optimize your eCommerce website.


    Can a B2B eCommerce Site Actually Attract New Customers?

    Can a B2B eCommerce Site Actually Attract New Customers?

    Businesses are driven to find the most efficient and cost effective solution to any problem they may have—just look at the advisory and consulting industries. When seeking to expand business operations in the B2B sector, eCommerce just makes sense—individuals prefer to research and buy online these days. Self-service is a rapidly growing trend.

    Modern eCommerce has the ability to remove purchase barriers that have previously existed, such as a delay while waiting on a specialized price, a noon fax, or when waiting for account creation. eCommerce enables customers to create their own accounts, see items at list price, and make a spot decision about their purchase.

    eCommerce can provide a balanced approach to growth and efficiency—sales reps have more time on their hands to dive into other tasks while customers have their every desire at their fingertips. Did we mention that B2B businesses love fast shipping? High-speed shipping and instant gratification culminate in a highly effective way to boost sales numbers across the board while reducing the bottom line.

    Spoiler alert: B2B eCommerce sites can and do attract new customers. Here’s how:

    How can eCommerce be Adapted to B2B Sales?

    B2B sales can be time-consuming—some salespeople have only a handful of cases, some of which are prospective customers. eCommerce allows businesses to automate the top of their sales pipeline—list price items can be moved, increasing overall profit on some sales, while customers walk away with more time than traditional sales processes.


    Once a client has decided to purchase again, their pre-existing account can be used. As the business owner, you have to ability to program customized pricing based on the client and their needs. Why redo a task like ‘collecting initial client information’ and ‘list price sale’ at the cost of time and money? A modern eCommerce website powered by Magento or Shopify will provide you these capabilities and create a fire-and-forget solution to improve your quality of sales and remove redundancies in order to free up valuable time for salespeople.

    How Does eCommerce Promote Getting New Customers?

    eCommerce can be used in conjunction with digital advertising to attract B2B customers who need your products or services. If you’re selling physical products, Google shopping listings can be created through digital ads, which will allow interested parties to view and compare your products against your competitors directly. This saves them time and increases your overall visibility.

    Customers today also expect to have a smooth buying experience. Having to wait for responses from salespeople will only slow their day down and decrease your odds of making the initial sale. 93 percent of B2B buyers say that they prefer to buy online once they’ve decided they want to buy. 74 percent of them say that buying from a website is more convenient.

    When paired with an effective content strategy, eCommerce educates buyers about the particular concerns they should note when looking to purchase as well as how a particular line of items removes their exposure to these risks, in addition to providing other valuable pieces of information.

    What Difference can eCommerce Make on a Sales Workload?

    Sales workload can be substantially reduced by employing B2B sales automation with eCommerce. One of the most notable places where sales can become more efficient is in the ordering and reordering process. Once a business has provided their information and proceeded to purchase, they can be assigned a unique discount. For any future purchases they will then receive their goods at this assigned discounted price, without having to discuss purchases and rates through your sales team.

    The key takeaway is this: sales automation through B2B eCommerce isn’t putting sales jobs at risk, it is helping secure them by finding and retaining new clients. Relationship management can begin with fewer prospects, but higher overall satisfaction when customers can serve themselves. Want to learn more about how to properly expand your business in the B2B sector? Contact our team of eCommerce experts today.