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still needed…and now every time we need to upgrade, or patch Magento 1 it takes a long time, because stuff breaks and out of date extensions and customizations have to be upgraded or fixed”.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.


    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.

    Jump To:

    Pre-built Middleware

    Pre-built Magento Extension

    Custom Development

    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 including, Pre-built Middleware, Pre-built Magento Extension, and 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.

    + 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.
    Disadvantages of using middleware:
    • 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 – 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.

    Pre-built Magento Extension

    Because of the issues mentioned below, 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.

    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.

    + Advantages of using Magento extension:
    • 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.
    Disadvantages of Magento Extensions:
    • 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.

    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.

    + Advantages of Custom ERP Development
    • 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.
    Disadvantages of Custom ERP Development
    • Costs – 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. Check out the ERP work we did for Aladdin Temp-Rite.

    Get in Touch

    Connect with one of our experts today to discuss your ERP Challenges!

    Contact Us

    James Benton ,
    InteractOne Solution Expert

    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.


    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.


    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.

    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.

    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.

    Transforming Your B2B Landing Pages to Unlock New Leads

    Transforming Your B2B Landing Pages to Unlock New Leads

    B2B Landing Page

    While B2B eCommerce has rapidly grown and evolved in recent years, one trend remains the same: successful landing pages are often the key to capturing leads. Business-to-business (B2B) sales can be trickier than business-to-consumer (B2C) sales because B2B sales typically involve complicated products, multiple stakeholders and a customer who may be wary about committing to a purchase. But this doesn’t mean B2B sales are impossible—it simply indicates that carefully developed landing pages are crucial to moving prospects down the path to purchase.

    When creating landing pages, you need to remember that you’re not selling your product to just anyone. You have a target audience in mind, and you need to gain their contact information. With a good landing page, you can introduce your product to your target audience and also potentially get their contact information by offering something of value such as a white paper and a contact form.

    To get the most out of landing pages, you can’t put just anything on them. You need a strategy in order to optimize these pages so that they are as effective as possible. Here are a few strategies you can use:

    Focus on the Content

    Start with the purpose of the page, then curate content to fit that purpose. This might be your only chance to draw someone in, so you need to get your message across instantly. A bold headline, strong subheading, and powerful call-to-action is the perfect combination to entice site visitors from the start.

    Ultimately, the goal of a landing page is to walk the customer through the purchase process. Build brand awareness by giving a general overview of the company’s services or products, discuss the features and benefits, and then drive conversions by adding a call-to-action or contact form that makes them click. Additionally, include anchor navigation so the page appears more digestible. This could be in the form of a menu or drop down that follows the visitor as they scroll through the page.

    Triple check the content to make sure there are no typos, then send it to another member of your team and have them look it over and add their perspective. If you’re not a great writer, consider hiring someone to do it for you. Writing a great landing page is about clearly communicating the benefits of the product or service, and formatting it in a pleasing, digestible way.

    Keep it Simpleand Get to the Point

    One mistake that some merchants make with their landing pages is trying to do too much. According to Nielsen Norman Group, 57% of visitors’ time spent on a page occurs above the fold (and 74% is spent on the first two screenfuls). If every single statistic about the services or products are included, not only will it overwhelm website visitors, but they’ll give up and leave the site without getting a clear picture of who the brand is and what they do. When creating a landing page, focus on the most important aspects of the product/service, and then use that critical information to develop the page layout. Be sure to keep it simple—a headline, visuals, copy, lead form, and call-to-action. B2B customers want clear explanations and answers in the least amount of words possible. Remember, the goal is not to close the deal, but to gain their permission to continue the discussion.

    Make Use of Images and Videos

    When creating a landing page, make sure it is not simply a large wall of text. A great way to change things up is to include relevant images, charts and videos. According to MDG Advertising, 67% of online shoppers rated high quality images as being “very important” to their purchase decision. With that kind of importance, be sure the images you are using are of high quality and, if possible, avoid cheesy stock images. To do this, consider subscribing to a reputable stock photography service such as Shutterstock.

    Videos are a great way to lengthen the time that visitors are on the site, and can sometimes convey more information about the brand than text can. If including a video on the landing page, make sure the thumbnail is visually compelling and well-aligned with the content. If there is no thumbnail or the thumbnail is uninteresting, prospects won’t click. Also, be sure to either include some sort of wrap-up for the video or consider adding the video script beneath it. If they don’t have access to headphones, don’t have time to watch a video, or something else, make sure they won’t miss the main message.

    Split Test

    Finally, it’s hard to know if the content on the landing page is going to be effective. This is why split testing and tracking the results is vital. Split testing works like this: create two versions of the landing page, with differences in content and presentation. When someone enters the landing page, they are randomly shown one of the two versions. By tracking the results of each page, you can see over time which version performs better. Then apply what you’ve learned, and repeat the process making  changes and testing some more.

    Always Look for Ways to Improve

    The key to optimizing B2B landing pages is to always look for ways they can be improved. Sometimes, small changes like adjusting your title, adding in some more images, or changing the call-to-action results in tremendous results. If you need assistance with your B2B eCommerce site or are looking to polish your landing pages, contact us today.

    Why B2B Companies That Embrace eCommerce Perform Better

    Why B2B Companies That Embrace eCommerce Perform Better

    B2B companies have traditionally sold their products via a long sales process with multiple stakeholders and purchase influencers culminating with a handshake and a written contract. These days, that just doesn’t cut it. Buyers want to take care of business quickly, with one or two clicks, rather than back and forth calling or emailing. B2B commerce has evolved – and in order to keep customers happy and maintain revenue growth – you must too. Now, we know that B2B eCommerce can often be more complex than B2C eCommerce. B2C sales usually entail fixed prices and straightforward information. With B2B, that’s not necessarily the case. Some companies sell products that are too complex to be sold online, and that’s ok. eCommerce websites can do more than complete a sale. They serve as sources of information (about both the products and the company) and can help walk buyers down the purchase path. Whether a B2B eCommerce site serves as a purely informational tool or contains multiple catalogs of products, it still benefits B2B companies overall. Here’s why:

    Increased Customer Satisfaction

    It’s no surprise: B2B buyer preferences have changed in recent years. The rise of online shopping and technology usage continues to grow at a rapid pace and people seem to be in agreement: B2C retail practices have influenced customer expectations. Those practices, namely personalization, online catalogs, and SEO continue to be the top three B2C practices that influence revenue for B2B companies. So if the buyer preferences have changed, why hasn’t your B2B company adapted? SAP Customer Experience states that business buyers are planning to make 55% of their work purchases online within the next two years. If buyers need a product, they expect to be able to compare prices or information quickly. eCommerce sites allow this information to be shared immediately, and (if feasible for that specific company) allow for an order to be processed shortly after. An article from Magento indicates that “almost 80% of ‘digitally-mature’ companies surveyed report that their current set of B2B eCommerce technologies have been ‘very’ or ‘extremely helpful’ in improving their overall customer satisfaction and revenue.” In order to stay relevant in the ever-changing sphere of commerce, you have to stay up to date on what the customer wants. In this case, they want company and product information at their disposal at all times.

    It’s Efficient

    Traditional purchasing methods simply aren’t as efficient as eCommerce. Technology eliminates the need for informational pamphlets or booklets, and in doing so, simplifies the buying process. When customers are able to visit a website and get almost all of the information they need,  it speeds up the purchase process. Plus, if orders can be completed completely online, then errors from handling multiple orders are reduced. It’s convenient to complete a purchase at the snap of a finger, and even more convenient to be able to track a purchase instantaneously.

    Development Has Been Simplified

    In the past, upgrading to an e-commerce business was a long and arduous process. Now days, platforms have been updated to make the switch more palatable. There are agencies, such as InteractOne, whose sole purpose is to migrate clients onto the best possible platform for their mission and products. Though a significant project (like a new site build) will take a fair amount of time and be a financial investment, it’s worth it when taking into account the boosted revenue and satisfied customers. Outsourcing help for a big project like a migration or site build is usually a good idea. It grants the customer the flexibility and focus to keep their company the main priority while allowing them to get the help they need from trained and experienced developers.

    It Gives You A Competitive Advantage

    Take a look at your competitors. Have they already launched an eCommerce store? If so, you probably already know the answer to this one. Companies who have already launched on an eCommerce platform are likely capturing some of your business. Buyers are using their knowledge and experience with eCommerce and have begun incorporating it into their work lives, welcoming the simplicity it brings them. And if they haven’t, get ahead of the game! Don’t be afraid to trail blaze – competitors will most likely follow in your footsteps shortly or immediately after. How Should You Proceed? Explore your options and do your research. But, as Magento Certified Developers, we certainly recommend looking into Magento Commerce 2.2 for the many core capabilities it provides. Namely:
    • Company account management: Supports sales for companies with multiple buyers or differing organizational structures. Self-service tools allow customers to track their quotes, orders, and credit without having to fax or phone you.
    • Custom catalogs and pricing: Allows for custom catalogs and price lists to ensure unique contract terms are supported online.
    • Quick ordering: Quick order forms, requisition lists, and easy reordering make online purchasing easy and efficient.
    • Mobile-ready sites: A mobile-first strategy is obviously important. With a fully responsive Magento site, orders can be taken on the go at any time.
    If you are a B2B company looking into the possibilities that eCommerce can provide for your company, feel free to contact us today or feel free to check out some of our experience working with B2B companies.
    How to Solve B2B Selling Challenges with an Inbound Marketing Strategy

    How to Solve B2B Selling Challenges with an Inbound Marketing Strategy

    The success of your B2B eCommerce business hinges upon your ability to anticipate and overcome B2B sales challenges. From lengthy sales cycles to complicated product lines, selling challenges can thwart purchasing activity and negatively impact your cash flow. Fortunately, you can overcome most of these challenges by enhancing your content, launching targeted eMail campaigns, and catering to the specific needs of key stakeholders.

    Below are the top seven B2B selling challenges and the inbound marketing strategies that can help you solve them.

    Challenge 1: Multiple decision makers have varying requirements

    Solution: Develop content and eMail campaigns that address stakeholder needs. The growing number of decision-makers and influencers has complicated the B2B selling process. A article in Harvard Business Review points to the increasingly large and varied pool of decision makers as a key factor in a company’s purchasing paralysis:

    “…The number of people involved in B2B solutions purchases has climbed from an average of 5.4 two years ago to 6.8 today, and these stakeholders come from a lengthening roster of roles, functions, and geographies.” – Harvard Business Review, 2017.

    Because decision makers rarely share the same priorities, it is up to eCommerce merchants to understand the specific needs of key stakeholders and develop useful content that addresses those needs. Here are some content design tips that can help merchants convince multiple decision makers to approve a purchase:

    • Identify your top customers and get to know the specific needs of each decision maker
    • Create custom specification sheets for each primary stakeholder group
    • Use eMail segmentation to ensure that stakeholder groups receive customized content

    Challenge 2: A lengthy sales cycle

    Solution: Create a sense of urgency by offering time-sensitive promotions.
    When coupled with properly planned incentives, time-sensitive promotions are an effective means of motivating customers to take action. You can create an eMail campaign to ensure that your customers receive details about your promotion as quickly as possible. The most effective time-sensitive promotions offer a specific incentive that is strong enough to compel a customer to place an order but not so costly that it is detrimental to your bottom line. Below are examples of effective and ineffective promotions:

    • Specific and effective: “Place your order by December 31st and receive a FREE $25 Visa gift card.”
    • Uninspiring, overused, and ineffective: “Place your order and receive 10% off.”

    Challenge 3: Customers do not realize they have exceeded their credit limits.

    Solution: Use eMail notifications to tell customers when credit limits are exceeded.
    Busy purchasing agents typically procure products from a host of different vendors, including your company. Rarely will every vendor offer the exact same credit terms, which can make it difficult for purchasing agents to keep track of their credit limits for every vendor.

    Fortunately, you can set up eMail notifications to ensure that your customers find out immediately if they have exceeded their credit limits. E-commerce platforms such as Magento are also useful because they allow you to hold orders for your customers until they receive your eMail notification and remit payment. When offered in conjunction with a variety of payment options, these strategies help keep customer satisfaction and sales at high levels.

    Challenge 4: Past customers or once promising leads go into hiding.

    Solution: Implement a lead nurturing campaign for dormant customers.
    Few things are more frustrating for B2B sales representatives than the customer or promising prospect who suddenly disappears. Many representatives respond by amplifying their outreach efforts in an attempt to secure a sale. However, this type of pressure often pushes customers farther away. A lead nurturing campaign is effective because it subtly transforms you from a salesperson into an educator and supporter. Here are some strategies to incorporate into your lead nurturing campaign:

    • Use targeted content to appeal to the different segments of your customer base
    • Remember that a lead nurturing campaign should be supplemented with human intervention
    • Be prepared for the possibility that some customers simply do not want to purchase your products

    Challenge 5: Your products are complicated

    Solution: Create eBooks and instructional videos to facilitate learning.
    Selling complicated products is a challenge for B2B sales representatives because they often possess only a general understanding of their functionality. Customers often expect sales representatives to be product experts and to be able to respond to technical questions about their operation. By creating eBooks and instructional videos, you arm your sales staff with the tools they need to educate customers. You can also supplement your eBook library and videos by following these tips:

    • Create a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) leaflet that answers common customer questions
    • Provide links to user manuals on your website
    • Feature videos of your products being used by your customers
    • Consider eMailing a copy of your instructional eBook or video to your best prospects

    Challenge 6: Your products are viewed as dry or boring

    Solution: Infuse life into your products with videos and case studies.
    Not everyone can sell the latest groundbreaking mobile device or the latest fashion trends. Vendors are also needed to market products like car floor mats, toilet seat covers, storage bottles, and gauze. However, these products are often more challenging to sell because they are not viewed as exciting or interesting.

    The key to resolving this challenge is to create a distinctive presentation that tells a story and captures the attention of consumers. You can achieve both of these goals by creating customer case studies and ideos of consumers using your products. Case studies that feature photos of products being used by customers are an especially effective means of promoting products such as sinks, lights, or monitoring devices that are often viewed as both boring and complicated.

    Challenge 7: Tackling complex or high-stakes buying decisions

    Solution: Enhance your website content.
    High-stakes buying decisions often surface when businesses must replace capital equipment used by manufacturers or healthcare providers. High-stakes buying decisions are challenging for B2B sales organizations for two key reasons. First, they typically involve detailed analyses by multiple decision makers. Second, they often have a lengthy sales cycle because multiple stakeholders must weigh in on the decision. By enhancing your website content, you ensure that stakeholders have easy access to all the information they need to finalize their purchasing decision. You can enhance your website content in the following ways:

    • Create detailed product brochures that feature photos, specifications, and warranty information
    • Feature customer testimonials from industry experts on your website
    • Include case studies or videos of your products in operation at well-known facilities
    • Reward customers who are willing to serve as a reference or provide a testimonial

    The Best Way to Resolve B2B Selling Challenges

    The solutions outlined above will provide you with an excellent foundation for resolving B2B selling challenges and reducing their incidence. However, the surest way to tackle B2B selling challenges is to seek the guidance of a website development expert. For nearly 20 years, the team of professionals with InteractOne has partnered with leading technologies to help companies shorten their sales cycles and facilitate complex purchasing decisions.

    Contact us to find out how our Magento-certified developers and skilled marketers can help you overcome your B2B selling hurdles. Through our superb content development and our winning eMail campaigns, we look forward to becoming your trusted solution for all of your B2B selling challenges.

    Magento Commerce Named a B2B “Leader”

    Magento Commerce Named a B2B “Leader”

    Magento Named B2B Leade

    Magento – The Best Fit for Mid-Sized B2B Companies

    Magento Commerce, the worldwide leader in cloud digital commerce innovation, was named as a leader in “The Forrester WaveTM: B2B Commerce Suites For Midsize Organizations, Q3 2017” report. The research firm cited the Magento platform as the “best fit for mid-sized B2B companies that want an open, feature-rich solution that can be extended easily and inexpensively.” Magento Commerce CEO, Mark Lavelle, had this to say about the recognition:

    “We’re seeing a wave of global demand as more B2B companies adopt digital strategies driven by the desire to meet heightened client expectations and the need to differentiate through personalized, self-service experiences across multiple channels,” said Mark Lavelle, CEO of Magento Commerce.”

    Magento offers businesses the agility to respond in a rapidly changing environment with fast, cost-effective time-to-market solutions enabled by our flexible, cloud-based platform. Backed by our world-class ecosystem of Solution and Technology partners, our newest product release makes many of the leading B2B capabilities available “out of the box”, and builds on our long track record of leadership in B2B Commerce.”

    Magento received the highest score possible in 14 sub-categories

    The Forrester evaluation researched, analyzed and scored the top 11 B2B commerce platform providers focused on mid-sized merchants with $50 to $500 million in total revenue across a range of criteria. Magento received the highest score possible in 14 sub-categories evaluated in the report, including company vision; market presence; customer service providers; customizability; scalability; and caching.

    For more of Forrester’s insights on B2B commerce and their evaluation of Magento Commerce, download a free copy of The Forrester WaveTM: B2B Commerce Suites For Midsize Organizations, Q3 2017.