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

Magento 2.3.1: What’s New?

Magento 2.3.1: What’s New?

Magento 2.3.1

Like many people in the Magento community, we’ve been waiting for the release of Magento 2.3.1 since its arrival date was teased at the MagentoLive convention in Australia back in February. Now, that wait is up. Magento 2.3.1 was released on March 26 and includes merchant tool enhancements, infrastructure updates, performance boosts and more. This marks the first major incremental update to Magento version 2.3.x.

This release includes over 200 functional fixes to the core product, over 500 pull requests contributed by the community, and over 30 security enhancements, so unfortunately, we can’t discuss them all. We are going to highlight some of the most promising updates that Magento 2.3.1 has to offer, but if you’re searching for more detail or want information on a specific improvement, read the release notes here.

Here’s what’s new:

Page Builder

The new Page Builder functionality within Magento will allow merchants to customize web pages without writing HTML or CSS. Features will include:

  • Drag and drop content creation
  • Content block editors
  • Live previews and updates to your design
  • Form editors for data collection

See Page Builder User Guide and Page Builder Developer Documentation for more information. This feature is only available on Magento Commerce.

Inventory Management 1.1.0

The Magento Multi-Source Inventory (in short MSI) allows merchants to manage all inventory sources without any third-party extensions or platforms. In this update, multiple new features have been added after multiple requests from the Magento Community Hub. See Inventory Management Release Notes for more information about specific fixes, but see below for a few improvements.

  • Improved Support for Elasticsearch and Inventory Management. This community-developed feature means that all site searches now return correct products and quantities when Elasticsearch is used as the search engine. As of this release, this will be the default option from Magento 2.3 moving forward.
  • Distance Priority Source Selection algorithm (SSA) option. When enabling this algorithm, merchants can reduce fulfillment costs by shipping orders from the closest inventory locations. This option utilizes address geocoding through the Google Maps API to assess which delivery route is the shortest. See Manage source selection algorithms for more details.
  • Enhancements to mass inventory transfers. This process has been optimized to improve speed and reduce locking during transfers.

Merchants Have the Ability to Set Resizing and Compression Requirements

Previously, when merchants uploaded product images larger than 1920 x 1200, Magento automatically compressed and resized the image. With this update, merchants can set requirements for resizing and compression as well as target width and height and compression quality.

Updates to Bundled Extensions

This release of Magento includes extensions developed by third-party vendors like Amazon Pay, dotdigital Engagement Cloud, and Vertex. More specifically,

Amazon Pay:

  • Added multi-currency support for EU and U.K. merchants. See Use multi-currency for an introduction to using this new feature with Magento 2.x.

Dotdigital Engagement Cloud (formerly dotmailer):

  • Support for Marketing preferences has been added to the customer account dashboard area.
  • If enabled, the customer consent text in the customer’s account dashboard area is now displayed as the general subscription text.
  • The abandoned cart and automation process now benefits from a retry function if contacts are pending in dotdigital Engagement Cloud.

Vertex:

  • Added support for B2C VAT.
  • Added support for configurable logging.

Magento Shipping Updates

New features for Magento 2.3.1 include:

  • Shipment Cancellation: You can now cancel a shipment that has not yet been dispatched by accessing the shipment and clicking Cancel Shipment.
  • Portal Access via Magento: You can now access the Magento Shipping portal directly from Magento using the Magento Shipping credentials that are stored in your Magento instance.

Don’t Already Have Magento?

Updates like this one prove that Magento is constantly making strides and aiming to be the best platform out there. If you need more information on how it compares with Shopify and BigCommerce, check out this comparison guide. For additional questions or assistance with Magento, please contact us.

Magento for B2B eCommerce

Magento for B2B eCommerce

Magento B2B

Fact: 93% of business-to-business buyers prefer to purchase online, with self-serve information, direct from vendors. As trends change and eCommerce continues to grow, B2B customers now desire (better word: demand) a B2C shopping experience. Luckily for merchants, Magento has been hard at work creating the ideal platform for online B2B sales and have made massive updates to the platform in 2017 to stay ahead of coming advancements in the world of eCommerce.

Since its 2017 update, Magento has emerged as a fresh face and ideal candidate for B2B organizations looking to simplify their processes and work more effectively. For those still unsure of what Magento has to offer to B2B companies, we’ve compiled a list of just a few of the great features the platform offers.

The Benefits of Using Magento for B2B eCommerce

Designed to Drive Growth

Magento is chock-full of features that have been designed specifically to elevate B2B sales success. Streamlined workflows are already in place upon installation, meaning that administrators can effectively handle quote requests and pricing negotiation without a hitch. Users also have the option to create custom catalogs and price lists to send to specific clients and companies.

Additionally, you can integrate Magento with any ERP, CRM, or backend using extensive API’s and off-the-shelf extensions, and drive recurring revenue with frictionless ordering and reordering of common purchases.

The Stats

Without any sort of statistical analysis, it’s hard to tell what works and what doesn’t when it comes to B2B eCommerce. Luckily, Magento has publicized some eye-catching numbers that are sure to pique any B2B organization’s interest:

  • $101 billion in sales in digital commerce in 2016
  • 51 million consumers worldwide who purchased from Magento Merchants
  • 260,000 total merchants (and growing!)
  • 30% faster sales growth for merchants than any other platform

Corporate Account Management

With Magento, B2B companies gain access to a host of self-service account tools and some of those tools are ideal for organizations who sell to corporate accounts with numerous buyers. Magento merchants can submit requests for company accounts, arrange buyers within a hierarchy to match business structure, and designate super-users to manage a company’s account.

Beyond these features, companies have the freedom to map company profiles in order to meet a variety of needs. Whether a business wants to break up clients by teams, regions, or any other method, Magento can support those goals. Companies and buyers all have their own permissions and roles assigned to them in order to ensure that everybody has access to what they need (and nothing more).

Personalized Quoting

Countless B2B companies rely on quoting for a massive portion of their work. Thanks to Magento’s effort to configure their B2B functionality, B2B clients can request quotes from their cart and even from previous orders. Sellers have the option to offer quotes to everyone or set parameters based on things like purchase size, dollar thresholds, etc.

Merchants have the freedom to configure quotes any way they’d like. From expiration dates to comments, names, and adding or deleting products from a quote, Magento allows administrators the time they need to do the work that keeps a business running.

Encourages Speedier Purchases

Magento implements a variety of methods in order to drive clients to check out and make purchases quickly. B2B administrators have the option to enter SKUs that clients are interested in so that Magento can automatically notify customers when that inventory becomes available. Clients are also free to upload CSV files during their buying experience to make completing the order process quick.

Customers Can Pay on Credit

Previously, buyers could only complete transactions with Magento Merchants through PayPal or credit card payments. Following the Magento 2.2 update, though, clients are now free to utilize a payment on credit option if necessary. Merchants, of course, retain the ability to configure the credit options for their store and create purchasing conditions that work for them.

For merchants interested in offering credit payments to their clients, setting limits on who can pay on credit and when is easy. It’s also simple to adjust minimum and maximum order limits and restrictions for certain geographical areas.

If you’re interested in learning more about utilizing Magento for your B2B company, contact us today. We have extensive knowledge in the realm of B2B eCommerce and are eager to speak with you and address your concerns about implementation and growing your business effectively.

What is the Best eCommerce Platform for My Automotive Accessories Site?

What is the Best eCommerce Platform for My Automotive Accessories Site?

Selling auto parts and accessories requires a platform that can handle a complex database, even if you don’t adhere to ACES/PIES. Year/Make/Model lookup is just the start since some parts are universal and other parts might fit a subsection of vehicles. Platform choice touches on many big questions that you will need to consider: How important is your current branding? Do you have brick and mortar retail locations? Do you have dealer rates, regional restrictions, or installer relationships to factor in? What about legacy system integrations?

 

Auto-specific eCommerce Providers

An automotive-focused platform can sometimes be a great fit, sometimes not.

The Pros:

  • Built to handle make, model, year and cross-referenced fitment.
  • Provides a design template that accommodates part and fitment lookup.
  • If no customization is needed, and you like the design and functions, then cost of ownership can be lower than with a more full-featured platform like Magento.

The Cons:

  • Pre-packaged, custom themes don’t offer much design flexibility.
  • Coding practices can be questionable and can lead to bugs and glitches as new versions of supporting technology conflict with the themes.
  • Most of the solutions available are older technology and closed environments, with little to no option to add custom features.
  • Similarly, pre-customized themes or platforms can make it difficult to adapt the site to the needs of the business. In fact, often you’ll need to adapt your business practices and selling ability to the capabilities of the site.
  • Most options are a shared shopping cart solution, so you have all the same features and functionality as everyone else on that platform, making it hard to find a competitive advantage.

Our Take:

Auto-specific eCommerce platforms provide an industry-targeted viewpoint that is helpful when creating a small, niche online store. However, we’ve found that these platforms often silo your growth, constrain personalization and limit brand flexibility.

 

Saas Platforms Like Shopify or BigCommerce

In contrast to Magento Open Source and Commerce, Shopify and BigCommerce take care of site hosting for merchants. These platforms target merchants who lack design experience and need an easy-to-use website builder. Smaller or niche merchants can find great success on these platforms, although automotive eCommerce stores still require some level of customization or add-ons.

The Pros:

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

The Cons:

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

Our Take:

It comes down to your current scale and your growth expectations. SAAS platforms can be the right answer until you outgrow them or until you decide you need some site customizations. Still, Shopify, in particular, has become more flexible (for a SAAS) and can handle a surprising amount of traffic and level of transactions.

 

Magento

Magento is the most widely-installed and one of the most respected platforms in the eCommerce community. We have been a Magento partner since 2008 and have experience building automotive eCommerce sites on Magento. We know it really well.

The Pros:

  • Magento sites are highly customizable and functionality can be added via extensions.
  • Certain features (like back-end data integration with a PIM or some sort of advanced order management or keeping track of selected vehicles) aren’t available on Shopify or are harder to configure than on Magento.
  • You own the site and can migrate to another platform (if needed) with less cost and hassle.
  • You are able to choose development and hosting partners that best suit your needs and budget.
  • You have the ability to evolve the functionality on your site as need demands and budget allows.

The Cons:

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

Our Take:

Overall, one of the greatest things about Magento is the ability to grow as your business grows. The fact that Magento is an open-source platform allows you to start with more basic features and capabilities than SaaS or auto-specific platforms (such as product attributes and the ability to use any payment gateway you wish) as well as a great design, and then the ability to continually add new features as your site grows. The site is entirely yours and the platform is a great fit for merchants who desire growth and flexibility above all else. Cost of ownership out of the box is higher, but if you want to evolve a site on a solid platform that will grow over time and add features as budget allows, Magento is a great choice.

Want to Learn More?

If this article has piqued your interest and you’d like to learn more about alternatives for your business, please contact us to schedule a no-obligation discussion about your situation and what the best solution for your business might be.

How to Keep Your Magento 2 Site Simple

How to Keep Your Magento 2 Site Simple

Magento 2 Simple

As Magento 1 end of life draws near, we are receiving a lot of buzz from potential clients who are considering taking the plunge and diving headfirst into a Magento 2 site migration. As we go through the project scoping process for these potential customers, we have noticed a recurring theme that we feel we should address: over-customization and the overuse of extensions are the silent killers of countless Magento sites.

What’s important to understand about customizations and extensions is thatwhile in theory, they seem beneficialthey are often hindering the success of your site. We are finding many small and medium-sized (SMB) merchants that have sixty plus extensions and ten customizations, plus core hacks, on Magento 1. These merchants are forfeiting much of their budget that they should be spending on digital marketing just to keep their unstable Magento site running. Also, this over-customization is causing site-load and other performance issues which hurts SEO and overall user experience.

We must also note that some merchants who have migrated from Magento to a SaaS platform are performing much better than they were on Magento. We have been perfectly transparent about this when scoping projects for potential customers. Magento is powerful and a great fit for many, but not for all.

With Saas platforms, customization is harder and the monthly cost for 3rd party apps makes it easier to understand the long term budget ramificationswhich, as we are realizing, is actually a blessing in disguise for merchants who are prone to overload their site with every new feature that comes along. This is why a lot of the time these platforms are working better for SMB merchants; in many ways, Saas platforms limit the ability for the merchant to over-customize and over-complicate the eCommerce experience.

As we work with new prospects on migrating to Magento 2, we are trying to help them limit the number of customizations and extensions they are using. We start by taking a step back to rethink the actual business processthis means asking the hard questions like, “Is this customization really needed? Do you really need an ajax add-to-cart extension? Quick shop? Quick view?” Do these added features really justify the long term maintenance expense? The answer is most often not.

Magento 2 has all of the tools that most SMB merchants need to provide a great shopping experience: product video, shopping experience and payment options. The M2 theme is optimized for the shopping experience, so merchants don’t need to invest much in an overly-customized user interface. For SMB merchants migrating to Magento 2, we recommend leaving out “the nice to have” features and instead focusing on the minimum viable product. See how the site performs for a few months and then ultimately decide which features to add. You might be amazed to find that you have improved SEO and site conversions just by using the out-of-the-box features included with Magento 2. Paring everything back and avoiding unnecessary customizations may be the greatest improvement a Magento merchant can make.

If you are finding yourself with a site that is over-customized and over-complicated, contact us today or visit us at interactone.com. We can help.

The Automotive eCommerce Guide to Navigation and Images

The Automotive eCommerce Guide to Navigation and Images

automotive eCommerce

In order to construct a visually appealing Automotive eCommerce site that promotes a fluid customer experience, there are two important things to keep in mind: know your customer and keep it simple.

Those statements may seem obvious. Certainly you must identify your customer base, and of course, you shouldn’t over-complicate your site. As obvious as it may sound, many Automotive eCommerce sites get it wrong. Whether that is due to the considerable amount of data on the topic or simply the nature of the industry, here are some tips to help keep you above par.

The best converting Auto eCommerce sites are the ones that are easy to navigate. First, identify your niche. Then, cater your navigation to your specific customer. The biggest challenge is always the data.

Data Should Fit the Customer Experience – Not the Other Way Around

Data is arguably one of the most difficult aspects of Automotive eCommerce because it is extensive, complex, and ever-changing. Recent trends in the Automotive industry point to the year, make, model, and engine-filtered navigation. We have seen Auto eCommerce companies spend so much time, money, and effort simply integrating this functionality that they gloss over the issue of how a customer actually shops. The best automotive eCommerce sites are the ones that are extremely simple and easy to navigate with the ability to land customers on a very relevant and specific landing page. That’s very hard to do with the year, make, and model lookup. Our favorite (and the best converting) sites are the ones that utilize categorized navigation effectively, such as runningboardwarehouse.com and bumpersuperstore.com.


Running Board Warehouse separates their navigation into vehicle, category, and brand.


Bumper Superstore has multiple categories (including best selling, front and rear, style, vehicle, and all) that allow the customer to shop in a way that best suits their needs.

Make the user experience cater to how the customer shops – don’t try to cater the customer experience to the data. Because of data difficulties, merchants should start by identifying their niche (accessories, reused parts, etc.). Once they do, basing your site navigation and user experience around that specific niche will make fitting your data in that much easier.

Images Can Make or Break a Conversion

Automotive parts sites are often notorious for having either poor quality or catch-all representative images. Merchants that successfully convert prospects to customers generally take their own photos. Some do better than others, but having images that are detailed, bright, enlargeable, and vehicle-specific are more likely to resonate with customers. Nobody with a Dodge Ram wants to look at a Ford F-150 when shopping for aftermarket accessories – they want to know what the product is going to look like on their vehicle.

Often times images are pushed to the back of the to-do list. But, if you’re selling online, you need actual photos of every individual part. When people are searching for a specific product online, they use their eyes to verify that they are purchasing the right thing. If there are basic filler images and customers receive a product that’s not right, they won’t trust you again. They need to be able to look at the picture and description and know that’s what they need.

Consistency is key, but lifestyle images should be incorporated into your site as well. If someone is searching for a tonneau cover, they want to see how to use it. They want inspiration – so inspire them to buy your products by showing them how to use the product and its various features. This can be done with images and video – don’t limit your team to just a photographer. Investing in video will pay off and help you inspire ideas and trust with customers. Incorporate videos onto your site with product demonstrations, installation how-to, Q&A, and customer testimonials.

Build a Community

Keep in mind that your customers are enthusiasts. Build a community around your brand with good content, social and email outreach/remarketing, or even some sort of rewards program. These days, when things are increasingly competitive in the auto industry, it’s a necessity to do more to engage your customers after their initial purchase. For additional help in building a strong customer following, check out one of our previous blogs on the topic.

If you need assistance with your automotive eCommerce site, feel free to contact us today.

Death by Magento Customization

Death by Magento Customization

Death by magento customization

The dream website for many eCommerce merchants contains every feature they can imagine, plus any customizations required to make growing and running their eCommerce business a breeze.  

For many retailers, Magento has been that dream. A feature-rich, low-cost, easy-to-customize solution. Unfortunately, we’ve seen that dream morphed into a nightmare for many poor souls who over-extended themselves by adding too many features and customizations to their Magento site.

Upon initial build, it may seem feasible to clear up the outstanding bugs of an overbuilt site. But as time goes on, issues can pile on top of one another, potentially leading to your entire site going down and many customers being lost (along with the corresponding sales revenue).

So — How Much is Too Much?

That question has a unique answer for every individual business. There is a certain limit to the number of features and customization that can reasonably be created and maintained by any organization. Companies with great budgets and technical acumen can support incredibly complex software (ie. Google and Amazon). But every company must understand what their limits are and how to operate and grow within the confines of their capabilities. First, let’s discuss what kind of issues over-customization can cause:

  • Rising Costs – Not only do you have high costs of maintaining and upgrading the customizations, but you also have costs of maintaining documentation and know-how for them.
  • Security Risks – Sometimes extensions can contain code that opens a backdoor breach into your website. Third party extensions can offer some great functionalities for your eCommerce store but they should be thoroughly vetted for quality and security by an experienced developer before being installed.
  • Sluggish Speed – It goes without saying that in a competitive environment today, an eCommerce company must place website speed as one of their top priorities. Most extensions make HTTP requests to load assets like CSS, scripts, images, etc. If coded incorrectly, extensions can cause many different types of performance issues, some of which can be difficult to troubleshoot. Page speed should always be critically evaluated when a new extension or customization is being tested in a staging environment.
  • Website Continuity (or lack thereof) – Due to Magento’s vast and complex architecture, difficulty with code can cause extensions to conflict with one another. This can cause pages to crash unless the code has been fixed. Nothing is more unnerving than a “Page not Found Error,” except for when a customer sees that error. Per the following statistic: “Around 74% of visitors leave and never visit a website again after just one instance of a ‘Page Not Found’ error.” Those aren’t great odds.

I’m sure we’ve spooked you by now. So, how do you prevent these unfortunate consequences? Ultimately, we have to take a look at your company size, revenue, and resources.

Smaller Merchants – Is Magento Right for You?

With the onset of Magento 2, we’ve received migration quote requests from many smaller merchants running Magento 1 Community Edition that would be much better served by instead using a software as a service (SaaS) platform like BigCommerce or Shopify. These companies may have been lured into running Magento because of its many features and flexibility, but the cost to maintain Magento is way beyond what these SMBs are capable of. Instead of Magento working as an engine for growth, it becomes a liability, forcing these merchants to spend precious resources they should be dedicating to marketing on upgrades, patches, and support. In addition to the maintenance costs being (commonly) too steep, these merchants lack the resources in-house to properly administer Magento which further lowers their ROI.

In our opinion, it is usually best for small to midsize merchants with less than $5 million in annual online sales to try and limit their use of custom modules for Magento to 10 or fewer. While this number is somewhat arbitrary, it is a good benchmark for merchants wishing to mitigate the risk of getting into more customization than they can safely handle.  

Most merchants selling less than $1 million online will likely be best served by a SaaS solution like Shopify or BigCommerce. If these merchants using a Saas are looking to safely mitigate any risk of performance issues or compatibility bugs, they should likely look to leverage existing templated themes and fewer than 5 apps.

Larger Merchants – You Aren’t Immune to the Bugs of Over-Customization

While larger online merchants have the budgets and technical acumen to properly run a website platform like Magento, they are not impervious to serious harm from adding too many features and customizations. We’ve unfortunately witnessed large merchants greatly reduce the effectiveness of Magento with too many features and customizations.  Many times in these situations, bullish executives (in an attempt to make a big splash with the launch of a new and better site) demanded the addition of excessive amounts of features and customizations while building a new site on Magento.

For larger merchants needing a large number of complex features on their website, we recommend ensuring that their customizations are loosely coupled and operating by interfacing with the Magento API to minimize performance and code compatibility issues. For example, a merchant wishing to solve complex shipping quote requirements can mitigate the risk of over-customization by using the 3rd party app ShipperHQ. ShipperHQ is a SaaS solution that integrates to Magento via a small bit of extension code and APIs.  Hence the app is very loosely coupled and thus has minimal risk of causing code conflicts or performance degradation.

Customization Doesn’t Have to be Scary

Customization can become overbearing, but it doesn’t have to. Don’t fear Magento extensions — but don’t trust them blindly either. Not all extensions are created equal. As long as you follow these guidelines and are strict about having a senior developer vet and test extensions before using, you can proceed with caution. As always, if you have any questions about this or are in over your head with customizations, call us today to speak with a Magento Developer.

How to Simplify an Overly Complicated Site

How to Simplify an Overly Complicated Site

simple site design

By Tom Deutsch, VP Creative Services at InteractOne

The word “simple” can be a little deceptive. For eCommerce sites, conversion is the ruling metric. So, simplification is a tactic that you HOPE will give you better conversion.

Often, what we describe as simplification is not achieved by removing content from the page. Instead, site simplification uses UI design principles to focus and compartmentalize shopper activity.

Google is not strictly an eCommerce site, but it is the most-offered example of simplicity.

On the first impression, this baby is zen. You know exactly what to do here, not only because you’ve seen it a million times, but because it is obvious the first time you see it.

Really though – just like on your site – there is a lot going on here.

Given these requirements, Google could easily have looked something like this:

Simple looks easy, but it’s obviously not. As the illustration shows, how a given set of content is formatted and arranged can result in brilliance or an uninspired mess. Obviously, you and I don’t have Google’s resources, but we can take some lessons from the example.

Conquer the impulse to decorate

Communicating your visual brand doesn’t require elbowing aside the eCommerce path to purchase. For example, Magento’s default theme provides for an image at the top of each category. Key to remember – it is optional.

Designers can and do use banners to display beautiful and inspirational images and promotion reminders. In most cases, they are a distraction or an obstacle. They push the products down the page and are literally in the way, whether the user landed here directly or via navigation. Category pages are high-shopping intent; let the people shop! One innovative idea is to package small promotional blocks within the product grid, as seen on Lush:

Another source of clutter included in most eCommerce themes is the sidebar, which often says to the shopper: “you probably don’t want what is on this page; here’s another thought.” Think carefully before including sidebar elements, which do not translate readily to mobile, anyway.

Background textures, colored text, underlining, too many control elements (arrows, buttons and open fields) can stress out your page visitor, often evidenced as increased bounce rates. Use control elements extremely selectively and they’ll provide prominent and effective visual direction for your visitors.

Don’t fear the click

In your home, clothes would be easier to pick out if they were carefully arranged by color on the floor. Will you stop wearing clothes if they are put in a drawer instead? On your website, there are many categories, tools, features, and benefits all competing for attention. It is tempting to use the flexibility of a web page to find places to display all of them. That is designing by fear – thinking the shopper will not click to explore. Instead, set filters to closed by default. Place content in collapsing divs, dropdowns or tabs.

Matsonline.com has a complex product configuration and extensive product documentation, but with a well-managed UI, the goal of the page is still clear.

Think of your shopping pages not as billboards or directories, but as a neatly organized and well-labeled closet. Present a confident, simple and intuitive experience and trust the shopper to shop – that’s what they came to do!

Plan to succeed

To get simple, think integrated. Focus heavily on the things that spur conversion in eCommerce: Blazing fast page load, intuitive user interface, high-quality product images, authentic reviews, high-authority links. When those essential elements are in place, then your site will have the freedom to shed or reduce the emphasis on promotional content, memberships, forums and offers better suited to ads and social media.

The primary technique for maximizing simplicity is something you’ve often heard but is not often practiced: Mobile first design. Designing for desktop usually means you are starting with a grand and polished vision of a home page – that usually gets marked up and appended by numerous well-meaning hands. Designing for mobile forces discipline on your requirements. The best mobile sites behave like a guided tour – with each landing page focused on one thing and branching out from there, presenting choices in clear and manageable chunks. A desktop site that looks and functions like a mobile site is far preferable to a mobile site that looks like a squished and peeled version of a desktop site.

Your website will reflect the state of your business. Clutter within the business will produce clutter on the website. Simplicity breaks down when complex features are tacked on to the middle or end of a project, or if internal buy-in of the requirements was not secured up front. Whether embarking on a new eCommerce site build or revamping an existing one, have a specific plan. Know your requirements and make sure your platform can fill them without major customization. Pick designers and programmers you trust, then let them guide you to achieving a simple, user-friendly, high-converting site.

If you would like assistance with streamlining or otherwise improving the user interface of your eCommerce site, please feel to connect with our team. We’d be happy to lend a hand.

The Complete Magento Commerce Migration Checklist

The Complete Magento Commerce Migration Checklist

magento commerce migration

After spending countless hours researching whether or not to upgrade to Magento Commerce or keep with your existing platform, you’ve finally decided to make the jump. If you haven’t decided yet, read our recent blog to help inform your decision-making.

Before you can bask in the success you’re sure to see from making the upgrade, there are a few things you’ll need to do to ready your eCommerce business for it. Make sure to check off the following boxes before actually upgrading to ensure a smooth and successful process:

Take Inventory of Your Current Implementation ☑

Upgrading your eCommerce website is a long, ongoing process that never really feels completed if your business is looking to stay ahead of the next trend. If your website features this kind of next-level functionality and capabilities, chances are the complexity of implementing a new platform will be greater. This is why it’s essential to review the current state of your website through the lens of user experience, configuration, and customization. For more information on how to best review these components on your website, take a look at this Magento article.

Check Extension Compatibility ☑

Another component to review before making the upgrade is what extensions your website currently has installed. Most eCommerce websites feature a variety of extensions, some that are useful and some that seemed important but don’t have much functionality. The extensions that you plan to keep should be reviewed and tested to make sure they run properly or will need to be upgraded on the new platform before making the switch, otherwise you could run into a slew of functionality issues. If making the jump from M1 to M2, every extension must be updated to the M2 version in order for them to function properly. If you aren’t sure what other extensions will need attention when you make the upgrade, be sure to ask a Magento-certified developer. This is also an opportunity to clean up your website from unnecessary or non-functional extensions that you may have installed in the past, which could end up helping your website run faster.

Jumpstart UX Design ☑

Whether you’re upgrading from a different version of Magento or another platform altogether, design is something you should consider right out of the gate. Though there are many third party templates out there, we recommend skipping those and reaching out to Magento-certified developers (like us) instead. We can tailor Magento’s template to fit your needs and ultimately avoid any headaches shabby templates can create.

If you do decide to go with a third party theme, reach out to a reputable Magento expert before you purchase. Though the most popular themes are usually the most well built, that’s not always the case. Be sure to check with an expert first.

Test Your Website—Extensively ☑

When you make the upgrade, it’s important to test out your website before you publish it. Put your website in ‘maintenance mode,’ a Magento feature that allows you to test your website without it being live. To do so, create a maintenance.flag file in the root of your site. Once completed, many Magento Specialists use this 3-step process to see if their eCommerce website is ready to roll:

  1. Start at the homepage, navigate to a category page, then a product page. Add a product to your cart. Repeat these steps by choosing all the different possible paths to find that and other products. 
  2. Run a full checkout to test the various payment and shipping methods. 
  3. Test other functionalities such as price rules.

After extensively testing your website and checking all of the other boxes listed above, it’s time for the big moment: going live with your new, upgraded website. 

Be sure to continue running tests after publishing your website to ensure everything is working smoothly. To do so, consider running analytics and comparing the results to your old website. If you find any glaring differences in traffic or conversion rates, there could be an issue as a result of upgrading.

Making the upgrade to a new platform is a long process, but one that can pay large dividends to a growing eCommerce business. If you need any help along the way, be sure to contact our team of Magento-certified experts.