NEWS: New Magento 2.3.3 Upgrade to Keep Your Store Secure and Optimized

NEWS: New Magento 2.3.3 Upgrade to Keep Your Store Secure and Optimized

Magento has just announced the release of the latest versions of Magento Open Source 2.3.3, 2.2.10 and their new security-only patch (2.3.2-p2). This latest release of Magento Open Source software includes significant performance improvements as well as numerous security enhancements.

Magento Open Source 2.3.3

In accordance with the latest European directives ( PSD2 Compliance Support) Magento has rolled out Open Source 2.3.3, which incorporates changes to the native payment integration and introduces PHP 7.3 support. It is Magento’s recommendation that all users upgrade to ensure that your online store remains compliant and maintains the highest level of security available.

Highlights of Magento Open Source 2.3.3 include:

-Increased security: More than 100 new security fixes are included in this patch

-Increased performance: Faster loading times and better overall shopping experience by displaying text while webfonts load in the background and moving non-critical CSS items to the end of the loading queue.  

-Additionally, Magento has reduced the number of requests going back to the server, which helps increase throughput and decrease resource consumption. With these and other performance enhancements, this new version improves Google PageSpeed Insights score by up to 5 points in some instances.

-Increased quality: Critical areas of the platform such as Sales, Checkout and Catalogue modules received more than 190 product quality enhancements.

Elasticsearch 6.0+ Warning”

Warning when upgrading to Magento v2.3.3: There is a known issue when using Elasticsearch 6.0+ as search engine.
Product listing pages will not display products beyond the first page when utilizing additional pages from pagination. Luckily, there is an official patch released.

The only downfall of this is that product listing pages will no longer display the current page range on the navigation bar, it will only display the total count of the products found, for example, before patch: “Items 1-9 of 13” after patch “13 Items”.

Since Elasticsearch < 6.5 is EOL and MySQL is being deprecated (and will be imminently removed), it is highly recommended to apply this patch is you have short term plan of migrating to Elasticsearch.
This issue affects all Magento releases for v2.3.3: Open Source, Commerce and Cloud.

Additional 2.3.3 Product Enhancements

Yotpo

Magento officially welcomes Yotpo to the Magento core code as a vendor bundled extension. The marketing platform helps brands drive growth by integrating your visual marketing, referrals, customer reviews and loyalty programs. With this pre-installed integration, merchants can reduce development costs and implementation time by seamlessly activating Yotpo’s UGC solutions, instantly start collecting and displaying high-converting customer content, and stay on top of key performance metrics from within the Magento Commerce Admin panel.

Admin User Research

As part of efforts to improve product design and better understand the Admin experience, Magento Open Source now allows for the tracking of user actions and events on the Admin panel. After installation, the first user to sign-in will offered the option to accept or decline participation. Read more about it in the updated User Guide.

Google Shopping Ads Channel

The Google Shopping Ads Channel extension is now officially part of the code. With this integration, merchants will now be able to utilize the benefits of this tool without having to go to the Marketplace and download the extension. Learn how Google Shopping ads Channel delivers the power of Google advertising network in one end-to-end solution.

Security and Performance enhancements

Dotdigital, Amazon Pay, Klarna, Vertex and Magento Shipping all see multiple improvements to their security and performance.

Graph QL 

Improved Graph QL API coverage for PayPal payment integration, Gift Cards and Store Credit functionality. Learn more about Graph QL in our Release Notes.

For more information regarding the new enhancements, please review the official Magento release notes or visit the Magento Security Center.

If this all reads as greek to you, you’d like to discuss implementation of this upgrade, or you’re curious about how to make the most out of our your current Magento site, contact us today. In business for over 20 years, our  certified Magento developers know the platform front-to-back and can help you make the absolute most of your eCommerce site.

NEWS: EU Regulation Impacts Magento Payment Extensions Beginning 9/14/2019

NEWS: EU Regulation Impacts Magento Payment Extensions Beginning 9/14/2019

Regulatory Technical Standards (RTS) for the European Union’s Payment Services Directive (PSD2) are scheduled to go into effect on September 14th, 2019.

If you are using Paypal, Braintree, Authorize.net, Cyberforce or eWay there are updates that must be made prior to September 14th to ensure that the launch of PSD2 does not result in your customer payments being declined.

The European Union’s revised Payment Services Directive (PSD), also known as PSD2, contains RTS requirements, some that will begin to go into effect as early as September 14th, 2019. This new directive will have a significant compliance impact on most payment processing services when bank transfers and credit cards are being used in sales transactions with  customers in the EU.

Compliance with PSD2 is mandatory and the responsibility of any Merchant to whom the directive applies. It is the recommendation of InteractOne as well as Magento, that all Merchants review and understand this new directive. More specifically; Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) requirements and updates for 3D Secure 2.0 (3DS).  

To learn more and to speak with one of our certified Magento specialists, please call us at  (513) 469-7042 or fill out our Contact page and a team member will be in touch with you shortly. 

InteractOne Selected as an Exclusive Alexa Integration Partner

InteractOne Selected as an Exclusive Alexa Integration Partner

We are proud to announce that InteractOne has been selected by Amazon as a partner for their new Alexa/Magento integration.

Amazon is now working with Magento merchants to integrate voice into their eCommerce platform’s capabilities. This new integration will allow for Magento merchants to offer their customers a more personalized and streamlined experience the moment they start their Amazon/Alexa shopping journey, including re-orders, wish lists and delivery notifications.

“This is a great opportunity for us,’ said Brian Dwyer, InteractOne Founder and CEO. ‘We’re thrilled that Amazon has the faith in our team of developers to choose InteractOne as an integration partner for this new and exciting Alexa endeavor.”

The InteractOne team has begun working with Magento clients on beta testing for this innovative integration. If you are interested in learning more or being a part of this great opportunity, then contact us on our website, or call us at (513) 469-3355 to speak with a team member directly.

Avoiding Technical Debt on Magento

Avoiding Technical Debt on Magento

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

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

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

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

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

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

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

Template Edits Instead of Installing Extensions

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

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

 

Don’t Use 3rd Party Theme Template Extensions

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

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

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

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

Purchase Extensions from the Same Company

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

 

Vet Before you Install

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

    Housekeeping

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Pre-built Middleware

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

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

    There are many advantages of using middleware;

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

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

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

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

     

    Pre-built Magento Extension

    Some of the benefits of using a Magento extension are:

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

    Some of the disadvantages might be:

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

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

    Custom Development

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

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

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

    There are many advantages to building custom ERP integrations:

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

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

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

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

    3 Reasons to Move Your Magento 1 Site to Shopify

    3 Reasons to Move Your Magento 1 Site to Shopify

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

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

    Mobile Optimization

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

    Ease of Use

    If you would describe yourself as ’non technical’ then Magento can be a bit overwhelming. The open source platform comes with a learning curve for even some of the most basic of customizations and a much steeper learning curve for more involved customization. Meanwhile, Shopify’s platform is one that is much more of a ‘drag and drop’ interface, similar to what you would experience building a website in Squarespace or Wix. This user-friendly functionality makes it easier for you to build and customize your store if you lack programming experience. Shopify also features a robust App Store, where plugins can be purchased and installed with ease, extending the functionality of your site. Think the iTunes App Store but for eCommerce. If you’re currently limited with the amount of resources and man-hours you can dedicate to your eCommerce site, then a move to Shopify might be what’s best for you in the long run.

    Customer Support

    Magento boasts an extensive library of user guides and their Magento Forum is famous for hosting a large database of educational, user generated content.  The guides are easy to find, are usually simple and very comprehensive. Whatever your problem is, there is no doubt that another Magento user has experienced this same issue and has created a how-to for solving it. But while these user-generated guides are readily available, there is one major piece of support that Magento is lacking and that is customer support. There isn’t a phone number to call or an email address to reach out to if you want the guidance of a trained professional. There’s something reassuring about knowing that there’s a trained person you can reach out to with intimate knowledge about your platform. That is something Magento isn’t able to offer. Alternatively, Spotify offers 24/7 phone support, live chat and email options for users experiencing problems. To get the Spotify level of support for your Magento eCommerce site you would need to enlist the services of a certified Magento developer (just like the certified pros right here at InteractOne).  

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

    4 Reasons to Migrate Your B2B Site From Magento 1 Today

    4 Reasons to Migrate Your B2B Site From Magento 1 Today

    The end is nigh for Magento 1!

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

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

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

    New B2B Features

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

    Company Accounts

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

    Quick Order

    As previously mentioned,  B2B customers are more and more likely to arrive at your website having already engaged in and in many cases completed their research and ready to complete an order. For these users, Magento 2 features a new SKU quick order feature, which allows users to add an item directly to their cart by entering the SKU numbers rather than having to navigate the site manually to locate the item and then add it to their cart. This feature extends beyond an individual item as well. M2 allows users to upload a file containing all the matching SKU’s and their desired quantity directly to the platform. Thus, improving the speed and quality of the purchasing experience for those visitors with a long list of items.

    Quotes & Price Negotiation

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

    Requisition Lists

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

    Accessibility

    Magento 2, both the Community and Enterprise versions, will allow for the management of three separate databases; products, orders, and checkout. This is being done to prevent data overload and reduce incidences of system failure.  The result being increased data security, speed, and scalability. By separating these three databases, Magento 2 will give B2B visitors to your website a smoother, faster, and more accurate experience as well as improve the ability your certified Magento developer has to make refinements to the platform.

    Speed

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

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

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

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

    Additional Resources: 

    Why Migrate from Magento 1 to Magento 2

    4 B2B Features for Merchants Moving to Magento 2

     Magento 2 for B2B

    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.