How Magento Meets the Unique Needs of Nutraceuticals

How Magento Meets the Unique Needs of Nutraceuticals

When it comes to powering online nutraceutical sales, choosing a great eCommerce platform is vital — but it also can be daunting. There are so many platforms — Magento, BigCommerce, Shopify, Demandware and more. How do you know which one will best suit your needs? For many companies, Magento is the clear answer.

As a certified Magento partner with a rich history of nutraceutical work, we are in a unique position to speak to the distinct Magento benefits that support a nutraceutical company. Keep reading to learn all about the features and functionalities that set Magento apart from the competition.

What is Magento?

Magento is the world’s number-one eCommerce platform for open commerce innovation. Magento is part of Adobe Experience Cloud; offers industry-leading Cloud solutions; works hand-in-hand with the world’s biggest retailers, brands and branded manufacturers across B2C and B2B eCommerce industries; and is recognized as a global power. Every year, Magento handles more than $100 billion in gross merchandise volume.

What are the benefits of using Magento?

Magento offers a host of incredible features for selling nutraceuticals online.

  • Multi-store, multi-site: Magento allows users to create and power many sites from one dashboard, controlled from one admin user interface. This is a huge advantage when it comes to multi-national and multi-site selling. Many nutraceutical companies that use Magento gain major efficiencies by leveraging the multi-store / multi-site feature to control their site(s) from one admin panel and instance while selling on websites for many different brands or countries. Many of Magento’s top competitors don’t offer this feature. These other platforms  force their merchants to create separate sites for selling in different countries or brand segments.

  • Page Builder application: Magento eCommerce provides a Page Builder application that allows users to create content by using drag-and-drop pre-built controls. For eCommerce site managers, this means that there is no coding required. For developers, it means they will use content types to customize Page Builder in order to meet the end user’s needs. With a tool like Page Builder, the cost (and time required) to create new product pages and maintain existing content can be dramatically reduced because code no longer needs to be written.

  • Segmentation: Creating customer segments allows users to target shoppers with unique, personalized marketing and promotions. When used properly, these customer segments can be very powerful tools for increasing engagement and brand loyalty. Magento provides a rules engine that gives administrators the ability to write conditions based on customer purchase history and profile data. For example, a rule could be written to display banner ads featuring the benefits of “subscribe and save” options for customers who purchased something more than three times in a six month period. Using  segmentation, nutraceutical websites can be more effective at building recurring orders.

  • Promotion / content staging and scheduling: Promotions and content changes on the Magento eCommerce platform can be staged for review and testing by site administrators before they are scheduled for public display. This is an extremely useful feature when preparing for large holiday events that entail multiple content changes and promotional rules. For example: Using this tool, users can work to create all of the content and promotions needed for a Black Friday event and then provide links to co-workers and stakeholders that allow for a full preview of how the site will look and function on Black Friday. Then, users can schedule the go-live time for all of the promotions and content changes — so they don’t need to be up at midnight on Black Friday to “flip the switch” and push content changes live.

  • Product bundling: The Magento eCommerce platform offers several product bundling features that provide great flexibility for offering kitted or bundled items with options and discounts. By using the product bundle feature, users can offer supplements with different options for sizes and flavors. This is a unique and powerful feature, as it allows shoppers to choose all of the varieties they need to put together an assorted bundle of products from one page.

  • B2B features: For nutraceutical manufacturers and distributors, Magento offers a full suite of functionality for commonly-required B2B features. Some of these features include companies (organize users, credit limits and catalog by company), credit limits, catalog permissions, pricing by customer group or company, requisition lists, quote requests and user hierarchy / account permissions. These out-of-the-box B2B features dramatically lower customization costs, decrease the time to market for new Magento Commerce B2B websites and lower the total cost of ownership.

Conclusion

When it comes to choosing an eCommerce platform for online nutraceutical sales, Magento stands out. When used properly, this feature-rich platform gives a great deal of competitive advantages over other platforms for nutraceutical websites.

InteractOne is a longstanding, certified Magento partner. To learn more about the power of Magento and how it can power your digital presence, contact us today.

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

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

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

Shopify

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

Mobile Optimization and Responsiveness

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

Ease of Use

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

Storefront design

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

POS

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

Fully Hosted

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

Customer Support

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

Shopify Pricing Plans

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

What companies use Shopify?

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

 

Shopify Pros

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

Shopify Cons

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

Magento

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

Accessibility

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

Company Accounts

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

Quick Order

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

Quotes & Price Negotiation

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

Requisition Lists

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

Speed

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

Support

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

Magento Pricing Plans

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

What companies use Magento?

Nike, Jaguar, Canon, Jack Daniels, HP

Magento Pros:

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

BigCommerce

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

Hosting

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

Training and Support

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

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

Customer Service

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

Abandoned Cart Saver

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

Store Design

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

Product Types

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

Payment Options

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

Pricing Plans

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

Bigcommerce Standard: $29.95 per month

Bigcommerce Plus: $79.95 per month

Bigcommerce Pro: $249.95 per month

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

What companies use BigCommerce?

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

BigCommerce Pros:

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

BigCommerce Cons

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

Magento, BigCommerce, Shopify: Finding the right fit

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

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

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

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

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

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Connect with one of our experts today to discuss your eCommerce needs!

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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. 

Magento 1 End of Life: When is it? What Does it Mean?

Magento 1 End of Life: When is it? What Does it Mean?

Update: Magento has announced that support will continue for both Open Source and Commerce 1 through June 2020. To learn more about migrating your Magento 1 site to Magento 2 and what this all means for your B2B eCommerce site click here to download our new, exclusive FREE guide.

At first, the only emotions surrounding the arrival of Magento 2 were excitement, interest, and curiosity. An upgraded version that promised enhanced performance and scalability was all anyone could talk about.

After that initial enthusiasm wore off, people began to wonder: “What will happen to Magento 1?” The question about Magento 1 end of life is not so much a question of if, but of when. As many can acknowledge, the birth of a newer, more enhanced platform ultimately leads to the retirement of its former edition.

In our search for the answer to this popular question, we first need to define what Magento 1 end of life truly entails.

What Happens After EOL?

Don’t worry Magento Community Edition 1.x will continue to work even after its end of life date. M1 eCommerce stores will continue to function as they do now and businesses don’t need to worry about Magento 1 disappearing altogether.

*This may not be the case for the paid commerce edition since there may be contractual regulations restricting the use of the M1 commerce edition post EOL.

But, it does mean that Magento will not release any more security patches or updates for Magento 1.x once EOL occurs. Essentially, there will no longer be support for the platform and merchants should consider migrating to M2 when this happens.

So when will this occur? Speculations began popping up after a specific Magento Conference in April 2017.

The Start of Speculation: Meet Magento Conference in Prague

On April 27th, 2017, at the Meet Magento Conference in Prague, a screenshot surfaced showing a presentation slide that read: “Magento 1 End of Life: 17 November 2018.”

Articles began popping up left and right, all claiming that this was the official EOL date. Social media was buzzing with chatter about Magento 1 and many businesses feared that they would soon be kicked off the platform they needed to stay in business.

Magento 1 End of life screenshot

Soon enough, even more articles were emerging with a different EOL date: November 18th, 2018, just one day after the “original” EOL date was stated in Prague the month prior.

Much of this theory was backed by information given out prior to Magento 2’s release. Magento executives circulated the idea that Magento 1 would reach its end of life three years after the release of Magento 2. Magento 2 was released on November 17, 2015, which meant Magento 1’s end of life would be November 18, 2018.

People began to support their theories by citing the presentation screenshot from Prague as well as a screenshot of a twitter conversation between two Magento employees:

Magento 1 end of life twitter conversation

It seemed to be decided: 11/18/2018 was its EOL.  

And then Magento spoke up.

When is the “Real” End of Life for Magento 1?

June 2020 and the EOL for Magento 1 will be here before you know it. Considering the limited support time remaining and the commitment required to migrate your entire site off of Magento 1 you can’t afford to let any more time go to waste. Contact us today to speak to one of our expert magneto team members to learn more and to get the ball rolling on your migration. And don’t forget to download your free B2B Migration guide.

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.

    Jump To:

    Pre-built Middleware

    Pre-built Magento Extension

    Custom Development

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

    Several options exist for building the integrations described above between Magento and an ERP including, Pre-built Middleware, Pre-built Magento Extension, and Custom Development.

    Pre-built Middleware

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

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

    + Advantages of using middleware:
    • Quick Setup – setup time is usually between 4-6 weeks.
    • Good Quality – when the connections have already been installed many times.
    • Lower Costs – using a shared connection can lower costs.
    • Quality Support – many times support staff is available 24/7 to resolve any reported issues.
    Disadvantages of using middleware:
    • Flexibility – this is typically the biggest downside. Many times there are features that cannot be provided to suit specific business needs because the connector must work in a certain fashion to serve all and cannot be customized in any major ways.
    • Not As Robust – prebuilt solutions typically come with a standard feature set that covers basic integration needs. However, more advanced connection points like gift cards, rewards points can be lacking.

    Pre-built Magento Extension

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

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

    + Advantages of using Magento extension:
    • Low Cost – you purchase the extension once, no monthly fees.
    • Value – if coded correctly you can get a lot of features for the cost compared to custom development.
    Disadvantages of Magento Extensions:
    • Support – often times it takes days for the extension providers to respond to support requests via tickets or emails.
    • Low Quality – there are some really awful integration extensions for sale that were of alpha release quality.
    • Costs – a low quality extension can actually create a lot of cost because of customer service issues, bad data and Magento developer time needed to manage and fix urgent issues.

    Custom Development

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

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

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

    + Advantages of Custom ERP Development
    • Robust Features – features developed specifically to meet business requirements.
    • High Quality – since it can be controlled tightly from the beginning of the project
    • Efficient Code – because it only needs to support the specific needs of the client.
    • High ROI – the custom integration can be constantly improved over time to reduce manual labor and improve efficiency of backend operations.
    Disadvantages of Custom ERP Development
    • Costs – Because the integration is being custom developed there is no cost saving advantage of reusing code from other integration projects.

    In Summary:

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

    Get in Touch

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

    Contact Us

    James Benton ,
    InteractOne Solution Expert

    3 Reasons to Move Your Magento 1 Site to Shopify

    3 Reasons to Move Your Magento 1 Site to Shopify

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

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

    Mobile Optimization

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

    Ease of Use

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

    Customer Support

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

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

    4 Reasons to Migrate Your B2B Site From Magento 1 Today

    4 Reasons to Migrate Your B2B Site From Magento 1 Today

    The end is nigh for Magento 1!

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

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

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

    New B2B Features

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

    Company Accounts

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

    Quick Order

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

    Quotes & Price Negotiation

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

    Requisition Lists

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

    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