The Best Magento Amazon Integration

The Best Magento Amazon Integration

There is no shortage of Magento marketplace integrations available. In addition to a number of third-party alternatives, Magento has released their own Amazon Sales Channel integration product. Magento  continues to develop new features for their tool, but it’s still a fairly new feature and limited to only Amazon. More popular options are channel integrators, such as Channel Advisor and SellerCloud, but we’ve learned separate integrations like these require more budget and patience than any merchant should have to tolerate.

Avoid Separated Apps

When managing a bidirectional synchronization, it is most efficient to have as few endpoints as possible to avoid multiple potential chokepoints. The biggest drawback for Magento merchants using other SAAS solutions is managing two integrations and two separate catalogs in different interfaces. For example:

  1.  There always ends up being data, content or images in one system that don’t sync across all platforms which lead to  fishing expeditions when making updates and optimizations.
  2. It takes additional time and resources to determine if something failed to sync between Magento and the SAAS software, or the software and Amazon.
    • SAAS solutions and marketplaces have APIs to communicate with each other, and experience downtime or issues with APIs just like any other software.
    • Troubleshooting why an order didn’t import or why inventory is incorrect takes time, which can cause delays in resolving issues, drastically affecting your marketplace seller rating.

A Direct Integration is Easier to Manage

A module sitting within Magento simply has fewer opportunities to fail than a separate SAAS solution. Think about all of the elements that are in-play: inventory, pricing, product names, images, orders, and tracking to name a few. With a 3rd party app, any time you make a change in Magento, those changes have to be synced with the 3rd party software and then again to the marketplace. For example if you update an image within Magento and it’s not appearing on Amazon, you now have to begin troubleshooting two different endpoints.

Our Recommendation

Having our fair share of experience in this field, we recommend M2E Pro over any other Magento-to-marketplace integration. It’s the most mature solution, being the original Magento to eBay integration, and then evolving to other marketplaces including Amazon and Wal-Mart over the years. Other module developers have built Amazon and marketplace integrations as well, such as Mageworx, Webkul and Mag-Manager, but those solutions aren’t as feature rich, easy to use or mature as M2E Pro.

M2E Pro is open source, which means it is customizable to match any functionality you already have set up within Magento. For example, we have worked with a number of auto parts and accessories retailers to import fitment records and data with eBay Motors and Amazon Automotive.

Their customer support is stellar, providing software support and training for all subscribing merchants. Since M2E is a very mature solution, there is a large community forum and knowledge base with up-to-date documentation and training. M2E also provides a managed services option, if you would like to have one of their account managers responsible for listing strategy and optimization. 

Some merchants think they need to go with a 3rd party SAAS solution if they want someone to manage their marketplace account and listings, but that simply isn’t true. While M2EPro does offer managed services for additional fees, you have the option to manage your account directly or use any provider you wish. Please contact us if you would like more information regarding Magento integrations, marketplace on-boarding or listing management.

If you need to know more about marketplace integrations and how to get the most out of your eCommcerce site, contact us today. We’re open and servicing all of our customers during these turbulant times. 

Six MORE Apparel eCommerce Webstore Strategies for 2020

Six MORE Apparel eCommerce Webstore Strategies for 2020

Last week we began sharing  ways you can improve your apparel eCommerce website that are both unique to the needs of that industry, and appeal to the eye of apparel customers. The more we got to thinking about it, the more we realized that there were well over six strategies that you consider implementing. Which is why we’re back with part 2 on this topic. In this blog we’ll be breaking down six MORE apparel-focused eCommerce  strategies you can implement to improve the user experience and ultimately improve your conversion rate. 

And don’t forget to check out Part 1.

Question and Answer

Much in the same way that Customer Reviews add transparency  and authenticity to your brand and products, so does a Question and Answer section. You’ve no doubt seen the Q&A section on Amazon product pages and it’s there for a reason; they work. No matter the product description or reviews on your product page there will always be very specific questions potential customers will have about your apparel or accessories. Their questions could be about fit, material, shipping, user experience, anything at all. The Q&A section gives a platform for these questions to be posed and for yourself as well as customers to answer them. For questions posed to your company, this is a great opportunity to showcase your customer service capabilities, product knowledge and openness. For questions posed to current and former customers about their experiences with your product(s), think of it as another form of Customer Review. Getting a fellow customer’s honest feedback about your product will make potential customers more secure in their purchasing decision and less uncertain about engaging in business with you. Making room on your product pages for a Q&A section is a must.

Recommended Accessories or Pairings

No eCommerce site should ever miss an opportunity to upsell and the apparel industry is certainly no exception. Whether you’re selling a dress that pairs with a great pair of shoes and earrings or you’re selling a sports jersey with a newly available matching team hat, customers are often searching for a complete look and you should be prepared to give them the option to purchase it. How you present these recommended accessories and pairings is up to you (and perhaps the niche you serve). They can exist on the product page, you can offer them in a pop-up, or they can be presented just prior to checkout. If customers pass up the opportunity to purchase your product’s accessories and pairings then these recommendations would make for a perfect follow-up email offer. 

Customer Reviews

We broke down the benefits of customer reviews and shared our favorites in great detail back in January’s blog but this has become such a hot topic and powerful tool that it’s worth repeating. Customer Reviews will benefit your apparel site in numerous ways. For one, they reaffirm your brand. Even the greatest product description ever written can’t compete with a customer review. A customer review makes your products and your company more authentic and accessible. Shopify has revealed that 63% of customers are more likely to convert after seeing reviews. Reviews give your brand transparency and build trust with your customers.  Good reviews, bad reviews, no problem! Even if you only had exclusively positive customer reviews the modern apparel customer is too savvy (or maybe cynical) to believe they are all legit.

 The Greatest Product Description Writer ever.

So, even negative or average reviews add authenticity to your brand and page, and serve as useful tools to your merchandising and customer service teams (particularly if you have taken the time to thoughtfully respond to negative reviews – which you absolutely should do).. Customer Reviews are shown to increase conversions by as much as 63% and research shows that 70% of customers look at reviews on products and stores before making a final purchase. To take a deeper dive on customer reviews check out our recent blog.

A More Mobile Friendly Website

Is your webstore as responsive and as mobile friendly as it can possibly be? If your answer is anything less than, ‘absolutely’ then now’s the time to upgrade it. Mobile eCommerce accounted for more than 67% of all digital sales in 2019. And improving the mobile capabilities of your site could have a direct impact on your brick and mortar location too. 65% of all US shoppers look up price comparisons on their phone mobile device while in a physical location. So not only could your unresponsive mobile site be costing your sales digitally, it may be costing you sales in-store.

Free Returns

As a merchant it’s your job to remove as much uncertainty about your brand and product as possible. We discuss Transparency in greater detail in Part 1 of this blog and this topic is related to that. The greatest uncertainties associated with purchasing apparel online comes from the worry, ‘will this fit me?’ and, ‘will this look good on me?’. And while no product description or customer review can answer that question for an individual, you can remove doubt as to whether that individual will be stuck with a purchase they are unhappy with. By offering customers a no-hassle, free return policy, you’re showcasing your own belief in your own brand and products and improving their overall experience. Whether the customer ends up keeping your apparel or returning it, either way they will be much more likely to continue doing business with you if you have made this process as easy as possible.

Free Delivery

As a merchant it’s your job to remove as much uncertainty about your brand and product as possible. We discuss Transparency in greater detail in Part 1 of this blog and this topic is related to that. The greatest uncertainties associated with purchasing apparel online comes from the worry, ‘will this fit me?’ and, ‘will this look good on me?’. And while no product description or customer review can answer that question for an individual, you can remove doubt as to whether that individual will be stuck with a purchase they are unhappy with. By offering customers a no-hassle, free return policy, you’re showcasing your own belief in your own brand and products and improving their overall experience. Whether the customer ends up keeping your apparel or returning it, either way they will be much more likely to continue doing business with you if you have made this process as easy as possible.

No matter your kind of apparel and accessories and no matter your target audience, if you’re looking to improve your conversion rates, traffic and your customer’s shopping experience these webstore strategies are a great place to start. 

Check out some of the apparel and accessories work we’ve completed for Medals of America, Fawn Shoppe, and Massif and let us know if you’d like to schedule a conversation.

Six Apparel eCommerce Webstore Strategies for 2020

Six Apparel eCommerce Webstore Strategies for 2020

Each apparel and accessories brand caters to a unique audience. But no matter who that audience is, there are a number of ways you can always improve your eCommerce store, whether that’s updating images, changing the layout and design or simply changing copy. You can always find a way to make your site better.

If your apparel and accessories site has hit a bit of a lull and you are casting about for ideas  to improve your webstore here are six strategies to boost your site visits and get more conversions.

Urgency

Creating a little urgency in the mind of your customers isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s vitally important. Indecisive shoppers can change their mind and leave their cart abandoned. While that gives you the opportunity to follow up with ‘cart abandonment’ emails you’d much rather they complete the purchase process that they started. That’s where creating urgency can really improve your conversion rate. You want to make customers feel like if they don’t complete a purchase RIGHT NOW then they’re going to miss out. A great way to do this is to add timers to deals and carts. Let your customers know that this deal and/or product won’t be around forever, in fact, it won’t even be available in a few hours. That countdown clock resonates with customers and definitely capitalizes on their FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

Improving Your Product Page

In the eyes of your customers, there is a lot of guesswork when it comes to apparel shopping online. One way to put a stop to a lot of that guesswork is to make your product pages as detailed as they possibly can be. Include as many high-def product images as you can (from multiple perspectives), give extremely detailed descriptions, prominently display user reviews. These are all great ways to show customers your product is great, real and has real-world advocates without overhauling your entire webstore design or layout.

A/B Testing

Header images, copy, CTAs, color schemes. These are just a few of the elements that can be A/B tested with the goal of improving the customer experience and increasing conversions. There are so many variables that can be tested on an eCommerce website that this is a topic that could be an entire blog all on its own. In fact, we published that blog very recently and you can take a deeper dive into A/B testing by clicking here. It’s definitely worth a read if you are anxious to improve your site and test it with your audience but you don’t know where to start.

Clean up your storefront

Just like a brick-and-mortar store, your digital storefront can use some sprucing up every now and then. Perhaps it’s gotten too cluttered up with links, specials, banners, tabs and copy. If that’s the case then it’s time to do a little spring cleaning. A clean storefront is vital to any apparel ecommerce site. As a merchant, you want to provide a clean storefront, with as little distractions as possible so that you can allow customers to get a clear view of your products and the items you most want to push. Fawn Shoppe is a great example of this. We built them a webstore with a clean storefront with clear CTA’s and featured products. This is the type of storefront you want to emulate.

Transparency and Sustainability

Now, more than ever, customers want to know where their products come from, what they’re made of and who is selling them. Mindful consumerism is the mantra of the modern shopper and these factors could play a deciding role in the customer’s journey. By being honest about where you source materials (bonus points if it’s local), who you employ and your social responsibility you bring customers closer to your brand and increase your trustworthiness in their eyes. In a world where customers are getting bombarded with hundreds of messages and ads per day it is the authentic and the decent that most resonate. Make sure you’re touting these factors prominently on your home page, product pages and promotional material.

Keep Checkout Simple

No matter what your target market is, you’re going to need to remove as many barriers as possible between ‘add to cart’ and completing the purchase. A seamless and streamlined checkout experience must be a priority. Take a serious look at your checkout process, are there any additional, unneeded steps or screens to click through? Look into adding an unobtrusive pop-up, like the one offered by One Step Checkout  that prompts customers with direct, but not distracting CTA’s like ‘edit cart’ and ‘checkout now’. Whether selling apparel to the tech-savy crowd or to retirees,  leave as little opportunity as possible for them to get lost and abandon their cart.

Of course, there are more strategies you can begin to implement on your apparel eCommerce site. And we’ll be exploring more of those in Part II of this article in the coming days. Until then, check out the work we’ve done for other eCommerce apparel  and accessories companies Massif, Tafford and Medals of America

To learn more about how to improve your apparel or accessories site today, contact us and a member of our expert team will be in touch with you shortly.

What B2B Customers Want and How to Give It To Them

What B2B Customers Want and How to Give It To Them

B2B businesses currently find themselves in a very unique and sometimes, precarious position. B2B clients are beginning to look more and more like B2C clients. B2B clients love the ease of shopping and researching in the digital world but they also want a personal touch. In the same way that B2C customers want a personalized message and the assurance that they can pick up the phone and speak with someone in customer service, B2B customers are now demanding the same thing. But as a B2B company, how do you provide all of this? In this blog we’ll be exploring what B2B customers want and how to deliver it to them.

What Do B2B Clients Want?

The New York based firm, Accenture Interactive, released a study in 2019 of more than 2,000 B2B buyers and sellers which showed that 80% of frequent B2B buyers have changed suppliers at least once in the previous 24 months. The main reason B2B businesses gave for this switch was the lack of attention to their needs and a ‘failure to connect digital strategies with the human side of the buyer supplier relationship”.  When polled, price remained the most important factor (27%) while coming in a close second was the importance for a wide range of products (25%) and customer service coming in a close third (22%). Simply put, B2B clients are looking more and more like B2C customers. So, how can B2B companies capitalize on this?

How to Satisfy B2B Clients

Technology

Technology is at its best when it is utilized to make brands more human. Not just in their messaging but in the accessibility. By analyzing your potential and target clients you can begin to craft a marketing message that speaks directly to them and their unique needs. There are no doubt unique pain points and uncertainties in whatever industry(s) you’re targeting. Use this data to answer the question, ‘what roadblocks do decision makers have in front of them?” Whatever that may be, begin to craft a message and a story around that. The most important thing to remember about B2B customers is that you must create content that speaks to actual humans, not companies or titles.

Be Authentic

Authenticity goes a long way in a world filled with marketing hype. Modern customers see right through the tried and tired, ‘we’ve been doing this for 30 years,’ kind of messaging. As a brand, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Don’t get in the habit of self-censoring. This will lead to marketing campaigns and messaging that are stale, dull and lacking in the humanity that customers want. Speak honestly about your business or industry. That doesn’t mean you have to be self-denigrating, but being honest about your industry as well as the struggles you share with your target audience will go a long way in connecting with them on a deeper level.

Be Accessible

It takes more than just marketing and messaging to make your B2B brand more accessible. You actually have to BE more accessible. Social media, chat pop-ups, prominently displayed contact info and links are also a great way to make your brand more accessible to customers directly on your eCommerce site. You also must have an actual human behind these digital tools to field these messages and notifications and reply to them. B2B customers want to know that they can get in touch with an actual person if they end up becoming a customer or client of yours and the first step is having people and processes in place to receive and respond to their initial messages. Human interaction and digital tools need to work hand-in-hand if B2B companies want to excel in the modern marketplace. Being available and being human are what B2B customers are looking for.

Conclusion

With the needs and behaviors of the B2B customer shifting, it is up to B2B companies to evolve their processes, messaging and capabilities to meet these needs. Otherwise they will be defeated in the marketplace by B2B companies that  can meet those needs. If you’re interested in improving your B2B eCommerce business and website, then contact us today.

Powering PWAs with the Payment Request API

Powering PWAs with the Payment Request API

PWAs are changing the mobile game but you may be asking yourself, “what are they and how do they work?” Well,  you just came to the right page. In this blog, we’ll bring you up to speed on what exactly PWAs are, how they improve the ‘checkout’ experience and how they can lead to increased revenue and conversions.

To learn more about PWAs check out our dedicated PWA page right here

What exactly is a (PWA) Progressive Web App?

While we briefly covered Progressive Web Apps in a previous blogPWAs are mobile websites that are designed to look and feel more like an app. Customers encounter a PWA while visiting your existing URL, on their mobile browser, like they normally would. But with a PWA powering the visit, the customer experiences the usability and functionality of an app, all without having to download and install an app. PWAs are a truly streamlined, next generation shopping experience that, according to Google, generally drives a 20% boost in overall revenue, with conversion rates on mobile devices doubling in some cases.Two of the most popular and effective PWA’s currently in use are Starbucks and Uber.

Benefits of PWAs

Merchant purchase processes can involve multiple forms and complex workflows that change from webstore to webstore. For customers, navigating these various steps can  be the most confusing and frustrating part of the buying process. And is also the leading cause of ‘cart abandonment’. Simply put, if there are too many steps or barriers between your customers and completing a purchase, many customers will simply ‘leave’. Which is where the Payment Request API comes into play.

Payment Request API

While mobile traffic now makes up 60% of total web traffic, it only accounts for 16% of sales conversions. The Payment Request API was created to bridge the gap between web development and native mobile, bringing the usability and purchasing power of the app to your PWA enhanced mobile webstore. It provides a single, consistent method to collect payment data all without the multiple checkout forms and complex workflows.

The Payment Request API is a cross and open-browser standard that eliminates traditional checkout flows by empowering merchants to request and accept any payment in a single API call. The API removes the need for manual entry by storing the customer’s information securely in to the browser. The browser then passes addresses and payment details directly to the website. And, since the browser is collecting the user’s payment information, your payment process is reduced from multiple steps to a single ‘tap’. Some of the direct benefits of the Payment Request API include:

  • Speed and Ease – Customers can be prompted to enter their payment details once and have it stored in the PWA browser, like it would be in an app, removing the need to fill out multiple forms on mobile
  • Consistency – Merchants are able to provide the same user experience across a wide variety of devices, browsers and platforms.
  • Payment options – With a Payment Request API fully integrated with your PWA, merchants can expand their list of accepted forms of payment; credit, debit and prepaid cards as well as 3rd party digital wallets, (Apple Pay, Google Pay) cryptocurrency and more.
  • Credentials management – Users can manage their credit cards and shipping addresses directly in the browser. A browser can also sync these “credentials” across devices, making it easy for users to jump from desktop to mobile and back again when buying things.

Conclusion

The Progressive Web App may improve the customer’s mobile shopping experience, but it is the Payment Request API that impacts conversions and increases sales. It’s the spark that’s truly lighting the PWA revolution. 

If your mobile sales are slumping and you just don’t see a way out of the endless cycle of cart abandonment then now’s the time to speak to an eCommerce Performance Specialist. Contact us to speak to a member of our team today and bring your mobile game up a level.

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.

Top 10 Magento Extensions for 2020

Top 10 Magento Extensions for 2020

With the new year approaching it seems everyone is in the business of list-making and we didn’t want to be left out. So here is our list of the Top 10 Magento third party apps and extensions for 2020.

10. Urapidflow Product Import/Export

One of the most feature-rich, robust product export/import extensions for Magento. This extension allows you to set up multiple profiles and export/import product data to/from different locations using FTP. It can also send and receive product information based on logical conditions created within the extensions simple to rules generator tools. This extension is the easiest to use when importing Magento product information.

9. Xtento

Xtento is the most stable and powerful order export solution available for Magento. It allows merchants the flexibility to set up multiple profiles and export orders to many different places using one extension. These exports can be done in any text-based format (Text/TXT, Tabbed, CSV/Excel, XML, JSON, SQL, ASCII/Fixed-Length-Files) and can include any required field. Xtento can be used to connect your store to almost any CRM, ERP, warehouse, drop-shipping or shipping system. Merchants are also empowered to set up an unlimited number of export profiles. All of this can be accomplished from within the admin interface of the extension.

8. Subscription & Recurring Payments

If you’re selling a product or service on subscription then this extension may be a great solution for you. Subscription & Recurring Payments by aheadWorks allows you to create subscriptions with multiple products, create separate shopping carts for subscriptions and more. Built-in to the extension is the ability to handle multiple languages and stores, allowing you to localize recurring payments and subscriptions to all possible markets. A big win for B2B businesses.

7. Mageworx SEO Suite

Mageworx is your all-in-one SEO extension. Its advanced templates allow you to mass-optimize any meta values, descriptions, URL keys, SEO names, etc. for any of your products, categories, CMS, and category filter pages. It also comes complete with a full arsenal of SEO tools, allowing you to tackle such tasks as eliminating duplicate content, adding breadcrumbs and setting redirects and more. It also includes the Wave Crypto Payments extension which enables merchants to collect crypto payments via their eCommerce store as well.

6. ShipStation

ShipStation is excellent for merchants who need a shipping label printing solution that can scale. Its built-in automation engine allows merchants to have a hands-off approach with low overhead. All while providing branded and customized labels, packing slips, and shipping confirmation emails. And, if you have multiple Magento stores, ShipStation allows you to manage and organize them all from a single account. ShipStation also boasts integrations with ERP systems like Acumatica and Netsuite. The extension is also fully integrated with more than 25 shipping carriers.

5. ShipperHQ

We touched on ShipperHQ slightly in our recent Top Shipping Rate Quote Solutions blog but this app is a must-have for most Magento merchants. ShipperHQ gives you control over the shipping rates and methods you show customers at checkout while also providing you with a wealth of options such as multi-location rating, in-store pickup, dimensional shipping, carrier rules and more. 

ShipperHQ also allows for customization in their Magento extension, allowing you to make adjustments within the Magento checkout code and cover every feature you may require for powering shipping quotes.

4. Klaviyo

Klaviyo’s power lies in its segmentation and targeting. Its web-tracking system is top notch as it uses specific browsing behavior to segment visitors so they receive specific ad campaigns and emails based on their on-site activity. Klaviyo will help you identify the visitors to your site, who looked but didn’t buy, who is a frequent visitor, who hasn’t visited recently, who left their cart full without purchasing, etc. Then, you can implement a campaign designed around the visitors’ site-specific actions.

3. TaxJar

For businesses, it’s always tax season. And our #1 choice to to help with your eCommerce taxes is TaxJar. Currently being utilized by more than 15,000 businesses worldwide, TaxJar is used by large and small businesses alike. The app features Magento’s SmartCalcs API, which determines if, when, and how much sales tax needs to be applied and collected on any purchase, foriegn and domestic. It allows users to program individual products for different tax rates for different states. But the automation doesn’t stop there. TaxJar will also accumulate your annual taxes over the course of the year and can file your taxes directly with your home state.

2. Yotpo

Native Yotpo integration is a fairly new, but powerful addition to the extensions library. Yotpo integrates with Magento to collect, display and manage customer content. This content includes photos, videos and reviews. Social proof is increasingly important when it comes to driving revenue in eCommerce and Yotpo curates and places that social proof right on your product pages, meaning that visitors don’t have to leave your site to go looking for it.

1. Klevu

While we covered Klevu in a previous blog that doesn’t mean we’re going to shy away from singing its praises again here. Klevu remains our favorite  on-site search option. Klevu is low-maintenance, easy to implement and it will provide you with unique insights over time as its machine learning develops a greater understanding of the topics  your visitors are engaging with on-site. We particularly like the Autocomplete feature, which will make suggestions to your site’s visitors while they are typing in their search. Overall, Klevu is a great resource for merchants and adds to the overall shopping experience for your customers.

To learn more about any of these extensions  and how to make the absolute most of your eCommerce site in 2020, contact us today.

People Skills – Who You Need to Make an e-Commerce Initiative Work with CEO Brian Dwyer

People Skills – Who You Need to Make an e-Commerce Initiative Work with CEO Brian Dwyer

Creating a successful eCommerce company starts with the people. It’s vital that you have a cohesive team that can work together and grow together. In this presentation from the 2019 AASA Technology Conference , Brian Dwyer showed attendees how to staff an eCommerce team that will accomplish their goals, short and long term.

Download the entire powerpoint here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1htpOMvlD2OqmRlGCnpA3xsA8Vh2yxsv9/view?usp=sharing

To learn more about how to optimize your new website, or if you’re in the market for a new eCommerce site, contact us today. In business for over 20 years, our certified Magento developers and marketers know the eCommerce site art and science front-to-back and can help you make the absolute most of your site and your brand.

 

PHP v5.5 to v5.6 Could Affect your Magento Installation

PHP v5.5 to v5.6 Could Affect your Magento Installation

php55to56
By Greg Reedy, PHP/MySQL Developer at InteractOne

What you need to know about upgrading PHP v5.5 to v5.6

If you’re a Magento merchant or developer, you’re well aware that the platform is well into its new life as Magento 2, however, you may not be aware that it is also well underway into a new life of patches and upgrades. Magento 2.0 was released in Q4 2015, and now – at the time of this writing – has iterated from version 2.0.0 all the way up to 2.1.1. That’s eleven minor version upgrades!  Now, is that something new or abnormal? Nope. This happens all the time with software, but sometimes updates occur within these minor upgrades that can affect things immensely, so it’s important to keep on top of what has changed and how it could affect your Magento store’s online environment.

Magento is, of course, built on PHP, and in an effort to stay up-to-date with technology, the requirements to run Magento have updated as well.

In the initial minimum requirements published with the M2 release, PHP versions 5.5.22 to 7.1.0 were acceptable.

from the original Magento 2 Developer Documentation

PHP

5.6.x
5.5.x, where x is 22 or greater
7.0.2 up to 7.1.0, except for 7.0.5
However, upon the release of Magento 2.1, support for PHP 5.5 ended.

from updated M2 Developer Documentation

System requirements

Our technology stack is built on PHP and MySQL. Magento 2.1.0 supports:

PHP 5.6 We do not support PHP 5.5x
PHP 7.0.2, 7.0.6 up to 7.1
MySQL 5.6
Apache 2.2 or 2.4
nginx 1.8(or latest mainline version)

Why does this matter?

It matters because your hosting company is likely about to automatically upgrade PHP on all of their servers to 5.6 from 5.5, and your M1 installation may not be ready for it! One day you wake up, your site is down, and clearing those Magento caches has zero effect.

All you see is something like this in the error log:

ERR (3): Deprecated functionality: iconv_set_encoding(): Use of iconv.internal_encoding is deprecated  in lib/Zend/Locale/Format.php on line 311

Why is this happening?

Because PHP 5.5 has come to an “end of life” (EOL) and nobody invited you to the funeral!2016-09-30_1142

So long PHP 5.5!

tombstone

How do I fix it?

To keep your sturdy M1 site humming right along, there are a few simple fixes to get it to play nicely with PHP 5.6:

Fix #1: Upgrade to the latest version!

Magento’s latest releases of M1 have made the backwards compatibility to handle the deprecated functions. You can simply upgrade to the latest versions of Community Edition (1.9.2.4) or Enterprise Edition (1.14.2.4) and the deprecated functionality shouldn’t be an issue.

Fix #2: Patch the offending files in the Zend

The main issues really fall in the Zend library that ships with M1. If upgrading isn’t immediately possible (let’s inject here that official upgrades and updates are always recommended), a mediary solution can be to simply patch the offending files in the Zend folder by copying them to your local codepool and modifying the necessary lines.

Copy from:

lib/Zend/Locale/Format.php
lib/Zend/Service/Audioscrobbler.php
lib/Zend/Service/Technorati.php
lib/Zend/Validate/Hostname.php
lib/Zend/Validate/StringLength.php
lib/Zend/XmlRpc/Client.php

Copy to:

app/code/local/Zend/Locale/Format.php
app/code/local/Zend/Service/Audioscrobbler.php
app/code/local/Zend/Service/Technorati.php
app/code/local/Zend/Validate/Hostname.php
app/code/local/Zend/Validate/StringLength.php
app/code/local/Zend/XmlRpc/Client.php

Edit the newly copied files by searching for “internal_encoding” and replacing it with “default_charset”. Be sure that the “internal_encoding” string is a parameter of an iconv related function, otherwise it will break the code. (EXAMPLE: Don’t replace any other parameters or variable names by accident, such as “mb_internal_encoding” or “$internal_encoding” or any other unrelated elements, or you may otherwise certainly break your code.

In the official releases of the latest versions, the files listed above have defined constants to compare the PHP version against and they set the encoding accordingly.

Example:

2016-09-30_1334

However, setting the encoding in the above listed files to a fixed value should be fine as long as the PHP version is 5.6 or above.

Example:

2016-09-30_1342

With the actively occurring PHP upgrades happening now among hosting companies across the internet, it’s imperative to make sure your online store is up-to-date and ready. Many hosting companies will upgrade their servers without warning which could cause major outages and downtime. It is often up to merchants to be pro-active and ensure their stores remain open for business in the event of an unanticipated update such as this (which is no longer in the distant future!).

Contact InteractOne today and have our Magento team review your site’s integrity and viability for growth!

Improve Magento Performance By Upgrading to PHP7

Improve Magento Performance By Upgrading to PHP7

PHP7 Magento

What to Know About Upgrading to PHP7

PHP7 is here and our developers noticed some impressive speed improvements right off the bat. It’s important to keep your Magento server up-to-date for security and performance, but we recommend upgrading to PHP7 for noticeable Magento performance improvements. After some benchmark testing, we noticed a 70% decrease in page load time and 30% less memory consumption across the board on a base installation of Magento 1.9.

Our Lead Developer wrote some simple directions on upgrading to PHP7 from PHP5 on Ubuntu. These should be performed by a developer or system admin – Contact us for help on upgrading to PHP7 on any Magento install.

There’s only a couple of minor quirks, like not having dl() support which killed a couple of the extensions that had copy-protection on one site.  There are a couple of minor things to do to make PHP7 work but it’s covered below.

If you’re ready to take the Magento/PHP7 plunge and are using Ubuntu, then this is how you can do it:

  1. Remove PHP5 (Warning: This will remove PHP5 from your system completely.)
    • sudo apt-get purge php5-*
  2. Add the PHP7 repository
    • sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ondrej/php
    • sudo apt-get update
  3. Install PHP7
    • sudo apt-get install php7.0
  4. Install PHP7 components 
    • sudo apt-get install php7.0-cli php7.0-common libapache2-mod-php7.0 php7.0 php7.0-mysql php7.0-fpm php7.0-curl php7.0-json php7.0-cgi php7.0-mcrypt
    • sudo service php7.0-fpm restart
    • sudo service apache2 restart
  5. The Magento PHP7 Fix

Here are some common problems with Magento after installing PHP7 – 

  • If Apache is dumping plain text php instead of rendering it, then be sure that you’ve installed libapache2-mod-php7.0.
    • sudo apt-get install libapache2-mod-php7.0
    • sudo service php7.0-fpm restart
    • sudo service apache2 restart
  • Getting a white page or error about mcrypt in Magento?
    • sudo apt-get install php7.0-mcrypt
    • sudo service php7.0-fpm restart
    • sudo service apache2 restart

Still not feeling confident? If you aren’t ready for upgrading to PHP7 on your own, give the experts at InteractOne a call today at (513) 469-7042 or fill out our contact form.