Over the last few months my recent twitter timeline has been littered with Magento related tweets and after chatting and advising a few I decided to punch out a few Magento blog posts. Over the next few posts I’ll share my adventures with Magento and ecommerce in South Africa.
As it stands right now, 2 of my stores are running on Magento Community Edition (CE for short) – these are,
www.TerrificTrophies.co.za – a niche store specializing in trophies and medals.
www.BLKcherry.co.za – our furniture experimental store retailing outdoor furniture and lounge suites.
Before choosing Magento CE the first decision was “Why Choose Magento?” in other words, what makes Magento better then other open source shopping carts.
The usual features are standard on all shopping cart software. Categories, product listings, checkout system, etc.
Two important factors for me were:
- †community.Magento has a thriving community, granted some parts of their forum is dead. However one can find a wealth of information on their forums, and on several independent blogs. Additionally there are hundreds if not thousands of agencies and freelancers who specialize in Magento development.
- extensions. aka Plugins, modules or add-ons. Features that one can add to enhance your store. From PDF catalog generations, to analytics to social media sharing. There is nearly a plugin for every need out there. Off course one can always hire a Magento developer to build up any customized extensions.
Sure there are other reasons such as popularity, reviews, SEO usability, and looking at other leading ecommerce stores but to me these were my deciding factors.
After looking at the above, i narrowed by choice to:
- Magento Community Edition
I’d like to mention OScommerce but personally i think its about as useful as Windows98.
Opencart & Prestashop looked great but Magento CE just looked that much better. More polished, much more features and what seems to be a more popular choice. Opencart & Prestashop seem to be much more lighter on resources and can work on just about any hosting environment. It also seems to have a much easier learning curve.
All that aside, I’m quite happy with my choice of Magento for our stores and future stores.
I’d like to point out that I prefer a dedicated ecommerce solution, I’ve chosen not to look at “bolt on” solutions such as WP-Ecommerce (WordPress plugin) and Virtuemart (joomla add on).
I have used Wp-Ecommerce in the past with mediocre results. I suppose these would work for really small stores (less then 50 products). Right tool for the job I say.
Wordpress and (to some extent) Joomla is nothing short of amazing and I have done dozens of websites using WordPress, however for ecommerce it just falls short in my opinion.
Magento CE is not the holy grail of ecommerce. Yes it may be free and Open Source but it is not cheap. Expect to spend countless hours simply learning the features of running a store. In the last 3 or 4 months I have probably spent about 100+ hours simply exploring the interface, configurations, catalog system, installing add-on extensions and modifying themes. More importantly, expect to spend a wad of cash on customizing your store. I suppose one† could spend hours trying to hack it but often I prefer to simply outsource mundane coding work or have modules created that are beyond my skill set.
I think most Magento store owners and developers will agree, Magento CE has a very steep learning curve but the rewards are there when you have a profit generating online store.
With my existing 2 stores, our primary goal is to have an easy to navigate catalog that is seo-friendly, easily up-datable and all prices visible. A product xml feed is necessary to list your goods with price comparison sites.
Looking at BLKcherry.co.za – being a furniture store, almost all customers prefer to visit the showroom and go through the whole tactile shopping experience, TerrificTrophies.co.za on the other hand, most customers prefer to email or call us and discuss their order and arrange for customizations such as engraving, gel badging and so on.
Essentially the shopping cart feature is rarely used. Its great to have and we are receiving a steady trickle of online sales.
The shopping cart feature, one could say, is a bonus. With these two stores, the bulk of sales are done by store visits and via email/telephone.
All in all we are having great success with Magento.† A very informal statistic and comparison:† With our trophy store, it took 3 weeks to receive 49 online transactions, and it took nearly 10 months to receive 70 online transactionswhile we were using WP-Ecommerce.
Next post in this series will tackle hosting a Magento store.