Designs and themes
Magento doesn’t offer any custom templates or designs itself, you’ll instead need to go via a third party and import them to your site. The good news is that it has a selection of suppliers to choose from via the Connect service on the website. The bad news, however, is that the templates can be a little limited and basic.
You might need to find another third party yourself that has compatible templates, such as ThemeForest. It has hundreds of themes you can use with a Magento site, including shopping, tech, health and beauty, and fashion options.
Alternatively, you can build your own theme from scratch, but bear in mind you’ll need to be familiar with PHP and other programming languages to perfect your design. The platform is designed for those looking for total customization, so you can have total control if you wish.
Apps and add-ons
The entire builder’s platform is actually built around creating an app-like experience. Your site will operate as a “Progressive Web App” that aims to streamline the purchasing process to make the sales experience as close to an app purchase as possible. This means that once logged in, your customers can buy with just one click.
The open-source version of Magento means it's easy for developers to create and integrate apps into the platform, and you’ll find thousands of apps in the Marketplace. There's an app for just about everything you could think of, including connecting social media to your site, marketing tools, and accounting and financial apps.
Third-party developers have created dozens of different language packs that are compatible with Magento. Simply integrate the ones to cover the markets you operate in and you’re good to go. You’re almost guaranteed to find a language to match your market.
Social integration and sales channels
You can integrate your site with a number of online stores, like:
- Facebook marketplace
The best thing about the platform’s sales integration is that your inventory is synced with the third party website, meaning your stock level is updated every time you make a sale, whichever platform your customers make a purchase from.
Given the huge level of customization on offer here, you’ll find hundreds of SEO add-ons available in the Marketplace. Some are free while others can cost hundreds of dollars. Some are tools to help you clean up and optimize your H1 Tags, while others are full SEO powerhouses that let you control how search engine spiders crawl and index your website.
You’ll need to have basic SEO experience at least before you start to add any of the SEO plug-ins to your site, as this isn’t an eCommerce tool for beginners.
If you hadn’t guessed by now, Magento is all about customization. You can add custom fields to any communication with customers. If you have the right developer skills, you can create the ultimate custom checkout. You can add fields that collect the age, sex, interests, and personality types of your customers, to name a few.
Much like with other aspects, reporting is also highly customizable. You can buy full-suite reporting apps from the marketplace that can go into great detail:
- Track performance of specific products
- Track traffic and conversions
- Segment customers by different demographics
- Monitor the percentage of abandoned carts
- Compare different sales periods
These are just a fraction of the reporting features available. Browse the Marketplace and you’ll find hundreds of other options. Again, it helps to have some development experience and know what you’re doing before integrating these features into your site.
You’re spoiled for choice here with this platform as it has almost 350 email marketing tools you can use. A lot of these tools will have extra costs, with the most comprehensive marketing tool coming in at $400. For your money, you’ll be able to set up custom email campaigns, monitor performance stats, and even issue automated emails minutes after customers abandon their carts. There are some cheaper and even free tools, so it’s worth experimenting to see what works for you.
Importing and exporting products
In the default version of Magento, you’ll need to import and export all product listings manually into each store you want to sell it in. So, if you have 500 products and want to sell from five different sites, you’re going to be spending a lot of time exporting everything over.
Luckily, the builder’s add-ons and customization options are here to save the day. Install open source software to your site that allows you to transfer everything in one go. Simply fill in a CSV file with your products, and one of the add-ons will export to all the sites connected to your main site in just a few clicks.
Given the highly customizable nature, pricing can be a little difficult to pin down. However, you have two options open to you:
- Go open source - It’s similar to WordPress in that you download it for free, but you’ll pay to host your site. This is only for very skilled developers that are confident in using the PHP programming language, though.
You’ll only pay for web hosting and any apps and add-ons you choose from the Marketplace. If you have the skills, this is a great option to build an inexpensive site from scratch.
- Magento Commerce - Choose this option if you’d like the platform’s team to build your site for you. This is only suitable for larger businesses and there are no prices listed, meaning you’ll have to get a quote directly. Expect to pay at least around $15,000 as a starting point.
There’s a large FAQ section on the website, and a forum you can use as a first port of call.
However, unless you’re signed up to the Commerce package, don’t expect much support. The free open-source solution has nothing in the way of online chat, or phone and email support. Again, another reason this one is only for skilled developers.
Magento has a dedicated security center and is always releasing the latest patches for its software. You can also customize your site to add an SSL certificate and two-factor authentication login for customers.
With more than 1300 shipping apps and extensions, you’re more than covered by options. All major shipping companies across the US are covered.
Just about every payment option you can think of is available including Stripe, Paypal, Payeezy, and Mastercard. You can even accept Bitcoin and blockchain payments.
Automate your sales tax reporting and filing to cover laws across all 50 states. You can even find options to cover foreign currencies and overseas tax.
Dropshipping is supported and you’re able to streamline and control communication between the online seller and the drop-shipper.
Abandoned cart recovery
Send auto-reminders to customers that abandon carts, and track statistics to try and find out why customers might be leaving without making a purchase.
Managing store on a mobile device
The Magento platform itself is streamlined for use on mobile apps. But if this wasn’t enough, choose from hundreds of mobile store building tools to create the perfect mobile experience from scratch.
What is easy for users at Magento
Unfortunately, there’s nothing that’s particularly easy about using this platform. It's designed for bigger businesses that are looking for the ultimate customization experience, or those that are already experienced in website building and coding. If you’re an intermediate or experienced developer, then this could be the option for you.
What is difficult for users on Magento
Unless you have web development experience and are familiar with the PHP programming language, the open-source software is going to be a struggle. If you don’t have any development experience, you’ll need to be an established business with good cash flow to afford the premium option. The host’s target market is those looking to expand.
If you’re using the open-source version, you’ll also have no customer support at all.
Best Magento stores
Helly Hansen https://www.hellyhansen.com/
Alternatives to Magento
If you don’t like the sound of developing your own eCommerce website from scratch, you can try some of the following alternatives:
It has templates ready to go and you could have an online store up and running in just a few hours. It also has customer support and offers apps that integrate your site to various online stores.
A decent enough middle ground. It offers development options for those who want it and multiple functions on offer, but it also has a high degree of easy usability.
One of the giants of the eCommerce world. Shopify has a wide range of powerful features, 24/7 support, and is really easy to use.