The term eCommerce is the short form for Electronic Commerce, which refers to buying and selling products and services electronically through the internet. The term also includes electronic transactions which are used for transferring funds and data electronically via internet. Such transactions could be business to business, business to consumer, consumer to business or consumer to consumer.
eCommerce has been steadily establishing its strong foothold on the internet and now forms its very core. For a common unaware man today, internet is nothing more than a means for online shopping. The reasons for eCommerce gaining so much importance can be explain quite specifically by understanding the benefits it offers.
The benefits of eCommerce which offline shopping stores cannot provide
- 247 availability
- Availability of a huge variety of products
- Its cross-border reach
- Promotional discounts and offers
- The ability to review and rate products
- The ability to select products based on real user reviews
- The power to return products which are unsatisfactory
- The accessibility and convenience of shopping from home, office or while travelling.
The only downside of eCommerce that comes to my mind is the inability to touch and feel the products we buy. Had this downside not existed, eCommerce would have swallowed offline shopping stores long time back. Smart phones and mobile apps have further fuelled the growth of eCommerce by adding up a large user base to the existing one.
eCommerce is not possible without an eCommerce website or a mobile application, and Magento is a powerful tool for creating eCommerce websites and web apps. Now in order to proceed further, lets understand what Magento really is.
What is Magento eCommerce platform?
Magento is an open source CMS (Content Management System) for creating, editing and maintaining eCommerce websites. It is such a powerful tool that an eCommerce website owner can control the look, functionality and the content of his site on his own. It has a powerful administrative UI and provides features like SEO, Catalog making tools and powerful marketing tools for powering an eCommerce website.
Originally developed by Varien Inc., a California based company; Magento was first released on March 31, 2008 and on June 6, 2011 eBay acquired 100% ownership of Magento. Amongst the 30 most popular eCommerce CMS tools, Magento has a substantial market share of almost 30%. Magento has been created with MySQL, PHP and elements of the Zend Framework. It uses Object Oriented Programming conventions and a MVC(Model View Controller) architecture. It makes use of the Entity Attribute Value model for storing data.
The Magento platform comes in two basic variants, the Magento Community Edition and the Magento Enterprise edition.
Magento Community Edition
As the name is rightly suggestive, the Magento Community Edition is a free to use version of Magento. Being open source, anyone can make modifications to its core and customize it. Developers can use the core files along with plug-ins to achieve extended functionality. The sole purpose of creating a community version was to provide a basic platform for eCommerce and popularizing Magento. The latest version 126.96.36.199 of Magento Community Edition was released on November 24, 2014.
Having been there for the past 7 years, Magento has proved its worth for developing eCommerce websites. It is a dependable and a robust system which allows efficient use of third party plug-ins for solving multiple online marketing problems. With passage of time the Community Edition has managed to compile a long list of online checkouts, onsite search and a host of other features to ensure that every eCommerce site developer can depend on it.
Here are a few key features of the Magento Community Edition
Website management related features
- A single admin area for selecting and controlling information which can be shared across multiple online stores
- Easy integration between Magento and third party app through web services API
- Assigning rules and permission to different users
- Customized website designing and styling
- Online customer group management
- Informational page management through CMS integration
- A/B and multivariate testing through Google website optimizer
SEO related features
- Using light footprint design for faster load times and SEO
- Auto sitemap generator and Google sitemap creation
- URL re-write controls for search engine friendly URL’s
- Product and category level META information management
- Auto generation of popular search term pages
Check-out, Payment and Shipping features
- One page online checkout
- Real time integration of shipping rates of UPS, USPS and FedEx
- Authorize and charge/Authorize only and charge options for credit card transactions after invoice creation
- Easy integration with payment partners like Amazon Payments, Authorize.net, PayPal and Google Checkout.
- Accepting checks, Online purchase orders and money orders
- SSL security layer for securing transactions
- Tax and shipping calculation before check-out
- Account creation before check-out
- Managing gift messages
- Saved cart expiration configuration
- Managing multiple shipping addresses
- Online order tracking from customer’s account
- Managing multiple shipments on a single online order
- Managing country wise destinations
- Flat rate shipping options item and order wise
- Free shipping options
- Shipping management based on weight and destination
Customer account features
- History and order status
- Tracking re-orders
- Tracking recently ordered items
- Unlimited address book
- Billing and shipping address by default
- Adding wish list and comments
- Sending email or RSS feeds of wish list
- Managing newsletter subscription
- Product reviews and product tags submission
Product search features
- Multiple images for each product
- Capability to zoom into product images
- Displaying product reviews
- Displaying related products
- Displaying stock availability
- Multi-Tier product upsells
- Selecting product options
- Group wise product view
- Wish list additions
- Sending to friends along with an email
Customer Service related features
- Form for contact us
- Customer accounts which are rich in features
- Status updates and order history
- From account order tracking
- Generating password reset email from front-end admin panel
- Account and order update emails
- Order emails which can be customized
- Admin panel based creation and editing of orders
Catalog management features
- Complete inventory management with maximum and minimum quantities
- Batch export and import of catalog
- Updating batches in product admin panel
- Integration with Google Base
- Configurable, simple, bundled and grouped products
- Virtual and Digital products which can be downloaded
- Products which are personalized by customers
- Tax slab rates as per location and product type
- Item creation based of set attributes
- Creating store specific attributes
- Media management with watermarking and image resizing
- Support for special prices
- Search results redirects and rewrites
- Approval, editing and deletion of product tags and reviews
- Low inventory alerts for personalized products through RSS feeds
- Uploading customer personalized product images
- Selecting time/date options for customer personalized products
- Sorting customers
- Sorting based on categories
Catalog Browsing features
- Products which were viewed recently
- Comparing products
- Products which were compared recently
- Up-sells, Cross-sells and related products
- Filtering products into categories by layered navigation
- Filtering products from search results by layered navigation
- Improved performance with large catalogs due to a flat catalog module
- Creating category landing pages by Static Block tool
- Page designs based on categories
- Configurable search options with suggested keywords
- Listing products in a grid format
Analytics related features
- Google Analytics integration
- Business overview and Admin Report Dashboard
- Total reports including sales and sales return
- Tax reports based on tax slabs
- Reporting about abandoned shopping carts
- Reports on most viewed products
- Reporting all sold products
- Low inventory level reporting of products
- On-site search reporting
- Product reviews reporting with RSS feeds
- Tag reports with RSS feeds
- Reporting coupon usage
Magento Enterprise Edition
The Magento Enterprise Edition is the paid version of Magento. It is intended for the use of large and SME businesses which require product support while installation, troubleshooting and usage. The core files used by the enterprise edition are same as the Community Edition, but it has more features in comparison. Magento Enterprise Edition comes with annual maintenance charges which do not include hosting charges. Even for the Community version, a user must shell out extra hosting charges. The Magento Enterprise Edition is developed with close association between users and third parties. The last version 188.8.131.52 was released on May 13, 2014.
Who uses Magento?
WordPress might be the most popular CMS, but Magento has the distinction of being the most popular CMS tool for eCommerce websites. Its list of patrons includes many Fortune 500 companies. Some of its popular clients are
Trust me, the list is endless.
But what makes Magento the most trusted eCommerce CMS solution?
- It is open source, so can be easily customized to suit every business by adding new features by using extensions.
- It is supported by a large community of Magento developers who ensure that it remains up to date.
- It has been designed especially for eCommerce website and has eCommerce centric features which no other CMS can provide.
- Magento is highly scalable. As your business grows, you can enhance your eCommerce website with the help of Magento. It is capable of handling any size of business site.
- It is high on performance, with excellent glitch free site load times.
- It provides flexibility due to its open architecture.
- Magento is multi-tenant, which means that multiple stores can be created using just one backend CMS.
- Offers easy integration with third party solutions like payment gateways.
- Magento is highly SEO friendly.
- Both the Community as well as Enterprise Editions use HTML5 capabilities to achieve mobile-friendliness.
Now having highlighted its worthiness for a business, let’s weigh down its economic viability.
How much the Magento Enterprise Edition Cost?
Well, the bottom line is that Magento is expensive. Let’s see how much.
*These figures are as per estimates available for May, 2014.
There was a lot of buzz around in the Magento circles that eBay would be pushing up the prices of the Enterprise Edition by approximately 15%. Even after a lot of online search, I could not get my hand on the latest prices available. You will have to contact Magento guys directly to know the exact pricing as on date.
The Bottom Line
So, having discussed the pricing, does it really make sense to go for Magento?
This is probably the mother of all questions and ultimately relevant for any business which survives on Return of Investments. The truth is that the ROI of Magento still turns out to be more than 150%, in spite of the increased costs. As per the Forrester Study conducted in 2013, which studied five Magento merchants who had switched over to Magento from other eCommerce platforms registered an overall revenue growth of 17.3% within a short period of six months.
So it can be safely concluded that using Magento can only be profitable for an eCommerce business. I guess that I have covered Magento substantially in this article for readers to take a deep insight into its features which no other CMS can even begin to provide. But, I must surely add that Magento is such a vast topic that even if I cover it extensively, something or the other is bound to get left out. For instance, I have not covered Magento extensions in this article. So, I request my readers to give their feedbacks and suggestions on updating this article further.
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