As we mentioned in one of our previous posts
, using Magento can be very cost-effective when building an e-commerce store. We joked that, assuming that you are PHP/MySQL proficient programmer with UX/UI experience, building an e-commerce store could be nearly cost-free, Magento CE is a free to use downloadable solution. But realizing that most people are not technically trained we highly recommend
finding a Magento implementation and support partner.
No access to support (with the exception of the community forums, which are not quite the same as having a live professional helping you) makes partnering with the right developer very important – a process we covered the provider selection process post as well.
Why You Need Third Party Magento Customer Service and Technical Support
Congratulations: you chose Magento Community Edition (CE) as a platform for your online store. With almost 250,000 stores on the platform, Magento is the #1 choice for e-commerce.
Magento offers just about any feature a store owner can imagine: multiple stores, Google Analytics integrations, sales and reporting tools, SEO features (sitemaps, meta tags, URL rewrites), newsletters, product bundles that allow offer free shipping, inventory tools (customizable tax rates, product attributes, best seller tracking) and many more.
While Magento provides a wealth of features and customization options with a robust feature set, it is not the most intuitive platform to set up and publish. Even the Enterprise Edition, a solution for large retailers, that costs from $15,500 per year, requires coding knowledge or a sizable development budget.
Let’s review the tasks that may require third party Magento support – here “support” being referred to in a broader sense, and including research, implementation, with full issue ownership and resolution.
Magento Hosting and Security
Seamless handling of traffic surges, decreased transaction times, fast loading are all possible with Magento, given that the store environment is set up properly.
Magento CE is a downloadable solution, which means website hosting and the security environment for your store will need to be set up separately. Keep in mind that the system requires powerful hosting capabilities to run effectively, so a simple shared hosting solution will not do. Unlike the Enterprise Edition, Magento CE doesn’t automatically include PCI compliance – a vital component that needs to be taken care of prior to launch. Be aware that for those unfamiliar with it, this is can quickly get time-consuming and complex.
Administrative Environment Configuration in Magento
For those nor familiar with it, the Magento admin interface can look daunting. Precisely because Magento is so flexible, the Configuration setup (the admin settings page) offers so many options that a simple setup can easily get confusing.
Products import and export can be automated from virtually any system, potentially saving many hours of administration work down the road, but that means the initial setup process will require an investment in customization. Product pages can be varied, with features like roll-over zoom, thumbnails, filters, etc. This is why product settings are also very involved, with product “attributes” combined into attribute “sets” which are in turn applied to specific “groups”.
Thankfully, Magento offers training courses at the Magento U
that should help with getting you quickly up to speed (the courses cost extra and start at $119 for three months of access).
With the right expert you can really get under the hood and craft a truly unique eCommerce experience. Coupon rules and cart discount rules allowing you to create multiple pricing scenarios, with the same product listed in multiple different stores or different sections within a store with slightly different configurations (unique product descriptions, different images, variable pricing), etc.
Magento Store Design
The way your store will look largely depends on the website theme and skin(s) you choose. You can find ready themes in the Magento Connect store
built-in store themes if you’re on a budget, with paid themes costing about $99 and quite a few free themes available. Modifying a theme to create a unique look to your store will require tweaking by a Magento professional.
Magento Integrations and Add-Ons
Both Magento CE and EE are readily customizable with third-party integrations called extensions or add-ons. From product features, to customer-facing side, to backend reporting – Magento offers it all. While Magento integrates with practically any third-party system, keep in mind that costs of acquiring, installing and setting up should be included into your overall development budget.
Many of the extensions are truly free (Google Analytics, DHL Shipping); others are listed as free but require paid monthly account subscriptions to use them (like Bronto, MailChimp); and a large number of inexpensive add-ons from 99¢ to specialized ERP integration pieces that cost up to $10,000. It is very easy to overwhelm yourself with features you might not need, so stick with the ones you are truly planning to use and ignore the rest – at least in the beginning.
Running the Magento Store
Once your Magento store is set up, usage and maintenance are easy. Most Magento users report resolving problems with shopping cart abandonment, marketing, product-level and category-level SEO and general website speed.
While there is a large ecosystem of developers who understand the Magento platform and they are easy to find, much of how your store is set up depends on the developer you have selected – and not on the platform. This also meant that there are plenty of fraudulent developers, so if the hourly price quoted and the number of hours for your list of features sound too good to be true, watch out. With a reputable and experienced developer with references from store owners in your industry vertical and store size you can get a great ecommerce platform for a reasonable cost.
Magento Support Summary
Magento is not a plug-and-play solution for someone who wants to a website without a developer – it is a platform that requires a developer to set it up. While Magento is not for everyone, those retailers looking for a sophisticated, scalable, and customizable shopping cart software with a client base to prove it, or those who plan to list thousands of products would definitely benefit from it, after investing some time and money to get Magento up and running. Even the costly Enterprise Edition offers minimal customer support, so choose your developer wisely.
However, if you’re just getting started in ecommerce, just because Magento is free doesn’t mean it is a fit, since hosting, development to setup and launch the site, security and technical support can easily add up.
Whatever the successes and weaknesses of Magento might be, e-commerce merchants around the world agree that the ecosystem is not only dominant and dynamic, but also unique, skilled and growing. Many people have spent months and years mastering it, ensuring Magento continuity and adaptability to meet new challenges.
Feel free to reach out to MavenEcommerce if you would like to get access to a Magento developer on a regular or a semi-regular basis. We offer a variety of plans
for virtually every budget.