Magento happens to be one of the leading cloud commerce platforms with an open-source ecosystem. It has been so in sync with the industry’s requirements that ‘Magento’ has become synonymous with ‘enterprise-level solutions’. This high-performance solution with powerful out-of-the-box functionality powers websites that belong to some of the world’s biggest brands like Samsung, Nike, Nestle, and Lenovo. According to Magento’s site, more than 250,000 merchants around the globe have chosen to work with this platform.
How It All Started
Roy Rubin and Yoav Kutner founded Varien, the company that went on to launch Magento. The first full release of Magento e-commerce took place on August 31, 2008 – a year after its first public beta release. In 2011, eBay bought Magento for an estimated $180 million. As eBay owned PayPal at the time, Magento naturally provided integration with the world’s largest third-party payments processor – PayPal. This immediately took Magento a step ahead of its competitors.
Staying true to its open-source roots, the company has successfully built a robust solution that caters to small or medium sized businesses called the ‘Community Edition (CE)’. This base has allowed Magento to offer an even more flexible and scalable professional solution – The Magento ‘Enterprise Edition (EE)’, which appeals to larger companies that need more power, backed by an expert consultancy.
In July 2015, soon after eBay split with PayPal, it also cut ties with Magento. In 2018 however, Adobe acquired Magento for $1.68 billion with a vision to create a better opportunity for their customers, partners, and the developer community by bringing together Adobe’s strength in content and data with Magento’s open commerce innovation.
Another BIG change that happened in 2015 was the introduction of Magento 2.0. The entire Magento ecosystem – made up of technology partners, solution partners, merchants, and an estimated 280,000 “community members” who work with Magento on a regular basis – has been forced to adapt to the new version of this software with limited resources in terms of know-how, extensions, plugins, developers and/or budget!
Don’t get me wrong. Thousands of e-commerce businesses are happy customers of Magento 1.x and hence upgrading may not seem like a pressing matter. The platform has worked out really well for a lot of merchants out there and you’re probably one of them. But the truth is, whether or not you’re facing any issues with your current Magento site, you’ve got no option but to migrate. That’s because,
Support for Magento 1.x will be Stopped
When Magento 2 was released in November 2015, Magento executives circulated the idea that Magento 1 would reach its “end-of-life” three years after the release of Magento 2, that is, on November 18, 2018. But, Magento 1 is still extremely popular and, consequently, several sources cite that the support for 1.x has been extended up to June 2020.
Now, what does this withdrawal of support really mean for store owners? Well, you most certainly cannot expect any new features or improvements for Magento 1, as all of Magento’s workforce is now concentrated on the development and growth of Magento 2. The support we’re talking about here is mostly related to security patches and important fixes.
Security is paramount for any e-commerce business. Every time a security patch or update is available, it needs to be installed immediately. That’s the main reason your store cannot function without continual support. Other implications of not migrating include: lack of support for extensions, increase in monthly maintenance costs, difficulty in maintaining PCI compliance etc.
Basically, this is it. This really is ‘the beginning of the end’! If you own a store that currently runs on Magento 1, it’s time to map out your migration.
The Magento 2 Step-Up
Clearly, Magento aims to consolidate Magento 2 and expand its functionality, making it a more lucrative offering for bigger enterprises. The official development team adds new features to Magento 2 every three months. This applies to both – the Magento Community and the Magento Enterprise Edition.
Here’s how Magento 2 supersedes Magento 1:
Magento 2 loads faster than the standard 2-3 seconds. The homepage, category pages, and product pages load in less than 1.5 seconds, even without using frontend caching.
More Native Features
Magento 2 is designed with a wide array of in-built native features that can offer a lot of functionality to the webshop without having to add plugins.
Improved Admin Panel
The admin panel of Magento 2 can be customized so that the business owner can access the needed information quickly according to preference. It also has a comprehensive dashboard that shows lifetime sales, last orders, average orders, top search terms, revenue tax, check bestsellers & customers, shipping, and quantity, which helps to monitor the current state of your business.
Mobile Friendly and Responsive
If an eCommerce website is not mobile friendly, it’s bound to lose a lot of customers. Magento 2 was released keeping this in mind and hence it has a layout that is highly responsive. Magento 1, on the other hand, had to be modified by a great deal to achieve this level of responsiveness. This is a big advantage because Google’s algorithms have been officially favoring mobile-friendly websites in ranking.
Every time a product is added to the cart in Magento 1, the system reloads the page, which has a negative impact on its performance. Due to Ajax add-to-cart, the new system doesn’t have to reload the entire page when a new item is added to cart.
Supports the Latest PHP versions
As Magento 1 was launched in 2007, it was compatible only with the older versions of PHP. That proved to be quite a nuisance for most of the web developers. Magento 2 supports the latest PHP versions. These versions include security improvements that affect the store’s speed and flexibility.
While quite a few merchants have opted to Migrate to the new version of Magento, a lot of others are still contemplating other options. That’s because, even though Magento 2 is far superior to Magento 1, it may not be suitable for everyone. Also, the migration process is anything but a straightforward affair.
The Harsh Reality of Migrating to Magento 2
The shift to Magento 2 can be better described as “Setting up a new Store on a different Platform” and not migrating to one.
If you think you can take everything you have on your Magento 1 website and replicate it on Magento 2, you’re mistaken. Fact is, porting your store’s data is achievable. But, taking your customization along? Well, not so much.
Extensions, Themes, and Customization
Magento 1 themes cannot be transferred to Magento 2 and have to be built from scratch. Magento 2 does launch a Blank Theme by default, making it highly customizable from the beginning. But, since Magento 2 is relatively new, there hasn’t been enough time for the community to rally and provide a lot of out-of-the-box themes.
Same goes for the extensions. You may have to repurchase your extensions and allocate resources to integrate them onto the new platform. That is IF you come across extensions that are compatible with the new release and are verified by the Magento Community. You’ll most probably have to custom build a few extensions to achieve the exact kind of functionality you’re looking for. And finding developers with this level of expertise is another challenge.
In some cases, the custom code in your Magento 1 store could be compatible with Magento 2. Magento has developed a Code Migration Toolkit that helps with this process. But it’s not going to be a Plug and Play situation. You’re more likely to find yourself making some visual or functional changes here and there.
It’s gonna get heavy on your pockets!
Magento Community Edition will continue to be free. But should you choose to purchase the Enterprise Edition, you’ll face quite a steep price tag. Committing to an enterprise edition has its benefits, but is the cost worth it? Or more importantly, can you afford it?
In 2015, the cost of the Magento Enterprise Edition license was somewhere around $18,000 per year, whereas by 2018 it has escalated to $22,000.
If you decide to continue with Magento, you’re up for a sizable financial investment. In addition to having to dedicate your budget towards rebuilding your Magento 1 site from scratch on Magento 2, you’ll also be spending more money on the license alone.
Majority of the stores on Magento 1 have put in a lot of efforts that translate into several developer years and huge amounts of monetary investments. A switch to Magento 2 would mean a re-development of the entire infrastructure that is currently in place. And a rebuild like that is not something that every business can afford to carry out from a technical or a financial perspective.
Time to Look at Other Options
Now that you’re going to have to rebuild your store from the ground up anyway, it’s a great time to look at other options that would be more lucrative for your business. Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce are definitely worth considering.
Shopify and BigCommerce are direct competitors of each other as they’re both ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS) tools. This means, you can’t really own them, but you pay a recurring fee for access to the software. These platforms try to provide end-to-end e-commerce solutions. And because they’re hosted solutions, you don’t need to worry about buying web hosting or installing the software; as long as you have access to a web browser and the internet, you can manage your store from anywhere.
The downside with these tools is that the ability to customize your website is limited. If you’re coming from a platform like Magento which allowed you to create a bespoke online store, you’ll naturally want to invest in a solution that provides a great deal of flexibility.
WooCommerce is a Plugin for WordPress and not a stand-alone product like Magento. What’s common among the two platforms is their open-source code-base. Although WooCommerce is a plugin, when combined with WordPress’ long list of features and capabilities, it creates an e-commerce platform worthy of being considered alongside Magento. Its ease of use, features, and flexibility make it a leading e-commerce platform, capable of rivaling the best-known e-commerce solutions.
Let’s take a look at how WooCommerce fits the bill for budding online merchants and enterprises:
Because there’s a lot of buzz about how WooCommerce is preferable for start-ups and SMEs, the first question that pops is, “Is WooCommerce really scalable?” This is a topic with some debate around it because scaling the platform can be a little tricky unless you know how to. But the answer is, yes.
WooCommerce can scale. By regularly testing the infrastructure, getting a good managed WordPress Host and hiring the right resources for the job, you can make your WooCommerce website ‘Enterprise-friendly’.
Since you’re working with an open-source platform, there’s a lot of room for customization. WooCommerce can help you engineer nearly anything you can think of. You have control over the style, page layout, and responsiveness. Your products can be categorized, given sale prices, independent attributes, and more. In fact, tax settings, inventory management, shipping options, coupon codes, and pretty much everything else you need for a professional e-commerce setup, is part of WooCommerce, right out of the box! You can enable detailed order tracking and customer engagement tools, which allow you to view past and open orders, update delivery statuses etc. Additionally, WooCommerce stores are capable of selling physical, virtual, downloadable and even affiliate or external products.
WooCommerce is part of the WordPress community that extends worldwide. This means that there are possibly thousands of other users sharing your experiences, asking the same questions, and working to improve the platform. If you’re looking for certain custom functionality, chances are it’s already available in the form of a plugin or extension. And if you don’t find a ready-to-use solution, you’ll most definitely find a developer that can easily create one for you.
Extensions and Integrations
Thanks to the community again, there are tens of thousands of plugins available for WordPress, and hundreds, if not thousands, of plugins for WooCommerce – without exaggeration – aimed at extending its functionality. You’ll find a myriad of tools that’ll help you optimize the front end and the back end. WooCommerce also allows integrations with several third-party services such as Google analytics, zapier, kissmetrics, and mixpanel.
As more and more businesses are working towards creating a strong digital footprint, hackers and spammers are also working hard to gain access to websites. Outsmarting such trespassers is not very difficult, but requires continuous vigilance and incorporation of security features.
Your WooCommerce Store is naturally entitled to the security features provided by WordPress. However, you can secure your eStore by using security plugins, choosing a secure Web Host, updating your software regularly, limiting login attempts and link-backs to the website, using secure Payment Gateways, making frequent and multiple backups etc.
With WooCommerce, there are multiple ways to accept payments from your customers without spending a fortune on setup or monthly fees. From built-in processors to optional extensions, there’s a fitting solution for every store owner. Stripe and PayPal now come bundled into WooCommerce core. Your WooStore can be integrated with a majority of the popular payment gateways, and if that’s not enough, you can easily have your developers custom-build your Payment Gateway.
First things first – it’s going to be a LOT cheaper than Magento. WooCommerce is a free Plugin, but then again you’re going to have to invest in: Web Hosting, Paid Extensions and Themes and of course, your Developer. Depending on your requirements, a store on WooCommerce can cost anywhere between $100 to a couple of thousand dollars.
Now, you’ll come across a lot of content pieces that may conclude that Magento is suitable for enterprises and WooCommerce works better for smaller businesses. But it’s pointless to categorize your store into these two extreme segments – enterprises and small businesses. The wise thing to do would be to sift out your requirements and then figure out which software is the best fit for your needs, employee skill levels, and finances. Although WooCommerce is a free, user-friendly e-commerce platform, it’s a great professional online store solution that works well for both SMEs and Enterprises alike.
The Game Plan
The transition to a new platform is a pretty daunting task, but there’s another way to look at it. This migration gives you the perfect opportunity to come up with new ideas and rethink your business as a whole. You can get rid of all the unnecessary extensions, bulky code and use this juncture to your advantage by improving the overall usability of your site. Here’s how you could go about planning a smooth and worthwhile migration:
- Identify all the functionalities on the current site that you want to carry over to the new one
- List down all your custom themes, extensions, workflows and integrations
- Also, create a list of extensions that you’re not actively using
- Start thinking about what you’d like to improve on or add to your existing store
- Create a Budget
- Come up with a tentative timeline for the completion of your migration project
Once you’re clear about these aspects, it’s probably best to consult with an e-commerce development agency, even if you have an internal team – so that you can get a better understanding of what you’re really walking into.
The Final Word
Magento is a powerful platform, but it’s important to consider what makes the most sense for your business. If you have a dedicated team of 1-3 employees and can sustain tens of thousands of dollars, and the need for scalability of your website really warrants Magento, then sure, Magento 2 is the perfect solution. But otherwise, WooCommerce is a great alternative.
Educate yourself before jumping onto any platform. With retailers and brands rapidly working towards a successful online presence, deploying your online store on the right platform becomes extremely vital. If you’re having trouble identifying what suits your business, you could always get in touch with us!