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Why the beauty of Magento is more than skin deep

(I apologise for the lack of sexy imagery to accompany this blog post – just cutting to the chase with no need for image fluff)

Change. It’s an important word that comes to mind for me at this time of year. And as I sit here in my office, I watch the early autumn red and gold September leaves starting to drop from the trees as summer draws to a close. It gently reminds me that the world – especially the digital one I live in – is forever constantly changing and evolving; and that time doesn’t stand still for anyone.

In the last seven or so years since I first set up Magentity (or JRT Ecommerce as it was known back then) I’ve worked with a number of fantastic people and clients, who have taught me a lot about the business since my days at Urban Retreat and Lookfantastic. I’d like to think that the team I have around me and the people I’ve connected with bring a wealth of expertise from the beauty, hair and skincare arenas; and that, as a unit, we have built up a positive reputation and can call ourselves Magento Developer Specialists – both in those fields and across the UK.

Even back then when I first started out on my own, I was (and still am) so confident in the belief that Magento was the best ecommerce platform out there; so much so, in fact, that I even changed my business name! But there’s a lot more to it than that. Saying something is the best doesn’t mean it’s the best. I’ve used both bespoke and off-the-shelf platforms over the years; and Magento still wins hands down for me every time. However, it’s got to prove its worth; that it can evolve and call itself fit for purpose as times evolve.

With change being the key topic of this blog; it’s not new news that Magento is changing. And changing quite a lot.

Back at the end of last year, it was announced that it was launching its new platform – “A new era of commerce innovation” – Magento 2.0, both in its Enterprise and Community Editions. It was badged up as “more powerful and innovative” than previous versions, whilst offering “enhanced performance and scalability, new features to boost conversion rates, and business agility and productivity improvements.”

All the usual stuff that we might expect to hear when there’s a significant upgrade of this type.

But what does it all really mean for your average business already using Magento? Expense? Maybe. Some upheaval? Probably. But…as the saying goes, “change is the heartbeat of growth”.  In the long term, standing still on your existing Magento platform can’t (and won’t) work if you want to future-proof your business.

The bad news is that, before long, older versions of Magento (1.x) will become fairly soon out-of-date; probably within the next eighteen months or so. The reason? All new extensions are being built, and will be geared towards, 2.0 and beyond. The majority of development is going towards the new platform, and that’s where all the new advancements will be. A couple of our clients – Aromatherapy Associates and Castelli Diaries – are making the switch to 2.0 (from older versions of Magento) in anticipation and to get ahead of the game. A number of our other beauty clients who are already on Magento, such as PerriconeMd (on Enterprise), are considering making the switch to Magento 2 in 2017.

But it’s not all doom and gloom if you’re not yet ready to make the change or haven’t got it in your 2016 budget plans. If you’re using a more recent Magento version, such as 1.9, then you’ve still got some time to explore the options and develop a plan to manage the change. And change is what makes Magento great. And has always made it great. And will always make it great. Its agility, its adaptability and its reliability cannot be surpassed. Hence – why Magento is used by over a quarter of a million merchants across the globe today.

It would be easy, but make for rather dry reading, if I simply listed out everything that I liked about Magento and the best parts about its functionality. But in summary, it has endless possibilities – not only to give your business a great “real working” website – but to give you a great return on your investment from your site too. Sometimes having endless possibilities isn’t always a good thing (the phrase “analysis paralysis” springs to mind here) but, in general, if you’re in good hands of competent developers, they should be able to guide you to and through what’s going to work best and what’s not.

Within our own business, we mainly work with SMEs. So as a starting point, Magento is not only a great place to begin, but also a great place to grow your online business. It’s been a fulfilling part of my job over the years to see my clients’ businesses grow; and that the advice we’ve given them has paid off. Part of the beauty of Magento is its scalability and, because it’s open source, it can be easily customised. You don’t need a Hollywood-style big budget to get yourself an online store (and as we know, money is often tight with start-ups). And…it can grow with you as your revenue grows. Nice.

But, as is all the marketing rage these days, the focus isn’t just on having a pretty site, good acquisition or an outrageous number of site visits; it’s the big “L” word – loyalty.

In an interesting article posted earlier this year on Digital Marketing Magazine’s website called “Three Ways to Nurture Customer Loyalty in a Disloyal World”, the writer makes a pretty cutting observation that, “Today’s omnichannel shopping world is a disloyal one, making it a hostile environment when it comes to nurturing loyalty amongst customers. “ Whilst I wouldn’t go so far as to describe the environment as “hostile”, I do think it is hugely competitive as customers are, literally, two short clicks away from your competitor’s front door.

It’s therefore no surprise that particular Magento extensions, such as Sweet Tooth, are a bit of must-have these days. Sweet Tooth operates as a customer loyalty extension and virtually all of our beauty clients have it. It’s not only popular for the way it enables online vendors to engage with customers; but features notional discounts when giving customer loyalty points. It encourages customers to come back to your website again and again and, when used in conjunction with an email extension, such as Mandrill (by Ebizmarts) for Mailchimp, can make customers feel pretty warm and fuzzy knowing that you actually care about them…….Smooth eh?

On a slightly more practical side, other useful extensions include Market Segmentation Suite & Follow Up Email extensions, by Aheadworks, which could potentially save you the expense of a pricey CRM system. As, for a one-off fee, it costs just £160. Plus, it also has a nice email functionality which integrates with Mailchimp. For stock and warehouse management, the Xtento Import & Export Product Feed extensions work a treat; and in terms of payment gateways, Ebizmarts Sage Pay is always our preferred option, based on its clean way of working with Magento and their superior customer service. When you also take into account in Global Freight Solutions fulfilment options which gives our Magento clients the ability to have ‘Click & Collect’ as part of their delivery offering, Magento has all the cost effective solutions for best practice market leading ecommerce.

And so……..getting back to the topic of this blog…change. That’s why Magento works for me.  It can cope with change. More than that – it drives change – to make the way we do online business better, smoother and a more comfortable ride for the growing number of online customers out there.

Is it for everyone? No. Is it perfect? Not quite. But the idea is perfect – that of adaptability and agility, which is crucial to the way we operate as Magentity.  So does Magento’s beauty run more than skin deep for me? I would say so.

But then again, as they say, beauty is all in the eye of the beholder.

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