Amazon, Magento PageBuilder and B2B at Imagine 2018
The last two days of the Magento conference were filled with announcements of upcoming features and initiatives, but this conference felt refreshingly focused compared to prior years. In previous years we saw a lot of announcements by a lot of different people at Magento with varying ties to the actual roadmap. This time around, it seems like all of the announcements pointed in the same direction and had concrete next steps attached.
You many want to start with my post on Monday for info about the vibe and overall feeling of the conference if you aren't interested in the details below.
Amazon and Magento Partnership
The speculation at the conference was that Amazon may be acquiring Magento. Is there NOTHING Amazon can't take from eBay? Watch out PayPal? JK
To be clear, I have no insider knowledge and have no reason to suspect that an Amazon acquisition is anything more than speculation. There is clearly an approchement between Amazon and Magento. Predictably, during the eBay ownership era, any mention of 'Amazon' was met with head shakes and disapproving frowns as if you just don't get it. This year, just the opposite was true:
- Amazon had the largest booth in the vendor village
- Eric Broussard, Amazon’s Vice President of International Marketplaces and Retail, introduced three core integrations during his keynote:
- Amazon pay
- Amazon fulfillment
- Amazon marketplace
Those of us who survived the eBay era hope that if there is an acquisition it is fully vetted by the FTC because Magento merchants represent Amazon.com's best competition. Why shut them down? I think Amazon, who makes more profit from sales of 3rd party marketplace merchants than from its own direct products, sees the benefit of engaging and expanding the merchant community that Magento represents.
The integration into Magento Core of the Amazon Services will be a game-changed for many merchants. To date your options were either no connection of your Amazon sales activities to Magento, an extension like M2E, or an external service like Data Feed Watch. If the experience for merchants is truly simple, I believe Amazon will see an uptick in adoption of its marketplace by Magento-based merchants.
Update on Page Builder
If you have heard of BlueFoot, or are using BlueFoot you will be interested to know that BlueFoot is being replaced by Magento Page Builder. Rapidly deploying changes to site content from CMS pages and blocks down to the individual product detail page level has been the holy grail of content-driven merchants for years. BludFoot promised to change that.
We were initially excited last year when we saw BlueFoot for the first time, though, were disappointed with its limitations in practice including being very buggy and not very friendly to non-standard themes.
Page Builder's drag-and-drop design solution seems to be not only far more feature-rich, but, also more Magento-centric. It will respect scope and other CMS features of Magento like blocks, widgets, banners and the like. One caveat though is that it has not been released yet. We hope this isn't a repeat of last year where our appetite was whet with BlueFoot at Imagine but lackluster follow through by Magento.
My guess is that after acquiring BlueFoot, Magento realized that the product simply conflicted with or took over too many important core structures, so a scrap-and-redo mentality was taken. This would explain the crickets at Magento when you searched their site for anything BlueFoot related over the past year.
For smaller merchants, it is exciting to see that Magento will be releasing PageBuilder as a paid extension for Magento Open Source (CE). The current road map states availability at the end of the summer. Fingers crossed!
B2B and ERP Integrations with Magento
Magento has cleverly thrown its hat into the B2B ring, given the expectations of growth and size of that market. Magento has released a suite of B2B tools with some nice features. While not quite as fully-featured for B2B as Oro Commerce, I believe Magento positions itself best for the small B2B and Hybrid markets and clearly differentiates itself from lower-tier competitors (Shopify Plus, Big Commerce, et al) who have no B2B offering and whose platforms lack the structure to support true B2B.
This makes sense because serious B2B requires an open source architecture to be viable because of the system integration requirements in that field.
Corevist, a company that specializes in B2B implementations for Magento had a well-attended session on approaching Magento and ERP integrations. The Corevist presenter drove this home by articulating some key points that we already knew because of our B2B/ERP integration experience, but are worth mentioning:
- B2B is much harder than B2C because of the explicit segmentation of almost everything (pricelists, content, SLAs, etc.) by type of customer.
- Technology is the EASY part. Agreement on how systems should work and integrating with systems that are often unfinished, complex, and undocumented, is the hard part.
- If you can avoid integrating, do it!
- Have one source of truth for every record.
- Use live calls as often as possible rather than syncing large tables of data between systems.
The presentation by Corevist and existence of a B2B track were clear indications that Magento wants to succeed in B2B.
Obvious Magento Direction
Magento has put some clear stakes in the ground this time around and I would say their strategic focus (congrats to Lavelle and his team) has never been more blatant.
Progressive Web Apps vs headless development and responsive design
Last year, Razoyo participated in the developer round table discussing headless development. It turns out that headless was far too vague (and some of the headless stuff just seemed like integration to us). From this conference, it is clear that Magento believes that PWA is the obvious wave of the future and I agree. Razoyo has been executing projects using PWA technologies for a while... we saw this coming.
Even Brendan Falkowski of Gravity Department , the thought leader in the Magento Ecommerce space on responsive design, has decidedly thrown his hat into the PWA ring and expects Magento to delivery on the GraphQL interface to give wind to his PWA sails. Brendan is a consummate Magento insider. The era of responsive design is coming to an end and will be replaced with PWA. Mark my words.
Magento made no bones about its intentions to make PageBuilder fully compatible with
As stated above, this is a clear focus for Magento and we expect to see more development here in the future.
Ever heard of Platform.sh? From this conference you would have thought that Magento doesn't want you to hear about them. While the Magento Cloud is based on Platform's technology, Magento has done everything it can to replace any mention of them and seems to be driving Platform's feature development.
Oh yeah, and AWS is hosting Magento Cloud.
Magento seems to have turned back to its community roots (sadly, though, it change the name to open source so we're losing the word 'community'). Except for the eBay years, Magento embraced its open source community and even has significant new development being done by the community. In fact, Mark Lavelle even pointed out that Magento is the most contributed to PHP open source product. I'm not sure how that it calculated, but, I believe it. Even Razoyo has contributed code and documentation.
Magento is doing well and is focused on growth initiatives that matter. The Magento Imagine 2018 conference clearly reflected that.