For many merchants, moving to Magento 2 will be the obvious choice… but the obvious choice isn’t always the best one.
Choosing the right platform for your online store requires a bit of crystal-ball gazing because, at a minimum, it should be a 3-year investment. You want to make a decision that doesn’t paint you into a corner like:
You want to make a decision that doesn’t paint you into a corner
- The company that supports the platform goes out of business
- The company that supports the platform decides it is a cash cow and stops innovating
- The platform relies on too many technologies that are being deprecated
- The platform doesn’t affordably support the core functionality your customers rely on
- The platform’s ecosystem collapses
- The platform lacks flexibility to implement your business strategy
- You lack access to your data in case you need to move to another platform
Given that, what is the best technology for the next few years?
The truth is that nobody knows for sure. However, there are some trends that can help point us in the right direction. It should be noted, though, that some of these trends will reverse themselves, stop ‘trending,’ or turn out not to be trends in the first place. Such is life.
..some of these trends will reverse themselves, stop ‘trending,’ or turn out not to be trends in the first place. Such is life.
Isn’t Magento still the big dog in ecommerce?
Magento is big in many ways and with Adobe’s backing, they are probably bound to get bigger. However, it depends a bit on how you look at it. For example, checking on BuiltWith – a web site that tracks platform usage across a large number of web sites – Shopify and Magento have about the same share of the top 100K sites on the internet.
However, overall popularity is another thing. Google trends show that Shopify dominates total searches of ecommerce platform terms and has for the past few years. If you believe in momentum, Shopify is the clear winner.
Yet, a closer look at what developers ask about from Stack Overflow Trends shows that Shopify and Magento 2 are more or less tied in terms of interest while WooCommerce has the most questions asked by developers. This is important because developers are in the business of customizing web stores.
While WooCommerce has a few notable high-profile shops, its primary use is for very simple ecommerce applications and most merchants wouldn’t consider it a viable solution on which to build a complex web store.
Isn’t Magento 2 the most advanced Open Source option?
I get asked this question a lot. We have an entire article addressing the feature development of Magento 2 and another that talks about some of the technology hits and misses. There are also some other platforms like OroCommerce that are better built for some applications like B2B commerce and others like Sylius and Reaction Commerce which are newer and have a shinier stack but that lack some of the features and support that derive from Magento’s robust and vibrant developer community.
Magento 2 is probably not the most technically advanced open source platform
So, the short answer is that Magento 2 is probably not the most technically advanced open source platform but that may not be the most important factor for your decision.
What about the developer community advantage of Magento?
This is where Magento shines above all else. I saw the Adobe team flash a number on the screen at Imagine 2019 that would indicate there are 100,000s of Magento developers. No context was given, so, it’s hard to know what they mean by that.
Doing some backwards searching on Magento U’s site, there are about 2,400 people who have a Magento 2 certification of any kind and less than 750 who have certified as a developer. Are all Magento developers certified? Not even close. If you disregard quality of work, there may be as many as 25,000 actual developers who are competent to do some type of work on Magento. Quality developers of the caliber we have at Razoyo are probably fewer than 10,000 world wide.
That’s still a pretty good number and far more than most competing platforms could boast. You also have 100s of legitimate companies producing extensions for Magento which spreads out the cost of feature innovation substantially for the Merchant.
In short, if you run your digital commerce on a more ‘niche’ platform, you may be stuck with the developer that brought it to you. You may have more difficulty finding anyone to work on it at all if the stack is somewhat exotic.
… if you run your digital commerce on a more ‘niche’ platform, you may be stuck with the developer that brought it to you.
Some other platforms claim to be easier to develop on by sticking closer to popular frameworks like Symphony or Laravel. Magento, on the other hand, is often criticized for being over-engineered and relying too much on Magento-specific knowledge. In essence, it is its own framework.
This is not so unusual. Oro goes so far as advertising Oro Platform, its own framework for development which is adopted by some projects like Akeneo (PIM). While the Oro stack is far more up to date than Magento’s (yml instead of xml, uses Symphony, adopted PHP Composer early on, etc) it still requires a pretty specific knowledge base for developers to work on it.
My take is that there is no ‘standard’ ecommerce framework, so, any open source system is going to have to create its own special sauce that has to be learned.
While Magento is quite complex to work with the shear number of people working on it means answers are easier to find. Additionally, Magento has invested in Magento U as a resource for getting developers up to speed. I don’t know if overall this advantage makes up for its lack of non-standard stack choices.
Moving away from open source platforms, BigCommerce has chosen an approach that attempts to give us, as Hanna Montana once said, “the best of both worlds” with an open-SaaS approach. This is why it is much easier to work on than open source platforms and, in many, many cases, more can be accomplished with the same budget.
BigCommerce, unlike Shopify or other SaaS platforms has invested in their developer community and provided tools and training and has a commitment to using a more universal took kit (Handlebars, a well-maintained software development kit, and more). Overall, it takes a less-skilled developer and less time to customize BigCommerce.
So, back to the original question, is the Magento community an advantage? Compared to newer open source platforms, it is certainly a great selling point but not an overwhelming advantage.
What new options have emerged in the past few years?
Both in the Magento world and other platforms innovation and choice has accelerated and expanded.
We’ve discussed by name some of the new platform options above, but, a new way of thinking that Razoyo calls Refactored Commerce has emerged. The Refactored Commerce philosophy starts with the premise that nobody, including Magento, does everything best, so, why rely on your platform for all of your functionality.
Do you need more sophisticated order management capabilities? Add Marillo or integrate with LogicBroker and ditch Magento’s order manager from the admin panel. Do you need to improve your customer service game? Integrate with OroCRM or ZenDesk.
Magento seems to have embraced this concept with their stated plans to break Magento up into microservices over time.
Our advice is to think about what areas of your business really provide your competitive advantage and invest in those. Every company’s ecommerce game is a bit different. Spend your money where it means something to your customers and don’t think you have to have all of your tech in one place.
If I do decide to move forward with Magento 2, what are my options?
If your journey has let you to Magento 2, that’s great! However, your options with Magento have expanded as well.
Open Source (fka Community Edition)
Yes, you can still download and install Magento. They’ve modernized a bit and posted the code base on GitHub which is where software that is community-driven belongs! You can report bugs, recommend changes to core, add your own edits to documentation. It’s a much better experience.
Magento Commerce (fka Enterprise Edition)
You can download and host this version on a server you own or contract for as well, just like the old days (though you will need a license to get access to the code).
This is Magento Commerce hosted and managed by Magento (with Platform.sh under the hood). If you want to take away the headaches of security and server maintenance, this can be a good – though pricey – option.
Magento Order Manager (MOM)
Powered in great part by LogicBroker under the hood, MOM is a relative newcomer to the party. There are a few dozen implementations out there (according to Magento) like Rural King. Basically it powers order management in a drop-shipping, pick-up-in-store, multi-warehouse world. My research seems to indicate that MOM could use some time to mature before we start recommending it to our clients.
Magento Business Intelligence
Designed to get all of your data together for a more seamless analysis and dashboard experience, this is now built in to Magento Commerce with a core set of features.
Think of your business as a system, not a website
In the end, we encourage you to shed the idea that you need a platform to run your web store. Contact Razoyo to help you walk through the pieces and find the options that best suit your strategy.