A number of digital marketers and marketing managers will be well aware that Magento 2 (M2) has launched, which will leave the current release – Magento 1 (M1) – somewhat redundant. But many will also be mindful of the commentary that there is no easy upgrade process. So where do marketers go from here?
Before making any next-step decisions, it is crucial to understand the genuine options available, and the reasons for potentially pursuing one route over another.
users will be given 18 months’ notice
But the first thing to address is the actual ‘end of life date’ for M1. Plenty of rumours have circulated about it being at some point in 2018, but that simply isn’t true. Magento has stated that, even when ‘D-day’ is officially announced, users will be given 18 months’ notice. So, the good news is that there will be plenty of time for marketers to decide what’s best for their organisation and how they’re going to roll out their future digital plan.
Sadly, it is true that – because M2 is a completely different build to M1 – there is no simple upgrade option. In the absence of a quick fix, brands will therefore have to endure a vast amount of web development hours when it comes to moving to the successor.
This is therefore a logical time to evaluate whether or not to re-platform altogether, if further investment is ultimately unavoidable.
Time to move on?
To evaluate the available options, it helps to consider a few digital marketing scenarios:
For marketers that have just launched a new site on M1, and/or those who have a responsive ecommerce site that is performing well, with no major dev plans on the horizon, why switch at all?
In this example, it is probably sensible to stick with the system for as long as possible, to maximise the return achieved from it. It is important to stress that, because M1 will be supported for the near future, there is no harm in staying put for now – providing security updates are maintained. In fact, plenty of people will do this, particularly because there is a massive market for add-ons plus plenty of agencies and developers are familiar with it. This is also an attractive plan of action when budgets are tight.
M1 will be supported for the near future
However, if a site overhaul has already been flagged as an option, it is probably better to map out the desired changes and investigate which platform will best support these new requirements. In fact, even a series of small website tweaks should be enough for a marketer to consider a fresh longer-term plan.
The most obvious choice is to switch to M2, not least because the rebuilt platform is supposed to address some of the common complaints of M1, such as speed and hosting resource, how it handles content and the back-end UX.
However, whether it is right to go for M2 or not depends on the kind of store a brand is running and the marketer’s personal preferences. Faced with a substantial number of SKUs and nothing but positive experiences of M1, marketers would be daft not to install M2. However, if M1 was difficult to use and good support agencies/developers were hard to come by, then it might be time to consider an alternative.
What are the alternatives?
In general, most ecommerce platforms do pretty much the same thing and – from a front-end perspective – a consumer will have no idea what the retailer is using. As long as their experience is good and the price is right, there’s a good chance they’ll buy.
So what are the wider options?
WooCommerce is an add-on to WordPress
This is now more popular than Magento, when looking at the top 10k sites globally. Some marketers have been wary of its security levels but, if best practice is followed and the platform is kept up to date, it is no different from any other open-source solution. WooCommerce is easy to use, does what a consumer would expect from the front-end and there is no shortage of capable developers available to provide support.
It is also easy to work with in terms of adaptability, so ongoing development costs might not be as much as with Magento 2, and hosting costs should be lower compared to what is required on M2 to achieve decent page speed.
Shopify usage is rising in the UK and it is easy to see why. For small-medium sized retailers, this platform removes many common ecommerce headaches such as PCI compliance and security.
There is also a nice retail package including EPOS integration and hardware, perfect for lesser-known brands wanting to run ecommerce with a physical shop. It is straightforward enough for marketers to administer simple design tweaks themselves – which keeps costs down – but equally, there’s the option to implement bespoke changes with the help of an agency or developer.
The downside to this sort of platform is that usage is subject to an ongoing monthly cost, which can soon escalate on the advanced plan. However, as with any ecommerce platform, there are continued costs to budget for – there is rarely any getting away from that.
A pretty similar deal in terms of popularity and functionality. There are tonnes of themes available to buy plus plenty of DIY capabilities which – combined with its low cost – makes this ideal for start-ups.
Zencart still has 15% of the UK ecommerce market which, whilst surprising, is probably down to old retailers staying where they are.
marketers must evaluate their own specific digital needs
This platform has always seemed to lag behind in terms of back-end UX, and a look at the Zencart’s site implies that this probably hasn’t changed. It is fairly easy to work with from a development point of view, but has, in general, been surpassed by better alternatives for organisations of all sizes.
As with most areas of business, there is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution for brands and in truth this list could go on and on. Marketers must evaluate their own specific digital needs to determine which platform will best meet their requirements, both now and in the future.
However, the important thing to note is just how many versatile ecommerce solutions there are available. So, it’s not about following the crowd, but adopting the technology that is genuinely most suited to retailer’s objectives.