How to Determine If Magento Is the Solution for You

Posted in Magento, Platform Talk

For ecommerce retailers, choosing a platform is one of the most important decisions you have to make. With so many factors influencing your business operations, it can be a complex process to decide which platform will serve your business today – and help you grow.

There are several viable options depending on your company’s needs. Magento is an open source ecommerce platform that has been around for over a decade. In the years since its debut, other platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce, have come on the scene to rival Magento. Nonetheless, Magento still remains a strong solution for specific types of ecommerce businesses.

In this episode of Recommerce, Sara and Tim talk about when retailers should leverage Magento for their ecommerce sites. You’ll learn:

  • The many ways Magento 2 is a big improvement over Magento 1
  • The benefits of Magento when it comes to having numerous storefronts or brands within the one ecommerce site
  • Why Magento is super beneficial for B2B sales
  • The immense flexibility for product variants in the platform
  • Why Magento is a strong solution for omnichannel selling and more

Full Episode Transcript

Sara: Welcome back, everyone. I’m Sara, the founder of Command C, and today I’m here with Tim, one of our Tech Leads. Hi, Tim.

Tim: Hi, Sara.

Sara: In today’s episode we’re going to get into the nuts and bolts of Magento 2. We aim to dissect and demystify why and when we recommend it as a platform of choice for our clients. Magento is a very robust and powerful open source ecommerce platform that we do a ton of work with. And we also do a ton of work with clients before we embark on a full-scope build to help them analyze their business and ecommerce operations. And ultimately provide some recommendations as to what ecommerce platform to align themselves with.

We consider things like what’s going to meet their initial needs, but additionally what’s going to meet their long-term business goals. Plus what platform they’re going to get the most mileage out of ultimately and also generate the highest return on investment. Really, this is one of the biggest and most impactful decisions that an ecommerce organization can make. So today we’re going to try to tease out sort of the high-level scenarios in which Magento 2 is a good fit.

Tim: As an ecommerce agency, we like to take a very lean approach to development. We want to create the best solutions for our clients without creating additional overhead, and at the end of the day, me Magento 2 really isn’t a platform that’s very light on overhead. So, for smaller, leaner organizations who have fairly straight forward ecommerce needs, we usually recommend simpler and more streamlined solutions. But there are often some business requirements where Magento really becomes the clear path forward.

Magento 2 is far improved over Magento 1.

I also wanted to call out real quick before we get too far that Magento 2 is far improved over Magento 1. So some businesses that may have been turned off by some of the challenges with Magento 1, may feel differently about Magento 2. For example, Magento 2’s performance has been dramatically improved over the Magento 1 system. There’s also large improvements have been made on the ease of managing and administering the store on the backend.

And they’ve recently acquired a BI (business intelligence) tool that is now included in the backend for facilitating reporting and getting data on your store. I also wanted to mention that one of the drawbacks of Magento is that, in the past, you’ve had to host it yourself, but they’ve recently solved that with their commerce cloud solution where Magento will host the store for you.

Sara: It’s a drawback for a lot of businesses, but as we’ll kind of circle back to, sometimes it’s actually a benefit that you have kind of that level of control. But again, we’ll come back to that. So delving right in, what are the key indicators that we look for right off the bat when trying to help assess the best platform for a business?

Tim: So, one of the initial requirements that really lends itself towards Magento being the right platform is if a business has a need for multiple storefronts. And that means if they have multiple websites that they need to serve or multiple brands that they wanted to present via the same ecommerce solution. Magento handles that extremely well. Whereas with other platforms, you may need a separate license for each store. With Magento, you can do all of that within a single license.

One of the aspects of that is if you need different fulfillment in different regions, or in different countries, say you want to have a different set of products in different countries or different storefronts, or even if it comes down to multicurrency. When having a different pricing structure in different currencies, as opposed to just using exchange rates for translating currencies between stores.

Sara: Got it. I know another thing that we talk about a lot is B2B needs in addition to B2C needs. So if you’re a business that has a strong B2B and a strong B2C component, and you need, I don’t even want to say excessive, but you need to be able to make customizations to your B2B storefront. This is often an indicator that Magento might be a better fit.

Magento allows extensive customization when it comes to the B2B process.

Tim: Yep. So, many platforms do have B2C capabilities, but Magento definitely allows extensive customization when it comes to the B2B process. Most of the time the B2B experience that businesses have, especially if they’re very established in the B2B realm, they need a very specialized B2B checkout process or B2B sales process that differs substantially from your typical B2C. And what Magento does is allows you to really customize that entire process from product listings all the way through to checkout and order completion.

One of the other things that Magento does really well is allow you to have different pricing structures or different discount structures for different customer groups, and that also comes into very much play. If you’re going to be driving your B2B and B2C sales out of the same storefront, you definitely need the capability to handle different pricing structures.

Sara: That makes sense. Yeah. I mean, I know that other platforms that we work with have made big strides with regards to a business that has both B2B and B2C needs, but it still just seems like what you can do with Magento can really be tailored around your unique business needs. Whereas with other platforms you have to kind of tailor your business needs around the platform to make it work for you.

Tim: Yeah, and that’s really one of the key aspects with Magento is that you can really tailor your ecommerce platform around your business needs as opposed to having to adjust. And that point really comes to the forefront when it comes to B2B sales. So for example, if you just need a line sheet and checkout for your B2B sales, then some of the other platforms can be perfect. But if you want a more rich experience or a more customized experience on the B2B sales side, that’s where you can really build that into Magento.

With Magento, you can really tailor your ecommerce platform around your business needs as opposed to having to adjust.

Sara: Awesome. So circling back to what we alluded to earlier, let’s talk about hosting and where that becomes a drawback versus where it becomes a benefit.

Tim: Yeah. So one of the key things with Magento is it is an open source platform. And what that means is that you have complete access to the code. You can see everything that goes on, you can modify anything in any way that you need to. You can audit the code and make sure any or all of the unique privacy or security controls that your organization may have are in place. And we see this often come into play when it comes to government, government-related businesses, or businesses that do need to interact with the government.

They need to have that complete control over the platform and the source code as opposed to being kind of at the liberty of a hosting platform. With Magento, you do have the ability to completely host it yourself. So any privacy or security controls that you do need to have, you can put in place yourself. As opposed to say being at the liberty of a contract with another organization.

Sara: This has never happened with any of the platforms that we work with. But I also see the case where on a hosted solution, you literally don’t own the files. Right? And if we’re talking about a major investment, like a multimillion dollar website build, right? There’s a lot of risk involved in that. Fortunately, the platforms that we’ve aligned with are very stable and hold a lot of market share, but you know, it can cause some real agita to know that you’re making this massive investment in something that ultimately you don’t own.

Tim: Yeah. Well, as you mentioned, it hasn’t happened. You are kind of at the liberty of those other organizations. If say, down the road, they decide that they need to make a change to the platform and that impacts the way that you’ve built your store or you’re then having to adapt at that point to those changes as opposed to being in control of what changes are being made.

Sara: Right. And we see that impact escalate with the more customization that’s been done to the store.

Magento allows you to extensively modify the checkout process.

Tim: Yep. The more customization, the more complexity that’s built into the store, the more reliant on third-party applications. One final point that I want to make about this, kind of leading into what we were talking about, about the platforms, is the extent to which you can actually customize Magento. So for example, if an organization has very … wants to customize the checkout process, that’s very difficult to do in most of the hosted platform, and not to say that they haven’t optimized their checkout process, but some organizations do need a unique checkout flow. And Magento really allows you to extensively modify that checkout process.

So when it comes to the checkout process, or any customization across the rest of the store, you can really take a holistic approach to customization and kind of from the ground up with Magento. This is as opposed to relying on a lot of third-party apps and meshing those apps together.

Sara: All right, well that’s a great place to take a quick pause and we’ll be right back.

Interlude: You’re listening to Recommerce, a podcast for ecommerce wearable brands navigating technical complexity and change. Brought to you by Command C, a development team that saves ecommerce retailers from outdated tech and ineffective operations with a strong focus on Magento and Shopify Plus. You can learn more about how we help at

Sara: All right, so circling back here, in segment one, we talked about some of these key indicators that we look for when we’re having initial discussions with a business that needs to select a new ecommerce platform. Those key indicators being like these kind of concrete business requirements that really tip us off that Magento might be the best fit.

In this segment, we want to talk about some more nuanced features that, in and of themselves, might not qualify Magento to be the best path forward, but as the needs start to pile up on one another… So like when one or two or three of these features or functionalities are needed by a business, then the scale sort of tips in Magento’s favor. So one of the things that comes up a lot is discussion around variants.

Tim: Yep. So when it comes to having variants on your products, if you have a very large number of variants, you often run into some platform limitations with those. You may have to look at handling the variance through other methods such as using product options. And the way that Magento handles this really lends itself to extensive customization and very large numbers of different types of products, different attributes on products. And making it easy to manage and manipulate those options. Magento allows you to have numerous different classes of products with different options set for each.

Magento allows you to have numerous different classes of products with different options for each.

One of the other things that we occasionally run into is a fulfillment partner may need a very specific way of handling those variants or specifications of the products for fulfillment. And when that comes down to it has to be a specific SKU versus having a line item option on the product. You might run into some challenges with the fulfillment partners, and Magento really allows you to optimize the way that that information is sent along to the partners.

Sara: Got it. What about merchants who have very large catalogs or who need to make frequent catalog updates? I’ve seen hosting reliability with hosted platforms get so much better over the years, where does Magento really have the leg up with regards to this kind of thing?

Tim: So Magento has a lot of features around catalog imports and catalog management. And so if you do have a very, very large product catalog, you can import the products very easily. And that’s not to say you can’t do that in other platforms, but in addition to the large catalogs, if you’re updating the items frequently or if there’s a very large number of attributes on the products that periodically change, it’s very easy to update and manage those in a fairly streamlined way.

So there are also some very good product information management tools out there that integrate with lots of platforms. So those work very well with platforms, but Magento has a lot of those features just built in to make it easier to manage. But it can also manage frequent imports from those product information tools.

Sara: And what about multi-language functionality? Again, like I’ve seen other platforms really make strides in this department. Are they up to par with Magento? Or is Magento still kind of leading the field here?

Tim: So, as we talked about earlier with the multiple stores and views within in Magento, Magento really shines when it comes to multilingual. Because with other platforms you’re usually translating different strengths and different attributes individually. But with Magento you can have a completely different store view that shows the products and content pages built specifically in the unique language. And that really, you know, with Magento handling it in that way, it really makes it much easier to manage a multilingual store.

Magento really shines when it comes handling multilingual ecommerce stores.

Tim: The final area where we really see Magento as a key player is when it comes to omnichannel needs. And Magento has a lot of features built-in to allow stores to manage the multichannel experience, whether that be via different inventory levels for different channels, different products sets for each different channel, just overall management of the different channels and fulfillment. It just feels like Magento was built with omnichannel needs in mind and feels like with other platforms it’s either an afterthought or not quite as robust of a solution.

Sara: That makes a lot of sense. And I think that that in a way kind of ties together this idea that there are a couple of different scenarios, right? Like there’s this scenario where there’s a very clear concrete business need that disqualifies the merchant from using another platform. But that scenario is becoming less and less frequent as other platforms grow and evolve and innovate. What we do find ourselves evaluating almost more often than kind of these concrete needs that one platform can serve over another is the holistic solution, right?

So, ultimately, what’s going to be the leanest? What’s going to serve the merchant for the longest amount of time? And what’s going to generate the most return on investment? Which means that which platform is going to have the lowest development costs? Which platform is the client going to be dealing with the fewest headaches? And the more customization that you build into a platform, the more variables you introduce into that platform.

Magento was built with omnichannel selling needs in mind.

Tim: It’s not just to the initial build of the platform that we need to be worried about here. It’s also when you’re looking at down the road, when you get a lot of different customizations that interplay with each other, the costs of managing and maintaining those different solutions, that interchange with each other, also multiply. So you need to take into account not just the initial build, but also the ongoing maintenance cost of all of those customizations.

Sara: Well, that is a ton of helpful information. Thank you so much for your time today, Tim, and I look forward to doing it again soon.

Tim: Definitely.