What is Magento?

What is Magento?  

When people ask me “What is Magento” I typically respond by saying, Magento is an extremely powerful ecommerce platform with a steep learning curve, aimed at larger businesses that have an ecommerce segment of their business.  Magento is feature-rich, and opened source (a rarity in this day in age, and a huge win in my book) that offers retailers complete flexibility and control over the look, content and functionality of their websites (notice I said websites, plural).  Magento’s greatest asset is it’s ability to scale up and down depending on business needs.  Multiple stores (using one database), multiple themes, and multiple configurations make Magento the “go to” solution for companies that need flexibility over time.   Magento’s intuitive administration interface contains the marketing, merchandising and content management tools retailers need, without putting constraints on business processes and flow.

What is Magento: The story.

When Magento was released in 2007 after the founders of a previous eCommerce solution split off to create their own platform.  It has since transformed the ecommerce platform market. In a period of 18 months, Magento surpassed one million downloads (yes, community edition is free) and is now used by a staggering 26% of the Alexa top one-million websites. Purchased by eBay in early 2011, it continues to be the fastest growing ecommerce platform in the world.  The current editions are 1.9 for Community edition and 1.14 for Enterprise edition.

Magento is written in PHP and utilises the Zend Framework (which is MVC based) and uses an EAV-based MySQL database. The system is highly modular and Magento’s architecture handles module database schema updates automatically.  There are many extensions on the market place to expand funcitionality, from shipping and logisitics to social media integrations to site performance, Magento Connect has some amazing addons.

Magento comes in three flavors for different business sizes and models: Magento Go (SaaS, that is being removed as on option in 2015), Magento Community (Free, Open-source) and Magento Enterprise (for large retailers).


What is Magento: Why A Retailer Should Use Magento

  • Complete control over integrations especially 3rd party channels (Amazon, Ebay, etc).
  • Open source and a huge community of developers and business partners.  There are many blog posts, forums, books and certifications that make Magento a solid community.  Chances are if you have a business/development issue, someone else in the world has it as well.
  • Internationalisation made simple; world domination is everyone’s goal, isn’t it?
  • Low risk to innovate, try new things, stay ahead of the trends.  There are constantly new version updates and patches that add depth to the feature list.
  • High ROI for our customers.  An implementation on the platform typically spans 2-4 years without a major upgrade.
  • Magento is owned by eBay.  You may ask, “so, what does that matter?”.  The truth is that with eBay driving the ship it will continue to power forward for years to come.  eBay also provides additional services to Magento like PayPal, eBay stores, eBay Labs, and third party fulfillment for Enterprise clients.

What is Magento: Why A Retailer Should Not Use Magento

  • If you have a limited budget.  The average Magento implementation takes 20-50k for a development shop to customize your community edition.  Implementations for companies with significant SKU count, configuration requirements, and custom design could be 100-200k.
  • If you have a small staff.  I will always say that you must “support what you build”.  If you don’t have at least one or two staff members to take advantage of this massive system you won’t have the best chance to recoup your investment and grow your business.
  • Do not use Magento if you expect it to give you 50% growth ALONE.  Again, I reference the hard work it takes to utilize the system.  While all the pieces are there for you to succeed, simply installing it and leaving it be won’t bring you more revenue.
  • Search and Reporting.  If these two features are at the top of your features list Magento won’t be ideal.  Magento at it’s core is a product and customer engine, search and reporting isn’t a C level feature.

What is Magento

What is Magento: Magento Enterprise Features:

Magento Enterprise (Magento EE) is the other flavor of Magento that is very prevalent for companies that are supporting a large revenue stream.  The average Enterprise user earns 1 to 50 million dollars in revenue per year (although there are companies that make significantly more on Magento Enterprise).  With Enterprise you get a plethora of additional features such as (but not limited to): reward points, store credit, customer segment/private sales, admin logging, and full page caching to make your site fly.   For a yearly license fee you also get Enterprise level support from the DIRECT Magento team.

  • Turn browsers into buyers with marketing and merchandising tools, up-sell and cross-sell, and special pricing programmes and promotions.
  • Personalize the customer experience with superior search capabilities (solr), special storefronts for specific customer groups (general, retailers, wholesaler, etc), and preference and behavior-based content delivery.
  • Build Magento to fit your business with easy integration with 3rd party applications, flexible product/catalog management, and comprehensive admin capabilities including multi-site management.
  • Flexibility to create rich, differentiated consumer experiences from the desktop to mobile, and to tailor back-end workflows to your business.
  • The enterprise version is not cheap but does come with improved functionality, better support and indemnity insurance.


What is Magento: My Take On Things

Before Magento when it came to ecommerce I was platform agnostic.  3dcart, Hybris, WordPress Woocommerce, Shopify, are all great solutions, but the more and more I have used Magento I strongly recommend it to any serious ecommerce store.  While it is important to have a strong Magento solutions partner (keyword for your developers staff to work on your website) you can still utilize themes and stock extensions (plugins for functionality) to grow your website.

Again, I reference the steep “learning curve”, but with other things in life you must think about a “learning curve” as a barrier to entry between you and the rest of your segment.  The learning curve, once mastered, will offer you a great leg up on all the software as a service (SaaS) companies on the block.

Lastly, it is very easy to spin up an installation of Magento (community edition) on a lot of hosting partners.  For example, my simple website host of choice, Hostgator, offers two or three click installation.  I will do another blog post on how to install Magento later.

Overall, Magento is the league leader when it comes to eCommerce.  With the ability to scale up, handle large loads of products,  and with a massive/strong community it is my recommended solution for those that have started an ecommerce store on a smaller web service and are looking for more support or the ability to do more online.

If you have any comments or feedback on this post: What is Magento, I would love to hear them.  If you have questions, feel free to respond as well and I will try and respond to all your inquiries.  Please review all the other posts on Magento as well.


– The Digital PM