When is Magento right for my brick and mortar store?
I get this question almost on a daily basis when talking to store owners, and I wanted to give you some thoughts to help you decide if you should move to Magento. If you haven't heard of Magento before, you will soon because it is the most popular open source e-commerce platform used by retailers, big and small. Modern Retail implements website based on Magento all the time - and we love it - when it is the right fit for the retailer. The question, of course, is when is it a good "fit"?
Dispelling the Myth
I'm going to dispel a myth a right now: Magento is not a panacea for increased sales! There are so many agencies out there that will tell you the only way to improve your sales is to upgrade to Magento. While there are some older e-commerce platforms that aren't that good, and may for example have terrible SEO, this is not true for most mainstream platforms. If you have a reputable e-commerce platform, the question really comes down to "What do you want that you're not getting with your platform today?" You also need to ask yourself if these additional "wants" will add up to increased sales for your business or are these wiz-bang features you think you need? We call this the "dancing bear syndrome," which I'll explain in a future blog article. Suffice it to say, sometimes retailers get caught up in having features that ultimately provide little to no value to their bottom line.
Magento is Free. Why not?
Ok, I know what you're going to say. The community edition of Magento is open source software and is absolutely free so why wouldn't I jump ship and move to it? Yes, the Magento software is free and there are a lot of nice features built into the platform. However, that's a fallacy because there are a lot of additional costs in building a Magento site that works and performs well! Things like making it shoppable, safe, secure and one that loads fast are all points that you must consider when moving over to Magento because these will all be your responsibility. Yes, these are things that knowledgeable developers, designers, marketing specialists, information technologists and business consultants can solve - at a cost. Additionally, you need to make sure you find the right infrastructure to run Magento because arguably it requires more resources to run. The wrong server or hosting provider may result in poor website performance or worse, violate your PCI / DSS compliance.
Magento Litmus Test
Please don't read this and think we don't like Magento. On the contrary, we really like it and we can do things with it that simply cannot be done with any other platform. If you have a website with some very specific business needs, then by all means, Magento may be the solution for you. However, if you're new to e-commerce and have modest needs, then Magento may not be the solution. The following is a litmus test to see if Magento is a fit for your business:
- Are you doing over $500,000 a year in online sales?
- Do you have, or do you plan on having, one or more people work exclusively on your website?
If you the answer is "no" to both of these questions, then Magento may not be the right fit for your business. Yes, this is a generalization, but in practice this rough gauge seems to work pretty well. I also have to believe that Magento would agree with me because the last thing anyone wants is for it to get bad press as it is a really impressive platform; one that can do a lot for your business.
Ugh, Now What?
Don't worry if you've failed the above test because there are a lot of really good platforms out there. If you haven't read it yet, you might want to check out: Building a Website is a Business Decision Not a Technical One. If you have a tight budget, you might also want to read: What Design Agencies Aren't Telling You, Website Themes have Gotten Good. Finally, you might want to consider the following when selecting a new e-commerce platform: Google Search Update, Retailers Must Do Content Marking Now!
If your platform is meeting your needs but you still are not happy with your online sales then you most likely have one of the following three problems:
- Something is wrong with your products, photography or merchandising.
- You are either doing the wrong kind of online marketing or no marketing at all.
- Your website stinks. Sorry I cannot sugarcoat this problem. Over the years we've seen so many poorly constructed and designed website. The good news is if you have a well-designed website that's shoppable, then your problem is one of the above two issues.
I hope this helps you in some way. The worst thing a retailer can do is get in over their head and not be successful online. Being successful takes work, no doubt, but it can be a lot less daunting when the right solution is picked at the right time.