On June 19, 2018, Adobe Systems announced the completion of its acquistion of Magento Commerce, an acquisition made to improve Adobe’s overall e-commerce position. While the companies are still working on integration at the time of this writing, Magento Commerce remains a solid e-commerce shopping cart competitor, one that can only strengthen Adobe’s position in that market. When compared to its competition, Magento Commerce stands out as being designed more with developers in mind than beginning e-storefront operators, which accounts for some ease of use issues that put it slightly behind PinnacleCart and Shopify, our Editors’ Choice winners in this category . Still, considering its developer flexibility and its ability to generate complex data sets, Magento Commerce is a solid choice for companies that have the manpower, time, and money to implement such a system.
Pricing and Plans
Although Magento Commerce offers a free, entry-level, open-source plan, you probably won’t be able to run more than a small do-it-yourself business from the tool. Once you move to the more full-featured tiers, capabilities ramp up, including not only advanced features but a full-on web hosting service among other capabilities. However, at these levels Magento is definitely among the most expensive plans you’ll find on the market.
The Magento Commerce Starter plan is the lowest-level paid tool, beginning at $1,999 per month. It includes search engine optimization (SEO), distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) protection, free website monitoring tools from New Relic (199.00 Per Month at New Relic), and 24/7 monitoring and email support. The $3,399-per-month plan adds 75 business intelligence (BI) reports, five BI dashboards, three servers for backing up Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) data, as well as a dedicated technical account manager who will help you oversee the initial setup and launch of your site.
Compared to the other tools on this list (most of which are designed for small organizations, and mom-and-pop businesses looking to get off the ground quickly and affordably), Magento Commerce is way too expensive. While we’re not yet sure how Adobe’s influence will affect Magento’s pricing, for comparison’s sake, Shopify (9.00 Per Month at Shopify) offers three packages as part of its standard offering, the cheapest of which starts at $29 per month and the most expensive of which starts at $179 per month. With these packages, you won’t receive performance monitoring tools, dedicated hardware, DDoS protection, and all of the enterprise-grade tools a Fortune 500 company would need to maintain a global e-commerce network.
Setup and Interface
Unlike GoDaddy GoCentral Online Store (19.99 Per Month, Billed Annually at GoDaddy) and Wix Stores, Magento Commerce isn’t too concerned with helping you get your website up and running in minutes. Compared to the other vendors in our roundup, Magento Commerce is easily the least intuitive system to use and takes the longest to set up. And all of this is done by design. After registering for my Magento Commerce trial, I was given access to a staging website where I could see my e-commerce outlet from the perspective of a customer. I was also given access to my Magento Commerce dashboard where I was able to add products and design my storefront.
Adding products in Magento Commerce is easy, and the system is robust enough to let you conduct your SEO formatting, upselling, cross-selling, and related products adding, all within one page. As with the rest of the system, it isn’t the sexiest user interface (UI), but all of the information and fields are in one concise location. This lets you focus on the task at hand without having to tab back and forth. But, because Magento Commerce is such a complex tool to use, I found myself struggling to do more than add products. In fact, after several hours of tooling around and adjusting things such as “configuration” and “design,” I had nothing more than a store name, a background image, and a logo uploaded. With GoDaddy GoCentral Online Store and Wix Stores (17.00 Per Month at Wix), I was able to have a fully loaded store up and running in the same period of time.
The system offers dozens of page templates that you can populate with data. Once you choose a page template, the drop-down menu automatically changes so that you can select only the type of content that can be injected onto that page. You can save any page you create as a template for later use. Unfortunately, changes you make within the system require that you refresh the cache before you can see the changes appear on the actual website. All pages are cached into an app cache to enhance page load times. This is kind of annoying for website editors but it’s useful for customers.
In an effort to find some thematic design help, I headed to the Magento Marketplace, one of the crowned jewels of the e-commerce world. Here, I had access to 1,748 extensions that can be added to my website and 539 of them are free. The free extensions include push notifications, email notifications, connections to Hubspot (50.00 Per Month at HubSpot), two website themes, and various other technical elements that can be used to enhance your website. I downloaded the Absolute theme to see how it would play on my website. Unfortunately, even though the theme was free, I had to enter my name, physical and email addresses, and phone number. This is unnecessary, especially given that all of this information is already tied to my account.
Once the theme was downloaded, I needed a developer to make the connection for me, which is another frustrating aspect of using Magento Commerce. As with most things related to Magento Commerce, there wasn’t a wizard walkthrough guiding me through the setup and go-live process. And, because the extensions aren’t plug-and-play tools that can be turned on and off, they must be manually coded into your Magento Commerce API. If you’ve got a team of developers working for you, then the tool is great. But if you’re looking to get up and running quickly without much technical know-how, then Magento Commerce is not the system for you.
Why Choose Magento Commerce?
Magento Commerce is a fully customizable tool that provides you with every single attribute, feature, and accoutrement you can think of. Other than point-of-sale (POS) support and a wizard website creator, Magento Commerce gives users everything we’ve seen on other systems. It’s an attribute-driven system designed to let users sort products by colors, price, season, sizes, and any other data element. You’re willing to build into your product pages. Related products are auto-populated based on predetermined business rules so that you never have to go in and manually adjust what shows up in the shadows products. A robust Lightbox feature can be built into any image to advertise new sales or products.
You can also create dynamic categories based on product attributes. For example, you can run a Blue Sale for all products that you’ve tagged blue. You can run a Winter Sale for all products that you’ve tagged winter. You can easily switch between Grid view or Thumbnail view to see all of the products that are listed in order to narrow down your list.
Another cool feature that you won’t find on other tools we’ve reviewed is the ability to make products visible only to registered customers or only visable/available for purchase by registered customers. This is a feature that lets you build out customer segments to find out who your most dedicated customers are; It’s also a nifty way to get customer information by tempting users with VIP-only products. You can also segment the website based on users who are logging in. So you can show VIP customers the highest-selling products. You can segment the website based on previous behavior and information pulled in from Magento Commerce’s BI tool. You can also segment based on who is registered in the rewards program.
Those lovely developers I previously mentioned can access the HTML source code on any page to make changes regardless of where you are within the system. The staging environment lets developers and website editors create and test workflows for future use. You can schedule things to go live on your website in the future. You can also view campaigns and scheduled items in a timeline so you can see what’s loaded, what your company still needs to set up, and the order in which campaigns will arrive. If you click into any date, then you’ll be able to see the website as it will look to customers on that later date.
Unlike most of the tools we reviewed, Magento Commerce lets you manage multiple locales from a single console. This means e-commerce managers for two or three different brands can adjust settings under the same e-commerce console, without having to log into and out of systems. You can also set the console to let customers on the front end know that the brands are related or you can hide brand affiliation.
Because the tool has an open API (something GoDaddy GoCentral Online Store and Wix Stores don’t offer), you’re able to go beyond those 1,748 magical extensions to build your own connections to your legacy tools. Of course, this will require back-end developers, too.
The Bottom Line
Magento Commerce is to e-commerce websites what a Stealth Bomber is to travel: You can technically fly a Stealth Bomber to work every day but, unless you require all of the tools and features provided to you by a Stealth Bomber, you’re probably better off just taking the subway or driving your car. Here’s what I mean: Most small to midsize businesses (SMBs) don’t need DDoS protection, a dedicated account manager, customer segmentation, or the rich insights provided by a BI tool. Those that do require this level of sophistication have the expertise required to make the most of Magento Commerce.
However, the average website builder won’t need all of Magento Commerce’s bells and whistles. Most of these features will actually get in the way of building a website rather than enhancing its construction. If you’ve got a team of coders who are expert at turning HTML into rich customer experiences, then you should absolutely consider Magento Commerce for your e-commerce operation. But if you’re an SMB that wants to quickly and easily sell products online, then you’re better off looking elsewhere.
Best Business Picks