If you are one of the estimated 200,000 eCommerce stores powered by Magento, you may well have been grappling with a host of uncertainties and transition issues of late.

Forrester Research named Magento a ‘B2B eCommerce leader’ in its latest report, The Forrester Wave™: B2B Commerce Suites for Midsize Organizations, Q3 2017.However, the launch of Magento 2, which is the new generation Magento Commerce solution, has been more of a lesson in how not to do it.

The deployment of this major upgrade was supposed to give B2B and B2C users the opportunity to create enhanced customer experiences, offer better security, more flexibility and equip them with new tools to grow their operations. Despite several groundbreaking new features, the launch of Magento 2 has also caused widespread confusion and been fraught with issues for both Magento and its customers.

If you’re running Magento 1 and haven’t yet upgraded, are facing difficulty transitioning or are uncertain about what the current state of play is with Magento 2, read on. In this post, we’ll take a look at what the new Magento 2.2 system actually includes, recap known issues and question if it’s worth the effort to transition or time to jump ship to another eCommerce solution.

First of all, what’s so special about Magento 2?

With approximately one in four eCommerce businesses using Magento, it’s fair to say it knows a thing or two about powering online stores. Magento went back to the drawing board to create Magento 2, stripping its platform down to the bare bones and then crafting a cutting-edge new experience from the ground up.

Magento itself says Magento 2 is the world’s most flexible eCommerce platform. It claims, “No other platform gives you the power to create unique, limitless, and engaging shopping experience. Enjoy rich, out-of-the-box features, an unlimited ability to customize, and seamless third-party integrations [sic].”

Core features include:

Engaging shopping experiences – With Magento 2 you can create personalised and customised shopping experiences across multiple device types. You can dynamically display content to specific customers based on data such as gender, location and order history.

Improved marketing – The Magento 2 backend is simpler than previous versions and more marketer friendly. It also allows the use of affiliate and referral extensions.

Visual merchandising – Category pages can be optimized with a drag-and-drop interface and sorting rules to order products by criteria such as best seller, colour or highest margin.

Elasticsearch – Magento 2 can handle large catalogues and scale search capacity with Elasticsearch technology. This will also give customers suggestions for misspellings, attribute weighting and handle synonym management to help boost conversions and relevance.

Secure payments – Magento 2 includes PayPal, Braintree, and Authorize.net payment gateways.

Better reporting – Powerful reports and dashboards give better analytical insight into business performance, helping merchants to identify new growth opportunities quickly.

What does this mean for Magento 1?

Merchants who haven’t yet upgraded to Magento 2 were originally told that support for Magento 1 would end in November 2018. This end-of-life date meant that security updates would stop, leaving online retailers open to the possibility of data breaches and hacks. With the end of support comes the end of other updates too, meaning no new features or integrations to keep stores on trend, working efficiently and with all the required marketing and SEO tools.

In June, Magento backtracked on this end-of-life date, saying that support for Magento 1 platforms would continue for at least 18 months after November 2018.

While the extended support deadline means you have more time to decide whether to transition to Magento 2 or swap platforms entirely, it does mean there is still much uncertainty around if or when support will end. Along with this, there’s no definitive timeline for when you should make the switch. No-one knows if you’ll suddenly be given an 18 month deadline by Magento, taking the decision out of your hands.

Problems with upgrading to Magento 2

If you’re still running Magento 1, your two options are upgrade to Magento 2 sooner rather than later or choose another eCommerce platform entirely and migrate your store.

The issue with upgrading is that a huge number of merchants are affected and to date, many clients that have attempted the transition to Magento 2 have been faced with significant blockages.  As Magento 2 is still fairy new, some issues with extensions remain. A lack of compatibility could mean missing out on some functionality. One common issue for example is that adding Google Tag Manager to Magento 2 generates a 404 error.

The process of upgrading to Magento 2 is also time consuming. For larger stores with multiple extensions, it could take several months to transition. If the transition isn’t handled correctly, your SEO could be affected which would likely lead to a drop in sales. Any loss of rankings may take weeks or months to recover from, suggesting ongoing traffic and sales issues moving forwards.

What about switching to a new platform?

Although Magento is considered an enterprise leader for eCommerce, the prospect of a problematic transition to Magento 2 means this is also a good time to consider switching platforms.

Shopify

Shopify has thrown its hat in the ring as a viable alternative to Magento. It operates differently to Magento in that it doesn’t release new versions. All stores simply run on the latest version automatically, so you won’t need to worry about future upgrades. Hosting and security is also included, it supports Apple Pay and has dozens of apps and integrations as well as all of the marketing, SEO, social and reporting functions you’d expect.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce claims to be the most popular eCommerce platform on the web (based on Builtwith stats). It’s racked up 32,662,061 downloads and powers 28% of the world’s online stores. WooCommerce is an open-source modular system which is built on WordPress. There are hundreds of free and paid extensions and it comes bundled with PayPal, BACS and cash on delivery payment options.

ekmPowershop

ekmPowershop says it is the ‘quickest, simplest, easiest and most powerful way to setup your own online shop and the UK’s number one hosted ecommerce solution.’ It service covers build, design, hosting, mobile and payment processing. Key features include more than 150 customisable templates, an easy to use interface, mCommerce as standard, eBay integration and an abandoned cart saver.

Are you struggling with Magento 2? Not sure whether to transition or swap to a new platform? Contact the Adrac team to discuss your options with our eCommerce experts.