E-commerce is changing the way the world does business. Outpacing the growth of the rest of the retail sector, e-commerce is no longer optional for many businesses and for others, it IS their business. In the last quarter of 2009, e-commerce retail sales increased 14.4 percent over last year’s Q4, while total retail sales for the same period increased only 2.2 percent. Chances are, a channel that is growing more than four times as fast as other channels will eventually impact your business in some way. Whether that’s good news or bad news may depend on your readiness and ability to take advantage of this kind of trend.
If your business is direct-to-consumer or business-to-business (B2B), take note; Forrester research recently issued a report identifying e-commerce as a key channel for both. What that means looking into the future is that beyond the websites and content management system you may be using today, the future of your e-business operations may depend on how efficiently your systems work together – from Web store, inventory management, order fulfillment, and accounting systems, to customer relationship management and support.
Pulling these systems together to maximize efficiency and help your e-business scale is the job of a solution like the Magento E-Commerce Platform by Varien. Magento is an open-source solution available in a free Community Edition or a supported subscription Enterprise Edition. Varien CEO Roy Rubin recently told practical e-commerce, “We are different from other open source projects in that there is a company behind the software … [Varien] is aggressively pushing the development of the project.” So users will benefit from the push and from the high rate of use and community contribution. According to CNET.com, Magento has “tens of thousands of users,” and Rubin confirms that Varien’s customers include “Fortune 500s, midmarket brick and mortar retailers, pure-play Internet focused merchants, and smaller organizations.”
Benefits of using the Community Edition of the Magento E-Commerce Platform include the free download, a committed company, support via the community discussion forum and the ease of creating stores. The Community Edition includes features like multiple stores, a merchandising and marketing capability, and the ability to run unlimited promotions, which Rubin says is very rare, even in higher-end solutions.
Magento E-Commerce Platform enables merchants to manage online sales from end-to-end with these available modules:
- Site Management
- Catalog Management
- Catalog Browsing
- Product Browsing
- Mobile Commerce
- International Support
- Customer Service
- Customer Accounts
- Order Management
- Marketing Promotions and Tools
- Analytics and Reporting
- Search Engine Optimization
The Enterprise Edition includes additional features, product support, SLA’s and starts in the $11,000 range. Exclusive features include Web store levels, content staging and merging, gift certificates, strong data encryption (supports PA-DSS standards) and back office accounting and ERP Integration, among others.
Open source solutions are not for everyone, however. Downsides of using a solution like Magento E-Commerce Platform are common to many open source solutions. They require more design and development skill than many solutions including knowledge of Apache Web servers, MySQL, SOAP, PHP, XML, XHTML, and CSS, and some have commented in blog discussions that for Magento, the hosting requirements are steep.
Bottom line, if your e-business channel is important or critical to your business, the best predictions are that it will continue to grow faster than other channels and that the big winners in e-commerce going forward will be prepared to take advantage of this growth with a solution like Magento E-Commerce Platform that can help you maximize your efficiency and grow with your business.