Practical Ecommerce

Magento Go: going going gone

I have always had my doubts over hosted ecommerce solutions. I have never used them. Recently I have been thinking that I was wrong and that they are a viable solution for small businesses that just want to concentrate on selling and not worry about any technical details. Magento Go, however, has confirmed my earlier doubts. It is closing down. All Magento Go customers have until February 2015 to move their business away.

These poor customers now have to move carts and hosts at the same time. So the vision of an easy life has been destroyed. Migrating hosts is bad enough, but migrating carts at the same time is a nightmare. There are so many considerations that the poor customers must be wondering what they have done to deserve this.

It is interesting that Magento is recommending migration to Bigcommerce, and not to the open source Magento Community Edition. The concern here is whether they are also planning to ditch Magento Community. They are certainly still pushing it, so perhaps this is a baseless fear.

This closure exposes the true weakness of a hosted solution, namely you have invested in a propriety solution and it will not be easy to save your investment. Plus, major commercial decisions (such as closing down) are outside your control.

It is all too easy to underestimate the true value of your site to your business. There are three main assets that you need to preserve.

  • Your product database. This is your catalogue of products, their descriptions, and their images. This can represent an enormous investment of time and resources.
  • Your customer base. This is not just the customer database but also the customers themselves. They will know and be used to your site, and its navigation. They will know how to find what they want and how to check out. A new site can upset them.
  • Your search engine indexing. Currently Google and the other search engines will have hopefully listed all your site including your product pages, with relevant keywords. If you are not careful all this is about to be trashed.

Even major stores with huge IT teams get this wrong. At the recent Marks & Spencer’s annual meeting, the chief executive said “…that issues with M&S’s revamped website had had an impact on sales,” with online purchases down 8.1 percent in the latest quarter. “ See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/28205935 for the full story.

So what to do? The problem is that a major commercial decision is being forced on you with limited opportunities to schedule. You either jump ship as soon as possible, or you wait until the new year. The last thing you need is to move in the forthcoming Christmas season. I would go now. Get it over with. The problem with leaving it to January 2015 means you just have one month to do it, everyone else will likewise be doing it, and some of your many Christmas customers will be wanting customer service. As any retailer will know, whilst Christmas is the busiest time of year for sales, January is the busiest time of year for customer service (moans, complaints, returns, and so forth). So the last thing you need in January is to lose your customer database, even if it is just for a day or two whilst you are migrating.

I would recommend to any Magento Go user to migrate to the Community Edition of Magento for the following reasons.

  • It can be made to look and feel like your existing site to your current customers, with the same navigation and filtering.
  • It can have the same interfaces as Go with a similar admin backend, so there is no need to change your processes and procedures. No staff training required.
  • It will be relatively easy to preserve the same page names and thus SEO structure. Further page content and layout will be very similar, so Google will probably find the same keywords and phrases in the equivalent new page as on the old Go page.
  • Despite what some scare stories say, you do not need a dedicated server or decent VPS server to host Magento. You can get a good responsive Magento site on a decent shared host. I have written about this before, at “Shared hosting is best for Magento.”

If you do not want a standalone solution, then you jump from the frying pan into the potential fire of a hosted solution — like the recommended Bigcommerce.

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  1. Nick July 9, 2014 Reply

    Cloud commerce is definitely the future but for the moment only Netsuite and perhaps Venda are the most reliable (and pricey also). Shopify, Bigcommerce, Volusion etc. are good for small-mid sized US located companies. They have no multilinual planning for the near future and their payment gateways are difficult to be localised. Regarding MagentoGo my opinion is that it was a good concept but it was tragically lacked support and persistence. Undoubtedly its a big hurt for Magento΄s validity.

  2. Tamira July 10, 2014 Reply

    I totally agree with an author that it is worth to migrate from Go to Community Edition. One more reason to do that is that most of Magento Go extensions can be used in Magento CE. As it is mentioned in the article number one priority is to preserve product and customer database and SEO. As far as I know cart2cart has already announced about a possibility to transfer products, customers and orders automatically from Go to CE. So that merchants will be able to preserve those assets.

    Talking about the time when it’s better to migrate I agree that it has to be done before Christmas holidays. Probable the best time is to move during summer holiday season, when business activity level decreases rapidly.

    Thanks for a great article!

  3. Carlos Rivera July 10, 2014 Reply

    Being on a propriety ecommerce system myself, this article was a real eye opener. I had no idea Magento Go was in trouble.

  4. Richard July 10, 2014 Reply

    We currently use a hosted solution and have wanted to make the jump, however what many don’t realize is the cost associated with it is much higher, especially if you don’t have much technical experience with hosting, design etc. Then you will be paying someone not only to maintain the sites integrity but also heavy design fee’s. I’d be hard pressed to find a company that would migrate you for under $20,000

    • Richard July 11, 2014 Reply

      You can migrate to community edition for much less that $20,000. First pick a decent Magento savvy host and ask them to instal Magento for you. Then use cart2cart to migrate. Then install a decent template. You can hire a web designer to tidy up the template for a few hundred dollars. The result will probably be equivalent to the Magento Go site they already had.

  5. Anthony July 10, 2014 Reply

    There is a good reason if small-mid businesses are going to an hosted solution: you don’t have the technical knowledge, the time, or the budget to go to an open-source solution.
    I will say that if your current online business on Magento Go is a real business with profits then invest and go to Magento CE but if you’re not doing hundreds thousands of sales you should migrate to another hosted solution.
    Buy anyway, as explained in the article, they should move asap.

    • Richard July 11, 2014 Reply

      Certainly the easy option is to jump to another hosted solution. However if your site is profitable and making decent sales (and not necessarily the exaggerated hundreds of thousands) then going to a independent self hosted solution is a serious option.

  6. Jason Lancaster July 10, 2014 Reply

    The closure of Magento Go is like a dream come true for hardcore web development enthusiasts. For years, they’ve been saying “But what if the hosted solution closes – THEN what are you going to do?” The trouble with this whole argument is:

    Self-hosted systems have limited life-spans. You can’t run xCart (or whatever old ecommerce system you like) forever. At some point, the open source community loses interest and you’re stuck with a very old, very antiquated system that needs upgrade.

    OR – even worse – you keep on using the old system despite security problems and limited development help.

    The truth is that self-hosted systems are extraordinarily expensive. They require massive up-front investment, and their ongoing costs are considerable. If you want to run a self-hosted store, make sure that either a) you have an awesome budget or b) you know how to manage the code yourself. Otherwise, you’re just throwing away money. BigCommerce, Volusion, etc. all offer a better product for a lower price.

    • Kevin July 10, 2014 Reply

      Jason, that’s precisely what happened to us. We were on Zen Cart, and it became impossible to find any designers that could work on the that platform. And maintaining the platform was taking away from running the business. There are tradeoffs when going to a hosted cart, but it’s MUCH better.

      • Richard July 11, 2014 Reply

        After how many years?

    • Richard July 11, 2014 Reply

      The trouble with your argument is the extreme exaggeration. “Self hosted systems have limited life spans” – all systems have limited life spans, no site should be left unchanged for years. With self hosted you get to choose when to change. By “limited” read “several years”.
      “massive up-front investment” means maybe $1,000 or less to migrate and set up a reasonable store to match the Magento go store.
      “considerable ongoing costs” are likely to be half or less than the hosted subscription.

  7. Ronald Duncan July 13, 2014 Reply

    Hi our cloud ecommerce has now been around for over 15 years as a hosted solution.

    We started off in B2C ecommerce and websites, and have moved into B2B and the more complex requirements for service ecommerce such as social care.

    I still remember Intel and SAP closing their Pandesic joint venture, and Intel then closing its ecommerce system and our picking up the international customers because BT choose a replacement system that did not have multi currency.

    For any UK small business wanting B2C ecommerce we are a great choice amoung a number of good providers. If you take the step up to B2B then we are clearly a much better choice since we are pre integrated into all the major buying systems.

    On a global level again we have some great features such as sales tax by Zip code that is an add on for most US providers, but in built with us to ensure invoices are correct in a B2B environment.

    Creating an ecommerce marketplace does require a lot more thought about scalability and design. One of the issues with magento has always been the customisation requirements that meant you needed in house or agency developers.

    The problem with GO was that this exposed the limitations in the core platform since it did not have the flexibility that people expected.

    One of the attractions of our platform is that it is a cloud development platform that has been used to build an ecommerce system. This means that the Content Management System, ecommerce, cart, checkout and control centre have all been built in the platform along with our eprocurement and other B2B functionality. This means that the platform is designed for building apps and extensions, and there are now over 10,000 extensions/apps that customers have built.

    Personally, I think hosted is a no brainer, we look after the scalability, PCI compliance, patching and continuous system upgrades for all our customers, and ensure that their ecommerce keeps improving.

    I have seen a number of ecommerce systems come and go over the past 15 years, and I love making our customers into millionaires, with a system that supports their growth from start up to fortune 500.

    Ronald Duncan
    CloudBuy

    • Richard July 14, 2014 Reply

      Whilst all you say is interesting, can you say why a Magento Go customer should move to you as opposed to the “recommended” Bigcommerce. Can you system match the Magento Go features the customers might have relied on? Does it interface to the same payment gateways? Does it have a method to re-direct the old sites pages to the new pages so SEO is not damaged?

  8. Jed July 31, 2014 Reply

    Magento Go was found in a ditch with all four legs in the air, slightly bloated. It has everyone who decided to use Magento Go hosted Magento e-commerce in a dead panic as the corpse will be buried soon.

  9. Krish TechnoLabs July 31, 2014 Reply

    I think that this reflects eBay’s intention to focus only on Community and Enterprise customers and community is best option for magento go holders.