The View from England

From Magento to WooCommerce, part 1

Every three years I conduct a major review of my ecommerce sites. This is typically more than my annual review; everything is under consideration. In previous major reviews I have changed design and even changed platforms — going for bigger and better carts. Currently I am using Magento, with its multisite option, to run all my sites.

I do these major reviews as it is important to stay ahead and keep my sites current. I emphasize fundamentals. I look at my basic requirements and see if they have changed and if Magento remains the best fit for my needs. I also look to see what problems Magento brings and what compromises I have to assume.

I initially selected Magento because I had the following requirements.

  • Single back-end administration running four different web stores on separate URLs.
  • Single merchant account that allowed collection of credit card payments from each of the stores.
  • Single IP address, and thus a single SSL certificate.
  • Ability to do layered navigation, to better list my complex product range.
  • Good options for search engine optimization.
  • A decent support network.
  • Availability of good extensions.
  • A cart that was still being developed and improved.

Over the years my product range has changed. Moreover, the rate of change of those products has doubled. With Magento, it takes too long to create products. Thus, it takes significant man time to keep the sites current.

In the years since I started using Magento, I have also started selling on other channels, including Ebay and four Amazon stores. To do this, I have moved inventory control and order management into a single cloud application, Linnworks. It is one of many order management providers. But it’s my preference and it currently suits me well. Having a central order management system means I no longer need the single back-end administration.

A growing trend on my sites has been that customers pay with PayPal and Checkout by Amazon, rather than credit cards. I ran several surveys and also tested various checkout scenarios. All results came to the same conclusion: My customers tend to be Internet savvy, use Ebay for buying and selling collectibles, and are lazy.

They preferred to use a checkout method that did not rely on them having to type in their credit card details every time. Hence, they select Checkout by Amazon or PayPal. It came to the point that less than 5 percent of my orders utilized my own merchant account. The growing costs of PCI compliance, the growing bureaucracy associated with PCI, and the numerous charges that appeared on my merchant account statement meant that it was actually costing me more to collect this money than the estimated loss of profit if I dropped the card processing.

So I closed my Internet merchant account.

For some time now it has been possible to set up several SSL certificates for separate domains that all share one IP address. This is done using Server Name Indication (SNI). With the demise of Windows XP, the percentage of my visitors using old browsers that do not support SNI is close to zero. So I no longer need to route all my checkouts through a single Magento checkout. I can let each Magento store have its own SSL certificate and still have a single IP address.

Further Google has started to say that it will give ranking preference to sites that run entirely under SSL encryption. With SNI, I can do this and still have a single IP address and thus a single cPanel hosting plan.

Analyzing the visitor navigation through my site, I have determined that the layered navigation is too complex. It has not kept up with my changing product range and needs to be drastically trimmed.

Taking all things into consideration, Magento is no longer a good fit for my needs. It has many, many features. But most I do not need.

So I am now considering moving to a new cart. By way of testing, I have decided to split off a small part of my inventory and set up a new site.

I have always been critical of WooCommerce as it is an ecommerce extension to WordPress, a blogging solution. But I have never actually tried WooCommerce. However, many others have tried it successfully. Plus, it claims to have links to Linnworks and Ebay — both of which I need. So I am going to set up this new site in WooCommerce and see how it goes. If it fails, I will then try OpenCart.

In my next post, I will report on my adventures with WooCommerce.

See “From Magento to WooCommerce, part 2.”

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