The View from England

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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