Magento, the open-source ecommerce platform, officially launched a hosted, software-as-a-service (SaaS) version.
The Magento platform — in my view — is one of the most robust and effective ecommerce solutions available. If, in fact, Magento has any drawbacks or weaknesses, it is that all of its features, functions, and flexibility came at the cost of a complex backend that required more than a little web development experience.
The new Magento Go is a hosted, SaaS solution that takes advantage of Magento’s features — but, perhaps, not its flexibility — and requires a merchant to have no web development or design experience.
Magento-Produced Video, Introducing Go
Advanced Product Configurations
Like the “regular” versions of Magento, Magento Go includes advanced product options ranging from simple products to configurable or bundled ones.
A configurable product, as an example, might be a t-shirt that is available in small, medium, and large and in the colors red, white, and blue. In Magento Go, this would show up as a single product with both size and color options. To anyone that has done any online shopping, this sort of configurable product might seem obvious. But many hosted or SaaS ecommerce platforms lack this feature. Magento Go makes it relatively easy.
Magento Go also allows for bundled products, like adding a game or controller to an Xbox console and selling all three at one discounted price. Again, this is an advanced product feature that a relatively small set of SaaS ecommerce providers offer.
Merchandising and Marketing
Like Magento’s Community, Professional, and Enterprise editions, Magento Go also puts emphasis on merchandising products on site and off. This is the idea of using cross promotion, coupons, or other means to encourage each customer to purchase more both now and later.
For example, Magento Go allows merchants to create all manner of coupons that can be promoted in on-site banners, on coupon and deal sites like RetailMeNot or Groupon, or via email newsletters.
Magento Go also includes a gift card feature similar to the module offered in its Enterprise edition. This particular feature is unusual among turnkey ecommerce solutions.
Ways to Engage Customers
Magento Go also includes a built-in rating and review system, product comparisons, wish lists that can be shared on social media sites, and “customer-assisted shopping,” where the merchant can interact with customers.
A Clear Path for Growth
Another, unspoken, feature of Magento Go is that it offers a relatively clear path for growth. It is not uncommon for small merchants to start with SaaS ecommerce solutions but eventually switch to a licensed ecommerce platform as they grow. With Magento Go that sort of transition should be relatively easy given the relation to the other Magento solutions.
Magento Go promises 24 hour-a-day support for merchants via email or phone, depending on their plan. This, again, is an important feature for online retailers that might not be completely code-literate.
Magento Go offers four basic plans that are priced based on the number of products in the catalog and the level of support offered. The plans run $15, $25, $65, and $125 per month for 100, 500, 1,000, and 10,000 products respectively. The last two plans include telephone support.
At the moment, Magento Go is also offering a $1 million ecommerce “stimulus” fund, which will contribute $15 per month to a merchant’s bill until the $1 million runs out.
This means that while the funds are available, Magento Go’s basic plan is free.
The View of a Competitor
There are many hosted platforms besides Magento Go, of course. One of the leading alternatives is Shopify, an Ottawa, Canada-based hosted platform with more than 12,500 active users. The company was founded in 2006. Its chief platform officer is Harley Finkelstein, who spoke with us about Magento Go.
“Magento is a decent platform,” said Finkelstein. “But for the non-hosted versions, merchants almost always need a developer to get it going. Magento Go, the hosted version, is better than the ‘regular’ versions of Magento, but it is certainly not plug-and-play, like Shopify.
Finkelstein continued, “Getting set up on Magento Go does not seem to be a short, easy process, and many entry-level merchants will still need to partner with a developer to get Go up and running. In that respect, the barrier to entry — for many smaller merchants — still exists with Magento Go. But, compared to the regular versions of Magento, it seems like a first step in the right direction.”
Magento Go is an excellent turnkey ecommerce solution that is very competitive with leading SaaS providers. If a business is just getting started or thinking of changing ecommerce platforms, Magento Go is certainly worth a look.
Of course no platform is perfect, so merchants should always consider a few options before making a choice as important as which ecommerce solution to use.
It is also worth nothing that PayPal, a leader in online transactions, owns some 49 percent of Magento.