Magento Review

Date Established
2007
Location
Culver City, CA

Overview

With over 250,000 merchants on board, Magento is one of the eCommerce industry’s most popular self-hosted platforms, and it’s not hard to see why. Magento’s expansive features set and complete customizability make it an excellent platform for merchants who have the resources to best implement advanced technology.

Magento was founded by Roy Rubin and Yoav Kutner in 2007. Over the next four years, Magento caught the eye of big name players in eCommerce, and in 2011, eBay/X.commerce purchased the platform.

Currently, Magento comes in two versions: Magento Community Edition (CE) and Magento Enterprise Edition (EE). In this review, we’ll be covering the features of Magento CE. If you’re looking to read more about Magento’s enterprise options, check out our review of Magento Enterprise Cloud Edition.

Magento is a robust platform with powerful capabilities. However, you should note that this cart is not for beginners; Magento can pose a serious challenge to merchants with little to no tech experience. In fact, Magento does not recommend that smaller businesses and newer merchants use their software. Instead, they direct these people to their partner Zoey Commerce, a fully hosted solution that was built with Magento at its core.

Despite shortcomings in the ease-of-use category, there is no doubt that Magento is an excellent tool. In fact, more top internet retailers use Magento than any other platform. In the past two years, Magento has won three notable awards to prove it: #1 Platform Internet Retailer Top 1000 (2015), #1 Platform Internet Retailer B2B 300 (2015), and #1 Platform Internet Retailer Europe 500 (2016).

Magento is trusted by high volume merchants worldwide, including Toms Shoes and Oneida, and facilitates over $50 billion in transactions annually.

Keep reading to find out if your business could benefit by joining the Magento community.

Pricing

Although Magento CE is free to download and use, it is not free to implement. You can expect to pay for web hosting, domain names, add-ons, an SSL certificate, and payment processing.

Remember, Magento is far from simple. If you don’t have experience coding (especially with PHP), you’re going to need a developer. And you can anticipate hiring a theme designer as well.

Alternatively, if all this seems like too much to juggle, you could try an enterprise solution, but they come at a steep price. Magento Enterprise Edition begins at $22,000 to $32,000 per year.

Web-Hosted or Licensed

Licensed. You can download Magento CE from Magento’s website. You’ll then be responsible for finding your own web hosting.

If that’s beyond your ability, take a look at Zoey. While Zoey is not the same as Magento, it was built with Magento coding and includes a lot of the features that you find on Magento CE.

Specific Size of Business

Magento works best for mid-size to large businesses, mostly because it takes so much time, money, and energy to get your site up and keep it running. It’s important that a store using this platform has the resources to hire a developer to do the heavy lifting.

If you’re just starting out, Magento probably isn’t the best option. Instead, try looking into Zoey, or even Shopify or BigCommerce, which both specialize in ease-of-use.

Hardware and Software Requirements

Like I mentioned above, you’ll have to find your own web hosting when you begin with Magento. To run Magento 2.0 you’ll also need to check to see if you meet these specifications. Or, you can click here for the system requirements for versions 1.9 and below.

Ease of Use

As a free, self-hosted software, Magento does not feign user friendliness. Magento’s admin and daily operations are fairly simple, but the actual set-up and customization process is not.

If you don’t have any experience in web development, I’d recommend hiring a developer to help you create and implement your store.

While I’ve tested and reviewed many, many eCommerce platforms, I have very little (read: zero) experience with web development; I quickly discovered that downloading and setting up Magento was beyond my ability (plus, I didn’t have access to a web server on which to install the platform). You can take a look at Magento’s installation guide here. If you’re like me, you’ll scroll up and down the page for a while, hoping to see a few words that make sense before realizing you’re really going to need help in order to make this thing work.

Honestly, I couldn’t figure it out. So, instead of beating my head against the wall, I signed up for a demo of Magento 2.0. Unfortunately, the only demo available was for Magento Enterprise Edition, which isn’t exactly the same as the Community Edition, but both use Magento 2.0, and they’re close enough to compare.

Here’s what I learned in that demo…

Fortunately, once you’ve finally set up Magento, it isn’t all that difficult to operate. The dashboard is clean and intuitive, and it’s easy to find the features you need.

dashboard-768x480

Of course, because Magento comes with so many features, there’s more to sift through (so it isn’t as simple as, say, Shopify) but after a slight learning curve, you shouldn’t have too many problems navigating the admin.

Adding products with Magento is just as easy as adding products on other shopping carts. You can specify tax and shipping settings using the sidebar and tweak your metadata for better SEO rankings.

product-attributes-768x480

All of the products you add will be listed in your master catalog, which you can use to quickly create specific discounts and flash sales.

catalog-filtering-768x480

In order to make radical changes to your storefront, you’re going to have to get waist deep in source code (or hire someone else to do so). However, you can use the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor in the admin in order to update the content on your pages.

wysiwyg-screenshot-768x480

Overall, I’d say that Magento is difficult to set-up and customize without any experience in web development. However, the business operations are fairly straight forward. So, if you have extra resources with which to hire someone on to take care of the techy stuff for you, you should be able to use the platform without too much trouble.

Features

Magento has one of the most impressive features lists I’ve ever seen. If you’re seriously considering Magento for your online store, I recommend taking a look at the full list for yourself. Pay attention to the section titles. The end of the list contains features that are exclusive to Magento’s enterprise options.

Otherwise, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite features, so you can get a general idea of Magento’s capabilities.

Marketing

  • Coupons. Create flexible coupon codes and make those codes available for offline distribution.
  • Customer groups. Group your customers based on location and demographics. Market to them accordingly.
  • Display recently viewed and compared products. Let your customers know that others are shopping with them.
  • Show related products, up-sells, and cross-sells. Inspire more purchases.
  • Persistent shopping cart. Your customers’ shopping carts save when they leave your site.
  • Send wish lists by email. Allow your customers to share what they’d like from your store.

SEO Tools

  • Google Site Map.
  • Friendly URLs.
  • Meta-information. Write meta-data for products, categories, and content pages.

Admin Features

  • Multi-site capabilities. Manage multiple sites from one admin.
  • Manage permissions. Allow different users to access different aspects of the admin.
  • Bulk import/export. Use CSV files to make migration easier.

Catalog Management

  • Digital products. Let customers download purchases from their accounts.
  • Unlimited product attributes. Product attributes help customers find what they’re looking for quickly and make creating specific coupons a little easier for you.
  • Advanced pricing rules. Give discounts on products ordered in bulk.
  • Customer sorting. Enable filtered/faceted search to help your customer find what they need.
  • Clear product images. Display multiple images per product and enable zoom to give customers a good idea of what they’re purchasing.
  • Share on Facebook button. Let your customers share your products on their Timelines.

Checkout and Shipping

  • One page checkout. Make checkout quick and painless.
  • Guest checkout. Customers can check out as guests or create an account.
  • Ship to multiple addresses. One order can be shipped in multiple directions.
  • Tax and shipping estimates in shopping cart. You won’t surprise customers with extra expenses at checkout.

Analytics

  • Google Analytics Integration.
  • Built-in report features for sales, tax, abandoned carts, and more.

Mobile

  • Mobile responsive design compatible. Magento supports HTML5 designs, so your store will look great on any screen.
  • Access your Admin. Use Magento’s app to manage orders from anywhere.

In my opinion, the only feature that Magento is really missing is abandoned cart recovery (which is only available with Enterprise). But, you can always add on missing features with integrations. And there really aren’t that many features that you’ll need on top of what Magento already offers.

Features-wise, Magento is one of the best platforms out there.

Web Design

Magento does not come with any pre-made themes. They’re all available from third-party developers. Some are free, some cost up to $500. To get an idea of what a few of those themes can do, take a look at Magento’s client list.

In November 2015, Magento released its 2.0 version of Magento CE. Designers and developers are still catching up. As of the date of this article, Magento only has four themes available in their marketplace that are compatible with Magento 2.0. I expect this number to improve, but for now, theme options are pretty slim with 2.0.

On the other hand, versions 1.9 and below have lots of themes available. Check out the theme selection in Magento Connect here.

Before you decide on a theme, remember to make sure it’s fully mobile responsive. With so many customers shopping from their phones, mobile design is absolutely crucial for online stores.

Integrations and Add-Ons

Because Magento is open source, it’s easy for the Magento community of developers to create new applications and extensions for the platform. As a result, there are hundred of integrations available in the Magento Marketplace. Again, significantly fewer of these integrations are compatible with Magento 2.0, but I expect the number to improve with time.

Here are a few examples of what’s available.

As you can see, plenty of Magento’s integrations are available free of charge (though you’ll still have to pay for the software). Others can cost up to several hundred dollars. Research before you buy.

Payment Processing

Magento comes with the ability to accept purchase orders and money orders out-of-the-box, but you’re really going to have to integrate with a payment gateway to accept payments.

Fortunately, Magento also features out-of-the-box integrations with PayPal Payment SolutionsBraintree, and Authorize.net.

Currently, there are 14 payment gateways available for Magento 2.0, including:

Again, Magento versions 1.9 and lower have more options to choose from. Payment gateways range in price from free to around $450. You can view the full multi-lingual, multi-currency list of compatible payment gateways here.

Customer Service and Technical Support

As is the case with most open-source solutions, customer service is essentially nonexistent with Magento. Only Enterprise clients have access to 24/7 phone support and web ticket support.

Everyone else has to make do with the resources available on Magento’s site. Fortunately, because so many merchants use Magento, there’s a fairly active user community that can help you out on forums or through paid assistance.

Here are the support avenues that Magento provides.

You can also enroll in Magento’s training courses (this is an absolute must if you plan to become a Magento expert). These courses cost between $0 to $4000.

Negative Reviews and Complaints

Most Magento customers are happy with their platform; Magento earns consistently high marks across customer comment boards. As always, there are a few ways that Magento could improve. Here are a few of customers’ most common negative remarks:

  • Slow. Magento can often run quite slowly, which isn’t something you want for managing your admin or for achieving that top spot on a search results page.
  • Expensive. When you add up web developer costs, web hosting, and any additional integrations, your “free” platform can become quite costly.
  • No Customer Support. You’re on your own, support-wise.
  • Steep Learning Curve. It takes a while to get the hang of Magento, and coding skill is required. However, customers generally agree that there’s a high ROI once you get over that curve.

Other complaints mention:

  • Poor built-in reports feature. Fortunately, you can integrate with Google Analytics.
  • No abandoned cart feature built-in. That is a bummer, but there are integrations that can take care of that for you.
  • Can’t use cheap hosting. Magento is a powerful eCommerce platform that requires a similarly powerful web host.

Positive Reviews and Testimonials

As I’ve said, in general customers love Magento. This is why:

  • Features. Magento has almost everything you could ever want, fresh out of the box. If you somehow can’t find what you need, chances are good that you’ll come across it in the Magento Marketplace.
  • Large User Community. There are lots of merchants out there working on the same problems you have. A user forum lets you tap into that knowledge pool.
  • Scalable. Magento can grow with your business.
  • Customizable. You can customize any aspect of your admin and storefront to fit your business’s specific needs.

Other comments include:

  • Free. Magento is absolutely free to download. But, see “Expensive” above.
  • Lots of apps. There are hundreds of ways you can extend your store’s capabilities.

Security

Because Magento is a self-hosted option, you are responsible for establishing your site’s security. You’ll have to ensure that your site is PCI compliant, and you must monitor security yourself, always downloading new patches from Magento as security issues are resolved. Take a look at a few of those recent patches here.

Check out Magento’s tips for security best practices here.

Final Verdict

As far as open source software goes, Magento is one of the best. Its rich feature set and ever-expanding pool of add-ons and integrations make Magento a reliable option for a store that’s hoping to expand. If you’re prepared to trudge up that steep learning curve, Magento could be the platform you’ve been looking for.

If you’re thinking Magento is the right approach for your business, I recommend signing up for a free demo. A Magento representative will guide you through the admin and storefront so you can get a good idea of the platform (without the trouble of downloading and installing).

Happy shopping and happier selling.

Get Started With Magento

Liz Hull

Liz Hull

Liz is a recent college graduate living in Washington state. As of late, she can often be found haunting eCommerce forums and waiting on hold with customer service representatives. When she's free, Liz loves to rock climb, watch Spanish dramas, and read poorly-written young adult novels.
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12 Comments

    Steve

    The review indicates that hiring a developer may be necessary, but it isn’t clear whether this would be for custom programming (PHP procedural code), or if it would only entail custom HTML / CSS (which many businesses could handle without a lot of expense). Can we get a clarification on that?

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Erik Robie

    Steve,

    Thank you for requesting clarification. To answer your question, I recommend hiring a developer for design purposes, primarily. Magenta CE is fully functional out of the box, assuming that one has the technical expertise to implement it. Having said that, Magento CE is offered as open source software, which lends itself to being highly customizable to suit any business’ specific needs. As such, in order to get the most out of this flexibility (whether by altering the original code or creating add-ons to connect via API) a PHP developer may be required to make more intensive changes. Most merchants won’t need to make this level of customization, but the option is there.

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Ali

    Hi,I had experienced there customer service. Availably: * * * *Understanding the issue: * * *Responding: *Helping to get rid of issue: *I am stuck with billing issue, where Magento has not billed me I dont know why for last 3 month. And now for last 3 weeks they are saying that issue is being fixed. You need to wait, your payment information will update midnight. And I don't know from where the earth they are getting this support service. I feel from India, Once a person who hardly understand and write english supported me. And to tell him what is the problem I had to touch my toes. Please if some one from Magento or eBay is reading this. Do something for Magento Go support. It is very very very loosely managed and un-believably below standard. As name attached with the service is eBay which is providing good customer service already.Please do something about this.

    2

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Mike Moore

    One of the things you omitted mentioning about Go is that you cannot import orders from another system. There is an import orders function but it only exists to let you modify some fields and then re-import. You have to dig to find this out – it is mentioned on page 886 (approx.) of their user guide.

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    The Biss

    I’ve always been a big fan of Magento CE and run several stores with that software. So imagine my excitement when I was invited to beta test Project Stratus (Magento Go). That feeling faded when I realized that I was most likely an alpha tester.

    When Go was launched, I cautioned them that the program was not ready for rollout. The complaints about Go you’ve read are legitimate; the lack of support, the billing issues, difficulty in setup…

    Magento is a beast to set up, but once it’s running smoothly, it goes on forever. Magento Go is a beast to set up, even though they provide a “walk-through” Q&A set up program. If you want to make your site look different from all the other Magento Go Sites, you better well be a cascading style sheets guru.

    Their SaaS (software as a service) program does NOT come with FTP access. All your style images have to be uploaded individually to their server through their web interface. This is a glorious pain in the tuckus.

    They do offer a bulk uploader for item, but don’t you dare leave a field accidentally bank. It will upload the new items, even list them on Google shopping, but they will not be listed in your Manage Products page. You won’t be able to fill in the field you left blank.

    Which brings me to tech support… practically non-existent. “I’m going to escalate this for you.” was the most common support answer I heard. Did I ever hear back about the escalation? Nope! They only began to respond to me after I got my credit card company involved with them for selling a fraudulent product, and overbilling me on multiple occassions.

    And I, a beta tester for Magento Go, finally have to wave goodbye at that point. As the old German song says, “Ich habe genug!” I was done with them.

    I’m back to Magento CE, hosted on a Cloud VPN with Siteground.com, and I can do anything I want, which includes messing up my website. But if it’s messed up, then by God I have the tools available to me to fix it as well! Not so with Magento Go.

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Beth

    Wow it seems like Magento is really one of the popular when it terms to shopping cart system, but for me as a beginner i think i would go to Opencart , cause it suits my needs and easy to use when it terms to features, i don’t have much knowledge of programming, but can manage to set up my own online store.

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Kenshi

    Thank you for the in depth review of Magento!

    It helped me a lot however in the end I decided to go with OpenCart, its so much quicker and easier to use than Magento.

    There are quite a few online reviews saying Magento’s support is bad which really put me off sadly, maybe I’ll give them another go further down the line.

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Kata OS

    Recently I like AbanteCart because of the code it outputs and it has so many great features. It has great UI, rather secure with a fantastic layout. Also installation of extensions is very easy.
    I also tried CS-Cart. It is easy to set up and manage it. There are much more features in comparing with other shopping carts.

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    L Grafix

    I've been with Magento for a year this month. It has been a total nightmare. I had three stores with them and have already moved two to Big Commerce.My remaining store is plagued with problems. And no, there is no support whatsoever. The forums offer little to no help. I still have open support tickets from May and it's September. The only reason I still have a store left with them is finding the time for the daunting task of moving and creating a new site. I've wasted so much time with this company and cannot begin to calculate how much business i've lost with my sites down time.If you are really serious and care about your business choose a commerce company that has a phone number in case your site ever goes down. You cannot put a price on customer service. But you can put a price on lost revenue.

    1

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Andy Newham

    Magento Go are having serious problems with their billing systems. First of all, it did not allow a change of payment method. When we mastered the system, and got Paypal to send another payment through, they ignored it and cut us off from accessing the store and do not escalate support tickets or answer emails which are marked “URGENT”. As of today, we have paid two month’s premiums via Paypal and are not in arrears and we have been cut off with no access to Manage the store and we face if emails are continually unanswered having the whole store, which we developed over 2 months deleted by them, there was a threatening email saying they would do this. I am not at all happy with Magento Go, as you would understand.

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Kata OS

    I am an experienced user of shopping cart software. I used to have Magento cart. I have two online stores and I had a person who helped me to set up these stores. Now I use the AbanteCart and I manage all my stores myself! Everything work well!

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Amit Patekar

    Thank you for the detailed review, I am developer myself and was wondering about is Magento Go killing Magento CE. Your article is giving awesome insight into all the pros and cons of both version. Keep up the good work.RegardsAmit

    5

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

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