An Introduction to the Magento E-Commerce Platform


Magento is an open source e-commerce platform. An e-commerce platform like Magento allows a business to setup a website offering products to customers online, whilst providing an administrative interface in which the business can manage their products, customers, orders among other things.
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Magento was first released in 2008 and since then it can grown to become the most popular e-commerce system today (30% market share in May 2015) and is now powering over 200, 000 online stores.

Magento has a totally free Community Edition (CE), and a pay-per-year Enterprise Edition (EE), and in this post we will mainly discuss the Community Release and where it stands out from other e-commerce platforms.

Hosted vs self-hosted

Some e-commerce platforms are hosted, that is, they are tied to the web hosting of the company. Setting up an e-commerce site with them is alike to renting a service; your e-commerce web site is tied to their system. It has an advantage in that it is very easy to setup and get started, but the downside is you do not truly own your own site and become reliant on the provider.

Magento, on the other hand, is self-hosted, which means have your own personal copy of the site. The downside is that it is up to you (or your developer) to find a hosting provider to set up the platform on. The advantage though is that you completely own the site, can do any adjustments you wish, and can move it to another hosting provider at any time.

Internationalization

Functions for international support is built right into the platform. Support for multiple different languages, multiple currencies, tax configuration plus VAT are a standard part of the program and easily set up and set up from the administration panel.

Theming and Multiple Stores

Magento allows the owner to switch the theme (look) from the site without changing any features. Multiple “front stores”, which can be turned between by the customer and is usually used to provide different language variations of the site, is built right into system.

A powerful feature of Magento is that it can run several websites outwards while sharing the same products and clients among the websites, all managed from your same administration interface.

Open Source

Magento itself is an open source platform, built upon open source frameworks and programming languages. This gives it the benefits of outside scrutiny in to the source with the result of improved design and security, and at the same time which makes it more accessible for outside developers.

Customization

Because of its flexible modular structures at its core, Magento has been built to be extended. In fact , much of the core functionality of Magento are module extensions themselves built by the Magento team. This allows to have an astonishing level of customization, even enabling modification of the core functionality. This level of extendability and customization units Magento apart from other e-commerce systems and is one of the biggest reasons for its success.

3rd party extensions

Extensions allow the developer or business owner to add specific functionality to the store that is not a standard part of the system, without having to develop that feature on their own, often saving time and money.

Magento has thousands of third party extensions, more than any e-commerce platform, some which are free and some which are paid for.

As mentioned earlier, because of Magento’s modular architecture, extensions can modify any part of the platform allowing features that change it at its core, making extensions probable such as Reward Points that adds reward points to customer whenever buying products which can then be used for discounts at checkout.

Some other features

Other features Magento comes built in with includes a very powerful and very flexible promotion and discount rule system, multiple front & store support (mentioned earlier), configurable dynamic product attribute system, sales and order tracking system, excel import and export of products, a Content Management System (CMS), news letters and many more.

Costs

Magento requires a good hosting server to run well; this can be a consequence of Magento’s feature wealthy and extendable architecture. Shared hosting is just not recommended, so there may be extra cost involved in setting up a dedicated server.

As mentioned previously, the community edition which we have talked about so far is free and comes with more features than any other e-commerce platform. In the case of a site that does not require many additional features, this option can be very inexpensive.

Where it can become costly is when features outside of Magento’s standard colour scheme is required because of the time and skill required to develop them. Third-party extensions are often used to extend Magento and typical price range is 50 – 200 USD per extension. Compared with establishing the functionality yourself this is often a great price saving.

Magento Enterprise Edition

A fast word on Magento Enterprise Version. This is the non-free edition of Magento, costing around 15, 000 USD per year. Most suitable for very large clients, it offers additional features such as increased protection, performance, functionality such as in-store credit score, gift cards, ERP integration, among any others. Finally, with Enterprise Edition you obtain access to full around the clock professional support from Magento through phone and email.

Summary

Magento offers a full e-commerce platform solution. The totally free community edition is more than effective enough for small to medium-sized businesses, and often for large companies as well. Where the standard features aren’t enough, it offers third-party extensions to expand the already feature rich platform, and Magento’s modular architecture allows skilled developers to extend and customize the platform to the business’s requirements.

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