WordPress

The New Way to Build WordPress Websites: Headless WordPress and React

Every dynamic website has two primary components, commonly known and referred to as the “front end” and “back end.” The front end is what is visible to users. The back-end deals with coding, databases, and behind the scenes processes.

Within the back end often lies a content management system (CMS), which allows developers/writers to execute and handle content changes on/to the front and the back end, allowing for integrated handling of both the front end and the back-end modifications together.

What is WordPress?

Since its launch in 2003, WordPress has become the most dominant CMS in the world, boasting almost 60% of the market and powering about 75 million of the 172 million total active websites on the internet.

Stated simply, WordPress is a tool that enables businesses to create a website, and to manage website content without advanced coding or design skills. WordPress’ many user-friendly features (see below) have added to its immense popularity.  WP Apprentice describes what WordPress is in this way:

“WordPress is the world’s most popular tool for creating websites. WordPress is capable of creating any style of website, from a simple blog to a full-featured business website. You can even use WordPress to create an online store (using the popular WooCommerce plugin). There are thousands of free site designs to choose from (these are known as “themes” in the WordPress world).”

With WordPress, it’s easy to build a simple website without writing a single line of code or knowing anything about HTML. Of course, advanced features and customizations do require expertise.

Why is WordPress so Popular?

The sheer number of global websites powered by WordPress is a testament to its utility, functionality, and value—but marketers who don’t know much about it understandably want to know why it’s so popular. The reason is simple: WordPress is unmatched in the CMS marketplace for the features and benefits it offers, including the following 5:

  • It’s Free: The software which runs WordPress comes at no cost—this needless to say is an extremely attractive benefit for cost-conscious businesses.  You will, of course, need to host it, but that can be relatively inexpensive.
  • WordPress is Flexible for Customization: WordPress makes it relatively simple to customize your site to meet the unique needs of your business.  It offers thousands of free templates and plugins, and you don’t need to be a techie to change colors and backgrounds or upload your company logo.
  • WordPress is SEO Friendly: Written using standard compliance high-quality code, WordPress comes out of the box with strong SEO—one of the reasons WordPress sites tend to rank high in search engines.  It also offers specific plugins to further enhance SEO.
  • WordPress is Easy to Manage: WordPress has its own updates management system which users can easily administer through a dashboard.  WordPress will also automatically alert users to any new versions.
  • WordPress is Secure (as long as you do it right): Of course, no website is 100% secure, but WordPress works hard to ensure that its websites are as safe as possible, giving users access to a wide variety of WordPress security plugins, everything from Sucuri Security to WebARX, Malcare, Defender, and many more.

What is JavaScript and REACT and Where do they Come In?

JavaScript is most commonly used as a “client-side scripting language.” This means that JavaScript code is written into an HTML page your user will interact with. When your user requests an HTML page with JavaScript in it, the script is sent to the browser and it’s up to the browser to do something with it. Per the stack overflow report in 2019, 67.8% of developers use JS today.

‘React’ is a JavaScript-based library for the development of user interfaces and is the view layer for web applications. Familiarity with JS and React is considered a primary qualification of a leading web development agency in 2019 and beyond.

React, Angular, and Vue are different frameworks of JavaScript used by developers. React, as of writing this article, is leading in terms of downloads by users. The chart below takes two years of user downloads in consideration as a survey.

Graph showing how downloads of react have grown over the last two years

Here are a few perks of React as a web development framework:

  • Faster rendering websites to users
  • Enhanced aid in overall component writing
  • Availability of react-native as a mobile development tool
  • SEO compatibility
  • Security

What is Headless/Decoupled WordPress?

Okay, that’s a mouthful, but in simple terms, what it means is that WordPress has now introduced a way for its websites to increase performance and speed, something very important to Google and how Google ranks a site. Site speed is an incredibly important feature when considering that 40% of users will abandon a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.

So, what does “headless” or “decoupled” mean, and how do they increase performance?  Without getting too technical, it works like this. Every site has a front end and a back end. The front end is the way the site appears to users. The back end is where the site’s data is managed and stored – the place, in other words, where developers customize your site and add content.

So-called “headless architecture” cuts off (or decouples) the front end from the back end. When you manage the two separately, you can more easily move content from one side to another (for example, simultaneously moving key content to your website, social media sites, and other platforms). Equally important, decoupling gives you a website that performs better and faster.

Headless WordPress allows you to retain your original WordPress website while offering the perks of the latest technological improvements. With the creation of the REST API by WordPress developers, starting in 2016, this became possible by disabling the ‘WYSIWYG’ program and instead of making predefined content blocks to eliminate waste. The program enabled developers to observe plain content while they are still onto creating an interface. In such scenarios, all the major tasks are then handled by the REST API. This allows users to still update content via a CMS, WordPress, even though the front and back end are decoupled.

Graphic showing how the WordPress CMS works with the Rest API to deliver content to devices

What are the Basics of Headless WordPress?

WordPress requires a theme to run, as a necessity, even though we do not need the front-end in case of a headless WordPress build. Therefore, we must craft a blank theme to make it happen.

Index.php and the style.css file which have the theme and name of the author is all that you need when it comes to using headless CMS. Your index.php file assures that the front end is discarded, and the back end is not bothered at all. This is done by the redirecting of users to the static site.

The JS code for redirection that is placed in the index.php file is given below:

<script type=”text/javascript”>

 window.location = ‘http://homepage.com’;

</script>

Other code snippets can be used for the purpose too. After the blank theme is ready, and you have uploaded it into the theme directory, it gets you closer to working with a headless WordPress.

Once we have a blank theme in place, the next step is to consume the API calls. This is done by making AJAX requests. You must look for API’s that have the ability to manage asynchronous data. Using a polyfill is a great idea in case your browser does not support the fetch API function.

What are the Key Benefits of Headless WordPress?

Here, we shall discuss a few reasons which make the use of Headless WordPress a clear choice when building a WordPress site in 2020 and beyond:

  • Multichannel Content Publishing: With the given pace demand of modern times, multitasking is a normality today. This is where headless WordPress wins over the traditional WordPress installation. It enables you to publish content on multiple channels at the same time, boosting efficiency. Versatile channels where you can publish content using headless WordPress are the business calendar, IoT’s, social media, and many more.
  • WordPress Site Speed: Your WordPress site speed is a huge factor when it comes to user experience and accessibility. A report says that around 40% of internet visitors would leave your website if it takes anything more than 3 seconds to load. This percentage of users is a considerable chunk of probable customers that no business website can afford to lose. Headless WordPress optimizes your site speed and keeps the site SEO friendly while elevating user experience. This speed improvement helps large websites with a lot of content by smoothing the content loading on the user’s end. It does this by simplifying the process by which content loads at the front end. Said differently (and a bit more technically), decoupling the front end and back end of your site shifts display logic to the user side and streamlines the back end.
  • Stack integration: The infrastructure of any application is referred to as Stack. Headless WordPress offers integrations with multiple digital products. This proves to be a huge time and effort saver as you are spared of the fuss of crafting content for different platforms. Content is uploaded on different channels at the same time in a single go. Your team gets to concentrate on your core business, while a myriad of target platforms are handled smoothly via headless WordPress.
  • Redesign is less complicated: Headless WordPress lets you redesign your website all over again without the need of re-implementing the CMS.
  • You’ll increase your design options: once you implement your headless WordPress site, your content (such as text and images) will be stored in the back end of your database – but other design features will be in the front end. In a conventional CMS, content templates, CSS and plugins are all stored in the back end. By separating the two, you’ll be able to make design changes more easily – and substantially increase your site design options.
  • You’ll enhance site security: because the back end of your site is hidden from the public, it’s harder for hackers to penetrate it and carry out a malware, ransomware or DDOS attack.  Simply stated, the decoupling which is the heart of headless WordPress makes your site significantly more secure.
  • Progressive web application possibilities: The most progressive function that a professional can yield by use of a headless CMS is the conversion of your website into a PWA (Progressive Web application). It allows your website to function as a mobile application and plays a major role in improving the user experience by supporting real-time back and forth interaction in the browser itself.

What are the Shortfalls of Working with Headless WordPress?

Although the benefits of implementing headless WordPress are several and substantial, it does come with a few negatives.  For example, it means you’ll need to maintain the front and back ends of your site separately.  You might, in addition, need an additional developer (or commit to training your current one) in the nuances of front-end design.

In-depth knowledge of JavaScript is required to work on headless WordPress. This is because the absence of front end in the headless CMS poses a need for regular maintenance by a professional.

Using headless WordPress will also likely mean you’ll need to be diligent in ensuring that front end security issues are handled in a timely manner.  Finally, with headless WordPress, you’ll lose your WYSIWYG editor and the “live preview” feature of your site.

Also, the idea of Headless CMS is better suited to larger businesses, as they need to handle multiple channels and platforms. The workflow is smoothened by the multiple channel content publishing while at the same time using a headless CMS. On the other hand, smaller businesses might not benefit from it as much as the larger businesses. This is because the benefits achieve might be outweighed by the cost incurred for technology implementation.

Conclusion

Decoupling your site’s front end from its back end represents a significant step forward in the performance and speed of your site.  It also makes redesign easier and improves your WordPress site’s security—but it can be complicated and confusing.

Fortunately, there are experienced, competent professionals who can give you the advice and guidance you need to succeed.  At ATAK, our development team strives to stay up to date on the latest advances in WordPress development in order to provide clients with the best options for their business.  To learn more about our approach to WordPress development—and about the ways our Purposeful Marketing System helps B2B companies increase sales – contact us today.

 

7 Questions for Magento eCommerce

7 Questions to Ask When Building a Magento B2B Ecommerce Store 

Regardless of whether you are building a B2B or a B2C site, you want things to go smoothly; quick within reason and according to plan. That doesn’t mean that there are not unique challenges to B2B software vs B2C. In this post, we’ll go over 7 questions to ask when building a Magento B2B eCommerce store, some B2B specific questions, and even some more generic eCommerce questions. In answering these questions, you’ll be taking the first step to making your B2B eCommerce development project go smoothly. 

1. What Does an Ideal B2B eCommerce Operations Day Look Like?

If we are to look at an ideal day for a B2B eCommerce operation, we must look at the roles that are performed during that day. Ideally, and depending on the size of your organization, you will have one or more people in each of these roles. Although different people might vary in their opinion on the must-have functions, the ones below are a good example of what a B2B eCommerce operation needs to be successful. 

  • Department Manager - This could also be the manager of the whole business. Their job will be to oversee all the operations of the eCommerce department. This person must be able to motivate a team and make all the pieces work together. 
  • Web Developer - This seems obvious. You can’t have an eCommerce site without someone to develop it. The web developer should have experience not only in eCommerce generally but in the specific technologies that you will be using. 
  • Website Manager - The web developer’s job is to build the website. From there, the website manager will input all products, make sure the SKUs, pricing, and descriptions are all correct, and handle other non-development related updates to the site. 
  • IT Technician - Your team cannot function efficiently without a well-oiled technology backbone. The IT manager will make sure that servers stay up, software gets updated, and everyone’s machines are running without issue. 
  • Warehouse Manager - If you have a physical product, you are going to need someone to handle shipping from the supplier to you and from you to the supplier as well as keep track of inventory. 
  • Digital Marketing Manager - This job may be split into several. You’ll need someone to handle your digital ad campaigns as well as handle other marketing efforts such as content and email marketing strategies. 
  • Customer Service Representative - Your customers need someone they can contact if there is a problem. As in any business, the CSR is the first contact that a customer will have with your business. 
  • Social Media Manager – Businesses rely heavily on social media now. Having a dedicated manager to keep abreast of new social networks, monitor the existing ones for customers reaching out, and post updates will help to grow your company. 
  • Accountant - Finally, you’ll need someone to handle the books for you. 

2. What B2B eCommerce Features Does My Business Need?

All eCommerce sites are not created equally. Nor does every business need every feature available. Deciding which features your specific business will need requires you to ask yourself some questions. 

  • What essential design features does our store need? 
  • What essential features do our customers expect?  
  • What essential features does our fulfillment team need to do their job better? 

You probably have a good idea of the features that you need, but you might have less of an idea of what your customers will expect. A good way to get a feel for what your customers may be looking for is to visit the sites of your competitors. What features do they have that stand out? What are they missing that you feel would make the purchasing experience go smoother? 

Also, remember that a B2B site isn’t the same as a consumer site. You’ll likely want to have the option to segment your customers into different groups. This will allow you to do things like set different prices and minimum purchase requirements depending on what quantity the customer is purchasing in. 

3. What Type of eCommerce Integrations Do I Need to Consider?

One integration that nearly every B2B eCommerce store will need to have is with its enterprise resource planning software. Your ERP is the heart of your business. Its whole purpose is to tie everything together and it can’t do that job without the backbone of your eCommerce operation connected to it. Other than ERP systems, you may have other software vital to your business that you would like your eCommerce solution to connect with. Below is a list of the most common types of software that integrates with eCommerce systems. 

  • Merchant Account and Payment Gateways 
  • Shipping Carriers/Providers 
  • Warehouse Management 
  • Marketing Platforms (i.e. HubSpot) 
  • CRM Software (i.e. Salesforce) 
  • Marketing/Advertisement Analytics 
  • Business Intelligence Analytics 
  • Accounting Software 
  • Live Chat and Chatbots 
  • Loyalty and Rewards Programs 
  • Reviews Programs 

4. What Level of Custom Development Do I Require for My B2B eCommerce Store?

When you are just starting out, it’s easy to fall victim to scope creep. Scope creep is when you keep adding desired features during the development phase of a project. At best, you’ll end up taking much longer than anticipated to finish the development. At worst, you’ll end up with a bloated mess as a codebase. 

In order to avoid scope creep, figure out all the custom development that you’ll need ahead of time. You’ve already looked at the features that you’ll need to get the job done in step 2, and the integrations that you’ll need to take care of in step 3. These are great starts to see if any custom development is needed. 

At a minimum, a B2B eCommerce site should have a way to segment customers, as mentioned earlier, as well as order management rules, a variety of payment options and terms, and a way to personalize the experience for each customer. Even B2B sites benefit from personalized recommendations, so do not leave them out of your list. 

Other than those things, and the features that you’ve decided that you need to have, keep the custom development to a minimum in order to avoid the dreaded scope creep. 

5. Will a Magento B2B eCommerce Platform Be Easy to Manage for My Team?

Magento isn’t going to be as easy to just drop someone into with little experience as Shopify would be. At the minimum, you are going to need an experienced developer to build your site with Magento. With that extra bit of difficulty comes a great deal more flexibility, though. Your website and all its features will be limited by what your developer can do more so that what the eCommerce software provides. 

After the site is built, there will be some learning curve to using it effectively. In order to maximize your benefits from Magento, you’ll want people who are experienced in all aspects of eCommerce who will have the knowledge to capitalize on the features that the software provides.  

6. What Is the Cost of Building and Operating a Magento eCommerce Site?

One of the most pressing concerns for eCommerce store owners is the cost of building, hosting, operating and maintaining a Magento store. The price of a Magento project can vary dramatically, from $10,000 to $125,000, in most cases. The flexibility of Magento 2 means that your costs are ultimately determined by how sophisticated you want to build your site. A basic site will be on the lower end of that estimate, while a highly customized site powered by Magento Enterprise will be toward the upper end. 

7. How Long Does It Take to Build a Magento eCommerce Store to My Requirements?

Like cost, time to develop a Magento store can vary wildly. It could be as quick as a 2 weeks, or as long as 2 years. A typical site falls more in the 3-4 month range. The keys to getting your site up quickly have already been discussed. Avoid scope creep. Even if you need a lot of features, plan them ahead so that your team can stay on schedule. Adding new features during development can bring the pace down quickly.  

The number of third-party integrations required will also add time to the schedule. Do not allow yourself to get in so much of a hurry that you cut out necessary integrations. The opposite of scope creep is creating something that is so bare-bones it ends up costing money and time in the long run. 

Partner with us 

So, there you have it. Ask yourself these questions when building your Magento eCommerce store, and you have a much higher chance of success.ATAK Interactive is a full-service digital marketing agency with extensive experience in the building and management of eCommerce websites.Contact us today for information regarding our Magento services. We’ll take great care of you.  

eCommerce

Understanding eCommerce Platforms and Choosing the Right One

Software for doing business online once consisted of custom code. An in-house development team or contractor created it from scratch, costing a lot of time and money. Maintaining and scaling the system was just as hard. Adding features was costly.

As the demand for these systems grew, software companies began developing eCommerce platforms to run on Web servers. Many businesses shared the cost. The developers specialized in the product and could add features when there was a demand for them. Such software is more reliable, feature-rich, and flexible than anything a company could develop for internal use.

What is an eCommerce platform?

The term eCommerce, or electronic commerce, refers to the transaction of goods and services online. An eCommerce platform is software that lets a business perform its functions on the front end (browser or client app) and back end (server) of an Internet connection. It runs on top of a Web server, and sometimes on top of a general-purpose Web application. It enables online retailers and marketplaces, letting buyers discover and purchase products and services at Internet speeds.

There are eCommerce platforms to suit every kind of online business, from independent freelancers to large enterprises.

Features and architecture vary greatly from one platform to another. Choosing the right one is crucial to successful streamlining of operations. An important consideration is the model which best fits the business. More than one may apply.

  • Business to consumer (B2C): Retail sales to a broad market.
  • Business to business (B2B): Marketing to other businesses.
  • Consumer to consumer (C2C): Facilitating transactions between small, independent participants.
  • Consumer to business (C2B): Buying from members of the public, e.g., payment for affiliate links and sponsored posts.

The type of transactional relationship is likewise important to choosing the right eCommerce setup.

  • Retail vs. Wholesale: Wholesalers focus on distributors and resellers as their target market. It’s a form of B2B, even though consumers may sometimes buy in bulk. A special form of retail is drop shipping, where a third-party business manufactures and ships a product under the dealer’s brand.
  • Crowdfunding: The creator of a product raises money from consumers to raise the capital and other costs before the product is available. In practice, crowdfunding is sometimes indistinguishable from pre-ordering.
  • Subscription: In eCommerce, subscriptions are automatic, recurring purchases of a product or service until the subscriber cancels. Publications, periodically upgraded software, cloud services, and maintenance services are well-known examples.
  • Digital products: In addition to physical products, much of eCommerce involves purely digital delivery. This includes software, books, music, video, and even personal services when delivered online.

The leading platforms

The selection of platforms is huge. The leading eCommerce platforms offer a variety of styles and tradeoffs. The right one depends on the size of the business, the available features, and the degree of customization needed.

  • Shopify makes it very simple to launch and set up a store, It’s a hosted, turnkey approach, and it’s very customizable. A small business with no IT staff will appreciate the advantages of not having to install or patch anything. Advanced features may require purchasing apps.
  • Shopify Plus is Shopify for large businesses, at a higher cost. Setup takes some effort but is easier than a comparable self-hosted approach. The company can focus on building its eCommerce site without worrying about maintenance. Bandwidth and sales volume are unlimited, and storage capacity nearly so.
  • Magento offers a rich set of features for medium and large businesses with extensive catalogs. It’s available for downloading and self-hosting or as a cloud service. The basic, open-source version is free. It offers a rich set of features and has an extensive third-party support network. A business that uses Magento will need to put significant resources into setup and maintenance.
  • BigCommerce is a powerful, hosted platform for large and growing businesses. It’s highly scalable and provides many features, including integrations with applications and social media. It will take some effort to learn to use it well.
  • WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress that provides a rich eCommerce platform. Running under WordPress makes it easier to operate a complete website on a single platform. It can be downloaded and run on any server that supports WordPress. Many third-party plugins are available to enhance it.
  • OpenCart is a lightweight downloadable, self-hosted platform. The basic platform doesn’t require much in the way of resources, but it will often be necessary to add plugins to get all the necessary capabilities. Small to medium businesses may find it’s a good choice.

Magento and other platforms

Of all the available platforms, Magento holds a leading market position, with over $155 billion in gross merchandise volume. It’s instructive to compare it with some of the other leading platforms and see when one or the other is more suitable.

  • Magento vs. Shopify: Shopify is aimed primarily at businesses with simple needs that Magento would be excessive for. There are large businesses that use Shopify, and they can move up to Shopify Plus when they grow big enough. Being a turnkey platform, Shopify requires very little support. Magento Open Source is free to download and use, but there should be a developer on call. We’ve previously provided a detailed comparison between Magento and Shopify.
  • Magento vs. BigCommerce: This is more of a head-to-head comparison. BigCommerce is a turnkey (SaaS) platform like Shopify, but with considerably more capability. The most direct comparison is with Magento Commerce Cloud, but Magento’s system operates at the PaaS (platform as a service) level, on top of the AWS infrastructure. This means more flexibility, but also more responsibility, for businesses that run Magento Commerce Cloud. Both systems are suitable for enterprise-scale eCommerce sites that have complex requirements. BigCommerce provides a wealth of capabilities without extra work on the business’s part, but Magento offers great flexibility and power to those willing to make the technical investment.
  • Magento vs. WooCommerce: The most obvious difference between these two platforms is their architecture. Magento is a complete Web application that runs on a Web server; WooCommerce is a plugin that requires WordPress to run. Looked at more closely, they aren’t that different. Both run on PHP, and both require some kind of hosting. Both can make claims to being leaders in the eCommerce market, WooCommerce by number of installations and Magento by amount of sales handled. Magento has a more powerful set of capabilities, but WooCommerce can be augmented by plugins. A WooCommerce site offers better general-purpose capabilities for content, but Magento combined with WordPress provides comparable power. Magento requires higher-end hosting to run at full speed.

The choice of platforms for eCommerce includes many attractive options, and it takes careful consideration to decide which is best for a particular business. ATAK Interactive has extensive experience with Magento and other eCommerce platforms and can help you to make the decisions that will be most profitable to your business.

 

Magento Cost

What Is the Cost of Building and Operating a Magento eCommerce Store?

One most critical concern you will face as an e-commerce store owner is the cost of building, operating, hosting, and maintaining an eCommerce store. These decisions are not easy, as features and pricing vary from platform to platform, and from version to version (i.e. Enterprise or Plus versions)

Boasting of over 250,000 merchants using it, Magento is one of the most popular e-commerce platforms today. And with the recent roll-out of Magento 2, which has since been updated to version 2.3, things are getting even better with the platform.

Estimating the cost of an eCommerce store Magento platform may not be easy, because prices do vary from time to time, and from one service provider to another. This article aims to provide the important information you need about the cost of building and operating a Magento e-commerce site so you can make the right decisions for your business.

Magento platform options

Magento offers two kinds of e-commerce platforms for your online store: Magento Commerce and Magento Open Source. Each of them can serve your business well, except that each suits a specific business type and size. You can choose the options that best suit your business needs after checking out this review. Each of these will impact the cost of building your Magento eCommerce store differently.

Magento Commerce

Previously known as Magento Enterprise Edition, this platform is the licensed version of Magento e-commerce services. Since it offers a lot more services compared to its other counterpart, Open Source, its pricing starts at $24,000 a year. Compared to the numerous benefits and functionalities of Magento Commerce, the high cost of building your Magento eCommerce store should not be a cause of concern. Some of these benefits include dedicated account management and comprehensive technical support – critical issues for every large-scale organization requiring an elevated level of functionality and support.

The Magento Commerce option also offers several unique features meant to enhance the performance of your online store. These options include the following:

  • B2B functionality
  • Advanced marketing tools
  • Customer loyalty tools
  • WYSIWYG page builder
  • Content staging and preview
  • Visual merchandising

Magento Open Source

Unlike Magento Commerce, Magento Open Source is absolutely free. You can access the free download and enjoy basic in-built functionalities. Initially known as Magento Community, this version was released way back in 2008 and became available for everyone to use.

Being free doesn’t mean it is entirely limited, but it also does not mean there is no cost to building your Magento eCommerce store. Users can use or install several extensions, and even configure the software to suit their business needs. Hosting a variety of useful tools to enhance the user experience, Magento Open Source appeals to startups and young businesses.

Another great thing about the Open Source is that the Magento development team has always been working hard to increase the functionality of the free platform by creating new extensions to add to what already exists. This means that users on the free version have something substantial going for them as they consider making the switch to Magento Commerce when their business hopefully expands.

Features with Impact on Price

Several factors come into play when determining the cost of a Magento development project. You have three options to choose from: hire a freelancer, a web development agency, and using your in-house development team. Each of the options come with pros and cons, and different pricing.

Hiring a freelancer will cost you between $10 and $200 per hour depending on your region. South-East Asia is the cheapest, charging between $10 and $20, while the US, UK, and Western Europe are the most expensive, levying between $150 and $200 per hour.

Engaging the services of a web development agency will cost you between $35 and $200 by the hour, and you enjoy high-quality features as well as professionalism. If, on the other hand, you choose an in-house development team, prepare to spend a minimum of $70,000 and a maximum of $120,000 per year.

Here is a breakdown of the Magento features with an impact on price.

Magento themes

Selecting your store theme is a critical business because the theme represents your business. It’s what your online visitors see first before venturing further into your store. Magento themes cost up to $200 or more. You may want to choose basic themes and hire a frontend developer to customize them, but keep in mind that these developers will charge you between $20,000 and $60,000 per year, depending on how much you need them.

Extensions

You will need around $50 to $500 for Magento extensions. While some extensions are free, some may cost you thousands of dollars. However, be sure that whichever extension you use to increase the functionality of your online store, is compatible with your Magento version and does not cause possible conflicts with existing extensions.

Graphics and Brand Collateral

Your online store needs a brand image to differentiate it from other stores. It is important to be careful when choosing your theme color, logo and associated visual elements, such as product images and videos, to compete favorably. You will require the services of a professional graphics artist which will cost you about $8,000 to $18,000.

Domain for your store

The name of your store (domain name) should be attractive and easy to remember. Take some time to choose a domain name that reflects your business accurately. A brand-new domain name will cost you between $10 to $15 per year.

Hosting

Magento hosting varies based on the level of service your site requires. Annual hosting costs for Magento start at $600 and can go up from there. Many Magento 2 site owners have enough traffic to justify a dedicated hosting package. Those packages generally start at around $250/month.

Breakdown of Costs to Consider

Whether you are downloading the free version or the paid Magento Commerce, you will incur costs of implementation, hosting, maintenance and support, among others. You have to factor in these costs when determining how much the Magento development project will cost you. Here is the breakdown of costs to consider.

Implementation

Implementing the Magento platform will cost you anything between $18,000 and $100,000 depending on the version you have chosen. $30,000 is a general standard for a basic e-commerce website, but if you need a customized Magento design, customer groups, integration with back-office systems, and migrations to host, then you have to pay more.

Maintenance and support

An operational e-commerce site requires regular maintenance and support to keep it in tip-top shape. The cost of maintaining your site may vary depending on our choice –

whether in-house or outsourcing – and the activities to be conducted. A regular maintenance team working for four hours a week can cost an average of $2,500 per month.

Hosting

If you need a dedicated server, you will have to part with $250+ per month, but you may also wish to have a shared hosting service to cut down on costs. Such an arrangement would cost you $50 on a monthly basis.

Third-Party Integrations

Third-party integrations can vary in complexity and price and are generally priced by either a onetime development fee or a monthly integration management fee for the lifetime of the integration. Integrations vary from complicated ERP integrations (i.e. NetSuite or Microsoft Dynamics) to easier ones (i.e. live chat, or newsletter service plugins). An ERP integration could be anywhere from $5,000-$25,000, or we have seen where there is a simple monthly charge as long as you use the integration (i.e. $300/month ongoing). More simple integrations are sometimes done in an hour or two and can cost less than $300 in total.

Wrap Up

If you are looking for a seamless and professional e-commerce platform management for your store, consider contacting us at ATAK Interactive. With 15 years of experience, we can guide you through the planning, development of the Magento platform, and advise you on the best solutions available and the best prices. We provide a comprehensive support and maintenance system for the Magento platform, and we will help you make the right decision for your business.

What are the Differences Between Magento 1 and Magento 2?

Magento is a great eCommerce platform for SMBs, and with Magento 2 the software is now even better. Magento 2 has a huge array of new features, and its performance upgrades are a big deal. If your business can sustain $2 million or more a year in sales and can dedicate the right team to its success, Magento 2 could be the perfect eCommerce platform choice. 

If you currently have Magento 1, the time to think seriously about upgrading is now. After June 2020, the earlier version won’t be supported anymore (although Magento has extended this deadline more than once). There will be no bug fixes or security patches at that point, so one shouldn’t wait until the last minute if he or she wants a smooth migration. 

As of this writing, Magento is at Version 2.3.2. Be sure you have the latest version to get all the benefits described here. The Open Source (free) edition of Magento may not have all of these features. 

Benefits of Magento 2

Describing all the benefits of Magento 2 would take a small book. Here are a few of the important ones. 

  • Fast loading. Pages load up to 50% faster than Magento 1. 
  • Mobile-friendly. Mobile access accounts for over half of eCommerce today. Magento 2 pages are responsive by default, making them easy to use from a smartphone and improving search engine rank. 
  • Streamlined checkout. The Magento 2 checkout experience is completely updated. Magento 2 now offers a two-step checkout process, compared with the six-step default checkout process in Magento 1. Customers can also now use PayPal in context; they don’t have to leave your site to pay. 
  • Page Builder. New in Magento Commerce 2.3, the Page Builder lets you create and edit pages using drag and drop. No coding knowledge is necessary (or less anyways). Embedding third-party content such as maps and videos is easy. 
  • More out-of-the-box integrations. Available integrations now include PayPal, Braintree, and Avalara. No third-party extensions are necessary for these commonly used tools. 
  • Multi-source inventory. Before Version 2.3, Magento supported only a single stock source for inventory. Now a site can use multiple sources, with a selection algorithm to determine the appropriate source for any given case. 
  • Multiple master databases. A Magento site can now divide its information through more than one database, e.g., one for transactions and one for products. 
  • Full-page caching. This feature is now available in all Magento 2 editions, and it’s greatly improved. 
  • Better security. Magento 2 is based on PHP 7.2, which contains numerous security improvements over previous versions of the language. It eliminates vulnerabilities found in earlier Magento versions. 

The product website describes the new features of Magento 2 in detail. 

Marketing tools 

A successful eCommerce site doesn’t just process sales. The framework lets you offer incentives and get useful information about sales and customers. Magento 2 offers a greatly enhanced set of marketing tools for its updated administration area. 

  • Fine control of promotional pricing. You can create complex rules for selective pricing. Prices can apply to a particular website, category, customer group, and date range. You can create and prioritize multiple rules. 
  • Flexible coupons. Coupon codes are even more flexible, with the options already mentioned as well as optional limits on the number of uses per coupon and per customer. Tools facilitate tracking of coupons. 
  • Flexible shipping rates. Magento 2 lets you offer flat-rate or table-rate shipping. Table rates can take weight, destination, and volume into account. Coupons can offer shipping discounts. 
  • Multi-tier pricing. The Advanced Pricing option lets you set special prices for customer groups and quantity purchases. You can give visitors who are logged at a better price than those who aren’t. 
  • Customer attributes. You can define your own customer’s attributes to collect whatever kind of information is useful. 
  • Cart and Wishlist reminders. A flexible reminder system allows automatically sending customers a reminder of an abandoned cart or wishlist. Triggers can be based on the number of days, the number of items, total value, and other criteria. 
  • Customer loyalty tools. Reward points, private sales, and store credits are some of the features of Magento Enterprise which keep customers interested and let them feel special. 

B2B features 

Companies that revolve around B2B commerce will find lots of valuable features in Magento 2. Other businesses can be the most demanding customers. They don’t care about frills, but they want information, availability, the best price, and prompt delivery. A good set of tools will help to keep them satisfied. 

  • Custom catalogs. Catalogs can have per-customer filters and product references, so buyers see just the kinds of products that interest them. Price lists can be set per customer. 
  • Multi-contact accounts. A business client account can include multiple users, each with different privileges. The administrator can create new users, purchasing accounts can buy items, and other accounts can just review data. 
  • Quick Orders. The Quick Order feature lets business customers repeat previous orders, search by SKU, or upload a CSV file with SKUs. They can then review the search results and make their selection. They can create and modify requisition lists or frequently purchased product lists. 
  • Quote requests. Sometimes it helps to let the customer request a quote. Magento 2 supports this process and lets the seller respond with a quote that can have a time limit and other automatically enforced conditions. 
  • Payment on the account. Magento 2 lets trusted customers run up a credit account. The administrator can authorize it per customer and assign each one a credit limit. 

Is it necessary to upgrade? 

Upgrading Magento will soon be a necessity. After June 2020, Magento 1 will no longer be supported. That doesn’t just mean there won’t be new releases. It means that bugs won’t be fixed by Magento, the company, and security patches won’t be issued either. Vulnerabilities that become public will be targets for malware. Therefore, running the old version of Magento after that will be a risky proposition, especially for high volume sites, with the potential for serious monetary losses. 

The migration process isn’t trivial. You’ll need to update your theme and the extensions you will still need to compatible versions. Integrations will need revision. Think of an upgrade from Magento 1 to Magento 2 as more of a migration to a new software than a mere version upgrade. The benefits are huge, but you need to allow enough time to get the configurations you need done rightAnd remember, after May 2020, your business will have to upgrade under more panic-like conditions. 

Is Magento 2 right for your business? We’re Magento experts, but we’re also well versed in the alternatives. Talk to us to help decide what the best course is for your eCommerce operations. 

Your Guide to Magento 2 Community Edition

If you follow the world of eCommerce to any degree, you’ll have heard the name Magento 2. Magento is a powerful and open-source eCommerce solution that can be custom-tailored to fit the needs of each individual business that uses it. This is because Magento is not just a software package, but a framework that developers can use to create eCommerce sites. This gives Magento flexibility that most of its competitors do not have. There is a commercial version of the software, Magento 2 Enterprise, but this post will focus on the fully open-sourced Community Edition. 

What is Magento 2 Community Edition? 

With over 4 million downloads, Magento Community Edition is an absolute juggernaut in the eCommerce world. Early in its life, and when it was Magento 1, it was owned by eBay. The auction site bought the eCommerce software for quite a large sum, $180 million. It saw a downturn in use as it tried to split itself into the Community and Enterprise editions. Parent company eBay even advised customers to switch to competing platforms while the transition was taking place. After the transition, however, Magento was able to make the strong profits that skyrocketed it back to the top of the eCommerce world. So successful has it become, that Adobe recently purchased the software for the sum of $1.68 billion. 

Magento is a full-service eCommerce platform, offering support for website management, checkout and payment, shipping, SEO, analytics and reporting, marketing, order management, customer service, robust customer accounts, and catalog management. Being open-sourced and developed in PHP, the software allows for unparalleled customization by your web development team, bringing not only power but flexibility. 

As we mentioned, the community edition of the software differs in features from its commercial brother, Magento Enterprise. The paid version, as you might expect, has a few more features built in to save your development team time. As the download numbers show though, the free version is still quite an attractive offering for the needs of many eCommerce sites. 

Thus far, we’ve been using Magento and Magento 2 interchangeably. In the next section, we are going to talk a bit about the improvements and differences between Magento 1 and Magento 2 for those of you who are familiar with the first version and are wondering what changed. 

What are the Major Differences/Improvements of Magento 2 Community Edition? 

The list of features and improvements over Magento 1 is a mile long, so we will not be covering them all here. There are a few standout changes that have everyone excited, however. These key features, the ones that are going to make Magento 1 users want to make the switch, are what we will be discussing. 

Architecture 

The Magento 1 codebase is old. As such, it is built on technology that is now quite antiquated. Big improvements have been made in that regard with Magento 2. The new version of the software now runs on the latest version of PHP, has native support for HTML5, and has an API that was developed from the ground up to be tightly integrated with the software. The API in Magento 1 was added later in its life and did not integrate as tightly with the core code. 

This tighter coupling of the API, along with other intentional changes to the system, means that extensions are now easier and more efficient for developers to create. In addition to making life easier for extension developers, Magento 2 features a much easier installation process for extensions to make life easier for other users as well. 

Performance 

Moving to the newer technologies and rewriting the architecture of the code allowed the developers of Magento 2 to pack in some pretty exciting performance improvements. Some of the major improvements are: 

  • Better use of the browser cache 
  • Quicker performance on customer side with less reliance on client-side JavaScript 
  • 52% faster add to cart functionality 
  • 150% improvement in the number of catalog views possible per hour when using PHP 7 

Usability 

The user-facing dashboards of Magento 1 were cluttered, unattractive, and difficult to get your head around. This meant that the learning curve was higher than it needed to be, and labor costs were increased as you had to take extra time training employees how to use it. Magento 2 changes all of that with a much-improved, mobile friendly dashboard that removes the color, improves the aesthetics, and reduces the learning curve in the process. 

SEO Improvements 

Schema.org is a collaborative effort of Google, Bing, and Yahoo that is designed to standardize markup used by search engines. Because the major players are involved, supporting Schema.org markup allows for a significant boost in the search engine performance of your site. Magento 2 supports Schema.org markup, making the newer version better for your page ranking across the most popular destinations for search. 

The improvements to speed will also bring an SEO advantage as search engine companies have begun factoring page load time into their rankings. 

Why Should You Upgrade to Magento 2 Community Edition? 

The improvements listed in the previous section should have given you a good reason to switch from Magento 1 to Magento 2, but there is one more very important reason to make the switch. In June of 2020, Magento 1 will reach the end of its life. This means that there will be no more updates to the software. We aren’t talking about the minor annoyance of missing out on bug fixes for some obscure problem that your web development team has already found a way around here, we are talking about no longer receiving security patches. The reality is that using Magento 1 past the cutoff date will start to put the security of your business, and of your customer’s data, at risk. This problem will be made worse by the fact that malicious coders will understand whatever exploits that can find are going to be permanently available to them in any site that has not made the upgrade. 

Thankfully, migrating your site from an older version of the software to a newer version of the same software does not bring with it quite the same challenges as having to migrate to an entirely new platform. There have, however, been a large number of changes to the software between versions so migrating will not be without its headaches. Careful planning and a web development team with experience in Magento will be a must if you are to complete the migration as smoothly as possible. 

With over 10 years of experience creating custom Magento stores for clients across a number of industries, ATAK Interactive has the knowledge and expertise to upgrade any Magento 1 web store integration to Magento 2 Community Edition. We are also qualified to help you with any other Magento development needs that you may have. 

Your Guide to Magento 1 Community Edition

Magento 1 Community Edition has generated a lot of buzz in the eCommerce space since it’s initial launch. Many people find themselves asking what it is without getting a great answer. The reason for this is that Magento is a lot of things in the world of eCommerce. But the simple answer is that Magento is a content management system (CMS) that is completely open-source. The company Varien Inc. first published Magento in 2008. Over the years Magento has changed hands a few different times but has never lost sight of its purpose to provide amazing site design and eCommerce solutions for the user.

Today, Magento’s owner, Adobe, has released an enterprise Magento 2 commerce edition, that acts as a paid version, as well as the Magento 2 Open Source Community Editiona free open source edition with more flexibility than ever before. Both of these new versions replace the older, Magento 1 versions. This article explains the evolution of Magento, what it is, and who it is for.  

What is Magento? 

Leading the way in eCommerce, Magento is one of the most popular platforms available in the world. According to  thepixel.com, Magento serves over 200,000 online retailers and is the preferred platform by 25% of all online businesses. Magento has more flexibility and a better interface than its competitors with catalog management tools, search engine optimization, and amazing functionality over the full website. Magento 1 Community Edition offers features specifically for marketing and analysis in both the backend and frontend. All of this functionality and these features mean a much better experience for the shopper, giving you the necessary tools to turn those shoppers into loyal customers.  

What is Magento  Community Edition? 

For those that don’t need all the bells and whistles of the enterprise version of Magento, the Magento 1 Community Edition is a perfect option. Community Edition is a free edition that is also open-source and uses the same core as the enterprise version, so it can be modified to meet your specific needs. It is still an eCommerce platform, but allows smaller businesses, and perhaps those just starting, to build their own online storefront. Magento has provided a lot of tools for Community Edition and offers the Magento Extension Marketplace so you get even more opportunities to develop the perfect store around your specific needs.  

Who is Magento for? 

Simply put, Magento is for anyone in the market for an eCommerce platform. HostingTribunal has  identified some pretty substantial statistics when it comes to Magento. First, one percent of the entire internet is powered using Magento. When you consider the fact that there are well over a billion websites in existence, one percent begins to look substantial. Additionally, Magento is second in the world in overall CMS platforms.  

There is nothing old or out of date when it comes to Magento, either. Hostingtribunal also noted that the number of Magento 1 sites almost doubled between March of 2017 and August of 2018. These recent statistics prove that more people are moving to Magento to fill their CMS needs. For those that are new to eCommerce, or just looking for a fresh face and added functionality over an existing site, Magento can more than fit the bill.  

Endless Features 

All versions of the Magento platforms have a lot of features ready for you to use right away. Magento 1 Community Edition specifically includes the following:  

  • Payment 
  • Shipping 
  • Shopping optimized for mobile use 
  • Integrated checkout systems 
  • Instant purchasing 
  • Site search 
  • Advanced marketing tools 
  • A drag-and-drop (WYSIWYG) page builder 
  • Visual merchandise 
  • More functionality through the App Marketplace 

Magestore.com writes at length about the features available through Magento 1 Community Edition. Analytic features are very sophisticated, offering tax reports as well as reports for low stock, and even coupon usage. These tools empower the user to find out virtually anything they need to know to better serve their customers and market their product more efficiently. With all the power and functionality of the community edition, there is truly something to meet almost any need at absolutely no cost. The open-source nature of the Community Edition gives the user a level of comfort and confidence knowing that it can be adjusted to meet a specific need that may not be an “out-of-the-box” feature.  

Magento’s Partners 

As the old saying goes, there is strength in numbers. Magento has an incredibly wide range of technology partners that allow them to do more for their customers. With these partners, there are opportunities to customize and expand the product to take it to a whole new level. Beyond these partners, everyone that utilizes the open-source nature of the Magento 1 Community Edition becomes a trusted partner. New plug-ins are constantly being developed through this innovation and add even more functionality and control. The  partner directory  shows just how popular Magento is, and how much support they have across the industry.  

Magento Marketplace 

One of the most powerful parts of Magento is the Magento Marketplace. Users can build their own extensions and submit them for review to add to the marketplace. They can also find an extension to meet all kinds of unforeseen needs. The Magento Marketplace is a developer’s dream and business owner’s lifesaver. A quick internet search of the term “Magento Marketplace” will show you just how popular Magento extensions are to site developers. The marketplace allows for continued customization and updates to existing extensions, which is always important in a world where technology grows by leaps and bounds almost daily.  

Magento 1 Wil Sunset Soon, Magento 2 is Here 

One important take away is that Adobe has announced that Magento 1 is scheduled to sunset in 2020. In the past, the choice between Magento 1 and Magento 2 had much to do with the current comfort level of the business with the use of Magento 1. However, making the switch will soon become necessary as updates to Magento 1 are discontinued. Support for Magento 1 will last through  June 2020.   

Using ATAK to Solve Problems with Magento 

While the paid enterprise version of Magento offers more options and features for large companies such as added security systems and PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance, Community Edition is a perfect fit for most eCommerce businesses. Ultimately, you will need to decide which platform is right for your needs.  Magento 1 Community Edition continues to be a popular option for businesses looking for a highly customizable, yet affordable solution for their online eCommerce store. ATAK’s knowledge and experience in building, customizing, and maintaining the platform make us the ideal partner to any business built on the Magento platform. 

 

The Complete Guide to Magento

Table of Contents

Introduction to Magento

With the right eCommerce software in place, delivering an omnichannel B2B eCommerce experience is quite straightforward. However, today, more than ever, the platform you choose plays a significant factor as to how quickly and effectively you can flex your unique value propositions.

Magento (an Adobe company) is a giant player in the B2B eCommerce world for small, medium, and enterprise-sized businesses, and if your company sales are higher than $3 million, the software makes it onto most platform shortlists / RFPs due to its out of the box feature set as well as its open-source flexibility.

For those considering Magento against any other eCommerce software as their next platform, there are some important decisions to be made. This guide is designed to give you an understanding of eCommerce platforms, highlight and compare key differentiators between Magento and some of the other software options such as Shopify, and offer 7 crucial questions to use as a guide when choosing and building upon your B2B eCommerce software choice.

Understanding eCommerce Platforms

What Is an eCommerce Platform?

Running a successful online business depends on making many important decisions. Choosing the right eCommerce platform is often one of the most critical choices you have to make for your business. However, before picking the right platform for your business, it’s essential to understand what they are and what they do.

Typically an eCommerce platform is a software application that allows online businesses to manage their website, marketing, sales, and operations. They should also easily integrate with other standard business tools to help centralize and run your business.

eCommerce platforms typically come in three main types:

  1. Open Source
  2. SaaS (Software as a Service)
  3. CaaS (Commerce as a Service)

Because your choice of eCommerce platforms has an enormous bearing on the profitability of your business, there are many questions you need to consider when making your choice. For example, do you want to build your platform from scratch or use a plugin that integrates with your existing site? What kind of hosting works best with your site and store? Do you prefer an open-source, SaaS, or CaaS solution? Other essential features to consider include security, stability, and customization abilities.

While the answers to these questions should dictate and inform your decision when it comes time to choose the right eCommerce platform for your business, we believe Magento offers many of the features and offers business owners want and need for their online web stores.

What Are the Most Popular eCommerce Platforms?

Today, there are endless, eCommerce platform solutions available. Some of the most popular include:

  • Shopify
  • BigCommerce
  • Magento
  • WooCommerce

Each of these platforms offers varying degrees of features, flexibility, and customizability.

Shopify and WooCommerce offer robust “all-in-one” platforms that make it incredibly easy to build and launch a web store with little experience. BigCommerce makes it easy to build, customize an online store with no coding experience. Finally, Magento offers incredible flexibility and more advanced features like inventory management, order management, and a thriving developer community. Additionally, Magento allows the most flexibility when it comes to hosting for your eCommerce platform.

How Does Magento Compare to Other eCommerce Platforms?

Most of the popular eCommerce platforms today offer a similar set of features that are common across the board. Some of these features include product inventory management, SEO optimization, promotion and discount code tools, easy-to-use checkout, robust security, cross-platform integration, and compatibility, and the ability to scale as your business grows.

However, let’s look more closely at how Magento compares to other players in the eCommerce space.

Magento vs. Shopify

Shopify has quickly established itself as one of the biggest eCommerce platforms in the past decade, proving itself to be a considerable challenger to Magento.

Shopify has cemented itself as the platform of choice for small businesses that are content with an all-in-one solution that requires a low level of technical expertise. In short, Shopify allows a business to concentrate on growing without having to worry about the technical systems running their web stores.

On the other hand, Magento is primarily the eCommerce platform of choice for large enterprises looking for complete control of the eCommerce experience. Magento’s open-source nature has allowed it to grow a thriving developer community, and it can handle complex transactions and multiple storefronts, languages, and currencies.

To check out out a thorough rundown between Magento and Shopify, make sure to read our complete guide to Magento vs. Shopify.

Magento vs. WooCommerce

Like Shopify, WooCommerce is another popular eCommerce platform often compared to Magento. Like Magento, WooCommerce is both versatile and powerful, and while the needs of your particular business should dictate which you choose, Magento once again offers many advantages over WooCommerce that makes it an ideal solution.

While WooCommerce runs as a WordPress plugin, Magento offers businesses a complete eCommerce platform that integrates with several different CMS platforms and offers a truly customizable option.

Both platforms offer free options, but Magento Community Edition much more customizability with both free and paid themes, extensions, and integrations.

There’s no question that Magento wins easily on features against WooCommerce, even in its free option. While WooCommerce offers some impressive features at no cost, Magento is much stronger on store and product management and payment processing out of the box.

Want a full breakdown of Magento vs. WooCommerce? Make sure to check out our post on Magento vs. WooCommerce.

Magento vs. BigCommerce

Like WooCommerce, BigCommerce is another leading eCommerce platform available to B2B businesses. While both platforms can help grow your online business, there are key differences between the two.

While Magento is an open-source platform, BigCommerce is a SaaS (Software as a Service) solution. As such, it is much harder to customize the BigCommerce experience to your business needs.

Another key difference between the two services involves security. Both offer the latest security features, but because BigCommerce hosts and maintains their platform, they ensure your store’s PCI compliance and security features are always up to date. Magento also releases security patches regularly and offer PCI compliance for web payments, but because it is open-source, you’re responsible for staying up to date with and installing security patches and bug fixes.

Each of these platforms will meet more than your basic eCommerce functionality needs. If Magento doesn’t natively have a feature you need, you can build it yourself. On the other hand, with BigCommerce, you are at the mercy of their development team and may find yourself waiting indefinitely for features.

An Overview of the Magento eCommerce Platform

As you can see, Magento is a powerful eCommerce platform that offers powerful tools and customization capabilities. 

However, if you’re still not sure whether Magento is right for your business, let’s take a closer look at why you should consider Magento for your B2B eCommerce platform.

Why Should You Consider Magento as Your B2B eCommerce Platform?

Up to now, we’ve broadly compared Magento to other eCommerce platforms and their features, but we haven’t touched on an area where Magento shines: the B2B world!

We have a separate post on why you should consider Magento for your B2B eCommerce platform, but we want to touch on a few key features below.

As we have touched on above, Magento is open-source, making it the ideal platform for B2B businesses. What does this mean? Well, it means that you have the freedom and capabilities to do some killer custom web development. It also means that developers have developed a robust library of extensions, themes, and integrations that link Magento to most other business services.

Magento also supports native features focused on B2B growth right out of the box. These features include custom catalog capabilities, personalized price lists, site management, and mobile commerce capabilities, and more.

Magento also has another trick up its sleeve, the ability to create and manage multiple storefronts from one interface. If your business operates across multiple or different brands, currencies, or languages, the ability to manage multiple storefronts allows your business to provide an excellent customer experience without sky-high admin costs.

Magento Offers 2 Versions of their Platform for Users

While most eCommerce platforms offer various paid subscription tiers, Magento currently offers just two versions of its software: Magento Community Edition and Magento Enterprise Edition.

Magento Community Edition is an open-source, completely free, and, most importantly, full-featured version of Magento. It’s ideal for small to medium-sized businesses looking to build an eCommerce business. Magento’s extensive extensions library makes it easy to customize the software and add any needed features, without sacrificing functionality.

Magento Enterprise Edition is Magento’s paid version, and it provides additional premium features for medium to enterprise-level businesses. Enterprise Edition is ideal for businesses that handle a lot of online transactions and are looking to scale. Enterprise Edition also offers users 24/7 support and more robust security features. Additionally, businesses operating in international markets would also benefit from using Enterprise Edition. 

In September 2018, Adobe announced the end of life for Magento 1. They also announced that they would no longer be supporting or providing updates for this version of the software after June 2020, and they encouraged users to begin preparing to update to Magento 2. 

As of this writing, Magento is at version 2.3.3.

Migrating from Magento 1 to Magento 2

If you currently have Magento 1, it’s time to start thinking seriously about upgrading. And if you’re still not sure if making the switch is worth it, these features should help convince you to make the change.

  • Faster loading pages: With Magento 2, pages are loading up to 50% faster.
  • Responsive mobile pages: Magento 2 pages are responsive by default, providing a better experience for both customers and search engines. Additionally, you can save on the costs of having to develop a separate mobile experience.
  • Drag and drop page editing: Creating and editing pages is much easier and requires less coding knowledge than before.
  • Better security: Magento 2 contains several security enhancements and eliminates vulnerabilities found in earlier versions.

As you can see, Magento 2 is a significant update to the platform and one every Magento 1 user needs to consider seriously. If you’d like to learn about more of the benefits found in Magento 2, our blog post on the differences between the two versions can help.

What Are the Challenges with Upgrading Magento 1 to Magento 2?

Upgrading from Magento 1 to Magento 2 can be a reasonably straightforward process, but because of the significant changes between the two versions, you do need to keep a few things under consideration.

Before upgrading, you need to make sure that any Magento 1 themes, extensions, and plugins are compatible with Magento 2. If they are not, you and your development team should take time to find comparable replacements to avoid any interruptions or errors. 

Planning Your Migration to Magento 2 – a Step-by-Step Guide

When you decide the time is right to move your store from Magento 1 to Magento 2, there are five overarching areas to dig into and plan out.

These are:

  1. Data Migration from Magento 1 to Magento 2
  2. Design or Theme Migration (migrate existing design or start with a new design)
  3. Extension Replacements
  4. Custom Development and Coding
  5. Hosting, Testing, Retesting, Security, Deployment

Not every migration step is complicated, but many are. To make sure every step is covered, it may be helpful to complement a plan with a visual or flowchart that includes each step, and then what subtasks go into each.

A true Magento 1 to Magento 2 migration action plan should incorporate most if not all of these specific steps (and sometimes more):

  1. Ensure the current Magento 1 site is healthy and bug-free before beginning to plan for the new project.
  2. Preparation work: Map out the things you need, such as module replacements from 3rd party extensions, content migration plans, design theme requirements, migration testing as well as final data migration, and more.
  3. Build the Magento 2 Site
  4. Start Required Migration, Pause Admin Activity
  5. Stop Magento 1 Cron
  6. Copy Magento 1 Settings and Websites Data into Magento 2
  7. Copy Media/Content
  8. Copy Other Data
  9. Run All Indexes
  10. Test Magento 2 Site
  11. Stat Incremental Customization Updates
  12. Test Magento 2 Site Customizations
  13. Move Magento 2 Site to Live Server, Archive Magento 1 Site to Maintenance Mode as appropriate.
  14. Run Stock/Inventory Indexer
  15. Warm Up Cache / Install CDN and SSL
  16. Start M2 Cron
  17. Host and DNS Changes Mapping and Execution
  18. Run Speed Tests via GT Metrix and Google Insights
  19. Launch and Monitor, Take Action as Needed

Also, any migration director should be working side by side the marketing team, so SEO and tracking get installed the right way.

Migrating to Magento 2 is not the most straightforward process, and the time the move each migration takes depends on the number of customizations, complexity, amount of data to migrate, 3rd party software integration work, and more.

To make the process a bit easier, Magento does provide handy migration tools called the Magento 2 Data Migration Tool. The tool works well, but if you require customizations, your general migration timeline needs to account for it, as well. Additionally, performance testing and optimization can take time, as Magento 2’s structure is very different and has different hosting requirements than Magento 1.

If you are not familiar with Magento, hiring a developer to make the move is an investment that is likely to pay for itself.

7 Questions to Use as a Guide When Building a Magento B2B eCommerce Store

Building an eCommerce store involves asking many questions. You also need to take into account any nuances directly related to your business and the industry. However, these seven questions should help you get started with building your dream store.

What Does an Ideal B2B eCommerce Operations Day Look Like For Your Business?

Before building your eCommerce website, you need to understand what a typical eCommerce day looks like for your company. Once again, keep in mind, that day to day operations are unique to your business, and the more you can dial in the specifics before starting, the smoother the entire process. Several things need to be clear, including:

  • What people need to be involved and what roles they need to fill?
  • Who is going to be responsible for development?
  • Who is going to manage the web store on a day to day basis?
  • Who is going to be responsible for customer service?

The earlier you include all stakeholders in the project, the better.

What B2B eCommerce Features Does My Business Need?

Once you know who needs to be involved, it’s time to look at what features your ideal eCommerce experience is going to need. 

Questions to consider at this stage include any design features you would like your store to have, features that your customers expect to see, and features your operations and fulfillment teams need to do their job.

A few tips to keep in mind: look at your competitor’s web stores for inspiration and remember that a B2B eCommerce experience is different from the more traditional B2C web store and so the features and experience are different.

What Type of eCommerce Integrations Do I Need to Consider?

Chances are you rely on several different systems to operate your business. It’s not unusual to depend on different pieces of software to run logistics, track inventory, fulfill orders, and ship products. 

These integrations all need to be considered when choosing an eCommerce platform. Luckily, because Magento is open-source, it is highly compatible with many of the most popular Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems on the market today. 

Additionally, the developer community around Magento is incredibly robust, meaning a plugin or extension for any piece of software your business relies on probably already exists.

What Level of Custom Development Do I Require for My B2B eCommerce Store?

The amount of custom development your eCommerce site needs is going to affect both the cost and launch time of your store. Because of this, it is essential not to fall victim to scope creep as you try to cram as many features as possible into your project. 

As you’re starting, it’s important to focus on the essential features you’re web store needs. These features should include the ability to segment your customers, order management rules, and offering different payment options. As your store begins to grow, you can look to add more features as they become necessary.

By focusing on these features, you can avoid skyrocketing development costs and launch delays.

Will a Magento B2B eCommerce Platform Be Easy to Manage for My Team?

Magento is an incredibly powerful platform, but that means you also need an experienced developer’s help to take advantage of everything it has to offer. 

Whether your developer is in-house or you partner with a Magento development agency, having experienced Magento and eCommerce developers working on your project maximizes the results you can get out of the software. 

What Is the Cost of Building and Operating a Magento eCommerce Site?

One of the most pressing concerns for eCommerce store owners is the cost of building, hosting, operating, and maintaining a Magento store. 

The price of a Magento project can vary dramatically, from $10,000 to $125,000, in most cases. The flexibility of Magento 2 means that your costs are ultimately determined by how sophisticated you want to build your site. A basic site can land on the lower end of that estimate, while a highly customized site powered by Magento Enterprise should be expected to cost closer to the upper end.

Again, the more complex your eCommerce project is, the higher the cost you can expect.

How Long Does It Take to Build a Magento eCommerce Store?

As we’ve mentioned a few times, the complexity of your eCommerce site affects not only the cost but also the time it takes to build and launch. 

A typical site can usually be expected to take around three to four months to plan, build, and launch. 

However, keep in mind that adding features once a project has kicked off can extend the development time needed. The number of third-party integrations also affects the development timeline.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should remove necessary features or integrations to speed up your development time. The more thoughtful and thorough you are in finding the answers to the questions above before handing your project over to your developers, the better positioned they are to give you an accurate timeline and stay on schedule.

How to Pick a Magento Development Agency

As we hope you have noticed, Magento is an incredibly powerful platform. But, as they say, with great power comes great responsibility. Trying to implement Magento with little to no technical expertise can not only be costly, but it can also severely harm your business. Unless you have an experienced in-house development team, the best option is usually to partner with an experienced Magento development agency that can help bring your web store to life. 

How an Experienced Development Agency can Help You Navigate the eCommerce Landscape

Developing a successful eCommerce experience your customers love requires more than just a Magento development agency – you need a business partner who understands your unique challenges and can provide the skill, experience, and perspective to help you architect a top-notch system. With a rapidly changing eCommerce landscape, it is vital to look for an agency that can work with you to clarify your business problems and opportunities and then provide you a full scope of solutions that can turn your vision into reality.

What Type of Support Do You Need From a Development Agency?

Great technical skill is nothing if it doesn’t come with excellent support – as your online business keeps growing, you’ll need an agency that can grow with you. Exceptional support starts with setting clear timelines and following-through, but it encompasses much more: a dedicated project management team, ongoing support throughout your build, full transparency into the cost of ownership, as well as complimentary services. While most Magento development agencies typically offer only development services, a company that is a true business partner offers a host of other services to help you take your business to the next level. These services range from graphic design, marketing, SEO and SEM, to marketing automation, data migration, as well as custom CRM and ERP integrations. 

Security Practices Every Magento Development Agency Needs to Offer

eCommerce sites present attractive opportunities for hackers looking to steal personal information and payment details. Making sure that Magento is up-to-date with the latest security practices and patches should be a top-of-mind concern. Although there is no magic recipe that can shield systems from all possible vulnerabilities, your Magento development agency should have a reliable approach for setting up and maintaining a secure platform, detecting breaches early and acting fast to minimize any possible damage. Some of the standard security measures to look for are: 

  • Reliable, secure hosting;
  • Secure server operating environment; 
  • Using the latest Magento version at installation;
  • Installing all security patches on time;
  • Keeping all plugins updated;
  • Installing extensions from trusted sources (the Magento Marketplace extensions undergo a strict quality control process);
  • Backing up your database regularly;
  • Monitoring for any signs of a breach;
  • Performing regular security audits.

Quality Control for Your Magento eCommerce Platform

Quality assurance and control are critical components at every step of a Magento project, from development and testing to deployment and maintenance. Our agency’s 15 years of eCommerce experience have taught us that maintaining a testing environment is crucial to the health of any Magento online store. Regardless of QA methodology, there are a few areas of particular concern:

  • Performance testing; 
  • Compatibility testing; 
  • Regression testing for new features; 
  • Payment method testing;
  • Plugin updates / testing;
  • Index and cache maintenance;
  • Adaptive design and cross-browser testing.

Because Magento lacks out-of-the-box testing, it is important to choose a development agency that follows a robust Quality Assurance plan, with QA engineers experienced in all areas of eCommerce software testing.  

Beyond Development: Finding a Trusted eCommerce B2B Marketing Partner

Let’s go back to the idea of perspective: a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work when it comes to successful eCommerce experiences, and neither does an approach that relies solely on an agency’s development capabilities. An ideal Magento development agency is one that can help you scale your business and create a solid foundation for long-term success and innovation. At ATAK Interactive, we offer full-stack marketing, creative, and development services, as well as integration and workflow optimization for a wide range of software platforms. From developing and implementing impactful marketing strategies, to seamlessly integrating your CRM and ERP systems across all your business operations, you can trust ATAK Interactive with your Magento B2B eCommerce project!

One Last Thing…

According to Research and Market’s “Global B2B E-Commerce Market 2018” report, B2B eCommerce is projected to be two times higher than B2C by 2020. In the US alone, B2B eCommerce sales are expected to hit $1.184 trillion by 2021. This predominance means B2B businesses must improve and simplify their customer and management journey for optimal sales conversion rates. 

Before jumping into a new eCommerce project, you need to decide on a platform that’s going to cater to your business needs today, as well as tomorrow. eCommerce, and especially B2B eCommerce is no longer just about browsing for items on a desktop or laptop, adding things to the shopping cart, and checking out with a credit card or PayPal. Not for 2020 and beyond, certainly. Online shoppers expect omnichannel eCommerce experiences, while both B2B and B2C leadership teams alike expect timely and measurable improvements.

Overall, Magento is a great platform that is easily suitable for certain types of SMB merchants, as well as enterprise-level wholesalers and retailers – as long as the general costs of maintaining and developing the Magento platform make sense. Magento is also not the only platform and should be one of several eCommerce software solutions any sizeable merchant should consider.

If you have any questions around eCommerce, the different versions, capabilities, and other challenges you have come across, please feel free to contact ATAK Interactive via email at info@atakinteractive.com or call us at 310.526.7493.

Understanding the Magento eCommerce Platform

Choosing an eCommerce platform ideally suited to the needs of your unique business can be a bit like trying to find the right foot for a particular fabled glass slipper. There are a lot of options out there, but many of them aren’t a good fit. Magento offers new solutions for virtually all types of businesses with the flexibility to customize your own solutions for increased success. 

Why Use Magento as your Business eCommerce Platform? 

Your business needs an eCommerce system you can rely on day in and day out even as your business grows. While many platforms offer vague promises of great features and improved design, Magento delivers with global implementation partners and customizable tools. You know exactly what your business needs from an eCommerce platform: seamless shopping that leads to customer satisfaction, scalability as your business grows, and customizability for customers and business operation, to name a few. At the end of the day, your eCommerce platform should provide you with the confidence you need to keep running your business successfully. Here are a few ways Magento makes an ideal B2B eCommerce platform for businesses big and small. 

  • Built-in features are designed for B2B Growth: Many eCommerce platforms require you to immediately purchase extensions before the software is even fit for use. Magento provides a wide variety of easy-to-use features like personalized price lists, SEO features, and custom catalogs capabilities right out of the box. 
  • One interface supports multiple storefronts: Whether you’re dealing with multiple brand names, languages, or currencies, there are many reasons a variety of storefronts are necessary. Magento allows you to use one system to manage all business tasks for all your stores. 
  • Powerful search function saves time for businesses: An estimated 70% of consumer time is spent searching for specific products. Magento eliminates this wasted time for companies with a powerful search function. 
  • Magento is open source: This means it’s highly adaptable for anyone with the knowledge to enhance or repair the code. 
  • Allows integration with tools and extensions: Magento is designed to integrate with existing ERP and CRM software for convenience and control. 
  • Active developer communities offer additional support: Since Magento is so widely used, forums and online communities provide a great source of extra help. 

Options from Magento 

Magento offers two key eCommerce options for businesses. While both options provide a host of base features, some businesses may prefer the advanced customizability of the Commerce Edition. The descriptions below highlight the differences between each to help you decide which one is best for your business. 

Magento Open Source Edition 

Open Source (formerly known as Community Edition) is Magento’s free open source platform available for all users to download, install, and enhance. With plenty of useful features, Open Source offers a high-quality eCommerce platform that will satisfy the needs of many different types of businesses. With features like mobile-optimized shopping, global selling, instant purchase, and site search; Open Source is a great place to start for most small to medium businesses (SMB). Additionally, there are practically unlimited ways to extend the usefulness of Magento with a continually growing marketplace of apps, tools, and extensions.   

Magento Commerce Edition 

Commerce (formerly known as Enterprise) is Magento’s licensed version of the platform which is generally used by larger companies with more customer traffic. Commerce has all the great features of Open Source plus a slew of additional features designed to keep up with the growth of larger businesses. One of the biggest attractions of Commerce is Magento’s Hosted Cloud features which include: 

  • Optimized cloud commerce 
  • Global availability 
  • Cloud availability service level agreement up to 99.9% 
  • Fast page loading 
  • Performance monitoring tools 
  • Streamlined updates and testing 
  • PCI compliant 
  • Enhanced security 
  • Easy deployment 

In addition to Magento Cloud, Commerce provides many tools to increase sales and customer satisfaction. Some of the most popular features include B2B functionality, customer loyalty tools, and content staging and preview. Additional support is available with Commerce Edition as well. For many larger companies with significant sales often decide the added benefits of Magento Commerce are worth the fees. 

Comparing Magento 1 to Magento 2 

It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention and that holds true for the launch of Magento. Developed in 2007 to fill the gaps left by leading eCommerce platforms for online merchants, Magento Community was released in 2008 and followed by Magento Commerce a year later with amazing results. Magento quickly became the world’s most popular eCommerce company. In 2015, Magento 2 was released with many advanced features. 

While both versions offer businesses many useful features, Magento 2 offers more advantages to increase speed, sales, security, and functionality.

Some of the differences you can find in Magento 2 include: 

  • Increased speed for better loading time 
  • New technology for better store performance 
  • Conflicting extensions are eliminated with plugins that overlap code instead of overriding it 
  • A user-friendly dashboard with more features 
  • Increased security 

In the past, the choice between Magento 1 and Magento 2 had much to do with the current comfort level of the business with the use of Magento 1. However, making the switch will soon become necessary as updates to Magento 1 are discontinued. Support for Magento 1 will last through June 2020.   

Upgrading from Magento 1 to Magento 2 

Businesses content with the use of Magento 1 may be dreading the switch to the new version. However, the company is striving to make the move as painless as possible. As the life-cycle of Magento 1 comes to a close, stepping up to Magento 2 is the obvious choice. Preparing for the change is the best way to ensure a seamless transfer.  

Challenges 

Much of the technology for Magento 2 is entirely different, which can lead to errors and headaches without a carefully planned migration. It’s vital to back up and clone all of the information in your Magento 1 store to make the switch smoothly. Some common issues after migrating to Magento 2 may include: 

  • Administration login problems 
  • Invalid indexers 
  • 404 errors 
  • Missing graphics 
  • Extension installation issues 
  • Possible data loss 

Upgrading to Magento 2 is a necessary change if you intend to stay with the platform, and there’s no doubt the advantages will outweigh the potential headaches during migration. However, a sound knowledge of Magento technology is needed to make the switch seamlessly. ATAK Interactive is a full-service digital marketing agency with extensive experience in the building and management of eCommerce websites. Contact us today for information regarding our Magento 1 to Magento 2 migration services. We’ll take care of the headaches of migration and let you get back to running your business. 

Magento vs. WooCommerce: Which Is Better for You?

The two leading e-commerce platforms, by the number of installations, are WooCommerce and Magento. Both are versatile and powerful, and the best choice depends on a business’s particular needs. Magento is software specialized for e-commerce web pages, while WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin which lets sites host online stores. To choose between them, you should understand their features, costs, and requirements.

Overview

WooCommerce runs as a plug-in under WordPress. It’s available for free, though paid enhancements are available. It works with all WordPress plugins and themes, and it has an API which lets it have its own plugins. Support is mostly community-based, through public forums. Paid support is available from third-party professionals.

Magento is a complete platform in itself, specializing in e-commerce. Its market consists mostly of medium and large online stores, and it includes a rich set of features. Magento has both free and paid versions, with more features in the paid one. Developers and partners can take courses and get certified, and customers can obtain paid support through them. Cloud hosting is available with paid packages.

Both products let the customers host their own sites, and there are hosting companies which specialize in one or both.

Cost comparison

Using either package for business will entail some costs. Hosting is necessary (it’s included in the cost of Magento’s paid versions) and will cost anywhere from $5 a month upward. The host should be PCI-compliant if the store accepts credit cards, which rules out many of the cheapest options. Magento’s rich set of features requires a fairly powerful server, so shared hosting may not work as well as it will for the leaner WooCommerce.

Companies without an IT staff may want to consider managed hosting, which costs money but offers better uptime and fewer unpleasant problems.

The appearance of a site and its appeal to the customer are all important. Free themes are available, but a serious site will find buying a good-looking theme is worth the one-time cost. Integration with a payment processing service is a necessity. The basic costs of running a site don’t have to be high, but they could run up a couple of hundred dollars a year or more.

WooCommerce is free, as is Magento Open Source. Magento Commerce is a suite of paid, hosted versions for different site sizes. The cost of the service starts at $2,000 a year and can go much higher for high-volume sites.

Additional costs with Magento may include extensions, themes, and integrations. Some are free while others have a price tag. Extending Magento tends to require assistance from a developer, which will add to the cost. A WooCommerce site will generally require more plugins than a Magento site, but a larger selection of free ones is available. Setting up WooCommerce is easier and adding plugins doesn’t require a specialist, so site owners can save money on technical assistance. 

A typical WooCommerce site costs considerably less to set up than a Magento site. It’s possible to set up Magento Open Source at a very low cost, but it requires a higher level of in-house development skills. 

Feature comparison 

Out of the box, Magento wins easily on features. It’s stronger, even in the free version, on store management, product management, and payment processing. WooCommerce can do impressive things, but site owners may have to buy additional plugins or pay for custom development to get all the features they want. 

The cost of a rich feature set is complexity, though. WooCommerce has the upper hand in ease of use. It’s possible to get a site going without a lot of experience. Getting started with Magento requires spending a good amount of time studying the documentation. 

Both platforms are scalable, but Magento has a better reputation for supporting enterprise-scale stores. WooCommerce is used for some impressively large sites, but it takes more work to get there. 

Magento isn’t intended for constructing a full website. WooCommerce sits on top of WordPress, so its sites can do anything a normal WordPress site can do. Magento needs to work together with some other way of constructing the rest of the site. 

Adding plugins to WordPress, including ones to extend WooCommerce, is very easy. Adding extensions to Magento is harder and may require professional assistance. On the other hand, Magento’s richer feature set means there’s less of a need to add them. 

One area where a WooCommerce site will need plugins is security. Magento has a strong built-in set of security features, but WordPress relies more on plugins. They provide benefits such as limiting login attempts and monitoring files. Security is very important to a site that handles sales, so a WooCommerce site should use some carefully selected plugins to reduce the chances of a breach. 

Which is better in the end? 

As these points show, each package has its advantages and disadvantages. WordPress is more economical for small businesses, requiring less specialized support and server power. Magento shows its advantages for sites that are large and need a rich set of features. 

WordPress is suitable for building a complete Web platform. Magento users will need a different solution for their home pages, feedback forms, blogs, and so on. Having everything on one platform offers simplicity, which is especially valuable for a business with limited staff. If the staff already knows WordPress, that’s an additional argument in favor of WooCommerce. 

A business which has high ambitions and wants to offer its customers a rich set of options could be better off with Magento. The startup costs will be higher, but they can justify themselves as the business grows. 

ATAK Interactive can help 

The choices may be complicated, but you don’t have to make them alone. ATAK Interactive has years of experience in e-commerce design. We’re highly familiar with both WooCommerce and Magento, and we can help businesses choose the platform which is most suitable to their needs. In addition, we can provide integration with other software and customization. Talk with us to see how we can help you develop the site that will promote your brand and give your customers the best possible experience. 

The Most Useful Magento Extensions for 2019

Magento’s capable and busy developer community has created a large library of extensions/plugins, making Magento a platform that is amazingly diverse and useful, one our customers can continue to grow into as their business changes and/or expands.

Below we’re sharing some of our favorite, most used, and highly rated Magento extensions for 2019. While they may not all apply to your business, they’re sure to help make your eCommerce store easier to manage and help it stand apart from your competitors.

A Brief Summary of Magento’s Standing in the eCommerce Platform Industry

The Best Magento Extensions

Based on the total number of downloads/uses and the average ratings of reviewers, and ATAK’s review and experience on the subject matter, these are the top Magento extensions organized within the eCommerce operation or category for which they apply:

While we do recommend and use the extensions listed below, we do want to point out some basic things to keep in mind before adding any plugins to your Magento store. First and foremost, you need to make sure that Magento is up to date with the latest version and security patches. You’ll also want to check the plugin’s compatibility with the latest version of Magento. A lack of compatibility may indicate the developer is no longer supporting the extension. Finally, you also want to check compatibility between modules, as some extensions may not work well with others or with your Magento settings themselves.

I. Payments and Security Extensions

Sage Pay & Subscriptions by Magenest

This extension increases security for stores who offer a subscription type product(s) and want to offer all major credit card providers for a purchase option. The module processes direct refunds to customers, boosting customer satisfaction rates.

One-Step Checkout (FireCheckout) by Templates Master

Items left in carts can decrease by using this one-step checkout tool. This extension streamlines all checkout steps into one single page. The device has caused a 65 percent improvement in checkout time, according to its website.

Two-Factor Authentication by XTENTO

This tool assists owners in protecting information such as payments, addresses, and order history. The secondary security backup is a quickly generated authentication code generated by a smartphone.

II. Customer Support Extensions

FAQ by MagePrince

A “frequently asked questions” page is essential. Customers want to get information quickly. When they get their answers, products sell. This plugin is free.

Magento 2 Live-Chat Extension by Landofcoder

Live chat customers are 51 percent more likely to purchase from a website. And 50 percent say they will be more likely to revisit a site that has this capability. This extension also has a clean interface and quick chat options.

Contact Form Builder by Pixogix Infotech

The next best thing to live chat is a well-built form. The Contact Form Builder does all the work for you. The specific contact forms will answer questions from customers about products or additional requirements. The variety of form types are customizable to meet your brand’s needs.

III. Marketing Extensions

Abandoned Cart Email by AheadWorks

If you’re in the business of e-commerce, you’ve dealt with abandoned carts. The best thing to do when this happens is to use Abandoned Cart Emails. Here’s what this outstanding feature does for you:

  • Customizes your email schedule
  • Sends an unlimited number of follow up emails
  • Sends product prices and subtotals in reminder emails
  • Generates coupons to incentivize purchasers

Product Reviews by Amasty

Since 95 percent of buyers read online reviews before they make a purchase. Product Reviews by Amasty is fully automated and lets owners send a product review reminder after the number of days you set up on your review page. You can even reward a customer with a coupon in the reminder mail. This page is also fully customizable and now has a new Pros and Cons tool.

Special Promotions by Amasty

With this extension, you can:

  • Display promotional items
  • Customize which customers are in the promotion
  • Easily configure and install this extension

IV. Accounting & Finance Extensions

Embedded ERP by Boostmyshop

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is a software package that manages several business applications and operations from one single platform. Make Magento your e-commerce management solution for stock, purchases and order preparation with Embedded ERP. Magento’s Embedded ERP provides:

  • Stock management and Stock Movement
  • Order tracking
  • Purchases
  • Order preparation
  • Dashboards and reporting
  • Data Export/Import
  • Barcodes
  • Much More

AvaTax by Classy Llama

AvaTax can:

  • Manage exemption certificates
  • Calculate sales tax
  • File returns
  • Remit payments across multiple tax regions

Customer Attributes by Officience

This tool will quickly build out specific profiles of your customers. Data collection will become seamless and generate unlimited attribute information such as:

  • Cashback earned
  • Redeemed points made
  • Mobile number
  • Cash stored in the tool’s e-wallet of the consumer

V. Shipping & Fulfillment

Custom Stock Status by Amasty

The Custom Stock Status extension lets your customers know when certain items on your site are scarce. For customers who are looking for a particular size or color, this is information they will be happy to receive. Also, when an item is “scarce,” consumers may feel that this product is exclusive or more valuable. Just showing that the product is in stock, sometimes makes the item seem more attractive to a busy shopper.

Delivery Day Scheduler by Appjetty

This tool allows customers to specify a date and time at which their orders arrive. The delivery page is easy to set up. This extension has a 4.9/5 rating from multiple reviewers.

Order Manager by IWD Agency

Order Manager includes a dedicated sales representative; multi-warehouse inventory; order grid customizations, and more. This tool allows for e-commerce integration of custom order creation processing; the enablement of editing customer order details and updating items such as billing and shipping addresses.

VI. Website Optimization Extensions

Magento 2 SEO Extension by MagePlaza

Create templates for products, pages, URLs, blog posts, and much more.

Minify HTML, CSS, JS by Apptrain

This extension is free but does an excellent job of increasing your website speed. Apptrain describes “minify” in this way:

Minification is the process of removing all unnecessary characters from source code without changing its functionality — e.g. code comments and formatting, removing unused code, using shorter variable and function names, and so on.

The items removed are:

  • Block delimiters
  • Newline characters
  • Comments
  • White space characters

Page Speed by Amasty

Every e-commerce seller knows that the faster his or her website is, the more likely he or she is to keep customers on the site, and therefore, the more the products will sell.

Page Speed is critical if you are running a website with loads of scripts, images, and content. This extension can optimize your images to improve speed without disturbing the total look and quality of your site.

Conclusion

At ATAK, one of the reasons we love working with Magento is because of the strength of its developer community. The almost limitless customizations and an extensive library of plugins/extensions created by the community make Magento an ideal eCommerce platform for any business. Our experience working with Magento has allowed us to understand how to manage extensions across many different platform implementations best.

We hope this overview of our favorite Magento extensions has given you an idea of what is possible. Now it’s your turn. We’d love to hear about your favorite plugins and extensions. Please drop us a quick note and let us know!

Ideal ERP Software

How To Identify the Ideal ERP Software for Your Small Business

Entrepreneurs who focus on enhancing their B2B and/or B2C commerce operation and overall customer satisfaction will eventually realize success. For that reason, small and medium-sized business owners should consider, at no matter what stage of growth, investing in the resources that integrate all of their different business systems and facilitate the achievement of set operational objectives.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is one of those key business tools/resources to consider acquiring if you want to improve operational commerce efficiencies. ERP software improves the management of inventory and production schedules and streamlines data processing (i.e. processing orders, warehouse inventory).

Oracle’s NetSuite and Microsoft’s Dynamics lead the ERP software industry (SAP is in third place). Both can address most requirements, and both can adapt to their unique environment. Other less popular, specialty platforms exist, but those should be considered with even more care, as we usually see less support and customizability.

When choosing the ideal ERP solution for your operations, there are several factors to consider, and this article aims to set whoever is in charge of operations in the right direction to choose the right ERP for his or her business.

Flexibility

Most small business owners must focus on growth, which suggests that a scalable ERP solution is one business challenge to consider early on, as business ramps up month over month.

First and foremost, one must acknowledge some ERP software options are not customizable and compromising your business flows and processes after investing in such a tool is usually not an ideal option.

In this case, one should check the features and functions a particular ERP solution offers now and as the business grows, to verify whether the flexibility it provides is in line with the requirements of the given business, and business plan. Investing in scalable ERP software now will prepare the company for future expansion, and it will also eliminate the need to budget for the replacement of a rigid system when that time comes.

Ease of Update

Maximizing the potential of a specific ERP solution is impossible if one cannot access its latest version. Just like any other software, ERP software requires updating on various occasions for the platform to deliver accordingly. ERP updating procedures that demand the input of a professional are an added cost, which may also lead to the loss of time.

The right ERP solution for small to medium-size businesses should have provision for initiating necessary updates with a single click, which will save time and money. Failure to update an ERP solution when the time comes may cause an error in processes, and it can also create a system malfunction, implying meeting of set deadlines will become a challenge.

Compatibility and Integration

The ability to transmit data across multiple applications is a necessity for business operators focusing on reducing costs. The obstacle to avoid when choosing the right ERP is to rush to buy a particular ERP without considering its compatibility with existing software as this incompatibility increases dependence on clumsy rekeying procedures, which elevates the probability of making errors; errors which can potentially push your operating expenses through the roof.

The ERP solution one opts for should encourage seamlessness, which is only possible when one can integrate hos or her current software with their ERP system, or by replacing the platform one is using with a component, or compatible 3rd party component, in the ERP solution of his or her choice. Opting for ERP software that is compatible with existing network infrastructure creates a unified environment, meaning one can share data across all applications.

Smart Device Interface Capabilities

Any ERP system that is only accessible via desktop computers, and not mobile, will not give enough value for the money, and it will also force an organization to budget for a different option in the future. We are living in a dynamic world where the business environment is experiencing significant change with more real-time expectation than ever, and if an organization cannot adapt accordingly to the prevailing market conditions, the organization will be set up for failure.

The ability to monitor business operations using mobile devices is part of the requirements in every industry today because this promotes adaptability of establishments in diverse environments. The ideal ERP system should support accessibility on mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones, which will improve productivity in business operations.

Your In-House Team

Once an organization implements an ERP solution for use within the company, staff from various departments will interact with it on multiple occasions. Needless to say, the organization should train employees and identify the person/people who will handle any technical issues regarding the ERP software before the initial implementation. These people should be involved in decision making.

If anyone discovers some of the employees have an understanding of a specific ERP system, investing in such a resource may be a wise idea because it will reduce the learning curve (time) considerably, and the transition process will not be as much of a challenge for other staff members who now have in house assistance.

When workers learn from each other, they tend to achieve more because they have a better understanding of the operations of the organization, which is not the case with an external trainer. The implication, in this case, is your in-house team will/can now play a significant role in determining the ERP solution to acquire, facilitating a more successful transition within the business as well.

Cost

Proper financial management is a prerequisite for every successful business operator. If you are planning to acquire ERP software as a small entrepreneur, the cost should sit within the organizations budget, of course.

An ERP’s cost can be significant, as anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 could be the software acquisition cost alone, so without factoring additional time and expense for acquiring/planning/configuring an ideal ERP system, training your employees, implementing with precision, and maintenance time would be a mistake.

As one shops for the best ERP solution for his or her business, one should compare the cost by engaging different vendors while asking a lot of questions from initial setup costs, to costs per user, maintenance costs, and more. Remember, realizing a return on investment (ROI) after buying the ERP solution of choice is a factor one cannot afford to overlook; otherwise, the organization may end up adjusting for incorrect losses (or savings) for one reason or another.

A cheap or more expensive ERP software does not necessarily dictate the result one should expect after implementation. The right ERP solution will be within budget and will include all features that will take a business to the next level.

Conclusion

Making the right decision when acquiring ERP software can become the difference between your success or failure as an entrepreneur. Take the time to properly evaluate this decision from every angle before you jump in.

If you are looking to integrate the right ERP software into your eCommerce operation, ATAK can help. We can help any business operator pick and integrate the best platform for their needs, and we have a proven track record of integrating the necessary platforms from start to finish.

 

How ERP Improves Customer Service

In today’s world, customers have myriad options when it comes to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). Asset-intensive companies in the distribution, high-tech, and manufacturing industries, now turn to ERP to improve their internal business processes.

These companies know that doing so will save costs through increased productivity and higher efficiency levels. These improvements work toward higher levels of customer service satisfaction. In the end, ERP is key to better business operations along with increased customer satisfaction.

As a company grows, the company will need more staff, a more significant number of services must be in place, and business activities increase. To manage these tasks systematically, ERP is necessary.

 

How ERP Enhances Customer Service

Companies know that modern technology is of utmost importance for streamlining business operations. Because businesses are now competing in a global market, providing seamless service is vital. Companies that do not do so will find their customers moving on to other suppliers.

Customer Service Improvement with Streamlined Backend Processes

Once you add an ERP system, your company can:

  • Improve productivity
  • Deliver customer’s goods more quickly
  • Implement inventory control
  • Offer reliable opportunity-, lead-, and quote-tracking
  • Foster quality customer communication
  • Improve shipping operations
  • Create improved supplier relationships
  • Automate current manual processes

Strengthened Supply and Demand

An ERP system assists companies with order fulfillment. The system connects fulfillment management teams to sales order management personnel. ERP users can:

  • Assign priority scores for existing customers
  • Create service-level rules
  • Allocate supply locations
  • Designate inventory to customer sales orders

The system will then define settings according to individuals or groups of customers. The system can also automate fulfillment, depending on the preferences assigned. Order fulfillment is a complex process. Goods must be delivered accurately, on time, with no damages, and complete documentation. ERP tools and features include:

  • Replenishment software
  • Freight software
  • Inventory forecasting software
  • Buying history analytics

User Experience Improvement

Modern ERP systems provide superior service because they gather:

  • Customer history
  • Customer prioritization
  • A holistic view of each customer
  • Discounts for long-term customers

This data allows for better shipping operations and reliable tracking and shipping information.

Access to Needed Information

When information needs distribution among internal teams, a modern ERP system can:

  • Utilize vendor scorecards
  • Receive real-time, easy-to-use information for non-IT users
  • Integrate between warehouse and front office

 

Accurate Order Shipping and Delivery

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) gives companies the automation and integration solutions they need.

Elevating the Point of Sale

  • ERPs can allow Point of Sale (POS) solutions that include:
  • Processing sales and service orders quickly and efficiently
  • Speeding up check-out
  • Access to inventory data needed to close transactions
  • An intuitive interface that allows for personalized customer service
  • Real-time updates for the entire organization
  • Integration among eCommerce, brick & mortar, kiosk, and mobile venues.

Distribution Management Software

  • Coordinate customer deliveries
  • Plan optimized service delivery
  • Schedule different delivery dates from different fulfillment locations to separate addresses.

Availability of Reliable Inventory Information

  • Create daily inventory workflows
  • Publish accurate inventory distribution documentation
  • Organize the merchandise areas and more.

 

Using ERP to Delight Your Customers

Along with the Enterprise Resource Planning topics we have already discussed, ERP also has various processes essential to running a business that we have not yet shared.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

NetSuite’s CRM software is a cloud solution that delivers in real-time. It offers businesses a 360-degree view of their customers. The entire customer lifecycle is part of a seamless flow of information through:

  • Opportunity
  • Sales order
  • Fulfillment
  • Renewal
  • Upsell
  • Cross-sell
  • Support

Along with this, NetSuite delivers:

  • Quotes
  • Order management
  • Commissions
  • Sales forecasting
  • Integrated e-commerce applications

Reporting and Automation Synchronization

By using NetSuite, employees can pull reports from one system. This capability means that:

  • Orders can be processed more quickly
  • Requests are more accurate
  • The business’s performance on key metrics is available to employees in a fast and understandable manner.

 

Signs that Your Company Needs an ERP System

According to Microsoft Dynamics 365, some companies are hesitant to get on the ERP bandwagon. They may be unsure as to how to choose the right ERP solution for their businesses. Some organizations are fearful that upgrading to an ERP may be too expensive, while others may be concerned with losing data and access to the tools they are now using.

The truth is, however, that ERP is likely to be able to use the best of a business’s processes and bring them together under one system. The cost of a new system does not have to be paid all at once. Instead of investing in significant software innovation, a business can purchase software modules separately.

In most cases, the ERP solution a business chooses will work with the existing business software. The new ERP software will have features that enhance what a business is currently using.

If one’s business software is limiting market expansion and the ability to grow on a global scale, the business probably needs a new system.

If the business’ system has components that don’t work well together, and the business is spending more money than necessary trying to solve the disparities, perhaps the business is ready for new technology.

If the business can’t meet customers’ expectations, new tools should be applied.

 

The Benefits of an Excellent ERP System

One’s relationship with his or her existing and potential customers must be strong. Doing what one says he or she will do for his or her customers is vital. If a customer wants to return an item, the process must be as streamlined as possible. When your business offers its best and most loyal customers special discounts this delights your customers. If the business gives its customers advantages that other businesses do not provide, the business will soon have even more customers.

As Bill Gates once said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

Customers do not require perfection 100% of the time. They want to feel taken care of, with the opinion your business can and will fix any problems that occur. An outstanding ERP system can help businesses do just that.

We at ATAK Interactive can help you get started. Take advantage of our free 15-minute consultation today so you can begin your “marketing with a purpose” journey.

Your Guide to Setting Up Your Magento Store for Search Engines

One of the most critical steps in running a successful eCommerce website is ensuring your store is to set up for Search Engines like Google and Bing properly.

Luckily, if you have chosen Magento for your store’s eCommerce platform, setting it up for search engines is a relatively simple and straightforward process.

Configuring Page Titles and Product Descriptions

Configuring page titles and product descriptions should be your first spring into action as you begin the search engine optimization (SEO) process. Thanks to Magento’s built-in suite of SEO-friendly features, adding titles and descriptions only take a few easy steps.

You don’t need any development skills to optimize your Magento page title. To update your site’s title, just log in to the site backend and navigate through:

Magento > CMS > Manage Pages > Page > General Information > Page Title

Once you’ve gotten that far, it’s just a matter of implementing a handful of SEO basics to create the ideal page title. Keep the following in mind:

  • Make sure page titles contain keywords you want to target.
  • Write your page titles for users and not for search engines.
    • In all honesty, this is the secret to writing titles for search engines.
    • Search engines want to help web users find what they’re looking for, so think about them.
  • Keep titles short and concise.
    • Google looks at the first seventy or so characters of your page title– focus your efforts there.

Optimizing product descriptions is a little different. You should go into as much detail as possible to create a solid, meaningful chunk of content. This simultaneously benefits your site users and the web-crawlers searching for content to use to rank your page. Try to make sure your content is as close to being 100% unique as possible to help make your pages stand out.

Following these tips should give you a proper formula to ensure all of your product’s titles and descriptions are crafted to grab the attention of not just search engines, but potential customer’s as well.

Optimizing Product URLs

URLs: The Rundown

Before jumping into how to optimize product URLs, here’s a quick primer on what they are and why optimization is so important.

URLs (short for Uniform Resource Locators) are also known as web addresses. Sometimes, people think that they’re the same thing as a domain name — they’re not. URLs allow us to navigate the web quickly and efficiently. If it weren’t for them, we’d be stuck typing in the IP address of every page we wanted to visit.

That’s obviously unrealistic. The next best thing, then, is to use URLs as a way to identify where webpages are. Think of them as a home address for the pages they lead you to. URLs contain a significant amount of information in a small amount of space. Standard formatting looks a little something like this:

protocol://domain-name.com/path

Which is broken down easily through a few quick steps:

  • Protocol tells browsers how to retrieve information about the web address. The web standard is http:// or https:// (with “s” indicating a more secure option)
  • The domain name, which is also known as the hostname, is the readable name of the location where a website is located (usually the title of the website itself)
  • Path refers to the smaller pages or subfolders that web users navigate between within the site (product pages, category pages, contact pages, and so on)

If the concept of tinkering with URLs gets your heart racing, we understand! Many brands who rely on Magento for eCommerce capabilities don’t have a dedicated web specialist to help perform tasks like these. If you’re out of your element, there’s no need to worry. Changing the way URLs on your Magento site appear is considered a simple task.

The Optimization Process

All of this lead-in has likely thrown you off, but make no mistake: optimizing your Magento URLs is quick and easy. The key to optimization is getting as close to a clean, easy-to-read version of the domain format above as possible.

Ideally, you should use URLs names which make it obvious as to what content they lead to. This means avoiding “secondary” information like categories in your product details path is usually a good choice. For example, if we’re focusing on optimizing product pages themselves, there’s no need to worry about cluttering your URLs with category information.

Make a conscious effort not to add unnecessary “stop words” to URLs. Take measures to avoid characters (like ” < > # etc.) when possible. Stop words include common filler language like and, but, or, if, and so on.

When using Magento 2, you can also enable SEO-friendly URLs. Simply log into the admin area and navigate through Stores > Configuration > General > Web. From here, click on the SEO tab and select “Yes” from the dropdown menu. This will remove the unsightly “index.php” tag from your product page URLs.

Never forget to keep URLs:

  • Definitive
  • Concise
  • Relevant
  • Simple

One note: If you update the URL or an existing site page, you’ll want to make sure to also set up a redirect from the old URL to the new one to ensure you don’t miss out on any traffic to your store.

Setting Up and Generating a Search Engine Friendly Sitemap In Magento

Sitemaps offer numerous benefits to both you and your customers. SEO-aside, they’re a great resource for Google to return to for updated information about changes on your Magento site. This tool helps ensure your content is crawled and indexed properly. Like any other SEO effort, creating a sitemap will help ensure you have the highest likelihood of landing a coveted front-page spot in Google search results.

Setting up a sitemap on Magento is a breeze. You can even fiddle with a few settings in your account and have Magento auto-generate one for you. Magento’s default sitemaps link to each category and product page on your site.

Site owners should view this site map as a table of contents — a little boring, sure, but essential to navigating content quickly and efficiently. All you need to do to set up an auto-generated Magento sitemap is head to the Admin menu and navigate through System > Configuration > Catalog > click to expand > Sitemap > click to expand Search Engine Optimizations > set Autogenerated Site Map to “enable” > Save Config.

You’ll have a few preference-based options to select from during the process, but they’re minimal and easy to understand. You can decide a minimum number of lines per page, for example.

How Partnering with ATAK Can Help

ATAK has decades of experience with the Magento e-commerce platform and has experience building custom solutions for clients in a variety of industries. As a result, we not only know how to build these systems, but we also know how to make sure they show up at the top of search results pages. If you’re looking for a partner to help you navigate the web of Magento optimization, get in touch today!

Digital Online Marketing E-Commerce

Why You Should Consider Magento as Your B2B eCommerce Platform

There are more than a few popular eCommerce platforms that B2B businesses around the world rely on day in and day out. Most platform companies claim their software is outfitted with “great features” and “intuitive design” but then come saddled with shortcomings which become apparent much quicker than expected. Many just fail to scale appropriately when the time comes to grow your business.

Enter Magento: the Open Source eCommerce platform with the added benefit of a global ecosystem of implementation partners. With powerful tools and customization capabilities, this Adobe-owned platform allows users to build meaningful, user-centric B2B eCommerce experiences across all devices. Seamless shopping, customer satisfaction, scalability, intelligent operations, important customer and operation centric customizations, and operating with confidence should be your standard no matter what else you prioritize.

Magento can do all of it.

Outlined below are just a handful of reasons why Magento makes for the ideal B2B eCommerce platform.

Rich Native Features Focused on B2B Growth

One doesn’t need to delve into the world of extensions and customized code on Magento to be granted access to an expansive eCommerce toolkit. Out of the box, the platform is outfitted with a robust set of included, intuitive, easy to use features. With its ability to support up to 500,000 products and enterprise-level volumes of up to 80,000 orders per hour, Magento provides plenty of room for your B2B business to grow.

Here are some of the most important B2B features designed to drive growth:

  • Price negotiation and quote request workflows
  • Personalized price-lists
  • Custom catalogs capabilities
  • Buyer levels and custom permissions to simplify sales to corporate accounts
  • Streamlined ordering and reordering to help generate recurrent revenue
  • Marketing, promotions, and conversion tools
  • Site management capabilities
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) features
  • Analytics and reporting features
  • Mobile commerce capabilities

Multiple Storefronts, One Interface

Another strong feature within the Magento platform is the ability to support multiple storefronts and shopping experiences from one interface/administration, with relatively easy set-up.

Multiple storefronts can be incredibly useful in cases where your business operates across multiple or different:

  • Brand Names (i.e. Gap also owns Athleta, Banana Republic, and Old Navy)
  • Domain Names
  • Languages
  • Currencies

By creating a unique storefront for each unique justification, an organization provides an improved user-centric experience to site visitors. At the same time, administration remains efficient because your administrators have to login to only one system to manage orders, catalog and inventory, customers, and customer price groups for all stores.

Magento is Open Source, and Widely Adopted

One of the primary factors making Magento so attractive to brands, especially those with development capabilities as part of their team, is the fact that Magento is open source. Being open source means that anyone with the technical know-how can do some killer custom web development via direct access to the source code of the software, leveraging the platform to a company’s own competitive advantage. ECommerce development teams want control so they can set your online presence apart and customize whatever might be needed, and Magento allows for this.

Magento is so widely adopted, with over 300,000 active online stores and a roughly 8% market share, there are excellent places for teams to find help. These adoption rates result in excellent forums and other online outlets for development teams to learn, collaborate, and find solutions.

Integration with Popular Enterprise Tools + Vast Options for Extensions

The Magento platform was designed to drive profitability at scale and improve the outcomes of your sales and marketing efforts. The Magento open source framework allows for integrations with any major ERP or CRM Software (i.e. Oracle NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, HubSpot). Magento can be a real efficiency play for a B2B operation, and because Magento is open source, one has more control to customize the feature set to be optimal, whereas one might find themselves restricted with a platform that is not so open to customization.

For B2B companies who are thinking about, or have already expanded into, working with an ERP software such as NetSuite or Microsoft Dynamics, one can connect their ERP to Magento, providing back office reps, customer service agents, warehouse managers, executive management, and your users with real-time inventory and data from across the supply chain (i.e. more accurate shipping costs and delivery times).

Magento has an Active Developer Community

Magento Community forums were created as part of Magento’s effort to bring developers and enthusiasts together in one place. They’re a great source of assistance when a developer is stuck. Whether the developer is greener to the web game or even more seasoned, one is sure to have plenty of helpful individuals and groups willing to help resolve issues. According to Magento’s community page, there are 360,000 forum members in their own Magento-run forums alone, covering topics around security, version control, plugins/extensions, and more.

The Magento Community is quite expansive and includes a global ecosystem of implementation partners who gather from around the globe to offer each other encouragement and insight when needed the most. Software partners, product managers, bloggers, partner agencies, and other critical players in the eCommerce game all come together in these forums and create a powerful compendium of information.

Hundreds of highly talented, independent developers have also come to the table with their own extensions/add-ons/modules (free and paid) one can purchase and install to increase productivity and customer satisfaction. Once installed into Magento and carefully configured to your business rules, these can quickly drive success in many different areas. Why reinvent the wheel when there are premade modules on the market that cost a fraction of the price?

Just a few notable extensions Magento development teams have to offer include:

  • Google Tag Managerby MagePlaza *one of our favorite module developers.
    • Link with Google AdWords and Analytics for improved usability and more metrics.
  • One Step Checkout (FireCheckout) by Templates Master
  • Refer a Friend Extension by Amasty *one of our favorite module developers.
    • One of the most powerful Magento extensions allows one to easily and quickly build an automated referral program with full functionality, turning customers into referral sources.
  • Seamless Payment Gateway Integration: Magento integrates with most of the biggest payment systems currently available, including, but not limited to:
    • net
    • Stripe
    • PayPal
    • Amazon Payments
    • Other
  • Live Chat Extensions from various creators

Long-Term Cost Savings

Magento is an investment that pays off over time. By connecting Magento to an ERP, Amazon, and/or other order fulfillment software/tools ATAK has seen a move to Magento result in a reduction of at least one full-time employee(s). Here is a quote from one of our B2B clients running on Magento:

There are several integrations that have had a substantial impact on our day-to-day operations.  First, linking our ERP, NetSuite, with our multi-channel solutions software, Seller Active, via API changed the way our company functioned from the get-go. When you’re processing hundreds of orders per day, the last thing you want to be doing with your time is facilitating the data to move from one endpoint to another. The manual shift of this data takes away from time that can be used to grow the business. Orders are coming into our system reliably, quickly, and without concern. The productivity savings on this integration alone is worth thousands of dollars every year. Automation is key to future success – ATAK made this happen for us. Further, we utilized ATAK’s expertise to create API links between our new website on Magento and NetSuite. This connection manually populates fields such as price, description, and other important product details. A critical win here is that we can focus on expanding our product line versus maintaining our website. Between all integrations, we comfortably save the time/cost of 2 FTEs.”

– ITMars.com

Conclusion

Both small and large businesses can rely on Magento’s strong eCommerce capabilities to do business day in and day out. Between its ease of use, high scalability, and countless integration options, Magento offers a safe place to land, especially for growing B2B businesses who anticipate some growing pains in the coming years and want ultimate flexibility.

At ATAK Interactive, we believe Magento is an incredible eCommerce platform. Through our work with various clients across several industries, we have the experience to tailor, integrate, support, and scale your Magento website as your business grows.

If you would like to learn more about how Magento can help your business, don’t hesitate to contact us. We would love to chat!

Inventory at a warehouse managed by ERP

What is ERP?

In the world of business tech trends, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is one of the most prominent developments in the last decade of enterprise software. ERP is designed to roll all previous enterprise software into one unified cloud-backed solution. ERP is what happens when SaaS and cloud servers and thousands of specialized industry programs are combined into any business owner’s dream of a singular management solution.

Of course, what you really want to know is how ERP works and what it can do for your business. So we’re about to break it down, exploring ERP at its core along with how it’s designed to streamline the internal processes of any business.

What is ERP?

ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. It was originally conceived in the 1960s as technology to streamline and manage the manufacturing process. This grew into the MRP (Manufacturing Resource Planning) era of business software, which tracked the materials needed for each stage in the manufacturing and production processes. From there, MRP developed a few helpful back-office features like accounting, vendor contacts, and a little HR management. And this is what spurred the idea of a true all-in-one business software solution.

The term ERP was coined in the 1990s as software developers worked to wrap an increasing number of business management features into a single solution. This led to many industry-specific management programs that are available today. But the real revolution for making ERP solutions universal was cloud computing. The addition of the cloud with all its flexible computing and available-anywhere data was the missing link between purpose-built business management solutions and a true all-in-one approach to business software.

What Does ERP Do, Exactly?

Not all ERP solutions are the same, but in their effort to offer everything a business could need, they tend to cover the same general areas. Most ERPs are prepared to offer data unification and management features for:

  • Inventory Management
  • Order Fulfillment
  • Accounting
  • Manufacturing Process Planning
  • Resource Tracking
  • Vendor Relationships
  • Customer Services and CRM
  • Human Resources Management
  • Logistics and Transportation

The list above should give you a realistic idea of what an ERP solution is really prepared to do for you. ERP is designed to cover all your bases, and you can pick and choose your ERP solution and implementation to perfectly suit the processes and needs of your business.

Besides offering a wide variety of department-specific software for employees and managers, ERP at its core seeks to unify the data between all these different business processes. No more data silos, no more swivel-chair management. ERP ensures that your e-commerce inventory uses the same supply data as your warehouse inventory, which is fed by your vendor supply data and depleted by order fulfillment, which ties directly to shipping and logistics. And that’s just on the supply side.

For brands that handle their own product manufacturing, it is helpful to also understand that ERP’s roots are in manufacturing resources planning. Any ERP worth its salt will be able to help you track from vendor-supplied base resources to completed projects with completely unified and synchronized data. But it’s not just data management. ERP also includes all the processing, reporting, requests, and regulation compliance features that are included in industry-specific business software.

Workstation Software and Dashboard Management

One of the key features of ERP is that it offers management solutions from the ground level to the very top. On one end, employees work with the ERP’s functional interfaces to handle orders, interact with customers, file documents, and develop products. On the other end, managers and executives can use custom dashboards to provide real-time key data and send orders from that dashboard to improve the stats.

What ERP provides is a central data core from which to run ERP-powered business intelligence (BI) solutions. Lead-to-Cash, Order-to-Fulfillment, and Procure-to-Pay among many other standard business processes are now easy to monitor with the unified data and data analysis of a modern ERP.

ERP and The Cloud

Of course, what really makes this all possible and the reason ERP is blowing up right now is because of the advancements offered by The Cloud. Cloud computing, data storage, and virtual servers have made it possible for ERP to truly unify a business’ data and processes. Even if the sales and accounting departments are in different facilities.

Because ERP makes use of cloud data, it becomes possible to secure your data and make it universally available to every aspect of business management and sub-group of functional software. That unified data also channels directly into management dashboards and control panels, allowing the entire enterprise to be managed from one or dozens of different positions and custom controls, overseeing whatever data is most useful for each manager to know.

And finally, the cloud provides ERP an invaluable ability to integrate with the mobile workforce. Because all the company’s data is stored on the cloud employees can easily connect and be an equal part of the data-driven team.

The Oracle Netsuite ERP

If you do your research, you may notice that every ERP solution is a little different. They have a slightly different balance of features, dashboards, control options, and department integrations. Some are built for a specific type of business. Others are designed to offer a full set of a la carte features for businesses to choose from. One of the leading names in ERP technology is Netsuite ERP, developed by Oracle.

Netsuite is designed with a top-to-bottom ERP approach with a wide variety of internal features and strong roots in the Cloud where your data will be both universally available and secure. Whether you manufacture from the ground up or specialize in high-speed eCommerce fulfillment, a custom Netsuite integration can completely transform your business by streamlining every department into a single sleek monument of shared data and process completion.

Is ERP the next big improvement to your business? Don’t let the E for Enterprise fool you, with modern data and cloud technology, ERP software solutions are more accessible and affordable than ever to every business. For more information about what ERP is and how it can be implemented to streamline your business processes, contact ATAK today!

Shopify-vs-Magento-e-commerce-platforms-guide

Magento vs. Shopify: Our Complete Guide to E-Commerce Platforms in 2019 

Business owners have a lot of important decisions to make when starting an e-commerce business. Picking the correct e-commerce platform is at the top of that list. As such, businesses often find themselves pitting the two biggest platforms, Shopify and Magento, against each other.

Because it is such an important decision, choosing between the two can be frustrating and time-consuming. 

Below we delve into both, share pros and cons, and provide you with a complete guide to help you choose the best solution for your e-commerce needs. 

Shopify’s Best Features

There is no denying that Shopify has become a giant in the e-commerce world. What started as an online store selling snowboard equipment, Shopify saw a need for an easy-to-use platform for retail businesses. Today, Shopify has over 800,000 stores and has processed over $100 billion worth of sales. Let’s see what they have to offer to sellers:

  • Shopify sites look professional and are user-friendly.
  • Sellers can design a logo at no cost. 
  • You get a custom web address when you join Shopify. 
  • Free high-resolution stock photos from Burst are yours to download. 
  • Shopify store-owners get their own virtual assistant free of charge. “Kit” will help increase your sales and create your marketing strategies. 
  • You can create highly-targeted Instagram and Facebook ads. 
  • “Kit” will assist you in developing email marketing automation and can handle additional marketing tasks for your store.
  • Shopify has a card reader that allows you to make sales in person or while you are on-the-go. 
  • Sellers can take courses on Academy and get advice from Shopify podcasts. 
  • Shopify’s support resources are full of tips, teachings, and ideas. 
  • Shopify guides are available for support and how-to information.

Magento’s Best Features 

Magento, owned by Adobe, is considered the world’s most flexible e-commerce platform. Magento Commerce gives merchants the ability to rise to any e-commerce challenge. Here’s what Magento has to offer: 

  • The delivery of connected experience, online and in-store 
  • Insights that will increase your business by use of web analytics 
  • Expansion of your store’s reach via extensions and themes 
  • Integrated core commerce features like deployment, cloud hosting, business intelligence, support, and tools to fast-track sales 
  • Magento sellers pair with a certified partner who assists with the implementation of Express Packages to aid you in going live quickly 
  • Magento’s monthly subscription fee is affordable and keeps you from having to host and monitor commerce solutions on your own 
  • The company offers thousands of extensions from its Marketplace
  • The endless customization offered by Magento Commerce allows for the ongoing growth of your store and product addition
  • Magento is the world’s fastest growing e-commerce merchant base and drove $155 billion in gross merchandise volume in 2018

Pros and Cons of Shopify 

  • Shopify has more users than Magento, 500,000, at last count, but Magento has, currently, 250,000 developers and continues to grow steadily. 
  • The enterprise has generated $100 billion in revenue. 
  • The Advanced Shopify tier is $299 a month. Shopify Basic is $29 monthly. There is a charge for using external payment gateways. 
  • Shopify does not include a domain or email hosting. You can buy a domain name for $14 a year. 
  • If you have a website, or if you want to sell on Facebook, Shopify Lite will do the trick at $9 a month. WordPress users can use Shopify’s plugin. 

Pros and Cons of Magento 

  • The number of Magento sites has almost doubled between March 2017 and August 2018. 
  • With over 5,000 apps and add-ons, Magento offers sellers extensions and apps for just about any task they need to accomplish. 
  • Magento can handle multiple stores; transactions in numerous countries, languages, currencies, and worldwide shipping, as well. 
  • Magento supplies feature capabilities and integrations with other digital tools (e.g., CRM, ERP) 
  • Magento’s privacy and security capabilities are sound. 

Which Industries Do Best on These Platforms? 

Although there are large companies that use Shopify (e.g., Budweiser, Penguin Books, Tesla Motors), it is best suited for small business development. Shopify’s built-in marketing services, its cost, and the easy setup all make it an ideal solution for small businesses.

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Shopify hosts its sites and serves the needs of retailers who are usually not overly concerned about the technical side of the selling process. 

Magento, on the other hand, works well for medium to large e-commerce businesses. You can trust Magento to handle the more complex interactions needed for B2B commerce. Magento powers thousands of stores and includes some of the biggest brands in business (e.g., Ford, 20th Century Fox Entertainment, Nike). Magento is also open source and has a developer community in the hundreds of thousands. Finally, Magento offers both free and paid versions in the Community and Enterprise editions. 

As you can see, both e-commerce platforms have a lot to offer:  

For most small or beginning businesses, Shopify’s ease-of-use, marketing services. and partner integrations make it an ideal solution for those that are new to e-commerce. 

Magento, is an excellent choice, for medium to large-sized online businesses. Add its effortless scalability, and Magento must always be a consideration. 

At ATAK, we ‘re focused on offering our clients flexible e-commerce solutions. As you have seen, both platforms have many pros and cons and we’ve taken the time to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each. Each client has a unique set of challenges and requirements and we work with them to implement the best solution for their situationWe’ve built over 100 stores with a range of features – from B2B customization to ERP integrations, and much more. If you’re just starting your business, or you have a blueprint for your dream eCommerce operation, we have the agility and capability to build it for you. 

Schedule a consultation with us today. We would love to partner with you in fulfilling your business’ purpose! 

 

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Magento Security Patches: Why They are Critical To Your Business

For many e-commerce businesses, the Magento platform is the backbone of their e-commerce business. Magento is one of the most progressive and innovative open platforms available to e-commerce businesses. Unfortunately, due to its popularity, this also means that it is a prime target for hackers. Although open platforms have their advantages, they also have their drawbacks. One of the most common drawbacks is the vulnerability for a breach in security. It is important for e-commerce business owners to be able to keep both their company’s and their clients’ information safe and secure. Failure to do so can result in disastrous consequences.

The Importance of Keeping Magento Updated With the Latest Security Patches

You’re likely familiar with security patches but may not understand their purpose. When a weakness, vulnerability, or breach is discovered in a software platform, it must be fixed. The fix is called a patch, which is simply new lines of code that correct a vulnerability in the program.

Developers and analysts work furiously to create “patches” for weaknesses once they are found in the platform. Patches are used to prevent hackers from accessing your administration system and stealing or altering information from both you and your clients. There will always be a need for patches because hackers are constantly innovating new ways to hack into open platforms and take advantage of the information found. Due to the ever-present threat of a security breach, it can be extremely harmful to your business and your customer’s data if you do not regularly ensure your business is keeping up with the latest Magento security patches.

The Potential Harm to Your Business

Failing to stay on top of Magento security patches can put your entire e-commerce business at risk. When customers complete transactions online, they expect their data to be protected and the process to be completely safe. Anything less than that will not be worth the risk to consumers. Operating a business on an unsecured platform will lead to a loss of customer trust and revenue. Even worse, if your business gains a reputation as unsafe for conducting online transactions, customers will not return to your business.

A breach in security can also result in a loss of important and sensitive company and client data. Hackers are constantly looking for weaknesses in platforms. As soon as a new security patch is announced, hackers race to exploit the vulnerability before owners install the needed security patch. The bottom line is a failure to stay up to date on security patches can eventually lead to a failed business.

How to Install Magento Security Patches

Magento security patches can be self-installed by users if done so correctly. The proper installation of a patch consists of four steps.

Before you make any changes, including a security patch, it is important to back up the Magento installation. By doing so, you ensure you have the ability to restore all of your data should something go wrong during the update.

Editors note: The first step is absolutely critical. Do not proceed without backing up first!

Secondly, download the recommended Magento security patches for your particular edition. Each security patch will give you a description of what issues and problems the patches are designed to fix.

Disabling the compiler is the third step of the installation. The compiler takes code input by a human programmer and turns it into machine code. This must be temporarily disabled or it will interfere with the security patch installation.

The fourth step is to install the patch. There are three different methods. The method you use is dependent on your hosting provider. The most common installation method is the SSH method, but you can also use either the Run a Script method or upload pre-patched files.

There are cases in which you may need to revert a patch, meaning uninstalling the security patch. The process is basically the same except for the addition of the -R flag. Make sure you have the proper permissions to access the Magento installation directory. If you do not have the necessary permissions, you will not be able to uninstall the patch.

Benefits of Working With a Qualified Development Agency

While it is possible to install Magento security patches on your own, it is not advised. Failure to correctly install the recommended patches can leave your business vulnerable and you unsuspecting. Incorrect installation means the patch will not work as intended. More than likely you will not discover this costly mistake until an actual breach occurs. By then the damage may already be done and it may be too late.

Going at it alone can lead to costly downtime for your business. It takes time to stay on top of security patches and install them in a timely manner. Every minute or day that you do not install a recommended patch is time that your business is a prime target for hackers. When you are running a business, this may not be something you have time to stay on top of. If you are not computer savvy, installing patches may prove frustrating and eat into time you didn’t have in the first place.

Working with a qualified development agency provides many benefits to the security and protection of your Magento platform. When working with a qualified agency, you can rest assured all security patches are installed in a timely manner. This greatly reduces the degree to which your business is vulnerable to hackers. Secondly, you can assure that the security patches are downloaded and operating correctly. The last thing you want is to believe you have downloaded the necessary patches, only to find that you have in fact downloaded them incorrectly and they are not providing your business any protection. At ATAK Interactive our development team makes sure your Magento platform stays up to date on security patches with as little downtime to your business as possible.

netsuite ecommerce integration

Skyrocket Your Business In 2019 with a Successful NetSuite Ecommerce Integration

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Digital transformation is revolutionizing the way businesses operate, across all industries and business sectors. One survey found that 70 percent of companies have a digital transformation strategy or are working on one. Why? They know the potential ROI is huge. A survey of 200 CIOs and IT directors cited these reasons for their strategy:

  • Increased Efficiency (72 percent)
  • Competitive Advantage (67 percent)
  • Speed to Market (39 percent)
  • Customer Service (35 percent)

Unfortunately, not all companies are realizing those benefits from their investment in new technology. Multiple platforms often improve workflows within one department, w ut result in organizational inefficiencies, duplicate workflows, ineffective communication and poor customer service across the organization as a whole. Customer relationship management (CRM) applications manage sales teams. Accounting uses its own financial applications. Companies may have other unique tools for reporting, warehouse management, procurement, and e-commerce. The very applications that are supposed to increase productivity might be having the opposite effect. What’s the solution? NetSuite integration allows a business’ multiple software systems to work together, maximizing productivity and customer experience. Over 40,000 organizations and subsidiaries in 199 countries are using NetSuite.

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How to Pick a Magento Development Agency

Magento Logo

Magento is one of the most popular e-commerce platforms available today. The flexibility the platform offers has made it a top pick among e-commerce professionals, but using the platform can be a challenge if you don’t have the right technical knowledge. If you don’t have the technical savvy, hiring a Magento development company is a great option.

Read on to learn more about how to choose the right Magento developers.

Why Magento?

Magento is an open-source e-commerce platform that gives online merchants a wide range of options for their shop. Users can control the look and feel of their site, customize the content and functionality, and make use of a flexible shopping cart system. Magento also offers its users a toolbox full of marketing, catalog management, and SEO tools, so that it’s easy to make your shop more visible to the right audience.

Magento is growing in popularity because the platform has very few limitations on how you design your store, meaning you can create a unique and memorable shopping experience for your customers. In addition, there are tons of add-ons to add functionality to your shop, and you can manage multiple stores from an easy-to-navigate backend. And best of all, using Magento’s Community Edition is free!

A great e-commerce customer experience isn’t only about the store, though. Making sure your customers’ data stays secure is just as important as having a great-looking shop. Magento is always releasing new security features, so as long as you keep your site updated, you can trust that your customers’ information will be secure

Because Magento is an open-source platform, anyone can view and build on the already existing site code. But knowledge of PHP and object-oriented programming are required in order to customize your shop, so choosing Magento for your e-commerce site means you either need to be confident in those skills, or you need to hire Magento developers.

What to Look for In an E-commerce Development Company

With so many developers out there, finding a reliable one can be an overwhelming task. However, if you know what to look for, you can be confident in your choice of developers. Below is a list of things to keep an eye out for when you’re shopping for e-commerce solutions.

Experience

Magento was originally launched more than a decade ago. When looking for a developer, experience should be a big factor in your decision. Find a developer that has worked with a wide variety of e-commerce businesses in the past, and can prove their expertise with real-life examples, statistics, and results. Ask for cases of successful sites they’ve run in the past, and check out any reviews or testimonials available online.

Ask how many clients they have worked with and how long clients tend to work with them. Have they worked primarily with B2B customers, or B2C? Both of those have a unique set of demands, so it’s important that you’re working with a developer who understands what you’ll be needing right from the beginning.

Support

Before choosing a developer, don’t be afraid to ask what kind of support you’ll receive throughout the build of your site and beyond. Does the company offer managed hosting? Do they simply develop your site, or do they offer design and marketing options as well? A great development company will handle everything from start to finish, follow a clear timeline, and keep you updated every step of the way. If you already have a shop set up online, look for a development company that will migrate your content to Magento.

Think about what your business needs to be successful and find a developer that meets those needs. Some companies offer much more beyond development, like SEO, graphic design, marketing, and additional security features. Be sure to ask if you’ll have a dedicated project manager. You want to know that you’ll be working with someone who is focused on getting to know your business inside and out so that you know your unique needs will be met.

Security

Security might be the most important aspect of all. Look for a developer that hasn’t had security problems in the past. And because your site will be dealing with sensitive data like the payment and contact information of customers, developers who secure their sites behind proper encryption are the best choice.

Because security patches are often released for Magento and its plugins, it’s important that the development company you work with strives to keep sites updated with the latest version. This ensures that your customers’ data stays safe and your site is always performing at its best. And make sure that they back up your site regularly to ensure limited downtime in case anything happens.

Trust ATAK Interactive with Your Magento Site

ATAK is proud to offer 15 years of e-commerce development experience to help make your online shop a success. With more than 150 happy clients (both B2B and B2C), ATAK aims to create an excellent shopping experience for your customers. We handle the building and management of your site from start to finish, so you don’t have to worry about having the tech knowledge to build a site yourself. Security and safety are always top-of-mind: our sites are hosted with a recommended host with managed services, backed-up daily to prevent data loss, and secured behind an SSL to ensure that your customers’ data stays safe.

Want to migrate your existing online store to Magento? No worries! ATAK Interactive offers extensive platform migration services and software integrations with popular third-party services. Beyond development, we can support your B2B store with marketing, design and SEO services, all under one roof. Your dedicated project manager will focus on your needs as a company, and make sure to deliver with quick turnaround time while keeping you updated through the whole process.

To see our Magento experience in action, take a look at how we’ve helped this B2B wholesaler with custom web design, Magento 2.0 Community Edition Content Management and E-Commerce system integration, and customized store features and applications.

Ready to take your Magento eCommerce store to the next level? Let’s talk!

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11 Features Every eCommerce Site Needs in 2019

There’s nothing worse than wanting to purchase something online and hitting an eCommerce site that is confusing, slow, or flat out doesn’t work. At ATAK, we’ve seen our fair share of frustrating eCommerce sites, but usually, the fixes are really simple. If you’re kicking off your own eCommerce website, we can help you avoid some common mistakes. Here are the 11 most obvious features your 2019 eCommerce site absolutely needs.

1. Easy to Use

The last thing your customers want is a stressful shopping experience. Remove all remnants of anxiety or confusion by providing them with a website that has clear and consistent messaging, easy to find customer reviews, and a relevant FAQ section. Also, take a hard look at every link and piece of copy and take out anything that isn’t necessary.

2. High-Quality Photos and Video

First impressions are important, don’t let the first encounter a potential customer has with one of your products be a grainy, underlit image. You want them to see your products in the best possible light so invest in some high-quality images for your website and social media channels.

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WordPress Maintenance: Why You Should Always be Using the Latest Version of WordPress

At ATAK, most of the websites we build incorporate WordPress, and this should be no surprise. WordPress is nearly ubiquitous, powering 28% of all websites. In our work in web development for clients, we’ve worked with WordPress in considerable depth, sifted through many, many themes, and installed countless plugins and security updates. We’ve launched hundreds of websites since 2006, and we’ve learned a lot in the process.

Why WordPress Updates are Important

We have talked about the benefits and drawbacks of open source software on the blog before. WordPress is an open source CMS, meaning that all WordPress websites are based on the same structural code that anyone can access and manipulate. This is one of WordPress’s strengths, in that this allows smart developers from around the world to build improvements for the WordPress CMS, which can become updates that are shared to everyone through WordPress updates.

There is one main concern, however: the popularity of the WordPress CMS increases the likelihood that your website could be targeted by hackers when a new vulnerability is uncovered. The popularity of WordPress attracts the attention of malicious developers who are trying to get a hold of as much personal user information as possible.

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ransom ware interview

Protecting Small Business Systems from Ransomware: Interview

Last month, one of the largest globally targeted ransomware attacks in history hit the news – taking out the computer systems in England and Scotland, disabling digital records and equipment in their healthcare facilities.

Most businesses are much smaller organizations than the globally-recognized NHS, but we wanted to know – does that make them safe from ransomware attacks? If not, what can be done to protect systems and data? ATAK Interactive reached out to our technology partner, INC Technologies. President Aramis Hernandez gave us a primer on what you need to know.

1. Do you see ransomware attacks with your IT clients?

AH: Fortunately, we don’t see it as much with our existing clients. However, most of our new IT clients arrive at our doorstep because they lacked the proper care and security. The process starts with home or business computers. Usually, these are machines running Windows – since it’s the most popular operating system, and many users don’t keep their computer security and operating systems up to date, making that computer the most likely candidate to be subjected to a phishing attack.

While everyone has learned not to trust email attachments, email links are another story. Think about how many links you click every day – that’s the most common way we see ransomware make its way into a machine. You’re much more likely to click a link, than download an unusual looking file.

2. Tell us some more about that – how does ransomware end up on someone’s machine?

AH: In an email phishing attack, an attacker represents itself as a person or group that you trust, like Paypal or Google. Then you download a file or click a link, and the software will exploit a vulnerability in your computer.

This can also be links posted in other places, too –  like social media sites, or search results. The page you end up at exploits a weakness in your browser or your operating system, and installs the ransomware.

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8 Changes Your Website Needs to Be GDPR Compliant

You’ve heard a lot of talk about GDPR, but what exactly is it and how is it going to affect you and your business? First, let’s do a quick throwback to the 90s (why hello dial-up internet access!) when the Data Protection Directive (DPD) was released. Back when the internet was essentially the wild west, the DPD was the first set of rules ever written for the internet. Since then, the internet has completely transformed in ways we never could have predicted. This meant that a new set of regulations had to be made.

On May 25th, 2018, a new set of rules AKA the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), went into effect. The new regulations spell out specific rights that individuals have in regards to whether or not they’d like to relinquish the rights to their data. Because some of these changes directly affect aspects of digital marketing compliance, we want to make sure you’re up to date on how to become GDPR compliant. If your business holds, collects, or uses customer data, we highly recommend doing an audit of your processes. In order to stay on the right side of the law and avoid some hefty fines, check out our steps to ensure that your website is GDPR compliant.

1. Forms Must Be Active Opt-In

Forms Must Be Active Opt-In

Previously, having a pre-checked form wasn’t considered bad practice. Under the GDPR, forms that ask users to subscribe to newsletters or indicate their contact preference now have to default to being un-checked, otherwise it’s considered implied consent.

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Modules for Magento Ecommerce Conversion Optimization

We’ve covered effective SEO practices for driving up the number of potential customers to your site. However, getting them there is only step 1. The ecommerce sales funnel begins with the initial site visit and ends when the customer makes their final payment.

Along the way, keeping your customers engaged and yourself from being subject to the dreaded “shopping cart abandonment” becomes an increasingly difficult task.

Each stage of the ecommerce sales funnel is either an opportunity for a customer to say goodbye to your site, or an opportunity for you to further captivate their interest and move them further along to completing checkout.

In our work in building Magento ecommerce sites, we’ve found a handful of Magento extensions that are particularly effective in making each stage of the sales funnel a valuable, sales-encouraging experience.

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Magento Extensions

11 Best Magento Extensions To Use In 2019

Out of the box, Magento is already a powerful ecommerce platform. The biggest challenge ecommerce businesses encounter trying to manage their own Magento stores is its complexity.

Thanks to Magento’s dedication to staying open source, the portability of its code mean that independent developers can create tools that help users and businesses get the functionality they need from Magento, and smooth over complications that they’re not interested in.

We develop Magento ecommerce stores every day for clients big and small. Just like no two stores are the same, there are store owners who desire different levels of hands-on interaction with their ecommerce store.

Some of the tech savvy ones can’t wait to dig into the UI and learn everything, but most of our Magento ecommerce clients need their ecommerce store to fit their busy schedule. Magento needs to work for customers, and be easily edited and updated.

That’s why it’s important to choose extensions that will make your website work for customers: easy to navigate, quick to load, and as interactive as modern ecommerce customers expect.

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Is Your Website an Internet Relic? Why Outdated Websites Are Bad For Business

Getting a new website live can feel like a gargantuan effort. It’s a major cornerstone any brand’s identity. For many business owners, once a new site is live, it’s something that they no longer concern themselves with. As time passes, website functions and expectations change. If your business website has been left on the shelf, it may have gathered a bit of dust in the meantime.

The Symptoms of an Internet Relic


Can You Edit and Update Your Site?


In 2019, a website needs to be a document that can be easily edited and updated. A content management system is the basis of most websites, but it wasn’t a few years ago. If you can’t easily update the text on the pages of your website yourself, it might be time to have a more modern website to be built.

Our preferred website content management system is WordPress, which is open source and user-friendly. This way, business owners can keep their website up to date, and add their expertise to their website through a blog. It’s a great way to promote events, and changes in your industry, as well as get some search engine traffic benefits.

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Web Design for Multi-location Businesses

Web Design for Multi-location Businesses

As ecommerce continues to grow, users are now flooded with results when they search for a particular product or activity. In response, searches are becoming more geo-specific. A 2015 Google report found that searches containing the words “near me” have increased 34 times since 2011. We’ve talked before about local search now being the name of the game when it comes to Google search results. In short, local search is way for search engines to further narrow down the now endless options that a customer can come upon by indexing a website’s geographic information and giving priority to those that are more local to the searcher.

No matter how large or reputable the business, winning in local search means putting in the work so that each location has its own unique, individual, localized webpage. “What are these so very coveted aspects of a localized webpage?” you ask. Let’s take a look at some of the components that’ll make your business feel closer to home—to your customers, and to search engines.


Location Based URLs


If your business operates multiple locations, it would behoove you to give each location its own page with a unique, location-specific URL. As in the example of our client We Rock the Spectrum, they operate more than 60 locations worldwide! Follow their URL convention for every location they operate, www.companynamelocation.com. From the URL itself, it’s clear that you operate a branch of your business in that particular area. Location-based URL’s makes it easy for search engines to funnel local users right to that page.

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