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Magento Explained: Understanding The Magento Ecosystem

Magento Explained: Understanding The Magento Ecosystem

The Magento Ecosystem ExplainedThe Magento eCommerce application is at the center of a vibrant ecosystem of retailers, developers, designers, conferences, and Magento hosting providers. Like all ecosystems, Magento evolves, and it can be difficult for newcomers to the world of eCommerce to get to grips with its constituent parts and the role they play in building a successful eCommerce business.

In this article, we’re going to explain some of the terminology new eCommerce merchants need to understand before embarking on their journey with Magento.

First things first, what is Magento?

Magento is a powerful eCommerce application built on open source technology. It’s used by retailers ranging from solo entrepreneurs to big-name eCommerce merchants like Ford, Wrangler, Silent Night, Harvey Nichols, Paul Smith, and Christian Louboutin.

Magento was initially released in March 2008 and has since grown to incredible proportions. There have been two main iterations of the application (Magento 1 and Magento 2).

One of the main reasons why eCommerce developers love Magento is due to its customizability and ability to scale as a business grows. A huge number of plugins and extensions are available for store developers, and custom functionality can be included with help from a Magento developer.

Magento Commerce vs Magento Open Source

Image credit: Magento Commerce

The heart of the Magento ecosystem is an open source community of developers. The community is maintained by the Magento company. Magento Commerce is that company’s commercial offering, and includes support and additional features for enterprise retailers. This includes dedicated Magento account management.

Originally released in 2016, the self-hosted version of Magento Commerce was previously known as Magento Enterprise Edition. It has since grown to become a staple in the Magento community with bigger eCommerce businesses looking for more functionality looking for greater complexity and with a larger global presence.

If you’re a larger eCommerce business, Magento Commerce is likely the best option for your business.

Magento Open Source Comparison

Magento Open Source is a free version of Magento that includes many of the same features as Magento Commerce. Until recently, Magento Open Source was known as Magento Community Edition.

Magento commerce was originally released in 2007 as a public beta. The full version was released in 2008. Because Magento Open Source is open source, developers are not locked into the software they are provided. It is possible to make changes to the application and incorporates other technologies as well. This means that developers can craft Magento Open Source into something specific to their needs. Something developers aren’t as free with when it comes to Magento Commerce.

There is an impressive base feature set with Magento Open Source, yet where it really shines is in the additional features offered through the countless extensions currently in circulation. At the time of writing, there are more than 10,000 extensions available in the Magento marketplace.

To use Magento Open Source, retailers can choose a Magento hosting provider, which will provide the servers, bandwidth, and support a retailer needs to build their store. This also allows for Magento store owners to focus on what’s important – their store – and leave background processes to someone else.

There are other differences between the Open Source and Commerce editions of Magento. Here a few more in more detail.

FeaturesOpensourceCommerce
Responsive eCommerce website
Promotions Engine / Product & Catalog Management
Checkout, Payment, Shipping & Order Management
Site management (admin)
ElasticSearch
Bluefoot CMS in 2.2
Magento Order Management
Content Staging & Preview
Magento Shipping
OOTB B2B Functionality (in v2.2)

Magento is a complete eCommerce solution, but retailers can add extra functionality by installing extensions created by third-party developers. Magento extensions extend or enhance Magento’s existing features. Hostdedi has created several Magento extensions, including the popular Turpentine extension for Varnish integration, and Alarmbell, a Magento security extension.

There are hundreds of Magento extensions, both free and premium. Magento users should take care to only install extensions from reputable developers or marketplaces. If in doubt, head to the official Magento Marketplace, which we’ll discuss in a moment.

Magento themes are similar to extensions, except themes focus on the design of a site rather than on adding new functionality. Every Magento store uses a theme, and just like extensions, there are free themes, paid premium themes, and custom themes developed for specific retailers.

Magento Marketplace and the Community

Magento Marketplace is an officially supported repository of both extensions and themes. Magento Marketplace thoroughly vets all extensions and themes it distributes, so you can be sure that everything you find on there is secure and useful.

Magento Marketplace isn’t the only trustworthy source of themes and extensions. Many reputable developers have their own sites and stores. However, if you’re unsure of the quality of a theme or extension, it’s good practice to check to see if it’s on the marketplace.

Finally, Magento hosting: every eCommerce store needs a hosting provider. The hosting provider takes care of the store’s connection to the internet, the server the Magento application and its database run on, and the support retailers need to provide a fast shopping experience to their users.

Hosting providers are of varying quality and Magento requires specific conditions to provide the best performance and reliability. Choosing a specialist Magento optimized hosting provider with great support is the best way to start your journey as an eCommerce retailer

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Magento

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Integrating A WordPress Blog With Your Magento Store

Integrating A WordPress Blog With Your Magento Store

Integrating a WordPress Blog Into a Magento StorePublishing audience-attracting content on an eCommerce store can be difficult. Product descriptions are essential but they aren’t the sort of content that attracts a loyal readership or brings people back time and time again. The importance of SEO value in generating organic reach means that it’s time to start integrating a WordPress blog with your Magento store. Content publishing is the present and the future of eCommerce and online retail, especially if you’re looking to attract new customers and retain existing buyers.

While it’s perfectly possible to blog within Magento using add-ons like the Aheadworks Blog extension, there are advantages to integrating a platform that has been built with content publication in mind. It’s also possible to turn WordPress into an eCommerce store, but Magento offers levels of flexibility and functionality that are difficult to replicate on a platform designed for content management.

If a retailer wants to maximize both the effectiveness of their content publishing efforts and the efficiency of their sales process, an integration that makes use of both WordPress and Magento is the optimal solution.

The best approach to WordPress/Magento integration depends on which is your primary platform. A WordPress site owner who wants to use Magento for selling products needs a solution with a different focus than a Magento user who wants to integrate a WordPress blog with an existing store. I’m going to look at how both use cases can be satisfied.

There’s some crossover here, so I’d advise you to take a look at the full range of functionality offered by the extensions I’ll be highlighting and make a decision that suits your particular needs.

Adding a WordPress Blog to a Magento Store

The best way to add a WordPress blog to an existing Magento store is with Magento WordPress Integration from FishPig.

The extension helps maintain a consistent brand identity by using the Magento store’s theme for the WordPress blog without requiring any modification of files on either the WordPress installation or Magento. Users can log-in to their WordPress blog from within the Magento dashboard.

One of the most important reasons for choosing to use WordPress rather than a native Magento blogging solution is the huge amount of extensions available for WordPress. Handily, the WordPress Magento Integration extension supports many of the most popular WordPress plugins, including Yoast’s SEO plugin and Disqus comments.

Install WordPress

To begin, you’re going to need to download WordPress and extract it to the Magento root directory of your server. Once installed, the WordPress folder should be named “WordPress”, rename this to “wp”.

Note: If you’re doing this on a Hostdedi account, get in touch with the Hostdedi team and we’ll help you to manage this stage.

To check if it worked, type in your web address followed by “/wp/”. For example, http://www.mystore.com/wp/. This should take you to the WordPress installation page, which you should follow in standard WordPress fashion to get your blog set up.

When asked for database information, you have two options. You can either create a new WordPress specific database for storing your blog data, or you can link to your Magento database.

It is perfectly fine to use your existing Magento database due to WordPress and Magento data being separated by different tables. If you’re unsure about where to find your database, you can search MagentoRoot/app/etc/local.xml and find the information there.

At this point, the two applications have still not been linked. You are running a WordPress install and a Magento install at the same time.

WordPress Integration for Magento

Download Fishpig WordPress Integration.

Fishpig is 100% free and can be downloaded using the link above. You can install the module like any Magento module by using the Magento Connect Manager. Just make sure that you’ve disabled the Magento Cache and Compiler while you’re setting everything up. If you don’t errors will pop up!

Now that you’ve installed the module, head to your Magento Admin and along the top find WordPress -> Settings. Here you’ll find two sections that are going to require configuration.

Magento Database and Integration Settings

First, head to the database section. If you decided to set up Magento and WordPress using the same database, then make sure that you select yes. Below this, you’re going to need to enter the WordPress prefix. For the purposes of this guide, that is “wp_”

Next, scroll down to the Integration section. This is where the meat of your WordPress Magento connection is coming from.

First, in order to make sure that everything looks nice from a user experience perspective, you’re going to want to make sure that you’re selected yes next to “Integrated theme”.

Next, you’re going to set up the URL structure for your blog. You don’t have to type the whole URL in, just the part that directs to the WordPress blog. We’ve gone with “blog” (there’s nothing quite like tradition) but you can opt for whatever you want. Using the example above, your WordPress blog will be located at “www.mystore.com/blog/”.

WordPress-Magento-Integration

Finally, you’re going to want to enter the path for to your actual WordPress install. If you’ve been following this guide to the letter, that should just be “wp”. Once you’ve done this, click “Save Config” and click out.

Configuring WordPress for Magento

In order to configure WordPress properly, you’re going to need to head to the general settings section. Here, you will be able to make changes to the URL structure of your WordPress blog and how it links to your Magento store.

The two most important sections are WordPress Address and Site Address. For WordPress address, you want to make sure that you have linked to the location of your WordPress install. This should probably remain as is. If you’re installed WordPress to the Magento root directory as directed above, this will be your website URL followed by /wp/.

Site Address should link to the URL structure you set up while enabling WordPress on Magento above. We’ve gone with the /blog/ directory, but it’s up to you how you set it up. Remember to include your Magento base URL before.

Once you’ve made sure that these things line up, hit “Save Changes” and you’re done. You now have a fully functional WordPress blog added to your Magento store. Congrats!

WordPress Blog in a Magento Store

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Magento, WordPress

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3 Key Takeaways from IRCE 2018

3 Key Takeaways from IRCE 2018

3 Takeaways from IRCE 2018

We’ve just returned from IRCE 2018. Between the marketplace and the sessions, there was a lot happening. eCommerce and marketing professionals from around the world were in attendance, and everyone seemed to have something to bring to the table.

However, throughout the show, we found that three things seemed to be present in almost all of the conversations going on.

Here are what we think were the three main takeaways from IRCE this year.

 

With huge marketplaces such as Amazon, speakers such as Seth Godin stated that “You will lose on price” if you try and compete there.

Instead, small companies should start to look at fringe groups that are likely to grow with time. Effectively building a business is about making change happen. It’s about taking something and increasing its value in the public consciousness.

This led Godin to prompt everyone to ask themselves two questions about their brand:

  • Who’s it for?
  • What’s it for?

Throughout IRCE, this theme found itself springing up time and time again.

The speech Institutionalize Innovation by Roe Macfarlane talked about how market segmentation required specific actions based on age, including the type of leader different groups are more inclined to follow.

Counter the Amazon Effect also talked about how it was important to innovate and inspire change in order to compete with the eCommerce giants of today. How did many people suggest this change and niche focus should come about? Personalization.

Compete against Amazon at IRCE 2018

Godin’s second standout statement during his keynote was also repeated by speakers throughout IRCE 2018. The importance is not in marketing to a mainstream audience, but in appealing to those who are already a friend to your brand. These connections should be nurtured in a way that creates a “tribe” that follows one thing: you.

This tribe should be nurtured through personalization techniques.

Personalization 2.0: Making the Move to Individualization by Brendan Witcher talked about the ultimate destination of personalization techniques: individualization, not segmentation. He also went over how to make use of big data to do this (without becoming ‘creepy’).

We also saw David Blades of Jenson USA talk about the importance of user generated content in boosting sales. The community wants the brand to be about them, and what better way to make it about them than by having them generate the content.

Magento and Machine Learning

With the first Magento Straight Talk during IRCE came conversations about machine learning and its place in eCommerce. For many businesses, the idea of machine learning has become something that is spoken about a lot but hasn’t shown enough value to be applied independently.

Anita Andrew’s talk inspired a different perspective, with stats on how effective machine learning has been for some huge brands. Target saw a 30% growth in revenue after applying machine learning techniques. Amazon saw a 55% increase in sales from personal recommendations, and USAA saw a 76% improvement in customer support contact and product offering fit.

Yet Anita did mention the issue with what she termed ‘dirty data’. Throughout the big data sessions, dirty data become a central point of interest. How do you take outliers and unpredictable variables and apply them to machine learning algorithms? Many of the IRCE speakers gave their own perspectives and approaches to cleaning for different purposes. Anita talked about cleaning data in order to boost product offerings. In Personalization 2.0, the focus was on how to clean data to truly individualize your brand. In the merchandising track, Carter Perez talked about how Machine learning could be used to improve product discovery.

Regardless of where you heard it, the message was clear: machine learning is the future and it’s here now.

Outside of the sessions, the marketplace was abuzz with activity. Many of those exhibiting at the show had something to offer that linked into the topics mentioned above.

Hostdedi met with several old, new, and future clients during the show and had a great time with all of them. We also went to go see the Cubs vs. Phillies game in Wrigleyville, with over 250 RSVPs to the rooftop event. We’ll leave you with the view we had and look forward to seeing you next time!

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General, Magento

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