We are proud to present a fresh interview with a Managing Director at Meanbee, a person well-known for his eCommerce survey, Magento guru and simply a great guy - Tom Robertshaw.
In this interview Tom discussed Magento’s key benefits and shortcomings, provided great insight tips to follow during and after store migration and shared his eCommerce predictions on 2014.
Tom please tell us a few words about yourself, how you came into eCommerce, what was your first experience with the industry and what you are currently working on?
Hi, I'm Tom and I'm the co-founder of Meanbee. I started the company when I was still studying Computer Science at the University of Bath here in the UK. At about the same time that I recognised the intricacies and opportunities of eCommerce, I discovered Magento in its beta. So fortunately, I think, Magento was my first experience of developing for eCommerce. Our latest two launches have been responsive sites for: http://www.swaguk.co.uk/ and http://www.diamonfire.co.uk/
As you probably know, here at Cart2Cart we deal with automated store migrations daily. According to our statistics, nearly 40% of all store migrations are performed to Magento. Why, in your opinion, Magento is so popular? What is the competitive advantage of this platform?
I'm not aware of another system that has so many features and extensions easily accessible to a SMB store owner. It caters for people that have outgrown their Shopify store but aren't ready for IBM WebSphere or Hybris - that's a pretty great platform for growth. I'd be interested to know where the other 60% are going and why.
As they say, ”Nobody’s perfect”. Can you outline the shortcomings of Magento, if any? Are there any must have features that Magento lacks?
Well, in terms of software, rounding and tax issues are a bugbear. As well as issues with the built-in PayPal integrations. However, CE 1.8.1 has just been released with updates for all of those so hopefully they will help to improve its stability. In terms of the company, naturally transparency and speed has reduced over the last couple of years. It'd be good to see a Community Manager again.
Is there a type of merchant or business whom you wouldn’t recommend to go with Magento? If yes, what are the reasons?
I typically don't recommend it to customers under a certain size unless they want to install it with a pre-built theme and aren't interested in customising it. In terms of verticals, I haven't come across any at the moment that I'd turn them away.
Do you often deal with clients who want to move from their old carts? Are there any general tips you would recommend to follow before and after the migration to Magento?
This something that we've done before and it can certainly be a challenge. I'd recommend keeping the old site available even after launch. It's useful to have access to pull out that last bit of CMS content that was missed or have access to the old orders for a while. Other than that, make sure the data migration happens as near to the start of the project as possible to leave plenty of time for testing before the end of development and launch.
eCommerce is a rapidly growing and developing industry. With open source solutions like WooCommerce and PrestaShop, hosted carts like Shopify and BigCommerce and a lot of others, how would you evaluate the future of Magento? Will it continue to be the most popular solution out there or lose the competition?
I see Magento as better suited to larger clients than those that would be using the hosted platforms and the other packages that you mention. That's not to say that Magento won't see competition over the next couple of years. I think a lot is riding on the release of Magento 2. As long as we see that, I can happily see Magento competing comfortably for the next few years.
Could you give us a short prediction on how eCommerce will develop in the coming year? Some trends, ideas and your thoughts.
I think the message over the last year was that responsive design in eCommerce is here to stay and many people have moved over to it or some variation of solution for the plethora of devices out there. Over the next year I'd like to see that continue. In addition to that, I hope we can find more ways to integrate eCommerce with offline. It's something that is talked about often and some of the larger brands are starting to experiment. However, providing a seamless experience for customers between visiting the site at home and or on a phone and walking into the store is a tough one to crack, let alone finding a solution that can be brought to the masses. I think there's plenty of room for revolution there.