Magento eCommerce Explained: Our Expert Advice

Ron Dodby Ron Dod

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Magento is one of the most acclaimed eCommerce platforms on the market today, and for good reasons. According to Magento, there are over 250,000 retailers across the globe employing the platform. Moreover, Magento eCommerce statistics show that “more than 20 percent of the top 1,000 e-retailers in the U.S. and Canada use Magento, making it the most popular eCommerce CMS.”

The fact is that Magento eCommerce is the preferred online retail solution for so many merchants because of the platform’s highly-customizable, completely flexible open source framework, thereby allowing retailers to scale their eCommerce businesses with ease.

Magento customizability quote

These are just some of the many reasons why Magento is a top eCommerce platform.

Additionally, Magento is constantly pushing forward, creating innovative new products to help merchants create better, more profitable online experiences.

With Magento’s plethora of resources, community experts, third-party technologies and integrations and expansive list of technology partners, there is nothing that cannot be accomplished with Magento eCommerce.

As an award-winning Magento design agency and technology partner, the Visiture team has a lot of hands-on experience and expertise to divulge when it comes to creating a profitable Magento website.

Therefore, we wanted to take the time to help explain Magento’s offerings, as well as give our expert advice on how to build a Magento eCommerce website that touts a stellar user experience, earns visibility in the SERPs and scores tons of sales.

With that said, let’s start with explaining Magento’s main offerings.

Magento Open Source vs. Magento Commerce

When getting started with this platform, the first thing to figure out is the difference between Magento Open Source and Magento Commerce as the two options are quite distinct from one another.

Magento Open Source (formerly known as Magento Community) is the free version of the platform that all retailers can utilize, customize and self-host. The platform’s (obviously) open source nature enables users to personalize it as they wish. For those who require a bit of assistance, there is a sizable Magento community comprised of fellow merchants, developers, contributors and other knowledgeable individuals who are happy to help.

Alternatively, Magento Commerce is the enterprise version of Magento, which (in addition to standard features) provides access to cloud-hosting, increased functionality, advanced marketing features, targeted promotions, customer reward programs and more baked right into the platform. Moreover, Magento Commerce gives users access to 24/7 support from Magento’s technical experts.

However, all these perks do not come free like the Open Source edition and can carry a substantial price tag.

With that sorted out, let’s dive into the details of creating a great Magento eCommerce store.

Find the Right Developer

Given that Magento is an open source, self-hosted platform, many retailers do not have the technical savvy to utilize the framework on their own, like they would with an out-of-the-box solution like Shopify.

That said, finding the right developer to help create a Magento eCommerce storefront is arguably the most critical task merchants will engage in, as this is the foundation of all else to come.

Fortunately, Magento provides access to an extensive list of partners who can aid in web development. Moreover, Magento also grants its own certificates to developers who have gone through the company’s courses, thereby giving retailers confidence in the developer(s) that they hire.

Magento partners

There are a variety of certifications that developers can acquire through Magento to showcase their knowledge to prospective clients. When sifting through the company’s partners list, all the certifications that a developer possesses are listed.

Alternatively, retailers can also utilize sites like UpWork, Toptal and similar websites where merchants can hire a professional web developer.

Abide By Magento eCommerce Best Practices

Of course, it’s impossible to talk about expert advice without discussing Magento SEO best practices. After all, SEO is a defining factor in a brand’s ability to grow online. Therefore, it is necessary for merchants to:

Utilize Headers and Title Tags

While Magento does create title tags automatically, it is best to generate these as doing so manually is the easiest method for defining different product groups. Moreover, retailers should limit this field to 50-60 characters while placing primary keywords as close to the beginning as possible.

Following the best practices for title tags and meta descriptions on Magento is a vital component of SEO performance.

Here is an example of a good title tag and meta description from Spanx:

Cropped flare jeans search

Moreover, retailers must properly employ Header Tags (H1, H2, etc.) to help Google understand a page’s contents and create a page hierarchy.

Optimize Product Pages

Building better product pages is a critical component to Magento eCommerce SEO as those who convert (instead of going back to Google for more results) show the search engine that the site offers valuable solutions and is worthy of promoting in the SERPs.

Therefore, retailers should pay close attention to optimizing these pages’ URLs, product descriptions, images, CTAs and other vital assets.

Take a look at all the information on one of Hansen Wholesale’s product pages:

furniture optimized product page
Product details

Eliminate Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is a common problem among eCommerce merchants.

Therefore, fixing duplicate content issues is a task to which retailers should pay considerable attention. A couple of strategies that sellers can use to stave off such problems include:

Apply Nofollow Tags

There are a variety of pages in an eCommerce site that sellers do not want search engines to index, such as “Thank You” pages or checkout pages.

Therefore, merchants will want to apply “noindex/nofollow” tags to the appropriate pages via the robots.txt file.

Optimize Default Descriptions

With Magento, each page is equipped with a default description.

Retailers must alter these and apply optimized descriptions that will help Google understand the page’s contents and purpose.

For the best outcome, ensure that descriptions remain within 140-160 characters.

To edit page descriptions, navigate to Content > Configuration > Design > HTML Head > Default Description.

Create an XML Sitemap

The importance of XML sitemaps for eCommerce cannot be overstated as this document aids search engines in understanding a site’s hierarchy and content, thereby enabling it to serve relevant results from a retailer for related queries.

XML sitemap

(example XML Sitemap from Yoast)

It is wise for sellers to familiarize themselves with sitemap optimization best practices for the most prosperous outcome.

Enhance Site Speeds

Speed is a massively important Google ranking factor as each second that a site takes to load, the more potential visitors it loses.

This assertion is not mere conjecture as mobile page speed benchmarks from Google show that as page load time goes from just one to three seconds, the probability of a bounce increased by 32 percent.

For retailers to avoid the lost traffic, sales and ranking that comes from slow load times, it is vital to understand how to increase page speed for Magento sites.

The most common speed-enhancing implementations for Magento include

Naturally, some of the most common speed-enhancing implementations include:

  • Compressing images
  • Minimize redirects
  • Utilize a content delivery network

That said, one of the main culprits as to why Magento sites run slowly is due to a poor selection of hosting providers.

Since Magento is an open source solution where retailers are not limited in the number of products they can carry, it is the merchant’s responsibility to ensure that they select a premier Magento hosting service that can manage a site’s load.

The fact is that cheap hosting is not good, and good hosting is not cheap. Given that hosting is a foundational element to a Magento eCommerce store’s performance, this is one area where retailers can be justified in splurging.

Increase Functionality with Extensions

Magento extensions are the backbone of the platform’s customization and personalization efforts. These modules help to add exponentially more value to the Magento platform by enabling a variety of different frontend and backend functionalities.

Moreover, since Magento touts such an extensive and engaged community, extensions can be found to accomplish nearly anything that a retailer desires. For instance, there are tons of Magento extensions for creating an outstanding eCommerce experience, for enhancing SEO performance, elevating security standards and just about everything else merchants can conceive.

Sellers can sift through the entire extension library in the company’s marketplace. Here, retailers can access a multitude of free and paid extensions to augment their eCommerce website.

Magento extensions list

Minimize Cart Abandonment

Shopping cart abandonment is a massive issue in the world of eCommerce. Abandonment rates tend to hover at around 70 percent, according to the Baymard Institute.

The top reasons for cart abandonment include

The top reasons for cart abandonment include:

  • Extra costs too high (shipping, tax, fees)
  • Forced account creation
  • Too long or complicated of a checkout process

It is for this reason that Magento eCommerce retailers must understand how to create a checkout flow that optimizes conversions.

To achieve this, it is critical to not only employ a guest checkout option, as this will easily facilitate more purchases, but to also provide the consumer with tax and shipping estimates upfront so that they don’t ditch their order out of a shocking total.

However, what might be the most important thing is to keep checkout processes as short as possible. By closing the gap from point A to point B, consumers have less opportunity to reconsider their purchase.

Proving this point, when Spanx redesigned its site using Magento 2, the company shortened its checkout process to a two-stage mechanism, thereby elevating conversions by 40 percent and average order values by 28 percent, while still decreasing bounce rates by 10 percent.

The checkout process should not be overlooked, as this is one of the single most important components of any Magento eCommerce website.

Prioritize Website Security

Magecart attacks are growing in frequency, and this trend is only accelerating. In fact, digital skimming is the fastest-growing attack category.

When discussing the rise in eCommerce cyber attacks, GBHackers notes that:

“[In 2018], more than 150 million attacks were launched by cyber criminals using serious threats such as login attempts, credit card frauds, botnets, Phishing and many other e-commerce attacks.”

Given the ever-increasing threat of compromise from digital hackers, retailers must prioritize security above all else.

Fortunately, Magento provides retailers with a variety of security enhancement options for protecting employees and customers alike.

Firstly, it should go without saying, but HTTPS is necessary for eCommerce websites. Not only does this protocol provide sellers with an added layer of security, but it also is a ranking factor in Google.

Secondly, Magento offers an excellent two-factor authentication extension, which only allows trusted devices to access the company’s backend.

As far as Magecart attacks are concerned, Peter Blum, vice president of technology at cloud application security company Instart, advises:

“The best defense against Magecart attacks is preventing access. Online companies need a solution that intercepts all of the API calls your website makes to the browser and blocks access to sensitive data you have not previously authorized. This prevents any malicious script, or any non-critical third-party script, from gaining access to information your customers enter on your website. This same system should also have a monitoring component to alert companies when a third-party attempts to access sensitive information.”

Consider Progressive Web Apps

Many leaders in the industry consider progressive web apps to be the future of eCommerce.

The reason for this is that progressive web apps (PWAs) are essentially mobile websites that blend the experience and advantages of native applications with the discoverability and universality of mobile sites.

In effect, users can discover PWAs through the SERPs, yet add access icons to their smartphone’s home screen and interact with them like a traditional app.

Here is an example of Lilly Pulitzer’s PWA:

Lilly Pulitzer’s PWA

With PWAs, retailers can create lightning-fast mobile shopping experiences that are engaging and personalized. Numerous case studies have shown that this technology is quite effective at increasing retail conversions as well.

As far as progressive web apps are concerned, Magento is leading the charge with its PWA Studio, a toolset that allows merchants to create PWAs on top of Magento 2 stores.

As Magento states about the PWA Studio:

“The Magento PWA Studio project is a set of developer tools that allow for the development, deployment, and maintenance of a PWA storefront on top of Magento 2. It uses modern tools and libraries to create a build system and framework that adheres to the Magento principle of extensibility.

As mobile traffic and sales continue to increase year-over-year, these types of applications will only become more commonplace as they provide consumers with an ideal shopping experience without any need to download an app to their phones.

As it stands, major corporations like Twitter, Instagram, Forbes, Uber and others are already utilizing PWA technology.

Moreover, with Magento’s PWA Studio, retailers small and large now can develop progressive web applications and roll them out to consumers.

Magento’s PWA Studio allows for retailers to position themselves at the forefront of a new wave that is set to redefine the mobile experience, and thereby potentially dominate the next iteration of the eCommerce industry.

The combination of the Magento eCommerce framework with PWA technology is precisely what is needed in today’s online ecosystem to help a business grow in awareness and sales.

The Magento eCommerce platform is a highlight flexible and scalable solution that enables merchants the world over to achieve heights of customization and uniqueness that is paralleled by no other retail service provider.

However, given the complexity of the platform, it is essential for sellers to partner with developers who possess the right skills and knowledge for building a custom Magento eCommerce website that can climb the SERPs and generate sales.

That said, finding the right developer can be a challenging task. If you would like to ensure that your brand is in good hands, reach out to Visiture’s certified Magento development experts, and we can help create the custom solution your company needs to build a burgeoning online retail business.

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