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What Is the Magento Ecommerce Platform and Why Use It?

June 09, 2022

The Magento ecommerce platform (now referred to as Adobe Commerce) is at the center of a vibrant ecosystem of retailers, developers, designers, conferences, and hosting providers. Like all online ecommerce ecosystems, Magento is constantly evolving. This means it can be difficult for ecommerce newcomers to get to know all the elements of Magento and the role they play in building a successful online business using the platform.

This article will explain some of the terminology new merchants need to understand before embarking on their journey with the Magento ecommerce platform.

Understanding Magento Ecommerce

Magento is a powerful open source ecommerce technology platform. It’s successfully used by retailers worldwide, ranging from small business entrepreneurs to more prominent ecommerce merchants like Ford, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Jaguar Land Rover, HP, Tommy Hilfiger, ASUS, and more.

The Magento platform was officially released in March 2008 and has since grown to incredible proportions. There have been two main platform iterations, Magento 1 and Magento 2. One of the main reasons why ecommerce developers love Magento is its customizability and ability to scale with a growing business. Thousands of modules, themes, and extensions are available for Magento store developers, and custom functionality can also be included.

What Does the Magento Ecommerce Platform Do?

As an advanced ecommerce platform, Magento enables entrepreneurs or business owners to create and launch a robust online store. Merchants gain access to an enhanced shopping cart and control over their web store's design, functionality, and user experience within the Magento ecosystem. Merchants can also use built-in tools within Magento to create impactful marketing campaigns, optimize content for search engines, enhance customer service, and manage product catalogs.

What Is Magento Software: Open Source vs. Commerce

There are two different versions of the Magento ecommerce platform available—Magento Open Source and Magento Commerce. Understanding which one is best for you depends on the size of your business and your unique needs. Let’s break down each below.

Magento Open Source

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

Magento Commerce was initially released in 2007 as a public beta version. The full version was released in 2008. Because Magento Open Source is built on open source technology, developers are not locked into the provided software — meaning they can make changes to the application and incorporate other technologies. This also means developers can mold Magento Open Source into something customized to meet their needs. This is something developers aren’t as free to do with Magento Commerce.

There’s an impressive base feature set with Magento Open Source, yet where it shines is in the additional features offered through the countless extensions currently available. Right now, there are thousands of extensions available on the Magento platform.

To use Magento Open Source, retailers can choose a Magento hosting provider that will provide the servers, bandwidth, and support a retailer needs to build their ecommerce store. This also allows retailers to focus on their business and leave background processes to a team of Magento experts.

Magento Commerce

At the heart of the Magento ecommerce platform is Magento Commerce, which is the company’s commercial version for developers. It’s an all-in-one cloud solution that includes support and additional features for enterprise retailers such as dedicated Magento account management.

The self-hosted version of Magento Commerce, previously known as Magento Enterprise Edition, was initially released in 2016. It has since grown to become a staple in the Magento community as bigger ecommerce businesses are looking for more functionality as their sites become more complex and they acquire a more prominent global presence.

If you’re an enterprise-level ecommerce business, Magento Commerce is likely the best platform for your online store. You can also implement this platform as an on-premises solution or a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) cloud-hosted solution (Magento Commerce Cloud).

Differences Between Magento Open Source and Magento Commerce

There are several differences between the Open Source and Commerce editions of Magento to consider before deciding which Magento version is right for your store, including:

FeaturesMagento Open SourceMagento Commerce
Responsive ecommerce websiteYesYes
Promotions engine/product & catalog managementYesYes
Checkout, payment, shipping, & order managementYesYes
Site management (admin)YesYes
ElasticSearchNoYes
Bluefoot CMS in 2.2NoYes
Magento order managementNoYes
Content staging & previewNoYes
Magento shippingNoYes
Out-of-the-box B2B functionality (version 2.2 and beyond)NoYes

Pros and Cons of Magento Ecommerce

Magento is one of the most popular content management systems (CMSs) for high-traffic ecommerce stores — and today, there are over 180,000 known live sites using Magento. While the Magento ecommerce platform offers several robust features, it doesn’t come without its disadvantages. Below we will detail the pros and cons of the Magento platform to help you decide if it’s right for your ecommerce store.

Pros

Enhanced flexibility: The open source nature of the Magento platform means that it features enhanced flexibility and customization opportunities. No matter your industry or niche, you can modify your ecommerce store based on the features and functionality you need. Magento also enables users to integrate third-party or custom-built extensions and third-party systems like enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), and payment providers.

Advanced features: Magento offers several advanced features that enable merchants to create powerful ecommerce engines. The Magento platform offers different tools that encompass:

  • Marketing, promotions, and conversion
  • Site management
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Catalog management
  • Product browsing
  • Catalog browsing
  • Checkout, payments, and shipping
  • Order management
  • Customer accounts
  • Customer service
  • Mobile commerce
  • International support
  • Analytics and reporting

Streamlined scalability: As an entrepreneur or business owner, ensuring your ecommerce store is easily scalable as your venture grows is essential for your success. Magento users can scale their web store effortlessly, as the platform can support hundreds of thousands of products and thousands of transactions per hour. Your ecommerce store’s product capacity can grow even more with Magento Commerce Cloud, which features the limitless potential the cloud is known for.

Community: Because of Magento’s popularity, it has many users and contributors. This makes it easy for merchants to get the support they need when troubleshooting Magento-related issues. It also means the Magento platform is constantly featuring new extensions, plugins, and integrations created by its community of developers. This enables merchants to create cutting-edge, innovative web stores.

Mobile-friendliness: Ecommerce customers are mobile-first, which means online stores must be responsive on smart devices. Magento makes it simple for merchants to create mobile-friendly ecommerce stores that work seamlessly on smartphones, tablets, and computers. The Magento Progressive Web Application (PWA) Studio also enables merchants to develop, deploy, and maintain a PWA storefront on top of Magento 2.3 and above.

Cons

Expensive to use: While Magento Open Source is free, merchants will need to pay for Magento 2 development costs, ongoing support and site maintenance, as well as extensions or plugins — all of which can be expensive. Higher tiers of Magento — such as Magento Commerce or Magento Commerce Cloud — come with even higher development price tags. There are also licensing costs for Magento users based on an ecommerce store’s revenue.

Complex development processes: If you don’t hire a professional Magento developer, handling site development on your own can be complex. To successfully create an ecommerce store using Magento, you’ll need in-depth experience with PHP, MySQL, and Git, at minimum. New entrepreneurs or business owners looking to build an ecommerce site on Magento for the first time might not have the technical skills to do so promptly.

Intensive hosting requirements: Running a Magento ecommerce store means you’ll need a powerful hosting provider that can meet the demands it requires. This means cheaper hosting solutions such as shared hosting might not be equipped to handle a Magento site. You’ll need a virtual private server (VPS), a dedicated server, or a cloud hosting solution for your site to operate properly.

What Are Magento Ecommerce Extensions?

Magento is a complete ecommerce solution, but retailers can add extra functionality by installing Magento Extensions created by third-party developers. Magento Extensions extend or enhance the platform’s existing features. Nexcess has made several Magento extensions, including the popular Turpentine extension for improved compatibility with Varnish. We also created Sentry, a Magento two-factor authentication extension. There are thousands of Magento extensions available, both free and premium. Magento users should only install extensions from reputable developers or marketplaces.

What Are Magento Ecommerce Themes?

Magento themes are like Magento 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.

What Is the Magento Commerce Marketplace?

The Magento Commerce Marketplace is an officially supported repository of extensions and themes you can add to your Magento ecommerce store. Magento thoroughly vets all extensions and themes it distributes in their marketplace, so you can be sure everything you find in their library is secure and useful.

However, the Magento Commerce Marketplace isn’t the only trustworthy source for Magento extensions and themes. Many reputable developers have their own sites and stores that offer Magento extensions and themes. However, if you’re unsure of the quality of an extension or theme created for Magento that you find from another developer, check to see if it’s in the Magento Marketplace to ensure Adobe has vetted it.

What Is Managed Magento Ecommerce Hosting?

Every ecommerce store needs a hosting provider. The hosting provider ideally takes care of the store’s connection to the internet, the server the Magento platform and its database run on, and the support retailers need to provide a fast, personalized shopping experience to their users.

Because Magento requires specific hosting conditions to provide the best ecommerce store performance and reliability, choosing a fully managed Magento hosting solution ensures your site is optimized to its full potential. For example, with Nexcess Fully Managed Magento Hosting, you can get the speed, security, and reliability you need to start your journey as an ecommerce retailer.

Tip: Ready for even more Magento optimization? Read our Definitive Guide for Optimizing Magento 2 to see how you can further enhance the performance of your ecommerce store.

Should You Choose Magento Ecommerce Platform?

Magento is a powerful, open source ecommerce engine packed with innovative features and functionality and a thriving community. Not only is this platform flexible and customizable, but it also easily scales with online businesses as they grow. In addition, it comes complete with a wide range of tools that help entrepreneurs and business owners expand their reach, optimize content for search engines, and create mobile-friendly websites.

But Magento doesn’t come without its disadvantages. Magento development can be costly — and if you don’t plan on hiring a professional Magento developer, there’s a steep learning curve you’ll need to overcome to build a functional and innovative site. What’s more, Magento sites are multi-layered and resource-intensive, which means you’ll need to spring for more advanced hosting solutions that ensure your ecommerce store operates smoothly and efficiently.

In Need of Managed Magento Hosting?

Sign up for managed Magento hosting with Nexcess. With Nexcess, you'll enjoy the convenience of automatic nightly backups and a secure Magento 2 hosting environment.

Browse our plans to learn more.

This blog was originally published in June 2018. It has since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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