THE BLOG

23
Sep

Now I’ve Really Got No Excuse

I just got back from the most impactful conference I’ve been to in years.

Double Your Freelance Conference” was an event targeting freelancers and consultancy owners across disciplines headed by the venerable Brennan Dunn. You could have guessed when I said the word “conference” that the speaker lineup would be impressive, that that would be correct — we had Brennan himself, Amy Hoy (300×50), Brian Casel (Productize), Kurt Elster (the Unofficial Shopify Podcast), Kai Davis as well as many new folks that for some reason I haven’t been exposed to (sorry if we met up at the conference and I didn’t get you in there!).

Getting away always gives me perspective, but this time it was different. Normally when I go to a conference I feel as though I’m looking up at the speakers from far away; they’re too busy to possibly get to know me and my real challenges. Not so this time; I felt up close to the speakers in a way I haven’t before at a conference.

Here’s why: I’ve followed these speakers and in some cases done business with them for over a year!

I’ve watched them all from a distance as they’ve made decisions and scaled their businesses…always impressed, and always wondering “just how did they pull that off?”. You will understand my eagerness to talk to them in person and understand how they “work magic” (insider reference to Sarah’s talk!).

What I hadn’t prepared for was the clarity I would gain about the opportunities staring me in the face, and the way I’ve been blocking my own progress.

Here’s what I discovered: these folks are working magic by doing things I already know but haven’t really been doing!

To summarize what I’m coming away with:

1. Focus on where I work magic (and never, ever work on anything else)
2. Put my best foot forward as-is (rather than perfecting the packaging)
3. Systematize and simplify (to deliver more in the same amount of time)

These may sound obvious to you (and they probably are obvious), but I haven’t been thinking this way. The last seven years of my life I’ve focused on perfecting Sellry’s delivery of an evolving suite of solutions to ecommerce merchants. By now, I’d like to think our work is pretty high quality.

Before this conference I could scratch my head and wonder. Now I have no excuse not to put into motion what I’ve learned.

Thanks, Brennan, and the rest of the gang, for getting our toes to the fire!

29
Aug

Another Look at Magento…Version 2

Like anything else that’s powerful and takes a market by storm, Magento is quite polarizing; folks either love it or hate it. It’s easy to find a reason to do either. In this post I’ll give you my very brief take about Magento’s trajectory as a platform and why you might want to .

Why users have been leaving Magento

Agencies say this: “Magento is the most robust open source ecommerce platform”.

Criticism on the street: “Magento is overly complicated and slow”.

What to believe?

In my experience, both statements are true!

Magento is truly amazing in that you can modify it and create large, complex stores with best-in-class features users expect.

However, Magento generally takes longer to set up, configure and develop on than [insert your favorite non-Magento platform here]. What’s more, non-technical managers may find their heads spinning with the dizzying array of extensions, layout and configuration choices Magento offers. Finally, even after successful launch, performance is very often a HUGE problem for Magento.

Of course, the first issue can be overcome with a solid implementation, the second with training and guidance, and the third with a knowledgeable devops team, but these don’t tend to be cheap. As a result, a lot of merchants have moved from Magento to simpler solutions like WooCommerce and Shopify. (until recently Magento was the market leader, but now WooCommerce is ahead by a few percent).

Why this trend is about to reverse

Magento 1 has been out since 2008 — with no major update. Efforts were begun on a version 2 of the application five years ago but progress was p.ain..ful..ly slow for a long time. Then something seemed to spark within the Magento team…they “got on the ball” and now we have a Merchant Beta, with General Availability slated for Q4 2015. In other words, it’s almost prime time.

Wanna see how it looks? Here’s a demo put together by our friends at Nexcess.

What’s better, you ask, about Magento 2? Answer: Just about everything. The Magento team have given the platform a total reboot / refresh. Here are some of the things I’m most excited about from a business use case standpoint:

  • It’s able to handle WAY more throughput.
  • The application is finally fully responsive in the front and backend (applause please!).
  • Performance nerds are going to be happy — static browser content caching, image compression, use of jQuery, and RequireJS for better management of JavaScript and bundling to reduce file download counts.
  • The backend has been completely redesigned and has a large number of improvements.
  • The frontend is 25% faster in general and 52% faster on add to cart.
  • It’s more modular and as a result much better to develop custom functionality on.
  • It’s no longer monolithic…it’s possible to install only some of the components, making it more streamlined and more feasible to power ecommerce within an existing project.
  • My personal favorite: the checkout now exhibits best practices. To be honest it’s still not as slick as Bonobos or even a stock Shopify checkout, but it’s way better than it was.

This is a really short list on purpose. If you’ve been unimpressed or concerned about Magento, it might be time to think again! Please feel free to email me your response or questions about Magento 2 versus whatever you’re on now.

P.S. Quick note about timeline: while the Merchant Beta is already out, the optimal time for most merchants to upgrade will probably be around May/June 2016. If you’re already on Magento, make sure to take a good look at the Magento 1 to 2 Migration plan; it’s a pretty in-depth process.

P.P.S. Hoping this post was longer? If you’re that eager, check out some more technical benefits of Magento 2.

13
Jul

You Might Not Want to Delight Your Customers

Not all customers want to be delighted!

This thought hit me while I was putting together a new (and undoubtedly awesome) email course on how to optimize your Magneto site.

Picture your favorite places to get gas, buy prescriptions and lug groceries…the BEST stores of their kind you can remember. As you think of when you transact at these locations, I’d be willing to bet you’re not feeling delighted. Calling them your “favorites” might even seem like a stretch.

If you’re like most people, you go to these common stores not because you’re delighted with them but for another reason entirely: CONVENIENCE.

Convenience is one out of many alternative motivations to delight that drive purchasing. Purchasing motivations seem to correlate by industry:

What do all these have in common? In each case, when the motivator is delivered well, the purchaser experiences satisfaction.

Here are a few things I think are true about purchasing satisfaction:

1. Satisfaction looks wildly different to different audiences. It takes some genius to satisfy many types of people at the same time.  This is one reason many businesses that do well in a single niche market fail to make an impression when expanding.

2. Satisfaction can grow or wane over time. In some cases, the value delivery just has to maintain a consistent level (think McDonalds). In other types of scenarios, the value delivery must continually increase (think movies). What would we think of a director with “consistent” movies?

3. Satisfaction doesn’t necessarily result from the first purchase (especially if this isn’t a “delightey” business we’re talking about). But satisfaction has to grow over time in order for the purchaser to feel positive and refer others.

What do you think? Does satisfaction really drive purchasing? What can you do to deliver consistently increasing value to your customers?

03
Jul

Nucleus Commerce Primer

Nucleus_FINAL_RGB-01-01

If the world of eCommerce was a kingdom, Magento would be its sovereign. Magento is recognized as the most flexible full-featured e-commerce software available to all types of e-commerce businesses. With an incredible number of customizations designed to boost your website’s effectiveness, Magento as a platform is dedicated to providing a flexible, affordable solution for small and large businesses alike. But what if there was a way to maximize Magento’s effectiveness far beyond its original functionality? Nucleus Commerce has set out to do just that, and in Sellry’s opinion has exceeded expectations. Here’s a quick product rundown, along with estimated savings based on normal development costs per year:

  • Nucleus features a variety of frontend UI improvements focused on customer experience. Includes special functionality for customer segmentation, automatic related products, product questions and more – estimated development cost savings: $15K.
  • A state-of-the-art template, built by top Magento theme developer Brendan Falkowski. Not only does it take advantage of Magento’s existing capabilities, Brendan’s theme was designed from day one to support the modifications and integrations included in Nucleus Commerce. For the eCommerce merchant looking for the perfect blend of flexibility, simplicity, and cost effectiveness, this theme has no equal. – estimated development cost savings: $30K.
  • Adding to its shiny exterior, Nucleus Commerce is also equipped with exciting changes to the stock Magento backend. We’re very excited about Nucleus Elements, a brilliant time-saving content management feature allowing site operators with nothing more than basic HTML skills to create professional looking pages – estimated content management savings: $20K per year.
  • A highly advanced search feature built by the experts at Klevu – estimated revenue increase: $10K per year.
  • Pre-integrated with many of the most popular third-party services that merchants need, including Brightpearl (Micro-ERP), ShipperHQ (shipping), Avalara (sales tax calculation and reporting), Kount (fraud prevention) and more  –estimated development cost savings: $15K.
  • Nucleus offers support for both their service AND Magento, via a ticket/email system built into their service! That’s right, you can get help on any of the Nucleus features right from the Magento backend! – estimated cost savings: $20K per year.
  • The point is this: It’s never been easier to get a truly professional Magento store going. With Nucleus, you can save tens of thousands of dollars in your build and deploy costs alone, not to mention the time savings! Nucleus is a “no-brainer” for most merchants.

Nucleus Commerce focuses on reducing time and cost by up to 50% while still offering the core capabilities of Magento as well as other essential features.


Why Are We So Into Nucleus Commerce?

Sellry was privileged to be able to Join Nucleus Commerce at their official product launch in Las Vegas, during the 2015 Magento Imagine conference. We were sincerely blown away by not only how well thought-out their product is, but also by the quality and passion of the team behind it. We really think that the value of the product, combined with the fact that Nucleus is offering in-house product support for all stages of development, makes this the best thing to happen to Magento in well, ever.

Sellry is excited about Nucleus because it provides us with a more streamlined way to bring the industry-standard ecommerce platform to our clients (Magento),  with the ease of a simpler, more elegant platform. Nucleus has provided the average store owner instant access to some of the best Magento technology partners, and created a support structure you won’t find anywhere else. Sellry strongly believes that Nucleus is the future of Magento, and will very soon be a leader in Magento product solutions.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can use our contact page, or visit www.nucleuscommerce.com. We’d love for you to join the discussion! Leave a comment below, or use #nucleuscommerce on Twitter, and let us know what you think! – @sellrycommerce

 

02
Mar

Objectively, Your Magento Store Needs to Be Fast

According to our research, a stock Magento install on decent, but un-optimized hosting will tend to load in about 5-6 seconds.

Even back when Magento came out in 2008 this was an unacceptable load time!

Consider how the stats have gotten:

It’s clear. You. Have. To. Make. Your. Magento. Fast! Thankfully this is something we specialize in. Contact us today to find out how we can make your store blazin’ fast!

23
Oct

Integrating Magento With Wombat

Spree Commerce asked us to create an integration between Magento and their new product Wombat. We really got into it.

Continue Reading..

17
Sep

Overcoming Obstacles in Magento Ecommerce Integration

Note: This article was originally posted on the Wombat blog (now defunct). It has been cross-posted here for historical value.

Introduction

As owner of an ecommerce dev + growth agency, I literally love most of the work my company gets to do for our ecommerce clients, but application integration has always annoyed me. Long story short, it’s generally Going to Be A Problem to create a working connection between two apps, even great apps like Magento.

Context (or, A Brief History of Bad Integration Approaches)

From what I can tell, for nearly all of history, small and midsize ecommerce companies running Magento have had three options for integrating their data:

Option 1: Install an off-the-shelf software integration. Found on github or the plugin community of your choice, these integrations are sometimes free, sometimes expensive, and always generic. Cross your fingers and hope that everything will work exactly the way you need. If there’s anything unique about the required workflow (and there usually is), call in an expert developer, or if possible, the original developer to create the modifications you need. No big deal if we’re only talking about a couple of these, but much more than that and things become unwieldy fast.

Option 2: Hire a developer from the get-go to build a custom integration. Now we can finally get the exact workflow we need the first time around. Wait, no…we need to tweak it for “That Other Scenario We Didn’t Anticipate.” Call the developer again…what? Because we didn’t sign up for their $xxxx monthly retainer we now have to wait three months until they’re free?

Option 3: Use a separate heavyweight “enterprise-grade” integration platform to consume and connect all the data. Check it out! All our problems will be solved! Did I just hear a groan from Finance and IT? You say this is overly complicated for our needs and too expensive?

None of these options makes much sense for a growing company.

A Marsupial Solution

Thankfully, Spree Commerce changed everything when they launched Wombat this year. Wombat is a lightweight ecommerce connection hub that integrates all the basic ecommerce data out of the box and also allows for custom data, data transformation and on-the-fly error resolution. With Wombat, it’s a matter of minutes and a few clicks to retrieve and send data between applications.

Since my company has a lot of experience with Magento, you can imagine our excitement when Spree asked us if we’d create an integration between Magento and Wombat. We got so excited, in fact, that we built not one but two ways of connecting to Wombat—a Ruby middleware app that allows for flow-based connection, as well as a Magento extension that pushes data from Magento. Just to be clear, Wombat integrations can be written in any language but we wanted to try Ruby since we spend so much time writing in php.

Musings about the Magento API

The Magento extension-building experience was uneventful since we have built a lot of those, but the Wombat middleware app was our first serious experience working in Ruby, and it was fun! In short, the app consumes the Magento SOAP V2 API2 and spits out JSON in the format friendly to Wombat, and vice versa. All in all it was pretty painless, but during the process, we learned some things about Magento you might find interesting if you’re a developer type. The code samples referenced are from Wombat.

1. Getting information from Magento

Some objects are supposed to be returned in an array format, but if there is only one item, it gets returned as a single item rather than in an array. So we had to add a function that checks if the resulting information is an Array and if not, it changes it into one so we don’t have to write multiple cases of interpreting the information.

wombat_magento-1

2. Sending information to Magento

Another issue we had was when we tried to send hash objects to Magento. If the key contains an underscore inside its name, then we had to contain that key inside two quotation marks.

wombat_magento-2

3. API Documentation Accuracy

Sometimes Magento’s API documentation isn’t correct. For example, when creating a product using the API, you need to specify the websites to which the product will be assigned. In the API documentation it mentions a parameter called websites of type ArrayOfString that is supposed to contain this information.

We weren’t successful sending this information using this approach, but after studying the API model files, we noticed that the parameter key should be website_ids and the content must be an array of arrays that contain the website id information.

wombat_magento3

wombat_magento4

wombat_magento5

Closing Notes

You can get the Magento extension on Magento Connect or Github. It pushes data (orders, customers, products, etc) to Wombat upon creates and updates. Data comes into Wombat nearly instantaneously, so this is a really fast way to get an integration in motion. At the moment, it doesn’t pull data back in from Wombat, although this is something we might add in the future. For bi-directional connections to the Magento API just use the official Wombat-Magento integration.

When developing the Magento integration for Wombat, we used Magento’s SOAP API rather than the newer RESTful API because it offers more endpoints, doesn’t require oAuth and is compatible with Magento back to version 1.3. Magento users can connect to Wombat straight from the Magento Marketplace.

25
Aug

Ecommerce Store Speed Stats

Just how important is it to make your online store fast? Consider the following:

  • Tests at Amazon revealed every 100 ms increase in load time of Amazon.com decreased sales by 1% (Kohavi and Longbotham)
  • Google discovered that a change from loading a 10-result page in 0.4 seconds to a 30-result page loading in 0.9 seconds decreased traffic and ad revenues by 20% (Linden).
  • 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less (KissMetrics).

How long does your site take to load? Check it out at the following tools:

If your ecommerce store is too slow, let us know and we’ll help you get it screaming!