by Rachel Stabler
Magento 1’s end-of-life is edging closer, so we’ve been speaking to eCommerce merchants who’ve been through the replatforming process to find out about their experiences, the options they chose and how replatforming away from Magento has changed their business.
We recently spoke to Amanda Evans, founder of childrenswear brand, Your Children’s Wardrobe. Amanda turned the brand into a strong, successful multi-channel retail business, and initially started with Magento before replatforming to Shopify.
An efficient and easy to manage multi-channel solution was essential for Amanda, as a bricks-and-mortar store was a key condition set by many of her premium, exclusive suppliers.
We spoke with Amanda about her eCommerce journey and her replatforming experience.
Tell us how your eCommerce journey started
“I went out there and spoke with various web design agencies about working with them to build an eCommerce store not really knowing that much about the various eCommerce platforms myself, and was very much influenced by the web agencies.
It became very clear that Magento at the time, for a small business like mine, was deemed to be quite high end in terms of its potential, but I wanted a software platform that would give me scalability and that was feature rich.
There were more cost effective options we talked about but they didn’t have all the features that I wanted and as a result, we were encouraged down the Magento route.
It was 2010 so it’s a long time ago now in the world of digital, things have changed an awful lot, but at the time that’s the reason we went with Magento.”
What was your experience of using Magento?
“So Magento was a big learning curve. I am technically competent and have worked in an IT business, but I found it slow and clunky to use. Loading products took an age, and I know there were bulk load tools you could, but everything took a long time and there was always a risk that it might not work.
I liked the end result at the front end – it looked exactly how I wanted – but the usability was very frustrating.”
What was your experience of using a developer with Magento?
“So we had an initial design and that was great, but if I wanted to change or improve anything, which is obviously hugely important with a moving eCommerce business (there’s always something new to try) everything was at a cost.
Further down the line, every move and change costed money, and with seasonal changes, over the years, if I added up all those extras, they were probably as much an expense as the initial build.
Then there were other things, like plugins for example – anything you wanted to do that involved a plugin, there was always a reluctance because there were risks around whether it would work, and if it didn’t, how many hours of a developer’s time is it going to take to fix it?
From a business point of view, the cost can be quite unpredictable and that can be hard to manage. You never knew quite what was around the corner.”
A lot of plugins are having to be re-developed for Magento 2, would you as a merchant have had concerns about that?
“Obviously, knowing what we know about software and development, generally there’s always a ‘bedding in’ period, and I know things are beta tested and so on, but there’s no better commendation than people who are using the kit.
I know Magento 2 is new and I’m sure they’ve done a lot of work in the background testing it, but at the point in late 2015 when I started looking at alternatives, Shopify kept coming to the forefront. Among the usability benefits and modular pricing, there’s also this army of people developing applications. Something which we’re all much more familiar with now using various devices and downloading apps.
These are all tried and tested before they’re allowed on Shopify’s app store and so it gives you that confidence that it’s already tried and tested and you’re not the one carrying the cost and risk, and it prompted me to look more and more.
I then saw the linkage to the store front – simple things like wanting to offer gift cards, which I would have really liked to have done in Magento but it would have been X amount for a plugin, and there was no certainty around how it would work.
They’re all simple things which you need to offer to look credible as an eCommerce business, but they were always in the “to do tomorrow” box because they were too expensive and not predictable costs.”
At the point where you were thinking of moving to Shopify – what was that process like and how did you find the whole experience?
"I invested a lot of time looking online, reading comparisons and case studies and I then looked at Northern-based Shopify Partners - agencies with Shopify design and build capabilities. You have to buy in the experience because that is what gives you the extra value, and not necessarily be swayed by the cheapest price.
I was suggested apps around loyalty and other functionality that I’d not thought of or found yet, and you only get that from an experienced team who know and understand eCommerce and Shopify. I wanted somebody who understood me and my business and where they could add value.
I absolutely think that moving from Magento to Shopify was the best thing that I ever did – I just wished I’d done it sooner.
6 months before I made the move, overnight my data for every single product we’d ever loaded disappeared and was never recovered. Admittedly, my mistake was not having a contingency plan, but I’d put my trust in the product I was using.
This wasn’t a concern with Shopify and the often tedious, time consuming, manual tasks I had experienced before became 5 minute jobs, which meant I could concentrate on communicating with customers more frequently and keep the website looking fresh.
Everything worked seamlessly because the agency I was working with knew what they were doing. I didn’t have to think about it – they were my conscience at that point.
It was a Damascus moment for me where I was thinking “why haven’t I had this sooner?”
The end product looked and felt everything that I wanted it to be and more, and the customer feedback was fantastic.”
What would your advice be to merchants now faced with the option to upgrade or replatform?
"I would say certainly don’t leave it to the last minute – there’ll be no resource out there or your preferred agency will be fully booked.
Do some research and talk to agencies – look at the credible partners and read case studies.
And lastly, don’t discount other options simply because they’re unknown to you. There are feature rich, scalable alternatives out there that may just be perfect for your business.”
From our great conversation with Amanda, it’s clear that assessing all of the options out there is key when it comes to embarking on a replatforming project.
Had Amanda not had the confidence to move away from what she knew, she may never have found Shopify and could still be stuck with an overly complex, bloated system.
Moving to Shopify opened up so many options for Amanda. It created time for her to spend on other areas of her business, and made the day to day running of her growing eCommerce brand so much easier.