Building an online retail business can be an absolute nightmare, writes Bradley Carr. The good news is that it can be done – even with Magento as your platform of choice.
Welcome to online retail, newcomers! E-Commerce is exciting, fast paced and loaded with potential. It’s also fraught with pitfalls. The largest of which has a name you might recognize: IT; otherwise known (in our office) as “why is this costing so much and taking so long?”
At this moment in your business development, you are probably debating how to choose between various platform options. Are you small enough for Shopify – a safe and secure choice – or are you big enough to require a platform with more horse power? Do you have your sights set on this year’s popular e-commerce solution, Magento?
Magento; an open-source platform with third-party extensions and development partners that are years away from truly understanding how the software really works. Sounds fun right?
If you decide to partner with Magento your first order of business will be to pay $15,000 Australian per year for the enterprise license. To get your site moving beyond what’s provided by the out-of-the-box features – in other words: to actually function as an online retailer – you will need to purchase third party extensions from the partners of your partner. Unfortunately, your partner Magento did not put the same due diligence into choosing its third-party extension partners as it did in choosing its customers. As a result, you will be left with extensions that shut down your site the moment they’re installed and themes that slow your site down to a crawl.
At this point, you are not making the money you were promised in online retail. Rather, you are trying to pay your way out of the IT pitfall.
You will seek out other ‘partners’ – desperate for someone to live up to the title – and at first they seem to fit the bill. Sympathetic, they will commiserate over your IT issues and explain that your old ‘partners’ were as useless as they are capable. Relieved, you will hand over the keys to the Falcon only to realise that it has happened again. Your IT problems are still lurking, just waiting for you to try and conduct business with your online retail site. Reparation eludes you. No one is accountable. Everyone is looking beyond you to the next contender in the online retail revolution.
Bleak, isn’t it? And that’s just your e-commerce solution. Have you chosen a hosting ‘partner’ yet? You can look forward to different opinions, contrary advice, widely varying rates and un-kept promises. At this point your head should be spinning.
Where do you look for answers? When will Magento step up and stand with its customers? At $15,000 a year haven’t you bought the right to say “Please explain why these IT companies aren’t forced to be accountable for their costs and services?”
The truth is the only way Magento, with all its extension add-ons, hosting companies and web developers, will care enough to earn the title ‘partner’ is if you push back and say: “No, we will not pay $250 an hour for your best guess at what you ‘think’ the problem might be.” After all, you wouldn’t pay your mechanic if he couldn’t fix your car, would you?
As you consider this, you’ll be relieved to know this story has a happy ending.
We finally managed to crawl out of the IT pitfall, but only after we rolled up our sleeves and rebuilt the store ourselves, with our own staff who actually care about the longevity of our platform and doing things the right way the first time. I can assure you that there is no IT platform out there that is happy sailing from day one and I want this article to give people the reassurance that they are not the only ones out there hitting their heads against the technology brick wall.
Be it Magento or another platform, these are the challenges that come with technology and business, but in the end are overcome by real people and the level of passion they put in.