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What is Magento?

Magento is a popular ecommerce system that brings a unique combination of power and ease-of-use. Do you want to sell downloadable products? T-shirts from a drop-shipper? Your own hand-made creations? Magento will work for you.

Magento is one of the most popular standalone ecommerce platforms available. It isn’t hard to see why, either. The company is owned by Ebay, which is one of the internet’s largest retailers. The software is available in an Open Source Community Edition, and in a premium Enterprise version.

Key Magento Community Edition Features

The Open Source version of Magento is a complete ecommerce platform, not a freeware preview edition. If you are willing and able to take the time to set up and configure the software, there is very little you can’t do with the Community Edition.

The following list highlights the most important features shared in both versions.

Marketing and Promotionals

  • Display related items on product pages
  • Upsell offers and cross promotionals
  • Highly customizable coupons and special pricing rules
  • Tiered pricing and volume discounts
  • Category Landing Pages
  • Packaged products and bundling
  • Display Recently Viewed items to customers
  • New item promotionals
  • Multiple shipping options, including support for free shipping
  • Polls and Surveys
  • Email newsletters
  • Wish lists and send-to-friend functions

Search Engine Optimization

  • XML Site Map
  • Pretty URLs, with full control over URL settings
  • HTML Meta-data for products, categories and content pages
  • Popular search terms page
  • Google Content API

Site Management

  • Manage multiple sites from one administration login
  • User types with customizable permissions
  • Full customizable theming and templating engine
  • Internationalization and localization built-in, including currency support.
  • Web Services API for third-party integrations
  • Batch import and export of all data (product, orders, customers, etc.)
  • Built-in CMS (Content Management System) for pages, blog posts, announcements, landing pages, and other content.
  • Tax calculation, based on multiple areas and customer types
  • Anti-spam measures such as CAPTCHA

Catalog Management

  • Easy to configure product groups and variations
  • Variable pricing for different customer groups (retail vs. wholesale; members vs. visitors, etc.)
  • Digital/downloadable products and sample excerpts
  • Unlimited product attributes
  • Group custom attribute fields into attribute sets for quickly creating similar products within a class of items
  • Complete inventory management tools, with RSS alerts
  • Batch updates to product groups
  • Automated product image resizing and watermarking
  • Specialized pricing rules with multiple options and conditionals
  • Search term rewrites and result-page redirects
  • Crowd-sourced tags and reviews, with full moderation capability
  • Support for personalized products (embroidering, monogramming, photo printing, etc). Multiple configurable options for customer input.

Catalog Browsing

  • Multi-layered navigation with search results and product categories
  • Filter and sort by price or price range
  • Compare Products
  • Catalog search, with auto-suggest
  • Breadcrumb navigation
  • Category and product specific page designs and templates

Product Display

  • Multiple images for a product
  • Image zoom
  • Availability (inventory)
  • Tiered pricing upsell
  • Product options
  • Grouped products
  • Wish list
  • Send to a friend
  • Share to social media

Checkout, Payment and Shipping

  • Single page checkout
  • Checkout as guest or with account
  • Ship to multiple addresses in a single order
  • SSL / HTTPS support for orders
  • Saved shopping carts
  • Gift messages (per order, per product)
  • Shipping and tax estimates
  • Invoice billing
  • Integration with multiple payment gateways, including PayPal and Authorize.net
  • Accept checks, money orders, and POs.
  • “Bill Me Later” option
  • Flat rate and free shipping
  • Shipping rates calculated by weight, volume, and number of items
  • Order tracking

Order Management

  • View, edit, create and fill orders from backend
  • Multiple invoices per order
  • Shipping integration and label printing, with real-time rates from UPS, USPS, FedEx, and DHL
  • Call-center order-taking interface and assisted shopping
  • Custom Order Statuses
  • Order duplication and re-ordering
  • New order notifications via email or RSS

Customer Accounts

  • Unlimited Ship-to and Bill-to addresses, with default selection
  • Wish list with commenting
  • Tracking
  • Order status and history
  • Reordering
  • Email subscription management
  • Product reviews and tagging history
  • Access to downloadable products

Customer Service

  • Contact form
  • Create and edit orders as admin
  • Order tracking from account
  • Password reset from admin or front-end
  • Automated emails for account and order activity

Analytics and Reporting

  • Easy integration with Google Analytics
  • Admin reports dashboard
  • Detailed reporting on virtually every facet of the store, including sales, tax, cart abandonment, most viewed, top performing products, search terms, review activity, inventory, coupon use, refunds, revenue, and invoicing.

Magento Enterprise Edition

There are two reasons not to use the Community Edition and pay for the premium version instead. The first reason is the high level of support and general ease of use as compared with the DIY nature of the Open Source version. The second reason is that you need access to one or more features only available in the Enterprise Edition. The following list highlights the most important of the features only available to Enterprise customers.

Customer Segmentation, Targeted Promotions & Merchandising — This suite of features allows you to group customers based on shopping behavior, demographics, or other factors, and target promotional offers and other communication by segment.

Dynamic Rule Based Product Relations — The Community Edition provides product-based upsell features. The Enterprise Edition expands this to allow customer and shopping cart attributes to be included in product relationship rules.

Persistent Shopping — A long-term cookie maintains shopping experience across multiple sessions without the customer needing to log in each time.

Automated Email Marketing Reminder — Send automated emails to customers with abandoned carts.

Private Sales — Limited-access products or deals, restricted to certain customers or customer groups.

Page Caching — Pages that don’t need to be dynamically responsive to customer activity can be cached, which speeds up loading time and improves overall site performance.

PA-DSS Certified Payment Processing — Magento offers their own payment gateway, which is fully integrated with the store software.

Gifting Options — Physical & virtual gift cards,  gift registry,  and gift-wrapping options at checkout.

Other Enterprise Edition Features:

  • Rewards Points / Customer Loyalty Programs
  • Store Credit
  • Multiple Wish Lists
  • Return Management
  • Enhanced CMS features
  • Scheduled data import and export
  • Backup and Rollback
  • Staging and Development Environments with sync and roll-back features
  • Administrator Activity Logging
  • Improved Search

Magento Hosting Requirements

Many hosting providers have one-click installation wizards for the Community Edition of Magento. If that’s available, it’s nearly certain all the requirements are met. If you are going to install Magento yourself (either the Community or Enterprise Edition), make sure your host supports the following requirements:

  • Linux x86-64
  • Apache 2.x or Nginx 1.7.x
  • MySQL 5.6 +
  • PHP 5.4 +

Depending on your payment gateway choice, you will probably need to support HTTPS. In this case you will need a hosting plan that supports an SSL certificate. At the minimum, this will require a dedicated IP address. Given the complexities and performance needs of a large ecommerce site, you are probably better off using a VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting plan, rather than a shared hosting account.

Magento Frequently Asked Questions

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