My Strategy for Magento in 2018

Posted by: Karen Thursday, December 14th, 2017

Been an interesting year. I posted a blog back in January which I fully realise was explosive, dividing and created some disgruntlement. Mostly it created conversation, and I believe it also resulted in some action from Magento and from the community itself, whether this was counter blogs, changes to ways of working, a deeper appreciation of where we were or a reflection on where we weren’t.

So here I am again. I’m not going to be negative, look I like to cut to the meat of an issue, because quite frankly I don’t have time for noise. But I’m kind of seeing how I would run Magento and I thought I’d share my vision because hey what the hell, maybe it will make people think. You may disagree with me, you may think I’m arrogant to write such a post, and you know what you are fully entitled to that opinion. But at least I’m making my voice heard, I’m working damn hard for what I believe in.

What is Magento?

Lets just reflect first on what Magento is to us. I’ve had various conversations with people who have either left the Magento space or are now going multi-platform and its fair to say many of us find that hard but in some cases necessary. Magento was a platform that struck to the heart of who you were, I have no idea why this happened, how this happened, but it did. The Magento ecosystem isn’t just about software, its not just about people, its about all and everything in between. In the 9 years I’ve been in this space I’ve seen people thrive, people go bust, babies being born, people being diagnosed with serious illnesses, depression, divorce, laughter, success and every single gambit that life can throw. Its a true true ecosystem & community, warts and all.

My view, and maybe this is wrong, is that Magento is built on the shoulders of quite ordinary people doing quite extraordinary things.  We were actively encouraged by the Magento Management team to step outside our comfort zone, to share our stories, to embrace each other both socially and from a business perspective. We were told to climb a mountain by Jamie (and others), to think bigger, innovate, believe in the impossible.

What also happened was that there was massive opportunity. I see this now being replicated on the Shopify platform and its extremely powerful. I recall back in 2011 being at the X.Commerce event with the guys from Classy Llama. I couldn’t believe these men in their early/mid 20’s were building such a powerful company. The likes of Ben Marks at Blue Acorn, this voice that people listened to and respected. Their eagerness and enthusiasm – as a miserable brit it struck a big chord with me! The impossible was possible. In my mind WebShopApps is a primary example of making that happen, a mum of 2 kids went in and created what was one of the largest and most respected extension companies in the ecosystem. How many spaces can you do that in?!

That is our history. That is what drives many in this community. Not all, but many.

Whats happened this Year?

Well overall I’d say its been a good year for Magento. They are stating that 22K live sites, I feel its a little lower in terms of actual functioning merchants, but hey Shopify are good at the figure manipulation too. Magento has embraced the community more, and I think a big part of making that happen was the work of Ben Marks and Sherrie Rhode, those 2 are absolute diamonds in this space, and it goes beyond just being sociable, there is real intelligence there.

So what else, well the github contributions have been great, its clear a lot of the bugs are getting fixed, people are enhancing this system.

Then we saw the announcement around PWA, and really I sense a move to a new architecture on the frontend coming here. Its much needed, I think there is much debate about how far Magento should go, and I for one would like to see this sooner rather than later as we have work to do and need a stable platform to do it on where we arent having to keep throwing stuff away (but I realise we can mitigate that and we are).

I think BigCommerce and Shopify, and to a lesser degree WooCommerce are eating into the pie, but I get that Magento really was an unprofitable organisation in many ways before so having a smaller piece of a profitable pie is a good thing.

The area of struggle I think has been in the agency and tech partner side from perspective of getting staff skilled up given the level of complexity of Magento, and dealing with the high costs of development, from everything I’ve seen I cannot see how anyone can say Magento 2 is easy, its not and if you don’t believe me come spend a week with my Magento 2 developers. There is a lot of technology going on, a lot of custom stuff you have to get your head around and although the docs are good I think we need more in the way of working examples and more simplification and abstraction just to remove some of the unnecessary noise in the system. For most agencies they want a way to get Magento to market fast, they don’t want to have to understand every nut and bolt in order to start the engine and run the car.

My Vision

I think there are a few things that need refinement, and if Magento did them we would see a return to the real Magento that I remember (no pun/exclusivity intended) and a platform that really arms itself in the right way. I don’t want a Volusion or a DemandWare, do you?

I personally think some things could be done better. This is what I would tackle:

  1. The Marketplace still needs some work. The process for getting on there is over-complicated, but worse its got extremely poor support for companies doing continuous delivery. I think the rules should be simplified, encourage innovation, get the new Fooman’s of this world excited by it. You can still enforce quality (and tbh right now I don’t think you are) but you don’t have to do that with programs, technology, science, its about simplicity and common sense
  2. Engage with your partners on a deeper level. If you go look at what Shopify are doing at Unite (and outside), and BigCommerce with their business summits they are actively engaging not just with merchants but at a true business level with their partners. They understand the need for a full and wholesome partner community. Stop just listening on Stack Overflow and get your Partnership and Biz Dev teams getting out there and doing more than just pushing sales. Become true partners, talk to us, don’t just give us a badge and then ignore us to the point where we feel the need to write a blog to air our opinion
  3. Listen at a business level to the feedback and look at the architecture closely to see how best to move this platform forwards fast. Engage your strategy team and stop thinking about 4 years ahead, get to the reality of here & now and whats required because next January you will have a lot of M1 clients taking a good look at where they go next, you want them on M2, but they have plenty of options and the cloud is looking a lot easier for them right now in many cases
  4. As I’ve made very clear I’m not a fan of exclusivity. I am a fan of opportunity and inclusion of all, that has been an ethos that has run the length of my career. Magento in my mind is a PLATFORM for others to build and expand on. Your remit is not the same as Shopify or BigCommerce. You have started from a different place. I would equate it to some of the arguments around net neutrality going on right now. If you are saying that the opportunity is no longer there for extension developers (or it is but it costs massive bucks), and worse saying that for Technology Partners that the platform may compete against your offering – well expect some serious fallout from that. Because those developers aren’t going to fully embrace that platform, why would they? You, Magento inc, need all the ecosystem in order to fully succeed. No-one is ever saying that you can’t have levels of partnership or special relationships, but in my mind you should be offering choice to your merchants and making sure you are getting a piece of the pie wherever they are going (which would I believe actually bring you in more revenue than your current cigar club approach). Magento is currently following an approach which is exclusive and goes against what makes Magento so great. Leave the holes, we want to fill them, leave the opportunity, we want to grab it. This does not reduce your ability to succeed, as Craig Hayman quite clearly stated in 2015:

“Open source wins every day. Every time”

 

 

 

Nailing Migration To New Software

Posted by: Karen Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

This post is really about the lessons we learned (and are still learning) as a company about the art of nailing migration from one software product to another. As many of you know we made the big decision a few years back to move to the ShipperHQ platform for our paid offering, away from the highly successful WebShopApps brand. This tells our story in the hope that it helps some of you, including merchants, agencies, platforms and technology parters.

So Why Move?

It’s often easier to stay with what you know, the formula that works. I read some years ago an article about this which said you have a couple of choices in software, you can ‘make hay whilst the sun shines’ or you can re-invent yourself, and to that you have to be prepared to throw away what you have today. For us at WebShopApps I can honestly say our company was something that evolved, we learned from our customers, we produced new extensions, more extensions, more complexity. And it became clear that we needed something bigger, our dreams and aspirations for the product could not be fulfilled by continually going down the pure extension route. We also saw lots of problems with the Magento marketplace, rampant copying, and it was very hard to forecast and grow revenue, we couldn’t give our customers the service they demanded in many cases as we found it hard to differentiate their needs on this ‘buy first, get support later’ model.

For us we also saw that our reliance on Magento was a danger, we needed to go cross-platform, it was necessary for our survival. We wanted to be able to follow our customers wherever they went.

Setting up for Migration

This has been very hard. Its knowing where customers are going, not just where we are going. Are they moving to Magento 2, to Shopify, BigCommerce? Then what features do they use, how is it configured. Shipping rating is not always easy to setup and its all in their database, we have to define processes for making this migration easy. Its taken us some time to get this right, I think we are still learning, there are always improvements, and sometimes unfortunately we have to say no to edge cases, you have to consider the whole because ultimately keeping the company going for the masses is what you need to do. Customisations can be the death of a technology company, so as much as we have complexity we have learned the art of just easing back on accepting these.

Putting the Business Case

So incredibly important. You can see with Magento that when people are looking at Magento 2 they are also evaluating other software. Your software needs to do something that improves things for the merchant. If its not then well you are in trouble. With ShipperHQ we have our whole interface in one place, we have advanced the technology so its way ahead of what WebShopApps ever did, and we offer a comprehensive support service with staff in the US ready to answer queries. You have to get this right, the support is needed of our agency partners (direct through slack in many cases), the merchants, and we need good communications with our logistics providers (i.e. having a direct line for UPS/FedEx/DHL queries helps).  Its also about being that centralised expert, the knowledge that is so necessary for this society today, people want accurate answers fast, they don’t want to be having to spend hours working things out themselves, especially around shipping rating which can really make or break a business.

Managing Migration of Many Customers

A tough one, we have been careful around our marketing to ensure we have had our processes right before we go sell. We still are trying to manage this, we know that if 30K+ customers come in at once this is a problem for us to be able to provide support. Whats important here is to test and be ready, don’t pull that trigger too soon else you may get a kick back.  The way we tackled this was probably around the wrong way to most, we initially dealt with the very hard Magento 1 enterprise customers that couldnt use WebShopApps, then we made sure the platform was ready for mass usage by focusing our efforts on other platform integrations with Shopify/BigCommerce. Luckily with the delayed move to Magento 2 we have had some breathing space and the last 6 months we have been managing the switch over of customers here, I expect it to ramp much more in the new year.

So How does a Customer Cope?

So what if you are a merchant and you are looking at migrating to new software?  Well evaluate carefully and I would suggest you look not just at the product but also the company underneath. Do you trust them, whats their support like, do you need someone that can get on the phone, etc.  If you arent sure make a checklist and have a chat to each company. This is your business, these decisions affect you. In terms of costings you have to really be aware of the quality side, its not always the cheapest that works out best in the long run, be very careful of cheap extensions that then have hourly based support attached as you can end up spending a fortune either with your own developers or with them and still not have a solution that works.  Taking advantage of free trials helps mitigate this.

When to Migrate?

Well not now just before Black Friday :). Plan well, find a time when you have time, or get the company to work out a plan with you. At ShipperHQ we are very conscious of the lack of time many merchants have and are able to assist with a full migration if necessary, we throw in upto 4 hours migration for free on WebShopApps customers, in many cases thats enough to get the job done.

 

In conclusion migration is definitely disruptive but it can be made much easier by the software providers of today. Its necessary, we all have to move forwards, you just have to think about the best way to do it and ensure you make it as painless as possible!

 

Upgrading your Ecommerce platform? We’ve got your shipping covered.

Posted by: Alana Twelmeyer Friday, June 23rd, 2017

Whether you’re upgrading to Magento 2 or considering a move to another platform moving shop is a big job! Making sure you can keep offering the shipping options your customers love is a critical part of that move. Let us help!

You’ve been getting a great value from WebshopApps extensions for a while, but with a platform upgrade on the horizon, consider giving your shipping strategy a boost. Upgrading to ShipperHQ gives you maximum flexibility allowing you to offer the kinds of shipping options your customers are demanding.

Introducing ShipperHQ from WebshopApps.

We’ve taken all the powerful features available from each WebshopApps shipping extension, added more flexibility, broader carrier integrations, and leading-edge advanced features you can control from one place. Plus, as long as you have an active ShipperHQ account you’ll automatically have access to the latest features and never have to worry about putting a patch in place when a carrier updates their API. Easy Peasy.

ShipperHQ is the most sophisticated rate calculation and manipulation engine in the world today and it integrates seamlessly with Magento 1 and 2! Upgrading? No problem. ShipperHQ will preserve your critical shipping settings no matter which version of Magento you use. One less headache to worry about with the upgrade process.

See what you can do with ShipperHQ


Learn More!

Get Live Rates from 30+ Carriers


And More!

Still Not Sure If You’re Ready for ShipperHQ?

We are so confident you will love ShipperHQ’s improved features when you migrate to ShipperHQ from any WebShopApps extension and we give free migration support and a free phone consultation with our shipping experts in the UK/US.

We want you to be getting the most out of your shipping rates strategy and are committed to helping you get set up stress free.

The team at ShipperHQ is ready to offer you some impeccable customer service. We can’t wait to see you get creative with all this new tool will offer you.

Contact sales@shipperhq.com today to set up an appointment for your free migration and consultation.

 

See what our customers are saying about ShipperHQ

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What Magento Should spend some of that 250M on

Posted by: Karen Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Its 2017.

Magento 2 lets face it for many of us (probably all) has been a bit of a nightmare.  Yes there are some great things in it, its good to move onto new technologies. But oh my lord the complexity.  And the bugs (you kind of need to have been there to really appreciate this one). And the need to learn umpteen things, a lot of which are very very specific to Magento, i.e. non-transferrable.

In the last 12-18 months I’ve seen several serious size agencies get ‘burned’ by Magento. Merchants have been through a lot of pain in this transition to M2, those that have left it longer have in many cases made the right decision. And the fact remains that Magento 2 is still full of bugs, in parts totally confusing to even people like Alan Storm (where is the hope for the rest of us!), and remains a ‘work in progress’.  So my suggestion #1 to Magento is get more staff focused on fixing these bugs.  Because you sending me blogs about your ‘ideas for the future’ kind of is a bit annoying when I’m dealing with the fallout from your ‘ideas from the past’.  There is a lack of execution that needs resolution. Before you expand to Asia preferably.

I’m not sure Magento really understands how much their actions can affect companies.  Let me tell you this.  But for going cross-platform & diversifying our product range into ShipperHQ we would have had to lay off staff.  After working on Magento for 8 years 2016 was the worst year for WebShopApps on this platform, zero growth, big decline in M1 sales not matched by a rise in M2 takeup.  Looking at Alexa & from what I’ve heard this has been a similar story for other extension agencies.  We knew this was going to happen. I’m pleased we did diversify onto other platforms because basically it saved our bacon.  I’ve also heard agencies tell me similar stories, at best many have just flatlined in 2016 after years of high growth. Maybe coincidental, I don’t think so.

The effect on AheadWorks

Re the technical side of Magento there are mixed reviews. Some say its great, others hard work. Some say project times are shorter, I’ve never seen a project of any complexity that has come in faster than M1.  The learning curve is extremely steep, steeper than M1 in many ways, and although I’m being told that new PHP devs find it easier than existing Magento devs (which frankly I find a little insulting as it implies we have got stuck in our ways which Im 100% sure I’ve not), the reality is that projects are costing more, over-running and fraught with bugs. Thats a fact. So my suggestion #2 to Magento is that they need to simplify this architecture, make some serious decisions around the frontend part (as architecturally seems flawed at best to me & my colleagues).

If Magento inc want to really understand it then go write a serious extn. Not some boilerplate little piece of code. Go get a new Mac and create an environment (good luck with that) and create an extn that does something that affects the db, the view, the business logic. I’ll see you in a while. I truly think Magento forgot to think about how we would use this platform.  And for those of you developers ‘evangalising’ about how great it is – maybe it is great when its your hobby and you aren’t seriously working on it or your merchant is willing to spend a ton of money effectively training you. Go write an extn for it and try to make money from that investment of effort.  Not so easy.  The upfront training costs of staff & retooling in Magento 2 are frankly massive. Some we can take on the chin, this is technology. Some of this is ridiculous, especially the instability and complexity. Plus when Magento is unstable clients think bugs are with us, and that affects our reputation. I’m not responsible for fixing Magento, sorry I don’t have the resources to. They do.

#3 is to invest further in training content. Great strides are being made here both with docs and access to training materials. The video training is still slow IMO, they could do with taking a look at PluralSight which I believe runs the videos at a good speed to retain interest levels whilst still being able to follow.

#4 is the Marketplace. Can’t even discuss that one for fear of breaking terms of agreement (read getting utterly frustrated by many aspects of it).

My biggest single gripe with Magento is this tho.  There is a clear separation in what its telling the community and its actions.  And I’m afraid I’m no longer on board with promoting this platform in terms of community spirit. They speak of ‘We Are Magento’ and I personally love the work of people like Sherrie and Ben. But I’m concerned that they are using this community when underneath what is happening is deals are being made that shut out the very community that helped build Magento to where it is today (not last year, today). Magento have the proof – the Forrester Report stated that what made Magento was its community.  Well this community actually needs money in order to survive, if you shut that tap off then there is no community.  I think that is being forgotten, because releasing a ‘platform in progress’ really really hurt many of us. Yet you are asking me to help fix it. And making deals to white label solutions and/or building partnerships which exclude the rest of us by putting software in the core and making that your main promotion – well I can’t support that, its in conflict of your message of ‘We Are Magento’. IMO We are Magento whilst it suits Magento and then its thanks very much I’m now Magento you can sod off.  Well I walk away from that principle, morally, for my staff, my company and my clients both agencies and merchants. Do not play with us. Work with us and appreciate us, then we will appreciate & invest in you.  I respect many individuals in the company of Magento. I will no longer play along with your game.

So suggestion #5 is  make your actions speak louder than your words. Because I’ve lost trust. And thats why we have refused to become a Select Partner with Magento in 2017 after many years of Gold/Platinum Partnership. We are making our future now, outside the moving unknown foundation which is Magento. Its a shame, we had Magento in our blood, now its one of many platforms for us. Maybe we are getting older, I prefer to say we are growing up.

My philosophy in life is never ever forget where you came from or what made you what you are. I’ll never pretend to be something I’m not, and I’ll always stand up for the small guy. I hope you do too.

 

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Come see us over at ShipperHQ. Highly successful product that is making waves in the shipping technology space with its very unique offering.  We have all your shipping rating & checkout needs covered, and no we don’t print labels (you need ShipStation for that one). We also have the most advanced shipping extension for Magento 2 on the market today, complete with support for over 30 carriers, Store Pickup and Delivery Date with Calendar logic built in.

Magento Inc – Time to Trust

Posted by: Karen Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

It’s been a long wait.  But finally at Magento Imagine 2016 I felt like these guys actually ‘get it’. They understand what’s going on, the team at Magento Inc aren’t just hot air, they are real and they want US to succeed.  Because they know our success enables their success.

Hallelujah.

So What Happened?

Well others will give the lowdown on the announcement side, there are a great many recaps so I won’t go into details. The most significant announcements I saw were around the new cloud offering, firstly aimed at Enterprise, but with a promise of a cloud offering for the SME merchant coming later this year.  We aren’t talking SAAS here, this is not an attempt to take on Shopify, this is a solution where Magento will provide a turnkey PAAS offering to merchants to enable them to concentrate less on devops, less on infrastructure and have a reliable, scalable eCommerce platform where the merchant stays in control.  This can only be good news.

Paul Boisvert 5K runThe big shift though was in the Magento Inc appreciation of what this ecosystem does, and the realisation on their side that together we are massively stronger, they need to engage us all, the merchants, the designers, the SIs, the technology partners, etc. Because as a unit we rock this space.  I saw a humility in the likes of Mark Lavelle, an appreciation and an understanding that its been a rocky road under the eBay ownership, that this platform has been successful because of this ecosystem, and because of the passion that the many thousands of us have for both the community and the technology.

This is to be celebrated.

So let’s address some of the questions I’ve raised previously, and understand what it means for you, for me, for us.

Is Magento moving to Enterprise?

Magento has always had enterprise reach, and thats not changing.  Yes, there are going to be tiers, and I’d expect greater distinction between Enterprise and Community editions. For instance the ability to have live/staging capabilities so you can test features before rolling live is an Enterprise feature. The new Order Management System at present seems like an Enterprise solution.  So if you are a merchant with money to spend then you will see Enterprise really is where you need to be, its going to provide you with flexibility/extensibility and with greater in-built features than before.Enterprise Cloud

But I sense Magento understand that they need to keep the CE version and the CE ecosystem, because this provides the lifeblood for many of us, and nurtures the next generation of Enterprise merchants.  From the conversations I’ve had I believe they see that simplification of the platform for CE merchants is required, in order to reduce total cost of ownership, with the ability if/when you need to look below the hood and get the advanced capabilities as and when you need them. I’d expect in the coming months to see a big effort in this space on Magento 2.

Is this Ecosystem alive and well?

At the start of the conference there definitely was a bit of talk of things ‘drying up’.  Hesitancy.  But as the conference went on it was extremely clear this ecosystem is 110% alive, kicking and flourishing. On the ShipperHQ stand we had 3 staff, and at times we had a queue of people waiting to talk. Now maybe its because I have a great product and a great team but thats also an indicator to me that SIs and merchants want to engage with Magento.  I had by far the busiest time at Imagine ever (and this is my 6th one). Literally even at 3 in the morning pretty drunk hanging out at a bar I’d have magento developers coming up and talking shop, it was crazy crazy.  By Wednesday my brain was totally done with all the back-2-back meetings, the discussions, the massive input of information.

Yes its alive.

Whats the uptake on Magento 2?

As of Imagine there were around 800 live sites on Magento 2. So its moving. Could it be moving faster? Yes, but its moving.  We at WebShopApps/ShipperHQ saw a spike in interest in March, it seems people are starting to say yep let’s do this, we trust whats happening here, and Imagine will only help solidify this, Magento did a good job in their breakout sessions of covering Magento 2 from both a business and a technical angle.

StagingI think also as technology partners look at Magento 2 now they see the opportunity, they see reasons to get on the platform, much more so than a few months back. I’d expect to see more extensions, more buzz and more innovative capabilities appearing soon on the new MarketPlace.

Is the MarketPlace Flushed out?

The new Marketplace was launched at Imagine.  Its definitely still in it’s infancy.  I’m part of this Marketplace Council which get’s together to talk about how to improve the Marketplace and make it a great place for merchants/SI’s to find and buy extensions.  There are still some teething problems, but as I sat around the table with maybe 20 people in the room (half of them Magento) what I felt for the first time ever was that someone was really really listening, that they actually cared about getting this right. And it was more than money, it was an understanding that this affected us all, including merchants, when they got it wrong.Mark Brinton

In the days since those meetings I’ve had follow up discussions with Magento, from my side I’m going to keep pushing to keep that quality bar high, and to ensure that from a business perspective the next generation of developer is given the opportunity I luckily had to get in the Magento ecosystem and make their mark. What interested me most in our discussions was when Mark Lenhard pointed out ‘We don’t want a cigar club for the boys’.  For Magento to say this was significant.  He get’s it.  This marketplace always will have the big players, those that throw millions into marketing, the crazy companies reaching for the skies. But I feel like Magento will also support and nurture the players that add tremendous value, even if its just with 1 extension. And thats what we need.

I still feel like there is room for improvement with the marketplace, it needs to be financially viable, and I worry that some of the contracts really do not allow room for a developer/company to expand and keep adding value, its important that the prices rise in some instances, a race to the bottom will help no-one and personally I think providing quality extensions with real support is more important than having hundreds of rock-bottom low quality, low support extns that merchants struggle with.  But give choice, thats what we need to do.

Is Magento 2 going to excite the next gen of Merchants?

Kalen - This is the futureThe announcements at Imagine were exciting. You saw a platform that seems to have room to grow, to mature, to innovate, to trailblaze.  I think when you unwrap the layers there is work to be done, but I also think that this is a platform that has the basis to be a great choice for merchants in the future. You do not see the flexibility like it. We know from our own experience that Magento beats other platforms hands-down in the shipping capabilities it offers when teamed with ShipperHQ, we have customers and other platforms shocked when we show them what we are able to achieve. That’s Magento’s power.

But as with all things there are costs, Magento not always a plug-play and I know many of us would like to make it easier for merchants. This is a work in progress. But ‘We are Magento’, as long as magento is enabling us the ecosystem then we can help here. That’s also Magento’s power, and its extremely significant.

Should I move to Magento 2 or be looking at other platforms?

I speak to merchants daily, and this is a very common question I’m hearing from Magento 1.x clients. Magento 2 is a re-platform, Magento in many ways are starting again. But they are doing this in the knowledge of a great ecosystem, that if they engage will help make the jump from 1.x to 2.x so much simpler. Tools are already appearing, indeed WebShopApps is offering free migration services to all 1.x customers moving to ShipperHQ, Taxjar(great recap btw) is putting in free enhanced tax support as part of their Premier Partner deal, and I’d expect agencies to be offering good packages to customers to get them across.

1.x support is going to decline. Thats a fact. We are already recommending people move across to ShipperHQ as thats where we are building and innovating now. Tech Partners are not going to be investing in innovating on 1.x.  But support will remain in place for sometime and for instance with us we are supporting both 1.x and 2.x fully on ShipperHQ so when you do move to 2.x the shipping side will be as simple as putting in a new extension – no re-configuration, just load it up and get on 2.x.  With the move to 2.x you will see everything shift up a gear. That’s my feeling.Cloud Offering

Not all merchants want to be trailblazers. Some do, good luck to them.  Some want to have a stable business, keep their costs as low as they can, and be on the best platform for them.  So they are facing decisions.  Shopify and BigCommerce have enterprise offerings now, really aimed at the 1-20M revenue client. Should merchants consider?  Well I’d say obviously you need to look at your options. I cannot dictate what you should do.  For some merchants being on a pure SAAS play is simpler, you can reduce your costs greatly, but of course there is a price to pay in terms of reduced flexibility/extensibility.

You, the merchant have to consider your business and your needs.  If you were excited by Magento in ShipperHQ Party2008-2010 I suspect that right now you may be wondering where the excitement is in Magento 2.  But in a year from now I strongly suspect you will see it.  Remember Magento 1.x had it’s problems, people found it hard, there were architectural issues, extension conflicts galore and upgrade after upgrade.  But it smoothed out, and Magento 2 will do the same.

So I can’t advise, you have to decide. If you are unsure then make your evaluations and if necessary sit tight for a bit and see how this one pans out. Personally I’m pretty excited for the eCommerce space in general, I’m seeing massive collaboration of technology partners like never before, and a real opportunity now to give merchants seriously powerful technologies that are cohesive. Magento is helping to enable this, they are providing more of the glue where required, but also sitting back and collaborating where appropriate. If they keep their humility, the openness and their honesty I believe we have a pretty smart team there that can give merchants the next generation of Commerce.  That’s an exciting prospect.

Time to be Humble Myself

The EcosystemLastly, I want to think Magento for listening. I’m often their harshest critic. I work with so many merchants and SI’s I see the pain when things are wrong and I get frustrated because this seems pretty simple to me to work out. I realise its not as simple as that, but I appreciate Magento for tackling the key problems, for their recognition of this space and their understanding of the impact of their decisions.  Back in 2011/2012 I felt like we as a community were almost tossed aside during the sale to eBay, I felt we were pawns in a transaction, people didn’t seem to care about the investment we had all made. This has changed.  And if Magento can keep caring, keep listening and keep innovating for all this ecosystem from large to small I think we have a good future ahead of us.

This isn’t 2008, its not 2012, its not eBay, it’s time to trust. I’m in.

Magento – Down to Business at Imagine

Posted by: Karen Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

Magento Imagine.  It’s basically a party, let’s be honest!  But this year it’s different.  It’s a new company, a new product, and the stakes are higher. People are worried.  Magento 2 needs a big kick up the a**e, we need some great announcements.

The ecosystem is changing, whether we like it or not.  Years ago osCommerce ruled the earth, now people laugh at it.  Many say that Magento needed to reinvent itself. The trouble with Magento 2 was that SO much pressure was put on it, and so early on.  I first thought of putting my extensions in support & maintanance back in 2012, such was the anticipation. Yoav talked about Magento 2 being in the works in Autumn of 2010 at the Developer Paradise.  We all wanted it. Badly.

We also want eBay away. They weren’t really helping us, we were getting lost in this eBay Enterprise machine and sorely neglected. Being sold off was a good thing, Magento had some much needed oxygen pumped into it. This is how we saw it.

And now we wait for answers.

  • What is the ecosystem?
  • How will new merchants be encouraged to use Magento?
  • Are we going after Demandware?
  • Is the SME merchant lost to the likes of Shopify and Bigcommerce?  Do Magento care?
  • Whats the uptake on Magento 2?
  • Just what are platinum partners and how do they affect us?
  • Is Magento 2 going to excite the next gen of merchants?
  • Just how many extensions will we be able to sell?
  • Is the marketplace flushed out, or still a dream?
  • Who is responsible for marketing at Magento?
  • etc etc

But mainly there is one question.  Does Magento (Inc) truly get this community, truly truly understand the value they bring, but not only value it but appreciate it beyond a badge of a Magento Master?  Thats my question.

Because a great community and great partnerships work together in order to benefit the whole. Thats what we need to be doing.  What we don’t want to be doing is having a layer of people that really are holding up Magento the platform, and the space, then another layer on top of that which say ‘thank you very much we will just cream off your hard work and contribute zero back’.

I’ve ‘grown up’ with many many CEOs of agencies, people that have turned businesses from 2 people into 100+ companies, I’ve seen small merchants become very large merchants, I’ve seen offline companies become highly successful online companies.  I’ve also seen small merchants stay small merchants, and stay happy with that, and want to continue on Magento. Some of those small merchants are now confused.  As are some of those small agencies.

And all along the way I’ve tried to look out and say let’s help each other, lets push each other along because thats what we should do. Because thats the right way. Forget about money, this isn’t about money, its about enabling success, its about being part of a community that nurtures each other. Yes we have our tiffs, all communities do, thats part of being a family.

Less than a week to Imagine. I sincerely hope the hyped up companies and their over-inflated marketing teams that work off the basic principle of crushing every ounce of competition by throwing money at the situation do not rue the day.  People, genuine businesses and pure passion are the heart of Magento ecosystem and we should ensure that this remains so.  So enjoy the party, but remember this is business – make the most of this event and make sure you get the answers you need to enable you to run your business.

By working together we are strong. That is what we should do now.

The Transition to Magento 2 – Maintaining the Ecosystem

Posted by: Karen Saturday, January 30th, 2016

When Magento first arrived it was a platform that excited developers, here was an eCommerce platform that was sexy, like a young teenager arriving on the scene of an OAP party. It was extensible, malleable, new, interesting, and it contributed to making geek work cool.

In 2008 Magento combined an open source product with a solid business model that lead to monetization.  They were able to marry open source with making real money. So the ecosystem was formed. The developers made modules, sites, the merchants purchased, the hosting providers provided servers and Magento sold to eBay.  Money changed hands, people got drunk together and the ecoSystem was created.

The 4 Pillars of Magento

The 4 pillars that I believe are fundamental to Magento are:

  • Merchants
  • Agencies
  • Technology Partners (incl hosting)
  • Extension providers

I would argue without any one of these pillars Magento has issues.

On top of these 4 pillars sits Magento inc.

The Community

Magento built Magento 2 not on their own but with the assistance of hundreds/thousands of members of this community. Not just in the code, the github commits, corrections, the designs, but by listening to the merchants, the marketing folks, the tech partners. We all had a part to play.

Together we have a community, a living breathing ecosystem.  We rely on each other.  Having such a community is extremely rare, this community is the strongest I have ever seen, and I doubt many of us will see such a sight again. It is to be cherished.

And let’s be honest Magento struggled for a while.  When it was sold to eBay in many respects us out here in this community were left to fend for ourselves, there were a lot of management changes, Magento 2 which was spoken about in 2010 (and should never have been even mentioned) failed to materialise, leaving many of us wondering whether we should continue to innovate on 1.x or wait for the new.  We invested heavily in 1.x, we built toolsets, trained staff, created base implementations we can re-use. But mostly we invested together in the community, because together we are stronger, and we know that.

The Transition to Magento 2

When Magento 2 came out in November it was released in a way that said hey here is Magento 2, stop using 1.x, its all about 2.  Which is fine if that product is ready for us.  But it is not. There is no Connect Marketplace for extension providers to sell, there are few customers for us to sell to and quite frankly the product needs time to bed down.

I would equate what is happening to being in a sprint relay race thats been going on 8 years, to find that the magento 2 guy comes out and slows the race back to a crawl.  This is change.  Massive massive change. And yes it absolutely needs to happen. I love change, I get very bored when things are not changing fast. But you have to marry that change with business needs.  The problem I saw with the Magento 2 rollout was that they forgot that EVERYONE else needed time & support to re-align & start building. Plus we all have to maintain our finances to support our employees during this transition. 

In my mind Magento 2 will fly, but it needs time to settle. I believe personally more of a gradual push to Magento 2 would have been far better for this community.  Because the high costs of training our staff, of racing from the start line are reduced. Ideally this is what 2015 should have been, we were told to play with Magento 2. The problem was that we were playing with a rapidly moving target.

The big problem I see is that the richest survive and excel in the Magento 2 business model.  Because you can put more resources, more effort, cope with longer delays in real money coming in.  That is extremely dangerous for this ecosystem, because it means that its no longer about the product, the company, the quality, its about how much money you can throw at it and how quickly.

The Extension Provider

What I believe we are seeing now is potentially bad for an extension provider.  Magento had 5 years to build Magento 2, yet they asked extension providers to build new extensions in a matter of 2/3 months.  The extension providers are struggling to keep up, and there is little or no support for them, and in my mind a real lack of understanding of what extension providers do for this ecosystem, or the value they provide.

On top of this now we have falling revenue on Magento 1.x because no-one is investing here, extns are going into support and maintenance, I strongly suspect some agencies/devs are just re-using extns rather than purchasing, and its going quiet. But Magento 2 is also quiet at present, there are not so many projects going on. The race stopped whilst we all regrouped. But we have to keep earning money.  This is a dangerous time.

And let me be clear here, my self-interest as an extension provider is reduced because my path is via ShipperHQ. I saw this coming, I pivoted my company 3 years ago to remove the dependency on Magento, to protect myself. Yes a fall in 1.x sales hurts of course, but I’ll survive it.  Other extn providers may not able to do this.

My concern with extension providers is that the high-end agencies are internalizing Magento 2 code and just producing themselves.  Because the extn providers are not ready.  So you could argue the extn providers failed to protect themselves, or they should be happy with the ‘rest’ of the ecosystem, or you could argue that 1 of the 4 crucial pillars of this wonderful community which really held up magento when it struggled on features, well its now being forgotten.

There is a lot of focus on the agencies, mainly at the top-tier. A lot of focus on the high-end merchants.  But Magento is more than this. Do not forget.  I remember the merchant/developers that embraced this platform, that cultivated and nurtured this community.  The innovators, the hackers, those that chose to stay when eBay arrived and turned everything upside down. 

Something is happening that is truly brilliant for the extension community though.  Kristof Ringleff(fooman) has almost single-handedly setup ExtnDN. This is essentially a working group for Magento extension providers to have a voice together.  All members agree to a code of conduct, we vet everyone that joins and we hope to improve the Magento extension space for all by self-enforcing, by taking responsibility ourselves where we can.  For those of you that aren’t aware of Kristof this is one of the greatest innovators in this ecosystem, and a great example of a  person/company we should celebrate, cherish and protect.

Magento needs to invest in this Community

I believe Magento needs to invest in this community over and above having community outreach people like Ben and Sherrie (both of whom add tons of value and I have the deepest regard for). No disrespect to either but this is much more than having fun at a conference, chatting on twitter, or being able to evangelize across stack overflow (and I know they do much much more than this so please don’t shout at me on this one!). Most of this community doesn’t reside on twitter (shock horror) or attend conferences. We need to reach those people in other ways. 

This ecosystem depends on Magento for its livelihood, and in many cases decisions made by Magento may impact the independent developers in such a way that their 8 year investment in Magento can be lost in a matter of months.

Here is my Proposal/Request

I believe we can do better, I believe Magento can do better, and I would like Magento to truly acknowledge this ecosystem in more than just tweets and a weekly blog post.

I dont sit here and say that all aspects of below must be implemented. I am throwing this out because I believe we now need to strive for better if we want Magento the ecosystem to truly thrive in the next 3-4 years.  I’m fed up of waiting for Magento to catch up in terms of marketing, content, roadmap, etc. I’ve sat and I’ve waited. Now I would like action.

  1. A round-table working group that brings together different parts of the ecosystem quarterly with Magento to discuss roadmap, issues, concerns, new ideas, etc.  This should be run by the community, with rotating members, and be made up from agencies, merchants, tech partners, extn providers, from all tiers and include a representative from the contract developer side of this community (Kristof is already pursuing this working group with Magento)
  2. An area on Magento Connect that is within the Magento 2 admin panel (like the Platinum Partner section) that focuses on innovative extensions from developers/agencies that are not necessarily in any partner program.  Again I think this should be rotating
  3. A commitment from Magento in ensuring that standalone Magento Enterprise extensions will be evaluated alongside tech partner solutions and offered as options to merchants if such a point arises where Magento are bundling Enterprise with 3rd party integrations
  4. An increased marketing focus on the community, whether this is via a new blog, or in the current Magento blog, that focuses more on the value of what this community provides via case studies, interviews, reviews, etc. This should be outside of a forum post, it should be a blog that Magento uses to reach out to its community of merchants. It needs to be run by Magento because Magento has the reach
  5. An integration fund for extension providers that are struggling with the Magento 2 transition but have powerful extensions that are much in demand. Maybe this fund is part powered by the community/agencies?
  6. A loan capability for extension providers that have demonstrated clear demand for their product in 1.x so these developers can get their extensions out faster, paid back by their Magento Marketplace sales in the future, or crowdfunded (e.g. take an additional 10% of revenue)
  7. Transparency to this community about the Magento roadmap for the next 12 months (rolling) so that we can take appropriate business decisions to be ready for change and ensure we don’t suddenly lose income because Magento has just decided to build out/acquire a feature we are selling into
  8. An awards ceremony at Magento Imagine that recognizes the innovators, those that push the boundaries, those that contribute above and beyond the financial. In short an ceremony that appreciates the people like Alan Storm who is essentially now making Magento 2 useable for the rest of us.  This awards ceremony in my opinion should include a token payment to the winners (because actually 2K to some of these people really does mean a lot)
  9. More transparency/information online from the Magento 2 management team throughout the year rather than being limited to Imagine or the need to attend conferences around the world to get any information
  10. A playing field that is level. Where we are all respected and where the greed of money does not outweigh the desire for the product to succeed
  11. Definite marketing around Magento 2 (or Magento 1 I don’t care) in order to bring in more merchants at all levels to this ecosystem and a proper infrastructure to get these merchants up and running quickly
  12. Magento outlines their plan for Magento Marketplace include details on how 6000+ extensions will be sensibly reduced to the hundreds, and gives details on the policy they are following in selecting extension providers (including the monetary drivers)
  13. Clear understanding of the Magento team/organisation, including information on who are Points of Contact, where we go for what information, what we need to be reading regularly, how we can communicate effectively with the right people within Magento
  14. A commitment from Solution Partners to adhere to copyrights around extensions, including paying for a long-term license when they are internalising, transferring from 1.x or in any way infringing on the original license
  15. A solid and definite commitment from Magento to back up extension Providers and not support any companies that are actively profiting from the illegal use of extension codebase including agencies & tech partners
  16. All members of the community, including Magento to full acknowledge where code has been either included in their work or used as a reference for their work. This should involve giving credit where appropriate (e.g. for patches released), and with regard to OSL extensions I am proposing that all people embedding other extn code within their codebase must give credit in the Magento admin under the extension heading

My message to Magento is invest not just in Gold Technology Partners, Gold Solution Agencies, VC-backed Silicon Valley companies that spin in 1 day and spin out another, but take some of the revenue you earn from that and invest in the rest of the ecosystem in a positive way. Because we are the innovators, we are the ones with businesses built on trust, content and quality, we understand Magento and can take it far beyond what you can ever do alone, we have proved this time and time again. Without us there are definite issues.  It is time to step up. Do not create tiers of power, create inclusion.

Because then you will be so much greater than you are today.

We all need to change, to adapt, we all have our part to play.  I acknowledge that 100%.  But I see how other platforms are working and I believe Magento can and should step up here. Thats my view. I don’t expect you to agree with me.

Let me just say I am an innovator, a disruptor, a small company owner, and ultimately just an engineer finding my way thro this craziness. I hope I am someone who questions in order to make us think and be better. I’m not afraid of being wrong, because it is better to be wrong in my mind and ask the question than to sit at the back of the room and accept what is being said. Mostly tho I actually give a shit about this ecosystem, I really care about it and I see so many faces of people/companies/families that are affected by what we do and what Magento does. I believe Magento inc. can be business focused whilst maintaining a very firm commitment to a community. That is where we will succeed.

USPS Price Increase and API Update – January 17, 2016

Posted by: Genevieve Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

USPS are releasing an update to their API and price changes on January 17, 2016 that may impact Magento merchants.

See all the details on the USPS price/api changes in our ShipperHQ blog.

Will I be affected?

If you are using standard Magento USPS carrier, you will need to download the updated USPS patch file.

We’ve also updated our extensions for

  • WebShopApps Dimensional Shipping
  • WebShopApps USPS via Endicia

You can contact us for an upgraded version of your extension (some charges may apply if you are outside of your support period).

Magento 2 – WebShopApps Announcement

Posted by: Karen Friday, January 8th, 2016

As part of launching our Magento 2 offering we are moving the blogs for Magento 2 company announcements to ShipperHQ.com.

See details on our Magento 2 release which includes the free MatrixRates offering, and is available for download today!!

 

Under the Hood of Michael Bower

Posted by: Ashley Thursday, December 17th, 2015

michael-bower-headshotMichael Bower (@falloutofatree) is Founder and CEO of Sellry (@sellrycommerce), a technically-oriented development agency that specializes in all things eCommerce. Sellry strives to take eCommerce to the next level by providing its clients with the best services and solutions they need to excel.

Within our interview, Michael shares what tasks he takes on throughout a typical work day, gives encouraging thoughts on the future of Magento and much more.

Can you describe what you really do at work?

I’m a very hands-on business owner, wearing all kinds of hats from sales engineering to pinch-hitting on development activities. I love it! I’m constantly learning and get to see a lot of things move forward at the same time. I also head our quality department. The unifying concept is that everything I do relates to helping my clients stabilize and grow their ecommerce.

If money was no object, what would you spend your days doing?

There’s nothing I like more than helping good-minded individuals and organizations get on track and create positive change in the world. In some small way, what I’m doing now is in line with this, but I’d love to have far more time and resources to put toward getting involved with worthy causes.

In your spare time what do you get up to, and how do you balance this with your workload?

Beyond spending time with my lovely wife and daughter, I run, climb and bike a fair amount and go snowboarding any time I can. I am fortunate to live in a part of Colorado where nearly every day is absolutely beautiful out of doors. In a previous life I was a fairly serious musician, and I still like pretending I can imitate Chris Thile on the mandolin. These activities are relaxing and interleave well with work.

How do you see the future evolving for Magento and the eCommerce space in general?

Magento’s brilliance was to provide a single platform that a merchant can grow with all the way. Now with Magento 2 we’re seeing an even more solid foundation for growth, and I’m excited to see where this will lead.

We’re clearly at the point with eCommerce where the word “electronic” is a given. In my opinion, eCommerce merchants should keep the “e” because now it’s all about ENGAGEMENT — finding ways to deliver more compelling value to customers, and doing it more consistently.

Short term, I think this can happen via employing better and more targeted ways to message customers at just the right time, personalized and richer content and social media as a distribution channel.

Thinking a little farther out, things get even more exciting as the barriers between the electronic and physical environments of the shopper come down. We’ve already seen this with beacons, NFC and virtual dressing rooms. In the future I expect to see the user interface of commerce blending into a broader virtual / augmented reality experience or even disappearing completely via predictive algorithms.

What is usually your last thought before falling asleep?

I feel really thankful for having such a great family, friends, team and clients.

Who is your role model, and why?

Many people come to mind. Of those living today, both my parents are role models. They are the type of people who will give you the shirt off their back…extremely others-minded. Historically, I really like the character Daniel in the Bible. He was such a solid, wise, humble yet assertive man — and dramatically influenced two of the most powerful empires in the world.

Whats the worst thing you have to do as part of your job role?

I really hate when I have to fire a worker (or, for that matter, a client).

What motivates you?

Hearing that I’ve made a difference for somebody.

What is the most played song on your MP3 player or phone?

Lay Me Down by Chris Tomlin

Would you like to plug anything?

http://ecommerceqa.tv – 10-12 minute weekly podcast for busy eCommerce store owners and managers. Each week we tackle a line of questions on a particular topic.

http://sellry.com/articles – Articles my team and I write and curate about ecommerce.

http://mage.ninja – My new loadtime / conversion optimization service