Archive for December, 2015

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

Refresh & Renew – Magento 2

Posted by: Karen Monday, December 7th, 2015

Overview

Not so long ago I gave my initial thoughts on Magento 2.  This was when Magento 2 was in merchant beta.  Since then there have been many thousands of commits to the Magento code, it has been stabilized more as I understand and we are in a different place as it has now been released officially!

I feel its worth me writing a short blog to clarify my current thoughts. I’ve had a lot of emails/phone calls from merchants, agencies & developers in recent weeks around Magento 2. I feel its important that I address their questions from the position of where we I feel we are today.

It’s happening

Magento 2 is happening. It’s required. Magento 1 is falling apart in terms of extensibility, you only have to look a the checkout to see the problems it has. It is time for a refresh.

You make your own decisions

Right now if you work on Magento 2 you are taking some steps into the unknown, just like those of us that did back in 2008.  You have to decide when you want to take those steps. If you are a person that is inquisitive, a company that is heavily invested in Magento, or a merchant that is forwards-thinking then you should go look at Magento 2, but bear in mind you are one of the early pioneers.

If you want to wait for the dust to settle and just want to use it as a merchant without getting high costs, or as an agency are maxed on Magento 1.x and just don’t see a window then wait a few months. It will improve, and most importantly the tools and the blogs around it will improve.

I’d say though that come Magento Imagine next year if you are still 100% focused on 1.x as a technology partner, agency or developer you will be behind the curve.

Would I currently build a new project on 1.x as a Merchant?

More than likely if I was small. If I had 200K to burn then definitely I would go to 2.x.

Magento 1.x will die eventually

I see it as we have 3 years to come across to Magento 2.  So for instance take my own site WebShopApps.com. I know its a poor example of an eCommerce site, but it is one nonetheless.  I’m not sitting here panicking because its not on Magento 2.  But I know in the next year I’ll have to renew it.  Whether I’d put it on Magento 2 is not a question I can answer (though probably not tbh).

Extensions will go into Support and Maintenance

Hardly any extension company will continue to invest in new development on Magento 1.x. Why?  Because we have to follow the trend.  And Magento 2 is that trend.

Merchants will go off the platform

I think that Magento is going upmarket, that the community will shift, we will loose some people, we will gain some new people. But that is the price of change, and we obviously have to embrace it, otherwise we need to move on ourselves.

I see a migration of smaller merchants to easier platforms such as Zoey Commerce and Bigcommerce.  When I say smaller it is hard to 100% say what segment, my feeling is if you are under $5mill revenue I still do not see a big driver for you to be on Magento unless you have very specific custom needs from a website, or you have staff/developers that are heavily invested in the platform.

Merchants will come onto the platform

Thanksgiving showed us that even the heavyweight platforms have issues.  Magento is going to challenge this higher end of the market and capture customers in this space.  Why?  Because its use of open source really puts the ultimate power in the Magento Agency and the Merchant, and that allows for great things to happen.  No longer limited to 1 team, it is possible to create what you need, when you want it and how you want it. That is the true power of Magento, and it will be leveraged by agencies and merchants to the full with Magento 2.

Magento Connect

It remains to be seen if there is a secondary market which runs and supports those who are not prepared to pay more for higher quality. If there is and this is uncontrolled I see issues for the brand, and for the extension developers if copying is not stamped on.  If Magento Connect is not very carefully managed I see the potential of an uncontrolled extension marketplace springing up.

Extensions on Connect have to rise in price.  The facts are less extensions will be sold, they will be more expensive to produce, plus Magento will expect a significant commission on each sale.  Someone, somewhere has to pay for that.

The agencies and the merchants will need to get behind this. The value of extensions needs to be appreciated. If they don’t we could see ecosystem issues as agencies in-house development and/or we end up with open source extns with varying levels of support.

On the upside if Connect is done correctly and integrated as an App Store inside Magento then extension developers could see a reduction in costs due to lower support on installation issues, not requiring a site to sell extensions, and lower support due to better testing capabilities and less conflicts.

You will need to up your Skill Level

There is no doubt that Magento 2 is harder.  It requires a deeper understanding of software engineering principles, and you are ‘forced’ (I use that lightly) to learn and follow certain practices.  But out of it you will become stronger.  Agencies will need to improve, extension providers will need to improve.

I remain on the fence around whether requiring advanced skills as a developer is a good thing, on the one hand you hope it improves quality, on the other hand I see it increasing prices and making Magento more exclusive. Magento was never intended to be exclusive, so this approach worries me, but thats just the inclusive personality in me, the businesswoman says as long as the pool remains big enough the approach will bring benefit.

As a Community we are Strong

I suspect part of the reason many developers stay in Magento is partly for the love of the Community.  It is now a family. We accept new people, some people leave, but ultimately it is a place where we belong. That is strong.  And we are strong as a community. We do have to question, we need to keep Magento on their toes, we also need to embrace, to support each other and to nurture.  Because if you look at Silicon Valley that is what many of them are doing.  Magento now is in the money end, and that will result in competition, inspection and greed. Make sure you are supporting your colleagues, support those around you that support you and between us we will all prosper.

Things may not be Perfect, but that is okay

I believe Magento could have done some things better. Could I have done it better? No. We can all do things better, its easy to criticize from the outside. So I admire them for what they have done. I do wish they had simplified some areas because I feel like there was an opportunity to maintain a bigger piece of the eCommerce pie, but I understand their actions. I do have concerns that we might be working on quicksand, but I believe if we are then quite quickly the community will shout very loudly to stop that from impacting.  Trust is key, and ultimately we have no choice but to follow.

My Advice

We would all like to snapshot a point in time.  I’m very protective over the merchants I serve, the many thousands that I’ve seen grow up in this space, some of them expanding from micro businesses into companies that now do millions of dollars each year.  I can’t give you advice, what I can say is take in all the information and make the best decision for you, follow your gut and your instinct.  But don’t be afraid of change.

Your Thoughts?

We are currently running a Magento 2 survey. Would be wonderful if you could spend just a few minutes to answer the 10 easy questions. People sometimes imply/state that I’ve quite strong views. Well I do, but I firmly believe in putting a stake in the ground, because even if I am wrong at least someone put the stake for others to question.  So I’m very interested in seeing what you think about Magento 2. Results will be published at end Dec.

And Lastly

Many congratulations to all the team at Magento for what they have achieved this year. To split out from eBay and launch Magento 2 on time deserves our praise indeed. In my opinion Magento has an extremely solid management team, and luckily has retained some of the key staff that really understand this ecosystem. I hope they truly appreciate what they have in their hands and take this gem to where it should be.