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When I first started working with clients on their websites, whenever one wanted an online shop my heart usually sank. Back then, even a comparatively simple database-driven ecommerce site was labour intensive for the developer, and therefore costly and ineffective for the client. Additionally, updating the ‘catalogue’ was often too complicated for the client or compromised the look of the pages, leaving their website looking like a very dishevelled shop front.

Magento – open source ecommerce

Fast-forward a decade and the lucky client can choose a free and open-source ecommerce software component like Magento, which can be downloaded in a few minutes and allows you to quickly have a great looking, easy to manage ecommerce website that is not only cost-effective but offers the ability to upsell and improve your customer relationship management (CRM) at the touch of a button. What I think often goes unmentioned is how this free software allows many small businesses to open revenue streams that will also ease the pressure on staff. Indeed it may mean reducing the number of back-room staff altogether – and further reduces overheads. Let’s take the example of a neighbourhood sandwich shop. It’s not the obvious choice for an ecommerce site and previously the costs of setting up and maintaining one would be have been prohibitive. However, with Magento it can be done cost-effectively and it will bring lots of other advantages too:

  • Use Magento to set up a fixed range of ‘meal deals’. This will help when ordering stock and avoid food waste. It’s easy enough to add extra lines, especially seasonally-based. And you can use Magento to upsell – large Coke, anyone?
  • Customers order in advance – you can see the orders as they are placed and that means you can prepare them too thus helping to ease the lunchtime rush.
  • Customers pay in advance – Magento supports loads of payment portals so it’s easy enough to get advance payment. Again, this will save time when they collect their order, leaving you more time to serve more customers.
  • Build brand loyalty through coupons and vouchers – it’s a competitive business so build a customer base with electronic coupons and vouchers. They are also a good way to shift that over ordered stock or food approaching their sell-by-date.
  • Customers create their own accounts – so there is nothing to stop them ordering everyday. Why not offer a discount to customer’s who place a weekly order? It’s easy with Magento.

Big players in the food sector work hard – and spend plenty – to create brand build customer loyalty. Magento will let you do the same. Our sandwich shop owner can use his customer database to create newsletters for email marketing. It allows his customers to share products with their friends by email and even on social websites like Facebook and Twitter. Almost anyone who has shop should have an online ecommerce site. Simply by having your product details, dimensions, customer reviews etc. online will ease the need for dealing with all this in the showroom – freeing you up to close the sale.  Online stats will show which product pages, features and prices are proving most attractive, and the website can help capture customer details in a way that few sales people ever do in the shop or showroom. Imagine running a showroom where people came in just to pick up their purchases! How would that impact on costs, staffing and even opening hours? If you are a business owner and just getting started with e-commerce or maybe even a Magento project, you may feel overwhelmed. It is likely you will need the support of a ecommerce design company, particularity one that specialises in Magento design, development, training and consultancy. But don’t despair; there are now lots of  Magento design specialists available that you can get advice from. Don’t forget to use blogs and forums where possible as there will be lots of people who are happy to provide further support and talk about their own experiences using Magento.

Image credit – Maria Elena


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