For quite some time I’ve been wanting to write a non-biased article about the struggle that business owners go through when deciding if they should build their eCommerce presence in NetSuite or in the very popular Magento.
As I’m writing this article, an online inquiry (from our website) just came through my inbox and it reads:
“Hello, we currently run a Magento based eCommerce solution that ties into our NetSuite Production environment. We are considering implementing the NetSuite eCommerce Platform and wondering what are the front-end implementation costs involved.”
Wow, timing couldn’t be better – you may think I’m making this up but I’m not!
Truth is that lately we are hearing more and more companies running NetSuite ERP and Magento for eCommerce, seriously considering switching to full SuiteCommerce websites. As for this new prospect that just arrived, whether they end up going with SuiteCommerce or not, it seems that they are experiencing pains with Magento-NetSuite scenario so I hope that they can read this article before they make up their mind.
Understanding where value it’s at
When coming across such a decision it’s important to take the time to evaluate all your options.
At the end of the day,
you want to take the best decision NOT for
your webstore manager, ecommerce consultant, or developer
– you need to decide on
what’s best for the business.
This is one of the main points I want to address today: identifying the real value for the business that comes with each decision. With this in mind, you will need to evaluate the features and benefits that come with each platform and also the disadvantages (and the price that comes with these).
As an example you might love using xyz software because it provides all these beautiful reporting tools and dashboards. However if you need to allow 24 hours before reports and dashboards update the data then, as nice and intuitive xyz software might look, at the end of the day it will end up hurting the business.
Understand where the value it’s at is often missed by beautiful colored mirrors and misinformation of decision makers.
To help you take a closer look to the potential scenarios your business will be facing here we list 6 important factors to take into consideration when evaluating which path to take.
Don’t be confused by associating scalability in terms of supporting website traffic growth only. Even though, both Magento and SuiteCommerce can both support high traffic websites and traffic peaks, that’s not all you need to look.
Scalability needs to be addressed around supporting online business growth on the front-end AND on the back-end – meaning being able to manage and support exponentially growing transactions, fulfillments, payment processing, inventory adjustments, returns (RMAs), and all that nitty gritty that comes with managing a real e-commerce website.
As order volume increases there’s a greater risk of coming across new (or edge) scenarios that will challenge your order management, fulfillment, returns and many other processes you have in place.
Is your business better off with a best of breed systems scenario where each system needs a connector to integrate with each other (for example, Patchworks Magento – NetSuite connector) where you need to deal with issues related to the connectors at the same time you are trying to deal with your increasing incoming orders? Or is it better to go with a unified platform scenario where there’s no need to integrate any 3rd party system and your only focus should be around managing and processing orders?
Finally, scalability should also be analyzed around the flexibility a business software provides to be able to adjust and incorporate new business structures as the business grows. Businesses change over time and need to start supporting things business owners didn’t think they needed before, such as supporting multiple-languages, multiple-currencies, adding new departments, adding new accounting classes, better financials reporting, increased visibility on supply chain, forecasting demand, multi-locations (did you know Magento has a single global stock level – no matter how many domains/stores or warehouses – it only natively supports a single virtual stock location), and the list goes on…
Software flexibility is crucial as well as understanding the benefits of having one single data source of truth than can enable your business to quickly react to the market and take fast decisions based on accurate and real-time data.
First thing you need to ask yourself is: do I understand the benefits (and most importantly, the value for the business) of don’t having to worry about the day-to-day management of infrastructure?
One big difference between Magento Enterprise Edition (or Community Edition) and SuiteCommerce is your website hosting. In both Magento editions the customer needs to host the website. This involves extra time from your team to manage, support and optimize your hosting, github repositories, and everything around it for dev sites and production sites.
The beauty of SuiteCommerce is that’s on the cloud, meaning you don’t have to worry about your website hosting, since it’s already provided and supported by NetSuite.
Back to my previous point, having to deal with hosting (and everything around it) add more potential issues (and extra time from your team) for supporting growth.
Note: Magento released an enterprise cloud edition in April, 2016 and this might work great but we don’t have enough customer feedback to be able to review it for this article.
Magento counts with many payment methods available for their merchants. That’s great, however there’s a flip side of the coin. How do you process all these payment methods? And how that transactional data is transferred to your NetSuite ERP? Right, that’s where connectors come in again…
As you start accepting multiple payment methods as Invoice (terms), ACH, credit cards and Paypal, it gets complicated handling the security and details of passing all this payment information back and forth from NetSuite to Connector to Magento.
In similar regards, we’ve heard about troubles within synching sales tax and promo codes.
4. Website Speed
Website performance is key in nowadays e-commerce. A web page loading slow can not only impact your shoppers experience but can seriously hurt your SEO.
Magento is known for having issues with speed and performance degrading over time. This doesn’t mean that you cannot have a super fast website in Magento, but it’s important to understand the efforts that it entails to get it run lightning fast.
To optimize Magento websites, besides from choosing a fast web hosting, you need to implement a CDN (Content Delivery Network), utilize caching, enable flat categories and flat products, enable Magento compilation, clean up Magento database and logs, perform specific MySQL configurations, update indexes, install PHP accelerators, among other optimization tricks you will need to pull.
On the other hand, SuiteCommerce Advanced will make it easier for the business as it comes with lighting speed performance out of the box. With an advanced architecture, edge caching and content delivery network it provides incredibly fast loading pages. It’s quite amazing to observe SCA websites perform even faster than average speed of top online retailers (for example: store.apple.com, nordstrom.com, officedepot.com, overstock.com, amazon.com among others).
Magento is probably the shopping cart software with more available extensions. Any product feature, just name it, and boom it’s available for you thanks to a Magento developer coding from a remote place in the world. Actually there’s so many extensions in the menu, that I’ve read Magento customers complaining about how overwhelming it gets! Unbelievable right? I guess there’s people that they just like to complain.
There are three things to take into consideration though.
First one, is that installing multiple extensions from multiple developers can generate code conflicts that can translate into big issues. At the same time, extensions have shown to cause issues to merchants with Magento upgrades.
Second one, 3rd Party apps (or extensions) are often central to functioning of the website and represent a potential pitfall because they’re located outside of Magento’s API. Additionally, more often than not, apps functions are not available for your back office – create data, read data, update data and delete data. Open up a mature Magento website that an online seller has been running for a number of years as an integrator and it’s often like Pandora’s Box – you don’t know that you might find!
Third one, is more about assessing what you really need for your e-commerce website. It’s great to have as many options as possible, but if you are going to plug a long list of extensions to your Magento website and run the risk of issues related to conflicts between them and upgrades, then you should at least assess the value for your business of having these extensions in the first place.
To the point of this article, when considering any of these extensions as a must-have feature understand if they are worth the complications and headaches of going through the points above. This takes us back to the introduction part – really identifying the value for the business.
This is the most sensitive point of all and that’s why I left it to the end.
Comparing apples to apples
When comparing SuiteCommerce Advanced versus Magento you need to compare as following:
SCA license price
Magento license price + Infrastructure (hosting + hosting support, maintenance and optimization) + Magento-NetSuite connector license price
Magento Community: it’s free, but if you want to have access to technical support, faster speed, more out of the box functionality, Solr search, Scalability, and Cross sell/up-sell/recommended products you need to go Enterprise edition.
Magento Enterprise Edition: On enterprise edition it’s a revenue model where you pay based on your online revenue.
SuiteCommerce Advanced: List price is $4,999 per month ($60K/yr)
Having said all above, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, my intention is not to rule out a Magento-NetSuite integration scenario but to add more elements that can help decision makers which way to go.
You sure can make a NetSuite-Magento integration work, and have a powerful, custom designed, pixel-perfect website, but be aware that there are risks involved. On the other hand, SuiteCommerce Advanced may not have as many out of the box features as Magento but can also deliver a powerful, custom designed, pixel-perfect website with the benefit of having all running under the same unified system.
The question you need to ask yourself is: what’s best for my business given that I’m already invested in NetSuite?