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5 Tips for Do-it-Yourself Product Photography

Whether it’s family photos or professional head shots, do-it-yourself photography is all the rage lately. We all have and HD camera in our pocket, so why not? No disrespect to the professionals—they’ll always give you the best photos—but if you follow these tips you can get high-quality shots that will definitely fit in your budget.

Try out your Smart Phone Camera Fist

Obviously the first thing you’ll need to take a picture is a camera. But before you go out and spend hundreds of dollars on a name-brand, HD device, see how you like the camera on your phone. Take a look at the picture below, and you can see there may be little-to-no difference in the quality of the photo between a high-end camera and an iPhone.

If you like what you see from your phone’s camera, you can save yourself a lot of money by going that route.

Buy a Tripod

Even if you’re using a smartphone, you’ll want to invest in a tripod. Even the steadiest hands are hard-pressed to capture the perfect image, and there are even tripods that are designed specifically for camera phones. You can get a decent tripod for as low as $20, so it’s well worth the low-end investment here.

Setup on a White Backdrop

Often, shoots like these are done in front of a white backdrop. You can create a simple, inexpensive “do-it-yourself” method that will give you that professional look with just some craft paper and metal clamps.

If you’re going that route, roll the paper down a long and wide table, and use the clamps to attach the paper to something a few feet above the table. This will provide a smooth, clean base for your to shoot your product photo.

If you’re going the natural lighting route, do this in a big, open room with lots of windows. If you’re using purchased photography lights, you’ll want a darker room.

Use a Mannequin or a Model

If you were shopping, what would look more attractive? A lifeless shirt lying on some background? Or a shirt on a mannequin or model? Not only does a mannequin/model give the shirt the appearance it will actually have when worn, if you’re using a model, it gives a more personal feel to it.

If you’re in the clothing/fashion/accessory industry, getting that item off the lifeless backdrop is definitely the way to go. Look at the two shirts below. Which one would you rather buy?

Pay Attention to the Details

Avoid hard backlighting that will cast shadows on the surface of the object. Keep your lights or lighting on the same side as your camera, or slightly off to the side.

Also, be sure to check your photos as you take them. You don’t want to do all the work only to realize an ugly fingerprint on your lens ruined all your images. Using a digital camera makes checking your pictures as you go along simple, and will help you avoid the pain of retaking all those images.

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Black Friday Emails That Boost Sales

Another Black Friday is just around the corner and—likely—another record-breaking holiday sales season will come with it. Email campaigns are a proven way to effectively announce sales and boost profits. But what should you send? Take a look below for some ideas to use for the holiday season.

The Sale Announcement Email

We’ll start with the simple one first: Make sure your customers know you’re having a sale, and what it is, because you can bet your competitors will. Keep it simple. Everyone loves sales, so you’re subject header can just be “50% off Everything!” It will almost guarantee you that shoppers will at least open the email to find out more.

The Free Gift Email

Everyone loves free right? Including a free gift if customers hit a certain dollar amount is a great way to boost the average sale amount. If a customer has spent $90 and are $10 away from earning a free gift, they’ll likely spend that extra ten dollars to hit the target.

Again, the subject can be simple. “Free” will almost always get someone interested. You can also spin this so it doesn’t seem so salesy, and being that Black Friday is around Thanksgiving, in the body of the email you can include something along the lines of “Our way of saying thanks,” or “Our way of giving back during the holiday season.”

The Extended Sale Email

Black Friday sales don’t have to end on Fridays. If you’re in ecommerce—and you’re reading this blog so I’m assuming you are—the sale can last all the way to Cyber Monday. Last year, retailers brought in over $2 billion on the Monday after Black Friday.

Not everyone gets around to shopping on Black Friday. They may have missed the boat and will jump out of their seats when they see your “Extended 40% Sale off EVERYTHING” email.

The Black Friday Giveaway

This is a similar to philosophy to the “Free Gift” email—people love free stuff and rewards. Giveaways and contests are a great way to inject more life into your sales than those of your competitors.

The terms of the giveaway or sale will be up to you. One common strategy is to offer your customers a chance to win a gift to your site for every purchase they make. Or, you can guarantee a small prize—say a $5 gift card— for any purchase, with a chance to win the Grand Prize, such as a $1K gift card.

The Humor Email

You know what people like almost as much as free stuff? Funny jokes. Announcing your sale in a way that J.Crew did last year is a great way to get a leg up on competitors and their potentially similar sales.

You can also include a jokes specific to your business or industry. For example, if you’re in the clothing business, a post-Thanksgiving email featuring your stretchy pants might not be a bad idea.

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How to Make Marketing Emails Work for You

Marketing emails can be a great tool to boost sales. But to do so, you have to do it right. What do I say to my customers? And just as importantly, when do I say it and how often? These tips will make sure you’re emailing the right way, and will help you take your business to the next level.

Content and Relevance:

This isn’t Lord of the Rings and one email does not rule them all. In other words, what’s relevant to some customers won’t connect with others. For example, if you sell clothing, sending your male customers a coupon for a sale on ladies’ underwear is not going to get you very far. Worse yet, it might make the impression that your store specializes in women’s apparel and have your male customers looking elsewhere.

Tracking your customer information, such as gender and age, will help you send targeted emails, which will in turn increase your open rate. Tracking sales information will help you target as well. The above example was pretty simple, but what about a business that doesn’t make it as easy as splitting up your customers into a 50/50 (emails for males, emails for females) group?

If you sell a wide variety of items, such as pet supplies, it would make sense to track customers’ sales. If Susan has spent a year buying nothing but cat toys, would it make sense to send her information on a sale for all goldfish products? Probably not.

Keep in mind, there are times when it makes sense for you to send customers information about stuff they don’t typically buy. Keep this in mind for the holidays, when customers aren’t necessarily shopping for themselves. Speaking of appropriate times…

Timeliness:

When to send an email is just as important as what to send. The sooner you send an order confirmation, the better. The longer the customer goes without receiving that confirmation, the more apprehensive he or she will be that something went wrong with the process.

Likewise, a shipment confirmation will also placate any fears that the order is NOT on the way. With the confirmation, include a realistic time that the customer can expect to receive the package, such as 3-5 business days.

Lastly, an email asking the customer how he/she likes the product is a nice way to wrap up the sale. It shows that you care that your customers receive their products as they wanted, when they wanted. Schedule this for a couple of days after the long end of your confirmation (using the above example, send the email on day six or seven). If you send this email too soon, it will have customers thinking they should have received it by now and something went wrong, when in reality the item is still on its way.

As far as emails that are intended to have customers buy again, research shows there’s certain times that will lead to higher purchase rates. Monday through Wednesday, as well as Sunday, have proven to be the best days to send your salesy emails.

On top of that, there are certain times of day that correlate with higher purchases as well. During the workdays, as well as during commutes home, have proven to be the best times to reach out to customers.

Frequency:

This last point is key, and can also be tricky to manage correctly. Email too often and you risk annoying the customer, who will in turn likely tag your emails as spam. Not good. Go too long without contacting your customers and you risk them forgetting about your company and going with a competitor. Also not good.

There’s no all-encompassing guide to point to that will provide best practices for all businesses, but as a general rule, you don’t want to email your customers more than once a week (with the exception of the aforementioned post-transaction confirmation emails), and you also don’t want to go more than a month without sending out your email campaign.

Hitting that sweet spot of perfect frequency will often depend on your business. For example, if you work in a subscription business, you’ll want to time replenishment emails with the frequency of the customers’ needs. If he/she buys dog food once a month, a reminder to place the order every three weeks would be appropriate, to give the customer some leeway and provide time for shipping. This way, the food will be there by the end of the month and Fido won’t go hungry.

Tools that Can Help

When you’re starting out, you can probably manage many of these tasks on your own. But what about when you’re handling 100, 500, or 1000 orders per month? Using an email service like MailChimp or MailChimp will help. Coupling one of those services with a tool that can automate the process will allow you to easily and efficiently communicate with your customers.

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Tips to Perfect Customer Service

Customer service is they key to ecommerce growth. You can have the best products in the world, but if your customers have a continuously bad experience it will tarnish your brand, and possibly do irreparable harm to your company’s reputation. Follow these steps to ensure you’re providing outstanding customer service every time.

1) Provide Timely, Effective Communication

Effective communication can solve a lot of problems and, more importantly, eliminate them before they happen. Sending a simple order confirmation will eliminate any doubt a customer may have that his or her order went through. Additionally, giving the customer a reasonable expectation of when to expect the item and/or providing shipment updates will keep customers informed and happy.

When your business reaches a certain point in its growth, you’ll find that keeping up with these emails can be a headache. At that point, automating your communication through services like Twilio or MailChimp can greatly simplify this process.

2) Provide a Customer Support Option

In the off chance that something goes wrong at any point in the process—whether an item’s out of stock, an order didn’t arrive, or the customer received the wrong size—you want to provide an easy way for customers to get in touch with you or your customer support team.

Depending on where your business is in it’s level of maturity, this could be a simple “Contact Us” link in your website that provides an email address and/or phone number. If and when your business is a little more established, you may want to look at a third-party service, such as Zendesk or Desk.com to help you with support tickets and error resolution.

No matter how you go about it, be sure whoever is on the receiving end of these issues/inquiries is prepared to give timely, effective, and friendly resolutions.

3) Engage in Social Media

Whether it’s Facebook or Twitter, 78% of all customers see social media as a customer service alternative. Some may go there directly, some may go there if whoever’s manning the options on point two has dropped the ball.

If it’s the latter, that raises the stakes even higher on social media, making it even more important to respond quickly and effectively. If a customer has a bad experience, you can be sure that they will call out your company on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever social profile you have associated with your business.

Conversely, if you provide a great experience, they’re likely to commend you and your business for all to see. Make sure you’re the retailer receiving the positive publicity, not the negative.

4) Track all Customer Interactions

Tracking all correspondence can save you, your support staff, and your customers a lot of headache. If customers have an issue and talk with two different people without a history of previous interaction, they will be left frustrated when they have to start from scratch with a new person.

Conversely, if a customer calls in and you can quickly say “Yes, I see you called in about exchanging your shirt for a different size on June 16th,” he or she will be left both impressed and relieved that someone is on top of the issue.

Create labels in your emails, attach notes to the thread, or do whatever it takes to keep all customer interaction in one easy-to-manage place. If you’ve talked with Joe Smith before, you should be able to easily search and find any and all correspondence with Joe.

Down the line, an error resolution service like the aforementioned Zendesk isn’t a bad idea. Zendesk tracks all correspondence that comes in via email, and all you have to do is search the support ticket number through your Zendesk account.

5) Never Argue About Returns

All of the above is great, but if you or a staffer argue with customers, especially about returns, they’ll think of your company in an extremely negative light. And with Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, etc. that’s not something any growing business can afford.

Remember, this is people’s money you’re dealing with, so put yourself in the customers’ shoes. You’re selling your product based off of an image on a computer. There’s going to be problems. And when there are, friendly, understanding, timely and efficient resolutions are the ways to keep customers coming back and sending their friends to your web store.

Bonus tip: Provide Online Chat

This tip is definitely for well-established businesses with customers on their site all day, but why else would you be in ecommerce if not to grow and dominate your market? Heck, some of you may already be there.

An online chat will require a paid solution like Olark and a staffer to monitor the chat, but once your business gets to a certain point, it’s well worth the investment. 77% of customers agree that online chat positively impacted their experience with the company. You simply can’t get any faster resolution than chatting with your customers in a live, real-time interaction.

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How to Increase your Brand’s SEO

SEO has been something of a buzzword lately. But what is it? SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and is described by wikipedia as “the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s unpaid results—often referred to as “natural,” “organic,” or “earned” results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users.”

What that means for a business owner is, whatever search terms that resonate in your industry, you want to be at or near the top of the listings that appear whenever people put that term or phrase into Google. The more people that see your site, the more people will shop on it, and the more shoppers you have, the more sales you’ll get.

Follow these tips to maximize your SEO to see your webstore’s traffic spike, and the sales roll in.

Identify Keywords and Phrases

You need to figure out what key terms and phrases you want to trigger your appearance in a search. For example, if you’re a high-end shoe retailer, then you’d probably want to have an appearance when customers search for “High end shoes.”

Maybe you’re not ready to take on Nordstrom’s or Barney’s (the first and second results to appear on Google when you enter that phrase) and you still do a high volume of sales inside your physical store. In that case, your location can help you drive customers to online and offline sales, such as “High end shoes in Pennsylvania” or more specifically, “High end Shoes in Philadelphia, PA.”

Content-Driven Traffic

Whatever you determine to be key terms and phrases, maximize their use through fresh and engaging information on your web store. Running a blog is a great way to keep new content on your site. One thing you don’t want to do is force these keywords into the content. It has to seem natural, as it will turn off readers/shoppers, and will be recognized as a forced attempt at maximizing SEO by the search engines.

The more fresh content you have, the more traffic will come to your site. And, again, the more traffic you have is the more opportunities you have for sales.

Share on Social Media

Whatever new content you have, be sure to share it on any and all social accounts that you have associated with your store. These are just more channels for you to attract traffic. Sharing on Google plus, specifically, will directly help your ranking on Google’s search listings.

Blogs, news about your company, and new/featured products are the kinds of things that you want to share with your community. Social media is having more and more of an impact on ecommerce, so start sharing now.

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Ecommerce Product Description Best Practices

You can have the best products in the world, but if you can’t communicate that quality effectively, how are customers going to know? And, more importantly, how will they feel comfortable clicking that “buy” button? Here’s some tips and advice that will help you seal the deal.

Show Don’t (Only) Tell

We’re not here to tell you NOT to tell the story behind the product (in fact, look at the next point) but don’t ONLY tell. Include multiple high-quality images of your product. Show different angles, viewpoints and elements of your goods.

Remember, you’re selling online. Your customers don’t have the option to hold and feel and get comfortable with the item they’re about to buy. So do your best to recreate that in-store feeling by providing big, beautiful images of your goods. Provide 360 degrees worth of angles or, even better, make it a gif.

Tell The Story Behind the Product

Your business has a story, and so does your product. Tell it. For inspiration, check out Ayr’s blog, Editions. Ayr, a women’s fashion startup, releases new apparel every season, and additions to their line receive a one-paragraph story of the goals and thought process behind the design.

You don’t necessarily need to include such in-depth descriptions on every product, (you don’t want to get too wordy) but new and/or featured products deserve extra attention, and are worthy of a story behind their production.

Emphasize Uniqueness

Your competitors are going to have similar products, but there’s something about your inventory that makes you different. Whatever it is—the design, the manufacturing process, the price—make sure you emphasize this in your descriptions. If your customers don’t know why your products are better/different, what’s to stop them from going to the competitor next time?

Include an Obvious Call to Action

You’ve got the customer interested. They’ve looked at the product images, read the story behind the product, and really like what they’ve seen thus far. Now it’s just a matter of sealing the deal. You can push the customers over the edge by simply providing a “Buy Now” or “Add to Cart” button within the page that features your product description. If they’ve made it this far, they’re already interested. Turn the opportunity into a sale with a strong call to action.

Allow Customers to Easily Share their Experience

If your customers have a positive experience shopping with you, they’ll be willing to share your product with their friends and family. Now they won’t write a blog about it, but if you provide simple buttons to like, tweet, pin and/or share, it will open their friends and followers’ eyes to your brand.

Word of mouth has always been a great sales/marketing tactic. Social media has given the opportunity to spread the message faster and to a wider audience than ever before. Take advantage of it!

The Bottom Line

You’re going to have competitors; it’s unavoidable no matter the industry. But you can set yourself apart with unique and effective product descriptions. Making that sale is the first step to turning a customer into a “brand ambassador.” Once they see why you’re the best option for them, they’ll keep coming back—and sharing with their friends.

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Best Practices for Ecommerce Design

You’ve got the best products, and pride yourself on completing your deliveries on time, every time. That’s a great start, but if you don’t attractively display your items on your website, how are your customers supposed to buy them? These best practices will ensure that the quality of your products is accurately displayed on your website, every time.

Show Don’t Tell

“This is the best shirt/coffee/makeup in the world.” Who wouldn’t say that about their own products? Displaying images of satisfied, real-life customers is a much better way to display the quality of your goods. If you have an active social media profile you can kill two birds with one stone here by displaying your Twitter or Instagram feeds in a section of your site.

Another strategy you can implement is to dedicate a portion of your site to a community and/or press section. The community section can feature the images of satisfied customers sent in through your social profiles, as a varition of—or enhancement to—the above recommendation. Any positive press or reviews from accredited reviewers should be displayed in a press section.

Basically, a good rule of thumb is anything positive said about your service or products from someone outside your company should be displayed on your website, or at the very least shared on your various social profiles.

Focus on What Makes you Unique

What is it about your products that makes them unique? Shoppers will have an almost infinite amount of places to buy a shirt, but why should they buy your shirt? Is it the materials? The manufacturing? The price? Any and all of these reasons should be featured.

This content can accompany the featured products that are displayed in a prominent section of your website. You should also include this in all of your product descriptions. You don’t need to tell the whole story of the first stitch of thread to production, but a brief “This hand-crafted gingham-style shirt was designed with the professional in a business casual office setting in mind.”

Tell Your Story

Product descriptions are one way to feature what makes you different than your competitors. Another way is to briefly tell your story. This should be in a different area than where your products are displayed, such as an “About Us” section.

Why did you get into retail/ecommerce? What is it about your products that shoppers won’t be able to find anywhere else? If you have a personal connection to the goods you sell (“After a Minor League Baseball career, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the game, so I opened John’s Sporting Goods”) these are the stories you want to share with your customers.

Make Shipping Options Clear

Different customers are going to have different shipping needs. Some may be casually browsing and don’t mind if their products don’t get to their house in a week. Others might be procrastination shopping (think: Holidays) and are willing to pay extra to get the item the next day.

Make sure any and all shipping options are made available to your customers as they’re checking out. The last thing you want is to lose a sale because the customer thinks they won’t get the product in time or—conversely—because they only see expensive shipping options.

Draw Attention to Sales

This is a tenet that goes across all mediums of retail. If you’re running a sale—show it. Shoppers have been haggling for the best possible deals for hundreds of years. This hasn’t changed just because you’re selling online now.

The Bottom Line

What’s the common thread here? Originality. Your website is more than just a place for customers to buy things. It’s a piece of your business, and your business is the only one like it out there. Stress what makes you different from your competitors, and this uniqueness will be recognized by your customers, who will become loyal to your brand and never think of shopping elsewhere.

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How to Make Blogs work for Ecommerce

The most important aspects of running a successful ecommerce business are quality products and dependable service. It doesn’t matter what else you do if you can’t deliver a good item within a decent amount of time. Outside of those essentials, however, are a number of different things you can do to increase awareness to your brand and, most importantly, increase your sales. One of them is maintaining an interesting and relevant blog.

A blog, you say? How is a brief article going to increase my sales? Well, consider it the law of averages. The more people that come to your website, the more that are going to shop for your products, and the more that shop are more that are likely to click “Buy.” But where does the blog come in? Creating a well-written blog is a great way to keep readers coming back, and turning them into buyers.

Take Into the Gloss and Glossier for example. ITG started as a popular blog that provides fashion tips, advice and articles featuring interviews with models and fashion professionals. It became so popular that the founders decided to venture into ecommerce with Glossier. Glossier has been a retail success and Into the Gloss continues, pointing readers to Glossier.

Of course, building a business off of a blog first isn’t the traditional route to ecommerce success. Ayr, the popular women’s clothing retailer, also maintains an active blog presence. Ayr’s blog is more image-heavy, telling the story behind its newest and most fashionable products.

What’s the connection? Both brands have gone beyond the norm of retailers, creating a sort of news room circulating content pertaining to their respective industries. This will help create an army of “brand ambassadors” who will go to your site for more than just a sale, and will in turn recommend your site and products to their friends and family.

Maintaining a blog and combining it with a social media presence will create a culture of brand loyalists that wouldn’t dream of going to your competitors, even if they have a similar product. If you’re selling sporting goods, blog about the importance of using the right equipment on the field. And if you’re products are being used in a high-profile way like, if we’re using the sporting goods example, by a Major League player or in the Little League World Series, you’re darn right you better write about and publicize that!

Look, we know that writing isn’t everyone’s specialty. If you don’t have the budget to hire a content marketing specialist, you can always find a freelancer for a reasonable price. If you do write it on your own, make sure you read over your copy several times, or have a friend do it. Having typos or simple grammatical mistakes is a great way to look unprofessional.

If properly executed, your blog will keep customers coming back to your store again and again. Just keep the content fresh and at a high quality and watch the traffic—and sales—roll in!

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Spree Commerce has been Acquired by First Data

The Big News

I’m excited to announce that Spree Commerce has been acquired by First Data Corporation. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the company, First Data is a worldwide leader in the payment space. In 2014 First Data was responsible for the following:

  • 74 billion transactions
  • $1.7 trillion in U.S. payment volume
  • 28% of all e-commerce processing worldwide

What’s Next for Spree?

We will continue to focus on technology solutions related to e-commerce. First Data has a worldwide distribution network with over 6 million business locations. We are already hard at work on developing new products for First Data based on Spree. We will be taking advantage of First Data’s financial and technical resources to bring the Spree technology to a worldwide audience. The Spree Commerce office in Washington, D.C. will remain open and we’re continuing to hire aggressively. The whole team is super excited and we’re looking forward to telling you more about it soon!

What’s Next for the Community?

First Data recognizes the important role of open source technology. They are fully supportive of our open source efforts and the Spree project will remain open source. We have an amazing open source community and that will continue for as long as there is interest in the Spree project!

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Spree Commerce vs. Magento

About the Author

Allen Burt is the Founder and Managing Director at Blue Stout. Blue Stout is a digital production agency that builds custom commerce applications, like ecommerce shops and interactive mobile apps, for clients ranging from startups to billion-dollar public companies.

Prior to Blue Stout, Allen led two ecommerce startups and consulted corporate tech companies like Sprint and Bayer AG. He loves connecting business strategy with tech and frequently writes on both subjects on the Blue Stout Blog.

As technology advances, we continue to see things we are accustomed to take shape in a new technology which is smaller, faster, more compact.

We saw it with desktop computers to laptops, telephones to iPhones, satellite dish to HDMI streamers, the examples are all around us. Which means, this change is inevitably occurring in the ecommerce space, too. Ecommerce platforms are evolving, and following the trend in technology, getting more concise and efficient.

There are lots of options out there, and statistics show that Magento is the clear winner when it comes to the ecommerce platform market share. They hold about 26% of the total market.

Spree Commerce, on the other hand, is a relatively new choice. It’s one of the most promising and fastest-growing open source projects in the world with with over 630 contributors who regularly contribute to the code base and update software documentations.

In this post, we’ll compare the two platforms so you can see why we prefer to develop with Spree Commerce here at Blue Stout.

Open source and hosted versions

Both Magento and Spree offer open source versions that are totally free to download, which can be installed on a self-hosted server.

Magento Community Edition (CE) is the open source version released by Magento. Though, it has almost the same basic features and source code of their Enterprise Edition (EE), it still misses a lot of enhanced functionalities offered by Enterprise Edition like full page caching, and better scalability, among others.

Spree Commerce is also an open source platform, but it is much more reliable than Magento’s Community Edition, and has almost the same features provided by Magento’s Enterprise Edition.

Related: Open Source or Full Service Platform: Which Is Right For Your Ecommerce Business?

In fact, the cost of Enterprise Edition starts at $15,000 and can go up to $200,000 per year, whereas Spree as an open source software costs $0, which makes Spree Commerce more appealing from the get-go. The caveat here, of course, is paying for a developer to help you build on top of the platform, so your costs will depend on that individual or ecommerce development firm.

Backend User Experience

As your development team or contracted design firm works on building your store, depending on the platform you choose, they will have two completely different backend experiences. Magento offers many options to developers as core functions. This makes the backend cluttered and overwhelming. And because there are lots of options by default, it can even confuse some users and complicate the user experience unnecessarily. If your development team is having a hard time keeping products updated and current because of a unorganized backend, chances are it’s going to reflect on your frontend and, ultimately, your customer’s experience on your website.

In contrast, the backend of Spree is built around simplicity. The admin panel is lean and efficient. Comparing with Magento, Spree has fewer tabs and sub-menus. So, by default, it is less overwhelming and minimizes the options offered. This doesn’t mean that Spree has fewer options and functionalities. It means that Spree has a more minimal way of organizing its backend options and are arranged is to keep the developers streamlined and focused.

Which one sounds like a better user experience for developers?

The Framework Used

This is where it gets interesting. The language and framework used to build each platform is the most obvious example of technological evolution. Magento is written in PHP with some elements of Zend framework. Spree is built using Ruby on Rails, a web application framework created specifically for online businesses.

If you’ve been in business awhile or if you are fairly tech-savvy, you may know that PHP is a very popular language. Compared to Ruby on Rails, PHP is a much easier language to learn right off the bat. Because of this, PHP still dominates the ecommerce industry. But, just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s right. PHP is actually not the most efficient language for ecommerce programming.

Let’s look at some comparisons between the two platforms in terms of efficiency:

Lines of Code

The main difference in efficiency between Magento and Spree lies within the difference in code. Magento has over 8.2 million lines of code whereas Spree Commerce uses only 45k. Why such a huge difference? Remember, Magento provides more functions as the core functions and Spree, by default, comes as a lightweight storefront. The extensions for Spree have to be installed and can increase functionality. These big difference in the initial sizes of the each code base makes an impact on operational and developmental processes. Here’s how:

Ease of Development

Unless you’re running a very simple shop with absolutely no customized elements or functionalities, you will need to customize the source code of your storefront. As PHP is a very popular language, finding PHP programmers is easy. However, just because a programmer knows PHP doesn’t mean that person can necessarily work well on Magento. Navigating through its complex setup can be tough. That means it is very likely, unless your developer has specific Magento experience, that there will be a learning curve for any developer you hire.

In contrast, Rails developers understand Spree much faster than PHP developers can understand Magento because the framework is more efficient and minimal. You’ll have much better chances of forgoing a large learning curve with your developer and saving yourself time and money.

Handling Requests

Whenever a server receives a request, it processes each request individually and generates a response. Servers can handle many requests simultaneously. When a server is oversubscribed with the requests, the server could suffer loss in performance, which may result in slowing down your ecommerce store.

Spree can handle more than double the number of requests per second than Magento can. In addition, Spree takes care of those requests almost three times faster than the Magento (413ms compared to 1203).

Code Requirements

Ruby on Rails is optimized for sustainable programming and productivity. And the code reflects that. It is structured in such a way that it cannot duplicate itself. That means your programmers don’t have to write code to combat duplicate errors. PHP is the opposite.

So, compared to Magento, Spree requires almost 10 times fewer lines of code to be written to achieve the same functionality. A larger amount of server-side scripting code can degrade the performance of your server and slow down your store. Since Spree requires fewer lines of codes to be written, it can speed up your website loading time, giving your customers a better experience on your site.

Payment Process Integration

Another important element to compare in ecommerce platforms are the available payment processor integrations. The limitations or lack of integrations should not determine which platform you use.

Why choose a sub-par platform just because they integrate with your preferred processor? Good news: you don’t have to. Compared to Magento, Spree supports more payment gateways out of the box. Magento supports integration with about 75 different solutions whereas Spree comes bundled with over 125.

In addition, Spree has recently upgraded VendPOS Integration for Wombat, its automated integration platform so that it takes only a few minutes to connect with leading VendPOS Integration. Read more about that integration here.

Make a Smart Decision

Obviously, both Magento and Spree are capable of offering every feature an online store needs. But in terms of speed, stability, scalability and third-party integrations, Spree stands out from its competitors. In addition, the pace of the open source contribution puts it in the Top 50 open source projects in the world. Don’t make a decision based on the state of your ecommerce business now. Think 5 years down the road. Which platform will scale with your business?

Our bet is on the platform that evolves with the efficiency trend.

To view this piece in its original format, visit the blog of Blue Stout.

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