Magento – Where are we now?

Posted by: Karen Friday, September 26th, 2014

The Presentation

So a couple of days ago I trounced up on stage and gave a presentation around extensions at Meet Magento NY. I hope it was a balanced presentation where I highlighted issues with the Connect Marketplace, but also aired my strong opinion that Magento is the platform of choice for design agencies, developers and merchants.  Indeed this was one of my statements:

“Magento in 2008 was a far superior platform than either Shopify or BigCommerce are today”.

In my mind this one statement sums up a lot about Magento. You add 6 years onto that and we have built a tremendous offering, both the Magento developers and this fabulous open community we have.

Unfortunately I think some people may have taken my presentation along with Kurt’s presentation about ‘The Center of Gravity’ and made 5 instead of 4.  So I’d like to just set the record straight on how I see things with the Magento ecosystem, and also my recommendations. Much of this extends beyond my presentation.

The Ecosystem

What I’m seeing is a slight fracturing of the ecosystem, we saw this after other Meet Magento events too.  This is good for no-one, we as a community need to stay together, because together we are so much stronger than apart.  I just want to look at some of the parties in the ecosystem and how we can get some resolution here.

Magento Inc

In my mind Magento/eBay need to sort a few things out:

  1. What is their strategy around eBay Enterprise? What is the impact likely on other members of the ecosystem of that strategy
  2. What is their target market?
  3. Who is the leadership team?
  4. How are they going to fix Magento Connect and when?
  5. What is their strategy with regards to SMEs?

I feel that one of the key issues Magento have right now is no revenue model around the SME market.  This is very easily resolvable and I feel essential that Magento do resolve in order to keep the ecosystem working correctly.  The other big issue is we just don’t know where Magento are going, and how that will impact us. They need to make this extremely clear, and now.  Because we need to consider our own futures as companies, and our investment in Magento, if Magento/eBay Inc become our competitor that is cause for great concern IMO.

What’s interesting here is that Magento 2 in my mind does not come into this. Let’s just pull back from everything being about Magento 2. Actually Magento 1.x is a damn good product. Can we please start realising that?  Because I know agencies realise it every day of the week, and so do Technology Partners like WebShopApps. Let’s start rejoicing in what we have instead of always wanting the next big thing.

Community

The problem at present is that there are a select group of individuals who feel they represent the whole community. But they do not, no more than I do.  We are one of hundreds of thousands of people that make up this wonderful community.  What concerns me is that certain people have their own agenda, their own castles to build, their own goals.

Call me what you want but as a decent human being with a respect for all people I would like to state once again that a community should be open, free, inclusive and welcoming.

What I see are people trying to create cliques, to do things for material gain for themselves, or to stroke their own ego. And I’m sorry I have no time for this.  This is business, we are all in business, every single person in the ecosystem, and there is no time for playground antics.  Some of what is happening right now is just chaotic, unprofessional, and frankly childish.  This is not Magento, this is a set of people who are looking to improve their friendship ranking. Go look inside yourselves.

There is also a little bit of stoking of a fire going on, you know everyone likes a drama. But seriously just sit back, is it really that bad?

New Faces

What I saw at Meet Magento NY was a lot of new faces. And some of us took the time to go up to those people and extend a welcoming hand. As a community this is what we should do. We should bring in new members, make them welcome and extend our community as much as we can.  Because, as Ben Marks so precisely pointed out to me, continuity is key here. The ecosystem needs to move forwards, to innovate, to change, to grow, and to make that happen we need new life, fresh life, new ideas.

The Merchants

Merchants using Magento are usually guided by the design agencies or developers they choose to work with. We have a truly fantastic set of people in this space, and luckily 99% of them are seriously nice intelligent people.  So merchants really have good opportunities to build great partnerships and hopefully a great store. I’ve seen this time and time again, and I can count on 1 hand those I’ve seen fail, but its in the thousands those I’ve seen have massive success with Magento.

What the merchants are demanding now though, and especially on the SME side is simplicity.  They want more features, more power, but they want it to be simple to use.  And they want to know their costs.  Magento struggles here, it doesn’t have fixed costs and if you are not careful the costs can escalate. Magento is complex and in the wrong hands it can be very expensive.  I believe Magento can better work with Merchants by doing the following:

  1. Having a closed forum for Merchants to talk with other Merchants without fear of advertising, promotion or similar
  2. Having a forum for Merchants to talk freely with ‘trusted experts’ in different areas, who are open and honest about their own self-interest but also give their time freely
  3. Providing details to Merchants on the various options open to them, especially in the SME market – for instance a website where they can go and see the agencies in their price range, the hosted Magento platforms available etc
  4. Improving the marketing output both in frequency and quality. I would suggest look to your partners, I’m sure many would like to write copy for you

The Center of Gravity

In my mind the Center of Gravity is not around one thing, one community, one set of people, Magento. It’s actually around each web design agency, each technology partner, each merchant. We all create our own center of gravity, where we find partners we can work with comfortably, people we trust, companies that fit us. I think a great many companies go on completely oblivious to what’s happening at these conferences, and are actually pretty happy. We need to acknowledge and respect this, and actually realise we aren’t the sum total.

So Where is Magento Now?

Right now Magento the product is running strong.  Because the ecosystem outside of Magento Inc is keeping it afloat.  And because the product is so powerful it is currently unmatched.  But this will change, I fully expect both Shopify and BigCommerce to extend more and more into Magento space, and indeed Hybris to enter the party now they have recovered from their merge with SAP.

It is my full belief that Magento need to embrace the community more.  My proposal is that Magento setup 2 things:

  1. A democratically elected rotating working committee made up of around 3 reps from across the whole of the community in each area (Gold/Silver/Bronze/Non agencies, Tech Partners, Hosting Partners, Large/Medium/Small merchants, Magento, etc)
  2. A quarterly town hall meeting with the whole community where they are transparent about their strategy, allow for questions, and engage 100% with the community

By doing these 2 things Magento will increase trust, transparency and engagement. And they will give the community a place to air their feelings, or representatives that are ready to listen (and you would hope push for action where appropriate).

From a community perspective we need to respect Magento, the constraints under which they are working, and be professional and organised in our approach to them. Its a two-way street.

What do I want?

Let me just get personal here. I have no interest whatsoever in joining any committee.  Why?  Because this is not about me, and actually I’m probably not the best person to have on a committee.  When I helped kick-start the Magento Meetup London as soon as I possibly could I replaced myself, because I have a small company in WebShopApps that actually demands my full and total attention, I’m manically busy all the time.

So this isn’t about me. In fact it’s not even about my company. I’m doing this blog, and I spoke at Meet Magento NY for 3 reasons:

  1. Because I care more than I can possibly quantify about my clients, small, medium and large, and I care about their investment in Magento
  2. Because it annoys the hell out of me when people can’t do the right thing.  This isn’t rocket science, the left arm at eBay needs to talk to the right arm, its as simple as that
  3. Because corruption and greed really pisses me off

The reason I will not join a public forum or a private room is because one is a chaotic mess giving the wrong message to anyone just browsing through and the other is a club. Neither are appropriate.

The Time is Now

I think there is a fair level of frustration around because quite a few of us have been waiting for some changes really since 2011.  That’s a long time. Since eBay took over we have bounced around various people, management teams have changed, and its really become unclear whats going on.

We have seen massive progress with Magento 2 and I commend Magento for that. But I think they need to get a small amount of resources just back on Magento 1 and keep that ball up in the air.  I don’t think what we are asking for is a lot. But some indication they are engaged is definitely required. And I know we have the wonderful Ben Marks, but its about more than Ben, we now need to see some action.

Make a plan, approve it and then do it now.  Cut out the red tape, lets go build the future together. But please let’s not wash our dirty linen in public, let’s be professional and stand strong as a unified group with one common goal, to serve the merchants success. Because in their success we too will have success.

 

Meet Magento NY – Why Attend?

Posted by: Karen Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

So here in the United States we have a lot going on.  It’s busy.  As merchants, developers, or company bosses we don’t have a lot of time and when we do we want to spend it wisely.

In terms of events most of us will hit one or more of Imagine, IRCE, or Shop.org in a year.  Just recently the Meet Magento brand pushed out to the US, with their first event in New York on 22nd/23rd September.  So what are they about and why should we fit this into our diaries?  Here are my thoughts.

Intimate

The big events are great, you get the jazz, the big parties, the back slapping.  But its easy to feel lonely.  The people you want to talk to are often inundated with meetings, and there is often a constant stream of faces, combined with more sessions to attend than you can manage. It can be pretty overwhelming, especially if you are of a quieter disposition!

At the Meet Magento events they are much smaller. This is done intentionally. To create a more intimate environment where you will find you can mix with a variety of people at all levels. Because its smaller often the barriers to discussion are broken down. Forget hierarchy, this is one big family.

Localised

You will be mixing with people like you, living near you. This I think is fantastic. You can compare horror stories about clients, discuss agencies with other merchants, talk to devs and maybe even find a new employee.  You have something in common with your fellow attendees immediately.

Merchant Friendly

Given these events are smaller I think there is less scope for being hounded by the sponsors.  Okay you might get a bit but I think generally its a more relaxed environment, and you can probably have a longer chat with people without feeling like you have the hard-sell going on.  In terms of learning I think merchants will find this event incredibly useful as the sessions are extremely merchant focused. I’ll be there sharing my thoughts on using Magento extensions and working with extension providers for one, hopefully giving you a real insight into how to get the most out of the Magento platform.

Developer Learning

For developers there is a hackathon on Sunday 21st.  I’d encourage every single developer out there in the NY area that is either interested or using Magento to go.  Whether you are just starting out or a complete genius. In that one day you will learn more than a month at work.  Please do not feel intimated, like you aren’t good enough, or you prefer to code in quiet. Its relaxed, and you might be surprised how much you know already. There will be various projects and you can do as little or as much as you want. What’s fun is just meeting poeple outside your normal circle, and exploring topics beyond the constraints of the workplace. My friend Maier will be attending this along with me, and I’ve put out a challenge to a few people to come code alongside me.  Let’s play!

The People

You know there are quite a few great people attending Meet Magento NY. Ben Marks will be there, Alan Kent, Brendan, Ivan, all great names. But what’s really great is that its a free community, we aren’t all waving the Magento/eBay banner, we are all free to speak our mind. What connects all of us is our passion for this great product which is Magento and we want to share that with you, to explore together how we can innovate better, how we can improve your lives and how we can all progress. For that I believe Meet Magento NY is the place to be later this month.

 

I should add this event is being managed by Kimberley and Ignacio from Interactive4.com, and I can categorically say the event could not be in better hands.

If you are thinking of attending and don’t yet have a ticket ping us a mail and we can get you a deal. WebShopApps style.  See you there.

USPS API Update September 2014

Posted by: Genevieve Thursday, September 4th, 2014

See update at end of post for additional information from Magento from September 24th or read their blog post.

USPS Logo

USPS Logo

If you use USPS live rates in Magento, you’ve likely received an email from USPS informing you of upcoming changes to their APIs. These changes will take effect on September 7th, 2014.

USPS has also noted that the end of support for their RateV3 API (in favor of the RateV4 API) will take place on September 28th, 2014 as scheduled. WebShopApps has reviewed these changes against Magento from Community Edition versions 1.4.1 to 1.9 with the following conclusions.

Magento CE 1.5.1 or Later

If you’re running a version of Magento Community Edition 1.5.1 or later, we can confirm that there will be little or no impact on your site (however, see below for a possible configuration changes if you’re using our Shipping Override, Shipping Insurance, or Dimensional Shipping extensions). You can read more about the changes included in this update below.

Versions lower than Magento CE 1.5.1

If you’re running Magento Community Edition below version 1.5.1 you will no longer receive USPS rates from September 28th onward since those versions of Magento used USPS RateV3 API which will be retired. WebShopApps has developed a free patch for sites running versions prior to 1.5.1 which will update the USPS API version to RateV4. Download the patch.

Once you’ve installed the patch, no further action will be required on your part and you will continue receiving USPS rates even after the September 28th update. This patch also includes changes required for full compatibility with the September 7th update. This patch is provided for free but does not come with support. If you require advice or assistance then we encourage you to purchase a support package.

Magento Enterprise Edition users

We recommend that any users of Magento EE contact Magento for information and updates on whether or not this API update will be expected to effect them.

USPS API Update Summary

The September 7th update to the API is relatively minor. You can learn more about these changes at USPS.com. The only significant changes are outlined below:

  • Update of country name for Montenegro and Tokelau (Western Samoa)
  • Method names updated for Media Mail (now Media Mail Parcel) and Library Mail (Library Mail Parcel)

USPS has not yet released full information on updates that are expected to take effect on September 28th except to confirm that it will end support the RateV3 API on that date.

Shipping Override, Shipping Insurance, or Dimensional Shipping Impact

If you are running our Shipping Override, or Shipping Insurance extensions and are offering either Media Mail or Library Mail, you may need to update your configuration to reflect the new shipping methods.

If you’re running our Dimensional Shipping extension it is not necessary to upgrade or update your configuration, you should see no impact with these API changes.

About WebShopApps

WebShopApps are Magento Platinum Industry Partners and the premier providers of shipping solutions for rate management in Magento. Contact us to discuss your needs.


Update September 24th: Magento has released a blog post containing the results of their review of the impact of the September 7th and September 28th USPS API changes. They have produced patches for Magento Enterprise Edition 1.11.x and above and Magento Community Editions above version 1.6. See their blog post for more details.

Please Note: Magento officially advises merchants running CE1.6 and below upgrade to latest Magento version.

The Why and How of In-Store Pickup

Posted by: Daniel Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

In-Store Pickup, BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup In Store), Click and Collect, call it what you will, if you run a business selling offline as well as online and aren’t yet offering In-Store Pickup to your customers, it’s time to reconsider.

Focus on Convenience

Shopping online has always been driven by convenience. Either customers couldn’t find what they wanted at their local stores, they wanted to comparison-shop and like the ability to browse multiple stores in a few clicks, they may just love the ability to shop in their pajamas, or dozens of other reasons.

As eCommerce has matured, however, these advantages are taken for granted and it’s not enough to just offer your customers the option of buying your products from their couch. You need to find ways to differentiate yourself and add more value to your customer experience.

This is where In-Store Pickup comes in. Whether you have one location or a dozen, a certain percentage of your customers are likely local to your stores. Additionally, if you sell products which are heavy, bulky, or otherwise difficult to ship, in many cases allowing the customer to come pick up the item at your location just makes sense. Add to the mix the possibility of same-day pickup and you’ve got a simple way to get your products in the hands of your customers faster and more conveniently.

A Host of Other Reasons

While convenience for customers is the primary reason to offer In-Store Pickup, there are many secondary reasons that can be almost as important. Here are a few:

  • Increase Foot Traffic & Add-On Sales
    Every time a customer comes into your store you have an opportunity to convert that visit into a purchase. Studies have shown that, on average, over 30% of customers who come into shops to pick up an online order purchase additional items (Deloitte Consulting, MarketingProfs.com).
  • Lower Shipping Costs
    If you offer free shipping on your website, every customer who chooses In-Store Pickup is putting money back into your pocket. If you charge your customers for shipping, offering free In-Store Pickup can save them money, making your products even more competitive on price.
  • Find Local Customers
    You may have customers who live just down the road who have no idea that you have a retail location in their neck of the woods! Simply showing the option of In-Store Pickup in checkout gives you the chance to grow your local traffic.
  • Reduced Shipment Security Woes
    Especially in urban environments where a carrier may not be able to leave a package on a doorstep, it becomes important to offer an alternative delivery option. If you have locations in these areas you can solve this problem by preparing the order for In-Store Pickup and allowing the customer to pick up their order on their time-table while reducing non-deliverable return shipments or damaged shipments.

How it Works

Single-Location Retailers

If you’re a single-location retailer, offering In-Store Pickup couldn’t be easier. For customers who chose to pickup in store, you simply label and set aside those orders once you’ve picked them. All you need is a shelf or rack large enough to hold the number orders you’re likely to get. When a customer comes in to pick up their items, your checkout or customer service staff should be trained to retrieve and hand over those orders.

Multi-Location Retailers

One of the considerations for multi-location retailers is the fact that the store location the customer may have chosen on checkout may not be your fulfillment center. In that case, you’ll need to train staff at each location to identify, pick, and label in-store pickup orders. These may be pulled from stock on-site or brought in through your regular replenishment system if not all of your items are available at all locations. In either case, it’s simply a matter of informing your customer that their order is ready to be picked up via Magento’s order status email once it’s on-site.

Split-Operations Retailers & Ship-to-Store

If your online order fulfillment is done at one location without an attached retail location and you have one or more retail locations, you should consider offering ship-to-store fulfillment. In this case, your fulfillment center picks, packs, and ships the customer’s order to their chosen retail location. This requires little modification of your fulfillment process and offers all of the benefits of fulfilled-in-store In-Store Pickup, including cost savings on shipping. If required, you can even pass shipping charges on to your customers using live rates from a carrier or custom rates.

WebShopApps In-Store Pickup

The WebShopApps In-Store Pickup extension allows you to set up multiple locations and show them to your customers in a map on checkout. This extension also lets you limit where you offer In-Store Pickup with the option to show it only to customers within a specified distance from your locations. Plus, with the ability to use live carrier rates or custom rates as your pricing and offer your customers the option to choose the date and even a specific time slot for their pickup, you’ll manage your costs while offering customers expanded options. Find a full list of features, a live demo, and documentation on our WebShopApps In-Store Pickup extension page.

Magento Live UK 2014 – The Best Yet?

Posted by: Karen Thursday, July 17th, 2014

And so once again Magento hits London for the annual Magento Live event, this time in the summer, just barely a couple of months after Imagine.  I was talking to one guy and eventually we figured out that it was 3 years back in 2011 when the first Live event happened, with a view of Big Ben from a slightly different but similarily awesome viewpoint.

So did it meet expectations?  There was no Roy Rubin, the startup founders had departed, the eBay crowd had truly arrived, were they going to be able to handle this unique and wonderful UK Magento ecosystem consisting of entrepreneurs, one-man developers, and merchants large and small, or would they fall flat and it be the end of Magento as we know it? All the ‘oldies’ from the ecosystem were looking for the cracks, the corporate tone, the ‘we don’t really care but we will try to kid you otherwise’ approach.

And the Result is In

Actually from the feedback I received and the way I saw it (which is obviously the only view I can state) I think they managed to pull it off. Magento survives, and actually it might even prosper under this new management team.  What was clear to me was that this event was well thought out, organised, and full of clearly intelligent people from the eBay side. I would argue actually this event in terms of the message from the management team was stronger and more consistent than at Imagine – where I personally felt it was a little conflicting.

You can tell some things are still being worked out, but their message was extremely clear:

  • This ecosystem is totally unique within the eCommerce space and we must preserve and nurture it
  • Open source is here to stay
  • Magento is doing great things, there are some amazing customers using it and market share is increasing

We needed to hear this.  But what we wanted more was to feel it. And we did. We felt like we are a part of something that still has a lot of life left in it, and that our participation was understood and appreciated by Magento. Everyone in this ecosystem knows that the role they play, whether it be large or small, involves a heck of a lot of hard work, dedication, and passion. It was nice to know from the very platform that we all rely on and have nurtured ourselves over the years that those at the top haven’t discounted us, they are starting to understand us and realise what we bring to the table.

So who was there?

In the end there were over 700 attendees. I counted the rows in the keynotes and the numbers looked sound to me.  At times it was standing room only.  The web design agencies were in full presence, though only OnTap had a stand.  Jonty from Red Box Digital seemed to crop up a bit on stage, he clearly is running a very professional influential company, great to see such a genuinely nice chap starting to reap the rewards of his total utter dedication to this space.  There were many other quality partners around including The Distance, Limesharp, The Pixel, Creare Group, Healthy Websites, Hunters Design to name just a few.  I spoke with many of these agencies, and they are all growing, all raising the bar, and all finding that Magento is growing in popularity still, which is great to hear.

There were a great many merchants in attendance, obvious from their green badges.  Many were household names, I won’t divulge for competition reasons but from talking with these merchants they all said to me they got a lot out of the event, the content in the breakouts was useful, and the ability to connect with other merchants and indeed speak with agencies, technology partners and Magento gave them a much needed opportunity to re-evaluate and learn.

Our great friends over at SLI Systems had their usual presence, they were professional, courteous and engaging. Their stand was always busy, clearly search is hot in demand at present, and they know how to do the job well.

From the eBay side there were various heads, including those of Small Business, Product Management, Marketing, eBay Enterprise, together with the architectural innovative brilliance of the likes of Brent Peters and John Lunn.

And of course WebShopApps – we hosted the opening party, and the family friendly open atmosphere was exactly what we wanted, no segregation, just everyone hanging out and enjoying the evening free of the stresses of everyday work for once.  It was the perfect start.

The Venue

The move to the Plaza Hotel was needed, the venue near St. Pauls was too small, and having the large exhibition area where food was served worked well for all, we mingled and networked much more than previous years I felt. Having the evening event in the same venue was also appreciated, it just seemed more intimate, even though there was more space. This is the same venue for next year, and I suspect off the back of this year’s event there will be an even bigger crowd, this really is the eCommerce event to attend right now.

So What was Missing?

So all this positive talk, surely something wasn’t right?  Well, I think Magento should have joined the community event on the Tuesday evening and actually taken off their jackets and come mixed in a neutral setting with the masses, that would have been great. Though we did get the pleasure of both Ben Marks and Beth Gomez joining us, and in fine form too!

I think there are still questions around whats going on with Magento, and it would have been nice if they had cleared up some of these. The biggest question that I think a few of us pondered was:

“Where does the platform finish and the ecosystem begin?”

It’s clear that there is a push down from eBay Enterprise into the Magento space. Magento need to clarify how far that push down goes, because let’s face it right now we are all growing up with our customers, and we want to continue to grow up with them. If eBay Enterprise is this large monolith where our best customers depart to never to be seen again I think there will be some questions asked, as we in the community have really been key contributors to their success (and in turn Magento’s), we aren’t going to sit quietly by and let that just happen. I think the same applies around the lower end of the market, with the disappearance of Magento Go (which wasn’t even mentioned) what are Magento’s plans here, and if its still being worked out please be transparant and tell us. Because if the move is to Big Commerce (as the emails and news reports suggest), well that affects a lot of agencies, hosting providers, technology partners and indeed merchants.

Then we had the boxes for suggestions for Magento 2 – what did people most want to see. For pretty much every box there already exists extensions that solve the issue (e.g. Import/Export capabilities around orders).  If Magento is going to build such features that could impact on the ecosystem my feeling is they need to be very transparant so that companies have time to react to that, otherwise they risk de-stabilizing the great work being undertaken by innovative companies.

And Lastly

I think this was the best Magento Live event ever.  It was true, intimate, honest and well executed by a management team less interested in fame, career progression and parties, much more interested in results, stats and diligence.

Well done to the Magento team, and keep up the great work. But remember – in the words of keynote speaker Mariana Mazzucato

- “We should be building mutualistic ecosystems rather than parasitic ones”

 

 

WebShopApps – A Unique Proposition

Posted by: Karen Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

What do WebShopApps Do?

This is a question we ask all prospective staff members. If they can’t answer with a few key words (one of them involving shipping), then usually the interview is over within 5 minutes and we just pad it out for 20 minutes more to be nice!

But a lot of people don’t get what we do, I suppose we have literally been so busy over the past 5 odd years that we don’t sit back and explain it too well. We remain busy, which is great, but now I have a bit more time available so I thought I’d share my view on what WebShopApps is about

To me WebShopApps is this today:

“We are Subject Matter Experts in the area of Shipping Rate Calculation in Magento eCommerce”.

So what the heck does that mean?

Well we understand shipping. Completely and totally.  We understand Magento around shipping, completely and totally.

And our focus – its in the cart, the checkout, around being able to get the most accurate rates, and/or manipulate shipping rates to increase your profits, make you more competitive, or just because you have some awkward item that costs you more to ship than you make in revenue.

How does this Help me as a Merchant?

We can talk in your speak, we have dealt with thousands of clients over the years and come across pretty much every shipping scenario there is. We understand how shipping works in eCommerce businesses, and as such we can understand your needs and translate those into providing solutions that work for you.

How does this Help me as a Web Design Agency?

Shipping is pretty damn boring if you are a web designer. We get that. We take the strain off you.  We can deal with the shipping, from requirements thro to implementation and testing.  You can concentrate on pretty things like design, widgets and graphics, we deal with the boring mechanics and maths of shipping.

And the Extensions

Well we have written a lot. More than I can feasibly count anymore. But we have a core suite that works for 97% of our customers, you would be surprised what we can do that you may have thought didn’t exist.  Freight, Dropshipping, Dimensional, Custom product rules, handling fees, surcharges, you name it we have done it.

We had the most powerful shipping extensions on Magento back in 2009 and we have them still today. Because we are passionate about 2 things – the customer, and shipping.

Yep I know its boring

But we love it.  Contact us to discuss your needs. Oh and did I mention we have offices in the US and UK (and an engineer out in AUS). Why? Because we want to be close to you.

IRCE 2014 Roundup

Posted by: Daniel Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Last week 10,000 of the best and brightest eCommerce minds in the world gathered in Chicago for the Internet Retail Conference & Exhibition. Karen and Daniel from WebShopApps attended and spent time connecting with partners, friends, and customers as well as keeping our finger on the pulse of eCommerce. Here are some highlights:

  1. Endicia‘s event on Tuesday evening at Ignite Glass Studios was a unique take on a partner event as we gathered around the glass kilns enjoying appetizers and drinks while watching the craftsmen mold molten glass into a unique sculpture.
  2. Magento‘s Tuesday night event brought everyone to Public House, one of Chicago’s finest gastropubs. Over a delicious buffet and some great local beers, we reconnected with many partners and friends (and perhaps snuck a peek at the NBA game every once in a while).
  3. I had the opportunity to attend the comScore 2014 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper presentation on Thursday afternoon. Full of great information for merchants on what online shoppers are looking for and the popularity growth of non-traditional, cross-channel shopping in offerings like In-Store Pickup.
  4. Our friends from Classy Llama had a great booth with a beautiful hardwood floor and were promoting their new Llama Commerce Magento platform. One to keep an eye on!
  5. We introduced our new eCommerce shipping platform, ShipperHQ, to many of our friends and partners who weren’t able to attend Magento’s Imagine eCommerce 2014 conference and, again, were thrilled by the response! Get in touch if you want to see the future of eCommerce shipping.

Throughout the exhibit hall, the number of new services available to eCommerce companies was amazing. From search engines, to live support platforms, to monitoring and analytics, the eCommerce market is coming into its own. IRCE was another confirmation that frequent innovation is key to success and WebShopApps is proud to be one of the companies driving eCommerce into the future.

A Week with WebShoppApps

Posted by: emma Monday, June 9th, 2014

After meeting Karen at an engineering conference held by my school I asked if I’d be able to undertake work experience with her company. It seemed the perfect opportunity – an impressive company, an industry suited to my interest and based near to where I live. I’m so glad Karen agreed to take me on for a week as having completed it I can say it was honestly an invaluable experience.

When I arrived on my first day I was a bit worried I’d be sat around with nothing to do as I’d often heard about friends being given boring jobs that no one else wanted or given the role of tea-maker. However, on my arrival I was given a project and a laptop that was to be mine for the week as well as a temporary email account with the company. This made me feel really welcome to begin with but it was the staff’s friendly and helpful nature that made me feel at ease and made the week so much more enjoyable.

Most of my independent work centred on web page design, doing my own research and producing reports to suggest updated designs for the company site. I also spent a lot of time shadowing the different staff members to learn about their different roles in the company as well as more in-depth information behind how the apps work. I learnt a lot of technical information too such as getting much more familiar with Linux, how to use servers and debugging computer code. It was so interesting to see how different members of the team would work together to solve particularly challenging problems, especially as I was often clueless as to possible solutions. The fact everyone was so happy to explain fully what they were doing and answer my questions meant I learnt so much more than I would have just from observing. Occasionally we’d go off topic, talking about things that I didn’t understand, outside of what was currently necessary of the task, answering some questions I’d had for a long time.

On top of this I learnt a lot about the work environment, colleagues and working life. Being treated like another member of staff made me feel independent and mature while the jokes and conversations kept it from feeling too serious. Given that I hope to move into this industry it was especially helpful to learn how a relevant company operates, for example the hours and what it’s like to work at a computer for long periods of time. I also learnt more about PHP and code, especially the debugging process, which should be really helpful in my future studies.

Overall I had a brilliant week, really fun and exceptionally useful. I feel a lot better prepared for my plans to study computer science at university and more confident that I will enjoy the subject. I had such a great time I was a little sad to be leaving after what felt like such a short week. However with some WebShopApp goodies and possible opportunities to return next year I couldn’t be upset for long.

Magento 2 – Time to get Behind It

Posted by: Karen Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

What’s to get Behind?

The standard joke in Magento has been around when will Magento 2 appear. Since it was first announced in 2010 there have been several false starts, partly to blame for this has been the eBay buyout of Magento, the change of CTO’s, Product Manager’s, X.commerce, and so on.  But, in my opinion it’s now time to put those jokes to bed, to get behind the team who are building Magento 2 and as a community show them our support.  I think this is especially important at this time when a lot of the development team are in the Ukraine, we need to show them we care about what they are doing, and indeed value and respect them for working on this great project.

So What is Magento 2?

When Magento 1.0 arrived back in 2008 it was a game changer. Its architecture was hard for many to understand, involved real programming, and I believe for the first time ‘professionalised’ the craft of PHP software development for the mainstream web design agency.  It brought along a fantastically extensible, innovative UI, gave the ability to cutomise it to our heart’s content and right from the start supported the ability for the community to play their part in adding functionality.

It wasn’t the Magento ecommerce product itself that was great, it was the architecture that it was built on, the framework. Because that enabled developers like myself to dream bigger dreams than the Magento team, to create beautiful sites, and craft Magento into what we wanted it to be. Collectively we all created the Magento that it is today.

So, I hear you asking, where does Magento 2 fit in? Well, when Yoav and Roy conceived Magento 1 I’m sure they didn’t anticipate the rate of growth, the usage or the demands that would be placed on the platform.  It was 2007/2008, just when the first iPhones were announced by Steve Jobs.  Things have changed.  It’s full credit to the team that created Magento 1 that it’s still thriving today. But with Magento 2 we have an opportunity to re-think, to assess the current technologies, to redo the components that cause most pain, to build a platform in 2014 that will work in 2020.

What’s our say?

When I say ‘we’ I do mean ‘we’, as I’ve said many times before, this is no longer just about Magento/eBay, it is about us all. We collectively have an amazing amount of knowledge and experience, far more than the current paid Magento team, and it’s clear to me from their actions that Magento/eBay are receptive to taking onboard our feedback, our comments. That’s not to say everything we suggest they should listen to, because they shouldn’t, they ultimately should decide, and we need to trust that.

RoadMap

Magento 2 can be downloaded on github today. A beta for developers is planned for Dec 2014.  This will give people time to test, create modules, themes, feedback issues, etc.

The Merchant Beta is due for middle of 2015, I suspect Magento Imagine will announce a beta customer. From then on an iterative agile release approach is proposed, with the team focused on a single set of goals, delivering those goals, then moving onto the next piece of functionality. This is a great way to run a team, and get’s my approval.

When/What to Learn?

I’ve personally shied away from getting too involved in learning Magento 2. We did an extension on it last year, didn’t find it too bad to convert, but a lot has changed since then so it seems pointless to try to keep up. What I do though, and I encourage my team to do, is:

  • read the blogs around what’s happening
  • create a default site monthly
  • browse the code
  • follow the github threads/issues
  • read up on the technologies and approaches being used

Here are a few snippets that I see cropping up lately:

  1. It is clear someone in the Ukraine has the Gang Of Four book on their desk(!), and although a tough read I’d encourage any serious programmer to obtain your own copy, its pretty much a bible amongst serious devs (and yes, I’ve read it on numerous occasions and recommend if interviewing for Goldman Sachs/ThoughtWorks!!)
  2. AOP is another term we see banded around, in laymen’s terms this is about separating out the business logic within magento (orders, checkout, customers) from the actual plumbing (e.g. transactions, authorizations), in turn extracting the parts that ‘cut across’ into separate blocks (concerns) e.g. Logging, caching, persistence
  3. Clearly having an understanding of responsive design, JQuery, CSS3 is all mandatory for you frontend folks, if you don’t know it by now, well time to switch on
  4. The Service Layer is another interesting aspect, the short version is that it’s a way of abstracting out the Model/Persistence layer from the view/controller/external api.  This allows greater modularization, a consistent and defined approach, plus hopefully stops crap being written ;)

Unit testing will be a must – see the  Magento Testing Framework, this is a big leap forwards. With Magento 2 testing is there by default and I hope/assume they will release an extensive set of unit tests, then enforce all new extensions submitted go through checks around test coverage as a minimum.  This one change will significantly increase the quality of the extension marketplace, and in turn increase the takeup of Magento2.

I’ll leave it to others to give you the detailed perspective, my point here though is that none of this is rocket science, but start learning now, as when this fully arrives you will be prepared, you will understand.

Conclusion

I’m encouraged by what eBay is doing, as some of you may know I don’t suffer fools gladly and I’m pleased that some of the ‘fluff’ has been removed from the Magento space. There seem to be a number of people here now who genuinly want Magento 2 to work, are passionate about it as a technology, it’s not about them trying to move their career forwards or being flashy about being the head of this that or whatever, they just believe they can do a good job and are working within a team to ensure that happens.

What’s being done here is to be commended, as the reality is that many of us rely on Magento for a good deal of our income, and really our future is in their hands to a degree (of course unless we diversify which many of us are doing). It would be easy for eBay to walk away from open source, they owe us nothing, but they haven’t, and we need to acknowledge that commitment sometimes.

To those amongst us that are ready to knock this I’d say the past is gone, people have changed, stop whining about what wasn’t done and look at what is happening now. Go contribute on github if that is your skill, go give your feedback if you are a business owner, but then support this effort, or go find somewhere else to hang your hat.  Because we have moved forwards, the train has pulled away and it’s time to go have some fun with the future!

Magento Imagine 2014 Wrap-up

Posted by: Karen Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Once again companies and individuals from around the world headed to Vegas for 4 days of Magento, networking, keynotes, casino’s and partying.  The conference moved from it’s remote M Resort location to the slightly less remote Hard Rock Hotel.  Here we mingled in with tourists, listened to crazy music blaring whilst trying to have breakfast meetings, and I’d say it generally felt a little less personal than when we literally took over the M Resort venue. But it’s location nearer to the strip was certainly welcomed, and well, its nice to have a change.

The People

The keynotes introduced some new faces, most significantly Mark Lavelle, who has a frighteningly long title of Head of Global Product and Strategy at eBay Enterprise & GM Magento. Another name for the future was Brent Peters, the CTO of eBay Enterprise.

The guest keynote speakers were of top quality once again. My particular favourite was Malcom Gladwell. Apart from the fact he spoke about shipping for a good 30 minutes (which I hope for once made it non-boring!) he brought up the argument that being disagreeable was actually a good thing. So that justified the last 20 years I’ve been in IT, finally I found someone who was telling me standing up and being counted and not worrying about what people think is a good idea!

Roy Rubin was at his last Imagine as an employee of eBay. It was certainly sad to see him go, but in a way I’m pleased we can now move on and focus on the future.

Product Highlights

CE 1.9/EE1.14 was introduced via a great video from The Buzz Lab about Classy Llama and 3M.  CE1.9 is a collaboration between Magento and Classy Llama/Brendan Falkowski

which gives us a theme with jQuery, a responsive design and CSS5 built in. It’s great to see Magento/eBay working with the community here, I’d encourage them to do this more, use the resources you have as we have the expertise, plus also the drive and passion to make things happen.

Magento 2 was discussed, and some very broad timelines given. It seems a Release Candidate may be out by March 2015, though they are taking an iterative agile approach so it sounds like some features won’t be added until Q3 2015. Magento 2 does look pretty cool tho, from my discussions I get the impression they now have a good team on this, with good overall direction and a focus on delivering a MVP as opposed to a ‘perfect solution’ (which we all know is non-achievable).  They seem to be thinking for the first time about how this will be used/extended, over and above some of the lower technological aspects that really won’t mean much to merchants/agencies/developers.

There was a fair amount of talk about Magento Enterprise and eBay Enterprise, personally I find the fact that both are called Enterprise confusing, and it seems clear where this could go. It seems eBay is building out features for eBay Enterprise, and I can see this floating down to the Magento Enterprise offering. Personally I think this will be a bad move, as the companies in the community are building far more superior offerings already, eBay should look to partner/white label rather than trying to build in house – the whole success of Magento has been built on the foundation of a community marketplace, changing that seems wrong.

Transforming

The topic of the conference was ‘Transform’, so I thought I’d take a look at some of the companies there that I saw were transforming themselves.

1) Classy Llama – They are offering a ‘turnkey’ type Magento offering where you can get hosting, a default Magento platform, extensions, etc and from there adapt to create your Magento store. This is really aimed at being a beefed up Magento Go, and I have a feeling they will do it better!

2) WebShopApps – ShipperHQ.com was launched at Imagine, this is a cloud based shipping rate solution encompassing the best of the WebShopApps extensions into a single cohesive solution. This was met with great feedback at Imagine and we are now working with a number of Enterprise clients doing a managed rollout of this great solution. Expect a lot more info over coming months!

3) UK company Red Box Digital won the Magento Site of the Year – Best Design award at Imagine with Paperchase.co.uk. This is a great company WebShopApps work with a lot, congratulations to them on this well-deserved award.