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The Changing Landscape of Magento B2B eCommerce: Key Risks and Feedback from Developers and Customers

The Magento eCommerce platform has evolved significantly over the last few years. Learn what B2B site owners and developers are saying, and discover Magento alternatives.

The Magento eCommerce platform, a leading technology platform in the eCommerce industry, has undergone significant changes over the years, leaving developers and companies with mixed sentiments about its current state.

Acquisitions by eBay and then by Adobe brought about shifts in the platform's direction. If you’re a small or mid-sized B2B distributor or manufacturer, this article will give you an overview of the key risks to consider, whether you’re staying with Magento/Adobe Commerce or implementing it for the first time.

First, a Quick Recap of Magento

Magento, used predominantly by retailers, is an open-source eCommerce platform that is highly customizable, flexible and scalable. This is especially useful for larger brands and companies with skilled IT teams who can build out the platform to fit their exact needs.

In 2018, Magento was acquired by Adobe and integrated into the Adobe Experience Cloud (Adobe’s Enterprise CMS platform). This opened up new functionality: for example, the ability to sync Magento stores with Amazon and integrate product catalogs with Google Merchant Center and Google advertising channels. Customers now had an end-to-end customer experience, from creation to commerce.

Today, Magento for enterprise businesses is renamed “Adobe Commerce” (though many people still refer to it as Magento). It serves B2C and B2B companies, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on B2B capabilities.

To recap, these are the differences between Magento open source and the Adobe Commerce enterprise versions:

  1. Magento as the open-source eCommerce platform. It’s free at its base, but requires you to set up and pay for your own server, hosting and backup. You’ll also need to pay a developer to customize the platform to your needs, including integrations, themes, and extensions, plus paying someone for support and maintenance (ideally, you’d have a dedicated Magento developer on staff, but most small and mid-sized distributors and manufacturers don’t).
  2. Adobe Commerce is the hosted, enterprise version. Some say it’s easier to set up than the open-source version because it requires less customization. It includes everything you need to get started, like hosting, security and support. But it’s more expensive and may be entirely cost-prohibitive unless you’re a large organization.

What does Magento cost?

Magento open-source software is free, but hosting the software starts at $22,000 for store revenues of less than $1 million per year (cost varies depending on your eCommerce store’s annual revenue). From there, you will need to pay for integrations, extensions, coding, support, etc.

 Adobe Commerce costs are heavily dependent on an organization’s exact needs. For a rough reference, you can assume a starter plan costs around $40,000/year, a Pro plan $80,000/year and an Enterprise plan $125,000 per year. This includes cloud hosting and backup (which isn’t included in the other Magento software).

What Site Owners & Developers are Saying about Magento/Adobe Commerce

Adobe has taken Magento farther into the enterprise end of the market, adding more customization and extensive features. This shift has benefited the largest and most complex Magento customers, but it has negatively impacted many small and mid-sized B2B businesses that don’t have the resources (or business need) for an expansive, more cumbersome enterprise eCommerce platform.

Here’s what B2B site owners and developers are saying about their experience with Magento:

  • Increased complexity: Enterprise, open-source software is more complex to operate and requires particular skill levels among your IT team. Because of this, many site owners say they’re migrating to other platforms.
  • A constant drumbeat of costs: Not surprisingly, enterprise-level software with robust features and functionality will come with a higher price tag. There’s also a constant cadence of costs for licensing, hosting, extensions, and scaling costs. This isn’t feasible for a lot of SMBs.
  • Performance and Bugs: Site owners and developers have criticized Magento as bloated and slow. Buggy modules seem to take a long time for Adobe to fix and update.
  • Scalability: Magento has specific hosting needs and the server requirements can be substantial. If these needs aren’t met, your website speed could be impacted and downtimes increased. Site owners are responsible for finding their own alternatives like cloud hosting or dedicated servers, plus the related responsibilities of SSL security certificates, domain registrations, etc.
  • Limited Innovation: The pace of innovation within the Magento platform has been criticized as sluggish, especially compared to other more nimble eCommerce platforms. This could impact your business growth and competitiveness.

Magento for a Distribution or Manufacturing B2B eCommerce Site: What you’ll Need

If you’re a small or mid-sized business thinking about Magento, the two most significant resources you’ll need are money and a skilled Magento developer (or even a team, depending on your requirements).

Costs to consider:

  • Software licenses
  • Hosting and backup (if applicable)
  • Integrations
  • Extensions Modifications
  • Customizations
  • Security
  • Maintenance and support

Here are just a few of the skills your developer or development team needs to effectively manage Magento/Adobe Commerce:

  • A quick learner (site owners and developers say Magento/Adobe Commerce has a steep learning curve, especially if you’re new to the platform).
  • Expertise in programming language (JavaScript, HTML and CSS for creating appealing user interfaces, plus PHP, Python, Java, etc. for server-side operations).
  • CMS development skills (this shapes web infrastructure).
  • Solid understanding of SEO in order to build a strong SEO foundation and help customers find you in search.
  • The ability to blend high-tech with customer usability. In other words, your development personnel shouldn’t create tech for tech’s sake. They must balance deep technical expertise with creating an easy, smooth and enjoyable B2B eCommerce experience.

Is it Easy for a Distributor or Manufacturer to Use Magento for B2B eCommerce?

Magento can be a great choice for large enterprises due to its robust features, customization capabilities. But for small and mid-sized B2B companies, it may present challenges due to cost and the deep technical skill needed to optimize its features and maintain the integrity of the platform.

If your company doesn’t have substantial resources for eCommerce set-up, troubleshooting and maintenance, Magento/Adobe Commerce may not be the best fit for you.

Similarly, if you are an SMB in distribution or manufacturing and are currently using Magento/Adobe Commerce, you may be finding it too resource-heavy, costly and burdensome year-over-year.

As an Epicor customer, should I consider Commerce Connect (ECC)?

This eCommerce middleware solution is designed for manufacturers and distributors by Epicor. It integrates with Epicor ERPs, including Prophet 21 and Eclipse, and is built exclusively for the Magento platform. This middleware software serves as a bridge between Magento and the Epicor ERP system, streamlining communication and data transfers. Notably, this solution has replaced Epicor's B2B Seller eCommerce solution. While it effectively links the Epicor ERP system with the Magento platform, it maintains the same complexities associated with managing the Magento platform, as mentioned earlier. If your business has a team of skilled and technical Magento professionals capable of maintaining and updating these systems, including Magento, Linux, and MySql, you may find it manageable. However, for those without this expertise, handling these complexities independently may be too challenging and costly.

Read on to learn about possible Magento/Adobe Commerce alternatives.

What are some Magento Alternatives?

Whether you are looking for your first eCommerce B2B platform or you want to move off Magento/Adobe Commerce, these alternatives may be better fits:

  • WooCommerce: WooCommerce is an open-source eCommerce plugin for WordPress. People say it’s generally easy to use and set up, but lacks many advanced B2B eCommerce features, and may be less flexible and scalable than other options. While a good solution for small and mid-sized B2C businesses, it’s generally not a good fit for B2B: WordPress sites have been criticized for slower speeds and WooCommerce’s features can be messy for B2B particulars, like specific pricing rules or shipping regulations.
  • BigCommerce B2B Edition: This version of the BigCommerce platform is more comprehensive than their standard eCommerce software. It provides a range of features, templates, and shipping, payment and tax management options. Commonly cited downsides include the fact that it doesn't have as many options or third-party integrations as some competitors, and it can be complex to set up for those without eCommerce experience. Additionally, there are potential cost constraints based on annual sales and a lack of support for troubleshooting third-party integrations.
  • Channel Software: Channel Software’s CSX eCommerce platform is designed specifically for the requirements of B2B distributors and manufacturers. Its responsive, flexible, and user-friendly platform offers critical B2B features to easily integrate and manage the most complex rules. Channel Software’s eCommerce platform includes a Product Information Management (PIM) tool, a Content Management System (CMS) and analytics dashboard. It seamlessly integrates with common systems such as EDI, CRM, punchout, any variety of ERP, and more. Because of its ease-of-use and concierge-style support, companies are not required to hire a developer or IT expert to setup or maintain the platform.

Our Take: Is Magento Helpful for SMB Distributors and Manufacturers?

For small and mid-sized B2B distributors and manufacturers, the best eCommerce platform boils down to answering these questions: Does it meet my needs easily? Is it built to manage complex B2B rules, like taxation, shipping, and regulations? And can I manage it without hiring a dedicated IT person or team?

In our experience, the answer to most of these questions, unfortunately, is no. While Magento and/or Adobe Commerce is a terrific solution for large enterprise businesses with developers and IT teams, SMBs in B2B are simply not their sweet spot for efficient and effective B2B eCommerce.

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