Magento is a PHP-based open-source ecommerce software that empowers online businesses with a robust, flexible, and highly scalable shopping cart system. Although it’s often referred to and addressed as a content management system (CMS), Magento is more than just a CMS in the traditional sense. Magento is more along the lines of an ecommerce content management framework or an ecommerce platform because of its functionality, flexibility, scalability, and ability to integrate well with a diverse range of business processes.
Originally developed by Varien Inc., Magento was first launched on 31st of March 2008 and was owned by eBay and Permira over the years, before being acquired by its current owner Adobe Inc. in 2018. Magento currently powers over 584,000 websites globally and is one of the world’s top three ecommerce platforms. Leading global brands like Christian Louboutin, Ford, and Nescafe Nespresso use Magento for their websites.
Magento has two main editions — Magento Open Source (previously known as Magento Community Edition) and Magento Commerce (formerly known as Magento Enterprise Edition). While Magento Open Source is free to download and use, it comes with basic ecommerce functionality and receives no official support. Magento Commerce is a paid subscription that offers Magento in a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and an on-premises, i.e., self-hosted option. Magento Commerce comes with access to Magento in its full capacity with features like Business Intelligence dashboards, B2B functionality, advanced marketing tools, Content Staging, WYSIWYG page builder, and more. You also get 24/7 technical support and access to dedicate customer success managers when you opt for the paid version. Both Magento versions support headless ecommerce allowing you to have a custom frontend design with Magento running on the backend.
While medium and large scale enterprises desiring premium functionality usually prefer Magento Commerce, Magento Open Source is the more popular choice for small businesses. Magento Open Source offers features on-par with and in some cases better than paid ecommerce solutions like Shopify and BigCommerce, making it a more lucrative alternative for businesses on a budget. Magento is highly extensible and enables online merchants to achieve any functionality they desire using extensions that are simply small, packaged code written to extend Magento’s functionality.
Managing Magento requires technical proficiency — those seeking to self-host Magento stores will require basic server administration skills and a decent understanding of Magento and its associated software. While you can outsource hosting or purchase managed hosting services, maintaining, updating, and troubleshooting issues for a Magento store will require some degree of technical skill.
With some of the most robust store management functionality supporting nearly all types of products out of the box, Magento makes it easy for any business to start selling their products and services online. Furthermore, it supports the use of multiple websites, stores, and currencies, enabling merchants to serve diverse audiences globally using a single platform. Advanced multi-store functionality brings down costs by taking away the need to build and manage multiple websites. It even allows merchants to customize promotions by customer groups and set discounts at the product and cart level, thus helping target customers who’re more likely to convert with tailored offers.
Magento’s code is maintained by leading developers worldwide to keep it up-to-date with emerging technologies and to implement new functionality based on user feedback. This ensures Magento-based websites are fast loading and high performing, helping customers have a stress-free shopping experience and increasing the probability of web traffic converting to paying customers.
Maximizing extensibility has always been a major goal behind Magento development, and this is where its real power lies. Magento is completely extensible, and Adobe provides detailed documentation to help developers and merchants familiarize themselves with the platform to build on its existing functionality. The use of modules and modular design of software components are conceptually at the heart of Magento extension development. By extending Magento’s code instead of editing it, it’s easy for developers and online merchants to extend a store’s functionality without the risk of breaking it.
Magento is a platform built to be customized and designed as a unique solution for any business selling its products or services online. However, for smaller businesses operating dropshipping or print-on-demand stores, Magento can often be an overkill. It is best suited for bigger stores with diverse needs that demand custom functionality and multiple integrations or those looking for a scalable option that will grow with their business through the years.