The platform you started your eCommerce store on isn’t necessarily the one that’s still the best for you today. Yet, I see a lot of merchants have trouble breaking inertia and staying on their first store long past its prime. Think of how much your business has grown and changed since you launched. Are your priorities the same today as the day you launched? Is your inventory, your traffic or your sales? Your business has changed a lot. Why shouldn’t your eCommerce solution change along with it? As a professional Magento digital agency, we specialize in the open source, customizable platform that can be shaped and molded to fit your needs now.
Adrian Coulter has size 16 feet. He lived his whole life barely finding shoes that fit, and certainly not finding the ones he wanted. He spent Minnesota winters seeing his sneakers rot away because he couldn’t find snow boots in his size. He started to meet other guys who told him they were in the same boat. When they were lucky enough to find shoes that fit, the selection was limited. They never had the luxury of choosing a shoe for style. He met guys who worked construction that needed steel toe boots for the job and just couldn’t get them.
Adrian started the XL Feet website working on a laptop in a coffee shop after getting off of his day job, just to get internet access. He went to a Vegas shoe convention in 2008 with an idea for a store that catered to guys just like him. He came back from that convention with one vendor. The next year he came back with three. This year, he carries 50 brands, has a 5,000 square foot brick and mortar store and plans to expand. Adrian has come along way in the last 10 years, and, naturally what he needs from his eCommerce store has changed a lot too.
“Honestly, I picked it mostly for the price,” Adrian told us of Volusion, the platform where he built the first iteration of the XL Feet store. He said he also liked that Volusion was easy to learn and easy to use. He liked that he could drag and drop content, and add products simply. When Adrian was running the business by himself Volusion’s automation helped him do a lot of the heavy lifting and get his new store launched more quickly.
Even though Volusion was the right choice when Adrian was working out of a coffee shop, as the business grew, he quickly found himself bumping up against the platform’s limitations. For example, Adrian sells shoes, but he was not aware that Volusion did not allow for the kinds of configurable products he needed, with multiple sizes and widths. That led to his back in stock notification not working because he couldn’t set an alert for one size of the shoe and not the other. He also had trouble getting Volusion’s built-in promotion functionality to work with some variations but not others. The more Adrian’s inventory grew, the more his problems with Volusion would multiply.
“In my years of asking about all different types of functionality, everyone kept mentioning Magento,” Adrian told us. When he had finally hit the wall with Volusion and made the decision to switch, Adrian’s priority had become freedom to customize, rather than ease of use. He selected Magento because it is notably open source, in opposition to Volusion which is a hosted system. An open source system requires that the merchant take on more responsibility for things like hosting their store, load testing their servers, managing their security and compliance standards, and other details of running a website day-to-day. The flip side is that because the merchant controls more of these elements they also have more freedom to customize their store in whatever way they see fit. “Knowing it was open source I knew how much stuff was available,” Adrian said, “and if it wasn’t available someone could build it.”
So after a few years of running his business Adrian had done with his eCommerce platform what he had done with pairs of shoes all his life, he outgrew it. He switched over to Magento. To perform the switch, Adrian hired another firm to migrate his content to Magento, and he ran into a problem very common in platform to platform migrations. His Google rankings tanked. When a site is moved from one platform to another, even if the domain name stays the same, the URLs can change in subtle ways. These changes are enough so that Google will no longer recognize a site, and all the authority the site has built with Google over the years can be lost. This can be avoided with a process called a 301 redirect. A 301 redirect is akin to sending the Post Office a change of address. It lets Google know that a site has changed its URLs so that they treat the new site the same as they would have treated the old site. If the redirect is not done or done incompletely, Google rankings can drop dramatically.
Working With a Magento Digital Agency
“I didn’t get started with 1Digital Agency until some of the damage had already been done,” Adrian said. “Had I known, I would have had 1Digital Agency waiting in the wings.” Adrian explained that because his products are so specific, the majority of his customers find him through a set of very particular Google searches. With his rankings in trouble after the migration, Adrian was looking for a professional Magento digital agency and he found 1Digital. We took a look and started a Magento SEO campaign right away to begin rehabbing his rankings.
XL Feet is on an SEO campaign that targets 50 keywords. The keywords focus on specific, hard to find shoe sizes and wide shoes and socks. We also focus on snow boots and work boots. Two styles which are badly needed, but difficult to find in extra-large sizes. When Adrian left Volusion his site had been averaging 1,200 visits a day, but after his migration and the ranking drop, that number was hovering between 400 and 500 visits a day. In the 4 months we’ve been working on the site his daily visits are back to nearly 1000 visits per day, and we’re not even halfway through our campaign.
In addition to SEO, Adrian contracts 1Digital for development help as well. He knows that Magento is a much more complicated system and requires a higher level of expertise. “When I first got on Magento, with the wrong click of a button I deleted some categories and cost myself $20,000,” Adrian told us. He now does not do any work on the site without help from his Magento digital agency. “I thought, do I want to spend time learning how to get good at Magento, or do I want to hire some experts that are already good at it? It’s way more worth my time to have professionals do it,” Adrian said.
We’re currently making updates to the site. We’re working on a facelift for the homepage, and making the About Us page and the Contact Page more attractive. We’re also making navigation changes in the footer. All these changes are made hourly on our Support Retainer Program. The Support Retainer is especially popular amongst our Magento clients. An open source platform will always need more updates, changes, and fixes than a hosted store will. It’s easy for Magento clients to simply add a task on our project workspace each time one of these items comes up. We have built this program so that we can act as an extension of our client’s team. Usually, a business owner would need to have developers on staff to keep up with a Magento store. Our Support Retainers allow our clients to assign tasks to our development team quickly and easily as if they had Magento developers in their own office.
In addition to the everyday maintenance of a Magento site, Adrian is taking advantage of the openness of his new eCommerce platform to build out the functionality he’s been needing. We’re looking into options for an ERP system. ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. These systems are created to make inventory, customer, order, and data management in general, easier. On the XL Feet site, customers can view between 8,000 and 9,000 products. With all the different size and width configurations of each of those products, Adrian has something close to 22,000 unique SKUs in his store. “Managing that is not something that you can do in any one person’s head,” Adrian said. “You need a robust system to manage that.” Since Magento is less constrictive Adrian has his choice of ERP systems. If a connector for Magento hasn’t already been built, a Magento digital agency, like 1Digital, can build it. These are the kinds of long term improvements to XL Feet’s overall business that a highly customizable platform like Magento can make possible.
A platform to platform migration is no bed of roses. Adrian and XL Feet had a pretty rough road at first, moving from Volusion to Magento. Store owners decide to move because the benefits will eventually outweigh the costs. As with everything you do for your business, it’s an investment. When you choose a platform like Magento you’re investing in greater freedom to customize your store. Like the shoes Adrian sells at XL Feet, Magento is not for everyone, but for those who have a set of unique requirements, it just might be the only thing that fits.
Fortunately, the downsides of using an open source platform like Magento can be easily mitigated when you have a professional Magento digital agency in your corner. If you have a Magento site that could use regular maintenance or are thinking of moving to this highly complex platform, seek out the experts and see how we can help you invest in the kind of store that reflects how much your business has grown.
- Joe Chilson
- November 11, 2019