A module-less Magento?

Magento Commerce is the enterprise version of Magento’s ecommerce platform – a platform that is widely extended through a multitude of 3rd party modules.  These modules allow websites to implement new functionality such as subscriptions or click and collect for a fraction of the cost it would take to build from scratch.  

It’s tempting to install a whole range of modules on Magento to improve a website, but could you run an Enterprise level ecommerce website on Magento Commerce without utilising any modules or custom extensions?  Modules can slow down a website and cause conflicts with other aspects of the site causing seemingly never-ending  issues for Magento developers everywhere, let alone the customers on your site. 

Running a vanilla version of Magento Commerce would certainly have benefits when it comes to speed, performance and stability but is it realistic?  Let’s take a look at some of the most common parts of a Magento site to extend and see if there out of the box capabilities that can be utilised instead.

Site search

A first port of call for enhancing Magento is often the site search – an important piece of functionality for nearly all ecommerce sites. Magento can use Elastic search as it’s out of the box technology to power site searches but this is often seen as inferior to 3rd party services such as Klevu and Algolia.

Elastic search is a powerful technology which when implemented and configured correctly can provide an excellent site search solution for enterprise ecommerce stores.  Benefits include:

  • Multiple language support
  • No downtime for shoppers when elastic search reindexes
  • Can be extended to enable personalisation and improve site performance

You can of course hook up the site search data into Google Analytics to see what users are searching for on the website and optimise from there.

Is Elastic search a tool that is suitable for an enterprise ecommerce store?  In most cases, yes, it can be although installing and setting up is not straightforward.

Content management

The CMS capabilities of Magento pre 2016 were pretty terrible with admins unable to create effective content pages without the need for HTML knowledge.  Then BlueFoot came along and helped to solve this problem by incorporating a drag and drop content editor – a technology that was bought by Magento and has since been incorporated into the Commerce platform under the name PageBuilder. PageBuilder has negated the need for any 3rd party module to power content management within the admin of Magento.

Newsletter

Whilst you will probably want a 3rd party ESP to create email campaigns and manage subscribers – do you need an integration into Magento to connect the two platforms? 

The short answer to this is probably yes, an automatic connection will enable subscribers on the site to feed directly into your ESP database and customers are able to manage their communications preferences directly with Magento – to name but 2 useful requirements. However, if you really had to, you can still take email subscriptions out of the box on the Magento site and manage these within the admin, this management includes:

  • Editing personal details
  • Manually subscribing/unsubscribing
  • Exporting database to easily import into an ESP

It’s clearly a bit of a manual process if you had to use the out of the box email functionality within Magento and a site would lack functionality that is included with 3rd party modules but if needs must, newsletter management could be administered within Magento Commerce.

Personalisation

Most Enterprise level ecommerce stores will want some level of personalisation.  Whether this be displaying content based on previous purchase history or automated product recommendations, personalisation can make a big difference to the commercial performance of a website.

Many ecommerce managers will turn to 3rd party technologies such as Nosto to manage their personalisation requirements.  Nosto is a simple to use and powerful technology that provides a wealth of tools to make websites more dynamic.

Out of the box, Magento Commerce does have a range of tools that can help either automate or personalise features on an online store, these include:

  • Automated rules – Related Products, Up sells and Cross sells can all be implemented through creating rules, similar to the rules used for setting up promotional codes.  While this can be a long process to set up all applicable rules, once in place these will run without the need for any further intervention and can provide excellent results.
  • Visual Merchandiser – A Commerce only feature that is rarely used to its fullest within Magento, visual merchandiser allows ecommerce managers to create attribute based rules to merchandise categories.  Again, this is a feature that can take a while to set up, particularly if a site has many categories but once in place the commercial performance can be greatly improved.
  • Segmentation – Of all the Commerce features, Segmentation has to be the one of the least used functionality within Magento.  This is a shame as it is a powerful tool and if used correctly can greatly enhance any ecommerce website.  Segmentation allows admins to display dynamic content and create bespoke promotionals based on customer information such as purchase history, shopping cart contents and more.  The issue with segmentation is that it is not simple to set up compared to some of the 3rd party tools but if the time is spent, the results can be impressive.

If Magento’s personalisation tools were more intuitive to use it is likely there would be more of an uptake.  They are certainly powerful and can be of great benefit to any enterprise ecommerce store

Reviews

Reviews and UGC are an important part of ecommerce with many customers relying on these to validate their purchase decisions.  

Historically, Magento offered a simple product review system which would allow users to add a star rating and content review…but nothing else.  

Luckily with 2.3.3 upwards, out of the box Magento Commerce installations now come with YotPo installed allowing ecommerce managers to create automatic review requests, use within PageBuilder, view analytics and allow content moderation.

YotPo is one of the better products out there for reviews and UGC so adding this functionality to Magento has been a good move and allows for a more enterprise feeling experience for customers.

Summary

There are many more areas where modules are often required to fill a gap in Magento’s native functionality – Shipping, Finance, Click & Collect to name but a few.

So could you run an enterprise website off a default installation of Magento Commerce – potentially, if you were willing to make some fairly large compromises.  Realistically though the answer is probably not, but I’d love to see someone try!