Are you running your online store on Magento? If you are, you’re in good company. Some of the world’s best-known companies use Magento to run their online stores—companies like Samsung, Nike, and Ford among them. In fact, more than a quarter of the websites ranked in the top one million by Alexa run on Magento. But Magento is the eCommerce platform of choice for roughly a quarter million businesses of all types and sizes, from sales titans to Mom-and-Pop operations.
For the uninitiated, Magento is available as either the cloud-based Magento Open Source platform , which is free, or Magento Commerce, which is not. Magento Open Source (formerly called Magento Community) came first, followed by Magento Commerce (formerly Magento Enterprise), designed for larger companies that need greater functionality. Magento Commerce is offered in both an on-premises and a cloud-based SaaS version.
To complicate things a bit more, there is also the original Magento 1, which made its debut in 2008, and Magento 2, released in 2015. Magento 2 offers a number of upgrades and advantages over Magento 1, but the two versions now exist simultaneously, in both the Open Source and Commerce platforms.
What Are Magento Extensions?
Magento Open Source is, as the name indicates, an open source eCommerce platform, which means that anyone can build on the source code to develop plugins and extensions that add new functionality. These have been collected under the name Magento extensions, and there are plenty of them to choose from Magento Marketplace—1,761 of them as of this writing. Of these, 297 extensions are available for Magento Commerce. (Bear in mind that Magento Commerce has greater functionality to begin with.)
On Magento Marketplace, Magento extensions are organized into these categories:
- Accounting and Finance
- Content & Customisation
- Customer Support
- Payments and Security
- Reporting & Analytics
- Shipping and Fulfillment
- Site Optimisation
Many Magento extensions are free, but others are not, and some of them come at a fairly hefty price. Some support only Magento 1, others only Magento 2, and some support both. Magento Marketplace provides filters to enable users to narrow their search for Magento extensions to only those which are compatible with their particular Magento installation.
This article highlights at least one Magento extension in each category, chosen to provide a broad cross-section of the options available to online businesses.
Magento Extensions for Accounting & Finance
A number of the extensions in this category automate the calculation of sales tax or the management of barcodes. Others integrate Magento with various accounting and information sync systems.
PowerSync Quickbooks (Basic Plan) connects Magento 2, Open Source version with Quickbooks Online, eliminating the need to manually input or update customer records in Quickbooks Online. Business Plan for Quickbooks is a Magento extension that includes additional features, such as inventory synchronization and customisable integration of Magento orders with Quickbooks invoices, payments, and sales receipts.
Magento Extensions for Content & Customisation
The extensions in this category are further divided into these subcategories:
- Personalisation & Experience Management
- Product Content
- Rich Media
- Site Search & Navigation
- Translations & Localisation
There are a number of extensions designed to enhance the search process. For example, InstantSearch+ is an extension that works on all devices to provide auto-complete and auto-suggest capabilities and even auto-correct users’ spelling mistakes. Because InstantSearch+ understands natural language, search results are highly relevant. It’s free for online stores that have no more than 250 products/searches and is available by paid subscription to larger stores.
In the area of personalization and experience management, the Social Media Stream Wall extension enables businesses to establish a live social media stream page that displays properly on any screen size. Displaying real-time feeds from social media like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and many more encourages engagement and helps build a brand. This Magento extension carries a price tag of $179.
Magento Extensions for Customer Support
The extensions in this category provide customer chat capabilities. The Facebook Chatbot extension integrates an online store with the Facebook Messenger bot set up on a business’s Facebook page to receive and respond to customer inquiries. For a $99 one-time cost, the business is able to respond to multiple customer inquiries at the same time, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. And the Facebook user is able to search for and see products without having to leave the business’s Facebook page or click on the store link to view products on the store’s Magento platform.
Magento Extensions for Marketing
This category includes extensions for:
- Customer relationship management
- Email marketing
- Marketing automation, and
The $25 Sitelink Search extension lets Google know that a website has its own search engine. This allows a site-specific search box to be displayed when the website appears in Google search results. It does not make any visible changes to the appearance of the website.
The $122 Google Universal Analytics Enhanced Ecommerce Tracking extension, which requires a free Google Analytics account, enables online store owners to capture data about a shopper’s experience on a website. Specifically, it captures product impressions, and add-to-cart and remove- from-cart product clicks on the site’s:
- New Products section
- Category pages
- Product pages
- Advanced search and search results pages
- Related, cross-sell, and up-sell products
It also captures data on refunds, all events from the user’s arrival on the Home Page to generation of an order confirmation, and much more. The data captured by Enhanced Ecommerce Tracking supports the generation of reports that can be very valuable in developing online marketing strategies, including reports on:
- Shopping Behaviour
- Checkout Behaviour
- Product List Perfornance
- Product Performance
- Sales Performance
Magento Extensions for Payments and Security
This category includes extensions for checkout enhancements, fraud prevention, and payment integration. There are a number of checkout extensions, including One Page Checkout, which carries a price tag of $689. It optimizes checkout by minimizing the number of steps and making the process very user-friendly, which increases the likelihood of completion and increases the site’s conversion rate. It automatically detects a customer’s existing account based on the email address entered by the user and simplifies the entry of payment information.
Magento Extensions for Reporting & Analytics
Google Analytics Enhanced Ecommerce is an extension designed to enable Ecommerce businesses to use the Enhanced Ecommerce feature of Universal Analytics, the upgraded version of Google Analytics. Enhanced Ecommerce data is sent to the store’s Google Analytics account to support decision making based on analysis of shopping behaviours as presented in these new reports:
- Shopping Behaviour
- Checkout Behaviour
- Product Performance
- Sales Performance
- Order Coupon
Priced at $689, this extension gives store owners valuable insights that contribute to better product management, merchandising, and remarketing, to name only a few benefits.
Magento Extensions for Sales
Extensions in the sales category address:
- Comparison shopping engines
- Marketplace feeds
- Point of Service
- Rewards & Loyalty
For $120, the Simple Google Shopping extension, enables online sellers to create XML data feeds to automatically export their entire Magento catalog to Google Shopping, where potential customers search for and compare products. The prerequisite is establishing a free Google Merchant Center account, which serves as the interface between the seller’s store and Google Shopping. This extension allows the user to periodically generate multiple data feeds and facilitates mapping products Google product categories, among other capabilities.
Magento Extensions for Shipping and Fulfillment
This category includes extensions providing additional functionality in the areas of address verification, cross-border fulfillment, and order management. IWD’s $145 Order Manager extension provides a number of Magento order management functions, including:
- specifying which orders can be modified based on their status
- modifying orders to add or remove products, change an item’s quantity, price, tax, or discount
- creating multiple warehouses and inventory levels for products
- specifying for each order which products will be shipped from which warehouses
- updating payment or shipping information for an order
- making changes to the customer information for an order
- deleting orders, invoices, shipments, or credit memos,
- and more.
Another popular extension in this category is the free UPS i-parcel International Cart solution, which relieves sellers of the responsibility for such international checkout issues as currency conversions, duty and tax calculations, fraud protections, and customs data collection. To use this extension a seller must register with UPS for a free Global Access account.
Magento Extensions for Site Optimisation
Site Optimisation extensions are intended to enhance hosting, performance, and site management. Minify HTML CSS JS is a free but very helpful little Magento extension. Minification removes unnecessary characters from source code to reduce the number of bytes transmitted to customers’ web browsers, thus boosting page load speed. It also gives you points for SEO in the view of search engines.
The Ajax Pro extension, priced at $99, enhances the customer experience by completely eliminating page reloading and increasing a website’s operating speed. Add-to-cart popups enable customers to choose product options and attributes without having to go to the product page.
Choosing a Magento Extension
This has been a mere sampling of the many extensions available to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of online stores that use a Magento platform. You’ll find that many of the available extensions are similar in functionality, and some are simply better than others, so be careful in choosing the one(s) you think will most benefit your Magento store. Read online reviews and check out the companies offering them.
And see what’s being said by the Magento community about the ones you’re interested in. Contact the vendors and get the scoop on compatibility with your version of Magento, and be aware that even free open-source extensions may entail a fee if you need installation assistance. A little research and caution up front can help ensure that any Magento extension you choose helps your Ecommerce business grow and thrive.
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