Magento 1.x End of Life: What are the Alternatives?

 

What’s going on with the Magento 1.x End of Life, and how should online businesses manage the change? In this guide, we look at the best solutions to deal with this issue, including migration to Magento Commerce 2, moving to an alternative online store solution, and shifting focus to social media commerce.

What’s happening with the Magento 1.x End of Life?

In June 2020, the Magento 1.x ecommerce platform will reach its End of Life (EOL). Magento will no longer provide software support for the platform, which means there’ll be no more technical assistance, no more security patches, and ultimately, no more Magento 1.x as a viable platform.

With the June 2020 EOL deadline fast approaching, account-holders need to act swiftly to ensure a smooth migration to their next ecommerce platform. The threat of Magecart (e-skimming) hackers targeting Magento 1.x sites post-EOL adds a degree of urgency to the situation. In the words of ZDNet writer Catalin Cimpanu, “All these sites pose an attractive attack surface as they are, today. Once Magento 1.x goes EOL in June 2020, they’ll be even more attractive to hackers, who will focus more efforts in finding bugs in the 1.x branch, knowing the Magento team won’t be around to fix them.”

The EOL deadline applies to both Magento Commerce 1 (formerly Enterprise Edition) and Magento Open Source 1 (formerly Community Edition). Altogether, between 200,000 and 240,000 online stores will be affected.

Can I extend the life of my Magento 1.X store beyond June 2020?

Web hosting experts Nexcess in the US are planning to launch an interesting hosting product called Magento 1 Safe Harbour. The product provides malware detection and threat monitoring for your store after Magento 1 reaches End of Life in June 2020. As far as we can tell this product isn’t a permanent solution but is simply designed to buy you some extra time while you get another solution in place. The product isn’t released yet so its not something we can evaluate for you but there are plans to release it in February 2020 and you can find out more about it here.

Option 1: Upgrade to Magento Commerce 2

The obvious solution for handling the EOL of Magento 1.x is to switch to its successor, Magento Commerce 2 (also known as Magento 2.x).

Writing on the Magento blog, the company’s Director of Support Operations, Joe Ayyoub, said:

“Magento Commerce 2 delivers superior cloud-hosted performance at scale, freedom from IT bottlenecks with creating, scheduling, and launching compelling content, and true business intelligence capabilities.”

“Plus Magento’s unmatched flexibility enables our global community of partners and developers to deliver virtually any commerce experience in record time and at a superior total cost of ownership.”

How Magento 2.x differs from Magento 1.x

Magento 2.x has several advantages over its predecessor:

  • It has a meta tags feature, which can be used to add schema markup for SEO
  • It supports PHP 7.2, the latest version of that programming language. PHP 7.2 runs up to 13% faster than PHP 7.1, and up to 20% faster than PHP 7.0. This brings an improvement in site speed, with faster loading times and capacity to process a higher volume of sales;
  • The user interface (UI) has been updated.

One downside is cost. Whereas licences for the Enterprise version of Magento 1.x started at $18,000 per year, a licence for Magento 2.x Enterprise costs at least $22,000 per year. That’s an increase of over 20%. The Open Source version of Magento 2.x is free to use, as ever, but carries additional development requirements and overheads.

For a detailed analysis of the differences between the two Magento platforms, check out SurverGuy’s article, Magento 1 vs. Magento 2.

How to upgrade from Magento 1.x to Magento 2.x

So, you’ve weighed up the benefits of Magento 2.x against the relatively high cost, and you’ve decided it’s worth the investment. Now what?

Switching from Magento 1.x to Magento 2.x requires the migration of data, settings and media from the old branch of Magento to the new. Here’s a Magento flowchart illustrating the process:

How to upgrade from Magento 1.x to Magento 2.x workflow

This broadly breaks down into 5 stages:

  1. Review extensions. Which extensions are you using with Magento 1.x? Identify and line up equivalent extensions for Magento 2.x.  
  2. Capacity planning. Would you like your Magento 2.x store to have functionalities that your previous store lacked? Now is the perfect time to plan additional capabilities.
  3. Build and test Magento 2.x with a basic setup.
  4. Migrate your data and settings.
  5. Update your incremental data. This means migrating any orders, reviews, customer profiles, etc. which have happened on your Magento 1.x store since you started the migration process.

You can go live with your Magento 2.x site immediately after updating your incremental data. There may be a few minutes of store downtime at this point, so be sure to communicate this to your customers, and consider making the switch at a quiet business time.

Migrating to Magento 2.x may seem like a big job, but the process can be simplified greatly through use of the Magento Data Migration Tool, a command-line interface (CLI – ask your developer) which “verifies consistency between Magento 1 and 2 database structures (tables and fields), tracks the data transfer progress, creates logs, and runs data verification tests.” Effectively, it helps you migrate your products, customers and settings from Magento 1.x to Magento 2.x.

Option 2: Switch to an alternative ecommerce platform

For ecommerce businesses that have used Magento and found it to be an imperfect fit, the Magento 1.x EOL represents a good opportunity to switch to a better-suited solution.

Most ecommerce solutions fall into one of three categories:

  • Platform-as-a-service (PaaS)
  • Software-as-a-service (SaaS)
  • On-premise software

Let’s take a look at some of the leading alternatives to Magento from each of these categories.

PaaS options: the closest thing to Magento

Magento is a platform-as-a-service (PaaS), not a software-as-service (SaaS) like Shopify or BigCommerce. This means that while Magento is web-based, much like SaaS, account-holders also have the option to edit its source code. This allows for greater scope to customise your online shop than you’d get with a SaaS, where the options are limited to the templates and extensions available for the platform in question.

If your business is not going to migrate to Magento 2.x, but your business uses the open-source dimension of Magento to customise things like your web design, UI and functionalities, you should definitely look at switching to another PaaS.

WooCommerce

If you have been somewhat satisfied with your experience of Magento 1.x, but would like to try an alternative platform, WooCommerce would be a great first port of call.

Touted as “the world’s most customisable ecommerce platform”, WooCommerce is an open-source platform which allows businesses to modify their online store just about however they like.

The only real restriction is that WooCommerce exists solely as a plugin for WordPress websites, which means you won’t be able to use it unless your site is on that platform. The plugin is free to install, so your only costs will be for the development of the online store, and the hosting and domain fees common to all WordPress sites.

Sitecore Experience Commerce (XC)

Sitecore is an integrated .NET content management system (CMS) and ecommerce platform, with big-hitting clients including Procter & Gamble and L’Oreal. Its ecommerce solution, Sitecore Experience Commerce (XC), is particularly well-suited to automating personalised customer journeys.

Unlike WooCommerce and the Open Source version of Magento, Sitecore is not open-source, meaning there’s a limit on how much you’ll be able to customise your store unless you invest in customisation from the platform’s side. However, there are far more options available than you’d get with the average SaaS.

The main downside to Sitecore is its pricing, which can be in excess of Magento’s rates. Larger online sellers may find the investment worthwhile, but many smaller players will find themselves priced out.

SaaS options: affordable, user-friendly Magento alternatives

Using an SaaS ecommerce solution is usually the best option for businesses that sell online at a relatively low volume, and/or have limited web development capacity. SaaS are web-based solutions that offer a range of design options and functionalities that will suit most smaller-scale online businesses. The downside to this setup is that the options to customise an ecommerce site running on a SaaS are limited, which limits the ways in which an online store can be optimised and made competitive. On the plus side, ecommerce SaaS tend to be affordable, simple-to-use and highly reliable.

Shopify   

Shopify is like the Squarespace of ecommerce platforms: solid, accessible, and within the budget of pretty much any business. If your finances or technical capabilities have been stretched to an uncomfortable extent while using Magento in the past, you may find Shopify more manageable.

Basic Shopify users get access to the platform for just $29/month. More functionalities can be unlocked at the higher price tiers of $79/month and $299/month, while the highest-volume merchants are required to negotiate a bespoke arrangement. The full details of Shopify’s pricing are available here.

BigCommerce

BigCommerce tends to be outscored on ease-of-use and customer support by Shopify, its key rival SaaS. But don’t rule it out on that basis alone: BigCommerce suits some online businesses better than any alternative solution.

The main benefit to BigCommerce is that it has a wealth of in-depth features that can help businesses gain a competitive edge and grow fast. These include 0% transaction fees, and support for digital products and services.

BigCommerce isn’t such a great fit for ecommerce beginners. It has more technical language and a harder-to-use product editor than the likes of Shopify. However, if you’ve been able to use Magento up until this point, mastering BigCommerce should be well within your grasp.

Pricing starts at $29.95/month, while the $79.95/month BigCommerce Plus option arguably provides the best value-for-money.

On-premise software options

An on-premise software (alternatively known as ‘self-hosted’) is an application run from the user’s own servers and computers, unlike PaaS and SaaS, which are run from the user’s web browser and hosted on the software provider’s servers.

This setup can prove particularly beneficial for larger online sellers which employ highly skilled technicians, who may be able to handle security requirements like encryption and server configuration, or performance considerations like network administration, better than the average software provider could.

There are financial drawbacks to on-premise ecommerce software, including the likelihood of high software licence fees, and the necessity of employing high-earning administrators to run the system. Users of on-premise software may also need to invest in additional hardware to keep their online store running, as their business grows or experiences spikes in custom.

CS-Cart Multi-Vendor

CS-Cart Multi-Vendor is an on-premise/self-hosted ecommerce solution that serves a different purpose to the other software featured in this article. It’s designed especially for businesses that want to create an online marketplace, where multiple vendors can sell their goods within a united storefront.

If your business wants to create the next Etsy, this could be the software to use. If not, look to an alternative on-premise software instead.

A perpetual licence for Multi-Vendor ranges from $1,450 to $7,500, depending on which options you choose. There’ll be additional support costs to pay after one year unless you choose the $7,500 Multi-Vendor ultimate package.

Option 3: shift your focus to social media commerce

Have you considered selling via social media, instead of your own website?

This is the riskiest of the three options discussed in this article, and we certainly wouldn’t recommend it to a business that currently has a successful online store. However, if your online store has been struggling to turn a profit or showing stagnant growth, exploring the possibilities of social media commerce could be a suitable alternative.

Operating as a social media seller differs significantly from running your own online store. Key characteristics of social media commerce include:

  • Design and functionality options are defined by the platform;
  • Usability tends to be particularly good/accessible;
  • Commerce features operate as part of an existing social account/page.

If you’re contemplating switching to social commerce, the safest approach is to set it up to run concurrently with to your existing online store – in the short-term at least. If social commerce seems to deliver significantly better results, you might consider shifting your focus entirely to this form of online selling.

Certain product categories seem to fare better than others in social media commerce, with clothing, cosmetics and fandom merch often cited as reliable sellers.

Social media commerce is still in its infancy, and the choices for retailers are relatively limited. The leading options are Facebook Page Shops and Instagram Shopping, which enable businesses to sell physical goods via their accounts on those social media. By default, both are managed via Facebook for Business product catalogues. Alternatively, Facebook and Instagram commerce can by managed via Shopify Lite or a BigCommerce Facebook integration.

Snapchat is currently testing a native commerce experience with top-ranking influencers. There has been no indication that Twitter and LinkedIn have social media commerce plans underway.

Which option to choose?

By this point, we’ve established that there are quite a few routes for online sellers to explore, after the Magento 1.x EOL.

Our recommendation is that you choose an option based on the current performance of your Magento 1.x store.

If the store is performing well, we suggest you migrate directly to Magento 2.x, the beefed-up successor to the original Magento branch. This option ensures the same high standards and customisation options associated with Magento 1.x. However, it could carry a high cost in terms of either licence fee or development requirements, depending on whether you choose the Enterprise version or the Open Source version of the platform.

If Magento 2.x has not been an ideal fit for your business, you might consider switching to an alternative ecommerce solution. PaaS solutions tend to offer similar customizability to Magento, while SaaS solutions are often more affordable and easier to use. On-premise software is another alternative for businesses with very strong IT capabilities.

A third option that could serve as a long-term replacement for a struggling ecommerce business is social media selling. This is a wholly different way to sell online, which may suit certain businesses better than running an online store. It is far from a like-for-like replacement for a Magento 1.x store.

Whichever option you choose, it’s important that you act by the Magento 1.x EOL, June 2020, or as soon as possible after that point. Failure to act will leave your store and its customers increasingly vulnerable to security risk.

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