What Is Magento 2: Explaining the Ecommerce Platform
Ecommerce and the online economy have become the players to watch as the global economy gallops forward in sales and in competitiveness. According to CNBC, eCommerce surged 32.4% in 2020 compared to 2019, as the COVID-19 pandemic prompted people to avoid stores and shop from the comfort of their computer screens or mobile devices.
The global eCommerce market had already surpassed $9 trillion in 2019, and experts expect it to surge by 14.7% compound annual growth rate until 2027.
This is good news for Magento 2. As one of the world’s most popular eCommerce platforms, it will continue to remain relevant, as long as it continues to offer the kind of bar-raising value it has become known for.
What Is Magento 2?
Magento 2 is an open-source eCommerce platform, written in the general-purpose coding language PHP across multiple frameworks. It is the successor of the original release, Magento 1, which reached its end-of-life in June 2020. Any users who have not migrated from Magento 1 to Magento 2 will no longer have access to customer support and—most importantly—security updates.
“Open-source” means that anyone can access the code for free and customize it to their needs. Versatile and easy to use, Magento 2 offers a powerful collection of features at competitive prices—both in the free, open-source Commerce version, as well as the paid Enterprise Edition and Enterprise Cloud Edition. Features that distinguish Magento 2 include:
- One of the most powerful content management systems on the eCommerce platform market.
- A fully-customizable code, as well as a robust library of themes and plug-ins for easy optimization.
- A powerful suite of marketing tools, including up-sells, cross-sells, promotions, and digital marketing integrations.
- One of the most streamlined checkout pages on the market—two steps in its native version, but able to be customized to a one-page checkout.
- A highly-engaged support community, with users and developers feeding into an ever-growing knowledge base.
Magento 2 is flexible, scalable, and set up for automatic updates. The user-friendly admin panel allows the user to manage multiple sites, create products, filter data, and customize their navigation. You can even build a new site with a subset of your catalog and minor variations of the core site.
This impressive collection of features makes Magento 2 the choice for small businesses and enterprises alike. Brands that build their eCommerce stores using Magento 2 include:
- Ford Motor Company
- Jack Daniels
- Nestle Nespresso
- Björn Borg
- Christian Louboutin
The open-source Commerce version of Magento 2 is free to use, but many brands hire a third-party developer to customize the code, create a professional design, and optimize the customer journey to maximize sales conversions. Magento 2 store builders must also purchase secure hosting, integrate a payment solution, and abide by the principles of secure software development when they customize the code.
How Magento Started
Like so many tech disruptions, it started with a couple of audacious college students. Magento is the offspring of a project launched by Roy Rubin and Yoav Kutner while they were enrolled in UCLA. The project was called “Varien.”
Rubin and Kutner chose a logo for Varien in the color Magenta. Their first product to market was osCommerce. In 2008, Varien released its first open-source product. They called it “Magento,” after the color of the logo. In fact, Magento was almost called “Magenta,” but Rubin and Kutner wanted the product to have a more “masculine” name.
Magento became popular early on because of its highly flexible and customizable nature, as well as the popularity of open-source software in the developer community as a whole. In 2010, Rubin and Kutner changed the name of Varien to “Magento,” in recognition that their hit product had eclipsed the brand recognition of its parent company.
In 2011 eBay acquired first a 49% share of Magento, then the entire company. At the time, PayPal was a fully-owned subsidiary of eBay, and eBay went about integrating PayPal with Magento. However, when PayPal split from eBay in 2015, Magento split from eBay and was acquired by private equity firm Primera.
2015 saw the release of Magento 1, and 2016 saw the introduction of Magento Enterprise Edition. In 2018, Magento was acquired by Adobe for $1.68 billion. By 2019, Magento 2 integrated into the Adobe Experience Cloud.
What Changed With the Launch of Magento 2
Magento 2 was initially planned for release in 2011, but the beta version came out in 2015. Magento 1 and Magento 2 co-existed for several years, but customer support for Magento 1 ended in June of 2020.
So what changed in the transition from Magento 1 to Magento 2?
The first notable change is a major improvement in the tech stack. It’s almost a new platform. This makes Magento 2 superior to its predecessor in every way, but it does make data migration from Magento 1 to Magento 2 more tricky.
Magento 2 switched to a PHP7 architecture, which makes it easier to optimize and customize. It also supports HTML5, the current HTML Living Standard.
Whereas Magento 1 only supported Zend Framework 1, Magento 2 supports both Zend Framework 1 and 2. Magento 2 supports MySQL 5.6 and above.
Other new technologies added to Magento 2 in the upgrade include:
- Composer. A PHP dependency management tool that enables developers to reuse third-party libraries without extension conflicts or code bundling.
- NGINX. An open-source web server that acts as a load balancer, HTTP cache, and reverse proxy.
- Redis. An open-source data structure that offers in-message message brokering and data caching.
- Symfony. This PHP app framework makes Magento 2 easier to control in terms of appearance, functionality, and content.
- Varnish. A cost-effective web accelerator that makes Magento 2 much faster than Magento 1.
One of the biggest complaints about Magento 1 was site performance. Average page load times were over two seconds. Consumers expect much better. Google considers two seconds to be the absolute maximum load time for acceptable eCom performance. Conversions drop off steeply with every extra second users have to wait for the page to load.
The new tech stack in Magento 2 has resulted in 50% faster overall load times on product pages, and 38% faster checkout performance times. However, it takes proactive optimization to produce the fastest possible load speeds from Magento 2.
Magento 2 is also significantly more mobile-friendly than Magento 1, which required extensive workarounds to optimize for a mobile browser. Mobile eCommerce is expected to comprise 73% of online shopping by the end of 2021, compared to 58.9% in 2017, so this is an important new capability for Magento 2. Even better, Magento 2 supports PWAs (progressive web apps), which makes it easy for you to port your online store to a native mobile app.
The Magento team also heard the howls of despair over the hard-to-use admin panel of Magento 1. The Magento 2 admin panel is much better, but still very busy, with a lot of data to sift through and a steep learning curve. But the new admin panel is grid-based and customizable, so you can put important sections wherever you will most easily find them.
Whereas Magento 1 could be used with most popular payment APIs, it usually required a third-party integration. Magento 2, by contrast, supports many popular payment gateways in its native state, without any extra integrations.
Magento 1 had a six-step checkout process. Magento 2 improved this experience dramatically, reducing the checkout process to two steps. Through customization, the two steps can be located on one page, making it feel like one step.
Magento 2 included several key security updates, but people who want to customize their Magento 2 store need to approach the project like any secure software development project, with rigorous adherence to secure coding and testing standards.
Magento 2 allows extensions to overlap, reducing user complaints that Magento 1 extensions tend to conflict.
Why Magento 2 Is a Popular eCommerce Choice
Magento 2 is a popular eCommerce choice for both the merchants who use them and the developers who develop them. Further, although customers may not be aware that they are shopping on a store built with Magento 2, many Magento 2 features make the resulting websites incredibly popular to shop at. Here are some of the reasons Magento 2 is so popular.
For the Merchant
Once you get the hang of it, the Magento 2 admin panel is user-friendly, giving merchants control over and transparency with respect to their own store. There’s no need to hire a developer or IT professional for every little change, every analytical effort. Once it’s handed over, Magento 2 sites are quite sustainable.
The admin panel also allows tiered permissions, enabling the merchant to give managers and employees access to the back end without giving them access to sensitive information that they are not authorized to have access to.
Magento 2 is also mobile-responsive, customer-friendly, easy to optimize for search engines, supportive of multiple languages and currencies, and easy to use to run multiple sites from one admin panel.
For the Developer
Developers love open-source software. No additional software must be purchased. The code is there for the developer to do with as (s)he pleases, with easy-to-add templates, themes, and extensions.
Magento 2 is easy to integrate with other technologies and compatible with the most current versions of PHP, Zend Framework, MySQL, and Oracle.
While the developer must still adhere to secure software development best practices, much effort has been put into the security of Magento 2 out of the box, so they are working with good tools from a security standpoint.
For the Customer
Although they might not realize it, many of the conveniences of their favorite online stores come from Magento 2. The platform offers easy search functionality, as well as that streamlined two-step checkout. If you can arm the checkout page for field autofill, even better.
Matento 2 also makes it easy to segment your customers on the back end, allowing you to present a personalized user interface to different customer profiles and personas.
What’s Next for Magento 2?
A study by Forrester shows that eCommerce businesses attribute 10-80% of revenue increases to the robust feature catalog offered by Magento 2.
Magento’s acquisition by Adobe portends even more good news on the horizon. Adobe has big plans to make the user experience achievable by Magento 2 online stores even more pleasing, frictionless, and conversion-friendly.
Magento 2 is expected to continue to push boundaries in the field of eCommerce AI, integrating chatbots, customer recommendations by machine learning, and “smart marketing” tools.
Magento has come a long way from the twinkle in the eyes of two UCLA students, having passed through the hands of major corporations and a major upgrade that transformed it from an open-source favorite into a global force for eCommerce. If its history is any guide, Magento will continue to break ground and remain a key player in the world of eCommerce—one that aspiring eCom merchants and developers can’t afford to ignore.