Tag Archives: magento

Inventory Management Solutions

One of our biggest projects of the year has been an inventory managmenet system. or ERP system for our online stores.  We’ve tried using SaaS sytems before and found them a pain as they weren’t able to handle what we needed.  We considered (briefly) looking at a full ERP system, specifically OpenERP but the thought of using another Open Software system that isn’t stable and prone to breaking made us whimper.

So we ended up purchasing an inventory management system from Magestore.  I wish I could say it’s good, but it really isn’t.   There were (and still are) significant bugs in the system and there are significant gaps in the reporting and usefulness of the system.  Among our issues:

  • No way to track individual stock changes for individual items
  • Mystery stock changes
  • Available / Physical / Hold Quantities do not line up and often are wrong and can’t be adjusted at times
  • No way to use the software for shipping individual orders out
  • No COGs reporting

Truthfully, with the sheer volume of bugs involved; if we weren’t already invested in it’s use I’d dump it and go looking for a new system. I’m still considering dumping it.

Amazon and Magento integration

For those wondering what I’ve been up to, we’ve been working on a few consulting projects but mostly, our time has been taken up dealing with a switch over from M2E Pro to the BoostMyShop Amazon module for our geek sites.

There’s a few reaosns for the switchover, partly the on-going monthly charge from M2E being interacted which can significantly affect our profitability and just as much, the rather horrible support we got from them when we ran into issues attempting to switch our profiles over. Add that to the fact that their latest upgrade / update to the module (which they refeused to help further with until we did) required us to move servers and we just decided that it wasn’t worth using them anymore.

Which puts up with the BoostMyShop module. It is it’s own share of headaches.

For one thing, unlike M2E pro, the documentation is rather rubbish. There’s just no documentation on common error reports or what those error reports mean. There’s no indication why something is error’ing out, even if it shouldn’t. There’s no indication when you switch tabs how to have the system do a double-check so you kind of have to do a tril and error of hitting a bunch of buttons int he hope that it eventually works.

In addition, the system cannot accept more than one type of code – so you can’t, for example, try both UPC and EAN codes. Which is an issue if, for example, a product is only available on Amazon via their EAN code and not UPC code. You’d think it’d be a simple enough code fix, but no go.

Also, the system doesn’t really allow you to choose to use different prices (example if you have 2 or more stores, you can’t choose which specific store price you want to showcase and link to Amazon). So you kind of have to just grit your teeth and go with what seems to be the default price.

Oh, and if you add then delete a Marketplace, realise that it’s going to break your site for a bit. No help at all in their FAQs on how to fix this. Support from t he developer has been less then stellar I have to admit. Mostly I find due to the fact that the developer does not speak good English at all and as such, is not able to understand what you are asking for, so when you do have a bug to report or need information, it’s all very slow. Which isn’t great if the problem has ended up in production like the above deleting.

Is this a viable alternative to M2E Pro? So far, it’s workable I’m sure after we finish fixing it but I definitely think they need to add a lot more documentation, add more features and clean up the code a bit.

Building a Magento site for Canada

Let’s talk about Magento and building a Magento site in Canada.  For the most part, the things that you require are going to be the same at the basic level – theme, gateways, etc.  However, there are a few things that are very specific that is needed for a Canadian store.

Shipping

You are going to need a Canada Post shipping module. Sure, you could ship via FedEx or UPS, but Canada Post is by far the cheapest system in Canada itself.  Purolator comes as a close second, but it’s still pretty expensive.  If you are shipping B2B though, I’d definitely look at either Purolator or one of the other companies rather than Canada Post as their combined shipping options (i.e. multiple parcels to same location) can drive costs down.

Accounting

You are going to need to figure out your accounting.  Now, if you are purchasing only in Canada, you don’t really need anything major or different – however, if you are importing products from the States or elsewhere, you will need to tie-in purchasing and logistics with your sales.  Quickbooks works well for this, but understand you’ll need a software to import the stock/etc in – it doesn’t connect directly very well.  Webtex is one option – but again, once you hit a certain volume of products, you’ll definitely want a better solution.

That’s where things get tricky- very few systems out there tie-in accounting with Magento very well.  Look for a dedicated system that deals with Magento and multiple currencies.

Domain names .ca

You will want a .ca domain name.  Purchasing one is pretty cheap per year – about $10 per year.  In the beginning, you might want to just redirect the .ca to your .com; but not having it is a bad idea.

Google Webmaster

Okay, here’s an interesting thing to do – make sure to connect Google Webmaster Tools to your site and then target your site to Canada.  It’s an immediate boost for your listings in Canada but

Currency / Canadaisms

Don’t forget to mention what currency you are selling everything in.  Not only is this necessary for your payment gateway, you’ll also want to keep your precious Canadian consumers on-board for longer.  Definitely consider flying the Canadian flag somewhere prominent – it’ll keep your target market on your site longer.

French / English

Have only a few products? Seriously consider putting up a French translation of your site.  It’s a great way to get customers from Quebec and help you rank higher for a certain demographic.  Of course, the problem is if you have a lot of different products, you might want to avoid this due to the huge costs of implementation.

Building a site – the cost of using Magento

Over the years, we’ve built multiple e-commerce sites.  We first started on osCommerce and then moved to Magento when it was still pretty early – 1.3 I believe.  Since then, we’ve built over 8 sites on Magento so I thought I’d write about our experience and the costs involved.

The Cheap

Let’s start with the basics – a basic installation of Magento should only cost about $500 with a theme purchased from another company and an installation by the developer.  It’s easy to install the basic system and Magento has a lot of basic, good functionality at that price.

The Basic

So, next up we have what I would consider a basic installation.  A purchased responsive theme, a few minor adjustments to the theme to make it to your liking, a new Search module, social button integrations, Mailchimp integration, Gift card modules and that should be it.  Perhaps add a one page checkout to the system too.

This looks something like Fortress Geek right this moment.  Lots of nice designs and additions, looks professional but isn’t too expensive to set-up and run.

Total cost: $2,000 – $3,000

The Complex

Here, we start looking at a custom theme and design (easily $3 – $5k to start), social button integrations, reward point integration, gift cards, a one page checkout, custom reports, custom product page design and automated upsell / crossell modules.   We’ve also got bestsellers lists, an integrated WordPress blog, multiple payment methods and a shipping module.

That’s what Starlit Citadel is.

We’ve spent over $20,000 easily over the course of a couple of years on this site.  We’ve upgraded, tweaked, upgraded again.  That’s a lot of money, but we think it’s worth it.  These days, we don’t spend much on the site though – it’s just upkeep.

Magento Developers – Module Reviews

Continuing onwards, I’m going to discuss the modules I’ve used and the developers involved in it:

Aheadworks:  Very, very good modules.  I haven’t actually contacted them for help because their modules just work.  That simple.  My go to guys if I have to buy / get a module because their modules just work.

Fishpig: I’ve only used their WordPress module.  IT works most of the time till it didn’t.  Then I paid for support – and got very little.  Weeks before they replied to try to fix it, when they ‘fixed it’, they broke the production site and never sent what files they fixed.  HORRIBLE support – stay away.

ManaDev: Decent modules, code is a bit sloppy though.  Support is pretty good, though when conflicts happen they will stop providing support, so expect to have to use your main developer to find the problem.  Overall, okay.

Mageworx: Their tweaks module is good.  Overall support isn’t bad,  though I wish they’d help out a bit more when there are conflicts.

OneStepCheckout:  Good checkout, but has a lot of conflicts that happen.  However, they are generally very good with support and will help out with conflicts if it has to do with their module (and sometimes outside of it).  Still the best OneStepCheckout option there is out there though.

Sweet Tooth: I got in when they were selling the module at a fixed price.  Support is decent, though every upgrade means a ton of bugs.  Their go-to support request is ‘update to latest module’; which then creates even more bugs so be careful.  The module itself is decent.

TinyBrick: Another system that just works.  No comment on their support because I haven’t needed it.

Webtex: Great support, love their gift card module.  Works very well though occasional checkout conflicts.

Magento Developers – A Review

Running a webstore on Magento, we’ve had to develop quite a bit of custom code as well as using various modules.  I’m going to tackle the custom developers first, then go on to module developers next:

Collins Harper –  these are my main developers.  I use them on a very regular basis.

Pros: Some great modules that just work (their local pickup, Canada Post Pro and gateway modules).  Coding is good, fast and reliable when custom development is required.  Generally, they solve issues even other developers have problems with.

Cons: More complicated modules like the CP 2.0 modules have occasional bugs and require more maintenance.  Can be slow in getting to you due to high demand for services.  Also, their hourly rate is up there – though it’s often balanced out by efficiency of work done.

Hatimeria: I used them to do the redesign of the website as well as providing some basic coding services during the site redesign.

Pros: Cheaper than CH.  Coding is generally okay, not great but serviceable.  They have a good designer they work with.

Cons: Very busy – I haven’t been able to get onto their docket for more work in a while.