Auto Parts Ecommerce Using Magento – Pros and Cons

At Spork, we’re often asked about using Magento as an auto parts ecommerce platform. While there are certainly some benefits to Magento’s ecommerce platform, it is not a platform we typically recommend. This post will lay out the pros and cons of using Magento for auto parts ecommerce, and explain why Magento isn’t our first choice for auto parts ecommerce.

NOTE: To see a list of all the ecommerce platforms we recommend to sell auto parts online, check out this blog post.

First, What Is Magento?

Magento is an ecommerce website platform. There are two types of Magento websites:

  • Magento Enterprise Edition
  • Magento Community Edition (CE)

Magento’s Community Edition is open source and the software is free to download. Enterprise Edition has a licensing fee that is in the thousands of dollars.

While there are some functional differences between community edition and enterprise edition, the two versions of Magento are very similar. Most companies can use Magento CE without a problem, as there are 3rd party modules available that can add enterprise edition features to Magento CE.

Magento

Magento is ecommerce software available as both a free Community edition and a paid Enterprise edition.

Because Community Edition is open source, it’s free to download from Magento.com and use free of charge. Like many open source web platforms, there are a lot of free modules and add-ons for Magento available from 3rd parties. This means that, depending on what you need, you could build a Magento CE website very cheaply.

Advantages To Selling Auto Parts With Magento

As far as ecommerce systems go, Magento is immensely powerful and well supported:

  • Magento offers incredible levels of customization.
  • Magento is well-supported by other software, particularly enterprise software. Most ERP providers support Magento, for example, as do many of the more advanced warehouse systems.
  • Magento has a great community of developers and designers who can help with setup, customization, programming, and site management.
  • There are lots of great modules and themes for Magento, some free and some paid. Modules exist to create a year-make-model part search feature, to connect with various fulfillment tools, Quickbooks connections, the list goes on.

Summing Up: Magento is capable of doing everything an ecommerce retailer could possibly want. All it takes is a good developer, time, and money.

Magento Market Share

As of October 2015, Magento CE had a pretty good chunk of the market for ecommerce websites. However, Magento market share has declined fairly steadily the last few years. Image via aheadWorks blog.

The Problems With Using Magento To Sell Auto Parts

While Magento CE is powerful open source software, it is not “free.” Downloading the software costs nothing, but owning and operating a Magento CE site requires considerable time and investment.

  • Because Magento is so powerful, the resource requirements are substantial. Properly hosting a Magento auto parts site will cost $100 per month, and often more (we recommend Nexcess hosting for Magento sites, by the way).
  • Magento requires regular security updates. While Magento’s community of enthusiasts and developers do an excellent job of keeping the software protected from hackers, there are a steady stream of security updates and patches that must be installed as soon as they are released. This is a burden that often requires help from a professional developer.
  • Magento is not easy to manage or configure. A poorly managed or configured site will be slow and hard to use.
  • Auto parts data can be tough to integrate into Magento. While there are year-make-model look-up modules for Magento, they can be difficult to setup (in terms of getting data into the site).
  • Adding features and/or making changes is hard. Modifying a Magento site often requires development expertise, especially as it ages.

The last point – that adding features and making changes requires a developer – is confusing to people who aren’t familiar with Magento. This is because Magento how-to articles often portray adding a module as a simple operation.

However, installing a new module on an existing site can often cause existing modules or customizations to break. For this reason, changes usually require professional help.

Summing Up: Magento CE software is free to download, but not free to own and operate. Hosting and ongoing maintenance costs are significant.

Magento Can Be Hard To Use

Magento can be hard to use. If you don’t understand why this meme is funny, Magento will explain it to you at some point…

Conclusion

Magento CE and Enterprise Edition are powerful. If you need an ecommerce system that integrates with your ERP or your warehouse management system, Magento is going to be on your list of options.

Likewise, if you want to develop a highly custom ecommerce website, Magento is worth reviewing.

But if you’re thinking about using Magento for a “standard” auto parts ecommerce website, consider this:

  • Development costs are hefty, at least if you want it done right.
  • Ongoing maintenance and hosting costs are substantial. Each security patch/update can potentially break your site, meaning you’ll spend a few hours each month applying updates, testing the site, and troubleshooting whatever problems come up.
  • You can’t afford to ignore Magento patches and updates. Magento is a popular ecommerce system, so it’s constantly under threat of attack from hackers. If you have a Magento site that isn’t up to date, you’re inviting a hacker to steal your customer data.

Please note that we are not trying to paint a poor picture of Magento. Many of our clients use Magento and like it just fine. However, Magento isn’t for beginners or etailers with small budgets. There are other options to consider.

As far as we’re concerned, Magento isn’t a good choice for a company that needs a fairly standard auto parts ecommerce site. To see a list of all the auto parts ecommerce platforms we recommend, check out this blog post.

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