Magento Editions: Enterprise vs Community

Posted on Wed, May 14, 2014 in Business Operations, eCommerce, by Paul Weinert

At GRAYBOX, we love Magento. Yes, it’s complex and often hard to implement, but it’s a unique blend of power, flexibility, and affordability that really shines in a market chock-full of either too simple and underpowered tools, or overly complex applications that are too expensive. Magento is regularly our top recommendation for established and sophisticated ecommerce clients.

Common Core Benefits to Magento

One question we get often is to explain the difference between Community Edition vs Enterprise and why you should use one versus the other for your ecommerce system. I’ve been implementing ecommerce sites for over a decade, and with more than 100 launches to my name, I’m well-qualified to highlight the best of the Magento system. At a high-level, both Community and Enterprise share the same great benefits:

1. Flexible Configuration

No two businesses are the same. Magento allows for many different configurations within the common system. For example, GRAYBOX has one client with complex, physical inventory systems, another with a 10-domain multi-store instance, and another that sells no physical goods but runs a video subscription and rental service. These businesses and more are all possible within the native Magento core without major modifications.

2. Full Code Control

When we need to customize something, Magento gives us the power to do so — both at the presentation layer and HTML, and the PHP for building modules for the front-end and within the Magento administration. It’s refreshing to not be limited by the application and to be able to easily extend the core as necessary.

3. Full Database Access

Likewise, you have full access to the MySQL database. This means you can run queries, create new tables, extend existing tables, etc., as you need to, without being dependent on a API or data object to interact with our data. Data integrations are relatively easy to Magento since you can make them native to the database and view all logs for troubleshooting.

4. Robust Community Support and Documentation

Magento has great community support. We utilize many great plugins from Magento Connect as well as helpful tips and support from Stack Overflow and other forums. Likewise, we try to contribute helpful solutions to our peers to help bolster the community.

Customer Segmentation & Rule-Based Merchandising

Aside from the common core benefits, Magento Enterprise offers many compelling extra features and add-ons that make it a must for sophisticated ecommerce sites. The price tag is generally prohibitive for businesses just starting out, but as your business grows, upgrading to Enterprise allows you to add on many advanced features.

The absolute killer feature of Magento Enterprise is custom customer segmentation and promotional rules. Essentially, Magento Enterprise allows for the ability to create saved searches based on a variety of factors related to customers and how they use your store. For instance, it differentiates buyers vs. non-buyers, repeat customers vs. new, people who like product X vs. people who like product Y, etc. These segmentations can be created based on customer actions, customer details, category details, and product details.

Once a customer is assigned to a segment, Magento Enterprise allows you to contextually change the promotions and merchandising of your site to the customer’s preference. For instance, if you have a customer who likes British spy thrillers, you can change all your banner graphics to be promotions for British spy thrillers, or run a special on British spy thrillers for that specific customer only. You can place products on sale, promote special categories, change text and photo messages — pretty much anything based on customer segmentations.

Amazon is the most well-known example of a site that does this. Amazon tracks users’ past site browsing and contextualizes its offers to their interests. For example, my Amazon homepage is very uniquely suited to my life right now. When I logon, I have recommendations for Bluetooth headsets, baby changing tables, Game of Thrones box sets, kids tractor books, and backyard golf practice equipment. Amazon knows what I’m recently interested in and uses complex algorithms to target offers that are compelling to me. Similarly, Magento Enterprise allows you to contextually optimize your sales offers to your customers based on their interests and history in the same way — it’s ridiculously powerful, and surprisingly underutilized.

Customer Loyalty Building & Retention

In addition to custom merchandising and customer targeting, Magento Enterprise also offers many native customer loyalty building and retention features, such as:

  • Store Credit
  • Gift Cards (Digital and Physical)
  • Loyalty / Reward Points
  • Multiple Wish Lists
  • Gift Registry and Gift Wrap
  • Private Sales or Private Event Sales
  • Automated Email Reminders and Promotional Messages via Email

Department Features & Benefits

Finally, Magento Enterprise is superior for every department within a larger organization. It has many features built-in to simplify the administration and technical implementation of a site.

These include:

Technical

  • Technical support from the core Magento team
  • Built-in backups
  • Development server
  • Multi-level full page cache on the server

Administrative

  • Version control for content changes
  • Multi-level staging servers with scheduled releases
  • Administrative actions log
  • Faster reindexing & controlled cache breaks so product changes update instantly

Marketing

  • Dynamic PPC landing pages for offers and promotions

Customer Service

  • Return management & authorization
  • Edit customer’s cart from the administration

Wrap Up

Each of these features may not be independently worth the $16,000 per year to your organization, but taken in aggregate, Magento Enterprise provides the best value among ecommerce platforms available. The net result from Enterprise Edition is a more powerful, faster, and higher performance site that generates more sales, but that is similar to a Community Edition site. Both platforms offer you tremendous flexibility and the ability to customize to your business processes — both represent a unique platform that offers the best available in ecommerce today

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