For an online retailer, choosing an e-commerce software platform is one of the most important decisions. Depending on the size of the business, the key requirements could vary from robustness and scalability critical for large retailers to the need for simplicity and flexibility for small store owners. Perhaps it is the ability to effortlessly meet the diverse needs of disparate audiences that has made Magento one of the fastest growing e-commerce applications globally. Already, the Magento e-commerce suite has carried out over US$25 billion in transactions via the 30,000+ merchants who rely on this platform, including some from the Internet Retailer Top 500 list. No wonder then that the platform continues to receive international acclaim, most recently from well known research organization Forrester Research which highlighted Magento as ‘unique’ among various e-commerce technology providers.
One of the key contributors to Magento’s rising popularity as the platform of choice is its ‘flexibility’ and the control that it puts in the hands of the online merchant. Unlike some of the other ‘closed’ or even open source e-commerce platforms, Magento does not place restrictions on business flows and processes. With over 1700 Magento extensions already available (and counting..), technology complements the business rather than business being shaped by the limits posed by technology.
Possibilities galore with Magento extensions
As the e-commerce and online marketing landscape evolves at frenetic pace, resulting in newer business models and novel marketing opportunities, online store owners need their technology to be as dynamic or risk being left behind. This is where the continuously expanding range of Magento extensions becomes invaluable.
Developers continue to enrich the application with powerful add-ons to fulfill even the not-so-obvious requirements of store owners. Presenting irrefutable proof of the value of the open source paradigm in e-commerce, these extensions help automate and optimize different business processes.
Characteristics of truly valuable Magento extensions
While new add-ons for the different Magento modules become available very regularly, some fundamental and seemingly obvious characteristics differentiate the really valuable extensions from the just OK ones. If you are looking for extensions for your business, run this simple 4-factor test.
- Usefulness: An extension has to either help contribute to greater sales (revenues), build long-term customer engagement or improve operational efficiencies and effectiveness. Does the extension offer the features and functionality that will help you address your unique business needs or problems?
- Cost-effectiveness: Is the price you pay for the add-on worth the value you expect to generate from using the extension?
- Customizability: Can you customize your extension easily both in terms of front-end design as well as functionality to suit your specific needs?
- User-friendliness: Is the extension easy to configure and use so that a store owner can focus on the business side of things? It should ultimately help save time, not add more work.
Epitomizing the above characteristics is the portfolio of extensions from aheadWorks, one of the largest Magento extensions development companies. The company’s range of free and paid-for add-ons, covers every aspect of the e-commerce process – back-end store administration, user experience, marketing and other operational aspects of the business.
Below, we briefly touch upon some of the most well-received Magento add-ons developed by the company:
Help Desk Ultimate: Deliver unmatched customer support
What do you do to score over your competition when they offer equally good products? Simple: you offer unmatched Customer Support. And that is best done using an extension like ‘Help Desk Ultimate’. Developed after incorporating key lessons learned about online shopper behavior, this extension is a proven customer care and support solution for Magento-based e-commerce sites.
Help Desk Ultimate helps store owners manage workflow better by assigning work quickly through unlimited departments; ensures speedy resolution of customer issues using two-way email parsing; keeps track of the issue’s entire thread and close tickets automatically. The user-friendly interface helps customers log issues and the customer support team to process them with ease and speed.
Help Desk Ultimate is certainly a must-have for store owners who recognize the competitive advantages of superior customer support systems.
Z-Blocks: Excellent content presentation
Static content blocks on the pages of an e-commerce site can help deliver important messages to customers at various stages of the purchase. The ‘Z-Blocks’ Magento extension is loaded with features to maximize the utility of static blocks on the store; and it now comes with a graphic interface too.
A sampling of the features:
- Predefined positions on each page
- Flexible block positioning by altering CMS page layout
- Blocks can be scheduled to appear on certain days/dates
- Easy enabling/disabling of blocks and items within blocks
Follow Up Email: More power to e-mail marketing
‘Follow up Email’ Magento extension helps store owners to effectively communicate with their customers. The advanced features offered by Follow Up Email extension not only allow them to automatically respond to any customers’ action, but also to always keep customers on their radar. In short, one never loses sight of the customer even if they have abandoned their carts.
Key features of the extension include the ability to:
- View all information about items before the shopper abandoned the cart
- Track and send notifications to users with abandoned carts
- Restore their carts with just one click on the link sent in the email
- Track customers who placed orders by clicking on the emailed link
- Get a detailed analysis of selling activity – helps improve sales
- Access a mail log from the admin area with the ability to preview and manually send/delete emails
Advanced Reports: Intelligent analytics
Successful businesses have a sound information/ intelligence system based on which key decisions are made. Contributing to this need amongst Magento-based online merchants is the Advanced Reports extension that allows businesses to obtain significantly more sales information than before. Advanced Reports is a valuable tool to understand store users and formulate the right merchandising strategy.
Some of the reports that this extension will help generate are:
- Bestsellers Report: information on products frequently bought over a period of time
- User Activity Report: gives data on new accounts, number of reviews and number of orders
- Products by Customer: shows how many products have been bought at a time by the majority/minority of customers
Reports can be segmented by country, by days of the week, by month and by several other criteria.
On Sale: Special product promotions
The ‘On Sale’ extension is designed to capitalize on the inherent human tendency to be lured by items that are marked on ‘sale’. This add-on allows Magento store owners to add visually attractive labels to any product image, which can be displayed in both the individual product view as well as the catalog view.
On Sale comes loaded with several customization options. For example, store administrators can choose from the software’s pre-packaged labels or upload their own and then add text using predefined variables. It is a great tool for driving customers to make a purchase right away.
AJAX Cart Pro: Create more usable sites
It’s been proven time and again- a good user experience will boost conversions and customer retention. The ‘AJAX Cart Pro’ Magento extension takes a website’s usability a few notches higher by removing the annoying page reloads that often take place when users click “add to cart” and “delete from cart” options. Instead of reloading, items are added instantly with appealing animation effects. This cuts down on customer frustrations and makes shopping at the site quick and smooth.
Refer a Friend: Benefit from ‘viral’
Independent research reports show that online shoppers trust referrals or recommendations from friends than customer reviews posted on a website. The ‘Refer a Friend’ viral marketing Magento module helps store owners make the most of this reality.
Not only does the extension help stimulate store visitors to invite their friends to the store, but it also helps them referral reward programs too. It’s a must-have module in this era of incentive marketing, when customers want to earn discounts, while at the same time ensuring they and their friends get a product that is completely reliable.
aheadWorks Magento extensions are bound to make a difference to any e-commerce business operating on a Magento platform. The popularity of these extensions among e-commerce site owners demonstrates the value addition of these extensions to businesses and the quick return on investment that they offer.
I too appreciate the aheadWorks extensions. They are the only vendor we have found so far with many extensions that are all solidly and professionally constructed, well documented and supported.
It would be great if you take time to review some of our extensions on your blog in the future.
Thanks for your comment, Garth.
Very Nice article and yes extensions are like one or more files packed together to extend the functionality of Magento. Magento extensions allow injecting functionality in a static block, shipping/payment module, and in large module to do something as large as integrating a 3rd party system or multiple systems.