Since Magento first came to be in 2008, it has seen no less than 40 direct developments in its short history in the form of various updates, versions and language additions, with each development working hard to create a more reliable, competent and scalable platform that boasts the largest customer base in the eCommerce world.

Despite the platform itself undertaking ongoing improvements to refine an already impressive platform that is powering 26% of the top one million sites ranked on Alexa, many of the businesses that use it are only experiencing a fraction of the potential it can offer.

1. Utilise Extensions: The Mystery of Magento Extensions

This mismatch between performance and potential often exists as fast-growing businesses that are becoming increasingly significant in size continue to use the Magento platform in isolation – failing to capitalise on the numerous extensions available that can be extremely valuable.

These extensions can add all sorts of useful functionality from a quicker and easier buying process to live integration with stock systems, providing visitors with transparency over the amount of stock remaining (it’s worth noting that Magento’s original buying process has six steps – with an opportunity for buyer dropout at each step!).

However, with thousands of these extensions developed by numerous contributors, it can be difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff – deciphering which extensions will add value to your business. We’ve listed just three of our favourite extensions at the end of this post.

2. Marketing Magic – Engaging Customers and Visitors at the right moment, with relevant content

Many business owners can be put off the thought of damaging customer and site visitor relationships by going for the hard sell, instead choosing to do very little and just, well, seeing what happens.

Conversely, others are happy to adopt the tell em’, tell em’ and tell em’ again approach, with each and every page and email pushing the same products. However, both of these approaches are far from best practice and are failing to effectively engage your audience.

As a customer travels around your site and even while they are away from it you want to make sure they see the products that are relevant, popular and available, creating an experience through intelligent marketing that interacts with your customers and visitors at exactly the right moments. Done correctly, this can turn visitors into buyers, one-time buyers into loyal customers and re-invigorate customers that have been inactive for some time.

3. Innovate with Integration

So we know it’s important to utilise some of the great Magento extensions available and to personalise the interaction experience with customers through intelligent marketing, but it’s crucial that this effort is integrated with efforts made elsewhere to gain traction.

As the old saying goes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This rings true with the Magento platform. Integrating extensions, systems and marketing initiatives properly will make the management of products, customers, payments, orders and deliveries the very best it can be. This includes integrating extensions and marketing efforts such as e-mail marketing, Google Analytics, AdWords, SEO and PPC initiatives as well as payment and fulfilment providers, with the results across each of these efforts to be reviewed as a whole.

Connecting systems together will ensure you get the best bang for your buck not only from the Magento platform, but from your marketing spend. Together, these results tell a story and can ultimately transform the customer experience, attracting more visitors and turning them into loyal customers and followers of your brand.

The whole will tell you where the different visitors to your sites and buyers of your products ‘hang out’ online, how do they usually find you and at what time of day, how do they make purchase decisions, which kinds of content do they prefer to engage with, when do they open your emails, when do they not open your emails, what time of day do they browse and buy, what can’t they find on your site and even which words speak to them…

We could go on, but the value of knowing this story is significant. It enables businesses to understand buyers in a way that allows them to refine everything they do, consistently on the path to creating the perfect (and most lucrative) purchase experience.

Here at Venture Stream (and our technology division CommVia) we are experts at connecting systems together to create the best possible experience that delivers the best possible business results.

When effectively integrated, the Magento platform, its extensions and your marketing processes (SEO, PPC and affiliate schemes), your site will work much harder for you, effectively attracting, converting and delighting your customers through each and every purchase journey they make.

If this sounds like something you’d like to know more about, on April 18th our resident Magento experts Andy Redfern and James Champan will be delivering two talks at the North East Magento Meetup event to be held at Campus North, Newcastle City Centre. To register for the event or to book your place, click here.

3 great extensions that integrated correctly, will create marketing magic:

The upseller – Nosto is a great tool for populating the site with live information about what is selling and what customers like them actually bought.

Live Stock Availability – – M2EPro is a great integration tool to connect a stock feed from a warehouse management system and can also connect Amazon or Ebay orders to your system.

Correct Address Information – PCA Predict is a simple way of allowing your customer to just type their postcode in and get presented with the correct address and improves order deliverability considerably.