Magento is to e-commerce what Wordpress is to blogging. The reason? As well as coming out-of-the-box with a wealth of default features, it is also highly customizable with the addition of plugins. Depending on your requirements, these add value to your business and to your customer's experience. Many are free, some charge a fee. Here are the 9 essential Magento plugins for every e-commerce store owner:
1. Social Network Integration Bundle
You just cannot expect to run a successful e-commerce store today unless you are hooked up on social media. This fantastic package comes with 10 extensions which can all be installed at once, and it connects any store to Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Pinterest, allowing customers to Like products, share them, and talk about them. Total social integration and very easy to set-up. This is an essential.
2. Smart Checkout
A golden rule of Conversion Rate Optimisation is to make the checkout process as smooth and painless as possible. If customers are filling in several forms every time they make a purchase then it will result in a lot of abandoned shopping carts, the bane of e-commerce. This plugin simplifies check-out to one step - speeding up the process and enhancing the customer experience. If a site has a problem with abandoned carts this could definitely be a solution.
3. Live Chat
Good customer service is absolutely vital in e-commerce and this plugin will suit certain businesses to a tee. If someone is having problems with a product or having difficulties making a payment, for example, store owners now have the option of real-time problem-solving. This is the next best thing to being face-to-face and can mean less time spent on the phone or dealing with complaint emails.
4. Follow-up Emails Extension
Another top feature for customer service, this extension allows stores to automate responses at various stages of the purchase process. So after a completed sale they can recommend other products, or send instructions on returns policies, for example, and it can also generate an email to trigger whenever a cart is abandoned to establish the reason and see if the customer can be retained.
5. IW PayPal Standard Currencies
Any e-commerce store that is operating in global markets will probably have a different site for each country it’s selling in. This plugin allows them to accept payments in any base currency, so there’s no need to request payment in just £,$ or € if they’re dealing with customers in Malaysia, for instance.
6. Extended Product Grid
A great tool to have in the box when an online store is selling a lot of products, many of which are quite similar. This grid lets operators update product information all in one go, and it also helps spot any that are missing images. A massive time-saver.
7. Store Locator
Many e-commerce stores also have at least one bricks ‘n’ mortar outlet as well. Using this plugin which utilises Google Maps they can point customers in the direction of their nearest physical store. If the store is operating a click ‘n’ collect operation then, this should be a bonus for customers. And if there’s no physical outlet then it can also pinpoint distributors or dealers.
A great form of customer interaction and a useful SEO tool, maintaining a regular blog on an e-commerce site is easy with this plugin. Whilst stores can share information on products, deals or campaigns, crucially it also features a Comments option so customer feedback can be collected, great for marketing purposes.
9. Related Product Manager
This plugin is fantastic for up-selling and cross-selling - made famous originally by Asos but now used by almost every good multi-product site. It takes the existing customer data and uses it to automatically generate related product information covering the entire catalogue. A solid way to boost turnover and improve the shopping experience by showcasing your 'edit' on what products work with what.