What is Magento?: A Beginner’s Guide to Adobe Commerce

If you’re thinking about starting an ecommerce business, you may have heard of one of the most popular ecommerce platforms available — Adobe Commerce (formerly Magento). But, you may also be wondering if it’s the right platform for you and your business.

By the end of this article, you’ll understand what the Adobe Commerce platform offers, including the pros and cons of using it, and its costs. You’ll also fully understand why world-renowned companies all use the Adobe Commerce platform.

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What is Adobe Commerce?

Adobe Commerce is an ecommerce content management system (CMS). In more simple terms, Adobe Commerce provides business owners with the technology they need to successfully build and run an online store. As the website administrator, you can manage your product catalog, create and edit landing pages, and use ecommerce-specific marketing and merchandising tools to gain a competitive edge in your market. 

In fact, Adobe Commerce also specializes in large-scale ecommerce needs like customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP). This means it integrates into nearly every level of an ecommerce business — from managing products and order fulfillment to organizing production, examining sales trends, and ordering materials to capitalize on those trends. Adobe Commerce’s CRM and ERP toolset is powered by proprietary machine-learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technology known as Adobe Sensei.

As an incredibly popular ecommerce platform, Adobe Commerce regularly ranks among the top three ecommerce platforms available today. Adobe Commerce’s primary competitors include Shopify and WooCommerce — both of which offer an easier-to-use platform than Adobe Commerce. Yet, Adobe Commerce is infinitely more customizable than its competitors because it’s based on open-source software. Moreover, Shopify and WooCommerce just don’t offer CRM and ERP tools on the scale of Adobe Commerce’s machine-learning algorithms.

However, the cloud-based and AI-powered features of Adobe Commerce come with a hefty price tag. While its pricing varies based on the specific needs of your business, you can assume you’ll pay at least $22,000 per year. 

Luckily, Adobe maintains a free, open-source version called Magento Open Source (using the old name of the software). While this article will primarily cover Magento Open Source, it’s important to know a few differences between the two offerings.

Magento Open Source

Previously called Magento Community Edition, Magento Open Source is literally an open-source, ecommerce platform. The term “open source” simply means users have the ability to modify the source code used to create the platform. This makes the platform endlessly customizable. If needed, business owners can hire programmers to make source-code edits required to ensure their online stores run exactly how they want.

You can download and use Magento Open Source for free, but you must purchase your domain name and web-hosting package separately. Once you sign up with a web hosting provider, you can install Magento Open Source through your web host’s cPanel software or via file transfer protocol (FTP). While the installation process can seem complicated, once you sort out your hosting and installation, Magento Open Source is a great option for most small businesses.

Adobe Commerce

Unlike Magento Open Source, Adobe Commerce includes cloud-hosting services and a number of advanced features as part of its premium service. Prices tend to start around $22,000 per year, but can exceed $100,000 per year for more advanced features and climb even higher when bundled with other Adobe services.

That price point puts it out of reach for many small businesses. But Adobe Commerce targets companies that operate multiple stores in multiple countries and engage in both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) sales. Most small businesses don’t need these features or don’t need the advanced level of support that Adobe Commerce provides.

Magento Open Source Features

Magento Open Source includes a number of features that small ecommerce businesses will find helpful. Some of the most popular features include product and product category management, order and inventory management, payment platform integration, shopper accounts, and a simple website builder.

Using Magento Open Source’s product and product category management feature, businesses can list their products, include multiple photos, and classify them according to user-specified categories. With its order and inventory management feature, business owners can track and manage an order through the fulfillment process and update their inventory accordingly.

Magento Open Source’s payment platform integration tools enable businesses to accept several different payment methods in their online stores. To enhance the overall user experience, shoppers can set up their own accounts, view past orders, update their shipping and payment preferences, and more.

The combination of Magento’s long-standing community of coders and the Adobe Partners network of developers means you should be able to get help when you need it at a reasonable price. You’ll find a number of apps, extensions, and themes available for this platform as well — although some may come with an extra cost.

Magento Open Source Benefits

As you begin to build your ecommerce website, it’s essential to consider the pros and cons of various platforms before choosing the one you want to use. Some of Magento Open Source’s key benefits include:

  • It’s highly customizable.
  • It’s mobile-responsive. Because all websites will, ideally, enable visitors to easily view them on mobile phones and tablets, Magento Open Source sites have a design that gives users a great, mobile-shopping experience.
  • It’s SEO-friendly. Using this platform’s search engine optimization (SEO) tools, business owners can access their site maps, create unique URLs, establish a clear navigational structure, and more.
  • It enables you to accept several different payment methods. Magento Open Source also connects with the most popular payment gateways.
  • It’s essentially free. You’ll have to purchase a domain name and web-hosting package, but, if you have the expertise, you can download and use Magento Open Source at no cost.
  • It allows you to choose your own web-hosting provider. Whether you prefer GoDaddy, Bluehost, or another provider, you can select the web host that offers the best package for your needs.

Curious about hosting providers? Check out our guide to the Top 5 Best Web Hosting Providers for Small Business.

Magento Open Source Drawbacks

Although Magento Open Source provides a number of attractive benefits, it also has some drawbacks business owners must carefully consider before choosing this platform. Adobe Commerce’s main drawbacks include:

  • It’s not as easy to use as other platforms. You’ll most likely need to possess — or have time to develop — some coding skills to get the most out of your Magento Open Source website.
  • Its user interface is slower than other platforms. When you create an ecommerce website with Magento Open Source, the website builder may feel sluggish when compared to other platforms like Shopify. Some users may find this frustrating.
  • It’ll require you to pay for hosting separately. While some ecommerce solutions include hosting, a website builder, and store management in a single package, Magento Open Source requires you to purchase web hosting separately.
  • It may require you to hire a developer. In order to create the online store experience you envision, you may need the help of a developer familiar with the platform. That can get quite expensive.
  • Its extensions, apps, and plugins can add up quickly. By the time you add all the functionality you want to your website, you could spend hundreds — or even thousands — of additional dollars.
  • It has limited customer support. If you need help with your Magento Open Source online store, you’ll most likely need to pay for help from a developer or the Adobe Partners community.

Final Thoughts

Adobe Commerce is one of the world’s most popular ecommerce platforms. It offers business owners the tools they need to build a successful ecommerce website, although its price may place it out of reach for most small businesses. However, Adobe’s free ecommerce version — Magento Open Source — is more than adequate for most small business needs.

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Learn More About Adobe Commerce

Ready to start a web store with Magento Open Source for free? Or, are you considering an all-in-one CMS, CRM, and ERP solution for your large ecommerce business? Check out these other Adobe Commerce guides to get started: