A Guide to Magento for Fashion & Lifestyle eCommerce Stores
Magento is the world’s leading eCommerce platform, with a huge market share across most sectors of online retail. In addition to having more than 250,000 live stores, they’re also the leading eCommerce for the IR1000 and IR250.
One of the biggest focal sectors for Magento has been fashion and lifestyle, which they’re also unquestionably a leader in. Below are some examples of well-known fashion and lifestyle brands that use the Magento eCommerce platform (be it Enterprise or Community Edition).
Fashion & Lifestyle Brands using Magento:
- Christian Louboutin
- Kurt Geiger
- Victoria Beckham
- Paul Smith
- Mara Hoffman
- Rebecca Minkoff
- Osprey London
- 7 For All Man Kind
- Harvey Nichols
- Agent Provocateur
- Linda Farrow
- END Clothing
As you can see from above examples, Magento is proven in the fashion and lifestyle space and has merchants of all levels (with companies like Missguided well in the hundreds of millions turnover online). Magento 2 is even more geared towards this sector, with various new features that allow for a more seamless omni-channel experience and a more manageable content facility.
Over the last few years, I’ve worked with a number of fashion brands who have either been moving to Magento or already trading on the platform and I wanted to write this piece to outline some of the key reasons that they choose Magento over alternative platforms (such as Shopify Plus, Demandware / Salesforce Commerce Cloud or Hybris) – as well as the features that have been valuable to them.
This article is largely based on the Magento Enterprise feature-set.
A scalable platform
Magento powers some of the largest stores in the world and has a number of merchants turning over more than $1bn online. In addition to this, it also powers some huge fashion and lifestyle brands – most of which have considerable peaks around seasonal trading periods, marketing campaigns and new collection releases – yet Magento has vast experience of meeting these needs.
A few years ago, whilst working at Inviqa – I witnessed their work on the Missguided store around black Friday, which is one of the biggest Magento stores in existence, particularly in Europe. Missguided had huge peaks over the course of the weekend and turned over unbelievable amounts of money – yet the website stayed up and continued to cater for customer demand. It’s also worth noting that this was a Magento 1.x store and Magento 2 has been built to be even more scalable.
Again though, a lot of this comes down to selecting the right partner that has experience of maintaining high peak / high traffic stores.
Visual merchandising capabilities (Magento 2)
Visual merchandising is a fundamental requirement for larger fashion and lifestyle stores, who often aren’t able to rely on rule-based merchandising features due to needing to represent trends and showcase ranges and combinations of products. In my experience of working with fashion brands, this is one of the first things on the list of requirements going into a replatforming project.
Magento 2 has seen a re-build of the visual merchandising module that they purchased from OnTap a few years ago – and this has now been integrated into the platform a lot better. The original Magento 1 version, which was also available in Magento Enterprise 1.12 and upwards, was often criticised for its reliability but the new version is far stronger.
The new version is also much nicer to use and allows merchandisers to create rules based on product attributes, which can save a lot of time. Demandware / Salesforce Commerce Cloud in particular does have a very strong offering in this area (they also have in-built personalisation features), but Magento has really upped their game recently. I also wrote this piece on merchandising in Magento and this piece on optimising Magento’s search function.
Bluefoot / advanced CMS (content management)
In 2016, Magento announced the acquisition of Bluefoot CMS, from Gene Commerce, which represents a good move forward in an area where Magento is particularly weak, content management. Bluefoot CMS allows for widget-based content management and it has a drag and drag interface, which will enhance the quality of pages and blocks that can be created and managed from Magento and reduce the overhead for merchandisers.
This image is from the pre-purchased, Magento 1 version of Bluefoot.
Bluefoot CMS is going to be introduced into the core of Magento 2 as part of the 2.3 release, which is being eagerly anticipated by merchants and partners. Bluefoot can be used to manage specific blocks on different page types, content / CMS pages and a blog. Magento have also partnered with Acquia and are in the process of releasing an integration with Drupal, which will also help the CMS side of things, particularly for larger merchants and publishers looking to add a storefront.
Lots of very relevant, lifestyle-led agencies / integrators
One of the biggest reasons that merchants tend to choose Magento is the unquestionably strong roster of partners – with hundreds of strong, capable Magento agencies in most continents across the world. In addition to this, there are also lots of partners that have a specific focus on the fashion and lifestyle sector – and lots of others that have experience of building / maintaining high-performing stores. Here are some examples:
- Inviqa (Radley, Missguided, Boohoo, Acne Studios, Victoria Beckham)
- Ampersand (Harvey Nichols, Bench, Skins)
- Vaimo (Helly Hansen, Osprey London, Agent Provocateur, Bjorn Borg)
- Corra (primarily a US agency – Faith Connexion, Eileen Fisher, Brahmin)
- Limesharp (Aquascutum, Jo Loves, Grenson, Sophie Hulme)
- Lewis Commerce (The Watch Gallery, Tricker’s, House of Hackney, Okapi)
- Diligent Commerce (Varley, Lala Berlin, Wrangler, Lee)
- Blue Acorn (Rebecca Minkoff, Harney & Sons)
- Lyons (True Religion, Timex, Charlotte Russe)
I would say that the Magento partner eco-system is by far the strongest out of any platform and this is a real strength for the platform. In addition to the development strengths of these partners – the ones listed above all have very strong creative skills and experience, which is often very important to fashion and lifestyle brands, even if they have another design partner or an in-house team.
An agile platform (Magento 2)
Despite being a very complex platform, Magento remains one of the world’s most agile eCommerce platforms and has been extended to do pretty much anything. Although I work primarily work with Magento, I’ve previously worked with a host of other platforms (Demandware, Shopify Plus, Oracle etc) and I’m yet to see another platform as customisable and extendable as Magento.
Magento has a huge number of existing third party integrations available, as well as a very strong range of well-maintained third party modules. This also helps to make Magento particularly flexible and allows for a lot more agility than most of it’s competitors.
Magento Enterprise Cloud Edition / Commerce is slightly more restricted in what can be edited, however, it remains an extremely agile / flexible platform. One point I would say is that extending Magento hugely can also have an impact on maintainability etc – but this is the same with any system and the right partner will guide you on implementing features with this in mind.
Complex product types
Magento natively supports 7 product types, which makes things easier for merchants looking to sell products beyond just parent and children items. The native product types are:
- Simple product
- Configurable product
- Bundled product
- Grouped product
- Downloadable product
- Virtual product
- Gift card
The handling of simple and configurable products is a big one for fashion, as lots of fashion brands would have colour, size or style variants which they would want to have as part of a configurable product in Magento. This allows for the simple products to be stock managed individually and the merchandising side of things is very flexible compared to other platforms.
Grouped products and bundled products can also be very useful for selling items together or selling higher quantities of items – I personally think that grouped products is a really under-utilised feature. Also, gift cards are generally used by fashion brands and Magento’s implementation allows for a fairly advanced implementation (e.g. partial redemption, balance against account etc) and it can also be extended.
Rule-based product promotions
The rule-based product recommendations feature is also a great feature – allowing for merchants to created rules for up-sells, cross-sells and related product blocks using product attributes. It could be that you create a rule to up-sell products within the same parent category between £5-£15 for some items or you promote other red jumpers alongside a red jumper.
This can be really valuable, particularly for stores with larger catalogs.
Customer segmentation features
Customer segmentation is strangely a very under-utilised feature in Magento, but usually less so in the fashion and lifestyle sector. The customer segmentation feature offers two primary benefits to merchants, these are:
- Ability to segment groups of customers based on purchasing behaviour (e.g. female customers who have purchased a particular style of dress multiple times)
- Ability to then customise promotions / the user experience for these customers (e.g. serving targeted banners or content blocks related to what that customer has purchased)
As I say, this is an underused feature, but it can offer a lot of benefit to large fashion or lifestyle brands who are looking to personalise the user journey for their returning customers. There is also a lot of logic that can be built into this, which can make it even more effective.
Private sales is a feature that essentially allows fashion brands to give specific customers and groups of customers access to specific sales or categories. This feature could be used in the following ways:
- Private or early access to a sale (restricted based on a set criteria)
- Private or early access to a specific line of products (restricted based on a set criteria)
- Introduction of VIP products that are only available to a set group of customers
This Magento feature lends itself to the fashion and lifestyle eCommerce industry.
Customer groups is a key feature for Magento, allowing merchants to create groupings of customers based on a set of rules. These customer groups can then be used for assigning pricing rules, access to specific categories and various other things.
An example of how a customer group could be used in the fashion and lifestyle industry could be:
- VIP customers getting discounts on products (either all products or a selection of products)
- Very simple wholesale implementation (where wholesale customers simply get access to lower prices)
- Access to different products
Lots of existing relevant third party modules and integrations
Magento also has an unrivalled list of existing third party modules and integrations – helping to reduce costs and make the management of certain things considerably easier. Examples of these could be:
- ERP system (such as Microsoft Navision, SAP, Netsuite, SAGE etc)
- Payment gateway (such as Braintree, Adyen, Stripe, Worldpay etc)
- PIM system (such as Akeneo, Pimcore etc)
- Third party merchandising / personalisation solution (such as NOSTO or Fredhopper)
- Third party search solution (such as Klevu, Algolia or SLI)
- CMS (WordPress, Drupal etc)
- Point of sale system (Cybertill, Barclaycard, Vend etc)
Very strong multi-store functionality (for international, multi-brand and wholesale eCommerce)
Magento’s multi-store functionality is very strong and is one of the biggest reasons why merchants tend to choose the platform. If you’re running international websites, a B2B storefront or even separate brands, this can be achieved with unrivalled flexibility using Magento.
Magento essentially allows you to use a website, store or storeview for each entity, which provide different levels of adaptability (e.g. you’d use a separate website for multi-warehouse but a storeview for multi-currency). Merchants are also able to change the scope of particular attributes (e.g. price), so they can manage that data at a storeview, store or website level.
Magento is clearly a leading eCommerce platform in the fashion and lifestyle space and the native feature-set is a perfect fit for mid-level and larger stores. The scalability and extendability of Magento is a huge selling point of the platform, particularly for merchants with big seasonal peaks.
The biggest competitor to Magento in this space is Demandware / Salesforce Commerce Cloud, which also boasts a big market-share in this industry – particularly at the higher end. Demandware’s native feature set is also very much geared towards fashion and lifestyle and I’d definitely recommend looking at that platform alongside Magento. Overall, I’d say that Magento represents a lower cost of ownership and is more agile, but it’s a good comparison to be doing.
At the lower end, I’d also suggest looking at Shopify Plus (you can also read this guide I wrote on Shopify Plus) – which has a lower management / maintenance overhead, but lacks some of the core features that Magento provide (such as support for multi-store, advanced product attributes etc).
If you need any more help around selecting a platform, please feel free to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.