Over the last few weeks, we’ve done a number of interviews with merchants who have migrated to a new platform, including APS (who moved to Magento Enterprise) and Heliguy (who are moving from Magento Community to Visualsoft). Now, the latest merchant interview is with Eric Morrow from Ambush Board Co, a company who run two Magento Enterprise stores, Ambushboardco.com and BuyWake.com.
I’ve worked with Eric and Chuck from Ambush at various points over the last couple of years and Eric has kindly agreed to do this interview talking about his experience around moving to Magento Enterprise.
Tell us a bit about your business and your background as a retailer.
Ambush Board Co. is a family business that specializes in skate, wake, and snowboard gear and the associated footwear, apparel and accessories. We started off in 1997 with a single physical retail location in Kennesaw, Georgia, just North of Atlanta. We had as many as three locations before launching our first ecommerce site, BuyWake.com – the first wakeboard-specific online pro shop (prior to that, wakeboarding was grouped in with water skiing and recreational water sports, rather that with board sports…where it should be), in 2001. We’ve been primarily ecommerce / online-driven ever since. Essentially, Ambush Board Co. is my life’s work.
What platform were your stores on before you moved to Magento EE?
We spent our first 11 years on a homegrown platform, followed by a short, yet devastating time on ShopVisible. We migrated to Magento Enterprise in April 2014 and have been fully happy with it since.
Why did you want to move away from your old platform?
I’d prefer not to get into too much detail. Just know that we were in a really bad position and needed to move.
When you were selecting a new ecommerce platform, which other ones did you look at?
The choice was pretty clear when we switched to Magento. Admittedly, I don’t remember all of the platforms we checked out when we determined that our homegrown platform wasn’t going to be a viable option much longer. I know that we did a tremendous amount of research (and summarily made a ruinous decision, courtesy of a combination of my/our inexperience in this area and our desire to partner with a local provider). I think we looked at Volusion, NetSuite, and Demandware.
What were your main reasons for selecting Magento?
I don’t really like SaaS platforms and wasn’t really interested in going with this kind of solution. Online retail businesses, and our business in particular, need a high level of customization. Because of its modularity and extendibility, and the fact that it can be totally individualized, for me, Magento was the only way to go. That, and it just plain works. It isn’t overly clever, it isn’t a pretense to declare the developers who built it as the smartest people ever. It’s pure function and substance. And, they keep it future-proof.
Did you use external development partners or did you manage the build in-house?
We did the initial build in-house. Not long after we re-launched our websites on Magento, we partnered with Razoyo. They’ve been absolutely solid.
How important do you think having the right Magento partner is for a build project?
It’s critical. There are a lot of developers out there who don’t know that they don’t know. Just because something works, doesn’t mean it’s proper. And, as you know, if you get too many sub-optimal things looped together, sooner or later it’s going to be a problem.
What would you say the main strengths of the platform are for you?
It’s highly customizable, it’s SEO-friendly, it’s secure, it’s ultimately scalable. It’s, as far as I’m concerned, the Holy Grail of ecomm platforms.
Do you think Magento has any big issues / weaknesses?
If it isn’t configured properly, it can be very slow. That speaks more to ensuring that you find the right hosting and dev partners than anything else.
What were some of the initial problems / overheads with Magento that you had to overcome?
We had some ongoing indexing issues that took a pretty decent amount of time and effort to resolve. We had some fairly significant caching issues, as well, until we found the right setup. Beyond that, I can’t really recall anything else that wasn’t a simple fix.
What would you say merchants should look for in a Magento partner?
All of the things that you would look for in a partner of any kind. Integrity is key. Alignment of expectations is crucial. You also have to be a good cultural fit with your Magento partner, you have to get each other on that level. I also need a Magento partner who is completely honest with him/herself, who knows what his limitations are (there’s nothing worse than being promised the moon, when the partner is really only capable of delivering a MoonPie).
Finally – what advice would you give to merchants like you who are just selecting a new ecommerce platform?
Go with Magento. Seriously. This isn’t an advertisement, it’s a full on endorsement. Go with Magento and start building. And,.know that, if anything goes wrong, it can be fixed.