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Spree Commerce vs. Magento

Posted on September 15, 2015 by Allen Burt

About the Author

Allen Burt is the Founder and Managing Director at Blue Stout. Blue Stout is a digital production agency that builds custom commerce applications, like ecommerce shops and interactive mobile apps, for clients ranging from startups to billion-dollar public companies.

Prior to Blue Stout, Allen led two ecommerce startups and consulted corporate tech companies like Sprint and Bayer AG. He loves connecting business strategy with tech and frequently writes on both subjects on the Blue Stout Blog.

As technology advances, we continue to see things we are accustomed to take shape in a new technology which is smaller, faster, more compact.

We saw it with desktop computers to laptops, telephones to iPhones, satellite dish to HDMI streamers, the examples are all around us. Which means, this change is inevitably occurring in the ecommerce space, too. Ecommerce platforms are evolving, and following the trend in technology, getting more concise and efficient.

There are lots of options out there, and statistics show that Magento is the clear winner when it comes to the ecommerce platform market share. They hold about 26% of the total market.

Spree Commerce, on the other hand, is a relatively new choice. It’s one of the most promising and fastest-growing open source projects in the world with with over 630 contributors who regularly contribute to the code base and update software documentations.

In this post, we’ll compare the two platforms so you can see why we prefer to develop with Spree Commerce here at Blue Stout.

Open source and hosted versions

Both Magento and Spree offer open source versions that are totally free to download, which can be installed on a self-hosted server.

Magento Community Edition (CE) is the open source version released by Magento. Though, it has almost the same basic features and source code of their Enterprise Edition (EE), it still misses a lot of enhanced functionalities offered by Enterprise Edition like full page caching, and better scalability, among others.

Spree Commerce is also an open source platform, but it is much more reliable than Magento’s Community Edition, and has almost the same features provided by Magento’s Enterprise Edition.

Related: Open Source or Full Service Platform: Which Is Right For Your Ecommerce Business?

In fact, the cost of Enterprise Edition starts at $15,000 and can go up to $200,000 per year, whereas Spree as an open source software costs $0, which makes Spree Commerce more appealing from the get-go. The caveat here, of course, is paying for a developer to help you build on top of the platform, so your costs will depend on that individual or ecommerce development firm.

Backend User Experience

As your development team or contracted design firm works on building your store, depending on the platform you choose, they will have two completely different backend experiences. Magento offers many options to developers as core functions. This makes the backend cluttered and overwhelming. And because there are lots of options by default, it can even confuse some users and complicate the user experience unnecessarily. If your development team is having a hard time keeping products updated and current because of a unorganized backend, chances are it’s going to reflect on your frontend and, ultimately, your customer’s experience on your website.

In contrast, the backend of Spree is built around simplicity. The admin panel is lean and efficient. Comparing with Magento, Spree has fewer tabs and sub-menus. So, by default, it is less overwhelming and minimizes the options offered. This doesn’t mean that Spree has fewer options and functionalities. It means that Spree has a more minimal way of organizing its backend options and are arranged is to keep the developers streamlined and focused.

Which one sounds like a better user experience for developers?

The Framework Used

This is where it gets interesting. The language and framework used to build each platform is the most obvious example of technological evolution. Magento is written in PHP with some elements of Zend framework. Spree is built using Ruby on Rails, a web application framework created specifically for online businesses.

If you’ve been in business awhile or if you are fairly tech-savvy, you may know that PHP is a very popular language. Compared to Ruby on Rails, PHP is a much easier language to learn right off the bat. Because of this, PHP still dominates the ecommerce industry. But, just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s right. PHP is actually not the most efficient language for ecommerce programming.

Let’s look at some comparisons between the two platforms in terms of efficiency:

Lines of Code

The main difference in efficiency between Magento and Spree lies within the difference in code. Magento has over 8.2 million lines of code whereas Spree Commerce uses only 45k. Why such a huge difference? Remember, Magento provides more functions as the core functions and Spree, by default, comes as a lightweight storefront. The extensions for Spree have to be installed and can increase functionality. These big difference in the initial sizes of the each code base makes an impact on operational and developmental processes. Here’s how:

Ease of Development

Unless you’re running a very simple shop with absolutely no customized elements or functionalities, you will need to customize the source code of your storefront. As PHP is a very popular language, finding PHP programmers is easy. However, just because a programmer knows PHP doesn’t mean that person can necessarily work well on Magento. Navigating through its complex setup can be tough. That means it is very likely, unless your developer has specific Magento experience, that there will be a learning curve for any developer you hire.

In contrast, Rails developers understand Spree much faster than PHP developers can understand Magento because the framework is more efficient and minimal. You’ll have much better chances of forgoing a large learning curve with your developer and saving yourself time and money.

Handling Requests

Whenever a server receives a request, it processes each request individually and generates a response. Servers can handle many requests simultaneously. When a server is oversubscribed with the requests, the server could suffer loss in performance, which may result in slowing down your ecommerce store.

Spree can handle more than double the number of requests per second than Magento can. In addition, Spree takes care of those requests almost three times faster than the Magento (413ms compared to 1203).

Code Requirements

Ruby on Rails is optimized for sustainable programming and productivity. And the code reflects that. It is structured in such a way that it cannot duplicate itself. That means your programmers don’t have to write code to combat duplicate errors. PHP is the opposite.

So, compared to Magento, Spree requires almost 10 times fewer lines of code to be written to achieve the same functionality. A larger amount of server-side scripting code can degrade the performance of your server and slow down your store. Since Spree requires fewer lines of codes to be written, it can speed up your website loading time, giving your customers a better experience on your site.

Payment Process Integration

Another important element to compare in ecommerce platforms are the available payment processor integrations. The limitations or lack of integrations should not determine which platform you use.

Why choose a sub-par platform just because they integrate with your preferred processor? Good news: you don’t have to. Compared to Magento, Spree supports more payment gateways out of the box. Magento supports integration with about 75 different solutions whereas Spree comes bundled with over 125.

In addition, Spree has recently upgraded VendPOS Integration for Wombat, its automated integration platform so that it takes only a few minutes to connect with leading VendPOS Integration. Read more about that integration here.

Make a Smart Decision

Obviously, both Magento and Spree are capable of offering every feature an online store needs. But in terms of speed, stability, scalability and third-party integrations, Spree stands out from its competitors. In addition, the pace of the open source contribution puts it in the Top 50 open source projects in the world. Don’t make a decision based on the state of your ecommerce business now. Think 5 years down the road. Which platform will scale with your business?

Our bet is on the platform that evolves with the efficiency trend.

To view this piece in its original format, visit the blog of Blue Stout.

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5 Emails to Customers that Will Boost Sales

Posted on September 08, 2015 by Alexander Diegel

Communicating with your customers is key to ecommerce success. But what should you send? Push too hard for sales and you risk getting marked as spam. Don’t reach out enough, and you risk losing sales that a simple email would have sealed for you. Here are five emails that you sould employ in your outreach plan today.

1) Thank you for your Order

There’s no tidier way to wrap up customers’ transactions than thanking them for ordering. It shows that you care that they got the order on time and as expected. Fail to do this and you fail to establish a bond with the customer. There’s no reason for them not to shop with a competitor in the future.

Also, It will also open up a dialogue in case they DON’T receive the item on time, or as expected. There’s no better way to lose customers than by disappointing them. By opening up the communications, you can fix the problem and they will buy from you again.

2) Order Status Updates

Keeping in line with some of the key points above, if you keep the communication open, it will alleviate fears from the customer. Telling patrons, “Order Confirmed” and “Your item has been shipped,” will put to rest any doubts that a problem happened in between the time they paid and the time the item they receive the product.

3) Product Review

Providing a quick and easy way for customers to review your products is another great method to enhance customer loyalty. If it’s not exactly as they wanted it, customers should be able to say so. Remember, you’re selling things based off a picture, so things might not be perfect every time. And if you notice a significant amount of customers complaining about an item, you can use the constructive criticism to either change how you present the product, or remove it from your inventory altogether.

4) Product Reorder Reminder

If you’re in the subscription business, this is key to gaining customer retention. You want to hit the sweet spot of sending the email late enough that it’s time to restock, but in enough time that the customer will receive the subscribed item(s) before the last order’s supply runs out.

For example, if you sell coffee, and customers orders a one-month supply, you’ll want to reach out to to them about three weeks after they received their last shipment. That way, you’re close enough to the point that it’s time to restock, but have enough time to get the coffee to their doostep before Day 30. Because if your customers are anything like me, you don’t want to mess with them without their coffee.

5) Personalized Recommendations

It never hurts to suggest an item or items that you think your customer might enjoy. Staying with the above example, if your customer orders dark coffee, and you just got in a new Brazilian Super Dark Roast, it couldn’t hurt to let your customer know you just got this product in.

During holiday sales, it couldn’t hurt to suggest some products that are out of your customers’ typical buying habits. At these times, patrons are looking to buy gifts, instead of typical orders, so you can cash in on the shopping rush with your existing customers. Just be careful doing this during normal times of the year, as it’s a good way to get your emails marked as spam.

Additional Tips and Tools

Sending these emails yourself will be fine when you’re first starting out. However, down the line you may want to look at a service like MailChimp or Mandrill that will help you send those emails. You can even automate these third-party services so emails go out at the moment of a desired action. For more best practices, including when and how frequently to send emails, visit our article, “How to Make Marketing Emails Work for You.”

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Spree Commerce vs. Shopify

Posted on September 01, 2015 by Kaartik Iyer

About the Author

Kaartik Iyer is the founder of Infigic. Infigic is an ecommerce agency that develops with Spree Commerce. Infigic was started by experienced ecommerce professionals who have built succesful ecommerce ventures in the past and have started off this venture to help fellow ecommerce entrepreneurs. You can check out Infigic’s portfolio here.

There are many ecommerce platforms available, but the most important decision is to choose an ecommerce platform that’s best suitable to your store. The ecommerce platform not only influences the UI and customer experience of your store, but is also used for administrating assorted backend tasks. Here, we’ll talk about Spree Commerce and Shopify so that you can decide your ecommerce platform as per your business.

Spree Commerce is built using Ruby on Rails, which is the best for developing light, fast, and well-designed websites. Spree Commerce is free and also integrates with Wombat. Wombat connects your Spree and other ecommerce storefronts to any service. It intelligently routes orders and other information to make sure that the right data gets to the right place at the right time. Spree is a fully featured ecommerce platform written for the Ruby on Rails framework. It makes programming applications easier by making several assumptions about what the developers need to embark. If we talk about backend, the Spree admin panel is one of the most well-designed admin panels containing all necessary elements.

Now onto Shopify, a comprehensive ecommerce solution that allows you to set up an ecommerce store and sell products. It lets you organize them, customize your storefront, track orders and accept payments.

Shopify charges a monthly fee ranging from $29 to $179. With Shopify you can’t play around with the code, whereas Spree is an open source platform, allowing you to access and alter all the code (also you can download it at any time). Shopify is simple, provides all the elements a store looks for, it’s uncomplicated, but it’s missing out some additional features. In contrast, Spree Commerce allows you to pick the features you want, and use the ones you need.

Shopify stores are maintained and managed by Shopify itself. But with Spree Commerce, you’re the owner and manager of your store entirely. Shopify is preferably suitable for smaller stores. As most of the large stores look to host their own data, customize it extremely as per their needs and not pay commissions, Spree Commerce is more recommended.


Spree Commerce

  • Spree Commerce is free of cost
  • Spree Commerce is easy to conclude on and doesn’t call for specialization
  • Customization can be done excessively tailored to your needs
  • It provides extensions for additional functionality and bacedn is easily understandable
  • It’s open source and built using Ruby on Rails


  • Shopify is easy to use
  • It allows less customization, good for small business organizations
  • No access to the code
  • Is a paid product

Now, you can choose the best ecommerce platform for you between Spree Commerce and Shopify. Infigic is a Spree Commerce Development company specializing in custom Spree Commerce development and Spree extension development solutions. Follow us on twitter @infigicdigital
for more updates related to ecommerce development.

To view this piece in its original format, visit the blog of Infigic Digital.

Turn your Customers into a Community

Posted on August 25, 2015 by Alexander Diegel

Customer retention is one of the keys to ecommerce success. In fact, one report states that increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can increase profits anywhere from 25% to 95%. But how do you keep your current customers buying again and again? Nothing’s fail safe, but one proven strategy is to use your social media profiles to create a rich and vibrant community.

Creating an active and engaging social presence will turn your customers into true fans, brand ambassadors that are eager to see your new product/company news and share it with their friends and family. Competitors can offer similar products, but creating a community gives you an advantage over the other retailers. Some of the fastest-growing names in ecommerce have put this theory to the test and have reaped the rewards.

While getting customers excited to buy your hot new item sounds simple enough, best practices include more than just posting about new products. Take surf and beach retailer Surfdome, for example. Surfdome, recently sold to Surfstitch for $16M, has nearly 50K Twitter followers.

How did they get there? Not by merely posting photos of new surfboards and wetsuits, but turning its Twitter account into a great follow for all fans of surfing. Scroll the feed, and you’ll see GoPro videos from surfers mid-action, photos of surfers making their way through ridiculously huge waves, and yes, the occasional link to a new product. They also make an effort to tie in a trending hashtag of the day with surfing/beach fun, like this one for #RelationshipGoalsin3Words:

What Surfdome has created is a “one-stop shop” for surf fans. They’ll get news, cool pictures and videos, and associate Surfdome as an awesome place to buy surfing and beach gear. Personally, I’m a little top heavy for surfing, but if it were my thing Surfdome would be a must follow for me, and I’d quickly become a fan of the brand, not thinking of going anywhere else for a new board or wetsuit.

Stumptown Coffee, generators of approximately $40 million in annual revenue, follows a similar path. While a GoPro video of someone sipping a Stumptown brew might not be quite as exciting as surfing a big wave, Stumptown’s Twitter feed is filled with fans tagging their favorite coffee brand, as well as retweets of satisfied customers.

While you can’t get much different than a coffee and surfing retailer, you’ll notice a similar strategy between Stumptown and Surfdome. They create the community first, and plug the products second. One guaranteed way to lose a Twitter and/or Facebook follower is to shamelessly share your products again and again.

Instead, whatever industry you’re selling to, post and retweet fun and interesting news relevant to that industry. If you’re a sports retailer, get in on the Little League World Series action. If you’re in the beauty and makeup industry, post about fashion. Creating an active blog doesn’t hurt, either, as it will provide you with another outlet to funnel brand fans to your site.

However you do it, they key to gaining customer retention is staying industrially patient and not over-posting about your own products. To paraphrase “The Voice” from Field of Dreams, if you build the community, the sales will come.

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