Zoey eCommerce Website Builder Overview
The eCommerce marketplace is ripe for consolidation, and there will soon be a round of mergers and acquisitions as the market matures.
It's becoming dog eat dog as one after the other, Shopify, BigCommerce, 3dCart et al. offer “special plans” to migrate away from the resource hog and money pit that is Magento to a more easily managed cloud-based eCommerce solution.
The advantages are many, but the key factor is fixed monthly cost which “Free” Open Source protagonists tend to gloss over in their sales pitches. Developing and maintaining a Magento eCommerce store is horrendously expensive.
At the higher “Enterprise Level” of the market both Shopify (Shopify Plus) and BigCommerce (BigCommerce Enterprise) have recently upgraded their plans and offered more for the money. They are slowly making inroads into the markets traditionally dominated by the likes of SAP (Hybris), Hewlett-Packard (HPE) and IBM (Websphere) and as they grow, they will be able to offer more and more cross-channel and B2B selling.
The market here at the top end is a tiny percentage of the overall eCommerce market estimated to be around 3%, but the volume and expenditure on solutions that integrate front end eCommerce processing with back end stock and accounting are enormous for bigger players. Never mind the consultancy fees to match.
So where does Zoey fit into the grand scheme of cloud-based eCommerce website builders and what is their target market?
Zoey is an easy to use eCommerce website builder built using Magento technology which might immediately make you groan inwardly inside but there are a lot of advantages to using this approach if your plan is to gradually replace the original code with your own building blocks. It's a great starting point for any new eCommerce platform.
First, let's examine the reason that Zoey came to life in the first place.
In October 2010 Uri Foox founded Pixafy a web development agency which focused on building Magento Enterprise sites for its customer base. That company grew to achieve over $300M a year in transactional revenue which is no mean feat.
In 2015 Pixafy was sold to [email protected], and the sale proceeds have been used to develop an eCommerce platform based on the experience of providing Magento Enterprise solutions. The owners of Zoey knew what everyone else knew - Magento was an extremely powerful eCommerce tool, but it's developer-centric ethos meant it was expensive to deploy and maintain and they set about rectifying all of its faults while incorporating modern hosting technology into the platform.
The result is an eCommerce platform using Magento as a core to develop a product that is user-friendly and more easily deployed and scaled.
Zoey has been through several design iterations overcoming first the problem of hosting scalability and administrator usability followed by making the platform easy to use for non-developers. Future versions of the product will see it gradually follow its own road map as it severs coding ties with Magento and takes on board community suggestions and ideas.
So what we have is an eCommerce platform that offers everything Magento offers including third party accessibility coupled with modern, scalable hosting technology and ease of use. Everything that Magento currently isn't.
Themes And Templates
Unlike Shopify or Bigcommerce all Zoey themes are free and 100% customisable so simply find something that is close to the look and feel you want to achieve and start editing.
There is a “marketplace” for themes, but this is yet to be fully developed.
One of the main reasons you would choose Zoey to build your store is because of the “drag and drop” editor which lets you edit images, colours and text all without having to know a single line of code. Everything can be done from the editor, and it makes it easy to customise your template quickly.
One feature I liked in the template editor is the view switcher which lets you see how your site is going to look on a mobile or tablet device without having to use a third party like screenfly to do it.
If you want advanced control over your layout (and you really should), then the CSS is available to modify, and the best thing to do would be to finish your store and present all the changes you want doing to a CSS expert in one go.
While you are making your changes at any time, you can “view my store” to see the effect in real time. The only other website builder that I've covered so far that his this degree of “drag and drop” flexibility is Wix and it is clear that plenty of development money has been sunk into making the interface as easy to use as possible.
Categories And Products
This is where things start to get a bit more complicated, and you'll need some patience to be able to explore all of the available options. There are many of them, but you would expect that with a highly powerful and flexible eCommerce tool at your disposal.
If you want to set up shop as quickly as possible, then Zoey isn't for you. Setting up categories and products requires some planning and future anticipation. This is an enterprise eCommerce solution and is not something you can set up in five minutes and be done with it.
Some of the setup that you will need to contend with includes upsells; cross-sells, dimensional shipping, inventory, related products and there is a full suite of promotional and marketing tools at your disposal. I learned to hate Magento because of its complicated setup, but there is no doubt that as an eCommerce solution it presents the best range and depth of tools to do the job.
Marrying it with an easy to use administrator interface is a stroke of genius.
Apps And Tools
Zoey shines here because everything that has been developed for Magento is at your disposal. You'll find popular add-ons like Mailchimp, Referral Candy, Coupon Promotions and much more. I think it's fair to say that if it hasn't been developed for Magento, then it isn't needed to run an eCommerce website.
Business 2 Business Toolkit
Zoey’s B2B toolkit gives you the ability to manage critical store data like categories, products, pricing, payment methods and shipping options based on customer groups. You can segment your customers into groups and create rules to specify the areas and functionality of a store that the group can access. These rules can be configured in multiple ways, giving you granular control over your store.
Password protect access to your store, restrict access to categories of products, pricing information within a category and add to cart functionality for a category. You can also restrict access to individual products, product pricing information, access to the product details page and add to cart functionality for a product.
Specify pricing, a minimum order amount, shipping options, and payment methods per customer group. You can also configure account registration and approval workflows, as well as offer shoppers a quick order table that allows for faster bulk ordering.
There are no processing fees involved to use Zoey, and so you'll only have to pay standard eCommerce transaction charges.
Your store includes all your hosting needs provided by a fully scalable hosting architecture. It's a far cry from trying to setup Magento on your hosting space. Also, you can kiss goodbye to all those patches and associated developer costs that go with fixing fixes that need fixing themselves.
Zoey is aimed fairly and squarely at the enterprise market, but I can't help feeling they have missed a trick here by not offering an entry level version. There must be a good reason for this, and I expect it is along the lines of letting a world class eCommerce solution loose on the masses and the associated support overhead that would go with it.
In saying that Zoey is far less expensive than Shopify or BigCommerce and can pack in all the features you need for an advanced eCommerce solution. There are no bandwidth or excess storage charges which are where some solutions like Volusion and 3dcart are going wrong.
The Zoey portfolio lists some pretty impressive merchants, and you don't get those by offering shabby support. If you've used Zoey, please leave your comments in the reviews section.
Magento is a beast of a product that Zoey has set out to tame. My first impression is that they are doing a marvellous job of this and an impressive client list thinks they are too.
Easy to modify themes and templates with access to CSS and HTML if you need It. A drag and drop website builder to make light work of customising your pages and an administrator interface that has clearly had plenty of UX (User Experience) design to make building your store as easy as possible.
In essence, Zoey has given you all the strengths of Magento and taken away all the weaknesses that make it such a dinosaur in the world of eCommerce technology.
Zoey makes a big play of making it easy to migrate away from Shopify, BigCommerce and other cloud-based solutions that don't pack a punch needed at the enterprise level but perhaps their biggest market is going to be moving people away from Magento itself. Because this is what Magento should be.
The biggest reason I can give you for using Zoey is fixed cost. Magento is notorious for being a deep money pit. Development is one part of the story, the constant patching and fixing and associated costs are quite another.
As this product matures and leaves behind its legacy code users will have access to one of the best eCommerce solutions on the market. If they haven't already.
Consider using Lemonstand as an alternative for entry-level sites that want to grow quickly.