Gauge’s Top recommended extensions (for Magento & Magento 2)

When was the last time you looked at Magento Connect or the Magento Marketplace? Did you feel overwhelmed with all the options and choices? If so, you aren’t alone. The Magento community includes vast number of support companies, support offerings, specialized products and extensions, and everything in between. It’s one of the biggest benefits—and biggest challenges—of the Magento platform. So it’s not surprising that we often hear eCommerce retailers say “When it comes to adding functionality to my site, I just don’t know where to start.”

It can be confusing to sort through thousands of Magento extensions (Magento’s term for plugins or applications). Making the right decision is important, because often, extensions that work fine by themselves can conflict with other extensions and cause problems. Finding and fixing the problem requires time-consuming diagnostic work. To further complicate things, some companies produce low-quality extensions with poor code and dismal customer support, and those can cause irreversible problems. Yet high-quality extensions can be hugely beneficial to your user experience and site functionality. So how do you find the good and avoid the bad?

At Gauge we guide our clients through this process. Our number one goal is to answer the right questions, so we start by clearly identifying a business need, like:

  1. “Google Analytics says my site is too slow. I want to speed it up to improve organic traffic ranking.”
  2. “Our end customers want to be able to sign in using Facebook or other social media accounts, instead of creating a brand new account.”
  3. “I’d love to take recurring payments on my site so we can do a monthly subscription service with our best products.”

We know these are the right questions because their aim is to improve the customer experience.

In our nearly ten years of working with retailers, we’ve answered many of these questions by finding high-quality, reliable Magento extensions from developers we’ve come to trust. To help you make an informed decision the next time you’d like to add a new functionality, we’re passing a list of our top recommendations onto you.

Customer Services and Order Management

Order Manager from IWD Agency

Sometimes your customer service reps (CSRs) need to make modifications to an order after it’s been placed. Order Manager lets you edit order information from your system’s back-end, like changing payment and shipping options, customer information like email addresses, and more. This doesn’t allow your customers to make those changes themselves—the user will need to contact your customer service rep. Still, many of our clients have used Order Manager to streamline operations and customer service, and thus please their end customers. If you have a ton of products and orders, you may need to modify the extension to only show 1000 records at a time, but overall this is a great extension.

RMA from Mirasvit

Most eCommerce stores allow returns in some shape or form. Magento Enterprise allows customers to complete returns themselves, but Magento Community does not. The RMA extension (which stands for Return Merchandise Authorization) from Mirasvit addresses this need in Magento Community and puts the power of returns back in the end customer’s hands. Customers can submit requests for returns, detail why they need to return the item, select a shipping method, and describe the end resolution they want. They can also follow along with the RMA process from start to finish, print shipping labels, and more. This extension streamlines a relatively heavy-friction process for the end customer and for your team, keeping everyone less frustrated and more productive.

Customer Service Suite Integration & Zopim Live Chat from Zendesk

You’re probably familiar with Zendesk; they offer a suite of customer service tools for eCommerce and web companies. Many of our clients use Zendesk’s ticketing platform to streamline operations and make sure that customer concerns are addressed in a timely manner. While these extensions require a Zendesk subscription, if you’re already a Zendesk user, they’re a lifesaver.

The Customer Service Suite Integration connects your Magento and Zendesk platforms. It sends order information, customer information, and much more from Magento to Zendesk, so that your CSRs can process requests and tickets with the full customer backstory. This is especially useful for “frequent flier” customers who return and repurchase from your site often. It’s natural (and smart) to allow some flexibility in your typical policies for your most loyal customers, and Zendesk makes it easy to identify and track that information.

In addition to the Customer Service Suite Integration, we recommend their Zopim service as well. Zopim is basically the live chat portion of their platform. It works very well with both Magento and Zendesk.

eCommerce Order Security

Kount and Signifyd

All eCommerce retailers need to think about security and credit card fraud. Our largest clients will get fraudulent orders and chargebacks several times a week, and it takes precious time to resolve and reconcile these orders. To protect yourself and your store from fraud, we recommend one of two security extensions: Kount or Signifyd. Both serve a similar purpose, but Kount is a little more development-heavy and Signifyd is more plug and play.

Both extensions aggregate data from all their respective clients and share that data across the network. If IP 123 places fraudulent orders with an eCommerce store in the network, all other stores in that network know to block that IP address from creating orders on their sites. We’ve used both services in the past, and they’re both great. Determining which is a better fit for you solely depends on your order volume and budget. Personally, I like Signifyd a bit better because it’s easier to set up and use, and Signifyd guarantees coverage of every chargeback that might come your way.

Shipping and Payments

Shipping Override from WebShopApps

WebShopApps developers are the rockstars of shipping extensions for Magento 1 and Magento 2. They are the best providers of shipping extensions on the market, hands down. We really enjoy working with them because their support is awesome, which makes it much easier to solve client issues. While I could recommend any number of their extensions, the one I have the most experience and expertise with is Shipping Override. You might use this extension if your shipping logic varies according to Product SKU, location area, customer type, carrier, shipping method and more. It allows you to set flat rate charges, surcharges, price per item, etc. Ultimately it’s a very flexible, one-time-purchase product, and it’s particularly valuable for the special shipping needs of high-volume eCommerce sites.

Recurring Autoship Orders from SubscribePro

SubscribePro is a platform that allows Magento retailers to autoship recurring orders easily and quickly. It lets you designate which products are eligible for subscription programs, what discounts (if any) are associated with autoship programs, and handles all the payment and shipping information each time that recurring order goes out.

Magento has a “baked-in” subscription program, but SubscribePro offers a few key advantages. SubscribePro allows the customer to modify their subscriptions themselves. For instance, if I wanted to change my subscription from once a month to once every two months, I could log in, go to My Account, and make those changes myself without any interaction with the site’s CSR team. Another great feature is the ability to create orders with both Subscription and Non-Subscription items in my cart. Magento’s subscription program can’t do that, nor can any of the cheaper subscription extensions like Aheadworks. Overall, SubscribePro is a good value for any retailer looking to extend their product offerings with pain-free subscription programs.

Front-End Functionality

Sweet Tooth Loyalty Programs from Sweet Tooth

Magento Enterprise includes a built-in loyalty program, but just like the RMA extension, using Sweet Tooth’s third-party rewards program instead offers some distinct advantages (and it provides a feature set not included at all in Magento Community). Sweet Tooth has been in the Magento ecosystem since the start of the platform. They provide solid loyalty program features for a good price. While not every retailer will be able to afford Sweet Tooth right off the bat, we do think it’s worth the investment when you can make it. Their impressive feature set includes: Easy, no-friction point earning and point spending, the ability to do one-time promotions and to “gift” bonus points to users, and the ability to incentivize social media shares with free points.

Store Locatorfrom Unirgy

If you’ve got an omni-channel presence or you’re part of a retailer network, it’s critical to be able to point shoppers to brick-and-mortar locations where they can find and buy your products. Store Locator by Unirgy allows you to easily upload all your retailers to Magento via spreadsheet. Once your data is imported you can set filters, change browsing preferences like radius and search area, and even add contact information by location.

Social Engagement/Marketing Suite from AddShoppers

AddShoppers is a company that has changed quite a bit over the years, but one thing has stayed the same: their twin goals of reporting on social engagement metrics, and creating excellent user experiences on-site for eCommerce retailers. With a simple plugin you can add social buttons to your site, gain insights into social metrics, and other key marketing features.

One of the main reasons I like AddShoppers is their ability to help you grow over time. A young retailer might not be able to afford the full suite of services, but you can start with social sharing and organically move up to Pin it to Win It, Coupon Code offers, Exit Modals, and more. This particular plugin has been so valuable to our clients that we actually built our own before AddShoppers rolled out an official one.

Auto Add Promo Items & Special Promotions Pro from Amasty

One question I’m often asked is “How can we be more creative with our marketing offers?” Let’s face it—doing a 10% off coupon for the fifth time will seem lame to your customers, and boredom won’t drive the engagement you need in order to hit your sale numbers. Amasty’s Auto Add Promo Items and Special Promotions Pro give you a full suite of new offers to extend to your customers. Our clients have used these extensions to offer free gifts with purchase, a true BOGO offer, and much more. We really enjoy Amasty extensions; if you’re looking to add some spice to your marketing offers, you can’t go wrong here.

Search Autocomplete + Search Suggest from Searchanise

While there are many search options out there—and we’ve seen them all—Search Autocomplete + Suggest Suggest from Searchanise offers the best bang for your buck. Its biggest advantage is the quick integration time. You don’t have to submit a product feed or sit through on-ramp calls with a provider; you just install the extension and get to work. The extension comes with search suggestions, and it lets users search through products and pages at the same time. The visual and predictive search is a nice touch as well, and it’s generally spot-on. This extension works with a paid Searchanise subscription, but plans start at a very reasonable price.

Sphinx Search Ultimate from Mirasvit

If you’d prefer a “pure play” extension, meaning one that doesn’t require a monthly subscription, look no further than Sphinx Search Ultimate from Mirasvit. My favorite feature of this extension is its ability to index multiple sources of data. For example, if you’re using Magento and WordPress together for your site, you can set up Sphinx index both and provide results for each. Once the indexes have been built, searching both platforms simultaneously is quick and easy. It also offers other user-pleasing features like providing auto-suggestions, showing product thumbnails, and giving “did you mean” options. It’s a great long-term option for retailers who prefer to own tools instead of “leasing” them via subscription.

Back-End Functionality

Full Page Cache (FPC) from Mirasvit

Who loves a slow website? No one! One of the best ways to improve your sales is to keep your site as fast as possible. A faster site means higher conversion rates and more page views. If you aren’t on Magento Enterprise, take a look at Full Page Cache by Mirasvit. This easy-to-install extension works its magic as end users view your site. As customers view your latest Product page, Mirasvit FPC will cache all the content on that page and send it to the next customer accessing that page. This takes an amazing amount of pressure off your server, giving you snappy load times and happy customers.

One of the best features of this extension is the visualization aspect it offers our developers. When issues arise, it’s critical for developers to understand exactly what’s happening on the site. FPC lets us determine the “hit rate” of the cache (meaning how many pages are cached and what the server load is like), and then measure the response times your users are experiencing. This analysis helps us resolve any issues quickly and judiciously.

Order/Sales Export Module from Xtento

From my experience, accounting rarely gets a full seat at the eCommerce table; for most companies it’s an afterthought. When we start a new project or work with a new client, we don’t just look at the website. We keep our client’s entire business operation in mind and look for ways to improve workflow on a comprehensive level. An important part of that is making sure it’s easy to get data out of the system so it can be sliced, diced, and ingested to Quickbooks, SAGE, or other accounting and data software.

Order Export from Xtento allows us to create templates that pull order data from Magento and translate it to an easy-to-use file, thrilling accounting departments and data geeks across the industry. Creating a new template can be somewhat difficult (for a small fee, Xtento will create it for you), but the beauty of this system is that once the template is up and running, you can set a schedule automatically pull the same data every day or week or month. If you like to control your data from spreadsheets or dashboards, I highly recommend this extension.

GoMage Feed Pro: Magento Feed Manager from GoMage

Do you sell your products on Google Shopping? Do you list on Amazon or eBay? If so, you probably need a customized product feed for each of those services. My favorite tool for managing product feeds is Feed Pro by the guys at GoMage. Right out of the box, this extension includes templates for the big players such as Google, Bing, and more. The interface in the Magento admin panel is so easy to use that our clients have really enjoyed learning how to use it and working autonomously through the process. You can set fixed variables, pull from both stock and custom product attributes, and even set a schedule for when your product feed should automatically be regenerated and sent out to the world. It’s the best extension we’ve found for feeds and can save an incredible amount of time.

So that’s it—some really great extensions from reliable developers. Check into them and see if any can improve the user experience for your customers. I’m curious to know what your favorite Magento extensions are. Have you used any of these? What other extensions would you recommend, and how have they saved you time or resources? Tell us about your experiences below.

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