ATX Magento Meetup: Magento 2 Blocks & Widgets and Success with Magento!

IMG_6784-1There has yet to come a time when I have left an ATX Magento Meetup without learning new and valuable information. Last Thursday’s ATX Magento Meetup (held at Capital Factory in Austin, TX) included talks on both Magento 1 and Magento 2. Attendees were incredibly diverse and ranged from those just researching Magento’s capabilities to long-time Magento experts. Within these events you will receive valuable information in a relaxed environment that allows the audience to fully interact with those who wish to present. 

Last week we discussed how Magento’s features can save you time and money when taking on new projects, and how you can find success with Magento. Read on for a recap of what was discussed!

Save Money and Time with Magento 2

Bret Williams, author of “Mastering Magento 2” wowed all attendees with a talk on Magento 2 Static Blocks and Widgets. He explained how you can easily use Magento 2 to turn a lengthy and complicated processes into a 3 minute project. “Widgets are an underused, powerful tool,” Bret explained, “it allows you to concentrate on the heavy lifting parts [your clients] really need you for.”

In his talk, he shared an example where his client presented him with a project that required putting Javascript code on two pages. He walked through two solutions, one using Static Blocks and Widgets and another without. By utilizing Static Blocks and Widgets, he was able to turn a project that most would charge $1000 to complete into a $20 job. Within this short talk and demo, attendees learned how they can save time while saving their customers money. 

Success with Magento

IMG_6780We also heard from David Sheeley, a Magento developer that shared his journey to Magento and a company’s success story. The key take away from his talk was to do the research before committing to any platform. He walked the group through what statistics he found useful to not only understand why his site wasn’t seeing the growth he wanted before switching to Magento, but also what to look for when researching potential platforms. As a B2B retailer, they sell products that were larger in size and had a large catalog of products. The look of the site and the ability for the platform to handle the complexity of his products were the most important components in his search.

He found that Magento was able to fit the product catalog and complexity of the products while giving the front end of the site a complete make over. He was able to use Magento and third party extensions to make the site more user friendly and in result has seen a measurable increase in traffic and sales on the site.

More to come

We host the ATX Magento Meetup every 6 weeks at Capital Factory. The ATX Magento Group covers discussions over eCommerce development and design strategies, SEO Marketing, and related topics.

We encourage all who are interested in learning about Magento and/or those who want to share what knowledge they have to come and mingle with the group. You can find Magento Meetups worldwide with a network of over 4,500 members. So even if you aren’t in the Austin, TX area you may find one in your area or in a city you’ve always wanted to visit.

If you are interested in speaking at a future event in Austin contact us!

 

 

Store Pickup Functionality is Now Available Magento 2

We announced the release of ShipperHQ for Magento 2 at the beginning of this year and our customer growth on Magento 2 is constantly rising. To keep up with the demands of our customers, we are continuously moving ShipperHQ’s feature set forward. We are proud to announce that we have recently added Store Pickup to the list of advanced features available on Magento 2 so users can easily show pickup locations at checkout.

Why You Should Add Store Pickup to Your Checkout

We live in the time where everything is “Googled.” I am just as guilty as anyone when I say our generation will search the web for anything from cooking recipes to how to fix a car or fly a plane. Customers now want access to more information before they make a purchase or venture to the store. In addition to information, they are keen to look for savings and quick service. So why not give them what they want and add the convenience of Store Pickup to your checkout?

Cost

Customers love discounts and this is a great alternative to offering free shipping without having to cover the costs. According to a survey from eFulliment Service, close to 70 percent of respondents said they prefer cheaper shipping over fast shipping. By adding Store Pickup to your checkout, you and your customers can avoid the cost of shipping. They have the ability to reserve their products online and pick them up at their own convenience. This way you seal the deal before they even enter the store!

Convenience

Store Pickup can help you keep your customers satisfied. It allows your customers to check the availability of products. This way they aren’t faced with the disappointment of finding that the item is only available in one of your stores 50 miles away or online after they have already reached the store. If they find that the item is not available in a nearby store they then have the option to have it shipped to their house, request to have it shipped to the store for pickup, or they can have someone else pick it up for them at another location.

Research

Although they may end up buying the item in store over purchasing directly online, having products (even those only found in store) available for research is beneficial to your customers. This gives them the opportunity to read reviews from other customers and find detailed information on the products. This also ties into convenience as the can do all of this from the comfort of their home.

Store Pickup in ShipperHQ

ShipperHQ allows merchants to offer more to their customers while having the ability to add restrictions, discounts and surcharges to options shown at checkout. With the Store Pickup feature you have the ability to delight your customers with the opportunity to save money at checkout.

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The Store Pickup feature allows you to set as many locations as you want for pickup. You then have the ability to sort those locations by distance from the customer and set your account to only show locations that are within a certain distance. This feature has been available to our customer on Magento 1 and is now available to those on Magento 2.

Contact us for more information on Store Pickup and ShipperHQ!

 

Simplifying your Checkout with Rate Shopping

Customers expect a simple checkout process. They have found the items they want to purchase and want to complete the order with as little confusion and minimal steps. If you are a merchant that uses many carriers and have many shipping methods available, you are probably showing a long daunting list of options at checkout.

Simplify your Checkout

8cER7GLcaIf you use multiple carriers such as UPS and FedEx, you will find that many of their methods have similar transit times that differ in price. The ground option for UPS may be cheaper than the comparable transit option for FedEx. If your customers know they will get the shipment in the same amount of time for less they will most likely choose that option, so showing both could be a distraction and a point of confusion. With Rate Shopping you can take the pressure off your customers by only showing them what they want to see; the lowest prices!

Why is this important?

We have already established that your customers will have less options to choose from, but why is this important?

One of the top reasons for cart abandonment are unexpected costs at checkout. According to a study by North American Technographics, 44% of cart abandonment came from customers who found that shipping and handling costs were too high and 11% found the checkout process to be too long or confusing. So it is important to do your best to make this process as easy as possible so you can close the deal; and by showing the lowest rates every time, you can keep your customers happy and coming back.

This is especially important for B2C merchants as B2B consumers may want to see their preferred carrier at checkout even if that means they are faced with many options at checkout.  

How it works in ShipperHQ

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 14.23.09Taking control over the options you show to your customers at checkout is what ShipperHQ is all about. Our Rate Shopping feature takes that control to the next level by allowing you to simplify what you show at checkout. Customers on all of our supported platforms can add Rate Shopping to their list of Advanced Features in ShipperHQ.

ShipperHQ will take the shipping method you use and compare the rates so only the cheapest rate is shown with the custom name you have given to that option. This way your customers are still aware that they are using the ground or standard shipping, but aren’t faced with the task of comparing and choosing each method. Rate shopping allows your customers to experience a quick and easy checkout.

 

Are you Charging the Correct Amount of Sales Tax?

Calculating and understanding sales tax can be a bit complicated especially for those selling to customers throughout multiple states or countries. So, we have invited Mark Faggiano, Founder and CEO of TaxJar, to shed light on how you can ensure you are charging the correct sales tax. 


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We talk to tons of online sellers, and one of the most common question we see when it comes to collecting sales tax is: “Wait, am I doing this right?”

We get it. Figuring out which sales tax rate to charge your customers can be complex. Not to mention, there are probably 19 other things on your to do list ahead of “Make sure I’m not totally screwing sales tax up.”

This quick guide will explain why sales tax is charged the way it is in the U.S., and how to make absolutely certain you’re charging your customers the correct rate.

Sales Tax 101

Forty-five U.S. states and Washington D.C. have a sales tax. Merchants with sales tax nexus in a state are required to collect sales tax from their buyers in that state and remit the fund back to the state. From there, those funds are used to pay for budget items like roads, schools and public safety.

What Makes Up a Sales Tax Rate?

You’ve probably noticed in your day-to-day life that sales tax rates vary from place to place, even within a state or county. A few factors make up your standard sales tax rate:

State sales tax rate – Each state with a sales tax has a statewide sales tax rate, generally ranging from 4-8%. About 10 states stop there and only have a statewide sales tax rate for the whole state. But most states also have…

globe-usa-1309894-1279x978County and city sales tax rates – Cities and counties want money to fund budget items, too, so in most states they can also require merchants to charge a sales tax. City, county and other local rates are added on to state rates.

Example: The sales tax rate in Norfolk, Nebraska is 7.5%. That’s the 5.5% Nebraska state sales tax rate plus the 2% Norfolk city sales tax rate. (Madison
County, where Norfolk is located, does not have a sales tax.)

Special taxing districts – Sometimes several local areas will be part of a “special taxing district.” This generally occurs when a big project – like a public transit system – will affect multiple localities. One example is the “Metro Commuter Transit District (MCTD)” which encompasses New York City and 7 New York counties.

Example: The sales tax rate in Suffern, NY is a combined 8.375%. That’s the 4% New York state rate, the 4% Rockland county rate, and the .375% MCTD (special taxing district) rate.

Check out TaxJar’s Sales Tax Calculator to look up a sales tax rate for yourself.

Sales Tax Sourcing Rules

“Sourcing” is where sales tax gets tricky for eCommerce sellers. There are two main types of sourcing rules, and states fall into either category:

Origin-based sales tax sourcing – In origin-based states, if you are based in the state and not considered a remote seller, then the rules say you collect sales tax based on the total sales tax rate at your business location.

Destination-based sales tax sourcing – Most states are destination-based states. In destination-based sales tax states, the rules say that you should charge sales tax based on the combined rate at your buyer’s location. By now you know how tricky this can get, with all those different city, county and special taxing district rates playing their part. Two towns that are 10 miles apart can have vastly different sales tax rates.

All states fall into either the origin-based or destination-based category, with the important exception of California, which is a “modified-origin” state. (You can read more about California sales tax here.)

For eCommerce sellers with sales tax nexus in multiple states, it’s important to note that if you are considered a “remote seller” (not based in a state) then you are required to use destination-based sourcing even when selling into origin-based states. Again, there are exceptions in California, Arizona and New Mexico.

Sales tax sourcing rules can be tough to wrap your mind around, so we wrote a whole post about Origin vs. Destination-Based Sales Tax States.

Product Taxability

As if this weren’t confusing enough, there’s also the fact that some products aren’t taxable in some states. Or some products are taxed at a different rate in some states.

For example, in Illinois grocery items are taxed at a reduced rate of 1%. In many other states, grocery items are not taxable at all. In New York, clothing under $110 is exempt from sales tax. But clothing is taxable in most states.

Each state will have differing rules about which products are taxable and tax exempt.

Shipping Taxability

Then there’s the matter of shipping. Some states consider shipping charges part of the total sale, and thus taxable if the sale is taxable.

Other states do not consider shipping a part of the total sale as long as the shipping charge is separately stated on the invoice.

Still other states, like Virginia, consider shipping non-taxable except if shipping and handling are combined – then the whole charge is taxable.

Confusing, right?

How Can I Collect the Right Amount of Sales Tax?

In the past, it has been up to you or your shopping cart to ensure you’re collecting the right amount of sales tax from your customers all the while following sourcing and product and shipping taxability rules. What a hassle.

TaxJar’s SmartCalcs sales tax API takes care of all that hassle – and it’s absolutely free for Magento merchants!

No matter if you have nexus in multiple destination-based states, or sell a product that is taxable in some states and exempt in others, TaxJar has your back.

Check it out for yourself with a 30-day-free trial.

There’s a whole lot more to sales tax than just charging the right rate. For more info, check out our Sales Tax 101 for Online Sellers guide. Or start the conversation in the comments!

TaxJar, a Magento Premier partner, is a service built to make sales tax calculation, reporting and filing simple for eCommerce sellers. Try a 30-day-free trial of TaxJar today and eliminate sales tax compliance headaches from your life!


About the Author

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Mark Faggiano is the Founder and CEO of TaxJar – a service that automates sales tax compliance for over 5,000 eCommerce businesses. Mark has built a career around his passion for using technology to solve complex problems that hamper growth for small businesses. He previously co-founded and grew FileLater to become the web’s leading tax extension service for both businesses and individual taxpayers before it was acquired in 2010.

International Shipping Made easy with DHL Express via ILS

We have announced a new partnership with ILS that gives our customers a better experience with international shipping. International shipping is currently on the rise and customers now expect access to products no matter where they originate.  According to a study by The Paypers, “70% of global ecommerce experts agree that selling cross-border has proven to be profitable.” To keep up with your customers demands and ahead of the competition it is essential that you are offering competitive shipping options to both your domestic and international customers.

stock-photo-88950421-media-app-icons-flying-around-globe-on-tablet-computerDHL Express is an international express mail service provider with operations in 225 countries. As an authorized DHL Agent, ILS makes these services more accessible to its merchants and works to help small to medium sized business open their doors to the global market. Although the words Boutique and VIP are usually associated with high price points, DHL Express and ILS brings you high-performance expedited international shipping
options while also delivering an unparalleled customer care experience.


What DHL Express and ILS bring to merchants on ShipperHQ

  • One to three day transit to anywhere in the world
  • Peace of mind with live, door to door tracking updates
  • Certified International Specialist that are here to answer any of your shipping questions

At ShipperHQ, we work to put partnerships in place with outstanding companies that share the desire to make your customers shopping experience enjoyable. Both ShipperHQ and ILS believe in helping our merchants stay ahead of the curve by giving them the tools they need to easily move their businesses forward.  And both companies understand that an excellent shopping experience has to include great shipping options.

You can easily add DHL Express via ILS to your ShipperHQ account by signing up for an ILS account and setting up “ILS DHL” as a carrier in your ShipperHQ. Contact us to learn more about how you can get discounted rates through ILS or how to get started with ShipperHQ.

UPS Security Update – A review of action required

Management Summary

  • UPS are upgrading their required security protocols – you won’t be able to use their API services unless you comply
  • There is no firm date for when this will be enforced, it was originally planned for May 31st 2016
  • If you are a Magento user, below we include some things you can check and verify to ensure you will meet these requirements
  • If you are a ShipperHQ user, no action is required on your part

Deeper Information

UPS have a detailed plan to upgrade their data security, as part of this plan they will be enforcing security protocols when you interact with their web services. To put it plainly, you’ll need to do some housekeeping if you are using Magento and any kind of UPS service.

Starting from May 31st 2016, UPS stated they will enforce TLS v1.2 on their web services and other online services like UPS.com, this has now been delayed with no firm date of when this enforcement will begin. This delay is a great opportunity for merchants and developers to get this requirement met and forget about it, well before it becomes a headache.

If you are using any of the following:

  • Magento’s built-in UPS shipping carrier
  • Any of the following WebShopApps stand alone UPS extensions:
    • UPS Date Shipping
    • UPS Calendar
    • Delivery Options for UPS
    • UPS Zones
    • UPS Freight
    • Dimensional Shipping
    • Address Validation via UPS
  • Any other UPS integration from a third party that accesses UPS via XML web services

There is no upgrade required to your code or Magento system. You’ll need to verify with your host the version of TLS that your server supports – some things to review are

  1. Check the version of OpenSSL is v1.0.1 or higher
  2. Check the version of cURL you have, v7.34 or higher will include TLS v1.2
  3. TLS v1.2 is enabled with your version of cURL

ShipperHQ customers will not need to take any action as we have already verified that our interactions with UPS including live rates, freight and address validation will meet their updated security requirements.

ShipperHQ.com. Come talk to us. Your cart, your shipping, your rules.

Prep up for Magento Imagine 2016

In just under a month the best of the Magento ecosystem will reconvene for the Imagine Conference in Las Vegas. As a veteran of the event I thought I’d share some tips for people attending for the first time.

When to Get There

The Sat/Sun are fully of pre-Imagine events, I’d definitely advise get in Sunday morning/lunch at latest so you can ease gently into the Imagine ‘experience’, trust me it get’s busy!

The community runs:

  1. PreImagine with KalenHackathon – Starts Saturday, wonderful place to learn, meeting all types of developers & exchange ideas/learn/code
  2. Great Dam Run – I seem to have volunteered for this event for some mad reason, please sponsor me as I aim to do a 5K for the first time in many years!!
  3. Pre-Imagine Party – Infamous and sponsored by the wonderful Magento community this is THE event to attend at Imagine, its intimate, a great way to network especially if you are new to the ecosystem, full of very intelligent people where everyone is an equal and everyone is your friend

Formal sessions at Imagine start Monday morning, evening reception is unlike any other conference and the first keynote is Tuesday morning.

Where to Stay

I assume most of you have booked already. If you haven’t then suggest you either stay at the Wynn, or very close by.  You will do a lot of walking around and the schedule is fairly tight, with the last keynote in the evening really being a pretty much straight run to the evening reception, so staying close by allows you time to go get changed, take a break and just chill for 5 minutes!

Footwear

This deserves it’s own section! Be prepared to walk. A Lot.  You can reasonably expect to be doing 5 miles per day, I reached 10 miles each day last year, you need some decent footwear! If you are working on a booth it’s an absolute must to wear shoes that are worn in, and with plenty of padding. Personally I go with the sneakers, there is no way I’m walking in uncomfortable shoes for 3 days.  The Wynn is very large, and breakout rooms tend to be spread out, another reason for staying there.

Food

You won’t have to worry too much about food during the conference, it’s laid on for you.  I’ve found tho that because of all the networking (& drinking) it can be easy to just miss the evening dinner completely, so just bear in mind. I tend to go have Keynotebreakfast meetings in the Wynn restaurants (which always get packed) and use that as the alcohol recovery time 😉

Sleeping

It’s a bit like having a baby really, make sure you sleep before.  It does depend on your personality type of course, and just how stupid you want to get, but its been known for people to be on the tables gambling until the extreme early hours before. But given the need to get to the keynotes would def recommend try to get some sleep in where you can. Ultimately we are all there to do business so everything in moderation…Actually sod it just enjoy the time lol.

What to Wear

Business Casual, if you are a dev you don’t care anyhow.  Women tend to get dressed up in the evening in my experience, but it really does vary a lot.  Definitely need changes of clothes for day/night tho if you can.  Weather will be warm and all the evening events are outside (unless we get an unexpected storm roll thro like in 2013 I think it was), so prepare for that. Dancing does happen on occasion.

Meetings

It’s best if you can to arrange meetings beforehand if you need to have longer chats with partners/friends/foes/etc.  The event really does flash by extremely quickly and if you are not organised you can miss having vital conversations, especially with people that are much in demand (like the Magento team for instance).  Make sure if you are having lots of meetings that you schedule in some free time, otherwise the event can just overwhelm you. Make sure you have space to just enjoy it.Wynn

Sessions

The keynotes at Imagine are legendary. The Buzz Lab are an external company that do a lot of work alongside the Magento team around video production, staging, etc and what they produce is just amazing. Every year is different, and its definitely fair to say you leave the keynotes feeling invigorated, ready to fight another day and just buzzing. Thats the Imagine effect.  So don’t miss them!

Schedule beforehand which breakout sessions you fancy if you can, and don’t overload yourself. Make time to go see the exhibition stands, and of course come see us at ShipperHQ. We were previously flying under the WebShopApps banner, trust me its the same team, just with an amazing new product that absolutely nails what merchants need for shipping rate management in the next 4-5 years.

Lastly on Wednesday afternoon there are some amazing Barcamp sessions where you will see subject matter experts giving hopefully useful technical detail around subjects chosen by the community.  I’ll be speaking here about building shipping extensions in Magento 2 so please come along and see my talk!

Networking

Always difficult, and as Imagine has gone on it’s so much different now, there are much larger teams, people are more closely aligned, a lot of the community are very close friends, etc etc.  What I can say from personal experience is that this is probably the most friendly commNetworkingunity of people you will ever meet at a conference. It’s not like IRCE or Shop.org, its a much more intimate affair, and 99%+ of the people there are open to conversation, thats why they are there.

So let me say this. If you are in the event and spot someone on their own, or a couple of people looking at their mobiles constantly then go say hallo, introduce yourselves and just spend a little bit of time getting to know their story. You never know what you have in common, I’ll tell you this, you definitely have Magento and thats a good start. And if you do find events awkward then come find myself & the ShipperHQ team, we are more than happy to extend our welcome to you.

And Lastly

Just enjoy it.  You have the opportunity here to meet amazing people, learn about whats hot in the world of Magento and Commerce generally today, plus just get a break to expand your mind and think bigger for a little bit. Put on that out of office, turn the phone on silent and immerse yourself in what is still the greatest conference in the calendar.


 

About Karen & ShipperHQ

Karen Baker is the founder of both WebShopApps & ShipperHQ.  The wife of a small merchant, in 2008 Karen decided to take her software engineering skills learned in the corporate IT space and apply it to eCommerce.  She decided she could do things better around how shipping is calculated/displayed and manipulated in the checkout.  8 years on WebShopApps has over 17K paying customers, with many now having transitioned or transitioning to the ShipperHQ platform which brings together all the WebShopApps capabilities into a single cohesive offering.  ShipperHQ are Gold Sponsors of Magento Imagine, and have been Gold Technology Partners with Magento since 2011.  ShipperHQ is proud to be a 100% founder/staff owned company based on the key principles of hard work, passion, innovation and customer service.

Bigcommerce – A platform to pay attention to

My first experience of Bigcommerce was arriving at their offices in San Francisco to be greeted with this totally frantic environment. There were some seriously smart people around, it was like your typical tech startup scene you see on TV, with Star Wars trophies, people drinking beer, industrial feeling.  What I sensed most tho was the sheer passion of the team. They were in a hurry to build something great, they had hunger.

I’ve had many experiences with Bigcommerce since that time, including now living near their Austin offices which have a very different feel to them.  I’ve seen the arrival of Brent Bellm as CEO (who I greatly admire) and a gradual steadying of the fast growing ship, an order to some of the inevitable chaos you get when you expand so quickly, but whilst retaining that wonderful innovative hunger & passion to succeed. 

When we at ShipperHQ showcased Bigcommerce our shipping rate management platform what I saw then for one of the first times in eCommerce was an understanding from technology product managers of the value we provided. They totally ‘got it’, they understood the pain points of merchants and they saw that our product could solve it.

With everything in technology its hard to meet all merchants needs all of the time, I don’t think I speak alone as a company founder when I say we have a mountain of things we would like to do to make it easier for people, to improve, to simplify. We are extremely focused as a company in meeting merchant’s needs, you are our bread and butter, its all about you.

My experience of Bigcommerce thus far is that this is a platform that is still growing, changing, expanding. And for many merchants it suits them very well, it offers flexibility, is simple to get up and running (and very fast) but with an ever-growing list of great well-thought out integrations that add real power, plus some superb development in-house to innovate the platform. A great example of this is the recent Stencil addition. Stencil is a theme framework which allow developers to, amongst other things, develop locally, create fully customizable themes utilizing the latest technologies such as handlebars,js, SASS, SCSS.

Bigcommerce is really starting to show that SAAS doesn’t mean inflexible.  This is also true within ShipperHQ. We are bringing you what is without question the most flexible rating solution in the world today. Dimensional shipping, promotional rules, estimated delivery dates, rate shopping, dropshipping, all of these and much more. We hope later this year to switch on the other features in ShipperHQ such as Store Locator/Pickup, Calendar/Time Slot delivery, Address verification. We are also working extremely hard now to partner not just with carriers but with other solutions across the labelling space in particular, to make it easier for you, to make it faster for the merchant to get their product out, with less cost. 

I’m mightily impressed in Bigcommerce, this is a company with drive and passion.  As Integration Partners we have an extremely close relationship, I would say not a day goes by without some form of interaction with the Bigcommerce team, and at all levels from the support engineers upto the senior execs. This says a lot about the company in my mind. 

No product suits everyone, we all know that, my view Bigcommerce packs a punch and I believe they have the team and the technology to continue to be a formidable force in the eCommerce platform landscape, and the ability to hit the mid-level market very effectively in 2016.

About Karen & ShipperHQ

I’m the founder of ShipperHQ. My husband was a small merchant, I got into this space in 2008 to help make his life easier.  I’m located in Austin Texas where I live with my husband and 2 kids. Originally I’m from England, I came here in 2013 to build up the global business and stop having to work in the evenings so much! ShipperHQ is bootstrapped, we work hard, we hustle, we care about our customers. We aren’t faceless. Contact us via phone, email or chat if you want to know more about our product.

Under the Hood of Bret Williams

Bret Williams PhotoBret Williams is COO at Praxis IS (@praxisis), a development agency that delivers innovative solutions, tailored systems integrations, and best-in-class design to their clients. Bret has many years of experience in both the eCommerce space and with Magento. He has used his expertise to publish Mastering Magento, a book that guides readers through the set up and management of their Magento stores.

Within our interview with Bret, we got a sense of what it takes to be COO of a revolutionary development agency. Bret continues the interview by sharing his thoughts on the future of eCommerce, how he is planning to release not one, but two books on Magento 2, and how he spends his time outside of the office.

Can you describe what you really do at work?

My role at Praxis Information Science is to make sure that our work is being done efficiently and with the highest quality of delivery possible. At the same time, we’re all trying to change the paradigm of client expectations when it comes to Magento-related development work through complete transparency and accountability. It’s challenging, but in a really fun way.

If money was no object, what would you spend your days doing?

I’m a history buff, particularly Texas and US presidential history. I would most likely enjoy traveling the state and country taking photos and video, while researching and writing books.

In you spare time what do you get upto, and how do you balance this with your workload?

What spare time? I’m in the middle of writing two books on Magento 2 for Packt Publishing, as well. But, when I do get some time to myself, I enjoy riding my motorcycle and trying new restaurants. I am about to start a class on improvisation soon. I was an actor in my early years, so it will be fun to see if I still have my “chops.”

How do you see the future evolving for Magento and the eCommerce space in general?

With Magento 2, I think we’ll see a huge demand from companies who want to continue leveraging the cost advantage of Magento, especially when compared to platforms like DemandWare and Hybris. The new features will also make using Magento somewhat less risky for store owners, which will be a welcomed improvement. As much as hosted platforms will try to encroach in the enterprise space, I think their limitations for customization will still keep them at bay. E-commerce will continue to be an important aspect of any business type. The key for companies like ours is to help remove the mystique and complexity so companies can more readily embrace e-commerce. E-commerce is very complicated, but better integration of the entire workflow process will help, and I’m seeing more and more of that maturing.

What is usually your last thought before falling asleep?

Did I buy a lottery ticket today? I also thank God for today and tomorrow.

Who is your role model, and why?

While it may sound convenient to say Steve Jobs, I was a fan of his decades ago. His singular passion to bring computing to the masses cannot be understated. Microsoft had a vision of conquering business, but Jobs was after the public and, as we’ve certainly seen, that dedication to the mission was ultimately rewarded. While I don’t condone some of his personal choices (e.g. family), I do try to focus on my passion in e-commerce and, like with Jobs, I’d very much like to make it more accessible to a certain audience, namely emerging businesses, in a way they can make the choices that will make e-commerce work for them.

Whats the worst thing you have to do as part of your job role?

Drive to work on cold days. On warmer days, I bike in, but on colder days I have to drive in using a car and I miss the views, smells and experiences of riding a motorcycle to work.

What motivates you?

Knowing that I have a great margarita waiting for me at home at the end of a day. Or a good cabernet. Seriously, it’s having a client or colleague find that something I’ve done has made their life easier or more productive. I enjoy teaching younger folks coming into this industry and it’s very rewarding to see them achieve success in our field. I like making a difference.

What is the most played song on your MP3 player or phone?

I’m more of an Apple radio guy, usually listening to the Americana, Classic Country or Sinatra stations. I am wearing out a download of Adele’s new album, too. To me, she’s similar as a balladeer to Patsy Cline, Janice Joplin and Carole King. Great story tellers with songs full of emotion.

Would you like to plug anything?

Mastering Magento 2 is now on pre-order from Packt Publishing. The Magento 2 Administrator’s Guide is soon to follow. I’m writing the first one with Jon Bownds, also of Praxis, and the second with Cyndi, my wife and CEO of novusweb, llc.

 

USPS Price Increase and API Update – January 17, 2016

USPS is releasing an update to their API and price increases on January 17, 2016.

What are the changes?

There are price increases to many services across both retail and commercial base pricing including Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express and First Class Parcel (international). In some cases there is a significant price increase. See the USPS press release for more details, or take a look at the USPS 2016 Price Change video by our partner Pitney Bowes.

ShipperHQ will automatically show these price increases when they are rolled out on January 17, 2016.

The API update also includes

  • Renaming Standard Post to Retail Ground
  • Removal of several flat rate box services

These changes will automatically be rolled into ShipperHQ and no action is required by merchants.

Will I be affected?

I’m using Magento’s built-in USPS carrier

If you are using standard Magento USPS carrier and your Magento Community Edition version is 1.7.x or below,  your customers will no longer see USPS Standard Post rates. To resolve this you will need to download the updated USPS patch extension.

Users of Magento Enterprise Edition version 1.13.x and below will also not be able to see rates for Standard Post service, please contact Magento for the recommended course of action.

If you are using Magento Community Edition version 1.8.x and above or Magento Enterprise Edition version 1.14.x and above, no action is required to see the newly named USPS Retail Ground rates.

I’m using a WebShopApps extension to get my USPS rates

If you are a WebShopApps customer we’ve also updated our extensions for

  • WebShopApps Dimensional Shipping
  • WebShopApps USPS via Endicia

You can contact us for an upgraded version of your extension (charges may apply if you are outside of your support period).

I use ShipperHQ to manage my rates

You don’t need to do anything. ShipperHQ will automatically show these prices increases when they are rolled out on January 17th, 2016.

How can I reduce my shipping prices?

Within ShipperHQ we support rate shopping. We have many customers that utilize this to compare live carrier rates automatically in the cart, presenting the cheapest options to the customer.  Talk to us for further information and a no-obligation 30-day free trial.