From a one-man army to a 60-people professional agency.
Recent years have shown that you can’t be sure of anything. Most of the actions taken are associated with the risk of failure, and running a thriving business, independent of external factors, is almost a miracle.
We have managed to build a prosperous team and excellent work environment; that is why we want to tell you our story (from the CEO’s view) and bring you closer to the topic of Sylius, which we built our business upon.
Let this article be a kind of FAQ related to Sylius and us – an agency providing advanced eCommerce solutions on top of it.
Nicholas Kroll – the CEO at BitBag:
I worked as a Symfony developer in 2016. The first eCommerce solution I have come across was Magento 2, which was quite hard to jump in because of the differences in the ecosystem compared to Symfony.
Due to the lack of relevant experience in Magento development, it took me three months to set up a basic fashion store. Additionally, the disincentive was the poor documentation, performance, and architecture far more different from Symfony. At this point, I felt that I and Magento were not made for each other.
At that time, I was lucky to find Sylius as a Symfony-based eCommerce solution. In 2016, the first ALPHA & BETA versions have been released. The history of Sylius >>
What caught my eye from the beginning was the easier implementation and more pleasant code writing. The previous work was pushed forward by a month, which resulted in the eCommerce fashion store that operated faster, was more adapted to the needs, and most importantly – the quality of the code itself was way better.
In April 2017, during the hackathon in Berlin, I had the pleasure to meet the Sylius Core Team, and at this point, I have decided that I wanted to base my business on this solution.
I hired the first person who worked on open projects, and a moment later, my and Damian’s (CTO at BitBag) paths crossed. We have decided to shape this specific world’s part of open-source eCommerce a little bit 🙂
“There was something in this technology that was not on the market at that time and is still not there.”
We have started building the Sylius ecosystem, and we acquired our first clients from France (due to the popularity of Symfony there).
The programming experience has translated into a broader view of the PHP programmers’ job market, so our goal was to create a workplace in which we would like to work ourselves.
We currently employ almost 60 people – consultants, PMs, backend and frontend programmers, UI / UX designers, sales, marketing, and HR people.
As the company grew, my role has evolved more into being a consultant and strategist. Going forward, we rely on Symfony-driven solutions like Shopware and Pimcore, and we partnered with SensioLabs (the creators of the Symfony framework) and Vue Storefront (a great PWA framework).
Why Sylius for eCommerce?
N.K.: Sylius draws on a headless and best-of-breed approach. It is a solution that is not burdened with technological debt and does not reinvent the wheel. That’s why it gains more and more popularity – the smart use of open-source makes the work more efficient and enables it to be done in a shorter time. Nowadays, everything that enables broadly understood sales has become eCommerce – B2C, B2B, MVM, SaaS systems, NFT marketplaces, or the ones based on blockchain.
One platform will not handle all cases but should adapt to changing requirements. What is important – Sylius simplifies the work for developers by creating a good working environment for them (standardized, tested, and clean).
Is Sylius a complete eCommerce platform?
N.K.: Sylius is an open-source PHP eCommerce framework, which allows developers to use the Symfony ecosystem – Symfony bundles. It provides basic functionalities and allows you to extend and adapt them to your needs. The possibility of using extensions/plugins makes it an efficient platform right from the beginning.
It covers out-of-the-box about 80% of eCommerce needs, i.a. the following:
- Multi-channeling, multi-currencies, logistics, payments, taxes, shipping, categorization, configurable products, promotions, shop panel, admin panel
What is the Sylius workflow?
N.K.: Enterprise applications often use the Saga state machine pattern, which is about reflecting the real world and its processes in the eCommerce system by many common processes – e.g. placing an order.
Sylius is based on a state machine that reflects complex processes in a simple way. It allows for designing any configurations, various states, event listeners, transitions – different reactions to the various events (payments, logistics, …).
Compare Sylius to: Magento 1 & 2 / Woocommerce / Prestashop. What are Sylius’s advantages over other platforms in terms of private feeling/experience?
N.K.: Comparing Sylius to other solutions, the following dependencies can be identified:
Sylius vs Magento 1 & 2
- Comparing Sylius to Magento I would say that Sylius has modern code and is more standardized. It is definitely a non-monolithic solution with advanced system architecture support – ideal for complicated SMBs and enterprise-level. Cheaper to implement and maintain.
Sylius vs WooCommerce
- Both are focused on other target audiences – Sylius focuses on the one with more complex needs.
- Sylius is not an out-of-the-box solution with better code quality and considerably less technological debt.
- Sylius requires more knowledge of Symfony / PHP – so it is another entry barrier.
Sylius vs PrestaShop
- Prestashop uses Symfony components, but not fully, so there may be a greater barrier to entry.
- Sylius is based on Symfony and takes full advantage of it.
- PrestaShop is good for smaller businesses as it is a more out-of-the-box solution.
Sylius vs Shopify
- Shopify is a cloud solution, so the client is dependent on an external provider (no data ownership). In terms of customization, Sylius gives you more options as you fully own the code and control its execution on your server.
Sylius vs Spryker
- Spryker is an enterprise solution, but not open-source (not MIT licensed) with high licensing costs. It has higher technical debt. Its over-engineered architecture makes it harder to implement and requires a lot of specialistic knowledge.
- Spryker is geared to the local market – Germany
What projects have you done so far as an agency on top of Sylius?
N.K.: When it comes to the industries we have had the pleasure of working with fashion, automotive, e-grocery, optics, fintech, entertainment, and more. Types of the projects we have implemented:
- Sylius B2B eCommerce
- Sylius B2C eCommerce
- Sylius Multi-vendor marketplaces
- Sylius plugins, technical partnerships (i.e. Adyen, Mollie)
- Migrations from Magento 1 and 2, WooCommerce, PrestaShop, Spryker to Sylius
- Sylius and Pimcore implementations
- Recently we started working on Shopware apps, plugins, and full-stack projects
- We introduced pure Symfony app development to our services portfolio
The multiplicity of solutions makes Sylius battle-hardened, and what is more – Sylius gains popularity all over the world (we have cooperated with more than 30 different countries all over the world).
Want to see Sylius in action?
Sylius – Written in PHP (Symfony), what if it was written in Laravel?
N.K.: Theoretically, it could be written in Laravel, because Sylius components are written in pure PHP and they could be adapted to any project as long as it supports the language. Those components get wrapped into independent Symfony bundles and finally get to know each other in the Sylius core (i.e. product becomes orderable, categorizable, etc.), upon which you get three different independent interfaces – admin UI, shop UI, and API.
Symfony sets the standards for PHP. The framework is written using good programming practices. Symfony may have a greater barrier to entry, but imposing particular standards it pays off with greater security or scalability.
If Sylius was written in Laravel, it could be more popular in America, rather than Europe, but in the end, the technology is just a tool, it is the developer’s knowledge and skills combined with proper strategy and management that decides about the project success.
What services do you offer as a Sylius agency?
N.K.: The scope of our offer of services related to Sylius is wide:
- Sylius consulting / Sylius initial workshops for our contractors – Vision-To-Plan eCommerce Workshops
- Outsourcing qualified programmers to external teams,
- Sylius B2B, Sylius B2C, Sylius Multi-vendor projects implementations
- Creating plugins and integrations (e.g. Mollie, Adyen, PIM or ERP systems) – Multiple of them are open-source extensions (a dedicated open-source team is developing them every day);
- As a curiosity – those open-source Sylius plugins will soon exceed 1 000 000 downloads
- Shortening the time-to-market by creating products dedicated to Sylius
- Creating Sylius Themes
- Educating the eCommerce world by creating content around Sylius
As an agency, what can you say about Sylius/ how do you review Sylius?
Sylius is a super extensible e-commerce “framework”. Thanks to a nice base of functionalities at the start and concepts designed in accordance with the principles of Symfony, it is perfect for both less and more demanding stores.Marcin Kukliński
Sylius is a technology that does not block us (and even helps) when we want to do complicated, non-standard things – that is, we can easily implement unconventional ideas. It has a very easy entry threshold for people who already know Symfony – in the case of Magento, you have to learn the Magento approach to embrace anything there. Sylius has a lot of ready-made plugins, so you can set up a store in a short time.Marcin Czech
Sylius is a very good base for a SOLID eCommerce application based on the Symfony framework, which gives full application development possibilities in accordance with the latest standards and the promise of backward compatibility, which is particularly important in maintaining projects in the eCommerce industry.
If it is not possible to use Sylius as a base, you can use individual components in a modular way, thanks to which we can still implement the logic in accordance with the assumptions of the creators in the legacy application. Additionally, such an approach will significantly facilitate the migration to Sylius in the future.
The Sylius architecture is also noteworthy, as it guarantees testability, code purity, and the possibility of using popular design patterns.Piotr Kardasz
Do you run Sylius training as an agency? Do you have Sylius demo version?
N.K.: As an agency, we conduct internal training for programmers and educate the local market. An initiative has been operating since 2021 – the BitBag Academy, which aims to train programmers (most often students) in order to give them a better start on the labor market.
We also run business workshops for clients to properly map their needs to the functionality of the eCommerce system. We know that Sylius will not be a platform for everyone (and we are not trying to push it to everyone), so we are offering workshops as the first step.
We have Sylius demo – BitBag Demo for Fashion
From time to time, our YouTube channel features tutorials as well as internal talks about technicalities (these are only available in Polish). We believe that sharing is caring, so we share our knowledge with the community through webinars, blogs, podcasts or even our open-source department.
How do you contribute to the development of Sylius?
N.K.: As I mentioned before, we are aware that Sylius is not as popular as Magento, but I hope that one day it will be equally recognizable. Being Sylius Leading Partner allows us to give active feedback for both the open-source (Sylius) and commercial (Sylius Plus) versions.
We are active members of the Sylius community, what’s more – we have a dedicated open-source team.
In the era of omnipresent access to the Internet, we focus on content marketing and reaching people through potentially the largest channels.
Our open-source portfolio consists of 30 Sylius plugins and was installed around 1 000 000 times all over the world by the time we write this blog post.
Extend your Sylius-based eCommerce with our plugins
If Sylius is open-source, what does the vendor earn? What do you make money on as an agency?
N.K.: In addition to the open-source version, Sylius offers the sale of a commercial version of the software – Sylius Plus (check out Sylius Plus price), various types of training, includes technological partnerships, and runs affiliate programs.
We, as an agency, earn money on implementations, in other words, on the work of programmers. We earn on the value we deliver to the client.
Trends in eCommerce and their reflection in Sylius?
N.K.: What comes to mind at this point is:
- Multi-vendor Marketplace → Sylius allows for these implementations, specific needs
- PWA → Sylius + Vue Storefront
- Process personalization (customer journey, customer experience) – implementation of custom functions and workflows; e.g. guided shopping
- Extensive analytics
- Integrations with solutions for the use of artificial intelligence, big data
- API-first – many touchpoints
- Subscriptions (e.g. Sylius Mollie Plugin)
N.K.: We are the Leading Sylius Partner, and our experience defines why it is faster and easier to do something with us.
We pay a lot of time/attention/money to technology, standards, and the continuous development of our employees.
We have many open and closed-source solutions. We focus on the reusability of the code, which significantly reduces the time, and thus also the cost.
We are not limited to a specific country or market, and thanks to the possibility of remote work, Agile and Scrum methodologies, focus on communication, and flexible adaptation to the needs, we have the opportunity to work with the clients from different time zones and various countries as long as they are able to operate within the project in English.
Do you feel we can help you develop your eCommerce?