You may need to find a new e-commerce platform for a variety of reasons such as outdated technology, broken functionality, and even changes in consumer behavior. But, being a significant technical and financial upheaval, e-commerce re-platforming requires thorough planning. This post will tell you everything you need to know about migrating your e-store to a new e-commerce platform.
Table of Contents
- What is ecommerce migration?
- What are the types of eCommerce platform migration?
- Why do ecommerce businesses replatform?
- What are the Ecommerce platforms to consider?
- What does an ecommerce migration look like?
- Creating your ecommerce migration plan
- Replatforming Myths Answered
What is ecommerce migration?
Ecommerce migration is the process of transferring an online store from one platform to another. This process of migration from platform to platform is also called replatforming! It involves transferring products, customers, and orders and replicating the design and other UI elements.
Here are the most common reasons to initiate an eCommerce migration include:
- Improvements and optimization of the website operation and speed
- Having advanced technology of the new platform that the existing platform doesn't support
- Better business expansion and upscale opportunities
- In some cases, brands were introduced to an inaccurate platform that didn't fit their business model
- Adding more features and functionalities that other platform provides natively
- better personalization and customized Shopping experience.
And yes, re-platforming doesn't always mean shifting the store from one service partner to another. In many cases, website owners move from a SaaS platform to a custom-built solution in-house and vice-versa.
What are the types of eCommerce platform migration?
When it comes to e-commerce migration, it can be considered commonly in three ways:
- Phased Migration: As the name suggests, this type of migration can occur in different phases. For example, initially, the CMS pages of the website are being migrated to another platform while the data is kept on the existing one.
- Platform to platform. It's essential to upgrade your ecommerce solution in order to access the latest features and integrations. This could mean moving from one type of solution, such as cloud, SaaS, or on-premise, to another. For instance, it could be like WordPress to Magento or WordPress to Shopify platform migration.
- Monolithic to microservices. This migration type is like plug-and-play. It lets merchants layer platforms & apps to cover different parts of the customer journey—a good option for ecommerce stores with headless commerce.
Each migration type has its own other types. Each migration needs careful planning for seamless and hassle-free migration from platform to platform.
Why do ecommerce businesses replatform?
Brands and businesses make moves for several reasons, depending on each company/brand's unique factors. It could be the case of having more feature-rich solutions, better functionality, avoiding issues, or having preferred business industry solutions.
We have also witnessed the cases where the platform chosen earlier was not the perfect fit for the brand's needs.
These are the points that brands are looking to solve or avoid, but not limited to:
- Poor website performance
- Website speed and responsiveness issues
- Functionality gaps in the existing eCommerce platform
- Poor admin operations
- Time-consuming and costly for maintenance
- Poor user experience
- Lack of platform innovation/updates
- Lack of scalability or adopting new technologies
- Poor ecommerce infrastructure
On the other side, brands are looking to gain the advantages of the following:
- Scalable and robust solutions
- Better user experience
- Better integration and partner ecosystems
- Convenience, safety, and affordability
- Customized, optimized, and fast checkout
- Better reporting and analytics
- Easier website upgrades
What are the Ecommerce platforms to consider?
There are four types of ecommerce platforms. The platform you choose will significantly impact your expenses, maintenance requirements, and scalability.
SaaS ecommerce platforms are a type of subscription-based solution. They are created and maintained by a third-party provider. This means businesses don't have to build or develop their own infrastructure as they rent the software from the service provider. All technical issues, downtime, and security concerns are handled by the third-party provider.
On-premise ecommerce platforms are constructed with a company's resources. These platforms are hosted in an internal storage facility. Development and maintenance are carried out by internal or third-party engineering and development teams.
Cloud ecommerce platforms combine SaaS and on-premise solutions using an IaaS model. Businesses can host their ecommerce website in the cloud through providers like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. The companies rent storage and hardware infrastructure from a third-party provider but develop and maintain the core ecommerce platform.
Headless systems must have the frontend and backend separated.
What does an ecommerce migration look like?
The process of e-commerce re-platforming begins with realizing that it is the most effective way to drive your business forward as technology advances and existing systems become outdated. After all, any limitation, be it the rising maintenance costs or a slow and sluggish website, will only lead to the deterioration of your business.
However, the re-platforming process is complex, demanding, and the resulting change will affect your business for years to come. So, you will need to tread carefully when moving your e-commerce business from one platform to another. To avoid turning your re-platforming process into a disaster, here are a few unmissable steps you need to consider.
Plan and Strategize
Like any other IT project, e-commerce re-platforming begins with comprehensive planning and strategizing. You need to consider the various aspects of your project, including brand vision, business goals, pre and post-launch strategy, and budget.
Make sure to convey your brand or company vision to your new technology partner and all other stakeholders. You will also need to have Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely (SMART) business goals that will help you achieve the required functionality and performance.
These goals will help you decide if you want to keep the design unchanged or add new plugins, apps, and data migration preferences, among other things. But most importantly, setting goals will help you come up with a realistic timeline and budget for your re-platforming project.
You can compare the cost of your project with similar ones completed in the past couple of years. Calculate your projected ROI by considering the expected benefits of your reformed e-commerce store. If you think your up-front costs are too high, try a cloud-based or usage-based re-platforming contract to spread the costs.
It is recommended to have a pre and post-launch marketing and technology strategy from the start. In other words, you need to consider the pre and post-launch training costs and the timeline when setting up your project.
Integrate People and Process
As mentioned, re-platforming is a complex process. You can’t rely on technology alone. You need to build a cohesive technical ecosystem. One way to make sure it happens is to integrate people and processes.
Make sure you have the right people in your re-platforming team, assign essential responsibilities and tasks judiciously, and keep all stakeholders on the same page.
When hiring a technological partner or even getting in-house team members on board, choose professionals well-versed in re-platforming projects with the necessary industry experience and certifications.
To keep everyone on the same page, you will need to build effective communication channels and strategies. Make every stakeholder a part of your communication from the beginning to avoid delayed decisions and potential objections.
If required, restructure your internal teams or organization hierarchy to make the re- platforming process easier. This should help maintain your project timeline.
Optimize User Experience
User experience is a vital part of an e-commerce business which comprises quick loading speed, sleek design, quality content, responsive web design, and optimal performance. Organizations with websites or applications with up-to-date UIs can potentially experience conversion rates up to 200%.
Re-platforming offers you a unique opportunity to improve your user experience. Start by mapping your customers’ behavior and building a new customer persona accordingly. You can talk to your long-time customers, conduct user surveys, and use website analytics data to know more about what people think of your current site.
You will also need to evaluate user experience that extends beyond your website, called omnichannel experience. For example, you may need to upgrade your email client to retarget the consumers who have abandoned shopping carts. Make sure to consider the data from all your sales channels when adding new functionalities.
Start testing the required changes early during the re-platforming process. You can use wireframes and rapid prototyping to see what the design will be like before the entire process is complete. Early testing will ensure a quicker and smoother transition to the new platform.
Enhance SEO Performance
Re-platforming can also be a great time to improve your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Start with the existing website content. Analyze, edit, and refurbish your existing content to make sure it is consistent with your brand voice. Determine which content is still relevant for your new site and get rid of the rest. Avoid duplicate content issues.
Usually, re-platforming will affect your website for a couple of weeks, after which it should recover. However, you will still need to ensure there are no drastic technical SEO changes. Adhere to the best schema practices. Set up 301-page redirects carefully. Create one-to-one redirects for high-traffic URLs and pages with valuable inbound links. Include relevant and natural phrases when optimizing the various on-site SEO components such as page titles, Meta Descriptions, H1, and H2 labels, and image alt tags, among others. Optimize the site architecture. These steps will increase the discoverability of your website after the re-platforming process. Don’t forget to benchmark and monitor every change you are making.
Consider Data Migration and System Integration Requirements
Data migration and system integration are two critical aspects of e-commerce re- platforming. Failure to migrate customers, inventory, and other data can ruin the user experience completely. Except for passwords, you will need to move everything from consumer account details to sales and payment data over to the new site.
Determine which data you intend to migrate. Analyze this data to avoid any discrepancies, duplication issues, or security concerns during the re-platforming. Alert your customers about the changes in account functionality and data handling from the beginning. Incremental data migration is a good idea to test the migration process well in advance and avoid significant data losses.
Similarly, you need to plan integration requirements for third-party apps like payment gateways, email clients, and marketing automation. Check if your third-party applications offer a pre-built connector. As most of them don’t, you will need to make further enhancements or switch the app or plugin to better.
Factor in Security and Scalability
E-commerce businesses often collect Personal Identifiable Information (PII) such as names, addresses, phone numbers, emails, identifications, and credit card details of customers. Keeping this sensitive data secure during the re-platforming process is of paramount importance. The new platform, hosting provider, and third-party apps must also adhere to GDPR and other data privacy regulations.
Before starting the re-platforming process or data migration, check your code to identify security vulnerabilities, if any. You can use automated code-sniffing tools for this purpose. Test the changes you have made regularly for potential security issues.
Analyze your new e-commerce platform for its scalability. You don’t want to end up re- platforming your store yet again because your new vendor lacks the required scalability. If you are going for a cloud-based solution, see if the vendor offers an auto-scaling option. Seek expert advice if you are unsure of using cloud capabilities to their fullest.
Offer Training and Support
Although re-platforming will make your site better and bigger, your in-house designers and developers will need to be trained to handle the enhancements. Post the launch; you may need to bring in new team members for managing daily tasks.
Chances are, your re-platforming partner may provide your in-house IT staff with the necessary training. However, you may need to create training courses and user guides of your own. You will also need to put together a team and an action plan to help manage everything, from codebase to marketing.
Make sure to set up a support team as soon as your new site is launched. It will help you avoid internal struggles and decision paralysis. Delegate the decision-making responsibilities well in advance to hit the ground running in the event of a potential site issue.
Focus on Maintenance and Development
Although your re-platforming project may be over, maintenance and development of the new website will remain a long-term commitment. Your website must be able to survive the ever-changing digital landscape as new cyber threats, web technologies, and social media trends will continue to emerge.
You should reconsider your KPIs and marketing goals after launching your site, as they will change over time. Make sure you are analyzing the performance of the critical online and offline indicators using tools like Google Analytics. Take cognizance of sudden spikes and drops or if your bounce rate crosses the 5% threshold.
Make sure all your social media, email, and other marketing channels are in sync with the post-launch changes on your site. Engage your audience with fresh, unique, and relevant content that matches the tone and voice of your new website. You can realign your marketing and social media campaigns to fit them with your website changes.
Create new testing and change management processes to ensure your website can handle increased sales, holiday events, and marketing pushes. Test your website in different environments to strengthen your resources and internal workflows. Keep it updated with the latest patches, modules, and PCI compliances to mitigate possible security threats effectively
Continue to study new shopping behaviors, social media trends, and changing customer expectations to build shopping experiences accordingly. The quicker you adapt to the changing digital space; the higher are the chances of longevity and success of your website.
Creating your ecommerce migration plan
The biggest failure in eCommerce migration is not planning it properly!
Effective planning is crucial for the seamless success of your ecommerce migration project. Inadequate planning can lead to oversights, exceeding your budget and timeline, and expensive errors that could adversely affect your business. Therefore, careful planning is essential for a smooth and efficient ecommerce migration.
Successful e-commerce migration demands assertive planning. Prioritize key considerations:
- Business Needs:
- Thoroughly understand current limitations and costs.
- Set clear goals and timelines for upgrades.
- RFP Development:
- Articulate migration goals and timelines explicitly.
- Specify current and future requirements in detail.
- Total Cost of Ownership:
- Scrutinize upfront costs and ongoing expenses.
- Distinguish cost structures for on-premise, cloud, and SaaS platforms.
- Integration Understanding:
- Identify existing technologies and essential integrations.
- Evaluate the tech stack for potential streamlining or replacement.
- Data Transfer Strategy:
- Choose assertively between manual, app-based, or API-driven migration.
- Prioritize backup and consider delta migration for active sites.
- Efficient Collaboration:
- Clearly delegate responsibilities to internal teams and external partners.
- Employ a dedicated project manager for precise coordination.
Replatforming Myths Answered
Q: Can I migrate by myself?
A: Migration is a sensitive process, and if not done right, you may lose your data and SEO insights and may be unable to recreate a better user experience with migration. We recommend reaching out to e-commerce migration experts to help you with your needs.
Q: Do I miss sales while having Data Transfer?
A: Transitions are time-consuming but have minimal downtime. It's like building a new site next to the old one and moving in. The old site stays open until the new site is ready to go live.
Q: Will I lose the UI of my existing website while re-platforming?
A: A good ecommerce platform can easily integrate with your current website design without compromising its look and feel. Having a reliable ecommerce team can also help you replicate the existing website design.
Q: Why do ecommerce businesses replatform?
A: Businesses migrate to new ecommerce platforms to avoid issues like poor site performance, lack of functionality, and scalability limitations. Moving to a new platform can bring benefits like better scalability, improved customer experience, innovation, security, personalization, and affordability.
Q: What is the cost of e-commerce migration?
A: Site migration costs vary based on factors like the size, complexity, and data involved. Basic WordPress sites are easier to move than complex ones. Many other factors impact the cost calculations from the resources perspective.
A robust, scalable, and future-ready platform can help your e-commerce business grow faster and increase its security, leaving your competitors behind. However, e-commerce re-platforming is a demanding process that requires a carefully planned approach.
Hopefully, this detailed guide will help you carry out this mammoth task quickly and efficiently. Are you planning to re-platform your online store? If yes, let us know which tip you found to be the most useful in the comments section below.