Ecommerce businesses, like any venture, need to evolve to stay competitive. Sometimes, that evolution necessitates a change in the tools and platforms that support your operations.
Recognizing the right time to make this change is crucial, and it can be based on a number of factors ranging from technical issues to outgrowing your current ecommerce platform.
If you’re an enterprise business manager considering switching ecommerce platforms, you’re not alone. According to a Digital Commerce 360 survey conducted in September and October 2022, 27% of ecommerce companies were thinking about migration, and 61% of them planned to do it in 2023. Most of those companies expected to spend up to $500,000 to do so.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll explain what ecommerce replatforming entails, reasons to consider replatforming, and how to do your ecommerce platform migration right.
What Is Ecommerce Replatforming?
Ecommerce replatforming, in its simplest definition, is the process of switching from one ecommerce platform to another.
But it's more than just changing tools or a new site redesign—it's about evolving with your business needs, addressing bottlenecks, and enhancing customer experience.
When Is The Right Time To Migrate To A New Ecommerce Platform?
There’s a plethora of factors that may have led you to consider switching ecommerce platforms for your business, but those factors usually fall within one or more of these core categories:
- Your existing system is no longer serving your business needs.
- You’re unable to scale further with your ecommerce site.
- You’re faced with technical challenges you can’t solve.
- Your customer experience is suffering.
- You’re losing sales or feeling financial impacts.
Let’s look at each one in more detail.
Your business needs have evolved
Your business model and strategy are constantly evolving. If your business has expanded its product line, entered new markets, or adopted a new sales strategy, your existing platform may not be equipped to support these changes.
You may also be faced with higher operational costs related to platform maintenance, workarounds, or third-party integrations that indicate that your current platform isn't the most economical choice for your ecommerce store.
Drilling deeper, you could be facing challenges integrating essential tools like CRM, ERP, or marketing software, and it might be a sign that your platform is becoming outdated.
You need to scale further
Too much traffic isn’t always a good thing. If your website is experiencing traffic overloads and crashes or lags during peak shopping periods, like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, it's a clear sign that your platform can't scale with demand.
Inventory management system issues like a platform that doesn't allow for the seamless addition of new products or categories can hinder your growth.
You may also feel the crunch of geographic limitations. If you’re looking to expand to international markets, your platform should support multiple currencies, languages, and tax regulations.
You’re faced with technical challenges
A number of technical issues can arise with any platform, including:
- Recurring downtimes: Frequent website crashes or downtimes can affect sales and customer trust.
- Limited customization options: Being unable to customize your storefront or back-end processes according to your unique needs can be a major setback.
- Security concerns: With rising cybersecurity threats, if your platform doesn't provide robust security features or regular updates, it’s a significant risk.
Your customer experience is suffering
Your ecommerce platform may also be struggling to keep up with the times.
For example, an outdated interface that feels old-fashioned or a non-intuitive interface can deter modern customers from shopping on your online store.
Given the rise of mobile commerce, if your platform doesn’t offer a seamless mobile shopping experience, you're losing a substantial customer base.
Speed is of the essence. If your site suffers from slow loading times and takes too long to show customers what they want, they might abandon their shopping carts and go look elsewhere.
You’re losing sales or feeling financial impacts
An ecommerce platform that’s no longer tailored to your business needs or experiences technical issues can have severe financial consequences.
- Lost sales: Technical issues or poor user experience can directly impact sales and conversion rates.
- Higher maintenance costs: Outdated platforms might need more frequent repairs or third-party solutions, leading to increased costs and time-consuming fixes.
- Investment in workarounds: You might find yourself investing more in temporary solutions or plugins to make up for platform deficiencies rather than focusing on growth strategies.
- Reduced competitive edge: An outdated platform can affect your site's SEO, user experience, and overall brand perception, giving competitors an edge.
It's essential to view your ecommerce platform not just as a tool, but as a partner in your business growth. Recognizing the signs of an underperforming or outdated platform can help you make informed decisions about replatforming, ensuring that your business remains agile, competitive, and customer-centric.
What Are Your Replatforming Goals?
Before embarking on the journey of replatforming, you must be clear on your objectives.
It's not just about transitioning from one system to another—it's about aligning that change with the broader objectives of your business.
Let’s examine how to set clear, actionable goals for your migration.
Evaluate your business's specific needs
Conduct a SWOT analysis: Identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of your current platform. This will give you a clear picture of what's working and what needs change.
Collect feedback: Gathering feedback from your team—especially those on the front lines, like customer support and sales—can provide insights into current challenges.
Analyzing customer behavior: Use data analytics tools to monitor user behavior on your site. Look for patterns that suggest users are having difficulties or are dissatisfied, such as their time spent on the page or their exit intent.
Consider your expansion plans
If you're considering entering new markets—especially if you’re looking at an international expansion—ensure your new platform supports multiple languages and currencies and complies with regional regulations.
Anticipate the scalability and flexibility you'll need to introduce new product lines or service offerings.
Plan for channel expansions and integrations with marketplaces like Amazon or eBay, or consider how you might branch into brick-and-mortar retail or pop-up stores.
Evaluate your integration requirements
List out all your current integrations between tools and systems (like CRM, ERP, and marketing automation tools) and ensure they're compatible with potential new platforms.
Consider tools or systems you might want to integrate in the near future. Your new platform should not only serve today's needs but also tomorrow's aspirations.
Data migration is crucial. Ensure your chosen platform allows for seamless data transfer. Look into how customer data, transaction histories, product information, and other essential data will be migrated.
Keep customer experience goals in mind
Aim for a platform that offers a seamless shopping experience with intuitive navigation, efficient search capabilities, and a smooth checkout process.
Mobile, mobile, mobile. I can’t stress this enough. With a significant chunk of online shopping happening on mobile, prioritize platforms offering robust mobile commerce features and mobile optimization first and foremost.
Modern consumers appreciate personalized shopping experiences. Consider platforms that offer AI-driven product recommendations, personalized content, and targeted promotions.
Finally, focus on customer feedback. Ensure there are easy ways for customers to leave reviews, ask questions, and provide feedback. This continuous feedback loop can drive improvements long after replatforming.
Replatforming without a clear roadmap can lead to mistakes and inefficiencies. By setting clear goals that align with your business objectives, you ensure a smooth transition that sets the stage for growth, enhanced operations, and superior customer experiences.
How To Choose Your New Ecommerce Platform
Transitioning to a new ecommerce platform is a significant commitment, both in terms of resources and long-term strategy.
Given the plethora of choices available, how can you be sure you're selecting the best platform for your business?
Let’s look at some of the major SaaS players in the ecommerce platform market.
A cloud-based SaaS solution loved by many for its user-friendly interface. It's perfect for businesses looking for an all-in-one solution with integrated payment gateways and hassle-free setups.
Strengths: User-friendly, robust support, great for beginners.
Limitations: Limited customization, transaction fees (unless using Shopify Payments).
A customizable, open-source platform built on WordPress. Ideal for businesses already familiar with WordPress and looking for flexibility.
Strengths: Highly customizable, large plugin ecosystem, no inherent transaction fees.
Limitations: Requires regular updates, might demand more from hosting as traffic grows.
Adobe Commerce (formerly Magento)
Known for its scalability and customization, Adobe Commerce suits medium to large businesses with specific needs and a technical team in place.
Strengths: Highly scalable, extensive features, customizable.
Limitations: Requires technical expertise and can be costly in development and maintenance.
A comprehensive solution that offers out-of-the-box features and scalability without demanding too much technical know-how.
Strengths: Built-in features, good for SEO, no transaction fees.
Limitations: Limited free themes, and can become pricier as you scale.
Other platform factors to consider
Business size and scalability
Startups/Small businesses: Platforms like Shopify or BigCommerce offer a quicker setup.
Medium businesses: WooCommerce or Adobe Commerce can offer a balance between customization and ease of use.
Large enterprises: Adobe Commerce, with its scalability, might be more appropriate, though it requires a dedicated technical team.
Non-technical users: Shopify and BigCommerce are more plug-and-play.
Intermediate: WooCommerce provides a balance, especially for those familiar with WordPress.
Advanced: Adobe Commerce offers in-depth customization but requires a steeper learning curve.
Setup costs: Some platforms have upfront costs or theme costs.
Monthly fees: Platforms like Shopify have monthly fees, while WooCommerce is free but might incur costs for hosting or premium plugins.
Transaction fees: Some platforms have their own payment gateways. Using others might incur fees.
Native integrations: Platforms might have built-in integrations with popular tools.
API flexibility: Can you easily connect the platform with other essential systems via APIs?
Plugin/extension ecosystem: A large ecosystem can ease the integration of additional functionalities.
Choosing an ecommerce platform is about more than just features. It's about finding the intersection of your business needs, technical capabilities, and growth aspirations. With thorough research and clear priorities, you can select a platform that not only meets your current requirements but also scales with your ambitions.
Planning The Migration Process
Migration can be a daunting process. The key to a smooth transition lies in meticulous planning. From resource allocation to data transfer and SEO preservation, every detail matters.
Create a step-by-step migration plan
1. Audit your current platform
Begin by evaluating what's on your existing platform - products, customer data, order histories, content, and any custom functionalities.
2 Define the migration scope
Decide what data needs to be transferred, what can be archived, and what should be left behind.
3. Choose the right tools
Some platforms offer migration tools or extensions to ease the process. Explore these options and choose tools that best fit your needs.
4. Schedule your migration
Opt for a period with relatively low traffic, possibly a weekend or off-peak hours, to minimize disruptions.
Allocate resources: budget, personnel, time
Factor in costs for tools, external agency help (if needed), potential downtime, and unexpected expenses.
Identify who will spearhead the migration and other stakeholders in the process. This might include IT specialists, ecommerce managers, and even customer support to address customer concerns during the process.
Understand that migration isn't an overnight process. Factor in time for pre-migration testing, the actual migration, post-migration checks, and troubleshooting.
Data migration: products, customers, orders
Details: Ensure product names, descriptions, attributes, images, SKUs, and prices are correctly transferred.
Variants: If your products have different variants, like sizes or colors, ensure these attributes are adequately represented.
Basic information: Name, email, phone number, and address.
Accounts: If you offer user accounts, ensure that login credentials remain consistent or inform users if they need to reset their password.
Order history: Important for customer service inquiries and returns.
Current orders: Ensure there's no disruption to order processing during migration.
Ensure SEO retention during migration
When an online store changes its foundational platform, there's an inherent risk of losing the valuable search engine rankings cultivated over time. These rankings often translate to organic traffic, customer trust, and, consequently, sales.
If SEO considerations are overlooked during migration, the site may suffer from broken links, lost metadata, or even penalties from search engines for unintentional duplicate content. This could lead to decreased visibility on search engines, lost customer trust due to a disrupted user experience, and a tangible dip in revenue.
- 301 redirects: If URL structures change during the migration, use 301 redirects. This will point search engines and visitors from your old URLs to new ones, preserving SEO value.
- URL structures: If possible, keep the URL structure consistent during the migration. This minimizes disruptions to indexed pages and user bookmarks.
- XML sitemaps and robots.txt: Post-migration, update your XML sitemap and submit it to search engines. Also, ensure the robots.txt file doesn't block essential pages.
- 404 errors: After migration, actively monitor for any 404 (page not found) errors. Address them promptly to maintain a good user experience and SEO standing.
Migration is much like moving to a new house. While you're excited about the new place, you also want to ensure your belongings reach safely and you don’t lose your old contacts. With a detailed plan, the right resources, and a focus on preserving the value you've built, migration can be less of a chore and more of a strategic leap forward.
How To Manage Technical Issues: Tips & Solutions
Transitioning from one ecommerce platform to another is seldom a plug-and-play operation. With varied system architectures and distinct functionalities, technical challenges are inevitable.
With foresight and adept management, these challenges can be tackled effectively.
Let’s look at technical hurdles and how to navigate them.
Common technical issues and solutions
Platform compatibility issues
Different platforms might be coded in different languages or utilize diverse databases.
Solution: Prior research can aid in selecting a new platform with similar backend technology or ensure you have the right conversion tools in place.
Migration can sometimes result in bloated code or less-optimized images, affecting loading times.
Solution: Post-migration, conduct a site speed test and optimize accordingly—compress images, use caching, and minimize unnecessary scripts.
New platforms or improperly migrated sites can expose security loopholes and threats.
Solution: Regularly update the platform, plugins, and use trusted security tools to scan and rectify vulnerabilities.
Ecommerce data issues
Product data discrepancies
SKU mismatches, incorrect product details, or missing images can occur during migration.
Solution: Use data validation tools to identify discrepancies. Manual checks, especially for top-selling products, are also recommended.
Customer data inconsistencies
This could manifest as duplicated accounts or lost customer histories.
Solution: Deduplicate data before migration and post-migration, and encourage customers to update their details or merge accounts if necessary.
Order data disruptions
It's crucial that order histories remain intact for customer service and analytics.
Solution: Regular backups can ensure data restoration if needed. After migration, conduct sample checks to ensure order data integrity.
Transfer custom functionalities from the old platform
Custom code transfer
Not all custom codes or functionalities from the old platform will be compatible with the new one.
Solution: Before migration, identify critical custom functionalities. Then, decide whether to recreate them on the new platform or find alternatives.
Your previous platform might have had specific integrations that the new platform doesn’t natively support.
Solution: Explore the new platform’s plugin or extension marketplace. If an integration isn't available, consider developing a custom solution.
Use plugins or hire developers to overcome challenges
Benefits of plugins
Plugins are often more affordable and quicker to deploy than custom solutions.
When to use: For common functionalities or challenges many businesses face. Always opt for well-rated and frequently updated plugins.
Benefits of developers
Custom development can cater to unique business needs and offer a tailored solution.
When to use: For specific business operations or when no existing plugin fulfills your requirements. Ensure you choose developers familiar with your chosen ecommerce platform.
Technical hurdles, while anticipated during migration, are not insurmountable. Many can be avoided altogether. For issues that do arise, a combination of technical know-how, trusted plugins, and skilled developers can pave the way for a seamless ecommerce migration.
Remember, every challenge overcome is a step closer to a platform that aligns perfectly with your business vision.
How To Ensure Continuity In Customer Experience
One of the main reasons businesses opt for ecommerce replatforming is to improve or scale the customer experience. However, during the transition, it's crucial to maintain the trust and loyalty of your existing customers. Ensuring continuity in their experience can significantly impact how they perceive the new platform.
Keep your customers informed
Before the transition
Telling your customers about a forthcoming migration will prevent customers from being taken by surprise and builds anticipation.
Methods: Email newsletters, banner announcements on your site, or even direct postal mail for significant updates.
During the transition
Keeping customers up to date while your platform is migrating reassures customers that any glitches or unavailability are temporary.
Methods: “Maintenance mode” pages with clear communication, social media updates, or SMS notifications for urgent alerts.
After the transition
Telling your customers when the transition is completed helps them navigate the new platform and fosters a sense of involvement.
Methods: Highlight tours of new features, email digests, or video demonstrations.
Test the new platform’s user experience (UX)
Testing your shiny new ecommerce platform is paramount, especially regarding usability. After all, your customers will be the main target users, and their feedback can help you manage improvements more efficiently.
Invite a select group of loyal customers to try out the new platform before a full-scale launch. This will help you gather real-world feedback and uncover unforeseen challenges.
Encourage users to provide feedback on their experience, preferences, and pain points. Gathering direct insights into user needs can guide and action immediate tweaks and improvements.
Ensure a smooth user transition
Your customers need to trust that you’ll guide them throughout your migration process. A big part of nurturing that trust is to provide support throughout onboarding them to the new platform.
Onboarding can be done via interactive tutorials that guide users through the new platform's features or pop-up tips that draw attention to new features or changes in the interface.
Provide a comprehensive set of FAQs that answer frequently asked questions on ordering, account management, and new features. Make sure your FAQs are consistently updated based on recurring customer queries during the transition phase.
Finally, extend customer support hours post-migration to handle increased queries and make sure your customer support team can assist users effectively. Another helpful feature is to automate answers to common queries via chatbot support, freeing up your support team to address more complex issues in person.
Your relationship with your customers doesn't pause during replatforming. If anything, it becomes even more crucial. By prioritizing their experience and ensuring continuous communication, you can make the migration process feel less like a disruption and more like a collaborative journey towards a better, more efficient shopping experience.
SEO Considerations During Replatforming
In the digital realm, visibility is currency. As you transition between ecommerce platforms, preserving the SEO standing you’ve meticulously built over the years is paramount. Replatforming offers an opportunity not just to maintain but to enhance your SEO strategy.
Maintain SEO during migration
Preserve organic traffic: Your site’s organic reach, fostered over time, is a valuable asset. Neglecting SEO during migration risks significant drops in organic traffic, affecting sales and brand visibility.
Maintain domain authority: Search engines have recognized your domain's credibility and relevance over time. A slipshod migration can erode this trust, pushing your site down in rankings.
Avoid duplicate content issues: Migration can inadvertently create duplicate pages, which can confuse search engines and dilute page authority.
SEO best practices
Title tags: These directly impact search rankings and click-through rates. Ensure they remain consistent or are improved upon during migration.
Meta descriptions: While not a direct ranking factor, they influence user click-through rates. Ensure they're compelling and relevant.
Alt text for images: Crucial for image search and site accessibility. This text should be descriptive of the image content.
Content quality assurance
Consistency: Ensure that content remains of high quality and relevance post-migration.
Refresh and review: Migration is an excellent time to prune outdated content and refresh pages that could benefit from an update.
Structured data: If you've implemented schema markups or rich snippets on your old platform, ensure they're correctly transferred.
URL mapping and redirects
Mapping old to new: Before the migration, document your site's URL structure. This will be the blueprint for setting up redirects.
301 redirects: A “permanent” redirect that seamlessly transfers visitors (and search engines) from an old page URL to its new counterpart, ensuring no loss in page authority.
Avoiding chain redirects: Multiple redirects in a sequence can slow down site speed and hamper user experience. Ensure your redirects are direct from old to new URLs.
Monitoring for 404 errors: After migration, use tools like Google Search Console to monitor and quickly rectify any pages that result in “Page Not Found” errors.
SEO is a long-term investment. As you upgrade to a new ecommerce platform, it's essential to remember that while the software may change, the SEO foundation remains. By maintaining the integrity of this foundation, not only do you safeguard your past efforts, but you also set the stage for future growth in the ever-evolving digital marketplace.
Post-Ecommerce Replatforming Checklist
Once you've completed the replatforming process, you might be tempted to take a deep sigh of relief. While the heavy lifting is indeed behind you, the journey isn't over. The post-migration phase is crucial in ensuring the success of the entire operation.
Monitor website performance
Use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix to analyze site speed and page load times, ensuring pages are optimized, and visitors aren’t left waiting.
Monitor uptime with free services like Pingdom or Uptime Robot, which can alert you immediately if your site goes down, allowing for swift action.
Ensure tools like Google Analytics are correctly integrated to monitor user behavior, traffic sources, and other essential metrics.
Did we already say, “mobile, mobile, mobile?” With a growing majority of users on mobile devices, tools like Google's Mobile-Friendly Test can ensure your site functions seamlessly across devices.
Seek customer feedback
Post-migration, send out short, focused feedback surveys to gather insights on user experience. Services like SurveyMonkey or Typeform can facilitate this.
Engage directly with customers through social media, emails, or even phone calls to get a nuanced understanding of their experience.
It’s not enough to just gather feedback, you must integrate it in your post-migration plans. Ensure there’s a system in place to analyze this data and integrate changes based on customer inputs.
Resolve emerging issues quickly
Issues will arise. Don’t sweat it—just make sure you’ve got help at the ready.
Create a rapid response team: Have a dedicated team or individual responsible for monitoring, categorizing, and addressing issues as they arise.
Prioritize issues: Not all problems are equal. Prioritize based on factors like severity, the volume of affected users, and potential impact on your business.
Be transparent: If an issue affects a significant portion of users, communicate proactively with your customer base about the problem and the steps to resolve it. Honesty is the best medicine.
Once the migration is completed, that doesn’t mean the work is over.
Regularly update your platform, plugins, and integrations to benefit from the latest features and security patches.
Conduct periodic reviews and audits of site performance, SEO, and user experience to identify areas of potential improvement.
As consumer behaviors and preferences shift, ensure your platform remains aligned. This might mean introducing new features, revamping design elements, or rethinking certain business processes.
Post-migration is not a cooldown phase but rather an active, alert stage where the real benefits of replatforming start to manifest. By monitoring, adjusting, and continuously improving, you ensure that the new platform not only serves your current needs but also evolves with your business, laying the foundation for sustained growth.
Is Replatforming Your Gateway To Success?
Replatforming isn’t just about addressing present challenges. It’s an acknowledgment of the ever-evolving landscape of ecommerce. By taking the steps to migrate to a new system, you’re not just making a change—you're making a commitment to innovation and adaptability.
Maintain comprehensive documentation of your ecommerce site migration: the challenges you faced, solutions you implemented, and feedback you received. This can be invaluable for you and your in-house development team during future transitions.
Build a strong relationship with your platform vendor. This ensures you're in the loop for any significant changes, updates, or recommended shifts in the future.
More importantly, be flexible. Ecommerce strategies shouldn’t be set in stone. Encourage a culture of continuous learning within your team and focus on choosing solutions that can grow with your business. Make customer feedback a core component of your strategy. Their evolving needs and preferences can guide many of your future initiatives.
Your ecommerce replatforming project is not an endpoint but a significant milestone in your ecommerce journey. As the digital world grows and shifts, businesses that remain agile, informed, and adaptable will not just survive but thrive. By embracing the future, you're setting your ecommerce website on a path of continuous evolution, ensuring relevancy, growth, and success in the years to come.
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