(This post was last published on December 20, 2017. We’ve updated it for accuracy and completeness.)
The idea of replatforming your eCommerce store strikes fear in most merchants. It appears too risky. There’s seemingly so much that can go wrong during the process. But, avoiding a migration to a new platform for the wrong reasons can hurt your online business in the long run.
By sticking with your old technology, you won’t be able to provide the experience that your customers demand. You could be wasting thousands of dollars trying to fix the same problems over and over again. You could be holding your business back from growth.
To help you build confidence to take on this initiative, we’ve put together a list of common replatforming fears and how to avoid them. Put your mind at ease and don’t be afraid to grow your business by upgrading your eCommerce platform.
Common Fears of eCommerce Replatforming and How to Avoid Them
Many merchants have read and heard too many horror stories of replatforming projects going horribly wrong. We’re here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way!
While not ALL migration projects are painless, you can prepare yourself for a successful one. Here’s how to avoid some of the common fears of replatforming.
Fear: You’re not sure if you really need to replatform.
It can be difficult to be 100% sure that migrating to a new platform is in the best interest of your business. You tell yourself that you can put up with a few problems here and there because they seem better than a migration project.
However, these problems can start to pile up. Your outdated software lacks the features you need to keep up with new customer demands. You’re often spending too much time and money fixing bugs and maintaining your software, instead of improving your customer experience.
This is an especially timely topic as Magento 1’s platform reaches end of life in June 2020. Whether you move to Magento 2 or a platform like Shopify Plus, your business must prepare for an eCommerce migration. In this case, the answer to whether to migrate or not, is yes. The reality is that Magento 1 is outdated and all services providers will eventually stop supporting it.
Solution: Take an honest look at your business. Are you showing any of these signs that you should replatform? No matter how old or new your site is, an upgrade can be the best solution for the long run and healthy growth of your online business.
As you make a strong case for a migration, it’s also critical to have total buy-in from all your internal stakeholders. You need their support to make projects like these happen. If everyone isn’t bought in, a project might not ever be fully realized.
Fear: I’ve invested too much into my current platform to switch now.
A common pushback among organizations is that your team has already invested too much time and money into your platform to switch now. Is it worth it to seemingly throw all that hard work away?
Solution: This is a real objection to a migration project, and a hard one to overcome. While it’s true that you’ve put a lot of effort into your current platform, the reality is that you do have major pain points causing you to evaluate other solutions.
Try looking at this decision from the long-term, especially from a cost perspective. Some of those pain points aren’t going to go away, they may even get worse. By not fixing them, you’re still going to waste money or time trying to overcome your platform’s challenges, instead of solving your customers’ problems.
Undertaking a migration project means more costs upfront, but the goal should be to significantly improve your performance and costs for the future with a new platform.
Fear: Migration services will cost too much.
eCommerce migrations require extensive knowledge of both your current and new platform. Most merchants don’t have the time or talent in-house to migrate their data themselves. Therefore, you’re going to need to work with a partner to migrate your store(s).
When working with third-party partners, you might worry that projects will go off the rails with continued scope increases and on-the-fly customizations. This can result in projects that start off within budget and quickly exceed it by hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Solution: Cost-effective projects are all about choosing the right partner and understanding your project scope. Your partner should take detailed requirements of your data migration needs upfront and these should be reflected in your contract. Make sure you read and understand your project scope and contract so if anything does come up during your project, you won’t be surprised.
When a merchant and a partner are misaligned on the project at the beginning, budget is usually wasted overcoming those misunderstandings. Be diligent in the beginning to understand the process and what variables lead your project to be on budget.
Fear: Your migration project will take too long.
A common complaint is that migration projects take longer than expected. You think that a migration should take just a few hours or days, but then your project ends up lasting months or a year. While project timelines vary case by case, you shouldn’t be waiting reasonably longer than planned.
Solution: First, don’t wait until the last minute to migrate your store. If you need to be migrated and running on your new store in just a few days, these probably aren’t realistic expectations, especially if you have thousands of items, orders and customers to migrate. Proper migrations can take anywhere from weeks to a few months.
Second, know your data beforehand. No two eCommerce platforms are the same. It takes time to migrate between stores, especially in cases when you go from an open source platform like Magento to a SaaS platform like Shopify. This is because there are data fields in Magento that don’t exist in Shopify and vice-versa. You’ll need to work with your partner to understand these differences. Most migrations projects will require some sort of data clean up too. Projects delays happen when merchants aren’t ready to adjust their data as directed.
Lastly, be ready to communicate with your partner frequently. Project delays also often happen because the partner is waiting for sign-off or approval from the merchant. You should have a dedicated person in charge of your project to keep your team on schedule.
Fear: I’m going to lose all my data.
There’s a lot of data that must be moved between two eCommerce platforms. You have order history, customers, products, images, web pages, and possibly even more. All this data is important to you. As you move from one eCommerce database to another, you worry about losing it during the transfer.
Solution: As mentioned before, not all the same data fields are going to exist in both your current platform and new one. There might be a product attribute that doesn’t have the exact corresponding field in your new platform.
While your data structure might change in your new platform, you’re not going to lose data forever. Your partner should provide a detailed mapping of what data is being moved and to what field so you know where everything is. In some cases, customization or a workaround might be needed.
Fear: I’ll wreck my SEO.
If you’re selling online, then an SEO strategy is a must. It takes time and patience to build up your SEO strength, so your business and products rank high in search results.
It’s a very real fear that replatforming can mess with your SEO rankings.
Solution: While it’s true that a migration can affect your SEO, they don’t have to. All you need is a solid, comprehensive plan in place to ensure you stay on top of your SEO needs. Check out this guide on how to avoid SEO disasters when migrating. When done right, you can actually improve your SEO after migrating!
Fear: I won’t be able to integrate my new eCommerce platform.
Retailers often rely on more than just their eCommerce platform to run their business. You might use an ERP or Accounting System to manage backend process like fulfillment, inventory management, and financial reporting. No matter what your tech stack is, you need a way to integrate your systems to ensure operational efficiency.
If you can’t integrate your new platform, then migration isn’t worth it.
Solution: First, be sure to research upfront whether your new platform can integrate to your existing systems. In most cases though, you might be migrating because the new platform can more readily integrate into the rest of your tech stack. Either way, it’s not too early to start thinking about your eCommerce integration project. It’s common to start an integration project alongside a new eCommerce store build so that both your new store and integration are live at the same time.
Here at nChannel, that’s what we do. To see how we integrate eCommerce platforms with ERP/Accounting, POS, 3PL, and other systems, check out our library of pre-built connectors.
How to Prepare for an eCommerce Migration
Now that you feel ready to take on a migration project, here’s a final summary of our best advice to ensure a smooth project:
- Start early:Don’t wait until the last minute to migrate your store. Rushing your migration project can lead to more problems.
- Pick the right partner: Do research beforehand and work with a partner that has a proven track record of successful migrations. If you choose solely on price and time, you might end up getting what you paid for.
- Prep your data: Data cleanup will be needed before the migration. Plan a head to make the necessary changes to your data.
- Understand your data mapping: Make sure you understand where data is moving to in your new platform and know there will be limitations.
- Read your contract: Know what your project’s scope covers and doesn’t so there’s no surprises along the way.
- Expect daily communication: Migration projects require prompt and ongoing communication with your partner. Have resources from your team allocated properly to assist.
With these realistic expectations, you’re more likely to experience a timely and pain-free migration process.
Still feeling a little uneasy about migrating? Read this article with eCommerce expert Paul Rogers and his first-hand experience with migrating hundreds of B2C and B2B merchants between all sorts of different platforms.
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