An ecommerce site migration is a risky undertaking if you’re unfamiliar with ecommerce web development.
But if your current platform doesn’t offer the features, integrations or technical know-how to meet your growing business needs, you’ll want to consider switching ecommerce platforms.
Migrating from self-hosted ecommerce platforms like Magento or WooCommerce to hosted ecommerce platforms like BigCommerce or Shopify can take anywhere from three months to a year. It takes time to strategize, plan, learn and test before going live.
In this guide, I’ll explain what to consider when switching ecommerce platforms, and show you how to prepare for a successful ecommerce site migration so you don’t waste your time.
Table of Contents
- Why Businesses Switch Platforms
- What to Consider Before an Ecommerce Site Migration
- 10-Step Checklist for Switching Ecommerce Platforms
Why Businesses Switch Platforms
Ecommerce businesses switch platforms for various reasons. Some may need more advanced features, while others might be looking for better performance or scalability. While the specific factors vary from one organization to another, here are some common reasons businesses choose to switch.
Increased Functionality: As businesses evolve, they often need more advanced features that their current platform can't provide.
Adoption of Hybrid D2C/B2B Business Models: As B2B companies expand into the hybrid space, they often seek platforms that can provide specialized B2B functionality and seamless integration of both sales channels.
Improved Performance: If a website is slow or can't handle increased traffic, businesses look for a platform that offers better performance and scalability.
Cost Efficiency: If the current platform is too expensive, particularly with transaction fees or add-ons, businesses look for more cost-effective alternatives.
User Experience: A platform that offers an intuitive, seamless shopping experience can be a game-changer in retaining customers and attracting new ones.
Vendor Support: If the current platform lacks in providing timely and effective support, businesses may opt for one that ensures better customer service.
6 Things to Consider Before an Ecommerce Site Migration
Before switching ecommerce platforms, it’s best to do some research first. Consider the following:
6. Brand values
1. Your business needs and deal-breakers
Think about the daily operations of your ecommerce business, as well as a customer’s journey through your website. Make a list of must-haves and deal-breakers - ecommerce platform features your business can’t do without.
What functions are essential for your store and customers? Does your ecommerce business rely heavily on gift cards or certificates? What about customer segmentation or upselling?
Migrating to an ecommerce platform that fails to accommodate your needs can hurt your business in the long run, so be thoughtful and careful as you build your list.
2. Platform features
What core features are you looking for in an ecommerce platform? What about secondary features?
Payment processing, content management systems and theme customization are just a few variables to think about. Your needs and deal breakers list will come in handy as you review ecommerce platform features.
3. Platform integrations and apps
What can you add or further develop to take your ecommerce business to the next level? Consider upsell apps, shipping tools or email service provider integrations, for instance.
BigCommerce has over 1 thousand apps, whereas Shopify boasts signficantly more. But quantity doesn’t always trump quality. See what integrations and apps are available to determine what’s best suited to your business.
4. Ecommerce platform trajectory
Does this ecommerce platform make an active effort to improve core features and performance, or add integrations to their app store regularly?
An upwards “platform trajectory” is a good indicator that an ecommerce platform is secure, here to stay, and won’t leave you, your store or your customers hanging. After all, the last thing you want to do is migrate your ecommerce platform again.
You might be familiar with Magento 1’s end-of-life story. In June 2020, Magento sunsetted all versions of Magento 1, affecting thousands of ecommerce stores. Magento 1 also did not undergo any major updates since 2014, causing these ecommerce stores to fall behind the competition.
5. Cost of platform
Between BigCommerce and Shopify, plan pricing is competitive at first glance. But keep an eye out for unexpected charges like transaction fees or the costs of third-party apps, which will add up quickly.
6. Brand values
Values and philosophies matter; you want an ecommerce platform you can trust. Scope out the platform’s blog, social media profiles, case studies or reviews to gauge whether their values and priorities align with you and your business.
10-Step Checklist for Switching Ecommerce Platforms
Here’s our foolproof 10-step checklist for a successful ecommerce site migration.
1. Document all technical requirements
Preparation is key. Create a list or use a project management system to map out everything you need before diving in.
2. Configure your new ecommerce store settings
Adjust store settings and preferences to make it work for your business.
3. Migrate data
This includes your store products, categories, brands, customers, content or blogs, pages, discounts, pricing lists, etc.
4. Design your store
Choose a free or paid theme, create a custom design or do a mix of both. Custom designs require web development.
5. Develop your store
6. Configure native features
Finetune features like bulk pricing, customer groups or abandoned cart emails and develop the required coding.
7. Configure apps or integrations
Browse the app store to add tools and widgets that are helpful for your store. For example, BigCommerce add-ons, like Atomic Widgets, help you beef up your ecommerce marketing efforts without having to code. Always check the available apps and integrations to see which platform has the tools your business needs.
8. Prepare for pre-launch
Add Google Analytics tags and configure Google Search Console. Add tracking scripts, mapping and configure 301 redirects, which are also critical for SEO and user experience.
9. Test, test, test
Test everything you do in your business to make sure all the bells and whistles work. Place orders, process payments, double-check shipping, cancel orders and process returns and refunds.
10. Go live!
Change DNS settings for your domain, add SSL certificates and do a live quality assurance check to make any adjustments as needed.
1. When should I migrate my ecommerce website?
When it comes to switching ecommerce platforms, timing is everything. You don't want to migrate during peak seasons when your traffic and sales are at their highest. Instead, choose a quieter period when there will be minimal disruption to your operations. This due diligence ensures you’ll have enough time and resources to address any arising challenges during the switch.
2. Will I miss out on sales while transferring my data?
If planned and executed correctly, the migration process should not affect your sales. You will be building your new site alongside your old one, and then making a clean transition. Any downtime should be minimal, which is why it's crucial to choose the right time for migration and ensure that the new platform is thoroughly tested before going live.
3. Will I have to redesign my website?
Since different platforms have different design capabilities and limitations you will most likely need to redesign your website—at least partially. However, this can be an opportunity to improve your site's usability and aesthetics.
Check Out This Case Study: B2C Website Redesign Case Study - GoGreenSolar
4. How long does the migration process take?
The duration of the migration process depends on several factors, including the size of your website, the complexity of your data, and the capabilities of your migration team. Other factors such as a rebrand or site redesign can also extend the process. The planning and preparation can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, while the cutover itself generally takes no more than a few hours.
5. Will I lose my organic traffic?
Switching ecommerce platforms doesn't necessarily mean that you'll lose your organic traffic, but there is a risk if the migration isn't handled properly. When you change platforms, your site structure, URLs and other elements may also change, which can affect your SEO rankings.
To minimize the risk, preserve your SEO work by setting up proper 301 redirects, and replicating your existing site structure as closely as possible, keeping the same URLs (or redirecting old ones to new ones), and conducting thorough testing before and after the switch. Keep in mind that some fluctuation in traffic is normal after a platform switch, but with proper planning and execution, it should stabilize over time.
Get Expert Help for Your Ecommerce Site Migration
Ecommerce site migrations are complex, time consuming and risky to conduct in-house if you’re not an ecommerce developer.
But if you’re considering paying for an ecommerce migration service, you may want to rethink this approach as well.
Many site migration service providers say they’ll migrate your data from one platform to another (the plug-and-play method), but a migration isn’t a one-and-done task. Unless your store is very minimal with a simple product catalog, ecommerce migration services will likely run into issues, especially when it comes to customization.
This is where having a comprehensive marketing team like Human in your corner can make a significant difference. We work as an extension of your internal team, offering a holistic approach to ecommerce migration. Rather than just focusing on data transfer, we consider all aspects of your ecommerce business.
At Human, an ecommerce development and marketing agency and certified BigCommerce partner and Shopify partner, we opt for a hands-on approach, where we test data along the way and optimize your ecommerce site for unique configurations and preferences.
Our team has the tools and expertise to ensure your ecommerce migration is successful the first time around. Contact us today to get expert ecommerce help from Human!