Your Complete Guide to Switching eCommerce Platforms
So you’re thinking of switching to a new eCommerce platform. Where should you start? It’s a big decision, and one that requires a careful assessment of the costs, time and resources it will entail. Is replatforming the right move for you, and is now the right time?
Whether you’re dealing with an outdated design, ineffective technology or a platform that can’t scale fast enough, switching to a new platform might be the solution you’re looking for. Or, it might not.
In this guide, we’ll lay out exactly what goes into a platform transition to help you decide if switching is right for you. We’ll also share what you can expect if you do decide to migrate to a new platform.
Assess Your Current Situation
The first thing to do is to make a careful and detailed analysis of the problems with your existing eCommerce platform. How bad is it? What’s working? What’s not? What solutions do you need that you don’t currently have?
Working through this analysis will help you identify whether there’s a fix that doesn’t involve a whole new platform–like a design refresh or some updated plugins–or whether a total replatform is the way to go.
Here are some questions to consider during this step:
- How long have you had your current eCommerce setup?
- How does it stack up against your competitors’ websites?
- How much time and money is being spent on maintenance, fixes and workarounds?
- Is there a step in your operations where order fulfillment regularly hits a bottleneck?
- How frequently do your customer complaints involve issues with the website?
- Does your technology regularly prevent you from implementing creative new ideas?
- If you experienced a major bump in sales tomorrow, would you be able to handle the demand?
It’s a good idea to get all key stakeholders involved at this early stage. This way, everyone with a say in the decision gets the full scope of the current realities. Sometimes it’s all too easy for decision makers to write off a replatform as “too expensive” or “not worth the effort” without a full grasp on how it affects the entire business.
Remember: the goal is to have a platform that can support your business not only where it stands today, but where you want to be 1-3 years from now.
Ask the Right Questions
You no doubt have a lot of questions about the prospect of replatforming. You’re likely beginning to consider a partner that will work with you on some or all of the project. Now is the time to sit down with your potential partner for a Q&A session.
Begin by laying out the results of your internal assessment. Describe your current approach to eCommerce and share your expectations for what your new platform will accomplish. Talk through key business metrics like your existing traffic, order volume and product catalog. This information will be critical in helping your partner provide accurate answers to your questions (and, if you decide to move forward, build out your replatforming strategy), so the more thorough you can be, the better. If there are any time-sensitive milestones you’re trying to meet, like completing your migration ahead of your industry’s busy season, now is the time to let your partner know.
Next, it’s your turn for questions. Ask your replatforming partner about migration projects they’ve completed that are similar to yours. How did they approach the project? What did the timeline look like? What were the results? The right replatforming team will be able to talk you through the process and share suggestions to make for a seamless transition.
After your intake session, you should receive a detailed quote outlining the cost of your project from start to finish. Be sure your quote covers the full scope of your needs, including but not limited to front-end design, back-end development, data migration, third-party applications to add functionality, QA testing and training. Additionally, your partner should provide an estimate of the ongoing costs associated with running your new platform, like subscription-based applications and technology fees.
Develop a Plan
Once you’ve agreed on the budget and terms for your project, it’s time to develop a detailed timeline and action plan. This ensures your project stays on track, both in budget and in scope, and is completed on time.
At Parkfield, we have a signature discovery phase during which we carefully plan every aspect of your replatforming project–both the strategy behind it and the logistics of how it will unfold. Our discovery phase includes an audit of your conversion funnel, user experience and customer behavior, and a thoughtful analysis of the technology, software, and content that your platform migration will require. We’re sensitive to your budget and resources and will present you with a realistic analysis of what’s nice to have, what’s ideal to have, and what’s essential for a successful platform transition.
We also offer an optional ADA compliance review and marketing strategy session, which can add to the success of your updated website.
Take a Baseline
Before any work begins on your migration, take a baseline measurement of your current eCommerce performance.
Some metrics to track include:
- Overall traffic
- Traffic by source
- Organic search rankings
- Average session duration
- Bounce rate
- Conversion rate
- Average order value
- Lifetime value
- Acquisition cost
These figures will be critical in assessing the effectiveness of your migration and setting realistic goals for the future.
Strategize Your Content
The scope of this step will depend on whether your migration comes with a new front-end design or merely a platform switch. If you’re freshening up the look of your online store in addition to switching platforms, you’ll need to plan for the content that will fill out the updated design. This includes wireframing the structure of new pages and menus, securing necessary photography and visual assets, and creating copy.
If you plan on doing a major overhaul to your site’s content–that is, completely reworking its main pages and the content therein–it’s best to do this in phases after the platform migration is complete. Your content is one of the biggest factors in your organic search rankings, and if you switch both your platform and your content all at once, it’s difficult to assess how each change impacts your search rankings.
In light of this, we recommend completing the migration first with minimal changes to your SEO strategy. Then, once you’ve completed testing and are confident your new site functions flawlessly, you can begin updating the onsite content.
Ahead of your migration, we’ll take stock of the apps and plugins you’re currently using to facilitate site functionality and business operations. We’ll assess which ones can be transitioned successfully to the new platform and identify areas where new infrastructure is required.
We’ll make recommendations from our suite of preferred apps that will enhance the user experience and drive revenue on your new platform. Some examples include:
- Klaviyo and Zaius to drive revenue from email marketing
- Privy and JustUno to attract subscribers and reduce cart abandonment
- Glew.io for powerful business analytics
- Hotjar for customer behaviour insights
- Foursixty for social shopping
- And more
Execute the Migration
Now, it’s time for the bulk of the technical work: the migration itself. This phase is where your re-platforming partner’s expertise becomes invaluable.
Your migration consists of three main areas: your products, your customers, and your order database. Depending on the scope of your project, the migration of your site design and content may also be included. Migrating all of these things ensures that there’s no interruption to business or marketing communications despite the platform change.
At Parkfield, we’ve helped our clients migrate more than a million products to Shopify. We export and transition your entire product library, map products to their corresponding categories, organize and transfer your existing customer roster and match each buyer to their order history so that all the data you need is right there on your new platform, hassle-free.
Delegate Responsibilities and Train Team
Who will be responsible for maintaining your new online store? Delegate responsibilities for website maintenance, product catalog edits, application updates, security patches, and other housekeeping items that will keep your new site running smoothly. Here are some roles to consider as you decide who needs to be part of training:
- IT staff that maintain your network and systems
- Operations staff that oversee order intake and fulfilment
- Support staff that access and edit customer orders
- Marketing staff that create emails, social content, promotions, etc.
Additionally, ensure that you know who to call in the event of an urgent technical issue.
An experienced Parkfield trainer will familiarize your team with the new platform and work alongside you until all appropriate staff members are proficient with the site’s administrative functions. There’s no cutoff date; we understand that a new platform comes with a learning curve, so we’ll be here to answer your questions as they arise.
Meticulous testing is a crucial part of any re-platforming project. It ensures that your site functions consistently across devices, your integrations like email signups and order notifications work correctly, and most importantly, that the checkout process can be completed without a hitch.
We conduct rigorous testing of your new platform’s functionality and review your site’s appearance with a critical eye to spot any problems before it goes live. Here are a few of the things your testing should cover:
- All pages are created and displaying correctly
- Navigation menus work and links/buttons lead to the right place
- Design elements and fonts display and function properly
- Website is responsive to changes in screen size
- Cart and checkout function seamlessly
- Shipping rules are set up
- Notification emails are set up and functioning
- Analytics dashboards are connected and receiving data
Testing should be conducted both before the new site goes live and for several days afterwards to identify and resolve any issues quickly.
Flip the Switch
If this is the first time you’re migrating your online store, this step can be the most confusing. Essentially, you’re turning your new website “on” by directing traffic to your new platform instead of the old one. This is done via your domain name system or DNS.
We’ll take the lead on the technical side of things and walk you through flipping the switch step by step. To make the transition as quick and seamless as possible, we do as much as we can ahead of time, securing all necessary logins and permissions, setting up your SSL certificate and creating a landing page that prevents orders from being placed on the old site while the switch is underway. We’ll help you choose the best day and time to switch your DNS for minimal downtime. Depending on your traffic volume, it may make sense to conduct a beta launch in which only a small portion of website visitors are sent to the new website. This can be useful in assessing functionality and identifying issues before they’re exposed to all visitors.
In the hours and days after you turn your new site “on,” pay careful attention to 404 errors, which indicate that traffic is still being directed to a page that no longer exists. They can negatively impact your search performance, not to mention interrupting the user experience. 404’s can be fixed by locating and updating incorrect URLs at the source (like broken links on your own pages) or by setting up redirects (which tell your website to send the visitor to the correct page instead).
Measure, Optimize and Measure Again
In the days and weeks after you flip the switch, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your site metrics and check them against the baseline measurements you took earlier to see how the new platform is affecting your performance. Generally speaking, you want to allow about 90 days to see meaningful changes to things like your conversion rate, average order value, and ROI.
During this time, we’ll use A/B testing to optimize your new platform one element at a time. Conversion rate optimization might include:
- Home page layout and design elements
- Menu structure
- Product page layout and content
- Checkout button color and placement
- Product merchandising on the home and collection pages
- And more
Onsite optimization should be an ongoing part of your marketing efforts. With consistent testing and analysis, you can retain more website visitors, increase the likelihood of conversion and maximize the lifetime value of your loyal customers.
Begin Your Replatforming Project Today
Your business needs a foundation that’s flexible, functional and scalable. Let the experienced team at Parkfield manage your platform migration so you can grow your brand and revenue faster. Contact us today to speak with our re-platforming experts and get the ball rolling on your exciting new project.