In Deloitte’s 2023 Retail Industry Outlook survey, 67% of participants said online platforms were a top investment priority for their company, citing ongoing issues with old and outdated platforms.
Similarly, the Digital Commerce 360 report shows that of the 93 surveyors, 18% of retailers and 61% of B2B eCommerce sellers said that they are actively looking to migrate eCommerce platforms within the next year.
In this article, we’ll explore 9 challenges (with solutions) you might face while executing eCommerce migration.
9 BIG problems to watch out for during eCommerce replatforming
1. Migrating eCommerce platforms without a purpose
Whether you’re a startup or a scale-up, replatforming calls for a clear understanding of your business goals.
No matter what your reasons are to consider re-platforming, the idea is to find a solution that bridges your sales, operations, tech and marketing functions.
Here are a few factors that you may need to consider before you take a final replatforming call:
- How fast and sustainably do you want to grow?
- How are you looking to optimize ongoing maintenance costs?
- In what ways would you want to refine your customer support features?
- In what ways would you want to engage existing and potential customers?
Many eCommerce companies make the mistake of re-platforming as a vanity move visualizing a swankier website.
However, without clarified business goals and outcomes, the following invariably happen:
- Delays in launch timelines
- Costs going above your original budget
- Migration occurs all at once – while a phased approach is safer
Get complete clarity on why you’re replatforming
Is it to improve the speed of acquiring new customers?
Is it to redefine the way your existing UX works?
Or is it to improve falling conversion rates?
(Consider taking our free audit to understand where you stand in terms of conversions and what interventions you might need.)
Document how your current eCommerce platform is falling short
This is an important step towards deriving the clarity you need.
Talk to all involved stakeholders.
Create speedy and accessible surveys that internal and external stakeholders can respond to.
2. HTTP URLs not redirecting to a new HTTPS structure seamlessly
The possibility of cybercrime is a big reason behind why many eCommerce businesses find it necessary to migrate to a “safer” platform.
Plus, HTTPS signals to Google that an eStore is more secure and the search engine automatically considers it for better ranking.
However, as simple as an HTTP to an HTTPS migration may seem, things go could wrong including:
- Redirects of old (yet worthwhile) backlinks not happening properly
This can cause these old links to become broken links.
And traffic to these pages naturally get affected and can potentially cause the ranking of the eCommerce store to fall.
- Canonical tags still referencing HTTP instead of HTTPS
This is why you’ll need to do a thorough audit across your pages to ensure no tag is still pointing to HTTP. If not, Google can mess up the rankings badly.
- Internal links failing to update properly
This is especially a challenge for absolute links naturally containing more information.
- Possible re-evaluation by Google in terms of quality
Google sees an HTTP to HTTPS migration as what’s known as a ‘site move’.
And what this can possibly mean is that the search engine will evaluate the freshness of the content like it would for a completely new site.
In turn, this could mean rankings being impacted.
Put in place 301 redirects
This automatically relays a message to the search engine to index the new URL.
Run an internal link audit
Be it your canonical tags, hreflang or other internal links, ensure they all point to HTTPS instead of HTTP.
Resolve issues around mixed content
Mixed content is a possible reason behind anyone seeing “this site is not secure”.
To find HTTP URLs that could be behind your mixed content errors, do a CTRL+F on the source code.
Conversions on your mind? Read: Convert more paid traffic—9 strategies that always work (eCommerce)
3. Not charting an SEO strategy, leading to lost rankings and SERP positions
All the efforts you’ve put in so far getting your SEO sorted and increasing the flow of traffic, might come to nothing during a replatforming process.
And this typically happens because businesses fail to visualize the SEO efforts ahead of a massive change like switching to a different eCommerce platform.
Thanks to an inadequate SEO strategy, metrics considered by search engine crawlers suffer.
When crawlers read drastic changes between crawls, it naturally impacts the way they rank an eCommerce site.
Limit the number of on-page changes
It’s ideal to mirror the structure and categorization of content and design maintained by the old platform.
This holds true even for pages that have lesser bearing on transactions.
Keep an eye on duplicate content
Using canonical URLs to direct search engines to the most updated you want seen can help.
In case you have dynamic pages that show different content each time they’re opened and viewed, it’s best to make them non-indexable to avoid confusion.
Resolve 404 error issues
While 404 errors don’t really represent an ominous situation, they can be an irritant to customer experience, especially in a replatforming context.
Here are a few steps you could take to ensure your 404s are reduced or at worst, not misleading for users
Create and upload your brand’s own error page
This takes care of Google not ascribing its own standard 404 error page, making it seem more threatening.
Set up 301 redirects
These redirects let search engines know when a page has permanently moved or changed, and should not be indexed anymore.
Perform regular audits on broken links and backlinks
Broken links will need updating and with backlinks, you’ll have to ensure they don’t point at a page that’s been removed.
4. Running into security problems and loss of data
During a replatforming move, two kinds of data are most vulnerable:
- Business data
- User data
The presence of cybercriminals makes data breaches a real possibility.
And the possibility just heightens during an eCommerce platform migration.
Customer data is protected and it’s difficult to migrate all the sales history as well.
Often, online stores have to ask customers to add their data again.
Here are a few ways data security problems can occur during replatforming:
- Identity theft
- Data destruction or damage
- High recovery costs after an attack
- Loss of brand and firm’s long-term reputation
Reinforce compliance standards
Some of the standards known to boost security of data include ISO/IEC27001, PCI DSS, SOC and GDPR amongst others.
The more you’re invested in meeting multiple standards during a migration, the better off your business and user data is.
Make two-factor authentication non-negotiable
User identity is validated and established through 2FA effectively.
This builds on the security already established and provided by strong passwords.
Control your data policies stringently
Ensure to only store data that’s immediately relevant to your business and transactions.
Run an audit on what kind of personally identifiable information (PII) you’ve been gathering.
Go for thorough data encryption – both of data that’s active and that at rest.
5. Failing to integrate less obvious data
During replatforming efforts, it’s obvious for most eCommerce businesses to pay full attention to data that’s most necessary for transactions.
This includes product data and customer data.
However, less obvious data points can be completely missed out because they may not seem as evidently important.
Think store credits. Think customer accounts that exist in your records but have been idle for a while.
Think old emails linking to your product pages and deals.
The big question is:
Would customers be able to view these as your migration takes place?
(For example, let’s say, a customer views an old email – would they be able to view the images or land on the pages the email links to?)
Switch to GA4 on priority
GA4 is replacing Universal Analytics and come July 1, 2023, all Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits.
All old data will be available only for 6 months thereafter.
This means the earlier you migrate to GA4, the more data your business will have at its disposal.
The GA4 switch is especially meaningful for eCommerce businesses because the platform combines web and app as one property, leading to cross-device analytics.
What’s more, GA4 is designed to collect a lot more data and glean out more specific insights on user action & interaction.
Plan for the unique logic you created for your data
This might seem small but has probably shaped the way you store and use unique data in your systems.
The idea is to take a look at all tags, meta tags and flags to understand what logic you’ve used in your data to run your business.
And then, making sure that this logic is able to be retained when you cross over to a new eCommerce platform.
Take stock of data based on what will be needed
Not all legacy data is worthwhile, especially when the larger purpose of replatforming is to become more efficient and faster.
For example, if you’ve discontinued products, what would be the best course of action for such data?
In case you want to revive a product, you might actually need all the data for referencing and comparison.
Plan for an all-at-one-time migration
Since nuanced data is anyway at risk of being overlooked, spend time in planning and do it in a phased manner.
However, when it comes to the actual migration, see to it that it happens at one go to avoid leaks and duplication.
Need a way to bounce back to business post holidays? Read: Post-holiday Marketing Strategies, for January 2023 (eCommerce)
6. A complete redesign leading to conversion rates dropping
Many eCommerce businesses give in to the temptation of redesigning their site along with shifting to an all-new platform.
However this can be bad news unless you have to really modernize your site in a huge overhaul.
While redesigning is attractive as a concept (especially if it fits your budget), it means a structural change in the most foundational way.
It means existing customers and potential customers who are acquainted with your brand won’t find familiar nudges and directions to go with.
This invariably has an impact on the conversion rate, which is more likely to fall than rise.
(Have doubts about how to get your conversion rates back up? Take our free audit to get a thorough understanding.)
Implement design changes in an incremental way
Redesigning at one go creates the major challenge of not being able to compare what worked with what didn’t.
Instead, do it in a phased way, if at all there’s a requirement, going over every aspect (like UX, brand identity etc.) one by one.
Get a solid redesign strategy in place
Develop guiding principles (for example, all information whether textual or visual must be easy to process and understand), invest in creating stakeholder feedback loops and bring a flexible design system in place.
7. Assuming apps will naturally get integrated in the migration process
Many eCommerce businesses assume that moving to a futuristic and tech-friendly platform would mean their existing applications would find an easy fit.
However it turns out that third party applications, CRM systems and accounting applications need not integrate naturally when you are replatforming.
This can cause multiple problems including disjointed sets of data and the time-consuming need for reinstallations.
Opt for only well-supported third-party applications
Popular and more well-supported apps typically integrate better because they undergo more updates.
Go with custom system integrations for incompatibilities
A customized integration effort might be helpful to make data integration completely successful.
For gaps, look into which third party applications can be brought in (those that are supported by the new platform).
8. Not accounting for the impact on user experience
Usability is one of the most important factors for any eCommerce business for either sticking to an old platform or choosing a new one.
And usability has to be defined by both how a business’ internal stakeholders (like employees) and external stakeholders (like customers) respond.
Replatforming without making necessary adjustments for user experience can go down the wrong path for everyone involved - internal stakeholders may find backend management of the platform challenging while external stakeholders may struggle with the checkout flow.
Survey all user personas
Put these personas into categories and find out their experiences across the following factors:
Create a staging and testing environment. Before you jump the gun, make sure to test different elements and features before you migrate.
9. Assuming the maintenance will be easy
Migrating your online store to a new platform can be expensive in terms of time, cost, and resources.
Your team might need training or you might need new people or teams to manage things.
This takes a lot of time and energy, not to mention the cost of training or hiring.
Start training before you migrate
Think preventions before cure.
Rather than training after migration, having a structure in place before migration can help anticipate problems and questions.
This way eCommerce brands can make informed decisions and lessen the burden of cost.
Begin training sessions for everyone who’s going to be directly involved in the website migration.
Make sure to cover topics such as:
- What risks are involved
- What they can expect
- What do you need from them to be able to successfully pull off the platform migration
- How the new platform works, how they can customize and use new features
- How to execute and review analytics on the new platform to track progress
Offer documented resources
Connect key players in the migration effort with the customer support representative from the new platform.
Having a community is always reassuring.
Create a chat group to offer support for ongoing tasks and keep the group status active even after migration for at least six months.
Create or redirect teams to education, resources, or blogs curated by the new platform.
This way teams can explore and get answers to deal with issues as they arise.
Set up a daily or weekly meeting to understand obstacles or questions teams might have regarding the migration or platform.
FAQ: Migrating to a different eCommerce platform
1. What are the different types of eCommerce migrations available?
There are three types of general eCommerce migration:
a. Platform to platform – This type of migration includes switching from one monolithic eCommerce solution to another that offers more features or integrations.
For instance, migrating from Adobe Commerce or BigCommerce to Shopify Plus.
b. Phased migration – This includes migrating an online store in stages, rather than all at once.
For example, you could switch to a different CMS, while still keeping most elements of your existing tech stack.
c. Monolithic to microservices – This is a plug-and-play technique that lets you layer platforms and third-party apps on top of each other to cover different parts of the customer or product journey.
This might be a consideration for ecommerce stores operating under a headless commerce model.
There can be a number of variations of the three types of eCommerce migrations.
The variation depends on understanding re-platforming requirements and business goals.
2. What are the different kinds of eCommerce platform options available?
There are primarily three options of replatforming that any eCommerce business can choose to consider.
In this kind of platform, the business’ server is hosted by a third party.
Among the many advantages of a cloud-based platform, the most obvious is that it allows a pay-as-you-demand model.
It has been seen that cloud-based platforms help businesses save up to 70% costs associated with a static environment.
In this format, the platform is licensed to and hosted from the business’ internal network.
This enables businesses to retain far greater control over the code, server and software aspects.
This is a model where eCommerce businesses are literally able to “rent” a platform for a monthly fee.
For this fee, the SaaS provider will ensure a number of important actions on behalf of the business:
PCI compliance, product updates as well as the most basic aspects of hosting and security.
3. On what basis do eCommerce businesses choose a specific platform type?
There are several factors that eCommerce businesses consider to choose an appropriate kind of platform. The most important factors include:
- Integrations involved (this includes both quantity and level of complexity)
- The extent of technical support
- Scalability and speed
- Ease of use
- UX (the more intuitive the better)
- Cost of ownership
4. What should an eCommerce platform migration checklist look like?
Here’s a glimpse of what you need to cover in your migration checklist if you’re considering shifting platforms:
Planning & Strategy
- Create alignment around business objectives
- Define the long-term digital goal & set SMART goals around them
- Review existing platform costs and fees
- Create separate models for total cost of ownership & ROI
- Define project scope
- Estimate budget
- Secure and raise funding for the shift
- Create a plan each for going live, post launch phase and for technical support
Enabling current business functions
- Review current eCommerce processes
- Review current org structure
- Streamline both process & org bottlenecks
- Identify skills, essential resources, redundancies as well as gaps
- Realign roles and responsibilities to support the migration project as well as current business
- Craft internal and external communication plans
- Communicate real and potential changes to internal and external stakeholders
- Identify other business objectives and initiatives, and their probable impact on the migration & vice versa
UX and design for ease
- Define and validate the target audience
- Consider multichannel CX for the design process
- Conduct research, primary & secondary, on buyer personas
- Map user flows to clearly define behaviors across the customer journey
- Optimize information architecture
- Pay attention to navigational elements (remove what’s needed & close usability gaps)
- Improve the NLP factor in product & category page nomenclature
- Bring in wireframes and prototypes to better visualize the creative experience
- A/B test the various elements separately and together, at regular intervals
Content & SEO roadmap
- Review and revise all existing content to read better and be more visually accurate
- Review high-priority content with a view to reduce errors and enhance value & impact
- Review and optimize meta tags and image alt tags
- Archive dated content
- Track pages that need unique content
- Review URLs to create better alignment with KWs and page content
- Review and update internal and external links
- Bring in canonical tags to resolve duplicate content issues
- Create necessary 301 redirects
- Resolve 404 errors
- Test site speed and reiterate the above steps (if necessary)
Data & developmental tasks
- Identify and map data sources
- Create an inventory for existing data
- Evaluate existing data against the larger data management strategy
- Cleanse and standardize all data
- Identify and bring together development & engineering teams
- Identify & document needed platform enhancements
- Take a final call on initial scope
- Create roadmap for on-priority developmental tasks
- Take final call on third-party integrations
- Evaluate future platform security and future upgradability
- Review code to detect vulnerabilities and align with best practices
Preparation for activation
- Set up content & design QA
- Create /collect platform user documentation
- Craft and release internal & external launch communication
- Conduct user platform training for business stakeholders
- Design a PR & marketing strategy
- Edit and refine the customer experience management strategy
Lessons you'd want to apply, right here: The Founder's Guide to Customer Journey Map (eCommerce)
5. What are the problems of not considering an eCommerce platform migration?
Typically, eCommerce businesses initiate migration to a new platform because some problems and dangers just won’t go away.
- Scalability and upgradability become challenging making it difficult to grow
- Lack of mobile optimization capabilities leading to customer loss
- Continuing cybersecurity issues making it difficult for customers to put their trust
- Inability to make new updates and upgrades creating a bottleneck for tech and business innovation
- More difficulty in resolving “bugs” leading to developers spending more time in daily maintenance