Entering the potentially lucrative world of eCommerce is easier than ever before. Anyone interested in entering this field can find a variety of eCommerce platforms, on which they can build and run their own online store. Of course, all these platforms are quite different from each other. Business owners need to think carefully about which one would be best for their needs.
Making the right choice on the first try is ideal because eCommerce entrepreneurs can hit the ground running. However, making what turns out to be the wrong choice is not the end of the world, let alone the end of your business. If you find yourself dissatisfied, or if your current platform announces that it will soon be discontinued, you could always migrate your store to a new platform. It will take some more effort, but the change can be a major and ultimately profitable improvement. Here is some information on eCommerce replatforming.
Pros of Replatforming
Any skepticism you may have about changing platforms would be understandable. You just spent all this time setting up and operating a store on that software, so why go through all that work with another one? And yet, there are quite a few good reasons to consider moving your store to another platform. Here are some of the advantages you stand to gain.
Your Online Store Can Grow
Like children with old clothes or homes with new children, businesses can actually outgrow eCommerce platforms. Sometimes, the more affordable payment plan is too restrictive and the superior payment plan is too expensive. Other times, the whole platform is not flexible enough to meet your needs.
In this event, the best move would be to migrate to a scalable platform, with software that grows along with your business. If you anticipate major growth, you should look at how many sales per month or year are allowed under the platform and its payment plans.
Your Customer Experience Will Improve
Choosing an eCommerce platform is not just about your own needs as a business owner, but also about the needs of your customers. The platform you choose should create a convenient browsing and shopping experience for all your visitors — including mobile users. Any platform without responsive design should be traded out immediately.
Additionally, do the themes offered on the platform even look good? Does the software allow for intuitive layouts? If you get complaints about ugly graphics and difficult navigation, you may want to consider moving your site hosting elsewhere.
Your Website Will Be Faster and Safer
No two eCommerce platforms are alike. Even if they claim to have the same features, their effectiveness may be substantially different. Meanwhile, the need for high-speed loading is universal among internet users. Many will absolutely abandon your website if it takes more than two seconds to bring up a new page.
The same goes for security: potential buyers need to know that they can trust your website and its software with their most sensitive data. Your platform should allow you to guarantee that your website is fast and safe to use.
You’ll Have More Features
Comparing lists of features are an easy and useful way of analyzing the differences between platforms. Ideally, you will want the most built-in features at the lowest possible price plan. There will always be tension between the two, but you should still try to get the most bang for your buck.
Features go beyond site creation and management tools. Some companies offer additional bundles for specific activities, such as marketing and analytics. Noting whether they are separate suites or included with everything else is invaluable in making the final decision.
You’ll Cut a Lot of Costs
Regardless of the underlying software, every website needs to take care of maintenance, security patches, feature updates, and license renewal fees. What changes between eCommerce platforms is how much they cost. Sometimes, they are included with the payment plan. Other times, they cost extra.
You could probably guess which option is more economical. As with the previous section, switching platforms can bring you to one that offers more than the previous one. Even if you pay more for hosting on this platform than the other, you might still end up spending less overall.
Cons of Replatforming
Migration can clearly be a boon to online stores. However, like any good thing in the world of business, it may also require some hard work and even some sacrifice. Switching eCommerce platforms is not as simple as changing buses, and it cannot solve every problem. You need to have a good reason for doing it before you start the process. To give you a more well-rounded understanding of replatforming, here are some of its potential drawbacks and obstacles.
Switching Isn’t Always Fast and Free
Do you remember how long it took to set up your online store the first time, and how much that onboarding cost? If you switch platforms, you may need to do everything all over again. If you make mistakes during the transition, you will have to take even more time and money to correct them.
To make matters more difficult, the migration process can put your already existing store’s operations on hold. Just when you were making money, you may have to stop for a moment and lose some momentum.
You’ll Need to Retrain Your Team
Some people find change, even necessary change, so intimidating partly because they are already accustomed to how everything is at the moment. This principle may hold true for your migration experience because using one platform may be completely different from using another.
You and your team will need to learn how to operate eCommerce software all over again. This retraining may require some spending. At the very least, it will require some serious time commitments.
Your SEO Value is at Risk
Any good eCommerce platform offers tools and resources for enhancing the search engine optimization (SEO) value of your website. Any work you put into that with your first platform may be lost in the migration process. To complicate matters further, the aforementioned potential downtime may hurt your SEO value.
Even if your ranking remains unchanged, you and your team would still have some work to do. You would need to redirect your old URL to your new one. Forgetting this step is a common pitfall of eCommerce platform migration, and remembering to set up a 301 redirect will inform your customers that you have not closed up shop for good.
Data Migration Isn’t Perfect
Even the most basic online store consists of a significant amount of data. Ideally, every single bit will successfully cross over into the new software. However, incompatibility issues may mar the process, and information may be lost along the way.
To be honest, this problem can be rather painful, especially without comprehensive back-ups. Product listings, customer accounts, saved payment information, and more might need to be put in all over again.
You’ll Have to Set Up Your Old Features and Integrations
Separate from the above-mentioned issue is the loss of certain features and integrations. The ones you use in your first platform may not be available in the next. The same may go for payment processors and carriers. You would need to find replacements for all of them.
You might be fortunate (or smart in your decision-making) and find a better platform that still happens to include all of these features and integrations. If so, you might still need to set them up so that they work for your site as they did before. Either way, setting up can get quite tedious.
eCommerce Website Migration Checklist
Replatforming can be a rough transition with fewer pay-offs than desired, but it could also go smoothly and yield amazing results. A number of factors can affect how the transition goes. A major one is whether you take the proper precautions before and during the migration process. To help you succeed in your migration and minimize your problems, we drew up a checklist for your reference. Here is some advice on eCommerce replatforming, straight from the professionals.
Don’t Skip the Planning Phase
No one goes through all the effort of changing platforms just because they feel like it. You have your reasons. You recognize the shortcomings of your current software. As a result, you can figure out exactly what you want and need out of your next platform.
Jot down all of the issues you have with your platform, both major and minor. Use them to compare it with other platforms and determine which one fills all your needs. Then, check what those other platforms have to offer in addition to all of that. This planning is key to making sure that you never feel dissatisfied with your choice of eCommerce platform again.
Communication is Key
Migration is a team effort because it affects the entire business. Taking on this project as an online store owner means that everyone else working in your business also becomes part of the project. They will greatly appreciate being informed on any changes you make.
Of course, you may be a solo entrepreneur with no other employees. Even then, you might still have a team in the form of webmasters helping you set up your site on their platform. They may know more about the software than you, but you know more about your store than them. Communicate with them, and listen as well. They just want to help.
Get Everyone Involved
As we said, eCommerce platform migration is a project for everyone involved in the business, not just the owner. Informing them about your changes is good. Letting them share their own ideas with you, and paying attention, are both excellent.
Seeking feedback for the update does not need to be limited to staff, either. Your customers and visitors can be valuable sources of suggestions for improving your site. The results of a survey can show you weaknesses in your current software that you did not even know were there. They can thus guide you when looking at what other eCommerce platforms have to offer.
Back Up Everything First
As we said before, your eCommerce website’s data may not survive the transition between platforms — at least, not in its entirety. Bits and pieces may be lost, and valuable information may be impossible to recover.
Luckily, your website does not need to be the only place containing your data. With a little foresight and the right technology, you could back up all the data you need — or all the data, period — before you even start the transition. You may not need all of it in the end, but until then, you will not know what could go missing.
Choose the Best eCommerce Platform
Your goal in replatforming should not be to merely trade up. It should be to find the eCommerce platform that best suits your needs. In other words, you are migrating this time so that you never need to migrate again. That means crossing out every item in your personal website migration checklist and devoting some serious thought to which platform fits the bill.
Once you believe that you have found the one, you should contact the company behind the software and ask about migration. Many will show you exactly how to switch from your old platform to the new one. Some, like Shift4Shop, will even provide free consultation and assist you in rebuilding your store. You will only find out once you reach out.
We cannot emphasize enough the weight and importance of the eCommerce platform you use for your website. That software will serve as the foundation for everything that you do. It will define the limits of what you even can do with your online store, as well as what you can provide to your customers. Nailing this decision may not be enough to guarantee success, but botching it can be a massive hindrance.
Thanks to eCommerce replatforming, you do not have to live with that mistake forever. That is the beautiful thing about running an online store: once you pinpoint a problem, you can fix it pretty easily. All you have to do is swallow any pride, admit the issue, and get to work. Any effort you make will be worthwhile, and after some time, your new platform will feel like home.