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eCommerce Migration and Replatforming: A Full Guide Toward a Successful Transfer


Staying ahead in the eCommerce market long-term often requires businesses to undergo eCommerce migration or replatforming. A robust eCommerce platform that meets modern standards is key to ensuring maximum uptime, high security, and scalability. It’ll also improve the user experience to boost sales, which is vital.

The online retail landscape has become intensely competitive. eCommerce revenue in the United States is forecast to increase more than 51% between 2024 and 2029 to $1.1 trillion.

To upgrade an outdated platform, you’ll need to migrate your store. While this process might be necessary to stay competitive, it can also be complex and time-intensive. In this guide, we outline the process, best practices, and tips to ensure a seamless transition to a new platform for your online business.

What Is eCommerce Migration, and How Does It Work?

eCommerce migration typically refers to the process of moving an online store, or parts of it, from one platform to another. It could involve transitioning your back end, front end, or entire site to a new platform. It can also mean switching between software-as-a-service (SaaS) partners or moving from an outsourced to an in-house solution.

The process includes moving all your assets, such as media, images, blog posts, products, customer accounts, user accounts, and metadata, to a new platform. A good data migration strategy paired with careful planning and execution is essential to ensure a smooth transition.

How Difficult Is eCommerce Migration, and When Do You Need It?

Before you embark on platform migration, it’s important to identify and weigh the risks and benefits. While migration can be cost-effective in the future, it may require a substantial initial investment. Compare migration expenses to your current revenue to determine if the switch is financially viable. More importantly, evaluate whether the benefits will be worth the expense.

coworkers planning an eCommerce migration

Signs It May Be Time for a Migration

Some of the most common catalysts for replatforming include:

Platform Limitations

Your current platform may no longer support your business needs. It could lack essential features or be unable to scale with your growth. Also, consider moving if your users are unhappy or face usability problems you can’t rectify.

End of Support

When a platform declares it’s no longer going to serve its customers in the same capacity (or at all), migration becomes imminent. For example, the Oracle/ATG eCommerce platform made such an announcement, sending its clients searching for alternatives.

Business Expansion

When you need a more robust platform to support increased traffic, sales volume, or product offerings, migrating to a scalable solution becomes crucial. Align your platform migration with broader strategic initiatives, such as rebranding, new product lines, or new markets, to drive overall business growth [[link to: Optimizing Your eCommerce Sales Strategy: Upsell vs Down Sell vs Cross-Sell]].

Improved Functionality

New features, integrations, or customization options available on other platforms may warrant a migration to enhance your eCommerce operations and customer experience.

Performance Issues

Persistent performance issues such as slow loading times, frequent downtime, or lack of responsiveness can signal the need for a platform migration.

Security Concerns

All businesses must ensure site security. Migrate if there’s a rise in breach attempts. Also, if your platform fails to comply with the latest security standards, move to a more secure platform to protect your business and customer data.

Cost Considerations

Assess the total cost of ownership on your current platform versus potential cost savings, increased revenue, or efficiency gains on a new platform. This can help determine the right time for migration.

Challenges and Complexities of eCommerce Migration

The allure of a new platform doesn’t come without challenges. Let’s look at some complexities that can arise during an eCommerce migration. [[link to: eCommerce Site Migration Best Practices: How to Ensure Data Integrity During the Transition]]

  • Data Migration Issues: Transferring large amounts of data such as product listings, customer information, and order history can lead to data discrepancies, missing data, or data corruption if not handled properly.
  • Downtime and Disruption: It’s essential to minimize downtime and ensure a smooth transition. The best time for eCommerce replatforming is the slowest part of the year. You won’t deactivate your old site until the new one is live, but you still want to avoid any issues during peak season.
  • Customization and Integration Challenges: Integrating third-party systems, custom features, or design elements from the old platform to the new one may pose technical challenges that require expertise and careful coordination.
eCommerce migration illustrated concept
  • SEO Impact: Changes in URLs, site structure, or content during migration can impact search engine optimization (SEO) rankings and organic traffic. Proper SEO planning and redirects are necessary to mitigate any negative effects.
  • User Experience Issues: Changes in the user interface, navigation, or functionality of the new platform can confuse customers and lead to a drop in conversion rates if not addressed effectively.
  • Security Risks: Data security risks may arise during the migration process, especially when transferring sensitive customer information.
  • Cost and Resource Allocation: eCommerce migration can be resource-intensive in terms of time, budget, and manpower. Calculate and allocate resources effectively to prevent cost overruns and project delays.

Types of eCommerce Platforms You Should Consider

Each type of eCommerce platform has unique features and benefits that cater to different business needs, preferences, and technical requirements. When you understand the distinctions between these platforms, you can make an informed decision and select the best solution for your online retail operations.

SaaS

Software-as-a-service platforms are cloud-based solutions where the software is hosted and maintained by a third-party provider. They typically offer a subscription model and require no hardware or software maintenance on the user’s end.

In general, SaaS eCommerce solutions offer:

  • Customizable online storefronts
  • Product and inventory management
  • Secure payment options
  • Order and shipping processing
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) tools
  • Promotional features for sales growth
  • Analytics for business performance insights

They’re also easy to use—even those without coding or technical experience can successfully build an eCommerce business with a suitable SaaS solution.

SaaS platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, Volusion, and Magento Go offer scalable growth, remote accessibility, automated updates, third-party tool integration, and robust data security. Many platforms also support international sales, various currencies, and dropshipping.

Cloud-Based eCommerce Platforms

Cloud eCommerce platforms combine aspects of SaaS and on-premise solutions, using an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) model. Businesses host their eCommerce websites in the cloud via providers like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. While these companies rent storage and hardware infrastructure from a third party, they must develop and maintain the core eCommerce platform.

Cloud eCommerce solutions offer benefits such as easy data backups, scalability during peak times, and enhanced security with major IaaS providers. They also provide complete customization over features, user experience, and back-end functionality.

illustration of an eCommerce platform

While cloud eCommerce platforms are a more cost-effective option than on-premise solutions, they still require a significant investment. Companies don’t need to buy expensive infrastructure, but they must budget for annual IaaS licensing fees. They should also maintain a skilled technical team for website development and maintenance.

Headless Commerce Platforms

Headless eCommerce platforms separate the front-end presentation layer (such as the website or mobile app) from the back-end eCommerce functionality. Unlike traditional eCommerce platforms, which tightly integrate the front and back ends, headless platforms [[link to: Finding the Right Digital Commerce Approach: Headless vs Composable vs Headfull ]] provide more flexibility and modularity in building and delivering digital experiences. However, they require a high level of expertise.

In a headless architecture, the back-end eCommerce functionalities, such as inventory management, payment processing, and order fulfillment, are decoupled from the presentation layer. This enables businesses to use different technologies, frameworks, and channels to deliver content and engage with customers.

The content and data are delivered through application programming interfaces (APIs). Businesses can create custom front-end experiences across multiple touchpoints, such as websites, mobile apps, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, voice assistants, and digital kiosks. This flexibility creates consistent omnichannel experiences and allows businesses to adapt quickly to changing customer expectations and emerging technologies. Examples include SAP Commerce Cloud and Salesforce Commerce Cloud.

On-Premise eCommerce Solutions

On-premise eCommerce platforms are installed and hosted on servers owned and maintained by the business itself, rather than being hosted on external servers or in the cloud. With an on-premise platform, the business has full control over the infrastructure and software. It’s typically installed and managed within the organization’s own data center.

Because it doesn’t rely on third-party hosting or cloud infrastructure, businesses have complete control over their data. They can implement their own security measures to protect sensitive information.

On-premise platforms are often chosen by businesses that require extensive customization, have specific data privacy and security concerns, or prefer to have direct control over their infrastructure. This solution offers flexibility and the ability to tailor the eCommerce site to unique business needs. But it also requires a higher level of technical expertise, high upfront investment, and ongoing maintenance and management from a professional IT team.

Creating a Detailed eCommerce Replatforming Plan

Regardless of how urgent the transition is, it’s imperative to consider the entire process before jumping in. Draw up a replatforming strategy to help your team stay focused and organized. You’ll also save a lot of time in the long run. Work through the following steps to create an eCommerce migration plan:

1. Set Clear Objectives

Establish both short- and long-term objectives to ensure every team member understands the project goals. This will clarify immediate expectations and outline the project’s future vision.

2. Audit Your Existing eCommerce Site and Define Your Requirements

Evaluate your current site to identify its strengths and shortcomings. Pinpoint what you want to keep, discard, upgrade, and add. It’s also a good idea to distinguish between “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves” since feature wishlists can quickly become lengthy. Look at how existing data is structured and determine how this will translate in the new site architecture.

3. Compare Solutions

After clearly identifying your objectives, assess technology options that best suit your organization. There’s no universal solution; the best choice will depend on your business and budget.

web team compares eCommerce migration solutions

Creating fully custom builds requires extensive technical knowledge and a significant amount of time. Before you proceed, evaluate whether a predesigned SaaS theme may suffice or if a combination of custom and predesigned elements would be more suitable.

4. Create a Migration Plan With Timing and Milestones

Break down milestones and assign tasks to teams and individuals. Some tasks can be worked on simultaneously, while others may have dependencies and should be divided into sprints. Be optimistic as you plan, but also anticipate minor setbacks. Leave room for problem-solving along the way.

eCommerce Data Migration Essentials

Once you’ve outlined the plan for your migration, it’s time to get into the critical details. The following steps are essential to minimize setbacks, prevent data loss, and ensure data security. They’ll also help you optimize and streamline your new system.

10 Steps Toward a Successful Transfer

Follow this step-by-step guide to ensure your eCommerce migration is a success.

1. Conduct Data Assessment and Mapping

It’s important to thoroughly assess and understand the data that requires migration. This assessment happens in terms of volume, complexity, and quality.

  • Volume: Quantify the size of the dataset, whether in terms of records, files, or storage space. This helps estimate the necessary resources to optimize the migration process.
  • Complexity: Examine its structure, format, and relationships to identify potential issues and inconsistencies and ensure a smooth and error-free transition.
  • Quality: Check for data integrity issues, duplications, incomplete records, and anomalies. Address data quality issues early on to save time and effort during migration and improve overall data quality.

Data mapping aligns the data elements from the source system to the corresponding fields in the target system, ensuring both accuracy and consistency. This step serves as the foundation for transferring data seamlessly from one platform to another.

2. Plan for Data Cleansing and Preprocessing

Key points of data cleansing and preprocessing include:

  • Data Profiling: Conduct comprehensive data profiling to gain insights into the structure, content, and quality of the data. You’ll also identify patterns and potential issues within the dataset. This helps you understand the data better and paves the way for validation checks.
  • Error Identification and Rectification: Identify and rectify errors, redundancies, and inconsistencies. Address missing data, remove duplicate records, and resolve formatting or representation inconsistencies. Various tools and procedures can be used, such as data cleansing software, regular expression matching, or manual data inspections.
  • Data Quality Measures: This includes data cleansing routines and data preprocessing techniques like standardizing data formats or normalizing data values.

3. Design Your New Site

Ensure your new site design is finalized. Create the design with your new platform in mind and set it up on a staging site to test it before going live.

web design elements

4. Establish Data Security Measures

Implementing encryption protocols, access controls, and authentication mechanisms is essential for data security during migration. This helps businesses safeguard their data, maintain confidentiality, and comply with data protection regulations.

Not having strong data security measures can lead to serious outcomes, such as financial losses, reputation damage, and legal issues due to non-compliance with data protection laws. Businesses may incur substantial fines and penalties for not adequately safeguarding sensitive customer data.

5. Develop a Backup and Contingency Plan

Before you initiate the migration process, develop a backup and contingency plan to minimize potential risks. Backing up data is crucial to avoid losing or corrupting information. Full backups serve as a safety measure, so you can return to the previous state if data is lost during the transition.

6. Perform a Test Migration

This step requires moving a portion of data from the old platform to the new one in a controlled setting. A test migration is essential to confirm the migration process and detect any possible issues or complications that could occur during the actual migration. It helps businesses evaluate the viability and efficiency of the selected method and implement any needed changes before completing the full migration.

7. Execute the Data Migration

Thorough planning, testing, and preparation establish the foundation for a successful transfer, so you can effectively handle any inconsistencies. Closely adhere to the predefined plan and carefully monitor the process for unexpected challenges.

8. Verify Data Integrity

Validation checks [[link to: Performing Platform Migration Checks: What To Look Out For In Your Next eCommerce Destination]] involve comparing data from source and target systems to identify discrepancies and inconsistencies. Validating data accuracy helps mitigate system errors and supports successful overall operation.

9. Monitor and Optimize

Monitoring the new system requires tracking metrics like response time, server uptime, and website loading speed. Regular analysis of these metrics helps businesses identify performance issues and optimize the system by improving database queries and server configurations or upgrading hardware.

10. Complete Documentation

Completing documentation involves recording the detailed steps and processes involved in migration. It includes information such as:

  • The scope of the migration
  • Data mapping and transformation rules
  • Data validation and verification processes
  • Testing
  • Timelines for each task

By documenting results, you can promptly address any issues found. It also offers insights into the migration process effectiveness, which helps you identify areas for future project improvement.

Post-Migration Optimizations

After the completion of an eCommerce migration, there are several strategies to optimize the performance and functionality of the new site prior to launch:

  • Performance Monitoring and Optimization: Monitor the platform’s performance using tools and analytics to identify any performance bottlenecks or slow-loading pages. Optimize the code, database queries, and caching mechanisms to improve speed and responsiveness.
  • Connect Checkout Platform and Optimize Checkout Experience: Provide a fast, secure, and efficient checkout experience for customers, including fraud detection and prevention.
shoe product page shown on table and mobile phone
  • Mobile Optimization: Ensure the new platform is optimized for mobile devices. Implement responsive design, optimize images, and streamline the checkout process for mobile users.
  • SEO: Conduct a comprehensive SEO audit. Review and update SEO elements such as title tags, meta descriptions, URLs, backlinks, and sitemaps to maintain or improve search rankings. Implement best practices for URL redirects and canonical tags to preserve SEO equity during the migration.
  • Test, Retest, and Test Again: Thoroughly test the new platform before launch to ensure it meets performance standards. Address any issues that arise.

After extensive testing, publish the new site and monitor its performance post-launch. Make corrections early to improve the user experience.

A post-migration SEO and marketing strategy is crucial. Through various communication channels, inform loyal customers about the switch to the new site and provide guidance on how to register or buy from the new platform. Use data analytics and customer feedback to further improve performance and customer satisfaction.

Simplify the Complexities of eCommerce Migration

The challenges and risks involved in eCommerce migration [[link to: The Future of eCommerce Replatforming: Migration Trends and What’s Here To Stay]] can be overwhelming. From understanding the intricacies of data migration to optimizing performance and functionality, each step of the process requires careful planning, testing, and attention to detail.

Hiring an experienced migration consultant can help you avoid costly replatforming pitfalls. An expert can also suggest the most suitable and cost-effective methods to optimize results for your eCommerce business.

Our award-winning team at Zobrist is behind the eCommerce development of many of today’s leading online brands. We go beyond migration to create advanced eCommerce shopping experiences using the newest commerce, analytics, and payment technologies.

Is your eCommerce business considering replatforming? Let’s chat about your options.

eCommerce Migration FAQs

Will I lose my store design if I replatform?

This will depend on the flexibility of the design and the new platform type. You may lose the design since different platforms may have distinct design frameworks and customization options. But with proper planning and migration strategies, you can recreate or adapt an existing design to match the new platform.

Can my eCommerce migration affect my website traffic?

Yes, eCommerce website migration can impact traffic. Search engines require time to recrawl and reassess the updated website, leading to a potential drop in traffic. However, proper planning and execution will help you minimize the impact so the site can recover its normal traffic levels.

Will I lose sales if I migrate?

The impact on sales during an eCommerce store migration can vary. Planning, testing, and minimizing downtime to a few hours can help mitigate the potential loss of sales. Also, communicating the migration to customers and providing a seamless transition can help lessen any negative effects and reputational damage.