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360 Commerce March 20, 2019

Ten secrets for a successful e-commerce platform migration

Dept Manchester

When your e-commerce platform is holding you back and you need more agility to release new features or when you are facing issues with peaks, it is time to think about re-platforming. However, as the benefits of having a new platform are attractive to many merchants, the migration project does not automatically appeal to all. You might think it takes too long to migrate, it just won’t work, or you are afraid the cost of re-platforming might get out of hand. Nevertheless, migration is often necessary to keep up with growth, to be able to introduce new channels or embrace new technologies. With these ten insights for a successful e-commerce migration, you’re set for a successful platform migration that reduces the risk such a project imposes.

1 – Create a migration plan

The initial requirements specification phase is crucial for a successful re-platforming project. With this, you must ensure that the requirements are defined and match exactly what you need. After all, the scoping of a project will directly influence the timeliness of delivery, the budget and or the costs, and the quality of work. If a project isn’t scoped correctly or if there are assumptions left unanswered, you will likely face a scope creep which will result in additional costs and time.

After the requirements gathering face, your new site must be designed. Even when you decide to migrate ‘as is’, a design phase is necessary to accommodate for adjustments resulting from the new platform’s characteristics. Ensure that you create a new, unique site experience which matches your brand identity.

Then you need to think carefully about the data that you want to migrate. Prepare your data before a full migration as the data requirements will be different with a new platform. Create a sample set of data to test migration scripts. This will also help you create an iterative process of migration which you’ll need to make sure the latest products, prices, customers, URLs and potentially orders are available in your new platform.

2 – Find your local hero

Migrating your platform cannot be done without that one (or sometimes two) person(s) in your organisation who know every detail about the existing setup, customisations implemented over the years and the back-end system landscape. Make sure you free time for your local hero to support or lead the migration project in all phases. Without his or her dedication you will find that you have quite some questions remaining unanswered in the scoping or requirements phase and you are very likely to not get the quality and overall result of what your business needs.

3 – Focus on money pages

A typical e-commerce site has hundreds or even thousands of pages. You will find that not all of them are equally important as only a subset is responsible for the revenue you make on your site. Make sure that you don’t lose money and traffic at migration by first identifying your money pages and then put full focus on them. For these pages content, navigation structure, URLs, metadata should be migrated one on one. Focus on money pages is the smart thing to do during migration as the return on investment is much higher.

4 – No need to migrate passwords

Migrating customers from one platform to another can get cumbersome when corresponding passwords are encrypted with undisclosed salts or encryptions schemes unsupported in the new platform. Instead of spending a lot of time solving these issues you could decide to turn something, potentially negative, into something positive. Let your customers recreate passwords the first time they come to your new platform. Creating a campaign around it will attract customers so that you turn the hassle of password migration into a marketing opportunity.

5 – No Dip Team

It is recommended to create a ‘No Dip Team’ which consists of SEO, analytics, development and product specialists who all focus on preventing a dip in traffic and revenue during and after migration. The ‘No Dip SWAT team’ is ready to intervene when there are issues, are prepared in the best way possible and act instantly when necessary after launch. This is a great way to protect your money pages!

6 – A/B test changes on the old platform

Whether you migrate ‘as is’ or decide to have a redesign alongside with it, you will always have elements which might be risky to put live without being tested. Make use of your existing platform to A/B test new elements before implementing them on the new platform. Therefore, you can exclude UI elements from potential causes of degradation in traffic or conversion when going live as they have been tested before.

7 – Hire interns

Many merchants underestimate the amount of work involved in migrating content from the old to the new platform. In most cases, this is hard to automate as the new platform is likely to have a different internal object and content structure. Having a redesign makes automating content migration nearly impossible. The manual approach is often the only way to get hundreds of content pages into the new system. While this is a lot of work, it isn’t always the most difficult in terms of complexity or required specialisms. With some supervision, the majority of work can be handled just as well by interns or trainees.

8 – Choose your go-live strategy wisely

There are a few options when it comes to launching your platform. A ‘soft launch’ is when you move a new site to production and only announce it to a smaller user group. This gives you a couple of weeks to observe the platform and get direct feedback which you can use before a full launch.

For international companies, a country by country rollout strategy makes a lot of sense. This is not always an option however for domestic retailers who can be completely dependent on a single country for their online business. In this case, a split test with running the old and new platform in parallel can be a good option even though it creates overhead for dealing with customers, baskets and orders in two different systems.

9 – Don’t kill your old platform

Keeping your old site active for a few weeks is a good idea. Always archive all old files and make sure that you didn’t miss a vital file, script, or piece of content. Having the old site active enables you to analyse content, URL structure, metadata, filters etc. when a dip in ranking occurs. Furthermore, it enables you to migrate details you might have overlooked in the first instance.

10 – Forget support

Don’t just dismiss the team that put the platform together and hand it over to a different support team. Support is extremely important but delegating the support responsibility to a separate group is not a great idea. It doesn’t make for an effective setup as the implementation team is best equipped to analyse and fix issues arising from features delivered. Having a dedicated team for both support and ongoing changes minimises overhead and additional coordination.

Covering the areas above you can experience a timely and pain-free migration process. Put your mind at ease and most importantly: don’t be afraid to grow your business.

Curious about other digital trends within the field of e-commerce? Join us at the Dept Commerce Day June 6th.

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