6 Things to Know Before Changing eCommerce Platforms
With so many eCommerce platforms on the market, choosing the right one can be challenging—especially as a fledgling business. Sometimes, during the exciting initial phase of building a company, you don’t choose the best option at first.
When that happens, you may find you need to switch to a new eCommerce platform.
Whether you’re looking for more flexibility, improved infrastructure, or a better rate, eCommerce migration can help you bring your online store to the next level. However, there are a few points to consider before making the switch from your current platform.
To that end, we’ll touch on six things you need to know when changing eCommerce platforms, including what that entails, what to consider ahead of time, and how to complete a successful migration.
1. What eCommerce Platform Migration Means
An eCommerce platform migration (or eCommerce replatforming) involves moving every aspect of your website from one platform to another.
During a complete eCommerce migration, you’ll transfer over all of the following:
- User data
- Product data
- Order data
- Pages and posts
- Rich media
Note that there’s a difference between moving your eCommerce site from one host to another and migrating to an entirely new platform. This guide covers the latter.
2. When to Change eCommerce Platforms
There are numerous reasons to replatform your eCommerce website. Here are some of the most common catalysts for migration:
- There’s a lack of customization options – Some platforms are terrific for a bare-bones beginner website. However, as you grow and develop a brand identity, you may find minimal customization options.
- You experience frequent security issues – Site security should be a top priority for every business. If you notice an increase in attempted (or successful) breaches, it’s time to migrate. Security problems are more common on shared web hosting servers; even if you haven’t suffered DDoS attacks or malware, you may want to switch to a dedicated managed WordPress hosting solution.
- Traffic spikes are handled poorly – Some platforms allocate very few resources to each site they host. When the idea of increased traffic evokes fear and not excitement, you deserve better.
- Costs outweigh performance – Too often, business owners pay more than they should for mediocre services—especially as eCommerce platforms continue to raise their fees. If you spend more time and money on maintenance than useful features, start weighing your options.
- The platform is outdated – Old technology can slow you down, cause errors, and frustrate your customers. This can lead to poor user and customer experience. Older platforms—especially those that don’t receive regular updates—need to be replaced.
If any of these apply to your eCommerce business, it’s time to consider switching from your current platform.
3. What to Consider Before Changing eCommerce Platforms
Although the “out with the old, in with the new” feeling of platform migration is exciting, it’s not something to be taken lightly (or quickly). There could be many reasons for switching eCommerce platforms, but before you sign on with a new platform, it’s worth considering factors like:
- Timing – The best time for eCommerce replatforming is the slowest part of the year. While you won’t deactivate your old site until the new one is up and running, you still don’t want anything to go wrong during peak season.
- Scope – Are you simply migrating platforms to take advantage of under-the-hood benefits? Or are you planning to take this opportunity to redesign your site’s front end?
- Current revenue – Your current earnings may dictate how and when you can replatform. Are you making enough money to justify the need for new features or capabilities? What’s more, while migrating can save you money in the long run, it sometimes requires a sizable investment up front. It’s worth comparing migration costs with your current revenue to see if switching eCommerce platforms is feasible.
- Stakeholders – Unless you’re a solopreneur, you’ll likely have other stakeholders to consult. Ensure that investors, IT managers, analysts, customer service teams, and trust and safety specialists are looped in. Additionally, confirm that your team understands the new platform you’ve chosen (or is willing to learn).
It’s not unusual for deliberations like these to take months. And while you may be antsy to switch platforms, it’s vital to take the time to do it right.
4. How to Change eCommerce Platforms
Regardless of your reason for changing platforms, you’ll want to do it right the first time. Follow these eight steps, and your platform migration will go down without a hitch.
A significant portion of the migration process happens before the migration begins. This can also be true if you’re learning how to build an eCommerce website for the first time. Properly planning a full eCommerce platform migration can take up to a year. During this time, it’s beneficial to:
- Map out every feature you need
- Make a list of deal-breakers
- Write a request for proposal (RFP)
- Lay out a timeline
- Forecast your revenue and budget
- Consult with other businesses in your industry
This can help you compare your current platform with potential ones based on what you need and how your business is performing.
Select the Best Platform
Once you understand your wants and needs, you’re ready to shop around for platforms.
We’ll cover some of the best platforms and how to choose between them later. For now, here are the factors you should consider when picking an eCommerce platform:
- Available features
- Customization options
- Customer support
- Frequency of updates
Most platforms offer free demos; download a free trial or contact the company’s sales representatives to try before you buy.
After deciding on a platform, you’ll need to go through the initial setup process. Here, you’ll deal with accounts and configure new settings.
If you’re switching from a Service as a Software (SaaS) platform like Shopify to a self-hosted option, this step will involve signing on with a WooCommerce hosting provider and installing the software on your new server. If you’re switching to a SaaS platform, all you have to do is fill in your account details.
Back up Data
Now, head back to your original platform and create a backup of everything. It’s unlikely that something will go wrong during the migration process, but you can never be too safe.
With a backup ready, it’s time to complete the initial migration. There are three popular ways to migrate site data:
- Manually – The manual migration process is more time-consuming, but the hands-on approach of exporting and importing .csv files keeps you involved.
- Automatically – Many hosts offer a fully automatic switchover. For example, at WP Engine, we’ve teamed up with BlogVault to build an automated WordPress migration plugin.
- Via migration script – With some programming knowledge, you can write (or hire someone to write) an SQL script that automatically transfers your data.
With your data successfully moved over to your new platform, you’ll now ensure everything works and looks as it should. Redeveloping your new eCommerce site involves:
- Customizing the design – Even if you don’t plan to redesign your site, your new store will look different from your old one. You’ll have to go in and tweak the front end of your site to your liking, either by using a theme or writing code.
- Configuring native features – Your new platform will likely have different built-in features from your old platform. Now is the time to explore them, set them up, and modify them according to your needs.
- Configuring apps and integrations – You may also need to reconfigure third-party payment gateways, shipping integrations, analytics tools, and more. In most cases, this process will involve downloading plugins or extensions from your eCommerce platform’s marketplace.
Prepare for Launch
As your new site starts to take shape, you’ll want to begin preparations for launch day. Aside from writing internal handbooks and external press releases that detail your shiny new site, you’ll also need to test, test, and test again.
Before you publish your store, open a staging environment and test every aspect of the site on mobile and desktop, including:
- Links and buttons
- Navigation and search
- Site login
- Embedded media
Launch and Monitor
If everything passes your rigorous testing, you’re ready to launch your new site! At this point, you can also deactivate your old site and cancel your account with your former eCommerce platform.
Finally, remember that the process doesn’t stop after you go live. Launching a revamped eCommerce site involves frequent monitoring, maintenance, updates, and communication.
5. How to Choose the Best eCommerce Platform
When it comes to choosing the best platform, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. The best eCommerce platform is the one that suits your needs. With that in mind, we’ve briefly summarized some of the most popular options:
- WooCommerce – Designed to work seamlessly with WordPress, WooCommerce is our top pick. Although it has a steeper learning curve than other options, it’s still easy to use—especially considering how powerful, flexible, and SEO-optimized it is. And WooCommerce isn’t just our first choice—it’s the most popular choice; 27% of the top one million sites on the web use WooCommerce. It’s also one of the most affordable options, though you’ll need secure WordPress hosting. It’s not just a website hosting platform, but the various WooCommerce shipping plugins available simplify the process for your business.
- Shopify – Shopify is a SaaS solution that allows anyone to start an eCommerce store. With a streamlined, no-coding approach, the service is ideal for small and mid-sized businesses looking for a simple yet robust option. However, the fees can add up, as Shopify charges a monthly fee and takes a cut of sales.
- Squarespace – Another SaaS option, Squarespace is a solid option for smaller businesses that don’t have an international presence. It may not be the most customizable choice, but it’s affordable, easy to use, and has all the basics.
- BigCommerce – BigCommerce offers plans and features for businesses of every size. It’s not as intuitive as Shopify or Squarespace, but it’s customizable, scalable, and SEO-friendly.
Our advice? Request demos for a few different options and see which one you prefer. Finding the right platform isn’t always easy but demos help you narrow down your options.
6. The Pros and Cons of Data Migration Services
If the eCommerce platform migration process sounds complicated, that’s because it is. In some cases, it’s worth leaving the details to a data migration service. However, before you commit to using a service, you should know the pros and cons.
Advantages of a data migration service include:
- A hands-off approach – After your initial consultation, the service handles the rest.
- Expertise – Data migration specialists have years of experience.
- Peace of mind – You won’t have to stress over learning how to migrate data.
On the other hand, there are a few downsides to consider, such as:
- Oversimplification – Migration services may not handle complex moves very well.
- Cost – These services can be cost-prohibitive, especially for smaller businesses.
Switch to WooCommerce with WP Engine
If you’re considering moving to a new eCommerce platform, you already know how important it is to have the best of the best. With that in mind, we suggest switching to a WooCommerce store hosted and managed by WP Engine.
With a free, effortless migration process and 24/7/365 support, you can rest easy knowing your eCommerce business is in good hands. And once the migration is complete, you’ll enjoy best-in-class website speed, exceptional security, and exclusive WordPress themes to further improve your store.
Get in touch with us today to find out more!
- BuiltWith. eCommerce Usage Distribution in the Top 1 Million Sites. https://trends.builtwith.com/shop