The global eCommerce market generates more than $5.7 trillion annually, expected to double over the next five years. Choosing the right eCommerce solution isn’t a decision you should take lightly. It is critical to your business’ growth.
The platform you select must be able to scale, guarantee uptime, and provide a user experience that keeps your customers coming back. If your current solution is sabotaging your efforts, it’s time to switch to a platform that sets you up for success.
Here’s everything you need to know about eCommerce replatforming and available migration options.
What Is eCommerce Replatforming?
Right off the bat, what is replatforming? eCommerce migration, or “replatforming,” refers to moving your online store from your current service provider to a new one. It involves transferring everything hosted on the front and back end, including products, order and customer information, site pages, collections, blog posts, etc.
It is worth noting that an eCommerce replatform process doesn’t always involve moving your current store from one service provider to a different one. Transitioning from a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform to a self-hosted, in-house solution with your own infrastructure also qualifies as replatforming.
Why Do Businesses Need to Replatform?
If you're not sure whether you should migrate to a new eCommerce solution, here's a list of common reasons why online store owners choose to switch to new platforms:
Poor Website Performance
Websites are the first points of contact businesses have with prospective customers. Suffice it to say it is a business's most important asset. If downtime and other performance metrics aren't up to par with other service providers, it might be time to jump ship.
Current Solution Cannot Scale
Every business owner dreams of their business becoming a force to reckon with in their respective industries. When that day comes, many entrepreneurs quickly realize that their current eCommerce solution is struggling to keep pace with the demands of their growing customer base.
If the reason your online store can’t keep up with the higher traffic, order volume, payment processing demands, and shipping rates, you need to migrate to an eCommerce platform that can.
High Total Cost of Ownership
A website’s total cost of ownership (TCO) refers to the expenses and resources associated with its purchase and operation until it is retired. Older platforms generally have a higher TCO compared to newer ones. If your online store runs on an outdated money-pit of a platform, save your business revenue by switching to a newer, more streamlined solution.
Lack of Adequate Features
Your business goals need to align with your customers' changing needs. If your current solution lacks the relevant features to meet their demands, it might be time to migrate to a different eCommerce platform.
eCommerce Platforms Types
eCommerce platforms typically fall into one of three main categories, each with unique benefits and drawbacks. The platform you pick will greatly impact your business expenditure, scalability, and maintenance requirements.
Hosted Platforms vs. Self-Hosted Platforms
The difference between a hosted and self-hosted platform has to do with where the online store is being hosted. With a hosted platform, your store website and all associated files are hosted on the service provider’s servers.
The provider will run and manage every aspect of your store to ensure it runs smoothly. They’ll take care of the maintenance, security, and updates, so you don't have to. A hosted platform is a great option if you have little to no web development experience and want to get your online store up and running quickly.
The downside is their limited customization ability.
With a self-hosted platform, you would be responsible for hosting your online store on your server. You don't have to purchase a physical server but rather "rent" digital space on a third-party server to host it. You would be responsible for setting it up and managing every aspect of its maintenance and security.
Self-hosted platforms are best suited for businesses with the resources to retain a web developer who will set up and manage the store continuously, which can be costly. On the flip side, customization options are virtually unlimited.
Open-Source Platforms vs. Proprietary Platforms
An open-source eCommerce platform refers to freely available software that anyone can use without paying a licensing fee. The source code is unrestricted, meaning anyone can modify it. If you intend to use an open-source platform for your online store, you still need to set up your own server or pay for web hosting. You must also manage, maintain, and update your store yourself.
A proprietary platform requires individuals or businesses to purchase a license to use the software. Most of these platforms usually adopt a subscription-based business model called SaaS. The software provider handles all aspects of the store's management, maintenance, and security.
Cloud-Based Platforms vs. On-Premise Platforms
The difference between a cloud-based and an on-premise eCommerce platform is the software's location. Cloud-based solutions are hosted and managed on the provider’s servers. Users then access their online stores via a web interface or browser.
An on-premise eCommerce solution is hosted by the business’ own physical servers. The company manages and maintains the hardware infrastructure in-house and is infinitely more expensive than its cloud-based counterpart. However, it gives companies greater peace of mind knowing that sensitive data is safe from potential cyber breaches.
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How to Choose the Right eCommerce Platform
The eCommerce platform you pick to host your online store must align with your medium- and long-term vision for your business. It must be able to cater to the ever-evolving needs of your customers. Before you choose an eCommerce solution, here are 13 factors to keep in mind:
When choosing the best eCommerce platform, you must first decide whether you want a self-hosted or hosted solution.
In the former, you need to identify a third-party hosting provider and pay to host your online store on their server. You’re required to set up the website yourself, manage it, maintain it, and deal with every aspect of security and updates. This option gives you more control over your store and data.
On the other hand, a hosted solution means your online store would be hosted, managed, maintained, and updated by the software provider. A hosted eCommerce solution might be better if you prefer a hands-off approach to managing your online store, especially with limited web development expertise.
Cost is the other thing you need to factor in when choosing an eCommerce platform. How big or small is your budget? How long has your business been operational? The answers to both these questions will point you in the right direction.
Most will have a monthly fee, whether you choose open-source or proprietary software. Open-source software may be free but remember—you must still host your store somewhere and pay a hosting provider to do it. Your store will also require integrations to make it functional, many of which have a monthly or annual subscription fee.
What you need to consider are the long-term costs. Open-source eCommerce platforms require more input and involvement than their proprietary counterparts but are generally cheaper in the long run.
Who doesn’t like to feel special? Customization is the name of the game. Customers are more likely to purchase from and remain loyal to your brand if you create a personalized shopping experience tailored to their needs.
Top eCommerce platforms have built-in recommendation engines that use AI to learn about consumer shopping habits. That way, prospective buyers get personalized shopping suggestions based on criteria such as:
- Behavior: Current searches, recently viewed products, abandoned carts, etc.
- Context: Time of day, device type, weather, past/present location, etc.
- Demographics: Location, gender, age, etc.
- History: Loyalty program, previous email interactions, previous purchases, etc.
- Psychographics: Lifestyle, personality, interest, etc.
eCommerce platforms with this capability deliver more traction compared to those without.
To create a compelling shopping experience for your customers, you need to implement an advanced, out-of-the-box product management system. It’s the lifeline of your business.
One of the most important aspects of picking an eCommerce solution is assessing its functionality features. Think:
- Advanced features (Recently viewed, product comparison, wish list, etc.)
- Bulk upload (Excel and CSV files)
- Dynamic filters (size, color, price range, sorting, etc.)
- Product categorization
- Shipping options
The more functions available to a store admin to design a dynamic, robust website, the higher their chances of boosting their revenue.
Plugins and Integrations
Plugins and integrations are the heartbeats of any online store. The first thing you must do is assess your online business and determine the type of functionality you require to run your store. Once you do, you can evaluate different eCommerce platforms to gauge which ones offer features that will allow you to run your business seamlessly.
The best eCommerce platforms should, at the bare minimum, offer the following plugins and integrations:
- Email and SMS marketing automation
- Inventory management
- Marketing automation systems such as EPRs and CRMS
- Order fulfillment
- Payment gateways
- Sales and accounting software
Every year, American smartphone users generate more than $276 billion in eCommerce sales revenue. Online store owners are increasingly turning to eCommerce solutions with a mobile-ready experience for their digital retail stores. This capability is necessary for every online store, especially in our post-pandemic world.
Look for a platform with a design that offers a seamless and intuitive user experience from when a customer starts browsing to the point they complete their purchase. Everything from your website's design to the layout and navigation must be optimized for mobile viewing.
Your customers’ order experience can make or break your business. A recent consumer report indicates that at least 83% of shoppers expect regular updates about their orders.
The best eCommerce platforms offer robust order management features such as SMS/email notifications and order tracking. Some even have shipping APIs that give store admins real-time oversight on whether purchases were processed correctly and on time.
Multiple payment options for your customers are a win-win. For this to be possible, your eCommerce platform needs to integrate a secure payment gateway that safely transfers funds from your customer's bank account into your business account.
While nothing about this process sounds hard, you might be surprised by the number of eCommerce platforms that don’t support popular payment gateways. That’s why you must ensure that the solution you pick for your online store allows you to integrate as many payment processors as possible to avoid locking out customers in a specific demographic.
There’s nothing more frustrating to users than having to navigate a slow website. If your online store pages don’t load lightning fast, you can rest assured site visitors will be out of there faster than a speeding bullet. The last thing you want as a business owner is to give prospective customers a chance to change their minds.
If someone is browsing online with their credit card close at hand, you want your store to be the first and last place they end up. Choose an eCommerce platform with outstanding performance scores. That way, you don't have to be concerned with them running into 404 errors and lagging or frozen pages while they’re browsing your website.
Consistency is king when it comes to growing your online business. You want to choose a platform that scales as your business grows. What does this look like?
For starters, it should handle high traffic volumes at peak times without lagging, freezing, or crashing. It should scale both vertically and horizontally with your growing business needs. You should be able to update your store anytime, day or night, even during peak traffic.
There should be no visible performance drop whether you're handing 1,000 visitors a day or 10,000 a day. Customers should have a seamless shopping experience from when they enter your online store to when they leave.
In the cybercrime era we live in, security is more important now than it has been in the past. Governments around the world have implemented stringent laws aimed at protecting the privacy of consumers.
If there’s a security breach in your online store, and hackers access sensitive customer information such as their names, residential addresses, and credit card information, it could land you and your business in a world of legal trouble. Worse, you'll have damaged your most valuable asset: Trust.
Running an online store means you have access to a lot of sensitive consumer data—the kind of data you want to avoid landing in the wrong hands. Ensure that the eCommerce platform you choose offers different tiers of security protection.
For starters, it should be Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant. It should offer continuous fraud and DDoS attack detection. It should also provide an SSL certificate and data backup capabilities.
Search Engine Optimization
The success of your digital store depends largely on your target audience’s ability to find it when they search for products online. Identifying an eCommerce platform with built-in SEO capabilities should be a top priority when evaluating the best solution for your online store.
Building organic SEO takes time and effort. However, you can make your work easier by choosing a platform that does most of the heavy lifting. Some SEO features to look out for include, but are not limited to, pagination, canonical tags, image captioning, metadata, page redirects, etc.
Today’s consumer isn’t just looking to buy products. They want to shop in an environment that’s engaging and immersive. Your online store's theme should captivate prospective customers as they browse your website.
Ensure that your eCommerce platform offers a wide range of interactive, user-friendly designs to make your online store stand out. Most platform providers have free themes you can download and customize, while others require users to pay an additional fee.
Pick a solution that offers a myriad of professionally designed templates to choose from. The more, the better.
Choosing the right eCommerce replatform method is as important as picking the right platform for your website. You may have the best solution for your online store, but what’s the point if you lose critical product, customer, and order data when the migration goes wrong?
Here’s a comparison of four popular migration methods and what each brings to the table.
Manual Migration vs. Automated Migration
Manual migration is exactly what it sounds like. It means copying and pasting every item from your old platform to the new one. This method is only practical for businesses with a handful of items to migrate.
However easy as it might sound, it is a tedious, time-consuming, error-prone process, even when migrating a few products. It gets even more complicated if you have specific bits of source code you would want to integrate into your new site.
Automated eCommerce platform migration involves using a data transfer tool from eCommerce migration services such as Cart2Cart to automate the end-to-end process. It is the most cost-effective, time-saving eCommerce migration method and eliminates the risk of data loss or human error.
The best thing about automated migration is that it doesn’t interfere with the functionality of your existing store. The process happens on the backend, so customers shopping on your website won't notice you’ve migrated to a new platform.
Self-Migration vs. Hiring a Professional Service Provider
The only way a store owner would be able to migrate their eCommerce website to a new service provider themselves is if:
- They have a background in web development, meaning they know how to code; or
- They use an automated eCommerce data migration tool with a user-friendly interface they can easily navigate.
Depending on the size of your online store, doing a manual self-migration is a tedious, time-consuming process. It takes up valuable time that would have otherwise been spent running your eCommerce website.
On the other hand, an automated self-migration process is an excellent option if you don’t want to spend a ton of money hiring an eCommerce replatforming consultant to migrate your online store for you. Use an automated replatforming eCommerce tool like Cart2Cart to migrate your online store with a few easy clicks.
Hiring a professional service provider is a great option for medium to large-scale businesses with no time to handle data migration in-house. Cart2Cart offers comprehensive migration packages that integrate the technical expertise of in-house migration specialists. They handle every aspect of the migration process from start to finish and cost significantly less than your run-of-the-mill third-party agency.
How to Prepare for eCommerce Migration
Once you’ve identified the eCommerce platform you want to migrate your store to, there are a few things you need to do beforehand to get your website ready for the big switch. Preparing your old and new stores ensures that the process goes off without a hitch.
Here’s what you need to do:
1. Manage Your Source Cart
The first thing you to do is prepare your current eCommerce website for migration. This process involves creating a backup of all your store data, including the entire database, media files, and file system.
Next, you need to do a complete site data audit to ensure you have an accurate inventory of the data held in fields such as Customer Data, Product Data, Contact Details, etc. Check for duplicate and inaccurate data to assess what to preserve and what to leave behind.
Finally, you need to validate your current store’s access credentials to allow it to connect with your new store.
2. Get Your Target Cart Ready
Once you’ve prepared your existing store, it’s time to handle what is about to become your new eCommerce platform.
Right off the bat, you must identify your current business needs and make a full inventory of what your existing store can and cannot do. You can then check your new provider's capabilities to confirm that the new platform adequately addresses your business needs.
Next, install the apps and integrations you need to enhance your store’s functionality. Now’s probably as good a time as any to ensure the new eCommerce platform supports the plugins you intend to install.
Your old and new stores are now ready for migration.
How to Perform eCommerce Migration
The eCommerce replatforming process is a five-step undertaking that involves planning, preparation, launching, testing, and monitoring. Here’s an overview of each step.
First, understand why you want to switch to a new eCommerce provider. Identify your pain points and choose a platform that addresses those needs.
Next, define your eCommerce site migration plan. This process involves counter-checking the credentials to your old and new stores to ensure they work. You must also identify the configurations, content, and SEO you want to retain once you migrate to the new platform.
Finally, ensure that your employees and clients are on board with the migration. Take some time to explain to them why the change is necessary and ask them for their input. The idea is to cushion the new platform's impact on the business.
You will need to pause your new store from search engine indexing temporarily. Failure to do this means that Google will consider the new store a duplicate of the old one and penalize it. This will hurt your store's ranking, which is counterintuitive, considering why you're switching platforms in the first place.
You also want to check that you have the relevant access credentials for the old and the new stores. It involves identifying the domain, host, store credentials, and other details required by the platform you’re migrating to.
Now is also the time to review your existing store's extensions, identify the ones you want to keep, and install them on the new platform. Audit your existing store’s data, clean it up, and then do a backup.
Next, pick an appropriate time to initiate the transfer. The best time to do it would be when the store has the lowest traffic. Once you've identified a time to start the migration, choose an appropriate migration method. Automated migration is the most accurate, convenient, and low-risk replatforming eCommerce method of all the available options.
Cart2Cart is ideal for small, medium, and large-scale enterprises looking to migrate their online store from their current eCommerce provider to a new one.
First, you’ll need to connect your source cart to your target cart through the Connection Bridge, which you’ll need to download and install. There’s also the option to use the Cart2Cart plugin instead.
Next, select the data entities you want to migrate. These include but aren't limited to, Products, Product Categories, Customers, Orders, etc. Proceed to choose the migration customization options you want to be included in your new store.
For instance, you could preserve the existing Customer IDs or Order Reference Codes and use them as-is in the new store. You could also choose whether or not to migrate customer passwords, tags, etc.
Once you’ve linked the source to the target cart and picked the relevant customization options, the next step is to run a demo migration on a limited number of entities. That way, you can confirm whether you're satisfied with the current configurations before launching the full migration to replatform your entire store.
Upon completion, go through each entity and confirm whether the data on your old store has accurately been imported to the new platform. For instance, under the target cart’s “Products” field, check whether the names, prices, descriptions, etc., have been imported and compare them against the entities on the admin side of the source cart.
Test your store thoroughly before it goes live. Check that the domain is active and the navigational links are working properly. Fix any broken links or remove them entirely. Check the front end and confirm that you can find your customers, orders, and products in each catalog on your site.
Remember to assess your new store's SEO indicators using tools like Screaming Frog to identify potential issues that might need fixing. Other things you can do include:
- Checking your XML sitemap to see if there are changes to your website structure
- Identifying duplicate content and fixing it
- Making sure your analytics tools are fully functional on your new website
- Optimizing your metadata for SEO
- Pointing your current domain to the new host if you’re migrating your domain/host
- Testing your redirects to ensure site visitors are directed to the correct pages in your store
Once you’ve optimized your new store’s SEO, you can proceed to prepare email alerts, notifying your existing clients about the changes to your new store. Let them know of any changes (if at all) they need to make to the existing user accounts, and provide them with simple instructions on how to go about it.
Finally, make a few test purchases to confirm that every aspect of your store is working as it should. Go through the entire process the same way a prospective customer would and fix any potential issues. If the process goes off without a hitch, your new store is ready to go live.
Monitoring is a continuous process and is especially important when you’ve migrated your store to a new eCommerce platform. You need to continuously track your store's performance over 2-3 months post-launch. If you have a larger website, you should do it for at least six months.
Start by analyzing the benchmark analytics in your old store and compare it against the data in your new store. Identify any potential discrepancies in your current organic traffic. If there’s a significant reduction, you need to pinpoint the root cause.
Next, check whether search engines are crawling your online store in its new location. Tools such as SEMrush and Sitebulb are great for validating the URLs of your migrated site.
You also want to check whether search engines are indexing your new store’s pages and removing the old ones from the SERPs. Your new one should gain any ranking loss in your old store.
Google Search Console is a great resource for tracking your website’s performance among your target demographic.
eCommerce Replatforming Checklist
To sum up, here’s a comprehensive eCommerce replatforming checklist you can use to migrate your current online store to a new provider.
- Identify your eCommerce platform migration goals
- Choose the new platform you want to migrate your store to
- Define your eCommerce site migration plan
- Notify your clients, employees, and other stakeholders of your intention to migrate
- Temporarily pause your new store from search engine indexing
- Acquire the relevant access credentials for your old and new stores
- Review your existing extensions
- Audit and backup your current store data
- Choose an appropriate migration method
- Schedule the migration
- Connect your old store to the new one
- Pick the data entities you wish to migrate
- Choose the relevant customization options
- Run a demo migration on a limited number of entities
- Map the imported fields in the new store to those in the old one
- Launch the full migration
- Check the navigational links in your new store
- Validate the SEO indicators
- Send email alerts to your existing clients, notifying them of the migration
- Make a few test purchases to ensure your site is working properly
- Analyze the benchmark data of your old and new stores
- Check to see if search engines are crawling your new store pages
- Check if search engines have indexed your new store
- Compare your new and old stores’ SERP rankings
If the eCommerce platform that hosts your current online store no longer serves your business's evolving needs, it's time to switch to one that does. While online store migration has historically been considered expensive and time-consuming, this is no longer true.
Cart2Cart is a robust eCommerce data migration tool that’s fast, reliable, affordable and works with over 85 platforms.
Sign up today for a free demo and discover why it is a top choice for eCommerce agencies and store owners looking for the best eCommerce migration services.