Migrating your shop to a different platform? Get ready for headaches.
The net is full of complaints. Always, regarding any topic, but when it comes to e-Commerce, there is much more irritation than about any other topic, at least so it seems. The reason is that there is never a full comparison to be found (exceptions do exist, such as http://www.ecomparo.de in Germany, but not completely for altruistic reasons, as they are playing a systems integrator role).
In this overview, we will look at the issues, pitfalls and concerns when migrating an existing e-Commerce solution to a different platform.
First, let’s have a look at the options to choose from. Selection criteria could be, just to name a few, Open Source versus commercial tools, sizing, existing application landscapes may limit or predefine some decisions (e.g. order management, ERP, fulfillment- or payment-solutions). Your choice of geography requires capabilities in language-localization, taking care of the legal-, tax, and licensing-situation (e.g. in China, entering into the B2C market requires a license which is obtained from local authorities). Then the targeted market determines your choice as omnichannel-, B2B, B2C, B2B2C, or, again in China, your online to offline capabilities matter. It is interesting to note, that the China domestic market has turned digital all the way, leapfrogging quite a number of steps which Europe and the US went through (and are still enduring teething problems with).
Typical issues in different locations are VAT rules and regulations, information that are required by local laws, such as delivery times, information regarding shipment cost, information on prices (including/excluding sales taxes or VAT), T&C which can fundamentally vary for different locales, and support for the laws in the chosen geography may cause extra efforts or even rule out some solutions.
If you wish to support omnichannel, omni-currency and multi-location, you will find yourself growing out of most community editions, and depending on what your market looks like in terms of size, you will need a professionally maintained and supported platform – either as a SaaS or which you host yourself. In such a situation, Magento EE or Intershop may appear to be the systems of choice.
The topmost (both in capabilities and cost, and unfortunately also in implementation times) players are systems which offer (just to name a few items) deep analytic capabilities, which could be called data mining solutions of their own right, and offer price optimization, dynamic pricing across the board, promotion and campaign optimization on a global scale. Complex implementations of loyalty programs, integrated with those offered by complementary providers, or multi-tenant / multi brand implementations. If this describes your requirements, you have arrived in the sweet spot of SAP Hybris, Intershop, Oracle ATG and IBM eCommerce solutions.
On the other end of the scale are an increasing number of flavors to savour:
- spreecommerce (Ruby on Rails)
- Supa Dupa
- Magento Go
- Flying Cart
- Jimdo (Germany, very small shops only)
and many more. The issue is, sometimes you might hit on something that is an awesome solution that appeals to you and while going at it, you realize it is a one-developer piece of software!
If you don’t intend to spend too much time on any IT-related issues, you might wish to slip into the open spaces that TMall/Taobao (China) or Amazon (elsewhere) offers, but your branding capabilities are fairly limited. You might find the management of stock and prices to be limited, but on the other hand, the stocking, fulfillment, shipping and payment is taken care of easily.
There are more hosted solutions, which do give you a limited choice of individual design and branding, such as Zoho (https://www.zoho.com) and comparable solutions.
Looking at the necessary steps that a migration calls for, we find a number of recurring issues which are annoying when not planned, but can be easily managed.
First of all, during a discovery phase, identify all the requirements that will have to be covered by the new system. Most important issues are the catalogue structure, the scope of data to be migrated and order fulfilment. Now would be also a good moment, early in the process, to take care of Domain Name Issues before doing anything else. This requires a bit of thinking, because the process should be as seamless as possible for returning customers and also for the search engines. At some point in time, the search engines should point at your new domain (which could be the old domain, but then you have to plan accordingly on how to do and when to do the switch. It is recommended to have a time of parallel operation. Mind, that there might be issues with the security certificate, which allows you customers to shop with an SSL protection, needs to be in line with the sites. If your domain name changes, this is not a big deal. Letsencrypt (https://letsencrypt.org) offers them free, rather than in the earlier days, when you had to pay a kingdom and a half for an SSL-certificate. Commercial certs are certainly still available.
As a second step, check how does the new platform integrate with your existing business processes and application landscape you have in place? If you use third party vendors to provide your site with essential services, make sure they support your new platform in the same (or better) way than your previous one, and if not, replace them. A sensible design document helps you to cover these issues – or ask your systems integrator to provide you with a design document.
Moving the Data is the challenge number 3, which causes the most headaches. We find it often makes more sense to take a new look at things: It might be the numbering schemes in SKU, invoices which are not in line with expectations. Especially complex combined products with options might end up as a myriad of single products instead of a nicely sorted product scheme with options to choose from.
This could indicate the need to manually correct the items. Have prices stayed correct? Sometimes rounding errors cause changes in noted prices.
In those territories that require different sales taxes for different classes of goods (e.g. Switzerland and Germany) these need some checking of the flags correctly set. Indeed, the different taxes can cost a lot of time to correct, so better look twice!
Graphical assets and the sizes need to be quality assured so that the customers will not be confronted with tiny or huge assets.
By all means, avoid getting any “404”s by checking the URLs in time. If your site has had good organic traffic before, make sure that the page URLs generated by the new platform is the same as before if you can, keep the page descriptions identical and where necessary, install permanent redirects (301 and 302 redirects). Prepare yopur SEO strategy thoroughly! Many stores experience a temporary drop in organic traffic following their migration. This is usually the result of lost meta information and changes in URLs. Prepare your post-migration SEO strategy to minimize these temporary effects, if necessary, employ third parties for this task.
Also make sure that the emails keep coming in regardless of which system you use. Testing email flow should be a separate QA activity, as it can cause a lot of frustration if emails get lost.
Speaking of Quality assurance, this is the most important step to take. All business transactions need to be thoroughly checked before the site replaces the current one. There is nothing stopping you to have the old site up for about a month in parallel, once all business transactions have been tested straight through. At some point in time, it would definitely make sense to have a third party assess the site about all vulnerabilities that a good penetration tester can find (rinse, repeat often!). In most e-Commerce, wherever credit cards are accepted, the PCI-DSS standard needs to be fulfilled in order to avoid hefty fines and risks later. Make sure your new platform handles this issue and is compliant. PCI-DSS standard is available now in V3.
Last step is to do the deployment, the cut-over is done best in the wee hours of the day.
After a while it might make sense to check, whether the performance of the site is in line with expectation. Often, slow sites do not come from Performance-issues in the hosting or the network, but from heavy use of additional scripts, bells and whistles. This is a nice performance test, allowing to simulate a geography to access the service from: http://websitetest.com/
Some vendors offer automated tools for migration to their platform:
In a recent customer, we asked for some feedback on the migration process and found the following points to be of interest:
The customers legacy platform was rigid and did not support a lot of the state-of the art e-Commerce features. They also found a licensing issue that would have caused a budgetary change.
As the online e-Commerce presence was of central importance, they defined a phased strategy in the migration process from legacy to new:
– Build up a framework that covers around 70% functions and features of legacy and launched the store internally to collection feedbacks
– Improve the store and gradually route traffic from legacy to the new store
– Retire the legacy store and continuously improve the new store
The global retailer chose an “Agile” development method – this enabled them to implement the strategy mentioned above in a number of suitable sprints. And it proved being an efficient method as we can convert a still roughly defined idea into a prototype quickly, then fine-tune and improve it. This method dramatically shortened the TAT of feature delivery. In fact, it happened several times, that required features were delivered earlier than scheduled.
Choosing a strong and capable team with “can do” attitude was another key success-factor to ensure the project can be delivered on time with high quality. Shinetech was chosen and is proud about this project, the trust of the customer and the project success
Strong support from management gave the project team guidance and necessary support, to ensure no deviation to meet business goals. Being a global organization, communications among different levels and stakeholders were key, seamless and timely communication by all means (emails, meetings, demos, newsletter etc.) ensured a smooth project implementation without surprises.
Last but not the least, the chosen platform proved to be a flexible and robust software, that eased development complexity and enables future scalability along with business growth.
The management buy-in is central in e-Commerce migration projects and in our weekly management meetings communication was open; critical and helpful feedback was given at all times and by stakeholders all across Asia. As a result, the system implementation was fast. The migration project finished after 4 months, with system stability being extremely good. Did not face any critical issue since launch. Implementation cost and maintenance cost is reasonable.