In a digital landscape that is experiencing constant innovation, eCommerce platform migration is an inevitable requirement of running an eCommerce business. Organizations are continually discovering that they must adapt to the rapid ongoing technological advances or risk being left behind. eCommerce site migration is a vital part of that adaptability. It ensures that you remain competitive, and improves the performance, capabilities, and usability for the business.

Unfortunately, for many businesses, migrating their enterprise eCommerce software feels like a daunting project. But it doesn’t have to be when migrating to a modern, API-based headless solution like commercetools. This migration guide for eCommerce will show you how to run a successful eCommerce migration project quickly and cost-effectively.

Identify the need for eCommerce site migration

It’s important to be able to identify the signs that you are due for an eCommerce upgrade. Some of the signs include the following:

  • Your website has a performance lag. According to Google, 50% of users expect a site to load within 2 seconds and will abandon a website if it does not. If your site is slow, this is a sign that you should update to a more effective platform.
  • There are gaps in your existing system. If your current system is missing features such as support for omnichannel selling, it’s time to shop for a new solution.
  • Lack of scalability. Given the rise in online buying, enterprises looking to ramp up their digital revenue must have an eCommerce architecture that scales to meet the needs of the business, including no down-time and ability to process tens of thousands of orders per minute.
  • Poor admin function. Working with a non-intuitive eCommerce platform can be frustrating. Poorly designed business tooling will slow your team down and result in reduced output. In such cases, migrating to an eCommerce solution with an intuitive, feature-rich Merchant Center will ensure maximum output and productivity.
  • High total cost of ownership (TCO). eCommerce platform migration can solve the problem of costly or time-consuming maintenance by placing the burden on a third-party solution or providing a better-performing option.

Create a clear communication strategy

There are many benefits to switching to a best-of-breed commerce approach, including the ability to compose a solution that suits the needs of your business precisely. Inherent in the migration project in this so-called composable commerce strategy, however, is the need to ensure clear communication between multiple vendors. Bringing these vendors together is vital to ensuring that all entities involved understand what the business requirements are, and how you’re going to work together.

Before you can commence on any migration plans, make sure you have a clear communication strategy to ensure all the stakeholders in the project know what is happening and who is taking the lead. They should be clear on the business processes that are going to be involved in the project.

Start project planning as early as possible

Many large organizations that are shifting to a new eCommerce solution begin project planning during the vendor selection phase. We recommend this approach so there are no delays or surprises once the implementation kickoff begins. Build a migration roadmap that explicitly defines timelines, milestones to be achieved, and the business requirements. An important prerequisite for this step is bringing a project manager on board early. Having a clear plan of action will ensure that the migration process flows as seamlessly as possible.

Unfortunately, in such instances, a lot of things are left out early on or not even considered. For example, a project manager would create a communication strategy for all the stakeholders involved in the eCommerce migration project. Without a project manager being involved in the earlier stages of the migration project, the client may not be able to properly communicate their requirements to the vendors.

“A project manager should come up with a methodology that is going to work for the business and work it without a lot of new training. Taking on an agile methodology for the first time while doing a project is tough. You should not necessarily try to accomplish that unless you have got the roadmap and resources to accomplish it.”
– Andrew Miller, Co-founder and Managing Director,
 RIBA-AYDEPT

Prepare for the eCommerce site migration kickoff

“A commercetools project needs to be viewed through the lens of a business, keeping in mind the business capabilities and business vision. It is not just a technical implementation. This is not an IT project. All the stakeholders have to be there.”
– Karen Palagi, Senior Program Manager

This process is important for ensuring that all members of the project team are in the same headspace for the implementation. Here are a few steps that can help prepare your team for the migration project kickoff:

  • Get all stakeholders engaged. This can be through discovery sessions, pre-meetings, and brainstorming sessions on any training requirements for the team. These meetings should involve feedback from everyone on the supply chain.
  • Engage with the product owner. This is important as they will make the final decision on the end result. Challenge them to think outside the box.
  • Delegate duties. Form a multidisciplinary core team of in-house employees with the required knowledge and experience to be headed by a project manager. You may have to supplement this team with external experts or entirely depend on an external agency to run your eCommerce migration project, especially if the existing team is overwhelmed by their previously existing duties.

Choose a migration strategy

After the decisions involving the platform of choice, delegation of duties in the team, and business requirements have been made, the next choice is what migration strategy to use. There are several ways of migrating your data onto another platform, but the following are three of the more common variations:

  • Big Bang

In this case, the new platform is built in its entirety as the existing one continues to run. In other words, the organization will shift from being 100% on the existing platform one day and switch over 100% to the new platform the next day. This strategy is best suited to an all-in-one solution, and this approach is usually the only option for monolithic applications. 

  • Waterfall

This method derives its name from the stair-step fashion in which development events proceed from one phase to another. Implementations are linear, and go from one phase to the next until the project is complete. The development team starts with a project kickoff to get everyone on the same page, then follows the stages from idea to implementation, with each phase building onto the next. This approach is better for large teams and does not require heavy synchronization across teams because of the structure put in place.

  • Agile

This approach emerged to address the shortcomings of the Waterfall method. It works best when it is executed inside small- to medium-sized teams that have established a high level of cross-integration. Unlike the Waterfall methodology, the Agile strategy does not follow a linear implementation. The project is broken up into several phases. It involves constant collaboration with stakeholders and continuous improvement at every phase. Once the project begins, teams cycle through a process of planning, execution, and evaluation, with continuous collaboration between both team members and project stakeholders.

Audit and backup existing data

Before migrating to a new eCommerce platform, it is vital to review the existing data on your legacy platform to select what the team needs to migrate and what they should leave behind. 

You should also back up your existing data. Yes, you expect the migration process to go off without a hitch, but in the event that something happens and data is lost during the migration, it is valuable to have a backup location where you can access your data.

You should also determine which third-party apps to keep and which to leave behind, as you may have some which are outdated.

Import and verify your data

You can migrate your data by one of these three methods: manually, using a migration app, or through a third-party team. commercetools does offer its own version of ImpEx, but it is easier to use custom code to parse the CSV you exported from your legacy platform, extract the data you want, and import it into your new eCommerce platform by calling the appropriate APIs.

There are two primary types of data you should consider when migrating data from your old platform to the new: product data and customer/order data. It is recommended to migrate your product data manually, as automated migrations can easily become complicated when you are dealing with different product options, bundled packages, carts, and themes. When you choose to migrate product data manually, you know that the data is being moved correctly.

With customer data, however, an automated migration app is adequate as customer address and order history data is generally standard across the board.

You should also keep an up-to-date copy of your product catalog in your old platform as there are “hard” references to products, categories, etc. It is easiest to continue pushing your raw product catalog data from your ERP, PIM, or other catalog master to your current solution, as has been done traditionally.

Additionally, feed that data to your new platform, and only allow your business users to further enrich that data in the new platform.

Test the new platform before launching

Prior to launching the new eCommerce platform, it is important to run thorough tests to ensure the migration has been completed satisfactorily. You want to maintain as much domain authority as possible, so it is important to do a full SEO audit of the website before launching.

You will also have to check all other aspects, features, and functionality, to verify that there are no typos, bugs, or errors that were missed during the importation process. If you have made any additions like new features or implementations to the new platform, you will want to pay close attention to them.

A few things you can do to verify that your new platform is working well are:

  • Testing the platform across all popular browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
  • Testing your platform on mobile, particularly on iOS and Android, using both phone and tablet.
  • Placing test orders on your new platform using all the available payment methods.

Launch your new eCommerce platform

After you have run your platform through several tests and verified that it is functioning well, you can now launch it with the assurance that the customer experience will be satisfactory. 

When it comes to project management, making the right decisions can be the only difference between success and failure. It is crucial to ensure that all stakeholders are involved in the project, and that communication among team members and stakeholders is seamless. 

Are you contemplating how best you can implement commercetools in your organization? Start by watching our on-demand webcast on project management for eCommerce site migration, and eCommerce migration checklist