Migrating or replatforming your ecommerce business is one of the most daunting challenges a company can undertake. Replatforming is a complex and labor-intensive process that can eat through budgets and workflows with remarkable speed if attempted without proper organization and testing. Worse, poor migration can lead to potentially massive losses for your business, not only in sales but also in the further expenditure required to fix your now-ongoing problems. For businesses and consultants alike, replatforming should be approached with the utmost care and extensive preparation.
“But I Thought Replatforming Was Easier Now?”
Don’t believe the hype. Making assumptions about the replatforming process is the first mistake a business or ecommerce consultant can make. Marketing for leading ecommerce platforms is full of descriptive but mostly uninformative language about capabilities, features, and ease of use. Even veteran IT and development teams can be led astray by assuming too much about a platform.
Replatforming is a meticulous process that no single document or manual can adequately prepare a company to undertake. However, our checklist of crucial steps and sticking points can help any business approach their migration with confidence in your gameplan.
#1: Do Your Homework
Incumbent on not making assumptions, proactively researching potential platforms for your migration is the first crucial step to success. Each platform is different, targeting different potential users and offering its own unique suite of features and potential drawbacks.
This should also be the stage where you begin to assess your highest priorities and desired features, leading us to the second item on our checklist.
#2: Establish a Hierarchy of Need
Ecommerce companies buy ads too. In the current market, Ecommerce companies can pay thousands of dollars to an agency to migrate a high-performing client to their platform. To truly get a sense of what service ecommerce products will be right for your replatforming, a hierarchy of needs is crucial.
For each of these needs, we must ascertain:
- How does this feature work today?
- What is the desired outcome for this feature post-migration?
- Is that outcome feasible in the new platform and optimal for business?
#3: Pick a Platform
Once your needs are established and you’ve researched platforms, it’s time to pick the one that best suits your desired features and that can ideally facilitate a smooth replatforming process. A professional ecommerce consultant should be familiar enough with major platforms to give educated recommendations and breakdown relevant features.
Key to picking a platform is figuring out what each one focuses on, what education materials they offer, and how conducive each is to affecting your goals.
#3: Create a Scope of Work
A replatforming could take months of development and testing to go live. In order to get a good sense of the scope of work and necessary timeframe, budget, and team allocation, critical needs must be identified and addressed. Schedule extra time for testing and demoing your highest priority features, and make sure team leads are clear on goals and critical features.
This is also a time to identify tough questions. If these need to wait on formal discovery, design, or development, identify which stage in the replatforming process they’ll be handled.
#4: Educate Teams
Educating your teams should go without saying. Make sure to set aside an extra week or two for training in new platforms and products, and make sure all team members are equally clear on critical goals and features. Many ecommerce platforms offer a variety of development, staging, and production environments for team members to get familiar with the software and begin the replatforming process. Many also feature trial stores, which can give teams crucial insights into their progress.
Keep in mind that training materials provided by platforms vary. Some offer free materials of varying depth and quality, while others keep such material gated. Make sure to scope this out as you research platforms.
#5 Invest In Documentation
Perhaps the most important tip on this list, keeping extensive records of work done can help untangle the mystery of an ongoing problem, as well as keeping all activity above board. This will also help when it comes time to train entry-level employees, such as customer service.
#6: Build a Textbook
At Coalition, we work with our clients during a replatforming to build a textbook, which will serve as both a central document for assessing progress toward goals and as the chief onboarding device for team members and leads. This should include training videos, text documents, client-owned documents, and custom-created training courses, as needed. We also highly recommend building a management system.
#7: Migrate Your Data Early
This can be a crucial first step and a great litmus test for discovering challenges and sticking points for your replatforming efforts. Ecommerce consultants should again be wary of assumptions about the ease of a data migration, as there is great variability in export and import features between platforms.
#8 Stay On Task
Many ecommerce business owners and consultants alike see replatforming primarily as an opportunity for rebranding and new marketing initiatives. If the focus of your migration to a new platform is mostly geared toward marketing, you’re likely to see your initiative fail before it begins.
If rebranding is really all a company needs, we recommend a front-end redesign or reskinning over the cost and expense of a full migration.
#9: Initiate a Two-Step Plan
Related to #8, we recommend to our clients that they address their replatforming and rebranding desires separately. We first recommend migrating as much current content and design to your new platform as is, and getting your current store to work properly in the new environment, before addressing design or user experience changes. This is not only helpful in focusing the scope of your work, but also helps maintain customer loyalty. We’ve seen many high-performing companies lose significant business when customers find that the brand new replatformed store doesn’t have basic functions in order.
#10: Keep What Works
From an SEO perspective, a replatforming initiative poses serious potential risk to rankings. Losing high-ranked content via a migration would be an unambiguous loss, and this is one reason why preservation can also be a crucial priority when migrating your store.
Bonus: Ask For Help
Finding the right ecommerce consultant can be its own project, but the rewards are worth the effort. Given the complexity of migrating an ecommerce store, it’s important to find a team that will be forthright about the work and the resources required to see it through. At Coalition, we’re always happy to hear from potential clients, and offer a free first-time consultation for prospective clients.
If you’d like to get in touch with us directly, feel free to call us at 310-827-3890 or email us at [email protected]. We offer a free consultation to potential clients and take on new clients year-round, meaning there’s never a bad time to get in touch. Reach out today and see how Coalition can help!