Common eCommerce Website Migration Issues (and How to Avoid Them)
by Ron Dod
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As your online store grows, your current eCommerce platform may not have the capabilities to help take your company to the next level. Many businesses have to migrate their website to a platform with the features and functionalities needed to achieve your business objectives.
However, migrating to a new website platform is rarely “plug-and-play.” The migration process is often fraught with issues and challenges.
If you aren’t aware of the risks or don’t put the right measures in place to mitigate them, you could run into problems that will impact the project’s timeline and budget.
Here are some common eCommerce website migration issues and what you can do to prevent them from holding up your launch:
1. Product Data Migration
A poorly executed product data migration can cause inaccuracy or duplication that will lead to errors in product mapping, product commendations, product options, and product images.
In addition, you could lose critical product data or have the information mixed up during the process if the transfer isn’t done properly. A poor data migration could lead to inaccurate syncing with the ERP or POS if you have a physical store.
Many reputable eCommerce platform providers offer data migration consulting services to help merchants ensure that their existing product catalog is merged accurately with the new platform.
It’s often worth investing in such a service instead of trying to orchestrate the transfer in-house. Doing so could save a ton of headaches and hours of work, preventing issues that could have you going through each SKU and updating all the product information manually.
2. Customer Data and Order Histories Transfer
You need to make sure that all your customer data is ported over to the new platform correctly. However, often times it’s not as straightforward as it seems.
For example, most platforms use encryption to protect user passwords, which can’t be decrypted by another platform – preventing a direct transfer of login credentials and other customer information.
In addition, you need to make sure that all the customer order histories are migrated accurately. This can be challenging since different platforms have different ways of structuring their databases, which can make the migration process very complex and labor-intensive.
You need a customer data migration plan that accounts for all the contingencies and includes a customer communication strategy to set expectations.
Your existing customers should be able to log into the new site and access their profile information with ease. In the event that a new password is required (e.g., for improved security,) you can position the update in a positive light and streamline the user flow to avoid a frustrating customer experience.
3. Third-Party Integration and Workflow Changes
If you have been synching third-party applications (e.g., a CRM system, email service, supply chain management software, or accounting application) with your existing platform, you need to ensure that the integration stays intact when you migrate the eCommerce website. Otherwise, you may experience issues in data transfer that could result in costly errors.
If your new platform does not offer “out of the box” integration with your current systems, you may need to budget for setting up a custom API so you can continue to use your existing tools.
You may also experience changes in the user interface or workflow as you integrate existing applications with a new eCommerce platform. You should plan for employee training and ramp up time to ensure a smooth transition.
4. Stakeholder Buy-In
It’s understandable that some internal team members may be resistant to change. However, without stakeholder buy-in, you may not get the cooperation needed to develop an optimal solution or the adoption required to maximize your ROI.
Even teams that aren’t directly involved with the eCommerce side of the business can be impacted by the migration – e.g., the changes in workflow or user interface may affect the accounting or supply chain management departments – so make sure you don’t leave anybody out.
To ensure a smooth transition, make sure that all stakeholders are on board with the migration. Communicate the changes that could impact each department’s job function and gather input from team members, so you can address specific concerns in a timely manner.
Develop an internal communication plan to share your progress and show how each team’s input is being addressed. Involve the appropriate departments in requirement gathering and user testing to help refine the functionalities to meet the needs of the stakeholders.
A change in your eCommerce website’s interface (e.g., the user flow or the visual design) could create inconsistency in the customers’ shopping experience and their perception of your brand image.
If the change in the user experience is too drastic, returning customers may not be able to find what they’re looking for and leave the site without making a purchase.
An abrupt change in the user experience could also erode trust and alarm some shoppers who might decide not to place an order because of the unfamiliar interface.
Even though a facelift can update your brand image and improve customer experience, you may need to execute a gradual transition so returning visitors can still navigate your website and make a purchase with ease.
In addition, create a customer communication plan to announce the website update via email, social media, and other customer touchpoints. You can even take the opportunity to generate buzz and drive traffic by promoting a special offer.
6. Scope Creep, Hidden Fees, and Delays
There are many moving parts in a website migration project, and it’s important to plan out every detail and account for various contingencies so you don’t run into surprises that can severely impact the timeline and budget.
Many merchants get hit with hidden or unexpected costs during the migration process. For example, they may realize they need a catalog transfer service to tackle the large number of SKUs in their stores, which could add $10,000 to $100,000 to the initial cost and up to 6 months to the timeline.
It’s also common for businesses to fall prey to the “bright shiny object syndrome” by trying to squeeze new features and functionalities into the platform during the development process.
Such ad-hoc approach not only increases the cost and delays the launch but also often results in an “over-engineering” of the website interface, which complicates the user experience and negatively impacts conversion rates.
To avoid unnecessary delays and budget increase, develop a comprehensive project and risk management plan. Conduct a thorough requirement setting exercise at the start of the project to ensure that the finished website meets your business objectives, has a customer-centric interface, and is optimized for conversion.
7. Domain Authority
Many online merchants overlook their SEO during the migration. As a result, they lose their domain authority, and their ranking suffers.
If you have been building the SEO juice of your existing website, make sure you orchestrate the migration carefully so it doesn’t lose its search engine ranking.
Address pages and content that will not be migrated.
Ensure meta information is properly transferred.
Perform a technical SEO audit.
Submit your site map so search engines can index the new site.
Measure your pre-launch ranking and monitor your post-launch ranking closely. You may see some temporary changes in your Google Analytics if you have a lot of redirects, but it should go back to normal after Google updates its index.
Migrating to a new eCommerce platform allows you to get the right tools so you can achieve your business objectives and introduce robust features that will improve customer experience and increase conversion.
With the right project management and migration strategy, you can avoid running into unexpected costs and delays that could derail the project.
In addition, don’t make the mistake of trying to do everything in-house. Many eCommerce migration tasks, such as transferring your product/customer data and maintaining your SEO ranking, require the knowledge and experience of seasoned experts. Be sure to get the assistance of the right partners so you can optimize your ROI.
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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