How to Avoid Four of the Most Common Website Migration Issues
by Ron Dod
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Retailers that have done a remarkable job at scaling their eCommerce businesses will, at some point, require that their website expands beyond its current capabilities to take on new qualities and features. When the current iteration starts to feel limited in its abilities, functionality, and simply cease to meet the seller’s ambitions, it is time to migrate to a platform that will better serve the consumer needs of an online store.
While an eCommerce website migration can certainly be exciting, it is also fraught with perils and pitfalls that could potentially damage a brand’s performance in significant (if not irreparable) ways.
The migration process requires a wide array of tasks to be managed in an extremely meticulous fashion coupled with challenging strategic decisions and constant vigilance throughout the months-long process.
Fortunately, there are a variety of technological solutions and expert services that retailers can leverage to make the process easier and less stress-inducing. However, even with these tools at a merchant’s disposal, there are still a fair number of issues that surface time and again during the eCommerce website re-platforming process.
No matter if you are migrating to Magento, Shopify Plus or another robust solutions available to digital retailers, be on the lookout for these common eCommerce website migration issues.
Transferring Order Histories
Most eCommerce platforms utilize their own databases to manage customer order histories. Having this data can be incredibly useful to merchants for various reasons (remarketing among them); however, moving the information over to a new platform can be incredibly laborious to manage, if it can be accomplished at all.
If preserving this data is a must for your business (as it is for many), it is necessary to plan and budget accordingly as this can be an extremely troublesome aspect of the migration process.
For this task, it is wise to leverage an automated migration service like the tool Cart-2-Cart, which can effectively assist retailers in migrating order history data (as well as other information) to the new platform. Moreover, Cart-2-Cart supports major eCommerce solutions like Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce and others, making it a convenient choice.
A service such as Cart-2-Cart can run merchants anywhere between a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the amount of data that site owners must transfer. Consider this information prior to entering into the migration process.
Moving Passwords and Customer Data
Customer data, such as names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, potential usernames and passwords are all incredibly important data points that retailers must migrate over to the new platform. However, this information cannot be pulled entirely from the original site until merchants are ready to go live with their new destination as customers will be placing orders up until the switch occurs.
It is necessary to migrate this info carefully so that merchants provide a seamless experience for consumers so as to not lose any in the move. While retailers can potentially migrate passwords with Cart-2-Cart or other services, there is a significant chance that users will be required to establish new credentials as many platforms encrypt passwords and other sensitive data to protect users. If this is the case, the information cannot be decrypted by the new platform, thereby making a direct handoff impossible.
If this situation comes to pass, there are proactive methods for dealing with it that won’t annoy or frustrate customers. Firstly, retailers can add a message to their current site’s header that links to the password reset page, explaining why customers must create a new passcode. Additionally, it is wise to make a post about the new website launch on social media and let customers know that for security purposes, they will need to generate a new password.
However, a great way to handle the scenario that would likely get consumers to happily change their passwords and generate increased sales for the business would be to launch an email campaign. Through this outreach effort, retailers can advise customers of the website switchover, inform them that their passwords will need to be reset and include a coupon code for any who complete the task within a specific period.
Finally, once the migration is completed in full, retailers will want to include a message on their login screen for those that failed to enter new credentials, informing them that they are required to create a new password.
Even if you can manage to move your customer’s passwords over without forcing them to reset their login info, it is wise to have them change or at least re-enter their information for security purposes.
Developing a Launch Strategy
While it may seem as if turning on the new site is the simplest part of the migration, it still comes with a variety of technical challenges that require a good deal of precision and consideration. Because of potential in-progress orders, unique business circumstances and timing factors, the actual cutover and launch process tends to be much more complicated than it seems.
To reduce the amount of customer confusion or potential impacts, merchants should carefully plan this step as its timing is one of the most important details. Peak traffic hours, the day of the week and time of day (or night) should all be assessed in order to minimize the impact of the cutover.
Seek to perform the switch when traffic is at its lowest during the week and at a timeframe in which your site sees the least amount of activity. Moreover, customers should be advised via banners and emails that your site will be transitioning and when they can expect to see the site temporarily downed. It is essential to keep customers in the know as this process could take several hours to complete.
A Drop in Traffic and Sales
After a migration is complete, some retailers end up experiencing a significant drop in traffic and sales. One of the most common culprits for this misfortune is because URL redirects were not handled properly, resulting in a massive loss of organic traffic.
While it may not be easy, sexy or quick, the best way to defend against this situation is to add URL redirects manually. This technique demands that retailers pull a sitemap for their current site and map each destination to the corresponding URL of the new site. While this approach is undoubtedly incredibly in-depth, tedious and prone to human error, it enables merchants to manually inspect that each URL has been mapped to the best possible destination.
This level of oversight is essential as Google has stated that redirecting pages “en masse” to irrelevant destinations will be treated as 404s and therefore, will not pass on any SEO value. Redirect mapping requires massive attention to detail and should be carried out by an expert team of experienced SEOs.
That said, many eCommerce sites consist of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of pages; as a result, manually mapping each URL is a practical impossibility. Given the time that this would require, it is essential to introduce an automation service.
Performing a website migration can be an incredibly complex, tedious and time-consuming task for eCommerce retailers. The process requires a precise strategy that takes everything possible into account while also demanding intense cooperation between a variety of groups.
Furthermore, website migrations can undoubtedly be dangerous when mismanaged. For that reason, it is wise for retailers to reach out to eCommerce development experts, who understand the intricacies of such an undertaking to help ensure the best chance of migrating in a smooth and uneventful manner for online stores.
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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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