8 best practices when changing your eCommerce platform
Has your eCommerce business grown and changed? Whether executing decisive pivots, lurching in unexpected growth spurts, or evolving according to meticulous plan, eCommerce businesses are constantly in motion. Thankfully, your options have changed, too. A vibrant community of software and platform vendors has risen to serve those needs of an exploding eCommerce marketplace.
If you’ve already determined that your business has outgrown its eCommerce platform solution, know what type of solution you want, and you’ve chosen a new provider, great. Before you set off on your next phase of success, you’ll need a solid migration plan. Following these eight best practices will help ensure a smooth upgrade to your next eCommerce platform.
1. Archive your old site. It’s tempting to wipe the slate and start completely fresh. But don’t let the excitement of your “new start” cloud common sense judgement. Always archive and backup the entire contents of your old site, especially given the low cost of data storage. You never know what you might need down the road.
2. Moving domains? Upgrading eCommerce platforms often means moving domains as well. More often than not this is a sign of growth and success. Establishing a new domain adds an entire set of additional considerations to any platform upgrade, including setting up redirects, updating links, ensuring discovery and crawlability via robots.txt settings, and others.
3. Plan your data migration. Everything from catalog and inventory information to customer data will need to make the migration trip with you. For some businesses, an eCommerce platform migration will reveal opportunities for improvement in their data management practices. A rigorous plan for backup and migration of your company’s valuable data assets will help ensure a seamless transition to your new platform.
4. Prepare a comprehensive SEO strategy. Among the greatest dangers when making any major changes to an eCommerce website is degrading search engine rankings. Your site migration can go perfectly in every other respect, yet fail as a whole if proper care to maintain search relevance results in declining traffic. Read up on a few excellent SEO migration guides and consider hiring outside help if needed in order to support this vital business asset.
5. Build redundancies around email. Though often maligned, email remains an essential customer communications tool. The importance of that customer communications lifeline is even more prominent at a time of change, yet email migration often presents an unexpected pain point during platform migrations. Help avoid any interruption through extensive planning, testing, and email server redundancy during the changeover.
6. Perform extensive functional testing. Comprehensive tests are of existential importance when upgrading your eCommerce platform. Don’t rely on informal processes and last-minute efforts. Develop formal test plans that exercise the entire suite of end-user functionality as well as the business processes that support them. Create realistic use cases, test boundary conditions, and ruthlessly search for and eliminate system defects.
7. Establish concrete metrics for success. Are you generating more traffic to your site? Is that traffic converting at a higher rate? Have you reduced the rate of shopping cart abandonment? However you define business success, the migration of your eCommerce platform offers the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate your key performance indicators. Establishing meaningful KPIs will help you determine whether the time, money, and energy your platform migration required was worth the investment.
8. Communicate strategically around the rollout. You’re on the verge of the big platform upgrade. It’s time to communicate what’s about to happen and why—to your partners, your employees, and most importantly to your customers. Stay ahead of the communications curve by properly setting and managing expectations. Even the best-laid plans inevitably go awry so be prepared to issue real-time communications in the critical roll-out phase.
Upgrading your eCommerce platform is an exciting yet challenging time for business owners. Your business is clearly producing goods and services that satisfy your customers. Following these best practices will help ensure that satisfaction extends to your future customers as well.