Re-platforming to Shopify: the Ultimate Survival Guide
November 18, 2021
There are many reasons why an ecommerce business may choose to re-platform. Cost, functionality and security concerns all contribute to a company’s decision to make the switch.
With virtually unlimited scalability, 24/7 support and an easy-to-navigate user interface, it’s not hard to see why Shopify is quickly becoming the most popular ecommerce platform around.
How does Shopify work?
First of all, if you’ve never heard of Shopify in the first place, it’s a commerce platform on which merchants can sell their products. Though it can also be used for brick and mortar stores via Shopify POS, it’s primarily used to build and run ecommerce websites.
Shopify is all-inclusive, meaning it can be used to promote and ship products as well as sell them. The user-friendly interface appeals to many businesses, with a simple admin panel for storing data (such as customer purchase history), adding and amending product information and processing orders. You can also create and manage collections, edit landing pages and create a blog for your website – all in one place.
There are four different price plans available, meaning there’s a version of Shopify to suit all business sizes and budgets. Hosting is included with Shopify, so you don’t have to worry about incurring any additional costs for this area of your website. However, you will be charged transaction fees unless you’re using Shopify Plus.
Before beginning the re-platforming process, there are few things you need to be aware of to ensure your migration goes as smooth as possible.
- Your domain name and SSL certificate will need to be transferred to a new server
- You will need a plan to export or migrate your existing data so it doesn’t get lost
- If your company email address is hosted by your current platform, this may change and you will need to identify a solution and migration plan for email hosting
- If you have a large number of products, you will need to decide how you’re going to transfer these over, as doing so manually will be very time consuming
- An ecommerce business can rely on many integrations or third-party features to provide functionality – you’ll need to analyse each of these you currently use and ensure either they can be used with Shopify, or work with your developers or Shopify Launch Engineer to identify alternatives
Re-platforming to Shopify – step by step:
Migrating from one platform to another can be a bit of a minefield, and there’s plenty that could go wrong. Following a step-by-step guide will keep things straightforward and manageable.
1. Make a plan
Before you start doing anything, you should make a detailed plan. Devise a realistic timeline, assign tasks to each of your team and map out key checkpoints. Your plan should cover the following areas/tasks:
- Data migration, which might include order history and customer information
- Product migration
- Frontend design
- Backend development
- QA testing
- Training for your staff, both pre and post launch
You will need to decide what you want to migrate during this stage, and decide on any tools you’d like to use to make the process easier. You should keep your current website running during the process to avoid any downtime, thus avoiding any needless revenue loss.
2. Set up your Shopify account
A great perk of using Shopify is that you can get a free trial before deciding on a plan. This gives you a chance to see which aspects of Shopify you need and which ones you can live without. You can also get a feel for how it works before making a commitment. Shopify’s customer support team can help with any queries, and if you’re using a Shopify development agency like Venture Stream, they’ll certainly know their way around the user interface too.
3. Backup your current store
Make sure you remember this part. Should something go wrong during migration, you don’t want to be left without any of your data. All data you’ve decided to keep in your initial plan should be backed up before any re-platforming tasks begin.
4. Migrate your data
Once you’ve ensured your data is backed up and your Shopify account is all set up, it’s time to begin the migration process. Shopify offers several apps that can make this process easier, or you can choose to import and export manually. If you choose to go manual, you’ll more than likely have to do this via the use of CSV files. We’d recommend using an experienced ecommerce store developer to assist with this.
Tip from Liam, Frontend Developer at Venture Stream: “Bulk import/export apps, especially Excelify, are your new best friend. One of the main worries about platform migrations is where your data will end up. Shopify has useful tools and guides available to help make data transferral as smooth as possible.”
5. Make it look the part
The look and feel of your website is just as important as the backend development. You have two options when it comes to the aesthetics of your website: use a pre-made Shopify theme or have a Shopify developer create a custom theme for you. You’ll have more creative freedom with a custom theme and can make sure every aspect of your online store is in keeping with your company’s branding for a professional looking website. For assistance and advice on Shopify website design, take a look at our Website and UX design page.
Before you launch your website to the big wide world, it’s absolutely vital that you perform tests. Don’t just perform them once, either, ask your colleagues or friends to test things out, too. We recommend performing test transactions – the last thing an ecommerce site needs is a faulty checkout. You should also check that any features such as wishlists, product viewing history and image carousels are functioning correctly. Be sure to check your page loading speeds, too – it’s better to iron these things out before launch to ensure your future customers have the best user experience possible.
You should also make sure that your site looks good – check for broken images and that all of your pages are displaying properly.
Website Migration and SEO
A huge concern when migrating a website is the potential loss of current search rankings. And as soon as your high ranking pages drop, so does your traffic. Many businesses make significant changes to their website with good intentions, but fail to take into consideration the repercussions this can have on organic search performance until it’s too late.
It’s very important to test your site on a test server before launch. It may be tempting to rush to make your new website live but failing to spot mistakes early can be detrimental to your site’s long-term performance. A migration, if executed correctly, shouldn’t have any permanent effects on traffic, but you should expect a dip in the short term.
It’s a good idea to crawl your old site (you can use tools like Screaming Frog to do this) and save your crawl. You can use this to keep a record of all of the pages on your old site. You can also identify any crawl errors, broken links or redirects that already exist. However, remember that orphaned pages (pages that aren’t linked to anywhere in your site), won’t be crawled, so you may need to rectify this beforehand or decide whether you even want to keep these pages in the first place.
You’ll also need to keep your Google Analytics data to hand so you can run a side-by-side comparison once your new site is launched, meaning you can monitor any changes in traffic and conversion.
Migrating from Magento to Shopify
There’s no denying that Magento and Shopify are the most popular ecommerce platforms currently, and it’s not uncommon for businesses to migrate from one to the other.
We touched on bulk editors earlier, and apps can be really helpful if you’re planning to migrate from Magento to Shopify. Shopify has numerous different apps that are specifically designed to aid migration between the two platforms. Multichannel Migrator, Cart2Cart and LitExtension are just a few of the many Shopify migration apps available, but many perform the same actions.
Whilst the open source nature of Magento makes it easier to customise functionality, Shopify relies on apps for more native functionality. Luckily, Shopify offers over 1,000 apps, so the chances of you being able to regain all of the features you enjoyed with Magento is pretty high. There are options for automated order responses, merchandising and more.
A migration of any kind is a lot of work. It’s important to work with a development team that knows Shopify and Magento inside out. Our team of website developers includes both Shopify and Magento specialists, who’ve worked on some of the biggest brands and most successful ecommerce websites in the world. Working with a development team who lacks exposure to Shopify will only slow your migration process down and possibly lead to mistakes that could have been avoided.
For more information on the differences between Magento and Shopify, see our Magento vs Shopify blog.
- All data correctly migrated
- All collections correctly set up
- Navigation is user friendly with all menu items set up correctly
- All pages created
- Design is consistent throughout the site with no fonts, colours or images out of place
- Design is responsive across mobile, desktop and tablet devices
- All relevant apps connected and tested
- Any other integrations set up, for example Shopify POS
- All shipping rules and processes in place
Shopify Development at Venture Stream
Our team of experienced ecommerce developers have gotten Venture Stream recognised as one of the leading Shopify development agencies in the North. We can design, develop and maintain bespoke Shopify websites, using our extensive experience in running successful online retail businesses.
We put our heart and soul into every project, building sites that last and serve your business over the long term.
If you’d like to discuss the possibility of re-platforming your ecommerce site, or just feel like it’s time for a redesign, get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.