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Strategy

6 do’s and don’ts of ecommerce migration

Kristin Schepici
Kristin Schepici January 7, 2022
6 do’s and don’ts of ecommerce migration

Ecommerce platform migration is an exciting endeavor that allows brands to shed the old and embrace the new, offering an opportunity to elevate to the next level of success. But replatforming is a journey that at times can be intense. Like going to the doctor, migrating to another ecommerce platform is vital to maintain the health of a business as it grows. While it can be stressful, the benefits of more efficient operations, excellent customer experience and greater sales are certainly worth the effort. 

Thankfully, there are excellent ecommerce platform providers with experienced teams ready to take good care of organizations on their migration journey. At VTEX, Michael von Bodungen is just the kind of doctor who can help relieve the pain of replatforming. As Chief Customer Officer, he has 30 years of experience supporting client success in the ecommerce sector at VTEX. von Bodungen has helped thousands of customers build better businesses and is a leading expert in ecommerce platform migration. 

For organizations considering the idea of platform migration or at the start of their replatforming journey, von Bodungen shares six expert tips to “Do” and “Don’t” that will lead to success.

1. Do be open to new solutions

When migrating to a new platform, be open to new solutions. Don’t insist on making your site exactly like your old site. Instead, take advantage of what the new platform you’re migrating to has to offer.  Every ecommerce product out there has a store theme or a store template set of best practices about how the shopper’s journey behaves, from browsing to searching for a product to check out. 

My advice is to listen to the vendor providing the software and let them show you what the best practice is with their platform, then weigh the vendor’s opinion against things you feel lik you need to change. The platform vendor should have data that they can share wtih you that shows why a certain experience works better than they do it today. For example. ask the vendor to provide you data on conversion rates with their checkout if it is different from the way you do it.

Michael von Bodungen, Chief Customer Officer, VTEX

Having a closed mind and insisting that no changes are to be made can force customization not typically done on the new platform. Taking customization too far can eliminate the benefits of the new platform and cause issues when it comes to go-live or software upgrades. Of course, making changes and customization is appropriate but be open to embracing vendor suggestions. Change is intimidating, but it is necessary to stay current with the pace of technology change and allow organizations to take advantage of all the excellent features a platform vendor offers. 

2. Don’t ignore the needs of key partners 

When migrating to a new platform, don’t accidentally ignore the needs of all your key partners — especially the marketing ones. It’s easy to get lost trying to get the user experience just right. But it is critical to remember all the third parties that drive traffic to your side, including organic traffic from search engines, paid advertising from social media, and affiliate partners. You can easily have a fall-off in traffic if you don’t focus on these items.

von Bodungen advises clients to pay particular attention to ensuring a clean transition of traffic from the old to the new site. It is essential to focus on converting over SEO, affiliate traffic and other ad partners. 

You should make sure you address their needs with the new platform so you don’t see a drop in sales, which could be significant.

Michael von Bodungen, Chief Customer Officer, VTEX

For example, consider key activities like how the platform will service affiliates. Does the process for tracking affiliate metrics and paying out commission change? Does the new platform have slightly different URLs that require SEO changes? What about 301 redirects? 

When you replatform, you’re essentially moving that traffic from Google over to the new platform, and you don’t want people to click on a link in Google and come up with a page-not-found error.

Michael von Bodungen, Chief Customer Officer, VTEX

Considering the needs of all third-party partners with the new platform can prevent a drop in sales. Forget to address everyone’s needs, and that drop could be significant. No one wants to see a visible drop in revenue, especially management. Point to another reason why it is crucial to choose a collaborative platform partner with expertise, like VTEX, who can help execute migration best practices. 

3. Do find a project champion 

When migrating to a new ecommerce platform, having executive support to champion the project is essential. A project champion should be a senior leader who ensures that platform migration receives priority in the company. Using their influence, the executive leader can ensure each phase of the project gets the appropriate time commitment from the individuals who need to deliver and helps remove any roadblocks to success. 

Without a champion, a successful outcome is difficult. Project managers are left to compete for stakeholders’ time, bumping up against competing priorities viewed as more urgent than migration.  

The most successful projects I’ve been involved with always have a leader that champions migration and explains to the organization that it’s a priority. Not only do they keep the project on track, but they also don’t drag it out.

Michael von Bodungen, Chief Customer Officer, VTEX

Whether it’s supporting testing, providing data or getting access to a back-end system, a project champion is a key to overcoming obstacles within the organization. Find the right advocate from the start, and it will set the migration project on the right path to success. 

4. Don’t overlook the importance of end-to-end operational testing

All too often, companies implementing a new platform apply the bulk of their attention to the front-end experience, perfecting factors like the user experience, visual design, search capabilities and checkout process. It’s easy to forget equally critical functions, such as warehouse processes, including pick, pack and ship. Not to mention financial operations, like capturing credit card funds, recording accounting info and inventory management. 

The importance of end-to-end operational testing cannot be understated. Ensuring the new platform allows the entire operational process to flow through the business into the back-end is critical. von Bodungen urges companies not to overlook the importance of end-to-end operational testing. He encourages clients to run through all possible operating scenarios when doing acceptance tests to ensure all stakeholders are satisfied. If possible, it is best to take two or three days where operations are closed for dedicated testing time. 

I see that people overlooked this portion of the acceptance test. For example, they forget to include the customer service team that works in the call center and takes phone orders or maybe they miss scenarios of returns. What if you have an unhappy customer who needs a credit to their account or some type of appeasement?

Michael von Bodungen, Chief Customer Officer, VTEX

He urges clients to consider how those situations would play out and then run tests to ensure the platform empowers all members of operational teams.  

5. Do prepare leadership for what to expect during cutover and the weeks after launch

No one loves delivering tough messages to their leadership team. But anytime there is operational change, there is the possibility of issues. It is best to prepare leadership for the possibility of hiccups in the immediate weeks following go-live. Managing this expectation early on is better than inducing a feeling of panic later. 

To help instill confidence in leaders, sharing contingency plans to address possible issues quickly can help make the message less intimidating. It also helps to establish metrics other than the revenue that point towards migration success, such as customer surveys and reports from tools that indicate the site’s usability. Deciding a threshold that indicates when to course-correct can help instill confidence in leaders and minimize stress if an issue arises post-migration. 

Relying on revenue as an indication of success or failure is not the best measure of platform performance. 

Customers will have a different shopping experience, and you might have repeat customers come back and be hesitant when things look slightly different. That customer base has to learn and get exposed to a new normal for the brand. There might be a slight dip in sales, but it won’t last long and will recover quickly, then improve overall if you’ve done the project right.

Michael von Bodungen, Chief Customer Officer, VTEX

According to von Bodungen, a short-term dip of 5% in sales is a typical metric after a cutover. This usually recovers after 2-4 weeks after you work out any issues that weren’t caught during acceptance testing. “You can also increase your marketing spend after a migration to make up for any temporary dip,” he explains.  

When talking to your leadership team, remind them that any initial hurdles are worth it. Migration is designed to improve operations and user experience, and in the end, sales will certainly improve with it. 

6. Don’t forget to make an SEO & search migration strategy

One of the primary ways customers browse a traditional ecommerce site is through search. So don’t forget to develop a strong migration strategy for SEO & search. Today, every platform has a built-in search engine, but these engines need to be set up and fine-tuned to deliver the best results. To deliver an excellent customer experience, don’t wait until the last minute to focus on this critical function. It takes time to get the search right and has a material effect on converting sales. 

One of the things I see is that companies get ready to go live and maybe the people doing a lot of the testing are from the development team, and so they don’t focus on search terms that people use or the most commonly searched terms on the site.

Michael von Bodungen, Chief Customer Officer, VTEX

This can lead to a dip in sales when it’s time to cut over to the new platform and inevitably trigger panic from leadership. 

To prevent havoc, involve the business team that operates the site today and has access to analytics showing top search teams and the resulting conversion. Build a list of keywords and start looking at the terms on the old site and what products show up. Investigate the old site before migrating and document tuning parameters, synonyms and unique spellings. This documentation is a critical tool when going through the setup process on the new platform to ensure similar results. 

It’s easy for technical folks to overlook this step, but involving the right business team and running through user acceptance tests will ensure on-site SEO and search drive results and sales.   

Ready to embark on the journey to a new platform? Consider VTEX, and deliver the experience customers want with the help of a composable, connected and complete digital commerce platform.

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