Migrations are major projects that impact every facet of a business, from marketing to management to the tech team and external suppliers.
A migration is an opportunity to improve processes, increase organic sales, streamline data and make your brand shine online. It’s also the perfect time to take a fresh look at your digital customer relationship, loyalty program, ratings and reviews and refreshing your trigger emails.
As with any project of this scale, there are numerous decisions to be made along the way, along with risks and pitfalls.
Here are 10 steps you should follow to ensure a hassle-free migration to Shopify & Shopify Plus:
1. Create a plan
You need a plan to manage the migration stakeholders and moving parts. Start with a calendar to map the key events and milestones against dates.
The more granular your plan is, the more likely it is to succeed, so get down to the fine detail and don’t underestimate how effective a spreadsheeting tool like Excel is to start your documentation.
You need to map out the key project tasks, assets needed, project tools, stakeholder accountability, team responsibilities, timelines and even budgets. Map these items out to the calendar dates to get a feel for milestones.
Next, assemble your stakeholder team. You will need input and participation from many stakeholders different departments like the C-suite, IT, marketing, sales, accounting/finance, operations, fulfilment and customer service. Decide on your meeting agendas, formats and key milestones and get them into your plan.
You will become very familiar with the term ‘sprints’. Sprints are major milestones within a project of this scale. Break down your migration into specific sprints, keeping stakeholders accountable along the way.
Finally, it’s time to start selecting your preferred project management tools.
When it comes to collaborating across departments, stakeholders, team members and agencies, check out tools like Slack, Yammer, Basecamp and Microsoft Teams.
If you need a handy repository for sharing big files, such as video edits or working design files, Dropbox is a great place to start.
Project management tools like Basecamp, are big favourites of ours, and you can also look at Trello and Asana .
A big tip from us is to start planning out your content early. This includes photography, UX design, creative concepts, blog posts, video content, product copy and briefing in banners and tiles to design. The content stage is often a much larger process than anticipated.
Remember, an approved site design doesn’t equal a full suite of assets ready to upload and deploy!
2. Review your processes
A new eCommerce site is a great opportunity to move onto new systems and streamline processes. A solid plan, done early, will minimise the business impact of process changes as errors in the planning stage can cost your business dearly further down the road.
For example, a simple flaw in the dispatch process could mean your customer service team receives an influx of calls from disgruntled customers after deployment, which can be tricky to solve after the fact.
Start by mapping every business process that interacts with the eCommerce back end and evaluate it. Quickly identify those that you can’t change and improve and plan their integration with the new platform.
Find those you can improve (or remove) and factor them into your plan for change.
Next, flowchart all of the critical processes under the old system and then map them out under the new system.
After process mapping is complete, you will be in a position to commission functionality proposals from other departments, as you can now ensure that processes are included in proposal requests. This gives you a complete set of concrete requirements.
3. Start testing
The most important part of a site migration are the critical moving parts. These include processes like successful funds transacting, correct product feeds, accounting platform integration, stock management and order dispatch.
These core pieces of functionality are ‘showstoppers’. A major fail with any one of these will delay your deployment, so it’s best to get your development environment set up early and start with the framework and functionality.
Get your plugins integrated and launch straight into any custom coding and necessary data integrations.
The testing team can then start validating and testing the processes while the rest of the project rolls on.
These processes (and the steps in them) directly influence your User eXperience design. And your UX design directly briefs your visual design. Accurate processes and UX planning means you can confidently brief the Shopify designer, minimising design changes or additions mid-stream.
4. Define expectations
What metrics will signal a successful migration? Is it traffic? Is it sales? Is it an uplift in basket size?
In conjunction with your stakeholders, you need to define the business expectations and ensure that measuring tools are set-up prior to launch. You need to be able to track metrics immediately in order to report back.
5. Don't forget SEO
Migration can impact SEO on many levels. Your URL structure may change, and there are many other SEO steps like page titles, product pages URLs, meta descriptions, image ALT tags, H1 headings, canonical URLs, blog posts, XML sitemaps, product reviews and more that will be affected during a migration.
All stores to a certain degree depend on organic traffic. Our advice is to make sure you engage an SEO expert at the start of the process. They will help you plan out the requirements, and potentially even add a set of hands to get your SEO right from the outset.
Be aware that it’s common for recently migrated sites to temporarily lose SEO performance as a result of the migration. It’s important to manage internal expectations on this.
Proper planning from the beginning puts your project in the best position to enjoy improved SEO results after the site launches, delivering more traffic and increased revenue, usually within three to four weeks.
A top tip from us is to use 301 redirects, another step that minimises indexing trauma on deployment.
6. Organise data
There are two main sets of eCommerce data you need to organise in your migration. The first is your catalogue and product data, and the second is your customer data.
As you’re streamlining your data and processes, only migrate the essentials.
You will have already mapped out your new processes, so you know which product data you need to organise, streamline and migrate. In addition, if you’re making major changes, for example adding a product feed API, this is a key step in the process.
Getting your product data into the development site can be a substantial undertaking, but it’s also exciting to see it come to life on the new web pages. Once your products are in, you can finalise organising your customer data.
As you do this, you need to keep the customer experience top of mind. They will be going to a new site and need to see their account details in place when they shop.
We know that many customers get irritated when they need to re-setup accounts from scratch, or can’t access their old accounts on a new site because their old password doesn’t work. You do need to figure our a safe password protocol that keeps customers on-side.
Account and order details like account balances, tax invoices, vouchers, store credits, existing gift cards, loyalty card points (and IDs) and digital product ownership should all be there for the customer, ready to go.
7. Train your team
Whenever there is major change in processes, customer service and technology, training is key. At The Hope Factory, we recommend maximising your team engagement and killing two birds with one stone.
As part of your project plan, set up a training program that starts early in the migration process and teaches team members a little bit differently.
Rather than teaching and telling, get them to participate in workflow problem identification and solving. The next step is to get them involved in testing the front and back ends of the new site in the development environment.
Once the core data migration is tested (and prior to go-live) team members in all relevant departments should then receive training on the new site,finalising the preparation for go-live.
This kind of approach to training gives the team hands-on training in the new platform, and engages them directly in the Shopify development process, giving them a share of voice and sense of participation.
The team will be skilled up early, ensuring one less rushed task at go-live.
8. Tell customers
A new eCommerce experience is a great opportunity for your brand to shine and thrill your customers.
A new site delivers a lot of positives to talk about, so get started early. As part of your project planning, factor in a customer communications strategy that includes eDMs, social media and the customer service team.
Let customers know that you’re working on a new eCommerce site, outline the benefits, and reassure them that their details, like loyalty points and logins, will be kept intact.
The core key message? Don’t be concerned, this is going to be a great improvement for you as a customer.
A top tip is to ensure those site communications, such as Frequently Asked Questions and Help sections, are written by the marketing team to reassure customers and aren’t written in ‘tech speak’.
Give customers time to get used to the idea, and excited for the new site.
9. Test everything
Prior to launching it's essential that you and your development team test your new Shopify store. This is not negotiable.
You will need a testing plan and process, and you need to allow for testing time, bug fixes, and re-testing. Some major builds have up to six testing stages, so testing is an important consideration.
Testing must be rigorous; every page needs to be opened, every click needs to be tested, every form needs to be filled out, and every process (such as product searches, cart transactions and changing account details) needs to be tested.
Testing is ideally run by the eCommerce Project Manager, but should also involve every relevant department to directly test all processes relating to their department. They also need to test more than just the site; they need to test every step in each new workflow and every new process.
Using a tool like Jira is excellent for the testing phase as it allows all bugs, errors and fixes to be logged (including links, notes and screenshots), comments made, jobs closed and approved, and allows for easy tracking when it’s time to re-test.
Testing is highly efficient when it’s well planned, and it’s a great ‘all hands on deck’ way to get the broader business involved in the launch of the new eCommerce platform.
Launch time is an exciting stage of the plan. First up, check your analytics for your quieter online trading times, such as late at night, or on weekends. You don’t want to deploy at your busiest times.
Second, check your campaign calendar and be sure to avoid major campaigns, like in the middle of sales or Christmas. Don’t laugh, we’ve seen it attempted before.
Set a quiet time to deploy. Your technical deployment team are likely to need to work a large block of hours, and it can take several hours to propagate a new site. This means client communications are key.
Announce that the new site is coming, and keep the updates and information flowing on social media and eDMs, so you don’t concern your customers while the site is down and being deployed.
You may even want to put on an extra customer service team member or two to answer calls.
Before you send out a formal ‘new website’ announcement after it’s been successfully deployed, have a group of team members to do a fast post-deployment round of testing to ensure any last bugs are logged and, if necessary, fixed.
Once you have approved this fast test round, it’s time to celebrate and share the news with your customers. Congratulations!
We recommend you take a fresh look at your digital marketing and take advantage of this news to communicate the website changes and benefits to your customers. Customers love it when they’re surprised and delighted by their favourite brands!
The launch of a migrated store with better speeds, design, functionality and features gives you a plethora of good news to share and product links to tweet.
It’s a brilliant opportunity to refresh your eDM and loyalty databases and run campaigns to garner new sign-ups. It’s also the perfect time to encourage past and current clients to enjoy the new site and leave ratings and reviews.
A successful eCommerce migration is a good news story. It’s time to take your customers along on this ride.
The hidden opportunity
A major migration project has dozens of components that need collaboration and cooperation across all facets of a business, but it can be a highly rewarding experience.
Opportunities to bring different departments together like this are rare, and a migration is a perfect opportunity to not just deliver a new site, but create a whole new level of respect for the eCommerce portfolio within the business.
Migrations are a brilliant opportunity to deliver much more than a better eCommerce experience. You can streamline processes, refresh your digital brand presence and totally re-invigorate your customer base.
We are migration experts and would love to chat with you about your potential migration.
Get in touch and let’s make it hassle-free!