Migrating your eCommerce to Shopify or Magento

Magento and Shopify are one of the eCommerce platform giants pitted against each other, but they are different from one another.

Migration to a different platform or also called "Replatforming" is when a website moves from one platform or CMS (Content Management System) to another, e.g. moving from Shopify to Magento or vice versa. Replatforming can, in some instances, also result in design and URL changes due to technical limitations that usually happen when switching platforms. Replatforming seldom results in a website that looks the same as the previous one.

If your current platform cannot support your growing business, you might be thinking of migrating it to a different platform. Having a goal before switching is a good way to determine if you are making the right decision. In identifying your objectives, you will come up with different reasons and back up with up data to further support your decision to migrate.

As an entrepreneur, there will be an inkling of fear that your business model will become outdated. It’s not a baseless fear, it’s normal and there will come a point your current business will grow beyond its maximum capabilities.

Why did you decide to migrate your eCommerce store in the first place?

Here are the common reasons why business owners migrate to a different platform:

1. You need better technology to keep up with the trends. Advancement in the eCommerce industry due to new technologies and new options on the market offer a lot more possibilities for business growth.

2. Your store has surpassed its current platform and expanding it further.

3. Running your day-to-day business processes under current circumstances has become a frustrating activity.

4. All the above.

Transferring a massive operation with an immense catalog to a new platform might take up to two years. If you are a big enterprise with a huge chunk of data and system that needs to migrate, it might be too much to manage especially if you try to do it in one go. While performing the migration, the market continues progressing and the new system slowly becomes outdated. If you contemplate about it, you might end up in the same place you wanted to get away from.

Migrations are difficult and often scary. It can also be a painful process, I’m not trying to scare you but there are a lot of things you might miss if you are not prepared. Yet, your best hope at achieving a seamless migration and mitigating the risk of running into major issues is having a solid plan. Later in the article, I will talk about the seven critical things you need to do before migrating. But first, let me explain some common risks before migrating to Shopify or Magento.

Possible issues may arise when migrating, there are two issues you have to remember  – expected and hidden. Expected issues are the obvious problems you know about. You may be prepared when you start and already have basic knowledge on how to fix these. On the other side, hidden problems are the ones that come up unexpectedly during the process. Your purpose is to reduce the latter.

What are the common errors when migrating?

  • Decrease in organic SEO ranking

  • Massive drop in traffic

  • Missing products and categories

  • Incomplete customer information and order history

  • Third-Party Integration and Workflow Changes

  • Broken links

  • Crawl errors

These are the most common errors you may encounter during the migration process, but it will always be a case by case basis, so you have to prepare for worst case scenarios.

Comparison of Magento vs. Shopify

Shopify makes it easy to build and manage your online store. They have a simple interface to effortlessly handle your products within the Shopify dashboard. You can upload your photos or use our free stock photos, add new products, feature items, edit inventory, and much more.

Shopify has business tools to keep track of the status on all orders. You can also analyze your order history to build better customer relations and target your marketing campaign. It has a built-in system to compute the average lifetime value of your customers.

You can utilize Shopify's free or paid templates to design your own store. You have complete control over the look and feel of your store via the admin and theme settings.

Magento lets you to fully control how you deliver your customer experience, without constraints and grows as your business grows and evolves over time. It will also let you manage multiple shops, transacts in different countries, languages, currencies, and use various worldwide shipping providers, all within a single dashboard.

Magento enables merchants to sell customizable products and digital goods online and handle the complexities of B2B commerce.

Magento has more apps with more complex eCommerce extensions than what is available on Shopify. This being said, Shopify’s range does offer you more than enough choice and still has the capability to take your store to the next level.

Use this basic comparison guide to weigh your options. The future of your eCommerce platform and potential business could be impacted by this pivotal information.

You can also check Magento and Shopify's list of features to determine which is the right platform for your business.

What are the most critical things to take care of before migrating?

1. Plan and research thoroughly.

When considering migrating to Shopify or Magento, start planning your eCommerce website's migration thoroughly. It is certainly imperative to take a step-by-step approach. Prepare carefully ahead of time and schedule the migration to be accomplished in stages, create a solid strategy and set priorities, so you can get all the advantages from the migration you were hoping for without having to commit too much work all at once.

2. Don't forget to submit a sitemap.

Techopedia defines sitemap as: a model of a site's content designed to support both users and search engines navigate the website. A site map can be a hierarchical list of pages with links arranged by topic, an organization chart, or an XML document that gives instructions to search engine crawl bots.

Once your new website is ready to go live, you need to make your XML Sitemap so you can submit it to Google and Bing Webmaster Tools right away. A tool like SEMrush or Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a great one to use to create your XML Sitemap.Magento and Shopify will automatically display your sitemap for you if your domain is hosted there.

As you build your sitemap, you may need to create multiple sitemaps, depending on the number of inventory and SKUs available on your store. If you have over 100 SKUs, I suggest creating separate sitemaps for categories and subcategories and one for products. After the sitemap is created, it’s necessary to add it to your website and then submit to search engines.

One week after the new website replaces the old one, initiate a final crawl of the old site. Say your new site isn't properly optimized or suffers from technical glitches, don't forget to save a copy of the old site’s robots.txt and XML sitemaps in case you need these in the future.

3. Document your store configuration.

What store configuration should be documented?

Pricing, vendors, categories, SKUs, quantity, and variants should be properly documented. In case there's a loss of data, you can easily patch up with your backup file. It's a common practice but often neglected during the migration process.

4. Redirecting old links.

While replatforming, you may find old URLs that are no longer applicable, have not ranked in ages, or simply don’t convert at a rate worth keeping them around for. Ideally, it’s best to keep all URLs on your site the same as before your migration. If the site has been around for a while, those product, and category pages will have plenty of internal and external links to help provide authority, so losing those URLs can negatively impact your SEO.

With many platform changes, you’ll be transferring your blog alongside your eCommerce pages. Ensure the URLs for blog content remain the same. If not, redirect them to your new URLs.

When URLs need to change, it’s essential to put together a plan for where these pages need to redirect. All redirects need to be in place when the new website goes live to minimize the number of error pages customers and search engines may find.

5. Use Google Analytics to track major changes.

Use Google Analytics to track major changes that happened to the site once it goes live. Annotate significant marketing or website updates that happen. This will assist whoever running on the account to know what may have caused a major spike or dip in traffic.

6. Consolidate all your assets.

Google crawls images less frequently than HTML pages. If migrating a site’s images from one place to another, for example from your domain to a CDN, there are steps to aid Google in finding the migrated images faster. Building an image XML sitemap will help, though you also need to ensure that Googlebot can reach the site’s images when crawling the site. Image indexing can be tricky since both web page where an image appears on as well the file itself has to get listed.

7. Consider the impact on your SEO.

Your organic SEO may be affected during the migration stage. I don’t know if your platform of choice is better than the other – they both have their pros and cons, and both need a professional SEO team to get the most out of them. But I suggest to not rely on your dev team to also be your SEO team. That would be like asking your dentist to also take care of your cardiogram. You need professionals who know the ins and outs as well as someone that specializes in it.

Use Google Search Console, SEMrush Majestic SEO, and other auditing platforms to identify key issues after the migration. Additionally, you’ll want to refresh your business listings and local citations with your new URLs, rather than redirecting them to your new page.

Certain conditions need to be fully implemented to be tested, but others don’t. This seems like information overload, however, knowing all this information available will help you avoid a lot of trouble along the way. With these above tips, you can now easily decide the best way to migrate your eCommerce website.