As your eCommerce business grows, it’s important to ensure that your online store continues to meet the needs of your customers. You may even get to the point where you outgrow your current eCommerce platform or CMS and need to make the switch to one that better accommodates you.
This is no light undertaking, however. An eCommerce platform migration is an exceptionally complex and technical development task that needs to be handled by an astute and knowledgeable agency. While the benefits you may derive from a migration are well worth the effort, mishandling the process could ruin the functionality of your website, upend the way your store looks, or even cause you to lose all of your hard-earned rankings in Google.
Once you come to the conclusion that a migration from one platform to another is absolutely essential for the health of your business, it’s time to take the necessary steps in order to pull it off. When painting giant Bob Ross Inc. realized that it was time to make the switch to a more robust eCommerce platform such as BigCommerce, they took that first step by contacting 1Digital®, seeing our prior experience with comprehensive platform and data migrations as a sure fit.
What it Takes to Navigate an eCommerce Platform Migration
There’s quite a bit to consider when it comes to any kind of website migration project, to say nothing of the hurdles that must be navigated in the case of an online store. In general, eCommerce websites are far bigger than other kinds of websites and contain quite a substantial amount of important data that must be transferred to the new platform as well.
The process of carrying over the store design and functionality is actually the lighter side of a platform migration. An eCommerce website may contain hundreds or even thousands of individual products, or SKUs, which have to be faithfully transferred over. On top of this, customer data and order history may have to be transferred as well. When you factor in the differences between particular eCommerce platforms and realize that not everything will magically sync up on its own, it becomes rapidly apparent that unless you hire a qualified eCommerce developer, you’re going to run into some problems.
Several key points need to be taken into consideration during the actual migration process. The new platform should have all of the necessary infrastructure to support the important parts of the old website both in terms of design and functionality and allow for a seamless transition of data. It is up to the agency or developer to utilize the features of both platforms, as well as their own experience, in order to ensure everything lines up correctly and nothing falls through the cracks. Certain customizations may need to be put in place in order for the new platform to fully accommodate the old website, which will be brought to light as the project is scoped out.
It is not uncommon during the course of a migration to make additional improvements to the actual design or features of your eCommerce site on top of the migration process. The platform you decide to migrate to will play a role in just what kinds of features and changes you are looking to implement. BigCommerce Enterprise for instance is designed to provide established eCommerce businesses with everything they need in order to run their store efficiently, with plenty of room to grow.
This is one of the deciding factors when it comes to knowing whether or not a migration is in your best interests or not. If your current platform lacks certain features, that’s one thing. However, if the platform you are currently on will not allow your business to scale, that is a serious problem that could negatively impact what you are trying to accomplish. In the case of Bob Ross Inc., they realized that Volusion was no longer the right fit, forcing them to seek out a more robust platform.
Making the Move to BigCommerce Enterprise
Bob Ross Inc. was looking for a number of features and improvements that just didn’t make sense to try implementing on Volusion, their old platform. While Volusion is a solid eCommerce platform in its own right, it has in many ways lagged behind other, more versatile, and robust eCommerce systems in recent years. For the team at Bob Ross, they felt it was time to make the switch and 1Digital® was ready to help them make it happen.
After some deliberation, it was clear that BigCommerce Enterprise was the best option for them in regards to the functionality and integrations they were looking for. While some of the more advanced features that Bob Ross Inc. wanted aren’t specifically native to BigCommerce, this platform is much better suited for custom development, which allowed our team at 1Digital® to provide the exact solutions they were looking for, including credit card vaulting and better integration with various ERP systems.
It is this greater degree of functionality that is typically one of the main draws when it comes to an eCommerce migration. Newer, more sophisticated platforms like BigCommerce Enterprise are perfectly suited for serious businesses that want to provide a variety of important features for their customers. This can include everything from app integrations to a smarter checkout experience. Due to the inherent limitations of certain platforms such as Volusion, growth is not always possible and a migration to a platform like BigCommerce becomes a necessity and important investment toward the future.
What are the specific benefits to BigCommerce Enterprise?
- Highly flexible open SaaS
- Supports all major payment gateways
- An incredible amount of integrations
- Powerful API that can handle high volumes
- Excellent performance, virtually zero chance of bottleneck
- Expansive selection of customer loyalty features
- Intuitive and streamlined store management and design tools
- Some of the best support in the industry
What BigCommerce does better than most other platforms is its great degree of flexibility, integrations, and overall ease of use. It is designed from the ground up to support large-scale eCommerce operations, so it is unlikely that you will ever need to replatform again. Their simple user-friendly interface and paired down “Essentials” plan also means that any size business can find a home on BigCommerce with the intent to grow on the platform.
Of course, no matter how great an eCommerce platform is, a migration still requires a sure hand and technical know-how in order to make sure everything goes smoothly. Here at 1Digital®, our developers know exactly how to handle complex eCommerce data migration issues, to ensure that no data is lost and that all of your desired functionality is maintained.
How we Managed the Data Migration
For Bob Ross Inc., we had to migrate around 60,000 customer accounts, as well as over 100,000 customer orders, without dropping the ball. Data migration on this scale requires a thoroughly tested process followed through to the letter, and this is something that 1Digital® specializes in. Our developers utilize in-house custom scripts based on individual client needs, that pull the desired data from one platform to another. After performing hundreds of eCommerce data migrations, we have developed an effective process that’s both flexible and dependable.
The flexible nature of our process is one of the reasons why it stands out. When it comes to data migrations, no two websites are similar. This means if you rely on blanket solutions, you are likely to encounter problems, with possible loss of data and other headaches. Here at 1Digital®, our eCommerce development team applies custom solutions for each individual client, including which data fields are transferred and how these data fields are interpreted in the new eCommerce backend. Mishandling here can fill your database with useless information or even render customer accounts unusable.
For this project, everything was a seamless transition. We followed our process, from initial data transfer, through testing and the final data resync, all without issue. All relevant data was accounted for and we ensured that the launch process went off without a hitch. What clients love about our process is the transparency; at every juncture of the migration process, the team at Bob Ross knew exactly what was going on with the state of their website.
Visual Enhancements and Improved Functionality
Of course, it wasn’t all about the data migration, as important as that was to the continued functionality of the Bob Ross store. 1Digital® was tasked with carrying over the bulk of their entire website frontend, products, category pages, and all. The site was also to be updated with numerous visual enhancements, including a beautiful and highly-functional mega menu.
Mega-menus are an exploding trend in eCommerce, that help to enhance the user experience by providing a much more streamlined and visually appealing navigation system. A mega menu will often pare down the actual category structure of an online store, reducing it to its most fundamental and important elements. This in turn helps funnel traffic and improve the shopping process for users.
However, designing a custom mega menu and implementing it properly requires both a talented group of designers as well as a team of expert developers that are attuned to the needs of the client. Here at 1Digital®, we routinely craft gorgeous and highly functional mega menus that help improve a store’s conversions and simply make the website look far more professional.
For an art-centric brand such as Bob Ross, nothing short of an artistic mega menu would do, which is exactly what we provided. We built a menu that helped streamline their navigation in a clean and artful way that was 100% on brand, exactly how they wanted it to look.
1Digital® also handled an array of other important tasks during the migration that involved custom development, such as carrying over their unique category page functionality. On bobross.com, whenever you access a specific category page, a unique subcategory menu dynamically appears on the left to adjust for the specific category you are in, in lieu of a traditional breadcrumb system. This was custom functionality that their website already possessed on Volusion, which we redeveloped to fit their new BigCommerce theme.
On top of these important development requests, we also took the homepage header and footer, as well as the colors and fonts, and applied them to the BigCommerce theme, to create a coherent and seamless experience throughout the entire website.
Maintaining SEO Through 301 Redirects
Another critical aspect of migrating an eCommerce website involves the proper implementation of 301 redirects. This is one of the most volatile areas of moving a website from one server to another, and if done improperly, can have a dramatic negative impact on the health of your website.
Whenever a URL is changed on your website, for any reason, there is a possibility that the page in question could lose its place in the Google rankings. When performing a migration, changes in category structure and other differences in your URLs could potentially lead to your website losing all of its SEO. It’s also not enough to simply prevent a 404 error page if someone happens to find one of the old URLs, you actually have to inform the search engines that the previous location of certain content has moved to a different URL. There is a right and a wrong way of doing this, and if handled incorrectly, years of hard SEO work could be tossed out of the window overnight.
It is this loss of SEO that causes many store owners to hesitate when it comes to performing a full migration, but Bob Ross knew they were in capable hands with 1Digital®. We routinely perform these kinds of migration tasks successfully, because not only is our team full of expert designers and developers, we also specialize in eCommerce SEO as well and know how to effectively use 301 redirects to ensure that websites don’t lose their spots in Google.
While it is somewhat common to experience slight dips and fluctuations in SERP position during any kind of URL restructuring or website migration, through the use of 301 redirects you can retain the vast majority of your standings. Bobross.com, being an established website with a multitude of ranked pages, clearly needed a sure and steady hand in this regard. 1Digital® was able to implement the proper redirects and completely retain their SEO. Throughout the migration process and after, their website did not see a loss in impressions or web traffic, a signature of a properly managed migration project.
Professional eCommerce Platform Migration Services
Every website migration comes with its own unique set of hurdles and tasks that must be managed carefully in order to successfully meet the needs of the client. Whether you are in need of a straight and accurate data migration, or a comprehensive platform migration with custom design and development involved, it’s crucial that you let a team of eCommerce professionals handle it.
In order to properly address each specific issue that may arise during the course of a migration, you need a team that has experience working on every eCommerce platform. Here at 1Digital®, we specialize in addressing the needs of store owners regardless of the platform they are on, and no matter what their project calls for. Through our years of experience and technical skills, we are able to guide store owners to appropriate solutions that will allow them to keep up with the ever-changing demands of the eCommerce industry.
If you think it’s time for a change in platform, our agency can help you through the process as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Simply give us a call at 888.982.8269 or read more about how we approach migrations to get a better understanding of what to expect. We also have a comprehensive resource on eCommerce data and platform migrations if you want an even deeper look at our process.
- Matt Lovett
- October 9, 2020