A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE
The first post on this topic introduced the first six steps to migrate your e-commerce site to Shopify from another platform. There, we suggested looking at your existing sitemap to determine exactly what content you already have, data mapping to see how the data will match up from one field type to another across platforms, cleaning your data to prepare for a seamless migration, and developing a migration plan. (Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash)
Today, we get into the meat of the matter: the migration itself.
Whether you’re undertaking your site migration yourself or hiring a pro to guide you through the process, this post will prepare you for what to expect, from start to finish.
We’re jumping back into this topic on Step #8...
Step 8: Migration
The actual site migration can be broken down into several distinct categories:
- Design Migration
- Navigation Migration
- Content Migration
- Business Settings Migration
The design is everything to do with what your site will look like once it is on Shopify. Maybe you want it took look exactly like your current site, but just with the added Shopify functionality. Totally doable (although maybe not as simple and straightforward as you might assume.)
When it comes to your site design on Shopify, you have a few primary options:
- Use a pre-built theme
- Replicate your existing design
- Create a new custom theme
If you want to migrate to Shopify as quickly and efficiently as possible, this is the option for you.
Shopify has dozens of pre-built themes for you to choose from. We suggest that you select a theme based on how well its functionality aligns with your e-commerce strategy. For example, not all themes support video effectively, have multi-currency capabilities, or put imagery at the forefront of the design. Any theme can tailored to fit your brand (to some extent), but there’s not much you can easily do to change the functionality of a pre-built theme.
The Pros of Using a Pre-Built Theme:
- It’s Simple: All of the customization options are built directly into the theme settings
- Quick to Deploy: You can potentially can have a store up-and-running within a few days
- Affordable: It’s easy to DIY as long as you work within the set constraints of the theme
- Reliable: Pre-built themes are pre-tested based on Shopify’s rigorous approval process for search engine optimization, accessibility, performance and browser compatibility.
The “Cons” of Using a Pre-Built Theme:
- It’s, well, a pre-built theme: Thousands of other stores are likely using the same pre-built theme. You can tailor the settings to make it look on-brand, but your site won’t be truly original or award-winning.
- Minimal Customization: Intended for basic customization to meet branding needs. But any attempt to change HTML, CSS or Liquid code could quickly unravel the theme's core capabilities.
You can integrate apps to add more functionality to a pre-built theme, but be cautious of the financial and performance costs that go along with app integrations.
At the end of the day, pre-built themes are the best option for… companies that are still early in their e-commerce growth and for those that don't have overly unique design requirements.
Replicate Your Existing Design
You like your current design and want to keep it. Seems simple enough. Except every platform is based on different coding language. So in order to “keep” your current site design and move it to Shopify, you’ll have to recreate the entire design from scratch on the Shopify platform.
Essentially, this option is creating a new, custom theme - just without the design phase.
Before you decide that this is what you want to do, consider:
- Do you have statistics that tell you how well the current design is working for your customers and your brand strategy?
Make sure that your preference is backed up with real numbers that support your business goals before investing the time (and money) to migrate while keeping the same design. If you’re going through the migration process, now is an ideal time to consider a redesign or tweak some design elements to boost your business.
Create a New, Custom Theme
This option is a blank slate. You can start with your e-commerce strategy and build from there. You won’t need to “reverse engineer” your strategy to fit the restrictions of a pre-built theme or existing design.
However, this isn’t a DIY option. You’re going to need pros - either in-house design and development talent or an external partner to guide the design and development.
A custom theme will take longer to build out (generally two to five months), will cost more, and will require more work to update or create the content and media needed to fit the new theme requirements.
But the potential impact it can make on your growing business can be so worth it. Just ask Johnny Cupcakes.
Once you’ve decided on the design approach for your new Shopify site, the next migration consideration is navigation - any tools that help shoppers find the product they’re looking for. Primarily, this consists of site navigation, collections, and filtering.
Primary site navigation creates a structure and organization for your site that makes it easy to understand for your shoppers. It includes:
- Main Navigation: primary content and collections
- Footer Navigation: auxiliary content like policies or customer support
- Utility Navigation: usually located in the upper-right-hand corner and reserved for more action-oriented links like account login, search, and shopping cart
Collections are organizational systems that group products based on any number of factors. They can be manually-curated or rule-driven, and generally fall into one of the following categories:
- Attribute Collections: Derived from basic product attributes such as type, vendor, color, size, etc.
- Curated Collections: Center around a theme such as target audience, seasonality, or anything that ties them together in a noteworthy way
- Promotional Collections: Focused on promotional or discount strategies such as sales, bestsellers, new, or low stock.
Also known as “Faceted Search”, filtering lets users further narrow-down the list of product results within a given Collection. Shopify primarily uses of tags as the filtering method within a Collection, and has native support for the following “sorting options”:
- Featured (manually sorted)
- Best Sellers (based on Shopify order history data)
For more advanced product filtering, a tool like Nextopia can expand on Shopify’s native capabilities.
Finally, this section is what you’ve been thinking about migrating your e-commerce site: getting your product and customer data from over there to over here.
The first steps here are to define what content should be migrated, what content should be revised, and what content should be dropped altogether.
When it comes to migrating content, there is a wide spectrum of “content types” to consider within Shopify. We’re talking about the big ones here, but don’t forget about any other more minor content categories you may have as well (ie. gift card data).
This data contains the various attributes associated with each individual product. Products often have very unique attributes associated with them that wouldn't exist on any other type of content, such as:
- Wholesale cost
- Vendor descriptions
- Spec sheets, etc.
Product data is where we tend to find the most challenges related to compatibility between other platforms and Shopify. The attributes associated with a product can different greatly from one e-commerce platform to another. It’s important to be sure that each filtering option (i.e. size, price, vendor, etc), maps to an appropriate attribute within Shopify.
This content is all of the information that informs the buying process. Brand content can be seen in two categories: static and dynamic content.
Static Content is infrequently updated and used more as 'reference' material. It includes:
- Size guides
Dynamic content is updated more frequently, is used to engage with customers, and forms the foundation of search engine optimization or user-generated content plans. It includes:
- Landing pages
- Image sliders
Customers are the lifeblood of any e-commerce company and so is the data associated with them. It's critical to maintain any existing profile information associated with previous customers during the migration process. This data will likely include fields such as:
- First name
- Last name
- Zip Code
- Accepts Marketing?
- Total Spent
- Total Orders
Maintaining detailed records of past customer orders is essential to managing any support or return requests, and is critical in building a better understanding of what products sell and the interests of your customers. In addition, accurate order information is key to maintaining proper financial records for tax and business planning purposes.
Make sure to maintain any existing or circulating promotional codes, such as:
- Flat-rate discounts
- Percentage-based discounts
- Free shipping).
Migrate data related to the quantities and durations of use, and restrictions by product, collection, or customer type.
BUSINESS SETTINGS MIGRATION
In addition to migrating existing data, it's important that any of your site’s “business requirements” are properly addressed. These are generally configured manually within Shopify, such as:
- Shipping: flat-rate shipping and carrier-calculated shipping
- Taxes: Shopify's built-in tax settings are fairly robust and allow for automatic rate calculation, tax overrides and location-specific rate control.
- Third-party integrations
Step 9: Set Up URL Redirects
Create 301 redirects for your most active pages (URLs) to ensure you don't lose the SEO value of these links when switching platforms. If you don't want to map out and redirect everything, you can use Google Analytics to find your top landing pages. These are pages people are hitting directly either via a blog post, forum, promotion or email campaign.
Step 10: Testing + QA
You’re almost there! Your data has been migrated over to Shopify, and now it’s time to take a step back and make sure it all works right before you flip the switch.
Testing your new Shopify site across a range of devices and browsers. (Bugs at this stage could affect a customer’s trust in your brand or whether they are able to make a purchase from your store).
The typical approach is to test your site on the devices and browsers being used by your customers and the general market. You can source this information from your Google Analytics history and market trend analysis tools such as NetMarketShare. (Hitting the top 80% of devices/browsers should be plenty.)
Most websites that migrate from one platform to another will experience some sort of change with their search engine rankings. Generally, any negative impact is usually short-lived, assuming you take care of a few key SEO tasks. These are to:
- Make sure that all products, pages, collections and posts have unique META information added.
- Ensure all images have keyword-optimized ALT tags.
- Install Google Search Console and submit the new Shopify sitemap so Google can re-index your new URLs.
Optimize Site Performance
Tools like PageSpeed Insights can measure load speed and suggest potential improvements. Two major steps you can take to improve that performance are:
- Compress your product and content images to the smallest sizes possible without compromising on quality.
Step 11: Launch
Pointing your DNS settings to Shopify's servers, and you’re live! Time to do a little happy dance, and watch the sales roll in.
Migrating your e-commerce site to Shopify from another platform can be a complex project, but it doesn’t need to be a struggle. If you need a partner to guide your store migration (or any other step along the way!), the Growth Spark team is here for you. Just let us know how we can help.
> Read the first post of this topic, “How to Migrate Your E-Commerce Site to Shopify from WooCommerce or Magento (Part 1)”