When it’s at the heart of your business, moving to any new software platform is a daunting operation that needs to be planned strategically and carried out methodically. There are so many moving parts to high volume online businesses that it’s easy to overlook significant parts - so that’s why we’ve put together a Shopify Plus migration guide - so you can get ahead on getting it right.
Depending on your current sales operation, moving to Shopify can come with a huge host of benefits - operationally and financially. It’s a sophisticated, cloud-based software solution that can handle all manner of sales volumes - from one-man garage businesses, to multinational, enterprises - and it’s designed for simplicity and power right out of the gate.
Before you do anything, you’re going to need to work out the lay of the land. What that really means is working out what you’re paying for, and how it all links together. It’s pretty normal to have to consider:
Who is your current hosting provider, and where is the data centre? Are you using a shared or dedicated host? How much does it cost you per month, and do you have a dedicated contact or account manager?
It’s important to understand this because the machine that your system actually lives on and your access to support for that arrangement is generally expensive and critical to your operations. Make some detailed notes on exactly what you’re receiving and how much it costs monthly and yearly so it can be compared to the Shopify Plus offering.
Ongoing maintenance of web systems (security patching, third-party updates, among other tasks) can get pricey. Try to extrapolate from your previous year’s spend how much this is running you so that you can add it to the overall profile of how your money is being spent, and the cost of running your current operations.
The platform you’re currently on probably has some licensing fees associated with it. These are as simple as one-off annual fees, monthly fees or incremental fees depending on the scale and style of the platform’s usage. Make sure that these are documented and factored in - you’ll need all the information you can in order to make an accurate, informed comparison.
Now, this is really important - you’ll need to document what you’re paying to use particular payment gateways and calculate what that cost is to the business.
And for some extra context, it’s important to consider:
When we talk about business critical features, we’re referring to particular parts of the website that are crucial to the ongoing operation of the website. It largely goes without saying - but it’s really important to ensure that all of the business-critical features that power your existing store are evaluated thoroughly - and then communicated to any new agency or technology partner involved in the replatforming.
It’s a really important part of making sure that your business can continue unaffected, and often these business critical features are key to making sure that orders continue to be fulfilled in the way that they’re expected to be. Planning and managing that process carefully means that profitability and volume can continue as-is during the changeover to the new system - avoiding any nasty surprises in the meantime.
It's really common to use third party services and software add-ons to fulfill orders and manage complex eCommerce destinations. A full-scale migration or replatforming is a prime opportunity to evaluate what third-party services are being used, what they cost, what their impact is to the business, and subsequently how they should be factored into any future installations.
Ensuring that any existing third party services have thorough and comprehensive counterparts for integration into your new Shopify Plus store is a really important part of ensuring that operations can continue unaffected - if they don’t then understanding what new technology or systems will be required to plug the gap left by the services you’ve left behind. Third party services come in lots of different shapes and sizes - but more commonly than not, they include things like your product inventory management system (PIM), if you choose to do this externally to your eCommerce content management system (CMS) of course, or a particular customer relationship management system (CRM) or enterprise resource planning system (ERP) that your business currently uses.
Replatforming an eCommerce store takes time. In order to make sure that it's a comprehensive and safe migration, it's really important to make sure that any timelines that are set are realistic and based on the due diligence that’s been done on the current system. More than that, allowing plenty of time to ensure that thorough testing has been undertaken on the platform is a complete necessity. Particularly for businesses where eCommerce powers the largest part of the sales engine, ensuring that the switchover to the new platform is seamless for both staff and customers is an absolute necessity.
Have a plan - but be open to guidance by the new service provider / agency when structuring this.
As part of moving to Shopify Plus, it’s critical to build an understanding of whether or not a platform is appropriate for your use case - and early on, understanding both the capital and ongoing costs to replatforming. In large part, this will be determined by sales volume, and the nature of the sales experience you want to provide - and the features that are needed per business are completely down to context. Having said that, it's really important to make sure that the right tier of features is chosen in order to make sure that no money is being wasted on features that are unnecessary.
Shopify Plus is designed for the high-volume merchant - Shopify Plus licensing starts at $2,000 per month and increases based on you exceeding $800k turnover in a month. The additional fee is a small % of the additional amount.
Potential clients often ask a similar question - ‘Can we build it to look like that on Shopify?’. The answer, invariably, is yes. For bespoke design and development projects, Shopify gives developers full access to the front end - allowing designers to design whatever they like, and developers to implement it. This is critical for brands who want to carve their identity out within noisy markets.
This means that migrating across to Shopify is an absolutely prize opportunity to ask serious questions about your store’s design experience. Moving across to a new back-end is a great opportunity to think about:
There are a number of Shopify Plus Partners (Shopify approved digital agencies) including us at BAO of course - that can combine the artistic and aesthetic sensibilities of quality design work with quality eCommerce tactics in order to achieve high performing, brand and sector appropriate sales experiences.
The benefits of migrating to Shopify Plus are numerous to both the end user and the eCommerce business itself. In other words, the platform helps businesses create better environments for customers to shop whilst making life easier for businesses to focus on their strategic sales and marketing efforts.
Shopify Plus customers experience fantastic growth - with some reports of revenue increases of 126% year on year. The platform prides itself on making site maintenance as easy as possible, while giving the end user the best possible experience.
Shopify Plus enables 100+ payment gateways to be simply integrated. The more payment options you can provide to your customers the less likely you are to miss out on a sale.
You can also easily add external sales channels to the platform to house these sources, including Amazon Marketplace and social channels, all in one place. This is designed to allow easy access to all sales data, while creating a direct channel to your customers, whoever they are or wherever they may be.
Equally, there is no better eCommerce platform out there when it comes to growing your business into new markets and territories. The platform has dedicated storefronts for creating completely customisable international commerce spaces, which can be unique to the demand and clientele in each of your markets.
One of our favourite Shopify Plus features is called Shopify Flow. Once set up, this app will fully automate jobs that previously needed to be done manually. It's specifically built to allow fast-moving merchants the time to focus on the bigger picture.
Take stock control as an example; monitoring the levels of products and then reordering from different suppliers can be a time staking process which in large organisations eats into productivity. Shopify Plus can not only keep track of inventory, but automatically re-order directly with your supplier.
Another benefit is the ability to automatically tag customers as they shop, in real time. One common eCommerce strategy, for instance, might be to identify VIP customers whose spend more than your average customer. Again, this was once previously a manual task which can now be set and edited to fit the needs of your business.
Another Shopify Plus feature designed to help businesses grow rapidly is the Shopify Script Editor. This tool allows merchants to deliver powerful promotional campaigns designed to drive conversion, and ultimately more sales.
This provides the ability to incentivise customers with ease - with offers like custom pricing, promotions or free shipping - all of which is automatically added to a user's order without having to enter a discount code. This can remove unnecessary friction from a shopping experience, eliminating high cart abandonment rates. The Script Editor tool also unlocks professional-grade design capabilities within the checkout, to specifically tailor the shopping experience to a specific customer.
On joining Shopify Plus, merchants also have access to their own dedicated support & success team, who provide insider guidance, industry trends and strategic coaching. Shopify call these Merchant Success Managers (MSM’s) and they're a single port-of-call for account enquiries and business-as-usual support.
Shopify Plus also unlocks ‘an eco-system of world-class partners’. These expert designers, consultants and agencies can help implement ideas on anything - from migration to design and growth expansion tactics.
Although we can't get into all of the detail here, we've chosen a few more of our favourites:
Shopify Plus really comes into its own here - it provides a degree of flexibility and sophistication that many eCommerce platforms just can’t provide out of the box - and more than that, provides access to the internals of the system in order to craft a completely custom eCommerce experience for your customers.
In many ways, the Shopify app ecosystem is the jewel in the proverbial crown of the platform. There's such a mature, sophisticated and capable network of developers, creatives and software businesses that provide extensions to the platform that there's almost no use case that can't be satisfied by either building a custom, private solution or adding a third-party app designed to solve some of the tricky problems that come with running eCommerce businesses.
This is also true of businesses that have bricks and mortar stores - not just digital storefronts. It's a really good idea to make sure that you have a full and comprehensive understanding of the app ecosystem and to make sure that any of the parts that need to be modified as part of the migration or replatforming effort can be either capably handled by the agency handling the project, or a third party application that can tackle it out of the box for a low monthly fee.
All projects have points of risk that need to be mitigated to deliver them successfully. It’s a good idea to work with an agency, consultant or the Shopify Plus sales team to help understand if there are any significant points of risk within the project, and come up with some potential solutions to those things if the project or migration goes awry.
One of the trickiest parts of full-scale replatforming projects is moving the sales, order and customer data from the current system to the new system. There are a number of reasons for this - but in large part, this has to do with the fact that every system has a different idea of how it should structure its data. That means it isn’t generally stored in a uniform style in pretty much any software platform, so your data is almost certainly in a different format than it needs to be in order to seamlessly slot into the Shopify back-end.
Now, this isn't necessarily a problem. But having said that, it's really important to make sure that there's a clear understanding between you and your technical team as to how the data is currently structured, and what the strategy is going to be to move that data from one place to the other if you decide you need it all in the new system. Most agencies or technology partners will automate the vast majority of the movement of data from one place to the other. However, the length of time and the resource needed to do that is almost certainly going to be affected by the current state that the data is in.
Once the migration has happened, it can't be overstated how important it is to make sure the data that has been migrated has come across in the format that you expect. Ensuring that the data and product information, as well as other ancillary information (such as pricing) has been brought across ready for customer use is key to making sure that operations can continue unaffected.
Integrity checking data can be done a number of different ways. Some of this can be automated by a developer who can check the current data against the old data set. But there isn't usually a way to get around the fact that it requires some pretty rigorous manual checking as well.
The reality is that the agency or technology partner that you've chosen just won't know your data or your products in the same way that you do - and what that requires of you is some rigorous manual review to make sure the data that you know and love is being brought across in the way that you needed to be.
The last part of any project before launch is making sure that it’s been thoroughly tested, so that it’s ready to be released to the wider market at very low risk of bugs. There are typically a number of areas that need to be tested to ensure that the site is transactional and looks and works as expected. With regards to Shopify, this typically falls into the following:
One of the most important parts of approaching an agency is finding clear evidence of the previous projects that they've worked on, and whether or not you feel that they would represent your business and your position in a way that respects your brand and presents you as a main-stage player in a competitive landscape.
Often, the best way to do this is to review their promotional case studies, and ask for clear examples of projects that they've worked on at a similar budget range and for similar clients. And, if you want to take a belt-and-braces attitude to commissioning an agency, often one of the best insights into how businesses work with their clients is approaching their current clients for references. References from current clients will illustrate the nature of the relationships between them and the agency, and provide a clear insight into whether or not they deliver to the speed and quality that you would expect.
Something that can be overlooked when undergoing large digital projects is the fact that working style and professional chemistry that comprise a huge amount of whether or not a business relationship is going to work. In essence, it's really important to make sure that you like the people that you're working with - and you feel like you could work with them closely on complex, multi-phased projects lasting anywhere between 3 to 6 months.
Beyond that it’s important to recognise that it's very likely that you'll be well involved with that business for the foreseeable future - in terms of ongoing support and development and business support services. Make sure that you feel like you've been listened to - and that the key members of staff within the business who would be involved in the project have a clear understanding of what your business challenges are and what you're trying to achieve. Make sure that you feel like you can work with them in a way that is natural to the way that you want to collaborative, towards an outstanding result.
It goes without saying, but cost is a really important determinant of making sure that you’ve found the right agency for your migration project. Although each project will be priced individually (based on time and complexity), you can find out fairly quickly about whether or not you're both working within the same price bracket by enquiring as to what a typical project of that nature would cost, based on the agency’s day rate.
It's critical to be absolutely clear on what is covered as part of the project’s technical agreement - and what any additional costs will be. Additional costs often have to do with elements such as fonts, images and licensing fees for third party software applications.
Find out exactly how the agency delivers large project, from start to finish. This includes:
Each agency manages things differently - so you’ll want to take a look at how they fit with your expectations.
Replatforming and migration projects can be complicated. For that reason it's really important to set out clear expectations, timelines and build a shared understanding of how the project is going to start, be undertaken and eventually finish. Putting together a list of milestones, check in points, and other delivery markers will provide a simple way to check in on progress and ensure that all of your expectations for the project are being met.
At BAO, we work on large eCommerce migration and replatforming projects all the time. We've got a lot of experience in making sure that complex migrations are successful - and knowing how to sidestep some of the pitfalls that can present themselves. For more information on migrating to Shopify Plus, feel free to get in touch with one of our directors at the studio - by either email or phone.