Avoid These 4 Sneaky Data Migration Pitfalls that Delay Ecommerce Site Launch

Photos of woman wearing clothes by Reformation

As an online retailer, one of the biggest projects you can undertake is replatforming your ecommerce site. And, within this, one of the most important aspects is migrating your company data from the old site to the new one. In thinking about the information that needs to be moved, product and customer data easily come to mind. After all, we all know that you’ll want products in your new store and returning customers to buy your inventory. 

But these two data categories don’t make up the whole picture. When you neglect the less obvious data – or realize at the last minute that it needs to be migrated – it can delay the launch of your company’s new website. By nature, replatforming projects require significant time and money, and any delay can start to minimize ROI.  (And give your team more stress.) 

Further, if your company launches its new site with incomplete or incorrect data, your returning customers may have a poor experience in the new store. This will erode customer trust, and again, it will likely be costly for your retail business. 

The stakes are high in data migration, and it’s imperative to get it right the first time. The good news is that when you’re alert to the sneaky pitfalls that can derail your replatforming project, you can prevent costly mistakes and delays. The key is to discuss every aspect of your company’s data both internally and with your development team. From the onset, no detail is too small. In fact, as we’ll explain here, it’s the seemingly small details that can become much bigger problems as you get closer to launch.

On the other hand, when your ecommerce team uncovers the potential pitfalls early on – ideally through a technical discovery process – your replatforming project has a much greater chance of finishing on time and budget and with a lot less stress. 

Data Migration Pitfall #1:  How will existing gift certificates and store credit be migrated to the new platform?

When someone gives a friend or family member a gift certificate to your online store, they are enthusiastically endorsing what you do. It’s pretty much the highest compliment that a customer can give your company. Yet, once a gift card is issued, it can be out of sight, out of mind. Your ecommerce and operations teams may not think a lot about gift certificates. That is, until your customer is ready to redeem it. 

In order to keep these customers happy, it’s crucial to make sure their gift certificate information migrates to your new site. That sounds easy enough, but remember: the devil is in the data details. How does your old store handle gift card data? What about the new one? How will this data translate from one medium to the other? 

For instance, some merchants use third-party plug-ins to handle gift card information. These plug-ins may not have any rules on the character length for gift codes; a code can be 32 characters, for example. Yet, if you’re migrating your site to Shopify, there’s a limit to the number of characters allowed in gift codes. In other words, migrating the gift card data will require a strategy. 

The other key part of this is making sure to communicate any changes to your customers. So, while your team may need to address the issue of character length on the backend, your marketing or customer service department will want to make sure everyone gets notified of their new gift code numbers. 

Customers with store credit from your old website are also an important consideration. Ecommerce platforms handle store credit differently. Some platforms treat store credit like a gift certificate. Other platforms handle it like a coupon code, and still others, like a payment method in its own right. It varies a lot. It’s critical to know how you’re going to handle store credit in the data migration. You don’t want returning customers thinking that they have money to spend in your store, only to find it’s no longer available. On the other hand, when you handle things like gift cards and store credit seamlessly in the replatforming process, you’re able to maintain customer trust. 

Data Migration Pitfall #2: How Will Returning Customers Be Able to Log Into Their New Accounts?

Not only do we need gift card data and store credit to migrate seamlessly, customers also have to be able to access their store accounts. Much like gift cards, when someone creates an account in your store, they are expressing their intent to return. We want to do everything we can to ensure a smooth transition for these loyal customers into your new website. 

Perhaps, as a customer, you’re familiar with this scenario: you log into an online store account, only to be told your password is not correct. You try different log-in credentials, and nothing works. Then you think, “Well, maybe I didn’t create an account after all,” and try to start a new account. The final straw is when the site says that there’s already an account under that email address. Crazy frustrating, right? 

With every replatforming project, we work hard to address this series of events for customers. Sometimes it can be as easy as including messaging on the account registration page and the account log-in page. Something like, “We switched to a new site, so you’re going to have to reset your password. Please and thank you.” It also helps to email account holders and let them know that there’s a new site that requires a new password. 

The solution here doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does require forethought and time to communicate with your customers. If, on the other hand, you suddenly see this issue the day before launch, you may have a lot of disappointed customers when they visit your new site. This kind of situation can derail the replatforming timeline, as well as frustrate your most dedicated customers.  

Photos of woman wearing clothes by Reformation

Data Migration Pitfall #3: How Will We Migrate Data Unique to Our Business?

To recap thus far, there are obvious items for migration, such as product and customer data. Then there are the less evident items like gift cards, store credit, and customer accounts that need to be addressed. Oftentimes, these items can sneak up on merchants and cause their replatforming project to take up more time and money than originally planned. 

Then there is the data unique to your specific retail company. Again, no data detail is too small. For example, let’s suppose that you have successfully engaged your customers through years of email marketing. They tend to hang on to your company’s emails and refer to them long after they’ve been sent. First and foremost, congratulations. You’ve achieved an important line of communication with your customer base.

Now the last thing you want to do is sever this tie in the replatforming process. When your customers return to your old emails, will the links still work? What about the images in the emails? A lot of times the marketing images really carry the message. Can email readers still see the images? You want to make sure that people aren’t getting missing images or 404 errors when they revisit their old emails. 

In this case, you would need to plan to migrate your company’s image library. Next set up 301 redirects so that all the old images still appear in historical emails. But this kind of unique situation is impossible to uncover without a discovery process at the beginning of replatforming. With a technical discovery, however, we can flag these unique data points and fold them into the replatforming timeline and budget. As a result, we’re able to adhere to the original timeline and budget without last minute discoveries that will delay site launch. 

Data Migration Pitfall #4: Who Will Be Responsible for What – and How?

Once all of the data to migrate is defined, a few critical questions remain. Namely, who will be responsible for bringing over what? For instance, who is handling the product data? The customer info? What about gift card data, as well as any data unique to our business?

Data migration is not the time to make assumptions. It’s critical to assign every component of data migration to a specific person or team. If not, then your replatforming project will become vulnerable to misunderstandings, and likely, at the final stages before launch. Also, assigning every step of the data migration ensures that the appropriate people will be in place to do their job when the moment comes. When the assignments don’t get planned out, too often a key person is not available when needed. If you don’t say who is responsible or when it will happen, that’s probably going to delay your launch. 

It’s also crucial to outline what mechanism that will be used to migrate the data. A lot of times merchants will think, “I just have to click a couple of buttons and it will import my old store.” And yes, we always advocate for time-saving tools, when we can use them. But it’s never the whole picture. In order to keep your company’s replatforming project on track, you have to plan who will handle what aspects of the data migration and how. 

In every replatforming project, there are a number of data points that clearly require migration, as well as less obvious and uniquely-specific data that you’ll need to transfer. If you don’t take the time to make a plan for everything early on, then seemingly small details will become much larger issues down the road. This will add time and money to an already complex process. Instead, a technical discovery process at the onset will go a long way in uncovering all of the data that your company will need to migrate. In turn, you’ll have a less costly (and less stressful!) replatforming process. 

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