Should You Change E-commerce Platforms? Pros & Cons
The e-commerce industry began to dwarf its brick-and-mortar predecessor in convenience years back, and the onset of Covid-19 lockdowns only accentuated the disparity between them. For anything outside of staple items, it was no longer just cheaper and sometimes easier to order online: it was outright necessary with so many inessential retail stores closed down.
The 12 months since that pivotal change have been disastrous for many professionals and businesses, but they’ve also presented some notable opportunities for entrepreneurs. The increased demand for e-commerce goods has allowed plenty of online retailers to make a lot of money and spawned new e-commerce innovation and enterprises.
If you’re running a long-standing e-commerce store, you may be wondering how you can do more to take advantage of these favorable circumstances. One option is migrating your store to a new e-commerce platform. Could a new foundation be the key to reaching the next level of online retail success? Let’s weigh the pros and cons.
Pro: your e-commerce platform affects everything
The biggest reason why you should change your ecommerce platform is that it has the potential to positively affect almost every facet of your operation. You can end up with a site that’s faster, more responsive, more stable, cheaper to run, and more feature-packed. This is particularly likely if the platform you’re currently using is functionally outdated — something that happens often. Poorly performing platforms run out of funds and assume new ownership, leaving services running for legacy customers but not doing anything to improve.
But it isn’t only migrating from an obsolete platform that can help you. If you have a Wix store that’s quadrupled in size since you began, for instance, it might not have the speed or power needed to deal with so many customers — whereas an enterprise-targeted platform such as Magento might be just what you need to keep your progress going. Provided you make the right choice, a platform migration can be transformative.
Con: the migration process can be complicated
Migrating to a new platform might sound easy, but it’s actually far from it. You don’t get to simply take all your existing files and push them to your new site (more on this later). You need to get the new site ready to go, take your current site offline, sync up the key data (orders, customers, etc.), test the new site, put it live with the necessary URLs (you may need 301 redirects), and shut down the old site — and each one of those steps can involve difficulties.
If the vital data fails to sync, for instance, you can be left waiting far longer for the process to complete. Or maybe you discover a basic problem with the new site that pushes you to delay the migration and leave the old site running for a while longer. If you set aside time and resources to carry out a migration only to delay it, the cost (and frustration) will add up.
Pro: there are plenty of viable developers around
Thankfully, you don’t need to run the migration yourself. You can simply outsource the task to a company with relevant expertise (ideally a lot of experience handling migrations between your current platform to your desired platform — Wix to WooCommerce, WooCommerce to Shopify, Shopify to BigCommerce, etc.). The direct cost will be more than you’d otherwise have paid, but the long-term cost will be much smaller (getting the work done correctly from the outset is key).
If you can find a developer in your area, that might be preferable, but it shouldn’t really matter. Just be sure to read plenty of reviews before making a commitment: It’s obviously extremely important that everything goes well with the migration, and any mistake can cost you dearly.
Con: moving your site usually calls for rebranding
Because every platform has a different look and a unique set of design plugins on offer, it’s difficult to exactly replicate the feel of your old site when you migrate. This isn’t great for continuity, of course. If a loyal customer arrives at your new site and doesn’t recognize it, that can cause some problems, which is why you need to carry over certain key elements.
Color scheme, font, layout … If you stray too far from what you’ve done before, it’ll likely work to your detriment, yet you can’t keep everything the same. The process of designing your new site can be arduous as a result. You need to figure out which design assets will fit your new structure (and what you can directly carry over, like custom integrations such as live chat systems), and get to grips with the fundamental workings of your chosen CMS.
Pro: it gives you a chance to make a new start
Overall, though, the great thing about changing your e-commerce platform is that it gives you a chance to make a new start. No more dealing with the baggage of old half-finished blog posts or wondering if you’ll ever be able to speed up your site. You can take the opportunity to completely overhaul your brand: new logo, new color scheme, even a new name.
If you really lean into this view, you can make your platform migration the opening step in a huge advancement for your business. If you don’t, of course, it can end up proving to be more trouble than it’s worth — meaning that the answer to the titular question is as follows: It depends. If your current platform is causing you major problems, or you’re certain that another platform would serve your needs better, then go for it. If not, stick with what you have.
Rodney Laws is an e-commerce expert with over a decade of experience in building online businesses. Check out his reviews on EcommercePlatforms.io.