Interview: Thinking of Migrating from Magento to Shopify? What You Need to Know

So your growing e-Commerce store has been a little clunky lately and a move might be in order. While replatforming is imminent and you’ve done your research, you’re still a bit unsure of a few things and that’s stopping you from taking the plunge. 

We sat down with our resident Shopify Certified Expert, Yuvraj Rao, as he clarified some of the many migration perks and pitfalls that affect your e-commerce growth. He’s worked with some of the biggest e-commerce retail brands in Australia, and as a senior programmer, has deep technical knowledge when working with complex databases and applications typical of e-commerce sites.

In your view, what are the key differences between Magento and Shopify and why would anybody choose them?

One of the key differences between the two platforms is that Shopify is a cloud based hosted solution, while Magento is a self-hosted solution. Since Shopify is a hosted solution, there is no extra effort or cost is required from you to maintain or update the solution. Your monthly Shopify fee should take care of it.  Magento is free to install but you are required to pay for hosting and frequent Magento updates. In most cases applying updates is very complicated and requires a professional team.

Self-hosting is quite an undertaking, I would imagine. And particularly if your business grows! Because you’ve got to scale up your hosting as your business grows, right?

Absolutely! Self-hosted solutions can be tricky when it comes to backing your day-to-day operations. For any low to medium traffic stores, regular hosting might be OK. However, in promotional events like Black Friday where you are expecting heavy traffic, it is crucial to have a proper server infrastructure backing your site. With Shopify, since it is a hosted solution, it has  bandwidth to scale as per traffic giving you a surety that the website will be up and serving during crazy times. Take 2012 Click Frenzy for example – it was the first time a one day promotional event of this scale was introduced in Australia, and many businesses did not anticipate it to be the huge success that it was. With all the PR and heavy marketing leading up to the event, on the day Clickfrenzy experienced a huge jump in traffic. Many big brand websites couldn’t handle this surge in  traffic and were brought down throughout the promotional period. In the meanwhile websites which had proper server infrastructure came out on top and took the lion’s share of the promotional traffic and sales

What other things are there that business-owners should know about or take account of when they consider these two options?

Between the two, Magento is a more senior system. It’s powerful, and gives you creative freedom through code. For example, you can have a custom checkout experience for your customer, whereas on Shopify you may not be able to do the same. However, Shopify can easily adapt to 90% of businesses with a retail component and provide a smooth and sophisticated system with proper business process flow. Another thing to consider is data analytics, which lets you know how your users are behaving and performing different actions across your site. The level of insight you get from Shopify is more in-depth compared to Magento -it can even detect the exact point at which a customer chooses to abandon their shopping cart – without having to plug in different components, which you would need to do with Magento. 

Sounds like Magento’s got a lot of base capability, but anything beyond that would then be coming from third party plug-ins. Whereas with Shopify, a lot more is coming squarely with the product?

Correct! For instance, if you are running a trophy business and each trophy needs to be customised before it can be purchased, Magento provides the capability to customise the ecommerce store as per your business needs. In this case, you can achieve a better user experience on Magento than Shopify. But if your business doesn’t require that level of custom user experience then Shopify would be able to tick most of the boxes. 

Even retail giant JB Hi-Fi recently migrated to Shopify (7th biggest retailer in Australia) and experienced a 18% uplift in online sales since replatforming – Shopify Plus migration was mentioned in their 2020 shareholder notes as a key area of focus for the year. I would say one of the reasons big retailers are choosing Shopify Plus is for its ability to identify and profile a customer. From my experience Shopify trumps Magento in that sense. It gives you that data from the get-go and it’s way more customer-centric, with so many different components and plugins available to scale your e-Commerce growth. Particularly when it comes to personalizing e-mail newsletter campaigns around customer segments on your website! Magento can achieve this too, but it’s more labour-intensive and requires heavy programming knowledge and a team of skilled experts.

So I’d imagine there are people who might think Magento is better and vice versa for Shopify, right? What would be the things that a business owner, or a business operator, need to be mindful of when they’re thinking about migrating?

Definitely. The Shopify vs Magento comparison will always be there when it comes to the evaluation of switching platforms. 

Behind every successful ecommerce store migration there is a proper business requirement scoping involved. If you are thinking of migrating from one platform to another then you must think about first going through a business scoping process with your team. This allows you to evaluate platforms from the perspective of what is the best fit for your business needs and allows you to plan the migration comprehensively. If you are migrating from Magento to Shopify, then it is logical to have all your Customers, Orders, Coupons and other historical data migrated too. 

I see. So eCommerce businesses should do a very proper audit of what their capabilities are first then figure out how it’s going to move or if it’s even capable of migrating?

Exactly! Proper planning with a platform migration expert experienced in both platforms will give you the clarity you need. So you can make a solid decision that you won’t regret in a few months.

What are some of the mistakes that people who do a migration fall into?

One of the best examples I can give is the data migration. There are instances where you migrated platforms but didn’t migrate any of your orders. Or say, on Magento, you were given a $50 voucher code that was never migrated to Shopify. So when a customer gets to the website only to find that the voucher code has stopped working –  that’s a really negative experience. Ensuring that customer orders, loyalty points – basically someone’s entire transaction history with your business – needs to be migrated to the new platform so you can preserve the same customer experience.

So is that something the typical e-Commerce business owner can tackle in-house?

To save yourself significant time and any room for error, I would recommend a professional’s take for the analytical process like migration – a component that’s often overlooked. That’s when someone with strong business acumen, combined with a deep understanding of both platforms and technical expertise can tell what data needs to be migrated. A tactical plan with a strong grasp of the kind of data that should be stored and migrated comes with experience. 

So an online business owner who is looking to migrate may potentially miss a few things because they lack the experience to do so?

Yeah, they could end up stuck in a hole with bits and pieces that didn’t migrate and being able to move backwards or forwards in the process. To start with, e-Commerce platform migration requires programmatical knowledge. So a lot would be missing without it. Off-the-shelf tools aren’t enough and a series of testing and discretion is required. In real life, it’s unimaginable to move your entire business without first checking if the new place is a good fit, making sure that there’s functioning equipment and ticking off a checklist to make sure that all utilities are up and running – moving an online business requires the same care, with a lot more moving parts and accuracy at stake I’d say. 

So, in your experience, what are some of the biggest mistakes that you’ve seen eCommerce business owners make?

One of the biggest mistakes is when customer accounts go missing or weren’t migrated over. Another instance is failing to record customers who had active accounts or placed an order just before the migration occurred. If those transactions get lost, you could end up not fulfilling the active order and realise it only when a customer complains.  I have also seen many store owners do not opt for the migration process because it adds more time and money to the project. The way I see it,  not migrating data over to a new platform is very costly and time consuming exercise. If your past customers have to call you to inquire about their lost data , it is a cost to the business as the customer service team will have to spend time investigating and responding accordingly. 

So, what does it take to make the entire shift seamlessly?

So every migration has a dry run, sort of like a dress rehearsal. We migrate once, see how it’s mapping the data, make sure all the necessary data is migrated, then we get the confirmation. A migration plan follows where we migrate all the completed cancel data which is less of a priority but still important. Just before we go live, we migrate the transactional data, incremental data from that point onwards to make things smoother and faster

Ok, so how would this ultimately benefit an e-Commerce business looking to migrate?

A great part of this is that we have extensive hands-on expertise when dealing with a large amount of data. We know the level of detail and understanding required for everything to be mapped comprehensively. This level of experience is quite rare in most digital marketing agencies. Having a deep understanding of both Magento and Shopify is one of our key strengths because we’ve had great opportunities to build stores on both platforms from scratch. Plus we’re stickler for details. We developed our planning process unique to our experience and provides a really thorough analysis that mitigates risk. This helps clients understand the outcome so there wouldn’t be any surprises.

Sounds like the level of insight and details have resulted in some very happy clients!

Haha, yeah! We’re super fortunate, and really thankful to be able to help our clients in a thorough way. Seeing that we’ve been a part of their growth makes me really proud.

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