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- / Introduction
- / Planning
- / Shopify store configuration
- / Development
- / Migrations on migrations
- / Performance review
In recent years, there’s been an influx of brands migrating away from Magento over to Shopify (and Shopify Plus).
And whilst the migration process isn’t rocket science, it’s a labour-intensive process. Which, if done in a specific way, will make your life a lot easier.
Plus, a seamless migration can help to improve your store’s performance! When we migrated our client from Magento to Shopify, we saw an increase in conversion rate from 1.4% to 2.4% – overnight!
So how did we manage to increase the conversion rate by so much?
It’s partly down to Shopify and partly how we did the migration. In this guide, I outline our step-by-step process for migrating our clients from Magento to Shopify.
Firstly, is Shopify right for you? If you’re reading this guide, then you’ve likely made your mind up already.
Versus Shopify, Magento has a wide range of features and functionality built-in to help scale your store. But, if you’re not taking advantage of them, then you’re paying over the odds. Like driving to the shops in a Ferrari. It’s powerful. It’s nice. But it’s not so practical.
For our client, the main reason they wanted to move to Shopify was to reduce their ongoing development costs. It’s common for Magento websites to run at around £2k to £5k per month – this covers maintenance, bugs, improvements, and security patches. On Shopify, this cost is a lot lower.
On the other hand, Shopify is a simple, easy to use platform. But this makes it a lot more restrictive. For example, you’re limited to 100 variants on a single product and 3 options. In the screenshot below, we see how easily this limit can be reached. And until late-2021, you couldn’t filter on category pages by metafields (which are attributes in Magento), or change your robots.txt file.
Although there are workarounds to Shopify’s quirks, as we like to call them, it does just feel a lot more restrictive than a platform like Magento. Where you have a lot more freedom to carry out customisations. That being said, Shopify does work hard to address these issues that the community raises.
However, because Magento has more freedom, it has a steeper learning curve for developers. This means they can charge a premium. There’s a higher barrier to entry to be able to offer a solid Magento service as an agency, so the sites tend to cost more to run. With that cost being passed onto you, the merchant.
All that being said, only you will know if Shopify is right for your store. But with in-depth planning, you can figure this out. It helps to plan out your approach and draw up a list of requirements. More on this now…
Create a requirements list and scope
Before any web project begins, it’s a good idea to draw up a robust set of requirements. You can use this to plan out your project. Or, if you’re involving an agency or external developer, you can pass them this list.
Here are some of the questions you need to be asking:
- What features and functionality will you need to bring over?
- How many products and SKUs are on your store?
- What data and how much of it will you bring over? Customer data, order data, product data etc.
- What plugins do you currently rely on? Are they available on Shopify?
- What isn’t possible in Shopify that we relied upon in Magento?
- Who are the key stakeholders that need to be involved?
- Who is the decision-maker and has the final sign-off?
- What teams within the company do you need to notify of the migration?
- What payment gateway will you use? Likely Shopify Payments, but are you eligible?
- Who is managing the content migration? The SEO migration? And so on.
- Will you redesign the website (making front-end changes) as you migrate the platform? This is a big decision – more on that here.
There’s more you’ll need to think about but it gives you a good start and we cover most of them in this guide. And you can use this list of requirements to start to build out your project timeline.
This will help you to understand the timeframes involved. Depending on the store size, be prepared to allocate around 2 to 6 months on average for the migration. This includes the initial planning phase all the way through to testing and launching the site.
Shopify store configuration
I’ll keep this brief because configuring your Shopify store is a whole guide in itself. Which, Shopify has kindly pulled together for you here.
In short, you will need to set up the following:
- Shipping rules
- Warehouses and inventory
- Payment gateways: You’ll likely be going with Shopify Payments, but you need to make sure you’re eligible. And if you use Buy Now Pay Later (such as Klarna or Clearpay), then you’ll need to set this up too.
- Shopify Markets: If you sell in more than one country and language, there are additional steps you’ll need to take for your store.
- Order notifications: Shopify as standard comes with prewritten order notifications. However, if you want to change the wording of these, or you use your own email marketing service provider (ESP), you’ll need to allocate some time for this.
- Checkout customisation: (unless you’re on Shopify Plus) you are very limited in the customisations you can do to the checkout. But, you still need to spend some time adding your logo and brand colours.
Again, it’s not rocket science but it does take time to set your store up correctly. So make sure you have allocated enough in the project timeline.
You have two approaches when it comes to developing the pages on your new Shopify store.
1) Migrate without front-end changes
2) Migrate with front-end changes
I personally prefer number one, “without”. To migrate your store, and once the dust settles, carry out any front-end changes. Migrations are complex enough already, so leaving the redesign element off the table helps make life easier.
Also, if you make front-end changes whilst migrating, and there’s a drop or increase in conversion rate, you can’t isolate the reason for this as easily. You won’t know if this is down to the migration or because you changed the homepage layout and added a new CTA on the product page.
For example, when we migrated our client from Magento to Shopify, we saw an immediate increase in conversion rate from 1.4% to 2.4%. We know this is down to the migration and also Shopify – because all we changed was the CMS. We believe it was Shopify’s simplified checkout process vs. the client’s complex, multi-page Magento checkout. As well as some page speed improvements we saw post-migration.
One of the main reasons for making front-end changes during the migration is cost. It’s cheaper to redesign before and migrate than it is to migrate and then redesign after. Because, with the latter, you’re essentially developing twice.
But, whilst this approach may cost more, you could save money in the long run if the migration doesn’t go as planned and you need to problem-solve.
Either way, you or the agency you end up working with will know the best approach for your store.
Even if you don’t make any front-end changes, a migration is a great time to update and improve your codebase. You will be building the site from the ground up again so the site that was built many years ago gets some TLC.
Migrations on migrations
Arguably the most taxing step of migrating to Shopify is, well, the actual migration of data. This really depends on your store and there are a whole host of variables that impact time.
Next, we run through a few key considerations of this stage below.
The golden order
In the planning stage, if you decided you want to carry over all of your customer and order data, it’s important you migrate this into Shopify in a specific order. You will then have complete transaction histories for every customer and they will be linked to each of the products/SKUs in your Shopify store.
Here is that order:
3) Order history
At each stage, you need to double-check (even triple-check!) your data is clean. Otherwise, this process will not work. Luckily, there are tools to help you with this stage, but, if I’m being honest, a lot of it is just manually checking the data.
1) Product migration
Before we dive into migrating product data, it’s good to understand the main differences between Shopify and Magento for how products are structured.
Understanding this will help ensure products are set up in the most efficient way and data is migrated correctly the first time around. Saving a lot of headaches down the line!
Product setup: Magento vs. Shopify
In Magento, you’ll be familiar with product attributes and configurable products. But, in Shopify, you will be using tagging, metafields and variants. We dive into each here…
Tags: In Shopify, Tags can be used on products, customers, orders, blog posts, as well as other things, and they help you organise your online store.
With products, you can organise by information that doesn’t fall under the usual eCommerce specs e.g. Size, Weight, Price etc. Meaning you could create a collection (category) page for certain products tagged as “summer”.
Metafields: Think of metafields as bits of specialist information, used to store longer or more complex information than tags could.
For example, we launched a Shopify store for an arts company and every product had a video tutorial linked to it. We used metafields to store this video URL which could then be pulled through to the confirmation email and to their customer account area. This wouldn’t be possible with a tag.
Variants: In Magento, if a product had different options (e.g. size or colour), you’d have created a configurable product. In Shopify, these are known as variants.
As mentioned before, the biggest limitation in Shopify (without using an App) is you can only have 3 options (e.g. Size, Colour, Material) and then 100 variants in total across these 3 options. Which sounds like a lot, but it can add up quickly.
Migrating product data
It’s good to keep in mind the above when migrating your product data from Magento to Shopify. You will need to plan out how you will structure your products in Shopify first (based on the above), then match this up to the data export coming from Magento.
For this step and other steps in the migration process, we strongly recommend using an app called Matrixify. It helps to extend Shopify’s limited Import/Export functionality and it speeds things up.
The difficulty of this stage really depends on the complexity of your products and how they are set up in Magento.
If you sell a product such as jumpers in a limited range of colours and sizes, then your job will be easier. However, if you sell custom jewellery that has multiple dropdowns with more than 100 variants, then it will be trickier.
How difficult it will be should be uncovered at the planning stage and it can help to talk to a consultant or agency to avoid these issues later down the line.
2) Customer migration
Before carrying out this step, you need to map out how data will import from your Magento store. If you collect unique information about your customers which is stored as custom fields in Magento, then you need to figure out how this will be brought into Shopify.
Luckily, in the same way that products can have metafields or tags connected to them, so can your customer accounts. Meaning you can store these custom fields as a tag or as a metafield.
For example, we worked with a prescription sunglasses store and each customer had their prescription stored against their Magento user account. This needed to be migrated to Shopify. But funnily enough, there isn’t a “prescription” field built into the customer account in Shopify. So their prescription data had to be stored as metafields.
Another example is if you have a loyalty program, where customers are on different tiers (e.g. Bronze, Silver, Gold). You can add these as tags to customers in Shopify.
Again, for this step, we’d recommend a Shopify app called Matrixify. They have a handy guide if you’re migrating from Magento 1, and also from Magento 2.
Note: You can’t migrate passwords into Shopify
So you will need to get customers to reactivate their accounts. We recommend sending out an email to all customers with a link to do so as well as a follow-up email after a couple of weeks.
And we recommend having a note on the login page, as shown below. To let customers know that previous customers can’t log in using their old details.
3) Order data migration
After migrating products first and then customers into Shopify second, you’re ready to do the orders. As mentioned before, you have to do it in this order so it all links up.
During the planning phase, you should have decided on how much order data you’ll bring into Shopify. Again, the process is fairly straightforward, with you guessed it, the Matrixify app! An absolute lifesaver during any migration to Shopify.
They have a great step-by-step tutorial for this. With each of the steps, they allow you to do a “dry run”. This lets you test the data and no changes will be made to your Shopify store data yet.
After following these 3 steps – product, customer, historical order – all of your data will now be in Shopify! Bravo 👏
Bonus: Other Shopify data types and migration options
This handy table from Shopify outlines the types of data you may need to migrate and the options you have for this:
|Products||CSV file, Product API, Shopify App store|
|Customers||CSV file, Customer API, Shopify App store|
|Historical orders||Order API, Transaction API, Shopify App store|
|Gift cards, certificates, and store credits||GiftCard API, Shopify App store|
|Blogs||Blog API, Blog Article API, Shopify App store|
|Pages (e.g. Privacy)||Page API, Shopify App store|
|Product reviews||Shopify Product reviews app, Shopify App store|
We often hear… “We’ve never paid anyone to do SEO so we don’t need an SEO migration”, or “We’re not currently investing in SEO so a migration doesn’t matter”.
Unfortunately, even if you’ve not been directly paying someone or investing in SEO for your website, you’ll have gained some authority over time. Meaning you rank for a mixture of keywords and your website has a good level of organic traffic.
Without an SEO migration, your hard-earned organic traffic will disappear overnight.
When moving from Magento to Shopify, the URL structure changes drastically. Shopify forces you to go with the following structure, which is going to be very different from your current store:
Google doesn’t like it when a URL changes because they can’t find the page, so that URL will slowly drop out of their index, unless you add in a redirect.
The same goes for users. Without a redirect from the old Magento URL, to the new Shopify URL, they won’t find that page. This isn’t ideal if another website links to your old page or the user has bookmarked that URL at some point to purchase from you.
In our SEO migration guide, we outline 80+ steps a Shopify store can take to ensure their organic traffic doesn’t drop off a cliff.
Testing and Quality Assurance
We’re nearly there! But we still have one of the most important steps of the migration process. Changing platforms is a big move so rigorous testing and QA needs to be carried out on the staging site and post-launch.
During the migration stage, you will have reviewed all of the data and this should now be in your store. And with all of your page templates developed, you should have a fully functioning store on your staging server to test.
You can now carry out end-to-end testing. Ensuring all page templates are working as expected across a range of devices and browsers.
One of my favourite parts! Reviewing the progress of the migration in the coming weeks and months post-launch. Diving into the data to see how good of a job you’ve done.
We look at the following areas…
Either Google Analytics or any other analytics tool will do. But you need to do this to see if there were any drops or changes so you can look into it immediately.
You want to be looking at:
- Conversion rate
As well as other metrics such as:
- Bounce rate
- Time on site
This will let you spot any issues that may not have cropped up in testing.
Google Search Console (GSC)
You will likely have GSC set up on your website. If not, before you start the migration, this is a good time to add it so data can build up so you have something to compare to once launched. And this will let you see how well Google is crawling your new Shopify pages and if they are being indexed. As well as data from the search results for how many people are seeing and clicking on your listing.
During the SEO migration, you should have taken benchmarks for your best-performing keywords. You want to check these ideally every day, at least every week, to see how they change over time. Any drops in ranking positions will give you clues for what went wrong so you can fix them.
As mentioned before, when migrating to a new CMS, it’s a great time to update your codebase. Hopefully, when you do this, there will improvements to your site’s performance.
Run your site through WebPage Test, Google Page Speed Insights, or any other of your favourite site speed tools.
There you go, our guide to migrating from Magento to Shopify. Seamlessly, with hopefully a boost in performance!
The success of migration is down to meticulous planning, comprehensive testing, and even more planning! Measure twice, cut once.
If you have any questions, please reach out to me on the channels below or use the contact form at the bottom of the page. You can view Spaced Digital’s Shopify offering here.