Changing eCommerce platforms can be scary. But, like many other scary things, it may well we worth it. The million dollar question, or at least the a-lot-of-dollars question is how to tell whether it will. In this series, we will cover some key questions, and share a few answers to help you decide if, when and how to migrate to a platform that works for you (and not the other way round).
We’ve discussed when changing eCommerce platforms can be a good idea or even an urgent need in part 1. But which are the pros and cons of replatforming? The answer is it depends. On where you’re going to, and where you’re running from. Let’s begin with that. Press play.
Once I ran to you, now I run from you
Leaving Shopify Plus
Shopify is a popular eCommerce platform known for its user-friendly approach, favored by merchants that value simplicity and convenience. It’s an eCommerce platform and also a payment gateway, shipping and fulfillment provider and email marketing service. At some stage, for some businesses, this may be good. Sometimes, for some businesses, it can be a problem. It may not be the only one.
Many of Shopifyʼs native features donʼt offer the level of complexity that most enterprise businesses need. And getting it comes at a cost. In terms of money and performance.
B2B and Hybrid companies
There are some specific ways in which B2B and Hybrid businesses may benefit from deciding to leave Shopify Plus and replatform to another eCommerce solution.
Shopify Plus is problematic for B2B merchants who need to easily create discounts and promotions without involving developers or manage complex products while maintaining inventory accuracy. It’s also not easy to provide a differentiated shopping experience for B2B and B2C customers with Shopify Plus, as it does not support different catalogs or storefronts in a single instance. Replatforming to an eCommerce solution that supports multi-storefront functionality will definitely be an advantage for B2B and hybrid businesses.
Shopify Plus relies heavily on its app store to fill gaps in its core functionality, which can impact store performance. The more third-party apps and scripts added, the harder it becomes to control and manage store performance, resulting in slower performance and a negative user experience.
If you need something that can support a high volume of API calls per second, Shopify is not it. Its limitations (10 API calls per second) can make it unsuitable for businesses that handle large amounts of data and require a high volume of API calls negatively impacting performance. For example, syncing a product catalog with 25,000 SKUs can take over 2 hours on Shopify Plus. Replatforming to an eCommerce solution that offers better performance and scalability can significantly improve the overall speed and efficiency of your store.
While Shopify Plus offers a range of native features, access to robust B2B features like custom pricing, bulk ordering, or quoting often requires third-party apps, driving up costs. This can result in additional expenses in terms of app costs, cost of ownership, and payment integration fees. According to the 2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce, many enterprise customers find that they require additional functionality not included in a basic Shopify Plus store, such as faceted search and customer reviews, leading to additional costs through app subscriptions or custom integrations.
Replatforming can get you more and better functionality, better performance and scalability, and advanced B2B features to provide a superior shopping experience, improve operational efficiency, and reduce costs. Here’s our suggestion, compared to Shopify Plus.
If you want a fully customizable solution that gives you total control over both design and functionality, if you can count on an advanced technical team to implement those customizations, and if “money is not a problem”, there aren’t many reasons for you to consider migrating from PrestaShop.
Businesses that initially choose PrestaShop are usually drawn to its open-source nature and the promise of complete customization and total control over design and functionality. Unlimited flexibility and control sound great, but come at a significant cost, including complexity, hidden expenses, and ongoing maintenance challenges.
It’s a bit of a catch-22: using the flexibility of open source means increasing complexity, which in turn requires extensive resources, higher development costs, and longer implementation times. For example, the ability to add functionality is good, but the burden of never knowing what might break when is not. So perhaps you don’t need to be able to edit the source code to get customization. You could migrate to a platform with the most commonly needed core functionality that also offers the flexibility to scale the platform to meet specific needs if or when they arise. Here's our suggestion, compared to PrestaShop.
The only worse thing than high costs are unclear costs. Costs are more than licensing fees. Calculating all expenses accurately with PrestaShop can be challenging, as they include hosting, technical support, maintenance, development costs, and additional extensions. If you invested substantial development resources on the initial build and then realized that even minor updates require dev resources to make the changes, and that the more you want to customize, the harder it becomes to manage versions and patches and stay on top of things, you know exactly what we are talking about.
Replatforming is the new freedom
PrestaShop can become cumbersome to manage and maintain over time. Minor updates often break customizations, requiring additional developer resources. Unlike PrestaShop, other eCommerce platforms offer comprehensive built-in technical support, which eliminates the need to purchase support blocks from third-party providers or use agency partners for support and ensures timely technical assistance when technical issues arise. And they will.
Replatforming from PrestaShop doesn’t mean giving up freedom. On the contrary, it brings different kinds of freedom, that you can actually enjoy. For example, freedom from the technical complexities and unexpected costs associated with open source solutions. Also, you won’t spend valuable resources making - or worrying about - minor tweaks, installing patches, updates, putting out fires, just to keep the engines running, so you’ll gain the freedom to choose what to focus on and where to allocate your time and talent.
Replatforming may also give you the freedom to make financial planning decisions, that comes with a clearer understanding of the total cost of ownership. Freedom from surprise costs. Always a good thing.
If you’re using WooCommerce, the primary plugin used to power ecommerce stores on WordPress, and considering it leaving behind, you are most likely worried about two things: scalability and cost.
WooCommerce is not modular or built to scale, so large or growing brands that start on WooCommerce eventually have to replatform. The frontend and backend share resources, which makes it hard to scale without slowing down the live store, an issue you will not have with a SaaS solution. This also means daily activities of running your store (such as processing orders or running reports can affect the uptime & speed of your live store, which is also not great for your conversion, SEO, and brand in general.
And then there’s cost, a potentially significant issue, potentially being the operative word because the main issue with cost in WooCommerce is that it’s unclear. Although the plugin is technically free, total cost of ownership is not easy to sort out because of app and developer costs. Also, merchants are responsible for hosting and security/PCI plugins, regular maintenance & security patches. This could mean thousands of dollars in fines, in case of PCI compliance violations, as well as damage to your brand reputation.
WooCommerce stores also rely heavily on apps and plugins (some are free but others have an installation fee plus annual paid updates) for some core functionality, which adds up to the developer costs of an open source platform. Setup can be time consuming and extensive, and managing updates can be costly.
Breaking free from the technical burdens associated with self-hosted solutions and thus being able to focus more on your business’s core operations is one advantage of replatforming to an eCommerce solution than can handle platform maintenance, security updates, and PCI compliance.
Another advantage of migrating from WooCommerce would be to get access to more features for shipping, sales tax, payments, product options, and omni-channel sales, which reduce the required customization and lower developer costs. Choosing a solution with better and easier options to do what you’re currently doing, or begin doing what you’d like to do? What’s not to like? Well, replatforming can be challenging.
Challenges to consider
Migrating to a more efficient and scalable solution may present challenges in data migration and require some adaptations. Adapting customizations or themes to the new framework, which means evaluating whether to replicate those customizations or implement alternatives is one. Also, users and administrators will need to adapt to the new platform, which means you will have to factor the training and learning curve associated with the migration.
None of these are significant drawbacks if you consider, as you should, an eCommerce solution with solid training and onboarding processes, and enlist the support of an experienced agency to help with the migration. Don't try this at home. It is essential to assess the unique requirements of your business and partner with experts to ensure a seamless transition and maximize the benefits of replatforming. We will get back to that later.
In our next installments, we will cover the advantages and disadvantages of replatforming from Adobe Commerce, SuiteCommerce and Commercetools, the benefits and challenges of migrating to BigCommerce, and how to overcome the latter. All good stuff. Stay tuned.