Every good business is constantly evolving—that’s true more than ever when it comes to ecommerce. Magento has long been a go-to platform for online stores, but these days more and more merchants are taking their business to hosted platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce.

If your store is on Magento, there are plenty of reasons why you might be thinking of moving to a more modern, hosted platform. Reason #1 is obvious: it’s hosted for you. That means less worrying about traffic spikes and slow-down on critical shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It also means knowing your site is secure, updating your store and inventory more easily, and benefiting from top-notch customer support.

If you’re like many long-time Magento users, you might also find that over the years your store has become bogged down by old, outdated functionality, workarounds and code-hacks, with additional features duct-taped together using third-party add-ons and plugins. The fact is, it can be time-consuming and expensive to pay someone to keep your store updated, secure, well-organized, and looking good in 2016.

For a lot of store owners, migrating from Magento is simply about starting fresh: taking what you’ve learned about running your business, and applying it efficiently so that you end up with a store that works for you, not against you. It means a fresh new look—albeit one that includes all of your important data like orders and customer information.

When it comes to finding a new platform, there are plenty of great ones to choose from. Shopify’s ease of use, friendly interface, and marketplace of amazing themes and apps have made it a great fit for more than 275,000 businesses worldwide. BigCommerce recently rebuilt its platform and cemented its reputation as a top choice for mid-market and emerging brands. You might also consider alternatives such as Weebly, Big Cartel, Mozu (by Volusion) and TicTail, although these platforms have yet to experience the success or growth of Shopify and BigCommerce.

Once you’ve decided to leave Magento, there are several important steps to ensure a smooth migration. A pragmatic approach is necessary to make sure you’re taking what’s important with you—and leaving behind what’s not. This isn’t an exhaustive how-to guide, but it will give you a solid frame of reference for the steps required to migrate your store successfully.

Step 0: Keep your business running

Your migration will take time! That means until your new store is fully set-up and optimized, it’s important to keep your business running on your Magento store.

Step 1: Decide what you want to migrate

You’ll want to migrate your products and customer information to your new site, and you’ll probably also want to bring order history and status data. If you’ve been operating your web store on Magento for a long time, there may be outdated information that you would rather leave behind. We always advocate collecting as much data as possible, but if you find yourself constantly weeding through stacks of old, obsolete data, it might be time to trim the fat.

Similarly, you may have marketing content and other materials you want to migrate—blog posts and static HTML pages, for instance—as well as other content you’d rather leave behind. Whatever you decide to bring over to your new site will need to be redesigned to fit your store’s new look. You can do that yourself, or work with an agency that specializes in migrations.

Step 2: Start an account with your new platform

To decide which platform is right for you, it might be helpful to consult some online reviews, such as Style Factory’s reviews of BigCommerce and Shopify, or this review looking at the top six ecommerce platforms. Once you’ve made your decision, head to your new platform of choice and sign up for a new account. Shopify and BigCommerce both offer free trials, so you can get your feet wet before making a commitment.

Before you start doing business in your new store, you’ll want want to familiarize yourself with your new platform’s features, menus, collections and page layouts. BigCommerce and Shopify also feature excellent customer support teams who will be your best friends throughout this process.

Step 3: Back up your Magento store

This is important! In the event that your migration doesn’t go as planned the first time, you’re going to want to keep a full backup of your Magento store. It’s important to make sure any custom details are stored, along with standard information, so take your time doing this. You may opt to use a partner to help perform the migration, but don’t rely on a third party to get the backup perfect. To perform your own backup, use one of the more detailed tutorials online.

Step 4: Migrate your data

Now comes the heavy lifting. Apps like Cart2Cart are designed to facilitate your migration, or you can export and import the data manually. If you choose the latter option, you’ll likely export your Magento data as a CSV file. There are tutorials online for importing this data into hosted platforms, but if you’re not tech-savvy (and even if you are), your best bet may be to hire a developer who specializes in Magento migrations to assist you.

Our Services team is experienced in migrating businesses of all sizes, so if you’d rather save yourself the hassle and ensure a smooth migration, get in touch with us for a quote.

Step 5: Test, test, and test some more

Make sure everything is working in your new store. Run some test orders all the way through the checkout. Ensure that customer data is organized and displaying properly, and that you’re able to manage every aspect of your business as if it were a live store.

Step 6: Restyle your new website

Your new store isn’t going to look identical to your old one. Whether you’re using a pre-made theme or designing something from scratch, the nature of moving platforms means making front-end adjustments along with back-end ones. The good news is—that’s good news! With how quickly ecommerce has evolved in the past few years, your store is likely overdue for a new look. Now is a great time to elevate your brand by giving it the theme it deserves. There are dozens of amazing Shopify themes and BigCommerce themes to choose from, or you can hire an expert team of designers and developers to build you a custom ecommerce store.

Once you have your new theme, make sure your content fits well and looks consistent from product to product, and from page to page. Double-checking everything on your site is well worth the time, as first impressions really count. Once things look good, you’ll choose a suitable moment in time to make the switch (we suggest identifying the quietest period in your week). After this is done, you’ll probably have a few orders that came in after the final backup was taken—you’ll need to match these up. It’s a good idea to have a clear calendar and some help to make sure everything is working as expected on both the front and back ends.

Migrating your store can feel like an almost-impossible task, but approaching it piece-by-piece is the key to a successful move. Once the project is finished, and you’ve had a moment to catch your breath, you’ll be more than happy with your decision to migrate.

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