Magento to Shopify Migration Case Study

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Switching from Magento to Shopify – Should you do that?

Magento has been the superstar of e-commerce platforms for a long time. Approaching its 10th anniversary, Magento 1 is also approaching its end of life. Even though Magento has announced that they will continue to provide support and give at least 18 months’ notice before that would change, many businesses are starting to plan a migration off of Magento 1. As migration to Magento 2 doesn’t seem as straightforward as everyone expected, other e-commerce platforms jumped at the opportunity, offering tempting deals and free migration service, trying to get a piece of Magento’s massive market share. The one that is leading the pack is Shopify.

Shopify’s sales team probably had great pitch since we had several clients asking us what do we think about moving to Shopify.  We are aware of all Sopify’s limitations and had couple of clients that were moving from Shopify to Magento because of that.

However, one of our clients decided to move the well-established apparel store, serving two countries in two different languages and two currencies, to Shopify. On top of that, client had blog on two languages.

Shopify offered free migration and visually they did solid work at the first sight.

But, it turned out the switching from Magento to Shopify was anything but smooth sailing, and the outcome was not what client had hoped for. The visits to his website were almost cut in half, sales have gone down and Google has a tough time indexing the new website. This is a big store, and each day of sales lost makes a significant impact to the revenue. Since we have been working with him for years and have proven our capability when a problem arises more than a couple of times, a client decided to ask for our opinion on what might be wrong.

This blog post is not about bashing Shopify, it’s about showing you what hasty and badly thought-out decisions can do to your business. This is an actual case, backed by actual data.

Messed up URL structure

Moving a multi-language, multi-currency store from Magento to Shopify, a platform that doesn’t natively support the multi-language structure is a delicate operation. At Shopify they’ve addressed this by using a third-party app, and creating a sub-domain for each language. Which means that the Canadian English, US English and Canadian French version of the website are three different stores on three different (sub)domains. Therefore,  Shopify’s  pricing is multiplied by 3!

While there is a general agreement among SEO experts that it makes no difference whether you choose sub-domain or sub-folder multi-language structure, changing from directories to sub-domains makes a huge difference. When they were set in sub-folders, stores in other languages were getting link juice from the home page, the page with the most back-links. Now, moved to the separate sub-domains, they get none, therefore losing rank.

Number of domains pointing

Redundant Hostnames

By reviewing Google Analytics, we noticed that there is a “Redundant Hostnames” warning.That means that both the www and the non-www version of the website are loading independently. This is usually easily solved by using the 301 redirect to point one version of the site to the other. Not designating your preferred site version when you launch a new website can lead to a mess in terms of backlinks and search visibility, especially if redirects aren’t set up properly. One would think that a “dedicated Launch Manager” would take care of this, as it is one of essential things that need to be done when setting up a new website.

Automatically generated sitemap and wrong sitemaps submitted

The exact same sitemap is submitted for the Canadian English and the Canadian French site, despite the fact that the French version of the site is on a separate subdomain. This is due to the fact that a third-party app is used for translating the store to French, and the sitemap is automatically generated by Shopify. There is nothing that can be done about it, or at least nothing that Shopify support is willing to do.

Images not indexed by Google

Images from Shopify do not get indexed by Google

To make the website load faster, all images on client’s new Shopify website are hosted on Shopify’s CDN, with no way to tell the search engines the exact location of the original images. The cache busting feature is causing Google to recognize images as different every time it crawls the page. The Shopify pages deliver a different image URL every time a page is requested.This is causing problems indexing images on the website. Besides, the images from products are included in the sitemap with the URL from “https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files” and not from the client’s domain.

On-Page Optimization

Shopify boasts its powerful SEO features, but on this website we’ve hardly seen any. There were missing H tags throughout the site, no alt tags on images, almost no micro tags and category pages were stripped of content that made the website rank for a number of long tail keywords in the past.

Remember, we are talking about “Free migration from Magento 1 to Shopify” performed by Shopify’s in-house developers. Can all of this be fixed? Most of it yes, but it will take time and money, more apps with monthly fee, new developers for Shopify… You already spent money doing all of it on your Magento. Are you ready doing it again? Just look at e-commerce conversions in the last 30 days compared to previous year and keyword movements according to aHrefs:

Revenue Lost
aHrefs SERP movement

Why moving from Magento to Shopify is not a solution for you?

To be honest, moving from any e-commerce platform to another one requires some compromises, but that is fine if the platform you are moving to provides ways for you to overcome this. It seems that’s not the case with moving from Magento to Shopify.

Shopify is a cookie cutter solution.

It can never adapt to the needs of your business the way Magneto does. Someone on the internet compared it to a walled garden: if you manage to accommodate the business operations and workflow to their system, it’s fine, but if you need something more tailored to your specific needs, you hit a wall.

Open source means the source code is freely available and can be modified, while propriety code cannot be. With Magento, template code can be altered to suit specific store needs, while with Shopify, it can’t.

Shopify may not be enough for you.

If you are starting from scratch and you need a plug-and-play solution Shopify might be the answer. But when you already have a store on Magento, with thousands of SKUs, complex category structure and also SEO friendly structured URL, Shopify is not really ready for that.

Shopify is not always more cost effective.

Sure, you don’t have to pay for hosting, but you do have to pay for Shopify service. To get many functionalities that are built-in Magento, you would have to buy plug-ins or apps. There is support provided by Shopify, but there is no guarantee they can (or want) to do what you are asking. For any kind of customization that requires bypassing limitations of default Shopify you will have to buy apps or  hire a developer. A good one. Plus, as you add functionalities the overall cost also adds up. Most of apps on Shopify’s marketplace are with monthly subscription. Depending on your needs, prices are from $5 to $500 monthly per app.

Changing platforms is a serious undertaking – it involves a lot of preparation, a serious plan and hours of hard work. You need to focus on doing it right, rather than finding a way to do it for free. Don’t make a rushed decision just because you were offered an exciting deal that will save you money and boost your ROI. You have to take a moment to think whether what you were promised was real, or just a marketing trick to lure you in.

Final notes

  1. Magento is still the most scalable, most feature rich, most versatile e-commerce platform available. With the right developers, the possibilities of Magento are almost limitless.
  2. There is no need to panic. Your business won’t suddenly fall apart after Magento stops officially providing support for Magento 1 and, as we said, there will be a year and a half notice before it happens. There is still plenty of time to make a painless, smooth transition to Magento 2.
  3. If you have a large and complex e-commerce site with multiple stores, multiple languages, multiple currencies and complex category structure migrating from Magento to any other platform is a downgrade.

There is only one reason to move from Magento to Shopify – if you need to seriously downsize. If you have a large store with multiple languages and multiple currencies switching from Magento to something else may cause more problems instead of solving the existing ones. Instead, we recommend that you hire a good developer and work on your Magento website to use this powerful e-commerce platform to its full potential. When the time is right move to the Magento 2 so you can keep growing your business. Anything else is settling for less.