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Switching E-commerce Software: Preparation Tips for Small Businesses

At some point in most merchants’ careers they will need to switch some part of the software they use to run their e-commerce business.

There are a variety of reasons for this.

Perhaps the merchant outgrew the software. Maybe the company was purchased and the new owners would prefer to work with a system they’re already familiar with.

Whatever the reason may be, here are some tips to help your small business prepare to switch its e-commerce software.

Determine What Data Can be Imported Into the New System

Losing historic data when switching systems can be annoying at best and devastating at worst.

Businesses need their data to be able to make decisions on how to run their business.  Because of this, pay close attention to what can be easily imported into the new system from the old system.

Most companies at least provide a minimal text file import these days.  The best case is if a data migration tool exists to help you move between your old system and new one.  Competitors often do this to make transitions easier so you’ll lean towards their products.

If an import tool does not exist, talk to the company about your options to see if they can assist.

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Determine What Data Can be Exported From the Current System

Companies don’t always make it easy to get at your data in a format that would allow you to go elsewhere.  The best case is if there is an integration or API where all of the data can be pulled directly, but at worst a text file export will usually do.

If a data export for a piece of data you want does not exist, you can try talking to the company to see if you can work out a way for them to give you the data at a certain point in time (close to when you’re ready to switch to minimize the work involved in getting the data).

Figure Out the Learning Curve

Switching software is a big investment for most companies, and the cost isn’t always just the up-front price.  Less tangible costs such as the time it takes to train employees to use the software should be accounted for.  The easier to learn, the better.

Testing and Customizations

New software should always be tested internally before being committed to.  Once again, completely switching over is a big investment, so you want to make sure the software you’re switching to will work for you.

If it does not, you may need to look into ways to customize it to meet the rest of your needs.  Generally speaking you should only do this if the software can do most of what you need and just needs some minor tweaks in certain places.

Also you want to make sure it will work with your other software, or custom integrations may need to be written.

This all has to be factored into a timeline for switching.  Check into both third party developers and the company you’re switching to for integration options and pricing.  Sometimes a third party developer who is familiar with the software can be cheaper in the long run than the company, and can then be a valuable resource in the future for any other needs.

Switching software is a big undertaking and should not be taken lightly.  Lots of thought and planning are required to make sure the switch goes smoothly.  Have you been in a situation where you had to switch software for part of your business?  What went smoothly and what missteps did you encounter?  What kind of support system did you use to make the switch?

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