Migrating to a Headless Commerce Platform: What You Need to Know

Consumers today want convenient, feature-packed online shopping. Retailers need eCommerce solutions that are more flexible and powerful to meet those demands. Many retailers turn to headless...

How to ensure a seamless migration that minimizes disruption


Consumers today want convenient, feature-packed online shopping. Retailers need eCommerce solutions that are more flexible and powerful to meet those demands. Many retailers turn to headless commerce to keep up with evolving consumer expectations while also making their eCommerce engine more agile and future-proof.

We recently discussed the basics of headless commerce and why it’s gaining in popularity. When you decide to take a headless commerce approach, you will need to carefully select the right platform and migrate to your new backend solution. In this article, we’ll cover how to ensure a seamless migration that minimizes disruption for you and your users.

Creating a migration plan

Start creating a migration plan that details the processes, systems, and people involved in the transition to the headless platform. The migration process involves many moving parts, a detailed plan will reduce the risk of anything falling through the cracks. Coming up, we’ll walk you through what needs to be migrated, by whom, and when.

What do you need to migrate?

First, start by outlining exactly what you are migrating to the headless service. We like to think of these elements as falling into three categories: data, infrastructure, and customizations.

1. Data

Data includes product information, customer details, orders, catalog taxonomy, product attributes, and content (such as product demonstration videos). Most platforms provide bulk update functionality and APIs to make the data migration process easy for you. Typically, traditional data migration may not be required. Instead, you will export your data in a format that you can upload to the eCommerce platform.

Data is the central aspect of your commerce services, so careful consideration is essential. In your migration plan, you’ll need to outline which data you’ll no longer be responsible for that will be housed in the new platform. Give yourself time to test the transfer process and ensure minimal user-facing impact.

2. Infrastructure

Infrastructure migration is the process of re-pointing your frontend experience to connect it to the new headless commerce platform. Your migration plan should map out all the systems that power and integrate with your eCommerce engine. The plan should specify how you will reconfigure these integrations to work with the new system, if at all. At this stage, you have an opportunity to evaluate which of your current systems are still working for you, which can be retired, and whether you should adopt new tools that may perform more effectively with the new headless platform. You should migrate the services that provide the greatest benefit first and iteratively move to the new platform.

3. Customizations

As we’ve said before, almost every headless commerce implementation requires some level of customization. Which customized features did you decide to build outside of the headless solution, and when do you need to launch these initiatives? For instance, if you need a custom QR code scanning feature, you’ll need to determine when and how to integrate that functionality with the headless solution for your migration plan.

Who will perform the migration?

Besides detailing what you will migrate, you’ll also need to consider who will be involved in the transition. Some retailers choose to handle the migration themselves, relying on internal resources and their headless commerce partner to guide them through the implementation. If your internal technical resources have extensive experience in migrating to headless solutions, this approach may work for you. In this case, your migration plan should include clear assignments of responsibilities between your team and the headless provider.

However, engaging an experienced implementation partner often makes more sense. For most businesses, headless migrations are not a recurring type of project, and their IT teams have limited (or no) experience in such efforts. Transitioning from a traditional eCommerce engine to a headless solution has its unique challenges, and fully understanding the planning, development, and execution of headless migrations takes experience. An external technology partner with expertise in implementing eCommerce solutions can help you create an effective migration plan, anticipate potential roadblocks, and ensure minimal business disruption.

When will you complete the migration?

Your migration plan should include timelines for all critical milestones of the transition. One of the perks of a headless solution is that it’s possible to take a phased approach to your migration. For example, many retailers choose to migrate their data first, followed by must-have functionality, and, finally, by less needed and custom functionality. You can also phase your migration by sub-systems, migrating products first, then cart and checkout, for example. A phased approach allows you to minimize downtime and test each element of your migration without worrying about other factors. This gives your internal teams time to adapt to new processes and systems.

Whether you choose to take a phased approach or migrate all at once, clearly defined timelines ensure each element of your application transitions to the new system in the proper order.

Want to know more about headless commerce and whether it’s right for your business? Check out Future Proofing Your Retail Enterprise: The Power and Flexibility of Headless Commerce. This 60-minute webinar features an overview of headless commerce, how it compares to other approaches, and what you should know as you consider your options. View the webinar here.

If you’re interested ready to discuss how to integrate a headless solution into your existing infrastructure, schedule a free consultation.

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