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Platform migration Part 2: Minimising the risk

23rd March 2015

In part 1 of this blog we talked about the challenges of sustaining user experience when migrating platform.

While migration may offer improvements in many areas, it’s likely that it will raise problems in other areas. We work with many clients managing platform migration to help them minimise the performance risk.

So you’re migrating platforms, what steps can you take to minimise the risk?

  • The new site should be tested fully; both load testing to check it will meet demand in the real world and usability testing to ensure customers are happy with the experience.  Involve customers as early as possible in the process. User feedback surveys before and after launch also help minimise the risk of new usability and user experience.
  • The risk to SEO from platform migration is huge so ensure someone if focussed on SEO and redirects.
  • The site should be thoroughly monitored before launch, to pick up those last minute glitches and thoroughly monitored afterwards to measure the impact of migration on performance.  These are not steps to be skimped: it’s far better that they’re picked up by your testing than noticed by 100s of unhappy customers, venting their frustration and anger on social media.
  • There’s another important factor: don’t ignore the front end in the rush to get the back-end working perfectly. There could be issues, such as optimisation, on the front-end which affect performance. If either the back-end or the front-end is overlooked, you may be missing out on isolating a problem.
  • There are other risks to consider; that of data transfer to the new system both product data and account data and ensuring email systems are fully functional. It’s a good tip to keep the old site live for a few weeks as a reference point until you’re happy that everything is working smoothly.


If you want to see what happens when a platform migration goes wrong, look at the headlines that greeted M&S when they moved away from Amazon’s platform last year. Sales plunged by 8.1% in the first quarter following the launch of its new website. In contrast a similar migration away from an Amazon platform by thinkTRIBE’s client Mothercare, saw an increase in sales of 18.2% in the quarter after the move. This clearly illustrates the benefits that can be reaped when you get platform migration right.

Whilst analytics tools may offer some insight into the issues caused by a new platform, they can’t tell the whole story. In the physical world, the best retailers will make extensive use of mystery shoppers to ensure that the experience offered to their customers is top-class. What online sites need is something that can replicate this.

That’s where synthetic web monitoring comes in: it fulfils the role of a mystery shopper by replicating the online shopper’s actual experience. With the complexity involved in today’s websites it’s essential to look for solutions like thinkTRIBE’s that truly replicate your customers’ actions, using scripts that make random choices, in the way that real customers do. As such, you’re assessing a true shopping experience, not an artificial test situation.

With today’s big data retailers can go a long way to replicating good old fashioned customer service: the important thing is to ensure that other factors impacting customer experience  – such as speed of response or usability – aren’t lost on the way.