For online retailers using Magento 1.x for their store, the question of when / if they should be moving over to Magento 2 is likely to at the front of their mind. This article is designed to help merchants understand the questions to ask when considering the move and also the latest point they should be looking to move.

One thing that’s important to understand is that merchants looking to stick with Magento are going to have to do this ‘migration’ project at some point. It’s also important to understand that the project is going to essentially be a re-build, as Magento 2.x is very different to Magento 1.x, meaning any custom work completed on the Magento 1.x site will need to be re-done for the new store (as opposed to just being moved over).

When should I be looking to move to Magento 2?

The decision on what to migrate from Magento 1.x to Magento 2.x isn’t an easy one, as there are various contributing factors and variables. For me, one of the biggest considerations is how much work you’re going to be doing on your existing Magento store, as there’s a good chance any custom development work or front-end work is going to need to be repeated on the new Magento 2.x store.

I’d suggest that if you’re planning on investing in any major changes, you’re better off moving to Magento 2.x now, as it ‘should’ save money in the long-term. I’ve discussed this with a number of my clients and they’ve generally spent time deciding on whether to move to Magento 2.x (often with new features included in the specification) now or continue with Magento 1.x, but put a stop on larger development tasks.

I worked on a discovery project with one larger store and they made the decision to start work on their Magento 2 store because they were planning on doing a mini overhaul of their front-end, as well as sprints around performance and product detail page changes. This was a bit of a no-brainer for them as they would have ended up doing two large development projects and paying for half of the work twice – when doing the calculations the single Magento 2.x project saved them money (they’re essentially porting everything over and then applying the changes as part the development of the M2 theme).

Again, this is very specific to a business though – some merchants may prefer to start the project next year and just reduce development work before then.

What are the benefits of moving to Magento 2.x now?

There are various benefits of being an early adopter (if you can still call it that) with Magento 2.x, these are:

  • Reduce the likelihood of paying for development work twice – less likely that you’ll end up needing to pay twice for work being done on your existing Magento 1.x store
  • Agencies are still very keen to take on Magento 2.x projects – lots of agencies are looking for a ‘case study’ project to talk about with Magento 2 (for new business), meaning they’re willing to reduce costs in places.
  • New features and functionality – improved performance, scalability, product imports and admin interface are a few examples of improvements in Magento 2. Magento 2 also has various improved functions, such as visual merchandising (refactored in Magento 2), CMS (BlueFoot soon to be released into Enterprise edition), B2B (new module due to be released for Enterprise Edition) and various other things.
  • Pre-peak – if you’re looking to migrate your store before going into a peak towards the end of the year, you could be looking to do it now. A Magento 2 migration project can take anywhere from 3-6 months and if you don’t start looking at it now, you’re going to be potentially risking launching around the time that support is stopped towards the end of next year.

What are the disadvantages of moving to Magento 2.x now?

The main disadvantages of moving to Magento 2 now are around stability (which is far better than it was a few months ago) and the amount of readily available extensions and integrations, but this does depend on your requirements really. Here are what I consider to be the disadvantages:

  • Cost of building custom extensions / some extensions not being available – One of the biggest issues for merchants looking to move their existing Magento 1.x store to Magento 2.x is the cost associated with replicating their existing functionality, due to the equivalent extensions not existing. Things like payment gateway extensions, checkout extensions, visual merchandising extensions and various other things aren’t readily available, which can add significant cost to the project.
  • Integrations not available / proven – The same principle applies to integrations with other third parties, such as ERPs and stock management systems, which can be various very costly to build custom connectors for.
  • Proven stores / stability – Although this has improved a lot recently (with merchants like Helly Hansen, Land Rover and Nine West launching on Magento 2), there are still a limited number of merchants live on Magento 2, which can be a big turn-off for larger merchants. This is something that is definitely getting better all the time though – I know of some huge UK-based stores that are already developing Magento 2 stores and more and more are launching every day.

What business considerations need to be factored into this decision?

I would say that the main business considerations are going to relate to whether the cost of maintaining / developing your existing Magento 1.x store outweigh the potential cost savings around starting the Magento migration further down the line.

If you were to move to Magento 2.x further down the line, you’re likely to save money on being able to use third party extensions instead of custom extensions and also, agencies should be more comfortable with Magento 2, meaning they can quote less. However, if you’re looking to apply any big changes to the store, you could use any potential uplift in conversion rates to justify the cost of the project – as well as things like improved performance, checkout and scalability, which could also impact your overall online performance.

Overall – I’d say that, as long as you are doing the normal amount of business-as-usual development work, you’re probably better off moving to Magento 2 sooner rather than later, as long as you’re outside of peak and you have the capacity internally to manage the project and QA.

Do I NEED to migrate / ‘upgrade’ to Magento 2?

The answer to this question is, on paper, no. Lots of merchants will continue to trade on Magento 1.x after the end of life in November 2018, however they’ll be doing so without support from Magento (as long as the deadline doesn’t get extended). This essentially means that security patches won’t be released for Magento 1.x stores from Magento. Magento will also stop working on the system internally and there won’t be any new features released.

So, on paper you can continue operating on Magento 1.x, but it’s not a particularly appealing prospect. The other option, of course, is to look at moving to a different platform – which will differ depending on the size and complexity of your eCommerce store. Here are some of the most common platforms people seem to be reviewing as part of the migration process:

Shopify – for smaller, fairly simple Magento stores, Shopify is a great alternative platform – with low total cost of ownership and lots of out of the box features and extensions third party modules. I would imagine that lots of smaller Magento Community Edition merchants will end up moving to Shopify, rather than spending tens of thousands on the migration of their existing store.

Shopware – I’ve been looking at Shopware a lot recently and have been really impressed – their out of the box offering is very similar to Magento and their Enterprise edition is arguably stronger out of the box than Magento Enterprise, in terms of features alone. Shopware, however is very new outside of Germany (where it’s a market-leading solution), so there aren’t a huge number of partners to choose from. Shopware is definitely one to look at when you’re looking at alternatives.

Shopify Plus – Shopify Plus is the enterprise version of Shopify, which has a higher price tag but is far more flexible in terms of complex integrations and process requirements. Shopify Plus isn’t perfect – but it’s a very good alternative for brands using Magento Enterprise without a huge amount of complexity. Shopify Plus also arguably has a lower total cost of ownership than Magento Enterprise.

Demandware – There have been a number of brands who have already moved from Magento Enterprise to Demandware, but these are very much the higher end brands. Demandware and Magento Enterprise have a fierce rivalry in the enterprise market at the moment, with Demandware offering a proven, scalable SaaS platform and Magento offering a lot more flexibility and third party integrations etc.

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