Migrating historic order data when replatforming – why it’s important and other impacts

Whether or not retrospective order data should be migrated when replatforming is a debate that seems to come up a lot for us with projects, with agencies or clients often having a reason not to migrate the data and instead start fresh or just migrate recent orders. This is a question that will generally come up when discussing data migration during the discovery phase of a project and it’s an important thing to get right at this stage.

I’m a huge advocate of having all online order data (and any other orders that have gone through the platform – e.g. MOTO orders) within the platform and this article is designed to explain why it’s important.

Why is it important to migrate historical order data?

For me, there’s a number of reasons why order data should be migrated, with some of the key ones being:

  • Customers with active orders are able to see the status of that existing order
  • Customers are able to see what they’ve ordered in the past and also re-order previously purchased items
  • Allow for optimal CRM data – although this can depend on where you store data as a business, it’s always valuable to have as much order data as possible in your platform to support CRM activity. The average client of ours will rely on order data at some level from their eCommerce platform and various other third-party technologies (such as personalisation engines, SMS marketing providers, search engines etc) will utilise order history to support what they’re doing.
  • Reporting – similarly to with CRM activity, the more data you have within your platform, the better your platform-led reporting will be (for the average retailer). Being able to quickly look at a customer or groups of customers and see what they’ve ordered historically and when will definitely help with reporting of different forms. This data would also be needed to calculate things like lead times between purchases and customer lifetime value. You’ll also be able to do things like analyse the value of different items for first purchases (as part of lifetime value analysis) etc.
  • VIP, loyalty and segmentation – related to the previous two points, but if you’re planning on doing anything that requires spend or similar thresholds, you’ll need order data against customers in the platform. This could be different for bigger implementations (where you have different systems and channels etc), but there’ll generally be some level of customer evaluation needed for this type of activity within the platform.
  • Customers expect to see lifetime order data – from working on replatforming projects where the order data migration has come later, I’ve seen first hand that customers do expect to be able to see their order history within their account. Even if you have a low number of users logging in, there is an expectation that if you have an account, you should be able to see previous transactions.
  • It’ll help you match a customer to a store if you internationalise 

Why would you not migrate historic order data?

Because migrating data from one platform to another is always quite a complex task (and can be a complete nightmare), different stakeholders (be it the agency, consultants or internal team members) will often argue against the value of migrating this data, particularly if the project is designer to be a transformation or the existing site doesn’t perform well. The task of migrating order data will generally be very time-consuming, will require a lot of testing and will also commonly need a lot of manual work alongside the automated work. Although most agencies would use scripts or a data migration tool for a large part of this, there’ll usually be complications and edge cases that require additional work.

I would say that no matter how reluctant different stakeholders are, this is an important thing to have within the platform. Even if right now you’re not using the data or if you have the data within an ERP or another system, there’s a very good chance that you’ll need it in the future or you’ll benefit from being able to pass the data to other third parties via a native integration etc.

Who should migrate order data in a replatforming project?

This is an interesting question and something that tends to differ for every project. Although I’d say the most common situation is that the agency partner would manage all aspects of data migration, a lot of our projects have had IT teams or technical team members who have owned this. If you have the right people internally (with enough time), I’d suggest owning it in-house (alongside customer data migration), if not I’d give the agency responsibility for it (with internal team members testing the migration and ultimately signing it off).

Overall, I’m really pro migrating historic order data when moving or upgrading eCommerce platforms and hopefully the above will give you an understanding of why. If you have any questions on any of this, please feel free to email me or comment below.

Paul Rogers

Paul is an experienced eCommerce Consultant, specialising in all aspects of replatforming, requirements gathering and platform selection projects.

Paul has worked with most mainstream eCommerce platforms and has supported complex replatforming projects with retailers from all over the world. Paul also works on customer experience projects and solutions-focused work with various platforms - primarily Magento and Shopify Plus.

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