Launching a new eCommerce store or replatforming is always a very stressful time, no matter how much time and resource you’ve allocated to the project and preparing for the launch. Although Shopify is generally a much cleaner process than with other platforms, things can still go wrong and it’s vital to put a strong testing process / plan in place. I’ve been involved in launches of lots of Shopify stores over the last few years and I generally learn a lot from each one. I’ve also worked on launches with a lot of other non-SaaS platforms, which definitely helps to make sure that launch planning is taken seriously.
This Shopify launch checklist is designed to provide a definitive list of areas that need to be checked or actioned at the point of launch, but it’s also important to remember that there’ll be line items that are specific to your store too (e.g. specific aspects of data migration, configuration for any custom apps, any complexities around integrations, other front-end platforms if you’re launch a headless site etc).
This guide is designed to include everything that needs to be considered when you’re getting ready to launch your Shopify or Shopify Plus store – if there’s anything else you think I need to add, please feel free to either email me or add to the comments below. It’s worth noting that ideally you’d have already completed UAT at this point and you’d have already been through a definitive set of test scripts that you’ve already tested against. I plan to do a separate post on creating Shopify Plus test scripts and the migration aspects so keep an eye out for these.
This guide is focused on things that need to be done pre and post going live – so you would be right at the end of the migration / build project. Here are some of the things you should have already done pre preparing for launch:
- Full UAT phase and signed off the various areas of the site for launch
- Set up payment providers and tested thoroughly in test / sandbox mode
- Tested integrations in detail with input from different stakeholders internally (e.g. finance, CS, IT etc)
- Shopify store settings all setup and applied.
- Set up tax and shipping and tested extensively, including as part of integration testing (things like correct line items, discounting etc).
- Migrated all customers and orders and tested the data
- Optimised the site from an SEO perspective and ensure that all data is migrated perfectly, all redirects are perfect etc. This should’ve been tested extensively.
- Prepared to send reactivation emails for account holders
- Set up all apps and third parties (e.g. search, reviews, product recommendations, email provider etc)
- Set up integration and all considerations with ESP (e.g. opt ins / out, data being passed over etc)
- Setup / sync’d / migrated all content across all stores going live
- Contingency plans for any launch issues / roll-back plan
- All transactional / triggered emails are set up and tested
- Optimised the site from a performance standpoint
If you’re happy with all these areas (or that you have sufficient plans to remedy issues once live), you can move onto planning the launch of your new Shopify or Shopify Plus store.
Pre-Launch Shopify Launch Checks / Tasks
Put the current site into maintenance mode & enable maintenance page
Once you’re ready to start the launch process, you can put your existing site into maintenance mode (try and ensure you serve a 503 response code – down for maintenance) and enable your maintenance page. Ideally this would be very simple with really clear messaging, as well as being optimised for all device types.
Check all payment methods are set up and in production mode (out of test / sandbox mode) + test orders
Once you’re getting close to launch, you should move all of your method methods out of test / sandbox mode and into production mode. For Shopify Payments or direct payment solutions like Stripe this is really easy and it’s just a tickbox, for other less standard payment options like Klarna, PayPal, Mollie payment methods etc it’ll be slightly different (e.g. moving to your primary account or changing API keys etc).
If you’re doing subscriptions or have another checkout or anything like that, you’ll need to factor this into your plan. If you’re launching international stores, this will need to be done for each store.
Once this has been done for all payment methods across all stores etc – you should place a series of payment methods to test everything properly, as well as the integrations, reporting, refunds etc. Try and ensure that process has involved as many key stakeholders as possible.
Final tests on integrations
Now that the site is essentially ready to go live, just ensure that you’re happy with everything around integrations – particularly now everything is in production mode. Ideally different stakeholders would be allocated different responsibilities – e.g. someone from finance would focus on reporting of discounts, gift cards, refunds, store credit usage etc and maybe someone from operations would do final checks around handling of inventory.
If you’re using an iPaaS or integration middleware provider, this setup needs to be tested in detail too – mapping of fields and any custom logic is an area that can commonly go wrong around launch, so needs to be checked as part of a launch process.
Final SEO checks
SEO is often one of the biggest factors in determining whether a replatforming project was a success or failure, so this is one of the biggest things to pay attention to. Ideally you will have already spent a lot of time on getting the site in a good place from an SEO perspective, but the key areas that need to be checked are:
- Redirects all mapped perfectly across all stores and tested (ideally this would be based on 3+ years of GA landing pages, your sitemap, product feeds etc. This should include all pages types including dynamic pages (e.g. filters)
- All data migrated perfectly – all content migrated onto the new site, all meta data EXACTLY the same, any additional forms of content migrated etc.
- Canonical URLs and noindex logic setup as expected and in-line with previous site
- Hreflang correctly setup with logic to allow for edge cases (e.g. products only on specific stores)
- Structured data markup in place and sufficient
- SEO involved is ready to monitor all 404s beyond launch and fix as needed, plus also verify Google Search Console and submit sitemaps etc. Any change of address work planned in advance.
All third parties are setup and in production mode / using a live account / set to use live URLs
Ensure that all third parties are ready to go live and are set to production mode – search is usually a good example where the base URL will need to change and the product data will need to be re-sync’d once the DNS has changed and the password page is removed. This needs to be checked for all third parties across all stores.
Things like address validation solutions can also be set to sandbox mode etc, so ALL third parties need to be checked.
Ensure other systems are production-ready
As with all of the Shopify aspects, it’s important to remember that any systems are set to production mode as well – most ERPs, for example, would have a sandbox environment for testing initially and then you’d connect to the existing or a new live equivalent. Ideally, you’d have done extensive testing on the live <> live integrations as well and any middleware layers have been tested properly too.
Ensure Google Analytics & Google Search Console are set up and ready
Ensure that full setup is ready across all stores / domains and any changes required (e.g. multi-currency for GA, new domain exclusions, new payment method referrer exclusions etc) are done.
Ensure GTM container is published and ready
Ensure that Google Tag Manager is perfectly setup on all stores and the container(s) are published and ready. Pre this phase, you would have ideally spent time getting all pixels and tracking into Google Tag Manager, setting up the perfect dataLayer etc.
Ensure you have a backup of your previous site for reference
This is an important one – I always recommend having a backup of the previous site set up for at least one or two months, so you have a reference for any SEO issues, any content changes, any issues around CR% dropping etc. This should be on a local or password protected server, but it should also retain order data etc so you have a reference for customer services. If you need to do further migration beyond launch, this will also be really helpful.
Set up any required domains and ensure Shopify is pointed to them
If you have an international setup, chances are some of your domains will likely change, with Shopify not able to achieve sub-folders for international sites (without going down the headless route). I generally recommend getting these sub-domains setup early and point the domains to Shopify so you have them set up early and also so you understand the process for the main switchover.
Switch the DNS and remove storefront password
If you’ve done all of these checks and you’re 100% happy – at this point you can switch the DNS of any domains and get ready to remove the password page from your Shopify stores. When you’ve done this, just make sure there are no sitewide noindex’s in place as a precaution.
These are the core areas that are relevant to the majority of Shopify and Shopify Plus stores, but I’m sure there are more – as above, please feel free to suggest additions.
Setup a survey for bugs and feedback
On our recent launches, we’ve set up a survey on the site (subtle feedback request for any bugs or issues) and the order confirmation page (process feedback, bugs & NPS) to capture more data and examples of bugs from customers. This is really valuable and we generally use Hotjar (which we would also use for tracking specific types of sessions and heatmaps for key page types). This kind of monitoring is really important if you want to get all bugs fixed ASAP and bugs raised through the warranty period.
Remove all test data
Once you’re ready to go live, it’s good practice to just go through and remove all test product data, customers etc. This will just help to keep things clean and avoid an odd user experience on the site (with test products being indexed in the search for example).
Turn off paid advertising channels and ensure URLs are mapped
When you’re ready to go live, ensure all paid advertising activity is paused and the new URLs have been mapped to all ads and campaigns ready for activity to be switched back on.
Prepare customer services
Your customer services team are going to get more issues reported and more questions around the website – particularly around users (who haven’t activated their account) not being able to login. I would recommend briefing your customer services team and also getting FAQ pages setup to help deal with this. In addition to this, it’s really important to ensure you have the account activation prompt on the login page, for users who need to activate their account and can’t login.
Gotchas & common problems to look out for when launching a Shopify store
- Some emails not disabled on international stores (e.g. transactional emails if sending externally or cart abandoned emails etc)
- Some international stores still in test mode in different areas (e.g. payments, third parties etc)
- Third party base URLs not changed (e.g. search, product recs, reviews etc)
- Incorrect handling of tax or discount line items in certain areas
- Missing redirects
- New domains not setup in places (e.g. international sub-domains not domain exclusions in Google Analytics)
- Data feeds not setup to handle variants properly
- Inventory handling for subscriptions not setup properly
- SEO migration is perfect on primary store but not on international stores
Post-Launch Shopify Launch Checks / Tasks
Once you’ve actually launched your Shopify / Shopify Plus store, it’s really important to get as many people as possible running test orders and testing the various aspects of the website and systems. Some of the key post-launch checks / actions include:
Lots and lots of test orders
Once you’ve gone live, it’s really important to do as many test orders as possible to try and find bugs and issues – examples of test order requirements could include:
- Test every payment method with different types of orders (inc promo code, inc gift card usage, inc login, inc other forms of discount, inc opt in etc)
- Test orders across different device types
- Apply these tests across all stores
- Test refund processes (inc partial refund, full refund etc)
- Test MOTO order processes etc
Send reactivation emails
Once you’re live on the site, it’s really important to send out your reactivation email to customers to ensure they can re-activate their account and retain their account. Ideally, you’d be sending this via your ESP so you can track opens / clicks etc and also send a follow-up to non openers. To do this, you’d export all customer (who have an account) emails and their activation link and upload into your ESP. This should have been tested prior to launch also.
Based on the above, ensure all orders are being handled correctly from an integrations perspective – important to look at handling of things like:
- Discount codes
- Gift card usage
- Multiple payment methods
- Multiple delivery types
- Mixed basket (e.g. pre-order and normal)
- Refunds and partial refunds
- Usage of store credit
- Inventory changes
- Notification handling
Extensive redirect testing
Once you’ve gone live, this should be a big priority. I usually suggest list crawling all redirects using Deep Crawl or Screaming Frog and then ensuring all destination URLs return a 200 response code. You’d then do a redirects report to ensure there are no redirect chains, misdirected redirects etc.
404 handling processes
In addition to monitoring existing redirects, you also need have a process in place for monitoring 404s – I recommend using the Transportr redirects app, which reports back based on pageviews of pages 404ing and Google Search Console. You need to allocate this responsibility within your team and make sure you’re reacting to 404 pages ASAP.
Verify Google Search Console + submit XML sitemap and any change of address requests
All of your Google Search Console profiles will need to be verified and checked, which will likely need a verification code added to the site (unless you can get any of the other routes to work).
Once you’ve done that, make sure all XML sitemaps are uploaded and checked and any change of address requests are submitted for things like international sub-domains.
Other SEO checks
Just ensure that you’re happy with the technical SEO side of things, how the site is crawled, handling of dynamic pages etc.
Test Google Analytics setup and conversion tracking
Once you’re live, you’ll be able to properly test your Google Analytics setup – things to look at include:
- Channel attribution – ensure that tracking parameters aren’t being stripped out with redirects, there’s not an odd uplift in direct traffic, paid traffic is being reported correctly etc
- International traffic is being reported on correctly (ideally with a combined view and local views)
- Currency is being reported correctly (local views set to local currency, master view has currency conversion working etc)
- New referrer exclusions are added (e.g. Shop Pay, any other payment methods, international domains etc)
- Any required events or custom dimensions are added and working
- Any custom reports for errors etc are setup and working
In addition to this, make sure that all of your third party pixels and conversion tracking are working as expected. It’s worth noting that we recommend Elevar for this type of stuff through the project – their app is also great for setting up Google Analytics via Google Tag Manager.
Data feeds checked and working
Once your site is live and working, you can turn on paid traffic again – in order to get Google Shopping, Bing Shopping and Facebook product ads working, you’ll need to add the feeds. These will need to be verified pre-launch, but are relatively easy to set up using something like Data Feed Watch.
Just ensure that all product, order and customer data is as expected and orders are flowing through to Shopify and other systems as expected.
These are the areas I’ve come up with off the top of my head, if there are others that you think I’ve missed, please feel free to add them in the comments or drop me an email.