Migrating 86,000 SKUs from Magento to BigCommerce

by | May 21, 2018 | Insights | 0 comments

To be honest, I don’t have an accurate count on all the stores we have migrated from one platform to another over the years. We think it’s actually closer to 100, but we elected to be a bit conservative and start the new count at 63. What makes this latest conversion worthy of a post is the sheer size of the catalog and how the catalog is created in the first place. And this migration was from Magento to BigCommerce, for which this was a first for us. We’ve done a lot of Magento to Shopify migrations, as well as other inter-platform migrations. Understanding eCommerce data is very much a strength of ours. Once we decided to consider BigCommerce for one of our oldest, dearest clients, I set out to put it through the paces. This is a recap of our experience.

The Back Story

For several years, we have had the pleasure of helping Tired Iron Tractor Parts build a thriving online B2B business selling tractor parts and related items to farmers, construction companies and the like. The company came to novusweb after having suffered disastrous results with a much larger, Los Angeles-China based agency. Mr. Hamilton, the owner, called me after reading my book, Mastering Magento. The biggest issue was that Hamilton had scraped data on over 80,000 parts from the distributor website. For some unfathomable reasons, the distributor was happy to have Tired Iron as a reseller but would not make it easy to get product information. Scraping the distributor’s antiquated site is not an easy feat, but to Hamilton’s credit, he had found an overseas firm that had done a fairly adequate job of scraping the images, descriptions, and other data on the products. (We now handle his scraping as part of our data management services.) The challenge the LA agency couldn’t see to tackle was importing the products into Magento in a way that honored the particular product requirements needed, such as core charges, quantity packaging, etc. Having worked with Magmi quite extensively over the years, I felt confident we could quickly import his product data once we constructed the required Magmi import CSV files using a very complex SQL script. In addition, we had to work to stabilize the Magento installation, as it was fraught with errors and was not behaving correctly. Well, glad to say, we solved both matters. And, since that time, we have worked with Tired Iron to keep their Magento installation humming along as part of our continual work in marketing, SEO, content, and more to help grow the business.

Time to Upgrade

As we began to work with Magento 2, we had discussions with Hamilton the pros and cons of upgrading. We also suggested that since it would cost every bit as much to upgrade to Magento 2 as he spent building his Magento 1 store, it might be a good time to look at platform alternatives. We had, by this time, managed dozens of migrations from Magento to Shopify, so Shopify was our first consideration. We could not justify the cost of the Shopify Plus plan based on the firm’s revenues and slim margins, so as we worked with Shopify Advanced, it became frustratingly clear that the platform was not workable for Hamilton’s purposes. Importing 86,000 SKUs took over 24 hours, as the API throttle for Shopify makes large imports painstaking. Plus, we could only import about 5,000 SKUs at a time. Furthermore, Shopify has no sidebar filtered navigation as natively available in Magento. Without the ability to allow customers to filter their browsing and searches, parts would be difficult to find. Note: we are about to release a Shopify app that will add sidebar navigation.

Along Came BigCommerce

We have been BigCommerce “partners” for several years and have helped clients who occasionally have ventured onto the platform. In the past, when opting for more functionality than provided by Shopify, we generally turned to Magento. However, with the stumbles of Magento 2 and the huge cost of implementation — and the maturity we saw in Shopify — we wondered if BigCommerce had likewise matured, as we needed something more than Shopify in terms of core features, but less expensive and more stable than Magento. I decided to re-visit BigCommerce and we did a deep dive. After attending the Partners conference earlier this year, we were also more encouraged by the direction of the company and its ability to invest R&D dollars into improving the platform.

The Deep Dive

The first, most important consideration was how well we could migrate the data from Magento to BigCommerce. Knowing that Tired Iron’s products had certain “considerations,” we knew we could not use any of the out-of-the-box migration tools. These are often very limited in scope and abilities. And this is generally derived from a lack of in-depth knowledge about Magento. We were happy to see that the data format was easily manageable. And, the speed of importing was fairly quick. We did have to import in chunks of 20,000 SKUs, but the total time spent in importing was less than 3 hours. Much faster than with Shopify. Now, we do have some issues with BigCommerce imports. For instance, you can’t simply update prices for SKUs without re-importing the categories. For most, this is not an issue: you simply export the current catalog, update your prices in a spreadsheet and re-import. However, with so many SKUs, hand updating prices in a spreadsheet is completely unwieldy. We have our solution for this, but it would be nice to not require categories assignments on imports. Compared with Shopify, BigCommerce’s theming system (“Stencil”) is not yet as easy to work with as Shopify’s Slate. The back-end UI still needs work: it’s pretty enough, but the WYSIWYG editors are old-school and usability is not as slick. But, in terms of raw speed, we are very impressed. And, we think BigCommerce is definitely on the right track.

The Bottom Line

You can see for yourself, Tired Iron Tractor Parts is zipping along on BigCommerce Enterprise. And, at half the starting price of Shopify Plus, BigCommerce Enterprise delivered not only a better ROI but contributed a native sidebar filtered navigation solution. Hamilton could not be happier. Now, we can focus on helping him increase his sales and spend less time propping up Magento. For us, we now have confidence in recommending BigCommerce as a true mid-market solution for B2B and B2C merchants.

Bret Williams

Bret is the a co-founder and the Managing Partner of novusweb®. He is also author of several books on Magento and e-commerce and is sought as a speaker and trainer. Bret has been crafting internet innovations since 1995.


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