PRE AND POST LAUNCH CHECKLIST FOR SHOPIFY PLUS

October 12, 2021
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Emmanuel Umukoro


No matter how prepared you are or how much resources you've allocated to the project, launching a new e-commerce store or replatforming is always a stressful time. Although working with Shopify is often a lot easier than working with most platforms, things can still go wrong, so it's important to have a solid testing strategy in place.


This guide is intended to cover everything you need to know as you prepare to launch your Shopify or Shopify Plus store but keep in mind that there will be line items that are unique to your store. For instance, specific aspects of data migration, configuration for any custom apps, any complexities around integrations, other front-end platforms if you're launching a headless site, and so on might not be discussed in this guide as they are custom-built, but you can always write me at success@trychargezen.com for case-specific guides.


This article was focused on tasks that must be completed before and after going live, so you'll be near the finish of the migration and design process before the above guide can be useful for you. So if you’ve not done that, here are some things you should have done ahead of time to prepare for your launch:


  • Set up tax and shipping, and thoroughly test everything, including integration testing like discounting, correct line items, etc.


  • All customers and orders migrated and the data should be tested.


  • Optimize the site from an SEO standpoint, ensuring that all data is correctly migrated, all redirects are correct, and so on.


  • Send account holders reactivation emails


  • Set up all of your apps and third-party services such as subscription, ads, recommendations, and so on


  • Set up integration and any considerations such as opt-ins/outs, data transfer, and so on

  • Setup emergency measures that you can fall back to in case any issue arises during launch


  • Set up and test all transactional and triggered emails.


  • Ensure the website has is optimized from a performance aspect


  • Finish the UAT phase and sign off all aspects of the site for launch.


  • Set up payment providers and thoroughly test them in a test/sandbox mode


  • Test integrations in detail with input from different stakeholders internally, such as customer service, finance, and so on.


  • All of the Shopify store configurations should be set up and applied.


If you have appropriate measures in place to address any difficulties that arise once your store is live or you've completed all of these aspects, then we are good to go; you can move on to organizing the launch of your new Shopify or Shopify Plus store.


PRELAUNCH CHECKLIST AND TASK

Setup FAQ page and brief your customer service staff ahead of launch

Customers will likely be messaging or calling your customer service staff throughout the launch to report concerns or inquire about the website, especially from customers who haven't activated their account and are not unable to login. To deal with this, I would consider briefing your customer service team and setting up FAQ pages to prepare them for the launch. Additionally, it's critical to include an account activation prompt on the login page for users who need to activate their account but are unable to do so.


Backup your previous website for reference

Before you begin the launch process of your Shopify and Shopify Plus store, it is recommended that you have a backup of the previous site set up for two months, so you have a reference for any reduction in customer retention, content changes, search engine optimization issues, and so on. This should be on a local or password-protected server, but it should also save order data and other information so that customer care can refer to it. This will also come in handy if you need to undertake more migration after the launch.


Set the current site to maintenance mode and enable maintenance page

Once your customer service team has been brief and your old store is backed up, put your existing site in maintenance mode: serve a 503 response code - down for maintenance, and enable your maintenance page. This should ideally be very simple, with very clear text, and optimized for all kinds of devices.


Ensure all payment methods are set up and in production mode (out of test/sandbox mode) and test orders

You should migrate all of your method methods out of test/sandbox mode and into production mode whenever you're close to launching. For Shopify Payments or direct payment solutions, it's as simple as ticking a box; but, for less common payment methods, it'll be a little more complicated like moving to your primary account or changing API keys, and so on.


If you're handling subscriptions or have a different checkout, you'll need to account for this in your strategy. If you're establishing international stores, you'll have to do this for each one.


After you've completed this for all payment methods across all stores, you should set up a series of payment methods to test everything, including reports, refunds, integrations, and so on. All important stakeholders should be involved in the process.


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 in production mode – a good example is “search”, where the base URL will need to change and product data will need to be re-synced once the DNS has changed and the password page has been deleted. This should be done for all third parties in all stores.


Address validation solutions, for example, can be switched to sandbox mode, so all third parties must be examined.


Make sure other systems are production-ready

It's vital to note that any systems are set to production mode as well – most ERPs, for instance, would have a sandbox environment for testing initially and then you’d connect to the existing or a new live equivalent. This is true for all aspects of Shopify. You would have done thorough testing on the live <> live integrations as well, as well as any middleware layers.


Check if Google Tag Manager is published and ready

Make sure that GTM is properly setup on all stores and that the container/s are published and ready. You should have spent time before this phase getting all of your pixels and tracking into Google Tag Manager, setting up the right data Layer, and so on.


Prepare all the needed domains and make sure Shopify is pointed to them

Since Shopify is unable to create sub-folders for international sites, some of your domains will most likely change if you have an international setup (without going down the headless route). It's recommended that you setup these sub-domains and point them to Shopify as soon as possible and also so you understand the process for the main switch.


Create a bug and feedback survey

To help you collect more data and examples of bugs from customers,  it is recommended to set up a survey on the site (subtle feedback request for any bugs or issues) and an order confirmation page (process feedback, bugs, and NPS), which could also be used for tracking specific types of sessions and heatmaps for key page types. This type of monitoring is essential if you want to have all bugs resolved as soon as possible.


Ascertain that Google Analytics and Google Search Console are enabled and ready

Ensure that the whole setup is complete across all stores/domains and that any necessary changes such as new payment method referrer exclusions, new domain exclusions, and so on have been completed.


SEO Check

SEO is typically one of the most important aspects in determining whether a replatforming project is a success or failure. This is why  you might have spent a significant amount of effort optimizing the site for SEO, but there are a few crucial areas to check too:

  • Flawlessly data migration - all content must be transferred on the new site, all meta data and any additional forms should be the same, among other things.


  • Noindex logic and canonical URLs should be set up as intended and in line with the prior site


  • Hreflang should be set up correctly with logic to account for edge cases such as products only in specific stores


  • All redirects have been tested and mapped precisely across all stores (ideally, this would be based on 3+ years of Google Analytics landing pages, your sitemap, and product feeds, among other things). All forms of pages should be included, not excluding dynamic pages, e.g filters.


  • Ensure there is enough structured data markup in place.


  • The SEO involved must be prepared to track all 404s after the launch and rectify, as well as verify Google Search Console and submit sitemaps, among other things. Any work involving a change of address should be scheduled ahead of time.


Final integration test

Before your store goes live, double-check everything related to integrations, especially now that everything is in production mode. Ideally, different stakeholders would be assigned distinct roles — for example, someone from finance would be in charge of reporting discounts, gift cards, refunds, and store credit usage, while someone from operations may be in charge of final inventory checks.


If you're utilizing an integration middleware provider, this setup should be verified thoroughly as well — field mapping and custom logic are two areas where things might go wrong around launch and should be evaluated as part of the launch process.

Remove the storefront password and change the DNS

If you've completed all of the above steps and are satisfied, you can now switch the domain name system of any domains and prepare to remove the password page from your Shopify store. As a precaution, ensure sure there are no sitewide noindexes in place once you've completed this.


These are the primary categories that are relevant to the bulk of Shopify and Shopify Plus stores, but I'm sure there are others in special cases.


Disable paid advertising channels and double-check that URLs are mapped

Before you go live, make sure that all paid advertising is turned off and that the new URLs have been mapped to all advertisements and campaigns so that activity may resume.


All test data should be removed

Before you go live, it's recommended to go through and delete all test product data, customers data, and other information. This will help keep the site clean and avoid an unusual user experience with test products being indexed in the search for instance.


When opening a Shopify site, there are a few unexpected and typical issues to watch out for:


  • 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


  • Some emails not disabled on international stores such as transactional emails if sending externally or cart abandoned emails, among others


  • Some international stores still in test mode in different areas such as third party, payments, among others


  • Third-party base URLs not changed such as search, product recs, reviews, and so on


  • Incorrect handling of tax or discount line items in certain areas


  • Missing redirects 


  • New domains not setup in places such as international sub-domains not domain exclusions in Google Analytics


POST-LAUNCH CHECKLIST AND TASK

Before you go on real-time sales, it's highly recommended that you test various aspects of the website and systems to help you ascertain nothing is left out. Here are a few post-launch tests and actions to help you start strong:


Check data feeds

Once your site is up and running, you may reactivate paid traffic - you'll need to update the feeds to get Google Shopping, Bing Shopping, and Facebook product advertisements to operate. These will need to be confirmed before going live, but they're reasonably simple to set up.


Verify Google Search Console and submit an XML sitemap as well as any change of address requests

Examine and validate all your Google Search Console profiles, which will require the addition of a verification code to the site, unless you can get any of the other routes to work.


Double-check that all XML sitemaps are uploaded and validated and that any change of address requests for things like international sub-domains are sent.


Send all customers reactivation email

Once your site is up and running, you need to send out your reactivation email to consumers so that they can reactivate and keep their accounts. You should send this through your email service provider so that you can track opens, clicks, and send a follow-up to non-openers. To do so, extract the email of all customer who has an account, together with their activation links and upload them to your email service provider. This should have been tested as well before going live.


Integration

Ensure that all orders are handled effectively from an integrations standpoint. In doing so, it's vital to consider the following:


  • Various modes of delivery


  • Mixed baskets such as subscription or regular order


  • Handling of notifications


  • Refunds and partial refunds


  • Use of store credit


  • Changes in inventory


  • Coupon codes


  • Use of gift cards


  • Numerous payment methods.


The process of handling 404

Set up a procedure to monitor 404s, and assign the task to your team and ensure that you respond to 404 pages as soon as possible.


Test your conversion tracking and Google Analytics setup

You'll be able to adequately test your Google Analytics setup once your store is live. Here are a few things to consider:


  • Ensure that tracking parameters aren't being stripped out with redirects, that paid traffic is being reported accurately, and there’s not an odd uplift in direct traffic among other things.


  • International traffic is accurately recorded with a combined view and local views


  • The currency is accurately reported with local views set to local currency, master view has currency conversion working, and so on


  • There are several new referrer exclusions added such as Shop Pay, any other payment methods, international domains, etc)


  • Any necessary custom dimensions or events are added and are operational


  • Any custom reports for problems, etc., have been set up and are operational


In addition, double-check that all of your third-party pixels and conversion tracking are functioning properly.


Extensive redirects testing

This should be a major priority once you're live. It is recommended that you list crawling all redirects using Deep Crawl or Screaming Frog and then ensuring all destination URLs return a 200 response code. After that, you should run a redirects report to make sure there aren't any redirect chains, misdirected redirects, or other issues.


Conduct multiple test orders

Once your Shopify Plus store is live and running, it's vital to get as many people as possible to place test orders in order to uncover faults and issues. Examples of test order criteria include:


  • Use these tests in all of your stores.


  • Test for refund process, full and partial refund for instance


  • MOTO order processes testing


  • Different sorts of orders should be used to test each payment method from promo code, gift card usage, login, and other forms of discount


  • Orders should be tested on a variety of devices.


Final Thoughts

Finally, make sure you're comfortable with the technical SEO aspects of things, such as how the site gets crawled and how dynamic pages are handled. Ensure that all product, order, and customer data is accurate and are flowing smoothly through Shopify and other systems. If there is any part of the process you think I should add, feel free to drop me an email at success@trychargezen.com. For those asking for recommendations, Ecomtarget is one agency doing it right and helping growing brands onboard the Shopify and Shopify Plus platform with zero errors. They will be happy to work with your team and handle the technical process so you can focus on growing your business.

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