"Moving" sounds a bit scary, but hopefully to our customers the negative impact of the transition will be minimal and the benefit of the new platform - very positive. I know it is going to be a huge pain for me, as I come from an IT background where every aspect of change has to be well planned and thought out. And I know there are going to be glitches! But the benefits so outweigh the troubles that is simply must be done. So, for those that are interested in such - let me explain.
Why. In 2014 when we decided that it was simply too much work to stay on our home brew website, we moved to a platform called BigCommerce. It was $150/mo but they had so many benefits that it seemed well worth it. We worked very hard to tune the new platform to our needs and it solved most of our problems. But we probably invested 2500-3000 man hours just in getting an environment we were proud to call home. Whether it was the bait-and-switch or some other perfectly logical reasoning; BigCommerce notified us last year that our price would TRIPLE. After all the work, it is a monumental effort to move - and I think they realize this. But they may not realize that we don't like being manipulated. So, we immediately set about a plan to migrate off their platform mid-2017. In late 2016 we hired a group of folks to help us implement and tune a new platform that was flexible enough to provide us the ability to solve some of the shortcomings we had discovered with BC (BigCommerce). This process is slow.... Although they are great programming minds; the testing and verification is essentially left up to us.
How. You can just decide to move to a new platform. There has to be thousands of hours of tuning the new platform and hundreds of hours of testing. And still, eventually, you have to put a limited number of live customers on the website to iron out the kinks. That was a challenge in itself. But we decided a smaller niche, of our already bigger niche, would give us a website that we could continue debugging in a live fashion without affecting our entire client base. So, we settled on KnifeShowOnline.com, to provide an environment that we wanted to simulate the types of knives you would see at the old Gun and Knife Show. So, primarily older knives. From time to time we made send customers en-mass to the new site to test load, etc. by having Early Reserves or desirable drops done there. When we feel like it is ready for prime time, we will clone all the functionality and build CollectorKnives.net back up around it. When that is completed we will cut-over from the old to the new (and that is going to be a day of misery).
When. We had hoped to open our new live testing website by 1/1/17. But then we decided it would be really cool to integrate the Early Reserve System into the store itself. That has been crazy difficult. So, having that extend us out to the end of March; we are now ready to start putting some traffic to KnifeShowOnline. Plans are to cut-over in May some time.
Impact. There will be changes and there will be some components that go away altogether. As we think of things that need to be explained we will put them below. Many of these are positive changes; some are simply not offered on the new platform; most are improvements on the new platform.
Accounts: We currently do not plan on trying to migrate all the accounts. So you will simply need to re-create an account. Not only on KnifeShowOnline, but also eventually on the new CollectorKnives. This not only makes the job much easier for us, but it allows us an opportunity to do some housecleaning on accounts that have not been accessed for some time.
Shipping Charges: One of the shortcomings that drove us crazy on BC was the inability to apply logic to the shipping charges. For example, if an item was purchased that had Free Shipping along with another that would fit in the same box - they should both ship free. There was no workaround for this on BC; but on the new platform we have solved that problem. There is an extensive logic tree for the shipping of Free Ship items, Accessories, etc. etc.
Discussion/Reviews: The new system will have not only the ability to submit a review on a certain product; but also the ability to have a discussion or simply ask a question that everyone else can see going forward.
Product Filter: With each product we add to the new site, we can tag it with certain information that can be used to narrow customer searches. For example, a 2 blade jack style in bone made in the USA. We are excited about this function; although it is the pits when added products.
Options/AddOns: No longer will you see descriptions like "(ships free with a knife purchase". We can now automatically discern this and apply accessory shipping. Also the options logic is formed much nicer.
Slab Selection: We always despised having 20 different products just to allow the customer to select the one stag knife they wanted from the 20 we had in stock. It skews the accounting and has many other complexities. The new system will allow us to have one product and provide the customer with the option to purchase from individual images under that one product. We are very excited about this...
Rewards: Our existing Rewards system provider does not support the new platform. Thus, the existing rewards program is going away. Our intention is to create a new rewards system on the new platform. But even at that we will not be able to transfer the reward points from the existing provider to any new system. Thus, there will come a time when we prompt customers to spend their rewards or convert them to Store Credit in order to utilize them on the new system.
Store Credit: When the old platform is decommissioned, we will document all accounts with store credit available. Once the customer has created their account on the new platform we would simply ask that you send us a note to apply those credits to the new account. It will be a manual process for us; but this seems to be the best solution.
Early Reserve System: The Early Reserve System (ERS) will be integrated into the store itself. Thus you will always have an easy view of your outstanding reservations and their status. We have also streamlined the process and webpages and provided more automation onto purchasing the reserved products as well as tracking those that have not finalized their Guaranteed Reservations.
Auctions: One aspect we have not decided on yet, but do have the ability now, is to have auction style products. If we come across something really rare or want to have a charity fundraiser, we can just denote a product as an auction style.
PDF Catalog: Another component that we have not yet made a final decision on is a downloadable PDF catalog. Many times folks call and want us to send them a catalog. Not only are printed catalogs very expensive, but the inventory is changing daily. This would allow the customer to download a PDF catalog that they could then peruse on the screen or print for themselves.
More coming as we remember them.....
Thank you. We really appreciate you taking the time to read this novel. And ask that if you have any questions or concerns to just let us know. Please take the time to wander around the staging site and test it out. If you have any recommendations for improvement on the existing functionality of the new website, please contact us via the contact page.