Continue with 5 brands/websites or consolidate to one?

I manage the marketing and website operations for a company that owns and operates 5 separate retail locations with different physical locations, each with its own branding and physical inventory, and separate website - though all shops ‘share’ inventory when necessary since they’re all under the same ownership and all shops sell the same types of products. This was a result of company acquisitions over the years. We’re about to make a decision on migrating to a new e-commerce platform. Having 5 separate companies with their own branding can be tough when it comes to managing separate marketing campaigns and branding, as well as online identity, website management and maintenance/upgrades, online reputation, social media efforts, etc. Migrating 5 websites can also be a pain. The other option being considered is to consolidate the branding into one company with 5 locations and one website. We’ve been discussing the advantages of both options and are struggling to decide which is the better route to take.

Keeping the shops separately branded means they can compete against each other for business and SEO rankings - we have a few more hooks in the water for the fish to choose from so to speak, which can be a good thing most of the time. The customer could potentially contact more than one of our shops for pricing and we could end up getting the order through one of them. It essentially increases our odds having multiple entry points. But running multiple identities online stretches us a little thin when it comes to resources for each shop, making the marketing efforts for each a little less effective, and causing headaches when it comes to maintenance and technical upgrades. Though if we were to consolidate the brands and the websites into one, we are then able to focus all of our resources into that one brand/website, with the hopes of being more efficient and effective in our marketing and lead generation efforts, and drastically cutting down on the maintenance efforts. The big question is, which one makes the most business sense? Will consolidating the brands end up having more benefits that make up for the potential loss of multiple entry points for the customer?

I have a tough time coming to a decision on what should be done with the websites. Remove the content from all sites but one and redirect the top level domains to the main site, losing any SEO rankings the other sites had? They don’t have great ranking, but each of them does seem to rank pretty good for a certain things. Or, do we leave them all up as is with a “formerly known as” branding message and keep accepting online orders through all the sites (which obviously negates some of the benefits of consolidating brands)? Or, do we put the sites on auto pilot with all of the content intact and just forward all the product pages to the main website - this would allow them to retain SEO rankings but would alleviate some of the website maintenance and order processing, though not all of it, especially if there are any vulnerabilities that arise for the scripts those sites are running, which will definitely happen at some point. What is the smartest path to take? My initial thought was leaving all the sites up for a while after we migrate the main site and focus all of our marketing efforts on that site and all the local SEO directory listings and social media efforts, and putting up a branding change message on all the sites. Then, once we see the payoff from our single-site marketing focus we can take the next step of forwarding the domains to the main site with the hope that whatever we lose from dropping the sites/redirecting the domains is less than what we gain from consolidating our focus into one site.

Has anyone here gone through this? What would you push for if you were in my shoes?

Wow that’s a stinker!

I’d suggest writing a comprehensive list of pro’s and cons for each option to see if you can get a birds eye view of it on a single sheet of paper (or your screen!).

You can pass page value from old site > new site using permanent redirects so things like page rankings should flow through for search results.

Of course you have your own internal stuff to include here, budget, marketing etc. Obviously managing one site is a lot less intensive that running many sites, especially as all your sites share a lot of the content, and as you say marketing 5 entities is 5 times the work!

Looking at what you’ve said the only positive reasons to keep them separate is that “they can compete against each other for business and SEO rankings” and you have “multiple entry points” for your products. I’d suggest that it would be more beneficial to focus the time spent competing against each other into promoting the whole. For multiple entry points having 5 sounds good on paper but I’d suggest that could be a bit misleading, if you whittle those down to one high value page, that page would outrank any of the 5 anyway?

It’s a tough call either way. Certainly if the product offerings were broadly identical across the site I’d probably be looking to consolidate to reduce costs and optimise your spending and budget use.

PS you’ve also got to look at things like a single sign in for your customers. If they have 5 different logins for the current sites it would be more customer friendly to have just the one.

I agree completely with BlueDreamer. But I would add that’s what really important here is your branding. You say each of the five entities has its own branding. Be cautious about throwing that away. Nothing confuses a customer more than to see the brand they know and trust suddently disappear, to be replaced by a completely new entity. I’m not saying this will be the deciding factor, but it’s definitely one that needs careful thought.

Apart from that, it really comes down to a cost-benefit analysis.


I agree about branding too, but to run 5 separate websites must be tiresome. What if you tried a platform with multiple storefronts? It would be like killing two birds with one stone. Customers will see 5 different stores, and you will manage them from one and the same admin panel. Moreover, those stores might share both your customer and product databases, or have them separate.

I think your initial thought is pretty sensible - make a new one and wait until the payoff.

For what it’s worth, in my work life I migrated 3 domains into one 8 years ago and it was a complete disaster. We reverted and I now manage 7 domains. This is almost untenable now. So I’m facing something similar to you down the line.

But the other thing you might like to consider is having 7 strictly separated domains does let you try out “things” on one with little loss to business if the “things” prove to be a disaster. There is a certain safety in having that sort of insurance, it saved the business for us.

Thanks all. This discussion was started back in July and the OP has never returned, so there seems little point in continuing to offer advice.

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