As your business grows you will need a clear roadmap for your ecommerce replatforming needs. It’s simply a part of running a successful online operation but the choices you make will affect costs, timings, and how often you need to upgrade your ecommerce platform in future. You can also look for opportunities to streamline and improve your business processes through integration and automation.
When you are starting your online business journey you will be looking for ease of use and cost-effectiveness. Many ecommerce platforms are ideal when you’re just starting out, but as your business grows they might not deliver the functionality, scalability or speed you’re looking for and that your customers expect.
Adding plug-ins and behind-the-scenes fixes can become expensive, can impact performance, and will only provide a temporary solution. If you have filled gaps in performance with manual data entry you are probably adding errors that can lead to delays and additional costs which could affect customer satisfaction. Your reputation could be damaged and you could start to lose sales as your customers look for better online experiences.
If you’re considering adding additional brands, operating in different countries, or entering new market sectors you might need multiple storefronts which can’t be supported by your existing platform. Meeting customer expectations for consistently personalized experiences across multiple online and offline touchpoints could become an unmanageable overhead.
Put simply when you see your ecommerce costs increasing and performance falling it’s time to replatform. Ideally you will already have a roadmap in place so you can move to the implementation stage quickly and with confidence.
Developing your replatforming roadmap
Your roadmap will take you on a journey, so you will need to define where you will begin by looking at your key replatforming indicators. These are likely to include:
Functional and technical needs – if your existing platform isn’t scalable and can’t support your plans for growth it’s a clear signal that you will need to choose a new ecommerce solution. As your business has developed you might also have identified additional functionality you need to differentiate your business from your competitors. If you have a large product catalog or regularly launch new products your ecommerce platform could become a bottleneck that has a negative impact on performance.
These limitations often trigger a replatforming project because of the impact they will have on your business. Part of your roadmap must be to define your functional needs as clearly as possible in the short- and medium-term.
Financial considerations – you are likely to reach a point where the costs of your existing platform become unsustainable. This might include ongoing maintenance, patches, fixes, upgrades and enhancements to meet your changing needs. Thinking ahead, you can define the tipping point where further investment will not support your business goals or deliver sufficient return on investment.
At this point you can compare current actual and opportunity costs with your investment in replatforming. Again, you will want to consider scalability versus the costs of paying for functionality and capacity that you might not need yet. The possible impact of changing business systems and processes across your operations will also be important.
Platform partners – you might have experienced ‘scope shift’ as your business has developed. When you started out you had specific needs and, possibly, limited skills and experience. At the time you might have chosen to work with an ecommerce agency or developer who could fill these gaps. Now you have a better understanding of what you need to achieve you might find your existing partners are unable to keep pace. Defining the additional skills you will need for planning, implementing and maintaining your new platform will be an important step before you choose a team to work with on the next stage of your journey.
Having defined your replatforming indicators and confirmed that you need to move ahead, the next stage is to choose the best ecommerce platform for your business.
Functionality and extensibility – depending on your business, you might have some unique requirements. Part of your replatforming process will be to understand whether your needs can be met with native functionality. You will also want to know whether there is a community of developers who have already created solutions that will meet your needs or whether a platform supports customisation with an application programming interface (API).
You might also consider pre-built apps to add functionality. However, they can be expensive and might not fully meet your current or future requirements. It’s possible they could affect your site’s performance and have a negative effect on your conversion rates. If the apps you choose are business-critical you will need to consider compatibility with future upgrades to your platform so you will want to know that your provider’s roadmap is consistent with your plans.
Branding – many page themes can be easily updated to suit your brand. Some platforms provide page builders and editors to give you more flexibility and choice without the need for specialist in-house skills. However, this can make it difficult to deliver unique customer experiences that will give you a competitive advantage. Part of your roadmap will need to include an evaluation of the relative importance of branding, content, site performance, and cost.
Integration – one of the benefits of replatforming is the opportunity to improve business systems, processes and performance through integrating your enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and your new ecommerce solution. If you already have an established suite of business systems you will want to choose a platform that can integrate seamlessly. Alternatively, you can take the opportunity to review your overall business requirements and choose a combination to suit your current and future needs.
Migration – you already hold important data about your products and customers that you will want to use with your new platform. Completing this process with minimum disruption will be an important part of your project. If you want to allow your customers to view their order history via your new platform the effective data synchronization will be a priority. You will need to decide the best way to manage your data securely and whether you will need external support to manage the process.
Security – as customer concerns increase about privacy and online fraud the reputational and financial risks of data breaches and cybercrime have become important issues for online businesses. If the platform you choose is used widely it will be a tempting target for cybercriminals. Your roadmap will need to include an assessment of your security requirements and careful evaluation of any platform you are considering. This might include comparisons of payment card industry (PCI) credentials, hosting infrastructure and management, and site security certification, for example.
Discoverability – while your plans for business growth might be driving your replatforming project, you will want to know that your existing traffic won’t be affected by the change. Search engine optimization (SEO) factors like page titles, meta page titles, meta data, heading and tags should be under your control. You should also factor into your replatforming project the management of any redirects where a URL may change as a result of migration.
Scheduling your ecommerce replatforming project
The breadth and scope of your project will depend on your requirements. Your roadmap will help you to define each stage so that you can create a realistic timetable. The time needed to move from identifying the first indicators that you need to start the project to final implementation will have significant implications for your business. You will need a clear structure and specific milestones to make sure your goals are achieved.
This is where the experience and expertise of your partner agency can add significant value. They can advise you about the time needed for each stage of your roadmap and the stringent testing you will need before sign-off.
At Williams Commerce we treat roadmapping as a collaborative effort where you will work with our experienced account managers and technical team. We will collate your ideas and plans and use our data, knowledge, and experience to define the best fit for your business.
Setting long-term priorities and goals often requires input from stakeholders including your sales and marketing, finance, and customer service teams. Together we will define your needs and work with you to build a roadmap that will deliver the return on investment you are looking for.