Online business has come a long way since Amazon started to ship books from a garage in Washington. That was in 1995, and the pace of change since then has been frenetic, forcing e-commerce sellers to constantly adapt, innovate and add layers of complexity to their business models and technologies. So much so that legacy e-commerce platforms are being overwhelmed by change. You want to map out a bright future for your brand and your company, but your current platform may not be able to support your strategic ambitions. If you feel that is the case, you should consider replatforming.
Replatforming projects can be a scary prospect because they are complex and go to the heart of the business. Every e-commerce professional has heard horror stories of replatforming initiatives running miserably over time and over budget. We shall look at the reasons why this happens in a moment.
Delays are particularly harmful: both the delay in committing to a new platform if you need one, and the delay in bringing your replatforming project to a successful conclusion. If the digital revolution has taught us one thing it is that businesses can fall from grace in a heartbeat. Delays mean that your rivals are increasing their lead on you. The time to market of your products is compromised. Company morale slumps.
In this blog we shall look at the 5 main reasons why re-platforming projects hit a wall.
The impulse to replatform tends to come from the marketing or e-commerce managers who are struggling to keep an unreliable and buggy platform operational. The RFP reflects this. Typically, it reads like a shopping list of technical requirements ─ clear and concise, because marketing and e-commerce know all too well what they need. But what about the rest of the business? A platform is always about much more than technology: it should embody who you are as an e-commerce enterprise.
Replatforming must change how you work, how you are organised, and always involves (some) change management. This does not make the project more challenging. On the contrary. Defining the overall strategy or goal of the replatforming will make its implementation more straightforward, because everyone will know what is at stake. Everyone will be able to contribute to the success of the project.
Be sure to map out the wider benefits and goals of your project and put these at the heart of your business plan, allowing stakeholders to quantify the reasons to replatform beyond just the technical aspects of the software.
This is fatal. Everyone should know what is expected of them in delivering the project. So involve your stakeholders right at the beginning of the process (and not a week before you finalise your RFP). Find out what their needs are, and their expectations.
You don’t want to take this too far, and depend on your entire e-commerce team for every decision. You need a project manager, responsible for the end-to-end delivery of the platform, with the clear authority to take decisions without involving stakeholders in every detail (another reason why it is so crucial to have a clear strategy).
The business owner is the person who will eventually be running the new platform. You need someone who is a strong communicator. Someone with strong customer advocacy skills and a fair dose of technological savvy. They need finesse and authority to communicate with other functional and channel leaders and of course C-level management. Business owners will be critical when it comes to navigating the business through the wider transformational changes of replatforming.
The obvious thing to do is to look for an e-commerce platform that is a good fit with your internal processes ─ obvious, but not optimal. Look at your work processes first. You have probably been carrying out these processes in much the same for a good while, but just because you are comfortable with a way of working does not mean that it is (still) the right way.
Replatforming is a golden opportunity to re-examine how your business functions and to decide how this could be improved. In this way you select a platform that supports more efficient business practices, and you avoid having to tinker with the platform once it is in place.
It all boils down to this: replatforming will inevitably impact your internal organisation. This is something you can’t and do not want to prevent. But you do need to steer the process. Employees have to understand and accept the changes. And you have to accept that change can sometimes be difficult, and will take time.
A very common mistake. It is tempting to try to fix a whole range of problems “while you’re at it”. But commissioning a new site design, rolling out a new e-commerce platform, embarking on a mobile optimization project in one breath, as part of a single replatforming initiative, is asking for trouble. Changing a bunch of features in one go only increases the chances that something will go wrong.
Start with an MVP. No amount of screenshots or technical specifications can match the experience of working with the actual software. An MVP gives you the core features, which will enable you to really focus on the add-ons you need. Often these turn out to be quite different from the requirements you thought you needed at the start of the process.
Moving your store from one platform to the next requires investment, and so can only work if you have the appropriate budget. But the price of the project shouldn’t be the leading factor in choosing your platform ─ the cost should be in proportion to your ambitions. In your business case, look at the revenue growth that you can reasonably expect from a replatforming, and also explain to what extent that growth depends on the level of investment.
Don’t cut corners. The software you’re investing in is not called a platform for no reason: everything you do, and ultimately everything you are, will rest on the shoulders of your new platform.
Many companies do not do this or do not see the importance of it. That is understandable. An SEO migration costs yet more money, and you have to be quick off the blocks ─ ideally the moment you’ve decided to replatform.
It’s a false economy and a huge pitfall. Because if you neglect your SEO, your visitor numbers will suffer and that is the last thing you need. Fewer visitors means fewer sales, whichever way you turn it. Preventing a drop in sales also costs money, so you may as well invest sensibly and upfront in an SEO migration.
Want to know more about how to prepare and strategize for a re-platforming? Download our white paper "How to run your (re)platforming commerce project in 6 steps".