eCommerce Replatforming: Why, When, and How

Does a new year have you thinking of a new website? Websites aren’t evergreen. Just as hemlines go up and down as styles change, websites are redesigned and replatformed as styles change, new technology becomes available, and customer expectations evolve. Whether you are replatforming to follow the herd or upgrading your technology and integration ecosystem before replatforming eCommerce websites answer these key questions.

Why Are You Replatforming Your Website?

What are the driving forces behind the desire to move to a new platform? Is your existing platform too slow? Do your technology solutions refuse to work and play well with each other? Are your marketing ambitions thwarted?

If your new platform doesn’t solve your existing problems and solve future potential problems, it’s not worth the time, effort, and money to replatform.

Start by identifying everything you dislike about your current platform. Then identify the wish list of features you’ve been dreaming about.

Next take into account the feedback you receive from existing customers about your existing website. It also pays to take a good hard look at your analytics. High bounce rates are a sure sign people aren’t happy with what they see when they land on one of your pages.

Pages created with antiquated technology load slowly. This speed deficit impacts the “stickiness” of your website. The slower your pages load, the fewer pages people visit, and the higher your bounce rate.

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The answers to your “why” questions form the very beginnings of your own shopping list for features in a new platform. For example, if integration is a key driver, you’ll only want to consider solutions that integrate well with your ERP, CRM, WMS, 3PL, PIM, and other business solutions.
Why should you replatform an eCommerce website?

If you aren’t sure if it’s time to replatform your eCommerce website, here are a few key indicators.

In addition to slow page loads and high bounce rates, your customers may be sending you additional signals. If your sales and customer service staff spend a large amount of their time on the phone taking and tracking orders, it’s a clear indicator that your website isn’t performing as it should. A well designed and functioning website makes it easy to place orders, check on existing orders, and view past orders. In addition, user manuals and answers to commonly asked questions should be easily accessible.

If it is difficult, time consuming, and costly to make small changes, your technology is outdated and it’s time for a refresh. The user interface should allow for almost anyone to create a simple landing page, add new products, or change prices or pricing structure. If your existing platform is so clunky these changes are postponed, it's certainly time to upgrade to a more user-friendly website.

Rising fees and diminishing returns are other clear indicators that your eCommerce platform is past it’s prime. Many repurposed B2C platforms charge a per transaction fee in addition to any payment processing fees. That may not seem like a big deal when you are just starting out. However once your web presence is established and the sales are rolling in, those fees can take a big bite out of your profit.

Now that you understand the why of the eCommerce replatforming move, let’s look at when it will happen.

When Will You Replatform Your eCommerce Website?

Is the eCommerce replatforming part of a larger digital transformation or is this a stand-alone project. The answer to this question sets the timeline for the project.

No matter what people might tell you, replatforming is a large project and one that’s not to be undertaken lightly and without preparation.

Medium and enterprise level replatforming projects usually include assistance from partners. And you’ll need time to carefully interview and select the right partner.

If time to market is of the essence, look for a solution that provides the greatest number of must-have features out of the box. Not only does this get you up and running quickly, but it also reduces the time to ROI increasing the overall positive impact of the project.

Solutions that allow for easy customization are generally preferred when you need to get up and running quickly. Opt for open-source eCommerce platforms when you need to make customizations quickly. Because open-source code is supported by a large user and partner base, you’ll have more choices when it comes to themes, widgets, extensions, and add-ons. With proprietary code, the customization you need may not be available or can only be provided by the vendor. This puts you on the vendor’s timetable, not your own. And if control of the “when” is important, that’s a situation you want to avoid.

How Will eCommerce Replatforming Take Place?

Replatforming your eCommerce website takes careful planning. This is especially true when you have existing integrations or are moving to a new platform to increase your integration ecosystem. That’s because most legacy architecture looks like this:

Unwinding and untangling this spaghetti bowl requires organization and preparation. Once again, this is a spot where getting help from a partner is a spot-on decision.

You’ll need to map how data currently flows and how it will flow once the new platform is in place.

Another consideration is how the new platform will be implemented. Headless architecture is an approach that allows you to uncouple the frontend of the website from the backend. More and more companies are adopting this approach for maximum flexibility on the frontend while relying on a robust, tried and true backend.

Again, is eCommerce replatforming part of a larger digital transformation or a stand-alone project? The answer to the “how” question is different if this is a self-contained project.

Lastly, when it comes to replatforming, you can take one of several approaches.

First, you can build a completely custom platform from scratch. This “how” means your IT staff or a contractor will build an entirely new solution from the ground up. Every single line of code will be custom. You’ll have absolute control, complete flexibility to create whatever you imagine, and the largest bill. This is the costliest approach.

Second, you can purchase or license vendor-supplied software. With this approach, what you see is literally what you get. The vendor provides a software solution and you implement it. If you want much in the way of customization, then you need to move along as there is not much to see here. You may get to market quickly, but that doesn’t mean you get there smartly or with the website you want. You might even pay a substantial amount for the license. This can be a great approach, but keep your eyes wide open, know exactly what you are going to get, and make sure this isn’t just a B2C platform that’s being repurposed and marketed as a B2B platform.

Thirdly, you can take a hybrid approach. With this approach, you find a solution that has most of what you want and need and is easily customizable to build out what’s lacking. Once again, this is generally the open-source code approach.

No matter what approach you decide to take, eCommerce replatforming isn’t without risks. Careful planning, prudent partner selection, and thorough preparation will help you avoid the most common problems with refpaltorming and make this process comfortable for all the sides.
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