The only thing scarier than launching a new website is replatforming an existing website. But time and tide take a toll on everything, including websites. As technology evolves, design trends change, and user expectations shift upgrading your eCommerce platform is inevitable. Your company might have outgrown your existing technology or maybe it’s become obsolete or difficult and costly to update. In this two-part series, we’ll first take a look at the signs it’s time for eCommerce replatforming and in part two we’ll look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of eCommerce migration and show how to carefully plan your replatforming project for a smooth migration.
What Makes Replatforming So Scary?
Want to make your CIO twitch? Mention that you think it’s time for replatforming. The tics and twitches will almost start instantly. Why is this?
Well, it’s because your existing IT architecture probably looks something like this.
Data and processes are intertwined into a mass resembling a big ball of spaghetti. When you make one change, it might snowball, and the unintended consequences may bring the carefully constructed architecture down as quickly as a house of cards. So, when you talk about eCommerce replatforming, you are talking about changes that affect more than just the webstore. And an eCommerce migration from one platform to another is filled with opportunities for something to go wrong. And in accordance with Murphy’s Law, it probably will. Now do you understand why just the thought of replatforming makes the CTO twitch?
But a legacy platform can hold you back and displease customers and employees alike. How do you know if that is happening? Just as Jeff Foxworthy can spot the signs you might be a redneck, the need for eCommerce replatforming has distinct signals.
Customer Signals for Replatforming
When your forward-facing employees are handling more and more phone calls because customers can’t find information or complete a sale, you might need to start thinking about replatforming. If customers complain outright that they can’t use the site or don’t like how it functions, that’s bad news. But that bad news cloud does have a silver lining. Your customers care enough about your products to complain. Be thankful that they complained and listen carefully to them. A more subtle customer signal might be a spike in onsite search. This can also be a signal that something is wrong.
There are more obvious signals as well. If your pages are loading slow and visitors are bouncing with one page visited, it’s a clear sign they aren’t happy with your website. If your platform only supports a single channel and doesn’t give modern customers the omnichannel experience they demand, it’s certainly time to consider a change.
Like it or not, there are trends in web experiences. When your site falls short of the current design trends or the user experience visitors expect, it’s a signal that your company has fallen behind the change curve. That’s not a message you want to send. Most of the time it’s not enough to redesign your website, you need to start fresh. And if you are going to start fresh, it only makes sense to look at all your options and that includes replatforming.
Operational Signals to Consider eCommerce Replatforming
There comes a point where system maintenance leaves the IT folks feeling like Sisyphus rolling the rock uphill only to have it come crashing back down on them. Every little tiny update takes ages, causes other problems with the platform, and over time there is less and less enthusiasm to install very necessary updates. What looks like a small update becomes ever more complicated when the integrations and plug-ins fail to integrate and operate after the update.
And speaking of integrations, if your current platform doesn’t give you the flexibility to connect with other systems, it’s time to replatform. If your platform doesn’t seamlessly connect to your CRM, ERP, PIM, and other critical business software then it’s time to stop building bridges and patches. It’s time for eCommerce replatforming to a solution that works and plays well with the other software you need.
Are you missing out on the efficiencies of 3PL (third-party logistics) because your technology doesn’t easily integrate? If 3PL requires a host of manual tasks for order fulfillment, warehousing, and supply chain management you aren’t getting the most out of your 3PL or platform solution.
If your IT structure is already overly complicated by patches and processes that have been cobbled together to maintain integration, it’s time to think about an eCommerce migration to a more suitable platform. It’s that level of complexity that has the CTO twitching and a smooth migration to a stable environment just might calm things down!
Finally, if your tech department spends more time chasing bugs than the Orkin Man, you know your eCommerce migration is long overdue.
Rising Costs and Ebbing Returns Signal Replatforming is Necessary
If maintenance costs are rising and returns are ebbing, you might need to think about changing eCommerce platforms. If your current platform doesn’t give you the bandwidth to do what you need to get done it’s a clear signal that things must change. When software fees start to pile up, but you aren’t getting more from your solution, it’s no longer a solution. It’s a problem. For example, when you first started with eCommerce, a website built on a popular B2C eCommerce platform might have fit your needs. The learning curve was easy, and the fees didn’t seem so large at the time. But now that you are an established seller, paying up to 2% per transaction in addition to card processing fees and fees for plug-ins and add-ons to fill gaps in functionality that should be standard quickly erode your profit per transaction. When your profit center starts looking more like a cost center, an eCommerce migration to a platform that better fits your needs is in order.
When Your Grasp Equals Your Reach – It’s a Clear Replatforming Signal
With the right eCommerce solution, your reach should always exceed your grasp. Scalability is only an issue when you’ve outgrown your existing solution. But by the time scalability becomes an issue, it’s a huge issue. It’s a clear signal that it’s high time you replatformed when your current technology limits your ambitions instead of fueling them. For example, if your eCommerce site takes 5 to 6 seconds to load a page your visitors probably aren’t going to stick around. Web visitors, especially those using mobile devices want sites to load in 3 seconds or less.
As the number of SKUs you offer increases, database requirements change. Or, maybe your customers are looking for personalized catalogs and your website can’t deliver that functionality. You may want to add AI driven chat experiences, but your existing technology just can’t deliver. Ecommerce replatforming can bring you the scale you need for faster load times, more SKUs, and improved customer experience through added functionalities. When your existing platform no longer delivers, it’s time to plan on eCommerce migration to a new platform.
Marketing and Sales Signals for Replatforming
When many sales and marketing meetings begin with “if only the website…” it’s a clear signal that it’s time to consider a different platform. If management has no clear view of leads, opportunities and sales, then eCommerce replatforming is in order. If your marketing plans include custom prices and catalogs and custom product configurations but your website can’t keep up, migration to a platform that powers these marketing efforts is in order. If your website needs a complete redesign to meet the current needs of sales and marketing, it’s time to consider replatforming along with a new design to get your business ready for the future. Technology and design are so intertwined that any major redesign should begin with a look at the existing technology and consideration to migrate the site.
When the Signals Point to eCommerce Migration
When any combination of the above signals point to the need for eCommerce replatforming, you want to make sure you select a future-proof solution. After all, if you end up in the same spot in a year, you haven’t solved the problem, you’ve just kicked the can down the road a bit.
In evaluating the landing spot for your eCommerce migration, you need to look carefully at what was signaling the need for change and make sure your new platform meets your existing needs and future needs as well. If customers are demanding a better user experience, then your new platform should be flexible and powerful enough to keep up with consumer trends. If scalability is a problem, make sure that your new platform provides a solution that can easily scale as your company evolves.
Recognize the Risks in eCommerce Migration
When you begin to talk about eCommerce replatforming, your CTO isn’t the only one that will twitch. Marketing will probably express some concerns along with their excitement for a more powerful solution. Don’t be surprised.
Moving your webstore to a new platform frequently can result in a loss of traffic due to decreased SEO. This drop off can be mitigated with automatic URL redirects and migration APIs that reduce the number of 404 errors that pop-up.
Sales might get twitchy when they find out that there’s a chance customer data may be lost in the migration too. Same goes for your Customer Service reps too.
Just keep cool. Planning is everything. When you plan for possible problems, you are better prepared to handle them when they arise. That’s what we’ll cover in part two of this series. We’ll look at the things that can possibly go wrong with eCommerce replatforming and how you can be prepared for a successful eCommerce migration.