E-Commerce Replatforming for Business Leaders: Part 1 – Is there ever a right time?

Deciding to upgrade your e-commerce platform is never an easy decision. It’s often fraught with angst and uncertainty. That’s understandable considering the amount of time, energy, organizational disruption, and not to mention, money that is involved in such undertakings. However, there often comes a point, whether it be difficulty expanding your current platform or meeting the expectations of a growing online sales environment, when the costs of maintaining the status quo begin to outweigh the investment required to replatform.

So, how do you determine when it’s time to upgrade? Unfortunately, there’s no alarm bell that’s going to ring when it’s time to upgrade. That said, there are a number of questions and assessments you can undertake to help make that determination. In this article, we’ll address what those are and also some of the common objections companies raise before undertaking an ecommerce replatform.

Signs it May be Time to Replatform:

There are a number of signals that can point to the need for an ecommerce replatform. They include:

  • Speed – have you, or more importantly, your customers noticed a decline in speed? Is this impacting your conversion rate and SEO ranking? Has your bounce rate increased over time?
  • End of Life – has your current platform reached its end of life? Magento recently sunsetted their 1.x versions of the platform leaving no upgrade path for existing users. 
  • Difficult to maintain, upgrade or expand capabilities – has your site grown increasingly complex? Is adding new features and/or upgrades time-consuming and difficult to achieve? Are you increasingly using patches on top of patches to maintain the site or build new features?
  • Scalability – can your existing platform readily, and easily, scale to accommodate increased site traffic and order volumes? If not, this could result in increased operational costs or even worse, lost sales due to poor site performance.
  • Features & Customer Experience – does your current platform support the marketing & merchandising capabilities needed to grow your revenues? Or, have they remained stagnant over time? Is the design and user experience of your website dated? If so, it could be the perfect opportunity to also rethink your underlying technology choices. 
  • Security – older platforms can pose security risks if they are unable to be updated and maintained. In today’s world, ensuring PCI compliance to help prevent hacks and theft of customer data is an essential component of any ecommerce platform.
  • Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) – has the cost of simply maintaining and operating your website become prohibitive and unsustainable? Are your internal TCO costs rising as you struggle to keep up? Are you forgoing revenue opportunities as a result of current functionality or time to market issues?

It could be one, or several, of these factors that point to the decision that it’s time to replatform. However, even after establishing that a new ecommerce platform may be in order, oftentimes companies will delay or even ignore that decision. Why is that?

Some Common Objections to Replatforming (and the New Reality):

Despite coming to the realization that it’s time for a new ecommerce platform, often companies are reluctant to pull the trigger. They do so for reasons they believe may be valid but is often not the case. Below are a variety of those reasons and the “myths” behind those objections:

  • Project Duration:
    • Myth – many companies believe that undertaking an ecommerce replatform project will last a year or more.  
    • New Reality – while it’s entirely possible for ecommerce projects to exceed a year in length, it doesn’t need to be that way . With modern, flexible SaaS ecommerce solutions, ecommerce replatforming projects for mid-sized companies can take anywhere from 3 to 9 months. Often, they can be completed in 6 months or less.
  • Upfront Costs:
    • Myth – we can’t afford it now. Understandably, many companies are concerned about possible upfront investment costs that could range from the mid-six figures all the way up to a seven-digit total. That’s because first-generation ecommerce platforms often required an upfront purchase fee (with subsequent year licensing costs) plus extensive implementation project costs to set up, configure, and customize the solution.
    • New Reality –Today, newer, multi-tenant, SaaS solutions amortize the platform cost amongst multiple clients and can be readily configured for setup. Designed for flexibility, these solutions offer easier customization and integration pathways leading to lower total implementation costs. Offering monthly subscription fees, total upfront costs today can range from the mid-fives to low six-figure range. 
  • Organizational Resources:
    • Myth – We don’t have the staffing for such a project.  Another area of concern for companies is the amount of organizational resources it will require to undertake such a project.
    • New Reality – While no replatform project can entirely negate the impact on an organization’s resources, there are options that can mitigate it. By outsourcing the operations and development of your website to a unified solutions provider (both platform and professional services) or a 3rd-party systems integrator, you can mitigate the need for full-time, internal IT development resources. 
  • Traffic Loss:
    • Myth – switching ecommerce platforms could lead to a dramatic drop in organic traffic for the first few months after launch.
    • New Reality – working with a team that possesses a strong understanding of current SEO techniques including the use of 301 redirects, sitemaps, schema, etc., can help minimize the negative impact of a site migration on search engine rankings. Instead of months, today the impact can be as little as a few days if any at all. 
  • Future Proofing:
    • Myth – The replatforming treadmill never ends. Why should I replatform if I’m only going to have to do this again in a few years?
    • New Reality – the era of having to replatform your ecommerce site every 3-5 years is over. Thanks to newer, flexible, SaaS ecommerce solutions you can customize your site to fit your business needs while still maintaining an upgrade path. Instead of slowly becoming obsolete over time, your website can now incorporate new functionality and continue to expand as your business grows. 

Which gets back to our initial question, is there ever a right time to replatform? While that’s dependent on your individual circumstances, consider the costs and risks of not acting. The right ecommerce solution for your business can quickly recoup the costs and prevent you from falling behind your competition.  

In Part 2 of our series on ecommerce replatforming, we’ll explore the pre-evaluation stage. Now that you’ve made the decision to replatform, what will you need to do to prepare your organization and get ready for choosing the right partner.