Ready to get started with eCommerce replatforming? We’ve got the keys. eCommerce replatforming is a hefty undertaking. It can be an excellent opportunity to make some significant changes, but the task can be very daunting if you’re unsure where to start. And a simple Google search will produce many results on all the steps you need to take, including many extensive guides and checklists. Nevertheless, it can be overwhelming.
But if you’re ready to get started and you’re not sure where to look, either way, we have a good place for you to start, with a simple guide to everything you need to be on the lookout for when you begin considering your eCommerce replatforming project.
What is eCommerce Replatforming?
eCommerce replatforming is the process of migrating out of your existing platform to another that is more relevant to your business. The reasons for migration can range anywhere from – lifting site/operation speed, add new functionalities/features currently not supported by your platform, experimenting with new business models (e.g. moving from one time purchases or a subscriptions-only model to a blended model), or adding more layers on top of your customer experience stack (e.g. localization, personalization, and more).
Replatforming may not always mean a B2B transition (wherein you moved out of a managed third-party ecosystem like Shopify to another third-party ecosystem in BigCommerce), it is also inclusive of your decision to move out of a SaaS platform to an in-house platform. There are multiple ways business typically think of replatforming:
- The first, is a more traditional approach where you switch from one monolithic platform to another monolithic platform that offers additional plugins and features. Say, from a legacy software to Shopify Plus. This approach, replaces your entire application in one shot.
- The second, is the modular approach to replatforming. Here, instead of switching in one go, you phase platform transition across stages depending on your reason for replatforming. For instance, if your primary concern is an outdated content management system (CMS), you will look for a better CMS technology and try incorporating it into your existing tech stack, analyzing its impact on experience lift, and see if you still need to change/replace other components (or the rest of the app) one piece at a time.
Note: While this process prevents hefty upfront costs, it requires greater time investment for implementation and experimentation
- The third approach to replatforming is switching from monolith to microservices. Microservices are discrete applications with different functionalities. Each solves a specific part of your customer/product journey problem and allows you to become more modular – which means, you take care of your business while you leave the technical heavylifting on a cluster of specialized tools. This plug-and-play approach is essentially headless commerce. There are many benefits to adopting a headless approach, mainly the elimination of interdependency between the front end and back end commerce systems which enables complete freedom to customize the front end without having to make changes to the underlying infrastructure.
Note: This approach to replatforming commands some upfront time and dollar investments, but is known to reduce replatforming costs in the long run.
A replatforming exercise requires you to understand your own platform first – its existing programming language, the degree of integrability it accommodates, and the potential for it to be customized on-the-fly.
And yet, eCommerce businesses are often more than happy to accommodate the costs of replatforming as they progress in their business lifecycle. Why? Let’s dig in-
Let’s dig in with where to start, what to consider, and why you may or may not need to replatform.
Key Reasons Why Companies Consider eCommerce Replatforming
Early-stage eCommerce businesses typically choose to build their business on WordPress (or
similar web-builders), or Shopify (and other monolithic platforms) with plug-ins to facilitate payments, order and inventory management, shipping, and more. While this is a solid bedrock, it will eventually past its shelf-life once a business hits $5 million in revenue – which is when the volume of transactions, offer and discount customization and logistical nuance overgrows system capabilities. Plug-ins aren’t built to handle that scale.
Maybe you’re thinking ahead to the future, or maybe your current system is just not
cutting it anymore. Perhaps your conversion rate has been slumping, and it’s time to optimize that. You’ve noticed that more and more customers are abandoning their carts instead of purchasing. All of these are great reasons for wanting to change; however, if we dig a little deeper, you might find we’re only scratching the surface.
1. Meeting Your Customer and Business Needs: Scalability on All Fronts
As your organization grows and evolves, so do your needs and the needs of your
customers. A poor customer experience can lead to cancellations, bringing revenue down. Suppose you’re considering expanding your business into different markets or adding additional products or services, like a subscription service. In that case, your customers will need many options, including purchasing in their preferred language and currency. Being able to quickly scale your business and ebb and flow with your customers is paramount. You need something
that will easily allow you to move to a unified architecture to bring clarity to your business and happiness to your customers, especially when you’re starting to scale your business.
2. Updating Your Legacy Systems: Moving to a Fully SaaS Platform
Upgrades are inherent to technology. As they are to the standards guiding innovation. In 2020, SEMRush significantly lowered the limbo on site load time, recommending a 1-2 seconds as ideal. Suddenly, tools that evangelized <5-second load time weren’t the hot property they
used to be and legacy tech started becoming redundant. As you scale, you are bound to outgrow your tech-stack and reach a stage where off-the-shelf solutions might not work for you anymore. In fact, according to the Baymard Institute, 12% of US adults abandoned their carts during online shopping because the website had errors or crashed.
Reasons for abandonments during checkout for US adults
Updating your legacy systems to a fully SaaS platform can help fix these speed and overall experience issues, giving you the ability to take a fresh look at your cart, forms, and every other part of the unoptimized customer experience.
Sure, you could also build all of it in-house, but that would mean spending money on building and retaining a team of developers to handle technology that isn’t your core business. This dilutes business focus. Instead, for growing eCommerce businesses, it makes a lot more sense to onboard SaaS solutions that solve these problems – first, due to its long-term cost implication (which is significantly lower than paying a full-time team over the same horizon); second, due to the expertise they bring – since resolving technical inefficiencies is their primary job; and third, because firefighting/troubleshooting becomes someone else’s job too.
3. Leaning into Optimization: Checkout and eCommerce Site Optimization
Many companies move forward with replatforming to gain better optimization of their front-end and back-end experiences. It offers better reporting tools for the organization and a better eCommerce site for their customers. With tools that lend themselves to optimization, you can make adjustments on the fly to tweak anything from customer pricing to the number of forms customers need to fill out at checkout.
Optimizations like this for customers can help reduce cart abandonment and keep them from getting frustrated with slow load times (assuming you’ve optimized for that!). A smoother website also means you can optimize for both desktop and mobile, use personalization, create urgency with flash sales, and upsell — as long as you have the right eCommerce platform.
4. Measuring Performance: Effective and Accessible Analytics
You may be running marketing campaigns or experimenting with new pricing strategies to acquire and retain customers. However, it begs the question – how do you measure the effectiveness of your business strategies?
It is difficult to draw meaningful and valuable insights to improve your eCommerce site without the right analytics. With an eCommerce platform that offers you robust analytics, you can measure important success indicators like revenue per visitor, average conversion rate, average order value, and more. Once you have a dashboard with actionable customer data, you can get on the right path to solve issues like improving lead conversion, reducing cart abandonment, setting accurate budgets, or working out the right price points for your products.
Things to consider before switching eCommerce platforms
The process of replatforming tends to be tedious, time-consuming, and resource intensive (be it costs or human resources). Since replatforming will be a significant step for your business, here are some things you need to consider before you switch to another eCommerce platform:
1. The Intended Outcome of Replatforming
Most organizations consider replatforming when they have several issues that need to be corrected all at once, or they’re scaling, introducing new payment methods, regions, or products. Whatever the reason may be, if switching to another platform doesn’t significantly improve the performance, functionality, design, and output, replatforming isn’t going to be worth the effort and costs. Hence, it is helpful to be clear of the business objectives that the replatforming should satisfy, and whether the solution you’ve chosen can meet your requirements before you start the process.
Additonally, it is important to keep in mind that replatforming is a long-term investment and not a temporary fix. The solution your business is planning to switch to should be capable of adapting to future market changes while evolving to your business requirements during growth.
2. If a Specialized Solution Can Help
If your current eCommerce solution lacks one cog that a specialized solution can fix, you should seek out that specialized solution first. It will be so much easier just to pick that solution versus replatforming your whole eCommerce solution.
For instance, you can use Chargebee to manage subscription service, Stripe for payments, and Shipstation for shipping. However, if all three areas are issues or have massive cart abandonment issues or website loading times, it might be time for an overhaul.
3. Time and Resources Needed
My grandmother used to quote French actor Maurice Chevalier: “If you wait for the perfect moment when all is safe and assured, it may never arrive.” While this certainly is true, time is a primary consideration and resource, even in business (maybe especially in business). Replatforming is a major organizational shift and requires time and effort – everyone from finance to marketing will need to or want to be involved. Making sure that you retain your team which is already part of the migration and has the skillset necessary to take it forward will also be a factor in minimizing time. The time you choose to migrate to a new platform is also something to think about, and is usually best carried out when your site experiences low traffic.
Furthermore, even if you have a fantastic team on-board, ensuring that the solution you select has a responsive customer support team will make the process a lot more smoother, in terms of immediate error remediation.
4. Data Migration and SEO
Data migration is one of the biggest worries when it comes to replatforming, and with good reason. If you lose some of your data, especially customer data, it can be lost forever. In addition, the accuracy and time it takes to transfer not only the customer data but also product and category data vary significantly from business to business. So if you aren’t experiencing a large number of hiccups in your system, just need a specialized solution, or don’t have the time or money to handle data migration, it might be best to skip replatforming and focus on things you can fix instead.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is another concern – and likely, when you replatform, your SEO will take a hit. The SEO/marketing team’s work to drive traffic to your site might be lost during migration. Even if you can maintain your SEO value, you’ll have to be meticulous about redirecting all of the pages. As mentioned before, site errors were one of the top responses for why users abandoned their cart. So, if keeping your customers from experiencing this hiccup is a significant concern, you may need to reconsider.
If you do decide to take on this massive task, be incredibly mindful of how data migration and SEO should impact your timeline. We talk later on about discussing this with all stakeholders, but it is imperative that you keep marketing (ops and SEO especially), and sales in the loop of when you plan to migrate customer data and when you plan to replatform. We recommend that you do not replatform before the launch of a new campaign or during your business’ peak season as it could impact sales and your operational bandwidth.
5. Seamless Integrations
Your current eCommerce system would already be integrated with extensions, plugins, and applications that help with core functions like subscription billing management, marketing, CRM, sales, and the like. Ensure that the platform you choose fits in seamlessly into your present infrastructure so you don’t have to worry about sacrificing performance and wasting time on development to get everything running together. For instance, if you’re already satisfied with your current Sales application, ensure that the platform you’re shifting to integrates with the same. Should you want to switch certain integrations as well, ensure that data transfer is secure and automated.
eCommerce Platform Migration Process
Now that you’ve thought about whether or not you should replatform, let’s look at the eCommerce platform migration process at a high level. Some of these you need to work out before you start reaching out to solution providers, and some can happen during the process.
#1 Consider the Opinions of All Your Stakeholders
As replatforming is an organization-wide effort, ensuring that all of your stakeholders are on the same page from the beginning is paramount. So consider the opinions of all your stakeholders that will be involved in the process before even dipping a toe into the waters of a new eCommerce platform.
#2 List the Must-Have Features
If you’re getting a new platform, you might as well make sure it includes all the bells and whistles that you need or want – or maybe something you haven’t even thought of yet. Of course, like buying a new house or car, there will be deal-breakers and absolute must-haves. So make sure that when you’re speaking to the stakeholders, they give you a good idea of what their teams will need. That way, you’ll be able to keep that in mind as you move forward in the process of selecting the new platform.
#3 Pick a New eCommerce Platform While Simplifying Resource Management
This step is perhaps the most important and one that will have a lot of time and energy placed into it. However, if you’ve selected a new software before, this step is relatively straightforward. Based on your needs and must-haves, you’ll go through the discovery process of finding the right fit for your business. G2, Capterra, and Gartner are all great places to start looking for solutions for your organization. We suggest making a shortlist and then scheduling demos with those top 5 choices.
Some of the best eCommerce platforms to consider would be:
- Shopify – a leader in the eCommerce space, Shopify integrates with so many other platforms and is an eCommerce platform for both online stores and retail point-of-sale systems.
- WooCommerce – Designer for small to large merchants that use WordPress, WooCommerce is an open-source plugin for WordPress.
- BigCommerce – Another SaaS solution (that integrates with Chargebee and provides online store creation, SEO tools, hosting, and marketing for small to medium-sized businesses.
- Magento – Magento is another open-source software, but this one is written in PHP (a popular general-purpose scripting language). Owned by Adobe Inc, this is a good option for anyone that needs flexibility.
This step will have many other, smaller steps involved, of course, but make sure you’ve already completed a budget analysis and planned for the allocation of resources within the organization when you’ve reached this step. In addition, making sure that you have a robust payment and billing infrastructure is paramount before you even start to consider what solution to select.
And if you’re introducing new software into the mix or replatforming the entire eCommerce system, you may want to consider enterprise resource planning (ERP). According to Oracle, ERP is:
A type of software that organizations use to manage day-to-day business activities such as accounting, procurement, project management, risk management and compliance, and supply chain operations. A complete ERP suite also includes enterprise performance management, software that helps plan, budget, predict, and report on an organization’s financial results.
If you don’t have an ERP in place when considering replatforming, there is no time like the present to think about this. Make sure you’re speaking with stakeholders about this and moving forward in a direction that best benefits your business, with or without an eCommerce ERP (though we recommend one.) The ERP you select can be an invaluable tool for your business.
Some ERPs on the market include:
- SAP S/4HANA
#4 Migrating Your Current System: Establishing Costs and Timelines
We’ve really driven home how time-consuming this entire process can be, so it is essential to work with the implementation team for the new solution you selected to establish timelines as soon as possible. According to QuantumMetric, a digital product design company, replatforming can take anywhere from 8 weeks to 12 months. Time is a huge variable, so it’s best to not only establish but stick to your timelines as much as possible.
Considering the time spent when it comes to deployment and minimizing downtime, the key is to carry out replatforming in modules or phases rather than ripping out your current commerce system and replacing it in one go. Deploying smaller pieces of functionality will reduce the risk of downtime and make the implementation process more efficient.
Furthermore, it’s best to establish your budget early on in the process so that in communication with the vendor, you can ensure the spend optimization. Even if the upfront costs seem steep, if you are able to determine future-readiness for performance, it would minimize the chances of further upgrades as you grow, generating long-term dividends.
#5 Data Migration: Customers, Product, and Category
We recommend using a data migration service here to ensure that none of your data, especially not any of your customer data, gets lost in the shuffle when you’re making this move. This is probably the most crucial step because if the information is improperly transferred, you may lose it forever. At the same time, this may be less of a problem (just more of a pain) for internal data like product and category. In addition, losing customer data that you and your team have worked so hard to cultivate can be devastating. It can also lead to frustration for your returning customers, who might have to create a new account or re-enter all of their information.
Some data migration services that enterprise organizations may want to consider include:
The best option for you is to work with your eCommerce platform to migrate the data or make data migration one of your must-haves. If you can get a solution that can also handle the migration process, you’ll be saving time and energy.
#6 Front-end, Back-end, Checkout, SEO, and eCommerce Site Overhauls
While data migration is the most time-consuming external part of the replatforming process, the internal part will potentially redesign your entire online store or eCommerce site. A total redesign is optional, of course, but you more than likely will have to change the look of your online store, regardless of whether or not you’re going for a complete redesign.
You’re going to want to make sure that the front-end, back-end, checkout, and all other elements of your site work well together and are operating correctly as you migrate. Many organizations use replatforming to introduce a new look to their site or work with developers to produce something truly unique to their brand.
You’ll also want to ensure that your SEO team is kept up to date and is involved every step of the way. Your SEO ranking may take a hit, but it will likely end up in a better position with your new site if your team is involved from the start. During this overhaul, you’ll want to avoid content revisions at all costs, as this will hurt your ranking. Have your team focus on one-to-one redirects, and reduce the number of 404 errors as much as possible. We also recommend doing an SEO audit before you relaunch your site, just to cover all your bases.
#7 Completing the Migration Process and Relaunching
The last part of replatforming is completing your migration and relaunching your eCommerce site! Communicate this with your existing customers (maybe even include a coupon code to celebrate the relaunch!), and continue to test the site to reveal any errors that you might’ve missed prior to launch. This should be relatively easy but will require some help from your marketing team to get the customers headed to the new system.
And make sure you know where to go, should something happen post-launch. Your new platform likely has a wealth of resources that can help you figure things out or a customer service representative that can make sure you’re getting all the care you need.
eCommerce Replatforming Checklist
It is quite evident that replatforming is an extensive process, consisting of numerous steps. To ensure this process occurs as smoothly as it can, we’ve put together a checklist – the series of steps that you would have to take to switch platforms – so you never miss out on anything important.
- List the gaps in your existing system and the requirements for the new eCommerce platform
- Get your team and stakeholders involved and fix a budget for the platform
- Start evaluating the best eCommerce platforms in the market and filter them down according to your requirements
- Schedule demos, discuss implementation timelines, and choose a new platform
- Ensure secure data transfer from your old system
- Once you migrate the data, set up your eCommerce store and the checkout page
- Connect all integrations, plugins, and extensions
- Conduct an SEO audit for your entire site and set up URL and meta tags
- Evaluate the structure of your eCommerce store from its design to its performance
- Finally, train your team on how to use the new platform and communicate to all customers regarding the change in systems before you launch your store!
How Could Replatforming (Positively) Impact Your Business?
While we’ve discussed ways that replatforming can negatively impact your business, it can also positively impact your business and your customers. There are so many things to worry about; let’s just take a look at the bright side and what you can expect from a replatforming done right.
1. Increasing Product Data
With replatforming, your product, and category, perhaps even customer data should be abundant if you made this a priority when searching for a new platform. A new dashboard with better data that lends itself to data-driven product development, cross and upsell opportunities, and even a more personalized shopping experience for your customers.
2. Better Functionality for You and a Better User Experience for Your Customers
This is definitely the biggest positive (besides increasing revenue, of course). Being able to work with a more lithe, springy solution that can provide your customers with a smoother shopping and checkout experience is likely one of the reasons you moved away from your current platform in the first place. Now your customers can experience faster load times and a faster checkout experience tailored to their language, currency, and preferences.
You’ll be able to make more changes in order to keep up with demand, easily add products, and future-proof your site, especially if you’ve selected a SaaS solution, which we recommend. And more importantly, you’ll be able to implement full customization to your website and your entire eCommerce website.
3. Easily Launch New Features, New Products, and New Services (Like Subscriptions)
Having a state-of-the-art eCommerce site with a stellar platform to back it up will let you integrate new features and even new services fairly quickly and easily. For instance, if you’re looking to add a subscription service to your eCommerce site, you can easily add Chargebee to your already existing infrastructure. And Chargebee will not only manage your subscriptions but also ensure a smoother checkout process and much more.
Hot Tip: Subscriptions hold the key to revenue growth!
UnivDatos Market Insights predicts that the global subscription eCommerce market is expected to reach $478 billion by 2025. We know this is not just a trend, but a subscription revolution, with consumers spending more than $861 billion online with U.S. merchants, a whopping 44% jump over 2019.
Here are some great places to get started if you’re unfamiliar with subscriptions, but want to get the ball rolling:
- Recurring Billing 101: What it is, How it Works, and Why Subscription Businesses Should Care
- Three Biggest Challenges to eCommerce Subscriptions and How to Tackle Them
- All You Need to Know About the Subscription Business Model
With a new system in place, you’ll not only be able to add new services, but also new products and even new features. All of this lends itself to scalability, giving you and your organization the flexibility it needs to continue to grow.
We hope this can give you the insight needed to get started with your decision-making process, whether you’ll be replatforming or not. Start with really digging deep into the root cause of your desire to replatform, and assess whether or not you need to replatform, then make a must-haves list if you do intend to replatform. Some research into what all the platforms available could do for you and your business is the best place to start your eCommerce replatforming journey. While it might seem like there is so much to do, we’re sure that you’ll be set up for success with these vital steps.