codal insights

3 Signs You’ve Officially Outgrown Your Ecommerce Platform

Sean
July 22nd, 2019
7 MINUTE READ

Ecommerce is growing at an unbelievable rate.

You don’t need me to tell you, though. You’ve probably seen the evidence with your own eyes.

More people than ever are shopping online, and not just for clothing and electronics. They’re also purchasing the everyday necessities they used to pick up at the corner store – toothpaste, detergent, shampoo, and even groceries.

The real questions: Who doesn’t shop online, and what can’t you buy digitally?

A few facts:

  • By 2021, the number of worldwide digital buyers is expected to top 2.14 billion.
  • That’s a 62% increase since 2014, when digital buyers totaled about 1.32 billion

With so many consumers diving into online shopping, businesses have had to pivot and adapt. Brands need to keep up with technology and UX demands, not to mention manage large amounts of consumer data securely.

Those challenges keep building, too. Technology is constantly changing and improving, and the online customer pool continues to deepen. Often, the technologies a brand started out using become outdated, obsolete, slow, and well, useless.

And that’s just the beginning – these are the broadest reasons businesses outgrow their ecommerce platforms. Let’s look at a few more in detail.

After that, we’ll discuss when it’s time for an ecommerce migration and how to get started.

3 Reasons Your Brand Might Need an Ecommerce Migration

1. Your current solution doesn’t have the features you need.

One of the most common reasons for ecommerce migration is simply outgrowing your current platform.

As your online business grows, so do your needs. A higher volume of customers, a larger product catalog, and a heftier website all require a robust platform that can handle large amounts of data.

On top of that, about half of all online shoppers use their mobile devices to make purchases. Legacy ecommerce platforms weren’t made for mobile shoppers, let alone the lightning-fast web experience consumers have come to expect.

Outdated platforms are technically cumbersome, slow, and pricey. They’re little more than “shopping carts” and offer few built-in features. Armando Roggio of Practical Ecommerce puts it like this:

“As ecommerce has changed, so has the software used to conduct business. It has evolved from a simple add-on meant to process payments to a central hub for digital commerce.”

As you grow, you probably need to improve and expand the digital experience you offer. That’s reason enough to re-platform.

2. You can’t reach international consumers with your current platform.

According to data from Invesp, global online retail sales accounted for 8.8% of all retail spending in 2018. The top countries that shopped on the web include the U.K., Norway, China, Finland, and South Korea.

That’s a big pool of potential buyers. If you can’t reach the international market with your current enterprise ecommerce platform, it might be time to switch to one that’s global-friendly to cash in on worldwide ecommerce.

3. You’re facing limitations in content and customizations.

Does your ecommerce platform include a mobile app? Is social media integrated? Can customers write and read product reviews, clip mobile coupons, see what’s in stock, or view high-res images of products they’re interested in?

People expect a lot out of their mobile shopping experiences these days, and if your store can’t measure up, they’ll find a different option.

For example, a UPS study demonstrates how users rank various features in retailer apps by importance. As you can see, most shoppers want a robust array of options.

Does your ecommerce platform help you offer these experiences for users? If not, you may want to consider migrating.

4. High maintenance costs are cutting into your bottom line.

One of the top reasons brands choose to replatform? They can’t afford the costs required to maintain their site on their current platform. 

The maintenance costs are starting to undercut their profits, and continuing isn’t sustainable for the business. If that describes your situation, finding a new ecommerce platform that’s affordable is the way to go.

Ecommerce Migration and Brand Replatforming: What You Need to Know

Now you know why a business might migrate to a new ecommerce platform – but how does it work, exactly? Let’s explore.

1. How do brands replatform?

Replatforming your ecommerce business is all about migrating your data. The data itself doesn’t change – the system that manages and organizes your data does.

That means data associated with your site remains the same—SEO rankings and security protocol included—when you complete an ecommerce migration. In other words, it’s like putting your house on a truck and transporting it to a new state. Your house doesn’t change, but the foundation and location do.

Most brands begin the replatforming process with two steps:

  1.   Researching SaaS enterprise ecommerce platforms that will be a better fit for their needs
  2.  Preparing a request for proposal (RFP) to send to potential SaaS providers

An RFP is a document detailing what your business needs from an ecommerce platform. With this information, the SaaS provider will come up with a quote for their services.

Your RFP will include information about your hosting and IT, site design, marketing, and more. You’ll also need to provide lots of stats about your operations, including:

  • Gross revenue
  • Average conversion rate
  • Average order value
  • Unique visitors
  • And more

2. When do brands typically do ecommerce migration?

Brands can re-platform at any time of year, however, when you start the process, expect it to take at least a few months. A more likely timeframe is 18-24 months.

That’s because you’ll need plenty of time to:

  • Gather your RFP information, including the functionality needed going forward and the features to carry through to the new ecommerce platform
  • Have necessary meetings with stakeholders and team members about the above topics
  • Choose 2-3 platforms that fit your needs
  • Wait for quotes from platforms that have reviewed your RFP
  • Choose a platform
  • Begin the ecommerce migration and physical re-platforming process

How to Migrate Ecommerce Platforms: 10 Essential Steps

Migrating your ecommerce platform is much easier than it used to be. Follow these essential steps to make it as simple as possible. (Remember, this is a basic overview to help you understand the process, not a technical how-to.)

1. Complete your RFP.

Arguably, your Request for Proposal is the most important piece of your re-platforming process. Put the time into making it as comprehensive as possible, and when in doubt, over-explain your needs for the new platform.

Tip: HubSpot has a template that gives you a broad starting point. BigCommerce offers a more detailed template specifically for RFPs for SaaS platform providers.

2. Narrow down your platform options to 5-8 total.

There are dozens of ecommerce platform options out there, if not more. You can’t seriously consider all of them – that’s a time-waster.

Instead, narrow down your options to the top 2-3. These should be the major contenders that look like the best possible fit for your business and platform needs.

3. Issue your RFP to those enterprise ecommerce platforms.

Once you’ve chosen your top platforms, issue them your RFP.

4. Predict the total cost of ownership and revenue with each platform option.

As you start getting quotes from providers, it’s time to crunch numbers. Look at your business stats and project how they might improve with a new platform in place.

On top of that, calculate the total cost of ownership to determine the overall cost of each platform.

5. Look at what features are built-in and which require third-party apps.

Most SaaS platform providers have tons of features baked into their product – see which ones you have, which ones you need, and which ones are offered. In many cases, you can ditch third-party apps offering features that come standard on most modern ecommerce platforms.

6. Meet with your team and stakeholders.

Anyone the ecommerce migration affects needs to have a say in the process. Make sure every stakeholder and department has a chance to voice their needs.

7. Know how your data will be transferred.

Who will be in charge of data migration, including product and customer data? Some platforms offer data migration as an additional service, while others turn to partners to get the job done. To avoid any mishaps or disasters, take careful note of how the data transfer will play out before you sign the contract.

8. Update/upgrade site design with platform integrations.

Most likely, if you’re migrating platforms, you’re also engaging in a full-on site redesign. Make sure the two are seamless and work together so you get the most out of the platform/design relationship.

9. Test.

Testing is vital to ensure everything works the way it should. Your vendor should be able to run various use cases for an array of scenarios to demonstrate features in action on your digital storefront.

10. Relaunch your site.

This is the finish line for how to migrate ecommerce platforms. Relaunching your site on a new platform with a fresh design is an exciting time. If it all goes smoothly, celebration is in order!

Conclusion.

Ecommerce is booming, but not all online businesses have the necessary technology to meet the growing demands of online shoppers.

When your brand outgrows its ecommerce platform, whether due to unsustainable maintenance costs, limitations in features or customizations, or limited global market reach, ecommerce migration is the obvious solution.

When it’s time to re-platform, understand it’s a detailed process that takes time, effort, organization, and planning.

It IS possible to make the endeavor less time-consuming and complicated, but only if you choose the right platform.

An option like BigCommerce has tools and features to streamline the process, including free data transfer. If you like how that sounds, learn more about their ecommerce migration and launch features. 

Still have questions? Reach out to an eCommerce design and development agency like Codal, and learn how we can assist in upgrading your online store for the modern eCommerce landscape.

Sean McGowan
AUTHOR

Sean

Sean is a technical researcher & writer at Codal, authoring blog posts on topics ranging from UX design to the Internet of Things. Working alongside developers, designers, and marketers, Sean helps support the writing team to ensure Codal produces engaging web content of the highest quality. When not writing about the latest and greatest in digital design, Sean can be found baking, watching movies, or complaining about the shortcomings of his favorite Philadelphia sports teams.

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