When is the best time to replatform?

When is the best time to replatform?

Most ecommerce retailers recognise the need to replatform as necessary for growth, yet just as many continue to be apprehensive about the level of investment and resources replatforming often demands.

This can lead to many retailers choosing to adapt and upgrade their current platform, particularly in the case of licensed on-premise solutions, and continue to push back their time to replatform. Other retailers simply may not recognise the right time to replatform, or instead, choose to take the leap at the wrong time without the right infrastructure to support the move.

Fortunately, there are things to look for to help you decide when the right time is for you and what your next solution should be.

Why replatform?

There are a variety of reasons why a retailer may be looking to replatform. Most of these reasons come down to two key aspects; staying competitive and keeping costs down. Both are essential to the continued success and future growth of the business and problems with either in your current platform could indicate it’s time to replatform.

There are many strategic reasons, both competitive and financial, to replatform

Staying competitive

Advances in technology and customer buying behaviour have changed ecommerce as it is today. Consumers increasingly look for faster, easier and more convenient ways to shop, while retailers can now offer a range of features to meet these demands. Consequently, customers now expect a superior ecommerce experience, and retailers must continue to innovate just to stay competitive.

Offering a rich multichannel experience, a variety of order fulfilment options and a seamless mobile experience are just some of the demands facing ecommerce retailers today. Cross-channel order management, in particular, is an up and coming concern for ecommerce retailers, with 2017 looking to see an increase in customer demand for click-and-collect, ship-from-store and various other delivery and fulfilment options.

With 60% of consumers saying they would purchase from somewhere else if their preferred delivery option wasn’t available, it has become imperative that businesses assess every aspect of their offering. Ecommerce retailers can expect a significant negative impact to their top line if customers find their expectations aren’t being met. Equally, it’s important that retailers can keep pace with these changes and can roll out new features quickly and efficiently. When it comes to meeting these demands, many retailers may be starting to find that their current platform solution just isn’t up to the task.

Of course, it may simply be that your current platform isn’t performing as it should be anymore. According to Kissmetrics, customers now expect a site to load in under two seconds, and will completely abandon a site that doesn’t load within three. Outages are just as bad, with 79% of shoppers saying they won’t return to a website to buy again if they experience issues with website performance and 44% tell a friend about poor website experience.

With that in mind, if your current platform solution is causing any of these problems you should definitely be looking for alternatives. This is true across all devices now, as a slow mobile experience can be just as detrimental. This is a sure sign that it’s time to replatform, and sooner rather than later.

Top competitive reasons for ecommerce platform replacement:

58%: To improve business agility

51%: To support multichannel initiatives

51%: To speed up deployment of new features and functionality

Image Source: A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Demandware, September 2012

Reducing costs

Licensed on premises ecommerce solutions, in particular, have a range of associated costs that can start to spiral out of control over time. The total cost of ownership can include unforeseen hidden costs and additional costs of upgrading an existing ecommerce platform solution to stay competitive. As you grow, whether it’s in total traffic volume or expansion into other markets, these costs can begin to outweigh the benefits of keeping the platform.

When it comes to licensed on-premise solutions, more than half of retailers upgrade their platform at least once a year, with each upgrade taking as long as a month. The time and resources spent on just keeping up with the competition in this way leads to a huge opportunity cost with ecommerce retailers missing out on other innovative ecommerce initiatives. Instead, ecommerce retailers in this situation should be looking to replatform, freeing up vital time and resources to dedicate to getting ahead of the competition for real long-term future growth.

On-premise solutions can become expensive with spiraling hidden costs, leading to the need to replatform.

It also costs financially to grow with on-premise solutions, as many retailers must acquire additional licenses when reaching a threshold of online traffic. This becomes apparent particularly around the holiday season, where revenues can impact annual success or failure and traffic volumes skyrocket. Many are also contractually restricted from launching into new markets and must purchase additional licenses to launch additional branded sites. For a rapidly growing business, these costs can quickly add up, and future growth goals will start to seem out of reach.

Finally, it’s also notoriously difficult and expensive to hire IT, development and infrastructure roles to support these types of ecommerce platform solutions. Everything from finding and hiring a skilled IT team to ongoing training has an associated cost. After years of operating on frequent and lengthy updates, many licensed on-premise solutions become alarmingly complex, demanding more developers, more time and more money. Not only is this a drain on resources, it also becomes a barrier to replatforming as IT teams become apprehensive of replacing their on-premise solution.

Top financial reasons for ecommerce platform replacement:

56%: To lower overall operational and ownership costs

51%: To align the cost of ownership against our online revenues

When to replatform

Most ecommerce stores replatform every two to three years, but this can vary depending on the business, particularly the rate of growth and business goals. Essentially, there is no definitive time to replatform. If any of the reasons above become apparent for your current platform solution, it could be an indication that it’s time to find an alternative. Of course, no matter how many of the issues mentioned arise with your current platform, you can’t make the change without the right infrastructure.

The only right time to replatform is with right resources and time to dedicate to the project

Am I ready to replatform now?

If you have evaluated your current platform and found that it is already inhibiting your immediate business performance, or expect it inhibit your growth plans in the future, you then need to evaluate your ability to replatform. This includes your current resources, experience and infrastructure.

Should you maintain an in-house platform, move everything to a service provider, or employ a hybrid solution? If you’re looking for a resource heavy ecommerce platform, you need to make sure you have the right infrastructure to support this. If not, you need to consider the hosting solution and look at the additional impact in terms of cost and time this will have, and consider all these elements when deciding if replatforming is achievable or realistic right now next week, or in a years’ time.

You also need to look at your other projects and plan accordingly. If you’re launching new products or large scale campaigns or approaching a busy season, you may want to schedule your ecommerce platform change to reflect this. Ensure you can dedicate the right time and right people to the task, and that other business projects aren’t affected.

Choosing the right platform

There are various things to consider when deciding on the right platform for you. You should first look at your future business goals and five or ten-year strategies. These goals are likely one of the key reasons for the need to replatform in the first place, and so should guide your choice for your next platform.

You then need to consider the concerns and demands of all your stakeholders, including:

  • Business leaders, who will focus on issues such as conversion rates and customer retention.
  • Marketers, who will be concerned with data, reports and tools for customers and products.
  • Technologists and developers who may be focused on security and performance.
  • Your customers, who want quality content, easy usability and fast checkout.

You may also want to consider some more general aspects and functionality both you and your customers should expect:

  • Data compatibility.
  • Payment system – this should be based on your current transactions volume as well as your future goals, considering both cost and security.
  • Channel management – this should include the ability to display content based on customer segment, alternative pricing to customer profiles, omnichannel management and order fulfilment.
  • Mobile functionality.
  • Marketing – this should include affiliate programs and the included marketing tools you might need to make future business decisions, including reports, segmentation and SEO.
  • Product merchandising.

Finally, consider your hosting selection, which will depend on your business and IT capabilities and requirements. Evaluate your own experience and resources to help guide your choice, considering the infrastructure and support offered by the hosting solution.

  • Cloud – becoming increasingly popular thanks in part to more predictable ownership costs. Cloud-based solutions are also much more in tune with business agility, allowing retailers to focus on innovation and differentiation. A cloud-based solution can be customised with APIs and software development kits without affecting the upgrade path, integrating seamlessly with ERP and CRM software as well as order management, shipping fulfilment, analytics and optimisation tools.
  • On-premises – hardware, security, performance and scale are the responsibility of the IT team and budget. This solution offers a high level of control; however, it also comes with a high level of responsibility, potential problems and hidden costs.
  • Hybrid combines the two, with on-premises or dedicated hardware and the resources to achieve cloud efficiencies, including agility and scalability.

Final thoughts

Choosing the right platform with all the considerations above in mind is difficult for any ecommerce retailer, but the consequences of choosing incorrectly can cost your bottom line. Equally, while there is no best time to replatform, doing so without the right resources and dedication can make a difficult situation much worse.

The benefits of replatforming range from providing a superior ecommerce experience to your customers, to reducing costs and increasing operational efficiency behind the scenes. If you would like to achieve both and achieve your growth goals but aren’t sure whether you should replatform or what the right choice is for you, contact one of our team today.