E-commerce replatforming: A checklist for brand success

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Digitally speaking, e-commerce replatforming is a heavy lift, a Herculean effort that can devour time and devastate budgets with no guarantee of success. Still, it’s inevitable.

Change is the great unifying constant in retail. Products change. Consumer tastes change. Business priorities change. And that evolution must be reflected in the digital assets retailers and brands deploy. Their platforms must evolve to incorporate the constant flux that is integral to their trade.

There are a multitude of routes to replatforming, and many lead to expensive dead ends. So, how can brands cut a path through the thicket? This checklist will help get you on the right track.

Replatforming: Be honest about what isn’t working

First up: a candid—even ruthless—in-house analysis. Dive deep into the deficiencies of the current platform. Is ROI maximized? Does it allow easy changes? Can it keep pace with competitors?

Then research (and query) your customers. What do they want—both from online shopping generally, and your website specifically? Who is happy/unhappy with your platform and why?

Does it make more sense to aggressively cultivate a particular segment of your customer base with the possibility of disconnecting from other shoppers? Or should you take a broader approach?

Organize your replatforming team

Your team will make or break you. Do you have the requisite in-house talent? If not, you’ll want to integrate the right e-commerce partners into your internal team.

Members must be able to build the platform while simultaneously accommodating all business constraints. Competence isn’t cheap, but it will save you time and money in the long run. Look for partners with expertise in everything from digital strategy and architecture to web development, web merchandising, digital operations, data analysis, and customer service.

Evaluate replatforming risks

While risks are inherent in any replatforming project, they can be minimized. Consider the following issues as development proceeds.

  1. Data migration: Ensure all your data is properly moved so customer service is unaffected.
  2. Loss of business during switch-over: Online shoppers are fickle, and customers who encounter glitches during the switch-over may be alienated and lost forever. Invest as needed to ensure that the switch-over is rapid and error free.
  3. Unexpected complications: Even though developers know that all replatforming projects are challenging, the complexities and interdependencies of any given project can be underestimated. Over-optimism can lead to poor execution and delays.
  4. Unanticipated additions: Abrupt changes to the project can result in delays, skyrocketing costs, collapsing morale, and poor outcomes. Do your best to minimize add-ons.
  5. SEO: Can the traffic follow you to the new platform? Confirm that it does.
  6. Integration: Verify that the new platform provides a single view of customers, orders, and stock across all channels.
  7. Third-party integration: Ensure that the third-party partners you work with are prepared.

Always work from the customer POV 

Yes, customer-centric commerce is a cliché, but the bedrock goal of any replatforming project is the generation of more sales. That means you need to work from the consumer’s POV rather than your own.

Personal biases about site aesthetics and functionality have a way of creeping into any digital project. And because developers are technologists, they can sometimes create platforms that are elegant from an engineering perspective but confusing for the average consumer.

Stay close to your customer by asking yourself questions such as: Did you deliver what they wanted? How easy was their journey, including payment? Did you promote loyalty?

In the end, replatforming should be considered routine for any e-commerce enterprise: something that’s undertaken as changing technologies and market conditions warrant. It may be challenging—but with proper perspective and preparation, it needn’t be onerous or painful.

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Gita Samani

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