Alternative Text Steve Pownall | 26 September 2019

eCommerce Re-platforming: What? A guide to what’s involved and What to look out for when re-platforming

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Re-platforming is a huge business decision that impacts all levels of your operation. If you’ve already made the decision to re-platform, here we’ll guide you through what you can expect and those essential aspects that you must get right.

 

If you’re yet to make the decision to take the leap, take a look at our guide to WHY you should re-platform for a deep dive into some of the main reasons companies are taking the plunge.

 

WHAT’S involved in re-platforming?

 

  • Initial requirements gathering/specification

Vital to both post-launch performance and the overall timing of the project, is to ensure that the defined requirements of the re-platforming match exactly what you ‘need’.

At this stage, you should also be defining the ‘must-haves’, ‘could-haves’ and phase two items. We’d generally use the MoSCoW methodology for this.

This phase is likely to determine the overall success of the project and will also have a direct impact on the scheduling of the launch. At DeeperThanBlue, we work with numerous clients in this area; for us it’s fundamental to define what functionality you have available currently and what you need to keep.

 

  • Cataloguing existing features 

Evaluate all existing features that you continue to rely on and any third-party integrations and modules you need to retain (and also how these need to work). It’s important to remember that the fewer customisations in the new platform, the easier it will be to maintain and the better it will scale and perform.

 

  • Securing internal investment

Gaining internal buy-in from all relevant teams can sometimes be tricky, but by involving them in conversations from the outset you will ensure a consistent focus across the business.

Factors you may be considering include building out additional requirements, new features, data importing, the front-end of the store, key third-party integrations (e.g. OMS, WMS, ERP etc), order management, customer services, multi-store setup, marketing, and SEO, amongst others. These will likely impact numerous teams within the business. Make sure you get their input and buy-in as early as possible. It will make all elements of the re-platforming process run much smoother.

Once you’ve done this you can then start to map the requirements and their hierarchy of importance. By documenting this, you’ll be able to start to review each line item against the native features/functionality and compare the different platforms against these requirements. This will enable you to identify which platforms would need customisation to reach your desired specifications, and how much customisation, as well as the overall total cost of ownership (TCO) including with any third parties, and the complexity for each option (with the level of customisation).

You will be far better placed to understand the right platform after this process.

 

WHAT ELSE NEEDS TO BE CONSIDERED?

 

Cost and benefit analysis, outlining the total cost of ownership (TCO) and value that’s currently being added is just one element.

You should also look forward between three to five years and analyse how the platform will respond in line with your plans, goals and objectives as a business. Evaluating the provider’s roadmap will give a good indication if they are growing at the same rate or faster than you need to ensure a long-standing partnership.

It’s vital that the platform meets all of your current and future requirements, including to:

    • Support future growth (allowing for entering new markets, higher transaction volumes, increase in catalogue size, different payment options).
    • Reduce or retain time-to-market of new features.
    • Allow for reliable integration with key business systems.
    • Enable all teams to operate as or more efficiently (e.g. customer services, merchandisers, marketing, operations).
    • Provide a positive overall customer experience (covering elements such as front-end performance, purchasing program, customer comms) and whether the platform would allow for likely phase two items like personalisation, and customer segmentation.
    • Ensure that a launch can be achieved in an appropriate timeframe on a date that matches your business needs, fitting the project into a specific budget, and enabling agreements around contract terms.

 

WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL RE-PLATFORMING PROJECT?

 

In our experience there are a number of key areas that when handled correctly will lead to a successful project, however if these areas are overlooked, it could have a detrimental impact on your new site’s success.

  • Organic search / SEO

SEO can make or break a re-platforming project, meaning that covering all the bases is fundamental. It’s common for brands to lose around 50% of their organic traffic and revenue as a result of not allocating resource and budget to technical SEO, such as applying redirects and importing all core SEO data (including metadata, meta descriptions, category descriptions, and legacy redirects).

In addition to the above, the following should also be ticked off:

      • Mirroring the structure of the website (ensuring all categories and even any non-primary pages that receive traffic are retained on the new site).
      • Reviewing how elements like dynamic pages are handled. For example filter pages and search pages will need to be redirected. You must also consider how you want them to be crawled and indexed on the new site.
      • Legacy redirects. Existing redirects that are in place should be identified. Often these are missed off.
  • Project scoping

There are several key areas that are directly influenced by the scoping of the project, including delivery milestones, budget and cost, quality of work and the general happiness of all parties. If a project isn’t scoped-out correctly or if there are assumptions left unanswered, this creates room for issues including scope creep and disagreements between parties. This will result in additional costs and time.

The transition from discovery process into project build is vital and is something that needs to be adequately planned. This is where investing in a strong partner adds significant value.

  • Partner selection

Selecting the right partner is key. Switching partner midway through a project is usually a disaster for many reasons. That means that you must validate the suitability of a provider before appointing them, to ensure that they’ve delivered similar projects, are assigning a suitable team to the work (make sure you can be introduced to them), and have worked with similarly sized retailers to a similar spec.

You can learn more about selecting the right partner here: Choosing the right Digital Commerce Partner for success

  • Integrations

Integrations with important third-party systems often get pushed into the latter phases of the project and can sometimes be left out of quotations. These should always be scoped and included in your project’s budget, especially with more complex projects. Integrations with the likes of your ERP, OMS, WMS, and accounting platform are crucial and should always be invested in.

 

So now we’ve looked at everything that’s often involved in re-platforming and some of the key things to look out for when you’re making your decision. If you have any additional questions or wish to dive deeper into your specific needs, please check out our free webinar on re-platforming (DATE TBC) – email Craig below to be informed when the date goes live.

Thank you for reading and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you want to discuss your re-platforming needs.

 

Steve Pownall
Digital Solution Specialist

 

[email protected]
t: +44 (0) 114 399 2820
m: +44 (0) 7894 496 043
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