Theorizing meticulously and envisioning a painstaking trek atop a mountain does not remotely come close to actually experiencing the efforts, dangers, fatigue, thrills and finally the sense of achievement associated with climbing the said mountain. Most profit oriented consumer centric business ventures fall under this category of easier said than done in that they sometimes require more than what we bargained for.
Replatforming, like an innocuous looking math problem, seems easy enough to crack, doable, and sometimes even deceptively straightforward but the real challenges unfold once it's underway. Understanding what are the risks and rewards in an e-commerce re-platforming exercise and prioritizing the platform features on paper, however, is crucial towards finishing a successful replatforming venture. Clarity within the Organization is the first step towards a proper platform purchase. Before talking about Platform M or Platform O, pertinent internal questions should be identified, analyzed and answered satisfactorily before turning on the "Add to Cart" mode.
"An e-commerce platform is no longer just some technology that supports the web store: it ought to be part of a retailer's overall business strategy,"
- Manish Chowdhary, CEO of GoECart
Contrary to the too many cooks opinion, the more the number of stakeholders involved, the more informed will be the purchasing decision. CEOs and CFOs are very wary of the numerous costs associated with a platform purchase. All the expenses including upfront TCO, installation and support fees, additional licensing fees on top of the actual purchase cost of the platform are considered as investment by the Management.
There is a returns oriented sensibility expected from the purchasing decisions which makes this hardly an open and shut case or even a "long term" returns providing venture since there are many arbitrary influencers at stake. It also makes sense to involve the teams which have the most interaction with the e-commerce platform earlier in the lifecycle.
"CEOs and CFOs are making more results-oriented choices before investing capital in an e-commerce platform because they know the platform is a key part of their company's long-term digital strategy,"
- Mark Lavelle, senior vice president Magento for eBay Enterprise
A retailer should consider most of these questions internally before looking outside for potential replatforming solutions:
The current website is unable to keep up with the increase in sales; Customers want new themes, modules and extensions on the platform they want to purchase on; Frequent downtimes impact the robustness of the system; Lack of mobile responsiveness – all of these are genuine needs which the potential solution must address.
Lack of certain very specific features turns out to be the deal breaker when choosing the platform. Obviously companies take a chance with the platform if a solution can be achieved by customizing the system with a little bit of tinkering. For example, the new system may be very efficient but it may not support real time SMS or heavily personalized emails which pave the way for re-targeting and other customer acquisition efforts in the long run. If the platform is flexible to accommodate customizations and personalization of varying degrees, it results in a fine balance of performance and a sufficient feature set with the power of scalability; something every business craves for in its pursuit of the ultimate platform.
Keeping in mind the project schedule, careful resource management is crucial to developing a project under agreed upon budgets. Businesses look at internal and external development options which involve the technology providers themselves, their partners and vendors, who specialize or at least claim to be specialists, in all the trending e-commerce platforms. It is always recommended to collaborate with official partners when choosing a readily available platform. Resource management should also take into account efforts needed to run both the existing and the newly built system in parallel to pave way for a gradual migration and to prevent last minute surprises.
Measured, consistent and sustained development of a platform takes time and effort which requires sequential and timely involvement from various departments in a business. Replatforming is no stranger to the age old rule of GIGO (Garbage in Garbage Out) which dictates effective use of all the resources at hand to alleviate stagnation and improve sales year on year. On top of a successful replatforming operation lies a proactive marketing strategy which is the proverbial musician gifted with a great instrument – the music is only as good as the musician. This requires shrewd pricing, diligent use of cross selling and a seamless connection with the customers via email campaigns to complement the whole platform migration operation.