E-Commerce Re-Platforming 101: All You Need to Know
You may need to find a new e-commerce platform for a variety of reasons such as outdated technology, broken functionality, and even changes in consumer behavior. But, being a significant technical and financial upheaval, e-commerce re-platforming requires thorough planning. This post will tell you everything you need to know about moving your e-store to a new e-commerce platform.
The process of e-commerce re-platforming begins with realizing that it is the most effective way to drive your business forward as technology advances and existing systems become outdated. After all, any limitation, be it the rising maintenance costs or a slow and sluggish website, will only lead to the deterioration of your business.
However, the re-platforming process is complex, demanding, and the resulting change will affect your business for years to come. So, you will need to tread carefully when moving your e-commerce business from one platform to another. To avoid turning your re-platforming process into a disaster, here are a few unmissable steps you need to consider.
1. Plan and Strategize
Like any other IT project, e-commerce re-platforming begins with comprehensive planning and strategizing. You need to consider the various aspects of your project, including brand vision, business goals, pre and post-launch strategy, and budget.
Make sure to convey your brand or company vision to your new technology partner and all other stakeholders. You will also need to have Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely (SMART) business goals that will help you achieve the required functionality and performance.
These goals will help you decide if you want to keep the design unchanged or add new plugins, apps, and data migration preferences, among other things. But most importantly, setting goals will help you come up with a realistic timeline and budget for your re-platforming project.
You can compare the cost of your project with similar ones completed in the past couple of years. Calculate your projected ROI by considering the expected benefits of your reformed e-commerce store. If you think your up-front costs are too high, try a cloud-based or usage-based re-platforming contract to spread the costs.
It is recommended to have a pre and post-launch marketing and technology strategy from the start. In other words, you need to consider the pre and post-launch training costs and the timeline when setting up your project.
2. Integrate People and Process
As mentioned, re-platforming is a complex process. You can’t rely on technology alone. You need to build a cohesive technical ecosystem. One way to make sure it happens is to integrate people and processes.
Make sure you have the right people in your re-platforming team, assign essential responsibilities and tasks judiciously, and keep all stakeholders on the same page. When hiring a technological partner or even getting in-house team members on board, choose professionals well-versed in re-platforming projects with the necessary industry experience and certifications.
To keep everyone on the same page, you will need to build effective communication channels and strategies. Make every stakeholder a part of your communication from the beginning to avoid delayed decisions and potential objections.
If required, restructure your internal teams or organization hierarchy to make the re-platforming process easier. This should help maintain your project timeline.
3. Optimize User Experience
User experience is a vital part of an e-commerce business which comprises quick loading speed, sleek design, quality content, responsive web design, and optimal performance. Organizations with websites or applications with up-to-date UIs can potentially experience conversion rates up to 200%.
Re-platforming offers you a unique opportunity to improve your user experience. Start by mapping your customers’ behavior and building a new customer persona accordingly. You can talk to your long-time customers, conduct user surveys, and use website analytics data to know more about what people think of your current site.
You will also need to evaluate user experience that extends beyond your website, called omnichannel experience. For example, you may need to upgrade your email client to retarget the consumers who have abandoned shopping carts. Make sure to consider the data from all your sales channels when adding new functionalities.
Start testing the required changes early during the re-platforming process. You can use wireframes and rapid prototyping to see what the design will be like before the entire process is complete. Early testing will ensure a quicker and smoother transition to the new platform.
4. Enhance SEO Performance
Re-platforming can also be a great time to improve your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Start with the existing website content. Analyze, edit, and refurbish your existing content to make sure it is consistent with your brand voice. Determine which content is still relevant for your new site and get rid of the rest. Avoid duplicate content issues.
Usually, re-platforming will affect your website for a couple of weeks, after which it should recover. However, you will still need to ensure there are no drastic technical SEO changes. Adhere to the best schema practices. Set up 301-page redirects carefully. Create one-to-one redirects for high-traffic URLs and pages with valuable inbound links.
Include relevant and natural phrases when optimizing the various on-site SEO components such as page titles, Meta Descriptions, H1, and H2 labels, and image alt tags, among others. Optimize the site architecture. These steps will increase the discoverability of your website after the re-platforming process. Don’t forget to benchmark and monitor every change you are making.
5. Consider Data Migration and System Integration Requirements
Data migration and system integration are two critical aspects of e-commerce re-platforming. Failure to migrate customers, inventory, and other data can ruin the user experience completely. Except for passwords, you will need to move everything from consumer account details to sales and payment data over to the new site.
Determine which data you intend to migrate. Analyze this data to avoid any discrepancies, duplication issues, or security concerns during the re-platforming. Alert your customers about the changes in account functionality and data handling from the beginning. Incremental data migration is a good idea to test the migration process well in advance and avoid significant data losses.
Similarly, you need to plan integration requirements for third-party apps like payment gateways, email clients, and marketing automation. Check if your third-party applications offer a pre-built connector. As most of them don’t, you will need to make further enhancements or switch the app or plugin to better.
6. Factor in Security and Scalability
E-commerce businesses often collect Personal Identifiable Information (PII) such as names, addresses, phone numbers, emails, identifications, and credit card details of customers. Keeping this sensitive data secure during the re-platforming process is of paramount importance. The new platform, hosting provider, and third-party apps must also adhere to GDPR and other data privacy regulations.
Before starting the re-platforming process or data migration, check your code to identify security vulnerabilities, if any. You can use automated code-sniffing tools for this purpose. Test the changes you have made regularly for potential security issues.
Analyze your new e-commerce platform for its scalability. You don’t want to end up re-platforming your store yet again because your new vendor lacks the required scalability. If you are going for a cloud-based solution, see if the vendor offers an auto-scaling option. Seek expert advice if you are unsure of using cloud capabilities to their fullest.
7. Offer Training and Support
Although re-platforming will make your site better and bigger, your in-house designers and developers will need to be trained to handle the enhancements. Post the launch; you may need to bring in new team members for managing daily tasks.
Chances are, your re-platforming partner may provide your in-house IT staff with the necessary training. However, you may need to create training courses and user guides of your own. You will also need to put together a team and an action plan to help manage everything, from codebase to marketing.
Make sure to set up a support team as soon as your new site is launched. It will help you avoid internal struggles and decision paralysis. Delegate the decision-making responsibilities well in advance to hit the ground running in the event of a potential site issue.
8. Focus on Maintenance and Development
Although your re-platforming project may be over, maintenance and development of the new website will remain a long-term commitment. Your website must be able to survive the ever-changing digital landscape as new cyber threats, web technologies, and social media trends will continue to emerge.
You should reconsider your KPIs and marketing goals after launching your site, as they will change over time. Make sure you are analyzing the performance of the critical online and offline indicators using tools like Google Analytics. Take cognizance of sudden spikes and drops or if your bounce rate crosses the 5% threshold.
Make sure all your social media, email, and other marketing channels are in sync with the post-launch changes on your site. Engage your audience with fresh, unique, and relevant content that matches the tone and voice of your new website. You can realign your marketing and social media campaigns to fit them with your website changes.
Create new testing and change management processes to ensure your website can handle increased sales, holiday events, and marketing pushes. Test your website in different environments to strengthen your resources and internal workflows. Keep it updated with the latest patches, modules, and PCI compliances to mitigate possible security threats effectively.
Continue to study new shopping behaviors, social media trends, and changing customer expectations to build shopping experiences accordingly. The quicker you adapt to the changing digital space; the higher are the chances of longevity and success of your website.
A robust, scalable, and future-ready platform can help your e-commerce business grow faster and increase its security, leaving your competitors behind. However, e-commerce re-platforming is a demanding process that requires a carefully planned approach. Hopefully, this detailed guide will help you carry out this mammoth task quickly and efficiently. Are you planning to re-platform your online store? If yes, let us know which tip you found to be the most useful in the comments section below.