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Product Experience Strategy

Aug 14, 2023

7 min to read

5 Steps for a Successful eCommerce Replatforming Project

eCommerce replatforming can be a daunting project, but we’re here to provide you with a five step process that ensures your transition is seamless, successful, and scalable.

Keywords

B2B

B2C

Digital Commerce

eCommerce

Product Experience

Despite every organization operating with unique intricacies and distinct goals, many have traditionally opted for standardized, off-the-shelf eCommerce platforms to tackle their multifaceted requirements. This approach often leads to a need for customization, involving the implementation of in-house add-ons, connectors, plugins, custom code, and more. 

This reliance on generic solutions poses challenges to scalability. With rapidly evolving customer demands, businesses must swiftly adapt to market changes and address functional gaps to provide the seamless experiences buyers expect.

Plus, as your eCommerce ecosystem expands to encompass an array of tools like marketing automation platforms, PIM solutions, and user-generated content collection tools, the emergence of functionality gaps becomes evident. What initially seemed like a manageable task of maintaining consistency across platforms quickly becomes overwhelming. Valuable attention, time, resources, and finances are drained into the upkeep and patching of the eCommerce platform, diverting focus from impactful endeavors.

Given these complexities, many teams are drawn to the notion of replatforming to a more robust and dependable eCommerce solution and the search is on for a user-friendly platform that not only adapts seamlessly but also scales in sync with business evolution, ensuring the alignment with buyer expectations.

If this situation sounds all too familiar to you, then let’s take a look at a five-step process that your organization can follow to ensure that your eCommerce replatform project is successful, speedy, and scalable.

 

Step 1: Defining Your Replatforming Blueprint

Undertaking a replatforming endeavor might seem overwhelming, given the array of solutions, technologies, and industry jargon in the mix. Identifying the perfect platform tailored to your business can be a challenge. This is where creating a comprehensive brief comes into play.

The process begins by outlining your business’s needs and expectations from the new platform. This foundational document, known as the brief, serves as your roadmap. Crafting an eCommerce replatforming brief doesn’t need to be overly complex. Essentially, it revolves around defining two primary components:

  • Customer Expectations: Articulate all the functionalities you wish to empower your customers with on the website. This could encompass seamless browsing, smooth transactions, and interactive features that enhance their experience.
  • Administrative Efficiencies: Consider the tasks you require your administrative team to seamlessly execute from the admin panel. These might include managing products, monitoring orders, and refining user experiences.

Additionally, augment your brief with a list of external technologies integrated into your ecosystem. This encompasses tools like marketing automation platforms, review services, and payment providers. By incorporating these elements, your brief becomes a comprehensive guide that outlines your unique requirements.

To further enrich your brief, include key data points to provide context:

  • The extent and variety of products in your existing product catalog.
  • The count of customers registered on your current platform.
  • The volume of daily orders and the Average Order Value (AOV).
  • Your project’s budget allocation and the timeline for implementation.

Avoid getting bogged down in over-detailing the brief’s format. There’s no need for it to become a laborious, minute-by-minute plan that consumes more time than the actual replatforming process. Simply ensure these key components are well-addressed, and you’re good to go.

 

Step 2: Equipping Your Teams for Success

In the lead-up to a successful replatforming projects, ensuring that your teams are well-prepared, aligned, and informed is of paramount importance. Let’s take a look at a few key strategies to do so.

1. Optimize the Digital Channel Team(s)

Effective operations often stumble due to misallocated resources and siloed functions. Such inefficiencies may arise from a lack of cohesive integration of the digital channel into the organizational structure, or a shift in roles over time that no longer suits the evolving business landscape. Address this by revisiting your organizational setup, readjusting roles, and embracing change despite anticipated resistance. Achieving collective buy-in or removing roadblocks is crucial; if you’re assembling a team externally, prioritize familiarity with platform best practices and technology expertise, ideally complemented by industry know-how.

2. Navigate Channel Conflict with Strategic Communication

Enhancing or introducing new channels can inadvertently stir conflicts that jeopardize digital initiatives’ success. Commonly seen among retail and field sales teams, concerns about digital sales overshadowing their roles need to be proactively managed. Personalize your communication approach for internal and external stakeholders, tailored to individual teams and resources. By adopting an approach that addresses anxiety, welcomes change, and fosters enthusiasm, you can effectively neutralize potential disruptions.

3. Post-Launch Preparedness

Beyond the excitement lies a reality: launching is merely the beginning. Establishing a post-launch support plan is essential to a successful replatforming. Ensure you have internal or external site support ready to roll out as soon as the site warranty period concludes. Avoid reactive responses by preparing for potential site issues beforehand. Internally, define who holds the authority to make and approve decisions post-launch. This might pertain to business, IT, or even a committee’s domain. Be aware that post-launch, decision-making authority could shift; guard against internal conflicts by having a solid plan in place, keeping the focus steadfastly on your new site’s success.

4. Elevating Marketing and Engagement

A surge of eager new and existing visitors awaits you after launch – be ready to captivate their attention and sustain their interest. Ensure your marketing materials are primed for engagement, reflecting the design and ethos of your new site. Your social profiles need to be optimized and aligned, displaying accurate company information, branding, visuals, and content. The same holds true for transactional and marketing email templates as you may need to rewrite and redesign to resonate with the new site’s identity. As your site garners more traffic, keep them engaged with compelling content, whether it’s insightful buying guides, intriguing CMS pages, or a captivating blog. By curating meaningful interactions, you solidify engagement and catalyze conversions.

 

Step 3: Preparing Your Product Information

A seamless eCommerce replatforming requires meticulous mapping of your data sources, an unwavering commitment to elevating product content quality, and a strategic approach to optimizing your site’s SEO strategies. Let’s take a look at how these aspects work in harmony to pave the way for a successful replatforming journey that doesn’t just meet your expectations, but exceeds them.

1. Mapping Your Product Data Sources 

Enabling product information to flow seamlessly across channels is a foundational step in digital transformation. However, creating, maintaining, and leveraging product data throughout its lifecycle is not a one-time project, but a complex, ongoing program. Having a single system of record with thoughtful processes and technical guardrails developed to enable ongoing integrity is crucial.

Prior to determining your migration approach, identify the data you intend to migrate. Cleanse your data by removing duplicate records, incomplete sets, and centralize disparate legacy data systems to ensure data is accurate, actionable, relevant, and consolidated. Inventory migration data, accounting for who owns it, where it lives (on the new platform or external system), and how it’s accessed. Consider migrating data incrementally to allow users and stakeholders to view the sample sets and correct any issues upfront, making it easier to identify areas for development if necessary.

2. Elevating Product Content Quality

Inevitably, typos creep in, information ages, and links decay. With various contributors, the brand voice might waver. Customer preferences evolve. Scrutinize every site page, article, and post for accuracy and relevancy. Archive underperforming or obsolete content, streamlining content migration efforts and redirecting attention to the noteworthy pieces that endure.

Tailor content to guide customers during awareness and consideration stages, captivating them even during non-shopping periods. With the sitemap and wireframes as your guide, launch engaging content initiatives, aligning resources for a dynamic launch or securing additional support if required.

3. Optimizing SEO Strategies 

Replatforming ushers in site alterations, including URL changes, that could disrupt organic search rankings if mishandled. While no universal solution exists, implement essential technical measures for a seamless SEO transition. Adhere to schema.org best practices and integrate canonical tags, particularly for filtered pages within the product catalog, curbing duplicate content concerns. Enhance URL structures to incorporate natural language, enriching user experience.

Thoughtfully employ relevant anchor text for inbound and external links, routinely scrutinizing the site for broken links. Plan 301 page redirects, prioritizing high-traffic or extensively linked pages. While applying 1:1 redirects for all pages isn’t advised, you can selectively channel users to the new homepage URL or relevant category pages. This safeguards customer access, irrespective of web address changes, nurturing a seamless browsing experience.

 

Step 4: Selecting the Perfect Platform

In your pursuit of the ideal eCommerce platform, an agnostic approach is paramount. By comparing your core brief requirements against the features various platforms offer, you’ll uncover the right fit for your business. At this stage, establishing (and sticking to) a platform budget is essential, as even platforms claiming to be free come with costs. To streamline your options, ask three fundamental questions:

1. B2C, B2B, or Both? 

B2B enterprises often demand distinct eCommerce platform features compared to their B2C counterparts. If you’re planning to operate in a B2B capacity, robust tools like company accounts, credit limits, and customer-specific pricing are vital. While platforms like BigCommerce and Adobe Commerce cater to B2B needs, platforms like Shopify might lack specific B2B features and are better suited for B2C operations, so ensure that you’re choosing a platform that aligns with your long-term business goals.

 

2. Hosting and Management Approach: Open-Source or SaaS? 

The platform landscape is divided into open-source and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) options. 

Open-source platforms provide access to source code for extensive customization. Ideal for businesses with skilled IT teams, platforms like Adobe Commerce Cloud and WooCommerce offer this flexibility. However, they demand coding proficiency and hosting responsibility. 

SaaS eCommerce platforms operate on subscription models, offering hassle-free software as a service. Platforms like BigCommerce, Shopify, and commercetools handle hosting, updates, and support, leaving you free to focus on your core business. Choose based on your technical expertise and business priorities.

 

3. Integrating with Current Technologies?

A thriving eCommerce ecosystem relies on seamless integrations with various technologies. Platforms often offer app/extension marketplaces for off-the-shelf integrations with common partners like payment providers, review platforms, and loyalty schemes. Leverage your technology partner list from your brief to evaluate platform compatibility. Ensure the platforms you consider offer connectors from the app marketplace, or possess robust APIs that enable integration with your chosen technologies. With these core questions addressed, it’s time to test the waters. Many platforms offer trial periods or demos. Witness the platform in action before making a final decision. Your chosen platform will shape your eCommerce journey for years ahead, so a thoughtful choice is imperative.

 

Step 5: Selecting the Perfect Agency

Pinpointing the ideal agency involves a strategic process tailored to your specific needs. Begin by filtering your choices through your essential requirements and critical success factors. Here are a few key factors to consider:

Platform Expertise: Does the agency possess proven experience with your chosen platform?

Relevant Portfolio: Does the agency boast a portfolio aligned with your business profile, industry, and functionalities?

Client References: Can the agency provide references from satisfied clients who have achieved successful outcomes?

Timely Delivery: Can the agency commit to meeting your project’s timelines outlined in the brief?

Alignment and Compatibility: Does the agency’s work style and approach harmonize with your organization? Are they approachable and cooperative?

Transparent Pricing: Do you fully comprehend the agency’s pricing model and all associated costs? Is it sustainable for your organization long-term?

Location: Consider the agency’s location if regular face-to-face meetings are essential.

Budget and Roadmap: The agency’s role is to translate your brief into a solution within your budget and timeframe. This may require prioritizing requirements and finding compromises. 

Remember, eCommerce websites are ever-evolving. Replatforming defines the starting point, not the endpoint – often known as the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Post-launch, elements from the MVP become part of a strategic roadmap for ongoing enhancements and continuous development, adapting to new features, technologies, and creative trends.

 


 

Replatforming is a strategic move that requires careful consideration, planning, and execution. By creating a comprehensive brief, preparing teams, organizing product information, finding the right platform, and partnering with the right agency, businesses can successfully navigate the complexities of replatforming and set themselves up for long-term growth and success in the ever-evolving eCommerce landscape. 

And lastly, keep in mind that replatforming isn’t just about reaching the finish line; it’s about laying the foundation for ongoing evolution and improvement in response to changing customer needs and market trends.

Akeneo Product Cloud

Looking for help on your eCommerce replatforming project? Reach out to an Akeneo expert today to see how we can support your replatforming efforts.

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