How to Prepare Your Brand for an E-commerce Re-Platform

In order to meet your brand’s full revenue potential and ambitious goals for 2016, it may be necessary for an e-commerce re-platform of your website. This can be an expensive, tedious process, but if you don’t do it, the limited capabilities of your current site could cost you sales and loyal customers.

Here’s how to determine if it’s time for a change, and if so, where you should start:

Has Your Brand Outgrown its Current Website?

Here are some major indicators your site is due for an upgrade:

  1. Inability to quickly make customized landing pages to match advertising efforts
  2. Unreliable code that takes you one step forward, then two steps back (a little Paula Abdul for you!)
  3. Limitations to the types of promotions you can successfully execute
  4. A tedious customer registration and/or checkout process
  5. URLs not optimized for SEO
  6. A store not optimized for mobile

Find Out Where Your Site Stands

Before you jump into a re-platform, spend some time researching platform capabilities in the marketplace. To do this, conduct an in-depth competitive analysis: Review direct competitors (those carrying the same products and services as you) and indirect competitors (those trying to capture your audience/demographic, though maybe with a different product) to get a better idea of the types of improvements your site needs.

Be methodical and go feature by feature, noting things like the way products are displayed and categorized within the navigation; the registration and checkout processes; when and where relevant content is shown; internal site search and filters; how content is integrated into product pages; and the strength of the site’s mobile experience. Record all of this information in a spreadsheet; you’ll use it as a guide for creating an RFP (Request for Proposal), which you’ll send to software platform companies when you’re ready to begin the actual re-platform process.

Then, conduct a survey to learn what your consumers want from your site, your services and your brand. Polling current customers will help you better understand their actual opinions, praises and grievances as they relate to your website.

Determine Your Needs, Wants and Nice-to-Haves

Your next steps should be considering your website’s shortfalls. Are they technical or internal resource constraints that make changing the platform a challenge, or perhaps due to integration hiccups with legacy systems?

Gather your team, grab a marker and a whiteboard, and using your competitive-analysis spreadsheet as an aid, list all of the issues with the current platform and improvements you want to make, with the key concerns/improvements at the top. Categorize items into “need,” “want,” or “nice to have.” For example: You need a mobile-optimized site, you want a rewards program to add value to consumers’ transactions, and it would be nice to have a robust eCRM that’s fully automated to communicate to customers throughout their purchase journey.

Determine the front-end features the new platform should have, which will help when mocking up creative workflow designs for the operations desired. Then you can identify requirements needed to manage the site on the back end (think about whether you’ll need to build and manipulate products, pages, customer databases and/or promotions quickly).

Don’t forget to include systems, data and processes your e-commerce platform will require to integrate with on the back end. This could include your email program, your CRM, your operations or warehouse system, etc.

Justify the Costs for a Re-Platform

From here, assess the hard cost of changing to the new platform versus the opportunity cost for not changing. To start, determine your current resource costs, which are those associated with time lost due to system limitations and manual work with your existing platform. Then list traditional costs like contractors, systems, fees and active staff wages. Consider what else your team would be able to work on if they weren’t stuck making manual, tedious updates to your current website. It’s also important to think about the sales you could miss if you don’t re-platform your site and market share continues to decline. Consider that you might lose your lifetime customers if you don’t provide the best online experience.

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There are many points to consider when determining if a re-platform is right for your brand. What questions do you have? Let me know in the comment section below!

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