replatforming your old ecommerce website

The One Upgrade That Can Save Your Ecommerce Business

by Blue Stout
September 21, 2015

Updating Your Old Ecommerce Site

A common struggle for ecommerce owners we’ve seen here at Blue Stout is identifying the ways in which their current ecommerce website is actually wasting their money. 80% of the time, this boils down to their use of a legacy platform.

legacy ecommerce platform

[image via]

Just like current ecommerce sites, legacy platforms come in all shapes and sizes. While they may originate in one, specific technology, usually the platform has undergone a series of add-ons and customizations. This produces what we like to call a “home-grown” solution. Many ecommerce companies tweak their platforms in order to immediately solve issues. But, placing a “band-aid” on the problem is tricky: it works for an immediate fix, but as the underlying problem continues to grow, the fix will no longer suffice.

And companies usually address this by adding on even more custom code.

Legacy sites like this become a black hole for resources. Countless hours and dollars can be dumped into trying to make your accounting program work, or building a connection that works with the newest release of your ERP solution. Eventually this has to stop because continuation of this ad-hoc style becomes less of a fix and more of a poor business development strategy.

Related: 3 Signs You Need to Fire Your Development Team

So what do you do when you know you have an outdated website and you read that one third of ecommerce sales are happening on mobile devices? (source) You begin to understand that your customer has high expectations for their online shopping experience. They’re demanding an engaging and personalized UX, and are less inclined to purchase if they don’t get it.

mobile trafic stats Shopify blog

[image via Shopify]

Staying ahead of the curve and making sure your customers are getting the UX they expect (and deserve) is key to your business’ growth. To do this, you must know the ins and outs of your legacy platform, it’s shortcomings, and be able to analyze if re-platforming your store is the next step.

Let’s take a look at why your website could be holding your business back, if re-platforming is the best choice, and how the transitioning to a new platform could turn your revenue around.

Is your platform holding you back?

Perhaps the most crucial part of this process is determining if your current online store is indeed preventing your business from reaching its full potential. Transitioning to new platform will impact your entire business, so it’s critical to evaluate whether the change will boost sales and reduce internal costs (development and management), or if it will simply add more stress to your company by becoming a complex, time-consuming project.

Here are few reasons why saying goodbye to your legacy platform might be for the best:

Your business is growing.

Take a look at your recent growth and your growth projections. If you get the feeling that your current platform couldn’t meet the future needs of your business, transferring platforms may be necessary to support it.

Red flag: the demands of your ERP solution and / or accounting software become too complex or complicated for your current platform to handle.

You’re a fan of multichannel integration.

Oftentimes, older websites run into issues when trying to coordinate multichannel integration because the older software doesn’t comply with newer applications. If multichannel integration is a part of your business model (or you plan on implementing it in the near future), you may be better served by making the switch to a newer solution.

Red flag: you cannot program your platform to efficiently communicate with your logistics and fulfillment center.

Costs & maintenance is rising.

Legacy sites can consume excessive hosting resources, and in turn cost you more money than they’re worth. They also generally require a higher level of maintenance by your development team. When this becomes a drain on your cash and other resources, it’s time to switch to a newer solution that isn’t as high maintenance.

Red flag: you’re allocating too many programming hours and dollars toward a website that is continuously breaking or buggy.

Low Key Performance Indicators.

One of the main benefits of re-platforming is that it allows you to improve your KPIs such as average order value and conversion rate. If your UX is lacking and these indicators are low, the switch may be beneficial.

Red flag: you’re seeing a rise in your abandoned cart rate. Chances are, this is a UX problem and needs immediate attention.

Security, security, security.

Since older platforms are outdated, their credentials are typically not up to date with the latest security measures. Updating to a newer solution can give you (and your customers) peace of mind knowing that your security measures aren’t easily compromised.

Red flag: your payment verification process does not have proper implementation and you aren’t sure if your website is not storing sensitive data that could be easily accessed or compromised.

If your ecommerce company identifies with any of the above points or has seen any of these red falgs, then it’s probably time for you to consider making an upgrade or a complete switch in platform.

Preparing for the switch

If you have decided that you are in fact bleeding money into a “homegrown solution” and want to re-platform, there are a few steps you should take before the actual switch. One small mistake in the plan can cause chaos. It can also consume much of your time, focus and money.

Before moving ahead to the transition itself, let’s look at a few key preparations that can help ensure you are truly ready for the process.

Document your requirements.

List the good, the bad, and the ugly of your current ecommerce website. This will give you a better idea about the new features you want on the new one. In addition, state the goals and objectives of the new solution. Be sure to address your team’s issues and concerns with the old platform as well, as they will be your support.

Choose your new ecommerce platform.

Once you’ve determined what you need in a new ecommerce website, buckle down and research your options. There are many options, but finding the one that works best for you is key. This article is a great place to start (or for a shorter read, check out this Quora answer by our CEO, Allen).

Map out your SEO plan

When you’ve chosen the best platform for your business, the last step is to map out your new SEO plan. The goal of this is to minimize dips in organic search traffic that may occur while transitioning. This dip in organic traffic is even more likely to happen if you change your URL in the process. You shouldn’t lose your ranking just because you have re-platformed, and having a thorough SEO plan will help ensure that it doesn’t happen.

Ecommerce Re-Platforming

Rebuilding your ecommerce website should take 2-6 months

How long does it take to replatform?

When you’ve finished your prep work, it’s time for the big switch. Re-platforming shouldn’t take longer than 2-6 months as it becomes difficult to sustain commitment and enthusiasm on the team if the project takes longer.

Since the changeover is a tedious and demanding process, hiring an ecommerce design firm to assist with the work can be a good alternative to dedicating most of your own internal resources to the task. Moving to a new ecommerce website can be challenging, so partnering with a firm while re-platforming can help you reduce the risks involved with the transition.

If you do choose to hire a firm, creating a partner strategy is a must. Making sure your business objectives, platform requirements, and time frame are understood before beginning will eliminate confusion, duplication of efforts, and help ensure the project stays on budget. Replatforming also requires the moving applications and content, as well as integrating your new platform with backend systems. It’s important to choose a firm who has experience in upgrading and maintaining various ecommerce stores, so the process goes smoother.

If you do decide to update your platform on your own, you should still dedicate some time to creating a strategy that allows you to keep your objectives, requirements, time frame, and budget in sight. Doing so will help you have a smooth transition to your new and improved platform.

Smooth Transitioning

Transitioning to new ecommerce stores can be intimidating, especially for established retailers. Change is always hard because it’s something new. After one month’s learning curve and getting used to how your new website works, you should be able to feel and see a difference. Be sure you’re tracking the same ecommerce metrics you were before the launch of your new platform so you can evaluate the ROI.

Most importantly, give your new platform your full attention. Once you’ve implemented it, you cannot simply neglect it and devote half-attention to it, expecting the website itself to fix all your problems. Become very involved. Learn it. Then, if you need to delegate operations – go for it.

What Ecommerce Platform Are You Using?

Are you still operating on a legacy ecommerce site? Have you recently switched from an older platform to a new one? I’d love to hear which one you’re using and why you think it is or isn’t meeting your needs.

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  • Great read. Thank you for sharing as I am preparing to switch platforms. Keep up the great work!

    • Deyson, so glad you found it useful. Out of curiousity, what platform are you switching from, and what platform are you switching to?