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Replatforming your online store: When retailers should consider a new platform and how to pick the right one

By Eleanor Papadimos, Commercial Director, Web Division at idhl In the digital world, if you’re not evolving, you’re likely losing revenue. As the online space develops… View Article


Replatforming your online store: When retailers should consider a new platform and how to pick the right one

By Eleanor Papadimos, Commercial Director, Web Division at idhl

In the digital world, if you’re not evolving, you’re likely losing revenue. As the online space develops daily, you must ensure that keeping your eCommerce website up to date and following best practices is a priority. Those who fail to do so will see their competitors take the edge.

As your business evolves, you may notice red flags on your website. From slow response times losing you conversions to the inability to scale, there are several reasons why you may be considering changing platforms. In this article, we’ll cover some of the key reasons retailers choose to switch things up and important considerations before you take the plunge.

What are the key drivers for replatforming?

Brands ultimately decide to replatform when their current provider isn’t quite making the cut. This can happen for a number of reasons from a change in strategy to accelerated growth that your current platform simply can’t support.

Let’s take a look at some of the main reasons retailers decide it’s time to replatform…

1) Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

Let’s be realistic, cost is always an important factor in business decisions. Of course, for retailers your platforms are commercial enablers for the most part, with costs like licence fees, hosting, upgrades, development and agency costs set to make a strong return on investment.

However, some retailers wrestle with complex legacy platforms that make changes slow and costly – or worse – inhibit change. The opportunity cost in those situations can be eyewatering. And so, retailers that consider both direct and indirect costs to evaluate TCO often find it’s time to replatform their outdated systems, and fast.

Coding practices change; as newer practises surpass older ones, retailers can end up with inconsistencies in code, making changes becomes complicated and costly. Retailers – particularly enterprise retailers – that strive for innovation, can’t afford to be held back by outdated technology and make the decision to replatform to partners that match that ambition with strong development roadmaps and flexibility.

2) Innovation and growth

And, in a time where innovation is everywhere, can your eCommerce site risk falling behind?

Therefore, it’s no surprise that a common motivation for replatforming, is to get access to a richer, fast-moving roadmap, that will enable merchants to stay at the forefront of innovation and maximise their site’s potential, without having to necessarily invest in bespoke development.

How do you identify which platform is right for your brand?

The sheer volume of options can make choosing the right platform a challenge. By identifying your core business needs and looking at your long-term goals, your choices can be narrowed down. So, what are some of the key factors to consider when selecting your next platform?

  • Integration: Often, trepidation about replatforming comes from the way the current platform works with other business systems, so, a key aspect during discovery is to look at the technical architecture as a whole. Review how integration will work between your other systems and your new platform, for example through connectors or middleware, and any associated risks to mitigate against.
  • Specific needs: You’re leaving your current platform for a reason. Take a deep dive into all the issues you have with your site and write down your main priorities for replatforming. Which platforms can fill these gaps? Disregard any that don’t meet your minimum needs for a new website. To help understand where your priorities lie, use methods such as the MoSCoW system, which uses ‘must-have, should-have, could-have and won’t have’ to help define project goals.
  • Where do you see your site in five years: Look to the future to ensure you make the right decision in the present. If you have ambitious growth plans, replatforming to a site that works now but can’t support these goals in the future is a waste of time and money. Before you begin replatforming, have a clear plan for your business and what you require of your site to get you there.
  • Competitor research: What sites are your competitors using? Lots of brands work with agencies that showcase their work in case studies. Take the time to look at which platforms crop up time and time again for brands in your sector. If there’s a common denominator, there’s a reason for it.
  • Look past the platform: It may sound counterproductive to not focus solely on your platform, especially if your current one is causing you problems. But by only focusing on your platform, you fail to consider the ecosystem of external partners and solutions that need to feed into your site. Consider how different options work in cohesion with other systems and how an end-to-end solution can support your ambitious plans.
  • Total cost of ownership: Make sure you look at both the initial costs and the long-term cost implications. A new site may look all-singing, all-dancing for a great price but what are the ongoing license costs, how much is hosting, do they do costly yearly updates? Take the time to learn all the potential costs for each platform you’re considering and weigh this up against your long-term goals.

Different needs, different platforms

When replatforming conversations begin, the options can feel endless. Should you look to move to a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform or would a Digital Experience Platform (DXP) work for you? Understanding the different platforms, how they function and how this relates to your business needs will help you choose the right one.

  • Software-as-a-Service: SaaS means a third-party owns the software and you pay a fee that enables your store to be hosted online. SaaS is a good choice for retailers without much complexity behind their operations and who don’t require endless customisation for their site.
  • Headless: Headless platforms allow you to run two separate systems for your front-end and back-end. This provides greater flexibility for brands who want their site to work across numerous channels and apps, removing the rigid structure of a more traditional CMS. While a great option, it adds a layer of complexity to websites that often require agency support.
  • Open-source: Open-source means you can make changes to any part of your site and it’s completely customisable to your needs. This offers almost unparalleled flexibility for your site but often requires developer support.

Retailers concerns with replatforming

Replatforming is a natural move for scaling retailers, but it is not without its own set of risks. Upending your current site and ways of working is never going to be simple, but that shouldn’t hold you back from pushing your site and business to the next level.

A lot of brands worry about the disruption to both their audience and business when moving to a new site. From data loss to downtime, there a number of concerns retailers voice before a replatform. While nothing is foolproof, there are various things retailers can do to make the process smoother for everyone. Working with your website agency you can put in place tried-and-tested strategies to help your website transition platforms smoothly. This can include things like scheduling your migration to happen during typically low-traffic times, conducting extensive testing to ensure your data isn’t impacted and working with an expert migration team. Robust processes are the cornerstone of how you mitigate.

Inevitably, retailers are also concerned about the risk of a platform migration to their search rankings. Online retailers often rely upon organic search as a significant avenue for website traffic and revenue, so this is not a concern to overlook.  SEO needs to be factored in as part of a migration, retailers need to take on expert advice to guide the project on aspects such as site architecture, UX design, re-directs, backlinks and much more.

Replatforming doesn’t need to disrupt your business

With so many choices out there, replatforming can feel overwhelming. Picking the wrong platform for your business can and will have detrimental effects on the success of your brand, so you must make the right call from the offset. For brands that want to see phenomenal growth, your next site needs to be future-proof, allowing you to grow and adapt with the times. Working with an experienced agency can help mitigate the risks, leaving you safe in the knowledge that your new eCommerce store will be up to the task.

At idhl, we approach replatforming consultatively; we offer support with mapping out requirements and benchmarking against different platforms’ native functionality, so our clients can feel assured that they’ve thoroughly scoped out project requirements and made the right choice. And, obviously, retailers want to make sure migrating is economical, so you can rely on us to help you understand TCO and ROI for a replatform, alongside helping you to forecast spend across CAPEX and OPEX.

Interested to know more? Visit our website, or contact Eleanor on LinkedIn.







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