8 Questions to Ask Before Migrating to a New Commerce Platform, Part 1
The devil is in the details, especially when it concerns replatforming. It's a major project and a large investment, not only in terms of budget, but also your team’s valuable time. Typically, goals for a successful replatforming project include a more engaging user experience, increased sales and revenue, more efficient customer service, and in some cases an improved order management system (OMS).
Businesses need to meticulously think through each step before they embark on the replatforming journey, as it's not just a simple site redesign or software upgrade. There are eight important questions to ask before you begin. Answering the first four questions, which we'll explore in the first of this two-part series, will help you lay the groundwork to replatform successfully.
1. What type of experience do your customers expect?
Before choosing a platform, you need a clear picture of what your customers expect from your online store in terms of navigation, mobile friendliness and content. Start by asking yourself:
- What do your customers interact with?
- What pages and content lead to conversion?
- Will your new platform need to support rich media like videos and photography for category and product pages?
- What functionality do your competitors offer on their websites that results in a more engaging commerce experience?
- What back-end systems will you need to integrate with for ERP or order management?
This knowledge is critical to making the right platform decisions. If these questions don't deliver an experience that inspires, engages and meets shoppers’ expectations, they won't connect with your site and will end up moving on very quickly. To keep this from happening, you need to understand how customers interact with your site in its current form and learn which pages or paths drive the highest conversions. Second, you need to identify the gaps: What optimizations will remove friction, boost engagement, and enable you to achieve your digital goals? The most important thing in any digital project is to have clear and detailed goals, and to use this information to guide requirements gathering for any potential new technology or platform.
2. How clean is your catalog data?
Managing product catalog data is an ongoing challenge, and if there's ever a time to master that challenge, it's before you replatform. A clean, consistently organized catalog will help you avoid costly delays. If you want to implement a product information management (PIM) system or reorganize your store categories and navigation, make sure you tackle the planning and requirements for these projects before turning to a new commerce solution.
An organized, clean catalog makes a huge difference during site development. Once your new site design is approved, your development team will need clean data to properly test category landing pages and product detail pages before taking the site live. On the flip side, messy and disorganized data puts the onus on developers to create test data and guess what the catalog might look like — never an ideal situation. When the real catalog data is finally loaded, the development team will have to go back in and get all the pages to render correctly and uniformly, creating additional work.
3. How will replatforming affect customer service and order management?
Modern commerce platforms are primarily built to enable transactional shopping functionality. To address increasingly important customer experience needs, some platforms now come out-of-the-box (OOTB) with modest service, content and OMS capabilities. To further simplify building a holistic commerce technology ecosystem, these platforms also incorporate easy-to-integrate "hooks" to connect with more specialized third-party applications.
As you evaluate your platform options, ask whether you'll need sophisticated order management and/or customer service functionality, and consider whether it makes more sense to leverage limited OOTB capabilities or invest in more robust external solutions.
Take your time, as these decisions could affect not only your project budget and timeline, but also your organization as a whole.
4. Is your ecosystem prepared?
Usually, when you sign a contract to replatform, the clock starts ticking. How much of this time do you think will be spent finding and signing third-party services like address verification, sales tax calculations, personalization, and more? Surprisingly, quite a bit.
Contract-related delays can have an impact on the launch date. Without access to the right systems and resources, it's more difficult for developers to efficiently build the new experience. Chances are, moving to a new platform will incorporate a few third-party features, so these contracts should be signed before developers get involved in the project.
With these questions answered, you'll have a clear idea of your replatforming goals, the scope of replatforming's impact on operations, and the readiness of your catalog and ecosystem. In the second part of this series, we'll ask four more questions that delve into the details of timing, platform selection, and your company's overall readiness to implement this major project.
Brian Wolfe is CIO and vice president of technology services at LYONSCG, a global commerce service provider.
Related story: Inside Wolverine Worldwide’s E-Commerce Replatforming
Brian is CIO and VP of Technology Services at LYONSCG. He has over 20 years of experience working with technology and consulting organizations. Brian co-founded two technology firms that were sold to public companies and has held a broad range of roles and responsibilities including President, Vice President, CTO, and CIO. Brian has been a frequent speaker at technology industry events and has been a member of numerous partner advisory boards.
Brian earned a BS in Computer Science from the University of Michigan, an MS in Computer Science from DePaul University and a Certificate in Business Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Brian currently serves as a member of the advisory board for DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media. Brian enjoys running, working out in the gym, enjoying time with his family in the city, and rooting for the Chicago Bears.