E-Commerce Replatforming: Replatforming the Right Way
Transitioning to a new e-commerce platform presents a multitude of challenges and opportunities for retailers. Far from being merely a "systems" issue, a new e-commerce platform needs to take into account a full range of strategic issues driven by marketing, merchandising, customer service, purchasing and operations, as well as overall corporate goals and objectives.
Virtually all departments in the company should be involved. There are multiple variables to assess and prioritize even though there's no "silver bullet" in this business — i.e., no one right way or right solution. However, there are many wrong ways to do it. Failing to include your entire company in the process is one of the biggest.
To make the replatforming process manageable, appoint a change team that includes representatives from all major departments. The team should have several initial meetings to outline and flesh out goals and objectives for the new site. It will need to develop a detailed project plan, which it can fine-tune with the new e-commerce solution provider once that third-party company has been chosen.
In most cases, there will be those in the company (at every level and in every department) who aren't thrilled at the idea of replacing the current e-commerce platform. They've grown accustomed to it and may have even been a "champion" of the system when it was first acquired or developed. They don't think anything about it should be changed. There will also be those who feel that the functionality of the current system leaves a lot to be desired, but are loathe to change anything about its appearance (or "skin"). Nevertheless, the company has decided for reasons that the change team needs to articulate that it's time to move on. The team needs to live up to its name and encourage positive participation throughout the company.
Goals and Objectives
A good way for the change team to start is by clearly stating the goals and objectives for the new platform, addressing everyone's issues and concerns in the process. Some of these will be operations-oriented (e.g., support for same-day shipping, accurate display of shipping and handling charges, reduction in cart abandonment), some merchandise-oriented (e.g., site search must support sizes and colors), some customer-focused (e.g., providing customers secure account log-on access to their purchase histories) and some technical (e.g., how application programming interfaces will be used). There are always financial issues to keep in mind as well.
Part of the replatforming process is developing key performance indicators (KPIs) which measure company activity driven by and related to your website. This is an excellent way, incidentally, to tie the e-commerce platform implementation into the legacy order management system, warehouse management system and accounting applications with which it must interact.
An obvious advantage of KPIs is that they are, by definition, numbers driven. They're not only useful in encouraging continuous improvement across all aspects of the company's activity, but they also help to demonstrate the advantages of the new platform once you've converted to it.