The Cohaesus guide to replatforming your e-commerce solution

The retail landscape has gone through massive change in the last two years. It’s no secret that in 2020, all sorts of organisations found themselves embracing e-commerce at speed as footfall in physical stores and venues disappeared almost overnight. And online versus in-store spending has fluctuated ever since as lockdowns have come and gone, and people have changed their buying behaviours. But consumers’ expectations of brands’ digital – and in particular e-commerce – experiences have likely changed forever.

Research from 2021 suggests that 70% of all shopping carts are abandoned. Reasons range from extra costs being too high, to the checkout process being too long and complicated. Online shoppers also expect more choice when it comes to payment methods and delivery options. And frictionless experiences as they move between online and offline environments.

These consumer pressures, alongside your own evolving business goals, may have highlighted issues in your existing e-commerce solution – areas of frustration, or pain points, inefficiencies or limitations in functionality. And these, in turn, may have prompted you to consider replatforming. If any of that rings a bell, then this blog is for you.

What is replatforming?

First things first, what do we mean by replatforming? Put simply, replatforming is the replacement of one software solution with another. Typically it also involves transferring the platform from one vendor to another. This can be complex for any business looking to upgrade the functionality of their site, but in e-commerce the stakes are higher. Depending on the scale of the business, you’ll need to consider multiple factors, like business continuity, data migration and integrity, and cost benefit analysis, as well as time to market.

Step 1: Define your reasons for replatforming your e-commerce solution

There are many great reasons to consider replatforming, most of which are related to the issues mentioned in the introduction. It’s a significant undertaking, but done right it can deliver measurable benefits to your business and your brand.

Here are some of the most common reasons:

  • Your current platform is nearing end-of-life
  • Scalability is crucial to the success of your business
  • You need to improve the customer experience (CX)
  • You want to add to or enhance your site’s features and functionality
  • You need to increase platform stability, security and/or performance
  • You want to go headless – decoupling front end and back end to facilitate multi-channel experiences
  • You want to reduce running costs (like development, maintenance and licencing)
  • You’re looking to increase efficiency (reducing the time it takes to perform manual or automated processes)

Identifying what you’re hoping to achieve is the first step in pinpointing your requirements, which are fundamental to selecting the right platform.

2. Step 2: Ask yourself whether you really need to replatform

This is crucial. Replatforming can be time consuming and costly, so considering whether there might be an alternative path is always worthwhile. In some cases, entropy and technical debt accrued over time can lead to your site underperforming. If improvements can be made to solve problems or meet the new demands of your business, it might make more sense to work with what you’ve got.

But if you can’t achieve your ends by modifying your existing platform, and migration is the way to go, then the replatforming process can begin in earnest.

3. Step 3: Audit your current system

An in-depth review of your existing platform will help you understand all aspects of its performance. A thorough audit can help you identify:

  • The core functionality or features you want to keep
  • Any new functionality or features you want a new system to deliver
  • How you want your new platform to behave and interact with other systems
  • Limitations or pain points that you’d like to the new platform to solve

Your current system will be home to a wealth of data that can help you work out what your users want and where they’re experiencing issues. On-site search, for example, is a great source of user intent and potential content or feature requirements. While abandonment data can highlight friction in your journeys. Tracking and reviewing the data available is a very important part of the decision-making process.

Register now for our webinar on the importance of auditing your platform.

At the end of this phase, you should have a clear view of why you’re replatforming, what you’re hoping to achieve and a specific set of requirements for a new platform. Now you can turn your attention to the business of finding the right one.

4. Step 4: Shortlist, then select your new platform

Before we explore the replatforming process further, let’s look at the different types of e-commerce platforms and vendors. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, depending on what you’re looking to achieve.

Digital Experience Composable SaaS Open-source
These platforms provide a set of complementary services that support digital engagement, including content management, delivery optimisation and analysis. These platforms use a modular architecture, which enables the selection of individual best-in-class components and allows for significant customisation of the end platform. Cloud-based software systems, licenced with monthly subscriptions where maintenance and core functionality upgrades are provided by the platform. Built using a codebase and frameworks whose source code is available to the public. Such platforms often allow contribution or customisation.
Adobe Commerce (formally Magento), EpiServer, Sitecore, Kentico Fabric, Elastic Path Shopify, BigCommerce, Commercetools WooCommerce

Your specific requirements will help you narrow the focus to a shortlist of appropriate platforms, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. You could compile a vendor selection matrix to match platforms and vendors with your requirements and identify the best-fit.
Here are some things to consider as you whittle down your choices:

  • Costs – what is the total cost of ownership, including licensing and hosting costs, training, maintenance and upgrades?
  • Migration – what data will need to be migrated? Customer logins, orders, wishlists etc.
  • Service integrations – what services and integrations need to be supported by the platform, such as PIM, ERP, payment processing, shipping or search.
  • Extensibility – do you need multi-language and market support, marketplace apps and connectors?
  • Time to market – how long will the platform take to develop, customise and configure? What functionality is available out of the box?
  • Non-functional requirements – what else is important to you? For example, performance and scalability.
  • Platform / language – what tech does the system use? Are your internal teams familiar with it? Is it compatible with your existing systems?
  • Support – what is the platform ecosystem like? For example, what’s the quality of the support material (FAQs, user guides)? Is there live chat and/or community support? How is the system maintained?

We’re here to help

At Cohaesus, we take an agnostic approach to the replatforming architecture and vendor selection – in other words we don’t approach any replatforming project with a fixed idea of the platform or provider. We always start with what your business needs (now and in the future) and find the best solution to achieve that.

We can support you at any and all stages of the process. Whether that’s an audit on your existing solution to work out what’s working and what’s not, or a candid chat about whether replatforming is right for you.

So wherever you are in your e-commerce replatforming journey, please get in touch.