Although many companies are painfully aware of the fact that their current solution has reached its limits, they often shy away from making the necessary change. A bad idea.Online shops have grown into a must have element and become a core component of many business plans. Why so? An increasingly global world means (a) pressure from international competition and (b) opportunities for growth. Also, they are pushed by digitally savvy customers who are expecting a shopping experience which is based on their need instead of some "internal processes" of a wholesaler.
This forces vendors to continually evolve their underlying technology. Together, these factors put considerable strain on e-commerce platforms, leading many traders to re-evaluate their current solutions in the search for the right balance between running a profitable and technologically-advanced online business.
Sticking to a non-fitting solution is not an option
Although many companies are painfully aware of the fact that their current solution has reached its limits, they often shy away from making the necessary change. Past investments in platforms, plus the daunting task of transferring vast amounts of data and reallocating existing business processes are often cited as the main reasons.
However, over-spending budgets and major delays for new project implementations are often the signs that replatforming an e-commerce solution has become inevitable. In a fast-evolving market, a growing number of vendors need to update their platform at least once every five years, or in some cases, even less, to successfully expand their business!
Many consultants advise that the key to making replatforming as smooth as possible is a perfect (agile) project plan that takes into account the multiple stakeholders from different business units.
Vendors should pick a platform that is able to support seamless growth. When platform maintenance costs start to eat into profits, it is time to make the switch from a proprietary system developed in-house to a professional platform from a third party, or exchange the current e-commerce platform provider.
However, that does not necessarily mean adopting an expensive, big name, all integrated on-premises license. Today’s e-commerce platforms range from transaction-based models for initial assessment to software-as-a service solutions running in a cloud. Those do not require large up front investments for soft- or hardware and can even be outsourced to third party management.
When deciding to replatform your e-commerce solution, think of this:
- Choose a solution that can cope with changing business requirements for years to come
- Include implementation costs in your project plan
- Prepare your data for the new system long before the actual migration
- When running implementation tests, train your staff in the meantime
When choosing the best solution for near-future needs, vendors should also take a look under the hood. After all, online retailers connect a plethora of technologies to provide the optimum customer experience. A modular, API-based approach will work for any new idea or trend that comes up, for no changes in the core solution is necessary.
Changing technological requirements will be coming. A modern IT architecture enables to start with a set of must-have functionality as the basis (a.k.a. a Minimum Viable Product) avoiding the cost of buying functionality that is not necessary. Companies that lack in-house capabilities or budgets for developing own applications can achieve required capacities by adding more micro services as needed. This allows them to have a plan B in place even when they are not 100% certain what next big thing in e-commerce they might have to go after in a year from now.
An API-based architecture supports your requirements for years to come
Apart from the technological aspect, modular platforms are also a smart choice for companies that consider testing international markets. Different languages, character sets and currencies are just the tip of the iceberg. Tax systems, payment methods and payment providers, shipping costs, warranties and legal requirements also vary widely. Professional platforms enable vendors to centrally operate and manage multiple web shops for individual regions while also maintaining all product data on the central system.
The conclusion: Maximum flexibility is the best way to avoid the re-platforming cost spiral. API-based solutions enable seamless growth. Choosing a modular e-commerce solution that is designed for the future makes it simple to easily and cost-effectively add new capabilities in form of micro services on demand, without requiring a transfer of the entire e-commerce data sets to yet another platform.