How to Optimize Your Ecommerce Value Proposition
By Tom Wintaugh
A step-by-step guide for replatforming an online store, including when and how to start the process.
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There are many reasons you might consider an ecommerce replatform for your website. Ecommerce platform migration can help you boost performance, access new technologies and functionalities, capture more sales, and better serve the needs of your buyers. But a successful ecommerce migration will require you to plan ahead. We'll explain the six key steps your business will need to take to replatform your ecommerce store, how to tell when it's time to replatform, what benefits you can expect, and the pros and cons of doing it on your own. Then, we’ll offer a simple checklist to help you get started.
Ecommerce replatforming is the process of migrating an online store from one ecommerce platform to another. It typically involves redesigning and redeveloping the website, as well as migrating data, integrating new systems, and testing the new website. The goal of website replatforming is to improve performance, get the latest features, and better serve the needs of the business and its customers. Replatforming can require a significant investment of time and resources, but it can also lead to long-term benefits for ecommerce businesses.
Deciding whether or not to replatform your ecommerce store is not a decision to take lightly. However, when you start to get clear signals that your current solution is not performing, it may be time to make the change. Here are a few important website health indicators to determine if it's time for your business to get the ball rolling and start thinking about replatforming:
If your website experiences frequent crashes, slow loading times, or errors, you’re probably getting a red alert that it’s time to consider a replatform. These performance issues are more than just annoying - they are the definition of a bad user experience, which can obviously hurt your sales and brand reputation.
As your business grows, you may find that your ecommerce platform is no longer meeting your needs. Many merchants can sustain business with entry level platforms up to a point, but once volume of orders, customers, and operations scale up, they require a more sophisticated feature set. If you find yourself wishing you had new features or specific functionality to support your business better, it may be time to look for a new platform that can offer the capabilities you require.
If your ecommerce platform requires frequent updates and maintenance just to perform basic everyday operations, you already know it can be quite costly to maintain. Replatforming to a more modern platform with lower maintenance costs can save you money and make it easier to manage your online store.
If your ecommerce platform is older and no longer receiving security updates, or has been identified as vulnerable to cyber attacks, it can put your business and customers at risk. In this case, replatforming to a more secure platform can provide the protection and peace of mind you need.
If your ecommerce platform is not integrating well with your other business systems, such as your accounting, ERP, WMS, CMS, or fulfillment partners, it can create big headaches and slow down your productivity. Replatforming to a platform with better ecommerce integration capabilities can help streamline your operations and improve ROI.
By identifying these signs and working with an experienced team of ecommerce professionals, you can determine whether or not it's time to replatform your online store. Don't be afraid to make the change – replatforming can help take your business to the next level and ensure you're providing the best possible shopping experience to your customers.
Replatforming your ecommerce site can provide several financial benefits. At the most essential level, a more efficient and effective platform can streamline your operations, saving you time and money spent on workarounds and addressing performance problems. Modern ecommerce platforms are built to be easier to manage for leaner teams—an important concern in today's economy—resulting in a more profitable use of operating expenses.
A new platform with better built-in marketing promotion and SEO capabilities can also improve your site's visibility, attract more organic traffic, and lead to more effective marketing when customers arrive at your site. A platform with better analytics integration can provide valuable insights into your customer behavior, help you predict inventory needs, target promotions, and lead to increased conversions and revenue. Finally, a new platform with improved performance and a faster site speed can reduce bounce rates and cart abandonment, leading to increased sales.
While there are costs associated with replatforming, the long-term financial benefits can often far outweigh the initial investment.
The first step in replatforming your ecommerce website is to design a great user experience (UX). Ecommerce website design is a unique challenge, but thinking about your customer’s preferred shopping journey is often the right place to start. Once you’ve articulated the ideal experiences that should be present in your store’s online shopping, you can dictate a web design that allows for those experiences. In some cases, you might be able to pick a template, follow best practices, and spend very little effort here. In other cases, you might have a very unique business, customer base, and buying journey that require a more customized experience.
If you are looking for a customized ecommerce website then your design process will likely include support from a User Experience (UX) Designer or Graphic Designer. They will create mockups or prototypes of your web design that implement the unique aspects you want to include in your online experience. Typically, the design will go through a few rounds of revision following feedback from other members of your team. After this, you’ll approve a finalized design, marking the end of this phase.
After you’ve created your online store’s design, the next step in replatforming ecommerce is to develop, or build, your website. The time it takes to develop an ecommerce website will vary based on your business’ needs. Most often, the determining factor in how long the development cycle takes is the level of customization required.
Some businesses might get by with an “off the shelf” website template that covers most of their functionality, filling in the remaining holes with apps. Unfortunately, templates and apps tend to be fairly rigid, meaning a web developer will often need to configure some (or all) of the functionality present in your designs.
Once you have your new ecommerce website designed and developed, you’ll need to move your data over from your old site. The amount of time and effort needed to successfully migrate your data are often the biggest variables in an ecommerce replatforming project. Product information and categories are the key data sets needed to build an ecommerce website. However, when migrating away from an existing platform there are other considerations. Customer accounts, historical orders, wish lists, reviews, and other data may need to be migrated as well.
Ecommerce data migration is often accomplished using a three-step process called ETL, which stands for Extract, Transform, Load. We’ll break down each of these steps here:
The fourth step in replatforming your ecommerce website is to implement best practices for search engine optimization (SEO) into your new store. SEO is vital for the success of an ecommerce website. Search engines like Google and Bing update their algorithms regularly to serve the “best” content to a searcher. They use all sorts of data (search term, history, device type, etc.) to determine the “best” result.
If you’re migrating to a new ecommerce platform the theme or template you’re using should provide a strong foundation for SEO. Clean code, proper page structure, and optimized loading are all elements to look for.
Your ecommerce data migration services team should ensure that all SEO data (Titles, Descriptions, Meta Fields, etc.) are successfully transferred from your previous platform. Additionally, if URL structures are changing or pages are going to be missing then setting up 301 redirects is critical for success. The last thing you want is to launch your new website and have thousands of errors in your Google account where pages suddenly disappeared.
Once your new site is configured, you’ll want to ensure you’ve developed an XML sitemap and submitted it to search engines. This will typically trigger them to “recrawl” your website and index the pages appropriately. This is a simple line item that should be included in your site launch process for a migration.
Once the first set of data has been loaded into your development site the process of integrating systems can begin. Some external systems have plug-and-play connectors for virtually every shopping cart platform. However, many business systems like ERP technology will require some level of customization to integrate properly.
During this phase of the project your team will want to create a map of each integration. What data flows where? When? Then, once you have the map, then you can figure out how to connect each system. You might:
To create the most effective integrations, it helps to start with proper systems architecture and standard operating procedures. Unfortunately, some businesses build their systems and processes so quickly that they have to create integration maps and standard operating procedures during this phase of the project in order to move forward. Consulting with ecommerce industry veterans can be very instructive during this period as they can often recommend easier paths or best practices that can save your business a lot of time and money.
The final aspect of an ecommerce replatform project is User Acceptance Testing (UAT) or Quality Assurance (QA). This is where your new site is tested across different devices, browsers, and use cases to ensure a successful launch. Referencing Google Analytics to understand user behavior can be helpful here. Additionally, getting some customers to “beta test” your new site can yield valuable feedback.
Unfortunately, no amount of testing can ensure that 100% of use cases are covered. There will likely be a customer who uses your site in a way you hadn’t imagined who will provide constructive criticism immediately upon site launch. This is why it is important to ensure that your agency partner, systems integrator, ecommerce platform customer success representative, and technical assistance center are involved in your site launch process and can quickly identify and deal with errors.
Project management is an under-appreciated discipline in ecommerce. Great project managers keep projects on schedule, under budget, and within scope. They often use project management tools like Basecamp, Wrike, Monday.com, or even spreadsheets to manage all of your business’ tasks and deliverables. Sometimes this responsibility falls on an in-house team member but if you’re hiring an agency or solutions integrator then it is best if they’re providing project management.
Project management requires strong planning skills. You need to be able to articulate the goals or desired outcomes for each project in advance. It also requires great organizational skills to remove roadblocks while keeping everyone on task. Lastly, it requires persistent communication such as a standing weekly meeting with a recurring agenda, emails organized for easy reference, and 1:1 calls or texts for quick status updates throughout the week.
Now that you know more about the actual process of replatforming, let’s zoom out and consider what kind of ecommerce platform you want to migrate to. When selecting new ecommerce partners, it's important to understand the different types of platforms that are available and which one best suits your business needs. Here's a quick overview of the two main types of ecommerce platforms:
When choosing the right platform for your business, consider factors such as your budget, the size of your business, the level of customization required, and the amount of technical expertise you have available. Each platform type has advantages, so it's important to choose the one that fits your business needs best.
Replatforming an ecommerce website, whether at the SMB, Mid-Market, or Large business size, is a complex process that requires technical expertise and experience. While it might be tempting to attempt a DIY approach to save money, doing so can result in many risks and challenges that can ultimately have a negative impact on your business. Here are some of the risks of attempting to replatform on your own:
Hiring an experienced development team can help you avoid these risks and ensure a smooth and successful migration process, which will ultimately save you far more money that trying to execute a complex replatforming project on your own.
Ok, so you’re ready to take the leap and elevate your ecommerce operations. You know exactly what’s involved, you’ve gotten the signals that it’s time to move on from your current platform, you’ve committed to a type of platform, and are prepared to work with a specialist. But where do you actually start? For many merchants, the entire process can feel overwhelming. So before embarking on an ecommerce replatform project, it's crucial to have a clear plan to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible and that all of your needs and concerns are addressed from day one. Here is a basic rundown of the essential stops along the journey to your new site:
Now, you're ready to start!
Migrating your ecommerce website to a new platform can be daunting. There is a large investment of time, money, and effort required to get on to the new system. You can mitigate risk and set your business up for success by choosing a platform that partners with experienced web development agencies and solutions integrators.
To learn more about migrating your ecommerce website to a new platform, download our free guide to changing ecommerce platforms.
This blog was originally published on July 8, 2022 and updated on February 23, 2023.
Benjamin Arp is a Miva Sales Engineer focused on driving ecommerce growth. He’s helped hundreds of ecommerce merchants develop their growth strategy, evaluate existing systems, and create plans to grow sales. In addition to working with merchants one-on-one, he is a regular contributor to the Miva blog and hosts webinars on a variety of ecommerce topics.