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An ecommerce managers guide to replatforming

Posted on 01st March 2021 by Aurora Commerce

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Top 5 tips on how to nail your ecommerce replatforming project

What you need to know to make switching platform easier and finally take off the brakes on your growth ambitions

Replatforming has a bad rep. Whilst at Aurora we do believe replatforming projects require careful consideration, with the potential for added complexity and unexpected costs, we don’t think they have all have to turn into horror stories. There definitely are ways to make replatforming easier and simpler. Sure, it may seem like moving to a different platform is a big decision, but the truth is that staying put and remaining with your current provider could actually prove more costly than moving on. The market, shopping habits, your own business goals, the weather… Everything moves so fast and online businesses can’t afford not to be agile. If your technology isn’t supporting your growth and all you keep hearing is “We can’t do that” then we’d say it’s time to think about the big R to up your game.

If you’ve decided it’s time to take your business to the next level, we have a few tips on how to make the process smoother. Not to brag, but we’ve done this a lot and that means we know the key to success: preparation. So let’s break this down into concrete, tried and tested advice with our top five tips for a successful replatforming project, based on real-life experience from lots and lots of unique and customised build projects. We hope it helps you get your own platform switch off to a good start.

 

Tip 1: Getting your data ready

We won’t lie, more often than not data migration is the stage of a project that proves trickiest. Trying to import all data from your old platform to your new one sounds fine in theory, but in reality, most or your datasets are likely to be spread across many systems or platforms. From your payment partner’s transaction history to your order management’s lists of client purchases, getting everything into your new chosen platform can be very challenging. And as such, it should be the one step you start planning and preparing as early as the word ‘replatforming’ is first mentioned. There or thereabouts.

The dream is obviously to migrate it all. But a little bit of prep can help you come up with backup scenarios should this option not be available. Mapping out all systems that input into your ecommerce platform and getting your product data in order is a good place to start. Then, determine which information is absolutely crucial versus the stuff you could potentially live without if you had to. Just in case. This will put you in a better position to make choices should the migration of certain datasets require more resources than you initially thought.

It’s also worth noting that keeping your old environment running for three to six months following your big move is always a safe option. Having both systems active in parallel does means you won’t end up losing key data you didn’t think you’d need on the day of the switch. So if that’s a good plan for you, just bear in mind this needs to be budgeted for as part of your replatforming budget, as running both ecommerce platforms for a few months will incur costs.

 

Tip 2: Write your brief in order of priority

Now of course you were going to write a technical brief for your project. And it was going to be awesome. We just thought it’d be neat to give you insight into what an ecommerce provider will need to know. Mostly, it can be summed up in five words: functionality, in order of importance.

Your brief will allow your chosen provider to understand two things: where you are now, and where you’d like to be. At Aurora, we understand that your retail store is most likely to be a stack made up of various components, third-party plugins and partners, integrations and out-of-the-box features and functionality. Getting a map of all the technology used, what they do for you and what you would like to bring with you is key. It’s also important to project yourself a few years ahead and think of what you’ll have to implement in order to reach your long-term business objectives. After all, your decision to replatform must have been driven by a need to move your retail operations to the next level, so now is the time to talk to potential partners and find out what they could do for you. Which marketing tool are you planning to deploy? Have you picked a payment partner? Can your order management system handle international multi-location warehouses? Add these growth requirements to your list.

This exploration process should naturally lead to a list of all the functionality available on this Earth. Which is perfectly normal, don’t worry. The next step is to break it down in order of priority. Us, we use MoSCoW. Must have, Should have, Could have, Will not have at this time. This categorisation exercise should ultimately form the basis for a solid functionality roadmap that fits both your budget and your timeline. And that for us is the start of an excellent technical brief.

 

Tips 3: Build a realistic timeline

Timelines can be complex to set up and whether you are using agile, lean or waterfall methodology, delivering a replatforming project by a set date can be a stressful endeavour. As a provider, we often get asked how quickly we can deliver a new site. The answer is always the same: what are you willing to sacrifice to get there? Your site is your primary source of income and it’s best to avoid rushing key phases because poor of planning.

So what does good planning actually look like? Well funny you should ask, because we’ve got a few tips. First, plan two discovery phases at the beginning. Yes, that’s right, not one but two. The first one should be an introduction to your project, and lead to a formal contract between you and your chosen provider detailing agreed deliverables. But once that’s signed, you’re still about a month away from starting work. That time will be needed by your agency to look under the hood and get a hands-on understanding of what they’re working with. And of course, you should plan a buffer for unexpected surprises. We think 30% should do it, but depending on the complexity of your project, you may want to tweak that figure.

 

Tip 4: Get buy-in early

Getting buy-in should ideally start before you’ve even selected an ecommerce platform. Because buy-in isn’t just about getting a final rubber stamp on the proposal. In fact, this stage will serve many purposes. Including gathering requirements from the business units involved, and making sure you’re aware of all potential functionality needs for now and in the future.

Business units will also be the ones who will feel the impact of any change in your ecommerce operations more acutely. That’s why it’s important to communicate your plans early on and give them as good an understanding of the project as possible, allowing them time to create contingency plans and establish training requirements in advance. Plus, it helps avoid misunderstandings about the platform’s capabilities. After all, hearing: “The old platform used to do this” is such a bummer after you’ve worked so hard to deliver something awesome.

 

Tip 5: Don’t leave SEO until the end

This one is so obvious, yet so often overlooked. SEO is a very important part of your replatforming project and will require a fair bit of work. From creating migration maps and redirecting all changing URLs to re-doing your keyword strategy and creating facets and filters to sort your products, everything will be changing. And your SEO partner may be able to spot ways to make the process more efficient and give you an edge. Leaving this to the last minute is the best way to anger the Google Gods, so make sure you get your SEO guys and gals in from day one.

 

Conclusion

Replatforming is always going to be an important project, and there is so much more we could talk about. Hidden fees, third-party integrations, how to ensure you keep a good relationship with your current provider after leaving… But really, the best advice we can give you is simply to choose a partner that will be with you every step of the way and guide you through all this. But more importantly, choose a provider that will always think several steps ahead so you can plan a scalable ecommerce roadmap that will truly get your business to the next level.

So if you’re wondering if replatforming is right for you, give us a call. We can help you plan how to get from good to great. Or ask for a free demo. We’d love a chat.

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