Ecommerce Replatforming: Planning & Strategy

Replatforming your digital commerce channel is no small feat. With many moving parts across multiple teams, it’s important to initially plan and strategize around everything from business goals to budget allocations before setting the wheels in motion. This section of Gorilla Group’s Ecommerce Replatforming Checklist outlines what you need to do as an organization at the beginning to prepare for a successful replatform.

Planning & Strategy

Just as a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, any replatforming project must begin with a cohesive, measured plan.

Determine the Vision

Before choosing a platform, determining a budget, or selecting a partner, it’s crucial to identify the overall digital vision for your business. If your team does not already have an aligned company vision that emcompasses the business’s goals, hold a workshop with your team and partners. Your vision will inform every decision throughout the process and is the essential first step to replatforming successfully.

Set SMART Goals

Once your vision is solidified, it’s imperative that it’s specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely (SMART). Set SMART business goals, framed as key performance indicators (KPIs), that serve your vision, whether it be a 10% increase in revenue within one fiscal year or a decrease in maintenance cost production six months post-launch. These goals will steer important decisions regarding everything from platform selection and site functionality to user experience and marketing efforts.

It’s important to note that goals and KPIs are ever-changing. Your team should feel empowered to adapt and change these as the situation dictates. It’s especially important to revisit these post-launch before creating any new marketing or technical roadmaps.

Obtain (and Sell) Budget Funding Internally

Gorilla Group benchmark studies on a sampling of both B2B and B2C ecommerce channels find that approximately 53% of companies surveyed were on custom or homegrown platforms.

In order to determine a budget for the upfront cost of the replatform, be sure to review costs for building and customizing the existing platform over the past three or more years. Include:

  • Agency service fees
  • Platform licensing costs
  • Internal resource costs

How much the site previously cost to “get out the door” should be evaluated as a data point, but often is not a relevant indicator for current platform discussions. This is due to the nature of evolving technology, the services offered, and the increasingly integral role commerce plays within the technology ecosystem and brand experience.

If the capital expenditure becomes more than expected, work with your trusted commerce partners to identify options to spread out costs over time as an operational expenditure. With cloud and usage-based contracts becoming commonplace in IT departments, this could be a viable method to streamline the internal approval process.

Justify Budget with ROI and TCO models

What will the new platform cost over its lifecycle? What are the expected financial benefits of replatforming? These questions should be answered early in the process, before any commitments to move forward with a platform or agency are made.

Create a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) model that covers a five-year period, including software license fees, third-party software add-ons, design and implementation services, revenue sharing (applies to some ecommerce platforms and service providers), cloud hosting fees, post-launch maintenance and support, planned site enhancements, customer experience management/ marketing services, and software upgrades and security patches.

Estimate Return on Investment (ROI) over the same period. Project lifts attributable to added functionality, merchandising tools, upgraded user experience, and improved SEO against current metrics as benchmarks. If your overall company revenue has been increasing despite legacy technology, utilize the growth figure and parlay a portion of growth into the digital commerce channel. Also, consider savings related to sunsetting legacy systems, automating manual processes, and improving efficiency.

Create Initial Project Scope

Our approach focuses on including key features, user experience, and brand engagement deliverables within the initial launch to meet customer expectations. We recommend shortening the initial project timeline (to initial launch date), thus increasing the time-to-value, and enabling continuous post-launch improvement. This differs from the traditional MVP approach which favors a stripped-down approach that can underwhelm users, especially if sacrificing existing functionality. In other words: don’t try to do everything at once, but don’t deliver too little. Many customers will not give you a second chance.

To do this, make sure the new functionality (e.g. Loyalty Programs, Account Registration, etc.) aligns with intended business and/or customer use cases during platform selection. If not, additional enhancements will be required, which will likely add to project costs and timeline.

“One of the most common struggles we see is identifying the right definition of “viable,” because it isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. You end up with either an underwhelming basic solution or overcorrect with a slow-to-market expensive solution. Truly define what needs to be in the first phase to have the impact clients are expecting.” – Jeff T., Sr. Manager, Business Solutions Delivery

Download the full Ecommerce Replatforming Checklist for dozens of tips covering Planning & Strategy, Business Enablement, User Experience, Content & SEO, Data, Development & Architecture, Site Security, and Launch/Post-Launch Activities.

Ecommerce Replatforming Checklist