Online retailers are turning to eCommerce replatforming to migrate online stores to more modern platforms and capabilities. This guide will present benefits, challenges, and best practices to help deliver a modern digital commerce experience.
Digital commerce has intensified, with eCommerce to account for 47% of retail growth through 2027. eCommerce retailers face increased pressures, from competition to technology innovation to shifting consumer demands. Over time, an existing eCommerce platform may need help to keep up – it may begin to slow, lack features, or lack the ability to integrate with other services.
To adapt, retailers are turning to eCommerce replatforming to quickly tap into the potential of changing eCommerce platforms, opening doors to omnichannel retailing, new microservice-based flexibility, and better scalability.
This guide will walk retailers through eCommerce migration, including what it means to replatform a website, how I ensure a smooth transition during ecommerce replatforming, and all the steps to success. The guide will even end with an eCommerce migration checklist to help you get started.
What is eCommerce Replatforming?
eCommerce replatforming is the process of modernizing an eCommerce website without completely rebuilding it, transferring the core functionality, data, and design from one technology stack (or eCommerce platform) to another, and making changes to configure, optimize or add more desirable features.
Replatforming is considered the “lift, tinker, and shift” or “move and improve” approach to helping retailers quickly shift to modern architecture on the cloud, including options to invest in microservices, more recent customer experiences, and better scalability and performance. However, replatforming is just one approach to modernizing an eCommerce site. There are seven common approaches, the 7 Rs, from a simple rehost (“lift and shift”) to a complete rebuild of the eCommerce website.
Why is eCommerce Replatforming Important?
To better understand why eCommerce replatforming is essential, one must also ask, what is the future of eCommerce? The eCommerce trends in 2023 and top eCommerce challenges tell a story about customer-centricity: the need to follow the customer and create a seamless, personalized, accessible, and engaging online experience.
eCommerce platforms and technology innovations will continue to shift from AR/VR and voice search this year to new and unexpected technology next year. Still, retailers can look to the future by adopting headless infrastructure and a modern eCommerce platform that can shift as demands and innovations shift.
How do I know When my eCommerce Business Should Replatform?
There are several key signs to look out for to know if your current eCommerce platform is keeping pace with your needs:
- Performance issues: Your current website struggles with load times or downtime and cannot scale to meet demand at peak periods.
- Lack of functionality: New features or updates take a long time. Patching is difficult, particularly as a web of complex integrations gets in the way.
- Unsupported features & integrations: You cannot integrate with third-party services or add the features you want. The comment, “We can’t do that,” is a red flag.
- Security: Your platform may need security controls (e.g., access and identity), may not meet compliance minimums, or may require a lot of hands-on work to meet minimum security standards. Excess patching and complex integrations may have introduced additional security concerns.
- Unsupported channels/devices: Your website is not responsive to mobile devices and/or does not speak with other channels (e.g., social). You may run more than one platform to support additional channels or devices.
- Unhappy customers: You may have user experience issues with load time, navigation, features, or service availability. Tracking critical eCommerce KPIs is essential to spot trends in user experience.
- Lack of enterprise capabilities: Your platform may not connect well with other enterprise systems (ERP, CRM, etc.) and may not provide the data output or analytics necessary to support real-time decision-making.
- Competitors face different struggles: If competitors are not struggling with user attraction, retention, or sales, that’s a sign that your eCommerce platform may not be keeping pace.
- Sunset products: If an eCommerce platform or critical services are no longer being updated or are being sunsetted, it’s time for a change.
- Rising costs: High OpEx expenditures to maintain a legacy eCommerce platform and costly scaling.
With enough of these signs occurring, it is a good idea to consider eCommerce migration to a new platform via replatforming.
eCommerce Migration: How it is Different from eCommerce Replatforming
While eCommerce migration and replatforming are often used interchangeably, there is a fine difference between these. eCommerce migration involves moving the eCommerce website from one platform to another – but with no major changes to the code or structure of the website. Where the two platforms are similar, this process will be simple. If different platforms are involved, then the process can be more complex. In the language of the 7 R’s, this is “Rehost.”
During eCommerce replatforming, a reasonable amount of changes will occur in the website’s core structure and code. While this could be a complex process, it offers more opportunities for improvement. If you want to incorporate new functionality or features, you would be better off replatforming than migrating. The choice will depend on your particular requirements.
Considerations Before eCommerce Replatforming
Any modernization or replatforming effort should be considered seriously – planning and implementing the migration carefully will take time. Before starting on the project, carefully consider the following:
1. Business impact
Clearly define the business goals for replatforming: what challenges are faced or missed opportunities associated with the current platform. Align the replatforming effort to maximize the business impact across these issues. Taking this step will help ensure executive buy-in for the project as well.
2. Budget and resources
What are the costs associated with ecommerce replatforming? Ensure you have the technical expertise and availability necessary to support the replatforming project. Do a thorough examination of the current platform’s Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and the costs involved in both migration and operation of the new platform: licensing fees, development, configuration, data migration, and ongoing maintenance.
3. Integration with legacy systems
Evaluate the ability to migrate existing data from various systems (data, order, inventory) and ensure integration with legacy systems (CRP, ERP, etc.) already in use without any complexity or loss of performance.
4. Features & capabilities
When considering a new eCommerce platform, consider whether it has all the core functionality desired or supports the desired integrations. Ensure not just availability but also usability of those functions and essential elements such as bulk upload, categorization, shipping options, and filters. Know your relative peak volume, where scaling needs to occur, and what existing integrations may need replacement with new services or features.
Learn about 12 Essential factors to choose the best eCommerce platform
5. Support & service capabilities
Ensure the platform offers admin and analytics features that make life on the platform easier. Do a deep dive on whether the platform meets the security/compliance requirements, which may require consultation with legal or a review of documentation / SLAs. Assess how often the platform releases updates and any ongoing costs for platform customer service and support or if there is an active community forum for self-help materials.
10 Steps for Replatforming Your eCommerce Site
To optimize your eCommerce migration, follow these steps:
1. List the requirements/business use case for replatforming
Take the time to document the business use case: the deficiencies of the current system and the wish list for the new system for all stakeholders (IT, marketing, sales, customers, etc.). Prioritize the list of ‘wants’ to help inform choices and get executive buy-in and other stakeholders on board (knowing what teams need is essential before the project begins).
2. Create a shortlist of eCommerce platforms.
Create a list of common eCommerce platforms. As this is a replatforming situation, most organizations are moving away from basic/starter eCommerce solutions such as Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce. They will consider more extensive, complex, headless offerings such as Magento (now Adobe Commerce), Sitecore, Shopify Plus, or Kentico.
3. Choose an eCommerce platform.
Weigh your list of requirements against your shortlist and ensure considerations for eCommerce platform choice take account of cost, integrations, integrations, features, and service (those ‘Considerations’ addressed earlier). This is your chance to do full due diligence on the platform before signing contracts.
4. Backup eCommerce data
The first step in eCommerce site migration is to back up all data (and attachments) before migrating. All data should be backed up in the correct format and checked to ensure the backup was successful. Backup all data stores: products, customer data, inventory, order history, etc. For smaller sites, this may be as simple as using CSV files, while more significant sites will have more complex backup and/or import/migration workflows involving APIs.
5. Design & develop a new eCommerce site
The goal of replatforming is not to completely reinvent the wheel, so to speak, take the core of the current eCommerce platform and implement a select number of changes to the front-end design to optimize (per priority list).
6. Data Migration
Your eCommerce data migration begins with the backup but starts with a more specific analysis of the data and attachments and a plan to shift that data without any loss. A data map will help control this process when migrating to the new platform. We have a 10-point data migration plan to help walk you through this process. Most eCommerce platforms have tools or API support to assist in data migration. There are also a variety of third-party migration tools that can help. Always test and validate during this process.
7. Optimize for the best user experience (UX)
Ensure the site is responsive, accessible, and following UX best practices. Ensure critical sales funnel experiences such as payments, shopping cart, and checkout have been vetted for experience and security and that every page, button, or form has been looked at. Ensure performance is meeting expectations.
8. System Integration
Earlier planning would have created a map for integrations: what integrations with internal systems must remain and which integrations are planned. This stage will execute and test those integrations.
9. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Create a plan to ensure that SEO is not disrupted during the migration. This will include proper redirect mapping, traffic and KPI monitoring (with pre-migration benchmarks), and a plan for any hiccups during migration.
10. Launch your eCommerce site.
Once the testing phase is complete, it’s time to publish the new eCommerce site and prepare for those sales! Be sure to encourage customer feedback to help build buzz and get critical feedback to inform necessary or future improvements.
To help you get started, we have summarized these points in the following downloadable replatforming infographic:
eCommerce Replatforming Challenges
Challenges can be associated with any replatforming project, including replatforming eCommerce.
- Compatibility issues if existing systems do not work on the new platform
- Scope creep if more changes keep getting added, leading to budget overruns
- Problems with data migration if there are mapping or compatibility issues
- Unexpected challenges with old or new integrations
- Risk of disruption to customers or SEO
- A lack of skills to adapt when challenges arise
- A lack of executive buy-in for the change
eCommerce Replatforming with Net Solutions
There can be many challenges associated with eCommerce platform migration that can be overcome with the assistance of an experienced partner. A partner brings the technical expertise about eCommerce platforms and integrations, extensive knowledge of best practices, and the hands-on expertise to safely and securely replatform your website – quickly, efficiently, and effectively.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does ecommerce replatforming take?How long does it take to complete an ecommerce replatforming project? The length of time in any replatforming project depends on the complexity of the existing system, the size of the product catalog and customer database, and how many changes are being made during the replatforming process. Depending on the size of the IT team available to help, this process can take a few weeks to a few months.
Will I lose my customer and order data during replatforming?There should be no data loss if done correctly and with a plan. To avoid data loss, back up your data, thoroughly map the data fields and structures, and test the data migration. Businesses can also consider a phased migration to reduce risk.
Why do companies consider eCommerce replatforming?Most organizations considering changing eCommerce platforms have hit a limitation (see above) with performance, functionality, or cost on a current eCommerce platform and are looking for a better alternative without needing to rebuild the eCommerce platform from scratch.
How do I minimize the impact of eCommerce replatforming on my customers and business operations?The best way to minimize the impact of any significant infrastructure change is through adequate planning and support, as needed, from a strong and experienced partner. Know what you want to do, how you plan to do it, test it, back it up, and communicate the entire way through. It is ideal for phasing the migration and posting messages to customers if planned disruptions occur.
Don’t let your current eCommerce platform hold you back.
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