5 Essential Questions to Answer Before You Replatform

Your current ecommerce platform is leaving you stressed and frustrated, but the thought of replatforming seems daunting.

We find many of our customers in the same boat – they’re looking forward to a future without the constraints of a slow-moving monolith, but not necessarily looking forward to the pain of getting there.

To make replatforming less painful (and more successful) we’ve put together 5 essential questions for you to think about before you replatform.

1. What technology should my new customer experience be built on?

If you’re jumping between same-generation web technologies you’re essentially just shifting pixels around. From the front-end perspective, you can’t update that much if you stay on the same approach as opposed to trying a cutting edge technology.

By going from responsive to a Progressive Web App (PWA) with a headless approach, for example, you get improvements in two areas: the shopper experience, because a PWA is much faster and more engaging, and the ability to do things faster behind the scenes, thanks to increased agility within your organization.

On a psychological level, we see a lot more excitement from teams who are taking a leap to the next generation of technology. What better motivation to undertake a big project like a replatform than knowing you’re going to get something amazing in the end?

2. Should I prioritize a SaaS or an on-premise platform?

The answer to this depends on your organization. Do you have a strong DevOps team and a strong site reliability engineering team? If you have both of those, you might be equipped to operate an on-premise platform in whichever infrastructure you want.

If you don’t have highly skilled teams (or you simply don’t have the appetite) then you likely want to go with a SaaS platform. In today’s climate, it usually doesn’t make sense to run your own platform when you have the option to mix and match SaaS, private cloud, or hosted managed solutions for all parts of your stack.

3. How can I use a replatform as an opportunity to update my architecture?

Replatforming is a great time to rethink your architecture. Often when you’re replatforming, you’re starting from a monolith, where a single ecommerce system runs everything. This architecture has likely prevented you from trying new tactics on your front-end and forced teams to work at the pace of the ecommerce platform instead of the pace of your customers.

Using a replatform to move to a headless commerce architecture – otherwise known as an API-led approach – separates the front-end experience from the backend systems so that both can be changed independently. With this approach, the front-end is either a custom layer built from scratch or a Front-end as a Service.

Using your next replatform as an opportunity to move to a modern architecture will give your team more agility, allow you to activate the full value of your backend systems, and future-proof your new front-end investments.

4. How can I de-risk a replatform?

If you look at a typical product launch, the main concerns are scope, budget, and time. You should be evaluating risk across all 3 of those axes, with the goal of de-risking all of them by determining where you can make the biggest impact on revenue – and how to get there as quickly as possible.

The fastest path to revenue impact is to improve the customer experience, but replacing the ecommerce platform won’t impact the customer experience until the lengthy replatform project is complete. Introducing an API-driven front-end with modern web technology like PWA on top of your legacy ecommerce platform will have an immediate impact on the customer experience and revenue. You can then use those returns to fund the backend replatform without affecting the customer experience.

If you’re struggling to get buy-in for this project, or you need more evidence for your stakeholders, start with a smaller implementation like a region, brand, channel, or microsite before you go wide with it. This will shorten the time to value and validate the solution before you roll it out more broadly.

5. How should I measure the success of a replatform? What should I consider for my business case?

Your business metrics should definitely go up, otherwise why else would you bother? But like with any replatform, keep in mind that it may take some time and a few iterations to hit your stride.

Operationally, you want to be able to see your team deploy more often, and the lead time to deploy changes should shrink.

Keep in mind that part of your success will depend on whether you have an elite or a low-performing team and whether they can they respond quickly to requests coming from the business. Ideally, your replatform will have a positive impact on your business processes and make all teams more agile.

Final Recommendations

From our point of view, incrementally rolling out changes is the best way to replatform. Rolling out and verifying the front-end first will address needs in the customer experience, and if you plan to rebuild the backend, roll those changes out afterward.

We also advocate for a soft launch approach so you can run your new and old systems in parallel to make sure everything performs before you switch it all over. You can also roll out a soft launch in a smaller region, like Ireland, Canada, or Australia, or with a smaller brand within your company for the same effect.

If you’ve got a replatform on the horizon (or are in the midst of one), get in touch for a consult on ensuring the project is a success.

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