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White Paper Series: Ecommerce

IS IT TIME TO REPLATFORM YOUR ECOMMERCE SITE? Insights and tips for a smooth and seamless journey

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Š 2013 by OSF Global Services. All rights Reserved

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Contents

Introduction

● Introduction

Money talks, and these days, it speaks ecommerce.

● Why

More people are shopping online than ever, and they want a seamless, easy, user-friendly experience that appeals to them both visually and practically.

re-platform?

● The

problems with ad hoc platforms

● Is

it time to update your ecommerce platform?

That means it’s more vital than ever to make sure that your platform is as sleek, appealing, customer-friendly and efficient as possible. But if you’re like most online retailers, your ecommerce site is a patchwork of ad hoc, hastily added-on quick fixes. Such “solutions” may indeed work in the short term, but if you want to punch ahead of the competition, it’s essential to turn your ecommerce platform into a bullet train. That means re-platforming.

● How

Here’s the not-so-fun news: In a rapidly changing retail environment – new consumer shopping habits, new technologies, new channels, new expectations – many online retailers are struggling to meet demand with legacy ecommerce platforms. But the good news is that you don’t have to be one of them.

● Summary

The following paper outlines what you need in order to upgrade and replatform your ecommerce site in the most painless way possible.

to build a frictionless platform, step by step

So when should you re-platform? It depends. With normally maturing revenue growth, a platform upgrade or re-platforming should take place every three-to-five years. However if your site’s conversion rates are on a downward trend and shopping cart abandonments are swinging upwards … or if you’re facing higher operational costs … now might be a good time to begin planning a re-platform.

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If that doesn’t convince you, consider a 2012

Why re-platform?

survey by CashStar/Harris Interactive, which A

whopping

two-thirds

of

customers

found that more than 38 million Americans have

prefer to shop online.

shopped from their bathrooms.4

According to a 2012 survey by market research

Make it easy for them to find your

company Lab42, nearly three-quarters (or 73%)

platform, and you can reap rewards.

of consumers do at least half of their shopping Meanwhile, customer expectations are growing.

online.

Increasingly, online shoppers’ expectations are And not only do 66% of consumers prefer to

set by the best-of-breed ecommerce sites that

shop online, but 45% have bought something

they frequently visit; that means your customers

online that they would not have bought in

expect a visit to your webstore to be equally

person.1

engaging,

informative,

responsive

and

personalized – frictionless. Read that last part again. If your site and platform appeal to consumers, you can

Retailers must reexamine their ecommerce

bolster sales.

offerings and goals to meet the changing landscape of online retail.5

Simultaneously, customers are accessing online webstores through an increasing variety of devices. A 2011 study by Forrester Research found that nearly two-thirds of the U.S. online population had two or more devices connected to the Internet (one-third had more than four); most of those devices were mobile phones and tablets.2 The number of people worldwide who purchase via mobile reached approximately 400 million in 2012.3 And by 2016, mobile-connected tablets will generate almost as much traffic as the entire

66% of consumers prefer to shop online … 45% have bought something online they would not have bought in person 40% of merchants are not satisfied with their website’s current shopping experience as it pertains to maximizing revenue potential

global mobile network did in 2012, according to Cisco.

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© 2013 by OSF Global Services. All rights Reserved.

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While driving revenue is always an overriding

open-source or homegrown software, you’ll

objective, 40% of the merchants surveyed by

almost

ATG said they are not satisfied with their

environment that includes numerous third-party

ecommerce

and legacy applications.

website’s

current

shopping

inevitably

see

a

cobbled-together

experience as it pertains to maximizing revenue Chances are, like most retailers, you’ve reacted

potential.

to piecemeal changes by bolting on “quick In

short,

re-platforming

empowers

fixes,” such as incompatible software, navigation band-aids and add-ons, or hastily implemented

business to be more competitive.

strategies for incorporating new channels, like ●

Improve search functionality

Improve your ability to offer, control

social media.

and manage promotions, cross-sells and

Unfortunately, this can quickly become a costly

up-sells

nightmare

Improve “help” and customer service

convoluted ecommerce environment that still

features

fails to keep up with demand.

Decrease

hardware

licenses,

maintenance

and

that

also

creates

a

bloated,

software

and

support-

You’re not alone in this: with so many pieces in

agreement costs

play – each typically selected independently of

Boost site performance and uptime

one another – workarounds, patches and other

measurably as you grab new revenue

ad hoc solutions are just about the only way to

opportunities

keep your ecommerce platform working over time.

The burdens of an ecommerce platform

ad

hoc

But after a while, this leaves your ecommerce platform in a precarious position. With an ad hoc

Ultimately, your business operates within an

collection

extensive

the

products and services from different vendors

ecommerce platform that serves your customer

managed by in-house resources and external

must integrate, or interface with, every element

support

of that ecosystem.

increasingly difficult to maintain and support.

Look

ecommerce

closely

at

your

ecosystem;

current

ecommerce

platform. Whether it is built on hosted, licensed,

www.osf-global.com

of

homegrown

providers,

your

and

off-the-shelf

platform

becomes

It’s also likely incapable of meeting new needs and prone to problematic behavior.

© 2013 by OSF Global Services. All rights Reserved.

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How Ecommerce Platforms Can Grow. To

1. You’ve added ad hoc features and

keep pace with your business and market

functionality

demands, your ecommerce platform has likely

2. You’ve used your data assets in more

followed one (or more) of these paths:

and new ways 3. You’ve reached beyond your webstore

1

2

3

You’ve added ad hoc features and functionality

You’ve used your data assets in more and new ways

You’ve reached beyond your webstore

With the maturation of your

Increases in your ecommerce

Expansion of your ecommerce

ecommerce business your

activities have no doubt driven

business has likely driven an

webstore’s features have grown richer and more complex. But

the need for required access to a host of data regarding

extension of ecommerce beyond your webstore.

the pace of new requirements

customers, products, orders,

may have outstripped the ability of your internal IT teams or

shipping and site analytics.

For example, your complete online sales channel might

platform vendors to deliver.

You may pull data and the

include partners, app stores and

Specialized applications from

resulting reports directly through your ecommerce platform, or

related marketplaces, and possibly links to your retail store

vendors as diverse as Adobe,

possibly from a legacy system.

or kiosks.

Google and SAP have rushed to fill the gap. Integrations with these applications are often built hastily, without consideration for the overall architecture of the ecosystem.

Is it time for an updated / upgraded platform? By this point, you may already be resigned to

But you might equally be doing a complicated

making the move to a more stable, modern

mental

platform for your webstore – one that enables

Switching ecommerce platforms is not fast,

you to also streamline integration and improve

cheap or easy, which is why most companies

your customers’ online shopping experience.

put off the effort for so long; and that may leave

cost-benefit

analysis

as

you

read.

you wondering, “Do I really need to update?”

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© 2013 by OSF Global Services. All rights Reserved.

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Take Note: Trends, signs and signals that indicate it’s time to re-platform

With every aspect of traditional ecommerce evolving, you may need to re-examine and extend your back office integration capabilities.

Insufficient Integration

Re-platforming your ecommerce site provides the ideal opportunity for connecting and/or reconnecting with existing enterprise assets and thirdparty assets, ranging from ERP and CRM to supply chains and logistics. Handling business growth is an excellent reason to consider ecommerce re-platforming. Handling business growth is an excellent reason to consider ecommerce re-platforming. Perhaps you started small, launching and managing your

Business Growth

site internally. But it’s never really been your core competency. So why not consider new technologies? A close look at the cost/performance benefits will guide your decision on whether or not it’s time to upgrade and scale your ecommerce platform to remain in synch with your expanding business needs.

Technology changes and innovation move at a rapid clip, so it might be time to bring your site up to speed with the latest capabilities.

Changes and Innovation in Technology

When did you launch the current version of your webstore?

What areas in particular are driving this change?

Do business requirements demand that you track metrics more closely?

Do you need to integrate more editorial elements, mobile commerce and social media components, such as Twitter and Facebook?

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One hallmark of a platform that needs to be replaced or updated is degraded performance and growing resource consumption. •

Falling Speed: If navigation, coding and search capabilities are slowing you down, look at your current navigation structure and

Increasing Inefficiencies

URL syntax. Rising Costs: Are you spending too much time resources tackling difficult upgrades and creating custom code on top of your current

platform? Slowed Growth: And what about search engine optimization? Consider improving navigation and search to help your customers find the product they were looking for through a more intuitive interface.

As your ecommerce site becomes larger, more complex and increasingly dynamic, do you have the horsepower you need?

Lagging Technological Support

What’s the best approach to this support? Do you switch platforms and let some of this site nurturing be outsourced? Or maybe it’s time to move your web servers offsite to the cloud? Offloading non-core activities like technology and infrastructure maintenance and other operational issues frees your own staff to focus more on strategic goals like revenue growth, customer acquisition and profitability. New goals being set for your webstore.

New Business Goals

Perhaps you are tasked with beating the average uptime for websites in your industry, or speeding page loads, upping your conversion rate, or reducing your shopping cart abandonment rate. Or maybe the time is right to advance multi-channel capabilities and support for international customers and online marketplaces like Amazon or eBay. In short, you must be able to ensure quick response to rapidly evolving business needs and bring new innovations to market.

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© 2013 by OSF Global Services. All rights Reserved.

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Without question, you need to make sure your webstore offers the utmost in security – for your business and your customers.

Increased Security and Compliance Concerns

That’s why now is the ideal time to upgrade security, not to mention ensure ecommerce regulatory compliance, such as Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS). Customers want access to your webstore anytime, anywhere from any internet-enabled device. 88% of consumers searching on a mobile device will make a purchase within 24 hours. However 20% of mobile shoppers respond to a bad shopping experience by completing their purchase but vowing to never return to the site. A further 18% say they abandon the site and seek alternative brands that work better with their mobile device.

New/Growing Retail Channels

Although tablet users make up a small proportion of total visits to ecommerce sites they spend 20% more than desktop shoppers, and twice as much as those using smartphones.

How to build a frictionless platform migration, step-by-step Step 1: Requirements Analysis What does your ecommerce

Establish metrics. From goals follow metrics,

platform need to accomplish, and what do you

the criteria by which you will determine success.

Set goals.

want it to achieve? Unfortunately, because your ecommerce platform touches virtually every aspect

of

your

ecommerce

ecosystem,

requirements and goals often involve multiple departments.

process, it can also make sure you find a that

be to find an ecommerce platform that can handle a larger peak volume of orders. As a corresponding metric, clarify just how many

While this can complicate the re-platforming

solution

For example, one enterprise-facing goal might

offers

high

returns

for

all

stakeholders.

orders per hour you need the platform to handle, and look for solutions that can deliver on that metric.

Tip: In making your switch, we also recommend

Bear in mind that you’ll have two sets of goals: customer-facing and enterprise-facing.

evaluating customer-facing analytics data for a period of time before you re-platform and then again after you re-platform.

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© 2013 by OSF Global Services. All rights Reserved.

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For example, monitor traffic, exits/bounce rate,

That said retain final decision-making power in

conversion rates and revenue per visitor through

only a small, core group of representative

your analytics service before re-platforming.

individuals

This establishes a baseline.

committee.

Then evaluate ecommerce packages to ensure

Step 2: Consider Integrations

to

avoid

decision-making

by

they can meet and exceed those thresholds. Finally, monitor and determine if the new

It’s imperative that you understand all the

platform meets its potential.

technology touch points of your ecommerce platform, from the front-end and back-end

Evaluate the current platform against new

components to your business partners.

requirements. Pinpoint the pros and cons of your current ecommerce platform. Take the time

We’ve already mentioned how your ecommerce

to document the good, the bad and the ugly so

platform touches virtually every single element

you will know what additional features are

of

required in your new platform.

server and database, commerce platform, site

your

ecommerce

ecosystem:

application

analytics, search, help and support, web and Also be sure to note the elements of the current

search marketing, payment processing, order

platform which your team likes, or which work

management, supply chain, customer relation

well for your needs. That way, you have a list of

management and service … and more.

specific features for which to search. Ultimately, if you are trying to create a Identify stakeholders. Determine from the

frictionless experience for both your customers

get-go which stakeholders should be involved –

and your own in-house staff, we advise mapping

sales, marketing, finance, customer support and

the interdependencies between internal and

IT are a given.

external systems.

Are there any other departments or business

An actual visual illustration is usually the

units with a vested interest in your ecommerce

clearest way. Your in-house IT staff should

site? Business and trading partners?

handle this project.

Solicit input from all parties on each element of

This is probably the most complicated step in

your requirements analysis. By giving people

the re-platforming planning process, simply

input, you get them invested, which helps to

because there are so many components to

avoid internal resistance to change.

consider, so just take it one item at a time.

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© 2013 by OSF Global Services. All rights Reserved.

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Using an ecommerce partner with subject

the same endlessly changing demands aren’t

matter expertise (see Step 4) can greatly

going to go away now that you have a new

expedite this process because piecing this puzzle

platform.

together is their bread-and-butter service. In addition to making sure the platform fits your

Step 3: Consider Adaptability

Scalability

and

immediate requirements, you also want to evaluate any solution in terms of how it can

Scalability comes a near second to integration, because you need a platform that can grow with you.

adapt to quantitatively and qualitatively new needs.

Step 4: Plan a Clear Resource and Partner Strategy

A flexible, scalable ecommerce platform will last longer and serve you better. In particular, pay

If you are outsourcing work, determine who will

attention to the infrastructure supporting your

be responsible for what.

ecommerce site. •

Scope this out to include everyone from

What kind of traffic load can it handle?

internal

Can it adapt to higher loads during peak

service provider •

usage? • •

resources

to

your

external

Documenting responsibilities in advance

Can it serve more customers more

will help avoid duplication of effort and

content on demand?

budget creep

How does rising demand impact that platform’s stability, speed and overall

When looking for the right ecommerce platform

performance?

partner,

experience

is

key.

Because

re-

platforming requires moving applications and the

content as well as integrating your new platform

ecommerce landscape more than 12 to 24

with backend systems, you want a partner who

months out.

has the required experience in processes,

It

is

virtually

impossible

to

predict

operations and the integration of all related Therefore, you ideally want a platform that can

technologies. Look for a partner who:

openly, flexibly accommodate a range of thirdparty integrations and retain its stability and

Understands

the

complexities

and

intricacies of an online retail business

performance. ●

Demonstrates

proven

experience

in

We’ve already discussed the common routes

legacy applications, back-end systems

through which online retailers find themselves

integration, database development, data

struggling with ad hoc ecommerce platforms; www.osf-global.com

© 2013 by OSF Global Services. All rights Reserved.

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conversions, content migration, process

A corollary here is trying to find an ecommerce

chains and multi-sales channels, as well

platform that can solve problems you don’t have

information exchange between disparate

yet (see Step Three); it can be tempting to look

systems

for a solution that bundles answers to issues you

Offers a standardized methodology to

might face in the years to come, but there’s a

ensure predictable delivery timeframes

balance here: you want a solution that can grow

and costs

with you, but which is not bloated, wasteful or

Has a proven track record when it

hinders what you need it to do today.

comes to meeting project deadlines Final word of advice:

Do not add other

initiatives such as website redesign while you

Step 5: Pace the Project

are in the midst of replatforming. Phase the project. In other words, don’t try to do everything

at

once;

and once

you’ve

allocated time … allocate some more. Replatforming is a huge undertaking, with so

It is a

tempting but self-defeating idea because the addition of complexity can delay the launch of your new platform by as much as 6 months, which will negatively impact your business.

many interlocking elements, so taking things one step at a time is simply the best approach to ensuring your webstore never stops working and servicing your customers, even while considerable changes could be underway behind the scenes. Instead, chart the incremental functionality you need by dates and deadlines to create a clear, straightforward roadmap for the project. You’ll end up having to make some hard decisions,

but if

you’re

using

a strategic

How to Build a Frictionless Platform 1. Requirements Analysis 2. Consider Integrations 3. Consider Scalability and Adaptability 4. Plan a Clear Resource and Partner Strategy 5. Pace the project

ecommerce partner, they’ll be able to provide key advice to help streamline this decisionmaking process.

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© 2013 by OSF Global Services. All rights Reserved.

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Summary Re-platforming is no easy task. It’s a major

Careful planning is essential – starting with

initiative that touches almost every aspect of

assessing your current ecommerce platform,

your retail business operation; and it will

then identifying what features and capabilities

average from four to six months.

you want to include in your upgraded or new ecommerce platform.

But inaction is not an option if you want to meet your customers’ online shopping needs and

Visualize where you want to go, develop a

establish a strong presence in today’s dynamic

roadmap with input from your IT team and

online marketplace. The secret to success lies in

other key stakeholders, and then move ahead

understanding what you want to achieve with

with confidence to the next generation of your

your ecommerce platform and whom it affects.

online store.

1

Lab42 Market Research, October 2012 Forrester Research, January 2011 3 Hamburg, Germany-based market research company yStats.com, “Global Mobile and M-Commerce Report 2012 4 CashStar/Harris Interactive, November 2012 5 Art Technology Group, August 2010 2

About the author OSF Global Services customizes and seamlessly integrates the entire ecommerce environment, from the front-end of an online store, which is what the customer sees, to the back-end technologies that power what the customer experiences. Our forte is mitigating the risks associated with platform integration and data migration, and delivering scalable solutions that enable retailers to expand abroad, deliver a modernized online store, and create personalized shopping experiences. Headquartered in Quebec, Canada, OSF has offices in the US, France, Germany, Italy, UK, Romania and Ukraine. This mix of onshore and offshore expertise allows us to provide comprehensive, follow-the-sun support for our clients. For more information about our ecommerce services, please visit www.osf-commerce.com or contact us at info@osf-global.com.

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© 2013 by OSF Global Services. All rights Reserved.

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