SI the light: how to make e-commerce re-platforming a positive experience

SI the light: how to make e-commerce re-platforming a positive experience
Astound Commerce’s Terry Hunter discusses how retailers can become customer-centric

Caspar Herzberg |

Retailers that are truly striving to be customer-centric will be asking themselves ‘In how many places have we let our customers down, and where can we make amends?’ This is a good approach to putting the customer at the heart of a business.

This also may well make for a positive approach when embarking on an e-commerce re-platforming project because it can put retailers in a positive frame of mind before what is inevitably a long, and often stressful, transformation.

It’s no secret that moving all your digital assets from one online platform to another doesn’t come easily, but it has always been essential for business-critical moves. If, however, a retailer adopts the check-box approach of marking every area of the operation where they currently feel they are sub-par, it then quickly motivates them to get on with job at hand and start re-platforming in earnest.

E-commerce re-platforming is usually something of a revolutionary manoeuvre for a retail business. It typically happens in these scenarios:

  • When a business that started with small digital dreams outgrows home-built or off-the-shelf systems
  • The platform is not suited to higher revenues
  • The platform has reached the end of its life
  • An incumbent platform just isn’t working anymore, and needs replacing to maintain sales success and keep up with the market
  • It could also be prompted by significant new investment into the company, enabling the retailer to take off in a previously unforeseen direction.

Whatever the underlying cause for it happening, re-platforming tends to be momentous for the organisation and the stakeholders involved, and without taking care it can become all-consuming. The secret is to look at it as a cathartic experience.

It’s going to be a revolution. Let’s not forget that we need to take the customer on the journey so we shouldn’t be too radical on day one, but there will be 1,001 smaller user experience enhancements that will drive customer satisfaction and, ultimately – if a retailer has chosen the right systems integrator (SI) to drive the project – it will be designed to support the business’ long-term success.

Whether the interface has greater impact, is quicker to respond, is mobile-first, has the ability to link web inventory to store stock or open up a host of possible e-commerce, payment or delivery plug-ins that their previous system did not facilitate (or did not facilitate with ease) retailers must think about how changes will bring a smile to their customers’ faces.

And customer smiles tend to translate into pounds in the retailer’s pocket.

All things great and small
From creating the ability to launch joined-up customer-relationship management campaigns, taking ideas to market faster, extending payment choice, moving to a website with enhanced scalability or simply launching live chat and other customer-facing features, there are some great reasons to re-platform.  

Sometimes there are very niche issues that must be fixed, for example issues with incapacity to pay for items using a gift card, or half on a gift card and half via credit, can be ironed out by re-platforming to the right provider. Retailers might not miss a feature until it’s there and then they start thinking “if only we’d had this sooner!”

The point is, if managed correctly, the whole process can drive incremental changes across a website that appeal to so many different customers. Every customer is different, and businesses need to ensure they are catering for as many of them as possible via flexible e-commerce technology that supports wide-ranging features.

Management matters 
The re-platforming process gives retailers an opportunity to bring multiple divisions together in one room to find out the wider business’ website requirements. There will be many differences of opinion and therefore stress levels might rise a notch or two.

If there is one capable person internally, be it an e-commerce director, head of digital, or a chief technology officer, who takes responsibility for the overall delivery of the project then it is more likely to be positive experience. 

Find an SI that takes a consultative approach to re-platforming, and one which covers marketing, design and strategic level-thinking as part of a no-strings-attached pre-project discovery workshop, and retailers will have a winning formula to follow.

Terry Hunter is the managing director of Astound Commerce, a Global Digital Commerce Agency working with Microsoft


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