Retail is currently in the midst of a digital revolution. Combining changing shopping behaviours, improved online experiences, and rapidly increasing technological capabilities means that those retailers who can react quickly and responsively are better placed for significant business growth.
Shoppers expect to benefit from the same experience regardless of whether they are shopping in-store and online. They want to receive the same high levels of customer care and attention, and they want to browse a wide range of products and experience a frictionless checkout.
While this may seem obvious to many, it's clear that many retailers are struggling to offer a cohesive shopping experience online. This could be because their eCommerce platform hasn't laid the right foundations for continued success.
As we've seen over the past fifteen months, those firms who have been able to respond to changing behaviours and identify potential opportunities quickly and easily have thrived. With the correct eCommerce infrastructure in place, you can transform your entire business from the shop floor to internal processes and external supply chain logistics. And with these changes, you can directly increase your revenue and benefit from sustained business growth.
But how do you know whether you're using the right eCommerce platform for your business? And what are the signs that it's the right time to consider re-platforming to an alternative eCommerce solution?
We share our insights into the key signs that might indicate it's time to upgrade your infrastructure and migrate to a new eCommerce platform.
You may need a new platform if your website is affected by poor loading times
Online shoppers are notoriously impatient.
While they may be happy to wander around a physical shop browsing, online shoppers will log off and shop elsewhere if an online shop doesn't load within seconds. Research has shown that a quarter of all shoppers will abandon a website if it takes more than four seconds to load.
And if they can't find the products they want quickly and easily or make their way through the sales funnel to the checkout without any issues, then there is a strong chance that they will be unlikely to revisit your online shop.
What's more, search engines such as Google may penalise your site in its search rankings as it looks towards page speed as a significant part of its algorithms.
While there are many different ways that you can try to optimise your website loading speed, often, your performance may be hindered by the underlying platform. Therefore, you need a platform that is working with you, not against you.
You may need a new platform if there is a lack of agility
eCommerce relies on flexibility. Successful retailers need to be able to adapt to market trends.
Perhaps there's a TV show that highlights the need for particular items (sales of baking equipment notoriously soar during the annual broadcast of The Great British Bake Off). Or maybe you want to add in new seasonal items to tie in with a sales promotion.
You need to have a platform that allows you to make changes quickly and easily. Whether you want to launch a campaign, change your homepage, add new content and products, you need an eCommerce platform that makes this simple.
If you find yourself heavily dependent on an internal development team or external agency for time sensitive content and layout changes. In that case, it may be time to empower your team with an alternative, more user-friendly platform.
Your agility should also consider how your platform facilitates collaborative working with different departments. If you are scoping out the possibility of investing in a new platform, make sure you listen to the concerns of all users to understand its strengths and weaknesses. You need to ensure that your platform helps every user work as effectively as they can.
You may need a new platform if you have significant technical debt
Online retailers need to have the latest technology to benefit from sustainable growth.
If your current online store hasn't received a significant overhaul in the past five years, or you're using an outdated platform or one that has come to its end of life (such as Magento 1). In that case, you're almost certainly going to be suffering from technical debt. While technical debt is a natural by-product of any website's lifecycle, you may start to find that you are increasingly spending more money to overcome short-term 'quick fixes' rather than thinking of the bigger picture. At a certain point, the cost ratio will tip into the balance of investing in an entirely new platform rather than prolonging an existing platform's lifespan.
The effect of technical debt on operating costs doesn't stop with the maintenance of the platform itself. Technical debt can be detrimental to website speed, stability, and scalability resulting in a poor customer experience, further impacting your bottom line.
You may need a new platform if it's proving to be unreliable
You need to have an eCommerce platform that offers seamless stability to your external customers and internal workforces. As platforms come to their end of life, you may start to find that it is becoming more unreliable. Perhaps your internal teams are being impacted by downtime. Or maybe your customers are finding that it's hard to complete their sale.
Unreliable platforms can have disastrous consequences.
If its poor performance impacts a customer, there's a high likelihood that you could lose them as a customer forever. Shoppers are fickle – one bad experience can lead to lasting negative perceptions that are difficult to overcome.
Similarly, if your internal workforce finds your system harder to use, you will incur huge costs caused by lost productivity. At this point, you will find that there will be clear financial benefits for investing in a new platform.
You may need a new platform if it can't handle busy shopping times
Retail can be seasonal. Savvy shoppers know when to expect sales periods, and as such, may wait until they believe that they can get the best bargains.
Key shopping dates such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the Christmas shopping period can make or break a retailer. Research from Finder showed that in anticipation of Black Friday 2020, UK consumers expected to spend £6bn, up from £5.6bn over the same sales period in 2019. And the closure of non-essential retail outlets in November 2020 meant that all spending took place online.
If you're trying to scale up your business, you need an eCommerce platform to handle the increased online traffic during busy shopping periods. The last thing you want is for your website to crash because it cannot cope with demand from shoppers. When High Street stalwart Debenhams announced that they had entered administration, its website was overwhelmed as shoppers flocked to purchase any last-minute sales bargains online.
You may need a new platform if it's reached its end of life.
eCommerce platforms have limited lifespans.
Like any technology infrastructure, platforms rely on security updates and patch fixes to resolve bugs or other glitches before they escalate into urgent matters.
If your platform has reached its end of life (such as Magento 1), you will no longer benefit from these updates. As a result, you may find that not only is your platform challenging to use, but you are opening yourself up to a variety of vulnerabilities. You may find that hackers or other cybercriminals can exploit these vulnerabilities, and you run the risk of compromising your data. Not only could this lead to significant issues if you have to regain access to your website, but you also run the risk of long-term reputation damage if any customer data is breached.
You may even find that you have high operating costs because your outdated platform needs a lot more maintenance.
You may need a new platform if it doesn't align with your long-term business goals
Your platform should help you to look to the future. Sometimes, retailers move to a new eCommerce platform because technology has changed, and they need to change with the times. Their business may be growing in different directions, or they may want to enter new markets (perhaps moving into international sales or drop shipping opportunities).
You may find that you need a new platform because your existing infrastructure doesn't align with current best practice guidelines. Perhaps it's not easy to optimise your website for mobiles/tablets, or you need a system that offers better online security options.
We often hear clients say that they struggle to grow their business because their infrastructure doesn't have the capabilities they need. Although they may have identified prospective business opportunities, they are slow to react because they do not have the right solution to help them grow.
At Sherwen Studios, we believe it's essential to have a platform that meets your current needs. But it's even more important to have a platform that could meet your future needs. It is not about being able to see in the future. Instead, it's about using your available data analytics to predict trends and understand what capabilities you might need to help you develop new areas that can be revenue drivers. When we work with our clients, we take the time to talk to your business development team to establish what prospects are available and ensure that the proper infrastructure will help those prospects turn into reality.
Is it the right time for you to think about migrating to a new platform? What platform is right for you? As an eCommerce re-platforming specialist, we can help you identify and maximise the opportunity available through an eCommerce re-platforming project. If you would like impartial advice on what's right for you, please get in touch.