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Ebook | 16 minute read

eCommerce Replatforming: Guide to a Successful Migration

Elastic Path will help you understand if your business is ready for an eCommerce replatform migration. Read the guide then get in touch with a replatforming expert today.

What is Replatforming?

There’s no word that quite instills fear in a CIO like the word ‘replatform.’ You can almost hear them questioning it now.

"Replatforming will be too expensive. We’ve already invested so much in our current solution, we can’t afford that sunk cost. Can you imagine the time it will take to execute? What about our SEO rankings? Can we assure a return on our investment?"

And who can blame them? You’ve probably had the same thoughts yourself. After all, if anything goes wrong, it will be your job and reputation on the line. So whether you know you need to replatform or you’ve just begun to consider it, it’s important that you spend some time on the following tasks:

Traditional legacy solutions consist of rigid and opinionated architectures that prevent brands from having the control they desire to implement custom backend logic changes to satisfy their complex business requirements:

  • Define if this is the time for your company to commit to replatforming
  • Understand the replatforming process that your company will undertake
  • Choose a new solution for your unique needs to make the switch to

Rest assured you are not the first company to reach these crossroads, and you certainly won’t be the last. Elastic Path customers Jenny Craig, Pella Windows and Doors, and Illumina were once in your position. They knew their incumbent platforms did not offer the control, ease, and scale they needed to support their unique digital vision. While they may have been overwhelmed at first, once these brands committed to replatforming, planned migrations, and implemented new solutions, their businesses have seen countless benefits.

If your B2B or B2C/DTC business is committed to digital differentiation, like these brands, yet you feel frustrated by your current platform it’s worth considering a replatforming project. Explore this guide to better understand if you’re ready to replatform, the top technical considerations for migration, and the different types of commerce vendors available to replatform to.

Illumina Experienced Growing Pains

Illumina had originally chosen their vendor of four years because of their out-of-the-box functionality. However, as a brand that is committed to unique differentiation, they had to customize their solution to a large degree that took way too much development time and cost. After replatforming, they were able to leverage Headless Commerce to build and continuously optimize their customized user experiences they wanted, in a fraction of the time.

How Can I Tell if My Business Is Ready To Replatform

As the eCommerce space continues to evolve and new, cutting edge technologies like Headless Commerce and Composable Commerce emerge on the market, you might be inclined to take the leap and make a switch. This can be especially attractive if your incumbent commerce solution isn’t operating at the level you had hoped. However, we urge to consider these 4 factors when evaluating your current state to better understand if replatforming will be worth the investment.

1. Scalability

Your current solution can’t keep up with the growth of traffic to your website. As a result, peak sales often cause the website to go down, losing your valuable revenue. As customers continue to demand digitally native, engaging and seamless commerce experiences, you will need a solution fit for keeping up the growth of your business, along with quick and seamless transactions expected by customers.

2. Inflexibility

Maintenance and upgrades are time consuming due to the rigidity of your current solution and thus slow down your deployments. More often than not you find yourself saying, “We can’t do that.” If you’re the type of business that is committed to consistently updating and optimizing your commerce experience, you may need to consider a solution that utilizes API calls to quickly handle changes.

3. Extensibility

Adding new features, customizations, or partner technologies to your solution have proven to be difficult and sometimes infeasible. You recognize that these capabilities are imperative if your goal is to outpace competitors and continue to engage and retain customers. To do so, you will need a solution that utilizes a modular architecture to ensure that you can keep up to date with the market.

4. Cost

You have experienced exuberant unexpected costs throughout your eCommerce journey. The more you add customizations and make changes to your commerce experience, your developer costs continue to increase due to the rigidity of your architecture. If you continue to make changes, you will need a solution that allows you to innovate and experiment with a smaller impact on your budget.

Of course this is not an exhaustive list of indicators, and you may choose to explore replatforming due to slow speed of your website, lack of features offered, inabilities to integrate, and the end of life of your existing platform. However, we recommend taking all aforementioned considerations into account before embarking on such a replatforming journey.

Talk With an Expert on How to Replatform Today

If your B2B or B2C/DTC business is committed to digital differentiation, like these brands, yet you feel frustrated by your current platform it’s worth considering a replatforming project.

Jenny Craig Decided They Were Ready to Replatform

Jenny Craig recognized the need for a change when they struggled to achieve a unified commerce experiences. They were no longer satisfied with customers being redirected to a new website with a completely different look and feel every time they wanted to make a purchase after engaging with their content. After deciding to replatform, they were able to not only engage shoppers seamlessly across all touch points but also added new touchpoints as they emerged. They now provide better customer experiences all while spending less on development.

Is Your Company up for the Challenge?

You may now have enough confidence in your decision to replatform, but your company may not be at the right state to do so. Depending on the problems you will be trying to fix, and the new features you are excited to implement, your company will be required to be at the right level of digital maturity.

By digital maturity, we are referring to the technical capabilities of your team, and/or system integrators or agencies you hire, your internal processes, organizational structure, and level of intention to leverage technology to unlock a competitive advantage in the market. Your level of digital maturity will give you a good understanding of the type of technology vendor you will work best with and thus understand what can realistically be achieved.

For e.g. : Companies on the Level 1 scale of digital maturity will have little-to-no established competency or intention to leverage technology to their competitive advantage, and thus may not be best suited to migrate to a solution that gives them freedom to deploy unique customizations.

Digital maturity will play a major role in the feasibility and the success of your migration. To identify your organization’s digital maturity, you can utilize our scaleand get a better understanding of the type of vendors you should be considering.

On-Demand Webinar: Replatforming Tips to Embrace Composable Commerce

Learn why brands are making the switch to Composable Commerce, actionable tips for a successful replatform, and a case study on Illumina switching from IBM websphere to Elastic Path.

Pella Decided On Making The Switch to Composable

After one year of trying to implement their commerce solution with their previous vendor, Pella decided it was time for a change as deadlines and budgets were piling up. After choosing to replatform to a Composable Commerce solution, they were able to quickly implement an MVP solution so as to rapidly optimize based on business and customer needs, and deliver 3 new busines models to reach more customers and outmaneuver competitors, while still leveraging their existing technology and processes

Top Considerations When Replatforming

Before embarking on your journey you will want to have a precise strategy of how you plan to carry out the process, the timeline of the project, and agreed expectations.

Choose Your Method of Replatforming

One fear often expressed by those considering a replatforming project is migrating your entire solution, only to find out that it wasn’t worth the investment. This is usually the case because most migrations are done by the “rip and replace” method. However, depending on the vendor you choose to migrate to, you may have two options of replatforming to choose from:

  • Incremental Replatforming
  • Forklift Replatforming

Incremental replatforming allows you to do “piece-by-piece migration at your own pace. This option will be ideal if you want to minimize risk and upfront cost in the event that the changes aren’t to your liking.

Forklift replatforming allows you to set a period of time for your agency and / or partners to fully migrate your commerce service and deploy it all at once. This is more commonly known as the “rip-and-replace” option. This option will be more ideal if large upfront costs aren’t a roadblock and your existing architecture is fairly similar to the new solution, for quick migration. Your vendor should be able to advise you based on an assessment of your system.

As you can see, it will all depend on the current state of your business and team, so we recommend asking your prospective vendors about these options to ensure you’re making the right choice for your needs.

Map Out Your Technology Stack and Architecture

The next thing you will want to do is have your entire technology ecosystem mapped out. This way you can ensure you understand:

  • How all of your current systems will work with each other.
  • How your new eCommerce solution can and/or will leverage those parts of your enterprise that you intend on retaining .
  • How those retained systems may or may not have to change.
  • And finally, how all necessary data will be migrated from existing systems to the relevant new systems.

We recommend working with an agency and/or a system integrator if you don’t already have an internal solutions implementation team to understand the scope of the work required to ensure a successful implementation.

Understand Your Data Migration Process

The typical migration process is focused in three main areas of your eCommerce platform:

  1. Products. This will be the most important data you migrate and depending on the process of migration it can end up significantly impacting development time. To avoid that, you will want to migrate to a solution that will be able to map to your business needs without either change to the shape of your data or major customization of the target system. . Replatforming is also a good opportunity to review your internal processes that support the entire product lifecycle as well as the overall quality of your data - prior to actually migrating. Whereas the base product information is the foundation of this step, additional product-related elements to keep in mind include any product enrichment eg marketing content, and inventory data, that may be sourced elsewhere but aggregated in the new platform.
  2. Customers. It’s all about the customer so migrating all relevant information to identify, understand, and support your customers and their entire relationship with your organization is crucial for a seamless customer experience in the new system. Failure to do so can, at a minimum, frustrate your customers but worse, can engender a lack of trust and raise concerns around data privacy.
  3. Orders. For the purposes of replatforming, it’s important to consider several different states of orders.

    How you handle each depends on a number of factors. If your fulfillment systems are adequately separated from your order capture systems then placed, but as yet unfulfilled, orders are simply the responsibility of your fulfillment system(s). There may be an overlap period where your customer support teams will require access to both old and new tools to adequately support such orders, but this is invariably more efficient than over-engineering the new system to accommodate a short-lived problem.

    Potentially you will want to consider the heavier weight task of migrating historical, already fulfilled orders as well in order to maintain the complete view of your customer. This is critical if order history plays any part in determining what and how you sell to specific customers or segments down the road.

    The third type to consider - an open cart - is not strictly speaking an order at all but nonetheless may be viewed as such by the customer and thus part of their overall experience. To maintain continuity of experience, this can be handled by a one-time cutover of cart contents from one platform to another. This is often seen as a good opportunity to reach out to customers via email marketing to draw their attention to unfinished business.

 With these considerations you will want to ensure you keep all the major stakeholders on your team involved for full transparency and avoid any misunderstandings. With a comprehensive plan, the last thing on the list is to choose the right commerce vendor for your replatforming project.

Choosing the Right Vendor for My Business

Though the eCommerce market continues to flood with new solutions and vendors, we believe there are three main categories to choose from:

Legacy Platforms

These types of platforms are more “out-of-the-box” by nature and provide you with the standard set of functionalities required to run your business bundled in an all-in-one solution from a single vendor. These platforms are usually characterized by their out-of-the-box features and are fit for businesses with a level 1 or 2 digital maturity, who require few customizations, and are satisfied with standard website experiences. It is important to note however, that if customizations are important to your business your process may end up being more difficult and costly due to the rigid nature of these platforms.

Examples of legacy platform vendors include: Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Magento (now owned by Adobe) and SAP Hybris just to name a few.

Headless Commerce Solutions

These types of solutions are characterized by the decoupled nature of the frontend presentation layer and the backend commerce engine layer. These decoupled layers separated by APIs offer unlimited flexibility to design unique front end experiences while also facilitating seamless changes of business processes in the backend.

This is not to be confused with retrofitted headless platforms that have removed the front end layer from the rest of the platform to allow for more design freedom for UI experiences only.

Examples of headless commerce vendors include Elastic Path, commercetools and VTEX. While examples of retrofitted headless commerce vendors include, Magento, Shopify and BigCommerce.

Composable Commerce Solutions

This approach leverages microservices to build, deploy, and optimize “best-of-breed” commerce solutions so that businesses can create highly differentiated commerce experiences. These types of solutions are characterized by their three tenets:

  • Business Centric Enablement: Business user tooling and facilitated business-IT collaboration, grant marketers the right amount of control over the workflow to respond to a competitive marketplace at speed.
  • Modular Architecture: As each component of the architecture is self-contained and can be deployed independently, it supports agile delivery, faster time to market and improved customer experiences across all devices and touchpoints with the help of JAMStack and MACH.
  • Open Ecosystem: Along with enabling your team to assemble best-of-breed components around your core commerce, it also offers easily leveraged frameworks for integrations and guides that reduce the time of composition.

Examples of Composable Commerce vendors include Elastic Path and Commercetools. However, Composable Commerce solutions like Commercetools will not come equipped with quick starts, library of precompose solutions and complete guidance and support for getting your solution up and running.

Is “Going Composable” Right For Your Organization?

Composable Commerce might be the newest buzzword on the market but we have to admit, this option will not be right for every business. This approach quite literally puts the control back into your hands so you never have to compromise on your vision, and are able to react quickly to out maneuver competitors and unlock growth.

However, this level of control may not be desirable for you if you don’t value:

  • Quick starts that eliminate the risks and complexity of piecing together MACH
  • Adaptable functionality to support unique and changing businesses across geos, complex product catalogues, multiple business models, and more
  • Flexible technologies to reduce your total cost of ownership
  • Solid extensibility frameworks to customize your unique experience

If these characteristics do resonate with you we recommend exploring the benefits of Composable Commerce and the vendors that offer this approach. If you would like to talk to one of our internal experts about migrating to Elastic Path and deploying Composable Commerce-as-a-Service, we’d be happy to help.

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