Business owners and operators are often drawn into the idea of replatforming because of current platform functionality limitations, wanting more control of how daily digital operations are running, and generally just feeling held back from the businesses full potential. Since the ecommerce platform is a big part of your operation, it’s easy to think that maybe a different platform will solve these issues. This way of thinking isn’t necessarily wrong, but a lot of the decision to replatform should really come down to how well your commerce architecture is aligned with your business. It might not be your ecommerce platform after all.
So, how do you know if you really need to replatform? Following these steps will help.
- Gather the relevant information about your business
- Decide on the best commerce architecture for your business
- Design and implement your commerce architecture strategy
It’s not until step 3 where you ultimately decide if replatforming is necessary. Let’s look at each step in a bit more detail.
Step 1: Gather the relevant information about your business
Step 1 is to first learn about your own business. At this point, you might be thinking, “I’ve been here for a decade, I know this place like the back of my hand.” You might be surprised how much is actually involved once you dig in. Gather information in two ways.
Research your the complexities of your operation.
- How many products do you sell?
- Are there variations of these products?
- How are products categorized and organized?
- Do your products and product pages have anything unique about them that is not standard?
- What is an example of the most complex product you offer?
- What makes it complex?
- Who maintains the product data for your site?
- Do you track inventory levels?
- Is inventory managed in multiple locations?
- Are you selling in marketplaces other than your primary website?
- Do you also operate a brick-and-mortar location?
- How are orders fulfilled?
- What payment and shipping options do you provide?
- How are taxes and shipping calculated?
Try to answer these questions and more. Group your questions and answers by department or topic so that it’s easy to refer back to them later.
Current software ecosystem
Next, there are many software components that are actually used to operate your business as a whole. ERP’s, CRM's, CMS’s, OMS's, PIM's, marketing suites, analytics and reporting, payment gateways, etc. There may be ins and outs that you were unaware of. List all of the different pieces of software that is used and what they are used for. This is the makeup of your current commerce architecture.
TIP: Ask the team member in charge of each department if there are any business functions that they currently complete off-line that they wish were completed through the site. If there are any areas in which they have to manually port information from a sale on the website over to a secondary tracking tool, such as an accounting program, you may be able to reduce manual labor and error through automation. Also, find out if there is any other software that team members use that you might not be aware of.
Step 2: Decide on the best commerce architecture for your business
Next is to use the knowledge gained about your business to decide on the best commerce architecture for your business. There are 3 main types of architecture:
Commerce-led architecture is centered around your ecommerce platform (typically SaaS). This is the most common architecture for startups and young ecommerce businesses who need to get to market fast.
Experience-led architecture is an architecture centered around creating the best possible administrator and customer experience. This is usually for businesses that want to differentiate themselves from competitors through personalized experience and rich content.
- API-led (or Headless)
API-led architecture (also known as Headless) provides maximum integration capabilities and high levels of control over your data. This architecture works best for enterprise companies with high revenue, multiple business models and sales channels across multiple fronts (online, offline, shopping app, etc.).
Quickly find out what your ideal architecture is using Acro Media's Ideal Commerce Architecture Analysis tool, or check out this on-demand webinar for more information about each of the architectures listed above.
This step is also where reaching out to a digital commerce architecture consultant can be beneficial to help you understand what architecture fits best with your business, and why.
Step 3: Design and implement your commerce architecture strategy
Now that you know what architecture is best suited for your business, it’s time to design and implement your commerce architecture strategy, a strategy that will take your business to new heights.
You will again review all of the software components that make up your business, but this time you’re looking to see what components fit with your architecture goals. The components that don’t fit are typically going to be those that cannot be integrated with the other components. What you’re aiming to do is streamline operation efficiencies and automate as many manual tasks as possible. You will need a development partner or knowledgeable IT staff as this is an ongoing process where you start by first implementing the components and integrations that will have the biggest impact on your business. You then build from there with each improvement advancing towards your ideal commerce architecture end goal.
Bringing it full circle, this is where replatforming your ecommerce engine may or may not be part of the equation. If it’s revealed that you DO need to replatform, you will know why and will be in a better position to select a platform that aligns with your ideal commerce architecture. The best platform for your business might be a SaaS solution or even open source. That’s a whole other subject, but, once you understand your architecture and are ready to look deeper into platform options, deciding on a platform model is your next step. Here’s a post to get you started.