In-depth guide on ecommerce replatforming with step by step checklist
Learn how to replatform smoothly and choose the best ecommerce platform for your business. Get the step-by-step checklist.
When to replatform
While replatforming is a significant decision to make and a costly project to enact, it can lead to substantial savings and immense growth for your business. Learn when and how to conduct replatforming to get the most out of your investment.
What is ecommerce replatforming?
Replatforming means moving your online store to a new platform. After a successful migration of all operations and data, you’ll be able to benefit from new features and better-suited ecommerce technology. It’s a long process that directly impacts the performance of your business. That’s why you want to plan the whole project before starting.
This article will help you through all the stages of replatforming, from the initial decision, setting up the project, choosing the right ecommerce technology, to launching the store on a new platform.
How to make a choice
Replatforming is not an easy decision. It affects all aspects of your online business, requires attention from stakeholders across different departments, and can destabilize current teams and processes. It’s especially disruptive for enterprises with hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake, complex processes, and a lot of stakeholders and teams involved. For such organizations, we recommend involving a special consultant right from the beginning, as soon as you start considering replatforming.
This is why it’s important that you remain highly organized and diligent through the whole process. Engage your team, encouraging them to share all the inside information about their everyday interactions with the platform and its performance. Because replatforming is a key business decision, excluding teams like customer service or marketing will negatively affect the success of the whole process, both short and long-term.
Decision-making starts with asking your team one question: Why are they considering replatforming?
The thought of changing the current provider often comes from a few critical drivers.
Unsustainability, which is often mentioned as the number-one reason for replatforming. The total cost of ownership (TCO) is prohibitive to what the business is able or willing to spend. This problem tends to increase over time. Cost, in terms of percentage of GMV or in terms of the amount of CapEx and OpEx directly related to the ecommerce platform, consumes a significant amount of revenue. When revenue is increasing, so are expenses. A great indicator of a platform's sustainability is the percentage share of the GMV coming down as it should do over the lifetime.
Common reasons for unsustainability are extensions-related expenses, which pile up quickly and tend to be very costly. If your platform is creating these challenges for you, replatforming might be the best option.
Low agility of the platform, which causes four main problems: poor user experience, unfulfilled customer demand, long time-to-market for new features, and investing in maintenance instead of growth.
There is a lack of ongoing support for delivering new features on legacy platforms, which contributes to a decreased user experience. Customers require new capabilities and services, and if you don't meet their expectations, you'll lose sales to your competitors. Users are accustomed to having broad choices in the market, and they easily switch after experiencing problems with an online store.
Time-to-market matters. New features and revolutionary campaigns have the power to set you in front of the competition, while lack of ability to execute them might push you behind. A day's work to get a feature up and running on one platform might be a one-week project that costs $4,000 on another. When you amplify that across all of the elements in a roadmap, suddenly what should be done in Q1 suddenly ends up being done in Q2 and Q3.
When you’re dependent on the platform's roadmap, if there is no ability for custom development, the only thing you can do is hope that the feature is in the provider’s plan and wait for the release.
Spending money on maintenance instead of growing can cause major setbacks. Investing in research on customers’ needs and new generations of shoppers is crucial to staying on top of the market. Especially in such a competitive environment as the ecommerce industry. Customers can choose to buy from any company all over the globe. You can’t afford to invest in maintenance to try to catch back up with the competition. You need to be able to invest in looking for changes that can put you in front of them.
Low scalability, which means that the platform is unable to grow enough — or more often that the growth is too slow. Perhaps your business has grown too large to work well using the online choices you originally made, or maybe you want to invest in wholesale or global expansion — if so, it may be time to think about ecommerce replatforming. If you feel that your ecommerce business is operating at less than maximum effectiveness and what should be just a simple modification turns into a time-consuming project, it might be a sign that not only do you need to replatform, but you also need to think about different eccommerce technology.
Problems with ensuring security — these aren’t something to take lightly. You’re processing sensitive data of all your customers, and you’re carrying 100% liability for it. Some platforms lack technical support from the providers that have developed them. A system that does not receive regular maintenance, updates and bug fixes becomes vulnerable to security threats. Having your data exposed to cyber-attacks and security issues can result in serious financial and legal consequences.
Upgrades that are too expensive and take too much time. Cloud-based ecommerce technologies mostly offer hands-off, automatic updates that you don’t need to worry about. On the other hand, legacy platforms release big, code-breaking upgrades that you need to treat as projects in and of themselves. They’re often so big and complex that they take the same amount of thought and work as replatforming. They also cost about the same. If you’re going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on an upgrade that takes 12 months, just to do it all over again in the next year or two, it might be a better solution to invest this money in buying a new platform and getting a more modern tech stack straight away.
To make the right decision, you’ll need to assess all the challenges brought up by your team. You’ll need to consider how they influence your revenue, spendings and growth. This process allows you to understand the severity of the problems. You’ll want to consider if they can be solved in a sustainable and smart way without replatforming. Sometimes investing in changes may look like a better option, but in the long-term, this solution might be unsustainable, and you’ll end up wasting your money on the investment just to replatform a few months later.
Alternatives to replatforming
Replatforming is not a universal solution. If you’re experiencing poor performance or your main business objective is migrating to the cloud, you might consider other options which are not as time-consuming and complex as replatforming.
|What is it?||Moving all operations and data to another platform provider. May include major changes.||Moving on-premises applications to the cloud, without significant changes.||Investigating the code and implementing necessary changes to boost the performance.||Changing the platform's architecture to unlock new features.|
|Who is it for?||For brands that are struggling with a variety of challenges, and solving them separately is not cost-effective. For companies that want to modernize their system.||For brands that are overall satisfied with their software and want high-speed migration with little risk and no changes.||For brands struggling with their platform performance but are overall satisfied with the solution.||For brands that want to completely redesign processes and need their software to reflect it, but are scared of replatform.|
Rehosting ecommerce platform
Rehosting is the easiest and most affordable way to modernize a website. Cloud rehosting involves simply copying and pasting on-premises applications into the cloud without making any major changes. The migration of an application "as-is" without any modifications allows for a fast, resource-saving process of modernization.
|• Little risk • Quick migration • No downtime • Easy automation • No necessary organizational changes||• You can’t fully leverage the native advantages of the cloud, as applications are made for the on-premises platform. • There’s a lack of innovation. • The customer experience may not improve.|
Reengineering/Refactoring ecommerce platform
Software reengineering or refactoring involves a close investigation of the platform's code and functionalities. The goal of the process is to eliminate redundant and unused parts and improve the performance by optimizing the backbone.
It begins with investigating historic data about the application design, requirements and specifications. In the next step, the software engineering team improves the structure and code if possible. Reengineering does not include major changes like the microservice approach of rearchitect, replatform or rehost models. It improves performance by taking care of small changes like code restructuring and modulation.
|• Slightly better user experience • Better performance • Good ROI • No organizational changes necessary • Increased resiliency • Easier maintenance||• Time-consuming • Lack of innovation • Requires thorough planning and a wide range of skills. • A lot of changes,which might cause conflicts in the beginning • Requires advanced cloud knowledge and experience|
Rearchitecting ecommerce platform
Rearchitecting involves redesigning the app’s architecture to suit the cloud environment and unlock cloud features. It’s the most in-depth option and requires a lot of resources and expertise. Reatchitecting includes refactoring. It enables you to improve performance and unleash the cloud's potential.
|• Highly feasible • Better performance • Very good ROI • Very adaptable process • Includes refactoring of the code • Easier maintenance||• Time consuming • Requires thorough planning and a wide range of skills • Organizational changes are required • Requires advanced cloud knowledge and experience • Requires highly skilled software architects|
How to replatform?
In this section we will walk your through all the stages of the replatforming project:
Current platform evaluation and business requirements capture
Platform detailed evaluation
1. Business case - the replatforming ROI
A business case is a document that explains the reasons behind a project, how the benefits of a project outweigh its costs, and why it should be executed. It’s an ROI proposal that helps you show stakeholders and the board your reasoning, and it will lead you through other stages. It’s also the best method for deciding if replatforming is really the right choice for your company.
Before you start setting up a project, you want to look at the opportunity cost, which is the cost of staying with the current platform provider. Basically, this is a TCO evaluation for the next three to five years, comparing it with your roadmap for the next 12-24 months. You might be surprised to find out that you’re spending tens of thousands of dollars on things that you should be able to do with your own time or a much reduced cost.
Key achievements of business case stage
TCO evaluation of the current platform
Rough estimates on the cost of replatforming
Deep dive into the reasons for replatforming
Business case written down
Should you replatform?
Why is replatforming the best option?
Does your platform allow you to execute your roadmap?
Is the opportunity cost higher than replatforming costs?
Does your platform stop you from selling on any channels? Countries?
Are any of the stakeholders happy with the current platform?
How does your platform compare to competitors feature-wise?
What do competitors do that would enable your business to improve?
What does your relationship with the agency look like?
Can you expect their help?
When do you want to inform the agency about ending the cooperation?
How will they react?
What do you expect them to do?
Business case steps
|Step 1||Identify the business problem in cooperation with all teams (marketing, finance, customer service, IT and developers, ecommerce manager, CTO, etc.).|
|Step 2||Assess the alternative solutions. Quantify their benefits and feasibility.|
|Step 3||Evaluate the cost of replatforming.|
|Step 4||Conduct a TCO analysis for your current platform to assess the opportunity costs.|
|Step 5||Create a financial return plan.|
|Step 6||Evaluate the business growth possibilities of the current platform and after replatforming.|
|Step 7||Recommend a solution.|
|Step 8||Address the larger business objectives of the organization.|
|Step 9||Create a draft of a replatforming project team with explanation.|
|Step 10||Find benchmarks, where applicable.|
|Step 11||Suggest an external replatforming consultancy.|
|Step 12||Consult your business plan with the finance department.|
|Step 13||Assess your relationship with your agency/development partner/provider: • Evaluate the risks of telling them about the end of cooperation. • Evaluate the risks of not telling them until the last moment. • Assess how they have to be involved in the migration process. • Estimate when to involve the agency in the process of migration. • Evaluate the possibilities of the agency sabotaging the migration. • Discuss the issue with the team, and get their feedback and opinions about cooperation with the agency.|
Risks related to business case stage
Unrealistic TCO evaluation of the current platform.
Unrealistic estimates of replatforming.
Excluding your team from business evaluation of the platform and losing your grip of the real challenges.
Lack of stakeholders' interest.
Placing low priority on conducting the assessment.
Lack of help from the agency through the migration process, deterioration in service, and escalation in costs.
Informing the agency last minute, so they don't have enough time to help even if they want to.
Maintain regular communication with stakeholders.
They need to feel like they are a part of the process — it helps mitigate the natural resistance that comes with any change. The other thing that will help you is getting stakeholders' buy in your vision of the store and helping them understand that the new platform will make their lives easier. Without leading them properly through this process, you won’t be able to get their valuable insights on the operating model. You need them to cherry-pick current inefficiencies to maximize the potential of replatforming.
Inform your agency.
One of the most popular questions that needs to be answered very early is: When do you tell agencies about leaving? The general rule of thumb is to tell them right away. There is only one situation when this is not advisable: if your relationship is failing and even everyday tasks are getting mishandled. But generally, the more time you have with your agency to plan the migration, the better. Usually, agencies are very helpful, but they need time to provide you with all documentation and data. Transparent communication allows you to create a migration plan that will protect your business from losses.
When your relationship with an agency essentially doesn’t exist anymore and the risk of telling is high, it’s better to wait. You might expect a deterioration in service and escalation in costs right after the announcement.
2. Project set-up
You need to define the project team, starting with a project sponsor. There has to be a board- level, senior management sponsor, who has the decision-making ability to sign off on project decisions without waiting for each decision to be made by a higher-level manager. Another important person on the team who can influence the outcome of the whole project is the project owner. Preferably, this would be the Head of Ecommerce or Ecommerce Manager. Experience within the ecommerce industry is critical for this position because it’s the person responsible for driving the project internally and ensuring that the outcome won’t be compromised.
It’s important to hear everyone during this process to make sure that everybody agrees on the choices and feels connected to the project. For every assessment, invite necessary stakeholders to ensure that proper inputs are provided and buy-in is achieved.
Key achievements of project set-up stage
Project sponsor, owner and manager nominated
Governance structures in place
Communication path and tools in place
Business case approved
Reporting mechanisms in place
What are the drivers for the project?
What are the key objectives?
What are successful project outcomes?
Which KPIs will measure the outcome accurately?
Who is a decision maker?
What are the communication channels and escalation paths?
Project set-up steps
|Step 1||Show your business case to the board.|
|Step 2||Find a project sponsor.|
|Step 3||Nominate the project owner and project manager — preferably with ecommerce experience.|
|Step 4||Curate the project team.|
|Step 5||Establish project goals, objectives and KPIs by consulting on your recommendations with the board and all the teams included in the problem’s discovery phase.|
|Step 6||Create the project management structure and decision-making paths.|
|Step 7||Define responsibilities, reporting mechanisms and reporting tools.|
|Step 8||Choose communication channels, processes and tools.|
|Step 9||Test the project collaboration processes, tools, communication channels and systems.|
|Step 10||Create a RAID log. Carefully prioritize your risks and mitigations.|
|Step 11||Create a summary of all arrangements and report it to the board.|
|Step 12||Make necessary changes if reported by the board, and repeat the process until you reach full acceptance.|
|Step 13||Share accepted documents with all stakeholders.|
|Step 14||Set up key project meetings and invite required attendees.|
|Step 15||Run a first meeting, brief everyone on their responsibilities, and set up the onboarding process for new stakeholders.|
Risks related to project set-up
Not appointing the project sponsor, who has the decision-making ability to sign off project decisions. It may lead to slowing all processes by having to ask for decisions at a higher level.
Project sponsor without any experience within the ecommerce industry.
Project doesn’t get the support across other functional departments.
Miscommunication within the stakeholders and projects’ team.
We’ve already mentioned the stakeholders in the replatforming advice for the business case stage of the project. There is a reason we’re bringing it back so quickly. It is crucial to make sure that all relevant stakeholders are getting engaged. It’s easy to underestimate how many different people across a variety of departments need to be involved or you might think that one person can be the speaker for the whole department. Those are very risky assumptions for the three reasons.
You could miss on critical information. Limited stakeholders team means limited perspectives. Even two employees with the same responsibilities might have a different opinion or ideas on how to solve the same challenge. Some stakeholders might be better in articulating the needs better than others, some stakeholders are longer than others and can offer experience and some bring a fresh perspective etc. You really don’t want to miss out on anything.
Excluded stakeholders may not accept the change and may be spreading doubts within all the departments. You might be losing support everyday, which makes it harder to convince the board and other teams that the new solution is beneficial for the whole company. It may affect the whole process.
New ecommerce platform will not resolve all the issues, it’s not a magic trick and it requires a lot of work. Stakeholders at any stage have to be aware of that. Let them know what will be addressed, what won’t and what their new reality may look like. They may have problems understanding and agreeing on that information if not invited for a variety of discussions. The confusion leads to a negative attitude, which you can’t afford.
Make all stakeholders feel a part of the replatforming project, at least at the one stage. Measure their attitude and cooperate with the HR department to mitigate risk.
3. Project’s budget
Before starting discussion about the budget make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the project's goal and objectives. Then let the business department decide what’s the definition of different streams of the project’s budget. Ask questions until you’re positive that every single cost stream found its way into the budget.
Confirm with the board the amount of CapEx available for initial investment and assess it's enough to cover the whole project. Making compromises as early as in the beginning of the project may affect the project success. At this point, you’ll need to reevaluate if a low budget is enough to get the platform that will solve all the challenges or generate more. You might have to limit your choices to SaaS Monolithic platforms that have less initial costs. The same evaluation should happen with OpEx costs for ongoing expenses during the next 3-5 years.
Discovery is an extremely important phase of replatforming, it’s there to ensure the positive outcome of the whole project. Your budget should reflect that. Including discovery into the budget gives you the time to explore business critical elements of the project in detailed workshops.
Forecasting is never 100% accurate, and it’s important to prepare a separate budget stream for unexpected costs. It’s a good practice to appropriate 10-20% of the whole budget for contingency.
Key achievements of project’s budget stage
Budget in place
Budget owner nominated
How much are we willing to spend on the platform?
What are our CapEx capabilities?
What are our OpEx capabilities?
How will our revenue be changing over the next 3-5 years?
Do third party costs come from a separate budget?
Do any consultants come from other budgets? Is marketing audit paid from marketing budget or replatforming budget?
Which third party pricing model works the best for your budget?
Project’s budget steps
|Step 1||Share all documents, including project KPIs and goals, with the finance department.|
|Step 2||Examine project cost streams (use TCO evaluation).|
|Step 3||Agree on the budget with the finance department and project sponsor.|
|Step 4||Sign off the detailed budget.|
|Step 5||Work on a contingency budget to cover unforeseen project expenses.|
|Step 6||Agree on the escalation path.|
|Step 7||Choose the budget owner.|
|Step 8||Create a summary of all arrangements and report it to the board, team and stakeholders.|
Risks related to project’s budget
The budget might be unrealistic if you’re looking to change ecommerce technology.
Different understandings of the cost streams can lead to missing important expenses like third-party integrations.
Not including the discovery phase.
No budget for extra help for the team.
Take under consideration the platform composition.
Switching from a generic monolith SaaS platform to a legacy monolithic platform without addressing the differences in platform composition will probably cause a serious deficit in your budget. For instance, you might not have considered hosting costs, because they don't exist on Shopify, but in Magento or Salesforce, they’re a major expense outside of the contract.
On the other hand, switching from a legacy monolithic platform to a truly headless platform like Centra, you’re saving about $50,000 on maintenance. This is a better scenario, without detrimental consequences, but the saved money could’ve been working towards the growth of your company. For example, if you had known that from the start you wouldn’t have spent $50,000 on maintenance. Instead you would have spent it on research and development, and perhaps release a great new feature by the end of that year.
Take care of your team.
Your team has their day-to-day responsibilities, and they can’t be expected to start the replatforming project on top of their duties. That will only lead to a decline in work quality, missing the project’s deadlines, and general frustration. You can mitigate this by hiring additional people to take over day-to-day tasks or replatforming projects. Delays or decline in work quality can generate costs much higher than those of a few extra hires.
4. Current platform evaluation & business requirements capture
To find the right solution you want to understand your current platform, its benefits and challenges. The aim of this stage is to deep dive into how things work, how platform influences internal processes and where the main pain points are.
Here are some points worth considering:
Integrations - How do data transfers work? Who is responsible for data safety? What is the current method of integrating? Does everything work properly? What are the pain points?
Design & UX – How are users influenced by your design? Do you have design freedom? Are you satisfied with your storefront? What do you think about the current front end technology? Are you satisfied with a template-based system? Do you like your checkout? What do you think about the current user journey?
Content management – What do you think about your CMS? What do you like about it? What are your paint points? How flexible is it? Does it enable you to conduct marketing the way you want it to? How time-consuming is it? Can it be more automated?
PIM and catalog management – How does your current product catalog setup look? Is it working for you? What are the pain points? How time-consuming is it? How easy to use is it? How well integrated with your store is it?
Order management - How automated is your order management? What are the pain points? How time-consuming is it? What is the error rate? How does shipping work? Are you happy with the data flow? What’s the customer experience?
Payments - Do you have the freedom to choose the payment method? How does your customer feel about the payment options? What currencies are you operating with? How does it work?
Marketing – How SEO-friendly is your page? Are your campaigns limited by your platform capabilities? Do you have promotion options? Can you offer bundles? What capabilities are you missing? How are those affecting your sales?
Data – How does your data flow? Where are the pain points? Are you getting valuable insights? What can you do with your data?
Key achievements of current platform evaluation and business requirements capture stage
Detailed problems log created
Existing environment data documented
Existing business processes documented
Necessary audits completed
What are the main business objectives that led to the replatforming project?
What are the main pain points for the team?
What are the key selling channels?
What are the main restrictions in your current ecommerce platform?
What are the key features for your team?
What are the nice-to-have features?
What are the customer pain points on the current platform?
Which features do customers enjoy the most?
How marketing- friendly is your platform?
Which marketing features do you need?
How SEO- friendly is your platform?
Do you need to improve it?
Which manual processes can you turn into automated workflows?
How seamless is your data flow?
Where do you have the most sales, web or mobile?
Current platform evaluation and business requirements capture steps
|Step 1||Organize workshops with representatives of all teams, and work on the summary of all strengths, weaknesses and key restrictions / bottlenecks of your current platform.|
|Step 2||Prioritize strengths and weaknesses.|
|Step 3||Organize workshops with representatives of all teams, and collect their “must haves” and “nice to haves” of the future solution.|
|Step 4||Conduct marketing audit.|
|Step 5||Conduct user experience audit.|
|Step 6||Conduct performance audit.|
|Step 7||Conduct technology audit (integrations).|
|Step 8||Document your existing environment data. The process of collecting the data is often a good way to scope system requirements down the line: • Business and online store details. • API credentials and connections. • Server details (hosting, settings, SSL certification, domain etc). • Supported countries and currencies. • Languages and local settings like time zones and payment gateways. • Shipping options and rates. • Tax rules and rates. • PCI/PCA compliance requirements. • Security and malware audit. • Prepare data and content backup. • Document disaster recovery processes.|
|Step 9||Document your catalog. This is often the biggest undertaking you'll encounter in a migration and any new provider will be keen to get started on potential remapping work quickly. • Document all standards and custom product attributes. • Understand what options you have for import/ export of your catalog. • Document your current catalog category structure. • Review product image formats and understand import/export capabilities. • Note down any special character or language requirements. • Document your product's dependencies. • Document pricing and promotion lists and rules. • Document product tax group and any important settings. • Check for data on things like google shopping or marketplaces and documents. • Check for any outlying product integration rules/data/automation.|
|Step 10||Review your Storefront style, brand and content: Your new agency (or existing if you're staying with them) can help but here's a short list of things to document/think about: • Prepare a brand book (brand style guide), make sure it’s up to date. • Document the navigation. • Document the product’s page structure. • Document all the pages and dependencies (non-sell, checkout page, main category, subcategory pages). • Save links to external content (YouTube, media mentions, public webinars, etc.) • Document external modules connected to the page.|
|Step 11||Review and document your checkout process.|
|Step 12||Check order/customer data access and understand whether there are any migration & validation challenges to consider. Review all the policies (GDPR, returns, etc.), and prepare them for the migration.|
|Step 13||Organize workshops with representatives of all teams to sum up previous findings and audits and establish the priorities based on all data.|
|Step 14||Create a list of all third parties, integrations, selling channels and key systems integrations. Visualize the connections in a data flow.|
|Step 15||Create a summary of all findings and the needs evaluation. Share it with all parties.|
Risks related to current platform evaluation and business requirements capture
Key team members don’t have time to participate in the evaluation. This might lead to missing important information or even delaying the whole project.
Key stakeholders might not be invited to participate.
The team might be in their heads, making meetings less effective.
Control the process.
The most important thing at this stage of the project is a fruitful collaboration between all the departments and stakeholders, the board, and the project sponsor. The first replatforming advice is to make someone responsible for this phase. This person will be there to set boundaries and expectations for gathering requirements, will provide discussion guides for workshops, and will moderate them to get necessary input. It’s important to communicate clearly what you need from this phase and what you’re not doing.
Try not to think forward.
You don’t want to focus on “how are we going to fix it?” but rather “what works and what doesn’t work?”. Make sure that at this stage, you and your team are building a deep understanding of how data flows, how processes work and where the problems are coming from, so you’ll have the knowledge you need to shape the idea of the new platform in the following stages.
Not everything will be fixed by the new platform.
While evaluating the current solution, you’ll find many processes that are unique for your company and can create problems for the platform. Some processes were created way back in the past and mindlessly replicated even though the situation completely changed. They were likely the only way to do things previously, but your company evolved. Take time to redesign processes so they won’t limit your platform choice in the future.
5. Complete replatforming project scope
Once the budget is defined and signed off and all business fundamentals are established it’s time to start creating the project scope.
The easiest way to create a realistic project scope is planning with a minimum viable product (MVP) approach. You start by defining a core scope of features that need to be delivered before the project goes live and then split all other features into following phases. You will now use your budget limits and defined business objectives to prioritize the functionalities, features and steps to create the project scope. There are a variety of prioritization strategies that can help you through that process: MoSCoW, impact mapping, Kano Model, the relative weighting method and many others. There is no good or bad choice, use the method that your team feels the most comfortable with.
Now, you’re trying to evaluate business needs in the context of budget, team capabilities and time. Remember that the roadmap and goals should be reachable. Don’t put the strain on the project from the start. Leave breathing room, so if anything happens you have an option to modify the scope. Be specific and make sure that everyone knows their roles and responsibilities. Establish KPIs that will allow you to measure the progress on each step.
Key achievements of project scope stage
Detailed project scope.
Prioritization strategy in place.
Proper documentation in place.
What features are fundamental for your business?
Do you want to go live with every feature or build the platform over a few first months?
Is the replatforming project affordable and cost-effective?
Which prioritization strategy do you want to use?
Which software integrations are crucial for launch? (e.g. POS, inventory management system, ERP, CRM, etc.)
Do you need new partners to conduct those integrations?
Do you want any new integrations?
Which features are crucial for launch? (e.g. returns, customer service, wholesale, bundling, etc.)
Project scope steps
|Step 1||Split agreed goals and objectives into tasks.|
|Step 2||Agree on prioritization strategy (MoSCoW, impact mapping, Kano Model, the relative weighting method or other).|
|Step 3||Define priority order for all scope items. Create the phases and their goals according to prioritization.|
|Step 4||Agree on scope documents with the team.|
|Step 5||Define MVP phase.|
|Step 6||Get the approval of the project sponsor.|
|Step 7||Share the arrangements with stakeholders. Work with them to assess the business case for each requirement.|
|Step 8||Approve the scope and timeline with the chosen project management structure.|
|Step 9||Create a summary of all arrangements and report it to the board, team and stakeholders.|
Risks related to the project scope stage
Not including a communication plan with the current agency into the project scope.
Planning the scope without the IT department’s insight
Listen and answer.
Everyone has different priorities. Different departments have different goals, and it will all show during the meetings. You want to listen carefully to what your team and stakeholders are saying. You can’t let them impose their attitude on the rest of the team, unless they're representing the company goals first.
When somebody is disagreeing with the established prioritization or wants to do something differently or add something to the scope last minute, you want to listen and evaluate with them the importance of their input. Ask them:
Which business need is it addressing?
What purpose does it serve?
Is it a customer need, company need, department need, position need?
How will it bring positive ROI?
Let your team influence the prioritization but keep them on the topic. This method will allow you to work effectively and scratch the ideas without making anyone feel unheard, misunderstood or judged.
Don’t leave an empty room for stakeholders’ expectations.
At each stage of the project, you need to make sure that everyone understands the process and decisions the same way. The clearer the vision of what the new platform will be able to change and what will stay the same, the less space for unrealistic visions that lead to disappointment. This way, you’ll be able to keep stakeholders focused on the right topics and next goals, which makes cooperation easier.
Document and explore dependencies.
An ecommerce replatforming project is complex. There are a lot of dependencies that influence such a project's scope. You need to look holistically at your company and examine other processes that are running while replatforming is planned and how they affect the project. Do they affect running the ERP project? New clothing line launch? Or maybe the ERP project is affecting platform choice.
6. Platform search and TCO evaluation
Powered by information collected through the previous stages, and aware of the project's scope, time frame and budget possibilities, you want to start looking for a new ecommerce platform. Before shortlisting preferred vendors, you might want to choose ecommerce technology that fits your capabilities. This will help you navigate your search in the right direction. There are four types of ecommerce technology:
Legacy monolithic platforms: one-size-fits-all, monolithic platforms that are complicated, hard to scale, and require a very specific skill set.
Examples: Magento, Salesforce
SaaS monolithic platforms: easy-to-use cloud-based software with limited flexibility providing semi-customizable stores.
Examples: Shopify, BigCommerce
Headless SaaS platforms: platforms that decouple the front-end presentation layer from the back-end ecommerce engine. This ensures the full customization of the platform.
Examples: Commercetools, Commercelayer
Headless industry-specific platforms: platforms that have an API-first approach and an extensive set of features. They’re tailored to a particular industry.
Examples: Centra (fashion and lifestyle industry)
Based on your scope, budget and requirements, you can easily exclude some technologies right away. Check our guide table to learn which types of ecommerce solutions will fit your needs best. When you know what you’re looking for, you can start shortlisting providers and getting the first demos.
Legacy monolithic platforms
These are the oldest type of ecommerce platform technology. Legacy monolithic platforms are powerful and complex one-size-fits-all solutions. They represent the old-fashioned approach to software development, are prone to bugs, and are expensive to maintain. Their main strength is the amount of control that they provide. You have the ownership of the system and customizations — if you can afford it. It’s true that you can make any change that you want, but development is extremely costly due to the complicated and monolithic code structure.
Mostly retailers choose on-premise platforms in order to host another system in the same environment, or they have very specific requirements regarding servers, etc.
Legacy monolithic platform based websites:
Monolithic SaaS platforms
Monolithic SaaS platforms are slowly taking over the ecommerce market. Their main strength is the ease of use. Where legacy monolithic platforms require a lot of money and time investment, cloud-based solutions are basically self-sufficient (maintenance, hosting, security, etc.). However, it comes with a price — PaaS and self-hosted platforms significantly limit your customization possibilities and have low scalability.
Websites running on monolithic SaaS platforms:
Headless SaaS platforms
Headless SaaS platforms represent the MACH development approach — Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless. It’s a modern architecture that ensures scalability, flexibility, security, and performance. Headless solutions allow you to get the customizability that legacy monolithic platforms are trying to achieve alongside the ease of use that SaaS platforms offer.
Retailers choose headless platforms to gain design freedom and global expansion abilities, and deliver better customer experiences.
Headless SaaS platform based websites:
Headless industry-specific platform
Headless industry-specific platforms bring you all the benefits that of MACH architecture with even higher cost-effectiveness. All the native functionalities are designed to fit to your particular market, so you’re not paying for features that you won’t use. What’s more, you’re saving time and money on developing functionalities that aren’t the standard retailer requirement — for example, over 100 variations of the product — because they come out -of -the -box. It’s overall easier to work with a provider that understands the business logic of your industry. The combination of technology, freedom of design and business logic makes your store really powerful and outstanding.
Centra based websites:
Comparison of ecommerce technologies
|Legacy monolithic platforms||Monolithic SaaS platforms||Headless Saas platforms||Headless industry-specific platform|
|Examples||Magento, Salesforce||Shopify, BigCommerce||CommerceLayer, CommerceTools||Centra|
|Ease of use||Powerful but complex. Requires specific programming skills to customize and maintain. Magento developers for Magento, WooCommerce developers for WooCommerce, Salesforce developers for Salesforce etc. Most programmers don’t want to learn a language specific to one platform so there is a small market to pick from and high prices.||They’re easy to learn. SaaS platforms are the best option for aspiring online retailers. They’re easy to set up and use if you don’t need a high level of customization.||Powerful in the right hands. It’s enabling you to show your brand's identity without compromises. API-first approach helps you deliver the desired customer experience without compromising the performance.||Powerful, industry-specific solution for power users. It requires an experienced e-commerce manager to make the most out of the system, but it's a very cost-effective modern solution ready to boost your sales.|
|Total cost of ownership||On top of the fees for licenses come customization, hosting, updates, upgrades come and website development. It creates a high and difficult to forecast total cost of ownership.||Usually all the maintenance costs are included in the monthly fee. On top of the platform's license, you need to pay separately for all the plugins required to customize your store. It makes 40-60% of TCO.||Total cost of ownership is generally lower for headless platforms, because their structure provides developers with the best environment to work with.||Centra’s license fee covers everything needed, including support. The only cost on top is the design and development of a custom-built, on-brand website.|
|Design freedom||Legacy platforms are often restricted by vendor and version lock-in. They also combine backend architecture with front end architecture, which significantly slows the development and limits the choice of front end technologies.||Template-based design system allows you to create a generic website. You don’t have extensive control of design and you can’t choose frontend technology. It’s an easy to use option for starting retailers.||“Headless” design system provides you with true freedom of design. You can choose any CMS. Frontend is fully separated from backend which allows any frontend technology choice.||Complete freedom of design. Bespoke frontend, an external CMS, custom design from storefront to the checkout.|
|CapEx investment||Legacy monolithic platforms are not the most expensive choice initially. open-source solutions like WooCommerce or Magento open-source are free to acquire.||Monolithic SaaS platforms are often priced on a subscription basis. It can be everything from ten dollars to thousands of dollars.||Headless platforms charge higher software fees, and the initial build is more expensive initially.||Headless platforms charge higher software fees, and and the initial build is more that’s why they seem expensive initially.|
|Business orientation||Built for retailers. Advanced retailer-focused ecommerce product. Industry-specific adaptation must be added through dedicated development, driving cost and complexity.||Built for retailers. For a starting retailer that wants an easy-to-get-started online store. That means that apps are needed to get the core fashion commerce features like variant handling, campaign features and international sales.||Built for retailers. For well-oriented retailers that look for a solution that will shape around their needs.||Built for fashion & lifestyle brands. Geared for established or aspiring brands that need a platform to achieve their global ambitions.|
|Agility||Legacy monolithic platforms are very customizable, but changes take so much time and money that they’re considered not flexible.||You’re limited to the plugins shop and platform updates. Custom development is almost impossible. As long as you stay within the possibilities offered by extensions store it’s a great option.||API-first approach allows quick and easy development. Headless ecommerce is perceived as the most agile.||API-first approach allows quick and easy development. Headless ecommerce is perceived as the most agile.|
|Upgrades||Expensive and time-consuming to upgrade due to version and vendor lock-in. Legacy monolithic platform upgrades can take up to twelve months and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars (run on established enterprise).||Always up to date. Upgrades are run in the background.||Always up to date. Upgrades are run in the background.||Always up to date. Fortnightly upgrades in the background.|
|Native feature-set||It is very provider specific. Most legacy monolithic platforms are built to be extended through custom development like WooCommerce, but there are also platforms like Salesforce that have extended Native feature-set. You have to be ready to invest into development to get the industry-specific functionalities.||Monolithic Saas platforms are built to be modular. The features they offer are fairly basic and not built-in natively||Depends on the provider.||Wide range of native-features dedicated to the fashion and lifestyle industry.|
|Team operating the platform||Requires specialized training in a specific platform in-house support & management team, up to 50 people. The team should regularly attend extra paid training to stay up to date with the platform's technology.||Requires a smaller in-house team. Doesn’t require specialized skills in a particular platform.||Requires a smaller in-house team. Doesn’t require specialized skills in a particular platform.||Requires a smaller in-house team. Doesn’t require specialized skills in a particular platform.|
|Scalability||Legacy monolithic platforms are highly scalable, but it comes with a cost. You have to build architecture, update hosting accordingly and handle the plugins. The more advanced the platform becomes, the more money will be invested into maintenance to keep its performance at acceptable level.||Due to the lack of agility Monolithic SaaS platforms’ scalability is limited. They can handle the growing amount of customers, but not really the growing business. There may be limits in product variations, amount of storefronts, markets available etc.||Headless platforms due to their MACH architecture are extremely easy and quick to scale without compromising their power or efficiency.||Headless platforms due to their MACH architecture are extremely easy and quick to scale without compromising their power or efficiency.|
|Security||You have full liability for the data security and depending on the provider there are different security concerns.||Cloud-based solutions are believed to be more secure that legacy monolithic platforms. The majority of providers take 100% liability for the customers data.||Cloud-based solutions are believed to be more secure that legacy monolithic platforms. The majority of providers take 100% liability for the customers data.||Centra is built to achieve the highest security standards. We’re storing data securely on EU-based servers.|
|Maintenance||Hosting, maintenance, upgrades and support are coming on top of all the other fees and can easily come up thousands of hundreds of dollars.||Maintenance, hosting, version upgrades, and account management are included in the monthly fee.||Depends on the provider.||Centra’s license fee covers everything needed, including support. The only cost on top is the design and development of a custom-built, on-brand website.|
Total cost of ownership evaluation
Total cost of ownership includes the initial purchase of the ecommerce platform and operating costs over the following three to five years. It reveals the indirect cost disparities between different types of ecommerce solutions, making it extremely accurate in selecting the most appropriate ecommerce platform for your business. If you’re interested in learning more about conducting TCO analysis, we’ve created the “Total cost of ownership of different types of ecommerce platforms”, which will help you set realistic pricing expectations and offer some pointers on where you might expect hidden costs.
Total cost of ownership includes following cost streams:
Research and development
Be diligent — every platform is priced a little differently and you might be surprised to uncover some cost streams. Get the validation of your TCO from the vendors if possible.
Key achievements of the platform search stage.
Choice of platform technology
List of ten possible vendors
Evaluation of in-house competence
Which ecommerce technology serves your business best?
Can you afford a legacy monolithic platform?
Which providers are focused on serving your industry?
How will business revenue grow over the next three to five years?
Will you be able to afford GMV percentage fees over the next three to five years?
How involved in managing your platform do you want to be?
Do you want to manage hosting?
How much liability do you want to take on?
Platform search steps
|Step 1||Research the different types of ecommerce technology and their characteristics. Choose at maximum two technologies that might suit your needs and budget.|
|Step 2||Look for recommended platforms. Don’t close yourself only to the most known solutions. Look for the online shops that work and suit your needs, and check which platform they are using. You can engage your industry contacts to get recommendations or anti-recommendations.|
|Step 3||Create an initial list of ten platforms that caught your eye, five from each technology, and review license costs for them.|
|Step 4||Contact development agencies associated with those platforms and learn build costs.|
|Step 5||Based on gathered information, shortlist your choices to two or three options that fit your budget and needs.|
|Step 6||Compare chosen platforms further, taking under consideration your particular needs.|
|Step 7||Create a weighted score sheet based on findings in stages 1 and 5.|
|Step 8||Engage your team to review all available documentation on each platform. Let the marketing department assess marketing functionalities, etc. Search the ecommerce consultancy blogs to read professional reviews. Take under consideration their possible biases. Meet with the vendors for professional demos, or use free trials if available.|
|Step 9||Understand in-house competence — a platform migration probably has some implications for your organization, and it's important to scope them. Here are a few considerations: • Customer support training • Potential specialist hires (such as in-house developers with PHP experience) • Agency or third-party skillset (do they know/support your new platform?) • Sales team training • Warehouse and inventory system knowledge (will they need to change how they work or implement a new system?) • Positions no longer required|
|Step 10||Rate vendors based on opinions of your team and weighted scorecard. Collect the questions that were raised. Shortlist if possible to have only two options.|
|Step 11||Conduct further evaluation, and find the answers for all questions. Meet with industry partners who use those platforms if you can. Shortlist to have two options.|
|Step 12||Conduct TCO evaluation for each option. Add in a provision for a detailed Discovery phase. *Learn how to conduct TCO analysis here.|
|Step 13||Calculate the TCO analysis for each platform for a few revenue scenarios. F.e. -10%, -20% of GMV targets and +10%, +20%.|
|Step 14||Update the platform's evaluation. Include full TCO analysis.|
|Step 15||Choose a recommended platform, organize a meeting, and show the evaluation and preferred platform to the team, board and stakeholders.|
|Step 16||Get approval.|
Risks related to platform search and total cost of ownership evaluation
Problems with finding the additional staff with the required skill set
Decline in the satisfaction of work throughout the company due to necessary layoffs
Potential layoffs and new hires
Decline in overall employee satisfaction
Initial costs that are blindsiding
When switching platform composition, it’s easy to overlook the consequences to the business. We’ve already covered the impact of that change on the budget, but it also affects all business processes, supporting software choices (ERP, CMS, inventory management, etc.) and the team. When choosing different ecommerce technology, make sure to discuss the implications with the potential vendor or ask for help from a dedicated replatforming consultant. They have a lot of experience with such projects and can easily point you in the right direction.
7. Platform detailed evaluation
While deep diving into potential ecommerce platforms, it’s easy to hyperfocus on details and lose the bigger picture. Even if the platform fulfills all the initial requirements and cooperation with the vendor goes seamlessly, remember to check how the solutions fit into your environment, processes and growth plans.
Carry out interviews, ask questions, explore different scenarios and get sign-off confirmation on all internal and external arrangements. Learn as much as you can before making any decisions. Rushing into the final choice can end up as a huge waste of investment. Don’t hesitate to go back to the platform search and TCO evaluation if previously shortlisted solutions didn’t match your expectations.
Key achievements of platform detailed evaluation stage:
Contact current clients of the platform.
Get the sign-off list of native features.
Find weaknesses of the platforms, and bring them to the table.
Demo a variety of scenarios.
Platform detailed evaluation steps
|Step 1||Carry out extended interviews with current platform users. Preferably from your circle.|
|Step 2||Ask the vendor for a sign-off list of native features and what’s included in the initial price.|
|Step 3||Verify areas that are the weaknesses of the chosen platform, and negotiate fixes with the vendor.|
|Step 4||Cooperate with the vendor on demos of different scenarios (Black Friday, global expansion, rapid jump in revenue, etc.) to see if the platform will work for you.|
|Step 5||Learn what requires configuration and what would be bespoke development.|
|Step 6||Ask the provider for a written and signed estimation of the predicted additional expenses to the project of including crucial functionalities, along with any risks they have identified.|
|Step 7||Review all documentation, evaluation and declarations with an external consultant or technical ecommerce manager or CTO.|
|Step 8||Organize a meeting with the team, board and stakeholders to share your findings and get additional questions.|
|Step 9||Contact the vendor to request additional documentation and statements to clear all doubts.|
|Step 10||Create a summary of all arrangements, and require a confirmation from the vendor.|
|Step 11||Send the summary to the board, team and stakeholders.|
|Step 12*||If the platform doesn’t meet your requirements or the cooperation with the vendor is hard right from the start, reconsider your choice.|
Risks related to platform detailed evaluation
Choosing a platform that requires overengineering, which leads to unsustainable total cost of ownership.
Overlooking hidden costs.
If you’d have to develop over 70% of the functionalities on top of the existing platform, that might be a good sign to rethink this choice.
Ask questions and get the answers.
The more you ask, the more you don’t assume. It sounds obvious, but every platform is different, and you can be easily blinded by the way your current platform works. You may assume that some things will be priced the same way or work the same way, while in reality they may as well not exist on the new platform. The easiest way to make sure that you’re not overlooking important things is to work on a variety of scenarios. Ask your team to help you create scenarios based in the everyday work, sales environment, or edge cases. Together, create a list of questions that came from that exercise and send them out to the possible vendors. Get the answers through official channels like email or signed-off declarations instead of phone confirmation.
8. Partner selection
Before starting the partner selection collect all the essential information about dependencies within your current platform ecosystem and objectives of cooperation with the search partner. Document all the data that will be a part of partnership and create the first draft of cooperation scope. Talk it through with your team and then start searching for a partner.
Key achievements of platform selection stage
Detailed briefing in written format.
Shortlisting of potential partners.
Contact with current and potential partners.
What are the current pain points around integrations?
Do you need them solved?
Why do you need a new partner?
How data flows through the system?
What information potential partners need to make an offer?
What do you expect from the cooperation?
What value are you looking to get from cooperation?
Partner selection steps
|Step 1||Create a briefing of the new platform’s structure, goal and objectives for the potential partners.|
|Step 1,5||Create RFP (if you choose to do so).|
|Step 2||Contact current partners that will be required to integrate with the new platform to learn if they are compatible.|
|Step 3||List all the integrations/services that you need to find providers for.|
|Step 4↻||Search the market for the best _____ partners.|
|Step 5↻||Carry on initial research — check the pricing and professional reviews, ask industry partners, read the documentation, etc.|
|Step 6↻||Shortlist potential _______ partners. Choose two or three for further evaluation.|
|Step 7↻||Create a weighted score sheet and ask your team for their input.|
|Step 8↻||Submit a brief to potential _____ partners and try to negotiate. Learn how flexible they are and how good they can answer your needs.|
|Step 9↻||Document your doubts and work on them with the potential partner.|
|Step 10↻||Choose the ______ partner and request a formal project proposal.|
|Step 11↻||Share the documentation of evaluation with the whole team, and get approval.|
|Step 12↻||Sign the contract.|
|Step 13↻||Provide new partners with detailed information about the project scope and deliverables.|
↻ Go through that process with all partners.
Risks related to platform selection
Lack of potential partners answering the very specific need
Lack of time for long negotiations
Unexpected integration out of the budget
9. Risk analysis and mitigation.
All ecommerce technology projects have risks. They're complex, time-consuming undertakings that are highly influenced by an outside market. This translates into the amount of risks that replatforming brings. Some of them can be predicted and addressed. Make sure that you’re mitigating foreseen risk so you can invest more resources when unforeseen risks come your way.
Key achievements of risk and mitigation stage.
RAID log diligently filled
Risk mitigation plans evaluated
Risk escalation path established
• Which risk-related information should come in real time?
• Which risks are not being mitigated?
• Which risks’ mitigation is crucial?
• Which risks are only being monitored instead of mitigated?
Risk analysis and mitigation steps
|Step 1||Collect input from the team and all stakeholders about potential risks. (You can organize workshops.)|
|Step 2||Evaluate and prioritize risks.|
|Step 3||Create a risk mitigation plan. You can split the risks within the team.|
|Step 4||Decide on the risk escalation path and reporting frequency.|
|Step 5||Create the summary of the findings — risk, mitigation plan, escalation path and responsibilities.|
|Step 6||Get approval.|
|Step 7||Share accepted risk summary with the team, board and stakeholders.|
|Step 8||Add risks to the RAID log.|
|Step 9||Monitor impact of risks, and follow the escalation path if needed.|
Not all risks require mitigation. Sometimes, you might waste valuable resources on mitigating really improbable and not very impactful risks. Invest your resources where they can bring you value.
You can use our checklist throughout the replatforming process. Remember to assign an owner to each task and ensure that the status is always updated. You might consider choosing a set of statuses you’ll work with across the team to keep communication clean and consistent. Important notes can be used to share the challenges or risks found during each step. They might influence the whole process and should be known by everyone in the team.
Why do brands migrate to Centra?
International fashion brands choose Centra as the only platform that was developed to serve the needs and complex business logic of fashion commerce. An industry-specific and headless approach allows Centra to offer powerful, yet cost- effective solutions.
Centra helps you with:
Freeing administration time & resources towards customer success, marketing and growth.
Improving customer experience with the brand in online channels.
Improving traffic acquisition.
Increasing site speed, conversion rates and SEO.
Decreasing the cost of platform ownership.
Growing company revenue by capturing new markets.
Delivering outstanding wholesale features and customer experience.
Freeing design from templates and providing you with the ability to build a storefront that expresses your brand’s visual identity.
Join the vanguard of original brands that scale fast and expand on new markets without the limitations imposed by their legacy ecommerce platforms. Centra has a very impressive portfolio of clients, including:
- Nudie Jeans,
Check out their stores to see the power of design freedom and seamless customer experience.