This post was recently updated. Originally published on September 26, 2017.
Replatforming horror stories abound. It takes too long, it’s too much money, sites crash, sales plummet; it’s an eCommerce bloodbath. While these failures may make a homegrown solution look tempting, there are some excellent ready-made solutions available that will save you time, effort and money and allow you to deliver stunning digital experiences for your customers.
Whether you are considering replatforming with your current vendor, or moving from a legacy platform to a modern, cloud-based eCommerce platform, here are some ideas to help you make the best replatforming decision for your business.
What is replatforming?
Replatforming is the process of changing your backend commerce solution. If you’re using a monolithic, legacy platform to support your site, you’ll probably have started to notice its limitations and require an upgrade.
Modern eCommerce, with omnichannel retail and the need to deliver top-class digital experiences for your customers, demands more than dated legacy commerce platforms can provide.
If you are considering replatforming, a headless solution is one option that provides several benefits when compared to monolithic commerce:
- Faster site speeds: Headless commerce, where the frontend, customer-facing layer is separated from the backend commerce functions, makes for much faster sites than other solutions. This is because requests made from site visitors do not have to be processed through the backend system to deliver content and services. It is possible to mitigate performance issues with coding changes in your existing platform, but going this route will produce diminishing returns.
- Ability to compose your own solution: If you move to a headless platform you can pick and choose the functionality you need. The separation of backend and frontend functions means you can take a composable approach, adding in the commerce services you need and linking them via APIs. You’re not bound by the programming logic of your commerce solution, instead, APIs can bridge the gap between different programming languages and functions, allowing you to select the best-in-class of each component and creating a unique solution, even when you replatform with an established vendor.
- Ability to connect multiple channels: Similarly, if you’re selling on several different channels, you can create your content in one place and deliver it to multiple channels at the same time, regardless of the framework they use.
So what is the best option when replatforming? Answering this question depends largely on how many customers you have and how your internal teams are organized.
If you have a mature tech stack and a savvy team of in-house developers, you could opt for a self-hosted solution, where you take responsibility for running and maintaining your own commerce platform. The attraction of self-hosting lies in its ability to give you complete ownership of your technical operations, but even brands with large in-house technical teams often choose to outsource the maintenance of their commerce functions so they can focus their efforts on marketing and business objectives.
Many brands are now looking to some form of cloud-based solution, with some choosing a hybrid model where a specialist provider manages their servers but they retain ownership of maintenance and security.
The other option when moving to the cloud is a fully-fledged SaaS solution. This is where a commerce platform vendor provides backend hosting and maintenance services to support your eCommerce site. Going this route gives you access to much greater support and a wealth of expertise. It also takes away the headache of having to maintain your own platform, with updates and security issues being handled by teams with a wealth of experience.
Insights for a smooth replatforming journey
Replatforming is a serious undertaking, but, done right, it doesn’t have to be an uphill struggle.
Here are three core insights to help ease your replatforming journey:
Make a comprehensive evaluation of your requirements
Whatever option you decide on, you should do it with a full understanding of your needs and requirements from the new platform.
Successful eCommerce programs traditionally involve multiple departments. Be sure to reach out to all stakeholders in your company to ensure you have captured every requirement. Don’t only make a list of your necessities required today. You should also create a list of features you might need in the future. With a headless solution, you can leave your options open, as it’s much more straightforward to add functionality as and when you need it.
Once you’ve made this list, and have armed yourself with the knowledge and understanding of what your company needs to succeed, begin looking for and vetting companies that will meet and surpass those needs. Create a personalized request for proposal (RFP) that allows you to make an apples-to-apples comparison between your short-listed vendors. And don’t forget to research vendors who have a forward-focused roadmap that will take you into the future of commerce in a stable, powerful, and lucrative partnership.
Understand the true replatforming total cost of ownership
A thorough RFP and evaluation of your needs will put you in a strong position to work out the total cost of ownership of this project. Cost can’t just be looked at from an immediate output point of view; cost over time should also be considered.
Some costs to keep in mind are:
- Platform/subscription pricing
- Implementation cost
- Hosting and managed services cost
- Commerce strategy cost
- Upgrade path and cost
- Support and maintenance
- Initial and ongoing training
These are only a selection of costs to take into consideration. Good eCommerce vendors should be upfront and open about services expenses, including support, upgrades, and training, when working with you to form a partnership. When evaluating whether to replatform with your current vendor or move to a new one, look at the entire picture before making a decision.
Move to a composable solution
Headless commerce has become an umbrella term for a range of different solutions. The basic technology – using APIs to separate your backend and frontend layers – opens the door to creating a composable tech stack. Composable commerce, which was first named by Gartner, means that you can compose a commerce solution that meets your specific needs.
It’s a sophisticated way to create your own, tailored solution, while still not having to build a completely bespoke platform from scratch.
The best eCommerce platform vendors, including Kibo, not only separate the backend from the frontend but also provide commerce services as modules that can be adopted separately, with APIs again linking up the modules.
This is a powerful solution that will suit online brands that have a strong in-house technical team and require end-to-end control over their customer experience.
If you’re not quite ready for a truly composable solution, you can still adopt headless commerce now, with the flexibility inherent in the technology allowing you to move to composable when the time is right.
Replatform to level up your business
There are many hurdles and staging posts when considering replatforming, but that shouldn’t put you off. If your brand is operating on a legacy platform with a monolithic architecture, you should see replatforming as a way to take your business to the next level.
If you decide to move to a headless solution, you can take advantage of the superior speed and functionality it offers, while at the same time leaving your options open for the future needs of your business.
Kibo’s Unified Commerce Platform is a headless solution, and its API-first architecture supports a composable approach. At the same time, its extensible model means you can take as much or as little of their services as you need, giving you the flexibility to grow your tech stack as you scale your business.
Are you interested in learning more about the Kibo Unified Commerce platform and how it can support a headless or composable approach? Request a demo today to learn more.