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Is it time for a new eCommerce platform?

Is it time for a new eCommerce platform? 1

Is it time for a new eCommerce platform?

When consulting for eCommerce business executives, I’m often asked: How do I know that it’s time for a new eCommerce platform?  That answer is different for every business.  It’s a big decision, so I definitely want to help weigh your options carefully.

Here are some examples of excellent reasons I’ve encountered over the years for switching to a new eCommerce platform:

Good Reasons to switch:

  1. My current platform charged me a percentage of my sales, and this currently exceeds the amount of annual Magento licensing fees.  A single-server annual Magento license currently runs around $15k.  If you are paying more than this in commissions to your current platform, you are overpaying. Also keep in mind that if you currently are paying that commission on phone orders and other types of orders that you manually enter, this expense could be cut by paying a flat annual licensing cost.  And Magento Community Edition (CE) has no annual licensing fees at all.
  2. My current platform doesn’t integrate with a critical third party or other system, such as my fulfillment center or ERP system.  Automation like this can save your company hundreds of thousands of dollars – and are an excellent reason to switch to a new eCommerce platform, such as Magento, that will integrate seamlessly.
  3. My hosted cart has performance problems or downtime issues.  You should have the ability to control who your host is, what kind of performance enhancements can be performed on your site and server, as well as control over downtime issues.  Downtime and slow performance is costing your company money.
  4. I’m using WordPress, etc. with an eCommerce plug-in.  Unless you are a very small business, this isn’t scalable, has potential security risks, and takes a considerable amount of unnecessary time to manage your store each day.  You probably need something more robust.
  5. I want to future-proof my website.  This one can really go both ways – if you want to build a site and never have to do anything to it for 10 years, then you should reconsider your career in eCommerce.  It’s a constantly changing industry.  However, there are certainly new eCommerce platforms that are more up-to-date on current trends than others.  For example, Magento is on the forefront of Responsive Design – which is the ability for your website to display well on many different device types.  This will become a must-have feature very soon – so if your current platform doesn’t support this, its time to switch to a new eCommerce platform.

Over the years, I’ve also encountered some fairly poor reasons to switch to a new eCommerce platform.  Here’s a few:

Bad reasons to switch:

  1. I don’t like the look/feel of my current front end.  Chances are a simple redesign will fix this.  And it will cost much less. If this is the only reason you want to switch, consider a redesign instead.
  2. My current site is too hard to use.  There’s a learning curve with any eCommerce platform.  The good news is, once you get over that initial curve you should be able to easily manage your store going forward.  You may alternatively want to think about partnering with an eCommerce agency or hiring someone in-house to help manage your eCommerce store. Now if its hard to use because of bugs in the code, downtime, etc. then that is a different issue entirely.
  3. My current site isn’t generating any sales.  There are a whole lot of reasons that your sales could be suffering.  Switching to a new eCommerce platform doesn’t guarantee your sales will increase.  When someone brings this problem to me, I recommend digging into your Google Analytics data first.  It’s possible that the reason you don’t have any sales is because your current site has a 20 second load time…  It’s also possible your prices aren’t competitive and you don’t offer a compelling benefit to customers, so no one is going to buy from you no matter how fast your site loads.
  4. My website looks out of date.  Was it last updated in 1999?  Well then it IS out of date!  That doesn’t necessarily indicate a platform problem though.  If you don’t have the budget to regularly update your site, you will run into this “out of date” issue on any platform that you switch to.  No new eCommerce platform is going to automatically refresh the look of your site as trends change.  That is up to you, your graphic designer and your development team.
  5. I’m in a cash crunch.  Sometimes it takes a long time to make back the money you initially invest in building a new site.  Despite what those late night television ads promised you about selling online, this is not a quick way to generate fast cash to buy that luxury yacht you’ve been dreaming about. It is a significant business investment, and your ROI is greatly dependent on your management of that business.

There are a few last considerations that I would add before you make the decision to switch to a new eCommerce platform:

  • Do you have time to research platforms and solutions?  To manage the switch?  It certainly doesn’t need to be you – an eCommerce or marketing manager in your organization could handle the day-to-day of these tasks.  However, someone in your organization will have to be involved in at least some tasks.  A full-service agency like Creatuity does manage a lot of the details for you – but we cannot build your site without your input.
  • Do you have the budget?  This is a tricky one, because naturally you are going to ask me – how much does it cost?  That is similar to asking how much a car costs.  It depends greatly on the type of car and the add-ons.  We routinely have large eCommerce sites that cost in excess of $100k to build.  But we also have ones that are $10-20k.  The important thing here is – do you have a budget set aside at all?  If you don’t have cash, do you have access to a line of credit or other financing?  Do not fool yourself into thinking that 2 days post-launch your sales are going to triple.  That isn’t going to happen.  So you need to have cash/credit set aside to finance the entire build, and be comfortable with slowly repaying this over time.  If your first thought is “I’m not even sure if I can pay my employees next month” then its not the time to build a new website.
  • Is this a priority for my business at this point in time?  Sometimes there are simply other priorities going on – perhaps you are launching a line of products, opening a new warehouse, or managing a PR disaster.  Naturally your attention needs to be 100% on those things.  There’s never a perfect time to build a new site, but there are certainly times when you going to have more time to devote to this process.  You want to make smart, informed, well-thought-out decisions.  You do not want to be pounding out emails at 2am with no sleep saying “Just build me a site, I don’t have time for this!!” to your developer.  True story.  But really, think through the timing carefully.  When would I want to start?  When would I want to be live?  Do I want to launch a new site before my busy season? What other duties will I have during this time that will interfere with my ability to oversee this project’s success? Who on my team can help me out?
  • And don’t forget to plan ahead – Rome wasn’t built in a day!