Before You Lose Your Head, Get Yourself a Pair of New Sunglasses
By Michael Rasmussen
Re-platforming an established eCommerce site is an expensive and risky proposition.
If you’ve been doing business online for the last 20 years, or if you have a complex IT infrastructure supporting a sophisticated operational model, you may have tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars worth of capabilities you’ve invested in to meet your customers’ expectations.
Re-platforming throws that investment away and forces a reset on all the integrations, all the customizations, and all the operational knowledge.
Re-platforming is also not how companies maximize ROI. That’s done through delivering a solid user experience which, thanks to the rise of headless & DXPs with prebuilt storefronts, can be easily implemented.
The behind-the-scenes plumbing (aka. Commerce platform) doesn’t attract customers to make purchases, but rather their experience on-site - easy product discoverability, personalized content, and seamless navigation. In effect, a DXP layered on top of an existing platform is like a brand-new pair of sunglasses.
Re-platforming Is Risky
I recently had a couple of beers with an investor relations friend of mine. He told me his company is about to undergo an ERP implementation, and every investor he talks to references an “ERP discount”, in effect the amount they chop off the top of the stock price for any company going through an ERP implementation.
ERP has long been a disruptive force in a large organization, but as eCommerce roars towards 50% of total revenue, it too will be looked at from an investor risk standpoint. Before long, it will be commonplace in boardroom discussions to treat eCommerce stability as an existential risk to the organization.
It is now common knowledge that a relaunch of a site on a new platform comes with a conversion blip while the brand recovers from the shock of its new shell. The SEO loss, the inevitable bugs, and operational hiccups, and the time it takes for users to adjust to the new site are all factors.
Extreme attention to detail in the cutover period can mitigate these issues, but the threat to revenue is real and palpable.
Layering on a DXP has some incredible advantages over a re-platform. For starters this approach allows the C-Suite to avoid the phrase “eCommerce re-platform” on an earnings call which keeps the investors and the bosses happy.
Additionally, when the DXP is running side by side with the legacy site, the eCommerce team can take a slow and steady approach to modernize the frontend. Finally, customers respond well. For example, Bloomreach customers see an average of 5% lift in revenue per visitor after switching to an experience-driven frontend.
Re-platforming Is Expensive
Along with the implied costs associated with risk, there is the cold hard monetary cost of re-platforming. If an organization has spent any amount of time on a platform there is an accumulation of features, integrations, and customizations that have been done to make the platform work for a particular implementation.
After undergoing the cost of installing and configuring the software to run the vanilla version of the package, there is still the potentially massive expense of rebuilding all of this customization in order to meet a “minimum viable product” equivalent version of the existing site. This cost can run into the tens of millions of dollars but is typically in the $300k-$1 million range for even the most straightforward of implementations.
When integrating a DXP the barrier to entry is much smaller. Standing up a DXP and pointing it at the API endpoint for a commerce instance takes only a few days, meaning most customers go live in under 90 days. With cloud-hosted DXPs, the upfront software costs can be amortized over several months or years, and the option to start small and scale up as needs increase helps keep experimentation costs down.
The Grass Isn’t Greener
Commerce platforms have been functionally commoditized. Most of the major functional areas, like promotions, payments, wish lists, catalog, and search are functionally equivalent in all of the top platforms.
Five years ago, it might have been possible to differentiate on having a wish list, or offering more creative promotions, and jumping platforms was a quick way to get that capability. Now, with the commoditization of these features, it isn’t what features a site offers, but how it offers them.
While the capabilities of eCommerce platforms have matured in most areas, the place they’ve fallen woefully behind is in experience management. Especially as the pace of feature delivery slows in favor of lowering TCO and improving reliability, experience management as a feature of commerce platforms has languished.
A modern, feature-rich DXP offers capabilities that are light years ahead of what is available in even the best experience-embedded platforms.
Conclusion: Waiting Is Almost Always Better
Whether buying a new car or selecting a new commerce platform, the longer you limp along with the old one, the better the options will be when you finally do get the new one.
Trends in micro-services and headless are still playing out, machine learning-based personalization and optimization is just starting to mature, and so many other revolutionary capabilities are just over the horizon that committing the next 10 years to a new platform might be a limiting decision in the next 18-24 months.
One of the great unsung benefits of sticking a DXP on the front of a legacy platform is that it futureproofs the frontend against changes to the backend. Once a site has been fully transitioned to an experience-driven frontend, the backend is no longer a limiting factor.
Decoupling content, search, personalization, and recommendations from the core functions that run the business frees up IT to make plumbing decisions that don’t impact the customer, allowing the tech team to take their time and be methodical about replacing aging technology without the pain of the big bang approach so common over the last 10 years.
Bottom line, when your software is starting to show its age, a new pair of sunglasses may be just what you need to add some life and vigor to your site. A DXP implementation is a good way to take advantage of existing investments while avoiding risk and cost.
If you are considering replacing your eCommerce platform purely to improve the user experience, a DXP may be just what you need.
Zilker Technology is an expert digital consultancy and system integrator that combines the agility of a start-up with the experience and expertise of a global consulting firm. Zilker has worked with some of the largest companies in the world on implementing complex eCommerce solutions across Retail and B2B. Read more about Zilker’s digital experience point of view and approach.