Change is inevitable in life and in the eCommerce world. What may have started out as a dream match between your online store and your original eCommerce platform might have eventually taken a turn for the worse.
Maybe your store’s grown too much, and your initial platform can’t accommodate or scale properly for your needs. Or perhaps you feel that customer service just isn’t there for you anymore as much as it was in the past.
Whatever the reason for the change, chances are that you’ll eventually have to look at another platform for your online store.
When this happens, it’s important to be very selective in hopping to a new platform, as not all are created equally. Once you’ve transferred your entire operations over to a new platform, it would be a pity to discover after the fact that your new platform has huge shortcomings that make it less than ideal for your store.
Save yourself this aggravation beforehand by knowing exactly what you’re in for when switching platforms. To help you make an educated decision, here are three of the biggest mistakes to avoid when eCommerce replatforming.
1. No Performance Testing on Checkout
Arguably, the checkout process is the most important aspect of your store. It’s the pathway, if optimized correctly, that produces the conversions and sales you need to keep your online doors open. The checkout should be free from as much friction as possible, so that your shoppers have no excuse but to continue until they make the ultimate conversion and complete their purchase.
Therefore, before you switch platforms, it’s necessary to evaluate whether those candidates you’ve shortlisted can actually handle the load of your current checkout traffic. Which is to say nothing of considerations for scaling, when your business grows down the line.
One individual found that out the hard way when he was involved in a project to replatform DeseretBook.com, a multimillion dollar eCommerce site. Rob Johnson, a specialist in digital solutions for eCommerce and product management, failed to test both the performance and load times specifically during the checkout process, when switching to a new platform (see: slides 11 and 22).
The results were disastrous, with the overall site speed cratering by 7% and the efficiency of checkout page load capacity tanking by a stunning 20%.
Needless to say, such adversarial changes in site performance during the checkout process will have terrible effects on an eCommerce site’s conversions and sales.
Imagine if there’s a sale happening on your site – which brings in more traffic and shoppers than usual. Yet, when that increased traffic flocks to your site’s checkout, bottlenecks appear that prevent them from enjoying a seamless checkout experience.
In such cases, they’ll usually abandon their purchases, check out competitors’ sites, or simply return to Google to continue their search for another site that can serve them more efficiently.
Instead of going willy-nilly to a new platform without testing performance times, do the following.
Test the performance and site speed of a new platform before you go live by using tools like:
- Google’s Page Speed Insights – Allows you to test page speed on both mobile and desktop
- Pingdom Website Speed Test – Lets you test performance and speed to find possible bottlenecks in the end-user experience
- WebPageTest – Gives you the option of running straightforward tests or more advanced ones including multi-step transactions
If your tests show that the new platform raises serious issues about site performance, then you can either make the necessary adjustments you need prior to launch, or you can abandon the platform altogether to find one that’s more suitable to your performance requirements.
2. Failure to Test Scalability
When your store is able to scale, that’s a marvelous thing because it indicates success. Your business is growing, and your expansion usually takes the shape and form of more customers, expansion into new countries, and therefore more orders and demand for your product or service.
In short, it results in more of a workload on your eCommerce platform due to increasing demands.
Scaling is a tricky issue for many businesses to get right, with stats indicating that one of the biggest killers of new businesses is premature scaling: 70% of startups fail because of trying to scale too early. This occurs when they spend money excessively on things other than just the fundamentals of simply growing the business.
While this is definitely problematic, the opposite scenario is equally worrisome, which is if businesses have the means to scale, yet their infrastructure fails to support them properly.
Such is the potential danger when you switch platforms. One of the key aspects of any platform is how well it’s able to scale when your store’s operations expand and undergo more stress. The last thing you want to do is switch to a new platform without being able to determine how well it can adapt to your store’s growth and other situations.
Scaling scenarios can include:
- A special discount promotion on Black Friday sends a significant spike of traffic to your site for a few hours
- Your brand expands into Asia, and you make your site available in Mandarin, which sends more Chinese shoppers and traffic to your site
- Your store begins to enjoy wider press coverage, raising your brand’s profile and sending more customers to purchase from you
Vaporizers and accessories seller Veppo discovered the price of failing to test for scalability the hard way. Originally with BigCommerce, Veppo replatformed to Shopify Plus due to a BigCommerce price increase. However, after some time on Shopify Plus, they realized that Shopify Plus’ significant reliance on third-party apps made life difficult for them because they felt they no longer had as much control over their business as they wanted.
As a result, they went back to BigCommerce where they had more control – but not before the replatforming mistake cost them $30,000.
It just goes to show that you always have to thoroughly evaluate any new platform you’re considering and brainstorm various use cases to ensure that you’re considering all the possible consequences of such a move.
On the load-testing front, use these tools to test a platform’s load capabilities before you go live to see if it can handle various types of volume during the checkout process:
SmartBear Load Testing – SmartBear helps eCommerce sites discover if the new platform they’re considering can handle different quantities of traffic during crucial times.
StresStimulus – StresStimulus allows store owners to test the load capacity of both mobile and web apps.
Load Impact – Load Impact lets eCommerce stores test load for various cases, such as API, apps and websites.
3. Failure to Consider a Mobile-First Environment
A couple of years ago, mobile surpassed desktop in the number of global users that regularly use it to access the web. That trend is going to continue, meaning that the gulf between mobile and desktop web users is only going to widen – with the advantage increasingly going to mobile.
It’s a no-brainer that any platform you’re considering has to support a mobile-first environment and mentality if you don’t want to lose conversions and sales. After all, shoppers today can simply pull out their smartphones on a whim if they suddenly remember to buy something or the urge to purchase hits them; your store has to be able to support this new type of customer behavior to avoid losing conversions and sales.
These days, it’s inadequate to simply get a responsive site. It’s not that a responsive site is bad; it’s certainly superior to not having any semblance of mobile friendliness. The bad with only having a responsive site is that it’s the bare minimum of what mobile shoppers expect today, as responsive fails to actually optimize for mobile (but it does support it).
When you have eCommerce APIs that can serve as the communication channel and seamless connectivity between your store and its mobile-solution counterpart, you give your customers a better experience with an API-driven eCommerce solution.
When choosing a new platform, ensure that it works with mobile eCommerce API solutions like:
- Elastic Path
Similarly, it’s also important to ensure that the new platform you’re considering has the capacity to support today’s mobile-eCommerce best practices like payment options that enhance the seamlessness and efficiency of checkout. Popular digital wallet options include:
- Apple Pay
- Android Pay
- Visa Checkout
These options do away with the hassle of credit cards and provide a one-tap payment solution.
Finally, any platform you choose should also support mobile-friendly notification technologies like push notifications and beacons. A mobile-first environment needs different reminders and notifications than on desktop. Your customers need to be reminded quickly and in the moment right on their smartphones to help turn their indecision into resolute action that ends in a conversion and sale for your store.
One brand failed to initially consider a mobile-first environment when they initially launched their stores, which hurt their mobile conversion rate.
Exxel Outdoors, parent company of 10 sports- and outdoors-based sites, initially had their storefronts on ASP.net, which was alright… but only for a time. When they began to experience a surge in mobile traffic, unfortunately, the expected mobile conversions failed to materialize, too.
The ASP.net platform required them to manage their mobile sites’ content separately from the main sites. This created management difficulties, so the Exxel team switched over to BigCommerce, where the mobile-first environment was seamless.
As a result, mobile conversions jumped by a tremendous 272% and mobile revenue by 193% when Exxel’s replatformed to BigCommerce and its responsive design capabilities.
Replatforming: Something You Don’t Take Lightly
Replatforming is such a sensitive issue in eCommerce because the chances of things going wrong is generally high. This is especially true when you fail to thoroughly evaluate any platforms you’re considering before switching your whole infrastructure over.
What makes replatforming tricky is that you need to continue operations throughout the switch. Downtime of any length—particularly if you’re a bigger store with a deeply loyal customer base—can damage your brand and reputation. Which can lead to sales losses that will have ramifications for your store for a long time to come.
Instead of rushing through replatforming and going with the option that only seems like the best, take your time to thoroughly evaluate your different options. Test, test, and test some more, so you’re not hit with any disastrous surprises when it’s too late to make changes no one will notice: When you’re already live on the new platform and traffic is coming into your site.
Ensure you carefully evaluate and test the performance and speed, scalability and mobile factors before committing to any new platform 100%.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.