To Replatform… Or Not To?

Shownotes: Transcripts: Michael: Hello folks, and welcome to eCommerce Q & A. This is the show where we equip you, as a store owner, director of eCommerce, CTO, CIO, CMO, and many other titles like that at three letters long at an eCommerce company, or multi-channel companies to just kill it. I’m joined today by […]

September 10, 2017 25 MIN
ecommerceq&a
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Michael: Hello folks, and welcome to eCommerce Q & A. This is the show where we equip you, as a store owner, director of eCommerce, CTO, CIO, CMO, and many other titles like that at three letters long at an eCommerce company, or multi-channel companies to just kill it. I’m joined today by my colleague, and good friend, Chris. Chris, thank you for joining us.

Chris: Hey, Michael. Thank you for having me. It’s great to be here.

Michael: Absolutely. Chris, can you give us a little background on the topic today, which is going to be around why you should, maybe, consider a re-platform under eCommerce. And also some reasons maybe why you shouldn’t.

Chris: Yeah. Absolutely. As you know, majority of commerce stores migrate every two to three years, according to Forester. It’s important to know, what are those main reasons that can kind of flag and say, maybe we need to look at a new platform. Briefly, these points include legacy systems that don’t allow you to scale effectively and efficiently. Also, not utilizing a platform in full, you know, it may have a whole bunch of bells and whistles that you’re not using.

Also, to initiate any new company goals, maybe product lines. Then, finally, also, if there’s something happening with performance and security. Those are kind of a highlight able overview of the main ports of why someone should definitely looking into re-platforming.

Michael: Tell me this Chris, you’ve been in this for a while. What are you seeing in your own personal experience, you mentioned some Forester research. But just maybe give a little bit of your background on this topic.

Chris: Yeah. Definitely. I mean, it’s funny that we always try to kind of come up with a general consensus of what we can expect. I think, ultimately, it really comes down to each individual use case. I’ve definitely see people that are very consistent with looking at new technology, through and through. Maybe a few years ago. But, with eCommerce platform specifically, it definitely ranges. You’ll get a large number of companies that will be on a platform for seven, eight years plus. I’ve seen a lot of companies that make moves very quickly, every couple of years they change systems.

But, ultimately, I think there is a good general rule of thumb, every three to five years. In my experience, it has been very common for companies to re-platform within that time frame.

Michael: We didn’t really go into your background at all though. So, where do you come into this picture?

Chris: Absolutely. I’ve been in the eCommerce for a little over five years now, and had the honor of working with amazing and intellectual individuals across the board. I’ve been over at another agency that is very heavily Magento. I was leading business development there, and consulting companies on, ultimately, how to grow their business online. Evaluating each component of their business digitally and finding areas of improvement and such.

Over the course of my tenure at other agencies, I’ve been accepted onto … As a eCommerce consultant for Oxford Digital. That kind of came about in my experience working with various companies, just kind of became invited on several occasions to take a look at other projects that maybe a particular group, from a very specific agency, may have taken on … Maybe had run into some issues three months down the road, or even a couple weeks in. Kind of looking at what’s happening there. My experience coming from SAP, high risk background. And looking at systems that relate to SAP.

A lot of demand for Magento as well, but I think kind of taking the run on where I am now. It’s definitely a good place to be in terms of being able to look at all these other situations from various type of industries and companies. And really understanding what is it that they’re experiencing. A lot of times it’s funny, things will just be very simple, that just may have gone unnoticed.

Today, I’m definitely happy to be VP of strategy over at Sellry. And taking everything that I’ve learned over the years, and applying it to help other eCommerce executives grow their company as well.

Michael: SAP, Magento. You’re like the man with a plan when it comes to platforms.

Chris: Yeah. Absolutely. I’ve done several comparisons to weight technologies against others. Forester comes out with really great reports on this. You know, B2B wave, B2C wave, I bet most post are familiar with. They have a lot of good information there on a high level as well.

Michael: Let’s do this, let’s dive right in. Okay. What are the reasons that you maybe should consider a re-platform?

Chris: Absolutely. The Legacy systems was one of the first ones I mentioned. It’s a very common situation. Where a company will adopt a system, in a lot of cases in the 90’s actually and still to this day are standing. Those systems typically don’t necessarily allow you to scale effectively and efficiently. The complexity that are involved in maintaining those systems are very costly.

Michael: Can you give me an example of a system you have in mind?

Chris: I think an old system that’s pretty common for companies to kind of maintain for several years, for many years, is … Cold Fusion, I think is one.

Michael: Cold Fusion. It has such a cool name.

Chris: I know. It actually does. It’s funny, they’ve powered some really intense sights. You’d be surprised. But …

Michael: Is anybody really using that? I mean, I thought you were going to be like Magenta 1. Magenta 1 is eight years old, everybody still … A lot of people are still using it.

Chris: Yeah. I would actually consider Magenta 1 to be a Legacy system, for lack of better terms. But Legacy as a whole really comes in a variety of packages. You’ll have super Legacy systems from the 90’s. Then you’ll have Legacy systems like you said, just on eight or ten years or so.

If you’re still using Magenta 1 today, there’s got to be some type of validity in that. Or maybe you’re just not ready to make the move for whatever reason. But, considering the fact that they’ll no longer be releasing security patches as of next year. It’s something to definitely consider.

Michael: What I see with these things, is there’s a fatigue that comes from re-platforming once or twice. And you’re like, I don’t want to do that again.

Chris: Yeah.

Michael: out a catalog every year. Thankfully, we don’t have to do it every two months. The complexity, and I’ve definitely seen that there. If you’re using a platform that’s old, producing you’re having to actually maintain old code because nobody else is even using that code. You’re having to make it compatible for some of our screen plans, for example. They haven’t made the move to a yes.

As a result, they’re having to literally maintain for lack of a better term, this free platform. Just for their own usage. Rather than just getting onto the new thing. So, be said for staying current. Right.

Now, can we jump ahead? I want to dive in more on this one, but I want to talk to you about your second point. About what if you’re just not utilizing what’s in your platform? Talk to me more about that. I mean, how many people … There’s the concept of a marketing feature. Right?

When a platform just has something, so that you’ll see it and be like, that’s cool that that has that, or I really want that, then you’re never going to use it. That just goes with every platform. I think you’re saying something different.

I think you’re saying, there’s a lot of platforms where you’re way overpaying for a lot of things that you really don’t need. And you don’t have to. Is that what you’re getting at?

Chris: Definitely. If someone is under utilizing a platform, it really just depends on the type of company, and the business model as a whole. Ultimately, just like you said, it’s funny how often that happens. You’ll see all these really cool, fancy, marketing personalization, centralized data. There’s a lot of things that will really kind of make you raise your hand say, that sounds like I want to try that. A lot of times these businesses aren’t necessarily well suited in terms of resources to even utilize each of these various facets. Because, ultimately, if you only have one person that’s going to maintain your platform internally, that’s not going to cut it.

Michael: What if you got a team of 100 merchandisers. I mean, in that case, you probably need more complexity. Right?

Chris: Absolutely. But, even then, you have solutions revolved around that. SAP has a really interesting cockpit, where it can be centralized. So, if you’re having all these different people on the same team, everything is centralized and viewable. And things can be moved around easily, you know, you can push product data across multiple sites at once. There’s various things.

To get back to your point though. In SAP, I’ve seen it a lot, in Demandware I’ve seen it a lot. You know, companies will look at … Demandware specifically, with a particular type of compensation structure that they have, may be favorable in certain industries where you have high margin products. Looking longterm, Demandware does have a lot of really cool, fancy tools, that they go under utilized.

Then, ultimately, if you’re looking at a rev share model, then that may not validate the functions and features that that platform has.

Michael: I think this is actually … I just go on a brief tangent here. Because this is getting me all fired up about something. Well all heard about segmentation in the last few years. And we all said, we’re going to do that. Then every single client that I’ve got has started doing it, and found really good ROI. Even 2X, 3X, and even more ROI, when you start segmenting. But the problem is, it’s not scalable.

Now, we’ve got dynamic. Where you can feed all of your data into learning engine, then it’s going to do that for you and free up your resources. I think it’s very easy to be small minded about the fact that it feels like so much work to re-platform or to embrace the latest and greatest. But, in reality, when you consistently have a mindset of doing that, and doing it well, and doing it fast. And cutting out the things you don’t need, it actually saves you a bunch of time.

Sorry for that brief tangent. But we’re going to do a show in a couple weeks on this topic of dynamic segmentation. Which is think is super exciting. All right. Let’s move on.

What’s the third reason why you should maybe consider re-platforming?

Chris: Yes. I’d say that’s going to be led by any new company initiatives. A particular goal that the company may have, maybe revolved around growth. Or maybe trying out a new product, product category. You know, a lot of tests are run this way as well. I think it’s a good … It’s definitely a good way for a certain situations. For a company to kind of get their feet wet. And see what a particular platform could be like because I’ve been in several situations where a lot of larger enterprise companies, there’s a lot more involved in their advancement need the proof of concepts, ultimately, to see and validate a new type of technology.

So, a new product is a really good way to do that. Launching it quickly on a new platform, if you’re spending it up on Magento or Shopify for example. Very easy to measure that.

I think another way to … In terms of a new company initiative, is perhaps a large B2B manufacturer. Especially in my experience, definitely worked with a lot of B2B companies that are looking into … Either breaking into the B2C market, or looking to finally focus on the B2C market.

There’s also the flip side of that, where these companies are looking to hone in on their experience, for the B2B. Just how you’re mentioning this whole segmentation, and we’re on this hype. That goes hand in hand with B2B as well. I mean, it’s phenomenal to see how quickly these B2B companies are getting up to speed. And having all the functionality features set, the look and feel aesthetics that you would expect from a B2C experience, also reflection B2B. I think that’s huge because the B2B commerce market is a lot larger than B2C, as you know.

Michael: Yeah. A little tidbit of what we’re focusing on, as an agency. New goals, I think this is a big thing for just trying something out. You’re seeing the big brands doing this. They’re taking the … We typically think of lower end platforms and doing really amazing things with them, and at low risk for new product lines, or new product launches, or just an isolated category they don’t emphasize. Then going, that worked well. We’re going to roll it out the rest of the way.

So, let’s move on. What’s the final, and in my opinion, one of the most important pieces why you won’t consider a re-platform.

Chris: I think that’s definitely going to go with performance and security. If you really think about it, that should be a no brainer. Right? If you’re experiencing any type of outages, if your site is painfully slow. In some way your customer data has been compromised, I mean wow. You definitely need to look at making a change, you definitely don’t want to be in a situation where you’re experiencing any type of reoccurring performance issues.

Even small incidents with security or compliance that you may be experiencing could definitely be a red flag and something that you should consider. In a timely manner, it’s funny you’ll see a lot of companies that will be like, “Hey, I think my site is being hacked. I think something is happening here.” You take a look, and you’re like, “How long has this been going on?” It’s hard to see what damage has been done. Certain information has been disseminated, etc.

Michael: Yeah. Sometimes it’s too late.

Chris: Most of the time it is. There’s been situations where companies would suffer because they had damaged loyalty with their customers by their data being leaked. Getting customer purchase information credit card numbers, things like that, being obtained by hackers. That’s definitely one of the most important.

Michael: I’m glad that we’re not in the days where it’s like, everybody was storing credit card numbers. That was a … Waiting to happen. Great. So, there’s four reasons why you should definitely consider a re-platform. What about on the flip side? Are there any reasons why maybe you don’t need to re-platform? You might think you do, but actually you don’t. There’s some faster way forward for you.

Chris: Definitely. In a lot of cases, you’ll see that people may look to another platform, simply because of lack of resources to support the technology. There’s definitely situations where you may have the wrong type of resource, maybe you’re working with an agency that under qualified, or not as experienced as you’d like. That’s definitely not a valid reason to make a move just yet.

Michael: Platform is a pill. If I take this pill, all my problems will go away.

Chris: Exactly. I think there’s a lot more evaluation that needs to go into that. Another would be, you’re looking at your competition. And they’re implementing a new platform. You’re just falling to the bandwagon appeal and saying, “They’ve got it, I want it to.” And try to jump on it, and don’t necessarily weigh that particular technology against your business. I think that could be a mistake that I’ve seen quite a few times.

Michael: That’s definitely a good call.

Chris: Yeah. Another I think is … If you’re in a particular situation where your current platform you think may be giving you problems, a lot of times it depends on who is looking at the situation. Are they more marketing, are they more technology based type role? And then their experience, because they’re going to look at the situation differently.

In any circumstances, it’s most beneficial to have all parties, all departments, looking at the situation to identify a root of the problem. I think a lot of cases, people may think that something is going. Maybe, for example, the performance and speed of the site. They think it has something directly to do with the platform. But, it could be just the way it’s configured, or it could be the architecture itself.

There’s various reasons of why that could happen. That’s another use case where I see quite common.

Michael: I think there’s an exhaustion factor to. It’s like, people don’t really want to re-platform, but you really hate the one that you’re on a lot of the time. The issues is, it’s not always an issue with the platform.

What’s your final reason, that you maybe don’t need to re-platform.

Chris: Man, the last one and I’d say it’s probably the most common … Which it shouldn’t be, by any means. But, I’d say it being super close to Black Friday and saying, “We’ve been experiencing these issues. We need a new platform, asap. Black Friday is coming, let’s do this in like a month.” Yeah, let’s not do that. It’s very unlikely that everything will be set up within four weeks.

So, we’ve got to plan ahead on those types of things.

Michael: Yeah. If you’re thinking of re-platforming in time for Black Friday, sorry folks. It’s too late. I would say, we actually had a client last year where they switched up their entire ERP, right leading after Black Friday. It was one of the most crazy things I’ve ever seen happen and it all came together. It was just like, by the skin of our teeth kind of thing.

I was so nervous for like three months, my hair literally went gray.

Chris: Nailed it, though. It was successful.

Michael:  we were only a small part of that process, privileged to be a part of that but I just really don’t want to do that again.

Chris: I totally understand. You get into situations too where there’s all this unnecessary pressure.

Michael: Listen, let’s do a quick review here. Reasons you might want to re-platform. Number one, your Legacy system is actually impairing your ability to scale. That’s a little bit hard to see, it’s a pan. If the pan has been heating up, and you didn’t notice what you’re missing. Well, you need to get some outside opinion probably there on what … How many years out of date you are. Or you might not know that.

The second you mentioned, not utilizing your platform fully. So, if you’re basically paying for a bunch of stuff that you don’t need. Then that could be a consideration. If you’ve got a new initiative, or a new goal, or something like that, it can take a lot of time implement that in your current platform if it hasn’t been designed with that in mind. It might be a good way to experience a new platform, to just align it with a new initiative in your company. Form a sense of security a major.

Reasons why you should really re-platform, the first being if you are thinking that the platform implementation will solve your current problems. Well, it may need a check to see what the problems actually are. It might be a problem, it might be something else.

You also mentioned there’s a second point, that if your competition does something and that means you should do it, well, not necessary. This is an industry subject to we just talked about in previous episodes. But, the platform is a big move. And may be able to get a lot more life out of your platform. I’ve got a buddy, who has been a guest on the show, where his whole pitch is like, don’t change out your eCommerce, just fix your current website.

He’s got a really good framework for how to do that. So, a quick sometimes the best approach. Third, you mentioned that if you are … I guess that’s kind of the second, or an extension of it. You need to understand the new problems that you’re experiencing, before you should look to a new platform.

Then, finally, you mentioned the timeline. If you’re too close to an important lunch, that’s not a good time to do a re-platform. So, let’s look at this here Chris. Our audience is going to have a lot of questions about this. And should I re-platform now, how close to Black Friday should I consider being before I should do a re-platform? Is there a framework or a model that I can utilize to consider a re-platform, already cracked the code on?

How can people get a hold of you if they have questions like that.

Chris: Absolutely, I’m always happy to answer any questions. I think the best way to reach me would be directly via email, that’s going to be Chris@Sellry.com, C-H-R-I-S @ Sellry, S-E-L-L-R-Y .com. And feel free to reach out with any question you may have, I’ll be available.

Michael: I also want to mention that we have actually put together a checklist, thank you Chris. Which you can get at eCommerceQA.com/replatforming. If you go there, it’s going to give you a one pager on basically you checking off boxes, that will tell you, yeah. I should probably re-platform.

Again, that’s eCommerceQA.com/replatforming. As always, you’ve got the show notes eCommerceQA.com, you can contact us generally by hitting podcast at Sellry.com, P-O-D-C-A-S-T. I don’t know why I’m spelling Podcast.

I was going to spell Sellry because Sellry, it’s not spelt … with one or two tips here, Chris. What are some things here we can take away from the show that will help everyone sell three times as much this year, as last year.

Chris: I think one thing that you should definitely be mindful of is, what do your customers care about? What are they experiencing, what is valuable to them? Those are the best thing you can do today. You know, following up on that is, how can I better serve them, based on that information?

I think even if you just take those two simple points, you can apply that in various ways.

Michael: That’s excellent. That is nice. Thanks everyone. Keep selling, let’s go to Black Friday strong this year.

Chris: Thanks, guys.