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Switching to a New E-Commerce Platform

Posted in E-commerce on August 7th 2014
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COO and Co-Founder

When you first start out with your e-commerce business, it is common to want to get the store up and running as soon as possible and focus on the bare essentials for it to function and start generating income. With limited budgets and knowledge some people might turn to custom made solutions or the most basic free CMS option they can find. While this might be a good start—reasonable costs, basic features, etc... it won't manage to keep up with your business' grow. At some point, you will have to ask yourself if your current e-commerce platform is still the best choice. The same conveniences that got your store off the ground might be depriving you of better things in life. With currently technology constantly evolving and market conditions perpetually changing to match the technological advances, re-platforming is a must for most businesses. A study by [Econsultancy](https://econsultancy.com/blog/65181-three-important-trends-impacting-the-ecommerce-technology-market) found that "companies don’t feel that the solutions they are using are working effectively for them and their business, leaving a lot to be desired from their e-commerce technology" Because of these deficiencies, 22% of companies recently switched platforms, 20% are in the process of re-platforming and 32% are planning on doing so. ##Should I re-platform?## 1. Is your current platform giving you the best value for your money? 2. Can your current e-commerce platform accommodate future growth of your business? 3. Do the limited features of your current platform negatively impacting your business? 4. Are you stuck with your current platform because only the developer who built it knows its ins and outs? 5. Are you eager to implement new features that will enhance your customers’ user experience but are unable because your current platform doesn't allow you to integrate them? 6. Do you feel that your competitors are enjoying a better experience and functionality than you? If you answered yes to one or 2 of these questions, then it is time for you to consider a platform switch if you want to remain competitive. If you answered yes to 3 or more, time for you to accelerate the process to a better business. ##Advantages of E-Commerce Re-platforming## ###Better Customer Experience### Users have come to expect only the best from the sites they visit. And for e-commerce sites, UX matters a lot since users will want to find what they’re looking for and pay for it as efficiently as possible. Switching to a better platform can significantly improve search and navigation, loading speed, product catalogs, checkout, etc...allowing you to give users a better user experience that will turn them into repeat customers. ###Responsive Design### With the boom in m-commerce, not having a mobile-friendly responsive site means that [61% of your mobile visitors are more likely to bounce](http://googlemobileads.blogspot.com/2012/09/mobile-friendly-sites-turn-visitors.html). Despite it being a best practice already, many online stores have yet to catch up with the trend. A switch to a better e-commerce platform that implements a responsive design in your site will naturally improve user accessibility to your site. Of course, how urgent this responsive switch is will depend on the nature of your business and your target customers. ###Better Scalability and Integration### A feature-rich e-commerce platform will prepare your business for enhanced technologies which you might have been missing out on. Scalability nowadays has become more nuanced as technologies mature, and the best e-commerce platforms out there are quick to adapt. Business growth demand new components to be added (such as customer profiling, email marketing, CMS, CRM, ERP, advertising, logistics, etc). With so many extensions available for all major e-commerce platforms, it makes little sense not to make the most of them. Integration can’t be just smooth, it has to be stable and scalable too. ###Social Media### Time and again, we’ve emphasized the [role of social media](http://it-consultis.com/blog/social-rapidly-shaping-e-commerce-in-china/) in the success of an e-commerce site. It’s where the people are, it’s what they do—so your online store had better tap that bustling market effectively. ###Reduced Operational Costs### Granted, switching to a new e-commerce platform is costly, both in terms of finances and time. The costs are inevitable, but over time those costs pay for themselves with an increased ROI. Consider responsive design: the one-size-fits-all approach is actually cheaper to implement in the long run. You can also reduce costs in hosting when switching platforms by optimizing them with web accelerators Memcache or [Varnish Cache](http://it-consultis.com/blog/getting-varnish-cache/). Most importantly, make sure you hire a good web agency that will fully train you in how to manage your back-office so that you don't have to rely on them for any small modifications you want to make, to implement promotions or administrate categories. This way you save yourself reoccurring costs of being invoiced each time something needs doing on your website. Sometimes fixing your current platform can be more costly than if you just simply switched to one that supports more features. ###Better Control### As your business grows, you’ll want to stay in control of its many aspects as possible to see if everything is performing as expected. Analytics of these important performance indicators—e.g. conversion rates, bounce rates, search engine optimization—might not be available in your current platform, which makes re-platforming a must. ##What are my platform options?## At IT Consultis, we swear by open source CMS and there are three e-commerce platforms we highly recommend. ###Magento### [Magento](http://magento.com/) is one of the best and biggest e-commerce platforms available today, coming in 3rd place after the e-commerce giants that are IBM and Oracle in the [2014 IR Top 500 Guide](http://magento.com/blog/magento-news/magento-fastest-growing-ecommerce-platform-provider-ir-top-500#.U-Mm_oCSxv0). Unlike WordPress or Drupal, Magento is 100% specialized in e-commerce solutions. Offering different levels of service depending on your business needs and with tons of plugins and extra features that can be integrated to it, there is something for everyone. The good thing is that when plugins and extensions aren't quite what you are looking for, custom made extensions can be programmed and implemented within Magento, ensuring all your needs are met. The only downside (cost-wise in the short term) is that being such a specialized platform, it really needs to be set up and developed by IT professionals. Magento isn't the kind of CMS you can DIY and expect an 100% successful outcome. Currently, it is the CMS of choice for 1/4 of e-commerce websites, with companies such as Nike, Harpers Bazar and Fiji Water relying on it for their online stores. Beside being scalable, it is extremely flexible, customizable and most importantly stable. If you need even more reasons to switch to it, here are [6 of the most crucial ones](http://it-consultis.com/blog/magento/10-reasons-choose-magento-next-e-commerce-website/). ###Drupal Commerce### [Drupal Commerce](https://drupalcommerce.org/) is Drupal CMS' e-commerce specialist brother. Although more limited in features and functionality than Magento, this e-commerce platform is highly modular so it is very flexible and easy to modify and configure to fit all of your business needs. It also comes with the ability to integrate a lot plugins to expand your website's functionality, which is great for growing businesses. Being content driven, it also allows you to connect content and products seamlessly to drive online sales and influence offline sales through a rich user experience, optimized merchandising tools, and proven SEO tools. Drupal Commerce is a great option for growing businesses that require a lot of customized features and plenty of content. ###WooCommerce### [WooCommerce](http://www.woothemes.com/woocommerce/) is the most popular WordPress plugin, which allows you to turn your website into an integrated e-commerce platform. The great part is that it is free, so even though it is not as feature-packed as Magento or Drupal Commerce, it is a great option for those small business thinking of making their first platform switch. Just as with Drupal Commerce, there are a lot of ways to extend the functionalities that it originally lacks, including extended payment options, shipping and inventory management. Ultimately the option you choose will depend on your specific business needs and re-platforming objectives. That's why it is crucial to plan ahead and research how each option will fit your growing needs. You are in good hands with any of these three though. ##Final Thoughts## Old habits die hard, but sometimes you have to break free in order to grow. Your old e-commerce platform might have been beneficial to you during the initial stages of your business, but sticking it out with it indefinitely might rob you of profit and your customers of a better experience. Yes, there will be costs, both in terms of time and money. You’ll have to retrain the admin staff. If not done properly, you might lose traffic along the way and your site might experience some downtime. However, if done properly by professionals implementing good redirection, the risks involved in switching e-commerce platforms are worth it in the long run. The increase in traffic post-switch, the improved UX and increased conversion rate, will ensure a good ROI. Just make sure to watch out for these [re-platforming mistakes](http://www.getelastic.com/today%E2%80%99s-top-10-ecommerce-re-platforming-mistakes/) to avoid unnecessary setbacks. If you plan all the details of re-platforming in advance, the switch will be one of the greatest thing you ever did to support your future business.