How do you know when it’s time to upgrade your eCommerce platform?
It’s not an easy question to answer. Your current platform brought you this far, and things seem to be running smoothly—but are things really as good as they could be? We’re willing to bet you’ve started to notice some cracks in your system. You’re running into issues more often than you used to. You’ve been forced to pass up opportunities. These issues burn away at your service until the day comes when you realize that the very platform that has enabled your growth to this point is now actually holding you back!
If this sounds a little too familiar, we suggest keeping an eye out for the following issues. In our experience, companies working with beginner eCommerce integrations will inevitably run into these problems at some time or another.
This is the biggest red flag on our list. Great eCommerce platforms are easy to update and easy to maintain, regardless of how it’s used—but so many companies don’t realize this and waste time coordinating IT assets within their inefficient systems.
Maybe you’re struggling to maintain the proprietary commerce platform that you built in-house. Maybe your team is wasting time trying to locate customer data across disparate add-ons and management systems. The why doesn’t matter—what matters is that every second spent digging around your platform means time wasted and money lost. And as a maturing enterprise, this unnecessary spend isn’t something you can afford.
In an environment where budgets are tight and profit margins are thin - you’re facing pressure to allocate resources effectively and keep your product’s costs as competitive as possible. Any situation where you’re wrestling with IT to get things done isn’t the most effective use of your time.
In a survey by Internet Retailer, researchers found that 17 percent of eCommerce respondents were currently in the process of re-platforming, and a full 72 percent planned to change platforms within the next two years. And where retail goes, B2B is often soon to follow.
This is lightning-fast turnover, particularly for such crucial platforms in the eCommerce ecosystem. Why is it so high?
It’s because, in many cases, an organization can become a victim of its own success. You’re growing so fast that your IT assets and team can’t keep up. And as your company grows, its business needs expand—and at a certain point, you have to start ignoring opportunities and making compromises.
For example, you might have realized how valuable your company’s assets are, not just your products, but your thought leadership assets: Your knowledge, insights, and experience you’ve built over the years. Maybe you realized that you could monetize this knowledge through new subscription services or premium content paywalls, but your starter eCommerce platform didn’t have the capabilities. Thus, you skip writing them all together—or generously offer them for free—and miss out on the revenue that premium subscriptions could bring in.
These growing pains happen to every company at some point, and they seriously limit your company’s growth, particularly when the only thing holding you back is eCommerce integration. Plenty of companies go out and buy add-ons to get around this issue, but this is problematic in its own way…
Add-ons are a fine way to build out your site’s functionality. If you’re working with an adaptable platform like WordPress or Joomla, there’s almost no limit to the number of add-ons you can integrate with your store. And that’s the problem.
This functionality comes at a cost. Sure, it's great to increase your data collection capabilities, get a handle on SEO, or add new categorization features to improve the viewer's experience, but these benefits translate to complication. Every new plugin comes at a cost (translation: slow page load times, security vulnerabilities, issues with updating). Some plugins experience compatibility issues when running together. And worst of all, they limit your ability to scale.
The issues with a patchwork system can begin to show in unexpected places and break existing site infrastructure. For example, are there broken form fields on your landing pages preventing viewers from converting? What about metrics relating to marketing performance, traffic growth, or SEO?
Using plugins to grow your business is sort of like building a house of cards. You can climb higher, but none of the advancements make the foundation stronger. If you don’t have a solid, integrated platform to act as a central management system, add-ons will only take you so far.
Starter eCommerce platforms do the job, but they don’t do much in the way of active business intelligence. When customers aren’t buying, do you really understand why? What type of performance gains or losses have happened over the past week, month or year?
Your busy online storefront can generate a ton of data especially around products, orders and accounts. Gaps begin to appear when you either (a) can’t collect or store all the information you’d like or (b) can’t report on all the data available.
It’s a lot to keep track of, particularly when you don’t have a centralized system to manage all of your information. Smaller eCommerce platforms have limited data management capabilities that only get more difficult to manage as you build out your add-ons and services. Relying on free or open source plugins to bridge the gap, will introduce their own set of problems. Many of these plugins don’t coordinate with one another and cause other issues with security, breaking upgrade path and more.
This means that your team has to manually go through each data silo and gather the information by hand. For businesses maturing beyond the smallest levels of operation, this type of inefficiency just isn’t sustainable.
In addition, depending on the size of your business, you may have back-office systems that are relying on data delivered in a certain format on a regular basis. If the eCommerce platform can’t deliver - you’re forced at looking at comprised options.
If any of the above issues apply to your business, a change may be overdue. Business growth happens only as fast as your weakest elements allow, and eCommerce providers can’t afford to let their platforms be their weak link.
Even small issues you notice today will expand into significant problems tomorrow. Instead of trying to juggle the increasing complexities of your outdated system, why not consider more flexible solutions? Businesses that want to stay competitive need solutions that are flexible, easy to implement, and easy to scale. You don’t need to reimagine your entire system—you just need to realize where you’re coming up short, and how to apply new technologies that set you back on the path to success.