We get it. Replatforming is a pain. At the same time, it’s a necessary ‘evil’ if your current system just isn’t cutting it and or is stifling your multichannel growth. In the grand scheme of things, settling for a subpar system could mean tons of wasted cash, resources and sales opportunities.
To help you navigate this process, we’ve put together a guide that addresses the most common myths and challenges surrounding a replatform. Keep in mind that while you’ll have to put in some work when upgrading your system, the ROI can be significant. There are also ways to minimize your work, which we’ll cover in the sections below.
Top Reasons Why Multichannel Ecommerce Sellers Consider Replatforming
Replatforming is always a tough decision. However, one good reason can be enough to initiate the switch. Here are some big reasons why sellers choose to embark in a replatform.
Your Multichannel Software Can't Keep Up with the Times
Ecommerce is always changing, whether in response to a world event, new consumer trends or technological advancements. Marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart are also furiously researching ways to improve their own platforms, requiring every multichannel platform to remain on their toes and adapt to ongoing changes.
In theory, every multichannel platform should be able to handle these changes. In practice, that’s not often the case. Most platforms are either slow to adopt changes (development can take months to complete) or simply don’t support them. In fact, this is why we created Zentail’s SMART Types—because no one else could handle marketplace changes quickly or accurately.
As an example, when Amazon released new sizing requirements for apparel listings, sellers were forced to manually update each of their apparel listings. Or, if you had software, you were sometimes kept waiting months before the platform could host these new requirements—meanwhile, you were at risk of getting delisted and losing sales for not meeting Amazon’s requirements.
Aside from not being able to keep up with these changes, older software may have problems integrating with newer apps, putting your business at risk of overselling, mixing up orders or other costly errors. Needless to say that if your current platform can’t remain up-to-date, then it's time to consider other options.
The Software Doesn't Match Your Growing Needs
The ideal multichannel ecommerce system grows with your company. What does that mean? As quick examples: say you want to increase the number of products in your catalog, branch out to other sales channels or are receiving five times more sales than before. Your system should be able to handle this growth and not charge you an arm and a leg for it (more on this later).
In addition to this, it should provide tools or services that help you to plan for growth. This could come in the form of a hands-on strategist or support team; forecasting and analytics features that accurately project growth; advanced automation and workflows; or specific tools that you identify as critical.
Your system should remove some of the complexity that’s inherent to growth and, at minimum, reliably handle redundant tasks that keep your business running smoothly.
The tell-all sign: if you find yourself curtailing ecommerce growth strategies simply because your platform doesn't match your new requirements, it's time to switch.
You Aren't Happy with the Price
Ecommerce software ranges from single-purpose tools to full-blown automation software. The cheapest tools often lack functionality, reliability or scalability. On the other hand, enterprise software can cost a pretty penny. The incumbent multichannel system today charges fees for individual features, services and sales channels you add—driving your software costs through the roof.
Worse, you could be paying big prices for tools you never touch. That’s why during both the auditing and replatforming processes, you’ll want to develop a keen understanding of what features you actually need. Don’t get wooed by shiny features; prioritize quality over quantity.
In another instance, your software may be cutting too much into your profits. While it’s expected that prices may vary depending on your catalog size and/or order volume (since your provider needs to be able to afford the space to host and store your data), you shouldn’t feel like you’re being penalized for every sale or milestone.
Decide what the right balance is for you in terms of software costs and the functionality that comes with it. And as you proceed, beware of platforms that charge hidden fees.
You Notice Costly Mistakes
Have you noticed any of the following issues with the platform? These should be clear indicators that it’s time to switch, since they have direct and major impacts on your profitability.
- Listing errors or low-quality listings because your system can’t accurately map or optimize your product data
- Issues with overselling because your system has trouble syncing orders and available quantity across channels
- Poor inventory management, e.g., not being able to accurately forecast demand
- Order defects due to unorganized data and misrouted orders
You Still Need to Do a Lot of Manual Work
The very purpose of a multichannel platform is to simplify your work by eliminating manual tasks and the hassle of logging into multiple systems to manage each channel individually. If you find yourself entering, checking and analyzing data on each platform separately, your existing software isn’t doing its job.
Remember that manual work is prone to errors. One inventory or listing mistake could lead to serious problems like overselling. If errors persist, the marketplace could issue a suspension, forcing your company to go through complicated rounds of fixing its reputation. Meanwhile, you could be losing sales and gaining bad customer reviews.
Why Sellers Delay Replatforming
Despite all the reasons to replatform, there are a variety of reasons why your team may be dragging its feet. Do any of these resonate?
- Downtime — Replatforming can feel disruptive to the sales process and everyday workflow, so it's hard to find the "perfect" time to replatform.
- Stakeholders — It can be tough to convince stakeholders to make serious changes, especially if it means increasing your budget. (But with the right ROI-related data, it's possible to illustrate the benefits.)
- Learning curve — Taking the time to relearn a new system can be a daunting task on its own.
- Implementation — You may fear a complex, time-consuming implementation process that once again, leads to downtime.
- Comfort zone — Businesses that have been working with one system for years tend to be wary of other software, if only because they’ve gotten used to the way things are currently done.
- Distrust — It can be tough to find a new system that you can trust right off the bat, especially if your old one didn't turn out to be everything you hoped it to be.
How to Replatform (without the Headache)
All the above reasons usually pale in comparison to the benefits of switching to a high-quality system but, of course, carry weight when you’re dealing with the wrong partner. To mitigate your risk, here are some tips for how to move forward with replatforming.
1. Prioritize Your Goals
When choosing a new system, you need to create a list of requirements and prioritize your goals. While it's possible to find a comprehensive solution that addresses a wide variety of your problems, "miracle" platforms don't exist.
That's why you need to focus on the main issues you want the new platform to solve.
- Start by making a list of productivity roadblocks that you continue to face when working with your current system.
- List any other marketplace-related issues or shortcomings in your operations that need improvement.
- Identify your short-term and long-term goals for your company. Pay special attention to your growth and scaling plans.
- Identify your most valuable sales channels, as these will affect which platform automatically meets your needs or doesn’t. However, remember to prioritize quality or quantity; a spray-and-pray approach is not a winning strategy.
- Define a KPI that helps to quantify what inefficiencies are costing you (and, alternatively, what you’re looking to gain with a better system).
- Sort your wishlist by need-to-haves versus want-to-haves.
2. Do Your Due Diligence
It’s surprisingly easy to rush into a multi-year contract without fully understanding what you’re getting yourself into. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve met a seller who purchased a platform simply because he or she thought it was the only realistic option available to them.
Today, there are a variety of multichannel software that you can choose from. The biggest mistake you can make is to only check out the provider’s website.
Finding the right software for your business is a lot like hiring a new employee. You don’t want to rush the process or overlook any viable candidates. Rather, schedule a demo of multiple platforms, ask critical questions and speak directly with the team. This will not only give you a sense of the platform’s full capabilities but also the type of relationship you’re about to enter. Too often sellers forget to evaluate tech providers as true partners; when something goes wrong in the future—and trust us, they will—you’ll want to know that you’re backed by a reliable, attentive team.
Aside from this, you’ll want to consult outside references like review sites or online forums. You could even request the company to connect you with a current user, so you can get a candid look into what it’s like using the platform day in, day out.
3. Set the Scope
Before starting the replatforming process, it's imperative to define your team’s time commitment and available resources. Otherwise, delays are inevitable; the average replatforming project is delayed by 4.2 months, according to Forrester.
The main reason is the lack of proper planning. Here are some main steps that you'll want to take:
- Understand the budget — To make the right choices during replatforming, you need to set a clear budget. Besides evaluating up-front replatforming expenses, consider future maintenance, support and upgrade costs as well.
- Involve key stakeholders — Understand who on your team is impacted by the replaform and should be involved in initial demos, contracting, training sessions or implementation steps. Who should your software provide contact for requests or questions? Delegate a team member from each department to handle implementation to ensure a smooth transition.
- Communicate your custom needs — Make sure to communicate any particular apps, 3PLs or custom workflows that you’d like to integrate into your system. This will allow your software provider to identify any potential issues or additional costs, as well as provide the full technical scope and any suggestions for improving the flow.
- Set a clear timeline — For ecommerce sellers, each hour of downtime can be critical. That's why it's imperative to set a detailed replatforming timeline (starting with the discovery phase when you’re exploring various software options, and ending with the go-live phase when you launch with your new software) to avoid continuous delays. Once you’ve signed onboard with a new provider, know what steps you’re responsible for versus ones they’ll handle. Follow the plan religiously.
4. Know the Ins and Outs of Your Contract
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s worth reiterating. To avoid serious issues and surprises, you need to know ins and outs of your initial contract. The platform developer should include all the necessary details, such as:
- Implementation costs
- Support costs
- Service fees
- Integration fees (if applicable)
You shouldn't have to deal with any unexpected costs along the way. Otherwise, replatforming could have a negative ROI.
5. Pull Your Weight During Implementation
Implementation is a team effort. While you can expect extensive assistance when onboarding to an automation platform like Zentail, you shouldn't stand by and wait for all the work to be done without your team’s involvement.
While your partner will guide you through all the steps, it's up to you to provide all the necessary credentials and data needed for a smooth transition. During Zentail’s implementation process, for instance, you’ll be asked to provide more background on your current business setup (active sales channels, shipping policies, routing preferences, etc.) and import your catalog. The Zentail team will then help you through account setup and catalog cleanup, before testing and launching your products to your desired channels.
The implementation period is also a unique opportunity to get to know the system and ask any questions that arise as you tinker with your new tools. Don't leave the learning process for later when you have access to your implementation specialist now.
6. Check (and Recheck) that Everything’s Working as Planned
Your implementation specialist should walk you through this step, but as a heads up, here’s what you’ll want to look out for before going live with your new multichannel software:
- Are all of your listings accounted for, and is your product data properly imported?
- Are there any gaps in your product data?
- Are your variation listings, kits and bundles and all created?
- Is your inventory fully imported and set up with inventory thresholds?
- Is your pricing set up properly across all channels?
- Are your shipping rules set up?
- Is your software properly connected to your existing sales channels, tech, 3PL and warehouses?
- Test your listings. Do they appear accurately on Walmart, Amazon and any other channels you’re looking to launch with?
- Test an order. Is it being properly routed and discounted from your total quantity across each channel? Is all the right data coming through?
If you’re confused about any step, be sure to ask your specialist and walk through the entire launch plan with him or her.
7. Get to Know Your Post-Launch Support Team
After all systems are go, you’ll want to know who to contact when questions come up. Your implementation specialist should provide you with post-launch resources and contact information. This will likely be a separate team that’s always on the lookout for customer questions.
Make sure you know when the support team is available each day, how to reach them (e.g., chat, phone, email, etc.) and what to do in case of an emergency. You will also want to get familiar with your platform’s Help Center, which will include text or video overviews of common processes or questions. Many systems will also include an Ideas Portal for formal feature requests and feedback.
Don’t shy away from replatforming if your current system is frequently disappointing you. While it can feel like a big undertaking, establishing the right expectations and processes can make the journey significantly easier.
So, rather than just asking yourself, “Why should I replatform?” Ask yourself, “Why shouldn’t I replaform?” If you’re resistant mostly because it’s inconvenient, then you should take some time to seriously reconsider and weigh your options.