Considering a New E-Commerce Platform? 5 Must-Ask Questions

Buyer expectations include a unified customer experience across all channels and devices; if your current e-commerce platform isn’t meeting customer needs, it’s time to take a hard look at the topic of re-platforming.

But a shiny new platform won’t be shiny for long if you haven’t thought about your long-term vision, priorities and existing and future systems. Re-platforming is a large-scale project. The key is to understand and define your internal requirements before you start reaching out to vendors with an RFP. It’s amazing how many differences of opinion can emerge when defining the needs of an organization—don’t run the risk of failed implementation with a shift in priorities after the project has started.

5 Pre-RFP Questions for a New E-Commerce Platform

  1. Who are your customers and how do they interact with you? Ask yourself how you currently sell and fulfill, and how your customers buy from you. Who are your future customers; will their online behavior differ from your current customers? Make sure your platform can serve differing needs over time.
  1. How involved do you want to be with ongoing management of the solution? There are pros and cons to a SaaS versus the traditional approach for hosting your solution—the right answer depends on your preferences, budget, and resource availability.
  1. What is your ongoing support strategy? Do you feel too reliant on IT resources for managing your storefront right now? Think about the specific activities you would like to move into the hands of business users.
  1. What systems will require third-party integration? A comprehensive list of third party systems and applications (e.g. product reviews) that might be replaced by the new platform is a must to include in your RFP.
  1. What are the requirements of your OMS? Identify your back end requirements, such as inventory visibility and shipping requirements, to make sure you can discuss how your new system will address your needs in each area.

Extra Tips

  • Don’t get stuck trying to mirror the functionality you already had. Find a system that fully addresses long-term customer needs.
  • Don’t make your decision based on a demo alone. There are more than a few differences in e-commerce solutions when you look under the hood—make sure you thoroughly understand the system’s omni-channel offerings and how the system impacts all areas of your business. Prioritize finding the right long-term partner.

Four Question Quiz: Are You Keeping Up with the Right E-Commerce Platform?

We all know that sales have shifted from in-store to online purchasing. Shopper expectations now include high-functioning websites: they want to easily find product information, they don’t want to waste time browsing products that aren’t relevant, and they especially want to buy when they are ready to buy—that means they better be able to buy from their phones. These expectations can put a lot of pressure on small to mid-size sellers (both B2C and B2B) to keep up with the user-centered navigation of larger e-commerce websites.

But giving shoppers all the options they want is not optional. E-commerce that doesn’t function well will lead to lost sales.

So it’s time for the quiz: Are you using the right e-commerce platform?
#1: Do you get customer complaints about any of the following?
     o Products are hard to find
     o Search results aren’t relevant
     o Navigation isn’t consistent throughout the website
     o Slow page load times
     o Customers can’t figure out how to complete a purchase

#2: Does your platform include omni-channel ability, which keeps the buying experience consistent across channels and devices?

#3: Can you complete minor changes to your website quickly and without breaking other parts of your site?

#4: Can you implement marketing strategy without having to involve IT staff, including:
    o Personalizing product recommendations
    o Targeting marketing and merchandising campaigns
    o Boosting and/or burying products at a category level

If your current platform isn’t meeting the needs of your customers, it’s time to consider a new e-commerce platform. The right choice will be a platform that can integrate with your existing systems, give your customers the options they want, and is designed to customize to your specific needs.

Make sure to identify your internal requirements and set out your priorities and vision before you reach out to vendors. Implementing a new platform is a large-scale project and you don’t need the complications of a shift in priorities midstream.

Check back on our blog for more posts that will help you identify your priorities.