IRCE Session: Navigating Choice: Platform Selection & Implementation

This session is Navigating Choice: Platform Selection & Implementation, a session of the IRCE tech workshop. The presenters are  Kim Hansen, Senior Vice President, Marketing, E-Commerce - Winston Brands, Nicole Tolbert, E-Commerce Manager -, Kerry Martin, Vice President, Senior Consultant - FitForCommerce and Joe Warfield, Technology Director - Mardel. Many people are selecting platforms based on what has the best support for omnichannel, even when a large number of people don't understand what omnichannel means.

Multichannel integration and web content management such as product information are top priorities for eCommerce platforms.

42% of eCommerce sites are running on an in-house platform. 49% are on a commercial platform, and 9% use both. Most are moving to commercial platforms to gain a strategic edge.

Time to change platforms:

  • Falling behind the competition
  • Missed benchmarks
  • Can't implement best practices
  • Poor integration between channels
  • Internal costs are too high - if you're hiring to support your current platform, it may be time to replatform
  • Strategic or future growth are hampered by current platform - platform should enable new initiatives, not limit them

Most retailers change platforms every 3-4 years. Costs to re-platform can cost up to $2 million  and take up to 12-18 months.

Be careful when selecting an eCommerce partner - some firms are touting a marquee brand as their poster child, but don't treat all of their clients the same or provide those same features and experiences to their other clients.

Keys to a successful on-time implementation:

  • Define must-have requirements
  • Create a secondary list of desired functionality that may not be critical immediately
  • Get agreement in advance from the executive team and internal stakeholders on features and functionality

The more stakeholders you have involved in your platform selection & implementation, the longer it will take and there will be less satisfaction for each individual stakeholder. Set strict deadlines for reach and debate on best practices to make a call on an eCommerce platform. Assign one individual who has the authority to make the final call on options during implementation.

Assign a project manager to manage your platform selection, and have them test everything.

Mardel replatformed by getting all executives involved, and then brought in 4 developers and an eCommerce project manager. Each developer had a specific area that they were responsible for.

Mardel selected their development partner by looking for someone who was genuinely intrigued and passionate about the company and mission, and their Lead Business Solutions Architect had the best grasp of Mardel's business, and could best synthesize ideas from a large group of varied input and opinions.

You have to choose what's more important - meeting a deadline or being willing to push deadlines to make the end result excellent.

Merchants sometimes don't understand the terms used by their integration partner.

Restructure feedback to be funneled through a project manager or leadership team - if you give everyone access to the integration partner and let them give feedback, it turns into new decisions being made to change the direction of your eCommerce implementation.  Limit posts to your project management portal to just your leadership team or project manager.

Don't look at just monthly or implementation costs - look at a 3 year total cost of ownership for your new eCommerce site.

Another merchant's view of when it's time to replatform:

  • When you're working hard, not smart
  • When sites couldn't be easily updated
  • When your site isn't optimized for marketing promotions or mobile/small screens
  • When you're falling behind the competition and retail partners
  • When internal costs are increasing

Look at why you're falling behind the competition:

  • Shop your competition - what features do they have that you don't?
  • Talk to your customers and find their pain points.
  • Check your data - how and why are you losing sales and visits?

Determine, define and rank your needs - rank your needs as need, want and nice to have. Need should be absolute base requirements - customer accounts, checking out, etc.

Provide as much information you can when requesting proposals for implementation of a new eCommerce platform.

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Jamie Larson