9 critical signs it is time to replatform your eCommerce store

Written by Emma Forward

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Think back to the eCommerce stores you’ve managed over the years. Consider the transformations these digital storefronts have undergone — from early, simple storefronts to complex, multifaceted eCommerce platforms.

Whether it’s releasing new product lines, expanding into new markets, or attracting an influx of customers, the online store you manage is constantly evolving. As an eCommerce manager, you’re faced with steering the brand through a multitude of eCommerce challenges, growth opportunities, and transformations. 

As the brand evolves, the eCommerce platform must also adapt. Yet, some platforms will struggle under pressure putting your brand at risk of sunk costs, technical debt, and stagnant growth. Some of the eCommerce websites you inherit might come with unique quirks and challenges caused by a buildup of quick fixes and workaround solutions — something that often happens when a platform cannot keep up with a brand’s growth trajectory.

There comes a point in every eCommerce store’s lifecycle when migrating to a new platform becomes beneficial. From poor user experience and technical limitations to outdated technology and rising costs, there are lots of factors that can influence your decision to replatform. Recognising which factors impact your eCommerce performance can be your guide towards a well-timed and successful replatforming strategy.

In this article, we will explore some of the critical signs that it may be time to replatform your eCommerce store. Replatforming to a more scalable solution such as Shopify Plus or BigCommerce could be the secret to reaching your eCommerce goals with minimal friction and maximum success.

9 signs it is time to replatform

The fact that you’re here reading this article alone is a sign that it might be time to replatform. Something has led you here causing you to wonder whether your current platform is still the right solution for your store.

Other than being here, there are nine key factors that may determine whether you need to consider replatforming. Each of these factors are an indication that your current platform is not performing as well as it could or should.

Factors like your go-to market strategy, product catalogue size, content complexity, and business stage can all impact your store’s needs. Having an eCommerce platform that aligns with the needs of your store is crucial for smooth business operations with room for growth. 

In the next few sections, we’ll highlight 9 core indicators that your store may be ready for replatforming.

The cost of maintaining your eCommerce store is increasing

Over the lifespan of your eCommerce store, rising costs can quickly become a concern if not kept in check. 

Whether it is a case of frequently patching fixes, increasing platform bandwidth, or an accumulation of technical debt, various factors contribute to the overall cost of running your online store — and these costs can quickly add up to a significant expense.

Deploying hotfixes and emergency patches may seem like a quick solution but it can be the root cause of escalating eCommerce platform costs. While platform upgrades and replatforming is expensive, so is incurring technical debt. 

Every time your developers deploy a short-term fix, it adds to your online store’s technical debt. Growing technical debt results in unnecessary maintenance, bug fixes, and refactoring. This not only directly impacts the cost of platform maintenance, but it can also indirectly impact cost through inefficient workflows and processes.

If your eCommerce store costs are on the rise, consider replatforming. Analyse the factors that most impact your eCommerce store’s costs and explore alternative platforms offering these solutions at a more cost-effective rate. 

Investing in a new platform may seem more expensive at first, but the potential for improved efficiencies and reduced reliance on temporary fixes makes it a much more cost-effective choice in the long run. Calculate the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) on your existing eCommerce platform versus (annual maintenance as well as any ad hoc platform upgrades) versus other eCommerce platforms to come to an informed decision.

“You should consider replatforming long before you get to the stage where everyone is fed up with the costs and the tech. This is because replatforming projects can take 6-9 months, and even longer if you need to go to tender to find a new dev agency, as well as an eCommerce platform. It should therefore be a discussion you have every 6-12 months, so you can frequently check in to see whether the scales have tipped towards a replatform or whether you’re happy to keep investing in the existing tech stack. This way you give yourself enough lead-time if you do need to replatform. This approach also allows you to plan around peak trading and any upcoming platform renewal costs.” 

Emma Forward, Founder of emmaForward

Your eCommerce team cannot easily add new features and capabilities

Navigating an eCommerce platform that requires developer intervention for even the smallest of updates can be infuriating for eCommerce managers. A lack of self-service options can stunt business growth and slow down your ability to keep up with market demands.

It pays to be flexible and adaptive in the eCommerce space. Opting for an eCommerce platform built with easy-to-use features lets you easily keep your store up-to-date and, more importantly, stay ahead of the competition. This could be the ease of toggling on or off payment methods, a WYSIWYG content editor, or the ability to add tags via Google Tag Manager yourself.

There are a few ways this issue may present itself such as:

  • Your ecommerce team not being able to easily integrate new apps or tools
  • The needs of your platform outgrowing the current functionality
  • Limited self-service capabilities for your eCommerce team

Issues can arise if your eCommerce platform struggles to integrate with essential tools and services, such as lacking support for new payment methods. To resolve this issue, explore eCommerce platforms that offer better integrations aligned with your store’s requirements.

As your eCommerce store evolves, there may come a time where your chosen platform falls short of your current or future needs. For instance, adding innovative solutions like virtual try-on experiences won’t be easily supported by all eCommerce platforms. This challenge can be overcome by assessing your store’s current and future needs and choosing a platform that can easily grow alongside your business. Even if the platform can’t do something natively, some platforms will have better options in their app stores than others for specific features, so it pays to do your research.

The complexity of adding new features and capabilities may exceed your eCommerce team’s capabilities, hindering growth and resulting in an outdated store that erodes customer trust. If, for example, your eCommerce team needs developer support for routine updates like adding new products or changing homepage banners, this can impact scalability. You can resolve this challenge by moving to a platform that has user-friendly self-service capabilities, such as reusable content blocks or easy content management options.

Customers are complaining about their online experience

Poor user experience (UX) is a trillion dollar issue in eCommerce. CareerFoundry’s “Trillion dollar UX Problem” guide also revealed that 88% of online consumers are unlikely to revisit a site after a bad experience. With these facts in mind, replatforming can be a key solution to resolving UX issues.

Indicators of poor UX could include customers struggling to navigate your site, missing features, mobile optimisation issues, and checkout difficulties to name a few. Essentially, any part of the online experience that causes frustration or friction to your customers is a sign that there are issues with your website. This poor UX can then lead to a decline in repeat customers, conversions, and your brand reputation.

Moving to an eCommerce platform with improved features or with themes that don’t experience the UX issues highlighted on your site can offer a fresh start for improving your store’s overall online experience. If your online customers are increasingly frustrated about your eCommerce store experience, look for an eCommerce platform that has a user-friendly interface and features readily available.

Your eCommerce platform can’t handle the traffic levels

Spikes in eCommerce traffic can be exciting. But, if your eCommerce platform can’t handle the increased popularity, they can also be terrifying. 

Retail can be seasonal with brands experiencing peaks in traffic on key shopping dates like Black Friday, the Christmas period, flash sales and around product launches.

If your eCommerce platform can’t handle high volumes of website traffic, it can be damaging for your business. Before moving to Shopify, Gymshark’s eCommerce website crashed on Black Friday due to their platform being unable to handle an influx of onsite activity. This outage cost them an estimated $143,000 in lost sales and also damaged customer trust.

Whether you expect seasonal spikes in traffic or your brand popularity has skyrocketed since you first started, there may come a time when you outgrow your current eCommerce platform. If your current solution is struggling to handle your traffic levels, or your spending too much on upping your server capacity to be safe, it may be time to move to a platform that is better equipped to handle high volumes of traffic.

You want to take your eCommerce store global

If your go-to-market strategy has evolved to include reaching new markets, migrating eCommerce platform may help you with your expansion. 

Wanting to tap into new markets requires an eCommerce platform that can easily adapt to diverse international requirements — be it adding new storefronts, managing inventory across multiple markets, supporting multiple currencies, or offering Delivered Duty Paid (DDP) shipping at checkout. Yet, not all eCommerce platforms are created equal when it comes to handling internationalisation. If your chosen platform cannot handle any of the earlier mentioned tasks, it may not be suitable for a go-to-market expansion.

The differences between various eCommerce platforms’ capabilities could impact your success in expanding into new markets. If your eCommerce platform isn’t equipped for effective internationalisation, you should consider moving to a platform that does. Look for platforms with robust support for localised content, multiple currencies, and streamlined logistical processes. If native international features aren’t up to scratch, check how easily 3rd party cross-border tools such as Global-e can integrate with your chosen eCommerce platform. 

The security of your online store has been compromised

Locking down the security of your online store is crucial for maintaining customer trust, safeguarding sensitive information, and protecting your business. 

In 2022, 3.1% of all eCommerce revenue across Europe was lost to payment fraud alone. eCommerce stores of all sizes are at risk of being targeted, making online store security a priority for all retailers.

Security compromises may occur due to your site being exposed to external attacks and data breaches. However, they can also result from using an outdated platform that lacks essential security updates or from relying on temporary hot fixes, making your store vulnerable.

If your eCommerce platform has experienced a security breach or doesn’t offer adequate security measures, it is a red flag that demands immediate attention. Replatforming to a SaaS eCommerce platform, such as Shopify or BigCommerce, that can handle security for you is often the most effective solution. This move could ensure your eCommerce store operates on a platform with up-to-date security features and improved functionality that reduces the risk of breaches and instils confidence in your customers.

Your website is slow, crashing, or experiencing downtime

A poorly performing website marked by sluggish loading times, frequent crashes, or extended downtime is more than just an inconvenience. It can seriously impact your revenue stream with slow loading websites estimated at costing retailers a reported £59.6 billion per year in lost sales.

While website outages and downtime can cause direct revenue loss, it can also impact future sales by contributing to customer frustration and putting your business at a competitive disadvantage. 

You can mitigate the challenges of a slow or downtime-prone store by replatforming to a cloud-based eCommerce solution with enhanced performance capabilities. Boasting a 99.99% uptime, Shopify is one platform you may want to consider for increased performance.

 An eCommerce platform that can manage increased traffic, provide optimal load times, and keep downtime to a minimum will significantly improve the reliability of your online store. This not only safeguards revenue but enhances the overall user experience too.

Your developers are complaining about updating your store

Your developers should know your eCommerce store inside and out, making updates and deployments on your behalf. But, if they are complaining about making updates or your eCommerce development tickets keep getting pushed down the priority list, it might indicate capability issues with your chosen platform.

Developers are often the closest people to your eCommerce platform. You will likely rely on them to carry out more advanced website tasks that cannot be easily done by your eCommerce team. Ensuring your developers can easily fulfil their duties is critical for success.

Pay attention to concerns raised by your development team to find the root cause of the issue. After all, your developers’ complaints could have deeper implications for operational efficiency, resources costs, and the overall performance and profitability of your online store.

Once you’ve identified the root cause of the issue, you can look for an alternative eCommerce platform. Prioritise replatforming to a solution with increased capabilities that will remove the roadblocks your development team are facing.

Your eCommerce platform provider is no longer active or supported

Not all eCommerce platforms are built to last forever.

At some point, you might find your eCommerce platform reaches the end of active support and updates. If you find your eCommerce platform is no longer supported, kept up to date, or has fallen out of sync with the latest eCommerce trends and features, it’s a clear sign it is time to move to a new, actively supported platform.

Take Magento 1, for example. In June 2020, Magento 1 reached its End of Life (EOL) meaning it is no longer supported or updated. The lack of updates and support means Magento 1 is less safe than newer, active eCommerce platforms. As a result, many merchants moved to Adobe Commerce (formerly known as Magento 2 Commerce) or an alternative provider.

You can try to catch the early warning signs of an outdated eCommerce platform. Some early indicators may include:

  • A noticeable slowdown in platform updates
  • The platform’s capabilities failing to align with current trends of evolving eCommerce requirements
  • Difficulties in reach or receiving support from the platform provider
  • Increased technical issues due to a lack of platform updates and maintenance

Consider the importance of platform support when evaluating eCommerce solutions. If your team anticipates needing more hands-on assistance, replatforming to Shopify Plus or BigCommerce could be beneficial. These platforms offer easy access to support teams on live chat, often offering a solution to your question without the need for developer involvement. By reducing development reliance, this in-platform support could cut developer agency fees for your store.

In contrast, Adobe Commerce lacks direct platform support, requiring eCommerce teams to rely on their Systems Integrator (SI) for assistance. If receiving support is important for your eCommerce team, choose your next platform wisely by prioritising those that offer in-platform support.

Recognising the signs of an inactive or unsupported platform early on lets you proactively plan your replatforming strategy. By moving to a platform with regular updates, active maintenance, and responsive support, you can improve the security and functionality of your online store. Plus, you will be futureproofing your store, making it more successful for longer.

Final thoughts – Replatform your eCommerce store for increased success

As your business grows and evolves, so do your eCommerce platform needs. Auditing your eCommerce platform and recognising the signs that it might be time to replatform are key to protecting the performance, profitability, and longevity of your online store.

At emmaForward, we specialise in guiding businesses through the replatforming process. From auditing your current solution to leading on your replatforming strategy, we are here to help you replatform with confidence. Get in touch to see how we can help. 

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