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Time for a Technology Refresh?

[fa icon="calendar"] May 11, 2017 2:59:00 PM / by Mark Talbot

Mark Talbot


 Frustrated by your current ecommerce platform? Is it time for a technology refresh?

What do I mean when I say, “Technology Refresh?” A tech refresh means a new website that is integrated with your POS (Point of Sale) system, has advanced filtering, shares content across the platform, manages the supply chain between inventory and vendors, and integrates with your unique shipping & fulfillment needs.

In the minds of most e-tailers, the idea of a tech refresh just sucks. All this pain and suffering, and at the end of it who really raves about their POS or inventory management system? I liken it to a root canal. You’re living in misery until you do it, and even during the process, you’ll feel a bit uncomfortable. But when it’s all done -


the pain will have been worth it! Consider us your skilled dentist (we’ve got plenty of great anesthetic!) who will be with you through the procedure.

Managing Complexity

Today’s multi-channel retailers have a daunting amount of complexity to manage, especially when deciding to replatform. They’ve got physical stores, a website or two, marketplaces like Amazon, and the continuous demand for fresh, relevant content. Then there’s the vendor supply chain and often multiple inventory locations to manage. Now, factor in complex integrations with your shipper and your email service. Add to all this: managing consignment inventory, digital products delivery, and building-out a loyalty program for your customers regardless of where they shop across channels. Have you given thought to how gift cards will work? The list of complexity and cost implications of a tech refresh goes on and on - just like that aching tooth.

Advanced Reporting: The unsung hero and must-have feature

While these features are very important, the true test of a solid platform is the reporting capabilities. This is really where you should go first when seeing a platform demo. How complete and robust the reporting features are tells you directly how integrated the potential system is - and how it can positively impact your business intelligence and decision making. Is the reporting happening in real-time, or does it require laborious manual synchronization? How effectively can you manage inventory, customer profiling, supply-chain and auditing? What you and your core business functions really require is deep reporting insights. If the reporting wows you, then dig deeper. This might just be the ‘dentist’ you’ve been looking for.

Bridging the Gaps

What is particularly frustrating to the modern e-tailer is the fragmented market of Tech Refresh options available. The multi-channel retailer can easily get confused in the research phase, given the multitude of choices available. They all begin to blend and sound alike at a certain point. Often though, many solutions are still siloe’d:

  • Pure OMSs (Order Management Systems) without website integration,
  • Robust CMSs (Content Management System) that lack any inventory management,
  • Or shipping-centric solutions that just happen to clumsily bolt-on to a pathetic front-end.

With these narrower-focus platforms, you are still faced with trying to patch-together other limited solutions to make up for feature/functionality gaps. What you may well end up with is just a more expensive and complex spaghetti-code system than you had previously.

 


READ MORE: Replatforming your e-commerce & POS platform Whitepaper
4 Questions to answer before a replatforming initiative

Download Ecommerce Replatforming Button


 

For example: where does the functionality of Shopify or Volusion end? Where do NetSuite or DemandWare’s features begin? And more importantly, how big is the price/feature gulf in-between? Who integrates with whom, and what unforeseen add-on fees will be required to get you the most complete, scalable solution? If you are crossing the threshold from several hundred thousand dollars into several million a year in sales, I recommend that you look for a broad All-in-One platform with strong API integration functionality, running on a single cloud-hosted database. The SMB aspiring for greatness is currently an under-served segment of the ecommerce & POS market, but there are solutions to be found.

 

The Big Divide: leaping from into ecommerce to enterprise

Making the Leap: is the gap between your old ecommerce solution and new too large to bridge?
 

Avoid Breaking the Bank

Let’s now take a deeper look at pricing. The $29 to $79/month solutions may have been just fine to get you out of the gate, but once an e-tailer exceeds $500,000 in annual revenue, those solutions often show their limitations. Their scaling limitations are what is forcing the platform migration issue. This is where the previously hidden costs of not having the properly integrated administrative back-end systems will now make themselves painfully obvious.

The next tier of solutions are often a big step up in cost, with a $50,000+ setup and a steep monthly SaaS price tag. For the right business, and in a growth sprint, this tech refresh can be worth the cost. However, for many SMBs, it is prohibitive. What if there were a strategy and platform solution that could help you scale in a manageable way?

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Data Migration?! AAAAAGGGHHHH!

 

 

Here comes the Drill: Data Migration

Once a solution partner is chosen, a huge challenge will be getting your data migrated and queued-up for the new platform. This is akin to the point where the dentist starts drilling. It’s an area that is often overlooked, or given precious little attention. It is well worth the upfront investment to work with your new solution provider to get your data attributed for the new platform.

Today’s customers want fast access to their product choices through the use of sophisticated filtering options that are easy for the user to select. Options for sizing, colors, customization and other variant choices are the norm. Enabling accurate search indexing and drill-down on product attributes requires copious amounts of good data. If that information lives in your old system, you will want to pay to have it moved over to your new platform. If it does not exist, but you need to leverage this data in the new system, you’ll have some work ahead of you. It’s a boring and tedious data mapping exercise that most of your internal staff are likely unqualified to handle. Your legacy platform data will require an audit and scrubbing before import. The good news, however, is there are SQL experts available for very reasonable costs who run these data migration tests. You’re going to want this geek-team available during transition, because you don’t want to mess up your new platform with a half-baked data import. It’s like throwing in a skunk into a new car… you’ll never get that new car smell back. Invest in good data and make it routine practice.

Another challenge retailers face is around their new front-facing website. There are often big hopes that a new website will solve all the issues. After all, it’s the most visible part of your system, and often the first thing that gets critique, especially from your internal team. Yes, the upgrade and face-lift will solve many lingering issues, but it’s never really done, and should always be considered an iterative process. Set your goals for more incremental progress, and you are more likely to hit the mark, and keep on honing.   

Reasonable Re-design

Launching a new website with custom features and omnichannel integration is not easy, and the biggest challenge is to stay on schedule and on budget. My suggestion is to start out with a strong, but do-able set of goals for your go-live with your Tech Refresh platform. Set your goals as realistically as possible for an integration that will work solidly for your business. Be OK with a website that is 90% of what you want, and that still stays within your budget and go-live timelines. We’ve seen it too many times: scope creep can slowly kill projects.

 


READ MORE: Replatforming your e-commerce & POS platform Whitepaper
4 Questions to answer before a replatforming initiative

Download Ecommerce Replatforming Button


 

The advantages of getting your new unified back-end platform to live production mode is very significant. Don’t let continuously shifting requirements delay the project, but rather address them post-launch! Get into a cadence of identifying quarterly improvements and put consistent budget investment to it.
 

Get out of the Chair and on With Your Business

Lets face it - you’ve put off your tech refresh long enough. The faster you get the root canal over and done with, the faster you can get back to running your business and increasing your profits! Here at Silver Earth, we’re experts in making your tech-refresh root canal as painless as possible. Give us a call and we’ll guide you through - our team has some of the best tech-anesthesiologists in the industry!



Email or Call us Today!   +1-877-663-7747 

 

 

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Topics: Multi Channel Retailing, replatforming

Mark Talbot

Written by Mark Talbot

Mark has been working in traditional as well as digital media & marketing since 1989, across a wide variety of fields: Print and automated data publishing; Exhibit interactives; Content marketing, Brand development strategies, Digital media consulting, and e-Commerce website design & development. When not pushing pixels around, he enjoys hiking in his backyard which includes the Great Sand Dunes National Park, the Rio Grande National Wilderness area, and the Baca National Wildife Refuge. He's been known to take off-mid week to carve the amazing powder that dumps at the Wolf Creek Ski Area, where he can be seen barreling down the black runs, grinning like a fool and howling with glee.

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