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The 3 Questions To Ask When Picking An eCommerce Platform

Picking an eCommerce platform is like moving house. It’s a big decision, that you don’t undertake lightly. You need to be sure that you’re moving for the right reasons, to the right place. You likely accept that some short term disruption is inevitable, but are looking forward to the long term gain and benefits. One thing is for certain: it’s not a process you want to repeat again in a hurry.

So what are the key considerations when ensuring you get this momentous decision right?

Wildebeest migrating across african plain


1. Why are we migrating?

It may sound like an obvious question, but all too often queries such as this are ‘taken as read’ and, as a result, lose a lot of their potential to help guide the decision-making process. This question – “why are we migrating” – is one that we’d encourage you to ask yourself repeatedly. What exactly are you hoping to achieve from re-platforming? What have been the motivating factors that have brought you to this point of serious consideration, and how might they be influencing your ultimate decision?

For many, the choice to move is brought about by a negative experience. Perhaps your current platform couldn’t keep up with your BFCM traffic and you’re not willing to risk the potential of another disaster reoccurring. For others, functionality is key. Your requirements simply cannot be met and lack of specific features is actively inhibiting your ability to grow.

If you’re leaving a platform because you feel you’ve outgrown it, or because you have concerns over its ability to keep pace with your future ambition, the grass is going to start seeming very much greener on the other side of the fence. It’s especially important to keep comparisons objective in this instance. Just because a platform appears to offer an alternative that’s ‘better’ than your current set up, it doesn’t guarantee it’ll offer “the best” solution to your needs.

By keeping your “why” at the front of mind, you’ll be able to clearly define the most important specifications a new platform will adhere to for your individual use case, and this will greatly assist you in the process of whittling down the potential field. Use it as your north star whenever things start to feel too broad or nebulous.

2. Who’s on our team?

Migration, as the name suggests, is a journey. Don’t go alone. The team that you choose to undertake this voyage with you is crucial. From the very outset, it’s vital to have a clear understanding of who your key stakeholders are throughout the process. This is not only a matter of ensuring the right people have been consulted, and are in alignment when it comes to the motivating factors behind your re-platforming, but also crucial for clear communication, something which is of paramount importance for the duration of your migration process.

In terms of practical help, some of your assistance will doubtless come from your chosen platform itself. Shopify Plus have a highly skilled team of Launch Engineers ready to be assigned to new merchants, who are on hand to help with the successful setup and release of your new store. They’ll also help with recommendations for third party integrations, and assist with the general process of keeping your launch timeline on track, regardless of whether you’re working with an external agency or relying on your in-house team.

When it comes to working with an agency, what you’re looking for is experience – of a specific nature. While expertise with your platform of choice is doubtless an asset and high on most retailers’ list of requirements, familiarity with your brand, a longstanding existing relationship, and general expertise in the realm of timely, well-managed and successful migrations for retailers within a similar bracket and space should also be factored in. With migration being something most brands will experience incredibly rarely, the benefits of working with a team who have overseen hundreds of successful completions are clear.

3. What’s the longevity of this partnership?

As previously mentioned, when it comes to re-platforming there are a lot of moving parts, and as with all chance of great reward, an element of risk. This is a decision to make well, and make once. A big contributing factor to the likelihood of your brand remaining settled and stable for many years to come is the ability to do a little crystal ball gazing, to ascertain the longevity of your partnership with the platform of choice.

A few factors come into play here; it’s relatively easy to predict your own ambitions in terms of growth and scale, but a little trickier to forecast the future direction of your platform. When evaluating your shortlist, be sure to look at where platforms are indicating they are headed, and not just the state at which they currently find themselves. Where are they investing heavily? Which lines of their business are seeing the most frequent announcements and most innovation?

At Unite, Shopify announced an all-new version of Shopify Plus, which has the consolidation of complex business with multiple stores at its heart. Powerful automation tool, Shopify Flow, will also be empowered to copy flows across all stores, sharing winning strategies across multiple channels with devasting efficiency. There’s doubtless a lot more to come here, and we’re eagerly awaiting news of the official beta launch. Watch this space.

Unite also revealed a heavy investment in Shopify’s POS capacity. In the past, other platforms such as Salesforce Commerce Cloud, and yes, Magento, have enjoyed something of an edge in this department. If that’s kept you from considering Plus up until now, then Shopify’s very public intention to double down on this aspect of the commerce market should be cause for considerable interest.

Something else to factor in: how responsive to client feedback and requests is your platform? Our own in-house platform, bluCommerce, has a stellar track record in terms of longstanding client relationships, with an average partnership of 7 years. We attribute a large portion of this success to our willingness to regularly learn from our clients, allowing them specific input and insight into our platform roadmap at regular consultations throughout the year.

So there you have it: three questions to keep front of mind when it comes to narrowing the field and starting to hone in on the right platform for your needs. After more than a decade of eCommerce builds and having helped an incredibly varied range of clients on their way to retail success, our experience at blubolt has taught us there’s no such thing as a “best” platform. The perfect platform is one that best fits your own very specific requirement range, today and in the future.

By keeping your key migration motivators front of mind, picking the best crew to travel alongside you on your journey, and looking ahead to the future at all times, you’ll stand in great stead to make the right choice for your brand to flourish.


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