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GUEST COMMENT Re-platforming to drive growth: key considerations

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As every online retailer knows, re-platforming is part and parcel of running an e-commerce business. As sales volumes grow, consumer behaviour and expectations change, and new technologies emerge, re-platforming is an essential part of staying competitive, scaling up, and keeping customers happy.

However with only so much time and resources available, retailers can often deprioritise re-platforming in favour of seemingly more urgent projects and initiatives. All too often retailers wait until the very last moment, when the e-commerce offering is no longer fit for purpose, before budget is signed off to revamp the online retail experience.

By delaying the re-platforming process right up until the point when they are forced to act, retailers aren’t just letting the customer experience slowly deteriorate, they are missing a golden opportunity to proactively improve the experience and grow sales, both in the UK and in other markets internationally.

What are the key things to consider when re-platforming?

The first and most important thing to do is to carefully consider and map out your business goals and needs over the next few years. If you don’t feel confident doing this alone, don’t be afraid to ask an independent consultant for advice. Good counsel will pay dividends for the business – helping you to avoid making the costly mistake of picking a platform that is difficult to manage, not a good fit for your business, and which will need to be replaced in no time.

It isn’t advisable to approach re-platforming only from the perspective of what can be improved technically. Think about the experience from the perspective of the customer, what works well, what doesn’t and how it could be made ever better. Retailers should aim for an online experience that is visually appealing, feels natural, is easy-to-use, and is consistent across the web, mobile, and all other channels and devices.

Beyond the look and feel, it is important to give thought to the sale and post-sale experience. Only accepting a small number of payment methods or offering a limited selection of delivery options, can be off-putting, particularly if a shopper is buying a gift and needs it by a certain date or is not able to buy something after going through most of the checkout process.

This is particularly important if you are looking to grow sales internationally. These shoppers will not, and should not, accept lower customer experience standards simply because they’re making the purchase from a retailer in another country. It is vital that all your customers receive your site’s experience at its best, no matter where they are located. Think about how you can improve the experience by offering local payment methods, a wider choice of delivery options, local returns, and local pricing in local currencies, with full delivery costs and tax included.

It is also important to take time to better understand the market you are targeting. Local knowhow around customer expectations of online retail is priceless and can save you from making costly or embarrassing mistakes. Working with a partner who is able to provide this knowledge and local market expertise can be a great solution if you don’t have a team on the ground in all markets.

All these aspects should be taken well into account when selecting your next e-commerce platform.

How can retailers get more out of the re-platforming process?

With consumer expectations rapidly rising, it’s important to think about how you can go above and beyond what shoppers expect today, so that you’re able to comfortably deliver what they will expect in the years ahead. For instance, shoppers now expect to be offered a variety of different delivery methods, from express delivery through to longer more cost effective shipping, with transparent pricing. This is a world away from just a few years ago when many retailers offered only one or two options and surprised shoppers by adding a delivery charge at the last minute, leading to a high rate of shopping cart abandonment.

The same can be said about payment methods.

Just a short time ago it wasn’t unusual to come across an online retailer than only accepted PayPal or debit cards as the primary payment method. Today the consumer would expect retailers to accept all major debit and credit cards, and in many countries other local payment methods as well, such as Alipay in China or iDeal in the Netherlands. Furthermore, with tech giants, like Apple and Samsung, entering the mobile payments industry, existing platforms must be poised to accept mobile payments as well. It becomes clear that retailers must work with platforms that can rapidly adapt to the pace of change in consumer behaviour when it comes to payments preferences.

These things will not come inherently when implementing a new platform, nor are they easy to manage on a day-to-day basis. In addition, risk levels are naturally higher when it comes to cross-border sales, as retailers may inadvertently expose themselves to increased levels of payment fraud, foreign currency fluctuation, and more. If retailers are to harness global growth opportunities when re-platforming, they must address a number of technical issues together with the need for market knowledge and marketing support. For instance, adding support for local pricing, local product catalogues, currency conversions and tax calculations which are not an integral part of the platform and need special attention.

However, retailers don’t necessarily need to wait until the next re-platforming project to benefit. By working with a specialist partner, retailers are able to enhance their existing platform to better cater to international shoppers. Any website, regardless of its underlying technology or structure, can start providing a highly localised customer experience in a matter of a few days’ worth of implementation work.

Taking such a phased approach can enable retailers to start capitalising on their oversees traffic almost immediately, as they kick-off work on a more strategic re-platforming project, generating those all-important “quick wins” in international markets which are often necessary in order to align top management and secure the necessary resources.

Amir Schlachet is co-founder and CEO at Global-e

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