Replatforming in
e-commerce: the ultimate guide for B2B decision makers

By switching to a new and powerful e-commerce platform, you can meet the increasing B2B needs of your customers and create optimal conditions for further growth. Find out what is important in replatforming and which strategies lead to success!

replatforming e-commerce guide

What is e-commerce replatforming?

Companies involved in e-commerce eventually reach the limits of their tried and tested e-commerce platform. In the worst case, you wait to evaluate a new commerce solution until your customers start complaining about the service or functionality of your old website. Do you know how many customers have already switched to your competitor without giving feedback?

E-commerce replatforming means swapping out the technology that powers online stores. Typically, these are so-called “legacy systems” that were developed years ago by the IT team themselves and are hosted and operated on their own on-premises servers. These technologies have long met the most important needs, but are struggling to keep up with modern requirements like further developments, security updates and integrations are expensive.

Replatforming in B2B commerce: Success factors and best practices

If you are experiencing these factors, you should consider replatforming
your e-commerce platform

1. Is your growth limited by poor scalability?

Rapidly evolving companies quickly outgrow their legacy e-commerce solution. Additional products, more visitors, and increased volume of orders and transactions that need to be processed overwhelm the system in a way that it was not designed for. In this situation, instead of sticking with your old system, which entails costly and time-consuming adjustments, you should opt for a new solution that gives your business flexibility.

Here's a customer proof point

2. Do you offer a modern user experience and all the features your customers need?

Is your e-commerce solution lacking features that your customers take for granted? Are your customers complaining that your shopping experience isn't what they expect from a modern digital business? If so, that poor online experience will inevitably erode customer loyalty, ultimately leading to loss in sales and damaged reputation. To avoid this, you should critically review your current lineup and specifically ask your customers about the features they expect and think are essential.

Learn more

3. Can you easily integrate all your technology, processes or data?

If your current solution is not capable of automatically exchanging data with external systems - e.g. Enterprise Resource Planning, Customer Relationship Management, payment or suppliers - there is a risk that inconsistent information will arise, which will confuse and irritate your customers and employees. In such a scenario, replatforming can bring great efficiency gains. In addition, if your new platform comes with the required APIs or even offers an out-of-the-box integration hub, you can avoid costly development work.

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4. Is your online store slow when traffic is high?

Have you ever encountered situations where your current e-commerce solution wasn't able to smoothly adapt to your needs or has it not been able to keep up with the growth of your business and is it taking forever to provide new catalogs, price lists or product variants? Then it's time to switch to a new e-commerce solution that supports the use of additional resources as needed and can handle peak loads without requiring major investments or time-consuming implementations or adjustments. Otherwise, you run the risk of repeated system failures that result in significant loss in sales and damage your brand. If the loading time of a page is more than 3 seconds, the visitors of the online store will look for other websites!

Dive deeper into this

5. Do you know the operating costs for your old platform?

Often, out of sheer habit, ongoing maintenance costs and recurring individual expenses for necessary adjustments, upgrades, failures or repairs of a (self-developed) e-commerce platform are tacitly accepted. It is estimated that the annual maintenance costs for old systems alone amount to around 15 to 20% of the current purchase price. This means that such companies repurchase their existing solutions every five to six years!

If the total cost for owning an old e-commerce software is higher than expected, migrating to a new platform could save you money. It is possible that your existing solution may require more customization than you anticipated if your initial analysis was flawed, resulting in unexpected and additional modification and testing costs, as well as significant maintenance overhead. Overall, you should consider all aspects of the solution throughout its lifecycle, gain visibility into all costs, and monitor costs at all times.

Save time and money

customer story - Ehlert: Successful digitalization of procurement processes

What is the real benefit of e-commerce replatforming?

The short answer to this question is: happier customers and more sales!

But migrating to a future-proof e-commerce platform comes with even more benefits:

You open up new markets efficiently.

E-commerce enables companies to expand quickly and with low risk into new international markets by eliminating the need to invest in brick-and-mortar infrastructure like stores and warehouses, logistics, and local staff.

This requires a centralized e-commerce platform that can be adapted to country-specific conditions with minimal effort, from language, currency, and tax systems to the localization of unique cultural aspects. So, it’s all about the scalability, flexibility, and compatibility of an e-commerce platform.

You manage your demand.

Additional products and product variations, more buyers and transactions, new touchpoints and sales channels in e-commerce are often disruptive and force companies to react quickly to keep up with the competition and remain successful in their respective markets.

E-commerce platforms must therefore be highly flexible and scalable to meet changing requirements instantly. This is where cloud solutions are far superior to on-premises scenarios: They are constantly developed and updated by their providers and therefore always adapted to current demands.

You manage all your brands and channels via one platform.

Creating and offering new brands on an existing e-commerce platform will lead to new groups of buyers, greater reach, more sales, higher revenues, and a reduced business risk.

These great results can be achieved through projects which can be implemented quickly and easily with a powerful e-commerce platform. These platforms allow for easy channel setup for new brands, new markets and even new countries.

Imagine how easy it will be to enter even a niche market, since the cost of entry is so low. This flexibility will inevitably increase the entrepreneurial spirit.

Atul Jain

„We have rolled out the most complex B2B features e.g., customer hierarchy, complex approval workflow, contracted pricing, product configurator, punch-out... in just a few weeks.“

Atul Jain Managing Director Netherlands at Wunderman Thompson Commerce
Customer story of Highline Warren

Does replatforming increase customer satisfaction?

B2B e-commerce develops rapidly. New market players regularly establish new functionalities to enhance the customer experience which quickly become table stakes for customers. In addition, new business models emerge that also require innovative solutions. Rigid, legacy e-commerce solutions with limited functionality can’t keep pace and therefore dampen entrepreneurial spirit.

Future-ready companies with sustainable business models rely on technologies that adapt to growing requirements today. This not only ensures future security but also satisfied customers.

These strategies lead to success:

1. Offer a wide range of B2B features.

Modern B2B e-commerce systems offer end users a wide range of functionalities tailored to the specific requirements of B2B businesses right from the start. This goes far beyond what is standard for B2C platforms. Today, with rapid communication between groups of buyers and sellers, complicated B2B transactions have to span many individual interests and motivations. The trick is to strike the right balance between digital and human interaction in these more complex relationships. In addition, there are special requirements when trying out new business models or expanding internationally.

2. Get ready for new touchpoints.

Mobile devices are being used for over 50% of digital commerce, so the design must take that into account. Voice assistants like Alexa and Siri are adding additional customer touchpoints which B2B platforms must plan for to keep pace with the market. Future-proof e-commerce solutions can no longer do without appropriate conversational commerce interfaces.

3. Create personalized customer experiences.

Tailored, personalized shopping experiences increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, lower price sensitivity and ensure long-term sustainable business relationships. People buy the experience! In e-commerce this individualization is made possible through data analytics driven by business intelligence gathering.

4. Sell and support multichannel.

Even though a large proportion of purchases in B2B are made online today, personal contact with sales staff remains a high priority—especially for complex products that require intensive consultation. This means that customers today expect personalized shopping experiences across different sales channels. Whether on a mobile device or a laptop, on the phone with a customer service hotline or speaking directly with a sales representative: All data must be identical in every channel and on every device.

5. Provide comprehensive, tailored information.

Online research is a daily routine for B2B buyers. This is where the companies that present all facets of their products and services really stand out. Make this information easily accessible via powerful search engines: Instructions, CAD data, 3D views with augmented reality, explosion graphics—to name just a few. This saves valuable time and provides reliable, facts that help buyers make confident, well-informed buying decisions. Here, too, personalization leads to time savings when users can store information in the customer account and do not have to search for it repeatedly.

6. Leverage the potential of digital customer portals.

Even though B2B businesses know about the potential of personalized, yet standardized processes, they still lack the basics such as individual customer accounts to show purchase history, return options, smooth checkout processes and saved payment information which has been the standard in B2C for a long time now. Recurring orders, payment, discount and delivery conditions, approval limits for buyers and many other functions can be configured once and then used again and again. Digital customer portals, in which all customer information is stored centrally, offer the optimal solution.

What online experience do B2B customers expect nowadays?

Paperwork, multiple phone numbers for different services, and unique business hours: For B2B customers, these classic forms of collaboration with suppliers have become tiresome. Today, they have entirely different needs, and companies need to understand that.

Marlies Wilms Floet of De Nieuwe Zaak shared her thoughts on the "Ultimate Customer Experience" during Intershop Inpulse 2022:

B2B customers want a personalized shopping experience.

Personalization is a key component of a future-ready user experience. It can increase customer retention, loyalty to your company, and sales.

Quick and easy access to their own installation guides, tutorials, contacts should be available around the clock, as should information on the availability of spare parts and consumables.

B2B personalization needs to be sophisticated. It is unlikely that a B2B customer will spontaneously go through a procurement process. To be precise, B2B personalization must focus on providing efficiency to customers.

B2B customers want to interact with you at all times.

The relationship between your customers and your company changes over time. Your customers interact with you when they place orders, talk to sales reps, learn about new products, search for documentation, or ask for quotes.

All of these processes can be brought together at one point to make the interaction between you and your customers more transparent. If customers are having trouble placing an order, finding a document or contact information, they are increasingly likely to turn towards your competitors.

B2B customers want digital twins of their machines.

Customers interact with your products, creating a unique product history. Examples include generating data when a machine is used, configuring service agreements that can be modified later, and changing accessories through upgrading or repair.

In a customer portal, the product can be digitally mirrored, giving the customer access to a detailed product history (purchase date, specification, repairs, service agreements, etc.). As a supplier, you can use the e-commerce platform to offer additional services, such as (predictive) product maintenance.

B2B customers want efficiency.

Customers love efficiency. They want the buying process to be as efficient as possible. They benefit from relevant  search results and smooth and reliable online booking of services (e.g. maintenance).

Self-services and easy access to information reduce the customer's administrative burden and allow them to maintain their existing internal processes. B2B buyers no longer want to be dependent on your company's sales schedule. Positive online experiences are valuable because customers expect seamless service 24/7.

Learn more!

What are the benefits of replatforming into the cloud?

Keeping pace with today’s rapid technological developments becomes even more challenging when companies work with on-premises e-commerce solutions.

Since it requires an entire IT department to stay up to date, on-premises systems are costly. But even though IT may be doing its best, the solution will decline in performance over time because of numerous adjustments, extensions, and point-to-point integrations.

The online store becomes slow, updates take ages, and new features which customer demand cannot even be integrated because proper interfaces are not available.

One way to avoid scenarios like the above is to replace on-premises systems with cloud solutions. Besides that, cloud solutions offer further performance benefits:

Fast roll-outs

Cloud commerce allows for rapid expansion into new markets and shorter innovation cycles. The resources can be accessed quickly without the need for major investment in time and material. And by eliminating the lengthy implementation and customization phases, all these factors contribute to the ability for your business to launch faster.

With a cloud solution, store software is always up to date.
Automatic updates

With a cloud solution, your online store will always be up to date, so shop owners can leverage the latest technology and features that customers expect.

Advantages of replatforming to the cloud - scalability at minimal cost
Scalability at minimal costs

When occasional peaks in traffic occur, the cloud solution can easily be scaled up. For the rest of the time it can be scaled down to reduce
costs.

Advantages of replatforming to the cloud - flexibility
Flexibility

Cloud solution providers keep their systems as flexible as possible by providing their customers with API technology to extend their platform with third-party software.

Advantages of replatforming to the cloud - data security
Data security

Cloud providers take safety extremely seriously and guarantee the highest security and legal standards. And they are in a far better position to adapt to changing laws and regulations than legacy, on-premise solutions.

Can replatforming help me save time and money?

This question can be answered with a clear “YES”. Operating digitally has a massive impact on organizational efficiency. Automating repetitive tasks and offering self-service options for your customers will free up human capital that can be invested in other ways to support your customers. The communication will be more efficient, costs per contact reduced and the time to market will be shorter.

Rely on Composable Commerce for software migration

Composable Commerce is the evolution of e-commerce technology. It leads away from "all-in-one" suites that generate revenue quickly but are limited in their ability to adapt to changing needs. Customizability through microservices and the separation of front-end and back-end are standard today, but one price for maximum flexibility is that e-commerce implementation projects become time-consuming and costly. Composable Commerce is the answer. Composable Commerce focuses on bundling microservices to solve business problems through Packaged Business Capabilities or PBCs for short.

Is e-commerce hindering business growth?

As legacy e-commerce platforms age, they often no longer meet current requirements, both in terms of technology and increased customer expectations of modern systems. And because they have been adapted and extended again and again, their architecture is too complex and even small changes require a significant financial and time investment. This is what we call the replatforming dilemma.

The real problem arises when the company understands that its existing e-commerce platform is no longer able to meet the changing needs of
customers, who now expect a personalized and seamless user experience. At the same time, the old system has become so complex that it would require enormous amount of programming to replicate company-specific features that are not available in a standard off-the-shelf software product.

The project could take months or even years to complete and tie up valuable budgetary resources, but offers no immediate benefits—all in the vague hope that it might eventually lead to a modern and flexible e-commerce platform that mimics the old one as closely as possible. This already confusing situation is further complicated by the fact that software providers and implementation partners won’t be able to give reliable estimates on the feasibility and costs of replatforming.

3 strategies for a successful replatforming project

The first step in overcoming the replatforming dilemma is to create the necessary internal structures, i.e., cross-departmental digitalization teams with management representatives from IT, Sales, and Marketing. For a replatforming to be successful, it’s essential that all team members have a common goal and work towards it together. Once this is the case, there are several ways to solve the replatforming dilemma.

These are the three most important ones: proof of concept, heatmap and pearl strategy.

What is a proof of concept in replatforming?

A proof of concept (PoC) determines the technical feasibility of replatforming an existing e-commerce solution. This method is ideal when there are technical uncertainties, and the company wants to assess and minimize risk.

The first step is to identify the key technical issues that must be solved. These challenges can vary widely, such as integrating specialized internal IT services, implementing very specific logic, or managing unusually large or complex data sets.

Identify application scenarios

Once the technical challenges have been defined, the next step is to create a brief list of simple application scenarios, e.g., how messages are transmitted between systems, how a product price is calculated for a specific customer, or how search filters are implemented. All other aspects such as user interface, easy parts of the checkout process or catalog are not technically complicated and should be implemented later.

Once the preparations are completed, the PoC can be executed and the new platform implemented for the selected application scenarios—not yet for any other ones. Important notice: The new platform doesn’t have to be fully implemented in order to recognize whether it’s the right product for the job or not. In addition, the project team can set a timeframe and see how many of the selected and prioritized application scenarios can be covered in the time available. This ensures that PoC costs are clearly defined and don’t exceed an agreed limit.

Evaluate the results

After running the PoC test, the next step is to evaluate the results:

  • How many of the technical issues were resolved?
  • To what extent were modifications to the new software needed, and what was the cost?
  • Was it necessary to water down some requirements in order to achieve a working product?

In a worst-case scenario, i.e., when it wasn’t possible to meet certain basic requirements, the only costs incurred are those of the PoC itself—which are known in advance. If the results are positive, the company can be sure that the new e-commerce platform is a good replacement for the old system. In addition, the results of PoC analysis help executing the final project and accelerate implementation.

The more comprehensive the PoC is, the lower the risk when it comes to the actual replatforming project. The additional investment of the PoC pays off as soon as the new e-commerce platform is implemented.

Next steps: Prototype and MVP

A proof of concept determines if certain issues can be solved by replatforming. After that, the project team can prepare a prototype, which is usually a “draft” version of the new platform, that focuses on many important features, but is not yet sufficiently tested to be rolled out. A next step would then be to derive an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) from all what has been
learned—a well-refined subset of functionalities, ready to be rolled out to a specific audience in order to generate initial revenue.

Favor a partial e-commerce replatforming? Make use of a heatmap!

A heatmap visualizes business areas with easy-to-achieve results as well as pressing pain points. In contrast to the PoC method, a heatmap enables the rapid rollout of a usable product. To do that, it’s necessary to first focus on a limited and clearly defined set of requirements, e.g., specific customer segments or individual processes.

Instead of completely replatforming the existing e-commerce solution, the new platform is only deployed in areas where the existing system no longer meets the needs of users. Any processes on the old system that are still usable remain in operation, so the old and new systems run in parallel and communicate with each other as required.

Follow these steps:

1. Create a business matrix

The first step in the heatmap method is to put the digitalization team together (representatives from IT, Sales, Engineering and Marketing) and conduct a workshop to create a business matrix. In such a table, each column represents a specific customer segment. The segments are subdivided and defined using combinations of key attributes that are relevant to the company, e.g., scale (small, medium,
large), market (manufacturing, distribution, logistics), geography, and business relationship (partner, sales partner, direct customer).

The left-hand column of the table lists the most important features of the current e-commerce platform as well as those the company wants to introduce. The data cells in the body of the table indicate the importance of the various features for the respective customer segment. To keep it simple, this can take the form of relative values, such as “not very important”, “quite important”, and “very important”.

Ideally, the company should use empirical data from its business intelligence (BI) resources, i.e., the data cells will have percentage values indicating the relative importance of each segment and features. This matrix (or heatmap) is a valuable tool to help companies identify priorities or new areas to develop.

2. Find the pain points

The next step is to determine the pain points for customers in the various categories. The digitalization team should select two or three typical customers from each of the segments and conduct a workshop with them to identify the main pain points. The goal is to find out what can be improved, what would make life easier, and what the customer likes or dislikes about the existing e-commerce platform.

Ideally, the company should also hold workshops or surveys in all internal departments that are directly or indirectly involved in the sales process, such as Sales, Marketing, Customer Acquisition, Logistics, and Accounts.

When these internal and external pain points are added to the matrix, you can see the course of action at a glance. Cells with high pain point values (i.e., dissatisfaction with existing platform features) that also have high business impact are the ones that should be addressed first. After completing
this step, it can also be useful to identify areas with significant growth potential, although addressing pain points should remain the immediate focus.

3. Migrate gradually based on priority

The heatmap results can then be used to specify a partial replatforming project that focuses exclusively on a subset of critical features or customer
segments while omitting all others. A limited project of this kind is much more
affordable and much quicker to implement than a complete replatforming. By eliminating specific problems or pain points and opening up new opportunities, the project will pay for itself from day one. The old platform can be retained for all low-priority features and customer segments, thereby saving time and money.

After completing an initial heatmap project, the company can repeat the exercise, using the matrix values to identify the next most important customer segments and features. The new solution will be expanded step by step until the entire platform has been migrated.

 

In this example, e-commerce is a huge business area for a lot of customer segments. Even small changes would have a significant impact on the overall revenue. Since professionals also struggle with fax/mail and call center, the new e-commerce site should also take care of these processes by offering self-services to relieve the call center, and improving the ordering process
through order templates, order history, and quick order capabilities.

  • Empty cells represent currently untapped areas of business.
  • Greenish and reddish colors in a heatmap represent customer satisfaction and internal efficiencies.
  • The larger the number, the higher the business impact of the respective channel and user group.

What are the advantages of the pearl strategy?

The pearl strategy is always an option in cases where it’s extremely difficult, time-consuming, expensive, or even impossible to replace or update a key component of an e-commerce system. In a typical scenario, the element is technologically obsolete or driven by the growing expectations of customers and employees.

This can happen when the platform is based on proprietary technologies that are difficult to modify or no longer compatible with current software, e.g., older mainframe systems, such as the AS/400. If these systems are still in service, they are used for fundamental and thus vital components in the company’s IT ecosystem that are difficult or impossible to adapt.

Embed old components

The aim of the pearl strategy is to retain these components and build a new ecosystem around them, just like an oyster creates a pearl around a grain of sand. The first step is to take the data stored in the proprietary database and replicate it on a more up-to-date platform, preferably in the cloud. A number of useful tools are available for this task, some of them are open source.

If the data is arranged in complex schemas across a large number of tables, it’s possible to create translation microservices to restructure the data in more easily accessible logical objects. However, this “data view” should always be read-only.

Create new services

After the data has been synchronized, the latest technologies can be used to create new services that are able to read and, in some cases, merge the data with other information. This enables implementation and delivery of the required customer experience and customer-centric processes.

If data needs to be looped back to the legacy system, the company can create export microservices that are capable of using any proprietary connection or available interface, e.g., RPC, MQSeries, or even keyboard emulation.

Run coexisting systems

The advantage of the pearl strategy is that the old and new systems can coexist. Over time, the old system can be gradually “emptied” of all functions and features that have been superseded by the new storefront. The core of the old system will continue to live on, like an old grain of sand inside a shiny new pearl.

All functions and features that cannot be migrated will remain unchanged and will actually benefit from the reduction in system maintenance workload and cost. When the old system is eventually shut down completely, the replicated database and translation/export microservices can also be discarded. All e-commerce processes will now be running on the new platform.

The pearl strategy keeps outdated key components alive in a new environment.

What is an MVP and why should you go for it?

Minimum Viable Product (MVP) means “a product with the minimum requirements and features”. This means that a solution with only the most necessary functions is to be created as quickly as possible. This is then published immediately and feedback is first obtained from customers and users. This feedback is then used to expand and improve the MVP.

Any advanced functionality should be left out of the MVP. Only the features that are absolutely necessary to enable the actual purpose of the product are incorporated. This saves a lot of time, effort, and money and reduces the risk of developing past the market and customer needs. There is nothing as superfluous and annoying as a product that nobody wants to use, even though its development was lengthy and expensive.

01 Define your goal

First, define the primary goal of your MVP from the customer’s point of view. This is the goal that must be achieved to satisfy the customer.

02 Identify the customer's needs

In order to achieve your primary goal, you should identify the customer’s needs at every touchpoint in their journey.

03 Specify features

A well-engineered e-commerce platform will provide a wide range of features to meet the requirements identified in step 2.

04 Prioritize features

Expert knowledge about typical user behavior is important. Take your customers' expectations into account and improve the customer experience.

How does a successful e-commerce migration to Intershop work?

Dynapac's e-commerce replatforming project was a huge success. Only 6 months from signing the contract, the site went live (along with a new ERP) and is now being rolled out to 12 countries (and counting). What was the key to success? Agile project management! These are the five benefits that emerged.

Agile project management - cooperation between all departments is important
1. Cooperation

Your entire organization has to participate to get the most value. Marketing, HR, logistics - they all need to understand how to work agile and apply it wherever it is makes sense.

Agile development means that there are very frequent small releases.
2. Quick results

Agile development means that there are very frequent small releases. Clear communication and reports provided weekly allow to continuously steer the project in the right direction.

In e-commerce projects, for example, customization, flexibility and customer feedback are of great importance.
3. Fail fast, learn fast

Waterfall-style project management is mainly chosen for projects where the outcome is fixed in advance, while Scrum is better suited for projects that are more exploratory - and that is often the case in digital business. For example, in e-commerce projects, customization, flexibility, and customer feedback are of significant importance.

Improved communication in Scrum projects through reflection Retrospective
4. Improved communication

Regular reflection allow for a quick identification of obstacles and possible disputes, that can then be discussed at an early stage. In Scrum, this reflection is called a retrospective. It takes place at the end of each sprint and enables the team members to recognize what went well in the collaboration and what did not.

Diversity and inclusion are an essential aspect of how people and teams work together.
5. Diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are an essential aspect of how people and teams work together.  
Teams with great diversity are more innovative. They have more different perspectives, which leads to a more intensive exchange of ideas. More new ideas are developed that lead to new products and innovations than in homogeneous teams.

Freddy Lessmeister Vice President Aftermarket Logistics at Dynapac

"With ready-to-use features delivered every 2 weeks, we were also able to continuously add content to the platform instead of having to wait until the end of the development phase. This was a huge time saver".

Freddy Lessmeister Vice President Aftermarket Logistics at Dynapac
Checklist How to measure your ROI in B2B e-commerce Read checklist now!
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Are you ready for a fresh start in e-commerce?

Then treat yourself to a platform change! Our experienced e-commerce strategists will tell you what's important and how to ensure a fast ROI for your replatforming project.

Your contact David Weber B2B Commerce Specialist Phone