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The B2B eCommerce experts at Insite explain how to position for replatforming.

Replatforming is often a daunting thing to consider particularly for a system as complex as B2B eCommerce. Many manufacturers and distributors dread the effort so much, they wait as long as possible, until market forces or internal conditions force them to consider this “drastic” move.

It’s unfortunate that replatforming has become such a conundrum. After all, many of the organizations facing it were the ones bravely embracing eCommerce in its infancy, and that’s something to applaud.

Instead, let’s stop defining replatforming as a necessary evil. Replatforming should be considered the next logical step in digital transformation as your eCommerce capability and experience mature.  In fact, looking at replatforming through the lens of continuous improvement rather than a dreaded “fix” opens up an entirely new world of possibilities, one in which manufacturers and distributors can take advantage of new technologies, learn from best practices in the industry, and expand the positive impact of digital commerce throughout the entire organization.

Once we’ve changed this perspective, it’s important to realize how often the cart is put before the horse when replatforming. Building a roadmap to replatform doesn’t begin with calling a list of eCommerce vendors and requesting a demo. Before creating a decision matrix and scheduling demos, you need to answer three crucial questions:

  • Why do we need to replatform?
  • What are our primary considerations when replatforming?
  • How should we initiate the replatforming process?

Why do Companies Need to Replatform?

Since replatforming is often the reason customers turn to Insite, we understand the common primary motivators that drive manufacturers and distributors to look for a new B2B eCommerce solution.  In many cases, the organization uses the storefront available to them from their ERP or other low cost solution. In others, they created or purchased first-generation eCommerce software that has become so heavily customized it’s either obsolete or impossible to support. In these scenarios and others, it’s become clear that the system in place cannot handle the broad range of functionality included in B2B eCommerce, and more customization is not an attractive option.

Sometimes companies purchase solutions that lead with a flashy CMS, only to find out that the system cannot handle the complexity of B2B eCommerce. Sadly, this often includes core B2B functionality like complex catalogs, complicated pricing, tiered approval workflows, native mobile features, multiple locations, and others. Perhaps a year or more has been spent trying to fit this square peg into a round hole and the team has finally given up. Without core B2B functionality, eCommerce platforms lack a solid foundation and customization and extension only make the platform more complex and cluttered.

And finally, there are forward-thinking companies that realize they’ve  simply outgrown their current digital commerce environment. They envision some of the broader benefits of B2B eCommerce. They’re seeking a solution that can not only capture orders, but drive greater goals like added share of wallet, higher efficiency, and reduced costs.

Considerations when Replatforming.

In every replatforming scenario one thing is very clear. The manufacturer or distributor does not want to experience the same struggles they’ve endured with their previous technology. To ensure that the next platform is the right platform, it’s important to consider the aspects of eCommerce that have more to do with strategy, and less with bells and whistles.

The first consideration is that your goals may not reflect the true goals of B2B eCommerce. Capturing revenue is important, but B2B organizations typically drive longer term value from setting objectives for commerce that revolve around increasing the efficiency of their staff, reducing the cost of sales, and driving stronger value for their customers. When B2B commerce goals are defined in this way, it’s much easier to narrow down the possible solutions to consider.

Once the objectives have been defined, companies need to build a strong set of requirements based on the desired customer experience, internal processes, and integration needs. Many organizations start looking for software before they’ve outlined their actual business needs. As a result, they are pulled toward solutions that offer a lot of front-end sizzle, but less actual B2B functionality.  Hopefully, there has been some learning along with way as the older eCommerce system has been changed and customized. Even if it took some “failing forward,” a stronger understanding of the desired state should have emerged. It’s important to articulate and further define that ideal vision before evaluation of vendors begins.

Companies also need to take into consideration the advancements in B2B eCommerce technology that may have occurred since the initial launch of their legacy eCommerce system. For example, fully functional mobile apps no longer require a six-figure investment in custom development. White label, fully functional native mobile apps are often part of the overall solution.  Cloud-based eCommerce solutions have also emerged that dramatically reduce the costs of eCommerce implementations. Cloud upgrades, maintenance, new releases and other aspects of software support can be outsourced via a simple subscription service.  These are just two examples of major advances in B2B eCommerce technology that make replatforming a much more attractive option. Understanding the current state of technology will help with refine objectives and requirements as well.

Next Steps to a More Powerful Platform

 Once the right objectives have been defined, and a set of requirements created, it’s time to actually consider the options. Keep in mind  when more native B2B commerce capability is provided out of the box, there will be less work during implementation, leaving more time to position the new digital commerce system for success. At this stage, it’s important to keep these key points in mind:

  • Your salesforce is your most powerful onboarding mechanism. Make sure they’re involved in the replatforming process, and their needs and wants are understood. Additionally make sure sales people understand how eCommerce can benefit them, and that eCommerce is not their competition. Without sales buy-in and engagement, the efforts will have a much higher likelihood of failure.
  • Avoid solutions that lead with only flashy CMS functionality. Typically these vendors have emerged from B2C origins, and often don’t understand the complexity of B2B commerce.
  • Pay careful attention to your integration needs in terms of backend systems like ERP and CRM. Ask for references that can speak to the ease in which the considered eCommerce solution integrated with your specific backend software suite.
  • Don’t be happy with mere responsivity. Within B2B commerce, an enormous amount of value is derived from activity that happens in the field. From customers to service technicians, a fully functional native mobile app will provide huge increases in efficiency outside of the office.
  • Don’t stop when vendors say they can “check the boxes”. Ask them to peel back the layers and get deeper into the backend of the system. Everyone can say they do search but does that search have the ability to be tuned by a traditional business user or does it require a developer? This is one example but time to value is much faster if your business user can make those adjustments on the fly without having to wait for their development team.
  • Pay attention to the provider’s roadmap for the platform. You want the platform to grow with your business so you don’t have to replatform again in the future.
  • Finally, understand the total cost of ownership in detail. Before you make a decision, know every investment that will be involved, from hosting costs, to implementation, to support and even training. The devil is in the details, and this is where you really need to understand the basis for your ultimate eCommerce ROI.

Replatforming doesn’t have to be a headache. In fact, it can propel your organization light years ahead of the competition when done correctly.  But it’s important to make the right choice at this stage because everyone survives a bad choice where replatforming is concerned.

Need help defining your company’s unique eCommerce requirements? Insite’s team of B2B experts will guide you through a comprehensive eCommerce assessment to help you paint a clear picture. Whether you choose Insite’s platform or a strong alternative, we want to be sure you’re making the right decision and realize your true needs. Contact us today to get started defining your eCommerce replatforming needs.

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