The Replatforming Guide: How, When & Why to Switch Ecommerce Platforms

Everything you need to know for a cost-effective, efficient ecommerce migration.

11 minutes
Andy Peebler
VP Business Strategy & Growth, Salesforce Commerce Cloud

When it comes to ecommerce, pivots and shifting priorities are simply par for the course. Consider all the changes teams have had to navigate in just the past few years: emerging channels, new payment types, increasing customer expectations, and more. To keep the pace, businesses depend on their ecommerce platforms. Your platform is what connects your business to your customers, and it is often the linchpin of success. It’s a make-or-break technology that can either give you the freedom to innovate and deliver the digital experiences your customers want — or it can hold you back.

As the market changes and business needs evolve, many commerce leaders find their current platform can’t keep up with growth, won’t allow them to expand globally, or is too cumbersome to support innovation. This moment is a proverbial fork in the road: Leaders need to decide whether to switch ecommerce platforms (also known as “replatforming”), or make changes to their existing technology.

So how do you determine which option is right for your business? Start by defining your business goals to decide whether your platform can meet all of your needs. Then, use a holistic, objective framework to evaluate your current platform’s success — both past and present. This guide will give you clear, practical advice to help you decide when (and how) to replatform.


Table of Contents

First things first: Define your business goals

If the current state of your ecommerce platform isn’t working for you, the first step is to figure out why. Before you make a list of all the commerce features your current platform lacks, it’s important to define your overall business goals. Consider whether your business goals have changed throughout the past two years (and if so, how). For example, many B2B businesses implemented direct-to-consumer channels during the pandemic with the main goal of diversifying revenue streams. Now that their platforms are in place and the market has shifted, initial needs have changed. The focus is now on perfecting D2C experiences with personalization, integration with marketing, and real-time insights. To determine your business needs, gather key stakeholders to come up with a list of main goals.

For example, do you need to boost sales, increase marketing, and personalize experiences? You will likely need better integration between your commerce platform and your CRM. Do you need a digital B2B ecommerce channel that takes pressure off your direct sales teams? If so, you will need one-click reorders, smart storefront search, and product recommendations to help you increase online sales. These features increase the efficiency of direct sales teams by enabling them to spend less time taking orders and more time on strategic services like cross-selling, upselling, and other consultative projects.

If your main goal is to reduce the cost of supporting your customers, your commerce platform should incorporate features that help streamline self-service. If customers can find everything they need — quickly and intuitively on their own — you’ll incur less call center costs. Focus on features like chatbots to answer frequently asked questions, online knowledge centers, and self-service order tracking.

If you define your business goals first, you can work backwards to come up with a list of ecommerce features that will help get you there. This is the best way to start the replatforming conversation and stay on the right track throughout every phase of the journey.

Weigh your options — and determine costs

Once you determine your ecommerce goals, the replatforming question goes further than just, “Should I stay or should I go?” Both options have risks, and both will incur costs. Based on your needs and goals, these questions will help you identify whether it’s time to revamp your commerce strategy or replatform:

Is it more cost-efficient to replatform or make updates? If your business needs can be met with upgrades to a few front-end features, it may be more cost-effective to work with a vendor on those specific areas of your ecommerce experience. However, replatforming will likely be less time-consuming and costly in the long run if you find that your teams lack back-end tooling (like payment gateway integrations, security features, or scalable infrastructure) to meet your objectives.

What is your implementation strategy? Every replatforming project needs an implementation strategy. For example, will you use a third-party systems integrator, implement it yourself, or employ a combination of the two? To determine the cost of each option, consider the current roles and experience of your IT team. Consider whether you will need new head count or new talent to replatform, or if your current staff can handle the tasks of the project.

What is the opportunity cost of each option? Another exercise that can help determine costs is to consider what is working well with your current platform — and what you will be giving up if you replatform. Compare potential profits with your current platform to what you hope to gain from making a switch. Keep key metrics in mind, like ROI, uptime, and availability.

When you should replatform (and why now is a good time)

Your ecommerce platform can either be a catalyst for growth and success, or it can severely limit your potential. Jono Herrington, Global Digital Technology Lead at Nike, puts it this way: “As brands mature, they may find that they hit a barrier with their ecommerce platform. When that happens, platform weaknesses that were once small pebbles become large boulders. These weaknesses can slow your engineers down, keep you from getting to market quickly, and create a lot of friction in your business.”

So how do you know when to replatform? Timing is everything, but it can be difficult to know when to hold and when to fold. Here are a few scenarios that call for making a switch:

When commerce, order, and customer data are spread across different platforms: Many companies use different ecommerce platforms for each new line of business, market, or geography they enter. Over time, this can lead to a disjointed experience and make it difficult to manage data. Even worse? It leads to inefficiencies and skyrocketing costs. Consolidating all your different platforms into one will remove data silos and give your teams better visibility into insights that will drive better business results.

When you don’t have the right data to make informed decisions: While some businesses have too much data spread over too many platforms, others simply don’t have access to enough. If you’re in the dark about the details of your customer journey or you don’t have access to in-the-moment insights, it will be difficult to create relevant ecommerce experiences that resonate. For example, an ecommerce platform that isn’t connected to your order management system can’t give you an accurate view of your inventory levels. Without this information, it can be difficult to match supply with demand and order the right amount of product. Ultimately, connected systems mean that you’ll have a better view of critical business operations and customer behavior.

Leading businesses use data to guide their ecommerce strategies. In fact, 53% of digital leaders report being very effective at using data to understand customer behavior, a rate 3.5 times greater than their less digitally mature counterparts. They are also four times more likely to be using their data to deliver personalized buying experiences.


More than half (53%) of digital leaders report being very effective at using data to understand customer behavior, a rate 3.5 times greater than their less digitally mature counterparts

The key to getting the right insights to drive success? Real-time, connected data. A holistic view of each customer and real-time insights about their habits on your storefront are critical to making informed decisions and creating successful ecommerce strategies.
When your platform keeps you from providing a stellar customer experience: Do you find that new innovations are often squashed because your ecommerce platform doesn’t offer enough agility? When you are able to innovate and build new features, is an inflexible platform causing delays in your time to market? These are all signs you should prioritize replatforming sooner rather than later. The sooner you make the switch, the faster you improve your bottom line. When GE Renewable Energy implemented a new B2B storefront based on customer feedback, the results were staggering: Volume increased 300% and its user base increased 35% in just six months.

“We’ve already done three times more volume through our new platform than we did the entire previous year on the old platform.”

Uzair Memon
Chief Commercial Officer, GE Renewable Energy

When you can’t keep up with market trends: Flexibility is key to staying responsive to rapidly evolving customer needs and market demands. New payment methods and new channels pop up regularly, and the businesses that find success are those that can quickly adjust. Consider the fast-growing popularity and adoption of ecommerce trends like installment payments and social selling. The social commerce opportunity is expected to nearly triple by 2025 — to $1.2 trillion. To keep up and earn share of wallet, brands need an ecommerce platform that can easily integrate with new social channels as they arise.

If you don’t have the capability to keep up with market trends as they’re gaining momentum, customers will shop elsewhere. Your ecommerce platform should — at minimum — come equipped with must-have, business-critical features (like payments and order management). If your platform offers these out of the box, you can spend your valuable time building features that will truly differentiate your brand experience. When your ecommerce platform stands in the way of customer acquisition and loyalty, this is a good sign that it’s time to make a switch. Staying ahead of the ecommerce curve requires a platform that enables you to innovate quickly and get new experiences to market before the competition.

When you’ve lost trust in your platform and it’s no longer reliable: Over time, vendor lists grow as businesses bring in new partners to help with different parts of the ecommerce experience. However, the experience can become disjointed if too many vendors are involved. It’s the software equivalent of too many cooks in the kitchen.
For example, a brand may use one ecommerce payment provider to service their online stores, another for mobile shopping apps, and yet another for physical locations. This requires your teams to spend valuable time managing each vendor and completing lengthy installations. It also means duplicate work for each channel. Even worse? It can lead to a slow, unreliable site and a disconnected experience for your customers.

Major milestones of the replatforming journey

Once you assess your business goals and determine it’s the right time to replatform, it’s important to be prepared for the journey ahead. Here are a few key milestones to keep in mind throughout the process:

  1. Get buy-in from stakeholders and agree on business goals. The first major milestone for commerce professionals, IT leaders, and CIOs who want to replatform: getting buy-in from across the company — which includes your finance team and board of directors. The goal is to show how a new ecommerce platform will increase top-line revenue and create operational efficiencies — both now and in the future. And that all starts with setting the right cost-benefit model.
  2. Come up with a plan for organizational alignment. From customer service agents to marketers, merchandisers, and sales reps, replatforming will affect every role. It’s important to understand how each team will be impacted and anticipate any resistance. Develop a change management plan to help you minimize risk, boost productivity, and get valued employees on board. This will include creating a communication plan, collecting feedback, and building the right team to help you move the new implementation forward.
  3. Determine how you will measure success. Key performance indicators (KPIs) will help you steer the ship during — and after — your new implementation. Consider your business goals and determine which KPIs to track. For example, if your goal is to lower your cost to serve, then you should routinely measure customer acquisition costs, customer lifetime value, and return on investment.
  4. Choose your ecommerce platform. Once you’ve determined your goals, alignment plan, and KPIs, it’s time to come up with a short list of potential platform partners. Your decision will likely come down to cost, capabilities, support, and security. Choose a solution that has 99.99% historical uptime with proven global customer success.
  5. Decide on a minimum viable product (MVP) for launch. One of the best (read: fastest) ways to get your new platform up and running is to take an MVP approach. This means focusing your early efforts on major features necessary for your business to operate ecommerce. For some brands, an ecommerce MVP might simply be a customer portal and the ability to track orders. For others, an MVP will include storefront, product search, payments, and order management.

Once you choose your platform, gather your key stakeholders to decide what an MVP looks like for your business — always keeping your ecommerce goals as your north star. Then, after testing and launching the initial build, your teams can work to improve, customize, and launch new features in phases.

How to minimize costs during the replatforming process

Prioritize seamless, easy integrations.

When it comes to minimizing replatforming costs, a trusted partner ecosystem is a quick win. If your platform vendor can connect you to a reliable network of other commerce technology providers, you can significantly reduce your time to market and your total cost of ownership. The right partner ecosystem will include trusted vendors for critical needs like content and search. This ensures fast, streamlined integrations — and it also means you won’t need to spend time and resources wading through countless RFPs for each potential partner.

Focus on vendor consolidation.

One thing that can increase costs and delay your launch? Vetting different vendors and implementing disparate products. Every separate product requires a contract (which takes time to negotiate). You’ll also need to manage multiple vendor relationships, each with different sales teams and pricing models. That’s a lot to juggle — and that’s all before the implementation process begins.

Many businesses will bring in different vendors for order management, payments, and platform. The problem? This requires your teams to spend valuable time completing lengthy (and costly) installations. It also often means duplicate work for each channel. Even worse: it can lead to disjointed experiences for your customers. It’s the software equivalent of too many cooks in the kitchen.

Instead, you can focus on vendor consolidation by taking an all-in-one approach to ecommerce. This approach combines your ecommerce platform, payments, and order management solutions into one. Rather than three different solutions, you only need a single implementation. By choosing one partner for these three business-critical solutions, you can significantly reduce your budget and time to market.

Have a plan for maintenance.

Flexibility is key. That's why merchants are trending toward composable commerce architectures that allow them to bring together best-of-breed solutions. In addition to being highly composable, your commerce solution should include the core fundamentals of platform infrastructure for both the back end and the front end.

Without a platform partner that takes responsibility for uptime and maintenance of your storefront, your IT team is left to build and manage complex infrastructure on its own — which is costly and time-consuming. What’s more, hosting fees can vary dramatically depending on traffic and the features of your website, so it can be difficult to know from the get go what kind of budget you will need to allot. Choosing a partner that not only hosts your site, but manages its scalability and security, can be invaluable. This significantly minimizes costs and it also insulates your business from many risks.

What to look for in your next ecommerce platform

  • Speed and agility: You need the ability to move fast if you want to keep up with trends, get new products to market quickly, and update your site with timely, relevant content. Your ecommerce platform should enable this with out-of-the-box capabilities like AI-powered personalization, merchandiser tooling, simplified ordering and payments, and more.
  • Reliability and proven uptime: Shoppers won’t put up with sluggish load times. In fact, the highest ecommerce conversion rates occur on pages with load times between zero and two seconds. With each additional second of load time, website conversion rates drop by an average of 4.42%. To ensure site speed and reliability, it’s critical to choose a trusted ecommerce platform partner that has a proven track record of stellar uptime — even during the heaviest traffic.
  • Scalability for future growth: Whether you plan to expand into new channels, markets, or locations, scalability should be a top priority. Ensure that your ecommerce partner makes it easy to manage multiple sites, execute global strategies, and localize to any geography.
  • Continuous innovation: Commerce changes fast. Customers expect you to keep up with new payment methods, new channels, and new ecommerce experiences as they arise. The right platform partner will offer a regular cadence of innovations in the form of new features and automatic updates to help you stay ahead of the curve.

According to Jono Herrington, “The right ecommerce platform all comes down to one word: trust. During times of peak traffic like cyber week, you’re going to want infrastructure, support, and a partner you trust.”

Replatform with a trusted leader in digital commerce

The best way to ensure replatforming success, minimize risk, and avoid runaway costs? Choose a scalable ecommerce platform with seamless integrations, flexible storefronts, built-in security, and always-on availability.


Is It Better To Buy or Build Your Ecommerce Platform?


The Minimum Viable Product Approach to Ecommerce Is a Game Changer — Here’s Why


More Resources

Drive Efficient Growth with Salesforce Commerce Cloud
Everything You Need To Know About Headless Commerce

Get timely updates and fresh ideas delivered to your inbox.