How to Approach Your Next Web Replatforming

As technology’s pace quickens the cycle of replatforming gets shorter and shorter. Where once a 5-year cycle would be deemed leading edge, today it puts you smack in the middle of the laggard quadrant of the adoption lifecycle. In fact, a strong argument could be made that replatforming should be treated as an ongoing program, not a one-time project. 

How Far Ahead Are You Thinking?

Forrester Research has made this point on numerous occasions: because digital marketing is constantly evolving, you need to continuously evolve your digital touch points. While implementing new technology on a continuous basis is not yet feasible, organizations can and should put themselves in the mindset of continuous evolution. So while your last web platform upgrade was less than three years ago, it’s already past time to be thinking about the next. In our experience this is where many online business leaders miss the mark -- that is, they don’t start planning until the pain points start to appear.

Whether it’s a total cost of ownership model that’s no longer competitive, an inability to meet customer needs rapidly enough, or a platform that can no longer handle the customer demand without the proverbial duct tape and workarounds, there’s going to come a time when your legacy solution needs an upgrade, so thinking well in advance of that time needs to be your goal.

How to Get Back on Track

The best place to start is with your analytics and optimization results: what are they telling you about your site, about your customers’ use of your site, etc. Before spending lots of time and money -- neither of which any of us has enough of anyway -- on future plans, it’s an imperative to understand what’s working (or not) in your current site’s customer experience.

At what point are customers abandoning your site? What does your clickstream analysis tell you? Which features and/or paths are leading to conversion or abandoned carts? Or any other multitude of insights you should be gleaning from your web analytics data and your site testing program. In other words, take the hunch out of your future website and platform direction.

Now that you’ve got a timeline for upgrading, it’s time to think about partners – and you need to think about partners because it’s unrealistic to think you can do this alone or with a cadre of contractors. This is specialized work and requires the knowledge and experience of specialists. There are some of you out there who might have the internal expertise to take this on -- but most of you don’t. Most will choose a system integrator (SI) to do the technical implementation, involving the solution architecture, integration to systems such as order management, and the customization of the new web system, but there are a plethora of other needs that require specialized knowledge beyond that of the typical SI.

Content migration, search engine optimization, web analytics tagging, product data management – these are some of those areas where a digital marketing firm is required. We’ve found that content migration and asset management alone can easily account for 10 percent of your overall replatforming budget. And a successful content migration is going to have nearly the same post-launch impact as the actual platform will – in other words, nothing to be left to chance or inexperienced consultants. Interview firms who’ve done these very specialized aspects of replatforming and go with the one you feel will be your partner, who will tell you what you need to know (not what you want to hear) and will get the work done successfully and with minimal pain.

While content migration and asset management are clearly the largest aspects of a replatforming, outside of the system implementation and integration, there are other key aspects that are very relevant to that content work: SEO, site search optimization, web analytics tagging are the most significant. Choosing a digital marketing partner that has the expertise in content migration and these other key digital marketing activities makes for a more synergistic and efficient process of launching your new site. It also lessens the number of parties involved in this large effort. Have a structure that includes an overall program manager and PMO, SI, and digital marketing partner; the program manager can be either part of your team or from one of the two partners.

Title image by Guillaume Pelinski (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license