As a successful merchant selling online, the question of what ecommerce platform to use (or re-platform to) is always a really tough decision to make. Enterprise ecommerce solutions don’t come cheap and they require a huge amount of time (and a lot of people) to implement, run and maintain. This is why it’s fundamentally important that you remain highly organised and systematic in your research and decision-making process, as selecting the wrong platform can have a huge impact on your business.
The process of selecting a platform should also be a group effort – it’s important not to just leave this task to your tech and ecommerce trading teams; everyone, from marketing to customer service should weigh in as it’s a business-level decision. In a lot of cases, it’s necessary to bring in consultants from outside the organization so you can get objective feedback on what your company needs. I regularly get asked to work on pre-RFP stage ecommerce platform selection projects, particularly around Magento and I’ve worked on lots of projects for merchants alongside consultants and contractors tasked with understanding and translating requirements.
Also, resist the urge to look at different enterprise solutions right away. Before considering what your options are, you must first do internal research and figure out your (and your customers’) specific requirements. Attempting to review different platforms without a clear understanding of what you need is a surefire way of throttling your requirements – which will have a big impact on the end product in the short-term and long-term future. It’s important to gather your requirements and then look at how each platform matches them – you can then look at third party integrations and modules etc and evaluate the impact that this has.
To assist you with the task, below is a guide designed to help you in selecting an ecommerce solution.
Step 1: Requirements gathering
As above, understanding your requirements is fundamentally important and it’s key that this is done as part of the discovery process, before you start looking at individual platforms. Here are some of the key questions that need to be asked to each department:
- What are the main business objectives behind the re-platforming (e.g. reduce cost, improve scalability, become more agile, eliminate vendor lock-in)?
- What are the key restrictions / bottlenecks with the current ecommerce platform (e.g. time overheads, technical restrictions, inability to scale)?
- What are the critical existing features that your department needs (e.g. CSV import, more sophisticated merchandising, product import scripts, more complex catalog setup, system integrations)?
- What are the nice to have existing features that your department needs (e.g. visual merchandising, rich search, one step checkout)?
- What are the key new features that your department needs and what is the impact (e.g. self-hosted, personalisation, omni-channel)?
- What are the key systems integrations required for launch (e.g. ERP, warehousing etc)?
- What are the future systems integrations required for phase two (e.g. point of sale, marketplace)?
- What are the key operational requirements (e.g. configurable products, bundled products, product rules, up-sells / cross-sells)?
These are just a few examples – there’ll be a huge amount of others.
I’d suggest working with a Business Analyst to undertake this activity properly – they’ll help to assess and understand the business critical requirements and the non-essential ones. I usually recommend using something like MoScOw ratings to help define this – which splits all requirements into must have, should have, could have, won’t have. A Business Analyst will also help to define the business impact for the different features.
Customer experience will represent a big part of selecting your platform – ensuring that you’re able to take control of the experience you’re providing and also make use of the required functionality. Things like point of sale integration, customer segmentation, live chat, rich and effective on-site search, product video etc may be do-able, but you need to look at how much work (and the financial overhead) is required to achieve it. As part of this you’ll also need to research into third party partners as well – for example, there are certain omni-channel features that Demandware offers out of the box, however Magento Enterprise has a number of close partners that allow you to achieve the same features, arguably with more flexibility.
Spending time looking at the customer experience features in your backlog is usually a good thing to do as part of this project as well, as in doing so you’ll be able to identify features, capabilities and integrations that your team have asked for, that can be built into the spec for the the new build.
It’s important that you map out the technical requirements for the project, as this will contribute massively to the decision making process. This is where you’ll need to be vigilant with features and key requirements as it’ll impact the scope of the project and the cost dramatically.
Another key consideration around re-platforming (and definitely one of the biggest) is about how the different technology fits with your existing team and your existing stack. For example, if you have a team of PHP developers and are considering a move to Demandware or ATG Commerce, it’s going to be far more disruptive and have a far bigger overhead than if you moved to a PHP platform. This needs to be factored into the requirements (still using the MoScOw system).
The same applies with integrations – if you’re worried about budget and are looking at a platform that has an existing integration with your ERP, warehousing solution etc, it’s going to reduce the overhead, so this needs to go into the requirements section.
When you’re doing this, I’d suggest creating a spreadsheet with all of the technical requirements with details of why they’re needed and which members of staff need it. Once these are have been completed – they’ll help to populate the functional spec.
Another consideration is how well the different platforms will fit your existing processes – for example for of the more enterprise-level platforms, such as Demandware, have approval layers, which can impact the speed at which your team can work. Some platforms are more agile than others and if you have planned development work for the year ahead, you may want to ensure that the platform can meet your timescale requirements.
Here are some other key questions that need to be asked.
How could customer acquisition activity be impacted by the new platform?
Discovery is a crucial part of the shopping journey. You need to know how shoppers are finding their way into your stores, so you can determine how you can retain your existing presence and build on it in the long-term.
A good example of a requirement that may be dictated by customer acquisition marketing could be CMS capabilities, as paid search performance is often dictated by a merchant’s ability to create strong landing pages quickly and easily. Most enterprise-level platforms are generally quite weak with content management, as they’re generally more focused on providing powerful ecommerce features, rather than content.
That said, it’s an area that all big platforms are working on and they’re all getting better. Some larger merchants actually opt to use a CMS alongside their ecommerce platform (such as Paul Smith and 3663, which both use a Drupal and Magento hybrid).
You may have also requirements around marketplace integration or feeds for PLA / Google Shopping or affiliate marketing which aren’t standard / OOTB. Email marketing is also likely to be a consideration, do they have an existing integration with your ESP and any automation platforms you use? Are you using any additional CRM systems that need to be factored into this? All of these considerations are important and this is another reason why you need to create a task force comprising more than just the core people using the platform every day.
SEO is obviously a very big consideration and not all of these platforms are as strong as each other in this area. They’re all quite bad out of the box, in terms of technical SEO – however Magento Enterprise has a number of modules available and the other platforms will provide support in this area. Things like dynamic pages being indexable / crawlable, international SEO setup, product catalog structure, URL structure etc are examples of things that are generally pretty poor out of the box, so creating a spec around SEO feature requirements early on is also important. Here are some of the requirements you may have in this area:
- Canonical URLs across the site (implemented in an effective way)
- Control over XML sitemaps
- Representative version of products that have multiple variants (size, colour etc)
- Control over page-level meta data
- Robust user generated content features (probably third party)
- Ability to manage redirects
- Pagination handling
- Options around indexing of dynamic pages (usually requires additional development work)
These are just some of the obvious considerations for the SEO side of re-platforming – there will be plenty more and they will differ depending on the platform.
What channels or devices do your customers use when browsing and buying your products?
You not only have to figure out what people are buying, but how they’re buying them. Are people looking at your website using their computers or their mobile devices? Do they swing by your brick-and-mortar store prior to completing a purchase?
Get the answers to these questions, then determine how you can deliver the best shopping experience on the new website. Say you’ve discovered that most of your customers are now using their mobile devices to browse your website – this insight tells you that your ecommerce platform needs to have robust mobile capabilities focused on providing a positive browsing experience. You might also want to improve the way that your website is integrated with your in-store experience, which would be achievable with all of the platforms (although not all of them have omni-channel capabilities out of the box).
Integrating different channels is another important consideration. If your customers are using multiple channels to research, browse, and buy, then you’ll want an ecommerce solution that can connect all those channels so you can provide a smooth experience.
How do they want their orders to be fulfilled?
This is a particularly important question if you’re running a bricks-and-clicks retail operation. While you may need to do further research on your own customers, an increasing number of consumers are looking for click n collect options from online retailers. John Lewis even reported that click n collect overtook home delivery through the Christmas 2014 peak.
You also need to think about integrating the new platform with all of the different systems you’re using around fulfilment and warehousing – which can add a significant amount of work if there’s not an existing integration.
More mainstream enterprise-level platforms, like Magento and Demandware, tend to make this side of things easier due to the amount of existing modules and integrations there are in this area.
Do they want or need special shopping features?
Depending on your business, you may need special shopping features to enrich the experience of your customers. Example: for some retailers, holding flash sales or private shopping events is a big part of their business. For others, features like gift registries and wish lists are must-haves.
It’s also important to consider where shoppers are coming from, as this could determine whether you’ll need special site capabilities. If you have lots of international visitors, allowing visitors to view products in local currencies would go a long way towards improving how they browse and buy on your site. Or it may be that you need the ability to have different storefronts for different regions – allowing for different shipping options, currencies, catalogs etc.
Some platforms have such features built-in, while others may require integrations or even bespoke solutions. In any case, be sure to list down any special requirements so you can bring them up with your ecommerce company or agency later on.
How do customers communicate with your brand?
Let’s not forget about customer relationship management. Being able to effectively touch base with shoppers is crucial to your store’s success.
Identify all the ways in which shoppers can communicate with your existing website and also the things that you’d like to build into an improved version. These could include email, phone, live chat, and in-person interactions. See to it that your provider supports all these methods, so you can keep communication open between your company and customers.
If you personalise product recommendations and communication, see to it that your ecommerce platform offers the personalisation capabilities you need to effectively keep in touch with shoppers and deliver the best possible shopping experience.
Step 2 – Consider your existing systems and solutions
Think about the solutions and systems that you’re already using. These could include your email marketing program, your point-of-sale system, payment gateway etc. Make a list of all the programs that you’re using that are related to ecommerce and then determine if and how they’ll work with your new ecommerce platform.
In some cases, you may be able to integrate the platform with your existing solutions, but sometimes, you’ll either need to switch to a program that works better with your ecommerce software, or work with your provider’s built-in solution.
For example, Magento can integrate with various point-of-sale systems, making it easy for multichannel merchants to connect their offline POS with their ecommerce program. On the other hand, platforms such as Demandware have their own solutions.
Same goes for email, CMS, and payment processing. While some solutions integrate with a lot of existing providers, other platforms aren’t as flexible, and you’ll need to either go with their solution or create a tailored integration that’ll work with what you already have.
At this point, you’ll need determine if you’re willing and able to switch out your existing programs. If you’d rather stick to what you have now, then go for an ecommerce platform that lets you do just that. But if you don’t have any problems with changing providers and migrating to a new system, then you should be fine with a solution that has select integration partners of has such programs built-in.
Step 3 – Set a budget
Many companies only look at the surface when budgeting for an ecommerce platform. They think of things such as licensing fees, set-up costs and development, but fail to consider costs for maintenance or the expenses that come with integrations, workarounds and development contingency.
When budgeting for your ecommerce solution it’s important that you also account for indirect costs and plan for a post-launch roadmap. You may also have expenses for applying fixes once the warranty from the systems integrator has expired and there’s also likely to be more budget required for a support retainer / SLA.
Here are a few things you should consider:
Costs of the platform itself – Pricing between different platforms vary greatly. Some solutions have set licensing fees, while others charge fees depending on your sales and traffic. Magento Enterprise, for example, charges an ~$18,000 licensing fee (plus extra costs for any additional servers), while for Demandware, fees will vary depending on sales volume but are likely to be significantly more even without the percentage of sales.
There are also ecommerce platforms that offer various editions or deployment forms, so costs will depend on the specific solution that you choose. Intershop, for instance, offers three deployment models: Cloud, Managed, and Enterprise; meanwhile, IBM WebSphere has Enterprise, Commerce on Cloud, Express, and Professional editions.
Design and development costs – The design and development costs around re-platforming are likely to be one of the highest expenditures for the project – most enterprise-level ecommerce builds cost between £100,000 and £2,000,000 if you choose to use an external agency / systems integrator. Obviously there are lots of edge cases as well, with some website builds coming closer to £10,000,000.
One of the most important things to consider is how you want your development to be resourced. Will you be outsourcing the job using your existing team or building a new in-house team? If the latter, will you be bringing in contractors or hiring a full development team. You’ll also need to think about the structure of the project team – you’ll more than likely want the following:
- Programme Manager / Lead Project Manager
- Project Manager(s)
- Solutions Architect(s)
- Business Analyst(s)
- Testing / QA team
- Development team (front-end and back-end)
- Design resource
I’ve worked on projects that have been fully outsourced to an agency, partially outsourced (agency development and in-house / contracted) and fully in-house. If you’re bringing in agencies you need to consider that you’re likely to pay a minimum of £700 per day and if you’re bringing in platform specialist consultants, it’ll be £500 – £1,000 per day. A lot of contracted project teams are 5-10 people, comprising testers / QA, PM’s, solution architects etc. These teams often move around together on large-scale re-platforming projects.
This is more of a business decision and it’ll come down to future business objectives and the level of skill you have currently and need in-house in the future, as well as budget.
Maintenance – You need to think about how much it’ll cost to keep your store running once you’ve launched. Maintenance fees can include everything from on-going development and dev ops work to things like platform support, SEO, analytics, data management etc. You need to understand rough costs around support contracts and SLAs before you decide on a platform and suppliers.
Integrations and/or bespoke solutions – Consider the integrations or bespoke solutions that you’ll require. Naturally, existing integrations or modules will cost less than developing tailored solutions, so you’ll need to factor in such costs when comparing different platforms. If you’re working on implementing new systems as part of the project, such as a new ERP or warehousing system, you may need an external contractor / consultant to help with this too.
Additional migration costs – Also take into consideration the amount of money and time it’ll take to switch to a new ecommerce system. Chances are you’re going to have additional costs around running two platforms in parallel, running more test servers etc, extra resource for manual work, consultants around things like SEO etc.
Step 4 – Look into different solutions
Once you have a solid idea of what you need in an ecommerce platform and how you want your team to be structured, it’s time to do your research the solutions available to you.
There are a handful of enterprise ecommerce platforms in the market. Some of the most popular ones include Magento, Demandware, Hybris, Oracle, IBM and Intershop. This section will provide a brief overview of these solutions and offer insights into what they have to offer.
Magento Enterprise Edition
Magento is arguably one of the most agile platforms out there. It has by far the biggest range of existing modules and integrations out of the solutions mentioned above, reducing the cost of extending your site and adding new features. They also have a community version, which is free to use and has a lot of the same core functionality. That said, enterprise-level merchants will want to use the Enterprise Edition, as it comes with support, built-in full page cache, faster indexing and a number of other benefits.
The same goes for Magento’s community, which is one of the key benefits of using the platform. Magento has a huge developer community and there are lots of great agencies all over the world too. Although Magento doesn’t have as many clients at the top end of ecommerce as the other platforms, it has more merchants than the others and there are some retailers doing huge amounts of trade on the platform.
In terms of built-in features, Magento Enterprise offers powerful capabilities when it comes to marketing, customer loyalty, shopping experience, and business productivity. Popular features include configurable products (and various other product types), visual merchandiser (manual, automatic, and dynamic merchandising), customer loyalty options (customer segmentation, rewards, private sales) and more.
Magento recently released their long-awaited version 2, which eliminates a lot of the perceived weaknesses of the platform (including costly version upgrades as site speed issues). There are a few early adopters who have launched large ecommerce sites on the new release, but it’s still very early days. If you’re looking to start work soon, you’re going to need to do further research into the best version for you. The biggest issue is that the vast majority of integrations and modules won’t be readily available for Magento 2, unlike Magento 1.x.
Magento 2 also promises to add a lot of value to merchants – with Magento saying they’re going to release new features and functionality on a quarterly basis.
At a glance
Strengths – Magento has lots of powerful built-in features, and is also highly versatile, thanks to the fact that it’s self-hosted. This allows merchants to be more nimble when they want to scale or add new features and functionalities. Magento also has a huge developer community (across agencies and freelance / contract developers), making it easy to get support. Magento’s multi-store features are also very strong.
Magento 2.0 is looking very strong and is already being adopted by lots of enterprise-level merchants. This could be a game changer for them as they compete more in the enterprise-level area of ecommerce. Magento have also promised that they will be delivering lots of improvements as part of this.
Weaknesses – Unlike some of its competitors, Magento doesn’t come with built-in omni-channel tools, which can be a turnoff for enterprise-level merchants looking for a seamless omnichannel platform. This is one of the key selling points for Demandware. Magento OOTB can also be quite slow without optimisation work (better with Magento 2) and it has less market share with the > £100m retailers.
Integrations, partners, and experts – Magento has a wide ecosystem of developers, experts and agencies. The Magento Connect marketplace is home to thousands of modules, themes, and tools, making it very easy to find ready-made solutions for various business needs.
Additionally, Magento Enterprise merchants benefit from excellent community support and some merchants find that they can fix issues themselves just by tapping into the the platform’s ecosystem.
There are also plenty of experts and agencies ready to assist Magento merchants in various capacities, so if your business has any special requirements, or if you simply need help setting up, running, or maintaining your store, you can easily find an individual or company that can handle such tasks for you.
Examples of Magento Enterprise merchants / stores: Paul Smith, Missguided, Boohoo, Harvey Nichols, Mothercare, Hermes, Agent Provocateur, Rebecca Minkoff, Charlotte Tilbury
Magento Enterprise Cost – $18,000 licensing fee, excluding design and development expenses and server costs.
One notable characteristic of Demandware is its focus on omnichannel retail. Its solution is designed to enable merchants to seamlessly do business across digital and physical channels.
Out of the box, Demandware offers an integrated commerce platform which unifies ecommerce, order management, POS and offline store operations in one hosted solution. Additionally, it boasts of a “buy anywhere, fulfilled anywhere” capability, which lets retailers easily offer services such as click-and-collect and ship from store. Demandware also provides tools that in-store associates can use to assist shoppers and enhance their brick-and-mortar experience.
At a glance
Strengths – Demandware’s strong focus on omnichannel makes it an attractive solution for modern retailers who are looking for a smooth, end-to-end commerce solution. It’s also a cloud-based, fully hosted solution which means merchants won’t have to worry about server maintenance. Demandware is built specifically for enterprise-level retail and they are very good on the assurance side, as a result of their approval layer for technical releases.
Weaknesses – Demandware doesn’t have a very large expert community, so getting support or development work done quickly can be a challenge. The agencies and experts are also generally very expensive compared to some of the other platforms. Some retailers may need to train staff in-house if they need someone to continuously work on their site.
And Demandware being fully hosted can be a disadvantage, because it may limit your freedom when it comes to site customisation and development. Since the technology is controlled by Demandware, there are some limitations on the features you can implement and there’s an approval layer, which can add a time overhead to site changes and releases.
Integrations, partners, and experts – Demandware has the LINK Marketplace, which showcases its technology and service partners. Once again though, it’s not as large or comprehensive as with Magento. In addition, it may not be very easy to find integrations or modules for your store, which will further increase the cost.
Examples of Demandware merchants / stores: New Balance, House of Fraser, Adidas, Callaway, Jack Wills, Brooks Brothers, Clarins, Converse
Demandware Cost – The cost of the platform varies, as Demandware charges fees based on the merchant’s sales. According to CPC Strategy, a Demandware customer that has annual sales between $20 million and $500 million (Demandware’s target client) can expect licensing fees starting from around $200,000 and in some cases closer to $700,000 a year and an additional $250,000 to $600,000 a year for other services.
Hybris comes with multisite, multilanguage, and multicurrency features out of the box, making it an ideal solution for retailers who have a strong international presence or are looking to expand overseas. It’s business tools are even available in seven languages.
Hybris comes with powerful functionalities when it comes to ecommerce management, merchandising, marketing, and IT management. Notable features include: advanced fulfilment capabilities (for implementing “click-and-collect,” partial delivery, multi-warehouse shipping and returns management); comprehensive and advanced personalization for delivering one-to-one experiences; centralised product and content management for running stores across multiple channels and more.
At a glance
Strengths – Hybris’ built-in multi-language, multi-currency, and multi-site capabilities make it a great solution for retailers who cater to international markets. Its centralised content and product management features are also a big plus for merchants who want to unify their digital and physical retail operations. Hybris, much like the others, already powers some of ecommerce’s global leaders and one of the main reasons merchants use it because of the peace of mind they get around key peaks and scalability in general.
Weaknesses – Research company Gartner has found that clients gave low scores when it comes to Hybris’ reporting capabilities and ease of upgrading. The platform, like Demandware, is also likely to have additional costs around integrations due to them having less merchants and a smaller developer following.
Integrations, partners, and experts – With virtually no community support, there are less developers around and less agencies to assist you with implementation and maintenance. Again, this could lead to additional spend in training and development. Granted, Hybris does have the Extend Marketplace, though the number of integrations and partners that you’ll find is limited compared to other solution providers.
Examples of Hybris merchants / stores: Beaverbrooks, Benefit, EE, GHD, Maplin, Mulberry, Aldo, LK Bennett, Iceland, Rapha, Barbour, Sainsburys, JD Williams
Price – Licensing fees start at $54,000 per year, according to CPC Strategy. Hybris also has several pricing options, including pay-per-use, long-term licensing, and revenue share.
ATG is a powerful platform built for large retailers. Its flexible architecture allows merchants to implement integrations and minimise costs, while its multi-site functionality allows businesses to manage products, categories and assets between different ecommerce stores.
In addition to standard features such as customer segmentation, and search and guided navigation, ATG also has built-in big data capabilities that enable merchants to deeply analyze shopper behavior and gain valuable insights and metrics.
At a glance
Strengths – ATG’s flexible and unified architecture enables merchants to scale efficiently. Its solid set of features, along with advanced segmentation and big data capabilities allow retailers to provide compelling, personalised, and data-driven shopping experiences.
Weaknesses – According to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for E-Commerce report, many clients who considered ATG had concerns about its total cost of ownership, indicating that merchants may end up spending more by choosing the platform.
Integrations, partners, and experts – While Oracle does have its PartnerNetwork, navigating it is difficult, and even requires its own FAQ page. Needless to say, it may take time and a some effort to find the right ATG partner. As for integrations, Oracle provides an ATG Web Services and Integration Framework Guide for creating custom applications. They do also provide support.
Examples of ATG merchants / stores: John Lewis, Games Workshop, CVS, Autozone, Littlewoods, Toms, Lacoste.
ATG Cost – Oracle’s price list indicates that the license price for Oracle Web Commerce is $500,000. More capabilities can be added at additional costs.
IBM Websphere is one of the go-to choices of large retailers. According to Gartner, over 60% of the platform’s clientbase consist of businesses that make north of $100 million in revenue.
IBM Websphere has four product editions: There’s Commerce on Cloud, an omnichannel solution for merchants who want to quickly go to market; WebSphere Commerce Express, for midsize companies who want an affordable way to establish a digital presence; there’s also WebSphere Commerce Enterprise, which is made for high-volume merchants running multiple sites; and finally, WebSphere Commerce Professional, a customer interaction platform that lets midsize companies implement personalised, cross-channel commerce.
At a glance
Strengths – IBM WebSphere is flexible. In addition to its four product editions, the software is offered in three deployment forms: on-premise, SaaS or cloud implementation. IBM WebSphere also comes with great built-in features that allow merchants to sell across multiple channels.
Weaknesses – IBM WebSphere offers limited storefronts, which means you’ll likely have to spend a significant amount on custom design and development. Reports indicate that integrating software assets and dealing with different IBM divisions can be complex, which adds a cost overhead.
Integrations, partners, and experts – You can find pre-built integrations on IBM’s Commerce Business Partner Solutions page. Although it’s worth noting that your choices are very limited, which once again could mean having to create custom-made applications that fit your needs. There aren’t loads of IBM WebSphere developers either, so you’ll have to take time searching or training someone up.
Examples of IBM Websphere merchants / stores: Topman, IKEA, Selfridges, Zara, GAME, Boots, Debenhams, Home Depot.
IBM Websphere Cost – Pricing varies greatly depending on deployment mode and product edition. It’s best to consult with an IBM representative to get an accurate idea of how much the platform would cost your business.
Intershop comes with all the modern features you’d expect from an enterprise solution, including omni-channel management, marketing and merchandising features, product information management, analytics and more. It also has strong organisational features, allowing for centralised management of subsidiaries, sales channels, and partner networks, as well as easy modeling for any organisational structure.
Intershop has three deployment models: Cloud, Managed, and Enterprise. Businesses can switch from one model to the next, depending on their needs. If necessary, Intershop merchants can also combine deployment models (ex: hosting your core business platform in your own data center while using Intershop’s cloud solution for new market segments).
Strengths – Intershop is quite flexible when it comes to deployment, allowing users to choose where and how to run the software. Its built-in omnichannel and organizational features make it a good platform for large merchants selling multiple channels.
Weaknesses – Reports indicate that Intershop hasn’t provided a clear roadmap on product releases to its customers. Another major drawback is the lack of available professional services.
Integrations, partners, and experts – While Intershop does have its own partner network, the number of experts and agencies specializing in the platform still pale in comparison compared to competitors like Magento. This poses the same problem for merchants who need consultants, integrations, and special solutions for their stores.
Examples of Intershop merchants / stores: Swarovski, Mercedes Benz, hp, T:Mobile, Jacobs, TomTom, Majestic, BMW, Staples.
Intershop Cost – Pricing information for Intershop isn’t readily available. It’s best to get in touch with a representative to get an idea of how much the platform will cost you.
Getting the information you need to make the best decision
Reading up on ecommerce platforms is just a small step when it comes to evaluating different solutions. In order to really get an idea of which platform to choose, conversations with internal stakeholders, solution providers, and outside experts must be conducted. If possible, try to get an actual demo of the product so you can see it in action.
Talking to internal stakeholders
When talking to relevant team members, be sure to cover:
- The specific things they liked or disliked about each solution
- The adjustments they’ll have to make to adapt to the new platform
- Training or resources they need to learn their way around the software
- Additional costs they incurred
Talking to solution providers
Here are some talking points to bring up with the solution providers you’re considering
- Standard and out of the box features
- Integrations available to you
- How much will their solution cost you (and additional costs)
- The amount of time and work is required to get their software up and running (for different teams and team members)
- The amount of time, money, and work required to maintain the software (for different teams and team members)
- Where you can find resources, developers, and expert support for their solution
- Number of systems integrators that they think are suitable for the project
- Their existing clients
- A demo of the platform
Talking to outside experts
It’s always recommended that you get input from an outside expert who can provide an objective opinion on the solutions that you’re considering. Points to bring up:
- How the solution compares to other platforms they’ve worked with
- The amount of time, money, and work required to get the software up and running (vs other platforms)
- The amount of time, money, and work required to maintain the software (vs other platforms)
- Where you can find resources, developers, and expert support for their solution
- Whether or not they recommend the solution for your business
Step 5 – Compare and evaluate (ideally with your team and a solutions expert)
Hopefully, by this point you’ve gathered ample notes and insights into the solutions that you’re considering. It’s not always easy to get an “apples to apples” comparison, but try to get a side by side view of the different platforms when it comes to general categories such as out of the box features, integrations, costs, etc.
As previously mentioned, selecting an ecommerce solution should be a team effort. Make sure that all relevant team members are part of this step, and if possible, include a solutions expert in the process so you can get a complete and well-rounded idea of what platform would work best for you.
You need to also think about your longer term plans. For example, brands like Missguided, Harvey Nichols and Made.com have very strong in-house development teams, which they’ve built over time whilst also using agency resource. These three brands are all using Magento Enterprise, which is a lot more mainstream than platforms like IBM WebSphere or Oracle ATG, because there are very few developers who specialise in such platforms, unlike Magento. That’s why if you’re going with a solution that doesn’t have a large developer or support community, you may have to invest in hiring and training in-house staff to handle the necessary jobs.
Need help finding an agency or expert?
The path to finding an expert or agency varies, depending on that platform itself. Some ecommerce companies have ecosystems of developers and partners (like Magento) so finding an expert is relatively easy. Other platforms don’t have large partner networks, so you may need to do some legwork to find the right one for you.
Here are some suggestions:
Talk to the solution provider – Consult with your solution provider and ask them how you can find experts who specialise in their platform. Do they have a partner network? Who would they recommend? Be aware that if they’re partner-lead, their may be bias in why they’re recommending certain partners.
Attend their events – Some ecommerce companies hold events to educate and engage their communities. Consider attending these functions so you can network with potential agencies and experts.
Speak to ecommerce consultants and consultancies – There are lots of experts who have taken on these research projects previously or worked with merchants who have gone through the process. When I’ve been involved in these kinds of projects previously, most merchants have used a third party to help with the decision making and the due diligence. This will obviously come at a price, but I’d say it’s a good use of budget as it’ll help to validate that the chosen solution meets your short-term and long-term requirements.
Ask an expert – I always get asked questions around platform suitability on Magento and there are lots of more knowledgable people than me. Reaching out to people that know the platform well and asking them questions is another good option.
Referrals – Get in touch with other ecommerce merchants using the platforms you’re considering and ask if they could refer you to experts and partners who can assist you in choosing, setting up, or maintaining the software.
Good luck, and if you need more information on any of the solutions or pointers discussed above, feel free to comment below or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.