We’ve alluded to ‘Creation of a Plan’ vs ‘Selection of a Platform’ as a “Chicken vs Egg’ problem in the past; we’ve done this primarily because we see many client prospects wrestling with this decision. As strategists, consultants, software architects and planners, we love to advocate that the best way to start a complex e-commerce project is to create a plan first! It’s our firm position that by flushing out all of the needs and requirements, and creating a roadmap first, there will be consensus, fast adoption, and the most productive features needed will get launched first…but maybe not?
Let’s take a look at the problem upside down, to advocate that now, in an e-commerce world of headless approaches and hyper-innovation from the platforms, maybe it’s OK to review and select a platform first. Any maybe this approach is actually a bit more agile and practical than creating the plan first. Here’s why:
Let the Platform’s Capabilities Inspire Your Roadmap
With the hyper-speed growth of e-commerce, the platform companies (and number of platforms) are growing quickly, innovating at speed and launching new features faster than they ever have. Why not review these features and roadmaps first and let them guide your plan as an e-commerce merchant? It’s quite possible that a new SaaS platform set of features can solve a number of problems and help you increase your revenue substantially over a few years.
Learn About the Platforms and Solve the Biggest Problems First
Platform review through presentation, demo and studying release notes may actually provide the requirements that you’re looking for. Many of the e-commerce platforms are in an arms race of features and functionality. Your agencies and SIs can help you customize these platforms to suit your very specific needs, but if you have a prioritized list of problems that you are trying to solve, you can probably explore 2 or 3 platforms and make a decision on one platform that solves the most number of problems with the biggest ROI. It’s not a perfect approach but it might be one that makes financial sense. It also might be worthwhile to throw a few 3rd party tools into the mix in your review. If your business is suffering from a lack of ratings and reviews and subscription revenue, maybe you don’t need to change platforms; maybe you need to add on those features.
Agile is Always an Option
Creating a plan can take time (and expense), and elongates your time to market. If the business is just getting started, even if it’s part of a larger brand or parent company, the “plan first” route is a great idea. But if you have an existing e-commerce operation with staff budgets, revenue projections and metrics, the chances are you can model what feature enhancements will have the ROI that will help you achieve your financial objectives. You can build consensus around features that solve the most pain and move forward – but you need to make sure to (see next section) understand the costs of each platform as well.
Beat the Platform Price Increases
The cost of platforms keeps going up and the overall cost of e-commerce operations continues to increase as merchants invest more and as platforms innovate. Even the SaaS platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce understand how performance drives success, so any merchant in the “millions” of online revenue bracket will have to pay for an “enterprise” version that will cost 4-500% more than five years ago. The days of opening a SaaS-powered shop for $129/mo are long gone – and with good reason.
The Bottom Line
Every major e-commerce project needs a plan, especially if there is any complexity to the business and if there are a number of complex integrations. But we’re willing to concede that it’s not a bad idea to start with platform reviews first to fully understand the capability of a few vendors that you might be investing a lot of money with over the next few years.
This step will benefit you, the merchant, and the platform companies as they will understand specific needs of your operation, and they will have another set of data points that will help their innovation as well.
Plan V.s Platform = chicken Vs. egg? Maybe not!