Practical Ecommerce

Alternatives to Rebuilding an Ecommerce Store

In “How to Reduce Risks of an Ecommerce Rebuild,” my article last month, I described a process to rebuild an ecommerce store that reduces the risk of sales interruptions and general dysfunction.

As I explained in that article, the risks involved in a store rebuild are:

  • You’ll spend more than what you had budgeted;
  • It will take longer than planned;
  • The store’s performance will not improve.

The easiest way to reduce the risk of a rebuild is to not do it. Instead, develop an alternative or two.

Alternatives to a Full Store Rebuild

In my experience, there are two alternatives to a full store rebuild: a rescue and a retrofit.

Store rescue. A rescue is a process where the weaker areas of your store are improved and brought closer to modern standards.

Rescues are typically focused on the sales funnel, with the goal of improving the conversion rate. Sales funnel and conversion-rate-optimization improvements can have a quick payback, usually less than 12 months.

Common areas for rescues are:

  • Home page layout;
  • Email campaign opt-in forms and messaging;
  • Product pages;
  • Landing pages;
  • Checkout flow.

Retrofit. A retrofit is similar to a rescue but it has a stronger focus on backend administration. The purpose of a retrofit is to streamline and eliminate wasteful processes, especially manual work. If you replace manual, paper-based purchase orders with an automatic supplier system, you’ve just done a retrofit.

A retrofit can be a technology upgrade and, also, a people-and-process change.

Some common retrofit areas are:

  • Connecting a shopping cart to a shipping provider so a customer track order status;
  • Automating purchase-order, supplier, and drop-shipping process;
  • Setting up automated returns.

Alternatives Frequently Make Sense

A rescue or retrofit often makes more sense than a full site rebuild.

Rescues and retrofits cost less and deliver results faster than a rebuild. You can evaluate each rescue and retrofit by its expected returns. Once the cost of the any further work exceeds the expected return, stop and look for the next improvement.

It’s also possible to use these alternatives to chip away at a larger rebuild. Instead of having one huge 12-month rebuild, where you don’t see any value until the 13th month, you could structure the rebuild into 12, month-long retrofits. After each one you’ll get a return.

Focus on the Results

Remember that an ecommerce store should improve your business by making it easy for consumers to buy products.

Rebuilds, while risky, can be useful, as you have a blank canvas to make storewide improvements. There are many examples of a business rebuilding its entire site and reporting massive growth. Stories about growing revenue by 50 percent, 100 percent, or even 200 percent are not unheard of.

But small-scale improvements can be effective, too. Growing revenue by 5 percent or 10 percent can be a smashing success if it only cost you $1,000 and a few hours of time. Do that, say, six times a year and you’ve matched the results of a large-scale rebuild.

Moreover, most small-scale improvements will have less risk. When something goes wrong, you can correct it without jeopardizing the entire business. If you spent $500 on software without seeing its benefit to your business, you can just write off that cost and move on.

Eric Davis

Eric Davis

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  1. Prashant Telang December 2, 2016 Reply

    Just last week we were approached by a large Houston-based diamond and jewellery eCommerce company to save their Magento eCommerce site from hackers and malicious code. Right at the peak of the sales season, their website was messed up by hackers. Unfortunately, it was too late to save the site for this season but we managed to keep it going even with the malicious code inside. We will be now revamping the site on latest Magento 2.1
    The core reason for this situation is Jewelry website owners were not interested in revamping and updating the site . They were content with what they had since 2012 and kept doing rescues and retrofits.

    There are new technologies , new design trends and new security vulnerability discovered daily . This makes rebuilding the website every 2 years almost mandatory (that is if one needs to be in business)
    Then there is always the risk of disturbing the existing code through such quick fixes .
    We advise all our clients to factor in costs for complete rebuild of the e-commerce website once in every 2 years.
    With complete rebuild, store performance can improve dramatically and the project can be done within time and budget.
    Prashant Telang, Director TransPacific Software Pvt. Ltd

  2. Eric Davis December 2, 2016 Reply

    Hey Prashant,

    I don’t consider security updates and closing vulnerabilities as rebuilds, rescues, or retrofits. They are an important maintenance activity that every store or platform should be performing immediately or as soon as possible. Getting behind on them leaves a store open to an attack, like what happened with your customer.

  3. Jeff Bronson January 9, 2017 Reply

    Agreed Eric, I’m a huge fan of ‘store rescues’, or put another way conversion optimization.

    New websites often get built based upon how good an Agency is at sales, or the highest paid person’s favorite color at the client’s company. In addition to the functional areas you mentioned (ex. Homepage, Product Page), I’d add the USP commonly needs updating. Updating in terms of making it prominent sitewide, instead of buried in a footer link and turning it into something benefit driven for the shopper.

    – Jeff Bronson, eCommerce Warriors
    Helping Magento Retailers Increase Conversions