How to craft the perfect eCommerce replatforming journey: 4 tips from Hobbycraft
Interested in eCommerce replatforming? You’re far from alone. eCommerce brands everywhere are migrating to more powerful, flexible and feature-rich platforms in a bid to meet skyrocketing customer expectations around digital experience.
But in the rush to replatform, how can brands make sure to avoid the common pitfalls of platform migration? We got some great insights into that at our recent CX circle event in London—courtesy of Jennifer North, Head of Digital at Hobbycraft.
“Replatforming is fun and exciting,” Jennifer told us, “but it’s also a big and hard thing to do. You need to be really ready for it.”
So if you’re planning to replatform yourself, you can prepare by watching Jennifer’s session (‘Replatforming to future-proof Hobbycraft’) on our CX circle on-demand page.
Alternatively, read on for an insightful round-up of Jennifer’s key points…
Why Hobbycraft replatformed
Hobbycraft is the UK’s leading arts and crafts retailer. You name it—and can use it to craft stuff with—they sell it, supplying consumers with everything they need for art, crochet, haberdashery, papercraft, wedding and party, baking, jewelry making and much, much more.
Jennifer’s digital team oversees a digital catalog of (brace yourself) 23,000 physical products. But just as important as these physical products—from Jennifer’s point of view, at least—is the digital product that drives 20% of Hobbycraft’s total sales: its eCommerce website.
“Nowadays, your digital product is just as important as your physical products and services. It has just as much bearing on your customer outcomes and on determining whether a customer will become loyal to your brand.”—Jennifer North, Head of Digital at Hobbycraft
Hobbycraft’s digital product was built on a legacy platform and had been performing just fine for twelve years. But digital experience was evolving beyond the capacities of the original platform, and there was a danger of Hobbycraft’s digital experience falling behind competitors—and below customer expectations.
“Digital experience is a really interesting space now. It’s less conventional than before—there’s an opportunity to create an experience that people really associate with your brand,” says Jennifer.
To create a truly unique brand experience, and futureproof the brand’s digital experience, Jennifer decided that a radical change was called for: replatforming.
This decision to replatform is one many eCommerce companies are now making. 67% of respondents to Deloitte’s 2022 Retail Industry Outlook survey said eCommerce and online shopping platforms were a top investment priority for their company, citing ongoing issues with old and outdated platforms as a reason to replatform.
Replatforming offers many potential benefits to eCommerce businesses, including improved scalability, integration with modern apps, security, customization, tracking and analytics and—last but far from least—customer experience.
For Jennifer, replatforming was an essential next step for the business. But she knew, having worked on several replatforming projects before, that this was less a small step than a giant leap forward. And it wasn’t going to be easy…
4 tips for solving the biggest eCommerce replatforming challenges
Tip 1: Clarify your replatform goals
Replatforming is a highly complicated process—not to mention a costly one, particularly subject to intense scrutiny from budget owners in these economically straitened times.
Hobbycraft had an expert partner to help them deal with these complexities as they replatformed to Salesforce Commerce Cloud. But regardless of this, as project leader Jennifer had an intense gauntlet of obstacles to negotiate her way through, including redesigning Hobbycraft’s product taxonomy, retraining teams to use the new platform and communicating changes across the entire business.
She also had a dizzying number of decisions to make around UI, UX and prioritizing focus areas—especially with Hobbycraft opting for a ‘big bang’ launch, rather than an agile, iterative approach.
“When you’re replatforming, every day is a debate over details. As the CX leader, you’re making fifty decisions a day. To navigate through that confidently you need to be really clear on what’s important. As lead I decided to work out four key priorities that would help me make those big decisions, at speed.” —Jennifer North, Head of Digital at Hobbycraft
Jennifer’s four priorities included two core deliverables:
- Building great eCommerce journeys for Hobbycraft customers, on both mobile and desktop.
- Designing a new look and feel to reflect Hobbycraft’s status as a creative destination for arts and crafts.
And two differentiators that would make Hobbycraft stand out from the competition:
- Smartly integrating project ideas into customer journeys. Hobbycraft works with influencers and makers to create project ideas that use products they sell on the site. These are key differentiators for Hobbycraft, but they’d never been properly integrated into their customer journey so that they appeared at the right time and the right way.
- Communicating their 1hr click and collect offering: Again, this is a big differentiator for Hobbycraft (who are competing with multi-channel retailers like Amazon, Etsy and Pure Plays) that they were offering already but not communicating adequately to customers.
“For every decision I had to make I could ask ‘will this help us deliver on one of those four priorities?’ If not, it could be put on the back burner for Phase 2. This gave me invaluable clarity of mind when negotiating all those decisions.”—Jennifer North, Head of Digital at Hobbycraft
Jennifer’s approach clearly paid dividends for the project, with the replatforming completed under budget and on time, to (in her words) “the absolute amazement” of Hobbycraft’s directors and private equity owners.
This was cause for celebration, but Jennifer knew from hard experience that there would be no time for her and the team to sit back and bask in their success. Because the real challenge was just beginning—it was time for ‘day one’, the all-important day when the new site would be unveiled to Hobbycraft’s customers.
Now Jennifer and her team would get to find out if the decisions they’d made in planning would work out in practice. And this is where Contentsquare came in…
Tip 2: Have analytics ready to go from day one
As Jennifer told us, during a platform migration project what happens after going live can be treated as something of an afterthought. With all eyes focused on go-live, planning for day (and week, and month) one is put off—until it’s too late.
Knowing this was a big mistake to make, Jennifer kept day one and its aftermath firmly in the front of her mind for months leading up to the replatforming.
“Replatforming projects are so high profile. Your C-Suite and owners are going to want to know what’s happening with their investment from day one. And your customers can be alienated by a site that works completely differently. I knew that we’d need to measure everything on the new site from the minute we went live.” —Jennifer North, Head of Digital at Hobbycraft
Hobbycraft had gone some way to understanding the customer POV on the replatform prior to going live by testing a prototype with some customers—but releasing to the wider customer base was sure to bring up other issues, and performance would need to be closely monitored.
As a small team with limited analytic capabilities, Hobbycraft needed help. Fortunately, they were already working with Contentsquare—we’d already helped them drive 20% eCommerce growth year-on-year with Live Zoning analysis of their website—and so were aware of our replatforming service.
From day one, Contentsquare’s replatform team monitored the new site, regularly liaising with Hobbycraft to share instant insights into its performance, identifying trends in customer behavior and, crucially, the why behind that behavior.
“In the first three weeks, Contentsquare let us know what we needed to fine-tune immediately,” says Jennifer. “As far as the bigger changes go, you need a lot of data to confidently make decisions, so we waited six weeks before we took a deeper dive.”
These early insights into the new site’s performance were invaluable, not only for ensuring that the site’s CX wasn’t suffering (and customer retention wasn’t affected), but also for reassuring Hobbycraft’s leadership team that the replatforming was going well—despite superficial appearances.
“Everyone who’s done a replatforming knows your conversion rate will wobble and your metrics will look a little up and down for a while. Directors and owners don’t understand or like this. So the more you can reassure them that you understand the why, and that you’re in control, the better.” —Jennifer North, Head of Digital at Hobbycraft
And this clarity around the ‘why’ of metrics would prove to be particularly helpful given the unfortunate timing of the new site’s launch.
Tip 3: In tough times, understand what you can and can’t control
The new site launched in mid-March 2022, which certainly wasn’t ideal. The cost of living crisis was hammering consumer confidence in the UK and Hobbycraft lost a significant chunk of organic traffic. “All our metrics were turned upside down overnight”, says Jennifer.
In response, Hobbycraft invested heavily in paid traffic to keep site visits high. “We went from 15% of our traffic coming from Google Shopping to 30%,” says Jennifer. This had a knock-on effect on the sorts of journeys users could be expected to take, since paid adverts often attract users who are lower intent and likely to bounce quicker.
Contentsquare advised Jennifer to highlight this turbulent economic context when reporting on the new site’s performance to leadership. She needed to ensure that replatforming wouldn’t be blamed for discouraging metrics that could (to a large extent) be explained by factors beyond her control.
In the economic climate we all find ourselves in, digital teams will face pressure to justify spending. Analytics tools will be key to taking that pressure off—but only if they can provide rich contextual insights that explain the ‘why’ behind numbers that could be the result of some imperfect UI/UX design, or some wider, overarching economic ‘why’.
Tip 4: Post replatform, use analytics to prioritize dev focus areas
With Hobbycraft’s new website up and running, Contentsquare continues to provide clarity to Jennifer’s digital team as they work to optimize their digital product in agile development sprints.
In fact, Hobbycraft’s use of Contentsquare has ramped up to support post-replatforming, with Jennifer’s team getting fortnightly deep-dive reports to understand how customers are using the site and what needs to be changed most urgently.
“When your conversion is being challenged by the changes of a replatform and those other external factors I talked about, you have to be really confident that the tasks and changes you’re giving your dev team are the right things to focus on. Contentsquare gives us that confidence.” — Jennifer North, Head of Digital at Hobbycraft
Jennifer likens the process of replatforming to designing and building an “amazing new house” which you (and your customers) move into the day you go live. Once you’re living in your design, you’ll quickly learn that not everything works in practice as you imagined it would on paper.
Jennifer shared five great examples with the CX circle audience of web elements that looked great in design but didn’t work once they went live—including a button placement that was damaging session sign-ins, an over-busy page that was reducing guest checkouts and some copy around gift cards that was causing customers to abandon the payment page.
To learn more about these examples—and how Contentsquare helped Hobbycraft understand why they needed to be redesigned—you’ll have to watch Jennifer’s session for yourself. (Trust us: it’s worth it!)
Manage the risks and reap the rewards of eCommerce replatforming
Replatforming your eCommerce store could be exactly what you need to deliver digital experiences that delight customers and drive sales.
But it’s a risky business at the best of times—and we’re not living in the best of times. In this economic climate, you’ll need to justify the hefty investment required to the business and show that it’s paying off from day one.
That’s why having an analytics tool that can track customer behavior on your replatformed site—not just the clicks, but what happens between them—could be instrumental in bringing both your customers and C-Suite along for the replatforming ride with you.
Contentsquare’s digital experience analytics platform provides a range of features (including Zone-Based Heatmaps, Customer Journey Analysis and Session Replays) that will help you understand how customers are using your replatformed site, with powerful AI dedicated to bringing the most valuable insights to your immediate attention.
With a platform like ours, you can get replatforming right, delivering better experiences for your customers—which, when you consider how important CX is to driving the success of digital businesses,is something that your eCommerce business can’t afford not to do.
If you’re currently considering or planning a replatforming, right now, we’d love to help. Book your personalized demo to learn how Contentsquare can help you make your replatform a success.