Ecommerce platforms exist because developing a full-featured online store from scratch is a time-consuming and expensive exercise. Instead, most companies opt for a pre-packaged solution that provides most of the required functionality out of the box.
However, it is rare for eCommerce platforms to offer every conceivable bell and whistle right out of the box. Nonetheless, a platform that was thoughtfully selected should provide most of the required functionality without resorting to lots of plugins, extensive customizations or manual processes.
Missing features can be a growing problem
Of course, when a platform is built from the ground up, the initial implementation is likely to fully meet all the retailer’s requirements. Yet eCommerce requirements have rapidly evolved over the years, and a perfectly crafted solution that was 100% fit for purpose in the past will eventually lose its edge. Aging platforms can miss functionality that is essential today, including:
- Multi-channel integration: Shoppers increasingly expect their shopping experience to be consistent across channels, whether in-store, phone or online. This requires eCommerce platforms that effectively integrate with enterprise systems.
- AI-powered personalization: Recommendations and online shopping go hand in hand. Random recommendations won’t do. Instead, modern platforms provide AI-powered recommendations that intelligently guide shoppers to spend more.
- Order tracking and management: Again, the bar has shifted. Customers now expect detailed order tracking and management options—functionality that is not universally provided by eCommerce platforms.
Some of this functionality can be added to aging platforms through costly custom development versus inexpensive plug-ins used by newer platforms. Therefore, retailers may find that they are stuck with platforms that simply do not provide a contemporary eCommerce experience, and users will take notice.
The costs of extensive customization
Although missing features can be addressed through custom development, there is a practical limit as these customizations come at a high cost:
- Initial Development is costly: The time and expense required for custom development are often outweighed by less expensive plug-ins available in the more contemporary platforms.
- Maintenance is costly: A platform that is extensively customized can be difficult to maintain, requiring more personnel, thereby driving your overall costs skyward. Also, every update requires extensive testing with every customization and the result is often further customization or the postponement of updates.
- Impact on user experience: Customizing a platform can ruin the user experience from a previously seamless, carefully designed user journey to one that feels like it’s been duct-taped together with less refined customizations.
So, as much as customization can plug functionality gaps, it is worth reconsidering your current platform if it does not meet at least 80% of your business needs. Customization that goes beyond may be simply too expensive and unwieldy. If you would like to know more about eCommerce platforms or would like an evaluation of the current state of your systems please schedule some time with our team.