Ecommerce replatforming: RFP tips & guidelines
There is often a huge gap between what we anticipate and what we might get in the end. You’ve probably seen all those expectation-vs-reality memes!
Talking about ecommerce replatforming, we often expect that a new platform can solve all our problems right out of the box. Whilst a platform as such is no panacea, replatforming can still become a game changer.
What are the ways to make this project more efficient and less painful?
When looking for a partner to replatform in ecommerce, preparing a proper request for proposal (RFP) might be this sort of insurance against frustration and project failure.
Let's break down everything that goes into making RFP a successful project kickoff.
What’s an RFP in ecommerce?
In ecommerce, RFP (or ecommerce development proposal) is a document that online merchants send to potential B2B partners as a part of the procurement cycle. On the basis of answered questions, the best vendor is chosen to collaborate with. (in this very case to manage the ecommerce replatforming process).
RFP is a bit of business analysis, psychology, marketing – it may be seen as a melting pot of various practices.
RFP for ecommerce replatforming: how to write
1. Define your reasons to migrate in great detail
When you feel a change is just inevitable, you’re ready for a high-stakes game.
Reasons to replatform may be pressing, and there may be plenty of them. However, the better you understand and formalize them, in a much better place you may land after replatforming.
Reasons for replatforming
- Significant business changes. For instance, a decision to settle all the business infrastructure to a particular ecosystem.
- Decrease in operational efficiency. Current platform is not aligned with day-to-day routine operations that staff have to proceed. Working environment is not aligned with business strategy.
- ‘Emotional’ / burnout. (Maybe intertwined with the previous point) Your team just despises the platform. The more your team is unhappy with their toolset, the worse the output.
Needless to say, you should explicitly describe your reasons for platform migration in the RFP to your future B2B partners.
2. Consider cautions
A lot of online merchants fall into the same traps over and over again. We advise that you take these considerations into account as you plan your replatform and draft your RFPs.
- Don’t judge platform capability by the look of top brands' websites. Don’t confuse how particular websites on a particular platform look with what these platforms actually can do (and what particularly your website is going to look like on these platforms).
- Whilst several years ago, we could say that Shopify could do this, while Magento could do that, it’s much harder to compare platforms today. Leaders and challengers of digital commerce trying hard to offer their customers the widest possible range of features and solutions. With innovative MACH architectural principles (microservices, API-first, cloud-native, headless), the breadth of options within any given platform grows multifold.
- Avoid ‘lock-in’ situations. While a ‘lock-in’ situation is normally associated with proprietary platforms, you can experience something similar, collaborating with any B2B ecommerce vendor. For instance, if you have a lot of customization and it is poorly documented or not documented at all.
3. Stick to your business goals
Clear business strategy is no less important than a platform choice. ‘What are you trying to achieve?’, – the first thing any vendor or agency will ask you.
What are your business & technological principals? Does the platform's ecosystem, solution design, architecture, infrastructure align with your business & technological principals?
To save time and effort, you need a detail-oriented business strategy. For more on replatforming strategies, check out our blog.
4. Gather industry feedback
Prior to replatforming (while gathering requirements) talk to as many people in the industry as you can: what are their experiences using this or that platform vendor / agencies?
Reach out to your ecommerce network – ask them what’s their biggest frustration with their platform vendors / agencies.
Who do you need to talk to to get the best picture of the platform? Ask people on the technical and operational side. Request a demo and consultation from platform’s tech representatives: go through the functionality: Multi-store, Admin Panel, CSV import export, syncing solutions, PIMs, etc. Alternatively, consult with an experienced ecommerce agency - someone who has been working with an array of ecommerce platforms for a while.
In other words, do your routine via a potential platform with the support of platform representatives or other seasoned vendors.
Quantify the impact
One big question for every merchant is: how much time and effort can I save moving a store to a new ecommerce platform?
It's a good idea to provide a price grid for responders to fill out.
Not only will this make it simpler for the people who are responding, but it will also make it easier for you to make comparisons between the various proposals.
When choosing an ecommerce B2B partner for replatforming, the price grid may contain a column with a key functionality you’re most worried about:
- Use of middleware integration layers
- Strong APIs
- Payment Gateway integrations
- Advanced shipping management
- Complex pre-ordering
- Advanced product catalog management
- Click and collect integration
You may bear in mind that (when collaborating with B2B vendors) sometimes it is cheaper to push some features out of a particular ecommerce platform – private apps, or customization may become an easier solution.
Writing an RFP: your company profile introduction
As an essential part of any acquaintance process, we tend to provide some bio information (where’d you start, where you are right now, where do you want to be). People on the other side of communication can judge if they align with your path, if they have the same vector of interest.
In order to develop a strong connection, it’s important to have this off-topic off-business interest with each other. There may be some things in common so that you can have an ice-breaking small talk. And during the collaboration, there will always be this safety ring you can rely on.
You can write either a narrative within a few paragraphs or simply list milestones. One thing good to keep in mind is that it’s better when the information is unique.
Leave active contacts available.
Another essential aspect of getting to know each other is manifesting your core values and declaring your mission statement.
Your collaboration is going to be more fruitful if you’re standing on the same principles. The way you see the future, your vision.
This plays an important role in relationships. It allows you to move forward faster, gives less reason for stagnation, allows you to feel that you are part of one project, and work towards a common favorable future.
You can also add a link, a prospect, a presentation that elaborates on your company philosophy.
Point of contact
History and principles are those pillars a company is based on, but some people may find them too abstract.
In that case, nothing is better than a tet-a-tet conversation, a call with some of the key figures in the company. Stakeholders are those sacred watchmen who have the 360 vision.
You can also add contacts of technical and operational experts, decision-making actors.
- RFP submission
- Scenario based briefing
RFP template: questions to evaluate your future B2B ecommerce partner expertise
Making up an RFP, you are looking for solutions – you want your questions answered. Since you want your B2B partners to address your challenges, you should put down all your worries, making up a concise list of questions. The final RFP can be of any format, but try to keep it simple and clear.
Each point can be additionally extended to trinomial structure: required, preferred, desired (must-have, should, could).
You need to set priorities: for instance, you may need a global presence and internalization, but you also need plenty of routine day-to-day tasks like merchandising or launching multiple promotion campaigns. A platform may cover the internalization side perfectly, but your staff’s everyday routine with merchandising will be a nightmare. Try to highlight these moments on the RFP stage.
Think of all the unique and peculiar things about your products: maybe there’s a parent product with hundreds of options/variants – not all the platforms can handle this. Below you can find sample of questions for RFP.
- Can you provide a brief history of your company?
- What are your core values?
- What is the operational structure of your company?
- What is the size of your company?
- What is the number of merchants (their industries, verticals) you worked with?
- Provide some examples of merchants they enjoyed working with.
- Why is your company a good pick for ecommerce replatforming?
- Can you describe your experience with ecommerce migration?
- How often do you release?
- How would you evaluate success for the replatforming project?
Products & Categories
- What options can you offer users to navigate between different categories and subcategories?
- How do you work with items that come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and other configurations? How do you normally customize product options?
- Is it possible to import and export product and pricing lists in bulk?
- Can we use the same account to handle sales from several channels, such a website and a social media page?
- Can you design a drop-and-drag interface?
- What’s the maximum amount of goods or categories you can support?
- Are there any limitations for size for a product image or video?
- Do you work with virtual goods?
- Can you provide seamless synchronization of stock levels across multiple distribution points in real time?
- Can I edit the pages with associated products manually?
- Do you make mobile-first layouts?
- Do you provide a mobile-friendly checkout option automatically?
- Make a list of all the languages you’ll need to work with to modify the theme.
- How much of the design modification process can be done locally?
- Can modifications be made to the code in a local development space (sandbox) and then pushed live?
- How good does the theme comply with most platforms?
- What if we wanted to see how our product catalog would look at a certain theme before deciding to actually buy it?
- Does purchasing a theme from you go with free updates that include ecommerce functionality?
- Is it possible to use extensions with your theme?
- Can we use custom online fonts?
Marketing & promo campaigns
- Is it possible to restrict promotions to certain segments of shoppers or target demographics?
- In what ways do you work with packaged goods?
- Can promotions with excluded products be managed on your ecommerce software? Your private app?
- Is it possible to recommend more items based on what is already in the shopping cart?
- Can you provide the use of gift cards? Can a personalized message be included with a gift?
- Is there the option to create a wish list?
- What strategies and instruments can you offer to deal with abandoned carts? Is it possible to send out emails to those who have abandoned their carts and add coupons with such messages?
- Can you integrate Google's review system?
- How easy is it to set discounts and promote items in the shopping cart?
- How easy is it to launch a sales campaign on just particular items?
- Is it possible to set a certain date and time for a promotion campaign?
- How easy is it to configure discounts for larger orders?
- What payment gateways and processors have you had hands-on experience working with?
- Is it possible to integrate our current payment gateway to a new system?
- Is there a mobile-friendly one-page checkout easy to complete?
- Do you allow "guest checkout" for online shoppers?
- Is it possible to see total cost before finalizing an order, including any applicable taxes or shipping costs?
- Is there a way for shoppers to save their cart and access it later from any device?
- Do you allow consumers to ship to more than one address?
- Can orders be placed in advance via your ecommerce software?
- What are the options for shoppers to follow an order status?
- Can you outline the hosting infrastructure you can offer?
- What’s your working strategy with backups? Are there scheduled backups?
- Please provide the most current uptime stats you have. During the past Black Friday, did you have any periods of uptime?
- How do software performance and availability may be tracked at any level?
- What is the maximum rate of API requests per second that your service supports out of the box?
- How often do enhancements get sent out to users?
- How many of your users are really making use of the most recent release?
- How does your product encrypt and audit private information?
- Is it possible to set up alerts and notifications related to security?
- Do you have any built-in security updates for your solution?
- Is PCI-DSS compliance a part of your software development process?
- Do you have an SSL certificate?
- Can you provide 3D-Secure for online debit and credit card purchases?
- Are there several levels of administration, and what powers do they provide to users?
- How do you work with GDPR?
- What is the size and location of your customer service personnel?
- Which customer relationship management system does your ecommerce software support?
- Does your support cost extra money?
- What are the typical wait and response times when calling for assistance?
- Is there a faster way to have a client's request processed if it's time-sensitive?
- Is it possible to have a personal contact for assistance on call?
- Could you elaborate on how new customers are being onboarded?
- Do you provide any tutorials or guides?
- Do you provide after-hours assistance for the smooth running of an event?
Ecommerce platform migration may seem somewhat scary. However, the game is worth the candle: especially, when you are properly prepared. Well-managed replatforming will pave the way for rapid expansion.
The trick is to put your own requirements front and center, rather than be blinded by the overhyped trendy features you don't even need.