Is it time for an upgrade? Maybe a new theme? A new integration? Patches? How do you know? Are you just bored with your site or is something about to break? Or maybe the things that are already broken have you feeling fed up.
This isn’t just about slow page loads—although that would be a red flag. Upgrade signals come in many different varieties, from code conflicts to broken UI to operational crutches you’ve gotten used to. Unfortunately, with the pace at which technology is moving, it can be difficult to know when business technology is outdated and needs to be replaced.
Here are the 4 most-often-overlooked signs that it is time to make an upgrade.
1. Stunted Growth
Facing stagnant growth can be the most difficult challenge businesses face. First is the difficulty in knowing at what rate the business should be growing; if you are unaware, you might not recognize a slowdown. You may still be growing, but you might also be missing opportunities for accelerated growth that will keep you relevant in your market long-term.
Perhaps the simplest way to avoid growth killers is to look outward. Unless you are the category leader, it pays to keep close tabs on your competitors: what channels have they adopted and which have they dropped? How have they changed the technologies they use as they have grown?
As you grow, inventory, shipping, and operations will become more complex, as will tax considerations. Be willing to shift your processes to fit technologies that give you room to grow. The reverse—heavily modifying technologies to fit your current operational model—can stop growth completely. Make sure you have current and flexible tools in place to adjust for growth, all while getting products to customers efficiently and competitively.
Expand the definition of growth to include more than channel participation and raw audience numbers. That can mean growth within a market, including developing new products and broadening the target audience. Looking at this kind of growth, you can then make an honest assessment of your technology and its readiness (or its need for an upgrade).
2. System Segregation
The larger and older your business is, the more likely you are to experience system segregation. Since technologies are usually created in silos, they work best in isolation. While eCommerce businesses may have adopted platforms with open APIs (like Magento), many stand-alone legacy systems remain. The software may do a fine job on its own, but it can end up creating redundancy and extra work where it connects (or doesn’t) with the rest of the business.
Merchants who still have segregated systems need to upgrade. There are plenty of cloud-based and legacy applications that offer excellent integration. This means that most business processes can be completed from a single dashboard, as well as providing an aggregation of all data from every aspect of the business. To ensure that this can happen, merchants should find CRMs, eMail marketing, help desks, ERPs, and accounting software that can all communicate and be integrated.
3. Weak Business Intelligence
Out-of-date systems can further mask their own inefficiency. You need laser-sharp internal analysis and cool-headed leadership to get over the sunk-cost fallacy (“… we paid a lot for this system 6 years ago! It works fine!”). Being able to evaluate the potential value of a key system upgrade needs to include potential gains in operational efficiency, reduction in maintenance, new or restored functionality, capacity for new business methods (e.g. a more refined dealer or reseller program) and the potential of those avenues.
When you have obsolete or disabled systems, your ability to properly set up basic on-site metrics like traffic, performance, and buyer behavior is compromised. This has a ripple effect; since you can’t trust the analysis, you can’t rely on it when you are making decisions.
It’s not just the software, either. Your business is unique and you need someone who really understands what metrics are important and how to measure what’s actually important. Sometimes the best technology upgrade is the right person (or agency … cough cough).
4. Needy Technology
The goal of technology is to provide a better, faster, and more accurate method for completing various business processes. It should reduce the amount of low-value, repetitive tasks that employees must complete. Your technology may do this to a certain extent, but does it do it as effectively as it could?
When employees find themselves having to manually enter or alter information, it is generally time to upgrade. The best technology for eCommerce is the kind that can automate as much as possible and remove the need for human intervention. Supply chain, inventory, shipping and logistics, marketing, accounting, and much more can be automated and streamlined. You may not need to upgrade all of these systems at once, but you do have to be fully aware of its current cost. Set upper limits on time you will allow your business to invest in manual tasks. When those limits are reached, it’s time.
Ask yourself: have you over-invested in a platform that was once an upgrade? If you have an employed crew of technicians dedicated to specific knowledge about a platform, you might need some perspective. Could you be more competitive with a platform that offers more capabilities and requires less arcane knowledge, support, and maintenance?
How To Spot Outdated eCommerce Technology
Understanding which software is outmoded and knowing exactly when it is time to upgrade can be two separate battles. Sometimes a technology may not be ideal, but it is sufficient for the medium term. Businesses need to know when the investment in new software will provide a worthwhile return on investment and when upgrading could lead nowhere.
Ideally, a business should run like a well-oiled machine. However, even the most well-oiled machines still have their off days. You need to be able to sort glitches from serious problems. Decide on metrics that will regularly measure the effectiveness of every piece of technology. Decide on the tipping point for each metric. At what point will it be time to upgrade technologies?
The best way to feel out how well a technology is working for a business is to check in with employees and customers. The employees that use the technology every single day know it inside and out. They understand how well it helps them to complete tasks and how well it has transitioned with them as eCommerce needs have changed. Additionally, these employees are likely specialized in specific fields. They have been working in accounting, marketing, or customer service for years. They know their industry and have insights into any new potential technology. Customers can give you insights into broken features, unintentionally hidden features, gaps between their preferences and your systems, and competitor observations.
Track Time Spend
While some technologies will inherently be more heavily used than others, tracking the amount of time employees spend on each piece of software can help merchants identify whether the technology is inhibiting processes or optimizing them. When employees spend an inordinate amount of time and labor accomplishing tasks that can be automated, this is a clear sign that the technology is not working for the business.
Just about every business technology comes with an expense. However, it should also come with benefits. When these differences are weighed against each other, the benefit should outweigh the expense. Identify the benefits that each technology offers and turn this into quantifiable dollars. Then, compare it to how much it costs to run the technology, in terms of monthly labor, initial cost, and any yearly licensing fees.
An upgrade, when necessary, can provide a tremendous advantage for eCommerce businesses. One minor change in software has the potential to enhance efficiency, increase profitability, and minimize time to market. To chat with us about upgrading your eCommerce technology, contact us today.