Shepherding Content to a New E-Commerce Platform

Following a stellar 2011 holiday season, and with U.S. retail sales having exceeded expectations in February, etailers have many reasons for optimism in 2012 and beyond. By any measure, e-commerce will continue to grow — Goldman Sachs most recently predicted that global retail Web sales will reach nearly US$1 trillion by 2013.

Additionally, marketing strategists across industries expect consumers will continue to be less and less tied to any given channel in their research and purchasing behavior, especially when it comes to fulfilling their holiday wish lists.

Savvy retailers know that for online shoppers, content continues to be king, as engaging product descriptions, display and social content drive purchase decisions in this age of growing brand agnosticism. Top brands will be creating more content and harnessing the social sphere more than ever for 2012 marketing campaigns to meet this need.

What does this mean for the 40 percent of multichannel retailers that have migrated — or will soon be migrating — their e-commerce platforms? A platform upgrade is a crucial start, but they must have the right tools and processes in place to effectively manage and maintain the ocean of content needed to satisfy sophisticated shoppers.

Only those etailers whose platform migration plans include a well-defined content migration strategy will be able to capitalize on the positive trends of 2012 to rocket into record revenue over the next two years.

Before You Replatform

Consider who should take point on driving the content migration. As a critical customer touchpoint, the Internet has rapidly become the primary growth channel for many retailers. It is problematic that a good portion of any replatforming project’s decision-making and management is dominated by finance and IT executives.

Online sales and marketing teams should have the critical insights into consumer behavior and needs, and that should make them the most appropriate choices for creation and management of content. One of the key reasons for replatforming is naturally to improve the online experience. While IT and systems integrators (SIs) are very good at system implementation and integration with back-office systems, content and customer experience are not generally in their core competencies. Marketing must take a leadership role in migrating and managing website content to ensure that the goal of enhanced online experience (and therefore revenue) is achieved.

To ensure the best return on investment in content and the new platform, an experienced content migration and management team should be created, comprising key internal stakeholders and topnotch internal and outsourced process experts. A rigorous, holistic approach to content migration should include the following eight steps.

Step 1: ‘As Is’ Asset Inventory

Inventory your current “as is” content. Take stock of the number of pages, the navigation structure and digital assets with path information.

This step is critical to successfully mapping content to the new platform, and will help guide your decision-making on content architecture.

Step 2: Asset Analysis – The 3 Rs

A migration project is the perfect time to evaluate and categorize your content. Orphaned, obsolete, ineffective and sub-optimized content often clog retailers’ websites.

Apply the 3R content strategy to current assets by categorizing content into three buckets:

  • Retain effective and important content
  • Rewrite ineffective, yet important content
  • Retire obsolete, ineffective or less important content

Step 3: Establish Your Migration KPIs

As many migration projects overrun initial estimated schedules, establishing KPIs around tool/ feature readiness, content readiness, migration timelines, and testing and validation is essential.

First define what you want to achieve: how many sections are to be migrated; in what order; etc. Then build the project KPIs and tracking mechanism. Project tracking can be done with something as simple as off-the-shelf project software, or more complex custom-built workflow tools.

Step 4: Map the Current Content Management Workflow

A robust “as is” content management process map helps identify opportunities for improved effectiveness.

It highlights what will and won’t work in the new system — before you’ve invested time and effort into the content migration project.

Step 5: Define the Future and Create a Plan

Define and document future state content processes, stakeholders, and important policies around content generation and publishing:

Conduct gap analysis between “as is” and desirable future states to identify any potential execution challenges and to highlight further process improvements needed.

Create your migration plan by leveraging the 3R Content Strategy and taking into account additional considerations, including phasing around peak business times, resource availability, etc.

Think about what you want your team to be focused on after migration and how you can optimize your team to achieve greater efficiencies and results. Your future-state plan will afford you the opportunity to start with a blank slate and rethink legacy processes.

Begin by identifying highly routine, process-driven, yet critical work that could benefit from an outsourced approach to liberate your in-house teams to focus on high value-add, customer/supplier facing strategic initiatives and, thereby, growing your bottom line. Outsourcing run-the-business content operations can cost- effectively leverage process focused third-party experts to optimize and scale your future operations.

Step 6: User Acceptance Testing

Create a comprehensive UAT plan. Testing is critical to ensure the platform meets the needs of internal users, and that features and content appear (and appeal) to the retailer’s customers as intended.

A third-party strong content migration outsource specialist can support and drive UAT by functioning as a dispassionate external set of eyes who brings to bear broad testing experience and best practices.

Step 7: Migrate, Learn, Adapt

The content migration will invariably uncover unforeseen challenges and opportunities. Identify key insights, adapt your processes and document, document, document.

Analyze your tool’s performance along the way and identify enhancement opportunities for your platform.

Repeat the 3R Content Strategy at regular intervals to further fine-tune your content on an ongoing basis.

Delays, downtime and budget overruns are common. Therefore, in addition to your core in-house team, consider leveraging a strong outsourcer with flexible staffing models to ramp up and down in accordance with changing project demands.

Step 8: Training

A well-executed training plan is essential to smooth the transition to the new platform.

It can drive adoption to the new Web content management system and business processes.

After the Migration

One of the key advantages to engaging a content migration and management outsourcing specialist for your platform migration is the potential for ongoing support post-launch.

Because content specialists live and breathe the daily challenges and processes of content management, they understand what matters to retailers once the consultants are done and the new platform is up and running.

Many post-launch issues can be managed with content adjustments that do not need to involve IT or painful customer-facing disruptions.

A thoughtful and well-executed approach to the content migration process that leverages cost-effective, outsourced content management specialists can significantly set etailers apart from the competition and position them to bolster revenue with a firm but flexible foundation for ongoing success.

Scott Hamilton is global head of eClerx's digital and social media operations practice.

1 Comment

  • Good article but one critical consideration when performing a content migration is the SEO impact. Your audit needs to include url structures, keywords and some measure of page value for organic SEO to fully inform your "3R’s" classification and understand any requirements for consistent urls or 301’s on the new platform.

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