So, you’ve managed to build a thriving retail business, but with a relatively basic eCommerce platform that no longer suits your organization’s needs—maybe due to the geographic scope of the business, operational realities or product information complexities. In other words, it’s time for an eCommerce upgrade. Perhaps it’s also time to integrate a robust product information management (PIM) tool to run alongside your eCommerce platform of choice, be it Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento—or any of the dozens of other options available in the marketplace.

Expansion is the goal of any growth-minded organization. And why not? Your business wasn’t built to be small. You should be seeking out new markets and customer segments to sell your wares. The good news is that rapid advancements in eCommerce technology are making it faster and cheaper than ever to sell more with lower capital investments and fewer staff. Organic search rankings are the new foot traffic; each potential conversion another step towards bottom-line success for your organization.

But then comes the hard part: managing logistical challenges such as distribution, marketing to disparate audience segments across locales, order fulfillment, maintaining search engine performance through a robust search engine marketing program and even updating product information across channels could seem like an insurmountable hurdle. New software is the solution to your woes. Or is it?

The obvious answer is that, yes, updated eCommerce and PIM technology is the key to ongoing organizational success. But it can also be an albatross that stunts the growth of even the highest-potential companies. In fact, we would take it a step further. Most organizations that go it alone when attempting to upgrade their eCommerce software will fail at the task and wind up worse off than when they started. This may sound like heresy coming from a software firm that sells PIM services, but it’s a simple reality. Companies are often dazzled by their shiny new technological toys but fail to take the human element into account. Cue the potential for an unmitigated platform upgrade disaster.

The reason is that humans have a particular disdain for change. We all want our organizations to be successful but give most of us the option to keep running good ol’ Windows XP, for example, and most of us would have been happy to keep on carrying on. The so-called innovators or early adopters of technology are the exception, of course. They’re usually the top talent who look for new software to challenge their skills and grow in their positions. They’ll often hop from one company to another just to find the latest and greatest tech infrastructure to satiate this demand. They’re also in the vast minority across workplaces.

User adaptation challenges are typically the greatest obstacle to eCommerce integration success. This is a costly problem that plagues almost every organization. But there are solutions.

Choose the right system for your culture

To foster real change, the process needs to be led from the top. If senior management or ownership doesn’t want to make the shift, it will never be accepted among the rank-and-file. Solving people problems means tapping the talents of an effective leadership team who can find the right software, sell it to employees and ensure its adoption and effective deployment. Easy, right?

This is where organizations tend to separate the managerial wheat from the chafe, so to speak. We would argue that the first step when test-driving any new eCommerce solution (or PIM, for that matter) is to devote equal time to focusing on the organization’s operational needs, user experience and employee culture. Let’s focus on that last point for a moment.

If yours is a workplace filled to the rafters with keen innovators who want to learn about new technology, then your options for choosing new software expand dramatically. Team members who fall into this category may be so comfortable with tech that they’re prepared to suggest ongoing modifications to a new platform to improve efficiency in areas such as merchandising, for example—leading from the bottom up so to speak. We’ve also seen the exact opposite scenario play out, where change-averse staff recoil at the thought of learning new technology. In that case, finding software with the most user-friendly interface possible is a smart choice.

But does it really work?

It’s possible to be sold on a wonderful piece of technology only to realize a few months into its integration that it doesn’t quite tick the boxes you’d expected. That dazzling front-end interface may be easy to use, but if the functionality is substandard, what’s the point?

It goes without saying that function must always share equal billing with form on the tech front. Our PIM systems, for example, are designed with flexibility in mind, allowing your team to centrally manage attribute data and publish to various channels and marketplaces, then aggregate all order information back to the PIM. Retailers, for example, can manage product pricing changes and sub-brands across channels without the need to edit information across platforms. But if that functionality isn’t what your organization needs—and as much of a game-changing benefit as it might provide—what’s the point?

That brings us back to the earlier mention of user experience. We’ve seen situations play out where an eCommerce platform delivers the exact back-end functionality an organization needs to grow online sales and expand its digital footprint. The problem in many cases—particularly when legacy systems are tied into new ones—is that front-end simplicity and functionality is compromised to ensure everything works well behind the scenes. It’s sort of like being a restaurant that pours all of its capital into making sure its kitchen is decked out with top-of-the-line equipment, but at the expense of dining room aesthetics and service.

A simple rule: balance functionality with user experience or be prepared to upgrade your software (again!) in a very short period of time.

Communicate the benefits and take time to train staff

Another prime pitfall for organizations is introducing new software as a fait accompli, but failing to sell its advantages. Now, you may be wondering why this is necessary. Employees are paid to do a job and are paid to use whatever tools their employer provides to get the job done. Like it or leave it.

That all makes sense, until you factor in the crippling impact of employee turnover, retraining, and rampant disengagement on an organization’s bottom line. In that case, taking the hardline approach to user adaptation sounds far less appealing.
Management should be the ones ready and able to take the time to present the benefits of new technology to their staff. They should be ready to field an array of questions: When will it be implemented? Do we have to use it? Do we really need to change now—and why? They’re all rudimentary queries, but also reasonable. These are the human challenges that come with introducing new technology, and they can be devastating. If employees outright refuse to use a new system, it will either gather digital dust or be used inefficiently. Some may even choose to move on to a new employer if the tech rollout is seen as a botched job.

Be prepared to get those early adopters on board fast, perhaps by introducing them to your new eCommerce software first. Maybe they’re part of an in-house tech committee, or part of a group that volunteers to beta the new platform. Whatever the case, your initiative stands a far greater chance of success if they buy into the process in advance of their colleagues.
Training is crucial once a new system has been introduced to staff. This is another area where so many organizations fall short. And we don’t mean a half-hour primer. In some organizations, particularly those with staff who are less tech-savvy, the training process could take weeks. In others, it could be ongoing for months. Some might be able to direct their employees to a YouTube how-to video series and leave them to figure out the rest on their own (particularly when using a relatively user-friendly eCommerce platform such as Shopify). Determining an appropriate training investment will depend on your corporate culture and staff composition. Taking the time to make the right assessment will save major headaches down the road.

Take time for implementation and migration

Last point, and it’s an important one. No matter how tech-savvy your team may be, remember that implementing and migrating content and data from one system to another takes time. It’s common for organizations to try to rush the process based on an arbitrary deadline. This is usually a recipe for disaster. Give your team at least three to six months to make the leap from old to new software, and again, focus on the end consumer’s experience. Just because a system works mostly well, doesn’t mean it’s ready for prime time.

All it takes is one negative customer experience to generate a tidal wave of bad social media and search engine reviews for your brand—and no one needs bad press based on an unforced error like launching a new platform before it’s been bug-tested and tweaked to perfection.

So, here’s the big takeaway: user adaptation is a very human challenge that needs to be managed with care, both internally and from the customer’s perspective. The good news is that your organization won’t be the first to overcome this seemingly insurmountable hurdle.