In “How to Reduce Risks of an Ecommerce Rebuild,” my article last month, I described a process to rebuild an ecommerce store that reduces the risk of sales interruptions and general dysfunction.

As I explained in that article, the risks involved in a store rebuild are:

  • You’ll spend more than what you had budgeted;
  • It will take longer than planned;
  • The store’s performance will not improve.

The easiest way to reduce the risk of a rebuild is to not do it. Instead, develop an alternative or two.

Alternatives to a Full Store Rebuild

In my experience, there are two alternatives to a full store rebuild: a rescue and a retrofit.

Store rescue. A rescue is a process where the weaker areas of your store are improved and brought closer to modern standards.

Rescues are typically focused on the sales funnel, with the goal of improving the conversion rate. Sales funnel and conversion-rate-optimization improvements can have a quick payback, usually less than 12 months.

Common areas for rescues are:

  • Home page layout;
  • Email campaign opt-in forms and messaging;
  • Product pages;
  • Landing pages;
  • Checkout flow.

Retrofit. A retrofit is similar to a rescue but it has a stronger focus on backend administration. The purpose of a retrofit is to streamline and eliminate wasteful processes, especially manual work. If you replace manual, paper-based purchase orders with an automatic supplier system, you’ve just done a retrofit.

A retrofit can be a technology upgrade and, also, a people-and-process change.

Some common retrofit areas are:

  • Connecting a shopping cart to a shipping provider so a customer track order status;
  • Automating purchase-order, supplier, and drop-shipping process;
  • Setting up automated returns.

Alternatives Frequently Make Sense

A rescue or retrofit often makes more sense than a full site rebuild.

Rescues and retrofits cost less and deliver results faster than a rebuild. You can evaluate each rescue and retrofit by its expected returns. Once the cost of the any further work exceeds the expected return, stop and look for the next improvement.

It’s also possible to use these alternatives to chip away at a larger rebuild. Instead of having one huge 12-month rebuild, where you don’t see any value until the 13th month, you could structure the rebuild into 12, month-long retrofits. After each one you’ll get a return.

Focus on the Results

Remember that an ecommerce store should improve your business by making it easy for consumers to buy products.

Rebuilds, while risky, can be useful, as you have a blank canvas to make storewide improvements. There are many examples of a business rebuilding its entire site and reporting massive growth. Stories about growing revenue by 50 percent, 100 percent, or even 200 percent are not unheard of.

But small-scale improvements can be effective, too. Growing revenue by 5 percent or 10 percent can be a smashing success if it only cost you $1,000 and a few hours of time. Do that, say, six times a year and you’ve matched the results of a large-scale rebuild.

Moreover, most small-scale improvements will have less risk. When something goes wrong, you can correct it without jeopardizing the entire business. If you spent $500 on software without seeing its benefit to your business, you can just write off that cost and move on.