Planning ecommerce changes: a simple ‘5 pillars’ approach to remove risk & increase chances of success

Last Updated
September 12, 2023

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Often companies dive straight into big ecommerce changes without much planning, or by looking at a big change in total isolation of other activity within the business.

For example: Switching from one email marketing platform to another, a business may simply sign the contract, and then rely on the vendor to help them make the switch.

That approach can work, but it creates significant amounts of risk that can quite easily be avoided.

This post covers a very simple method of breaking things down to remove risk: a ‘5 pillar’ framework, to work through the change, looking at its implications, allowing you to plan a change more systematically, remove lots of risk, and increase the likelihood of positive results.

The ‘5 pillars’ approach to ecommerce change

An extremely simple method to remove much risk from any large change is simply to approach it by looking at the following 5 pillars:

When looking at an ecommerce change, most people immediately think in terms of ‘software’ or ‘data’. In general, it is best to look at it in terms of the above pillars, moving from right to left.

Let’s take the example of switching email marketing platform again, and we’ll work through each of the different pillars. We’ll do so from right to left:

1. People

  • How will the new email marketing platform affect the people who currently send out our emails?
  • How will it affect those who provide information to the people putting together our emails, or approving our emails?
  • How will it affect people receiving emails? (For example, do they need to opt in again? Will emails land in their spam unless we take some additional actions?)
  • How will it affect the relationship with the supplier itself? (Does our current email marketing platform provider also give us any other services? Are there regular meetings or updates from their sales teams?)

2. Procedures

  • How do we currently put together our emails?
  • How do we handle unsubscribes? Or unusual complaints?
  • How are they approved, and does that fit with the new system?
  • How does reporting currently take place, and which actions happen if numbers are up, or down?

3. Data

  • What will happen to our historic data when we switch platform?
  • Which other pools of data does our email platform send data to?
  • Which other sources of data currently send information to our email platform?
  • How could we join data better to gain competitive advantage, and does this system change offer us the potential to do that?
  • What risks are there should our data fall out of synchronisation, or become corrupt?

4. Software

  • Is the new platform being actively developed?
  • What happens when there are updates? Do we need to make changes to react to them? If they do not fit our needs, what can we do?
  • Is there any likelihood of the software becoming obsolete? Or of a competitor buying it and moving us to another system? How does that affect our contractual wishes?
  • Does the software integrate openly with other software? If not, can we build integrations ourselves?

5. Hardware

Hardware considerations are different from a few years ago, when most software changes would need companies to install new hardware directly. Instead, most software today is cloud-based, but this presents its own issues.

  • What is the hardware setup of this new supplier?
  • If performance is an issue, what are our options?
  • What are the cyber security implications of the platform’s hardware setup? Who is to blame if something goes wrong? How will we be notified?
  • Are our own systems powered enough to run the interfaces for the new platform?
  • Do we need to increase our security measures on the basis of what the new platform will allow us to do?


Above we’ve covered just one example: The change of an email marketing platform. You can see from the simple questions we’ve broken out in each area just how much risk this can remove, and how much extra value can be created from getting things ‘right’ in each area. You can also see: this does not have to take months. In the approach above, most questions can be answered very quickly but, by doing so, you significantly derisk the whole process.

From this example you can see the value of breaking down a change from the very top line to the ‘5 pillars’ approach, in such a way you could carry out this process yourself, remove risk, and increase the chance of success for your organisation when it comes to any ecommerce change.