If you are a small business owner thinking about re-platforming, odds are that your rapid growth has left your Ecommerce ecosystem looking like a Jenga® tower on the verge of collapse. Your business needs are growing beyond the means of the platform, yet you continue to push its limits by adding block after block of piecemealed functionality. Pushing the boundaries of the architecture by building ad hoc solutions has created an unstable base that is starting to teeter. With every addition, the entire system becomes less stable, less reliable and more likely to fail.
This degradation of your ecosystem coupled with the growing expectation of a frictionless shopping experience by more sophisticated online retail audiences has you quickly losing marketshare to the competition. So what will transitioning to a mid-market platform do? Re-platforming will not only stabilize your infrastructure, but also empower the business to be more competitive and scale for growth as your business evolves. It provides the ideal opportunity to connect or retool existing and third-party assets and integrations. Ultimately a platforming endeavor should move your site onto an elegantly designed, scalable, rock solid ecommerce platform that maximizes revenue potential.
If the above describes your current situation, then it is officially time to start actively exploring transition strategies. The following Top 10 list will help you start forming a plan of attack.
Brand Labs developed this Top 10 list to help ease our clients’ transition from their current platform to Mozu. In combination, these exercises help key stakeholders know the up-front preparation needed to mitigate risk, control costs and drastically improve their sites’ speed to market.
1) Define Goals and Objectives
The goals and objectives behind a transition to the Mozu platform are the measure of a project’s success or failure, and should be considered critical. Write them down, be detailed, and clearly communicate them to your internal teams and partners.
2) Conduct a SWOT Analysis
A SWOT analysis is a structured planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a Mozu re-platforming project.
● Strengths: Characteristics of the new platform that give it advantages over the current
● Weaknesses: Characteristics that place the mid-market platform at a disadvantage relative to the current platform
● Opportunities: Elements that the new platform could exploit to its advantage
● Threats: Elements in the environment that could create challenges for the new platform
3) Perform a Gap Analysis
This involves determining and documenting the difference between your business requirements and current capabilities.
4) Create a RACI Chart
Considering the tremendous number of moving pieces involved in a proper re-platforming initiative and the sizable team behind executing a project of this size, understanding the roles and responsibilities of team members is critical for organization.
5) Gather Requirements
The most important step in controlling costs is gathering proper requirements. Brand Labs leaves nothing to the imagination; detail at a granular level should be specified with the deliverable being an unambiguous and close-ended requirements document that’s been vetted by stakeholders. Insufficient requirements gathering will result in scope creep and missed deadlines.
6) Develop a Proper Sitemap
● A sitemap is a list of every page on a website.
● Defining the sites’ category structure in sitemap form will allow content to be more easily inventoried and help solidify the content migration plan.
7) Prepare a Content Inventory & Migration Plan
Content migration refers to moving content (e.g., landing pages, product pages. etc.) from the old platform to Mozu. This process requires taking thorough inventory of every page and deciding if and how the content needs to find its way onto the new site.
8) Create Site Wireframes
● Wireframes are a visual guide that represents the skeletal framework of a website.
● A wireframe lacks typographic style,color,or graphics since the main focus lies in depicting site functionality and structure.
9) Have a Data Migration Plan
● By far, the most important and complex exercise on our list;. data migration is the most overlooked and underestimated process in transitioning platforms.
● Brand Labs’ migration plans move product and customer information from the legacy platform to Mozu while protecting the data, maintaining data integrity, and allowing for its full utilization on the new platform.
10) Find a Great Partner
Developing solid agency and vendor relationships is a huge part of guaranteeing a successful transition. Align yourself with companies that don’t just fit from a technology standpoint, but also meld with your company culture.
Transitioning from an SMB to a Mid-Market platform can seem daunting. By following these ten exercises, you’ll find that all the up front preparation will be rewarded with an on-time and on-budget launch.
Is your company having trouble engaging the proper target market? Well, we all know teenagers are the loudest brand advocates and older generations have more purchasing power than most. But, don’t forget the Millennials. To highlight this evolving demographic and help ensure businesses can capitalize on their transitional understanding of the World Wide Web, our design team made this insightful infographic on Millennials and their online buying mentality.
Remember, men lie and women lie, but Ecommerce numbers do not. Use these stats wisely and your bottom line could be bulging in no time.
In our quest to keep up with the latest web technologies, apps, and social media sites, Brand Labs thought it would be fun to play with Vine to create a special holiday message for all our clients and everyone everywhere. Our whole team got together and made some short Vine videos that we’ve assembled into a special webpage.
From all of us at Brand Labs, we wish you the best this holiday season!
Now cuddle up next to your fireplace and Charlie Brown Christmas Tree and check out the fun →
With Volusion’s official unveiling of its new commerce platform, Mozu, Brand Labs is thrilled to finally openly discuss the release with our clients and the entire interweb. Our relationship with Volusion, Inc. as a trusted solutions partner for over seven years allowed us the privilege of early access to “look under the hood” of the Mozu platform. With multiple trips to Austin (Volusion Inc. headquarters) over the past year, we have witnessed the virtual sea of amazing talent working tirelessly on Mozu. The platform promises a limitless enterprise-level commerce solution and we believe that it will deliver.
Why are we so pumped about Mozu?
Brand Labs is fanatical about creating engaging e-commerce experiences and enhancing the Volusion platform for some of the community’s top brands. While we maintain and strengthen our commitment to the Volusion platform community, the addition of Mozu allows Brand Labs to flex its proverbial ecommerce muscles in delivering unparalleled creative vision, technical wizardry and strategic direction to our mid- to enterprise-level customers.
How will Mozu allow us to push the boundaries of commerce?
Let’s take a quick look at the key feature sets that make Mozu an incredibly flexible / scalable platform designed to deliver a unified shopping experience across web, mobile and retail stores.
1. Commerce + CMS converged:
Mozu combines seamless publishing and content management in a fully integrated experience
Note: Mozu combines the power, flexibility and ease of a CMS like WordPress with enterprise level commerce. Beautiful.
2. Multi-brand, multi-site:
Mozu’s infrastructure and integrations allow merchants to manage multiple sites and connect data within one platform
Note: The ultimate in scalability and flexibility… connecting multiple data sources to one platform.
3. Responsive design:
Mozu provides retailers a beautifully seamless design experience for any shopper on any device.
Note: A prerequisite or standard moving forward for any enterprise level client. Responsive design allows Brand Labs to develop design systems resulting in design, development and maintenance efficiencies.
4. Omni-channel optimization:
Retailers using Mozu can efficiently manage all of their e-commerce properties and sales channels via one online admin
Note: One admin folks, it’s a must have.
5. Best-in-class usability:
Unlike other enterprise commerce platforms, Mozu creates efficiencies by providing intuitive site building and customer engagement via a simplified, enjoyable user experience
Note: This one is a little difficult to picture without giving you access to an account to see for yourself, but the Mozu team kept the interface simple but powerful.
6. API-first development:
Online retailers can easily connect their existing technologies and limitlessly expand by using the same API technology used to develop the Mozu platform
Note: The API is what allows Brand Labs to really shine technically without limitations. The completely open API allows us to advance the platform and meet our clients every need.
We anxiously await Mozu’s official launch on January 13-15, 2014, at the National Retail Foundation’s “BIG Show” in New York City (booth #707). As a Mozu agency partner, Brand Labs is poised and ready to deliver the same high level of service the Volusion community has experienced and been accustomed to for years. Intrigued by the platform? Want to know more? We’d love to open up a dialogue on how Mozu and Brand Labs can help you achieve ecommerce success.
Brand Labs does not only deal with ecommerce as a science — as our name implies, we also deal with your company’s brand as a science. We’ve had many customers since we began back in 2006 (500+). Aside from what we already knew about the importance of having a well designed logo, we’ve learned something else… having a good ecommerce logo design on your website can increase conversions! In the next few paragraphs we’re going to explain why having a good looking logo is so important and why it can persuade visitors to make a purchase.
Your company logo is your company’s face to the world. It’s one of the first things someone will see when they visit your website or look at your product packaging. A unique logo is one of the main ways people remember your company. It should link your website with your marketing materials. It should give those who see it a feeling for what your company does just by looking at it. It should give people a sense of trust to buy from your company.
If your company is a startup, after deciding on a name and a business plan, one of the next things you should consider is having a logo designed by a professional graphic designer. At Brand Labs we pride ourselves on our design abilities. It’s one of the reasons we got into building ecommerce sites in the first place. We took a look at so many online stores and saw that they looked terrible. We wondered how they were able to stay in business. We knew that if we weren’t comfortable ordering products from websites that used a poorly designed default store template with a logo that was created with a simple font typed in Microsoft Word, then thousands of other people would be nervous, too. We knew that we could help these companies do better, increase site visitors, and increase revenue.
Take a look at some of the logo comparisons below. These companies all came to Brand Labs because of our reputation as an agency that can take their online business to the next level with our expertise in design for ecommerce.
We’ve seen many studies about how visitors view websites. The majority of people always start from the top left corner and move across and down in a kind of F pattern. Typically, a logo is placed in the top left corner of a website because that is the first place people look. If someone is a first-time visitor to your site, you want to present them with a professional look to make them feel at ease with purchasing something from a company that has been and will be around for a while. If someone is a return visitor, you want them to feel comfortable that they are visiting the same site where they previously had a great online shopping experience. The placement of the logo in your site’s header is important to give people that anchor of confidence they need to make a purchase.
You don’t need to be a big company and spend a ton of money to have a great logo, but even big companies need to be careful when changing their overall branding strategy. Take Gap as an example. They went through a logo redesign process to try to “modernize” and re-energize their brand. What happened instead was, shall we say, not good and Gap reversed their decision and reinstated the old logo.
It’s easy to see why: the new logo lacked character, originality and thought. If you’re looking for someone to design a new logo for your company, make sure it is someone that has proven they do great work. However, it is also important to keep an open mind during the design process. While you know more about your company (and probably your target market as well) than the designer you hire, a good designer should know what kind of look and feel will work best for you without jumping on the latest trend. Your logo should be something that will stand the test of time and not need to be redesigned every few years because it’s trying to be “hip.”
Take a look at your current logo. Ask yourself what it says about your company. Does it look professional? Is it memorable? Is it appropriate for your type of business? If you are unsure about any of these, a redesign might be something to think about. Money spent now on a well conceived, impeccably designed logo will show a return for years and years to come.
Brand Labs goes through an extensive research and design process when we’re hired to design a logo. We begin by talking directly to you about your brand and where you want to take it. Even though we’ll work through many sketches and concepts internally, we’re only going to show you the concepts that we think work best for your company. It’s our job to create, through science, what we think will make your company unique in a sea of competition.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ecommerce Economic Defense Initiative Awards Over $60,000 in Prizes
The Ecommerce Economic Defense Initiative (EEDI) will award two separate ecommerce service grants in 2012 – each worth more than $30,000 – in their first-ever ecommerce grant competition.
Rochester, MI – Brand Labs – a studio specializing in ecommerce design, marketing, development and programming – has gathered together an alliance of online professionals with the proclaimed goal of “rescuing” the struggling economy by “utilizing the power of ecommerce.” The assembled group is called the Ecommerce Economic Defense Initiative (or the EEDI).
Google is, at this very moment, holding their annual developers’ conference, which would be big enough news, but they also used the opportunity to introduce their new tablet computer, the Nexus 7 and the odd, spherical media hub called the Nexus Q. Google’s entry into the tablet game has been a long time coming, so tech nerds from across the globe were glued to their livestreaming feeds to catch a glimpse – and they also got a glimpse of something else: Brand Labs’ ability to stay way, waaaaay ahead of the curve.
In order to demonstrate the Nexus 7′s media-playing abilities, Google chose the new album, Coastlines by Detroit band, FAWN. They even played some of All The Lights, the first track on the album. Now if the name FAWN sounds familiar to you, it may be because they were featured on Brand Labs’ only foray into musical & scientific self-promotion – the Audiosonic Identiglyph.
The Audiosonic Identiglyph was created as a universal geolocation system that would allow any user armed with a simple phonograph (or “record player”) and a basic, functional knowledge of the Goertzel algorithm and global cartography to be able to locate Brand Labs’ corporate offices with some degree of accuracy.
The Audiosonic Identiglyph featured Hip Parade by FAWN on the B-Side and was released in a star-studded brunch gala at Detroit’s very own Steak Hut. (If you’re ever in town, we strongly recommend Gus’s homemade hash browns, which are like little greasy slices of starch heaven.)
So, anyway, the point is that Google is totally on Brand Labs’ jock. There. We said it. We had FAWN first. Your move, Google. Bring it.
Also, if you want to catch FAWN, you can do so at the CBGB Festival in NYC from July 5-8. It’ll be worth the effort. Brand Labs says so… and now so does Google. What more do you need?
That’s right – Brand Labs will be exhibiting at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012 at McCormick Place West in Chicago, Illinois! We’ll be in booth #1133 right next door to our besties, Volusion. Our biggest bigwigs, Kevin Harman and Dane Downer will be in attendance along with senior account managers Katelyn Stanis and Ryan Forrest. They’ll be working the booth all day and the dance floor all night. You should definitely drop by if you’re looking for some high-quality ecommerce knowledge or some wicked sick dubstep.
Also in attendance will be Pauline Turner, our creative director. She’ll be roaming the show floor and attending conferences as part of the Ecommerce Economic Defense Initiative street team. She’ll be accompanied by an impossibly large hippie who may or may not be some sort of ex-convict that we hired as a temp off of craigslist. If you see them, be sure to ask for the official EEDI swag that they’ll be handing out.
So if you’re an existing customer, but we’ve never met in person, come to booth 1133 and say hi! If you’re not a customer yet, come by to find out why you should be. As a matter of fact, no matter who you are you should stop by! We can tell you about the huge contest we’re about to launch. It’s really huge. Like change-the-course-of-your-business huge. It’s worth your time.
… and if you see the giant hippie, don’t look him directly in the eyes.
Brand Labs is about a lot of things, but our real bread & butter is custom ecommerce development. Yes, we design Volusion sites. Yes, we build ecommerce apps. We do a lot of things for a lot of online merchants, but custom development is the one thing we do that gives our clients an undeniable edge. We say “undeniable” because when your store has something that your competitors don’t have, you’re ahead of the game before the shoppers even arrive. By definition, you’re more prepared to serve their needs. You’re more prepared to earn their trust. You’re more prepared to win.
… but maybe you don’t think you need custom development on your site. After all, Volusion does a good job of providing a feature-rich platform. Why not just do what you can with what you’ve got? Well, off the top of our heads, we can think of ten reasons…
- You’re unique.
No matter what Volusion introduces, they don’t know you personally. They don’t know the exact thing that you need to express your individuality properly. They don’t know your particular value proposition. That’s not a failing on their part, it’s simply a fact. You are uniquely qualified to identify your store’s specific needs and to act on those needs.
- You’re not doing everything you can with your Volusion store. You know that smart phone in your pocket? You’re currently using about 4% of its total capabilities (we may have just made that figure up). That phone can do amazing things and you’re using it primarily to text people that you’re running late. Your Volusion store is like that. It can do amazing things that you’re currently not using. Are you using the Deal of the Day function? Is your mobile store set up properly? Are you doing everything that Volusion allows you to do out of the box? Probably not. So, if we may continue to use the smart phone comparison: even though your phone is capable of doing a lot of things that you aren’t using, you still paid extra to download Angry Birds because it was a specific need that you were able to identify and address (i.e. your deep need to throw birds at pigs). Custom development is like that. You should definitely try to use all of the great functionality that’s built right in to Volusion, but just because you’re not, that doesn’t mean that you can’t add some features of your own. Custom development for your Volusion store is just like apps for your iPhone.
- You’ve got ideas.
Just because we’re ecommerce experts (and Volusion is filled with ecommerce experts), that doesn’t mean that we (or they) have thought up every single thing than could ever possibly be thunk. You have insight. You have a plan. You know things about your business that we don’t, but we definitely know how to act on your ideas. Don’t let your ideas die in your head.
- You’re probably right.
You know that one thing that you think you know better than anyone else? That one annoying thing that seems so simple and would make your life as an ecommerce merchant so much easier? Or make your store more successful? You’re probably right. Why not fix it instead of just letting it drive you insane?
Read the rest of the list after the jump… (more…)
If you’re reading this, you’re looking at our freshly-redesigned, Volusion-centric ecommerce blog (unless you’re using some sort of aggregating iPad app or seeing this on our Facebook wall, in which case you’re probably going to be cut off any second when we hit the end of the excerpt and if that’s true, we humbly request that you click through to the actual blog which you clearly have by now because there are no excerpts that go on this long, so at this point we’re just going to go ahead and continue.)
Anyhoo, welcome to our new blog! We’ve been a little preoccupied with the new site launch, so we have a lot of catching up to do. Keep an eye on this space to see what we’ve been up to since we last spoke. In the days ahead, we’ll be telling you about our new app (yes – another app), our latest custom Volusion development and all of our new Volusion site designs. Speaking of new sites…
Our new blog isn’t the only new thing in town. We’ve also completely redesigned our website. It’s sleeker, smarter and loaded with beautiful examples of all of our best and latest design work. We’re pretty dang proud of it and we hope that you’ll take a couple of minutes to check it out.
On the internal side, we’d like to thank everyone in design, development, marketing and project management – basically the whole team – for pitching in to make the new site happen. You’re all simply fantastic!
Now go – enjoy the new site.