Overcoming the Growing Pains of High-Volume Ecommerce: Is Now the Time to Replatform?

Overcoming the Growing Pains of High-Volume Ecommerce: Is Now the Time to Replatform?

It’s an ugly story. One made all the more painful by its bright beginning.

Merchant experiences growth. Merchant celebrates growth.

And then …

Growth turns on merchant.

What should be a happy and momentous phase leads instead to a swarm of problems.

Broken functionality, tech debt, mounting costs just to maintain the status quo, and the threat that growth itself will choke their success.

So, what does the merchant do?

The same thing they’ve always done — digs in and goes big.

In the wake of growth’s unforeseen problems, they enlist the help of an “enterprise” platform. Sure, it’s a hefty price tag, and the rollout is going to take close to a year, but in the end, it’ll work.

Except … it doesn’t.

The solution becomes one more problem.

Maybe you’ve experienced the painful side of growth. And maybe the solution you thought was the answer turned out to be its own sort of nightmare.

Dark as that story is, it’s far from unique. The harsh reality is that few merchants realize their potential.

But there is a better way.

More Than Just Growing Pains (No, You’re Not Alone)

At nineteen, Ben Francis launched Gymshark on the back of a sewing machine and a dream. Within four years he’d grown his “fitness apparel I wanted to wear to the gym” company from £40k their first year to £30k per day … to £35 million in annual revenue.

While he had started on Shopify, rapid growth put him in a bind.

As Ben explains:

“There were some things we wanted the website to do. Shopify Plus wasn’t out, so we moved to Magento.”

The new site took over half a year to build and cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars. But finally, there it was — their shiny new baby — just in time for the granddaddy of all shopping days: Black Friday.

That’s when the emails and angry tweets started rolling in, one after another ... after another:


For eight days, the site was broken. All told Ben estimated it cost Gymshark £100,000:

“The biggest problem that we had in one word would be instability. We just didn’t trust the back platform. That was supposed to be a huge day for us, but we let our customers down.”

“It didn’t matter that it was Magento’s fault. It’s our brand, and customers blamed us, which really hurt.”

Betting big and investing in an “enterprise” platform wasn’t enough for Gymshark. Nor was it enough for Brian Lim.

Brian’s EmazingLights passed the $17 million in annual revenue mark last year thanks to their category-creating product and an appearance on Shark Tank.

Overcoming The Growing Pains Of High-Volume Ecommerce: Is Now The Time To Replatform

Actually … it may be more accurate to say, “despite” an appearance on Shark Tank.

Ironically, Brian spent $200,000 to bulletproof their Magento site against the oncoming traffic, but when the show aired, the site went down nonetheless:

“It made what should’ve been one of the happiest days of my life into the shittiest.”

For David Heath, co-founder of Bombas — whose sold $8 million worth of premium, comfort-performance socks last year — same story, except that their crashing during Shark Tank was just a symptom:

“We were getting major press and our site couldn’t scale on demand like we needed it to, often leading to a poor experience for our customers and supporters.”

“The bigger the buggy we built, the more horses we needed and the more expensive it got just to keep from crashing.”

Ironically, even name brand merchants aren’t immune.

From 2012 to 2016, Jones Soda CEO Jennifer Cue led what is arguably the greatest corporate resurrection since Apple. After nearly ten straight years of net losses — 34 consecutive quarters to be exact — Jones Soda isn’t just back in the black, they’re growing.

Overcoming The Growing Pains Of High-Volume Ecommerce: Is Now The Time To Replatform

The headline is monumental. But if you ask Cassie Smith — Jones’ ecommerce manager and “ops ninja” — about the real pain, she’d talk about something a bit more pointed:

“I just wanted to print some damn postage and stop getting calls from people who couldn’t use the site.”

"We could have spent a bunch of money building a script to get our shipping station and website to talk to each other. But at the end of the day, our website itself still sucked."

There’s a Better Story

If all this hits close to home, you might feel reassured not to be alone. But really, that’s cold comfort.

The question is: What’s next?


Isn’t that just more risk, time, and energy? What reason do you or your team have to believe a switch will be worth it?

Migrating to a new platform typically takes 4 to 8 months. Not only is the process expensive, but — if you stick with an on-premise solution — it requires your own installation, setup, configuration, and dev work. 

Worse, the onus of hosting and security is on you.

What make Shopify Plus different?

To guide you and your team, new merchants work directly with a dedicated Launch Manager. Our partnership with replatforming tools like nChannel provide free standard migration for up to 500k SKUs, 500k orders, and one million customers.

And without the need to worry about ecommerce architecture, hosting, and security, merchants are up and selling on Shopify Plus within 2 to 4 months.


Image Via Noticed

Instead of expensive internal resources or third-party developers, at Shopify Plus, your Merchant Success Manager is by your side to navigate a wealth of resources.

From payment gateways to apps, customizable themes to 15 different sales channels, native social selling to mobile-first checkouts … we’re there with you every step of the way.

If nothing changes, nothing changes.

Maybe you’ve been burnt before. Come experience the speed, security, and support that over 500,000 merchants already trust.

Shopify Plus couples speed and agility with the scalable foundation you need to grow bigger, faster.

Find out what happens when technology gets out of the way so you can ...

Build your business, not your website.


About the Author

Aaron Orendorff is the Editor in Chief of Shopify Plus as well as a regular contributor to sites like Mashable, Lifehacker, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Fast Company, The Huffington Post and more. You can connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.