If you’re reading this post, chances are you’re looking to switch ecommerce platforms — but you’re not alone.
In a 2020 survey of 100 retail ecommerce executives, Digital Commerce 360 found that 51% of respondents cited ecommerce platforms as one of their top three technology budget priorities for the year. And in another survey later in the year, 92% of professionals planned to increase spending on ecommerce technology.
Perhaps you’ve reached your breaking point after another unexpected bug, major site outage or poor customer experience, and your current platform simply isn’t meeting your business needs. As a result, you’re unable to focus on your core business activities, because you’re too busy working out the kinks in your current solution.
If that’s the case, it might be time to replatform — which means it’s time to issue an RFP.
An RFP (Request for Proposal) is a formal document that standardizes your evaluation criteria across all the vendors you choose to send it to. It announces the bidding process between vendors and consists of guidance notes and a questionnaire to help you evaluate and shortlist prospective solutions.
By using an RFP, you accomplish two goals:
Without an RFP, each vendor will likely sell you on what they have –– removing your ability to judge each platform effectively across the business critical requirements of your brand.
But RFPs aren’t one-size-fits-all. The specific questions you should ask each vendor can vary across internal departments and ecommerce requirements, and it may take some time to formulate an effective RFP that clearly articulates your needs.
One of the most important decisions an ecommerce business will make in the replatforming process is whether to use an RFP or opt for a more flexible selection process. Both are viable options depending on your preferences, however it may help to know the pros and cons to each approach.
The process of selecting a new ecommerce platform can be tedious and time-consuming, especially if you’re a business owner with lots of responsibilities on your plate. But this is where an RFP approach comes in handy. Here are just a few of the perks to issuing an RFP:
Although an RFP approach does offer several advantages, there are some downsides to keep in mind.
Considering the detail that goes into creating an RFP, as well as the effort it takes to evaluate each platform provider, it’s no surprise that the RFP process can be time-consuming. According to RFP 360, the average RFP timeline ideally spans six to ten weeks, depending on the size of your team, the number of vendors and the types of questions asked.
Although an RFP may vary from project to project, the basic three steps will usually stay the same:
The sole purpose of a B2B ecommerce RFP is to articulate your specific business needs and evaluate a vendor’s potential to meet them.
Thus, when issuing an RFP, keep in mind that the effort a vendor puts into their proposal is also a signal of their commitment to your requirements. Pay attention to the quality of the responses you receive, and eliminate the vendors that clearly aren’t putting in the effort to win you over.
In the RFP itself, there is a column of priority — the first column after the question — where all relevant stakeholders should sign off on which aspects are business critical and which others might not be as important. This will help align your team on the business’s top priorities, as well as guide the platforms you send the RFP to on which items are the most important to focus on.
To help you get started, we’ve created a free RFP template that you can personalize according to your business requirements. Feel free to omit any questions that aren’t relevant to your business or modify any questions to better suit your needs. Read through each section to confirm that the questions meet your business-critical requirements, and make sure that the priorities are set right for each question before you send it off.
Typically, an RFP is best accompanied by a cover letter with further details on pricing needs and service requirements. Traditionally, this part is done in a Word document, not Excel, and it includes business scope, pricing expectations and service requirements.
Replatforming to a new ecommerce solution is a big decision that can affect many different areas of your business. It may seem like a daunting transition at first, but if you choose the right platform, it can be an open door to exponential growth.
During the evaluation process, you’ll undoubtedly come across a number of big-name platforms such as Magento, Shopify and Volusion — which all have their own unique features and can work for certain types of ecommerce projects.
However, BigCommerce stands out as one of the leading open SaaS ecommerce platforms for mid-market and enterprise retailers. With all the benefits of SaaS as well as the flexibility of an open-source platform, BigCommerce offers a solution for businesses of all sizes and needs. To help you evaluate your options, we’ve created a Free Ecommerce Platform RFP Template, which includes 193 questions to send to the platforms you’re considering. Covering areas such as IT, security, design and development, this customizable document will allow you to evaluate each platform provider on a level playing field and put your business priorities at the forefront.
Without an RFP, comparing ecommerce platforms can feel like comparing apples to oranges. Every platform provider will likely try to market their strongest, most unique features — but with so many sales pitches coming at you from all sides, it can be difficult to determine which platform is actually most beneficial for your business.
Creating an ecommerce RFP will drown out the noise and make your unique business requirements the centerpiece of your decision. Since all vendors will have access to the same questions and key information, you’ll be able to fairly evaluate each platform and make an unbiased decision.
Before making the decision to replatform and create an ecommerce RFP, there are some essential questions you need to ask yourself:
Once your team is aligned on your current state and future goals, then you can start drafting your RFP.
A typical RFP creation process consists of four stages:
Crafting an ecommerce RFP requires the input of both internal stakeholders and external stakeholders, who play a major role in brainstorming business objectives and evaluating providers.
Typically, the RFP process is spearheaded by marketing and ecommerce directors and other key stakeholders include CFOs, IT managers and business owners. However, the ecommerce RFP process doesn’t only involve company executives — the input of individual departments and units is also extremely valuable for choosing the right ecommerce platform.
Of course, there are a few inescapable challenges of the RFP process: