IndieCommunication: Future Plans for IndieCommerce & IndieLite

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In this issue of indieCommunication, we’re republishing part of an important letter from ABA CEO Allison Hill, which ran in BTW last week. 

Future Plans For IndieCommerce & IndieLite
Over the course of the last eight months of 2020, we increased the IndieCommerce team by 50 percent; we added multiple servers as demand rapidly increased (we now have 20 servers); added more than 50 improvements in functionality, including bulk order processing, shipping system integration, and the ability to curate inventory by removing titles; added fraud protection; mitigated risk caused by flash sales; conducted education around new features; and addressed 17,000+ questions from store owners and staff. The IndieCommerce team also built 80 new websites for stores that didn’t have them and remedied vulnerabilities in the system, including migrating stores to their own credit card processors.

We also shifted our focus to a platform upgrade and plans for a future that we quickly realized would be far different from the past. For the first step, we spent six months conducting eCommerce research, exploring various platforms in the marketplace, meeting with dozens of technology and ecommerce experts, having discussions with potential partners, and interviewing vendors to determine the best path forward. This process was followed by an IndieCommerce/IndieLite member survey to inform our next steps. We confirmed that we are on the right path, that ABA’s price and service is competitive, and that we can deliver greater value than can be found in the marketplace, or that stores could create on their own, with the implementation of our plan for 2021 (outlined below). The plan is a multi-faceted approach to making the platform as robust as possible.

What is our 18-month plan for IndieCommerce?
You’ll be hearing more details about this in upcoming IndieCommunications as well as other communications from the ABA. Here is a quick summary of the plan so far:

Phase One: Continue to build new websites and improve the functionality of the current platform, while spending eight weeks in discovery with vendors for a platform upgrade. The vendors are already underway diving into our system to emerge with a plan. This phase will also include member input and input from store customers. The IndieCommerce Advisory Committee received an overview of the plan and will continue to offer input as we move forward.

Phase Two: As eCommerce demand remains high, it will continue to be critical to support the current platform, including a new customer support system to expedite customer service emails, and we’ll simultaneously begin moving forward with upgrades. The upgrade of IndieLite stores will occur first (this will allow us to work out the kinks with less complex sites); we’ll redesign our server architecture to improve performance/speed; the shopping cart will be redesigned with the customer experience in mind; new modern templates will be created; and Apple Pay, PayPal Express, and Google Pay will all be added. In the meantime, new design themes/templates will be created for the current platform, functionality will continue to be improved, and full POS integration will be prioritized for current IndieCommerce users. (Some of this work is already begun in Phase One.)

Phase Three: By the fall, IndieLite stores will begin training to prepare for the holiday season on the new system. (This will give our team a chance to train as well and prepare for the larger rollout.) The IndieCommerce team will prepare the IndieCommerce stores, still on the old system albeit further improved, for the holiday season and work to ensure that all stores are knowledgeable about the functionality of their site.

Phase Four: We will begin the upgrade for the IndieCommerce stores in January 2022, though the word “begin” is misleading as much of the advance work will already be done, allowing us to move more quickly. Customization and store readiness will both be factors in the speed of this phase, but we hope to have all IndieCommerce sites transitioned by summer.

What does this mean for you?
In the end, you’ll have a faster website with more modern designs and a better consumer experience that’s integrated with your POS. But it will take time. For those frustrated by our timeline, I will share that every vendor we spoke with stressed that this is the timeline that it takes to do what we need to do. One of them said: “Nine months is a long time to carry a baby, but it takes nine months to grow a baby.” And just to be clear, this isn’t something that more time or money will expedite. Believe me, I’ve asked. We will do whatever is necessary to speed up the timeline while simultaneously continuing to support and improve the existing platform.

Watch for more details, FAQs, and ongoing updates in future issues of BTW and IndieCommunicationEmail the IndieCommerce team with any thoughts, questions, or suggestions.