It seems that early movers in e-commerce platforms are getting punished for the foresight they had at the start of the decade. Brands that made early speculative bets in developing e-commerce platforms – high scorers in L2’s Digital IQ Index in 2010 and 2011 – are now locked into expensive and highly customized deployment cycles. Meanwhile competitors that rely on more flexible cloud platforms enjoy the advantage of greater agility, as detailed in the new L2 Intelligence Report E-Commerce Agility.

Consider Estée Lauder, which adopted the business of web development early on. The company had rolled out live chat and user reviews across all
 its color cosmetics and skincare brands by 2011, at a time when many competitors in prestige beauty were just launching their first e-commerce sites. But features once considered cutting-edge are now common – democratized by cloud-based and on-premise platforms and their suites of plug-ins – and some Estée Lauder brands have been L2’s biggest “losers” in relative site performance over the past few years. Collectively, Beauty brands on in-house platforms now have the weakest collection of sites in the category as they are hamstrung by overdue relaunches and slow global rollout of new features to regional sites. Estée Lauder operates websites in 38 countries, and 26% of its local sites have yet to be relaunched.

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An in-house platform isn’t a handicap across the board and in some cases enables a brand to stand out with sophisticated functionality. Estée Lauder’s in-house platform has allowed Clinique to create the customized navigation experience that makes the brand a perennial digital leader in the Beauty category. The customizability of the platform has enabled Clinique to
 implement unique navigation elements that support its signature
 diagnostic tool and 3-step system. Clinique has also implemented other advanced search features and guided selling tools, including the ability to filter by color family and skin type.

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