The MACH approach makes sense for businesses focused on improving the customer experience. That is never a finite task, however, as consumer trends and customer needs are constantly changing–meaning that technology must be too. Featuring a modular architecture, the MACH platform stands in contrast to the monolithic tradition, breaking apart the mentality of a coupled front end and back end and making it easier to integrate new solutions and processes without obstacles caused by traditional interdependency.
The decoupling mechanism creates a system that is pluggable, scaleable, and allows for total freedom in redesigning the user interface as required. Gartner Research clarifies this need further, stressing the importance of designing an organization made from “interchangeable building blocks.”
As digital commerce platforms become further accentuated by modularization in a cloud-native, multiexperience world, Gartner also proposes that “application leaders responsible for digital commerce should prepare for a ‘composable’ approach using packaged business capabilities to move toward future-proof digital eCommerce experience.”
The elements of the MACH architecture bring all the concepts for composable commerce together, defined by:
- Microservices - Individual pieces of business functionality that are independently developed, deployed, and managed.
- API-First - All functionality is exposed through Application Program Interfaces (APIs).
- Cloud native - SaaS that leverages the cloud, beyond storage and hosting, including elastic scaling and automatically updating.
- Headless - Front-end presentation is decoupled from back-end logic and channel, programming language, and is framework agnostic.
MACH Architecture Provides a Great Experience with the Right Tools
It helps to learn why the elements of the MACH pattern came into place initially–beginning with microservices. At the heart, microservices act as a mechanism for isolating independent services, making it possible for them to evolve separately, without disturbing the others. For example, an inventory service can have its own development to deployment lifecycle, with another separate service generating product information. This level of independence and accelerated time to market for products makes it easier for businesses to work in small, efficient teams too.
The API makes consumer/provider decoupling possible and caters to the same independence discussed with microservices. Alternately, the cloud operates as a type of infrastructure choice. Relying on cloud providers, businesses should see faster growth due to the automation and ease in provisioning resources. This is another feature designed for more efficient time-to-market, as well as the ability to scale more rapidly.
Headless represents a way of building the user experience that is disconnected from the underlying services. When a user is interacting with an application on a browser, the interface is not made on the server and brought to the browser; instead, it is made on the browser itself by collecting data elements needed from a service that exposes them as APIs.
This is also great for independence where the front-end experience team can work without the services team–and the development team is untethered from using technology dictated by the services team to build experiences. Headless is an integral element in the MACH approach for strengthening new business models, while the overall focus is in providing the best experience with the right tools.
MACH to Support or Replace Monolithic Platforms
As eCommerce becomes widespread–and with so many new and sophisticated features continually in demand–the traditional, monolithic technology can be unwieldy for companies focused on streamlining the customer experience. In a competitive marketplace with so much powerful technology available, today’s businesses don’t want to wait to integrate new details to their eCommerce platforms–and they don’t want to have to add another vendor with every feature.
Older technology still serves as a major obstacle for many companies, and especially those seeking to offer a more seamless omnichannel experience. Consumers expect to toggle between online and in-store shopping depending on price, urgency, and other factors, making it necessary for companies like retailers to create a seamless customer experience. Dealing with legacy platforms and more rudimentary capabilities and functionalities is limiting.
“A monolith structure is designed to carry out multiple tasks. Given their broad scope, monolithic structures tend to have huge codebases. Making a minor change will have rippling effects, such as needing to re-compile and test the entire platform, which goes against the agile approach that today’s developers favor,” states the MACH Alliance.
“If the data fits the model, no problem, but if even the smallest change in data is needed, you may have a big problem…all kinds of ideation gets stopped because with every new idea or innovation, everything must be rebuilt from the ground up.”
Retailers Benefit from MACH
Retailers in particular are turning to the MACH approach when they find that monolithic platforms no longer meet their business needs. Well-known beauty retailer Ulta is working with commercetools to move away from the monolithic platform and toward MACH to enhance omnichannel capabilities, improving the customer experience, expanding into new markets, and scaling up existing ones. Currently they offer over 25,000 products.
Express is a well-known apparel brand with over 35 years of industry experience. Striving to position their company at the forefront of fashion and technology, Express wanted to adapt to consumer behavior and their changing buying needs, faster. Working with commerceltools, Express integrated microservices, the API, and headless approach–going from updates released every two to three months to multiple releases per week instead. Sharper Image was also able to transition from the ‘rigid monolith’ to better handle traffic peaks, accelerate release cycles, and become more agile overall.
Crate and Barrel, using a MACH architecture since 2018, has seen tremendous increase in efficiency for both creation and management, as well as using a data-driven approach for testing, optimization, and scaling personalization–across the whole site. Working on seasonal content like gift guides, Crate and Barrel reported a 77% increase in site visitors year over year, a 40% decrease bounce rate, and a conversion life of 10% from the previous year.
Building Omnichannel Features and Increasing Revenue
Companies that have not yet switched to a MACH architecture often complain that they are tired of all the red tape in trying to make improvements or integrate new features into their existing systems. Offering the advantages of a composable enterprise, the MACH architecture makes it easy to transform digitally as well as move away from the traditional monolithic structure responsible for holding up progress.
“You build your capabilities with an ecosystem of individual services, different components built as small, de-coupled, interdependent services communicating via events and APIs, also referred to as microservices. With this approach, your enterprise data will be easily available, consumed, and repurposed by other services (experience data),” states the Mach Alliance.
“The more decoupled you can be in your stack, the more adaptable to future changes and antifragile you will be.”
The MACH architecture offers the most modern tools available, but the key is that they can be used with existing features too. Businesses are able to launch new products exponentially faster, as well as making improvements at any time without disruption. This includes adding and customizing different details to improve the customer experience, quickly and easily. With the experience data platform, companies may also consolidate data from the back-end as it is created and maintained in supporting applications.
Calculating the Business Value of MACH
Delving into this future-forward architecture is easier than it seems, and from a functional perspective, MACH is greater than the sum of its parts. A great analogy is to think of the MACH architecture like a car with numerous features and parts–from the motor to the tires and the paint. When something is to be replaced or upgraded, you can always integrate a new version without buying a whole new ‘car.’
The business value of MACH is calculated by:
- Growth, achieved through agility and scaling.
- Reduction in total cost of ownership (more dollars for other business areas), achieved through a tech agnostic approach, spending as business scales.
- Faster delivery methods, gaining the competitive edge, and allowing for hiring at scale too.
- Exceptional customer experience with unconstrained UX, and faster trials.