Retail and MACH: Understanding your “why” when implementing

Adam Sturrock
April 14, 2021
8 mins

Originally posted on the MACH Alliance Blog.

It’s undeniable that retail has changed exponentially over the past year. Lockdowns. Permanent store closures. An influx of online customers. It’s been a journey to say the least. Some have been pushed to the brink and others have really taken on the challenge and grown. 

How retail business models progress going forward will be something to watch. Have we seen the complete demise of the traditional department store? Will marketplaces continue to rule? And how will the high street react when things get back to some kind of “normality”?

One thing we know for sure is customer behaviour has changed. Their expectations have changed. And they aren’t going to change back. So, with online growth only expected to continue, customer expectations expected to remain high, retailers will need to adapt and look to new strategies more than ever before.

To take advantage of all these changes, and to really deliver for customers, retailers can look to a MACH-based approach for their technology. It can bring with it a wealth of benefits, but retailers can’t look to implement MACH for MACH sake. There needs to be a clear strategy behind it, a thorough understanding of why they are implementing it and how it can help them achieve what’s on their roadmap.

Understanding the why: Key reasons retailers could leverage MACH

Of course, retailers’ goals will be individual but to help understand where a MACH-based approach can help, we thought it might be worth going over a few scenarios. These are the types of “whys” those looking to MACH can justify.

The why: Keeping up with all the change

One thing we hear from retailers all over is that the pace of change is intense, and keeping up is proving difficult. Old legacy systems are holding retailers hostage to lengthy development cycles, and they simply aren’t afforded the agility they need.

A MACH-based approach can bring a continuous development process to the fore, where retailers can look to constantly iterate and change, allowing them to go to market with new products, content and experiences quicker than before. This is imperative when constantly reacting to the needs of their customers and to the market.

The why: Connecting the offline with the online

Retailers can no longer rely on their in-store experience to be the single or main experience for their customers. With more and more online traffic, customers not only want an amazing experience online but they want a connected one. The offline and online experiences must be harmonious but also seamless when navigating between them.

A true omnichannel approach can be achieved with MACH-based technology because it allows retailers to manage and add multiple frontends and storefronts a lot more efficiently, anything from in-store kiosks and native apps to the more traditional desktop site. Content can then be easily pushed across all channels and all devices making content production and delivery more streamlined internally. Overall, it enables customers to get a true, consistent brand experience however they decide to interact with a retailer. 

The why: Integration with better market solutions 

There’s no denying the proliferation of technology in the marketplace, especially when it comes to eCommerce, point of sale, payments etc. Being able to leverage all these new tools and solutions and work with them to create a better customer experience (and backend experience for technical users) however is another story. Unfortunately, many retailers are locked into large monolithic platforms that dictate what integrations they can take advantage of and when. This leaves retailers languishing behind more agile competitors, with many forced to simply make do or build a number of workarounds.

Utilising a best-of-breed, composable approach, MACH gives retailers the freedom and the choice to well, choose who they want to work with – everything from shipping and fulfilment to personalisation and search. They can pick which solutions will enhance their offering and they have the scope to add, remove or switch out any in the future just as easily. Vendors aren’t locked in and there is no intense replatforming to consider. 

The why: Ramp up content and personalisation efforts

Content is everywhere, but good content really drives relationships with customers. Good content and brand storytelling can convert and drive loyalty. Producing and delivering good content on a large scale however is time consuming and hard to achieve. 

The same principle applies for personalising different channels. It can be simple enough to give a few product recommendations on a site, but truly capturing the right data and making it properly work to deliver unique personalisation efforts across different channels that really connects with customers at the right time in their buying journey is a much harder task. 

This is where MACH comes into its own, especially when retailers can leverage unique third-party solutions that are purposely built for these very things. Headless content management systems for example can take the bottlenecks out of the content production workflows, eliminate developer input with less coding and allow marketers to quickly push content anywhere they like. Personalisation tools can capture data and use AI and machine learning to deliver bespoke content that adapts to the customer’s behaviours, preferences and drivers in real time. 

The why: Differentiation 

With so much competition in the retail marketplace, both locally and globally, standing out from the crowd can be hard. Retailers need to look at how they can differentiate themselves, which can come in many forms. However, a big part of this is the user experience, design, and that first impression that a shopper gets of a brand, be it on social media, their website, anywhere. 

Legacy technology is forcing many retailers to conform to certain, pre-defined templates and guidelines that leave them all looking the same digitally. They simply don’t have the ability to break free and implement the look and feel they really want, nor offer those surprise and delight moments. A MACH-approach however, lets retailers build and design how they see fit. Their experiences are their own - no shackles and no constraints, just creativity and imagination.