Getting Started with Composable Commerce? Five Most Important Lessons and Advice

Joshua Emblin By Joshua Emblin | 01 Oct 2021

Socrates once said, “the secret of change is to focus all your energies, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” It’s a good summary of Modern Commerce Day, where Audi, Boohoo, Danone and Vistaprint, among others, shared their key lessons and advice about composable commerce.

More and more companies see that the current systems they work with are insufficiently flexible and scalable to anticipate the current and future wishes of consumers. In a survey by DJS Research, 81 percent of IT business leaders worldwide say they plan to add Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native and Headless (MACH) elements in the next 12 months. These are the five most important pieces of advice and lessons that the speakers gave during the event.

1. Fear No More

Launching a new promotion, stocking up for the holidays or discovering that your product is suddenly in high demand should never cause panic.

This is, therefore, the main reason why companies are switching to MACH. Greg Fancher, Chief Technology Officer at clothing brand Express, saw an ad go viral, tripling website traffic at its busiest hour during Black Friday. “A monolith system would have crashed in that scenario, resulting in valuable time and lost revenue. However, we had prepared ourselves and switched to MACH elements, which automatically scaled with the peak load. As a result, we were able to monitor everything excellently and customers kept the same user experience.”

Gary Schorer, Director of Technology at Vistaprint, said they saw no point in a monolith in 2019. “This was not an easy decision and a gamble for us. We have done a lot of work and are far from done, but looking back we saw some very good results after just one year.”

2. Think Local Agility with a Central Core

Another important development is that MACH technology offers companies the possibility that each component develops solutions at its own pace.

This provided a way for Danone to roll out its D2C strategy. The food business has a decentralised organisational structure, in which each consumer business unit (CBU) is free to choose its own technologies. 

Russell Lincoln, Global Head of Direct to Consumer at Danone Life Nutrition, explained that MACH architecture gave Danone and its CBUs the freedom to develop components at their own pace. “In the beginning, we were in charge of the platform, but now CBUs are so digitally mature that they have formed their own community and together draw up a roadmap for which functionalities they want to develop.”

Simon Young, Senior Engineering Director – Unified Commerce at Lego Group, indicated that it is important to set up your teams accordingly. “By forming full-stack teams based on specific Lego.com domains, such as shopping cart and loyalty, you can give them the autonomy to innovate on their own.”

3. Personalisation Made Easy

By 2021, 320 billion emails are expected to be sent every day. Research from SmarterHQ shows that 72 percent of consumers only respond to personalised messages. It is therefore important that you find out as much as possible about your (potential) customers. MACH makes it easier for companies to use data for personalisation.

Christoph Gerber, CEO of Talon.One, stated that you can dot the i’s with MACH. His company can make tailor-made campaign decisions thanks to data. “We are now looking at the complete data landscape to decide who to target with which campaigns. For example, as a food delivery person, you don’t want to target your hamburger ad to people who want sushi. MACH makes it possible to present a personalised campaign to each individual.” 

4. Agile Tech – Agile Business

In recent years, more and more companies are embracing agile technologies. A report from Harvard Business Review shows that eight out of ten companies are agile in their software development. However, it is even more important that all teams within an organisation actually implement agile in their processes and working methods.

Tinay Lykke Kristensen, Senior Digital Manager at Salling Group, emphasised that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. “To make things happen, we need to align our different goals, which is done by talking to each other and creating new ideas together.”

Andreas Lederwascher, Business Solution Architect at Audi, added that it is also important that everyone is heard in the process. “Give everyone a voice and the opportunity to improve your organisation and product. You will be surprised how many good ideas and improvements come to the fore.”

5. Lower TCO, More Possibilities

Many companies see total cost of ownership (TCO) as a key barrier to digital transformation, according to research from Gartner. This often leads companies to believe that MACH systems lead to higher costs, but that is incorrect.

For example, Jo Graham, CIO at Boohoo.com, said they had a platform based on a linear cost model. “This meant that costs increased with the number of brands put on the platform.”

Boohoo.com decided to change course and the project for the new MACH platform was completed within 35 days. Graham indicated that it is especially important to allay the fear of the transformation process that leaders have. “You have to be brave to take the step, but it doesn’t feel like a big risk if you get the support from the company and your team to make it possible.”

Conclusion

While no one can predict what the future will bring, the technological developments over the past decade are a good indication that the pace is not going to slow down any time soon. Only five to ten percent of brands are currently exploiting the full potential of MACH, but this is expected to change in the coming years and MACH will become part of their digital transformation for many companies. As Socrates would say, “there is only one good: knowledge, and one evil: ignorance.”

If you want to start setting trends and learn from the best, learn why Gartner named commercetools as a Leader in 2021 Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce.

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