Innovation is crucial to running a successful e-commerce operation. Regardless of industry or audience, businesses that adopt a near-constant state of innovation tend to outperform their competitors. While simply getting products online might have been enough a couple of decades ago, today’s consumers have much higher expectations. That’s as true for B2B as it is B2C, with purchasing becoming more experience-driven and user-centric than ever before.
From live chat functions and hyper-personalization to real-time stock updates and automatic invoicing - there’s always a new feature to roll out or a new service to develop. That’s why modular architecture and composable commerce have soared in popularity because they allow businesses to take a more dynamic, agile and cost-effective approach to developing their businesses instead of constantly re-platforming and hopping from monolith to monolith. As a developer, you understand this - but do your customers?
Why language is often the first hurdle
Emporix recently commissioned a study exploring the needs and concerns of top-level decision-makers. The goal was to uncover what motivates (or demotivates) businesses when selecting, purchasing and expanding their e-commerce systems.
Our findings suggest that a majority of e-commerce decision-makers were unaware of industry-hyped terminology such as “MACH”, “microservices” or “composable commerce” but, once explained, showed a clear preference for them over traditional, legacy systems.
In fact, once the language barriers were removed and the concepts explained in a straightforward way, “modularization”, “API-first”, “headless” and “cloud-native” were all key motivators on the road to e-commerce innovation.
A majority of e-commerce decision makers are unaware of industry-hyped terms such as “MACH” or “composable” but, once explained, show a clear preference for them over traditional, legacy systems.
One B2C retail manager in our sample group commented, “We don't want to put a lot of effort into constant development, but we do want to configure a lot more. So we want a system that gives us flexibility without having to put a lot of effort into development.”
It’s clear that this particular decision-maker is looking for MACH elements, but they don't have the vocabulary or industry knowledge to state specifically what they need in order to alleviate their pain points and deliver on their customers’ needs. It’s therefore up to developers and e-commerce service providers to bridge this language gap, and in doing so increase their own base of business customers.
Making sense of MACH
System providers and developers might find their customer base opening up significantly if they start communicating concepts in more basic terms. While e-commerce decision-makers may not know all of the buzzwords, they are very well qualified to express their preferences once ideas like MACH (microservices, API-first, cloud-native and headless) are clearly expressed.
In our study, only 5% of respondents knew what the term MACH actually meant. A further 20% said they’d heard of it but could not describe what it was, and 70% of decision-makers said they’d never even heard of it. To a developer pitching MACH solutions, this is a problem. Developers might have everything that businesses are looking for, but three-quarters of the market isn’t being engaged in the right way.
Let’s break down MACH as an example:
MACH: Microservice-based architecture
Our study concluded that scalability is one of the primary pain points for e-commerce decision-makers. While a microservice-based architecture is one of the best ways to achieve flexibility and to allow a business to scale at its desired pace, decision-makers are unlikely to understand the term “microservices”.
In our study, for instance, key mentions included “more flexibility”, “aggregation of systems” and “modularization”. If a developer were to approach one of these decision makers and pitch it in these terms instead of MACH or “microservices”, they may find themselves with a new customer.
In order for a business built on microservice-based architecture to scale effectively, APIs are an important consideration. API-first development will ensure that their services are designed and deployed with compatibility in mind, effectively futureproofing their business.
One participant in our study commented, “We want to have an API for everything.” This potential customer knows the importance of APIs, but have they thought about API-first development? The benefits of API-first are easily lost in MACH messaging and other buzzwords.
Once the language was simplified, our study suggested that cloud-native was very important to retailers, more so than manufacturers and wholesalers, but the term “cloud-native” was hardly mentioned. There are a lot of cloud-based terms out there these days and it’s easy for businesses to get lost in the noise. I
n a 2020 survey of more than 1,500 senior IT decision-makers, 97% claimed to be “cloud-native” when presented with the term, but none of them could agree on what being cloud-native actually meant. Many get it confused with SaaS, or assume that because they use AWS, Google Cloud Platform or Azure they’re already “cloud-native”, so they’re overlooking the real advantages of applications that are architected from the ground-up to perform in the cloud.
Of the four MACH elements, headless commerce was one of the most recognized and understood. When asked about how they intended to extend their e-commerce operations, one respondent commented, “Extend? I think it's less about extending, and more about creating a headless e-commerce environment, so that the front-end experience is completely disconnected from the backend.”
This is encouraging, but one individual is not representative of the whole sample. When asked to rank the functionalities they were looking for, our decision-makers went with Dynamic Pricing, Personalization, Customer Analysis, and Search Functionalities in that order. Are these decision-makers aware that uncoupling the front-end from the back-end or “headless commerce” can make personalizing the user experience across various touch points easier?
There are countless businesses out there ready to tap into MACH capabilities and composable commerce solutions, from B2C retailers right through to B2B wholesalers and manufacturers, but they need to be engaged on their own terms, using a common vocabulary.
Developers and systems providers, therefore, need to think about how to align their customer-facing communication with use-cases that can transparently demonstrate how solutions like microservices, API-first, cloud-native and headless can make a difference.
If you would like to see the full study, you can download it here