Why Do Retailers Need MACH?

Retailers are trapped by complexity and have no control over the challenge of balancing customer promises and fulfilment costs as they migrate to unfamiliar hybrid-retail paradigms. Retailers must modernise their order management systems. What they need is MACH — microservices, API-first, cloud-native SaaS, and headless architecture.

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  • The way we shop has drastically changed. The years-long, steady flow of commercial transactions toward digital platforms culminated in a staggering surge during the pandemic years. And with this surge came an increasing proportion of sales that originated on social media platforms. 

    As far back as 2020, a Mastercard survey in Saudi Arabia indicated that 58% of the Kingdom’s consumers had discovered a new vendor through Facebook, and 61% through Instagram. A separate study showed that during Ramadan 2022, 87% of Saudi consumers used social platforms to look for seasonal deals and promotions. And in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), research last year showed 48% of Gen Z and millennial shoppers would be open to shopping through social media channels.

    This is the digital native writ large — not just an online shopper, but a social shopper. Social media feeds are now points of sale, and everything to do with the sales cycle must now be woven into social platforms by any retailer that wants to capture buyers. The fundamentals of the sales strategy remain constant. For example, we know that impulse often drives purchases, and that same impulsiveness manifests as impatience when waiting for delivery. The buying process must be smooth and so must the information flow to the customer from the warehouse, dispatcher, and delivery driver. If the consumer cannot get all that attention to detail — the product they want, when they want, how they want, through the channel they want — from one brand, then alternative suppliers are just a few clicks, taps, or swipes away. 

    Digital natives will barely remember a time when there was just one fulfilment model: Visit Shop. Today, we still have that model, but we also have online and social, not to mention hybrid models such as Buy Online, Pickup at Curbside (BOPAC); Reserve Online, Pickup in Store (ROPIS); and Buy Online, Return in Store (BORIS). Further complications are found in the myriad payment options retailers must accept for fear of losing a customer if they do not. Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) is just one example. Today’s order management systems must somehow cater to all these fulfilment processes and subprocesses or the brand will become irrelevant. 

    Legacy Systems Leave Retailers in the Lurch

    The term “legacy system” is rarely used in technology to describe something that does everything one requires without want for upgrade. Often the phrase is followed by the word “cannot”. For retailers, legacy systems cannot live up to the changes happening in order fulfilment. In the past, in some organisations, ERP platforms were adapted for order management, but ERP was never designed to meet the pace of change we see now. These legacy systems cannot cover new order processes because the order process itself is immutable. It is hard-coded, meaning traditional ERP offers no means to redefine how an order works in a way that will delight the customer and preserve margins.

    Accelerating at MACH Speed

    This is a problem. Retailers are trapped by complexity and have no control over their newfound challenge of balancing customer promises and fulfilment costs as they migrate to unfamiliar hybrid-retail paradigms. Retailers must modernise their order management systems if they are going to satisfy the needs of the social shopper. What they need is MACH — microservices, API-first, cloud-native SaaS, and headless architecture. 

    As the acronym implies, this framework is designed around the speed and efficiency that the modern consumer demands. Microservices replace traditional monolithic architectures with smaller, independent modules, each of which is responsible for a specific business function. Microservices allow retailers to develop, deploy, and manage individual components more efficiently. Order management systems can then respond to market dynamics and changing consumer preferences. In other words, the MACH-charged retail business can innovate more freely, introducing new features as soon as a need arises.

    Uniformity on demand

    API-first design also contributes to agility. It ensures all functionality is accessible via standardised APIs. Because there is a consistent interface across operating systems, platforms, and devices, organisations can make changes frictionlessly and integrate easily with social media channels. This ability to develop whenever, however they want allows retailers to continually streamline the ordering process and provide a unified shopping experience that looks and feels the same across all engagement channels.

    Cloud-native SaaS brings the power of the cloud into the retailer’s orbit. The cloud is known for its unparalleled scalability, flexibility, and always-on reliability. Retailers gain access to all the elements required to build up-to-date user experiences, including the reliable data storage and hosting solutions that will allow the business to efficiently manage large volumes of orders and data. Additionally, the retailer benefits from elastic scaling and automatic updates. This not only means its IT department can dedicate itself to more creative tasks; it means that business functions can expand and contract to fit fluctuations in consumer demand.

    Meanwhile, headless architecture — a decoupling of the front-end user interface from the logic of back-end systems — allows retailers to focus more directly on personalised shopping experiences that span multiple channels. More specifically, the headless approach allows enterprises to tailor the experiences they provide to cater for social-media shoppers and still maintain consistency across all touchpoints. With this final element in place, retailers can start to engage customers wherever they are, no matter what device or platform they are using — website, social pages, or app.

    Happiness is…

    A modern order management solution calls for the MACH framework. It is the only approach that guarantees the flexibility to make personalised promises to consumers throughout their journeys. The digital native will engage with the brand the way they want, through front-end apps that show the right information at the right time and steer the shopper to the optimal result. MACH also adds value for the retailer because it is built to boost conversion rates and loyalty, while shrinking return rates. This all leads to ambassadorial reviews of the brand on social feeds. AKA: happy shoppers.


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