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Cost efficiency, adaptability and outstanding shopping experiences - these are the goals of all retailers and brands. The MACH principle is supposed to make it possible: a modern approach to software development designed to make IT ecosystems more open, agile and competitive.
The MACH approach has become the leading IT concept, especially in modern e-commerce. It breaks through the limitations of rigid, monolithic e-commerce systems and creates a truly flexible, modular software environment. For retailers, this means one thing above all: reacting to new customer requirements at lightning speed and staying one step ahead of the competition.
In this comprehensive guide, we'll explain what's behind the acronym of MACH principles and go into detail about the benefits of each component.
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The Problem with Monolithic E-commerce Systems
Too rigid, too inflexible, too complicated - monoliths quickly reach their limits in today's world. In addition, customers today expect positive and personalized shopping experiences at all times - no matter where and on which device. This applies to both the B2C and B2B sectors.
The term "monolith" describes bulky store system architectures very well: the frontend (user interface of a website or app, i.e. everything you actually see) and backend area of a website (for example data processing) are hard to separate from each other technically. As a result, new sales channels are difficult to develop, the customer experience suffers across the board, and the system slows down companies in their growth.
But if you want to have good chances on the market, you should quickly adapt to the increased customer requirements. The solution: MACH principles!
MACH Principles: The Four Components of the MACH Approach
Like so many things in recent years, retail is also being revolutionized by new technologies. Based on the MACH principles, larger IT projects in particular can be implemented more efficiently and realized in less time.
MACH is an acronym that stands for the four principles Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native and Headless. The MACH principles in turn form the basis for the MACH approach: an approach to software development that aims to make IT landscapes in companies more flexible and scalable and to facilitate the integration of different systems and functions.
MACH also offers major advantages in the retail sector: thanks to MACH principles, manufacturers, retailers and brands can transform their IT systems into a modular and competitive ecosystem.
Meet the MACH Alliance: Pioneers of Future-Oriented IT Ecosystems
One association that's particularly committed to pursuing the MACH principles is the MACH Alliance. It was founded in 2020 by a group of modern technology companies that promotes open, future-oriented IT ecosystems based on the MACH principles. Its goal is to help companies transition from legacy infrastructures to a MACH-based IT ecoscape.
The MACH Alliance now consists of more than 70 companies. All members are certified technology companies that promote open and future-proof digital solutions.
Actindo is a proud partner of the MACH Alliance, helping companies move from rigid systems to flexible MACH-based IT solutions. Our Digital Operations Platform Actindo Core 1 has been awarded MACH certification as one of the most innovative and flexible Digital Operations Platform for retail.
Let's take a closer look at the four MACH principles that make Actindo Core1 so unmistakably flexible:
1. MACH and Microservices: New Functions, New Touchpoints
Microservices are small, independent software applications of an e-commerce platform. Each microservice is responsible for a specific function and can be updated, scaled or replaced independently of other microservices.
Put together, these microservices form the individual modules of an e-commerce platform, also known as Packaged Business Capabilities (PBCs), including shopping carts, checkouts or newsletters.
In line with the "mix-and-match" principle, microservices enable websites, online stores and even social media solutions to be put together in a customized way. These modular, self-contained applications can be further developed individually, which means that new online functions can often be implemented within days.
Tom Davis, Global Digital Operations Director at Cartier, a leading global luxury jeweler, aptly summed up the benefits of MACH principles at this year's MACH TWO conference: “I can now implement any idea within six to eight weeks and, if it doesn't work, simply discard it because the costs are low. If it's successful, I can expand on it. That's the fun of MACH; it offers a lot of potential.”
This agility creates the ideal conditions for simply trying out new functions – whether it's a flash sale via social media or companies want to implement a chatbot or voice assistant.
2. API-first: The MACH Principle for Successful Communication
In software development, the Application Programming Interface, also called API, refers to an interface between individual applications. APIs are the bridges between different systems and control the fast and secure exchange of data for uniform communication.
From tablets to smartwatches to voice assistants in cars, almost all devices can be connected and communicate with each other.
This makes APIs a key function in modern e-commerce: they make it possible to react to changes in the market at lightning speed and to open up new sales channels by connecting different end devices.
The MACH principle of "API-first" goes one step further: The entire e-commerce platform communicates via API interfaces, enabling a uniform language between the various applications in the IT ecosystem.
Your development team will be particularly pleased about this: "API-first" promotes a structured way of working, accelerates the development of new functions and shortens the time-to-market.
Back to microservices: Integrating APIs with microservices enables flexible and secure communication between these standalone applications. Thanks to APIs, they can be customized and deployed to all touchpoints and sales channels. The result? Smooth shopping experiences for your customers along the entire customer journey.
3. MACH and Cloud-Native: Flexibility and Scalability in the Cloud
Cloud-native refers to the development and operation of applications that are developed and run in a cloud environment. However, it is not only a question of location, but also of the underlying method and software architecture.
In the context of MACH principles, the cloud-native approach supports all other components to reach their full potential. It provides a flexible, scalable, and resilient environment in which microservices can operate efficiently, APIs are easily accessible, and headless architectures are optimally supported.
Cloud-native technologies enable retailers to quickly and easily implement their business strategies, offers and promotions. In addition, the entire IT ecosystem can grow flexibly and adapt to increased customer demand without downtime or congestion - even during busy sales periods like Christmas or Black Friday.
For example, thanks to MACH-based Actindo Core1, German lifestyle brand Kapten & Son could increase order volume by up to 1000% for Cyber Week - without negatively impacting operations or the customer experience. Learn more in our Kapten & Son Case Study.
Cloud-native technologies also save an enormous amount of resources: local devices or additional servers are superfluous. This in turn saves costs by everything being part of a "cloud ecosystem" and originating in the cloud itself.
Overall, MACH's cloud-native principle allows retailers to focus on growing and innovating their business without worrying about technology.
4. MACH and Headless Commerce: Decoupled Front-end and Back-end
Headless illustrates well the software approach involved: the headless architecture decouples the frontend from the backend.
And while losing your head sounds pretty dramatic to us, headless architecture has hugely positive implications for e-commerce.
Again, this is where microservices come into play. Because these only develop their full potential in combination with headless: due to the decoupled architecture, retailers and brands can combine different microservices to create a customized e-commerce platform. Customers, in turn, experience this system as a unified platform across all touchpoints. This means that the backend can also be changed and optimized at any time without customers noticing this on the end device.
Pictorially speaking, a headless platform like the Actindo Core1 can be compared to a Bluetooth speaker that pairs with any number of devices (frontends) such as smartphones or tablets. You can change devices without changing the speaker, similar to how you can change the user interface in a headless e-commerce system without affecting the underlying system.
Best of all, lengthy development processes are a thing of the past. With headless flexibility, you can act immediately to make the changes you want, without wasting time or delaying implementation.
5. MACH+ Principle from Actindo: Data Transformation + Low Code
In the fast-paced world of e-commerce, efficiency is the key to success. Actindo's MACH+ principle takes this efficiency to a new level by combining the potential of data transformation with the simplicity of low-code.
With Actindo's low-code development platform, retailers and brands can use and extend pre-built modules to design their digital commerce processes from start to finish. This means less complexity and lower costs when creating seamless e-commerce experiences, from user interface to order fulfillment.
MACH Principles and Composable Commerce
Companies often face the challenge of choosing the right strategy and technology for their projects. A common misconception is the confusion between MACH principles and Composable Commerce.
John Williams, CTO of Amplience and MACH Alliance member, explains how important the difference is for enterprises in his recent YouTube Video "MACHLASH": “It's important to understand that MACH and Composable are not interchangeable. MACH is a technical architectural style... Composable is a business strategy. The latter allows companies to respond to market changes with modular, best-of-breed technical components.”
“The difference between MACH (technical foundation) and Composable Commerce (strategic alignment) is critical to business success in the digital world. Combining the two approaches creates a powerful solution that is technically sound and business agile.” says Hans Notenboom, Leader B2B Digital Platform Experience and Conversion at Philips, a global health technology company, at this year's MACH Two Conference.
Notenboom adds that it's "not about implementing the technology. It is actually about change management. The transformational journey that we probably all need to go through."
Companies that recognize and leverage this are better equipped for success in the complex, competitive environment. Want to learn more about how your business can benefit from Composable Commerce?
>> Read our Composable Commerce Guide <<
Actindo Core1: Successful E-commerce with MACH+
Actindo is your trusted partner for seamless integration of MACH+ principles.
With a combination of agility and flexibility through microservices, more than 500 API endpoints, cloud technology and headless commerce architecture, Actindo Core1 provides the tools to create customized commerce experiences. The addition of the MACH+ feature simplifies data transformation and the overall development process.
The platform can be used both as a central solution and as a scalable layer on top of existing monolithic legacy IT systems. This also allows legacy systems to be modernized and integrated into a competitive e-commerce environment.
Discover how Actindo Core1 can transform your business by increasing efficiency, reducing costs and creating exceptional shopping experiences that delight your customers.
“At Actindo, we've made it our mission to enable sophisticated transactional business models beyond retail, e-commerce, and desktop and to be responsible for driving and delivering the single point of truth for composable commerce and control customer-centric experiences in the unified commerce era.”