In a recent conversation with Kelly Goetsch, Chief Strategy Officer at commercetools, I had the pleasure of discussing the factors and decisions that lead to companies making the move to a MACH architecture. A recurring observation throughout the talk was how eCommerce is the first industry to adopt modern measures, as eCommerce customers tend to be the most unforgiving when it comes to subpar customer experiences.

There’s a lot to uncover in this concept of “unforgiving” customers and demanding user experiences. In a world where “Omnichannel” has been a guiding principle for nearly a decade, the concept of matching expectations for connected customers is less of an aspiration than a requirement. With customers engaging with brands and products across the globe through a variety of channels — from PCs and mobile devices to smartwatches and TVs — the pressure for companies to build consistent one-to-one relations across all digital touchpoints is at an all-time high.

Who Is a Connected Customer?

Digital Darwinism has led to the emergence of the “Connected Customer” — individuals so in tune with the technology available to them that they’re never disconnected from digital touchpoints to interact with. Websites, apps, social media, wearables and IoT are just some of the technologies via which individuals across the globe can be interacted in almost real-time — and this engagement is something they’ve come to expect for maximum relevance and convenience when looking to interact with brands and services.

A safe assumption to most operating in eCommerce, SaaS, or other complementary ecosystems is that a vast majority of current and potential customers are “connected,” and finding a way to engage with them with coherent user journeys across multiple touchpoints with relevant content is what helps gain a significant competitive edge when competing for their attention (and eventually, loyalty).

What Is Omnichannel eCommerce?

Omnichannel eCommerce is a comprehensive approach to sales that aims to provide a smooth customer experience, whether the shopper is using a mobile phone, or laptop or simply walking into a brick-and-mortar store. Yes, Omnichannel isn’t only digital.

There is a lot to be gained by meeting customers’ needs and expectations on different channels. A study by HBR shows that 73% of shoppers use multiple touchpoints or devices during their customer journey.

The findings continue to show that omnichannel customers love using retail touchpoints. They may use smartphone apps to find the product and browse through in-store digital catalogs to compare prices. They can buy online and pick up in-store, or buy in-store and have their purchase shipped. Each app, digital tool and shopping venue is seen as a separate channel.

Omnichannel Is Not Multiplatform

Blending channels and platforms in this narrative can obfuscate a very specific observation — multiplatform is not Omnichannel. In multichannel eCommerce, a brand or retailer bases its sales on multiple channels. The idea is to make products and information available through all of them.

However, every channel works for itself and independently of the others.

A multichannel strategy assumes that consumers have different shopping preferences. Some only trust branded online shops, while others are keen to hunt for discounts on marketplaces like Amazon or Instagram.

The multichannel approach puts the product in the focus.

In an omnichannel strategy, a brand or retailer is also present on several channels at the same time, just like in the multichannel approach. However, omnichannel eCommerce provides full integration between the channels.

The omnichannel approach also puts the customer into focus.

Learning Opportunities

This is why we often say that it is not the product, but the customer who takes the center stage in omnichannel eCommerce. A customer may start searching for products on one channel, move to another to compare prices, and complete the purchasing journey on the third. While in the multichannel approach, the product is present in as many channels as possible, the omnichannel strategy goes much deeper. The omnichannel strategy analyzes every stage of a customer’s shopping journey, with the ultimate goal of providing the best possible customer experience.

Omnichannel vs Multichannel

Going Omnichannel With MACH Principles

There are several benefits when approaching user journeys from an omnichannel point of view. With cohesive and consistent messaging, companies can reach greater efficiency in putting through the right messaging to the right customers, and provide a real sense of individualization when using personalization software. The data tends to be more useful given that there is a single view of a customer via a better overview of a customer journey.

Headless commerce enables a modular approach to site architecture where developers use the best possible tools to build a custom architecture, “backed” by a powerful backend that grows over time. But how does headless architecture benefit your omnichannel transition? And why does MACH (Microservices, APIs, Cloud-based, and Headless) certification on this architecture provide additional benefits?

At this point, it should be pretty much clear how the omnichannel experience works — the customer can choose a product through an app and find a store to try it on, only to buy it online for an added discount. The MACH architecture supports an omnichannel approach because the backend functionality remains consistent no matter the channel. You’re plugging in tools and services as you need, whilst retaining the core functionality of your infrastructure without needing to overhaul it every time a new channel is added or a new customer journey is implemented. This way, frontend developers can test and launch new channels using existing data from the headless commerce platform and present it in a new light, using a previously unexplored channel.

The other way round also applies — if an existing channel becomes obsolete, it is easy to remove it without disrupting the working ones. As a result, businesses have more flexibility and opportunity to experiment with innovative channels. On the other end, by using the existing backend data, teams can build a powerful user experience in every channel they keep, matching expectations for connected customers at every step of the way.

In summation, there’s a lot to be said about how connected customers can be interacted with, and how companies can adopt MACH principles to provide exceptional customer experiences through experience orchestration. Sana Remekie from Conscia summarizes it best.

“In a composable DXP, data and content driving the experience comes from a multitude of sources such as a CMS, Commerce Engine, DAM, Promotions Engine, etc. In order to allow marketing and digital teams to control the experience powered by all of these individual best of breed applications, you need #ExperienceOrchestration.”

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