Views and Facts

Picture yourself as the CIO or CTO of a major retailer whose physical stores were all closed due to COVID-19. How would you adapt? Adopting contactless curbside pickup is the clear answer, but given the limitations of your customer engagement and commerce platforms, how quickly could you roll that feature out? There was a clear delineation in the retail world, where companies like Best Buy, Target, and Walmart were able to quickly add contactless curbside pickup and other retailers that will remain unnamed took months to roll that feature out or have yet to roll it out. The difference between retailers that have come out of this pandemic successfully and those who have suffered largely comes down to being able to quickly adapt to changes in business through the use of technology.

Many retailers are still using big, all-in-one customer engagement and commerce platforms that make it extremely time-consuming and expensive to release new functionality. These retailers are lucky to release new functionality once a month to production under the best of circumstances. With many features taking a few releases to perfect, retailers using this style of technology and practices could have to wait months, quarters or years to get that functionality right and start generating revenue. As we’ve all realized in the past few months, the world changes very quickly!

Successful retailers that were able to quickly adopt contactless curbside pickup all had one thing in common – they used MACH technologies and practices: Microservices, APIs, Cloud and Headless. Let’s discuss each.

The Arcronym

The “M” in MACH is for “Microservices,” which are small applications that each do one thing and do it well. Rather than one enormous application that contains logic for product, pricing, inventory, cart, checkout, etc you have small cross-functional teams of roughly seven members who own a business domain, like pricing. The members of the pricing team then own the entire domain of pricing and have full control over their application and can release whenever they want.

The “A” in MACH is for “APIs”. An API is simply a published interface that can be used to exchange data (products, orders, customers, etc) or execute functionality (add to cart, calculate price, reserve inventory, etc). APIs are critical because they allow the various frontends (web, mobile, IoT, etc) to access all of the same data and functionality. When the web was the only frontend available, the line between frontend and backend wasn’t so clear but in the age of multichannel retail, it’s absolutely necessary to give each frontend access to the same data and functionality.

Next is “C” for “Cloud,” which means using real multi-tenant SaaS. Rather than having to download, install, run and manage software, multi-tenant SaaS vendors just give you an API key and you can start using their software immediately! Along with multi-tenant SaaS is cloud-native architecture which is much more resilient than the legacy architectures of the past.

Finally the “H” standards for “Headless” which is your frontends being completely decoupled from your backend. With headless, you can change your frontends each as often as you’d like with a dedicated separate team. Your backend (fronted by APIs, backed by microservices) can then evolve separately on its own timeline.

With MACH technologies, retailers can quickly change to meet an ever-changing business climate. MACH is the present and future of commerce. We at the MACH Alliance, founded in June of 2020, are committed to promoting the adoption of MACH because there is an enormous need for speed.


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