MACH: Making MarTech Modular

August 26, 2021

// By Jane Weber Brubaker //

jane-brubakerThere’s a lot of fear around technology investments. They can be expensive, complicated, and hard to implement. You send out an RFP, get multiple proposals, and narrow the list down to a few finalists. You speak with references, get a proof of concept. You’re finally ready to pick the winner. Even with all the due diligence, you’ll probably have to settle for a solution that checks most of the boxes and hope it really does integrate seamlessly with the rest of your marketing stack.

Is there a better way to build the solutions you need to achieve omnichannel marketing nirvana — seamless customer experiences on all devices, across all touchpoints, offering the right content at the right time? The MACH Alliance, a nonprofit organization formed in 2020, believes there is. MACH is an acronym for “Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native SaaS, Headless.” The Alliance advocates for “an open and best-of-breed enterprise technology ecosystem.”

A team of three MACH Alliance members conducted an experiment to see if they could create an end-to-end omnichannel personalized customer journey. They shared the results during DXSummit’s virtual summer session in their presentation, “Agile Omnichannel Personalization: Myth or Reality?”

Peter Fogelsanger

Peter Fogelsanger, global head of partnerships at Contentstack, a headless CMS provider

“Twelve weeks ago, we assembled a team from Contentstack, Uniform, and EPAM with the charter to design a real-life omnichannel personalization experiment,” says Peter Fogelsanger, global head of partnerships at Contentstack, a headless content management platform. “We wanted to determine if an agile and pragmatic personalization can be a reality, or if it’s just a myth of broken dreams.”

A Modular Approach to Solution Design

According to the MACH Alliance website, “MACH technologies support a composable enterprise in which every component is pluggable, scalable, replaceable, and can be continuously improved through agile development to meet evolving business requirements.”

Composable infrastructure consists of “modular, adjustable, autonomous components,” according to Gartner, which predicts that “by 2023, organizations that have adopted a composable approach will outpace the competition by 80 percent in the speed of new feature implementation.”

Besides Contentstack, two other MACH-certified solution providers participated in the experiment:

  • Uniform is a personalization solution that integrates with the multiple content management systems including Sitecore and Salesforce.
  • EPAM is a system integrator and Platinum Sitecore Partner. 

A Pragmatic Approach

Fogelsanger identified two reasons personalization attempts may fail:

  1. Boil the ocean – businesses try to replicate digital companies built on personalization, like Amazon and Netflix. “That’s too ambitious and complex — and probably overkill for most brands,” he says.
  2. Sledgehammer call-to-action – an approach that focuses on conversion and disregards context.

“The sweet spot is somewhere in the middle, personalization that helps a customer stay engaged and progress toward an objective, and at the same time helps the brand meet their goals and KPIs,” he says. “We call that pragmatic personalization.”

Lars Petersen

Lars Petersen, co-founder of Uniform, a personalization solution provider

Lars Petersen is co-founder of Uniform. “MACH enables us to have a much more composable approach for how we can build different technologies and use them in combination to deliver personalized omnichannel experiences,” he says. “The power of MACH is really about speed to market.”

Uniform’s technology focuses on intent-based personalization rather than personas. Site visitors are “not coming to your website because they’re a hockey mom, an empty nester, or a young couple,” he says. “What is most important to them is to get the task done based on the intent they have by coming to your website.”

Uniform uses intent signals, which may include a consumer’s content consumption pattern, a cookie value from a previous visit, a response to a call to action in an email.

Uniform’s MACH-based architecture leverages edge-based personalization. “That means that the time to first byte is super-fast,” Petersen says. Page speed is becoming more important with Google’s introduction of core web vitals. Server-side personalization takes more time to display personalized content.

Edge computing brings computation and data storage closer to the devices where it’s being gathered, rather than relying on a central location that can be thousands of miles away. (Source: Networkworld.com)

The Experiment

Neal Prescott

Neal Prescott, vice president of digital technologies at EPAM, an enterprise software development company

Neal Prescott is vice president of digital technologies at EPAM. “We got the three companies together, and we defined a vision,” he says. “We settled on a personalized travel experience.” The team wrote the use cases, designed the UI and UX, developed the personalization strategy, and developed the brand content and marketing assets. “We did all that in 12 weeks,” Prescott says.

The travel experience involves a tourist, Joan, visiting Las Vegas with friends. She books a room online, looks for a show, makes dinner reservations. Whether Joan is using a computer or a smartphone, the experience is seamless. “Everything is accessible on her mobile phone because it’s developed as a progressive web app,” says Petersen. Joan takes a quiz on her phone and indicates her meal preferences and music taste. That further refines what she sees on any device she uses. “Everything is continuous across the different channels,” he says.

Where to Start

Prescott recommends that organizations interested in taking advantage of MACH architecture take one of three approaches depending on their situation:

  • Greenfield – if the technology you want doesn’t already exist in your company
  • Chip away – you already have a large, monolithic system and you want to move your infrastructure into a MACH approach
  • Augment – add new functionality to your existing stack, such as personalization on top of your current content management infrastructure

“Our advice is to dream big, but really set pragmatic personalization goals,” he says.

According to Sitecore, “MACH is quickly gaining popularity for how it helps businesses. MACH architecture gives businesses the freedom to choose from the best tools on the market and maintain a structure that makes it easy to add, replace, or remove those tools in the future.”

 

Jane Weber Brubaker is executive editor of Plain-English Health Care, a division of Plain-English Media. She directs editorial content for eHealthcare Strategy & Trends and Strategic Health Care Marketing, and serves as chair of the eHealthcare Leadership Awards. Email her at jane@plainenglishmedia.com.