Event report: Retailers move to MACH
Retailers, such as Paul Smith and Rapha, are moving from monolith to modern MACH technology for big gains in productivity, retention and conversions
Post-pandemic, one of the buzzwords in retailing is “resilience”. But what retailer doesn’t want to be more resilient? The devil - as ever - is in the ‘how?’
At the first London Customer Summit held earlier this year by image and video management vendor Cloudinary, Paul Smith, and Rapha shared how they introduced greater resilience and boosted a range of business outcomes by migrating from rigid, monolithic IT to a microservices, application programming interface (API) first, cloud-native and headless (MACH) based architectures and software.
In a breakout session John Kilpatrick, Principal Engineer at Rapha explained how his journey started: “We were on a monolith [architecture] and it was impossible to do anything on it.
"Everything was tightly coupled on the front and back ends. We had a lot of point-to-point integrations with all of the third parties that we had. So changing one thing kind of had a snowball effect and could break absolutely anything for us. We made the choice two years ago to go composable and go headless first, and we've been on that journey ever since.”
Meeting greater visual demands
Kilpatrick was not alone in his thinking. According to research from the MACH Alliance, in 2022, 79% of tech leaders surveyed expressed a strong intention to move towards MACH in the following 12 months.
But Kilpatrick was quick to point out that Rapha’s transformation wasn’t just for IT’s sake, but driven by the business: “Really, it's all about how we serve our customers," he said.
"There's still lots of things for us to do, but the things that we have migrated are just head and shoulders above what we had before. And really, it's setting us up for the kind of experiences that we want to offer in the future.”
In the pandemic years more of Rapha and Paul Smith’s revenue moved online. Today, both offer high-end physical stores to give their customers immersive, sensory and community brand experiences.
Speeding time to market
Its websites needed to match these experiences by adding high-quality, fast-loading visual imagery that looks stunning across mobiles, tablets, PCs and other devices; and frictionless transactions across the buying journey.
These greater demands on visual media management was a big driver for MACH technologies like Cloudinary, as Nish Patel, Web Development manager at Paul Smith (pictured) outlined in his breakout session: “Our new tech stack includes Cloudinary, which we had already been using [as a headless digital asset management system (DAM)].
"For content management, we're using Storyblok. We have a Magento backend that drives our products and catalogues, and Klevu, a merchandising tool; when you search on our website Klevu does all the smart searching.”
For online shops, bottlenecks in managing visual media - applying metadata; resizing/optimising media for different viewing environments; tagging; and grouping media assets into collections - can seriously impede time-to-market.
Bounce rates and conversion
Kilpatrick explained how this impacted Paul Smith in his session. “It used to take us anywhere in the region of 24 hours to approve an image and get it onto the front of our site to be able to sell a product. That's just not sustainable at all. It's literally milliseconds now,” he said.
In online retailing, faster page load speeds lead to higher conversion rates. Patel explained in his session the benefits of being composable and the ability to ‘content stitch’ images, videos and other media.
He said: “We've got a lot of flexibility where we can actually deliver powerful content. Videos are working really well for us at the moment. We're seeing a lot of people engaging with videos on our site, on our category pages, and that is having an impact on reducing bounce rates and raising conversions on the products as people are engaging with enriched data.”
Boosting sales wih campaign imagery
Kilpatrick enthused about the improvements for Rapha in his session. “We've seen an average of 70% improvement across absolutely every metric for everything that we've migrated," he said.
"We're planning to move our product pages this year. And they average around nine seconds to load, we'll drop that down to 2.7 seconds. We've got a magic number, which is basically 1.5 million per second. So we expect to see about an uplift in £9 million per year in revenue from this migration.”
Paul Smith's results chime with a claim that the retailer's Head of Digital, Hannah Bennett, reported in a case study, which Patel confirmed in his session.
“The fact that we could easily drop product videos into the DAM led to an impressive 45% increase in sales of those products, because of the Cloudinary improvement to the campaign around it,” he concluded.
As an early member certified to join the MACH Alliance, Cloudinary also supported the organisation’s MACH TWO event in Amsterdam last month. Read more about the trends and developments from the MACH TWO event from RetailTechnology.co.uk's coverage here and here.