MACH 1 – the “Big Four” of the commercetools commerce platform architecture – Microservices, API, Cloud, Headless – can propel you full-speed into the future of digital commerce. 

In today’s digital retail economy, APIs are the currency. Why? Because ecommerce is omnichannel across all touch points – beyond traditional desktops and mobile apps and including new devices like voice assistants, social channels, and even car commerce. In order to connect all these systems and exchange data securely, organizations need a variety of APIs. In this article, we break down how APIs work, but also why ecommerce platforms should follow an API-first approach to stay competitive in the future of digital commerce.

APIs open up completely new business opportunities for companies by providing maximum flexibility and the room to innovate. For example, you can now shop for new shoes in the car via a voice assistant, or book a reservation on-demand. Since brands and retailers  can connect new end devices at any time, there are endless possibilities for new sales channels. In addition, APIs allow organizations to react quickly and easily to changes in the market.

Myriad connections for richer customer experiences
From the Smartwatch to Virtual Reality glasses and cars: almost any device can be connected to applications. The API interfaces determine the form in which data is exchanged and structured.  APIs guarantee a fast and secure exchange of information. Brands and retailers can use a combination of different APIs to create new functionalities – independent of the interface used by their customers – and thus create rich shopping experiences across all channels.

Bonus: With APIs, existing systems can be extended, connected and integrated at any time – which is especially important because today’s market changes so quickly.  However, the use of APIs alone is not enough. Ideally, an e-commerce platform should be based on the API-first approach, which allows the entire system to communicate exclusively using the same language. Additionally, the API-first approach enables teams to work in a more structured way, speeds up the amount of time it takes to implement new products and services, and decreases time-to-market. 

With an API-first approach, companies and brands can prepare for every change in  the market and within their own company. “When we reached the limits of our existing platform, we wanted to ensure that the new solution would be scalable and fit seamlessly into the current architecture,” said Benjamin Edwards, Head of IT, World of Books Group. “With commercetools, we have found a solution that is primarily based on a microservice and API architecture and therefore fits perfectly with our development capabilities and methods”.

Easily integrated and communicated across all channels
The API-first approach also saves time and money in everyday life. APIs are an important component of Microservices and enable flexible and secure communication between these small standalone applications, which are individually designed and used in a kind of modular system: from advanced search functions to the shopping cart and payment processing. In combination with the APIs, microservices can be easily adapted and implemented across all channels for customers.

Stefano Giacomello, IT Manager PDM, Sales & Marketing Applications at Geberit, also finds a clear advantage: “Of course, high-quality data are not new at Geberit, but so far we have not been able to use them very efficiently. With the new multi-channel platform and its consistent API approach, things are now different. Now we can finally use our product data across all digital channels.”

Monolithic commerce application vs. Microservices-based commerce application

In short, when brands and retailers develop an e-commerce platform that follows the API-first approach they open up many doors to further develop their digital sales channels. APIs provide not only flexibility, but also opportunities for innovation. After all, when all the gears in a transmission communicate with each other, the system runs like a well-oiled machine. 

We continue diving into the 4 key components of the commercetools MACH architecture in our next blog article, “C” for Cloud native. If you want to take a closer look at the interaction of the four MACH components, you can do so in the Introduction to MACH or hav a look at the MACH Architecture.