Leading Nordic businesses at MACH Helsinki 2022.

5 lessons from MACH Helsinki: Why composable commerce is the perfect fit for Nordic brands

Manuela Tchoe
Manuela Tchoe
Senior Content Writer, commercetools
Published 06 February 2023

Forward-thinking leaders in B2B and B2C across the Nordics revealed why MACH and composable commerce rise to the challenges faced by brands and retailers in the region.

Leading Nordic businesses at MACH Helsinki 2022.

The Nordics are not only known for ranking high in happiness scores but also for tremendous purchasing power and technology savviness. Despite these rare qualities that make Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden attractive markets for brands, the region’s notoriously remote geography, multiple languages and currencies create an inherently complex commerce landscape.   

How do leading Nordic brands handle this complexity? And what’s behind their above-average success? At MACH Helsinki: The Future of Multi-Experience Commerce, an event organized by the MACH Alliance, brought regional heavyweights like BOK Ark Handel, Elkjøp and Normet to discuss how MACH™ principles (Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native and Headless) and composable commerce are the engines enabling brands to manage constant change and overcome the market challenges that come along. 

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Here, find the top five nuggets of wisdom shared at the event.

1. Businesses need to stay ahead of ever-evolving customer expectations

Companies that have bet on omnichannel commerce are coming out on top after the pandemic as they can adapt faster to customer expectations, according to Julia Paulsen, Director of eCommerce Nordics at Elkjøp, the largest consumer electronics retailer in the Nordic countries. This is because the company is best positioned to change according to customer expectations, especially during economic downturns.  

Even as consumers have less money to spend, Julia explained that they continue to expect brands to provide self-service capabilities and flexible options, such as delivery rescheduling. Managing this constant change is possible with composable commerce because brands can connect “the best [services] of the best together,” to handle customer demands without friction or high technology spend. 

Julia also emphasized that the brands that will survive are “the ones who are not going to put the brakes on now, but actually change.” Even when a company is performing well, such as Elkjøp during the pandemic, this shouldn’t translate into inertia. Instead, she shared how the retailer “challenged the business model when they were doing really good,” which turned out to be the right choice as the company was in a stable financial position to invest in those changes. “Use this opportunity to understand what digitalization can do for their business and change the stack,” she advised. 

Mikko Mantila, Managing Partner at digital consultancy IONA, mentioned that in today’s challenging economic climate, companies are looking for efficiencies and want to increase margins. But with composable commerce, he said, “you’re much better positioned to do that and drive customer satisfaction,” which is a pertinent reminder of how important it is to invest in digital transformation not only during the good times but more several economic downturns as well. 

Anders Martinsson, Tech Lead eCommerce at Norway’s largest bookstore chain BOK Ark Handel, brought the technical perspective by pointing out that development itself is expensive, and even more so if you have an old system as “you spend 80% of your time on bugs”. On the other hand, moving to MACH means companies can allocate 70% of their budget to innovation and 30% to fixing bugs. After all, Anders concluded, “in order to evolve, you have to change.”

2. Leveraging maximum flexibility in eCommerce is a priority

If change remains a constant, what are the core elements brands need to stay on top of customer needs and market fluctuations? Flexibility, scalability and extensibility are critical to managing constant change. “So it's much, much easier to bring in new functionalities or actually transform the company commercially as well,” said IONA’s Mikko Mantila, as “it's easier to move into B2B or wholesale or these sorts of things. So it enables completely new ways of transacting with your customers or new customer segments in a much more agile, faster way.”  

The fact that the Nordics are in a disadvantaged geographic position with a multitude of languages and currencies adds up to an already complex outlook. That’s why “one of the powers of the MACH and the composable architecture actually comes in dealing with complexity. So I think it's a perfect environment for this paradigm [MACH] to take place,” Mikko concluded.

3. Automate with the customer in mind

Automation is a big topic across sectors but even more so in the industrial space, said Pekka Jaarinen, Director of Digital Services at Normet, an equipment and service provider for underground mining and tunneling projects. “One of Normet’s big strategic goals is to automate as much as possible,” he revealed. 

While Pekka mentioned that the company is not yet ready to have its standard equipment, which is quite complex, available online for purchase, Normet has digitized over 65,000 spare parts and made them available via eCommerce. These steps are essential not only from the internal efficiency perspective but also to elevate customer experiences, as self-service is highly sought-after when purchasing spare parts. “We need to put the customer first and think about what is the best experience and process for the customer. And that typically leads to a win-win on both sides of the table,” Pekka shared.

4. You don’t have to reinvent the eCommerce wheel

“I've been in eCommerce for 25 years,” said BOK Ark Handel’s Anders Martinsson, “and I've been playing around with a lot of different platforms. I think this is probably the best MACH stuff that we're looking at and that's the best part of it because you can choose whatever you want to. You just have to glue it together. [...] You don’t need to invent something.”

Not having to reinvent the wheel is essential for both big and small brands. MACH architecture neatly encapsulates this philosophy as it’s based on standard technologies that have been IT best practices for a while. IONA’s Mikko Mantila wholeheartedly agreed: “It’s nothing new, the whole MACH thing. Microservices and API-first, this is best practice. It’s how things should be”.

5. The next frontier: Composable beyond commerce

What’s beyond composable architectures? Commerce is just the starting point, with so much more that can be achieved when brands use the principles of MACH to deliver a composable landscape. “I feel like we have a new era because it’s so much easier to connect things,” Anders said. “We’ve got the APIs, we can connect everything and just glue it together. And that’s the whole point of it: Data is available. So, if you want to change the ERP system or the POS system or some parts of the MACH solution, it’s quite easy to do.”  

IONA’s Mikko Mantila went beyond this thought: “The MACH transformation has clearly started from the customer, which is the right place. The whole idea is to try to do the next generation of customer experience for customers, not being pinned to the ground because of legacy platforms. So, in a way, we’re encapsulating legacy ERPs, CRMs and a lot of backend systems. So, maybe the next frontier is that those will also become composable. Maybe one day someone will do a composable ERP. That’s the future we see happening.”

With composability expected to transcend commerce, and by consequence MACH, the future is all about brands differentiating themselves and focusing on the customer experience. After all, as Elkjøp’s Julia Paulsen pointed out, “If we just did the basics, you would not be here today. You would not be interested in hearing about MACH. You clearly want to do something different.”  

Ready to rethink eCommerce? Dive deeper into MACH to start your composable commerce journey. 

Manuela Tchoe
Manuela Tchoe
Senior Content Writer, commercetools

Manuela Marques Tchoe is a Content Writer at commercetools. She was a Content and Product Marketing Director at conversational commerce provider tyntec. She has written content in partnership with Facebook, Rakuten Viber and other social media platforms.

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