In our recent webinar with Mars, titled Driving M&M's CX and growth with a build & buy approach, Casper Rasmussen, SVP of Technology at Valtech and President at The MACH Alliance, moderated the conversation between Kyle Barz, Director of Global Retail and D2C Technology at Mars; Sven Van Hegelsom, Customer Value Director at commercetools; and James Barlow, VP of Sales UKI at Akeneo. Discover what insights these speakers have about the challenges of scaling a D2C (direct-to-consumer) business, the importance of creating personalized experiences and the benefits of a buy and build approach with composable commerce from commercetools.
In today's business environment, companies are faced with the challenge of creating custom experiences to drive growth and stay ahead of the competition. That's where the build and buy approach enabled by composable commerce comes in. Just like picking out the perfect combination of candies, this approach combines in-house capabilities to build what's unique for a business with buying best-of-breed capabilities that don't need to be built from scratch. Mars, the mastermind behind M&M'S, took us behind the scenes with how it's using this approach to drive custom experiences and growth.
We needed to really elevate the overall experience for the M&M'S website. We knew that we had an aging tech stack that M&M'S was running on and it was creating a lot of cracks in the foundations that we needed to repair. Historically, quite frankly, we'd been on this cadence of replatforming our eCommerce stores every three to five years.
Director of Global Retail and D2C Technology, Mars
In-house capabilities are the secret sauce for D2C
Mars has been investing in its in-house capabilities to enhance its D2C channels. One of its flagship D2C channels is the M&M'S website, where customers can personalize and order M&M'S online. Kyle mentioned that the company has a dedicated team that looks after the backend services to ensure a seamless and efficient experience for customers.
Kyle explained that the reason he and his team decided to in-source development capabilities is because personalizing M&M'S is a unique and bespoke experience, and there are limited software options available to meet their needs end to end. Therefore, they decided to take control of developing their own customer experience. This decision was made after examining the available options in the market and realizing that no off-the-shelf solution could cater to their specific needs. As a result, they opted to build a digital product that was tailored to their requirements.
Finding the right flavor with best-of-breed providers
Sven discussed how Mars is partnering with best-of-breed providers for technology solutions, since developing your own digital product does not imply you need to build all components in-house. The right paradigm is "buy commodity software, build differentiation."
For example, commercetools offers a commoditized commerce engine to power a modular approach to commerce technology. Companies like Mars can then build their own bespoke experience on top of this. Kyle referred to the “M&M'S Configurator,” where consumers can personalize their box of M&M'S as something that is truly unique to their business and a key differentiator.
By partnering with software providers, Mars can tap into specialized knowledge and expertise in areas such as eCommerce, mobile app development and data analytics without having to build these capabilities in-house. This approach also allows Mars to accelerate development, while staying agile and scalable as the business evolves. For example, if the company decides to expand into new markets, Mars can put its trust in specific language or currency capabilities already available in the product, rather than building those capabilities from scratch.
Technical debt when building in-house
I would think two or three times before I took the decision to build everything from scratch. I wouldn't recommend building a commerce engine or content management system on your own, unless you're truly bringing a lot of differentiating factors to that solution. Then you also have to think about the roadmap and managing the technical debt for each of those services. I don't think you'll be able to really compete with some of the bigger capabilities that are out there externally.
Director of Global Retail and D2C Technology, Mars
Technical debt is a crucial factor to consider in the build and buy approach, as this significantly impacts the long-term success of in-house technology solutions. When businesses decide to build their own solutions, they must be prepared to manage the technical debt that comes with maintaining, updating and scaling these custom-built systems. Neglecting technical debt can lead to outdated technology, slow system performance and increased costs to address issues that could have been avoided through proactive maintenance.
Using PXM to sweeten the customer experience
James explained how Mars is using product experience management (PXM) as a crucial ingredient in its customer experience strategy. PXM involves managing product information to ensure that it is accurate, complete and consistent across all channels. This includes, not only basic product information like name, price and description, but also visual and emotional information like images, videos and customer reviews.
PXM also allows Mars to manage all its product information in a central location and push it out to all channels, ensuring consistency across different platforms. By using PXM, Mars can also enrich its product information with additional details like ingredients, nutritional information and allergens, which are critical to customers with specific dietary needs.
Moreover, by analyzing customer behavior and feedback, PXM enables Mars to optimize its product information to meet customer needs and preferences. With PXM, Mars is able to deliver a seamless and engaging product experience to customers, which is crucial in driving conversions and growth.
The perfect recipe for success
As this webinar exemplifies, the build and buy approach offers a viable strategy for companies to create custom experiences and drive growth. Mars’ use of in-house capabilities and partnerships with best-of-breed providers has enabled the company to deliver personalized and engaging experiences to customers.
This underscores the importance of carefully evaluating the need for building a custom solution versus leveraging best-of-breed external providers. By partnering with specialized providers, companies can minimize technical debt, optimize resource allocation and maintain a competitive edge in the ever-evolving business landscape.
Get more details on how to implement a build and buy approach for your business by downloading our white paper Buy AND Build: A Blueprint for a Composable Commerce World.