April 05, 2023
As commerce evolves and new technologies emerge, the question of whether to Build or Buy a commerce solution becomes increasingly complex. But it doesn’t have to be.
On March 29, 2023, Valtech held a thought leadership webinar on how to break down the Build vs Buy debate, leveraging the best of both worlds in your commerce architecture.
Mars Director of Global Retail and Ecommerce Technology, Kyle Barz, shared M&M’S D2C strategy and MACH journey and discussed how to future-proof your business’s growth. Casper Rasmussen, SVP Technology at Valtech and President of the MACH Alliance, moderated the webinar. He was joined by Sven van Hegelsom, Customer Value Director at commercetools, and James Barlow, Akeneo’s VP for the UK and Ireland, who shared insights on how to add value to every part of the customer journey with the help of technology.
So, how do you create a new platform for your business, and how do you evaluate whether to Build or Buy the solutions you need?
1. Start With the Consumer Journey
You need to start with the customer journey, not the technology, then see what technological capabilities you need. Determining the consumer journey will guide every other decision in the process of creating a new innovative platform. It will also impact the overall cost of the project.
Mars invested in a product owner who was responsible and accountable for making sure the customer journey was well represented and considered in the design and development. He credited a significant part of their success to this investment.
2. A Strong Vision Is Cost-efficient
Cost is a major factor in ensuring this innovation project is a sustainable and scalable solution for a multi-brand company like Mars. The main cost-determining element for a project like this is a strong vision.
After building the end-to-end user journey, it’s time to create your vision and evaluate the business and technology capabilities needed to bring the entire step-by-step consumer journey to life.
A project of any type and scale can face unpredictable issues, but for a project like this, unpredictability is costly. The purpose of having a strong guiding vision is to examine all possible players and factors and build a plan around cost, partnerships, timeline, execution, etc. This allows you to look at your existing portfolio and determine what capabilities you can fulfill and where there are gaps that an external partner can potentially fill.
Mars is a large multi-brand leader in several industries. The long-term vision for their new platform is to implement it in every Mars brand, regardless of industry or business model.
If you start with a vision and work with partners like Valtech but also a consortium of solutions from the start, it can really help to drive effectiveness in the cost.
Sven van Hegelsom, Customer Value Director at commercetools
3. You Don’t Need to Build Everything From Scratch
This is the most important advice for anyone interested in creating a new platform like Mars did with M&M’S. You don’t need to build everything from scratch.
During your evaluation phase, you’ll be able to identify exactly what your needs are, and what the different players on the market can offer. This is the point at which you determine what to Build and what to Buy.
There is an important balance to be found here. Some tools, products and technology that can support your project are already on the market, ready for use. And some specific or unique features of your platform will need custom products or tools to support them, which you can build.
For the M&M'S project, Mars had some unique pieces of architecture that warranted a Build decision, such as the personalized M&M’S program they created. Most of the user journey is all about personalizing M&M’S, which made this unique configurator experience an important piece that Mars wanted to own and make as frictionless as possible. In other less unique areas, such as order management tools or tax calculation software, Barz explains that Buy was the right decision here. They found off-the-shelf softwares making their own investments in innovation to support the project.
4. Remember to Play
MACH technology and usage are relatively new in the market. Don’t forget to have fun discovering it!
When Mars first started exploring this space, there was a lack of examples and use cases they could refer to in their learning phase. The concept of the MACH Alliance didn’t exist yet (Mars were early adopters), and it was challenging to find experienced practitioners.
He highlighted the importance of encouraging the team leading the project to play in this space, to discover and learn as much as possible. This exploration would keep the team motivated and engaged. It would also help them gather relevant findings to plan their project around what is possible, what this technology can do, what needs to be created, etc.
5. Look Ahead With a Continuous Roadmap
A roadmap is essential to this type of project for two main purposes.
Firstly, it’s crucial to plan and assign a team to maintain the existing business and keep the lights on while a new platform is being built and executed. This helps prevent interrupted client activities and experiences.
Secondly, a roadmap puts all of these steps together and sells the project to stakeholders, with clear goals, costs and a timeline. For the M&M’S project, an important aspect of the roadmap was to highlight that it was continuous. The platform is ever-evolving, as the market and consumer needs are also ever-evolving.
It’s a living, breathing product that we continue to work on, and we don’t need to do it all on day one. We will have opportunities to continue to innovate and change and evolve.
Kyle Barz., Mars Director of Global Retail and Ecommerce Technology
Finding the right mix of legacy and history, as well as an understanding of new technology and architecture is key to building out these teams.
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One of Mars’ largest pain points was managing content multiple times, in multiple languages, in multiple channels to deliver it to the consumer.
This new platform makes it a lot easier to manage the variety of currencies and translations. It also makes it easier to reuse all those assets in multiple locations and across channels. For example, it facilitated the ability to reuse content not just digitally but in physical store designs and screens.
Here’s a quick recap of Barz’s recommendations for brands wanting to explore composable commerce solutions:
Start with the consumer journey
A strong vision is cost-efficient
You don’t need to build everything from scratch
Remember to play
Look ahead with a continuous roadmap
Contact us today if you’re curious about which elements to Build and which elements to Buy for your next commerce project.