With the dramatic rise in the popularity and adoption of MACH technologies across ecommerce and martech, the question of how to innovate, or follow the trodden path, is of tremendous importance to vendors and merchants alike.

On the one hand, an increasingly competitive market for martech solutions has seen the rise of a lot of groundbreaking solutions. On the other, retailers and ISVs (and, indeed, their investors) need to achieve certainty wherever possible by relying on tried and tested approaches. Add to this that the composable space is best viewed as “compostable” where best of breed solutions will be able to be ever more quickly and easily integrated into tech stacks replacing legacy solutions.  Therefore it is imperative that solutions creators pursue dual development path first of product innovation and second of product integration are pursued with equal vigour to insure long term success and relevance for customers. 

Leading composable agencies like Orium play a key role here in developing the accelerators to drive those integrations and adoptions to success reliably and quickly. 

Few have a keener perspective on such questions than Jason Cottrell, Orium’s founder, one of the leading ecommerce integrators, and one of the most trusted and leading voices of the composable solutions movement.

In our first Martalks episode of season 2, Jason shared his experience that dates back to Orium’s first incarnation as Myplanet. Covering 15 years of ecommerce history, this conversation tracks the evolution of composability, through the earliest experiments with headless systems, to the explosion in modern, API-first solutions, and the changing relevance and role of legacy vendors in the market.

Listen to the full conversation here, or scroll down to watch a few snippets from our conversation.

Balancing risk and innovation in ecommerce development

DR: Composable is definitely the most flexible set of solutions, and built in to address that creation of unique brand experience and a unique customer journey. What is the role of you in the agency chair, in guiding their discovery process?

JC: Some degree of sameness is actually a good thing. And I think one of our key roles that we see as a solution provider is for most brands, 80% of it should be stock and standard. Meeting consumer expectations and patterns can be just fine. 

Cart has been solved for a couple decades now. Innovation there should be done carefully, with a very deliberate thesis. Deviation from expected consumer patterns just hurts conversion, and just delivers a negative customer experience more likely to do that for you. 

We start by getting an understanding of the ethos of our customer. Where are they differentiating? Where do they want to excel?

Step one is: let’s not waste resources on the table stakes. Composable lets you use pre-built starting points code and vendors that are absolute specialists in the stock parts of the experience. 

Then you can tailor. Customers can say ‘I’m going to put investment into build’, or ‘I’m going to pick a specialty vendor that’s doing something different’. We just tailor that part. 

We can do that because of the flexibility of composable architecture. We see our role as helping brands make sense of all the things you can do. Of all the products that you can build, everything you could create custom, how do you really prioritise? Everyone still has finite time, everyone still has finite budget, how do we make the most of that? 

How ISVs can become attractive partners to agencies

DR: Orium has been just a fabulous enabler of the adoption of composable. And as such, many, many solutions that are consumed by brands and retailers, they first heard about them through Orium. That’s the platinum standard for a great partner. 

Historically that’s been the biggest gripe about agencies [for vendors]. They don’t provide us with any leads. Well, Orium definitely provides much more than that. They provide not just the lead, but the success of the client. So from your perspective to the vendor community, what makes a great vendor partner for Orium?

JC: There are still a lot of vendors out there that are not fully committed to this paradigm. We tend to see that in the performance of their product for this use case. 

We’re critical: if you have three or four options that are excellent in this use case, why would you consider four and five that are dabbling? We try to be pretty specific. Who’s focused? Who’s made significant investment and commitment to performing well in this context. 

They’ve probably invested in pre-integration with other ISVs, other SaaS providers, other PaaS providers, because as much as possible, we don’t want that put on our customer. Banging those pipes together is not the premium place we want to be playing. We want to point our customers to the collection of vendors who have already taken the effort to pre-integrate. Focus on the space, and specialty in the space, pre integration and thinking of the ecosystem so the end customer doesn’t have to. 

Increasingly, it’s about turning to innovation. Let’s look at search. There’s four or five options that you can readily go to in search. They’re best of breed, only want to do search, and they’re already pre-integrated, so they fit our criteria.

Now we’re starting to think about: who’s truly driving revenue uplift? Who’s doing something novel? Who’s thinking about taking on innovation in the domain of search? All so the brands don’t have to. Now, this is where leadership in these companies is headed. Those software vendors that have got the basics down are really pushing boundaries. So our customers get the immediate benefit.

Educating the retail sector on composability

DR: You mentioned the MACH Alliance, which certainly has done a fabulous job in vetting vendors, sharing some best practices with merchants, retailers and businesses that are considering and in the midst of adopting full stack composable commerce. But you went up and founded composable.com. What’s the deal there?

JC: We’re a proud member of the MACH Alliance. We joined in 2021. I’m a big believer in what they’re doing to organise some critical mass around the space but also to separate there’s a lot of a lot of vendors out there. 

I won’t name names, maybe you will, but there’s a lot of vendors out there that put MACH in there [communications]. They say we’re MACH, we’re MACH, and honestly having worked with them, they’re not, they’re not, they’re not. 

We found the dialogues, since the concept of composable was coined in 2020 tended to be ‘what’s composable’? In Europe, they’re further ahead, we started seeing more demand out of Europe.

It then became ‘Okay, now I get it, I understand why it’s for me, how do I do it.’ And that’s where we wanted to start to serve that need, very specific to commerce.

The MACH Alliance, over time, is serving an increasing number of use cases. We’re seeing composability move into DSP, into ERP, into other industries, health, financial services. 

Our thesis is to stay pretty close to our core, it’s more commerce oriented. It’s meant to be more hands on, it’s meant to be vendor agnostic. So you don’t have a commerce vendor talking about the commerce slice and the CMS vendor talking about the CMS slice or the PIM. Our goal is to help the customer that’s trying to figure out how to make it all work.

About The Rosenstein Group

The Martalks Podcast publishes fresh content monthly about martech, commercial strategy, entrepreneurship and startup scaling.

The Martalks Podcast is published by The Rosenstein Group, the leader in martech executive search. For over 20 years, we’ve been recruiting heads of sales, channel sales leaders, and other members of the commercial team, across martech, supply chain, ecommerce, sales enablement and systems integration.

Visit RosensteinGroup.com to find out more.

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