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MACH – a decoupled web architecture that boosts CX for life sciences brands

09 Jan 2023

Websites have emerged as a key channel for healthcare professionals (HCPs) and patients to engage with pharmaceutical brands. According to a recent survey, websites are among the top 3 digital channels that HCPs prefer for their pharma interactions. A well-designed and architected website that is user-friendly can significantly improve customer engagement, stickiness, and conversions. However, the window to leave a good impression through the website is very short. Customers often make quick judgments on how credible and useful websites are based on their content, design, cross-device compatibility, and responsiveness.

You need a website that must be fit-for-purpose, industry-appropriate, and robust enough to meet marketing automation needs, while being built on a decoupled architecture that increases release agility and velocity.

A need for change

With the advent of Digital Experience Platforms (DXPs) and the explosion in channels available for customer engagement, traditional Web Experience Management systems and Content Management Systems (CMS) are no longer adequate to meet the needs of tech-savvy marketers.

Gone are the days of monolith solutions that provided multiple technologies (CMS, analytics, and targeting) under a single umbrella. Brands now prefer the best-of-breed approach that collates the best in class across each category and ties them together in a secure and robust way.

What does the traditional view look like?

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A traditional CMS/WCM (content management system/web content management) typically consists of a back end (where content is stored and managed) and a front end (where the content is displayed to the end user using templates, themes, etc.).

What exactly is the “headless” approach?

The “head” refers to the front-end part of a solution.

A “headless” CMS doesn’t concern itself with the presentation of content. It allows users to select their choice of solution for displaying content and communicates with these front-end solutions via APIs (application programming interface). In other words, it exposes the content only via a set of pre-built plug-ins, and the architecture is separated from the broader user experience. Thus, a headless CMS provides the freedom to create an outstanding front-end experience using advanced front-end technologies by decoupling the technology architecture and the user experience. This helps life sciences brands to focus on customer experience (CX) first and use technology only as a means to deliver experience.

MACH – a decoupled approach for better results

The need for decoupled implementation and advancements in cloud-based solutions led to the advent of MACH architecture. MACH (Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless) architecture is a collection of technology principles that allows building composable, pluggable, scalable, and replaceable best-of-breed solutions.

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Let’s explore these 4 components in a little more detail below:

Microservices: A microservices-based architecture enables to build applications using small, independently developed, deployable, and scalable services. These services are built to provide a single specific service that is independent and loosely coupled with other services. They communicate with each other via APIs, allowing users to create an application using these “composable” services that meet their needs. For example, sign-on and user authentication or product details are all microservices architecture based.
API-first: Although APIs are an integral part of microservices and headless architecture, the principle of API-first approach finds a very important place in MACH architecture. Traditionally, all web applications were developed using the approach of “code first” or building the core functionality first. The API-first approach deals with this exact problem. The idea is to develop the APIs first and then have all the consuming applications test the APIs using a “mock service” or a dummy web application. Once this is successful, the entire toolkit of API and design tools is implemented to deliver the actual features. For example, social media pages within brand websites are API-first.
Cloud-native: A major disadvantage of a monolith CMS is the need to accommodate frequent version upgrades. Failure to upgrade leads to a risk of exposure to vulnerabilities or losing out on the latest features. A cloud-native application built on SaaS or PaaS (Software as a Service or Platform as a Service) solves this problem. Most traditional CMS solutions now offer cloud services, but it’s not the same as being cloud-native. These vendors have merely deployed their applications from their data centers to the cloud infrastructure without many changes. Cloud-native means the applications were “born and raised” in the cloud. These applications are kept up-to-date with all upgrades, break fixes, service packs, and so on, and it’s mostly transparent to the users. For example, Google Analytics to monitor web performance is a cloud-native technology.
Headless: Headless is the defining feature of a MACH architecture. With headless architecture, developers use APIs to display code, content, design, app, and other kinds of functionality in whatever configuration that makes the most sense to their customers. By “decoupling” marketing content from the structure or style in which it’s displayed, an API-first headless CMS grants the flexibility to use any technology to craft user experience based on the consumer channel being used to drive engagement.

Why MACH matters in the life sciences industry

Life sciences marketers and brand teams are now being under pressure to focus on personalized and relevant experiences – and the web is a vital starting point. By leveraging MACH architecture, life sciences brands can

Increase agility for faster time to market
When consumers are switching between devices and engagement channels several times a day, you need to be ready to react. With a traditional CMS, marketing presentation and content experiences are tethered to a slow-moving back end that only caters to a single channel. However, with headless architecture, content updates and new channels can be created and implemented independently and at the individual touchpoint. Headless solutions also simplify replication and localization, accelerating new product and brand launch timelines and easing geographical expansion.
Enable seamless integration of new strategies, systems, and solutions providers
The scalable, interchangeable nature of headless CMS inspires innovation by integrating with new technologies seamlessly. When it’s time to bring a new device, digital marketing strategy, or service provider online, all IT needs to do is to engage flexible API layer to “plug and play” pretty much any new technology. This allows businesses the freedom to choose whatever solution they want to work with at any given time.
Deliver unified and seamless CX
Unified content delivery across mobile, web, and other IoT (Internet of Things) devices, as well as optimization and personalization extensions, make a headless CMS the best tool for delivering on-brand experiences at every point.
Empower independent and quick iterations
With a headless CMS, content managers can manage content without involvement from the development team. Marketing is empowered to innovate quickly and without the additional cost of IT hours. By decoupling front- and back-end systems, businesses can make changes to specific features without having to reconfigure or even touch the entire system.

The life sciences industry is facing an extremely high demand for content experiences that are personalized for the consumer and customized for their preferred channels. The only way to outpace it is to pursue digital marketing innovations that will transform the entire enterprise. An API-first, headless CMS is a game-changing innovation – and brands must explore this approach to achieve their overarching CX vision.

Author

Ravivrat Pandey
Ravivrat Pandey
Ravivrat Pandey

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