How Agencies Can Provide a Better Client Experience With Headless

June 2, 2021
Kaitlyn Ambrose

How Agencies Can Provide a Better Client Experience With Headless

June 2, 2021
Kaitlyn Ambrose
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As an agency, you know all too well the importance of consistently producing A+ work for your clients. And if you’re looking to offer headless commerce builds as part of your services, this means getting really great at three things:

  1. Executing on high-converting site builds that bring clients’ creative dreams to life,
  2. Ensuring clients have a positive experience during the build, and
  3. Creating workflows to empower clients to be independent   

So, how can you make this happen?

We spoke with one of our agency partners, Duncan Fairley, Co-founder of Form Factory, about the common pain points they see with clients and their monolithic ecommerce sites.

Here are some ways Shogun’s frontend-as-a-service offering (and going headless in general) has empowered Fairley’s team to do their best work while making it easier to build exceptional experiences. 

Duncan recently shared insights on our Scaling with Headless Commerce webinar.

On improving workflows and empowering clients

For in-house marketers, making updates to an ecommerce website can be nerve wracking. There’s the chance something breaks and impacts store revenue, or worse — you aren’t able to ship time-sensitive promotions because of blockers. As Fairley has noticed:

“We’ve met several ecommerce store owners, especially on Shopify, that live in fear of their frontend...Because templates aren’t normally built to be very modular, even small site updates become significant development projects. So many stores put off creating features until they do larger site redesigns.”  

Often, Form Factory’s clients have a desire for bigger and better ecommerce experiences, but things can reach a standstill once clients realize limitations they face with a traditional site architecture. 

“The ideas and ambition are there,” says Fairley. “And honestly, it’s hard to kill a great idea because of platform limitations.” 

Whether it’s nerves about opening their site’s code editor and playing around, or figuring out how best to leverage new video content, agencies often encounter silos and limitations around site flexibility within each in-house web team.  

For instance, a high-priority project for a brand’s marketing team might be a low priority for their in-house developers. Without development resources (or dev buy-in on an idea), an exciting site change to better the customer experience becomes a no-go.

As an agency, Fairley says it’s about enabling independence:

“One of the most important qualities we’ve observed among fast-moving ecommerce teams is autonomy,” says Fairley. “If the people responsible for merchandising and content can directly manage their own stores instead of relying on designers and developers, they just get more done.”

Overall, the exceptional experiences Fairley and Form Factory clients want to embark upon have (historically) remained just out of reach despite a strong desire to push the envelope. And it’s largely due to limitations with an inflexible, traditional ecommerce platform that isn’t scaling with the brand.

A headless storefront improves workflows and unlocks independence 

Since Form Factory began using frontend-as-a-service for their client’s headless builds, workflows are simpler. Because each site is built using templated components, after launching, clients can modify site sections on their own without additional developer help. 

“After the build [our clients] have a platform they can use on their own, and have the ability to do more interesting things with design, like embedding sleek, high-quality video throughout the site without slowing it down,” says Fairley. 

Form Factory uses Shogun Frontend, which has simplified their agency’s project management and allows them to do much of the prep work for their clients’ developer teams so they don’t have to. Instead, the in-house client dev team can focus exclusively on dev work instead of scoping features. 

It goes something like this: Form Factory collaborates on a feature with key stakeholders, preps and passes it off to the development team to build the components (just once, initially), and the result is reusable page sections with built-in controls that the client’s marketing and merchandising teams can use to change the look and feel of the site without going off brand. 

After decoupling their site’s frontend, clients can add video, reverse the order of a list of images, or change a background color — all without burdening developers.  The entire team has what they need to make their vision come to life. 

An excellent example of this is Form Factory’s work with premium accessories brand Nomad. Together, they created rich video content that can be dropped into pre-designed content blocks.

Screenshot of the '"inside" of Nomad's Shogun Frontend store

With Shogun, Nomad has a library of ready-to-use components they can combine to launch new products complete with rich visual content. Form Factory can focus their attention on innovative, forward-looking features and customer experiences while the Nomad team updates their site without assistance. 

“The range of possibilities in terms of what’s possible expands with Shogun and going headless,” says Fairley. “Content managers can position images without touching the code or change the color of an element without changing things that shouldn’t be changed. You’re over the hurdle of what’s possible.” 

With ready-made components aligned to the brand’s style guide, teams can avoid blockers, and can't break brand consistency. 

Managing multiple progressive web apps (PWAs) for multiple clients just got much easier. 

Want to learn more about how headless can simplify your team's workflows?

On unlocking creative freedom

Agencies want to make clients’ wildest creative dreams come true — whether it’s through rich merchandising or a really immersive UX.

But most traditional ecommerce platforms don’t have the flexibility needed to make substantial changes to design without heavy development. 

For many agencies, dealing with inflexible traditional ecommerce sites lead to frequent, delays with publishing the rich content they’d produced for their clients’ stores. 

How a headless storefront helps your agency say YES 

Because the best agency/client relationships happen when each side pushes the other to do their best — limited only by imagination — headless can be a great option for unlocking creative site designs

As Duncan joked, limits on creativity are a real buzzkill, but a decoupled frontend helps keep the dreamy brainstorm energy alive.

A great example of this is the Rugged Pet Tag product page from Nomad. This customer experience is a masterclass in the power of rich merchandising at work. Customers experience auto-updating imagery as they toggle between product colors, and see crystal-clear product displays complete with specs and relevant details. 

But what takes the cake is that customers can see a live preview of what their customized product will look like with their phone number and pet’s name engraved. 

Instead of customers having to mentally picture what their pet’s name and information would look like on the tag, this feature lets them see before they buy. That way, customers know precisely what they’re getting, and it’s exactly what they want. 

Form Factory and Nomad were able to dream up and create this dynamic feature at lightning speed — just three days — with Shogun. This kind of rich merchandising isn’t possible on traditional ecommerce sites because of platform restrictions, and especially not at this speed!

Not only can Form Factory implement their clients’ creative vision, but they can empower their clients to make creative decisions on their own. 

“With Shogun, things shift from, ‘I want to do this cool thing’ to ‘Hey, let’s talk about how we can build this feature in a smart way so we don’t have to reconvene until we need a refresh, not because we need something small updated or changed’,” says Fairley. 

The agency takeaways

Frontend-as-a-service is a great way for ecommerce brands looking to improve their online shopping experience by going headless. Not only does headless technology offer faster page load times, reduced latency, and richer merchandising opportunities, but it mitigates some significant issues like reliance on developers and limits on creativity. 

To recap, frontend-as-a-service providers:

  • Help your agency execute on a PWA build faster with a content management system (CMS) and an Experience Manager, so you can provide a better client experience, take on more client builds with fewer headaches, and think holistically about each site’s long-term management
  • Open up the realm of creative possibilities when designing and building your clients’ websites — you’re no longer shackled to cookie-cutter designs.
  • Help you empower clients with independence. They can now make updates, changes, and test components of their site without having to loop you in or continue to burden their in-house developers for quick fixes.

Learn more about how headless tech improves agency workflows.

Catch the replay of our webinar, Scaling with Headless Commerce.
Kaitlyn Ambrose

Kaitlyn works on all things content at Shogun. ⚡