Earlier this month we launched Fastr Frontend, the first Frontend-as-a-Service built for business users. Today our visionary Zmags product leaders Ryan Breen (CTO) and Allison Vernerey (VP, Product) broke down the challenges faced by ecommerce marketers that inspired the platform and the exciting ways our customers are using it to speed up experimentation and drive customer engagement and conversion.
What we hear consistently is that everyone has developer constraints. Marketers, merchandisers – every part of an ecommerce business - every team needs development support. And developers are drowning with all the work needed across the business. On top of that, most folks have fewer people on their team than they did last year which means resources across the board are tighter.
So what does that mean for your storefront? You might have a lovingly curated homepage, but two clicks in on the category page, things get boring. It gets worse the deeper you go – the most important part of your site, the product pages, all look the same and must be kept simple to accommodate your various products and the information you need to display.
And because of the aforementioned developer constraints, the template for those pages often isn’t touched more than once a year, if that. The inability to change the look and feel on these pages with any regularity makes these pages feel stale and monotonous – not the best way to drive engagement or conversion.
To address these challenges, we built Fastr Frontend.
What does Frontend-as-a-Service (FEaaS) mean?
There are related terms like digital experience composition. If you think of everything else you use to run your ecommerce website, it’s some managed service offering. Nobody is building their own ecommerce backend or personalization engine. That’s not what makes your business move forward – they're the tools you use to build your own business.
These "as-a-service" tools for business users have existed for a while now for everything but your ecommerce frontend. Maybe you have a monolithic stack and you’re stuck in rigid templates. Or if you’ve already moved to a new modern headless CMS, you find you need developers for everything. Other frontend-as-a-service platforms are built for developers; the platform handles the performance pieces but still requires coding and reliance on SDKs.
That’s why we think offering the ability to build and experiment with the frontend without relying on developers is so critical for businesses today, regardless of your current tech stack. Even on Cyber Monday, you could run 10 experiments across your site and not worry, because you know your FEaaS has built a highly performant delivery system that makes your publishing process seamless.
What we’ve always offered through our Creator Studio platform is the ability to create gorgeous content and break free from the limitations of templates. But, until now, those experiences couldn’t be dynamic based on business logic. That power is what Fastr Frontend gives you. And you don’t need to undergo a full re-platform or migration to get that value.
Importantly, we’re not a “Frontdoor-as-a-service” – this isn’t just the first few pages of your site. You can now be creative and deliver data-driven experiences on mission critical pages – like product and category pages. You can’t guarantee a user won’t enter your site through a backdoor directly to a product page, so it’s important to make that a strong brand experience just like your homepage.
How are ecommerce marketers using Fastr Frontend?
Our customers are already seeing great success and coming up with creative new use cases all the time.
Using Fastr Frontend, Urbanstems can get to market 12x faster than before when they had to work through their development team. And, the experiences the content team has built have led to impressive results, including a 20% increase in conversions.
Even simple sounding things like having 4 columns instead of three, adding the interactive effects that they wanted, and having a category and a subcategory to better filter – these were limitations of their templates. Now, with Fastr Frontend, they can do it in just a few hours and get it live in less than a day.
We love seeing our customers take more control of their site. They’re in the midst of a big re-platform and their dev team is focused on that. All the while, their content director can be focused on the site experience, without losing time.
Another longtime Creator Studio customer and early customer of Fastr Frontend is Artistic Tile. They brought us a tricky business problem on their product detail pages (PDPs) . All of the gorgeous tile they sell requires additional products – grout, mortar, sealers, etc. The product page has simple text tables that display information but don’t even link to the complementary products.
Working with Artistic Tile and their agency, Wondersauce, we were able to surface specific products on the PDP that their customer was most likely to need. And it’s all automated – they don’t need to manually design each page individually. They’re now talking about recommending specific quantities based on the amount of tile in the cart.
That’s one of the things we love the most about this process – businesses can start with something specific that they’ve wanted to do. Once they have that, then the new ideas flow. They might try the same concept in more places or try new experiences, always thinking about what can make it a better experience for the customer. Even new things can be easy extensions of what you’ve already built. You can iterate and add incremental value for your site, and you don’t need to plan too far ahead. Because you don’t need a developer to build it all for you in advance, you can come up with new ideas any time.
The Challenges to Solve
In the end, we’re doing nothing if we’re not solving actual problems that ecommerce marketers have. We know everyone wants to create the best personalized and engaging multi-channel brand experiences. But it’s not easy. We’ve found four common reasons most ecommerce marketers can’t:
Fear of impacting site performance which means a poor customer experience
They can’t easily access their data or systems to make experiences more personalized
Only developers can do things that are key to improving the customer experience
Too few developer resources makes it take too long to deliver on key business needs
And by the way, developers feel it the most. This is not about them not delivering – they have tons to do. If there’s a better way for ecommerce marketers to build these experiences and test, why not give that relief to the development team? Let them focus on critical infrastructure and daily operations.
What is the Fastr Frontend Platform?
There are a couple cross-platform foundational features like Content Control and the Core Web Vitals Accelerator. Content Control is an enterprise-wide dashboard that allows you to manage every content element and every experience in one place, at scale. The Core Web Vitals Accelerator ensures optimal site performance by making sure the latest technologies and file formats are used. We’re constantly focused on performance – we have a team working on it every day, looking at how we can continue to make things just a little bit better as new technologies arise.
There are four platform pillars:
Creator– our existing customers will recognize this. You don’t have to have templatized content on your site and there’s no need to compromise your brand vision. We have an amazing new design editor that lets you build directly in the platform with access to all the same functionality you’re used to in other tools as well as the unique interactive elements that you want to employ. We also have design transform capabilities so you can easily bring your existing designs from Figma, Sketch, or Adobe into the platform.
Integrator – We can now connect your beautiful content to anything in your backend. Your pricing, for example, can automatically update – and be styled exactly as you want it. You could bring in a whole blog post – anything you want to display can be brought in via your existing tech stack. And we don’t just say “here are some APIs, build it yourself” - we get you connected and accessing that data in days by starting with the few critical pieces of data you need to get started. More can be added along the way.
Orchestrator – This is where you set your rules and conditions. You can show different pictures based on specific criteria, or you could look at your inventory levels to determine which products to showcase. Using a straightforward behavior management UI in the platform, you can say what data you want to look at when, and what to do based on it.
Distributor – In the end, those dynamic experiences have to go out into the world. As a modern global brand, you want it to display well on both desktop and mobile, and you may want to adjust your localized content for sites in different countries, regions, or languages. You can upload or build translations for your experiences at scale ensuring that both the content and page urls publish correctly for each user.
As a business user you can take on all these roles – you're not blocked. You can be all of them, or different members of your team can control different parts.
See it in Action
Access our on-demand recording of the full webinar to see some of the above use case examples live, and enjoy a full demo of the platform’s capabilities. You’ll see the Content Control Dashboard; the intuitive Editor – including how to use components for global updates, leverage preset typographies to ensure brand compliance, and build placeholders for dynamic content; how to manage behaviors and orchestrate your experiences; and finally, how to manage translations for global sites and one-click publish in minutes.