Intercom provides a messaging platform that offers a customizable messaging suite. It is headquartered in San Francisco and has additional offices in Chicago, London, Dublin, and Sydney.
Intercom has around 30,000 paying customers in addition to 100,000 active users per month. It powers around 500 million conversations every month and works with tens of thousands of companies that include Shopify, Atlassian, New Relic, and Sotheby’s.
Over the years they have built a comprehensive brand identity. Yet it was reaching a moment in its growth where it was increasingly in need of a refresh. The issue, however, was that there were concerns that its content management system at the time would not be up to the task, given its hard-coded system.
Its content management system was, in fact, custom built due to the CMS environment at that time appearing too rigid for the needs of Intercom. So they went it alone. And it worked… up till a point.
Only their software developers were able to actually update content. And it caused bottlenecks in the marketing process – even when it came to the smallest of edits. In addition, the engineering team ended up having to develop a lot of custom pages that were awkward to manage.
Waiting time to push a page live from the sign-off of the design used to be two weeks. The actual deployment took 20-30 minutes.
Having a modern tech stack that is built for the 21st century and its corresponding requirements was going to be vital to achieve better things. Things such as greater flexibility for its content teams to write, publish, and update content; greater ability to test using A/B testing, and better abilities to speak with its new audience segments.
To level up and move faster, they set about discovering a content management system that could fit into their requirements – all 100 of them!
“There were a ton of stakeholders and people who this project was going to impact,” said Lauren Ottinger, product manager at Intercom, “from marketing, branding, content and demand generation to engineering.”
Among these requirements included fast build times, an easier user interface, and simpler steps for marketing team contributions.
As they whittled the possibilities down to around 20 content management systems, the team ran into its next decision: go traditional or go headless?
Intercom came to the decision that a headless content management system could be able to make content easy to update in marketing while making it easy to maintain by the software development team.
It came down to one finalist: the content management system of Contentful, with its out-of-the-box features, single modularity, and enterprise readiness.
“It all helps us iterate faster,” added Lauren, “do faster launches, support components more quickly. It’s pretty seamless, so that’s great.”
Intercom found confidence in the strength of the Contentful platform and could see their long-term future together. (Content management systems are not just for Christmas.)
With Contentful, Intercom’s creative team no longer were dependent on the development team, which facilitated the ability to scale their content. In addition, they could begin to build a reusable library.
“If you make your components too large and opinionated,” said Lauren, “then every single page looks exactly the same. If they’re too small, then they’re a little bit too flexible. A content author can shoot themselves in the foot by composing too many things together.”
They began by building a proof-of-concept in Contentfulfor its marketing page before pushing it live on the existing website of Intercom.
On the technical side of things, Intercom was able to drive down risks and roll out the project gradually instead of one huge switch from one system to another. This gave the development team a lot more control and in turn peace of mind as to the huge amount of work that was going to be needed.
And the results? “We saw a ton of really positive impact to the business,” added Lauren. For instance, their marketing team is now able to quickly make changes to content, translate text, and replace images on the site – all of which they couldn’t do before. More control has been given back to those that craft it.
The development team also benefited. Engineers were able to reduce their time on site deployment from a frustrating 20 minutes to a swift 90 seconds. On top of that, the average time of a page build accelerated from 2 weeks to 2 days.
And deeper into the technical aspect of the system switch, whereas the old site was built solely with Ruby on Rails, the current site is a server-side rendered React app that grabs the content from Contentful.