From monolithic to headless for a richer digital experience

Although their existing WordPress website was functional, NZMA firmly believed they could achieve better commercial outcomes by delivering their prospective customers a richer, multi-channel digital experience.

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The Client: NZMA

NZMA is a New Zealand-based tertiary education provider focused on providing practical courses that transition students into careers they can thrive in. Each year they enroll thousands of students in courses that range from eSports to floristry.

In New Zealand, tertiary education is an extremely competitive space, and the NZMA website is the entry point for most prospective students. The performance of the NZMA website and its ability to engage with prospective students has a direct material impact on the business's overall performance.


The Challenge: Creating an agile, easy-edit platform

As the primary entry point for prospective students, NZMA's website has specific performance and conversion criteria. Their metrics are continuously measured, edited, tested, and optimized by their team of digital marketers to ensure the site is meeting its performance metrics and constantly improving. 

In 2021, NZMA set out to deliver a world-class human experience on a new CMS to improve their conversion rates and generate quality leads. While their existing WordPress site was functional, they believed they could achieve better commercial outcomes through a richer, multi-channel experience — an experience that a headless CMS could help them create. 

The new site needed to offer a rich, highly adaptable experience and meet specific cybersecurity and performance requirements, plus integrate with NZMA's existing enterprise systems. Finally, NZMA required easy content authoring tools for the digital marketing team to continue to test and evolve the website content without ongoing developer or costly agency support. 

While Contentful provided a powerful platform to deliver the world-class experience that NZMA sought, the headless structure raised concerns around their ability to react to their data and make changes to the front end in-house. This is the challenge for any organization considering implementing a headless CMS because a headless CMS does not, by definition, have a 'head' in the traditional sense. A completely custom front end — the solution many enterprise businesses choose to deliver their site on Contentful — was expensive and would create a barrier for the marketing team, who needed the control and flexibility to make changes themselves through low code/no code tools.


Why NZMA chose Octana and Contentful

Ability to react
  • Easy content authoring tools for the centralized digital marketing team to respond to data and change the site content and structure themselves. 

  • Ready-to-use, customizable, and branded design assets for high-speed page delivery across web and mobile without writing a line of code. 

  • The ability for marketing to "own" the website through low-code/no-code tools.


  • Octana + Contentful provided a highly scalable and secure platform that met NZMA's IT compliance and cybersecurity requirements.

  • Easy integration with the existing enterprise systems.

  • The ability to create an SEO-friendly site with proven performance capability.

  • Secure, cloud-based platform with low IT maintenance overhead.


  • A more cost-effective initial build than a custom front end. 

  • A lower long-term total cost of ownership thanks to Octana's no-code tools, reducing the need for developer input or agency support.


In their selection process, the team considered various technologies to support its vision and weighed up both monolithic and headless CMS options. Traditional monoliths were eliminated early in the process due to security, performance, and scalability concerns, leaving headless technologies as the technology of choice. In selecting a headless platform, NZMA considered a range of vendors but ultimately settled on the combination of Contentful and Octana. Together, they met all of the security and performance requirements while keeping the total cost of ownership down and providing NZMA’s digital marketing team with the tools they needed to react and deliver constantly changing content.

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"Without Octana in the technology stack, the team would have needed to build a complete custom website that would carry a long-term total cost of ownership (TCO) we didn’t want."


Successful outcomes

  • The site took just 12 weeks from site design to launch, including content creation and authoring. The speed exceeded NZMA’s company expectations. 

  • Since launching, the new experience has delivered a 20% reduction in bounce rate. 

  • The ability to react quickly to data and deliver a richer experience has helped drive a 32% improvement in lead conversion rate. 

  • The new technology stack lowered the cost-per-click of digital media spending through better quality scores for landing pages, allowing for a better ROI.

  • The improved digital enrolment process allowed NZMA to deliver an experience that engages the audience and empowers them to enroll.

  • The flexible content authoring reduced the need for marketing to engage developer resources as they evolved the site to meet new campaign requirements.


“The key deciding factor for NZMA was the role Octana plays in delivering a content-rich experience the marketing team can manage themselves without ongoing support from developers. With Octana, the team can plan, create and execute marketing campaigns from scratch with no input from IT, which is a huge step forward.”

Phil McKracken | Project Lead, NZMA


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