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How the content arms race is killing legacy CMS

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Bakhtiar Zein)

Customer experiences are now fragmented beyond the grasp of most businesses.  Providing a seamless customer experience as consumers continue their conversation from chat to email to Twitter to some new app virtually unknown to anyone over 16, and doing it all at scale, is a staggering task. 

And it is no easier when it comes to content creation.  Marketers then face the issue of finding the budget and coordinating the people needed to keep content fresh and current across various local websites and growing social media channels.

The net result is a business-critical race to provide content-driven experiences that attract and engage consumers. And the first obstacle for many businesses is to go beyond the limitations of traditional content management systems (CMSs) and web content management platforms (WCMs or sometimes “WEMs”).

The context of the modern content experience 

The modern content environment is incredibly demanding. Most of the history of content distribution was via the same handful of predictable formats: Print, TV, and radio. Then came the World Wide Web. Nothing much changed at first — businesses simply put a “billboard” on a static website in addition to on the side of the road. Then, the first 3G-connected smartphone hit in the year 2000, and everything changed. 

Now consumers can watch videos on watches, use hand-held computers to chat with customer service reps, and order items directly to their homes with a few taps on a digital in-store kiosk.

Consumption skyrocketed in the shadow of COVID-19. A survey of 10,000 people across Europe and the U.S. found that, since the pandemic began, the average daily digital content consumption per person reached nearly seven hours. Over 40 percent of consumers said they were using connected televisions more often, 48 percent were on social media more frequently, and 43 percent were spending more time watching videos — on YouTube, specifically. 

Today, readily available mobile devices and internet connectivity have accustomed everyone to consuming brand content and, often, making purchases anytime and anywhere. This omnichannel delivery is the bedrock of the modern content experience. 

For marketers, the content experience can be more concisely defined as the sum of the interactions a consumer has with this content — ideally, as they move toward a purchasing decision. And the growing number of interactions and types of content all lead to one thing: Developing a platform for managing all of them.

What is a “content experience platform”? 

A content experience platform is a “control center” for all things content — content creation, management, deployment, and the various content operation tools that feed business intelligence into the content development and deployment process. 

To handle the pace of change, a modern content experience platform is composable, built on MACH (Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native, Headless) principles. 

This enables content experience tools to be individually plugged in, updated, removed, and rearranged as needed, be they data platforms, personalization software, analytical apps, or content management tools needed to create omnichannel-ready content that meets consumers where they are. 

This is necessary because content and the devices upon which consumers access it continue to change, so businesses must continually adapt to keep up.

The four pillars of a CXP 

While each organization’s CXP tech stack will be unique, there are four foundational components:

Headless CMS

A modern CXP is fundamentally reliant on a MACH-based, headless CMS.  This is because, between its content capabilities and composability, a MACH headless CMS is the foundation from which a business can create and push omnichannel content.

Critically, a MACH headless CMS separates the process of creating and managing content from the way that content is formatted and distributed. It uses application programming interface (API) technology to connect the front-end display layer to the back-end content repository. 

The modular design means that marketing teams can create content once and reuse it for multiple platforms, using APIs to deliver the content to any device or channel, from websites and social media platforms to customer relationship management databases and beyond. 

This API-driven approach also provides a flexible architecture that allows a business to plug in any microservice — including best-of-breed content solutions — without expensive and time-consuming development costs.

Data Management Software

Although standard web analytics and A/B testing still have a place in a well-built marketing tech stack (think Google Analytics or Optimizely), building a CXP is all about leveling up and making it unique to a business. The more data a business can collect and use, the more value the data will generate when integrated into the CXP to inform content creation and distribution.

Linking a headless CMS to a modern customer relationship management database that tracks leads through the sales funnel (such as Zendesk) and a customer data platform that supplements your customer profiles (e.g., Evergage or Exponea) can help ensure accuracy and generate insights faster.

By bringing together the critical components of a modern CXP, a business can be sure it will outpace legacy enterprise tech.

Personalization Tools

Personalization is a must-have in the modern CXP — especially in today’s omnichannel content environment where customers expect their experiences to be frictionless and consistent. 

Personalization is all about customizing what consumers see based on their behavior and characteristics, and studies show that it pays dividends.

Research by McKinsey shows that industry leaders in personalization have increased revenue by up to 15 percent. Similarly, a study by Accenture found that 91 percent of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that recognize, remember, and provide relevant offers and recommendations.

Personalization is data-driven. It requires collecting data about individual customers from various places and storing it to make it easy to analyze and act on the findings. For brands with thousands or even millions of unique customers, personalization is a job for technology.

In addition to the data management tools detailed in the previous section, platforms like Hubspot and applications that tap into supercomputers like IBM Watson are a great addition to a CXP. They further support content personalization by automating everything from sentiment analysis to keyword extraction — allowing a business to deliver the right message to the right customer at the right time. 

Augmented and Predictive Analytics Platforms

As consumers live more of their lives online, their data footprints continue to grow. And that means there is more data than ever before that a brand can use to generate valuable business intelligence.

The challenge of collecting, cleaning, organizing, and analyzing that data is best left to AI-driven tools that make light work of turning data into actionable insights.

Augmented and predictive analytics platforms rely on machine learning to build analytical models that will help determine what kind of content-driven experience each consumer desires.

Augmented analytics use these models to identify patterns that human analysts would easily overlook. For example, augmented analytics can scan, evaluate, and summarize all content published on a particular topic during a specific time.

Predictive analytics takes a similar approach to identify trends using machine learning models to determine what customers are likely to do or want next. This process can suggest actions; for example, it might recommend sending a perfectly timed, customized email that can turn a good content experience into a great one.

With the addition of smart personalization and analytics tools to a content experience platform, a business will be ready to run circles around competitors with highly personalized, omnichannel-ready content experiences.

CXPs are the new front line in understanding the customer, seeing an interaction from their perspective, and gaining a true understanding of how it feels to do business with an organization -and from that understanding flows better business and profitability.

Sonja Keerl, Global Head of Product Marketing, Contentstack

Sonja Keerl is director of product marketing at Contentstack and vice-president of the MACH Alliance.