Decoupled, or ‘headless’ Content Management Systems (CMS), refer to the separation of the traditional content collection capabilities usually found in the CMS’ backend from the delivery of the experience (the front-end or “Head”.).
Customers want content to be available via a host of different devices. Decoupling the CMS makes it much easier for companies to re-publish their content across any number of channels, from websites to applications. But does headless CMS represent a genuine challenge to the established systems? Or should it be viewed rather as an extremely useful weapon in a full armoury of CMS functionality?
Headless CMS is a great tool for multi-channel strategies and will help your business to make better use of IoT. By delivering content to customers at the most relevant time, on the most relevant channel — whether that’s your website, social media channels, or application - you can create personalised and seamless digital experiences.
In this post, we discuss the benefits of a decoupled CMS in comparison to, and as part of, a traditional CMS. We’ll demonstrate how it can help you to deliver an innovative customer experience and keep your business ahead of its competition.
“Headless CMS is a great tool for multi-channel strategies and will help your business to make better use of IoT.”
Theo Paraskevopoulos, CEO, GrowCreate
The customer experience has never been more important to today’s organisations. As customers we enjoy unparalleled choice in how we consume goods and services. We expect instant access to whatever we’re looking for - at any time, from any location and using whatever device suits us best.
Organisations must be able to serve customers via the channel of their choice or face losing their business entirely. Across the board, companies are having to update their systems and infrastructure, such as their Content Management Systems (CMS), to provide users with the flexibility they require.
Traditional systems have long delivered content through solutions connected with the CMS on the back-end. This isn’t a problem if the user is only accessing content via one medium - a website - but today’s audience wants to view, stream, download and purchase content via any number of devices and applications.
Content must be distributed out from this central location to an array of channels. The problem arises when those devices use a different programming language to the CMS. Web developers may be working in one language, the mobile developers in another, and the social media team in a third, for example. Different channels require an entirely different skillset to get content to an alternative destination.
This had led to the rise of decoupled or ‘headless’ CMS systems.
Organisations must be able to serve customers via the channel of their choice or face losing their business entirely.
Traditional vs. Decoupled CMS
Traditionally, the backend of a CMS has been solely focused on content collection — allowing the user to perform tasks such as creating and formatting text, linking between pages and uploading images.
The front end of the system, or the ‘head’, then takes the content and publishes it to the user.
To decouple the CMS is to separate the content collection and the content delivery function. Decoupled or headless systems focus exclusively on content creation and do away completely with that publishing layer. Instead, developers can use Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to build websites and applications using their programming language or toolkit of choice - meaning they can republish the content on an array of devices or channels.
Why is decoupling becoming more popular?
There are several reasons why organisations are looking to increase the ways in which their content can be consumed. Using a decoupled CMS can give organisations the platform they need to use innovative technologies and reach their customers in relevant, timely ways.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Smart voice-activated devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home have already experienced rapid adoption since launching to the point that the analyst estimates that by 2020, almost a third of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen
Other popular IoT devices will include smart TVs, electric meters, thermostats and security systems. The ability to send and receive data from these devices will become a priority for companies. CIOs, for example, are increasingly interested in the concept of digital twinning, where virtual replicas of a physical product or service capture real-time information from a device’s sensors. Users can analyse this data, monitor their systems and eventually improve operational efficiency.
Multichannel and omnichannel
Legacy systems and siloed information can’t support personalisation and will frustrate the customer experience. ML algorithms feed on high volumes of data. For a CMS to support AI successfully, your data needs to be consolidated into a single place. You should consider putting a modern CMS in place or replatforming altogether to maximise success.
An omnichannel strategy centres on making that experience truly seamless. From a user perspective, a retail mobile app should be consistent with the design of the website, as well as the look and feel of a physical store. The customer experience needs to be seamless.
Businesses that adopt omnichannel strategies report greater year-over-year customer retention rates, and see increased revenues compared to those that don’t.
A decoupled CMS means companies can reach more customers and meet those same customers at multiple touchpoints in their user experience.
“Today’s empowered customers expect seamless brand interactions across every touch point, forcing organisations to replace outdated thought-processes and legacy systems with new ways of doing business.”
Brendan Witcher, Vice President, Principal Analyst, Forrester
Making the case for the CMO
Gartner describes customer experience as the new marketing battlefront. Marketing leaders responsible for customer experience are under pressure to deliver results and must step into stronger leadership and collaboration roles to produce results.
Customer experience is shaped by the multiple touch points that customers have with a company, such as pre- and post-sales, interacting with the website, the digital experience, and the customer services department. If an organisation is struggling with a legacy system that fails to communicate with customers at every touch point, or makes integration between systems difficult, it can contribute to poor customer experience. This inhibits growth and prevents the business from achieving its overall objectives.
Using a decoupled system as part of an enterprise, fully-integrated CMS helps the CMO deliver an innovative and immersive customer journey. The headless aspect of a CMS allows marketers to push the same content to different devices, irrespective of the programming or technology used. With a decoupled system, marketers can truly ‘create once, publish everywhere’.
81% of marketers say that within two years they expect to be competing mostly or completely based on customer experience
With a decoupled CMS, marketers don’t need to spend so much time waiting for developers to make CMS web-based templates when it comes to supporting an omnichannel strategy. These same systems, however, should leverage technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create a truly personalised experience for the customer, as well as the flexibility scalability provided by the Cloud.
If a CMS is lacking the functionality to help companies meet these increasingly complex customer requirements, an organisation may consider either redesigning their user experience (UX) or re-platforming to another system entirely Episerver is a great platform that can offer businesses a hybrid solution
Marketers should look to a future-ready system such as Episerver’s which has added headless functionality to its CMS with no additional charge. A Solution Partner like GrowCreate can help marketers get the most from their traditional CMS. An innovative user experience can still be delivered using a traditional CMS, but it requires close collaboration and shared goals between the marketing and IT department.
Making the case for the CMO
A decoupled CMS can also benefit an organisation’s IT professionals. Importantly, utilising a decoupled system signals the end of the siloed content. Where it was previously trapped in the CMS where no-one could touch it or derive any value from it, developers were forced to write a web interface to access the content.
Headless means you no longer need dedicated internal resources such as the IT department – to make the content available. The IT team can focus on their own business objectives and achieve wider business objectives, rather than being tied down with multiple projects.
Elsewhere, there are different routes to take when developing a new mobile app. If using a headless system, developers can pick the most suitable, cost-effective technology, and know they will spend less time on maintaining the system and more time working on other revenue generating areas of the business.
CIOs are under pressure when it comes to leveraging technology to realise cost savings, improve productivity and gain the upper hand in a competitive marketplace. IDC predicts that by 2019, 60% of CIOs will complete infrastructure and application re-platforming using Cloud, mobile, and DevOps, clearing the deck for accelerated enterprise digital transformation.
A headless system can also help the CIO take advantage of new technologies such as IoT as part of their wider digital transformation ambitions.
IDC predicts that by 2019, 60% of CIOs will complete infrastructure and application re-platforming using Cloud.
Why businesses should choose Episerver
Its new headless API offers a hybrid architecture for coupled, decoupled, and headless scenarios beyond the user’s website.
A comprehensive REST API and extensive integration points surround Episerver CMS to project the content into any number of applications. With the content separated from the delivery layer, organisations are free to choose the tools, frameworks, and technologies necessary to provide the best possible customer experience in every channel.
Episerver enables the user to pull content directly from the CMS, bypassing the presentation stack when necessary. It can:
- Provide content for a native app, integrate with a Point-of-Sale (POS) system, or manage content for legacy platforms within Episerver.
- Quickly launch a mobile app with the same logic as your website by decoupling the frontend.
- Make parts of your application usable by voice APIs like Cortana, Alexa, or Siri.
The key point to remember is that headless isn’t a product, but a feature within an enterprise-class CMS platform. The line between coupled, decoupled and headless can be blurry, and an implementation will often employ more than one architecture.
A hybrid scenario is common. Organisations will still need a mature CMS platform that will let teams create, manage and approve content in relation to having headless capabilities.
Marketers should still use the CMS that is best for collecting content and enabling editorial workflow - then they can take advantage of headless capabilities to deliver that content via whichever marketing channels they choose. Episerver allows for both: traditional coupled website delivery, and headless/decoupled API delivery. Episerver is headless when you need it to be, and a fully-featured coupled CMS when you don’t.
A decoupled CMS presents many great opportunities to companies, but it is only one part of a holistic solution. The goal, ultimately, is to deliver the right content, to the right user, on the right device, to meet the demands of the modern customer experience.