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How the CMS Powers Smarter Headless Digital Experiences: A Fireside Chat With dotCMS and Myplanet

There's no question smarter interfaces should be part of any enterprise's digital ambitions. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 100 million consumers will shop in augmented reality, and 30% of web browsing will be done without a screen using voice. The two key differentiators in today's digital era, therefore, are hyper-personalization and unique customer experiences using innovative technology. 

When focusing on the digital experience, companies need to optimize across the entire customer journey - and technology is ready for this. The IoT has created a vast number of touchpoints that are opportunities to impact the customer experience, and investments in marketing technologies reflect this. In the past year alone, MarTech invest has grown by nearly 30%.

In this latest fireside chat, dotCMS's Stefan Schinkel spoke with Michael Younder, Head of Partner Operations at Myplanet, about the need for smarter digital experiences, and how a headless CMS fuels them.

Schinkel and Younder focus on why APIs are critical, the types of smarter interfaces currently being developed - from voice to AR/VR - and, how a CMS powers all of these experiences.

If you prefer reading, you can find the key points of the discussion below.

Why API-First Is Crucial For Smarter Interfaces

When it comes to enabling smarter interfaces, Schinkel believes an API-first CMS is critical. The headless approach can power omnichannel experiences through the rapidly increasing number of touchpoints, and deliver the hyper-personalized content prospects and customers are demanding.

Secondly, the solution for providing digital experiences needs to be highly performant. APIs can operate independently and are therefore extremely scalable and ready to meet increasing traffic demands as more devices come online.

Finally, NoCode APIs are critical for both marketers and IT teams. Even as a headless CMS, marketers need the tooling to deliver digital experiences without relying on IT. This empowers marketers to produce personalized content while letting IT teams continue to innovate and take advantage of emerging technologies or the latest digital touchpoints.

The Four Key Pillars of Smarter Interfaces

When it comes to smarter interfaces, Younder believes everything ties into content management and a robust CMS solution. In particular, there are four main pillars that describe how a CMS empowers digital experiences.

1. Embedding Artificial Intelligence: This means using AI to assist the user in doing what they need to do (assisted outcome) or having the system act on the user's behalf (agentive outcome). In both these cases, AI can be used to guide users along the customer journey.

2. Enabling New Interfaces: This means taking advantage of emerging technologies like voice and AR/VR to interact with customers using a greater number of touchpoints. Digital initiatives need to move beyond traditional mediums like websites and mobile towards future technologies.

3. Scaling To Meet Future Demand: In line with Schinkel's view, Younder believes an API-first CMS is critical for delivering a multimodal experience at-scale. The platform needs to be flexible as new devices come online, and adaptable for future demands.

4. Leveraging Data Automatically: interfaces need to be able to leverage data towards valuable outcomes. This means using data-driven AI to provide users with logical next steps or CTAs, which Younder refers to as the "best next action."

Smart Interfaces In The Real World

While there will no doubt be new channels or touchpoints as new technologies emerge, the current smart interfaces that Myplanet sees in use today ranges from voice to augmented reality and virtual reality. Beyond these use-cases, many businesses are finding ways to leverage data through artificial intelligence.

Voice & Conversation

Audio-based customer experiences are currently seeing the most significant growth. Conversational interfaces aren't entirely new, with text-based chatbots being popular for a while, but now voice is entering the mix. Voice technology is getting more natural sounding, and in combination with a headless CMS, it's possible to have highly configurable conversation-based chatbots that offer a better customer service experience.

Product Configuration With AR

Using tools like Apple's ARKit, companies can enhance the customer experience when it comes to highly configurable products. With AR, prospective customers can use their mobile device to turn their living room into a showroom. With content powered by a CMS, the user can configure the product in real-time and have a new and exciting shopping experience.

AR-based Immersive Endcaps

In the past, endcaps were promotional product displays at the end of aisles. With AR, customers could trigger 3d product displays by scanning codes with their mobile phones. This product could then be manipulated in a similar fashion to AR product configurations. More importantly, however, the CMS can provide AI-driven "best next actions" to the user from options and accessories to pricing and purchase options.

Virtual Reality Glasses

Using VR glasses, it's possible to give the user a new version of reality. Companies can send prospective customers the glasses and provide them with an idea of what a particular experience would be like. This could be anything from letting real estate buyers see the view from a property or giving travelers a sense of certain destinations. There could even be additional content or questions in the peripheral view that users can read and select from, again powered by a headless CMS.

All this content's tied back into the CMS, but suddenly everything comes to life as if they're actually there and it really empowers that decision-making.” - Michael Younder, Head of Partner Operations at Myplanet

AI-based Recommendations 

The idea of leveraging data and AI to give personalized recommendations isn't new. As technology develops, however, new AI-driven recommendations are possible. Using IBM's Visual Recognition Technology, for example, enables companies to scan social media photos for user insights. A travel profiler that Myplanet built reviewed social media against defined personas to recommend travel destinations to customers. Even more interesting, the AI gets smarter and can find new correlations within the data that reveals unique destination ideas for the travel company.

Getting Started With Smart Interfaces

While adoption for smarter interfaces is growing, Schinkel believes this is only the beginning. There's going to be many more interfaces developed for companies to use as customer experience touchpoints in the future. With that said, how do companies get started with these smarter interfaces now?

As a company focused on smarter interfaces, Myplanet sees a couple of common things that companies struggle with when getting started. Mainly it's companies not knowing what they don't know because the technologies are so new. Companies need to formulate a strategy before they get started with smarter interfaces, and for that, they need stakeholder buy-in. Companies see real progressive with new smart interface digital initiatives when there's at least one stakeholder heavily invested in the project. 

For AR specifically, Younder believes the rendering can be done in as little as a few weeks. But the strategy part takes much longer. You need to consider questions like: What do you want to render, what is your personalization strategy, and what market are you going after? In answering these questions, companies need to get all stakeholders involved from retail leaders to business strategists and company innovators.

As it stands today, Younder believes smarter interfaces aren't meant to replace traditional platforms like websites and mobile completely. At least in the near term, smarter interfaces will be used to supplement and enhance the user experience through older touchpoints.

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