What to Expect from the Web Content Management Market
Do you ever feel like you still haven't figured out the last new, revolutionary, web content management tool that was rolled out a month ago, but experts and publications have already moved on and started discussing the new approaches that have come to light in the industry? Well, you are probably not alone as the market has recently experienced rapid changes and even though change is inevitable, we are here with a lending hand to fill you in on what’s happening in the Web Content Management (WCM) market and what to expect in 2017 and beyond.
Traditional content management systems are rigid when it comes to adding new delivery formats, like a mobile app or web-based application, developed outside of the CMS platform into the website as these platforms take care of the entire web experience. However, today, while developers are looking for maximum front-end flexibility, content creators do not want to be concerned about how every single front-end displays content. This emerging demand drove many WCM vendors to adopt the headless CMS approach.
When I asked Petr Palas, CEO at Kentico Software, in CMS-Connected's content management industry news forum if we’ll see a large amount of WCM vendors adopting a headless approach in 2017 or if the technology is still in its infancy? He said: “Yes, I expect that 2017 is the year when headless CMS concept will start going mainstream. There are currently two groups of vendors: traditional vendors who added an API element to their existing products and new coming vendors who built their CMS as headless from the ground up (often as a native cloud service). Now it's customers' turn to start adopting the headless approach and I believe we will see this happening much more often this year. Side by side with that, the new headless CMS products will continue to mature and become a viable alternative to those traditional.”
Another major edge provided by a headless CMS for content creators and marketers is that now content can also be separated into independent parts so every separate entity can be edited independently or repurposed. To learn more on the advantages and disadvantages of this approach, check out one of the most popular CMS-Connected articles titled The Ultimate Guide for Headless Content Management Systems.
Content in the Cloud
The major driving factor behind this trend is more or less the same as with the headless CMS: flexibility. Content management in the cloud offers greater flexibility for changing business needs, reduced IT costs and faster deployment speeds. Therefore, organizations are looking for WCM platforms hosted in the cloud, especially the ones that can free the customers from the burden of server maintenance, software upgrades, hotfixes, backups, rewriting code and managing plugins.
With regard to content management in the cloud, one emerging trend seen among the content management vendors is the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) concept, enabling users to have complete access to a cloud environment - servers and software - to develop, manage and run their applications. Today’s customers’ expanding demand necessitates an agility that on-premises software and infrastructures can’t always provide. As I stated in the first paragraph, the market moves rapidly and the last thing organizations want is to lock their IT teams down into the details on the technical delivery side instead of working on delivering an agile user experience to their online visitors.
Last year, we saw many vendors moved toward a PaaS version either through a partnership or developing their PaaS version in house. Hippo, for instance, used to provide an IaaS version, where it provided the ability to run Hippo in the cloud on various cloud-based infrastructures, but last July, the vendor is now providing a self-service PaaS version. And, is offered to be built on Amazon AWS and Docker technology. Sitecore, on the other hand, announced their plan to expand its partnership with Microsoft to leverage Sitecore’s Microsoft Azure cloud offerings by enabling customers to take advantage of the improved capabilities through Azure's cloud platform, including features aimed at delivering relevant, personalized engagements to customers. Sitecore Azure is built around Azure cloud services (PaaS) and allows for automatic deployment of web servers and SQL databases which can be deployed from an on-premise content editing server to any number of Sitecore Azure cloud services hosted at various Microsoft Azure locations globally.
This year, this trend will not fade away. If anything, we will see even more vendors launching or upgrading their Platform-as-a-Service offerings. In its latest Magic Quadrant report for Web Content Management, Gartner offered the vendors some suggestions based on the direction the WCM market is heading. One of those is: “Cloud-first strategies will win the day in the space.” In addition to the wide adoption of cloud-based technologies, IT is moving significant processing to the cloud with 85.9% of web content management, 82.7% of communications, 80% of app development and 78.9% of disaster recovery, according to the recent report published by MarketsandMarkets.
In 2016, we started seeing more and more content management system providers rebuilding their experience platforms around a commerce engine. Today, many vendors provide very viable commerce solutions either through acquisitions and strong partnerships or from building the capabilities in-house. All the major e-commerce platforms provide solid solutions with regard to managing transactions, however, the pressure to constantly and consistently keep in step with customer demands requires a seamless digital experience. Therefore, brands are after a rich content management system (CMS) built around a solid commerce technology. Episerver, for instance, announced three more additions to its Omnichannel Personalization Suite, based on its most recent acquisitions of Peerius, a provider of intelligent omnichannel personalization in the cloud, and Optivo, a provider of omnichannel campaign management and customer intelligence solutions. Additionally, Amsterdam-based Web CMS/digital experience platform Hippo was acquired by BloomReach, a California-based e-commerce personalization startup. As soon as the news broke, CMS-Connected reached to Jeroen Verberg, CEO and Co-founder of Hippo, and he said that the WCM industry is in need of deeper innovation and radical changes. To that point, he said that they had current plans to expand their engineering teams at three very different locations around the world.
This year, the market is expected to see more agile and beefed up e-commerce solutions provided by content management vendors. I mean, just yesterday, here at CMS-Connected, we reported on Sitecore’s new major version of its flagship Sitecore Commerce product. Hot on the heels of the new release, our Media Reporter, Laura Myers, interviewed Nate Barad, Director of Product Strategy at Sitecore, and he said: “The major issue Sitecore, a provider of digital experience management software, addressed with the new release is the gap between consumers and brands.”
Personalization technology is nothing new but unfortunately, it has generated more discussion than results until 2016. Last year, we saw all the major WCM vendors beefing up their platforms with personalization capabilities either through acquisitions and strong partnership or from building the capabilities in-house. So the availability of technology will no longer be the impediment but now the problem is that a few of those capabilities are actually put to use due to the complexity of deployment, under-resourced departments, and time-consuming implementation. Therefore, this year those vendors that make the personalization capabilities up and running for users will win. After all, organizations are still struggling with full embracement of more sophisticated personalization capabilities. Brendan O'Meara, Senior Director of Worldwide Retail at Microsoft, said in a statement: "Many retailers struggle with the challenge of delivering a seamless and personalized customer experience across touchpoints, especially amid a flood of competing technologies with different data sets across a host of new mobile, social, and wearable technologies."
To me, if personalization isn’t done at the individual level, it shouldn’t really be considered so. However, the wide adoption of personalization doesn’t only rely on technology but also omnichannel content strategy and customer journey because your personalization is only as effective as your weakest channel throughout that journey. One of Gartner’s suggestions based on the direction the WCM market is heading is that “outbound and inbound communications will be powered by WCM to make sure they are fruitful and relevant. Conversations that start earlier in the customer relationship will evolve with the ongoing journey of that customer.”
To learn more on non-technical hold-ups to personalization, check out this article titled What Has Taken Personalization So Long to Become Mainstream?
Disruption in the WCM space: Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence is not the future anymore as it has already been around for quite some time. However, in 2016, it significantly picked up the speed in many industries as companies try to figure out how to get things done in the most productive way by engaging with their audience more than ever, to generate traffic and leads. So at a very simplistic level, the main idea behind this technology is benefiting people by examining the past and current customer behavior, to then predict the future, in order to give insight on which area to focus on more or less. As a result, it provides new levels of productivity as businesses will be able to know which online visitors are most likely to purchase a particular product or which way is the best to engage with the target audience.
Hot on the heels of Bloomreach’s acquisition of Hippo, CMS-Connected also reached to CEO Raj De Datta to talk about the biggest motivation behind the deal. According to him, it all started when they saw a need for disruption in the web content management space which developed into a mission to extend personalization and relevant contextual experience to all digital business. To put it simply, they feel a lot of content management systems haven’t had enough intelligence built into them. He also pointed out that intelligence seems like a new conversation in the WCM space.
Today, with regard to content, organizations are leveraging the power of AI to do all sorts of things ranging from natural language generation, to content analysis, and to content optimization. MarketsandMarkets estimates that the AI market will grow from $420 million in 2014 to $5.05 billion by 2020, whereas Gartner predicts AI will become “the next battleground through 2020.” Therefore, enterprise software makers are in a cut-throat competition to bring predictive capabilities into their suites of products.
At the end of the day, every vendor has something to offer, considering every organization has its own unique needs and goals to meet. From vendors’ perspective, 2017 will be the year that they should focus on these areas mentioned above in an attempt of leveraging their users’ productivity and insight. From the users’ perspective, they should focus on having not the best technology but the right technology in place, depending on their current and future needs so they can set their businesses up to remain with or ahead of the curve over the next 5 to 10 years.