Industry Insights

WCM is the Holy Grail of Fully Implemented Personalization

Last November, here at CMS-Connected, in one of my previous articles, I asked the question: “what has taken personalization so long to become mainstream?” and tried to shed light on the common impediments. Since then, we have asked this question to customers, partners, and Web Content Management (WCM) vendors we have interviewed. In light of the feedback received, today, I would like to discuss how to utilize WCM to deliver personalized content and optimize personalized digital experiences.

In both B2B and B2C situations, visitors increasingly expect a customized digital experience regardless of who they are, where they’re located, or what device they’re using. For content providers, this means that relevant, meaningful content has to be identified and served on demand, in order to respond to each unique customer situation. To do so, changing the way of content publishing alone wouldn’t move the needle as the whole process of managing and orchestrating content should evolve. Forrester, on the other hand, sees WCMs as vital software that “delivers the content soul of your digital experiences.” This increasing demand for personalized and contextualized experiences naturally sets a domino effect in motion of rising WCM vendors to adopt stronger, more tightly integrated personalization capabilities through either acquisitions or from building the capabilities in-house.

Now the question is, what is stopping marketers from taking advantage of web content management systems to manage the customer experience when the obvious interest for personalized experiences has been disclosed and the technology to execute it is available to everyone? The answer is that in reality, thriving fully implemented personalized marketing is not that simple. For some, the hurdle is that there is a disconnect in data from web content management and commerce systems.

Even though the success remains in the eye of the beholder, to me, there is still a misconception when it comes to achieving personalization. Obviously, just because you send emails to your audience by greeting them by first name doesn’t mean you embrace personalization. Similarly, creating 10 very broad personas doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels in terms of personalization either. They are just considered baby steps of your digital content evolution. The Holy Grail that will transform those baby steps into a walk and then a run, is the right web content management system.

“The democratization of capabilities has provided greater agility for marketers and enabled WCM to be formally regarded as key to delivering engaging digital experiences to multiple audiences,” wrote Gartner authors Mick MacComascaigh and Jim Murphy in a report. It means that today, WCM platforms are the gravitational center of digital experiences. On the other hand, there are still so many untapped capabilities that almost every single major WCM platform has. Let me remind or introduce you to the most critical ones:

Descriptive Metadata

To scale your personalization, you will definitely need strong metadata practices. Manual tagging systems have been commonly used in over 93% of organizations, according to Concept Searching. The problem with this system is that it’s mostly incorrect, subjective, and outdated. It is also ineffectively used as the majority selects the first option from a drop-down list, regardless of whether or not it is applicable. Since the end user is mostly the reason of dysfunctionality, the solution would be eliminating the human factor from the process. After all, an organization shouldn’t rely on end users in hopes they readily know all the record codes. The auto-classification capability tags content and identifies the most relevant knowledge assets for repurposing and reuse. Therefore, having a WCM enabling organizations to automate the classification of documents of record either through its baked-in feature or integration with an enterprise search platform would be a wise choice.

How does it work? For example, when a classification criterion is met for a document of record, it triggers the rule to send it to the records management application and to the owner of the record. The platform will automatically change the content type to the type of record, listing the multi-word terms that were used to classify the document. Using metadata tagging and auto-classification results in qualitative content optimization as organizations can make sure that no records are omitted or mistagged, even when the end user is removed from the process.

Open APIs

API stands for Application Programming Interface and allows the exchange of data between different systems. In other words, an API is a software intermediary that makes it possible for application programs to interact with each other and share data. Open API has two distinctive benefits. First, with open APIs, you can integrate your CMS with other internal and external systems such as ERP, CRM systems that you already have in place. If you have an e-commerce website, for instance, you might want to facilitate a connection between your CMS and your payment processing systems. To do so, you will need to have either out-of-the-box connectors between the CMS and your other systems or technical team that can build the integrations the business needs. Integrating your system is very critical for executing fully implemented personalized marketing because you need as much data as you can get and the other applications in place have their own database that can tell so much about your audience.

By 2020, Gartner estimates tens of billions of everyday devices will be equipped with sensors to process and analyze data. So the second advantage of open APIs ties up with this expected trend. An app developer, for instance, can build a targeted app using existing content to drive a business value. In that way, you can repurpose the existing content in an eBook, on websites, mobile, native apps, Facebook Messenger, and other platforms. In other words, open APIs make it possible to deliver content beyond the web.

Flexible Content Repositories

By now, as we all know, the days of single channel user engagement are long gone. So marketers must take advantage of consumers’ obsession with their mobile devices. With these many channels and devices available, it is getting so overwhelming for marketers and content creators to be concerned about how every single front-end displays content. In fact, they should work with structured content and that’s where repositories come into play as they make any type of content structured and accessible. With the structured content, marketers and content creators can separate their content into independent parts so every separate entity can be edited independently or repurposed. From there, from recommendations to creating semantic relationships between pieces of content, the combinations are endless. At the end of the day, having all these options do not only bolster user experiences but also create more opportunities to monetize the content.

Multilingual Capabilities

You cannot get personal enough when you are not able to speak the same language with your target audience. In fact, a recent study from Common Sense Advisory showed that 84 percent of consumers are more inclined to purchase products online when related information was presented in their own language. As a bilingual and a non-native English speaker, I definitely agree that interacting with your customers in their native language has a huge impact on decision making and, more importantly, brand loyalty. I am not the only one, obviously as 48% of business and IT professionals are planning to move to a global content operating model within the next 24 months, according to 2016 Forrester Consulting study commissioned by SDL that surveyed 151 organizations across the U.S. As global markets are becoming increasingly diverse and connected, the WCM vendors have been rolling out very sophisticated multilingual capabilities. The most important aspects that buyers should be aware of:

  • The ability to fully customize URLs for findability.

  • The support for more translations than you currently need to have a future-proof digital ecosystem.

  • A language switcher so the user experience wouldn’t be interrupted once the language has switched.

Persona Scoring

A persona symbols a subset of contacts that share similar behavioral patterns. Within the system, you can define rules to score those patterns. Scores are measured as points that a contact earns when completing a certain activity or interaction within the site. As a result, the data collected can be translated into meaningful insight for marketers. If your organization has multiple websites built on the same WCM, you also need to consider multisite data tracking which separates data centers so irrelevant data wouldn’t dilute the findings of consumer behavior on a specific website. In other words, it isolates customer journey data for each website.

There are so many different scenarios as every business has various objectives and needs. However, these features all helps organizations put many aspects of personalization together so they can embrace fully implemented personalized marketing. Nevertheless, the technological capabilities are one thing, the content strategy is another. Before jumping on the personalization bandwagon, you must document your strategy so you would know what you will need. With regard to content strategy for personalization and optimization, my co-worker Laura Myers and I interviewed Megan (McCarthy) Gouveia, Sr. Manager Digital Marketing, Personalization & Optimization at Progress during the SitefinitySummit 2017 event, which took place in downtown Boston, with over 150 partners and customers earlier last month:

Megan believes that organizations should go all in and experiment. From my interpretation, what she means is committing to personalization a hundred percent, as partially commitment will never help organizations thrive with this task. Another good point she made was the importance of omnichannel. Even though the concept has been around for years, she thinks that as marketers, we still have a long way to go in order to take advantage of all the benefits. I could not agree more with her. After all, it is no secret that separation of channels often leaves customers frustrated and confused. Considering that today, 91% of customers want to pick up where they left off from one channel to the next, disconnection between departments and channels is not something today’s consumer really wants to tolerate and especially millennials are not really known for their high tolerance and loyalty.


Engaging with your customers on a personal level is not an easy task, at all. When you even consider your personal relationship with people who you are trying to get to know, you can easily put this into perspective. So when orchestrating these dynamics is that challenging even for individuals, as a corporation, expecting to get there and have them create business with you just because you run a couple of advertisements here or post a few blog posts there is obviously not realistic. On the other hand, delivering personalized and contextualized experiences shouldn’t be seen as just a challenge as it is imperative for businesses in so many industries.  Good news, the technology caught up so all you need to do is bring your A game and keep experimenting how you could leverage it as you go. Also, it is important not to forget that there is an exchange of very profitable benefit to the organizations for a good deal of time and effort.

Venus Tamturk

Venus Tamturk

Venus is the Media Reporter for CMS-Connected, with one of her tasks to write thorough articles by creating the most up-to-date and engaging content using B2B digital marketing. She enjoys increasing brand equity and conversion through the strategic use of social media channels and integrated media marketing plans.

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