Hybrid CMS: the answer to your team’s happiness

Digital experience is changing at a faster rate than ever, with new technologies and new channels popping up all the time. The one thing that remains constant through this change is the need for great content — but how that content is displayed and where it’s displayed has radically changed. 

The need to extend the reach of their content is driving organisations away from traditional content management system (CMS) and ecommerce platforms that lock content down in templates for websites. As organisations extend their client interactions across many different channels, the effort required to manage content in those channels is multiplied. This creates the dilemma of having multiple development and marketing teams to help manage not only the content, but also the look and feel of that content. In an era where you are constantly tasked to do more with less, we need to explore new ways to simplify and automate these tasks.

My customers often share stories of heavyweight enterprise systems that are not agile enough to keep up with the changing needs of the end consumer. They are stuck in an age of custom designing and coding templates, locking the creative spirit of their marketing teams into rigid templates. 

When a leader from marketing asks for a new look for a landing page for an upcoming campaign, the request is thrown on to a mile-high backlog. Instead of enduring the wait, the mentality is often: “I’m going to get a WordPress template and set up a subdomain to do exactly what I want.” Boom, another orphan is born into the world of content silos. The great copy that marketing wrote and the rich imagery they selected are stuck in there.

What if that marketing leader could create that content once and syndicate through any digital channel, and even extend that into social channels, digital signage, native apps or email? This concept of Content as a Service (CaaS) is catching on with some early adopters in the market who are seeing the possibilities of faster releases, reduced backlogs, decoupled presentation layers, and far richer consumer experiences. 

Before we go on, let’s unpack some of the industry buzz words and demystify the technical jargon in plain, marketer-friendly language.

Headless: Think back to marketing’s content for the blog. That great copy could also be used in email or social posts, which are the “head” to where the content is displayed. Traditionally you would author content in a CMS and publish to the website, but a headless CMS enables you to author content and publish to multiple “heads” at the same time.

Hybrid headless: The problem with creating on a headless CMS is that they often lack a live preview of how the content will look and don’t have a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor to provide an in-context view. Hybrid headless puts a front end on to the headless concept and lets the marketer work with templates using a drag-and-drop interface, as they are used to.

Monolithic or Traditional CMS: This is the traditional CMS most large enterprises have used over the past 10 to 15 years. Often they are installed on-premise, are feature-rich, but hard to maintain — and don’t allow innovation as fast as on cloud native platforms. Many of the major players in this space say they are headless, but what that really means is you install an upgrade where you get API access into content that sits in their asset tree structure. This is fine if you want to show content in another webpage, but if you want to dynamically extract content to be used in a chatbot, for example, then you need a true headless CMS. With a headless CMS, your chatbot might pull text, images, PDFs or videos dynamically back into the chat experience and render that content on the fly in the best manner for that channel. 

Back to our story… The beauty of hybrid headless is that marketers and developers both get to express their creativity. The marketer gets an intuitive experience for managing content in a familiar way while developers get the flexibility of an API-first, cloud native, microservices architecture. All features devs love!

Let’s think about the possibilities of what headless content can actually deliver in terms of the consumer experience. First, we need to consider that content is not merely words, images, or videos. It also applies to more abstract concepts. If you are in the retail industry, content could be a store, a beacon, a location, or a product. These can all be discoverable through APIs in a headless CMS, so if a consumer wanted help locating a product in your store, you can now help them do that through an app, on their phone, smartwatch, or in-store kiosk.

This is an example of adaptive content. We’ve brought together what consumers are looking for: helpful information based on where they are located, what device they are on, and then a personalised response, just for them. In terms of consumer’s experience, this is mind-blowing — and it’s all possible now!

Imagine a future where the experience for each consumer is tailored to her or him, and the content adapts to the context of their surrounds, their behaviour, their history, or even the weather. This is the future of personalisation. And once that comes to fruition, brands will need AI-powered analytics, because digital analytics as we know them today will not keep up with that new level of personalisation. But that’s a story for another day.

Please connect with us to learn more about Acoustic Content.