by Thomas Peham, VP of Marketing at headless CMS Storyblok
Web3 can – and should – wait. We need to sort out the present first. The evidence is right in front of us. There are still organisations using legacy architecture that is not fit to leverage current technology. In fact, according to our “State of Content Management 2022” survey, 31.6% of businesses use more than two CMSs based on the need for a new technology stack or legacy system and to minimise delivery risks. And if you look beyond martech, nearly a third of UK workers think their company is “stuck in the past” using outdated technology and operating systems, according to research commissioned by Virgin Media.
Nonetheless, new trends are emerging – from the metaverse to Web3 – and there’s a lot of buzz out there about how these new technologies will impact consumer behaviour and how businesses should prepare ahead of time. It’s all nice and swell to be ahead of the curve but the reality is that the future is still… in the future. When it comes to the metaverse and Web3, it is just the start of the conversation. Even though the reveal of Meta’s plans may have sparked a global frenzy around the next iteration of the web, the consensus is that it is at least ten years off, if not more. At this stage, we simply don’t know what form the metaverse will take and how (or even if) consumers will use it.
We should prioritise focusing on the present before we make plans for the future. After all, how can we start preparing for the future if we haven’t caught up with current technological advancements, such as mobile, smart displays, voice assistants and IoT? You don’t want to be in a situation where all your resources are focused on preparing for emerging trends that may never come to fruition and fail to adapt to current and proven technology. And in some cases, getting the best out of current and modern technology may also prove useful for adapting to future technology. It’s like they say: you got to learn to walk before you run.
Houston, we have a marketing infrastructure problem
The standard crop of tools that support content distribution aren’t up to the challenge of today’s marketing environment and are outdated to cope with what marketers need today. In the second quarter of 2022, mobile devices generated 58.99% of global website traffic, according to Statista. And this is not really news. Since 2017 mobile phones have been a major source of website traffic, consistently hovering around the 50% mark, and permanently surpassing it in 2020.
You may have already noticed that user experiences businesses provide aren’t keeping up with the pace of new channels and frontends. There are multiple reasons for that, and one comes down to outdated content management systems (CMS) and legacy tools that we as marketers don’t really like to touch at all
A Forrester report called The Forrester Wave™: Agile Content Management Systems (CMSes), Q1 2021 argues: “As organisations produce more experiences that leverage a common back end, the value of those services and assets increases relative to the cost to create them. Brands grapple with the challenge of delivering content to new endpoints (e.g., web, mobile, smart displays, voice assistants, and marketplaces), so it’s important to manage content and experiences centrally to drive reuse. This makes updating and analysing — and optimising — experiences more efficient as well.”
In other words: Dear marketers, please stop creating content silos just because your existing systems are not providing the job – e.g. do not support a new channel (such as mobile). Please rather focus on establishing one central content hub that allows to reuse content across channels and platforms.
Time to move away from legacy systems
It’s time for marketers to move away from monolithic systems to a more modern solution. A monolithic system does all of the work behind the scenes (called the back end) as well as what the viewer sees on the page (called the front end). WordPress is the most common example of this. A monolithic – call it all-in-one – solution is great for a simple website or simple use case.
Headless CMS evolved as a solution to the shortcomings of the traditional monolithic systems. The headless system separates the presentational layer from the back end. You can use the same core “body” (back end) to create as many “heads” (front ends) as you may need – websites, phone apps, voice-activated assistants, smart watches, VR headsets to name just a few.
You’ve probably seen a headless approach in action without realising it – especially in the world of online retail. A growing number of eCommerce providers like BigCommerce, Commercetools, Centra or Shopify also offer a headless option with access to the store’s data via their API. In practical terms that means you can plug the content directly into your Facebook campaigns and Instagram ads and pull through all the data from one central source.
Apart from just allowing you to quickly connect with more channels, there’s a myriad of other benefits too – think about fast web performance and the benefits of having one central content hub for ALL frontends.
There’s a misconception that headless technology is too technical, built for developers rather than marketers. While it’s true that developers do love headless systems, there’s now platforms that focus on giving marketers easy-to-use tools too. Going headless also saves time – no one enjoys copying and pasting content per page, device or location. That’s also how mistakes start to creep in!
Keeping all your content in one place means that you’re able to save costs and improve efficiency: your team can focus on creating quality content and not waste time replicating content from one system to another. This also reduces the costs of running content on multiple platforms. Cost effectiveness is going to be key as marketing gets more complicated, so this “start small and scale up” approach can stop marketing budgets spiralling.
Marketers are also increasingly on the front lines of the security battle. Content is as much attack surfaces as they are a way to keep in touch with your customers. In fact, Storyblok’s research has found that 32% of some of the world’s largest businesses encounter a CMS security breach every single week. A headless approach reduces the number of entry points into your business – it reduces it down to just one. Keeping track of the constant raft of security updates, patches and plugs that comes with a traditional CMS is a full time job.
The main point is that businesses, marketers and the wider martech industry should be focusing on taking full advantage of the present first before planning the use of future innovations. The benefit of a proper headless technology is that it also future proofs your business. It is flexible, adaptable, scalable and can be easily integrated with other applications that your business uses. That way you have the freedom to build a suite of tools that work for your business. In addition, you also have the flexibility to swap out different solutions not only as your organisation’s martech develops but as consumer and business demands change.