What is a Headless CMS and How can it Power Digital Transformation?
By Lee Teague, SVP of Engineering, Brightspot
Organizations have always had the need to create content to reach their customers, but in recent years they have had to go a step further to find success. Nowadays, people are consuming content across many channels, such as web, mobile and even IoT devices like smart refrigerators. To keep consumers happy and get them to take action, brands need to share content across all channels where their audiences are, ensuring messaging is aligned and cohesive.
In addition, the people using each channel are different and have varied needs, so marketers must share tailored content with them in order to get messages across in an impactful way. In fact, research reveals that marketers today need to reach an average of three audience segments. It’s also the case that in today’s multicultural world, it’s often necessary to share the same content in multiple languages. And in our digital, “always-on” culture , people expect content to be available 24/7.
Despite the heavy demands, having an engaging, omnichannel content experience is table stakes for brands aiming to transform and compete in the digital-first world. Brands need to quickly “get it right” when it comes to their digital content so that they can move on to what’s next. In order to succeed in a sustainable way, brands must be able to repurpose content across channels without recreating the wheel each and every time.
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Considering the option of a headless CMS
The good news for content marketers is that there are a number of technology solutions that can help organize and expedite content output. First off, it’s important to understand that every company has different pains and problems to solve, so there’s no one-size-fits-all technology. As of 2020, the martech landscape has 8,000 options, allowing brands to mix and match to personalize a solution that works for them.
With so many options, brands don’t have to give up quality or compromise to get things right when it comes to digital content. But, they do have to ensure their tech stack is set up for success by leveraging extensible, flexible and integration-friendly tools that won’t slow their content strategy down. Like anything, too many inputs can complicate rather than streamline things – and the same is true with the tech stack.
When thinking about the tech stack that will work for a specific organization, a headless CMS might be a good “cog in the machine” to consider. Drilling down on the unique name, a headless CMS is a type of content management system where the content base, or the “body,” is separate from the presentation layer, or the “head.” The head and body can be decoupled, which is a lesser degree of separation, or headless which is fully separate.
Headless is an ideal solution for some companies since it enables easily repurposing the same content across different front ends and customizing it for multiple audiences, while maintaining brand consistency.
What needs might drive a customer to use a headless CMS?
Most brands today need to easily distribute and personalize content across channels. A headless CMS provides ultimate flexibility in deciding how and where content appears. Marketers can choose the design, display and delivery of content to suit specific audiences. Headless works well for teams who are leveraging a modular content strategy, too, which uses content like building blocks. Content pieces can be assembled in various ways for faster presentation that stays consistent.
Speed is one of the greatest advantages that a business can have today, and a headless CMS satisfies businesses who have this “need for speed.” Headless and modular content make it easy to reuse content for different channels and audiences, reducing work needed to create new content. Additionally, all content is centralized in one system, making it easily accessible for reuse.
Another way that headless promotes speed is by reducing roadblocks between developers and content creators. Whenever a member of the content or marketing team has a problem, they have to file a ticket and wait for developers to find a solution. And when the back end is connected to the front end, a problem with one might make the other stop working. Since headless fully separates the front and back ends, developers can work on the back end without disrupting marketers’ activity on the front. As a result, front-end team members have less downtime and can create and distribute content faster.
Finally, another key benefit to a headless CMS is that it is future-proof. With the pace at which technology is moving and changing, new channels are coming on to the scene left and right. Forward-thinking brands don’t want to be caught in a situation where they don’t have the technology to easily share content via a new touchpoint customers are looking for them at. A headless CMS is API-first, allowing new channels to be seamlessly added as needed. This enables organizations to keep the same base technology that they’re familiar with and adapt for the future at the same time.
The real argument for headless
Many well-known brands are already benefiting from headless CMS solutions. For instance, Brightspot developed a headless CMS solution for a major Latin American mass media corporation that’s one of the largest producers of Spanish-language content. When the groundwork was laid, the company was leveraging several CMS platforms to manage all of its digital properties, creating confusion and slowing down content output.
With the new solution, the business launched nine sites in five months, eight of them on a headless CMS. It’s important to note that the offering they chose also included a multi-site capability, and one of the sites was not headless. This points to the fact that headless isn’t and doesn’t have to be the only option. The new solution gave the company’s development team total control over the look and feel of the platform without slowing down progress. With a unified content hub, the editorial team can now manage sites, collaborate and publish experiences across channels to more seamlessly meet audience demands. Today, the business has seen an impressive 50% decrease in site launch times, and when they want to add, they can independently create future sites.
As this overview suggests, a headless CMS can be a good addition to many organizations’ tech stacks who are looking to prioritize speed, flexibility and future-proofing. However, headless doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Companies can use a hybrid approach, which connects with a traditional or decoupled CMS, or connect it with any mainstream content systems that they already use. Ultimately, the goal for any organization should be to distribute quality content faster to the right audiences to power their next phases of digital transformation – and understand that headless might be the right approach to get them there.
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