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Oct 06, 2022

5 first priorities for business change

Bob Howland has helped drive business transformation in over 27 companies in industries ranging from retail to pharmaceuticals to software. In 2019 he joined Dawn Foods, the global bakery supplier, to do it again. As chief digital officer he took the 100-year-old company from a completely paper ordering process to a market ready e-commerce solution in just 22 weeks. We spoke with Bob about how he did it, why changing mindsets is often more important than changing technology, and what advice he has for other business transformation leaders. Turn executives into advocatesMoving a company to a new way of working is going to require high-level support and prioritization. Involve key stakeholders early in the process to close gaps in knowledge, collaborate on a plan, and ensure the executive team is confident in and excited about the changes ahead.For Bob, an early priority at Dawn Foods was to meet directly with the chief financial officer to create a business plan. Giving the CFO full, transparent access to the expected costs and intended outcomes makes it possible to fast-track difficult conversations and align on the right metrics for the project.The CFO can also recommend a trusted team member to act as the financial representative for e-commerce. By working with a finance partner to make estimates and approve any cost presented, you can build credibility within the organization as well as create a strong advocate in the finance department. Bob also recommends meeting with each board member individually to introduce the plan, address questions, and gather recommendations. These conversations give everyone a comfortable amount of time to get up to speed on e-commerce and, when it’s time to ask for approval, you’ll be able to present a plan that the board is already familiar with and has contributed to.Take a crash course from customers Internal sources can get you up to speed on past and current priorities of the business, but answers about its future are found out in the field. Speaking directly with customers can help you identify internal blind spots, validate the need for change, and allow you to truly speak to the customer experience when making decisions.Coming into Dawn Foods, Bob was well versed in e-commerce but not as knowledgeable about the bakery industry. So in his first two months he had “30 donuts in 60 days” as he visited dozens of bakeries to learn about the market, what customers valued most about the company, and what needs were going unmet. These market visits made it clear there was an urgent demand for e-commerce among customers and gave Bob a level of credibility with internal teams that helped get everyone on board with his recommendations. Prioritize people over paceOnce business transformation has customer validation and executive approval, you’ll need to work with people across departments to figure out the work it will realistically take to make it happen. Keep in mind that while the eventual maintenance of a new way of working might easily fit into a team’s responsibilities, the initial lift of the project can require a substantial shift in priorities, which can be met with resistance.“In many cases, these are muscles that people that have never been in an e-commerce company don’t have,” Bob said. “So to come at it with a mentoring, a sponsorship, a teaching and training perspective is very important.” Change requires long-term objectives that will take long-term business relationships to achieve. After decades in the business, Bob said he’s learned to give people the time and space to come around to new ideas on their own terms. While this might slow down progress for the first few months, it builds the trust needed to move faster in the long run.Make an MVP ASAPTaking e-commerce off the whiteboard and putting it in front of the business is a way to quickly highlight the work that needs to be done on data, data structure, pricing, images and other assets to enable e-commerce. Bob and his team created the first minimum viable product (MVP) in six weeks, with the goal of showing the best possible commerce experience the company could put out without making any changes to business. “That MVP, the beta project, was one of the most embarrassing things that I have ever put my name on,” said Bob, “but it did show the company the gap between where we were today and what we needed to do quickly to enable an e-commerce business.An MVP can also make it clear that the new way of working will affect many functions in the company. A visual, explorable product makes it easier for people to see how the change will relate to their own role and accelerates conversations about the collaboration needed from each department to bring a great experience to market. Remember, you’re just getting startedGetting the solution built is just the start. Transforming the organization and its mindset to one of continuous improvement is key to ensure you live up to customer expectations and demands.Bob knew he wouldn’t have all the right answers by launch about what e-commerce should look like at Dawn Foods because that information would come from customer feedback and user behavior. So the team first focused on speed, launching a market-ready solution in 22 weeks. “On the quality side, however, I knew that I needed to have the team and process in place to do an amount of development work post-launch so we could quickly address all the feedback from the customer,” Bob said, sharing that more developer hours were used in the six weeks post-launch than used to get to launch. To this day, the team continues to commit to that cycle of improvement, releasing new features every two weeks and rolling them out to customers monthly. “I built a whole army and process and protocol to get to launch, but before I launched I had already built the governance, the process, the protocol to run the business,” Bob said. “I think those two things combined are why we’ve been so successful as a company.” 

Oct 06, 2022

GraphQL vs. REST API: Which is better for querying data?

GraphQL vs. REST API: Which is better for querying data?Choosing the best API for compiling data can seem overwhelming if you don’t know how well they perform on a larger database. Developers typically use them to exchange data between programs and build functionality for their web apps. This makes it possible for the front-end and back-end teams to communicate better and develop products for consumers. The top two APIs are GraphQL and REST, each with its own pros and cons for sending a request and retrieving the result. GraphQL is considered an open-source data query and manipulation language for APIs, whereas REST is defined as an architectural standard for interacting with localized software services. As a developer, you might be curious about the potential use cases of both, as they provide a seamless environment for testing new features. Ultimately, this comes down to the scope of your project and what problems you’re trying to solve. This article will explore how they compare on multiple fronts, from fetching relevant information to sorting entries by category. Properties of REST APIREST diverges from GraphQL in that requests are grouped via endpoints and mutations can have any format besides string. It relies on a GET command to fetch resources (JSON response), which requires making multiple API calls to grab separate search results. Likewise, it is server-driven rather than client-driven architecture stacked into layers of hierarchy. Here are the key features of REST API:Each HTTP status code points to a unique response The server determines the shape and size of resourcesAbility to cache on the browser or server with a CDNHas a uniform interface that decouples the client from the serverPlenty of flexibility since calls are stateless and do not depend on each otherBenefits of REST APIREST works best on media files, hardware or web elements, mapping a linear path to those resources. A REST API will boost its performance by scaling to client demands and is capable of locating resources by name. It is built for storing common data types in memory and can be deployed from several servers in one sitting. With REST API, you get the opportunity to develop apps in all kinds of environments, due to how it integrates with a wide range of frameworks. It has been implemented in languages including Python, Java, PHP, and Ruby, enabling you to perform operations or create object instances explicitly over the protocol. On the bright side, you can easily migrate from one server to the next, or even build a portable UI across platforms and OSes. REST is ideal for automatic HTTP caching, reporting on errors, and has you covered against DDoS attacks. Nonetheless, its simplicity has some merit, being that it’s easy to extend and modify for connecting to other apps or services. Properties of GraphQLOn the other hand, GraphQL overcomes the hurdles presented by REST, as it allows the user to make targeted queries using a POST request. This is directed toward a single URL endpoint and returns the matching result if it exists in the database. GraphQL is instead arranged by schema, so the identity won’t match its fetch method. To validate queries, it will scan the cached metadata, an option not supported by REST. Here are the features that define GraphQL: A self-documenting model that conforms to the client’s graph dataThe server dictates which resources are open to the userReduces overhead communications with API providersSelects the type of operation using a keyword on the schemaA request executes multiple fields that converge at the same endpointAdvantages of GraphQLGraphQL brings many benefits to the table, shaping JSON data into a readable syntax. It expresses more consistency across operating systems, boasting faster development speeds on all platforms. It is capable of decoupling the front end from the back end to encourage work done on independent projects. To drive productivity, front-end iterations are no longer tied to back-end adjustments, placing less burden on the server. It’s also strongly typed, limiting queries to certain data types based on context. This API is designed to help you with query batching and caching by merging SQL queries to prevent a session timeout. You can look at what each function does and create custom requests to meet your users’ needs. In terms of upkeep, GraphQL will sync to updated documents and maintain version control without manual input. One advantage of GraphQL is the removal of excess data to prevent over-fetching on the fields you specify. On the flip side, you could run into under-fetching and not extract enough JSON values from an endpoint. This doesn’t happen on GraphQL because once a query is sent, the server reveals the exact data structure. Examples of When to Use GraphQL GraphQL is suitable for creating cross-platform apps that customers can access on a mobile phone. Its schema is designed for chaining longer query objects on the client side, helping you gain a better understanding of how data is extracted. GraphQL is used to enhance mobile app performance by reducing load times with fewer calls. It expands your API functionality to remedy issues reported on older versions.Schema stitching is quite convenient for modifying the client side since multiple schemas are combined into one to complete a data source. Let’s look at a few sample queries:Type Novel {    id: ID    title: String    genre: Genre    author: Author}Type Genre {    id: ID    published: Date    genres: [“Fantasy”, “Science Fiction”, “Non-Fiction”, “Adventure”, “Mystery”]    novels: [Novel]}While this example describes the fields under a Novel type, it does not give away how the object is fetched from the client. You still have to construct a Query type to access the values of a novel by its author or genre. Many applications require you to add, delete, or update data on the backend. This is achieved by utilizing three types of mutations.  Here is how you declare a mutation:First, use the mutation keyword to create one that resembles a standard query. For each field, it can take any number of arguments. mutation {    rootField(arg1: value1, arg2: value2) {        arg1        arg2    }}This root field passes in two parameters that return a specific output. Next, you’re able to assign different properties to the mutation object which will show up in the server response.Disadvantages of GraphQLGraphQL isn’t without its problems. Its single endpoint lacks caching, which is possible with a GET request, meaning that you have to implement browser caching for non-mutable queries. In some cases, GraphQL mutations can become buried under a flood of data types. Although you can pull up exact queries, you have no say over third-party client behaviors. Search operations like joining queries are more complicated than on REST microservices that route requests over a web host or URL. By default, GraphQL’s rigid queries are difficult to model for advanced aggregations or calculations. As for security, monitoring on GraphQL is practically nonexistent because only a few SaaS contain those API analytics.Examples of When to Use REST API A REST API is your best bet if users need to submit requests as separate URLs to retrieve data from microservices architecture. For projects smaller in scope, you can save memory space by importing its tools on your desired framework to designate unique ids on a handful of calls. If you’re not too fixated on collecting insights or dealing with backward compatibility, REST will do a good enough job. Generally speaking, a REST request comprises of the header, body, endpoint, and HTTP method for managing the standard CRUD operations. To initialize a basic call, you should do the following: response = requests.get(“https://siteurl.com/path.json”)print(response.json())The output to the body section: {    “parameter 1”: “value 1”,    “parameter 2”: “value 2”,    “parameter 3”: “value 3”}A successful request will return code 200 and display the types of fields (strings, integers, dictionaries) stored in that library. REST resources are distinguished by their URLs, which are recovered by delivering JSON to the server (i.e. GET, POST). To illustrate, we will perform an API call that reaches the endpoint of a user profile. Let’s jump into posting JSON to the server:{    “Id”: 529387,    “Name”: {        “First”: “John”,        “Last”: “Brown”    },    “Age”: 24,    “Occupation”: “Research Associate” }In the above example, a response returns the output of an employee who works at a biotech company. To update these fields, you also need to set the MIME type for the body to application/json. Drawbacks of REST APIAfter mobile’s rise to popularity, REST was deemed too inflexible to address network issues. Simply put, it struggled to convert app data to a graphical form by attempting to scale its unstructured parameters. If you want to grab a specific attribute, you have no choice but to create new resources and modify them across multiple roundtrips. Because REST is server-driven, clients are entirely dependent on network conditions. It often leads to nested N+1 queries, chaining API calls on the client, and making the returned URI harder to read. It introduces delays in the development lifecycle where front-end teams must wait for back-end teams to deliver the API, thereby pushing back product release dates. ConclusionThe main takeaway from all this is that GraphQL and REST API serve different purposes in the app development lifecycle. GraphQL gives the data you’re looking for without over- or under-fetching and is compatible with advanced techniques like transforming fields into different values. REST is easier to implement on JS frameworks if you plan to locate a precise resource or design an interactive website.An important thing to remember is they both have advantages and disadvantages depending on the product specifications as well as the user requirements. GraphQL may have the upper hand in an agile environment, but it still has room for improvement. REST has more existing tools and integrations; however, it can be affected by poor network conditions. 

Sep 22, 2022

How to launch an online store in under 90 days

There are two absolutes in a digital economy: impatient, demanding customers and the need for an e-commerce presence. If you don’t have an e-commerce presence or the one you do have fails to meet customer expectations, you’re likely considering how to solve your problem.What’s been your experience with a software development effort? If you’re like many, it conjures images of:Rounding up the best qualified (and already overworked) team membersSlogging through endless team meetings on top of your other job dutiesWorking through months of coding, testing, refining and debugging to field a minimum viable product (MVP) e-commerce siteWe’ve all been there and have the T-shirts to prove it. But how would you react if we said it is possible to launch an e-commerce venture in under 90 days? Not a work-in-progress, bare-bones MVP placeholder, but a fully functional, customer-centric, remarkably agile e-commerce site built by a team of six people using four independent technologies in less than three months.Why build a working example?How do you address the incredulous responses to the “up and running in under 90 days” claim? As professional baseball player Dizzy Dean said, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.” So, we decided to prove the power and ease of using composable commerce tools by building and demonstrating a working e-commerce site at ContentCon 2022, our annual conference.Why tie the project to the conference? A swag store was the natural choice to launch at a conference as attendees could access the store, select their items, create digital receipts and collect their items at the vendor’s booth.“We wanted to use this as an example to give you guys an application that you can actually interact with that we’ve built with our four technologies to show it’s really not that difficult,” said Piyush Patel, chief ecosystem officer at Algolia.The team planned the project as more than just a conference presentation, however.“This is just the starting point,” said Gary Ballabio, VP of technology partnerships at Cloudinary. While every business will have its own requirements, the team used their four technologies to create a proof of concept “but also [to create a reusable platform] for anybody to use afterward, for everybody to branch off and use really for a starting point themselves.”How do you launch an e-commerce store in under 90 days?How did we pull this off in less than 90 days? By partnering with three other industry leaders, BigCommerce, Cloudinary and Algolia. We each contributed part-time team members and our software to the project. Here’s a rundown of the platform software each company contributed:E-commerce enablement by BigCommerceImage and video management by CloudinaryHeadless CMS by ContentstackInstant searchability by AlgoliaThe next step was setting up our goals and success measures with the technologies chosen. The resulting project parameters were simple and to the point:Our working premise was that the four technologies working together would meet all project requirements.The site would include four pillars: content, search, commerce and media.Each technology partner would provide part-time technologists, not full-time developers.In a nod to the reality people face developing and deploying software today, all team members were remote, spanning time zones from India to California.Assess the ability of each technology’s integration framework to facilitate information flow seamlessly between platforms.Deliver a solution other e-commerce ventures could use as a starting point.We wanted the development effort to reflect the real world, not be an academic exercise. “This really mimicked what many of your organizations have to deal with on a day-to-day basis,” said Nick Barron, senior director of partner enablement at Contentstack. “We’ve got a lot of remote employees; we’ve got a lot of dispersed teams that live in little siloes, specialties and little centers.” So, a 100% remote team was an ideal test environment.The results? We met all our goals and delivered the e-commerce site in well under 90 days. The team became so enthused and productive that we finally called a hard stop as we had more than enough to prove our concept.Here are the project’s summary stats:How it worksHow do you bridge the integration gap between different technologies to deliver functional e-commerce sites and other applications quickly and easily? The short answer lies in using application protocol interfaces (APIs) to manage communication between technologies. Configuration settings replace software customization, allowing users to compose the processes and actions needed to make the application meaningful to customers and the business.Here's a high-level look at how the ABC Swag e-commerce site brings a new product to life.The product manager creates the product in BigCommerce, entering the required information like SKU, product name, product specifications and more.BigCommerce automatically creates the product detail page (PDP) in Contentstack, notifying the product marketer that it’s available for enrichment.The product marketer adds enriched content, including images, videos, 3D models and more, to the PDP from Cloudinary.Contentstack updates Cloudinary assets with metadata describing the location of each asset used in the PDP.When Contentstack publishes the product, it sends all the details to Algolia to index and prepare for searching.As the product manager or marketer makes changes based on analytics like sales, clicks and customer questions, the system automatically manages them, eliminating human error and increasing system responsiveness.Why it worksOf course, technology underpins everything, but people and a cooperative spirit are the two things that make technology valuable and usable. At Contentstack, we call this “Care Without Compromise™.”Here are some observations from the other team members about why the project worked:“The ability to reach out to the other vendors with questions made everyone’s job easier,” Patel said. “I think that’s the lesson we learned is, have help.”Ballabio said the team members were technologists, not full-time developers, working part-time with new tools and working full-time with the tools they were familiar with.“It is a testament to how well documented and how well set up those other tools are for them to pick it up and to create this proof of concept together,” he said.The project also illustrates the dedication of the companies leading the Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless (MACH) evolution to solve their customers’ problems. This dedication extends to getting help from other technology partners when necessary.Powered by composable architectureWhat made it possible for our part-time team, working remotely in their area of expertise, to build this e-commerce venture in record time? Composable architecture. Composable architecture takes advantage of APIs and scalable web services to create a digital-first enterprise.A simplified definition, to be sure, but it’s more important how composable architecture helps enterprises than how you define it. According to Architecture & Governance, Gartner says, “supporting composable architecture means architecting your business for real-time adaptability and resilience in the face of uncertainty.” What business cannot benefit from adaptability and resilience?™™According to Gartner, composable architecture is the path forward for business success, if not outright survival. A recent ReportLinker report forecast a 28.4% compound annual growth rate for the composable infrastructure market in 2022-2027.Acceptance of the MACH/composable architecture approach to e-commerce continues to grow. More organizations are finding they can no longer meet the demands of today’s consumers with traditional monolithic systems and dated development methodologies. To survive and thrive, they are making the move to composable systems. According to a recent Salesforce State of Commerce report, 80% of businesses that don’t currently have headless e-commerce technology up and running plan to implement it in the next two years.Composable architecture using MACH components enables teams in any size company to develop, deploy and maintain responsive e-commerce ventures in record time. We demonstrated that combining headless CMS, media enrichment, e-commerce enablement and instant search replaces monoliths with superior solutions.Connect Without CompromiseContentstack and our partners are taking Care Without Compromise™ to another level with Connect Without Compromise™. We want to assure our mutual customers that our tools will work as described. Should any customer experience issues, we'll work with our partners to find a solutionHow does this differ from our Care Without Compromise? Think of it as a combination of technology and best practices.Marketplace: An extensive ecosystem of features, services, apps, integrations and accelerators.Automation Hub: Simple, no-code, cross-stack business logic you can implement immediately.Blueprints: Extremely detailed best practices and implementation guides to get you from zero to operational in the shortest time possible.For example, if you want to set up a store using the same technologies we used to build our ABC Swag Store demo, we have a blueprint that will give you a jump start on creating a similar application for your business.The passing of the age of the monolithsIt’s fair to say that the age of the monoliths has passed, replaced by the age of composable architecture. Rather than waiting weeks for developers to create a simple integration in a monolithic system, businesses can model, evaluate and deploy them in minutes. We think that’s worth celebrating. If you agree and want to learn more to move your business forward, we offer these options:See the ABC Swag Store in action.  For a deeper dive into the building of the ABC Swag Store site, watch our webinar series, “The ABCs of Composable Commerce.”Want to build your e-commerce venture or headless CMS? Learn more and schedule a free demo. 

Sep 21, 2022

Why your company’s future depends on modernization

In the early stages of my career, I joined a “cutting-edge” software company as an architect in the IT department. I don’t want to spoil the story, but the company was not, in fact, cutting-edge. While the company purchased all sorts of tools it considered modern, its leaders didn’t stop to consider what successful implementation might look like, or how to educate and empower their people to use it well. Instead, we just accumulated new tech. I left the company less than a year after joining.I was reminded of this experience while listening to Chief Digital Officer of Dawn Foods Bob Howland share his story in a recent episode of the People Changing Enterprises podcast. He led the transformation of the 100-year-old bakery supplies company.I love his perspective: Don't modernize for the sake of modernization. Don't do it because there are shiny new tools. Do it because your organization’s future depends on it.If I could go back to that company and tell them why driving digital transformation is important, this is what I would say.You no longer have to compromise all three: speed, quality and costIn the podcast, Bob referred to speed, quality and cost as the triangle that all companies chase. I like to refer to that quest as the “Pursuit of Happiness.” Think of the elements as sliders on a mixing board. You are constantly adjusting the mix in response to your priorities at the moment and you can usually get a perfect sound with two of the three elements. The third hopefully is not far behind. A general rule of thumb is that all can improve, given the right circumstances.When we were a young startup, we bought certain functionalities of our technology rather than building them, for the sake of speed — for example, our rich-text editor. As we grew, we doubled down on enhancing every aspect of our product to our standards. That’s when we rebuilt our rich-text editor to be one of the most advanced available in any CMS today.But when you’re a legacy company with outdated processes and technology, speed, quality and cost tend to be:Unaligned with company prioritiesLagging far behind what they could beAs a result, the company suffers from unrealized potential and unnecessary complexity that limits them in some way. The quality of what you’re offering might be good, but the right technology could enhance it. While you might be able to operate with a level of speed that is good enough, there is a possibility to be quicker and more agile. Bob said it like this in the podcast: “Someone would say we're doing fine, and they would be right. And here comes this person that thinks about the world differently, and says, ‘We can still be that company, but we can be better.’ And when I say better, I mean better revenue, trajectory, lower costs and improved customer experience. That's how I define better.”Your employees will feel empoweredBefore their transformation, Dawn Foods’ sales team could better be referred to as order takers. The only way a customer could place an order was by writing it on a piece of paper and physically giving it to the rep when they were visiting their store. So when the company pitched the idea of an online ordering system to shift the team’s priorities to strategic growth opportunities for the customer, they were hungry for it. Modernizing your technology stack is not just to achieve speed, cost, and quality for the business — it’s for your people, too.One of my jobs as a CTO is not only to create the tech roadmap for the future, it’s to empower the people the vision is for. Whether that’s implementing a new tool, iterating on an old process or making space for innovation.For example, when my engineering team does “sprints” — meaning, working on development projects for two weeks at a time — we always allocate time for innovation. Twenty percent of an engineering sprint is dedicated to bug fixes and feature requests from customer success; eighty percent is given to their creative endeavors.One benefit of digital transformation is that your employees can shift their focus and skills to meaningful tasks that can have impact. Your customers will be happy, and your employees will be satisfied and motivated. You can deliver what customers need when they need itFor a customer, there’s nothing more frustrating than needing a feature to solve a problem and knowing that it might happen in the next year if it happens at all. One of the goals of digital transformation should be that you are able to respond to customers’ needs much faster. You become an agile organization, like Dawn Foods. In just 22 weeks, they delivered a world-class catalog to get their customers excited about their products and streamline their experience. They couldn’t do that without moving to composable architecture and upgrading their technology stack. At Contentstack, our head of global customer success and I sit down every two weeks and discuss what our customers have requested. We prioritize by making a “top 10 wish list” and we leverage our tech stack to deliver what they need. This is how we prioritize continuous transformation.And this is what I know: Transformation is a constant, iterative improvement. It doesn’t have a designated stop or start period. There is no before and after. You nurture the relationships, set up the systems and processes and onboard the right tools. When you do that, your business and its stakeholders will thrive.For 100 years, Dawn Foods was hugely successful. But when Bob came to them and showed them what they could be, the entire board agreed it was their only option to keep that success going for another hundred years. Any enterprise can benefit from modernization — especially if it has been around for a very long time.

Sep 21, 2022

What is an API?

For all its power and opportunities, the digital economy demands continuous adaptation and flexibility to satisfy evolving customer demands for unforgettable, personalized experiences. How do you rise to this challenge? By adopting a headless approach to your content management system (CMS), which separates a website’s visuals (the front end) from its content library (the back end).In this composable architecture, the logic and functionality are assigned to a network of application programming interfaces (APIs) that relay messages between applications aimed at reusing content securely across multiple projects.  As more and more businesses move toward composable architecture, you’ve probably heard of APIs but may not know how they work. Read on to find out what an API is and how it works in a modern CMS. What is an API?An API is a medium that allows two software components to communicate with each other. It transfers information from the client to the server via requests sent through an application.The internal parts are hidden from the user since the purpose is to connect various tools and services, initiating calls to the endpoints residing in another system or device. APIs are categorized into four types depending on the format of stored data: SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol): A standardized API that relies on XML texts and structured databases to send requestsRPC (Remote Procedure Calls): Compatible with distributed applications, which execute code on a server outside the clientWebsocket: Allows client and server apps to communicate by passing data through JSON files using callback messagesREST (Representational State Transfer): Responds to server requests by performing a function and returning its output data An API houses many microservices that your developers can implement into various programs, similar to a menu for selecting items. It lets them retrieve pre-made templates that improve existing content without reinventing the wheel for every web element.  If someone needs to upload groups of files, they can simply pull this feature from the source code that has the solution in place. Let’s go over the steps to processing a request from an app to the server. How do APIs work?APIs make it possible to connect cloud services, mobile devices, custom workspaces and real-time analytics, whenever you need to maintain, access and share large amounts of data on a single platform. They can restrict access to particular software and hardware, protecting your company records from users who don’t have permission to view them. First, a client app will fetch the HTTP request and transport it through the URI consisting of a header and body. Next, the API proceeds to call an option recognized by the program or web server. Then, the client will process the request and fetch the correct information. Finally, the data is transferred to the client app in JSON format to wrap up the session. An API interface optimizes the exchange of data throughout departments, software engineers and external vendors. This saves you time and money on product development or even managing web services, lending itself to flexible interactions between cross-functional teams, thus opening up opportunities for innovation. APIs are depicted as layers that translate what happens on both ends of the network. The same idea holds true for modern web browsers — when you visit a site, it may ask you about enabling cookies, which you can deny if you don’t want third parties tracking your preferences. What are some examples of APIs?APIs are important for developing and securing resources, giving you control over what assets are available to your partners and consumers, in contrast with those built for employees. For the most part, they blend into the background of the graphical user interfaces you come across. Here are several APIs you’ve probably heard about: Google MapsGoogle Maps has become the de facto GPS for planning car routes, supplying detailed street maps through satellite imaging. The map API’s geolocation tools provide users with traffic conditions near their destination along with the estimated time of arrival. PayPalPayPal processes payments beyond digital wallet transactions. In fact, the option to pay with PayPal is a staple of e-commerce sites that operate based on its REST APIs. This protects sensitive data from unauthorized entities after checkout. FacebookThe Graph API lets developers extract core functions directly from Facebook, using HTTP requests to share pages and posts from a user’s timeline. It has extensions to collect insights on marketing campaigns, video impressions, conversion rates and more. It’s likely that you’ve used APIs at some point when installing a website extension or downloading a phone app, but they exist in other spaces as well, such as when you add items to a cart while shopping online or when you have food delivered to your doorstep.  Advantages of using an APIThere are APIs on the market to enhance databases, operating systems and remote machines — classified into either private or public versions. An API offers many benefits that improve software solutions and overhaul IT systems, upgrading customer-facing apps to grab the user’s attention. Internally, there are APIs for database communications that invoke protocols, authorizing the end-user to write queries or upload new entries. These are inserted automatically under the relevant criteria to ensure the data is reliable and consistent across multiple verticals. Another type of API covers operating systems including Windows and Linux, with a set of developer tools for executing native programs stored in the hard drive. OS APIs govern the success of critical operations to keep the servers running at full speed. In the face of a changing digital landscape, companies at times have to rethink their marketing strategy to continue attracting prospective buyers. That’s why most social media outlets host external APIs to raise their brand visibility and pull in millions of users to engage with posts. Because connectivity is a driver of productivity, companies are now automating building-wide workflows to reduce the cost of labor. Additionally, APIs are drivers of innovation, transforming businesses while they expand into a diversified market and propose new product ideas. The Role of APIs in MACH architectureMACH stands for Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless when discussing enterprise architecture. This principle states that technology should be modular, pluggable, and capable of evolving, shedding light on scalable and replaceable components at every turn, designed to improve API functionality for both your users and developers.MACH is focused on the best-of-breed approach to building enterprise-level SaaS while it introduces modularity to legacy systems. Above all, MACH constructs a centralized network that spans multiple channels with agile frameworks in mind. Microservices arrange applications as an assortment of deployable services instead of leaving the features on a single instance or database. As such, you can update apps on-demand without impacting other API functions. API-first suggests that your connected apps depend on the API to fetch, store, and receive information throughout various points of contact. It allows two or more apps to interact regardless of the status of other programs.Cloud-native defines the SaaS framework used for storage and hosting, with the ability to scale flexibly and update functionality on every available resource. The server is maintained by a vendor so you don’t need to manually configure individual apps. Headless is what isolates the front end from the back end, making it easier to customize the visuals on mobile and desktop. The code is decoupled to expand design options while still giving your developers room to write and test scripts. A MACH API strengthens the security of its intermittent layers: You never have to worry about data leaking from your phone to the server, knowing that packets of data only share what’s necessary to approve the transaction. A few lines of code can make a huge difference in extending API use cases. As a result, workplace collaboration is much better because of integrations on the cloud that communicate effectively with each other. APIs have a lot of potential for monetization if their capabilities are leveraged to gather consumer data, empowering businesses to personalize future customer experiences with valuable research derived from AI analytics. You can create digital experiences faster than you dreamed possible with Contentstack. Schedule a free demo and see why top brands are choosing our content experience platform. 

Sep 14, 2022

How to have difficult conversations with your CFO

I've heard CFOs described as executives who are "exceptional at finding the smartest way to say no." While there may be some truth to that, CFOs are also motivated by the smartest reasons to say yes.When that clicked for me earlier in my career, my approach to CFO conversations shifted. It wasn't about drowning them in data or trying to convince them my idea was the one; it was about painting a picture.That picture should tell a simple story: where the organization is now and where it could be if we make a change. As Chief Digital Officer of Dawn Foods Bob Howland said in a recent episode of the People Changing Enterprises podcast: "Everyone wants to be part of success. Everyone wants to be part of the future."Given the economic environment, many of us are having more conversations with finance than we're used to. So, I thought I'd share some of my strategies for fruitful CFO conversations here.Face Issues Early and Head-OnDawn Foods' Bob Howland calls this: "Be the bringer of bad news." Howland joined Dawn Foods in 2019 to propel the 100-year-old baking ingredients company into its next 100 years. Before Howland, orders were only taken by hand. His "bad news" was that their future wasn't bright if they didn't become an agile organization. Digital transformation hit the baking industry, too.And he told the CFO that within his first few days on the job. Talk about early. But he also came up with a solution: to release a beta ecommerce site in six weeks built on composable architectures and get some results. That eventually became a full-blown solution in 22 weeks.As Bob said, "If something is broken, tell the people that should know right away. Then figure out what's the action and who should take it?""Broken" to a CFO typically boils down to one of two things: something is costing us (or will cost us) a lot of money with no return in the long run or competition is eating our lunch. Know what the problem is going in and get rid of the noise around it to focus your conversation with the CFO. Noise can be anything from emotion, to office politics, to vanity issues that don't get you closer to the heart of the problem.Find a Common LanguageThere's a reason I'm CEO and David Overmyer is Contentstack's CFO: Finance is not my area of expertise. But, here's the thing. We share a passion, which is scaling high-performing organizations in sustainable and purpose-filled ways. So, when we talk about allocating money, the underlying question isn't how much it will cost, but where will that spend take us?We focus on a few key metrics for business-as-usual meetings. Those include ARR, CAC, gross margins, and customer retention. When new opportunities arise, we agree on the overriding KPIs together and then dig deeper.Come up with a common language upfront. Don't risk derailing a meeting with jargon. Once questions like "what does that mean" start springing up, you've lost your way.Let me challenge you with one additional perspective on common language: It doesn't have to be about words or numbers. Values can take the lead.When March 2020 hit, a lot of companies responded with layoffs. Since David and I agreed when we first started working together that taking care of our people was our highest priority, we came up with creative solutions — executive pay cuts, investing in training and development — to pandemic problems. For us, brains and heart matter.Find (or Make) an AdvocateIf you're as lucky as I was with David, you may make an ally out of your CFO. I would go so far as calling him a mentor. But for most people, that's out of reach. In the podcast, Howland shared the golden question that opened the door toward marketing/finance partnership and transformation: "Who is the most trusted person on your team?"Howland turned that person into an e-commerce expert and an advocate. It took time and education. Mostly, it took enablement — sharing information and allowing him to come to his conclusions. Author Bernard Desmidt called this mindset "win with" vs. "win over" in CFO Magazine this year.Allowing this slow journey to unfold builds trust, which improves the relationship and, ultimately, the organization in the long run.I was lucky early in my career to participate in Crucial Conversations training. A lot of that training is reflected in this piece. In Crucial Conversations, opinions tend to differ, and the stakes and emotions are high. Conversations with finance are often like this.But if handled properly, these conversations can create breakthroughs that unlock the potential of people and organizations.

Aug 19, 2022

How Your Business Can Market With AR

Augmented reality (AR) is a set of technologies that superimpose digital data and images on the physical world. AR technology is used by businesses in many different industries and has a wide range of applications.  One of the most popular applications for this technology is in marketing. Businesses today can use AR to increase awareness of their brand by creating a variety of immersive and memorable digital experiences for their customers. As technology advances and powerful mobile devices become more ubiquitous, more businesses are beginning to incorporate AR into their marketing efforts, and the benefits of AR marketing are gaining greater recognition.  If you’re looking to grow your business in new ways, AR can be a highly effective and accessible tool, but it’s important to understand exactly what AR marketing is and how AR technology can fit into your branding.  What is AR Marketing?  AR marketing is defined as the strategic integration of AR experiences. It operates alone or in combination with other media to achieve overarching marketing goals by creating value for the brand, its stakeholders, and societies at large.  There are many content and marketing tools available to modern businesses, but not all are created equal, and it’s important to use methods that will fit well with your brand identity. The versatility of AR allows you to create fully customized digital experiences for your target customers and share them through a range of different mediums. Brands today are constantly exploring new applications for AR in their marketing, such as simulations that allow customers to “test” products virtually before they buy, or interactive virtual shopping assistants that can provide customers with more information about products. It’s critical to consider your brand goals and target audience when determining the optimal AR marketing tactics for your business.AR vs AI: What’s the Difference?  While augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are commonly mistaken for one another, these two terms refer to different concepts and are far from interchangeable. AR deals with integrating digital content into real-world settings and AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines.AR technology is typically geared at fostering interactions between people and computers, while AI is meant to help machines make decisions and solve problems without human assistance. Understanding the different applications of AR and AI can help you determine the best way to incorporate these technologies into your marketing. Which Should Your Business Use?  While AR and AI are very different technologies, there’s no need for your business to choose between them. Both technologies can be used as part of an effective content management system (CMS), but it’s important to understand their distinct functions.  AI is also useful for devising and planning effective marketing campaigns. Implementing AI into your marketing can help you more accurately analyze consumer behavior and predict which types of content will resonate with your target audience. AR technology is generally used to engage consumers directly and provide them with more exciting and immersive experiences.  These technologies can often work together in marketing, as AI can be used to improve the functionality of augmented reality applications. For example, integrating AI-driven data analytics into a virtual shopping assistant tool can help the program generate more personalized product suggestions for individual consumers.  AR and AI are both highly versatile and can benefit both traditional and headless content management systems, but the best way to apply these technologies in your marketing depends on your business's unique goals and brand identity. Where Can Businesses Use AR to Market?  When deciding on a medium for your marketing strategy, it’s always essential to consider the type of content you’ll be creating. Certain platforms are far more suitable than others for augmented reality marketing: The Metaverse  The Metaverse is defined as an integrated network of 3D virtual worlds that can be accessed through a virtual reality headset. It’s commonly associated with interactive multiplayer gaming but is also used to host virtual events like concerts and viewing parties for sporting competitions.  Because it’s accessed through virtual reality, the metaverse is ideal for supporting AR marketing. In this virtual environment, it’s far easier for brands to create fully immersive experiences for consumers. Some common AR marketing tactics for the metaverse include creating virtual venues where customers can gather and offering digital goods or collectibles that relate to your brand. AR Portals  AR portals allow you to create detailed virtual environments that consumers can access by scanning a code with their mobile devices. These portals are represented by physical doorways and can be placed in retail stores or other public spaces. Once they’ve “entered” the virtual portal on their phone, users can freely look around the environment as if they were physically standing there.  In marketing, these portals can be used to create virtual showrooms where consumers can preview your products in detail before they buy. They also provide people with a fun and interactive experience that helps familiarize them with your brand. VR Platforms   Several other virtual reality platforms can be effective mediums for AR marketing. Similar to the metaverse, these platforms provide immersive virtual environments where players can interact with each other using 3D character models. Using these platforms, businesses can create virtual locations where they can engage in real interactions with consumers. Some of the most popular standalone VR platforms include Oculus Mobile SDK, Tethered, SteamVR, PlayStation VR,  Open Source Virtual Reality (OSVR) and Windows Mixed Reality. These platforms can all be effective mediums for AR marketing, but not every platform works for every business. Choosing the right platform for your brand can help ensure that your content reaches your target audience and conveys your intended message.Is AR the Future of Marketing? Augmented Reality has quickly become popular in marketing because of its ability to combine traditional advertising methods with immersive experiences powered by new technology. This rapid growth has led many people to wonder about the role of AR in the future of marketing.  While there is some concern to be had about technologies like AR and AI replacing traditional jobs in marketing, these technologies also have the potential to make a positive impact on the industry. By providing businesses with a new way to engage people, AR can help marketers obtain key insights into consumer behavior and enable them to create a wider variety of exciting content for their brand.

Aug 19, 2022

How Augmented Reality Is Changing Our Lives

Augmented reality (AR) is a digital experience that combines real-world surroundings with computer-generated sensory input, like sound, graphics or video. AR differs from other digital experiences, like artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR), in that it doesn't create a completely separate digital world. Instead, AR enhances real-world surroundings by adding digital elements like computer graphics, interactive experiences and information.AR became popular in the 2010s with the release of devices like Google Glass, Microsoft HoloLens and even smartphones with sensors that could track the user’s position and orientation, allowing them to view digital content layered on top of their real-world surroundings. This could be anything from a map overlay to an animated character that interacts with the individual.Since its inception, AR has found several applications in fields like marketing, entertainment and even education. Let's take a look at some of the ways AR is already changing our everyday lives.How AR Is Changing Our Personal LivesAugmented reality is affecting our personal lives by giving us digital experiences in the real world and changing the way we interact with technology.In the past, if you wanted to use a digital device, you had to sit in front of a computer or hold a smartphone in your hand. But with an AR headset, digital content can be overlaid onto the real world around you, so you can interact with it naturally. For example, you can use AR to see turn-by-turn directions while you're driving, or get information about the products you're looking at in a store.These experiences are not only more convenient but also more immersive and engaging. And as AR technology continues to evolve, you can expect to see even more ways that it will change your life.Social InteractionsActivities such as conducting meetings, attending classes or playing games with friends are all now possible through AR, giving people new ways to bond and make friends from all over the globe.AR technology can also be used to create more immersive experiences at events like concerts, sporting events and even theme parks by giving attendees the ability to see interactive digital content that enhances their surroundings.How We Consume MediaAR is also changing the way we watch television and movies. For instance, the popular show “Stranger Things” has used AR to let viewers explore the show's setting, and the movie “Ready Player One” features a number of scenes that take place in an immersive virtual world.As AR technology continues to develop, you can expect to see even more movies and TV shows that make use of it. How We Purchase ProductsConsumers are also using AR to get more information about the products they're interested in. For example, IKEA Place is an app that lets users see how furniture would look in their homes before they buy it.This type of AR experience is not only convenient but it can also help people make better purchasing decisions by allowing them to see how a product will look and fit in their space.Other retailers are also starting to experiment with AR shopping experiences. For example, Sephora has an app called Sephora Virtual Artist that lets users try on makeup by using facial recognition technology.Augmented reality can be used to track consumer behavior, which can help businesses better understand how buyers interact with their products and services. This allows businesses to customize and maintain content through content management systems based on the information they collect from AR.These new shopping experiences made possible by AR are likely to change the way you shop in the future by making it easier to purchase products.How AR Is Changing Our Professional LivesAugmented reality is not only changing businesses and consumers but also the way we work. AR will affect many professions and create new opportunities for fields related to marketing, data analysis and technical support.AR MarketingAs businesses try to engage with consumers in new and innovative ways, AR provides a unique opportunity for marketers.One way is by changing the strategies marketers use for content marketing and traditional advertising. For instance, rather than using TV or radio commercials, businesses can now use AR to create interactive experiences that allow customers to try out products before they buy them. This gives customers a more realistic idea of what they're buying and can help increase sales.AR also changes the way marketers view their job. Traditionally, marketers have been responsible for creating ads and other promotional materials. With AR they can also create interactive experiences that help customers learn about products and services. This means that marketers need to be more creative and have a better understanding of how technology works.Understandably, some people may worry that with artificial intelligence, jobs will be replaced by computer software or machines. However, with AR, this is not the case. There will be more opportunities for marketers since businesses will need individuals who can create unique AR experiences for their customers.Data and Product VisualizationsAs AR technology develops, it will become increasingly important for data analysts and product managers to be able to visualize data in new and innovative ways.AR provides the ability to view data in a three-dimensional space, which can help people better understand complex concepts. AR can also be used to create simulations that allow people to test products before they are released. This can help businesses save time and money by identifying potential problems early on.Increased Tech Literacy Demands From EmployersThe advancement of technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) is increasing demand for workers who have strong skills in using technology to do their jobs.With the rise of AR, it is more important than ever for workers to be able to use technology to its full potential to keep up with the demands of the workplace.

Aug 19, 2022

How to Choose Social Channels for Your Business

With today’s technology, there are seemingly endless ways to market your business and connect with customers. The virtual landscape is so vast and overwhelming that marketers can easily become lost in all the possibilities, wasting valuable time and expense in the effort to gain a few likes or followers.The key to success is evaluating all the options for online interaction, selecting the best choices for your business, then developing a strategy and workflows that enable efficient use of all your channels. This is not an easy task, but proper planning and use of the right technology can make it easier.The Importance of Social Channels for BusinessesSocial channels are forms of digital media that allow two-way conversations and sharing of content among consumers and brands. These include Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, but also other interactive media like email, video sharing sites, blogs, forums and mobile apps with messaging.With all of these outlets, it’s important to keep the principle of two-way communication in mind. Unlike traditional media channels such as print, television or static websites, social media is not for simply delivering content without consumer input. Instead, social channels are interactive and allow users a high level of control over what content they see.In other words, social media is not just about publishing content; it’s about engaging and interacting with the audience. This may seem obvious, but it can be easy to lose sight of that communication element when your marketing team is focused on generating content across multiple channels. Staying on top of the “social” side of media is crucial for receiving all the benefits these marketing channels can offer.Brand AwarenessOne of the primary benefits of social media is promoting brand awareness. This is the public image of your brand along with knowledge of your products or services, and it has a lot to do with overall reputation and trustworthiness. The advantage of social media for brand awareness is the potential for social sharing. If you create a quality content experience on social media, your brand can be amplified organically by sharing among users.There’s no substitute for creativity and authenticity for crafting great content, but there are tools that make it easier to share content across channels. Social publishing applications make it possible to create a post once and share it across multiple social sites. This eliminates the need to re-create content in different forms and helps keep your brand identity clear and consistent throughout all your channels.Customer RelationshipsIn addition to generating awareness of your brand, social media provides opportunities to build relationships with existing and potential customers. Messaging channels allow you to respond to comments, questions and complaints in real time. It is this two-way interaction that makes social media so valuable for fostering trust. The goal is to humanize your brand, speaking like a person with empathy rather than a business just out to make money.All this interaction can be a time-intensive endeavor, however, so it’s important to use the right tools to maximize efficiency. Social media management software can help by aggregating messages and interactions from various social networks all in one place. To free up even more resources for communication with consumers, you should also use an advanced content management system to streamline publishing across all your channels. Less time in development means more time devoted to customer service.Data AnalyticsCustomer relationships can grow even further if you use data, and social media is a valuable source of consumer information, revealing what’s working (or not working) in your content strategy. Social media management tools, combined with customer relationship management (CRM) programs and website analytics, form crucial data pipelines that allow audience segmentation and content personalization in your marketing.Social Channels Businesses Should UseWith an understanding of the various tools available for media management, your marketing team will be equipped to handle content at scale across multiple channels. This is what’s known as omnichannel content management, and it’s essential in today’s world of diverse yet interconnected digital platforms.Despite the volume of social channels available, an effective omnichannel strategy will enable you to assess each option based on its potential for your business, rather than viewing every channel as contenders for your time. With capable systems in place, you’ll have more freedom to meet your customers where they are and potentially discover new audiences.Social Media NetworksThe major social networks have been central to many a marketer’s content strategies in recent years. With nearly seven in 10 U.S. adults saying they use Facebook and four in 10 saying they use Instagram, these platforms are difficult for any marketing strategy to ignore. However, other networks are becoming more popular with younger demographics, and they offer unique features that brands may also leverage with success.People generally go to social media for entertainment and human connection, so if your brand can align with these desires, then social networks should be a part of your strategy. You may not need a presence on all of them, however, so you should evaluate each to determine the best opportunities for your business. Here is a brief overview of the major social networks and some advantages of each:Facebook: Best for business pages, gaining customer reviews, sharing news and events, paid advertising  and selling productsInstagram: Best for sharing photos and videos to promote brand awareness and engage with customers; also good for advertising and for selling productsTikTok: Best for influencer marketing and connecting with younger audiencesSnapchat: Good for influencer marketing and creative advertising through augmented realityTwitter: Good for sharing news and events and engaging with unique audience segmentsBlogsOne of the original forms of content marketing online, blogs remain one of the best ways to capture keywords and links for search engine optimization (SEO) marketing. Though they are often thought of as a static, one-way source of information, blogs are in fact a type of social channel. A blog page can not only enable comments but also be shared via links on the web or through social networks.Readers go to blogs for education and inspiration. If your business can create content with authentic informational value and you want to attract customers through online search, blog writing should be a part of your marketing strategy.Customer Review PlatformsReviews are becoming an increasingly important element of social media as well. Facebook provides the best example, with business reviews as part of the platform for quite some time. Instagram now incorporates reviews as part of its shopping features.Even on other platforms like Google and Yelp, reviews function like social channels because they enable sharing of photos and other media in two-way communication between consumers and brands. And much like social media, reviews can contribute greatly to the public image of your brand.For these reasons, you should prioritize customer reviews right along with other social channels in your marketing strategy, keeping the following best practices for management of customer feedback in mind.It’s OK to encourage reviews in casual conversation or response to praise from customers, but don’t push customers to leave reviews or offer specific incentives for doing so.Respond quickly and with positivity to all reviews your business receives, whether the feedback is positive or negative.For negative reviews, be sure to respond with empathy by acknowledging the customer’s frustrations, apologizing and taking responsibility. Instead of offering recompense in public, invite the customer to contact you privately to discuss the matter further. These same techniques can be used to respond to comments elsewhere on social media, so perfecting your strategy for customer reviews can go a long way in promoting the image of your brand across all channels.The MetaverseAs an emerging technology that promises a high level of interaction and new marketing opportunities, the “metaverse” is a popular topic of conversation right now. Broadly defined, a metaverse is a persistent virtual world that enables a high level of social interaction and user-generated content. Several organizations are creating strong groundswells in building metaverse platforms, often using virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) to create immersive experiences.Examples of metaverse-like programs today include the video game platforms Roblox and Minecraft, the blockchain-based platforms Sandbox and Decentraland, and Meta’s VR application Horizon Worlds. All of these have been marketed in a variety of ways including branded content, virtual events and advertisements.The Future of Social ChannelsAs metaverse platforms continue to develop into fully immersive virtual worlds, more channels for social marketing are sure to emerge. To stay on top of these trends, your business should strive for strategies and content management systems that can adapt to new applications and workflows. This will allow seamless delivery and communication across multiple front-end experiences in the metaverse and other applications.New technologies are continuing to change the ways people chat, shop and play online. Though the number of social channels continues to increase in this virtual landscape, omnichannel strategies can enable your business to keep up, meeting and engaging with your customers wherever they are.

Aug 18, 2022

Is Artificial Intelligence Replacing Marketing Jobs?

As AI develops, many people in the workforce have been concerned about how technology may affect their job security. However, this concern is likely misplaced. According to Stanford Business, the misunderstanding is fueled by the assumption that there are a finite number of jobs that perform a limited number of tasks.While it may seem that more tasks being handled by AI will lead to workers losing their jobs or careers, the reality is that as AI handles more work processes, employees will have more time and bandwidth for tasks that require a more human touch. This may allow companies to focus more time and effort on innovation and collaboration.According to the World Economic Forum, AI is expected to fuel long-term job growth due to economic expansion related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution — developments prompted by technologies such as AI. Technologies such as AI and AR are expected to provide valuable support to human employees in industries such as marketing, rather than pushing employees aside. Where AI Can’t Completely Replace HumansAlthough AI can help develop certain industries, there are some areas where AI cannot compete effectively with humans. These jobs typically require interpersonal skills and involve creativity and innovation. Customer PreferenceUnlike AI, humans can better understand variations in tone and nuances in human language. They can also more easily identify where miscommunications are taking place and how to properly field them. And although AI typically has a large pool of resources to offer suggestions for common customer issues, human employees can offer an empathetic response, which may improve a customer’s experience. Nuanced RequestsBecause AI adapts based on previous information that it has collected, it may be less effective when it comes to fielding less common requests — particularly if the request is complex. AI's difficulties fielding requests may be further exacerbated by the unique ways people voice them. Human employees may not only be better equipped to correctly honor requests in this situation, but they may also provide more seamless interactions that reduce a customer’s frustration. Human-Level QualityHumans are better equipped to provide high-quality results in creative pursuits such as writing, story-building and developing marketing strategies. This is particularly relevant if your business has specific guidelines for quality such as style guides and company-specific goals. Many AI applications are built for more generalized purposes to serve a wide variety of businesses and may not be suited to highly unique task specifications. The cookie-cutter and sometimes awkward outcomes provided by AI-generated writing applications could not only read as awkward to consumers but also result in your content being flagged as spam by Google . Therefore, although AI-generated content is possible, you must be strategic about it.Where AI Can Replace or Augment HumansOn the other hand, there are many areas where AI and automation can very effectively replace human efforts for business tasks or otherwise offer substantial assistance. Largely, these areas have to do with highly repetitive tasks.Task AutomationSimple, repetitive tasks are typically those that are most well-suited to being managed by AI. There are fewer variables the application needs to account for, and the necessary data will be easier to collect and process. Simple content management tasks and email outreach and follow-up are ideal for AI-driven automation. These applications are only becoming more sophisticated with the development of technologies such as headless CMS which do not require a highly static structure. ChatbotsAI can effectively manage chatbots because they typically process common, simple requests. For example, someone may use a chatbot to ask the price of an item or to ask where they can find information about a service or product. The limited nature of these interactions means that companies can have a high level of confidence in the AI’s ability to accurately respond to these questions. How AI Can Help Human MarketersAlthough AI stands to improve several industries and departments within a company, marketing should witness the most changes because of AI. AI can improve marketing outcomes and ultimately lead to success for both the company and the individual. As in other fields, AI can provide support by automating repetitive, time-consuming tasks such as email outreach and follow-ups and potentially even some aspects of content creation. AI can also allow marketers to keep many of their processes in-house. For example, automated software updates can reduce or eliminate the need to outsource IT efforts. Why Marketers Should Learn to Leverage AIAI is quickly becoming the norm, and marketers who fail to familiarize themselves with AI applications may find themselves behind the pack in their industry. AI can help speed up the process of producing large quantities of marketing materials and digital content so human marketers can focus on the more important tasks.Rather than threatening your job security, AI can improve your productivity and benefit your company as a whole by allowing you to focus on what matters most in your job.

Aug 05, 2022

What You Need to Know About Digital Accessibility

To be digitally accessible means to create an equally accessible online environment for employees and job seekers with disabilities. No different than creating an accessible brick-and-mortar store, developing digital accessibility is essential for a business’s success.There are many benefits of digital accessibility for employers, employees and job seekers. One notable advantage is that it creates an opportunity to embrace diversity in the workplace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report on persons with disabilities in the workforce, 19.1% of persons with a disability were employed in 2021 compared to 17.9% in 2020. While the future is uncertain, it’s safe to assume the importance of digital accessibility will remain as vital as it is today. Let’s dive into what digital accessibility is and how it’s beneficial for employers and job seekers. What Is Digital Accessibility? As defined by Georgetown Law, digital accessibility “refers to the inclusive practice of removing barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to websites, digital tools, and technologies, by people with disabilities.” Digital accessibility isn’t just for the workplace; it’s for every interaction individuals with disabilities have with technology. Technology, digital tools or other online interactions should always be developed with accessibility in mind. Failure to create a digitally accessible environment — especially in the workplace — could lead to a range of implications, including failure to comply with the American Disability Act (ADA).  Workplace Accessibility LawsThe American Disability Act (ADA) is “a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.” Common violations of the ADA include:Denying individuals an opportunity for employment because of their disabilityIntently refraining from promoting or providing a raise for employees with a disabilityFailure to provide required accommodations like wheelchair ramps and handicap-accessible parkingExamples of digital accessibility violations include:Poor color contrastNo closed-captioning option for videos and other visual aidsThe Web Active Initiative - Accessibility Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) was developed to make web content and applications more accessible to people with disabilities. While WAI-ARIA isn’t a legal matter, it is an essential set of standards used by many to create accessible content.  Digital Accessibility for EmployersWhen asked to develop a digitally accessible workplace, you’re being asked to create an online atmosphere that adheres to all three states of a disability: permanent, temporary and situational. Permanent disability: A permanent disability, also known as a long-term disability (LTD), is a mental or physical disability that affects an individual long-term and doesn’t go away. Permanent disabilities will affect an individual’s ability to perform daily tasks expected of other employees. Examples of permanent disabilities include spinal cord or brain injuries. Temporary disability: A temporary disability, also known as a short-term disability (STD), is a mental or physical disability that affects an individual over a shorter period, eventually going away. Examples of temporary disabilities include broken bones or a concussion;Situational disability: A situational disability, also known as a situational impairment, is when an individual has difficulty using digital technology as the result of a one-off scenario. An example of a situational disability is becoming visually impaired when viewing a website because of poor page lighting. Creating an accessible digital workplace that embraces the above disabilities and beyond can help improve the way employers and employees consume internal communications. Digital Accessibility Technology for Employers Improving a website’s digital accessibility can be difficult without the help of software and other technological tools. To remove that stress, IT professionals, digital marketers and web developers should consider implementing one or more of the below tools to maximize their site’s accessibility. While the above departments are typically responsible for implementing digital accessibility, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done without them. Below are examples of digital tools and solutions created for employers and job seekers who value accessibility.Accessibility Testing ToolsDigital accessibility testing tools help users identify a website’s usability. These testing tools will conduct automated testing and allow users to perform manual audits to pinpoint the system’s performance and whether or not it’s accessible. Here are a few popular accessibility testing tools and solutions:Adobe Acrobat Document Cloud (DC); Axe DevTools Chrome plugin;CKSource Accessibility Checker;Color Contrast Checker;Dynomapper;Quality Logic;Remediate.co;SortSite;WAVE.There are many accessibility testing tools to choose from. Read reviews and ask for recommendations from trusted professionals before selecting an accessibility testing solution. Closed-Captioning SoftwareClosed-captioning software helps users with hearing impairments follow along with video and other audio-based media on a website. Businesses with audio-heavy websites should have closed-captioning options to ensure those with hearing impairments can understand their content. If users can’t understand a site’s content because of a lack of accessibility, a business’s credibility can be damaged. There are multiple digital closed captioning solutions that can help.3Play Media;Amara;Captioning Star;Otter.ai;Rev;Videolinq;Vitac;YouTube.Websites with little to no audio should still consider closed-captioning solutions. Failure to do so may violate ADA laws. Per the FCC guidelines, all content aired on public television is required to have closed captions if this same content is posted online.Websites are not legally required to have closed captioning, but this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. Opting out of this accessibility tool can alienate staff, prospective employees and customers, causing damage to your brand’s image and your business.  CMS and Headless CMSA content management system (CMS) is a software application that marketing teams use to create, publish and manage content for websites, applications and other digital experiences. CMS software can streamline workflows and ensure content satisfies regulatory standards as well. An enterprise CMS can:Encourages team collaborationsImproves customer experienceIncreases efficiencyReduces management costsTracks marketing information A headless CMS manages and organizes content without a connected front-end or display layer. Compared to traditional CMS software, a headless CMS offers these benefits for providing accessibility:Assign text equivalents to images, implement labeled form fields and ensure keyboard accessibility to all user interface componentsEnsure WAI-ARIA standards are met across all platformsMaintain regulatory standards, avoiding potential fines and lawsuits with an accessibility checkerPrompt authors for alternative content, such as alt text on images, or audio descriptions and text transcripts for videoOffer a uniform experience to all usersStreamline voice and visual search optimizationReview the above in further detail before choosing a CMS can help ensure you get the best system for your accessibility needs.Color CheckersThis simple yet valuable accessibility tool enables users with visual impairments such as color blindness or low vision to customize a website’s color, contrast and lighting. Accessibility color contrast analyzing tools to consider include:ACART Contrast Checker;Colorable;ColorBox;Colour Contrast Checker;Contrast;Contrast Ratio;Deque Color Contrast Analyzer;Tanaguru Contrast Finder;WebAIM. Keyboard Navigation OptimizationsTo be considered digitally accessible, a website must be fully accessible and operable using only a keyboard. Keyboard navigation optimization tools are often recommended when developing an accessible digital experience strategy. According to the California State Universal Design Center, to be keyboard accessible, a web page must not only be keyboard operable; it must also have: A visible keyboard focus to allow users to identify the primary focus elements on a page Appropriate tab order so users can navigate the pageNo keyboard traps that prevent users from accessing parts of the pageIndividuals with motor skill impairments often rely on this adaptive technology to help them perform their duties. This is why keyboard accessibility is essential to creating a digitally accessible workplace.Digital Experience Design SoftwareWhile the above software helps with accessibility, it takes digital experience design software to create the ultimate user experience. The main focus of digital experience design is to improve interactions with all website users, including job seekers. Digital experience design can improve interactions between users and:Email campaignsOnline advertisingSelf-help kiosksSocial media postsVirtual chatbotsYour websiteA digital experience management strategy can help ensure that customers have positive interactions with your business. A digital experience platform will enable you to create, manage, deliver and optimize digital experiences across all channels in your customer’s journey. How Digital Accessibility Benefits EmployersIt’s no secret that enabling digital accessibility embraces diversity in the workplace. However, this isn’t the only benefit for employers. Improving digital accessibility as a business can:Attract like-minded job seekersBoost employee moraleBuild brand awarenessCreate a positive and diverse workplace cultureIncrease productivity While it may seem like a lot to check off from your to-do list, ensuring your business is accessible from all ends is vital. The software and tools mentioned above can lessen your workload and ensure that you provide quality services. Additional Digital Accessibility Resources for EmployersThese resources offer more information about developing digital accessibility for your business:Disability Equality Index;Inclusion@Work;JAN Workplace Accommodation Toolkit; Syracuse University Employer Toolkit;What’s New in WCAG 2.1;Work Without Limits.Now that we’ve seen the benefits of digital accessibility for employers, let’s take a look at how it can positively affect those seeking employment. Digital Accessibility for Job SeekersFinding a new job without limitations is a stressful process in itself, but the stress is amplified for job seekers with disabilities.   There are ways that you, as a job seeker, can improve the digital accessibility of the website you’re accessing. Employers with basic disability etiquette will make it known on their site in a variety of ways. To ensure a website is accessible, ask yourself the following questions: Do they include alt texts for their images?Is there an option for closed captioning?Do you have software to check the color contrast?Can you access every tab on the page from your keyboard? If so, do the tabs appear to be in order?These are also signs a website isn’t accessible:Missing and/or incorrect media captionsPage timeout restrictionsPoor screen contrastHow Digital Accessibility Benefits EmployeesEmployers show they’re attempting to understand and improve the user’s experience when they remove barriers and unnecessary restrictions often seen on other websites.Inclusive companies will also focus on embracing your abilities beyond the application process and during the interview. If you notice a prospective employer only appears to be accessible on paper and not in person, then it could be a sign they’re not the right company for you.  You may consider seeking employers that offer flexible schedules or allow you to work from home.  Advocate for yourself and others if you feel a business isn’t accessible enough. After all, they can’t improve if they’re unaware of any accessibility issues. How to Address Accessibility With a Potential EmployerAddressing accessibility to an employer can be an awkward situation. Here are a few tips for discussing your disability with an employer:Decide if you want to have the conversation. You are not legally required to disclose a disability to an employer. However, they can’t provide optimal accessibility if they’re unaware of what alterations to make.Create a rough draft of what to say before you talk to them.Review their accessibility policy for areas that need improvement.Additional Digital Accessibility Resources for Job SeekersYour rights as an employee are protected by the ADA. Review these rights to ensure you’re not being asked to disclose information you’re not required to provide. You can refer to the Department of Labor’s guide on disability rights to learn more about how you can make an impact on the way your workplace embraces accessibility.  

Jul 14, 2022

Automated Content Management: How Technology Can Make Life Easier

What Is Content Automation? Content automation is a digital marketing strategy that replaces human intervention in the content lifecycle with an automated alternative, saving time and money and freeing up resources. Sounds vital, right? In content marketing there are many opportunities to program or automate repetitive processes, allowing marketing agents to focus on more important tasks such as strategy and planning. Here are some examples of tasks a content marketing automation platform can perform:  Publishing blog posts and distributing content on social media sites Tracking and monitoring user behavior and engagementProofreading content for grammar and spelling mistakesCreating and sending automated emails to a targeted audience, based on behavior and triggersTranslating text into other languages and natural language processing (NLP)Writing content that does not need human interventionWhat Is Automated Content Management and How Does It Work? Automated content management is the human element required to set up and manage automated content. Before any automation can occur there needs to be a well-planned strategy that defines the goals and the method of achieving those goals.  There are a wide range of content automation tools available, so step one is for the executive marketing team to agree which tools are necessary and which tools will justify themselves in time and money saved in the long run. Once the tools are in place, users need to be thoroughly trained to ensure that your organization can reach the full potential of the automation tools. Once the training is complete, the creative work, the fun stuff, begins. Creating written, video or audio content to push out to the audience, in a way that keeps them engaged and results in conversions, is at the core of marketing. Using automation, content can be personalized to a degree that would never be possible if an individual had to carry out the work, but it takes a human to design the process and set up the triggers and options that will keep on delighting your customers. What a human can do when managing content automation: Identify the optimal tools to use for the organization.Establish goals and a timeframe for measuring success of the tools.Train the individuals or teams who use the automation tools.Map out the touchpoints of the customer journey.Create the assets the automation tools will publish.Analyze reports generated by the automation tools and make data-driven business decisions. Push the automation tools to do more and achieve more.The Benefits of Automated Content Management The benefits of automated content management are multiple and can be clearly measured: Save Time Content automation is the answer to those repetitive but time-consuming tasks. Rather than asking your team to laboriously set up individual email newsletters, publish individual social media posts and search for qualified leads, item by item, they can focus on what they do best: creating dynamic content. Leave the machines to the automation and the humans to high-level thinking that will grow the business.Save Money With saving on time comes a saving of money — and less need to have an ever-expanding team. Now the business can employ the right people to manage the tools but will save on a wide team of employees doing the time-consuming tasks. Time will be saved, productivity will increase and as a result the organization will save money.Boost Creativity Relieve your team from the mind-numbing boredom of repetitive tasks and ask them to bring creative ideas to the table. This will inspire and empower workers to engage and will boost creative energy and morale. This can help reduce turnover and the associated costs of replacing staff.Improve Workflow When the individuals in the team know their roles and responsibilities and are free of mundane and time-consuming tasks they can work faster and more efficiently. Ideas can flow, the process of marketing campaign creation can speed up and client relationships can flourish.Nurture Leads Never miss an opportunity again with automated tools that can score new customers and send out handy reminders and timely communications. Automation tools can curate, manage and nurture high volumes of potential leads before they even hit the inboxes of the sales team. No more sifting through a mountain of emails or paperwork; sales teams can focus on the cream of the crop, presented to them clutter-free. How to Get Started With Automated Content Management The first step is to identify the task that best suits automation. It should be a task that is time-consuming, possible to automate and will bring faster and cheaper results. Once you identify the task and goals, you will need to map out a workflow and create any assets that are required. It is key that the results of the automation are measurable so the programs can be constantly updated, monitored and improved upon.Examples of Automated Content Marketing Tools Vendors in the content automation space have two basic business models. The first is to create simple tools with a single functionality, such as Grammarly for editing and proofreading written work. Another popular choice among vendors provides entire platforms where users are able customize every aspect of their website, such as Marketo, which also includes marketing automation, email marketing, lead management and revenue attribution. Hubspot, a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, has all the tools and integrations required for marketing, sales, content management and customer service. The Future of Automated Content Management Artificial Intelligence (AI) is taking the world by storm and the potential it brings is evolving all the time. The combination of automated content management and artificial intelligence is a great tool for giving workers back the time they need to perform more complex tasks that still require a human brain. Here are some examples of ways automation can make life easier: Machine learning: A machine automatically learns new things without being programmed. Interaction between AI tools:  A voice-activated smart speaker to control household appliances is one example. Automated content creation: AI can now create content from scratch, such as writing articles, reports and transcriptions. Natural language processing and generation: A machine reads or speaks in a human language. On-the-spot SEO improvements: AI enabled CMSes are able to identify real-time SEO improvements Content gap identification: AI can spot gaps in content and alert the business to fill the gap Customer service automations: Chatbots are already commonplace, but they are advancing to the point where they can provide around-the-clock support without routing back to human agents.Conclusion When automation is used intelligently it can engage and retain customers and lead them down the funnel with almost no human assistance. The savings in time and human resources are undisputed and the real win comes from being able to do more with less. With automation, the blue-sky thinking can really take flight. Get started with automated content management and AI with Contentstack. Your organization can push boundaries by adopting a composable CMS that’s built to integrate with AI-enabled content management tools.  Contentstack is an agile CMS that’s part of the MACH revolution. It’s microservices-based, API-connected, cloud-native, and is built on headless architecture from the ground up. Contact us today to schedule a demo.

Jul 14, 2022

What You Need to Know About E2E Testing with Playwright

Contentstack recently launched Marketplace, a one-stop destination that allows users to find, create and publish apps, connect with third-party apps and more. It aims to amplify the customer experience by enabling them to streamline operations. Marketplace now has a few Contentstack-developed apps and we will introduce more in the future.Initially, we tried to test these apps manually but found this too time-consuming and not scalable. The alternative was to use an end-to-end (E2E) testing tool (Playwright in our case), which helped us streamline and accelerate the process of publishing the apps.Playwright is a testing and automation framework that enables E2E testing for web apps. We chose Playwright because of its classic, reliable and fast approach. Besides, its key features such as one-time login, web-first approach, codegen and auto-wait make Playwright suitable for the task at hand.This article will walk you through the processes we used and the learnings we gathered.Our Testing ProcessesIn this section, we detail the processes we followed to test the Marketplace apps using Playwright.Set-up and Tear-down of Test DataPlaywright permits setting up (prerequisites) and tearing down (post-processing) of test data on the go, which helped us accelerate our testing.There are additional options available for this:global set-upglobal tear-downbeforeAll & afterAll hooksbeforEach & afterEach hooksIdeally, a test establishes prerequisites automatically, thereby saving time. Playwright helped us do that easily. Once the test was concluded, we deleted the app, content type, entry or the other data we initially set up.Playwright helped us achieve the following on the go:Auto-create app in the dev centerAuto-create content type and entryTest Directory StructureWe added all the test-related files and data to the test's repository. The following example explains the process:For the illustration app (see image below), we added the E2E test inside the 'test/e2e' folder.Next, we included the 'page-objects/pages' (diverse classes) for multiple web pages and tests. The Page Object Model is a popular pattern that allows abstractions on web pages, simplifying the interactions among various tests.We then placed the different tests (spec.js) under the test folders and the utility operations under /utilsAll the dependencies of E2E tests were put in the same .json package but under dev dependencies.We attached .env(env. sample) with correct comments to add the environment variables correctly.After that, we added support for basic auth on staging/dev.In the next stage, we added the Readme.md details about the project.We used the global-setup for login management to avoid multiple logins.Next, we used the global-tear-down option to break the test data produced during the global-setup stage.Finally, we used beforeAll/afterAll hooks to set-up/breakdown test data for discrete tests.How to Use Playwright Config Options & Test HooksGlobal-setup & Global tear-down:Both global-setup and global tear-down can be configured in the Playwright config file.Use global-setup to avoid multiple logins (or any other task later required during the test execution) before the tests start:Global set-up easily evades repetitive steps like basic auth login and organization selection.That way, when the tests are conducted, the basic requirements are already in place.Below is the example of a sample code snippet for a global set-up:Use global-tear-down to break down any test data created during the global-setup file.The test data generated using global-setup can be eliminated in global-teardown.While global-setup/global-teardown are the config option/s for an entire test suite, before/after tests hooks are for the individual tests.Test Hooks Available in PlaywrightPlaywright hooks improve the efficiency of testing solutions. Here is a list of test hooks available in Playwright:test.beforeAll & test.afterAllThe test.beforeAll hook sets test data shared between test execution like entries, creating content types and establishing a new stack. The test.afterAll hook is used to break or tear the test data. This option helps eliminate any trace of data created for test purposes.test.beforeEach&test.afterEachThis hook is leveraged to set up and break down test data for individual tests. However, the individual text execution and the concurring data might vary. Users can set up the data according to their needs.Tips & Tricks for Using PlaywrightWhile using Playwright, we learned a few valuable lessons and tips that could be useful to you:Using the codegen feature to create tests by recording your actions is a time-saving approach.You can configure Retires in the playwright config file. It helps in case of a test failure. You can re-run the test to come up with relevant results.The Trace Viewer allows you to investigate a test failure. This feature includes test execution screencast, action explorer, test source, live DOM snapshots and more.Use the timeout feature for execution and assertion during testing.By setting up a logger on Playwright, you can visualize the test execution and breakpoints.Using the test data attributes during a feature development navigates the test through multiple elements, allowing you to identify any element on the DOM quickly.Recommended Best PracticesWhile using Playwright for E2E testing of our marketplace apps, we identified a few best practices that might come in handy for other use cases.Parallelism:Test files run by default on Playwright, allowing multiple worker processes to run simultaneously.Tests can be conducted in a single file using the same worker process.It's possible to disable the test/file execution and run it parallelly to reduce workers in the config file.The execution time increases with the number of tests; parallelly running tests are independent.Isolation:Each browser context is a separate incognito instance, and it's advisable to run each test in individual browsers to avoid any clash.In isolation, each browser can emulate multi-page scenarios.It's possible to set up multiple project requirements in playwright config as per the test environment similar to baseURL, devices and browserName.Speed of Execution:Parallel test execution, assigning worker processes and isolation expedite the running of test results.Elements like test data, global tear-down and set-up affect the execution speed regardless of the number of worker processes.Double Quotes Usage:Use double quotes if you come across multiple elements on the exact partial string.Help establish case sensitivity. For instance, awaitpage.locator('text=Checkout') can return both elements if it finds a "Checkout" button and another "Check out this new shoe."The double usage quotes can also help return the button on its own, like await page.locator('text="Checkout"'). For details, check out the Playwright text selectors.Prioritizing User-facing Attributes:It's advisable to use user-facing elements like text context, accessibility tiles and labels whenever possible. Avoid using "id" or "class" to identify elements. For example, use await page.locator('text=Login') instead of await page.locator('#login-button') is recommended.A real user will not find the id but the button by the text content.Use Locators Instead of Selectors:Locators will reduce flakiness or breakage when your web page changes. You may not notice breakages when using standard selectors.Example:se await page.locator('text=Login').click() instead of await page.click('text=Login').Playwright makes it easy to choose selectors, ensuring proper and non-flaky testing.Wrapping UpIn a world dominated by Continuous Integration and Delivery, E2E testing is the need of the hour. Though it's a tedious task, following the practices above will save you time and improve your product.

Jun 30, 2022

The Benefits of an Enterprise CMS

If you're a marketer, you know how important it is to have an enterprise content management system that can handle all of your content needs. But what makes it an enterprise CMS (eCMS) instead of just a CMS? The main difference is that an eCMS can manage multiple websites and large volumes of web content, through a single interface and a single sign-on. Enterprise CMSes provide organizations with a tool to capture, organize, store and deliver an ever-increasing volume of digital information — documents, images, emails, rich media and other types of valuable business content.An effective eCMS should allow you to manage your website's content easily and efficiently, without having to go through a web developer every time you want to make a change. Training people to use the eCMS effectively is vital for the success of your website, and when done properly it will save time and money in the long term. Should you invest in an enterprise CMS? With so many different CMS options available, how do you know which one is right for your business? Here are the top 10 benefits of using an eCMS for your company website. 1. Increases efficiency. An enterprise CMS can automate many tasks related to managing and distributing content, which leads to faster turnaround times and fewer errors. The more critical information there is in the business, the more time it takes to keep it organized and accessible. An enterprise CMS efficiently organizes content, making it easy to locate and access, which in turn means you can save time, increase productivity and focus on more important tasks.2. Keeps track of all your information. Enterprises keep track of a large amount of information. There needs to be a way to store and file this information that prevents lost man-hours, shuffling through paperwork or searching for missing or misplaced items. An enterprise CMS offers efficient, accessible and secure document management, giving all stakeholders a smoother experience. Here are some examples:A marketer working on a new campaign can find and take lessons from previous campaigns.A software designer can access customer problem reports before working on solutions.Purchasing agents can access previous purchase orders.Customer support staff can view customer records quickly to offer better customer service. 3. Reduces costs. Investing in an enterprise-class CMS can help you save money long term by streamlining content management processes and eliminating the need for multiple third-party software applications. With the vast amount of digital content created and maintained, it is important to keep track of storage costs and know your cold from your hot data. An eCMS gives fast access to this data, allowing you to save money by storing cold data at a lower cost. An eCMS can also save time for your team by reducing man-hours spent on projects. As fewer people are required to manage the system once it is set up and running smoothly, your teams are free to focus on more productive tasks.Having an efficient eCMS can also create the environment for a paperless office — saving money on physical storage and reducing your organization’s environmental impact. 4. Allows document version control. With an eCMS your organization can experience seamless teamwork and you’ll have more control over important documents. Your team can track notes and comments simultaneously while collaborating on documents. You will be able to access previous, time-stamped versions and revert back to them if necessary. 5. Improves collaboration. An eCMS gives teams the platform they need to be more productive, with tools that allow them easily organize and track projects and collaborate efficiently from any location.6. Offers greater security. An eCMS can help protect your company's confidential data by implementing strict access controls and tracking user activity, as well as providing reporting and auditing capabilities. Strict access control will ensure that only authorized individuals can create, edit or delete sensitive assets, and tracking user behavior gives an additional level of security by reinforcing accountability.7. Improves regulatory compliance. Compliance regulations are constantly evolving and the penalties for failure to comply can be huge. An enterprise CMS gives the tools and framework to instill data management policies that control the creation, retention and destruction of sensitive information. 8. Improves customer service. Getting real-time visibility into the status of customer enquiries, requests and transactions allows you to respond quickly to their needs. Online forms and requests speed up interactions, and with trackability comes useful insights for improving the customer experience. 9. Helps with sustainability. In the current climate all organizations need to consider the effect of their impact on the environment. Cutting paper usage, reducing the carbon footprint of storage facilities, printed goods and transportation all help toward a greener future.10. Allows automation. One of the great advances of modern technology is automation, which gives organizations the ability to save time and resources by removing repetitive manual processes. This can be anything from simple document routing and document approvals to workflows and email customer journeys. What Can an Enterprise CMS Do?Capture: Capture content as it enters the systemManage: File and categorize the content Store: Keep active, hot data and content readily available Preserve: Archive cold dataDeliver: Present the right content to the right user at the right timeWhat Should You Look For in an Enterprise CMS?The question remains: How do you choose an enterprise content management system? How does what you currently have in place compare to what’s new on the market? And if you choose to invest in something new, how can you be sure it will be worth it?2-minute guide on how to choose an Enterprise CMS A cloud-Based SaaS solution: Content Management is constantly evolving and you shouldn’t have to replatform every few years just to keep up. Enterprise CMSes needs to stay cutting edge right into the future and with a cloud-based SaaS solution your enterprise CMS will frequently and automatically be improved and updated without disrupting your workflow - so no more expensive upgrades.Customer support that actually cares: You shouldn’t have to fight for your provider’s attention — you need to find a CMS that has qualified people available to answer your questions quickly.Sky’s the limit scalability: With so many customers relying on your CMS, you need a platform you can rely on to run smoothly as your business grows. Why Choose an Agile, Headless CMS for Your Business?Assuming your business has multiple websites and a high volume of content that needs constant updating, monitoring, editing and refreshing, you should be looking at the most flexible and future-proofed eCMS. Opting for an agile headless CMS you get the benefits listed above, plus more:Integrations with extensions and apps via API: The beauty of headless is the flexibility to integrate with third party platforms and tools. Omnichannel for all: Have one central content hub with a unified user experience across the marketing stack.MACH: (Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native Saas and Headless) is a set of principles behind futureproof best-of-breed software. Agile, nimble, always up-to-date technology that you can add, replace and combine for your evolving business and customer experience.Speak to us at Contentstack about how using an agile headless CMS can help your organization. Book a demo today.More About Enterprise Content Management SystemsTo learn more about enterprise content management systems, see these articles: What is the Best CMS for Your BusinessWhy Every Enterprise Should Choose a Headless CMS

Jun 09, 2022

Agile CMS: The Best of Headless

If you're a marketer or developer who's been searching for the best of both worlds, then look no further: An agile CMS is the perfect solution for you. An agile CMS gives you all the power of a traditional CMS while also offering the benefits of a headless setup. Whether you need to manage a large website or simply want more flexibility and control over your content, an agile CMS is the perfect choice.  What is a Headless Agile CMS?A headless agile content management system (CMS) is a decoupled CMS that delivers content through APIs instead of rendering it on the server side. This API-first approach makes headless architecture ideal for agile brands that need to deliver personalized experiences across different consumer touchpoints.The agile CMS is well suited for digital experiences that are built using modern front-end frameworks such as React, Angular and Vue.js. Headless agile CMSes provide a flexible and scalable approach to delivering content, and they allow developers and marketers to create unique and engaging digital experiences. In addition, headless agile CMSes are often more affordable and easier to maintain than traditional server-side CMSes. As a result, headless agile CMSes are becoming increasingly popular among organizations that are looking to build next-generation digital experiences.What Are the Benefits of a Headless Agile CMS Over Traditional CMSes?Agile CMS is a type of content management system that emphasizes speed and flexibility. Unlike traditional CMSes, which can be slow and inflexible, agile CMSes are designed to be quickly updated and easily customized. This makes agile CMSes ideal for businesses that need to frequently update their website content or make changes to their website design. Headless is a core principle of MACH, which is making major waves with its revolutionary approach on a microservices-based, API-first, cloud-native and headless architecture. As a result, agile CMSes offer several benefits over traditional CMSes.User-centered content hubBuilt-in planning and real-time collaboration toolsEase of use for marketers and developers alikeTime savings on projects Content delivery flexibilityIntegration to existing development stack via APIWhat Industries Are Best Suited to Agile?In the world of software development, agile methodology has become widely adopted as the preferred approach for designing and building new applications. Agile CMS is a relatively new approach that combines the benefits of agile methodology with the flexibility of a headless content management system. This makes headless agile CMS well-suited for industries where speed and flexibility are essential, such as media and publishing, e-commerce and marketing. With a headless agile CMS, developers can quickly and easily make changes to the front end of an application without affecting the back end, and vice versa. This allows for a more agile development process that can respond quickly to changing needs and requirements. In addition, headless agile CMS provides greater flexibility for hosting and deploying applications. This makes it an attractive option for companies that want to avoid the hassle and expense of maintaining their own infrastructure. Headless Agile CMS Case StudiesCovea InsuranceCovéa Insurance offers commercial and personal insurance products to customers across the UK. They needed a CMS to consolidate multiple CMSes, integrate with their chatbot, and support the launch of their insurance-as-a-service platform.What did they achieve?Enabled developers to release code within one sprintReduced call center costs through chatbot integration with IBM WatsonOffered a customizable white-label solution platform for individual clientsShaw Academy Online EducationShaw Academy experienced a massive influx of new learners, educators, and course materials due to COVID and desperately needed to upgrade their traditional CMS from the homegrown solution they were using.What did they achieve?50% faster course publishing time; releasing 90 courses in 9 months5 new languages launchedAbility to release content 2x per weekHealth KarmaA fast-growing startup that was mired in the ticket-based content publishing quagmire of legacy CMSes. They needed a content solution that would empower their teams to scale up personalization, allow marketers and developers to work together efficiently, and lay the foundation for sustainable future growth.What did they achieve?Reusable templates that let marketers directly publish contentEasy to create and test variations for personalizationModular infrastructure that strengthens data securityAre There Any Downsides to Using an Agile CMS?An agile CMS is a viable option for developers who are looking for a content management system that will allow them to move quickly and efficiently. It is also a good choice for developers who want to take advantage of the latest technology trends. However, there are some potential downsides to using an agile CMS: Not as widely adopted as other content management systems No built-in user interfaceMore expensive up front than traditional CMSes (but more flexible and future-proof)How Do You Get Started With an Agile CMS?We have a simple-to-integrate and agile CMS that can help bridge the growing divide between traditional and modern marketing management. Watch our agile CMS demonstration. Find out more about agile marketing from And learn the ins and outs of an agile CMS for enterprise businesses by reading See how easy and creative composable commerce can be, at enterprise scale. Using agile headless technology, watch Contentstack build a shop in real time during this webinar series "The ABCs of Composable Commerce."

Jun 01, 2022

What Is a Content Experience Platform?

As more companies pursue the best approach to create better digital experiences, content experience platforms are on the rise. Today’s consumer expects the research and purchasing journey to be seamless between devices, channels and content. They expect to be recognized and have their loyalty rewarded. Using artificial intelligence, content experience platforms (CXPs) deliver an omnichannel experience, taking customers to next-level interaction. A CXP focuses on the individual user, tracking the unique journey through web, mobile and other forms of customer experience. So now we have a new acronym to add to the multiple-choice as listed by CMSWire: WCM, WEM, CMS, DXP, agile CMS and CSPs. CXP replaces older approaches such as traditional CMS and connects audience interaction across devices and rich content. Businesses can’t afford to stand still. They need a CXP that rises to the challenge and recognizes that no two customers are the same. What is a Content Experience Platform?The CXP is the latest in content management technology: a CMS, but taken to the next level. A content experience platform has speed at its heart and allows companies to create personalized experiences that are designed to retain and engage customers — across multiple channels. In its listing of Top 20 Most Compelling Examples of Personalization Forbes cites Grammarly in the number one position: Grammarly, an app that helps catch grammar mistakes and improve writing, sends weekly reports to users on how their writing has improved. The reports include how many words the user wrote that week, how many mistakes they made and mistakes they made frequently. The report also highlights potential areas for improvement, which helps customers better use the product and improve their communication. A CXP is a centralized tool that organizes assets based on tagging, segmenting, categorizing, individuals, audiences or use cases. When content is organized effectively, personalization can provide custom experiences for audiences. Content can be created and distributed with the aim of capturing leads and driving users to a defined call to action. What Types of Content Can Be Managed With a CXP?VideoAudioImagesArticlesE-books & white papersInfographicsNews feedsInteractive content (e.g., quizzes, surveys, polls, calculators)ChatbotsE-commerce product recommendationsWebsites or blogsHow Is a CXP Different From a CMS? To answer this question we need to take a look at the various types of content management systems that exist today. First, we have the traditional CMS, a low-barrier solution for simple websites. These monoliths deliver editorial content, reporting, customer data, security and administration. The basic CMS provides the software that is the foundation for digital identity, strategy and engagement. However, setting up a traditional in-house CMS, such as Adobe Experience Manager, OpenText TeamSite, Drupal or SDL Tridion, is time-consuming and costly, and these systems can limit creativity by being restrictive and slow. Headless CMS is a different approach using microservices — single-service applications — that you can add, remove or rearrange in a composable ecosystem. This frees you to choose best-of-breed applications that suit your business instead of being limited to solutions prepackaged by a vendor. The headless CMS uses application programming interfaces (APIs) to distribute content to anywhere and everywhere you need it, such as your website, mobile app, email marketing or customer relationship management system. Headless CMSes are easy to use for both IT and business users and streamline content operations to enforce consistency while remaining agile — hence the coining of the term agile CMS or agile headless CMS. This allows companies to connect with customers at scale and respond quickly to market opportunities. The latest technology in the evolution of content management systems is the content experience platform (CXP), not to be confused with a digital experience platform (DXP) — which, according to Gartner, is “an integrated set of core technologies that support the composition, management, delivery and optimization of contextualized digital experiences.” Aragon Research defines the content experience platform as the “next-generation offering to address the age-old enterprise need to create and deliver dynamic experiences to users on any device” — including content experiences — in a multichannel world.” The key difference with other CMSes lies in the “content experience,” and this is where it widens the scope and introduces new possibilities. A CXP must by nature be omnichannel and must be quick, flexible and able to adapt to new channels quickly. It must sync with touchless, voice-driven and extended reality experiences. It must be possible to integrate it with any tools and technologies to empower analytics, personalization and localization. And it must be easy to use for both content creators and end users so the process of creating content is seamless right from the first idea, through testing and on to publishing. In summary, it offers much more to make composable much easier. What Can a CXP Do? With any kind of technological development it pays to be at the forefront — always surprising the customer and inviting them to engage, convert and remain loyal. Getting ahead of the competition is vital and with a CXP the world is limitless. Anything can be built, published, delivered and distributed. Based on the principles of MACH (Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native SaaS, Headless), the CXP is a diverse and ever-changing ecosystem that allows innovation and integration. Creativity can flourish without limits. Take the example of Gatorade: Gatorade Tracks Users’ Sweat Gatorade’s Gx platform tests and analyzes how high-level athletes sweat to deliver personalized sports fuel recommendations. Users apply the Gx Sweat Patch before a workout, then scan it afterward to get their unique sweat profile, including how much fluid and sodium was lost and how quickly compared to other athletes. That information creates personalized recommendations for sports refueling to reach their optimal performance and nutrition. A CXP enables you to:Self publish within minutesBuild personalized experiences fastIntegrate with third-party content platforms, such as RSS, YouTube and morePersonalize content into campaign destinationsDeliver real-time, dynamic personalization Leverage the power of AI to predict content recommendationsDrive and capture leads seamlesslyIntegrate with marketing automation platforms such as Eloqua, Marketo, Pardot and HubspotConnect customer behavior with content performanceGet insights that show what content drives the most salesHow to Choose a CXP Now we know a CXP is vital to the success of creating content and retaining customer engagement and loyalty — but how to go about choosing the right one? The important elements to consider are: Integration with legacy software: Does the CXP integrate well with all the marketing, sales or design software your business is using? And can it push content out to your social media channels? Scalability: How much content does your business produce and can the CXP meet the needs of your content creators, marketing and sales departments? Customer support: Does the CXP have a good rating on review websites such as Trust Radius and G2? Is there good collaborative support during integration and continued support for your admins? (i.e., solution-focused vs. vendor finger-pointing) Cost comparison: Does the CXP charge on a monthly or yearly basis, and are the number of licenses restricted? Costs can vary enormously so it is worth researching and comparing vendors.Take the Next Step Today Ready to level up your omnichannel marketing? Schedule a free, two-week trial of Contentstack platform and see why top brands are choosing our content experience platform.