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Is Your Enterprise Ready for MACH (Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, Headless)?
As competitive pressures drive the need for digital transformation, enterprises have a mind-boggling number of factors to weigh when growing their digital experience. This decision-making process is especially tough for established brands with legacy infrastructure that represents years of investment in capital and human expertise. While the number of martech tools continues to explode, the types of solutions that can support your business transformation are more clear-cut. You can choose to stay wedded to your traditional, monolithic system —or you can pursue a modern digital infrastructure that enables your business to integrate the best of these new technologies and adapt to market forces. If you find yourself caught between the two, you’re not alone. The prospect of embracing a new way of developing and delivering digital services can feel overwhelming. The truth is, if you’re already considering ways to accelerate your growth with modern digital tools, you’re more ready than you think you are to embrace the MACH approach. But what’s MACH? And are you ready to go all the way when it comes to MACH? The following article explains MACH technologies and helps you assess whether MACH is right for your enterprise. How MACH Works Magic in Your Tech Stack MACH technology is microservices-based, API-first, cloud-native, and headless. Far from just a fancy buzzword that invokes scenes of jet fighters, MACH technologies have several high-performance features: Microservices deliver each microservice’s functionality by connecting it to the desired endpoints. Application programming interfaces (APIs) deliver each microservice’s functionality by connecting it to the desired endpoints. Cloud-native infrastructure gives you scalability that legacy enterprise systems don’t have. And a headless digital system, such as a headless content management system (CMS), separates the front-end presentation from the back-end programming. This separation enables development flexibility and breaks down the data silos that stifle collaboration and enables omnichannel delivery. By design, MACH technologies are modular and scalable, with the ability to swap services in and out to meet evolving business needs. This is precisely why the MACH approach is gaining ground. A recent report by Forrester found that 76% of organizations believe that microservices are a crucial business agenda, something that’s also reflected in how organizations are planning to invest. The global market for cloud microservices, which estimates put at $810M for 2020, is projected to reach $2.8B by 2027 — growing at a CAGR of 19.2% from 2020 to 2027. The magic of MACH comes from the way its four key elements work together to make enterprises more agile and innovative. In particular, MACH technologies excel at meeting essential business needs that have become inherent in today’s business environment. Three key things drive most enterprises to consider MACH:Speed: You want to execute tasks and implement services fasterOutcomes: You want to deliver an exceptional customer experience that your current legacy architecture can’t handleProcesses: You need a tech stack that eliminates data silos and promotes collaboration If that sounds like virtually everyone in today’s market, you’re right. In our digital-first world, brands need to engage with consumers on multiple devices and channels, and the rules are being rewritten every day. The good news? With MACH, you can draw your roadmap to success.You’re Ready to Go MACH If... Not sure if you’re quite ready to go MACH? It all depends on whether or not the following statements ring true.You Have Big Plans for Your Omnichannel Strategy If you operate across multiple channels and customer touchpoints — or aspire to — the MACH framework accelerates your ability to innovate with traditional and digital touchpoints, as well as seize new opportunities at any point along the customer journey. The microservices at the foundation of the MACH approach are agile and modular, which means you’re not stuck with the limitations of a one-size-fits-all enterprise suite. One of the biggest reasons for going MACH is the flexibility to choose whichever services you want to deploy. With microservices, you can quickly create and deploy small (as in micro) function-specific solutions for new channels and customer touchpoints without lengthy and expensive lead times because they use less code. Microservices also allow you to experiment and innovate without impacting your other core services, generating less risk and more reward for your effort. Together with a headless CMS, this eliminates channel silos and allows you to deliver a consistent customer experience across touchpoints, which drives brand loyalty. Even better? MACH technologies are inherently vendor agnostic, which gives brands the freedom to innovate, test, and refine quickly — all while creating a custom tech stack that future-proofs their investments and delivers a stellar user experience. Whether you develop something new in-house or you want to try a new best-of-breed tool, MACH technologies empower your team to meet emerging needs with the agility that your customers — and your CEO — expect.You Need Scalable Infrastructure That Grows Along With You If your enterprise needs to react to unexpected market changes or disruptions that call for fast implementation of new solutions, MACH can equip you to do it fast. Adopting microservices lets you take a modular approach to gradually replacing your legacy architecture at a pace that aligns with your business needs and budget. Even if you run multiple platforms that need to talk to each other, the API-first approach makes integration simple, with the added benefit of giving developers the freedom to choose the best front-end technology for a given problem and simplify development with a unified logic.Your Business Requires Lightning-Fast Speeds and Reliable Uptime Using microservices also allows you to implement and manage new features and functionality seamlessly, avoiding the negative cascading impacts if an update goes sideways. This means no more bundling new features or upgrades into complex releases and a blissful end to complicated recompiling and rebuilding. Cloud services also leverage multiple data centers across time zones to give you the flexibility to handle traffic fluctuations that would grind legacy systems to a revenue-stopping halt.You Have Multiple Teams to Serve If you have several people across departments working together or needing access to the same data, MACH will accelerate collaboration. The headless architecture underpinning MACH-ready technology makes it easy to ensure that individuals and teams have access to the tools and functionality they need, thanks to well-constructed APIs to break down data silos.You’re Always Thinking About Keeping Costs In Check If your business needs surge capacity to handle volume fluctuations (think holiday shopping), MACH can save you a lot of headaches. MACH’s cloud-native design lets you power up to meet the Black Friday shopping rush without having to pay for surge capacity when you don’t need it. A consumption-based model is also an excellent choice for business models that recognize that increased transactions mean increased costs — and vice-versa. Instead of asking yourself if you can afford to ditch your monolithic legacy system and go MACH, considering the monetary and morale cost of maintaining a legacy system, you should be asking yourself if you can afford not to.How to Implement MACH in Your Organization At its core, MACH allows enterprises to use technology the way it’s meant to be used: To enable business success, not just to be another sunk cost. And once they see it through this lens, most organizations are in a good mental space to go MACH. Now, follow these guidelines and get in a good organizational space for spinning up your first-ever MACH project.Identify Your Goals and Gaps Starting your MACH journey begins with knowing what you want to achieve and what gaps prevent you from getting there. Do you have urgent problems that need solving to address your current business needs, such as adding critical functionality missing from your current stack? Or are you looking for ways to accelerate your growth and future-proof your next investments in your tech stack so you can turn on a dime if the need arises? Thoughtful questions like these — and plenty of others that are more specific to your business — will help you start outlining your goals when you go MACH. Now how close can you get to achieving those goals with what you already have? What’s missing — and how will MACH help you integrate it? With your goal in mind, these kinds of questions will empower you to identify the gaps you intend to fill with your MACH technologies.Win Organizational Buy-In Implementing a MACH approach is an excellent way to drive growth and innovation in your brand, in large part because it touches every aspect of how you operate as a business. However, digital transformation is as much about people as it is about technology. That means you need buy-in throughout your organization to implement MACH successfully. From the CEO and CFO who hold the purse strings to the developers and content creators who will be working with the new solutions you introduce, your MACH journey will be much smoother if everyone understands the goals and has a chance to contribute to the process. The consultative process often reveals even more opportunities to innovate with new technologies that many assumed were out of reach.Find an Implementation Partner Look, we’re not here to sugarcoat reality and say that the process of taking your whole organization MACH is an easy one. We’re here to say mostly the opposite. Making the transition to MACH requires particular expertise — both with the transformation itself and the ground-breaking technology MACH entails. So, look for a transformation partner that has that expertise. The ideal partner won’t just provide the staff you need to make the transition — though that’s a super important element — but will also continue to support you as you dismantle more of your legacy monolith to let new technology take root. For six powerful tips that will help you choose an ally in your MACH transformation, read our blog “How to Choose the Best Partner to Transition Your Technology to MACH.”Iterate Your Way to Full Your MACH Adoption We’re big fans of the agile approach to everything from marketing to development to, now, MACH implementation. As such, we recommend an iterative approach to “going MACH,” in which you tackle small projects, replace specific software solutions, or improve minimal areas of the business at a time. By doing so, you can create a cycle in which stakeholders can see the changes and weigh in on what’s working and what isn’t working in almost real-time. With each iteration, you and your implementation partner will get smarter about what your organization wants with MACH and implement more efficiently over time. Want to see a MACH technology implementation project unfold right before your very eyes? Check out Project Spyglass, Valtech and Contentstack’s four-week augmented reality effort:How to Concept and Pitch an Augmented Reality Demo (in 1 Week or Less)Augmented Reality for Retail: From Concept to Game Plan (Week 1 / 3 of Development)Augmented Reality Frameworks for an Enterprise Web-Based AR ApplicationDevelopment of an Augmented Reality Retail Skincare POC: Content Modeling and Interaction Building (Week 2/3) And be sure to stay tuned to the Contentstack blog for more updates as Project Spyglass continues to develop!Get Familiar With the Market Before You Go MACH If reading this article has you motivated to go MACH, check out our free MACH Evaluation Checklist to help you quickly assess whether that cutting-edge tech you’re looking at really follows the MACH principles to which you want to adhere. Dive even deeper by downloading our ebook, Break the Replatform Cycle with MACH Enterprise Architecture, to learn more about MACH, see if MACH is a good fit for your enterprise, and get advice from digital leaders who have found success with MACH
Driving Continuous Evolution with a Shared Product Mindset
Successful strategic partnerships begin with a shared mindset, which is why Contentstack and 3Pillar Global have joined forces to accelerate digital product development growth for technology and service providers. True digital leaders know products are never done, and a shared product mindset is the key to moving faster in today’s digital economy. Shared Values Shared values lie at the core of any successful digital transformation. Without a unified strategy, most teams won’t get far. 3Pillar and Contentstack share a customer-centric vision focused on solving the tough problems businesses face today. To solve those problems, the entire organization - from the C-suite to the engineering team - must understand the end goal. Who are we building for? What do our customers need? What business outcomes are we working to achieve? Thinking Differently About Software Development In order to move ahead in today’s digital economy, businesses must think differently about the way software products are created. Teams who adopt a product mindset know that great products are never done; they continue to evolve as customer needs change. Successful digital products must be chosen by customers and they continue to provide value for the business. Without these three key components, most digital products will fail. The Future of Digital Product Development Successful product innovation also requires a strategic understanding of customer needs. End users want their data and content to be aggregated, personalized, and dynamic. The days of long-term roadmaps are long gone; products must now be able to launch quickly, with room for improvements and updates along the way. Cutting-edge innovators must take risks and step outside of their current technology comfort zones to provide the quickest solutions to customers’ most challenging problems. This starts with a shared strategic mindset. True digital transformation requires more than a basic understanding of current trends and cutting-edge technology. Organizations must develop a strategic vision with a product mindset that drives every member of the team. Leaders must guide and empower teams to make smart decisions and build with the end-user in mind. Having the right technology is only one step in the transformation process. Is your team building with the right mindset? About 3Pillar: 3Pillar Global builds innovative, revenue-generating software products, enabling businesses to quickly turn ideas into value. 3Pillar balances business-minded thinking with engineering expertise in disruptive technologies such as mobile, cloud, and big data to develop products that meet real business needs. To date, 3Pillar’s products have driven over $1 billion in revenue for industry leaders like CARFAX, PBS, and numerous others.
The 11 Best Content Management Systems of 2021: Options for Small, Midmarket, and Enterprise Businesses
Today, every business is a publisher. Well, every successful business is a publisher. Consider the following:Website publishers push six new websites live every second. Bloggers published approximately 116 posts per second. Instagram users upload 1,099 posts each second. And so on. Is your business prepared to cut through this noise? Success as a modern business isn’t about beating every other organization that’s publishing on the internet. No, success today is about leveraging the right content to reach the right audience on the right channels. This is why you must choose the right tools to execute a robust content marketing strategy. And it all starts with a content management system.Why Do You Need a Content Management System? Almost every company today needs to create, publish, manage, and now optimize a variety of content they serve to their audience. Many of them — almost 65% — use a content management system (CMS) to do so. Why? Well, there are several reasons. A CMS, especially an enterprise-grade CMS (more on that later), should come with structure and features such as meta descriptions, optimized URL structures, and more that will boost your search engine presence and direct valuable traffic to your websites. Additionally, a modern content management system can help integrate your content with business intelligence applications so you can make informed content marketing decisions that move the needle. This insight is important when you consider that more than half of the data that companies collect is “dark” — meaning it’s never actually analyzed in a way that contributes to business intelligence. A content management system will enable your team to create the governance and workflows that streamline collaboration so you can get your best content created and served in no time. Getting great content to market has never been more critical than in the age of COVID-19. It has forced consumers to do everything from working to shopping to learning how to perform their own services — digital salons, anyone? — via the internet. That’s why ecommerce has experienced almost 30% growth in 2020. This growth is despite projections that ecommerce would decline by over 16%, and the retail market would decrease by 3%. To reach consumers interested in your product or services, your business needs to invest in the right content management system. The rest of this article is devoted to helping you make that choice.Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best CMS for You There is no one-size-fits-all content management system. Different CMS options will work better in different situations. For example, a multi-million dollar ecommerce business running dozens of marketing campaigns across various digital channels will need technical integrations, features that enable omnichannel delivery, and other characteristics that an individual blogger isn’t going to need. There are several criteria that businesses need to consider when shopping for a CMS, such as:Size and scalability: When choosing a CMS, the platform’s size and scalability should align with your organization’s size and scalability. If you’re looking to grow your business with more new members, more capabilities, and more sales, your CMS has to be readily scalable to keep serving you through all your ups (and any downs). Extensibility: Extensibility goes hand-in-hand with scalability. If you’re consistently scaling, you want a CMS that lets you easily add, update, and even remove extensions. Of course, if you’re happy with a more stagnant CMS, you won’t need to prioritize extensibility as much. Omnichannel capabilities: In this day and age, it’s vital to serve content optimized for the channels your target consumers visit. Even if a CMS needs integrations to do this, it should at least mention omnichannel content management as a priority. Content management features: What’s a CMS without the features for content management, such as tagging, search, and workflows? Each CMS has its unique blend of features — make sure the one you’re looking at has the features you need. Ease of use: The absolute best content management system in the world isn’t worth anything if the people who need it the most can’t use it effectively. Consider the ease of use of a CMS to ensure your team will use it. Security and controls: As more of our lives take place online, security becomes more critical. Every time you add a new integration or user to your CMS, your risk of a security breach goes up. It’s essential to be aware of these facts and how seriously a piece of CMS software takes security and access controls when making your choice. Cost: Of course, how much you’re willing to spend is an important thing to remember when shopping for any business software. But beyond the sticker price, make sure there are no ongoing costs that you’re uncomfortable with (for example, many legacy CMSs love to charge per user, charge for software upgrades, and so on).Customer support: When a large percentage of your business success is riding on your content management system, you want to know you can get in touch with your vendor if anything happens to go wrong. Try contacting a CMS provider several times with different requests before signing any contracts to make sure they’re as responsive and helpful as you need.2021’s Best Content Management Systems for Small, Midmarket, and Enterprise Businesses Next up, our recommendations for the best content management systems of 2021 for several key business types.The Best CMS Platform for Personal Projects People running personal projects — such as travel or cooking blogs — will want a CMS with all the ease of use and content management features but won’t need the flexibility that often requires development resources.Our Pick: Squarespace Squarespace is a visual website builder and hosting platform all in one, which means users have just enough flexibility to make their website look a certain way but don’t have to hire developers or interact with code to get their site up and running.Other CMSs for Personal Projects Wix is like Squarespace in that it offers pre-built templates and a drag-and-drop builder for creating website pages. With a free option (that features ads), Wix is ideal for the person who is just getting started with publishing for personal projects.The Best CMS for Small Businesses Like personal projects, small businesses want ease of use and affordability — but they also want security, access to customer support, and content management features that enable collaboration within a small marketing team.Our Pick: WordPress WordPress is an open-source content management system initially built to be a blog publishing platform. This focus on blogs means that while it falls short in things that bigger businesses prioritize — such as access control, superior security, scalability, etc. — it works for individuals because it’s affordable and easy to use. And because WordPress is open-source, entire agencies have been created around developing various templates and plugins that make the platform highly customizable for small businesses.Other CMSs for Small Businesses Unlike the other options we’ve mentioned so far, Amplience is a headless CMS. The next section dives deeper into headless CMSs. Generally, a headless CMS offers more scalability, extensibility, omnichannel capabilities, and security than a legacy CMS. For the small business that’s willing to pay a little more for increased functionality, Amplience can help with digital asset management, product information management, and of course, content management.The Best CMS for Midmarket and Enterprise Businesses Midmarket and enterprise-level businesses have more complex requirements for their digital entities. A midmarket services agency might want to create an interactive content experience for its website — while an ecommerce enterprise will need to deliver personalized shopping experiences at each digital touchpoint in the purchasing journey. These requirements call for a headless content management system that goes beyond simple templates and drag-and-drop functionality. A headless CMS delivers extensibility, powerful omnichannel capabilities, robust content management features, and cutting-edge security — and provides it all at scale.Our Pick: Contentstack Contentstack is a pioneer when it comes to headless CMS software. As such, Contentstack offers the speed and agility that modern midmarket and enterprise businesses in ecommerce and beyond demand — without sacrificing any of the security and control, support, or content management features upon which busy marketing departments rely. And thanks to cutting-edge extensibility combined with award-winning ease of use, Contentstack is uniquely positioned to help you accelerate content personalization, optimization, and publishing across today’s and tomorrow’s digital devices and channels.Other CMS Options for Midmarket and Enterprise While Contentful is another popular CMS that provides standard headless content management features for large businesses, it simply doesn’t stack up compared to Contenstack in a head-to-head(less) showdown. From content management features to scalability to ease of doing business with, Contentstack consistently outranks Contentful on G2 — a recognized business software review resource. ButterCMS is one of the few headless CMSs with a pre-made package explicitly created for blogging. This focus on blogging functionality before anything else means Butter is probably best left to businesses centered around their blogs.Sitecore is an “experience platform” with a complex suite of services built on Microsoft’s NET Core platform. They’re currently rebranding their content management service — known as “Sitecore Content Hub” — like a headless CMS to position their system alongside true headless CMSs. On top of all this, to use Sitecore successfully, your business will have to hire developers or contract out an agency that has specific (and expensive!) Sitecore training. For these reasons, Contentstack beats Sitecore in every category on G2 — achieving 4.7/5 stars compared to Sitecore’s 3.9/5 stars, which are based on real user reviews. Core DNA bills itself as an “all-in-one SaaS digital platform” that aims to provide a single tool from which businesses don’t just manage marketing content but also their internal intranet and events. Due to this lack of focus on critical headless CMS features, it’s not surprising that reviewers note the high cost, the outsized effort required to re-platform, and a lack of desired integration points among Core dna’s downsides. Kentico Kontent is Kentico’s recent development in their “move from pure headless CMS to Content as a Service.” While this shift might sound nice from a product branding perspective, we wonder what it means for users who want to rely on Kentico as a headless content management system.Prismic’s tech-focused blog section and a developer-focused pricing tier show a headless CMS that’s built by and for people with an IT background. While it appears to be a viable option for IT-led projects, it may not be ideal for marketing- and content-focused users. With all the options laid out in front of you, let’s dive deeper into our reason behind naming Contentstack the number-one pick for midmarket and enterprise businesses in 2021.Why Contentstack Headless CMS is the Best Choice for Midmarket and Enterprise Organizations The features that make Contentstack a leader in the headless CMS industry are the same features that make it the best option for content management for midmarket and enterprise businesses. So what features set apart a headless CMS? A headless content management system is built on a modular architecture that decouples the process of content creation, management, and publishing from the design and development of the platforms upon which it’s displayed. This decoupling enables marketing teams to keep publishing perfectly-optimized content to every platform, design teams to keep creating engaging consumer-facing content displays, and IT teams to keep focusing on cutting-edge technology updates — all without waiting or blocking each other or worrying about anything breaking. What makes all of this possible? With modern headless CMS platforms such as Contenstack, it all comes down to a unique blend of technology features known as MACH. MACH is a term for modern technologies built using microservices, supported by application programming interfaces (APIs), cloud-native, and headless from the ground up. This unique combination makes MACH technology modular, pluggable, scalable, and easy to update so that it can support even the most quickly-evolved digital experience at your midmarket or enterprise organization. Compare this to traditional, monolithic content management systems of old in which content management features and content presentation functionality are coupled together. This approach means that your carefully-crafted content is permanently defined by how it’s designed and displayed. And this makes it impossible to create content once, optimize it over and over again, and publish it infinitely to the channels consumers crave both now and into the future. In other words, all the things you can do with modern, MACH-powered headless CMSs — such as Contentstack.Test the Best CMS for Midmarket and Enterprise for Free Today Contentstack provides a variety of clear advantages over other CMS options for midmarket and enterprise businesses, including:Increased speed and agility native only to SaaS-based headless solutionsLimitless scale as your business grows and changesStability and security akin to legacy softwarePrioritization of content optimization for the omnichannel delivery consumers crave Industry-leading content management features and controls that empower marketers to work without expensive engineering resourcesCloud-first architecture and pricing that never forces you to choose between savings and customer experiencePrime onboarding and customer support free for every customer Want to see for yourself how Contentstack can help your midmarket or enterprise organization create world-class content experiences? Developers can dive in headfirst by signing up for a free, all-access trial today. And marketers can get started now with a free, full-featured demo from Contentstack’s helpful support staff.
How Augmented and Predictive Analytics Make the Most of Your Data
How to Choose the Best Headless CMS for Your Company
No matter your industry or organization size, this guide will help you choose a powerful content management system to create the digital experiences your workers need and consumers demand. Keep reading to learn:Why headless is the best solution when it comes to content management systemsWhy a headless CMS is a critical tool for businesses of all types The best headless CMSs for a variety of company typesWhat is a Headless CMS? A content management system (CMS) is software that serves as the central hub for marketing content that engages your consumers, supports your business goals, and ultimately drives revenue. Content management systems do this by giving businesses the tools they need to create, publish, and otherwise manage content for their consumers on their company websites, applications, and other digital channels and devices. And today, when these consumers are interacting with your business on a growing number of devices, you need a CMS built to keep up. This is why headless is best. A headless CMS is built on a modular architecture that decouples content creation, management, and publishing from how it’s displayed. This enables marketing teams to push new content and IT teams to make new tech updates without relying on the other for help or worrying about breaking anything. Application programming interface (API) technology enables content modules to be quickly optimized and published on websites, apps, smart billboards, end-cap kiosks, chatbot knowledge bases, and every other cutting-edge consumer channel that comes to fruition. Headless CMS is part of the MACH family of technology. MACH tech is built on four core principles: It employs lean "microservices" to deliver specific functionality, relies on "APIs" for infinite flexibility, is delivered via the "cloud" for affordability and scalability, and is "headless" so that it can operate flawlessly in any framework. Together, MACH technology features empower companies of every size and type to keep up with consumer trends — the most important of which we’ll discuss next.Why Is Having a Headless CMS Important for Every Type of Company? Have you felt like you’re busier than ever before? If you have, you’re not alone. Over a third of respondents in the National Retail Federation’s Consumer View Winter 2020 report said they have less free time today than they did just five years ago. And what do they want to spend their dwindling free time doing? It sure isn’t shopping around. Just over 80% of consumers say a convenient shopping experience is more critical today than five years ago. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people to do as much of their shopping as possible from the safety of their own homes; it’s a safe bet that number has grown since the National Retail Federation’s research was compiled — and will remain high for years to come. No matter what type of company you serve, meeting consumers on the channels they want to shop with the personalized products and services they want to buy is key to capitalizing on convenience.How to Choose the Best Headless CMS for Your Business Type For businesses that want to stay relevant throughout every modern consumer trend, a headless CMS is the only solution for content management across endless channels and devices. That’s why you need to know how to choose the right one. Let’s explore the type of headless CMS that various businesses should look for when shopping for the right content management system to power their experience machine.Tech Startups Whether your company is a team of one or made up of a small handful of people, startups in the technology space have specific needs. Small businesses piloted primarily by technology-savvy leaders — or at least have a laser focus on technology while developing their product or service — should look for a stripped-down headless CMS. The simplest version of a headless CMS is built without any typical business features that enable marketers to create and publish content without interacting with code. These types of headless CMS can be harder to track down, and you might find yourself wanting to upgrade once you grow your team. However, most tech-focused startups will benefit from the integrability and affordability of a stripped-down CMS while they’re still building out that proof of concept and market viability.Bloggers and Other Small Businesses On the other end of the spectrum are the non-technical small or single-person businesses, such as personal travel, food, fitness, and different types of blogs. If you are — or you’re working with — one of these types of companies, you want a headless CMS with all the business-focused features you can get, so you never have to interact with code. While this type of headless CMS cost more out of the gate, one of the best things about going headless is that you’ll only have to do it once. The cloud-based, API-powered modular architecture is built from the ground up to scale as much as your business needs.Nonprofit Businesses Like small businesses, nonprofits need a headless CMS with marketer-friendly features and a user-friendly interface to grow their audience. They also need the flexibility to scale up (and down!) as their busy seasons and levels of support ebb and flow. But unlike small businesses, nonprofits need a headless CMS that serves a higher number and a wider variety of users — all in a cost-efficient way. To meet these unique needs, nonprofit companies are best off looking for a headless CMS platform that markets explicitly to them. That or reaching out to newer or smaller headless CMS providers to see if they can customize a package to meet both their needs and budget.Manufacturing Companies Manufacturing companies that turn raw materials into finished goods have particular needs for their content management systems. Namely, they need a system that can connect with and create applicable business intelligence from a wide variety of tools — including CAD software, supply chain management platforms, complex accounting systems, partner and distributor portals, and more. A manufacturer should look for the essential features in their headless CMS, such as interoperability, artificial intelligence for automation, and the appropriate level of support to get their integrations and business transformation up and running.New Direct-to-Consumer Brands With their focus on delivering personalized marketing and consistent customer experiences across every channel, direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands are a perfect match for the features that headless CMS offers. While newer D2C brands will undoubtedly need these capabilities as they grow, while they’re still working on cutting through the noise, they should focus on making sure they’ve got their number-one feature locked down: The product. That means managing everything that goes into providing your product to consumers, from the product’s data to product information distribution, inventory, and performance analytics. If that’s where you are, prioritize finding the product information management (PIM) and a digital asset management (DAM) platform that works for you before selecting a more lightweight but still feature-rich headless CMS to create flawless consumer experiences.Medium-Sized Businesses Medium-sized businesses are in a unique position. While they can typically benefit from the same headless CMS features as large businesses, they may be intimidated by an enterprise-focused tool that comes with extras like cutting-edge usability, turnkey integrations, manageable workflows, and white-glove service. The best feature a medium-sized business can have in this case is to identify their most important features right now and what they will need from their headless CMS in the future. A cloud-based SaaS solution’s flexibility is well-poised to grow with a medium-sized business without breaking the bank.The Best Headless CMS for Enterprise, Large Retail, and FinServ Businesses: Contentstack In this case, the best feature a medium-sized business can have is to identify their most important features right now and what they will need from their headless CMS in the future. A cloud-based SaaS solution’s flexibility is well-poised to grow with a medium-sized business without breaking the bank. In the words of Contentstack CMO and former co-founder of the integration-as-a-service provider Built.io Matthew Baier, “ … integration is a superpower that enterprises are beginning to unlock.” Contentstack’s headless CMS was built from the ground up to provide turnkey sales and marketing integrations. These integrations enable the most complex organizations — whether they be modern FinServ leaders, retailers, or others — to provide the individualized experiences that are key to closing sales and blowing competitors out of the water. Contentstack helped the mortgage finance industry leader Ellie Mae cut their developer tickets almost in half so they could get back to the revenue-generating projects that mattered! And speaking of integrations, Contentstack’s partnership with commercetools enables large retailers to rapidly launch and grow all-inclusive ecommerce platforms that support the end-to-end consumer experience. This focus on ecommerce features and the flexibility, scalability, and up-time that result from Contentstack’s MACH architecture — is especially significant right now. By the summer of 2020, ecommerce sales had grown 55% year over year, and shoppers spent an additional $107 billion online — mainly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The digital experiences that Contentstack enables its enterprise business users to create and consumers to enjoy are only going to become more critical as more of our daily interactions go digital. Large retailers, FinServ organizations, and other enterprise businesses can either go big and choose Contentstack — or they can go home.Which Will be The Best Headless CMS for Your Company? Going headless or making the switch from an outdated content management system to a new one will likely be a big project, but when you choose the right headless CMS platform, you can be sure it’ll be time and money well spent. To learn even more about the ins and outs of headless CMS, download our free and easy to read brief, “Traditional vs. Headless CMS — Never Settle.” For even more tips on what to look for in a headless CMS, check out this “Headless CMS Buyer’s Guide.”And if you want to see what a real, enterprise-ready headless CMS looks like from the inside, you can take a no-obligation test drive of Contentstack or get a guided demo.
Minimize Time to Value for Headless CMS Deployment
In this digital age, IT investments are far from sunk costs. IT has become a business enabler that directly supports the bottom line. That’s great news for technology leaders, who now regularly find themselves with a seat at the decision-making table. However, it also increases pressure on technology teams to show results faster than ever. While no one questions the need to keep email systems running, the cost associated with upgrading your content management system (CMS) might be a tougher sell. But investing in a headless CMS will not just save time and money in the long run — it will start paying for itself as soon as you bring it online. It allows your technology and content teams to work more efficiently and generate results faster. This guide shows how to minimize the time to value for your headless CMS deployment, complete with practical advice on quickly taking advantage of the flexibility and scalability that only comes from going headless. There are two critical components to make this happen: Understanding the benefits and knowing how to get there as quickly as possible. We’ll cover them both, starting with the benefits and then showing some examples.What Is a Headless CMS? A headless CMSs separates content creation and management in the backend (the “body”) from the frontend, where the content is formatted and distributed (the “head”). Application programming interfaces (APIs) then deliver the content stored in the back-end repository to any device or channel — from websites to social media platforms, mobile apps, email marketing campaigns, your customer relationship management (CRM) database, and beyond. The content flexibility and scalability that headless CMS enables make it ideal for brands that need to deliver experiences across consumer touchpoints.Why Organizations Choose a Headless CMS to Maximize Value From FinTech to publishing to online retailing, a headless CMS is the solution for brands competing in an omnichannel market — a market that is only getting bigger. The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected devices alone has created a dramatic spike in around-the-clock connectivity as well as the number of channels upon which people can consume your content. Already, 69% of U.S. households own at least one smart home device. And, the total number of IoT devices is projected to reach 75.44 billion worldwide by 2025. Today, savvy companies choose a headless CMS because they need to distribute more content to more digital destinations in less time, and headless is hands down the most efficient and effective way to do so. 3 Ways Headless CMS Helps Brands Minimize Time to Value With an increasing number of non-web endpoints entering your omnichannel universe, you can hardly afford not to consider a headless CMS. Here’s how headless can help maximize value in your organization.Improve the Customer Experience on Your Existing Digital Platforms Consumers interact with an average of six touchpoints before making a purchase. And, they expect the experience to be seamless across all of them. In practice, that means if you’re a retailer that needs to update a listing, your customers expect to see the same listing information no matter what platform or device they’re engaging on. A headless CMS helps you deliver that kind of flawless experience by eliminating silos and providing a single source of truth that everyone on your team can work to optimize and publish on-brand and up-to-date content.Reach Existing Customers on New Touchpoints As new technologies emerge, from today’s smartphones to tomorrow’s VR kiosks, your customers expect new ways to engage. Stay relevant by showing up to the party early, whether it’s in an IoT-connected refrigerator or the dash of a new self-driving car. If you have barely moved beyond mobile, a headless CMS is your gateway to exploring a whole new omnichannel frontier. Introduce New Customers to Your Products Whether you started as a brick-and-mortar business or you’re a brand new cloud-native start-up, a headless CMS is the fastest way to grow your customer base quickly in an omnichannel environment. Using a headless CMS, you can create content once and reuse it as often as you need using APIs. If you’re starting from scratch, you reap all the benefits of agility and scalability right from the get-go. The modular nature of headless CMS also means it integrates easily with legacy systems, so your team can still use their favorite apps without having to copy and paste content across platforms. If it sounds like headless CMS can help virtually every brand with something, that’s because it can. At its core, a headless CMS minimizes the time it takes to generate ROI and value by providing the flexibility and scalability that organizations need to ensure consistently delivering high-quality content anywhere.The Top 5 Benefits of a Headless CMS There is a long list of benefits from adopting headless CMS, but they fall into five main categories.Improving System Performance As content needs to become more dynamic, traditional CMSs are burdened by the additional weight. But headless CMSs don’t have this problem because APIs deliver the content — it isn’t embedded in your website or app’s code. That means, with headless CMS, consumers experience faster load times — which has a significant impact on bounce rate and, ultimately, revenue generation.Future-Proofing Tech Investments As technological advancement marches on, maintaining and adapting legacy systems will become increasingly unsustainable. Every moment your tech team spends building workarounds for a traditional, monolithic CMS, the time it takes to see a return on your content investment grows. But by using a headless CMS that employs APIs to deliver content, you make today’s work easier while giving yourself the flexibility to use new platforms in the future. Some new device or channel on the horizon? Great, create an API, and get your content out there! That’s infinitely faster — and in the long-term, less expensive — than retooling your monolithic CMS every time a new device hits the market.Giving Developers More Flexibility With a traditional CMS, developers have to dive into code to change the content — an arduous process to fix a small typo. But with headless CMS, developers can unleash their creativity to build front-end displays that focus on aesthetics and user experience, all while coding in the languages they already know and love. Even better? When they need to make changes to the frontend, they can do so without having a ripple effect on the backend.Leveling Up Your Marketing Chops The API-first approach of headless CMS makes it easier for marketers to take advantage of strategies that are hard to implement efficiently with a traditional CMS. MarTech solutions like marketing automation, augmented and predictive analytics, and predictive lead scoring all integrate seamlessly into headless CMS via API. This allows your marketing and sales teams to refine their campaigns and tactics in a way that traditional CMSs can’t match. An extensible, API-first headless CMS also makes quick work of personalization and localization by integrating third-party data. This fuels tailored content creation while allowing you to publish multi-language content simultaneously.Increasing Efficiency for Content Creators Research from the Content Marketing Institute confirms that much content-related work is still done manually, which leaves lots of room to improve processes and workflows. By separating content from the way it’s displayed, a headless CMS empowers content creators to focus on what they do best: Making compelling content! Using the modular, labeled, and searchable content stored inside a headless CMS, new webpages, social posts, and campaigns can be created or adapted in minutes. This streamlines the process of delivering content because no one has to locate or recreate it. Not only does it save time and reduce errors, but it also allows content teams to distribute more high-quality content faster. What does that mean for the bottom line? Your content creators can develop scalable systems for creating and delivering relevant, timely content that engages your audience — and stop waiting around for IT to add that comma. How to Reach Peak Headless CMS Performance to Maximize Value Technology itself doesn’t solve problems — people solve problems using technology. These final tips will help make sure you’re able to fast-track the time to value for your headless CMS deployment.Get Buy-In Early and Often It’s no secret that organizational buy-in is critical to the success of any initiative. While this includes senior leadership support, it also includes the people that use your CMS every day. In the process of deploying a headless CMS for the first time, it’s crucial to engage the content creators, managers, editors, marketers, and analysts who all rely on the information and data in your CMS to do their jobs. Just telling someone that the next system will be “new and improved” is never enough. Include your whole team in the conversation regularly and get to value with fewer speed bumps along the way.Teach People How to Use It A fantastic feature of headless CMSs is that not everyone needs to know how to do everything, which makes training a breeze. Be sure to shop for a headless CMS with explicit permissions settings to empower people in their roles and take ownership of their work. With training sessions that teach people what to do and using settings to control the access to content, you’ll have fewer hangups and less rework when it comes to publishing using your headless CMS. Be Clear About How You Measure Value Getting to value faster implies knowing what value is. Whether your primary driver for choosing a headless CMS is enhancing customer experience or improving team workflow, make sure you have the right metrics to measure it before you charge toward your goals.Find Out How Your Organization Can Minimize Time to Value by Deploying Headless CMS There’s no need to wonder if headless is for you — you can see it in action for yourself. To see what a headless CMS can do for your business, get in touch with the Contentstack team to book a demo or sign up for a free, 30-day trial and learn why so many organizations are choosing to go headless.
MACH to the Rescue [Infographic]
The inevitable outcome of converging technology, marketing, and customer experience trends, MACH technology enables the functionality that consumers demand and businesses need to survive in a fast-paced, omnichannel environment.The term “MACH” was coined by a group of independent modern tech companies and inspired by the high speed at which software ecosystems must serve today’s enterprise customers.MACH is an acronym that describes technology built upon four modern principles: microservices, API-connectivity, cloud-nativity, and headless infrastructure.But what exactly does that mean? Let’s explore each in detail. Microservices are lean services that perform specific tasks and are connected via API to be deployed, maintained, and scaled independently to power infinite user experiences.Application programming interface (API) technology connects modules to create an infinitely-flexible ecosystem that can be re-constructed to be completely customer-centric, even as trends and technologies shift.Cloud-native software is commonly delivered as a service by a third-party vendor, so it is always up to date and ready to scale with less cost and time than on-site software.Headless architecture decouples front-end presentation and back-end logic, streamlining interoperability and enabling channel-independent and framework-agnostic content operations.Altogether, these features add up to a MACH solution that enables businesses to keep up with the best of emerging technologies, shift operations with each new trend, and scale as needed without ever performing (another) expensive and time-consuming replatforming project.To make sure the technology you’re adopting is MACH-enabled and future-ready, download this MACH Evaluation Checklist and learn all the critical criteria for finding a solution that makes your enterprise agile, effective, and scalable. And to learn even more about MACH, check out our infographic below that depicts how each of the cutting-edge elements of MACH come together to create the functionality that today’s businesses need to become tomorrow’s empires.
How eSports Are Transforming Video Game Publishers Into Content Companies
As the popularity of eSports grows, so do the responsibilities of video game publishers. They don’t just find themselves needing to create games and content about their games more frequently — they also have to optimize all of it for publishing across channels worldwide for maximum impact. Here’s how the eSports industry’s explosive growth fuels the need for unique content and what video game companies can do to keep up with demand.Why eSports Companies Need Content The competitive video gaming industry, known as eSports, surpassed a billion dollars in revenue for the first time last year. With almost a million mobile games on the market today, the average gamer is spending nearly seven hours gaming every week, 34% are clocking in at over seven hours per week, and almost 20% report spending more than 12 hours each week on eSports. Likewise, broadcast eSports growth looks healthy. Surpassing the NFL’s 16.5 million loyal viewers, it is expected to reach nearly 300 million frequent viewers by 2022. There is even talk of including eSports in the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics! Playing and watching video games has become mainstream. Gone are the days when just creating a great video game was enough to carve out a dedicated audience and continue building a vibrant community. To stand out in the eSports landscape, video game creators have to do something new. They must transform into content companies equipped to create and publish omnichannel content that drives engagement and attracts a continual stream of new players. How Video Game Publishers Can Keep Up in an Increasingly Content-Driven Industry While explosive growth is mostly fantastic news for video game publishers and marketers, keeping up with it can be challenging. What they must remember is that content is the engine of the marketing machine. Content is the always-on customer service. It is the critical differentiator available to consumers whether they’re interacting with your brand via a streaming platform like Twitch or a social media channel, website, app, smart billboard, or any of the myriad of IoT devices. The ability to create quality content and distribute it across channels and devices is the best way video game companies can stay relevant and competitive in the increasingly content-driven industry. But how? Central to the solution is a platform designed to help game publishers and other businesses grapple with this challenge.Reach New Channels and Players with Headless CMS A headless content management system (CMS) like the one offered by Contentstack separates content from its presentation layer. This separation means marketers and other content editors are free to create, optimize, and publish content to their companies’ mobile apps, websites, social channels, and beyond without the technical team’s assistance. Why does that matter to video game companies? Because it empowers marketers to keep up with rising content creation and distribution needs while freeing designers and developers to keep working hard on the actual games. This is vastly different from the “traditional” video game company model, where a small website, called a “microsite,” is set up for each new game. With a microsite, whenever the marketing team needs to highlight a new feature, swap out a screenshot, add a new video of gameplay, or switch up some marketing copy — they have to get a developer involved to write, test, and launch new code. As these menial, manual development tasks add up, either the game or the game marketing has to take a backseat. It simply isn’t scalable when rapid growth is the goal. But using a headless CMS means everyone can do their job at the speed that’s needed to achieve growth — all while improving company-wide performance and productivity. Deploying video game marketing doesn’t have to be a massive hurdle. A former director of online project management at a large gaming company pointed out that once they launched with a headless CMS, “immediately the biggest payoff was that my engineers could go days and weeks without having to touch content at all. Other designers on the team — or the marketing folks — could go in and add images or content, and it would all go live in just a few minutes.”3 Ways to Use Your New Content Chops to Build Engaged Gamer Communities Building a loyal and engaged audience doesn’t have to be a constant struggle. The following tactics will help you use content to stand out from the crowd.Localize, Localize, Localize! When it comes to eSports, localization is becoming an increasingly important element. Localization is the process of translating and creating content for a particular geographical audience that is linguistically correct, culturally sensitive, and relatable. It goes beyond a simple word-to-word or phrase-to-phrase direct language translation. Localization addresses cultural differences like context, idioms, slang, associations with certain words, local currency, fashion preferences, religious differences, historical facts, and more. Video game localization aims to prepare a game and its marketing campaigns for use in a new region seamlessly so players can’t even tell it was ever intended to be used anywhere else. Video game content and marketing localization efforts can range from the standard:Replacing or adopting expressions to reflect cultural normsChanging formats (time, currency, etc.) to locally-used onesLocalizing cultural or historical referencesUpdating menus and other areas containing written language to the more complex:Adding voice overs or dubbing from actors who speak the native languageChanging music and other audio to be culturally appropriateEditing (or removing) unsuitable plot lines or scenesAdjustments to meet local censorship or content rulesCharacter redesign to achieve the right “look” Leveraging a headless CMS that offers sophisticated localization capabilities enables video game makers to create and publish content optimized for various audiences and platforms. Increase Ad Engagement with Seamless Content Management Subtle, seamless, non-intrusive advertising content management engages gamers while they’re gaming. Research shows ads that integrate “natively” are 60% more engaging than non-native ads. And, generations that are more “visually inclined,” like Millennials and Gen Z, are more likely to engage with native advertising. They view it as more trustworthy and prefer it by almost 40% compared to conventional advertising. A popular method of native advertising, dynamic in-game advertising (DIGA), allows gamers to make real-time purchases within the video game. These native ads appear throughout the game environment (think posters on buildings, billboards on the side of a highway, etc.). Because they feel more natural within the gaming ecosystem, they have increased engagement over traditional advertising methods. Unlike with typical banner ads, native ads mean advertisers can effectively communicate offerings without worrying about annoying their audience. Video game publishers don’t have to worry about losing gamers, and gamers can play without obvious distraction or intrusion.Build a Dynamic Gaming Community Digital gamers are no longer a hidden fraction of a broader community. More than 60% of eSports players report playing with others, either in-person or online. Additionally, many people enjoy watching and commenting on gamers as they show off their skills. In addition to YouTube, social platforms like Facebook Gaming, Twitch, Mixer, HitBox, Bigo Live, Beam, and Caffeine.tv are ideal places to connect with audiences who love watching video gameplay. Creating a new community around your games will take time and commitment. It’s not something that flourishes overnight, but a vibrant gaming community is something that will, ultimately, yield big rewards. By building a gaming community focused on sharing content that will help gamers play better will foster engagement leading to trust, feedback, shares, referrals, and downloads.Will You Transform with the Rest of the eSports Industry? The gaming world has evolved dramatically since Super Mario took the world by storm in the mid-80s. Today, video game companies are among some of the world’s biggest brands and are pulling in billions of dollars a year. When you develop an omnichannel content creation and marketing workflow that enables your video game company to pump out messaging that is fresh, culturally relevant, engaging, non-intrusive, and helpful — you can start leading the pack. Curious to learn more about how Contentstack’s headless CMS can help you keep up with the transition that is sweeping eSports? Get in touch with our team today.
3 Must-Have Digital Commerce Marketing Infrastructure Tools
Today, technology is developing so rapidly that even the savviest commerce marketing executives can easily find themselves falling behind when it comes to emerging trends and tools to evolve their strategies. This article fills you in on some of the most impactful digital commerce marketing trends in 2020 and the technology to add to your infrastructure to stay in sync with consumers and competitors alike.3 Critical Digital Commerce Marketing Infrastructure Trends and Tools to Adopt Today A common thread runs through each of these critical digital commerce marketing infrastructure trends and tools: Connecting marketing efforts and processes to keep up with digital demands in 2020 and beyond.The Trend: A Connected Digital Marketing Toolbox Scott Brinker’s now-famous illustration of the marketing technology (martech) landscape has grown from including about 150 martech tools in 2011 to over 7,000 in 2019. And today’s typical enterprise company uses 60 different applications that most workers are switching between for up to an hour each day. So it comes as no surprise that “integrating disparate tools” is one of the most prominent challenges marketers face when using technology effectively. Getting the tools in your martech stack to play nicely together isn’t just a matter of convenience. It’s essential for your success that they can share data and function in a streamlined fashion so you can create and deliver personalized, omnichannel digital marketing at scale. The Tool: APIs Luckily for commerce marketers looking to connect their entire digital marketing strategy, APIs are the next big thing in software. An application programming interface (API) is software that lets a “product or service communicate with other products and services.” APIs offer a simplified way to connect technologies without understanding or having access to their inner workings. To streamline your marketing strategy, look for martech applications with APIs. API support ensures they can integrate with each other and most other tools your business uses to streamline functionality in marketing and beyond. No one marketing platform has all the features you need when you need them. Seamlessly piece together your platform, save on custom development costs, and maintain your flexibility with API-connected marketing software that can be infinitely changed and scaled.The Trend: A Comprehensive, Informed Marketing Strategy We’re mentioning a comprehensive view of data again because data is one of the most vital elements in commerce marketing today. In a world of 22 billion internet-connected devices and an industry with one of the most diverse channels mixes out there — if there’s anything commerce marketers have access to, it’s customer data. However, having access to customer data doesn’t mean you have the knowledge, time, or capability to collect and apply it in a way that’s helpful to your marketing strategy. Luckily, there’s a tool for that. The Tool: Customer Data Platform A customer data platform (CDP) is a relatively new kind of software that “combines data from multiple tools to create a database of your customers.” As the central point of contact for customer data, CDP technology collects and organizes data into 360-degree customer profiles so that marketers can quickly create personalized campaigns. CDP is gaining adoption rapidly because it’s among the first of its kind — a platform that consolidates business data in a way that’s helpful and accessible to marketers so they can create smart, comprehensive marketing strategies. The Trend: Omnichannel Content and Product Delivery One of the most prominent challenges commerce marketers experience when building a customer journey is the number of touchpoints. Yet, at the same time, the people who shop across multiple touchpoints are more valuable to brands: Spending up to 35% more during the average transaction and generating a 30% higher lifetime value than single-channel shoppers. To generate the kind of experiences that omnichannel shoppers expect and pull in more significant profits for your business, you must keep your content fresh, accurate, and relevant on every channel where they interact with your brand. The Tool: Headless Content Management Whereas your traditional content management system (CMS) permanently connects content creation, storage, and distribution. A headless CMS replaces this permanent connection with APIs that make it optional. With headless CMS, content exists separate from the way it’s distributed. It can be created and then re-formatted and re-distributed over and over again wherever it’s needed. This functionality is critical to digital commerce marketing infrastructure because it empowers content professionals to focus on creating the most valuable business content. Using third-party applications that integrate into the headless CMS via API, marketers can plug in their CRM, email marketing programs, localization and translation tools, and even commerce solutions to customize content so that it’s just right for every audience and channel. Headless CMS frees marketers from the rewrites, the copying and pasting, and the switching between different apps to tweak and publish different versions of the same content continually. Keep Learning About Tools and Trends in the Digital Commerce Space Digital commerce brands with a diligent commitment to ongoing learning are the ones that will stay ahead of the curve as the number of shoppers and consumption channels continues to rise at a rapid pace. Check out some of our other content to keep educating yourself about tools and trends in digital commerce:The Omnichannel Technology You Need to Navigate a Fragmented Retail Market 5 Must-Know Digital Commerce Trends for 2020 and Beyond 3 Trends That Are Fueling Experience-Driven Commerce Omnichannel Retail: 6 Technologies to Transform Your Strategy
Survey: The Pains and Priorities of Digital Experience for IT Leaders in 2020
We recently conducted a survey of 100 business, technology, and marketing leaders at UK enterprises to learn more about how well current digital experience investment aligns with digital transformation ambitions. Overall, we found out that there is a lot of room for improvement. Only 27% of respondents said their current tools were adequate to meet their ambitions over the next 18 months. Furthermore, companies are wasting a quarter of their digital experience budget on capabilities they don’t use. Nearly all (98%) of these organizations have some sort of digital transformation project underway, and technology executives are at the helm of most of these efforts. These survey results give valuable insight into the pain points these digital leaders are experiencing with their current investment, how they plan on moving forward, and the slight differences in their transformation ambitions compared to their business and marketing counterparts. The Role of IT is Getting Wider As digital expands its reach across the enterprise, it blurs the roles and responsibilities within the C-suite. IT leaders see an increase in project requests — a 40% increase in 2020 according to a MuleSoft report published at the start of the year — and an increase in the work required to get the company on board with new changes. This year has made it clear just how critical digital business is. IT has seen an increase in focus and funding due to the pandemic, with 38% of IT decision makers saying it has helped improve the understanding of the department and 30% saying they now have more control over business decisions. This increased authority, combined with their wide-angle view of the company’s digital architecture, sets the stage for IT leaders to make significant shifts in an organization’s digital maturity. Today’s Investment Pains Technology, business, and marketing leaders agree about the current state of their digital experience investment. All three groups report that a quarter of their investment is inadequate for today’s ambitions, and roughly half of the features and capabilities in that investment go unused. However, there are differences in opinions on future technology choices. Over the next 18 months, 52% of business leaders expect to invest in new technologies compared to 36% of IT leaders. In the same time period, marketing and business leaders expect current investment to become more inadequate while IT leaders don’t expect further decay. This could be attributed to IT leaders having a better overview of the current toolkit. There may be tools already purchased, not yet implemented, that are capable of meeting future needs. With 74% of IT leaders listing “lack of integrations with other technologies” as a top factor contributing to technology inadequacy, they may be aware of upcoming integration plans that will make specific tools more usable. So while some investments will decay, other investments will become more adequate over time. On the other hand, the difference could indicate that business and marketing leaders hear more about the capability performance from the user’s perspective. The backend of a solution might be smoothly implemented, and theoretically, it should be able to do what you want. Still, if users find it frustrating, it won’t be seen as an adequate technology. Both groups were more likely than their IT counterpart to say that the high cost of implementation and low employee adoption were barriers responsible for unused digital experience capabilities. IT leaders will need to address departmental barriers and differences in expectations to ensure future technologies have the best chance of success. New Technology Priorities When asked about their top three evaluation criteria for new technologies, IT leaders were most likely to say the total cost of ownership (62%), ease of integration (56%), and optimizing current processes (50%). They were least likely to be looking to new technologies to open new revenue streams. With half of CTOs stating that part of their role is dedicated to the modernization of core technology infrastructure, it makes sense that the top priorities would revolve around fine-tuning business processes, budgets, and the backend. How 2020 has Shifted Priorities It’s estimated that the impact of COVID-19 has accelerated companies’ digital communication strategies by a global average of 6 years. An IBM survey found that 66% of executives have completed initiatives this year that previously encountered resistance. Traditional and perceived barriers like technology immaturity and employee opposition to change have fallen away. When asked how COVID-19 has impacted their technology evaluation criteria, each criterion was more important by at least half of technology leaders. Remote work support and ease of employee adoption saw the most impact, with 83% and 71% saying they were more critical, respectively. IT leaders have had to take on the monumental task of figuring out how to keep business running with a suddenly remote workforce, so it’s no surprise that their top priorities focus on ensuring tools are usable. With over half of employees wanting to continue working remotely after the pandemic, the technology decisions an organization makes now are laying the foundation for the long-term. Steps to a Successful IT-Led Digital Transformation In a recent ebook about modern enterprise architecture, we interviewed digital directors who are currently leading their organizations through major transformation efforts. They shared some of the key lessons they’ve learned along the way to company-wide change. Align the Brand Early When Tom Morgan, Director of Digital at The Spectator, was tasked with modernizing the British media company’s architecture, he said the first step was to understand what the 200-year-old brand meant to their readers. “In order to have a chance of changing people’s perceptions around technology, I really needed to be able to speak the brand language. That was a case of spending immersive time with our product, but also spending immersive time with our customers. Above all the other change mechanisms we did, all the prototypes and all the bulldozing, that was probably the most powerful one. It means that now, when I sit with other stakeholders and talk about decisions from a technology point of view, I can talk with a position of authority about what that means to our readers and what that means to our customers, but also what it means to our legacy and our institution.” Departmental Projects to Multidisciplinary Products Whereas projects have clear end dates and focus on concrete deliverables, products have evolving roadmaps and focus on delivering functionality and measurable value add. This sets up a space for cross-departmental teams to collaborate on the full product lifecycle — planning, design, implementation, launch, value measurement, improvement, maintenance, and retirement. Approaching transformation with a cross-section of departments helps each stage go smoother, says the Director of Digital at an iconic British luxury fashion house. “There will always be mini compromises along the way, but you can have a lot of unity from the very beginning in the choices you make. That sets you up well for the phase where you deliver.” New Types of Vendor Partnerships While IT respondents were not likely to place importance on vendor support, 39% of business leaders felt it was a top reason current investment will become inadequate. Marketing leaders ranked it as the second most important evaluation criteria for new technology. Marketing and business teams who are eager to employ modern software capabilities are looking to partner with vendors to pilot new types of digital experiences. While IT departments may have a more realistic view of how mature the architecture is and feel the company is not yet ready for these initiatives. However, for enterprises that are ready to modernize their architecture, a vendor relationship is fruitful. In interviews about their move to MACH architecture (Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, Headless), digital leaders discussed this partnership’s importance. “We’re going to be the first UK publisher to be doing headless at this scale. You can’t do that without an understanding from your solution partner that it’s more than just a software-as-service relationship. It’s a deeper part of the journey.” -Tom Morgan, Director of Digital, The Spectator Strong Collaboration For A Smooth Journey Companies that aim to be digital leaders will have to take some paths that don’t have clear roadmaps. When companies stall in their digital progress, the cause is more likely to be misaligned culture (18%) or insufficient commitment across the organization (14%) than significant disruptions to the market (6%), according to a study by McKinsey & Company. The most commonly cited reason for those who avoided digital derailment was “strong alignment and commitment across the organization.” Clear communication among the C-suite, departments, and external vendors can match priorities with possibilities and create the smoothest journey to digital transformation. See the full results of the UK enterprise leader survey: The State of Digital Experience Investment in the United Kingdom Learn more about how Digital Directors are modernizing business: Break the Replatforming Cycle with MACH Enterprise Architecture
Project Spyglass: 4 Weeks to a Working Augmented Reality Prototype
Contentstack and Valtech built a working Augmented Reality showcase in less than 4 weeks of development. Here you’ll find the resources to the full story: how we built it, what we’ve learned, and of course, how you can try it for yourself. The brief was to build a production-ready (or as close as possible), open-sourced, mobile-web-based (for maximum accessibility) augmented reality demo that leveraged Contentstack’s content experience platform and headless CMS. Spoiler alert: We did it. Here’s another spoiler: You can view the demo video below, and try it for yourself here: spyglass.valtech.engineering Read the full story of how we built Project Spyglass at the links below: Week Zero: From brief to concept Week One: From concept to game plan Week Two: Content modeling and interaction building Week Three: Integration!See the evolution of the project in th video: Check out the full video playlist here What Did We Learn?1. Start with “Why?” Augmented reality applications should not just be built out because they are “cool”. Any new customer-facing touchpoint needs to respond to user needs. We learned that AR is useful for distilling large volumes of potentially complex information, and coupled with personalization technology, can provide a customized retail experience that helps filter through potentially confusing purchasing options. This was our starting point and our anchor throughout the entire project.2. Use tools that simplify Technology can help. After extensive research on Augmented Reality frameworks and methodologies, we selected the following technology stack:A-frame, which is a way to describe a 3D scene in an HTML-like markupAR.js, which layers that 3D scene on top of camera pixelsParcel, a low-configuration bundling toolContentstack, to provide the content to the application in real time via its headless GraphQL API.3. Work in parallel A very small team (4 people) built this demo in 4 weeks. The trick was having all parts of the project being developed simultaneously, and iterating throughout the course of the project. Content: Mapping content properly is essential, so start early and continue to iterate.Design: Keeping with our “why”, the goal was making the application easy to interact with, so our designer iterated on sketches and concepts and designs right until the very last day.Engineering: Work out individual scenarios, then put them all together later.4. MACH is Essential Having an API-first headless CMS made it possible to quickly upload content and pull it into the application. MACH (microservices, API-first, cloud-native and headless) technologies make it quick and easy to build out new touchpoints, whereas with a more traditional system it would have taken much longer to create an environment where this innovation could be built.Want to Learn More? Watch lead architect Jason Alderman and Contentstack Head of Product Marketing Sonja Kotrotsos delve deeper into all the lessons that we learned from building Project Spyglass in this session from TNW Conference.
CX for Financial Services: Shaping the Customer Experience
Think about every time a customer interacts with your brand: speaking with an advisor over the phone, engaging with a chatbot online, or visiting a branch or office in-person. Every single one of these interactions is an opportunity to provide a customer experience (CX) that keeps them coming back for more — or one that sends them looking for a new provider and telling their friends and family about their negative experience all along the way. As any marketing leader in the financial services space knows, it’s satisfying customer experiences that form the foundation for building lasting relationships, cultivating high-quality referrals, and boosting overall business profitability. Keep reading to learn about the modern financial services experience that your customers desire, how to deliver it, and why you don’t have time to wait any longer. In addition to this article, be sure to check out “The Future of Financial Services Technology featuring Forrester” webinar, including Oliwia Berdak, VP Research Director for Forrester, and Sonja Kotrotsos, the Global Head of Product Marketing at Contentstack, for more information on customer experience and the future of financial services.What Customers Want from Financial Services CX — And Why Now Is the Time to Deliver Today, close to 80% of North Americans classify their relationship with their financial services providers as “transactional” instead of advice-based. Not only does this lack of a meaningful relationship cause customers to more readily jump ship and switch providers, but it also doesn’t deliver on modern customer demands. Today’s consumers want personalized digital experiences. 40% of bank clients say they’d be more inclined to remain loyal to their bank if it upped its personalized service. Yet, the majority of banks are still just offering minimal personalization. Unfortunately for these organizations, we live in a “switching economy” where a lack of brand loyalty costs businesses in the U.S. an estimated $1.6 trillion yearly. Over half of U.S. financial services customers say they’ve switched providers after a negative customer service experience in the past year alone. In addition to the ease of switching and the lack of personalization that might convince them to stay, consumers also switch when a particular provider can’t keep up with all the channels through which they want to access financial services. The traditionally slow, inconsistent, and outdated experience provided by many financial institutions is understandably leading consumers to seek out better-equipped providers to handle their fast-paced, highly-digital lifestyles. In the digital age, where consumers can do their research, sign up for a new financial services provider, and have their accounts switched over in the span of a single afternoon, businesses must adopt the following strategies to compete in the arena of customer experience. How to Modernize the Financial Services Customer Experience Today, 80% of financial services providers think innovators in the industry threaten their business’s success. One of the reasons they aren’t able to keep up with disruptive new businesses is a lack of systems to support modern customer experiences. But by implementing the next five strategies, you’ll be on your way to a well-oiled program for providing a modern experience that customers crave.Prepare for the Device-Driven Future of Customer Experience We’ve said it before: Connected devices are reshaping how consumers behave across the board — financial services included. The Internet of Things (IoT) — a web of internet-enabled smart devices ranging from phones to watches to smart speakers and beyond — consists of 27 billion devices. That number is expected to grow to 75 billion by 2025. Internet-enabled devices are becoming more and more ubiquitous. People expect to be able to use them to order groceries, participate in a remote work meeting, and get advice about their retirement account all in one day. If you aren’t ready to go all-in to develop apps for all the various devices just yet, the next best thing is to optimize your website for mobile visitors. Remember, If your website is not optimized for mobile users, they’re 5x more likely to bounce. Digital, Self-Service Options Are All the Rage Nearly 80% of North Americans say they’re willing to take investment advice from a computer, and 46% of consumers are willing to bank using robo-advice. Customer-facing chatbots equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) allow your clientele to interact with your brand and get answers 24/7. On the flip side, chatbots that support your human customer service agents help them quickly locate the best information to efficiently and effectively handle customer queries. A quickly-answered customer is a happy customer. Not sure where to start? Here’s how 11 different financial institutions are using chatbots to build great CX. Great Content Boosts the Customer Experience in Numerous Ways As a marketing professional, you probably aren’t shocked to see that one of the best methods for improving CX for financial services — even in this modern age — is providing high-quality content. Content that’s written to provide value to consumers also makes a great pool of information for chatbots and other AI tools you might be using to automate customer support. And beyond automation, high-quality content is an excellent resource for customer service agents, advisors, tellers, and other staff who need access to information when working with customers daily. Then, there’s the final significant benefit of great content — getting in front of potential new customers. Sure, paid advertising is big for bringing in the eyeballs — but SEO is bigger. From mobile to desktop, SEO has proven to generate 20x more traffic than paid ads. Just look at Credit Union of Texas, who showed up on the first page of their search engine of choice 23% more often only three months into revamping their content creation program. But what’s even more impressive was the 503% increase in their keyword ranking.The Personalization Customers Crave Leads to Profit and Growth As we mentioned above and in previous articles, personalization is practically standard for any business that wants to compete in the digital sphere today. PWC’s Financial services technology 2020 and beyond report says the ability to gather customer intelligence and implement it to deliver what they want is the leading predictor of revenue growth and financial institutions’ profitability. The value of personalization is lost on no one today. The hard part is implementing valuable personalization at a scale that makes a difference for customers. That’s a mystery we’ll unravel next. Bring Your Strategies for Better Financial Services CX Together Under One Technological Roof A headless content management system (CMS) is a great technology platform for financial businesses — and many other businesses — to create and deliver content-based experiences optimized for every channel and personalized to every consumer. What is a headless CMS? It’s the modern answer to traditional, monolithic CMSs like WordPress. With a monolithic CMS, content and its presentation layer are coupled together. This means content has to be manually reformatted for every channel and customer. But a headless CMS separates content from how it’s displayed. This means marketing folks can manage their content from end to end. Simultaneously, designers and developers can create the best display for that content, whether delivering it to a website, a mobile application, a chatbot, or any other IoT device. The best part is the application programming interface (API) technology that connects the whole system. These APIs enable best-of-breed applications and microservices to be integrated into the workflow to maximize everything from content translation to A/B testing, analyzing content, and of course, personalization. See CX for Financial Services in Action Ellie Mae — a cloud platform for the mortgage industry — adopted Contentstack headless CMS to remove redundancies from their content delivery methods and bring overall costs down. With Contentstack, Ellie Mae’s marketing team publishes content 98% faster, developers get their work done 40% quicker, and leadership can concentrate on sales pipelines and revenue. Next Steps for Financial Firms to Shape Customer Experience in the Future Over 90% of financial firms report that they see enhanced customer experience as a critical competitive advantage. As mentioned above, for more information on CX and financial services, be sure to watch “The Future of Financial Services Technology featuring Forrester” webinar with Oliwia Berdak, VP Research Director for Forrester, in which she covers topics such as the impact of COVID-19 and the digital acceleration of personalization technologies changing the future of financial services. Also, in this webinar, Sonja Kotrotsos, the Global Head of Product Marketing at Contentstack, explains the related technologies needed by financial firms to create a future-proof platform with real-world use cases. Additionally, you can also download a complimentary copy of Going Beyond ROI with Return on Experience to learn how to measure return on experience (ROX) — a metric for the cutting-edge financial services providers that are finally ready to deliver the modern experiences their customers want.