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What Is a Content Experience Platform?

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Jun 01, 2022 | The Contentstack Team

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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?

  • Video
  • Audio
  • Images
  • Articles
  • E-books & white papers
  • Infographics
  • News feeds
  • Interactive content (e.g., quizzes, surveys, polls, calculators)
  • Chatbots
  • E-commerce product recommendations
  • Websites or blogs

How 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:

  1. Self publish within minutes
  2. Build personalized experiences fast
  3. Integrate with third-party content platforms, such as RSS, YouTube and more
  4. Personalize content into campaign destinations
  5. Deliver real-time, dynamic personalization
  6. Leverage the power of AI to predict content recommendations
  7. Drive and capture leads seamlessly
  8. Integrate with marketing automation platforms such as Eloqua, Marketo, Pardot and Hubspot
  9. Connect customer behavior with content performance
  10. Get insights that show what content drives the most sales

How 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.


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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.