Reimagining Agile Omnichannel Personalization with Headless Content
At the end of 2019, Gartner predicted “By 2025, 80% of marketers who have invested in personalization will abandon efforts due to lack of ROI, the perils of customer data management or both.”
Of course, since that prediction, a lot has happened. While traditional, rules-based personalization might very well be abandoned in a few years, the rise of intelligent personalization tools is opening the door for a new approach.
“We’re moving into a world where organizations have access to data that allows them to personalize not just the products you’re seeing, but the experience and the timing of conversations a business is having with you,” says Matt Bradbeer, MACH Business Lead at EPAM Systems, Inc. and Co-Founder of The MACH Alliance. “Personalization has moved from a very blunt approach of showing an ad or a product to having a constantly evolving conversation.”
Fortunately, the enterprise technology market is adapting quickly to suit the omnichannel customer - and the busy teams that cater to them. To show just how fast companies can get content personalization up and running with modern MACH tools, Contentstack is partnering up with Uniform and EPAM to launch Project CUE - taking personalization from idea to market in less than 12 weeks.
Introducing Project CUE
To showcase the possibilities of a MACH approach to content personalization, Contentstack, Uniform, and EPAM have teamed up for what we are calling “Project CUE”. In less than one business quarter, the team will identify a personalization use case, develop a content model in Contentstack, add personalization with Uniform, and debut the omnichannel experience at the CMSWire DX Summit on July 29th.
“Most of the businesses I talk to are ready for personalization and many have tried it, but the question becomes how to do it successfully,” says Neal Prescott, Vice President of Digital Technology at EPAM. “We don’t see many people wondering if personalization is the right choice, it’s just unclear how to take those first steps.”
This is the goal of the project. To show how - and how quickly - personalization can be implemented across the customer journey.
To kick off Project CUE, we spoke with the co-collaborators to understand the historical challenges to personalization, steps teams can take to overcome those barriers, and how a MACH approach (microservice-based, API-first, cloud-native, headless) is helping enterprises reimagine personalization in an omnichannel world.
Shift to Omnichannel Thinking
Getting on board with the idea that customer journeys are no longer linear means digital marketers have to let go of old ways of thinking about channels, pages, and content.
“One of the things that made personalization so difficult in the past was the traditional presentation or channel-centric approach to content.” explains Peter Fogelsanger, Global Head of Partnerships at Contentstack. “If there was content on one page that would be valuable for personalization on another it was a very cumbersome—and often manual—process to leverage that content elsewhere. Even within the same website.”
Marketers stuck with single-use content often leaned towards two extremes when thinking about personalization. Content marketers tried to manually create a new set of assets for every possible interaction a customer could have, which required an overwhelming amount of content and didn’t always make sense from an ROI perspective. While technical marketers narrowed in on the UX aspect to optimize banners and CTAs, which moved the needle on conversions but focused on only a narrow slice of the customer-brand relationship.
'The technology has caught up to where the typical marketer is able to find the sweet spot in the middle,” says Fogelsanger, referring to the rise of headless content.
A headless approach decouples the content from its presentation. So the content on that landing page you just published can be broken up and reused in unlimited ways. Pull the intro copy over into an email, push the header banner to an in-store kiosk, or have the product descriptions read out loud by voice search. No more single-use content. Which means teams can escape the page-based walls of manual personalization and explore a more scalable approach of mapping individual pieces of content to multiple visitor intents.
Stop Proposing on the First Date
Uniform, the headless API-first personalization platform, is helping many customers adopt a mindset of delivering content as a response to customer in-the-moment intent. With personalization tools that adapt content as a visitor explores the site, marketing teams are no longer limited to A/B testing single interactions but can focus on a more long-term relationship with a customer.
'A good way to think about it is a love story, because content is what makes a visitor fall in love with your brand.” says Lars Petersen, Co-Founder of Uniform, “If you go on a blind date and the first thing your date asks is ‘will you marry me?’ that’s going to be awkward. Yet, as consumers, when we come into a website today the first thing we see is ‘buy this’ or ‘get a call from sales today’.”
Like any relationship, the one you have with your customer works best when it’s two-sided.
“Personalization is a feedback loop, it’s not just a one-way channel of showing customers what you think they want to see,” says EPAM’s Matt Bradbeer. “You have to give the customer a way to talk back, to have a conversation, and be able to use that information to change the way you do business.”
Bridge the Gap Between Creation and Personalization
Using legacy, manual personalization tools to deliver an experience that reacts to visitor feedback is, for many enterprise companies, not scalable enough to be worth the time and effort.
“You essentially need to have a PhD in creating rules,” says Petersen about the traditional rules-based approach to personalization. “It’s a very technical task.”
For many marketing teams, the tool used to manage content is completely separate from the tool used to personalize it. Often, this means personalization efforts are handed over to someone else or just forgotten entirely.
But today, modern software vendors are designing their products with integration in mind, using standardized API building blocks that make it possible to manage multiple tools in a shared user interface. Sharing a UI makes it easy to weave personalization into the authoring process, so that the people closest to the content can be the ones who put it in context.
“Having an easy to understand personalization layer, like Uniform, and have it exposed right inside the content experience is a real game changer,” says Fogelsanger. “Now you don’t need to think about personalization differently, you’re just describing the content when you’re authoring it.”
Take Control of Your Data
Not only do modular tools bring previously siloed applications into the same UI, but they also make it easier to connect the data behind it. “One thing I would say to people on this journey is to get your data into a place where you control it and own the structure, and it’s aggregated, agnostic and available to any system or touchpoint you want, when you want it,” says Bradbeer.
Building this type of fully composable, data-agnostic architecture doesn’t happen overnight and a major benefit of MACH tools is that companies can start benefiting from this approach without waiting around for a big-bang replatform.
“You can put a MACH frontend or backend on what you’ve got, which allows you to get some immediate benefits while chipping away at the larger architecture,” says Prescott. “You can get going where you can and where you’ll see the biggest impact, while also planning for the future.”
This lowers the barrier of entry for personalization. Companies can gain momentum in one area, such as email nurture or the promotion of an annual event, and be able to reuse that data and scale efforts to the rest of the experience over time.
We’ll Show You How
“Project CUE is about showing omnichannel experience can be fast time to market,” says Petersen. “That it can meet the requirements of fast performance based on the core web vitals, and the experience the visitor gets across the different channels being highly relevant to their intents.”
“The overall theme of Project CUE is that you can start now.” says Fogelsanger, “There are things that you intuitively know about your customers and your business that can be a starting point.”
“I think there are a lot of brands interested in taking this approach, they’re just not sure how to do it or not sure if they can do it in a way that’s not too disruptive to their content machine.” adds Fogelsanger. “My hope is that we can show there is a lower impact way of doing things a lot smarter, that you can weave personalization into the way that you’re managing your content experiences today.”
Project CUE kicked off this May, so stay tuned for updates and insights.
Introducing Asset Sidebar Extension and Additional Metadata Support
We are excited to introduce two of our latest features: Asset Sidebar Extension and Additional Metadata Support for entries and assets. Asset Sidebar Extension is a new type of Experience Extension. It lets developers create sidebar widgets to add capabilities or custom functionalities for editors to manage, transform and optimize stack assets. Additional Metadata Support lets developers add metadata to assets and entries (via API) without incrementing their versions. This helps better organize or categorize assets and aids easy search. Let’s look at the details of these two exciting features. Meet the Newest Member of the Experience Extension Family: Asset Sidebar Extension If you have been using Contentstack’s Experience Extensions, you already know the power of extensions and the value they can add to your content management experience. With the all-new Asset Sidebar Extension, you can create custom widgets that dramatically enhance the way your content editors manage assets. You can, for example, create widgets for cropping images, adding filters or converting assets into other formats. You can also add auto image tagging, audio to text, quality enhancer, file compression and finding similar images. The possibilities are endless. You can even choose to integrate with third-party applications to create custom widgets. Here is an example of the Asset Sidebar Extension: With few design limitations in the extension creation process, you can develop robust extensions for your growing business needs. Why Should You Use Asset Sidebar Extension? It can make asset management a lot easier for your content managers. That’s not all, let's look at some of the other valuable benefits you gain with this extension: Optimize your assets within a single application thus increasing productivity Improve front-end delivery and performance with underlying API-driven optimization Tailor your business experience to meet unique requirements using Contentstack as a medium, with the help of custom asset extensions Accelerate utilization of media files in the native Contentstack repository Automate mundane tasks Read our documentation to get started with Asset Sidebar Extensions. Manage Entries And Assets Better with Additional Metadata Support Metadata, as you might already know, is the data that gives more information about other data, but not about the content of the data. When you create a new entry or upload an asset, Contentstack adds some basic metadata by default, such as: created by created at file size last modified content type referenced in But as your content needs grow, you may want to add custom metadata to manage your content effectively. To that end, we have added support for custom metadata for your assets and entries. As of now, this can be done only via API (not through the UI), using the Metadata Content Management API requests. Examples of custom, additional metadata that you can add include: entry type (parent entry or referenced entry) or asset type (image, video, audio clip, or document) owner details for an entry or asset copyrights for an image or document generic SEO tags related articles custom tags or labels Why Add Additional Metadata and What Should You Consider While Adding Metadata? There is a fine line between having enough or too much metadata. Entries and assets become versatile and much easier to access and manage with additional metadata support. The absence of metadata defeats the purpose of the digital asset management system and makes it challenging to find content. However, if you give away way too much meta information about your digital content, it may allow harmful access to external users and lead to copyright infringements. So, add enough metadata to fulfill your business requirements, but make sure it isn't too extensive. Read more about Additional Metadata Support for entries and assets in our documentation. Note: These plan-based features are only available in the new Contentstack interface.
Contentstack Makes “MACH Speed” a Reality with New Acquisition
I am excited to announce a significant addition to Contentstack that not only represents a massive investment into our partner and customer success, but also celebrates a full-circle achievement that truly challenges the status quo.We are adding more than 50 world-class CMS and integration experts from the CMS division of Raw Engineering, a digital solutions company I co-founded in 2007. This acquisition includes experts who were part of the original team that pioneered headless CMS (and who knew they were on to something big). Fast forward to today, we’re bringing this additional expertise to the Contentstack community in the form of Enablement Services. This allows us to not only instantly scale our Catalyst partner program and Care Without Compromise™, but it also makes a microservices, API-first, cloud-native SaaS, and headless (MACH) approach more achievable for every organization. Expertise and guidance are essential for accelerating the shift from monolithic suites to agile technology stacks. Contentstack’s new Enablement Services will provide access to CMS and MACH subject matter experts who will contribute technical know-how and tooling to make the journey to MACH faster than ever. The team will accelerate product innovation across the Contentstack ecosystem by contributing blueprints, integrations, developer resources, and ecosystem enablement services. Now enterprises can more easily realize their innovation potential and achieve their digital transformation goals. Together, the Contentstack tribe, our customers, and our catalysts will challenge the industry to never settle for the status quo.
“B” Stands for “Believe” – and $57.5 Million!
Today marks another milestone at Contentstack! We announced our $57.5 million series B financing, bringing our total capital raised to $89 million!Putting The Capital To Work In the 21 months since we raised our series A financing, we have seen unprecedented demand for a better way to manage content. Helping customers realize their visions during the pandemic has brought the Contentstack tribe a great deal of joy in an otherwise tumultuous time. We anticipate a few key areas of added investment, including:International expansion - The EMEA market is the clear leader for international growth for this space, and Contentstack will continue to invest in growing its team and customer base in Europe and the UK. Increased market adoption in LATAM and APAC calls for new investments in these regions to meet this growing demand.Catalyst Ecosystem - Contentstack’s partnership program (the Catalysts) has grown into a thriving ecosystem of technology, digital agencies, and system integration partners worldwide. Continuing to invest in those relationships and related joint go-to-market activity will support mutual growth.Innovation & R&D - With over 200 feature releases and enhancements delivered last year, our innovation engine is already firing on all cylinders. The additional firepower (both capital and technology) Georgian brings to the table allows us to supercharge and accelerate a number of exciting projects that have been incubating in the Contentstack Labs. More on that soon... Who’s On The Boat? I often liken my entrepreneurial journey to a sailboat voyage. Who you have on the boat is extremely important as they are the players that help you weather a storm, navigate rough waters, and have your back along the way. And when it’s smooth sailing, everyone gets to have a little fun together! In addition to the Contentstack tribe, investors play an important role on this journey, and I’m super proud of who’s on the boat with us!Insight Partners - Lead investor Insight Partners has been much more than an investor. They’ve become a true member of the Contentstack tribe with Teddie Wardi serving as an invaluable sounding board and thought partner as we weathered the storm together through 2020. Insight has directly supported our growth by leveraging its network and programs. Additionally, Insight showed how to move beyond lip service and into action to demonstrate our combined commitment to values. As an example, with Insight’s support, select portfolio CEOs united to deliver the “Insight ScaleUp Pledge,” delivering commitments to move the needle on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in our companies. We are thrilled to continue working with Insight into our next phase of growth.Georgian Partners - We are excited to welcome Georgian and Emily Walsh to the Contentstack tribe. Georgian brings unique A.I. product expertise to the table, which will help accelerate A.I. as a superpower for Contentstack’s enterprise customers. Georgian’s social impact commitment was icing on the cake. Their Higher Purpose report includes several examples of how the firm gives back to the community and plays a role in moving the needle in STEM education.Participation from all Existing Investors - Rounding it out, existing investors Cindy Padnos from Illuminate Ventures and Linnea Roberts from GingerBread Capital participated in the series B to recommit to our next stage of growth.Moving the Needle - In a world in which less than 3% of all VC capital goes to female-led startups and less than 5% of all investors are women, I’m proud to have the conviction and support of three female investors in Contentstack. What’s Different from Series A?When we raised our series A, the market for an API-first content management solution was still emerging. Since then, there have been new entrants, a significant growth in market adoption, and an incredible amount of momentum to signify that “headless” or “API-first” content management is the future. As a category, we have turned the corner from less educating to much more order taking.Growth - Since the series A, we saw over 150% growth of our customer base and more than doubled the number of Fortune 1000 companies using Contentstack.The Forrester Wave™ - We have seen the shift of digital content beyond the web for years. In February 2021, Contentstack was named a Strong Performer in the Forrester Wave for Agile CMS as a brand new entrant. Further, Contentstack excelled with the strongest channel support in this evaluation.MACH Alliance - As one of the four founding companies of the MACH Alliance, Contentstack is leading one of the largest technology shifts in decades. This new MACH (Microservices, APIs, Cloud, Headless) architecture provides companies a better alternative to the decades-old software suites. Even our fiercest competitors are joining (or wanting to join) the MACH Alliance because we all believe that the time for monolithic suites has passed. Digital Acceleration and Enterprise ScaleWhat no one could have anticipated in the last 18 months is the impact of a pandemic on the business. COVID-19 was the digital accelerant of the decade, according to a recent study from Twilio, as it expedited companies’ digital communications strategy by an average of six years. We are now amidst a $30B market opportunity over the next four years, which nearly tripled since 2019. Trends in e-commerce growth and the breadth of digital omnichannel use cases are key drivers.60X Scale - Contentstack is used as the core content hub for most customers. As a result, the amount of digital content powered by Contentstack grew a staggering 60X over the same time period before the series A. Individual customers now serve billions of API calls a day and petabytes of content to their audiences every month. In contrast, other headless CMS players serve SMB sites with much less traffic and platform scale. Contentstack delivers in a single day what most others do in a month.Growth Drivers - Although retail had a tough year in 2020, every national market saw double-digit ecommerce growth. This — coupled with the focus on more personalized digital experiences — is driving brands to consider new MACH-based solutions ranging from A.I. and personalization tools to more modern e-commerce and content management platforms.Project Venus - At Contentstack we believe that when business users and developers work together effectively, they achieve superior results for their organization. That’s why we give both the same attention, and it’s also why we completely reimagined the CMS experience for both – ensuring that Contentstack is appealing and intuitive for technical and non-technical content collaborators alike. We really do believe no one should have to read a manual to bring content experiences to life. We couldn’t have done it without you. Certainly this is a huge milestone for the company and for me as a founder and entrepreneur. I am filled with a sense of joy for how far we’ve come and with a greater sense of responsibility for where we are going next. I’m so excited for the next stage of this journey, and I have so much appreciation for all of the players that helped us get here.The Contentstack Tribe - At Contentstack, we are more than just colleagues; we are a tribe. The dedication across the entire organization is what keeps me going. This tribe encompasses a #OneTeamOneDream spirit like no other. Thank you for your hard work and for inspiring me to do better every day.Customers - Support pours in from customers like Chico’s, HP, Icelandair, Mattel, McDonald’s, Riot Games, and SAP. Customers who are changing the digital game push us to innovate and scale as their strategic partners. Thank you for your trust.Catalysts - Together, this ecosystem of partners is changing the digital game for good. Thank you to our catalyst community for challenging us to deliver the best solution in this space while sharing our Care without Compromise™ approach to supporting customers.Investors - And finally, thank you to our investors at Insight Partners, Georgian Partners, Illuminate Ventures and GingerBread Capital who believe in this team to break through and win this space. With series B fundraising complete, I am excited for what lies ahead. As we like to say at Contentstack…Chalo, let’s go!!
A Big Day for the CMS Industry – an Even Bigger Day for Contentstack
Echoing Neha’s sentiment, it is indeed a proud day here at Contentstack. Entering the Agile CMS Wave as a Strong Performer is, in our opinion, a reflection of the rapid enterprise adoption of Contentstack. Making Waves by Getting Rid of the "W" in WCMS The evolution of the Forrester Wave, including dropping the word “web” and adding the word “agile”, is sending an unmistakable signal: The time for web-only and web-first is over. Our customers embrace the surge of new channels and an explosion of digital touchpoints and confirm this trend. Today, “web” content management represents just one part of a much bigger digital arena. Best Omnichannel Support In a world beyond “web”, content must be managed across many digital channels. In fact, omnichannel support is a mandatory requirement and critical decision criteria in nearly every evaluation of content management platforms. Forrester stated that “Contentstack excels with the strongest channel support in this evaluation” and scored Contentstack highest in this evaluation criterion. Forrester further states that Contentstack offers “superior support in decoupled delivery from its headless roots and experience management capabilities to deliver content to omnichannel endpoints.” We believe that omnichannel delivery is the biggest driver of the market shift from monolithic vendors to headless vendors. tl;dr If you’re in the market for a modern CMS and looking for the best omnichannel support, look no further. :-) "M" Stands for Mission-Critical, not Microsite Contentstack’s customers include some of the largest financial institutions in the world, the largest retailers, the largest entertainment empires, pharmaceuticals, energy providers, hospitality and technology companies. What do they all have in common? High standards, complex infrastructure and the need to scale. In the last year alone we’ve added over 100 marquee enterprises as customers and now serve $1B+ API calls – daily! Enterprises trust Contentstack to power mission-critical content at the core of their most treasured digital initiatives, ranging from revenue-generating sites to customer loyalty-boosting apps, to innovative digital experiences that attract top talent and enable them to better engage with their target markets. Many CMSs can power a static website, a campaign microsite, partner portal or a corporate blog, but for digital engagement with so many new channels, more and more companies are turning to Contentstack. Agile CMS is for Everyone! Enterprises need a CMS that is agile, reliable, scalable – yes! – but it also has to be usable. While practitioners and developers have different requirements, here at Contentstack we believe that both are equally important. This sense of equality is reflected in the way we do business and in the way we designed our platform. The Forrester report quotes one of our customers, who sums it up best: “It’s been very easy to work with as a developer and very easy for our business users to use.” When the use case requires both business and IT teams to agree on a CMS platform, Contentstack shines. From CMS to Agile CMS The leap towards more CMS agility may sound exciting, as much as it does daunting – and for good reason. Historically, changing CMS vendors implied expense and disruption. The beauty of a modern, agile CMS is that it is additive in nature and the pace of change is controlled. Instead of ripping and replacing, a truly agile CMS acts as a catalyst to accelerate digital content initiatives, while gracefully interoperating and co-existing with legacy technology.Curious about Agile CMS? Read the full report here.