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Brent Heslop

Brent Heslop is a Sr. Technical Writer. He has worked as a Webmaster at TIBCO Software, and has authored 15 popular computing books. Brent taught HTML and Web programming at UC Santa Cruz Extension. He enjoys U.S. Masters Swimming, cooking, and spending time with his wife, Kim, and their faithful dog, Fargo.

Posts by Brent Heslop

Jan 29, 2020

4 Ways to Keep Gamers Engaged in Today’s Competitive Market

If you’re involved in the gaming industry, chances are you’ve felt the pressure of what seems like nearly constant releases competing for players’ time, attention, and money. Considering there are over 900,000 mobile games on the market right now, you’d be right to feel that way. If you’re struggling to build a loyal and engaged audience, keep reading to learn four powerful tactics for winning over players’ eyes, hearts, and wallets.The Rise of the Hyper-Competitive Gaming Age Between 2018 and 2019, the average time spent playing video games grew by over 19%. In 2019, the average gamer spent about 7 hours of gaming each week, 34% of gamers played for more than 7 hours, and almost 20% played for more than 12 hours per week. The game research organization Newzoo predicts that games will account for 72% of all app revenues in 2020. Broadcast eSports—the name given to competitive gaming—are expected to reach 300 million viewers (rivaling the NFL) by 2022 and may even be included in the 2024 Summer Olympics! As gaming popularity proliferates, it’s no longer going to be enough to make great games. Companies are also going to have to find ways to keep players engaged continuously. Because the longer players stay engaged, the more opportunities you’ll have to generate income (After all, of the $2.4 billion Fortnite grossed in 2018, a billion was generated from in-game sales!).Tactics to Keep Gamers Engaged in Your Video Games From adopting the right content management system to engaging in online communities to revamping your in-game advertising—these four tactics will keep gamers engaged.Understand and Tailor Your Messaging to Your Core Audience Doing the work to find, define, and understand your core audience—then tailor your messaging to reach them—can fall by the wayside when you’re already doing everything you can to keep up with a rapidly-growing market. However, it’s essential to stand by this Marketing 101 trick, no matter how popular you think your game can be: You need to understand and tailor your messaging to your core audience. Doing so is crucial because it enables you to predict what kind of games and content they expect from you in the future so that you always hit the mark. Remember, once you gain traction with a dedicated fanbase, you can always expand to new audiences.Keep Content Fresh and Relevant with The Right Content Management System Once you’ve identified and connected with a few key audiences, you have to find a way to keep them engaged with relevant, regular content through every exciting new development and release. The typical system is to spin up a small new website, commonly referred to as a microsite, for each new game. Any time you want to highlight a new feature, switch out some screenshots, add a new video of gameplay, or change out some marketing copy, a developer has to get involved in writing, testing, and launching the updated code. As the games and the audiences add up (good for your bottom line!), so do the menial, manual development tasks (bad for your development team!). This traditional way of doing things can’t scale at the same rate at which you need to grow. Enter headless content management. A headless content management system (CMS) separates the content layer from its presentation layer. This separation allows content managers to create, publish, and make content changes at any time. Simultaneously, designers and developers can be working on the frontend to ensure flawless delivery no matter the platform or device. All are empowered to do their jobs the way they want when they need to do them. The modular, API-driven structure of a headless CMS also means content can connect through various integrations that help personalize it, optimize it for different audiences, and even localize it so that it feels customized for every market. To learn more about how headless CMS empowers the marketing and engineering teams at Telltale Games, the producers of Minecraft: Story Mode and The Walking Dead Series, read Headless CMS Simplifies Marketing for Gaming Company.Participate In or Build Your Own Gaming Communities The stereotype of the lonely, basement-bound gamer is about as outdated as the landline telephone—especially since the development of technology that allows people to connect for gaming no matter where they are in the world. Today, more than 60% of gamers play with others, both in-person and online. Of the 23 most-followed YouTube channels, about 40% are gaming-focused. Becoming active in or even creating your own community where gamers can come together to discuss your product and others they love is a great way to reach a broad and diverse audience. Communities keep them engaged with your brand, and pique their interest the next time you release a new game. YouTube, Twitch, Mixer, Facebook Gaming, HitBox, Beam, Bigo Live, and Caffeine.tv are all great places to interact with audiences who love to watch video games live. And of course, you can also join or create your own Facebook group or other digital forums to get the conversation started. With an established community at your fingertips, marketing and driving engagement in your current and future products is a whole lot easier.Keep Ads Non-Intrusive Researchers at the global business analysis firm IHS Technology found that over 63% of mobile display ads will be native by the end of 2020. We can see why, considering that consumers engage with native ads up to 60% more often than with static ads. And surprisingly, intrusive ads have been found to trigger the brain’s “fight or flight” response! To advertise in a way that engages gamers while gaming, the rule is mercifully simple: If you’re going to show ads, make sure they feel native. Take, for example, the advertisements in FIFA’s video game on the right, below. They make perfect sense in the modern arena setting. The Mountain Dew shirt in the left image, however, seems jarring in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker—a game set in the jungles of Costa Rica in 1974. How Will You Keep Gamers Engaged in the Competitive Gaming Age? Believe it or not, gamers want to stay engaged in your games—it’s just that there are so many good options on the market vying for their attention that it’s hard to stay immersed in any one thing for too long! If you understand and speak directly to your ideal audience, keep content fresh across various channels and platforms, participate in gaming communities, and don’t alienate players with alarming ads—you’ll be able to keep gamers engaged.

Jan 22, 2020

5 Must-Know Digital Commerce Trends for 2020 and Beyond

People are talking to personal shopping robots, storefronts are morphing to mirror passers-by, and consumers are using hand-held computers to digitally try on clothes from the comfort of their own homes. It’s not science fiction—it’s a reality in the year 2020. In this piece, we’ll explore the futuristic-sounding technology described above, evolutions in traditional operational models, and other digital commerce trends that will present significant opportunities for the digital retailers that take advantage of them in 2020 and beyond. 5 Must-Know Digital Commerce Trends for 2020 and Beyond With some trends you know, such as omnichannel shopping, and some that may surprise you, for example, advertising is going to change—here are five digital commerce trends you absolutely must prepare for to survive and thrive in 2020 and beyond.Options for Shopping Channels and Devices Will Continue to Grow Omnichannel retailers use technology to tie together shopping channels to “…create a unified shopping experience across every single device and channel that a consumer uses to interact with their business.” This approach to retail provides consumers with a seamless and continuous flow at every touchpoint (from social ads to mobile ecommerce sites to in-store kiosks) with which they interact when they’re researching or making a purchase from a business. And, omnichannel retail product and content delivery is practically a requirement for brands that want to remain modern and competitive. The average digital consumer has five profiles across various online channels. And the majority of them expect consistent interactions across every profile they use to shop and interact with retailers. What’s more, omnichannel shoppers spend an average of 4% more on every in-store shopping trip and 10% more online! Compared to single-channel shoppers, omnichannel shoppers visit their favorite retailers’ 23% more often and have a 30% higher lifetime value. Yet, 55% of shoppers still say their retail experience is “disjointed” when switching between channels, and only 22% of North American retailers consider omnichannel retail a priority. There is a significant disconnect between today’s shoppers and retailers—which presents a critical opportunity for ecommerce businesses that can provide seamless products, content, and experiences across channels. A headless content management system (CMS) like Contentstack is the answer to making omnichannel ecommerce possible by empowering retailers to create content just once and publish it everywhere. Because a headless CMS has no built-in front-end system that determines how or where content will be displayed, content managers can serve consistent content experiences across websites, apps, chatbots, connected home devices, voice assistants, and more. And thanks to an API-first architecture, Contentstack and other modern headless systems can easily integrate with API-powered ecommerce platforms, such as commercetools, to create robust, scalable ecommerce sites that are always up-to-date and ready for whatever the future of digital commerce holds.Shoppers Will Use Augmented Reality to “Interact” With Digital Products Augmented reality (AR) technology enables shoppers to use cameras on their smart devices to display digital elements in the physical world. And digital commerce brands like IKEA and Converse are setting the standard for how brands can take advantage of AR to enable their shoppers to get a “feel” for products before purchasing them online—saving everyone a lot of time, money, and headache. IKEA enables shoppers to use their smartphones to virtually “place” furniture in their homes so they can visualize how certain products will fit into their space before making an expensive commitment. Converse’s smartphone app helps shoppers virtually try on shoes and share their cool, AR-enhanced kick pics on social media! AR is big business in the retail space—and there are numerous tools on the market (IKEA uses ARKit, for example) for digital commerce brands that are ready to get in on the new revenue stream.Facial Recognition and Device Tracking Will Become the Norm In 2020, retail businesses will hone in on omnichannel marketing and sales by integrating data gathered in-person with online customer profiles. This type of tracking is possible using radio frequency identification (RFID)-enabled beacons and WiFi to track devices, sensors to monitor movement, and cameras and facial recognition software to identify specific consumers. Retailers will finally be able to understand how shoppers interact with their physical stores the same way they use analytics tools to tell what’s happening in their digital ones! Bringing together web, mobile, social, and now in-person data will put retailers in a position to provide 360-degree customer experiences in 2020. Take the eyewear retailer BonLook, for example. Thanks to smart cameras and sensors, they can tell you how many glasses-wearing women in their target age range walked by any one of their shops, at any given time, on any given day. Furthermore, they can break down how many of those people came into the store and how many completed a transaction. Using this information, BonLook was able to grow their conversions overnight just by updating their storefront advertising to better appeal to the group of passers-by whom they wanted to convert. With results like that, what retailer with brick-and-mortar stores wouldn’t want to try out fascinating new tracking technology?!The Advertising Model Will Morph Into Something New When you think of digital commerce advertising, chances are you think of Google, Amazon, and the big social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and so on. And you’d be right, considering that Google and Facebook combined take in 61% of all digital advertising spend in the U.S., on average. Over $270 billion was spent globally on digital ads in 2018 alone. Americans are exposed to between 4,000 and 10,000 advertisements every single day—and at least 75% of them engage in at least one form of ad-blocking. Consumers are (understandably) overwhelmed, jaded, and less and less likely than ever to click on traditional, “interruption-based” ads. That’s why, in 2020 and beyond, we’ll see advertising become more non-traditional, experiential, and naturally embedded in everyday experiences. Just look at Procter & Gamble’s Bare Skin Chat YouTube series, which features relevant celebrities in entertaining videos that are both engaging and informational—and has millions of views. In 2020, it’s time to create digital commerce advertising experiences that consumers want! Voice-Based Digital Commerce Will Generate Billions If you weren’t sure whether or not smart speakers were a passing trend, look at the most prominent players in the market—Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Assistant. If the tech giants are investing, you know it’s time you should too. In 2018, there were 2.5 billion voice-enabled devices. Predictions are that by 2023 there will be 8 billion of them. By some estimates, as many as half of all searches may be done by voice in 2020. And how about the voice-powered shopping market, specifically? Estimates are that the market is going to exceed $40 billion by 2022. If you are not optimizing the products and content on your website or app for voice search, make 2020 your year to upgrade.Will You Invest in These Digital Commerce Trends for 2020? Your level of investment in the trends we discussed today will help determine if your digital commerce business can succeed as the new decade breeds increasingly-capable technology and increasingly-savvy consumers. A flexible and scalable CMS in place empowers you to keep up with growing shopping channels and devices. For example, AR app integration that allows shoppers to interact with your digital products, facial recognition and smart software gathering in-person data, a new and more natural advertising strategy, and optimizing content and products for the billion-dollar voice-shopping industry. By investing in these digital commerce trends, you won’t just be ready to survive in 2020—you’ll be prepared to thrive.

Jan 15, 2020

Everything You Need to Know About Content Personalization Technology [Infographic]

It’s the baseline for the all-important customer experience that’s overtaking product and price as the key differentiator in 2020. It locks down loyalty, revs up revenue, and catapults conversions. It’s part of the DNA of the future-proof enterprise. And, it’s even the most critical marketing trend of this century. It’s content personalization, and at Contentstack, we’re no strangers to it. And to be competitive in the future, you shouldn’t be either. Personalization utilizes data to create content, products, marketing, and more that’s unique and relevant to each consumer. It enables businesses to remain competitive and relevant in a digital economy where consumers are increasingly motivated to engage with brands that keep their personal best interests in mind. Content personalization pays off when you consider that, at its peak maturity, personalization can lift revenue by as much as 60%, 6X email conversion rates, improve brand satisfaction by 20%, and pack plenty more big business benefits. There’s no doubt that content personalization presents business-changing opportunities. However, to use it to its maximum benefit, organizations must adopt key technological elements that will empower them to optimize and serve fully-personalized content, products, marketing, and more. That’s why, in this infographic, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about how content personalization works and the content personalization technology you need to level-up and lead your industry in delivering the personalized experiences that consumers crave.

Jan 08, 2020

Localization and Personalization at Scale

Marketing used to focus on the big picture—which single approach would appeal to the most significant number of customers or prospective customers? That’s because businesses had minimal data about their customers. At most, they might have had a bit of demographic information and a physical address. Times have changed. Today, companies have access to an incredible amount of data from their customers, including their interests, their locations, what languages they speak, what types of products they have purchased in the past, and even what topics they have recently searched. Access to this data is making it easier than ever to create a personalized, localized online experience—which offers significant benefits for both users and brands. What Are Personalization and Localization? When it comes to marketing strategy, personalization and localization have become critical for brands looking to compete in an increasingly competitive global market. But, what do these terms mean and, more importantly, why do they matter for brands? Personalization refers to using detailed data about a specific consumer to customize the messages you send them. This data may include their name, when they last visited your site, what items they added to their cart but didn’t purchase, or specific actions they’ve performed on your app—such as adding a coupon. For example, a SaaS company might decide to send a consumer a coupon for an item they added to their cart but didn’t purchase. Not every customer would get this coupon, and each customer would get a coupon applicable to their specific purchase. Localization is about sending the right message, to the right consumer, at the right time, and in the right place. Think of localization as utilizing real-time data about individual markets to create hyper-specific content or offers that feel unique. For example, a fast-food company might email coupons to all its customers, but provide different offers based on location. They might send a coupon for ice cream to customers located in southern or western regions where temperatures are warmer, and a coupon for free soup to customers in regions where the weather is still cold. So, how are personalization and localization different? Personalization looks more at specific users, while localization considers segmented customer markets as a whole. Personalization might use a person’s name, while localization would use their local language and images from their city. Why Do Personalization and Localization Matter to Businesses? While personalization and localization look slightly different when it comes to implementations, the benefits are very similar. Content and offers that are personalized and localized are more relevant, more useful, and, from the customer’s standpoint, more valuable. At their core, personalization and localization matter because they create a more relevant customer experience. And that results in higher conversions. Why Localization and Personalization Is the Future of Marketing Marketing trends rise and fall with predictable regularity. Remember Facebook’s organic reach? Once upon a time posting from a business Facebook page was a pretty effective way to reach all your customers. Now, not so much. However, localization and personalization of content are unlikely to be a passing trend. Several shifts in recent years indicate that these movements are not fleeting buzzwords, but powerful shifts in the way businesses need to market to consumers for years to come. The Growth of Technology In the past decade, technology has given us access to more information and data than ever before. Most of us now carry a computer that is millions of times more powerful than the computer used to get Niel Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin on the moon in 1969. Technology has also given rise to the growth of automation and machine learning, which are taking over previously laborious manual tasks such as content translation, data collection, and even workflow approvals. As technological advances continue, it will become easier to provide personalized and localized content that customers crave. Mobile’s Continued Rise In the third quarter of 2019, mobile traffic accounted for more than half of all internet traffic for the first time. Google’s ‘mobile-first’ indexing is another indication of the growing power of mobile. In the coming years, mobile traffic and mobile-driven commerce are sure to continue to grow. Successfully converting global customers on their devices requires delivering content that is both personalized and localized no matter where they’re shopping, when they’re shopping, or what devices they’re using to do their shopping. The Omnichannel Surge Before the internet, people accessed information in a handful of ways—mostly through newspapers and televisions. Today, the rise in second screens means customers are interacting with brands on their mobile devices while watching TV, shopping online, or interacting through social media, email, via websites, and mobile apps—and sometimes in more than one place at the same time. Localizing and personalizing content for each channel, and each customer shows your audience you are paying attention, and you understand their wants and needs. This attention to detail builds trust with consumers. The Power of Personal In the coming years, personalized content will no longer be a nice-to-have; it will be a need-to-have. As major brands roll out more personalized content, customers are beginning to expect brands to create content that anticipates their needs and is relevant to their lives. How To Achieve Hyper-Personalization with Localization Personalization and localization will continue to drive growth and revenue for businesses in the coming years. And while many companies are looking at how to implement these strategies, there is often a disconnect between the two. The reality is, the two work best when applied hand-in-hand. The following explains how to combine personalization and localization and get the most out of both approaches. Smart Content Translation As ecommerce continues to attract global consumers, it is no longer enough for businesses to offer a single-language site. A survey of non-Anglophone consumers found that 60% of shoppers rarely or never make purchases from English-only sites. Content translation allows shoppers to build trust with brands that, quite literally, speak their language. But don’t stop at translation. Make sure to update other language and location-based aspects of your site (that’s where localization comes in), such as listing prices in local currency. According to a study by Shopify, up to 33% of shoppers are likely to abandon a purchase when prices appear only in USD. Multilingual Chatbots Chatbots are useful for business. According to Chatbots Magazine, companies that implement chatbots on their websites can save up to 30% on customer service costs by providing customers with information and solving repetitive questions. By making your chatbots multilingual, customers can access answers to their questions quickly and build trust. Most customers want to navigate the internet in their native tongue, and using chatbots to speak to them in their native language is a natural extension of this. Predictive Analytics As users interact with your app, site, chatbots, and other digital properties, they are giving you tons of information about who they are and their preferences. For example, based on previous purchases, you can tell what types of products might interest a certain consumer—similar to Amazon’s recommendations. You may also be able to understand what their preferred customer support channels are or what times they are more likely to check their phones via app interactions. This information, in concert with platforms like a CMS, CDP, and CRM, will allow you to, for example, call a prospect when they are most likely to be available or respond to a question through their preferred communication channel. Artificial Intelligence Many brands are already using artificial intelligence to work with content and automate tasks like content translation, ad targeting, and content optimization. Using data points gathered from customer behavior, AI can also help personalize and localize content by offering targeted content recommendations based on actions a user takes, the person’s location, and the language they speak. The Future of Content and Marketing Personalization and localization are the future of business content and marketing. Yet, only a small portion of brands are leveraging this strategy, which is a shame when so many customers indicate that it’s important to them—and they are even willing to spend more money on it. Understanding how to implement both personalization and localization are critical to business success in the coming years. To learn from a brand that has mastered the art of delivering localized content at scale, join us for our upcoming fireside chat with Freeletics. 

Jan 01, 2020

From Pong to Call of Duty: The Globalization and Localization of Video Games

In 1947, physicists Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. and Estle Ray Mann developed what many consider to be the very first interactive gaming device, called a “cathode-ray tube amusement device.” The pair were inspired by radar displays to create a device that allowed players to simulate firing missiles at fixed targets. The invention was patented in 1948 but never manufactured. At the time, the pair could not have known how massive the gaming industry would grow. In 2018, the gaming industry generated an estimated $119.6 billion in revenue. By 2022, experts estimate it will generate as much as $196 billion in revenue. Gaming may even soon be part of the Olympic games. For many years, the gaming industry was fractured, with different companies developing games for play in their own country, or a few other countries. Today, games are increasingly produced and enjoyed by a growing population all over the globe. This globalization of the gaming industry has important implications for companies, gamers, and developers. Current Gaming Industry Statistics Before we dive into the future of gaming and how globalization is helping craft this billion-dollar industry, let’s take a more in-depth look at the current state of the gaming industry. Which Countries Are the Biggest Gamers? According to a study by Newzoo in 2016, China was the world’s largest gaming market, with a marginal lead over the United States. At that time, the Chinese gaming market value was approximately $24.4 billion, compared to the U.S.’s $23.6 billion industry. Japan, South Korea, Germany, and the U.K. were the next largest markets. Today, China, the United States, and Japan remain the top three largest markets; but their revenue has grown drastically. A more recent study indicates that by the end of 2019, the U.S. will eclipse China as the world’s largest gaming market, with an estimated revenue of $36.9 billion. Globalization And The Gaming Industry In the beginning, gaming occurred on non-internet connected devices such as Pong on the Atari and a variety of games for the original Nintendo console. Game creation targeted a small niche market, often designed for those close to the developers’ physical location. Back then, game producers would have to create distinct, separate versions of their games for every country where they wanted to sell them. This process was costly and time-consuming, often leading to delays in production. Today, however, everything has changed. Game creation today takes a global launch approach, with producers releasing games in different languages to audiences all over the world at the same time. What Is Driving Video Gaming Globalization? So, what is driving this shift in the gaming industry? For starters, the growth of the industry has made it far more profitable. Companies no longer need to release a game to one country to understand whether it will be successful. With an estimated 2.2 billion gamers in the world, there is now a massive gaming market. The growth partially comes from mobile gaming, which allows anyone with a phone or tablet to play games and has helped decrease the stigmatization of gaming. Computers led the way for growth with LAN parties becoming quite popular with PCs and consoles. Growth also came from a consensus that there are many cognitive benefits of gaming. Other factors, including the rise in technology and online communities, are helping drive the increase in video gaming globalization. Online Video Gaming Communities Online video gamers are building thriving online communities where they play, share tips, and discuss the games they love. Due to globalization, the world is incredibly connected; a gamer in the United States can play Call of Duty with a friend in Japan at the push of a button. Gaming subreddits, messaging boards, and forums like Twitch are making it easier than ever for people to connect with other people around the globe. And while some gamer communities receive criticism for being toxic, they can also be very empowering by allowing previously isolated people to build relationships with others from all over the world. The Rise of the Internet Online video gaming communities have come into existence thanks in part to the creation of the internet. However, the internet has also changed the face of video gaming—you no longer need to buy a Nintendo console and spend hundreds of dollars on games to get started. The rise of mobile and PC gaming and digital distribution via the internet has made the industry far more accessible. Furthermore, the internet has also increased revenue far beyond video games and console sales. Today, microtransactions, in-game currency, upgrades, merchandise, accessories, clothing, competitions, live streaming, and sponsorships have increased gaming revenue far past the one-time purchase. Additionally, now, video gamers can serve as a steady stream of income.Cloud Technology The cloud’s impact extends to ecommerce, app development, and even education. It allows businesses across industries to expand and increase their efficiency—and their revenue. In the gaming industry, the cloud has powered the spread and globalization of video gaming by democratizing the industry and making it far more accessible. Cloud gaming allows players to enjoy their favorite titles from any internet-connected device. Because the servers power all the heavy processing, gamers no longer need expensive hardware to play. Why Globalization and Localization Is Necessary In the space of just a few years, gaming went from a nerdy pastime to a multibillion-dollar industry. This rise in popularity has resulted in a massive shift in the way video games are developed, produced, and distributed. Companies can’t expect to replicate their success in Western markets with a “rinse and repeat” of existing strategies for new geographies. Different aspects of the game have to be tailored for local playing conditions as though the game was built from the ground up for that market. Globalization requires localization. The internet allows people to build communities through gaming forums and groups, exposing far larger populations to a wider variety of video games. Companies that want to access (and profit) from the fast-growing gaming consumer base need to be prepared to provide instruction, support, and moderation teams in multiple languages. The Future of Video Gaming Globalization Each year, gaming becomes more accessible and more global. From the rise of mobile games to the rise of virtual reality and the increased use of artificial intelligence in games, the industry expects to see increasing growth in the coming years. Developers and video gaming companies who want to stay relevant in the coming years need to be prepared for a much more diverse consumer base and consider localizing their video game content as well as providing support and moderation in multiple languages.

Dec 25, 2019

How to Build a Personalization Engine Into Your Website Marketing Plan

You know that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you receive a thoughtful gift that was created or customized with you in mind? That’s the result of personalization—and marketers who can apply it can make their target audience feel that same good feeling. As it turns out, that feeling is in high demand by consumers. In a survey of 8,000 consumers from around the globe, Accenture found that the vast majority (91%, in fact) are more likely to shop with brands that provide personalized offers and recommendations. Econsultancy and Google discovered that 90% of leading marketers say personalization significantly contributes to profitability, and 89% of U.S. marketers confirm that personalization increases revenue. The impact of personalization certainly makes it worth the effort—so here’s how to get it working automatically and at scale in your business. What is a Personalization Engine? To get a little more technical than the warm and fuzzies, Gartner defines personalization as a process that “creates a relevant, individualized interaction between two parties designed to enhance the experience of the recipient.” A personalization engine helps businesses create these experiences at scale by automatically gathering and applying context about each consumer to deliver tailored content, offers, suggestions, and other interactions via the perfect digital channel. As is pointed out in our blog, “Locking down loyalty, revving up revenue, and catapulting conversions,” the experiences that personalization engines provide are powerful and profitable for businesses. If you have concerns that using a personalization engine may cross the line into being invasive, you don’t have to be as long as you keep your strategy truthful and transparent. Make sure consumers know they still have control over their data and don’t invade any digital spaces that might be considered off-limits. 5 Steps to Building a Personalization Engine Into Your Headless CMS of Choice Armed with all the knowledge you need about what a personalization engine is and why you need one, here’s everything else you need to know about getting it built into your marketing workflow. 1. Define and Gather Your Tools Just like with any project, you’ll want to identify and gather all the appropriate tools in one place before you start building a personalization engine into your marketing stack. That means it’s time to identify the personalization tools you intend to use themselves as well as the best website platform for managing your marketing content—into which you’ll integrate those personalization tools. There are numerous personalization tools, such as Monetate, which is a popular personalization tool for ecommerce; Optimizely is an enterprise-level personalization system; and Evergage, which is a more affordable cloud-based personalization tool. The most important part of this step is ensuring that your content management system supports website personalization. A headless CMS is an excellent solution for personalization. It allows you to collaborate on, manage, and publish marketing content just like a traditional CMS. However, underneath the hood, the structured content is separate from the layer of programming and design, so you can integrate directly with content and deliver the content to any personalization tool you want to use. Take, for example, Contentstack, a headless CMS that works as a content hub and is specifically built for these kinds of integrations. Need to implement tools to create a personalization engine? Contentstack simplifies integrating best-in-class customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, translation services, AI tools, A/B testing applications, analytics parsing, and plenty more. 2. Implement Behavior Tracking The ability to track user behavior on your website and other digital properties is critical when it comes to constructing a personalization engine. After all, how can you create content that’s unique to the consumer if you don’t know anything about that consumer? Whatever you end up using to track behavior—a built-in feature or stand-alone software—it’s vital that it reliably records activities such as the user journey, clicks, purchases, etc. 3. Set Up Metadata Metadata provides information about the content of a digital item. For example, metadata for an image may include its name, its size, its color, the creation date, and more. Metadata matters because it gives digital items identifiers to use for locating the related content. When a content personalization tool goes to source relevant content for a specific consumer, it will choose what to display based on the metadata attached to that content. So, if a personalization engine knows a specific consumer recently adopted a cat based on the content they’ve been reading and the products they’ve been purchasing, it searches for metadata that includes the word “cat” when it’s pulling together content to display to that person. Metadata is another reason we’re proponents of building your personalization engine within a headless CMS. Storing metadata is typically included in a content management system platform as it makes content easy to find and repurpose for various applications—this reusability being one of the core tenets of headless technology. 4. Write Your Rules Just like creativity blooms under healthy constraints, personalization engines become more powerful when you give them rules by which to operate. Rules, or conditions, are basically “If, then” statements that help a personalization engine determine which content would be the most relevant in a specific instance. A rule may look something like: “If the user is an executive in marketing or sales, then display a call to action that invites them to schedule a free demo.” In this example, Optimizely contains a rule that instructs the personalization engine to display the following content if the visitor’s IP address indicates they work in the travel industry: 5. Create Your Content! Now for the important part—creating the content that consumers will see! This final step amounts to writing content that targets each of your ideal personas and then carefully labeling it so that your personalization engine can find and display it when that persona lands on one of your owned digital channels. Thanks again to implementing a headless CMS that appears in the first step, this kind of high-value content only has to be created once, and then you can identify and distribute the content where and when it’s most relevant. Identifying specific text ensures consistent content and reduces time-wasting re-writes for marketing staff, all while making your channel diversity stronger than ever. The process of building a personalization engine into your content management workflow can be a lot to take on—especially if it requires you first to adopt a headless CMS that can handle the load! If your outdated technology is holding you back, start here with our 5 Steps to Stay out of Technical Debt by Selecting the Right CMS. And if you still aren’t sure which headless CMS is the right CMS for your personalization efforts, be sure to read about all the personalization-powering integrations you can get your hands on when you choose Contentstack. Finally, you don’t have to make this big website decision unseen—get in touch to schedule a demo or take Contentstack for a free test drive today!

Dec 18, 2019

How Modern Marketers Can Implement AI for Content Marketing

The field of artificial intelligence has grown leaps and bounds since Logic Theorist, the first program to mimic human problem-solving skills, was built in 1955 by Herbert Simon, Allen Newell, and John Shaw. Not even a century after its unveiling at the 1956 Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence conference—where the term “artificial intelligence” was coined—AI-powered computers are already writing sci-fi screenplays from scratch and “robot journalists” are creating content in record time for the Associated Press. AI and content are a winning combination for any modern marketing department that needs to crank up the quantity of their content without sacrificing its quality. Keep reading to learn more about the practical applications of AI for content marketing and how to get it right. Artificial Intelligence and Its Place in Content Marketing Artificial intelligence, or AI, refers to the capability of a machine to mimic human cognitive activities. AI is an umbrella term that covers several different technologies, including machine learning (automatic “learning” without being programmed to do so), natural language processing (“reading” human language), natural language generation (“writing” and “speaking” human language), and more. The overarching theme is that all of these systems use similar AI practices to perform various cognitive processes as well as—or better than—humans. Additionally, they typically improve with time and experience. And it’s clearly in high demand, considering predictions that the global artificial intelligence software market is going to grow by over 594% between 2020 and 2025. The growth of AI is excellent news for content marketers. Why? Just think of all those manual, menial marketing tasks you could spend entire days on—not anymore with the help of artificial intelligence. How? Keep reading to learn the practical applications of AI for content marketing. AI for Content: Practical Applications for Marketers Marketers can effectively and efficiently plan and create content, predict and personalize content that resonates with each consumer, and even automate engagement—all by using AI. Content Planning and Creation at Any Scale “Tuesday was a great day for W. Roberts, as the junior pitcher threw a perfect game to carry Virginia to a 2-0 victory over George Washington at Davenport Field.” Did a human or a computer write that sentence? If you can’t tell, it doesn’t matter. (It wasn’t a human.) Big content producers like Yahoo and even the Associated Press have been using AI to write stories—like the sentence above, referencing W. Roberts—for years. But if full-on robot writers aren’t your style, try implementing AI in your content creation workflow to help write short-form content such as ad copy and even nail those emails and subject lines the first time around. AI can also be used to analyze consumer behavior and generate recommendations to the content that is most applicable to the person as they continue on their customer journey. Effective Content Personalization As the most critical marketing trend of this century, personalization is extremely important for the modern content marketer. And there is almost no way to execute personalized content at any valuable scale without the assistance of automation and artificial intelligence. Computers armed with machine learning collect data from consumers that they then use to create individual profiles and generate recommendations on how to personalize content for each. Around-the-Clock Engagement That little box that pops up at the bottom right corner when you visit a website? It probably isn’t a real agent offering to help you—that’s a chatbot. Chatbot software employs artificial intelligence to mimic human conversation. Chatbots enable businesses to provide around-the-clock customer service, automatically share just-right promotional and educational content, and empower consumers to self-serve as they see fit. Aside from doing all of the above to boost engagement, chatbots also streamline the customer support process to increase average resolution time and decrease costs. How to Implement AI for Content As we’ve explored, AI for content has several essential applications in the business world. The marketer that wants to keep their company relevant and competitive would be wise to tackle this new frontier as quickly and seamlessly as possible. The key to implementing AI for content marketing lies in separating that content from other business assets, and enabling the filtering of the content through cutting-edge AI-powered tools for analysis, optimization, and publication across various channels. How? With a headless content management system (CMS). The bleeding edge in content marketing, headless CMS is a purpose-built platform for compartmentalizing content creation, display, and functionality. That means that any piece of content in the CMS can be personalized and optimized for chatbot use, and otherwise updated seamlessly and infinitely. If you’re ready to implement the AI tools you need for large-scale content planning and creation, flawless personalization, and engaging chatbot automation; it’s time to move your content management program over to Contentstack—the only headless CMS designed specifically for integrations, such as AI and personalization integrations. Contentstack includes pre-built integrations for leading AI solutions, such as IBM Watson and MonkeyLearn. Learn more about headless CMS, and use our ROI calculator to see how you could be saving hundreds of thousands of dollars on content management, or get in touch today to try Contentstack for free!

Dec 12, 2019

Contentstack Wins Best in Biz Awards Enterprise Product of the Year for Marketing Software

It is an honor to be recognized with a Silver award by Best in Biz Awards for Enterprise Product of the Year – Marketing Software. Receiving this recognition from Best in Biz Awards’ unbiased and talented panel of judges for marketing software product of the year is extremely gratifying. At Contentstack, we pride ourselves on delivering the best content management platform for our customers around the world. Using our integration-ready, API, and microservices approach, Contentstack’s headless CMS serves as the ideal content hub for corporations and enterprise organizations to deliver omnichannel, personalized digital experiences. About the Award Since 2011, Best in Biz Awards, Inc. is the only independent business awards program judged by independent panels of prominent writers and editors from top-tier publications. Past winners in Best in Biz Awards span the spectrum from blue-chip companies to some of the most innovative start-ups. Each year, winners in Best in Biz Awards are determined based on scoring from independent judging panels assembled from some of the most respected newspapers, TV and radio outlets, and business, consumer, technology and trade publications in North America. Combining top editors’ and reporters’ unparalleled expertise and experience with the objectivity inherent in the journalistic ethos and further enhanced by the breadth and variety of outlets represented on the panel, Best in Biz Awards is uniquely able to determine the best of the best from among the hundreds of entries. The 2019 judging panel included, among others, writers from Accounting Today, AdWeek, Associated Press, Barron’s, Consumer Affairs, eWeek, Healthcare Innovation News, Inc., Investment Advisor Magazine, USA Today, and Wired. For a full list of winners in Best in Biz Awards 2019, visit http://www.bestinbizawards.com/2019-winners. Contentstack, The Future of Content Management The Content Management industry is evolving quicker than ever, with new tools and techniques emerging at an unprecedented rate. Contentstack customers can rest assured that their business is prepared for the future of omnichannel marketing and digital experiences, no matter what new technologies emerge. But don’t take our word for it, besides our peers awarding us a Silver award by Best in Biz Awards for Enterprise Product of the Year – Marketing Software, we’ve also received validation from our customers with recognition as an April 2019 Gartner Peer Insights Customer’s Choice for Web Content Management (WCM). Learn more about your options when it comes to content management platforms, and specifically how a headless CMS transforms customer experiences in our “Ultimate Guide to CMS” ebook.

Dec 11, 2019

The 4-Step Roadmap to Achieving Hyper-Personalization

The business case for hyper-personalization has been proven time and time again.Now, all that’s left to do is start down the road to a personalized business and marketing strategy.Use this map to find all the tools you need as you wind your way from gathering consumer data to creating personalized content to developing a singular platform that unites your entire strategy.What is Hyper-Personalization and Why Does It Matter?Hyper-personalization leverages consumer data, artificial intelligence (AI), and other modern technologies to help businesses deliver content, marketing, and offerings that are super-relevant to individual consumers.For a simple example of a hyper-personalized shopping experience, let’s look at the IT manager who is conducting online research on a software platform they’re considering purchasing. Throughout the week, they receive ads for that same tool—and related offerings from the same company—on various websites. And, the next time they visit the seller’s website, they even get a personalized discount to entice them to complete their purchase.By 2020, half of consumers will expect a hyper-personalized experience like this one.Shoppers expect brands to predict their needs and reach out with relevant offerings—before they make contact with the business!So it’s no surprise that 75 percent of consumers are frustrated by irrelevant on-site marketing content, and shoppers who click on recommended items are 70 percent more likely to make a purchase.Close to 90 percent of U.S. marketers have observed measurable improvements after implementing some hyper-personalization efforts. Yet, only 9 percent of marketing professionals have implemented a full hyper-personalization strategy!The majority of businesses are either talking about hyper-personalization or are still ignoring it altogether.What does this all mean?It means that consumers crave hyper-personalization and, if you get started on your strategy right now, chances are you’ll beat your competitors to the punch.The following strategies and tools help you do just that.4 Steps to Achieving Hyper-PersonalizationFrom tools for gathering your all-important consumer data to systems for creating personalized content to the one platform that holds it all together—the road to building a hyper-personalization marketing strategy is a winding one. Here’s the only map you’ll need.Step 1: Gather and Utilize All-Important Consumer DataIt’s going to be hard to personalize content and offerings for specific consumers if you don’t know any specifics about them.That’s why the critical first step in achieving hyper-personalization is collecting, organizing, and utilizing as much data as you can about your consumers.What kind of data are you looking for? In addition to standard profiles that include personal consumer information like name, age, location, layer in information such as the following:How frequently do they interact with your brandWhich offerings or messaging do they respond to best?When do they interact? For example, do they show up when each quarterly budget is approved? Do they only respond to discounts?Include any other information that helps you understand their consumption patterns.This kind of data gives you insight into behavior patterns and helps you create an ideal customer profile. It also empowers you to create hyper-personalized messaging, products, and services to attract and retain your ideal audience.The power of your hyper-personalization marketing strategy hinges on how well you know your consumers—so you may want to try combinations and even alternatives of the tools we’re about to mention until you’ve got the perfect system for collecting and utilizing important consumer data.Data Collection and Activation ToolsSocial listening tools that allow you to see what consumers are saying about your industry or your brand in particular: Hootsuite, BufferSentiment analysis platforms that identify the underlying “feeling” (negative, positive, etc.) in text-based conversations: IBM Watson, MonkeyLearn, Salesforce Einstein, RapidMinerWebsite analytics for seeing who’s on your website, where they came from, and how they’re engaging: Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, FullStory, HotJar,OptimizelyMobile application analytics help businesses collect user data from their mobile apps: Mixpanel, CountlyA data management platform (DMP) for gathering, segmenting, and integrating data from your digital domains (first-party), partner domains (second-party), and aggregators (third-party): LiveRamp, ClearbitStep 2: Create Hyper-Personalized ContentArmed with the powerful data and insights that you just assembled in the previous step, you’re ready to create content.As we explored earlier in this piece (and in-depth on the Contentstack blog), it’s a proven fact that consumers crave personalized content and reward businesses that provide it.So, in this step, the task at hand is creating hyper-personalized content that inspires engagement, action, and loyalty among your existing customers and your ideal new leads.How? Through contextualization and experimentation.A hyper-personalized experience goes beyond just knowing whom a consumer is to recognizing and responding to, where they are physically, and where they’re most active digitally.Once you can dial in your content to the right context, it’s time to move on to the enjoyable part: Experimenting!At its core, most successful business and marketing strategies—hyper-personalization included—are all about creating a thing, observing how your audience engages with that thing, and then using what you’ve learned to iterate and create an even better version of the thing.Try these tools to help you do just that when it comes to creating hyper-personalized content.Content Creation and Hyper-Personalization ToolsA content management system (CMS) for creating and distributing—which we’ll discuss next—content: Contentstack for integrating key hyper-personalization tools,A customer relationship management (CRM) platform that helps you manage your relationship with current customers and move leads through the sales and marketing funnel: Salesforce, HubSpot CRM, Zendesk, Intercom, InsightlyA customer data platform (CDP) to layer additional data on top of what you know about your customers and leads to build a more complete profile: Evergage, ExponeaTranslational and localization software to capture the lingual and cultural nuances of your consumers: Contentstack (a CMS with built-in language and localization features), translations.com, Smartling, LocalizeA/B testing applications to help you nail down exactly which hyper-personalization efforts are working: Monetate, Optimizely, AB TastyPredictive analytics to inform you where to start based on the data you’ve already gathered: Adobe Analytics, Tableau, Big Squid, MixpanelStep 3: Distribute Across TouchpointsStep 3 is when you bring together the content you’ve created and the data you’ve gathered about your audience to generate conversations across appropriate channels and devices.Or, as Pitney Bowes’ global VP of Solution Consulting puts it, you’re “…allowing the right person to get the right communication, at the right time, in the right place, through the most effective delivery channel.”The consumer data you collected in step 1 clues you into the “right” or the preferred channels, devices, time of day, types of communication for your consumers—and your hyper-personalized content does the rest of the work to engage them!Use the following tools to share hyper-personalized content that makes sense in the context of the platform and consumers’ needs, keep your brand relevant and top-of-mind, and create a positive experience.Content Distribution ToolsA content management system (CMS), this time, is useful in distributing the content that you’ve created and stored there: a headless CMS like Contentstack can integrate with automated distribution toolsEngagement analytics bring your efforts full circle to measure engagement and opportunities for improvement: Google Analytics and Optimizely for web, Mixpanel and Countly for appsStep 4: Unite Your Hyper-Personalization SuiteFinally, it’s time to bring it all together.From the tools you use to gather consumer data to the platform where you create content to the final distribution step, managing all this technology, your business, and your ever-changing marketing strategy all at the same time can be understandably overwhelming.That’s why we recommend a single, laser-focused tool that unites all your other tools to make your journey through the marketing lifecycle seamless.One Tool to Unite The RestA digital experience platform (DXP) aligns strategies, teams, processes, and technologies so that companies can create, deliver, and optimize consistent consumer experiences.Typically, DXP implementation begins with adopting a headless CMS that empowers hyper-personalization through API-first architecture that integrates with CRM, AI, analytics, AR/VR, mobile apps, and any other personalization tools a business may need.Learn more about how headless CMS is paving the way for personalization and DXP to get a Return on Experience (ROX), download “Going Beyond ROI with Return on Experience (ROX)” ebook.When you’ve got your headless CMS implemented and are ready to build out your DXP platform, check out OutSystems, Liferay, and Salesforce.Will You Follow This Roadmap to Achieve Hyper-Personalization in Your Business?The vast majority of marketing professionals say that AI-powered hyper-personalization strategies are having a positive impact on their campaigns.Additionally, nearly all U.S. marketers have reported seeing measurable improvements thanks to personalization. They have found it may cut acquisition costs by half and increase the effectiveness of marketing spend by as much as 30 percent!The business case for building out your hyper-personalization marketing strategy is there—all you have to do is start down the road.We hope that following this roadmap empowers you to create a hyper-personalization strategy that engages your current customers and enables you to attract your ideal audience in the ever-changing years to come.

Dec 04, 2019

3 Trends That Are Fueling Experience-Driven Commerce

Have you been wondering what that phrase “experience-driven commerce” that is appearing everywhere really means? How about why your sales-based business should care about experiences? And, how your business can implement experiential commerce without busting your sanity, your technology stack, and your budget? The following article covers everything you need to know about experience-driven commerce, the significant developments in consumer habits and technology that are fueling this shift, and the one platform to implement in 2020 to deliver competitive and relevant experiences. What is Experience-Driven Commerce? Experience-driven commerce brings together data, insights, and content to provide consumers with a contextualized, personalized, and omnichannel experience during every brand interaction. Its power lies in its ability to engage shoppers where they are—whether it’s in-store, on a smartwatch app, or driving past your smart billboard—and in the unique context of their lives, instead of asking them to change their habits to meet your capabilities. And, most importantly, your customers crave it—and your competition is pursuing it. Consumers who enjoy personalized experiences are 44 percent more likely to become repeat customers, and 40 percent tell their friends and family about it. Brands that are creating personalized experiences are finding they’re able to grow their revenue by 10 percent up to 3x faster than their non-personalizing peers. It’s no surprise that the 2017 Digital Intelligence Briefing from Econsultancy and Adobe found that retailers are investing in experience-driven commerce. The 3 Major Shifts That Are Fueling Experience-Driven Commerce Between constant connectivity, the rise of extremely tech-savvy consumers, and the major players that are making personalization a part of our everyday lives, it’s not surprising that experience-driven commerce is the future of successful sales-based businesses in 2020 and beyond. Let’s explore each of those major trends in more detail, so you have all the insight you need to beef up your experience-driven commerce efforts. Consistent Connectivity Puts Omnichannel Consumption on the Map for Good The average smartphone owner reaches for their phone every six minutes. There are nearly 7 billion mobile phones in use around the world right now—and some sources estimate that the average person will own and use at least 15 connected devices (think smart household devices, voice-activated speakers, wearables, and more) by the year 2030! At any time, a consumer could use one of these devices to do research on a product or service that their friend just told them about, make a quick online purchase to pick up on their way home, or Tweet about an unfortunate customer service experience to thousands of followers. They could be doing any of the above while shopping at one of your physical locations. Over 80 percent of consumers reported using a digital device for shopping-related activities before or during their most recent shopping trip, according to the retail digital transformation experts at I.B.I.S., Inc. Connectivity is ubiquitous, and consumers expect to be able to get what they want, when they want it, within the context of their unique expectations. Welcome to what Forrester Research calls the Age of the Customer. To stay competitive in this age, commerce companies must have a strategy for delivering unique experiences across established, new, and emerging IoT devices and platforms. Millennials and Gen Z Consumers Have Huge Spending Power—And Demands Millennials are currently the largest consumer group, but the even more tech-savvy Generation Z (aka the iPhone generation) isn’t far from taking that title. The majority of your current or soon-to-be consumers grew up using social media, talking to smart appliances, and walking around with some of the smartest computers in the world in their pockets. They don’t know a world where digital conveniences didn’t exist, and if you think they’re going to work with a brand that doesn’t provide them—think again. When the most powerful consumer group on the planet demands around-the-clock accessibility and personalization, you work to give it to them, or you fall by the wayside. On this point, we have to agree with Boston Consulting Group’s sentiment: “This generation is ushering in the end of consumer marketing as companies have long known it.” Wide-Spread Personalization is the New Norm Over 35 percent of Amazon sales are the result of recommendations created from shoppers’ personal data. Netflix’s personalized video recommendations save the company $1 billion every year by retaining subscribers. If some of the best-known businesses in the U.S. can improve the consumer experience using personalization, why can’t yours? We know it’s not that simple, but your consumers don’t. Commerce consumers want to give you their info, which the majority are fine with, and receive customized experiences in return. They’re willing to pay you in the form of personal data if it means they get a personalized experience out of the deal. And, as we’ve explored before, personalization is powerful and profitable in many ways. (To learn how to make personalization work for you, check out our Guide to One-to-One Marketing for the Forward-Thinking Enterprise.) So how can you gather and use all that data to provide personalization and deliver on all these other new consumer demands? That’s up next. Delivering on Demands: How to Take advantage of Experience-Driven Commerce in 2020 and Beyond To deliver experience-driven commerce, several departments of your business need to come together, including IT, marketing, sales, design, and beyond. When these teams collaborate effectively, you’ll be able to develop and deliver always-relevant messaging, product information, and services whether you’re providing customer support on social media, serving a sales email campaign, or supplying important details to seal the deal on your commerce platform. With a digital experience platform (DXP), you can unite these teams as well as the strategies, processes, and technologies you need to create, deliver, and optimize consistent commerce experiences. And DXP implementation all begins with a headless CMS that empowers hyper-personalized experiences through API-first architecture that integrates with CRM, AI, analytics, AR/VR, mobile apps, and any other tools that your IT, sales, marketing, design, and other teams need to do their jobs. It’s time to meet consumer demands and build the tech stack that will deliver experience-driven commerce in 2020 and beyond because, as the famed writer Maya Angelou said, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”

Nov 27, 2019

CMS Debt Series: How the Wrong CMS Can Rack Up Insurmountable Technical Debt

In the first installment of our series on CMS debt, we talked about the high cost of replacing a poorly-chosen CMS. In this segment, we’re going to explore the not-so-obvious technical debt that comes with continuing to try to make a poorly-chosen CMS work in your tech stack. If your business is suffering from stunted growth, an inability to scale, squandered salary dollars and productivity hours, lost opportunities, failure to deliver on consumer expectations, and even a weak search engine presence—it could very well be the result of trying to force a square peg into a round hole when it comes to your CMS. Here’s what you need to know about technical debt, how it can quietly ravage your company, and what you can do to nip it in the bud before it becomes downright impossible. What is Technical Debt, and Where Does it Come From? Technical debt is the sum of the money, flexibility, and opportunity lost when a company makes a poor technical investment or decision. Businesses get into technical debt when time or budgetary constraints force CMOs and CTOs to choose the fastest or the most affordable solution instead of the best-fitting one with the most longevity. Often, this leads to the implementation of stand-alone pieces of technology that are simple enough to implement but that, over time, amount to a disjointed tech stack that only gets harder to secure, maintain, and update over time. One of the most notable differences between technical and financial debt is that many companies are not monitoring and governing technical debt as they are financial debt. This lack of attention makes it all the more likely that a business will get in over its head with insurmountable technical debt before they realize what’s happening. While the monetary costs of technical debt aren’t typically tracked and are, therefore, hard to understand, it isn’t so hard to understand the damage it has on businesses when it comes to stunting growth, wasting productivity, and worse. How Choosing the Wrong CMS Can Result in Technical Debt Before we delve into the cost of choosing the wrong CMS, let’s quickly revisit what a CMS is and why it matters. A content management system (CMS) is the platform most businesses use to create, distribute, and otherwise manage their content assets. If you’re like many modern organizations, these content assets are the heart of the experience you create for consumers. So, choosing a CMS that’s extremely expensive to maintain or incapable of being reconfigured to meet your growing business needs can understandably result in a large amount of technical debt, very quickly. Stunted Business Growth and Scalability It’s nearly impossible to predict what the future holds for your business but, hopefully, it’s growth. That should be top of mind when you choose to implement any technology—and especially when you’re selecting your CMS. Growth means more products or services, more content, more advertising channels, and more software and systems. To avoid getting into massive technical debt later, you’ll want to start from square one with a solid foundation for your tech stack—and the right CMS platform can be just that. While a traditional, monolithic CMS will only be able to publish content to a website, a headless, API-first CMS decouples content from how it’s displayed and designed. This decoupling allows IT, marketing, and design teams to work separately but in tandem to publish flawless content across channels at the speed of the consumer. Plus, thanks to separating the content from the presentation layer, a headless CMS can serve as the base for an entire digital experience platform into which you can plug your ecommerce, marketing, data, personalization, and optimization tools to create a tech stack that scales up (or down) as needed. Lost Salary Dollars, Productivity, and Opportunities Do your systems keep getting harder to work with by the month? Are workers often spending more time wrangling resources, fixing bugs, or putting out fires than doing their actual jobs? If so, you’re losing salary dollars and productivity that you can’t get back on developers and other personnel who are merely maintaining instead of moving your business forward. And, if yours is one of the 90 percent of IT teams that report that the maintenance and expense associated with legacy systems prevent them from taking advantage of the technology their organizations need to grow—then you’re also missing out on significant business opportunities. Putting a CMS at the center of your tech stack that’s expensive to maintain and too rigid to update is sure to rack up technical debt in the form of squandered productivity, salary dollars, and opportunities. Weak Search Engine Presence Just over half of all website traffic on the entire internet starts with organic search. Plus, over 40 percent of revenue is thought to be the result of organic traffic. Search engine optimization (SEO) matters, and it all starts with creating and managing awesome content. You want to choose a CMS that is thoughtfully designed to boost your SEO efforts at every turn. If it isn’t, you may notice your search engine presence is weak thanks to: Poor Meta Tags The search engine crawlers that “read” and help rank your website on search engine results pages rely on meta tags to learn what message each page is conveying. A CMS that doesn’t let your marketing team use relevant page titles, unique descriptions, and high-quality meta tags will prevent crawlers from finding and assigning a high ranking to your website pages. Generic URLs You want to be able to implement the keywords and phrases for which you want to rank in your page URLs. If your CMS doesn’t let you create your own keyword-rich URLs, you can say goodbye to highly-visible search results. Inferior Code Base While your website design may be the best on the planet, readers aren’t ever going to see it if the underlying code is bad! Search engine crawlers can’t “see” your design. Instead, they rely on reading the code. If your CMS isn’t using search-engine-optimized code that these crawlers can understand, they’re not going to be able to prioritize your website over those with better code. Getting the most SEO juice out of your content isn’t just about the content itself but the CMS you choose to use to host it. Start with a well-built and user-friendly CMS to keep yourself out of technical debt. Inability to Keep Up with Consumer Expectations By 2030, each person on the planet is expected to interact with as many as 15 different internet-enabled devices on a daily basis. That’s great news considering that omnichannel shoppers tend to spend more. MasterCard found that consumers who shop both online and off buy 250 percent more than consumers who don’t. Macy's reports their omnichannel shoppers are eight times more valuable than their single-channel ones. But this is not-so-great news for businesses who aren’t enabled with the technology needed to keep up, these omnichannel shoppers expect personalization at every touchpoint. Nearly 80 percent of consumers will only engage with personalized offers, and 78 percent say relevant content makes them more likely to buy. Whereas plain-text brand blogs were the status quo just a decade ago, today, consumer expectations are changing just as quickly as the technology that enables them. You probably know where this is going. Working with a traditional CMS that forces you to publish the same general type of content to the same website day after day? That’s technical debt in the making. But thanks to decoupling content from the presentation layer, a headless CMS enables businesses to create content once and redesign, reoptimize, and republish it as necessary. Win “first-mover” advantage by being the fastest among your competitors to meet consumer expectations and secure your place as a market leader. Prevent Racking Up Technical Debt by Choosing the Right CMS from the Start There are tons of CMS options out there. What’s important is taking the time to choose the right one for your business. To learn how to avoid racking up insurmountable technical debt by selecting the best-fit CMS from the very beginning, check out the do’s and don’ts in the first installment of this series on CMS debt: The High Cost of Choosing the Wrong CMS. And to learn more about headless CMS itself and why it’s fast becoming the future of business and marketing, download our Ultimate Guide to CMS or see it in action for yourself—take Contentstack for a test drive today and see how seamlessly it can fit into your tech stack.

Nov 20, 2019

CMS Debt Series: 5 Signs Your CMS is Causing Astronomical Opportunity Cost

Welcome—or welcome back!—to Contentstack’s three-part series on CMS debt. In this series, we’re breaking down all the ways that doing business with the wrong CMS can have a detrimental impact on your success. In this installment, we’re going to examine the opportunities that companies miss out on when they’re stuck with an outdated or rigid traditional CMS that limits their ability to take advantage of new opportunities and compete in a quickly-evolving market.5 Signs Your CMS is Costing You Big Business Opportunities “Opportunity cost” is the phrase used to represent the benefits that are lost when a business chooses to integrate technology that doesn’t end up meeting their unique needs. Because it isn’t a cost that’s immediately tied to money, opportunity cost isn’t accounted for in financial reports. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t very real and that plenty of businesses are struggling under its strain. As the heart of the customer experience, content is one of your most important business assets. And as the “hub” that ties all of these assets together, your content management system (CMS) plays a vital role in determining which opportunities you will and won’t be able to pursue. Keep reading to learn about the signs you should look out for to determine whether your CMS is empowering or limiting your business success—and what to do if it’s the latter. It’s Near Impossible to Keep Up to Date Like plenty of other software platforms, traditional, monolithic CMSes (yes, there are several types of CMS—which we’ll get to soon!) are often purpose-built and can be cumbersome to change. This is unfortunate because the businesses that use them must change. Whether you need to make a branding update, add new pages, expand a product line, or implement a full facelift courtesy of a merger—the CMS upon which your website is built should be agile enough to make these changes easily. If difficulty making these and other relatively simple changes is holding you back from taking advantage of partnerships and cutting-edge campaigns, it’s time for a CMS upgrade.IT Has to Get Involved in Every Little Thing Modern CMS tools empower marketers to manage their content without technical intervention. Not-so-modern CMS tools force marketers to rely on IT any time they need to make any little content update. The result is costly downtime, (understandable) frustration for both parties, and the inability to move with agility even when an exciting new opportunity arises. Your Security Alarms are Constantly Going Off If your IT team is spending more time maintaining than innovating, your business has already suffered from a cyberattack, or your CMS vendor is no longer supporting the software you’re using—updating your CMS needs to become your top priority before your system goes down or gets taken down. There’s nothing like going offline unexpectedly to force you to miss out on new opportunities and get dropped from existing ones!You’re Using Multiple Tools to Manage Your Content Are your essential content assets scattered among several platforms? How many tools are you using to get your content created, optimized, designed, and distributed to all the right channels? How many tools do you wish you were using instead? Your CMS platform should serve as a single source of truth from which to manage all your content assets from creation through distribution and effectively wield them to take advantage of new business opportunities. There’s No Functionality for Personalization or Distributing Across Channels Speaking of effectively using content assets—are you able to deliver relevant content that speaks to various audiences on each of their preferred channels? If you didn’t even know that was possible, chances are you’re using a monolithic CMS that isn’t equipped to help you meet modern consumer demands. By 2030—which is alarmingly soon in business years—each person is expected to use as many as 15 different internet-enabled devices every day. And, these omniplatform and omnichannel consumers expect to experience relevant content everywhere. Even today, nearly 80 percent of consumers only engage with brands that provide personalized offers. On the upside, 78 percent of shoppers do say relevant content makes them more likely to complete a purchase! If you continue to work with a CMS that doesn’t empower you to create and distribute relevant content everywhere your audience is, the cost of missed opportunities is going to become astronomical in the coming years. So, did any of those signs seem familiar to you? If so, and if you don’t make an effort to move on to a better CMS soon, your outdated tech is going to “help” you rack up astronomical costs in missed opportunities. The Opportunity Cost of Sticking With the Wrong CMS While the cost of lost opportunities might not be as obvious or easy to track as traditional financial expenditures, there’s no doubt that it can harm your business. These are some of the opportunities that your legacy CMS could be causing you to miss out on: The opportunity to create, optimize, and distribute omnichannel experiences that speak to a whole new generation of consumersThe opportunity to deliver the personalization that consumers craveThe opportunity to develop a productive workplace culture that attracts and retains top talentThe opportunity to beat your competitors to market, win a significant share, and establish yourself as a leader in your industryThe opportunity to save a ton on salary dollars and prevent fines when it comes to CMS security and maintenanceThe opportunity to develop a reputation as a “first-mover” by deploying your apps and content on emerging platforms What are “pacesetters” doing to take back these opportunities? They’re ditching their monolithic content management platforms for headless CMS. Adopt Headless CMS to Save on Opportunity Costs While replacing your CMS certainly comes with its costs—so do missed opportunities. With the former, if you do it right, you pay for it once, and it’s over. With the latter, you keep losing money on those missed opportunities every single day you choose to ignore your aging technology. If you’re ready to save some money on maintenance and make money from new audiences and opportunities, here’s what you need to know. Traditional, monolithic CMSes (think WordPress and Squarespace) were the original content management and delivery tools. They use an all-in-one, or “coupled,” system with a singular codebase that pulls in everything needed to manage and publish content to a website. But when digital experiences developed beyond websites to multiple channels and devices, new technology was created to keep up: the headless CMS. A headless CMS “decouples” all the technology that goes into managing content. Instead, all the tools it takes to create, store, optimize, and distribute content are held together using application programming interfaces (APIs). This modular architecture allows for the content to be created once then re-optimized and re-distributed in the way that’s most relevant to the channel and audience. (For a more comprehensive look at the different types of CMS, download a free copy of the Ultimate Guide to CMS Vol. 2: Content Management Systems Pros and Cons here.)  Contentstack’s headless CMS is uniquely positioned to help your company overcome all five signs of missed business opportunities: It’s user-friendly enough for anyone to keep up-to-date, we strive to ensure that marketing folks can perform all their important content tasks free from IT intervention, our security authentications are enterprise-grade, our stream-lined features empower you to keep all your content assets safe on one platform, and our Experience Extensions enable you to take advantage of best-in-class integrations including CRM platforms, localization services, AI tools, A/B testing applications, personalization engines, and more. Avoid the astronomical opportunity cost of working with the wrong CMS altogether with our tips on selecting the right CMS—or jump right in and see the right CMS at work when you take Contentstack for a test drive today.

Nov 13, 2019

How Content Localization Can Benefit Your Company in a Global Market

You’ve played telephone, right? One person comes up with a phrase, whispers it to the next person, that person whispers it to the next person, and so on. In the end, the phrase has gone through so many iterations that it often no longer resembles the original phrase. Content translation presents similar challenges. Simply translating words to a new language fails to consider the different contexts and cultures, and continued translation can result in content that no longer resembles the original content. Content localization, on the other hand, is an extension of content personalization. It includes translation, but also adjusting content to the culture of the new target audience to create value for them. Let’s explore how content localization extends beyond translation to drive engagement with a global audience. What’s The Difference Between Localization and Translation? Translation is the process of changing a piece of content from one language (the source language) to another language (the target language). For example, if a company creates an English resource guide, they might translate it into Spanish when the company expands to Spain, and then again into Italian when they target an Italian market. This approach can shift the message of the content and introduce errors and cultural faux pas. Translation alone does not consider cultural differences. Content translated to Spanish for Spain won’t have the unique syntax needed for Argentinian Spanish. Content localization, on the other hand, would create stand-alone content that is technically correct and adapted to the differences in culture, search marketing practices, and legal requirements between the two markets. Content Localization Goes Beyond Translation Content localization creates content that is specifically designed for a market by working with local consultants and marketers. To continue our Spanish example, that would mean local experts would provide different content for Mexico and Spain. Even though these countries both use Spanish as their national language; slang, syntax, and cultural differences remain. To be successful in selling to a foreign market, brands must overcome more than just language barriers. They must create a customized message, which might include adjusting the following aspects: Colors and Font: Content localization considers preferences in colors and fonts for a different audience. For example, in China, white is considered unlucky in some instances. Presenting a person’s name in red font in Korea in the past indicated the person is deceased, or if they were still living that you wish harm to come to them.Content Layout: Many factors impact layout. Some languages require more or less space, text may be read left to right or right to left, or the audience may prefer mobile devices. Content localization considers these differences and creates a format that appeals to the audience.Images and Visuals: Images and visuals should be changed to appeal to a new target market and location. You wouldn't use pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge on a website targeting London locals, for example. Currencies and Measurement Units: Content localization includes changing currency, product descriptions, directions, and any other content that uses currency or measurement to reflect the preferred format of the new market. It may also include raising or lowering the price point based on the new target audience. Laws and Regulations: Different locations require companies to meet varying regulations. For example, a U.S.-based company would need to adhere to the GDPR when addressing the EU market. Marketing Practices: Effective strategies and competition vary by market. Localizing content may also include adjusting target key terms, link building strategies, and lead generation techniques. Content localization also addresses the differences in content architecture between locations, including different buyer persona and popular content formats. Why Does Content Localization Matter? Consider this scenario: Your company is hosting two conferences about high-end dining—one in Chicago and one in New York. Your company creates a landing page, brochures, Facebook event, and a visiting guide for each city. The language wouldn't change at all in this example; however, you wouldn't use the same images and content, right? The speakers might cover different topics, and the conference held in different locations. In Chicago, green might be a fine color choice, but in New York, green could be associated with the New York Jets football team. You would use Chicago pictures for the Chicago conference, and New York pictures for the New York event. Additionally, your recommended restaurants and directions to the conference location would be different, as would the online strategy you use to sell tickets. This example highlights the difference content localization can make when it comes to creating content—even when it’s not overseas. Other big business benefits of content localization include the following:Overcomes Culture Barriers To successfully market to a global audience, brands must adjust their marketing message and, in some cases, even their product name, to a new market. Coca-Cola, for example, is called “kekou kele” in China—which translates to "delicious happiness." Their Chinese marketing strategy included handing out chopsticks and balloons to market the new product. Today, China is the third-largest market for Coca-Cola, selling more than 140 million sodas every day. Successful global marketing strategy requires adjusting to local cultural norms and creating content and branding that makes locals feel as if the content was created especially for them—because it is! Increases Sales When it comes to deciding where to spend their money, consumers are far more likely to spend money with brands that speak their language. Over half of consumers said that the ability to find information in their native language is more important than cost. In addition to language, preferences also vary by geographical location. Localization is designed to identify these preferences, then create content that caters to these differences. For example, Italian users tend to prefer a more casual online approach, so localizing content for Italy might include changing the tone and adding humor. Localized content is effective at increasing sales because it addresses not just language needs, but also different marketing practices and preferences that appeal to diverse audiences. Builds Brand Loyalty Consumers are loyal to the brands they trust and feel a connection with. By creating localized content, you are showing a new market that you understand who they are and what they need. This translates to a higher level of brand loyalty, which makes customers less likely to churn. A lower churn rate results in a decrease in marketing spend and an increase in the lifetime value of your customers. Increases Brand Integrity Brand integrity is how consumers perceive your brand based on your content, marketing strategies, and even product packaging. When it comes to content localization, brand integrity can get lost in translation. In 1987, Braniff Airlines created a campaign to highlight its leather airline seats. An issue arose when that campaign was translated and played on the airwaves in Mexico. The original ad encouraged users to fly "in leather," which sounds nearly identical to "naked" in Spanish. Localization goes beyond translation to look for conflicts or hidden meanings to help brands avoid faux pas and maintain brand integrity across global markets. Reduces Customer Support Costs When customers can easily locate the information they need in a format and language they understand, they are less likely to require the help of your support team. For example, if an Italian user can find a troubleshooting guide for your product in Italian, they may be able to solve their problems faster, which reduces frustration and prevents a call to your support team. Content Localization Success: Support Your Content and Your Team With the Right Technology The most significant challenge companies face when approaching content localization is the sheer size of the project. It can feel overwhelming, which results in many companies choosing to translate content and call it a day. The issue is, as explained above, merely translating content is not enough to effectively target and convert a global audience. Instead, companies should look for a technological solution that makes it easier to manage the content localization process and reduces frustration. Contentstack is an omnichannel-ready, headless CMS that offers sophisticated multilingual and localization capabilities. These features allow your brand to create and publish entries in any language and cater to a wide variety of audiences by serving content in their local language. Advanced marketing features also make collaboration far easier with approval workflows, image management, and versioning and rollback capabilities. Learn from a Brand that's Mastered the Art of Localized Content at Scale  Freeletics, an AI-based fitness and lifestyle coaching app, cut production time for their localized content by 80%. Learn how in our upcoming fireside chat.

Nov 06, 2019

Omnichannel Retail: 6 Technologies to Transform Your Strategy

For anyone who’s been paying attention, it’s pretty clear that the future of retail and ecommerce (and pretty much every other industry) in the enterprise space lies in delivering seamless, relevant omnichannel consumer experiences. That means that brands with offline retail and online ecommerce lines of business need to expand and converge their efforts to deliver the kind of modern shopping flow that consumers expect. For many business leaders and their (often) already-overworked marketing teams, just considering this shift is enough to make them yearn for simpler times. But don’t worry, you don’t have to do it all today—and you don’t have to do it all alone. The following explains why you should care about omnichannel retail, why now is a great time to start taking action, and the emerging technology that smart omnichannel retailers are implementing to build a seamless online-to-in-store shopping experience for current and future consumers. What Omnichannel Retail Means and Why Now Is the Perfect Time to Dive In As opposed to multichannel retail, in which consumers have more than one channel that they can use to shop with a brand, omnichannel retail uses technology to tie all of these channels together to “ …create a unified shopping experience across every single device and channel that a consumer uses to interact with their business.” The main goal of omnichannel retail is to provide the consumer with a seamless and continuous flow at every touchpoint with which they interact when they’re researching or making a purchase from your business. And, it’s important to note that omnichannel retail includes both online (think smart devices and social media channels) and offline channels (think brick-and-mortar stores). A quick example of a retailer who’s blurring the lines between the in-store and ecommerce experiences with their omnichannel strategy is Target. When a shopper logs into the Target mobile app and confirms their location, they see in-store inventory in real-time at their closest store. Then, the consumer can order their items via app to be picked up in-store later the same day. This experience makes the purchasing process modern and quick (which makes the customer happy!). It cuts out much of the friction and personpower that was previously required to make a sale (which makes the retailer happy!). Sounds impressive, right? We hoped you’d think so*—because omnichannel retail is practically a requirement for brands that want to keep up these days. Today, the average digital consumer already has five profiles across various online channels. And, 90 percent of these consumers expect consistent interactions across every channel on which they interact with businesses. Don’t think channel-switching happens often enough for retailers to worry about? Tell that to the 86 percent of digital consumers who switch between at least two different channels in the course of a purchase! These omnichannel shoppers spend an average of 4 percent more on every in-store shopping trip and 10 percent more online! When compared to single-channel shoppers, omnichannel shoppers visit their favorite retailers’ shops 23 percent more often, have a 30 percent higher lifetime value and are more likely to recommend a retailer to friends and family. Despite all this, a report by Salesforce tells us that 55 percent of shoppers still find their retail experience disjointed when they switch to new channels. It certainly doesn’t help that only 22 percent of North American retailers consider omnichannel retail strategy a priority. There is a significant disconnect between today’s shoppers and the businesses from which they shop—which can work in your favor. Keep reading to learn about the tech and tools you need to know about to blur the lines between in-store and ecommerce and provide the omnichannel retail experience consumers crave. Emerging Technology That’s Powering Omnichannel Retail These are some of the most groundbreaking technologies on the market in 2019, how they’re shaping retail and ecommerce, and how you can shape them to deliver your ideal omnichannel retail experience.IoT-Connected Devices Empower Omnichannel Shopping Household smart devices, smartwatches, phones, and wearables—the number of IoT-connected devices (the internet of things is the web of smart devices that connect to the internet and each other) consumers can use to interact with ecommerce channels only continues to grow. Some sources estimate that the average person will own and use at least 15 connected devices by the year 2030! And thanks to some of the other technological advancements that we’re about to discuss—chatbots, augmented reality, and more—the variety of internet-enabled devices may never stop multiplying and evolving. It is crucial to stay competitive and relevant; businesses need to have an omnichannel strategy that enables them to present personalized marketing and product content on established, new, and emerging IoT devices and platforms. Lucky for you, we’ll delve into the tools you need to build and implement that kind of strategy just a little later in this article. Roboticized Customer Service There is no danger here, Will Robinson! Whereas robots were once a figment of creative imaginations, it’s thought that as soon as 2020, robots—specifically chatbots—may handle 85 percent of customer interactions and require almost no input from a human agent. For brands with ecommerce outlets, chatbots are a vital omnichannel tool for delivering personalized, on-demand customer service that’s available 24/7. Oracle found that 80 percent of entrepreneurs are already using or planning to install a customer service chatbot on their website. Will you?Augmented Reality Unites Physical and Digital Shopping Augmented reality (AR) technology enables a shopper to use the camera on their smart device to superimpose digital elements onto their physical surroundings. Popular retailers who are taking advantage of IoT as well as AR to blur the line between physical and digital shopping experiences are IKEA and Converse. IKEA empowers consumers to visualize how their products fit into their lives by enabling shoppers to use their smartphones to virtually place furniture in their homes. Then there’s Converse, whose smartphone app helps shoppers virtually try on shoes—and even share those AR-enhanced images on social media! AR is a big business in the retail space—and there are plenty of tools out there (IKEA uses ARKit, for example) for any brand that wants to get in on the action. In-Store, Digital Payment Options Offering digital payment options in physical locations is one of the most persuasive examples of how omnichannel retailers can blur the lines between in-store and ecommerce experiences. Plus, with all the options on the market, it’s pretty easy to get started! From Google Pay to Apple Pay to Samsung Pay—it seems like pretty much every large technology manufacturer is equipping their smart devices with cardless, contactless payment options. By 2021, these “proximity mobile payments” are expected to generate $190 billion in transaction value in the U.S. And, according to professionals in the industry, this type of payment is going to lead the pack of digital payment options.Recommendation Engines Personalize the Shopping Experience It’s no secret that one of today’s most prominent ecommerce outlets, you guessed it—Amazon!, grew to its size thanks in part to its ability to keep consumers coming back for more. How do they do it? By using recommendation engines. Recommendation engines use algorithms, A/B testing, and sometimes artificial intelligence-powered machine learning to predict and recommend products a shopper may like based on what they’ve purchased in the past or what a similar shopper has purchased. And, really smart businesses may even up the ante by plugging in data like what consumers looked at and purchased in-store. Recommendation engines are what suggest related items to you on ecommerce websites like Amazon, Best Buy, and thousands of others as well keep viewers engaged for video after video on YouTube. Recommendation engines help businesses provide one-to-one, or personalized, marketing on a large scale. This type of personalization is a must-have in an era when 78 percent of shoppers are more likely to make a purchase when the brand provides relevant content. Impressively, 50 percent would pay more for a product if they experienced personalization while they were shopping, and 64 percent would recommend a brand that delivered relevant content. Headless Content Management Enables Omnichannel Retail Marketing at Scale The last-but-not-least piece of omnichannel retail technology on our list is the headless content management system (CMS). If you aren’t familiar, headless CMS is the latest development in a long and rich history of content management. Its core functionality is to allow businesses to integrate content as well as pretty much every content management tool imaginable via an application programming interface (API). This revolutionary separation of content creation from how it’s designed, stored, optimized, and eventually displayed means content can be quickly rearranged and reused on any device, any channel, and at any time. Headless CMS empowers marketers to take charge of content management while developers get the flexibility they need to use any technology to craft any user experience based on the consumer channel. In our opinion, headless is a natural and groundbreaking innovation on the traditional, monolithic CMS whose core purpose is to deliver content to a single, static, highly-styled website. From a retail and ecommerce marketing perspective, one of the best things about headless CMS is how easy it makes achieving actual omnichannel content creation, optimization, and distribution at scale from a single, reliable platform. And there’s one headless CMS on the market that doesn’t just have industry-leading content collaboration and editing tools but also provides a unique interface that allows users to take advantage of best-in-class integrations. Contentstack has been called “…the industry's most powerful integrations framework to create unprecedented digital experiences” thanks to its ability to seamlessly integrate customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, translation services, AI tools, A/B testing applications, analytics parsing, personalization engines, and almost anything else that the future of enterprise content requires. Whether your omnichannel retail marketing efforts include websites, smartphones, software platforms, automobile interfaces, VR headsets, voice-activated devices, Jumbotrons, or anything else—Contentstack’s specific capabilities make it an important technology that businesses can adopt if they want to blur the line between online, in-app, and in-store experiences. To find out why Aragon Research named Contentstack one of the hottest vendors in experience management, read their report here for free. To see it in action for yourself, take Contentstack for a test drive today.

Oct 30, 2019

The Marketer’s Guide to CDNs, Site Speed, and Customer Experience

In the age of complex website infrastructure, cross-channel integrations, and a nearly infinite number of services, plugins, and scripts, websites are not the simple pages and links that they used to be. Whatever happened to when a website was just good ol’ HTML? All of the tech jargon alone can make a marketer’s eyes go crossed. But, content delivery networks (CDNs) are one piece of technology that’s worth marketers’ time and attention. While they play a background role as part of your technical infrastructure, it’s worth noting that CDNs that serve content to users are a pretty important element of the marketing tech stack. Marketers have more and more reason to be thinking about how content is being delivered to website visitors—and how quickly it’s being served. That’s because consumer expectations are shifting. Increasingly, website visitors demand near-instant loading, quick page rendering, and interactivity. Before we get into what CDNs are and how they work, let’s start with a bit of data on why marketers—and not just the technical team—should care about site speed. Speed Matters: Why Marketers Should Care About Load Time The average consumer has a dwindling attention span. Maybe nowhere is that more apparent than in the lack of patience by visitors waiting for websites to load. According to data collected by Google, over 50% of mobile users leave a website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. That’s right; they won’t give you 30 seconds—not even 10 seconds. Users only give your website to the count of 3 to make its appearance. Other studies have found that for each additional second that it takes your website to load, the website saw a decrease in conversions by a whopping 7%. In addition to that, Google’s search algorithm actually favors websites that load more quickly. Ipso facto, if your site is loading at a turtle’s pace, it can impact your organic search rankings and make it more difficult for customers to find your site at all. So, here’s what that means for marketers. First of all, site speed could literally make or break your entire business. If your site loads too slowly, it could show up on page 2, 3, or even 10 of the Google search results rather than on page 1. That’s no-man’s land in the world of SEO. It’s like your business practically doesn’t even exist. Site speed isn’t a nice-to-have feature that makes you feel good or marginally improves your user experience. It’s a critical component to your business success, and you only have a few seconds to get it right or possibly lose a huge swath of your customers. That also means that marketers can no longer sit on the sidelines when it comes to site speed. It’s not a “technical thing” only for the engineers. It’s as essential as nearly every other element of the customer experience. As a marketer, if you care about customer experience, you should care about website speed.How CDNs Can Improve Your Site’s Speed Luckily, there is a not-too-technical way for firms to invest in improving their site speed. It’s the Content Delivery Network or CDN. This piece of technology allows your website to load more quickly for users around the world and improves the load time of sizable assets that can bog down a page, like videos and images. In a nutshell, a CDN is a third-party service that caches (stores) and delivers files to your visitors faster than they would typically load. In an example laid out by Cloudflare, this could reduce load time by up to 66%. The primary way that a CDN works is by simply storing and delivering the files and assets from a server that is physically closer to the user. So, if your website is hosted in Seattle and a visitor is in Miami, their browser can fetch some parts of the site from the main server and some of the larger files (like images and video) from a CDN location that’s closer—say, in Atlanta. The net-net of this exchange is that the user’s device receives the content more quickly. And that means that your website loads more quickly, which means that you reduce the chances that you bore visitors, and they click away. CDNs are built for speed, but they also offer some other benefits, too.Four More Key Benefits of Using a CDN Faster site speed is the most often cited reason for implementing a CDN. But it’s not just about snappy response time on your web pages. It’s also about the follow-on effects that come with improved load speeds. Many benefits that come from deploying a CDN beyond just fewer second spent twiddling thumbs.1. Better SEO Faster load speed doesn’t just affect the ability of users to navigate your website. It can also impact their ability to find your company and content in the first place. In recent years, Google has made it known that page load speed is a ranking factor used in their search algorithm. What this means is that websites that load faster will, on average, rank higher in search results than those that load more slowly. For all of the reasons we’ve already covered, Google knows that faster-loading pages deliver a better experience to their users. And, as such, they now favor speedy websites over slower ones. In other words, you could rank lower and lose traffic without a CDN. The improvement in website load speed could have a direct impact on revenue. 2. Improved User Experience At the most basic level, the reason why CDNs exist—and the main benefit that they provide—is improved user experience. As mentioned previously, users demand sites and apps that load faster than ever. As such, the experience as a whole is largely marked by your company’s ability to deliver on that expectation.3. Heightened Website Security One of the often-overlooked benefits of using a CDN is that they also improve the security of your website. While the core functionality of the CDN is not necessarily security-related, many CDN providers and overlay networks offer security-enhanced features that can detect malicious bot attacks, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attempts, and other types of nefarious activity. 4. Improved Website Reliability Depending on your website hosting infrastructure, serving resource-heavy assets like videos and images can put a drain on your server’s resources. In some cases, it can slow down the entire site, lead to your site’s load speed being throttled, or even lead to the server crashing or your website becoming entirely unresponsive and unavailable. Especially if your website has the potential to review a significant spike in traffic, the extra stress can take your whole website offline. CDNs help reduce the resources needed to keep your website up and running by offloading the largest files and stabilizing the demand on the server during peak requests.How to Know if Your Site Needs a CDN First and foremost, you should check to see if your website is already using a CDN. Depending on your technology stack, you may have a CDN configured and not even realize it. Do a simple test: Check your website’s speed. This free tool from Pingdom gives you an analysis of how quickly your page loads along with some specific suggestions for how to improve your site’s speed overall. It also tells you if your website is not using a CDN and recommend that you implement* one. If your website is not performing at peak speeds and you’re not already using a CDN, then you should likely look into implementing one. It’s a reasonably simple way to dramatically improve your website’s performance (compared to other changes) and shouldn’t be an enormous technical lift for your engineering team. This is a significant first step, but even if your website isn’t sluggish right now, a CDN could also help you prepare for future growth or better manage surges of traffic that might threaten your business. CDNs are especially crucial for websites that fit certain criteria: Heavy use of images, scripts, or videosWebsite prone to spikes in trafficTraffic from around the worldRapid (expected or actual) growth If any of these cases describe your website, then a CDN is likely a smart and worthwhile investment to improve your site’s performance and customer experience. So, how do you get one of these things hooked up?Implementing a CDN The first thing you should know is that, as a marketer, implementing a CDN should not impact your day-to-day work in any way. You should be able to upload files, add them to pages, and make content changes as needed. All of the heavy lifting of a CDN occurs behind the scenes and only impacts how files are stored and retrieved across the net. Once they’re set up and working, you shouldn’t need to do anything different or alter your workflow to reap the benefits of a faster and more reliable website. CDNs are technical and they intertwine with many components of your website’s infrastructure, including your CMS. This means that the implementation likely needs to be handled by the team that manages your website’s hosting and configuration. If you use a Content as a Service (CaaS) platform like Contentstack, taking advantage of the CDN comes standard. No setup or administration that needs to happen. If you’re using another hosted CMS or on-premise solution to manage your website, then your site admins need to follow a few steps to get one up and running:Find and select and CDN vendor (Contentstack uses Fastly)Create a subdomain for your CDN (e.g., cdn.contentstack.com)Create a CNAME record that directs your subdomain to your CDN domainSetup push and pull zones for the filesUpdate your website to reference the cached resources It might sound complicated, but it’s not a difficult process. Your tech team could be up and running with a CDN with a few hours of work. While it’s not an instant fix, the CDN investment is well worth it for companies that want to scale effortlessly, improve their website’s speed, and make strides in their overall customer experience. Remember, speed matters—especially to your bottom line. Contentstack seamlessly connects your content with a CDN. Contact us to set up a free test drive and see how easy it is to reap the speed benefits of a CDN with Contentstack.

Oct 23, 2019

How Marketing Will Be Transformed by Connected Devices in the Next 10 Years

From 170 billion to $561 billion in roughly 3 years, that’s the expected growth for the Internet of Things (IoT) market. With the average person expected to own and use at least 15 connected devices by 2030, it’s clear that businesses need to be taking the IoT revolution seriously.From digital assistants and in-home electric car chargers to “hearables” (in-ear-devices) and smart appliances—IoT is a tantalizingly attractive market for businesses looking to make their mark. The research backs up that point: KPMG surveyed 750 tech leaders who said that IoT is driving the most significant business transformation in the next three years.With worldwide spending on IoT expected to reach $1.2 trillion in 2022, both business investment and consumer-driven spending on IoT are growing in parallel.The way organizations do business with each other is radically transforming through the expanded use of B2B IoT devices. Sparklabs has predicted an increase from 2.5 billion connections in 2017 to 5.4 billion connected devices in 2020. Wearables, in particular, are set for rapid growth.The opportunities are out there. You’ll want your business to be a part of that.Here’s a bit more on how IoT is changing the game in marketing and how your business can proactively prepare for the next phase of the IoT takeover.How the IoT Will Revolutionize MarketingA Gamechanger For ContentOne of the most significant shifts involves content.The role that content plays in business success is growing much larger.Companies are going to move away from “containerized” content for specific platforms. Headless, API-first content management systems are fast becoming critical for empowering marketing across an array of devices, platforms, channels, and even forms of technology that have yet to be invented.The IoT allows for content presentation in new and exciting ways. From AI-powered chatbots to voice-activated devices used as essential search tools, the ways of delivering content is becoming much more varied and diffuse. Content is going to be able to serve various functions across multiple situations, which means that marketers are going to need to revise how they target searches.More companies are going to move away from bulky, traditional content management systems and move towards headless CMS solutions that allow them to create content once and publish it anywhere. In the era of the IoT, content managers need the ability to quickly adjust content and deliver consistent experiences from apps and connected devices to websites and voice assistants.As content evolves on connected devices, contextual targeting will be key. Content marketers and business users often struggle with delivering relevant content to customers at the precise right time. Over time, customers develop an even lower level of acceptance for irrelevant content. This means that marketers have to leverage data and all other tools at their disposal to place the perfect piece of content in front of customers moving forward.Big Data Bleeds into Products, Marketing, and MoreTo stay competitive, companies are compelled to use their data to understand their customers better while developing and marketing products to serve them. Inside a company’s marketing operations, data can empower CMOs to understand and automate internal systems to optimize efficiency and output.With data as the currency of the market, businesses are sure to look for ways to cash in.All content marketers need to learn how to process, analyze, and interpret data to apply it to their content. Expertise in data and analytics may be a required skill for content marketers in the future. Marketers should also make sure they have the necessary analytic tools to interpret data. While marketers upskill and expand their capabilities, we’ll likely see more data scientists join marketing teams to harness the IoT’s potential.Success is going to follow third-party providers that can effectively analyze, manage, and protect data in the market while supporting companies looking for that special edge with data-driven insights. These high-tech platforms need to receive, interpret, and act on massive amounts of data at scale while producing insights in real-time. AI-driven marketing tools accelerate the trend here in a big way.The drive for more personalized devices that are smarter (through the deft use of data) is going to be a major guidepost for companies in the IoT age.Leveraging Predictive Customer SupportCompanies need to find ways to engage customers directly and reduce costly support backlogs.In other words, if businesses can enhance the customer buying experience (and perhaps increase sales revenue) by proactively assisting customers, they’re going to do it.Take a customer that cannot decide between two products. A virtual assistant swoops in to help them decide based on personalized data about their previous purchases and social media profiles. Perhaps the assistant even suggests another product to pair with the item.That’s the future we’re heading towards when it comes to customer support.Businesses need the resources to scale their support infrastructure by establishing AI-enabled customer support that can predict what a customer needs before they know themselves. This creates a fascinating nexus between customer support and marketing.Both marketing and support are now working together, armed with more insights than ever about how products are performing after connecting to customers’ homes and other devices. Companies can take the initiative to start a support interaction based on what they see and even suggest complementary products to support customers further.The big change for marketers is that they need to be able to offer personalized and timely messages to consumers that sync with their particular needs at any given moment. With heightened capabilities like this, companies need to keep in mind greater scrutiny over privacy and security that comes along with how this data and connectivity are utilized.How to Ensure Your CMO Is Using the IoT EffectivelyIf your marketing operations aren’t prepared to harness the power of the IoT, it is going to be a struggle to stay effective.The conversation around the IoT tends to focus on things like stoplights, cargo ships, and heart monitors. At the same time, the artificial intelligence used in those applications can also track abandoned shopping carts, unopened emails, page views, customer purchases, and much more.The big question for CMOs looking to embrace the IoT is simple: How do we leverage that data in the most effective ways? To answer that question, CMOs must do a few things to stay at the forefront of the IoT revolution.First, they must be data proficient by identifying which information is critical to their marketing operations and how they’ll gain insights from it regularly. Second, CMOs should be able to curate content in an omnichannel world. Third, CMOs must leverage data and content to keep up with transformation and stay ahead of the market.A headless CMS like Contentstack is a great tool to accomplish these goals for any CMO or company looking to keep pace with the growing Internet of Things. Future-proof your marketing by creating structured, omnichannel content and give Contentstack a try for free today.