Optimization glossary

Headless CMS for experience management

How can headless CMS help with experience management?

How your customers interact with your brand on the internet changes -- continuously and incessantly. 

Customer experience (CX) is driven by your digital content, regardless of which channel customers use. Successful CX is not only omnichannel. It's seamless. 

Using a headless content management system (CMS) provides your marketers the opportunity to create a seamless CX for your customers -- now and in the future. Headless CMS centralizes content into a hub that can be easily accessed by developers for deployment to any channel. It allows you to seamlessly manage your customers' experience and journey based on their interactions with your brand.

Below we provide you a guide to choosing and using a headless CMS by reviewing:

  • What makes headless CMS different from legacy CMS
  • How to use headless CMS to support experience management
  • How to transition your teams to a headless CMS

What is a headless CMS experience management platform? 

Legacy CMS systems (a.k.a. coupled CMS) are great at what they were designed for -- managing content for browser-based customer experiences. They revolutionized content creation, distribution and display on the web. They then evolved to meet the challenges of responsive design. Today, however, customers are increasingly unlikely to interact with your brand in a browser window. 

Legacy CMSs are based on a monolithic architecture that allows them to bend at the risk of eventually breaking. For example, plugins may allow developers to grab content from a legacy CMS and insert it into other channels. Such post-facto fixes fall flat when it comes to offering a robust, omnichannel, personalized experience, however. They often make customer data collection and centralization difficult, if not downright impossible.

Headless CMS vs legacy CMS 

Experience management requires seamless CX across all channels, as headless CMS provides a flexible, channel-agnostic framework to do just that in a simple manner.

Headless CMS consists of three basic components:

  • Content database
  • Content management interface (backend)
  • Set of APIs

What makes a "headless," or "decoupled CMS," is a backend system only. There is no built-in "publish" mechanism. It acts as a content hub for your marketing and creative teams. Content is designed, integrated, edited, updated, organized and stored. 

Content is uploaded by marketers. It's distributed by your DevOps team. Your developers make use of headless CMS APIs to extract and integrate personalized content into various channels. Your customer experience will be seamless no matter what channel your developers deliver content to, because there is only one content file that all developers are using. 

Using a headless CMS makes content agile

Certain digital experience platform vendors have begun referring to their headless CMS platforms as agile CMS. This is a new subcategory of headless CMS describing a headless CMS integrated into a larger digital experience platform. 

An agile CMS is a headless CMS emphasizing:

  • Content Hub - An ultimate, infallible repository of all versions of digital content.
  • Flexible Infrastructure - Allows for personalization of tools and content workflows for creators, not just developers.
  • Omnichannel-First Design - Integrates automated and AI-enhanced customer data analysis. This allows for constant personalization regardless of how your customer interacts with the brand. Agile CMS also facilitates sales fulfillment from any channel. 

Headless CMS can be an agile CMS, opening it up to more use cases and improving scalability. Think of agile CMS as a turbo-charged, headless CMS, increasing efficiency in content delivery.

Using a headless CMS for omnichannel experience management

The reasons to switch to headless CMS are too numerous to review in their entirety. Instead, we'll focus on the six key features making headless CMS ideal for omnichannel experience management.  

1. Flexibility 

Your headless CMS is full of content and secure in the cloud, or on your own personal servers. How you want to distribute or share that content is completely up to you and your creative teams. Your DevOps team can create a seamless CX for any channel using APIs. This gives your teams complete flexibility and makes your content future-proof. 

2. Content focused 

Your marketers and content creators no longer have to worry about shoehorning their killer copy into monolithic, browser-focused architecture with a traditional CMS. Headless CMS allows you to focus on creating content -- using the tools you prefer -- instead of micromanaging it for distribution. Developers will use APIs to make it work seamlessly across all channels. Your marketing teams can focus on creating omnichannel campaigns and personalization without needing to worry how it might display differently depending on context. 

3. Cross-platform delivery speed 

The content stored in your headless CMS becomes centralized. There aren't different versions of content being used by developers in different apps. The content lives in your CMS. Any updates made to it will be universally updated across all channels -- in real time. This means content changes are nearly instantaneous and always omnichannel.

4. Administration

Headless CMS can reduce administrative costs. Legacy CMS typically requires hiring CMS specialists and administrators to manage backend, frontend and plugin uses. Headless CMS can be run from within your DevOps team. Better yet, your headless CMS solution could come with built-in support if purchased as part of a vendor's digital experience platform (DXP). 

5. Simple and inclusive deployment

Headless CMS integrates with your existing workflows. Your teams can convert and integrate content at their own pace. Your developers can help devise unique content creation interfaces that suit your various teams' needs and iterative processes. The headless CMS begins with a tiny footprint and grows as your content does. 

6. Scalable and secure

At its core, headless CMS is a content management database. This makes it infinitely scalable -- on your servers or in the cloud. Headless CMS also secures your content data better than legacy CMS. Without a web-facing frontend -- requiring constant security updating -- it remains largely sequestered from common legacy CMS vulnerabilities.

Transitioning to a headless CMS for experience management

It's easy to switch to using a headless CMS for customer experience management. A headless CMS can be instantiated in parallel with existing systems and workflows or phased in gradually, piece-by-piece. You can start using a headless CMS in your organization today by pursuing one of two options.

First, you could use an open-source solution. This option may require some elbow grease from your DevOps and UX design teams to make the program sync with existing workflows and be content-creator friendly.

The second option is to hire a cloud-based, headless CMS or agile CMS vendor

Cloud-based CMS platforms come with exactly the APIs and documentation you need. You will also receive modifiable and tested templates for content integration. Support for your teams is often included as well. You may want to explore implementing headless CMS as part of a larger digital experience platform package.