The State of Web Content Management

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Article ImageAccording to Gartner, Inc., web content management (WCM) software has outgrown being only a tool for creating web content. In addition to serving content, WCM vendors have set their sights on helping companies manage customer experiences and are delivering software to help them realize that ambition. This shift is due to the fact that consumers are harder to reach and more discerning, according to Mark Floisand, VP of product marketing for Sitecore.

Sitecore is just one of many companies in the rapidly growing WCM market. According to "Web Content Management Market by Solution (Content Creation and Edit Tools, and Mobile Web CMS), Services (Managed Services, Support Training & Consulting), Deployment Type, User Type, Verticals, Regions-Global Forecast to 2020" (a report by the market research and consulting firm MarketsandMarkets), the WCM market will almost double to $6.85 billion by 2020, a compound annual growth rate of 14.5%. Cathy McKnight, co-founder and VP of consulting and operations at Digital Clarity Group, agrees that there is a large demand for WCM solutions as companies' needs mature and they outgrow homegrown solutions.

The Year in Review

Similar to other areas of technology, responding to the rush to mobile was a top priority for WCM vendors in 2015. With consumers increasingly interacting with brands via smartphones and tablets, it makes business sense for WCM software makers and their customers to continue to respond to the surge in mobile traffic. "From a web content management point of view, that really means that mobile has to almost come first, where before, people thought of mobile as an afterthought-or they perhaps had an app strategy that was separate," says Floisand.

He adds that an effective mobile strategy is about more than having a website that looks good on a phone. "It's much deeper than that. How do you take advantage of the features that you identify and turned on for that phone and deliver a more contextual element experience for each individual?" Floisand asks. WCM systems also need to take advantage of mobile-specific data, such as location information, to "deliver location-specific offers or relevant content that is contextually relevant for me at that point in time," he says.

McKnight says that mobile has been the focus of WCM vendors for a while now: "2013 was the year for mobile. 2014 was the year for mobile. 2015 was the year for mobile. Mobile will only continue to grow, and the need for mobile-optimized sites-and not just from a content provision but from the facilitation of ecommerce and digital asset management."

She adds that WCM vendors have only recently allowed their software to be accessed and administered via a smartphone. "Mobile will continue to be a priority. It has to be," Mc-Knight says.

But mobile has not been the sole trend impacting the WCM industry. McKnight thought that 2015 would see a customer relationship management (CRM) or marketing automation platform company acquire a WCM, but it didn't happen. She thought it'd make sense as the "lines in the sand between the technologies are really blurry."

As a result of those blurring lines, feature creep is an issue for many WCM vendors. "Unfortunately, some of the vendors are going out to try and differentiate themselves on these cool bells and whistles, when the customers are never actually going to be able to use them-not in the foreseeable future at least," McKnight says.

Another 2015 trend saw more companies moving away from their DIY WCM systems and buying a commercial platform. "It's amazing the number of companies that still have homegrown, bespoke content management systems-things that have been built from scratch and built upon and built upon over the years-and some of them are pretty good," McKnight says. Even if the homegrown system still functions well, it won't be able to handle "complementary technologies like digital asset management or marketing automation or CRMs," she adds.

A Look Ahead

WCM software has become a commodity, and Floisand says that companies are starting to look beyond the basics and toward WCM solutions that allow them to manage more of the customer experience. He says that Sitecore's sweet spot is its ability to allow companies to know each customer as an individual and being able to automate managing customer experiences among the many different channels that exist today.

McKnight says that traditionally, WCM has been the hub, and other marketing technologies are the spokes. She's predicting this will change. "With the widespread use and the adoption of content marketing, the number of assets that companies have has gone through the roof; it's multiplying exponentially," McKnight says. "For small companies, that's a lot of work. For a huge company, that's millions of dollars at risk by not knowing where an asset can or can't be used and making themselves liable if it's used incorrectly." She says companies' purchase options may include a slimmer version of WCM software or living with the existing one for another year, as they realize that they need other marketing technology software to stay competitive.

As companies connect with customers across multiple channels, analytics will become more important as companies try to leverage the data. "I think analytics for the next year, that will be one of the foci for companies, as well as really getting a handle on seeing through the noise to pick out what's important to be able to leverage it and recognizing that they have to open up those data stores to different parts of their organization in order to leverage the power that sits within the data," McKnight says.

Going forward, the challenge for WCM vendors will be to help companies find and market to consumers on their various devices. "There's dawning realizations that in kind of chasing down the consumer across all these different channels, it's basically fragmented a view of the customer, which makes it all that much harder to actually deliver them the most relevant content," Floisand says.   

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)

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