What to Expect From the Next Generation of Web Content Management

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Forecasting Travel Conditions

Peering into the crystal ball, the experts foresee many promising possibilities in future WCM incarnations that could transform the way we think about and use the technology.

"WCM technology will continue to be refined through the use of an algorithmic approach fueled by multichannel intelligence. This will solve what today is a sticky wicket-truly understanding a user's preferences, wants, and needs within the context of websites and customer relationship management in a multichannel world and seamlessly delivering the right content to the right customer at the right time, while looking for key correlations among digital data," says Egner. "Essentially, this means using WCM to predictably understand a customer's intent."

For example, Egner envisions a WCM world in the not-too-distant future in which a wearable fitness monitor senses a customer's heart rate increase when he sees a new pair of running shoes on display. The wearable, as well as any on-site digital displays, can immediately offer deals or incentives from brands to help encourage the purchase.

Indeed, many believe that the web is no longer the best identifier of what brands are doing. "The whole industry is shifting toward a digital experience platform, so I predict that WCM categorization will evolve into digital experience management," says LeBlond. "Manual outreach will become much more automated, and algorithmic decision making based on machine learning will cater to a more personalized experience."

Put another way, we will no longer rely on humans alone to push a campaign. "Instead," LeBlond notes, "companies will be able to rely on data that tracks previous and current customer interactions to understand how consumers are engaging with the brand."

While the fundamentals of WCM will remain the same, important features to watch out for are those that drive contextualized experiences, "which will help brands provide relevant and meaningful information for both new and existing customers," LeBlond adds. Also, while competition among WCM providers in the space remains healthy and diversified today, some expect more industry consolidation in the years ahead.

"More WCM companies will be acquired, merge with other platforms, or shut down as the field becomes more competitive," says Chad Jaggers, product manager for LightCMS, who cites the recent acquisition of Equivio by Microsoft and Fotolia by Adobe as examples. "Furthermore, I don't think many WCM features will fade away-instead, we're on a path where features will be commoditized, and the main difference between systems will be ease of use."

Forks in the Road

While the path forward to the next generation of WCM may be clear to some, others see potholes ahead that could make for a bumpy ride. "Those who rely on WCM will be faced with either convincing their organization of the strategic importance of content-and will need numbers to back up their arguments for investing in it-or will be asked to justify their strategic direction with content," Brenninkmeijer says. "Content, and the main platforms for its use in business, is moving out of the sidelines to play central roles in business strategy. With that comes a more intense spotlight and a need to break down content's contributions, successes, and failures."

Additionally, stronger integrations between a variety of systems and solutions-including WCM, customer relationship management (CRM), marketing automation, and social media-will be needed to enable marketing technology to break down silos and orchestrate a holistic customer experience that actually moves customers forward.

Beth Torrie, VP of strategic engagement for Sitecore, stresses that "integration" is the important word here, especially when deciding on which WCM application or tool to depend on going forward. "The pace of technology development is accelerating, and marketers will have a plethora of tools in their arsenal," says Torrie. "But the most important question to ask is, ‘Will this system integrate with the next technology that will impact customer experiences?'"

Although WCM technology can connect people to the right information at the right time via the right channel, companies must decide if they only need a certain set of limited functions that a suite vendor offers or if they want greater flexibility to evolve over time. "Working with a best-of-breed WCM solution is often the best way to ensure a superior customer experience," Jaeger says.

WCM users will also have to keep up with changes from Google and Facebook. "If Google changes its algorithm, we have to make sure our platform is optimized for it," says Bart De Pelsmaeker, CEO of Readz. "We already follow every application program interface change from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and this will become increasingly important for the success of our customers going forward."

Digital publishers and electronic content providers will be expected to offer the right kind of content as well. "This means developing content that users find the most beneficial and providing it in the consumer's channel of choice," says LeBlond. It also means keeping a site fresh and attractive.

"The web is a fast-paced environment, so it's wise to keep an eye on technology and act accordingly on technological breakthroughs. New JavaScript libraries are created every day, and making effective use of these can completely overhaul and change the look and feel of your site and its content," says Upjohn.

Pit Stop Preparations

Forecasting the promises and pitfalls of the next generation of WCM is one thing. But preparing for it is the real trick, because if your enterprise isn't ready for the WCM evolution ahead, you're bound to lag behind your rivals and disenchant your digital patrons.

The first step in your prep is adopting an adaptive mindset. "There is a tendency to believe that, once you master your existing WCM system, you are done. But the most successful content managers will be the ones who view their job as continuous learning," Walton says. "Those who embrace new features as soon as they are launched will have a leg up over their slower-moving competition."

Whether it's to proliferate channels, create more personalized and context-aware content, or integrate with other systems and solutions, organizations need the flexibility to build on their existing tech ecosystem as evolving needs dictate. "I would urge you not to select a WCM tool solely for the moment, but for a sustainable and evolving digital strategy. Systems built on open standards are crucial here, as their architecture is specifically built for integrations of various kinds," says Brenninkmeijer. In other words, think twice before locking into one particular vendor.

"Using best-of-breed technology allows you to be more flexible, simplify integration with other web applications, and communicate with your customers faster and easier, which helps your company create an advantage over competitors," Jaeger adds.

Additionally, don't feel the need to jump on every digital bandwagon without considering which tools are actually most beneficial to your customers. "For instance, don't just add a new mobile app to be present on mobile channels; think about what this app will achieve and how it fits into your larger strategy," says LeBlond. "And prepare to adopt a customer-centric way of thinking. This will help differentiate your brand from competitors and allow it to be seen as valuable to your active audience."

Lastly, don't forget that content is still king. As Upjohn says, "Large blocks of static content and poor-quality static images could stop first-time users and potentially new business from coming to you. Think carefully about your content delivery. Text and images may be the way forward for some content providers, but video, audio, and live data may be more appropriate for your site."  

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)

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