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A Digital-First Future Starts With Going ‘Headless’


Understanding headless CMS solutions with thought leaders Robert Nash of 4 Roads, Alex Canessa of Digital Detox and Sharon Flaherty of BrandContent

A Digital-First Future Starts With Going ‘Headless’

The process of getting a brand’s message to the right audience at the right time seems to have become more and more difficult as more businesses shift online and new marketing channels continue to appear. It’s a huge administration challenge, as marketers deal with a growing number of ways to present the same content in different formats for different platforms. 

Now, there is a solution to that. And it’s all about going ‘headless’.

With traditional content management systems, everything is put into one big bucket - including content, images, HTML, CSS and more. This makes it impossible to reuse content because it’s commingled with code. But as digital platforms have evolved, the need for more flexible solutions has emerged.

Enter: headless CMS.

Organisations around the world are turning to Contentful to launch, optimise, and scale digital experiences more rapidly. Contentful’s solution partner program gives its agency members a comprehensive collection of technical, sales, and marketing resources to grow their client base and service engagements.

To begin the discussion, Contentful and BIMA invite Robert Nash, managing director and founder of 4 Roads; Alex Canessa, head of engineering at Digital Detox; and Sharon Flaherty, CEO at BrandContent to explain exactly what headless CMS is all about and how it can improve your digital marketing for the future.

LBB> How would you describe headless CMS and how does it differ to traditional CMS?

Robert> A headless CMS system is basically a separation between the data and the presentation layer. All good software developers will try and do something called separation of concern. And this is just an extension of that into the content management system. So, if you take any of the standard platforms, Sitecore, Kentico, you name the CMS, the presentation layer is, to some extent, tied to the data layer that is behind it. Some platforms are now able to act as headless content management systems, but you are paying for marketing platforms. But with Contentful, it is purely a headless CMS so data can be rendered by whatever system you need and can be more cost effective.

For example, you may want to serve up some content in your mobile app, but that might be the same content that's actually available on the website as well. So you don't want to have to edit it in two places. What you want to be able to do is have your content in one place and that can be extended to whichever channels you need.

Alex> Headless CMS is more scalable than a traditional CMS because it’s not limited to a single
presentation option like a website or an app. It’s common for front-end developers to be blocked by the back-end development, which needs to happen first, however; with headless, this dependency is removed. 

That means everyone in the team can work on their parts of the project concurrently, meaning fewer blockers and quicker implementations. By decoupling the back-end data layer and the front-end presentation layer, it also makes it possible to integrate with any emerging technologies.

LBB> What are some of the benefits of headless CMS?

Robert> It offers a multi-channel solution for your content, it reduces the overhead of administering different accounts in different locations, and it speeds up processes by doing things hopefully once, not multiple times in different systems. That can also reduce the cost of training because you've only got to teach a content editor how to edit one system. 

Sharon> With all customer and brand communications, the key is providing the information the searcher needs, when they need it and on the channels they are looking for it on. The technical capability of a headless CMS can help with that. For example, if you're an airline, it enables you to distribute flights arrival times or delays, across platforms and to partners, enabling consistency in customer communications. Or let's say you are an organisation with contact centres, any changes to customer call scripts can be published for internal staff across the world so teams have access to the most up-to-date scripts creating a single source of truth across an organisation.

But while a headless CMS can enable you to be omnichannel, brands still need to make sure they have the right content available in the first place. We all know providing reliable answers to searchers, and doing so fast, increases brand advocacy and reduces frustration. So as long as content teams are creating the right content in the first place, a headless CMS can simplify the content management process.

Alex> Headless CMS is automated, scalable, secure, and future-proofed. Automated because it
can be plugged into any existing tech stack and it’s ready to go. It’s ideal for companies with multiple content streams and stakeholders, making it clearly scalable. It’s secure by design - by using APIs over out-the-box software means businesses are less prone to bugs and security issues, and it’s future-proofed by giving the ability to display content on any digital platform, now or in the future.

LBB> Why should it be on everyone’s radar right now?

Robert> Software and the way we work with technology is constantly evolving. So from a strategic perspective, it makes sense for businesses to start to reconsider how they deliver their content to their systems. But I think that the change needs to be driven from CTOs because they are the ones who know the correct technologies and solutions for the organisations that they're working in. They need to be ahead of the curve.

Alex> Headless CMS is growing as a future-proofed solution for evolving technologies, devices,
and user needs. A business can now cover all bases instead of having one CMS for its website, one for its mobile app, and so on, increasing efficiency and enabling businesses to deliver more enhanced customer experiences. That’s because headless acts as an open-source data repository that can interact with any front-end layer, across any device.

LBB> How have you been working with Contentful to integrate headless content management at your company? 

Robert> We wanted to be able to publish on demand and have the flexibility to easily change content. So one of the projects we're working on at the moment is integrating Contentful into the Verint Community platform so that you can have custom pages and custom areas that are edited by content editors. This means that the Verint Community platform can do what it's really good at, which is lots of social stuff. But behind the scenes, anything that is pure content is able to be handled by content editors.

Now, content editors don't need elevated permissions into the system to be able to edit the layouts and pages. All they have to have is the ability to edit the content on the editor platform.

Alex> Digital Detox has worked alongside Contentful on many of our biggest accounts - international, enterprise businesses looking to partner with us for a number of years. Typically, this is part of the client’s wider digital transformation drive. What we typically find is many of our clients are looking to get out of maintaining their IT systems and digital products - a perfect fit for headless - and we favour Contentful because it’s specialised.

Once the move to headless is complete, we then have the exciting job of identifying what differentiates our clients in the market and we double down on those differences. It’s not all about operational efficiency and cost-cutting, it’s more about using our clients' same talented teams to experiment, ideate and innovate new digital experiences. It’s all about constant change to keep ahead in today’s digital world and headless enables this headspace.

LBB> Anything else you’d like to add?

Sharon> Diversity and inclusion in communications is one area a brand can easily misstep. And a headless CMS can potentially help. If a brand is global, we introduce a higher chance of risk in our communications. For example, different platforms might have different internal owners across the world and different interpretations of representing inclusion - a huge area of risk for brands right now. 

Let's say you unwittingly run into a PR crisis, a headless CMS enables you to quickly and consistently correct any miscommunication and send out consistent brand messages whether in one country or globally in multiple languages, which can be powerful especially when a crisis happens and you need to act fast.

Robert> The key takeaway is to understand that the power of headless CMS is around polymorphism. Polymorphism is a Greek word, meaning many forms, and I think that's one of the key points of a headless CMS. You have your data and you can have it in many different forms.
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BIMA, Mon, 04 Jul 2022 10:27:00 GMT