Web content management system (CMS) technology has evolved to the point where it has become relatively simple for users to create and deploy content for Web pages without technical knowledge. However, in addition to a number of “must haves” any Web CMS must offer, there is an emerging trend for Web CMS to also offer customer engagement functionality.

Web CMS -- The Core 'Must-Haves'

A recent report from business research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, “Web Content Management Systems: 'So Five Years Ago,’ lays out the features any modern Web CMS must provide to be considered a competitive player in the marketplace.

These are:

  • Content Management & Editing -- The core of a Web CMS is a content feed with data stored separately from the Web presentation layer, and therefore reusable across one or more websites. Editing must be available in WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) formatting, which eliminates the need for HTML proficiency.
  • Security -- User access to content should be controlled by assigning user permissions, roles and groups, and establishing approval processes. Users with higher levels of skills, such as designers and webmasters, may have access to more sophisticated content tools.
  • Collaboration and Workflow -- Users can virtually collaborate with other users in remote locations, with “version control” safeguards that ensure all users are working on the same version of the same content at the same time.
  • Templates and Forms; Content Syndication -- A Web CMS offers standard output templates and forms that can be applied to new and existing content. Post-deployment, in runtime, a WCMS must provide content syndication that allows a user to quickly replicate a single implementation (one installation on one server) across multiple domains.
  • Extensibility -- A Web CMS provides on-board modules and/or APIs that can quickly extend functionality of the site(s), the system itself, or both.
  • Mobile Sites and Front Ends -- The proliferation of mobile devices necessitates that Web CMS solutions offer the ability to build web pages that automatically detect what type of device is being used by each user and serve content optimized to that device.

Customer Engagement -- Avoiding Commoditization

In addition to offering these “must-haves,” Frost & Sullivan also advises Web CMS providers to offer customer engagement capabilities. Basic Web CMS technology has been available for about a decade and is approaching the level of commoditization, with many organizations considering low-cost or free open source alternatives. Frost & Sullivan cites WordPress, Joomla and TypePad as being among the most popular open source Web CMS solutions.

To help extend the value of their solutions, Web CMS vendors can offer the following customer engagement features:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) -- A WCMS with on-board SEO can help sites show up at the top of search engine results, ideally meaning on page 1 and at a bare minimum on page 2. Embedded SEO functionality helps web developers achieve top search engine positions by guiding them toward creating search engine-optimized content.
  • Visitor Customization/Personalization -- Visitor customization and personalization techniques quickly assess visitor profiles when they land on a site, and display content to each visitor tailored to their areas of focus and levels of interest.
  • On-site Social Engagement -- With on-site social engagement, visitors can create user profiles, share opinions and recommendations, post their own content, and interact in other ways with fellow site visitors.
  • E-marketing -- Providing integrated e-marketing capabilities allows Web CMS applications to become multichannel communications/CRM tools, although Frost & Sullivan advises the presence of strongly entrenched niche players such as Salesforce.com and Constant Contact can make competing in the e-marketing space difficult.
  • Web Analytics -- On-board Web analytics capabilities allow companies to use their Web CMS data intake to reload their digital marketing and communications efforts. As with e-marketing, Frost & Sullivan cautions that competing with established analytics vendors may prove difficult.

Frost & Sullivan cites Adobe, IBM and Sitecore as three major Web CMS vendors who are successfully integrating customer engagement features into their CMS solutions. Of course, these are only three of dozens of web content management vendors who are now focusing their platforms on the overall online customer experience and not simply content management. It seems this is the ultimate future role of the Web CMS.