When an industry has been around for decades, it naturally goes through waves of change.
As content management grew from a way to manage static sites to the backbone of the whole enterprise experience, it’s evolved with market needs. Interfaces got better, architecture became more efficient and the way marketers have controlled and measured content has continuously been improving.
From breaking classic bottlenecks to the current rise of personalization, the waves of change in enterprise needs is directly reflected in the way they choose to manage their digital empire.
Wave 1: Breaking the IT Bottleneck
It was the late '90s, and everyone wanted to get their business online.
At the time, doing so required each edit to go through a webmaster with their html authoring tools. Needless to say this bottleneck frustrated marketers and they looked for a way to create pages themselves.
Enter XML forms, where editors could fill in information, add in business logic, store the information in a shared database and publish on any application. It was the beginning of the separation of content and presentation and, for the businesses exploring digital, it was revolutionary. Without the need of a webmaster, an end user could fire up the form, generate the page, preview and publish, all with a separation of content that allowed raw data to be used in multiple spots.
Wave 2: Speed in the Age of the Digital Marketer
We had separation of concerns, we had reusability, we had workflow — and then all of that faded away with the next evolution of market demands.
Marketers wanted to control not only the content but the presentation, something the custom XML templates didn’t offer. And they wanted to do this at speed, quickly being able to build and optimize landing pages, mobile sites, microsites and the like.
At the time channels were very siloed, with one person responsible for the desktop site, another for mobile, another for customer portals and so on. Each digital marketer had complete control over their channel, creating separate architecture for each and not considering content reuse across the channels they didn’t own.
Inline editing skyrocketed at this time. It allowed digital marketers to visually tweak their channel as much as they wanted, but this meant the content was locked to a single page. The industry put content re-use and workflow on the back burner to cater to separate business channels.
And for a time, this worked. Channel editors controlled their domain with the speed they wanted. But it was only a matter of time before the obvious flaw in these disjointed channels became apparent, in the next wave of the online experience.
Wave 3: Cross-Channel Customers
Businesses soon realized that even if they managed their channels separately, customers saw them as one and the same. Customers expected the information, and overall tone of experience, to remain consistent whether they were on mobile, an app, desktop or any other touchpoint.
Businesses tasked with focusing on the entire customer experience were faced with the reality that content lifecycles from one channel to the next were simply broken.
The solution was a return of structured content, and technology vendors rushed to do so. Marketers could fill out content in forms and preview that content in the context of multiple channels. As businesses invested more in content, especially the emotional influence it had on their customers, they needed to unlock the ROI by reusing it across absolutely every touchpoint.
The need for reusable content saw the return of neutral forms — but marketers were used to the control over presentation they had with inline editing. Web content management vendors reacted in multiple ways. Some remained page-based with inline editing, some went the headless route and let a third-party worry about content display and others linked a preview mode to the content editing mode to quickly toggle back and forth.
Wave 4: The Rise of Personalization
The separation of content and presentation doesn’t just aid in cross-channel, it’s also a critical component in delivering the personalized experience today’s customers expect. Personalization requires not only this separation of concerns, but also the ability to attach metadata to re-usable content.
Inline editing, where changes to content are made in the context of a specific page, simply isn’t built to offer cross-channel, personalized and consistent customer journeys. A quick YouTube search for vendors’ editing capabilities will show slick demos with inline editing but when a company wants to roll out personalization across all channels, they ultimately end up using metadata friendly forms.
So is personalization and cross-channel consistency the death of inline editing? Of course not. Because when new industry needs arrive, new solutions quickly follow. Marketers need a way to organize metadata, easily target content, keep a consistent brand experience and remain in control of channel presentation. Enter visual editing.
With visual editing, marketers can instantly see their changes in context — across different channel perspectives, personas and targeting efforts — and, importantly, the changes are made to the underlying content repository. This means that any edits made in context, such as fixing errors, updating links or adding an image, will be carried over to every location that content is used: from remote display units to mobile apps.
This type of visual editing won't remain a rarity for long, it’s simply where market needs are directing the experience management industry because large scale, AI-driven hyper-personalization is what enterprises will look to for competitive advantage.
Businesses relying on solutions without a separation of content and presentation will lack the metadata capabilities and thus miss the omnichannel, personalization boat.