Where is Web CMS going in this wild ride towards consumer-centric marketing?

As marketers pursue the holy grail of an omnichannel digital experience across the full customer journey, their needs are expanding. CMS vendors have responded with a growing list of capabilities such as personalization, social engagement, mobility, e-commerce and more.

That CMS vendors are expanding their offerings beyond basic content management, with some in a metamorphosis to full-on digital experience platform. The spectrum is wide, and the industry experts are mixed as to what is happening, and what should be happening.

The Expanding CMS

Gartner had its say in this space last week in its Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management, but the more telling report by the Stamford, Conn.-based IT research firm is its first “Critical Capabilities for Web Content Management” (registration required).

Just look at the volume of capabilities Gartner included for content management in that report:

  • Usability
  • Interoperability
  • Engagement analytics
  • Mobility/multi-channel
  • Content delivery
  • Personalization
  • Architecture
  • Cloud capabilities
  • Digital marketing effectiveness
  • Contextualization of delivered experiences
  • Digital commerce
  • Digital workplace initiatives
  • Composite content applications

But why go so broad?

The answer is that enterprises today are looking for measurable business outcomes out of their Web CMS vendor rather than just pure efficiencies, explained Mick MacComascaigh, vice president of research for Gartner. He authored each Gartner WCM report with colleague Jim Murphy.

“It’s gone from efficiency to effect,” MacComascaigh said.

“And it’s how that effect is achieved. It’s not just about personalization, but really understanding what’s happening with a particular interaction and responding. It’s understanding and responding with a high degree of accuracy. You’re not just looking to send out the right content. It’s about delivering the right experience with content, design elements, social elements and functional elements. How do I deliver the next best customer experience to encourage and drive the behaviors I need to?”

Don’t Lose the Core

Some experts, such as Jake DiMare, digital strategist at Agency Oasis, a Boston digital agency, embrace the expansion.

“The era of the pure play web content management system is quickly receding into our collective rear view mirrors,” said DiMare, but he warns of the implementation headaches.

“Let’s just say any vendor who uses the term ‘out of the box’ in a sales pitch should think pretty hard about the long term impact this is having on their brand,” said DiMare.

Other experts are wary of losing the art of managing online content.

Perhaps no one surmised the dichotomy of needs better than information management consultant Erik Hartman of Urtrecht, Netherlands.

He said in a CMSWire story last week he sees “several Web Content Management Systems focusing on marketing so exclusively that they forget about the true core of content management. There are editors who have to create, and publish and archive content — not to mention the developers working with the system.”

Officials at some of the WCM vendor companies cited by Gartner as leaders in its latest industry report noted the basic principles of managing web content remain — and that will never go away.

“We see the trend of Web CMS melding into digital experience, but Web CMS is not going away,” said Gary Dolsen, vice president of IBM Digital Experience in the IBM Systems group. Gartner tabbed Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM as a Web CMS leader.

Moving Beyond the Web

Beth Torrie, vice president of strategic engagement at Copenhagen-based Sitecore, another Gartner Web CMS leader, called WCM a “proven category to manage and deliver content with relevance and context.”

But, she added, the “W” in “WCM” has evolved. It’s now beyond “web” sites and has morphed into digital touchpoints (Websites, portals, email, kiosks, IoT, even vending machines).

“The consumerization of IT pushes the industry to better support the personalization and virtual ownership of digital experiences,” she said. “Effectively managing and micro-tuning these digital experiences is challenging, but possible.”

Modern WCM systems offerings and what organizations do with them has surpassed the definition of the Web CMS, according to Dom LeBlond, senior vice president of product management at Maidenhead, England-based SDL, a Gartner Web CMS leader.

“Today’s experiences are no longer just static brochures that are limited to the desktop and instead have become interactive and span desktop, mobile, tablet and other digital channels,” LeBlond added.

“From a management standpoint, everything from content, campaigns and audience personalization rules need to be in control of the organization making digital experience management a better categorization of how the market is evolving.”

Defining Digital Experience

But can WCM truly morph into a complete solution for digital customer experience?

When asked this question, Gartner’s MacComascaigh said DX requires a broader solution landscape to which WCM will contribute but not replace.

“To this end,” he added, “I do not see the WCM market morphing into a DX market. However, DX will continue to provide much of the context in which decisions relating to WCM purchases and product development will be made.”

MacComascaigh told CMSWire that Gartner does not have a specific definition for DX, per se. However, from the perspective of WCM and the direction in which critical capabilities for the relevant offerings are going, the "Digital Experience" can be regarded as:

"...that composite set of experiential elements delivered over a digital channel to prompt a desired behavior by the consuming entity.”

Just One or All-in-One?

An executive at EPiServer, which merged with Ektron earlier this year, said Web CMS is undergoing a rejuvenation of sorts.

James Norwood, executive vice president of strategy and the CMO for Stockholm, Sweden-based EPiServer, said buyers are increasingly selecting vendors based on the digital experience vision.

“But as much as some of our competitors would like, they’re not going to chuck out a fully functioning Marketo just because their Web CMS vendor now has competing functionality,” Norwood said. “But they have to work seamlessly.”

He called it a “natural market progression” the software industry has seen before: with ERP and CRM already and even in customer service, where capabilities like chat, co-browse, knowledge management, web self-service, and agent desktops, for instance, all came together from best-of-breed into customer service suites.

“So, no, I think the Web CMS term and market is actually getting rejuvenated right now because storefront re-tooling demands contextual content, and marketing automation does too,” he said. “However, the lines are blurring and buyers are thinking about Web CMS, e-commerce and digital marketing increasingly as one.”

(Narasu Rebbapragada also contributed to this story.)

Title image by Eutah Mizushima.