A few trends emerged in the web content management space in 2015 that I think will have meaningful impact in 2016 and the years to come. 

1. Content Performance is the New Content Management

It’s simply not good enough for CMS vendors to “make it easy to update web content across all your channels.” This is where web content management started — and now this should just be a given.

The real driver of content management today is the ability to track goals to measure content’s performance. CMS systems should provide a feedback loop to illuminate advanced information on the content performance, both from a consumption and management perspective.

What this means for 2016: CMS systems differentiate less on their ability to make it “easy” for non-technical people to publish content, and become engines for content and marketing performance that teams can utilize to derive actionable insight about their customers and for their content marketing strategy.

2. Marketing Suites are Failing Agile Marketers

Today’s marketing environment is — at best — unpredictable. We thrive today based on our ability to flex and move as the situation on the ground dictates. If the huge, monolithic marketing suites are going to enable this agility — they’ve got to move faster than they are, both from a developmental evolutionary perspective, and from a customer enablement one.

What this means for 2016: The idea behind a suite is a good one — one, standardized set of tools that centralizes most functions. But tomorrow’s success will almost certainly come from the ability to pull multiple, best-of-breed technologies together into a “suite-like” experience for both the user of the technology, and the end consumer of the content.

3. Headless CMS’s are Yesterday’s Silo

2015 saw the resurgence of the “headless CMS” idea — the idea that today’s content management system is one that doesn’t handle how the content it manages looks and feels in display. It simply manages the raw, structured content in a single repository.

But just because it’s a new capability for some, doesn’t make it a new idea. Every capable enterprise WCMS has (or should have) this capability. 

It's a false choice. One CMS should be able to handle both: headless (e.g., for mobile app development or delivering content through an API to third parties) and a delivery tier to quickly roll out new personalized web channels. 

A headless CMS often acts as an extra CMS for an organization next to the original CMS, which will create a content silo. Some remove this silo by moving all content to the headless CMS and creating a 'new’ one-off delivery tier on top of the headless CMS, but this guarantees future headaches. The marketer will ask for personalization, experiments, actionable insights, template and component management, etc. features ... And the development team is stuck with the maintenance burden of custom software while keeping up with the speed of the WCM software market.

What this means for 2016: A Headless CMS is ultimately a product challenge or benefit, not a reason to default to a developmental approach. There are times and circumstances to go “headless”. And there are times that going headless is ... well ... brainless. The modern WCMS has the ability to do both — well.

4. Differentiating via E-Commerce

The push to content-driven customer experiences has shown that this is one of the only ways that companies will differentiate themselves. This became even clearer for e-commerce companies in 2015, as companies that created rich, original content platforms on which to differentiate their business thrived.

What this means for 2016: E-Commerce strategies need more than catalog management or static content pages. The way to produce differentiating customer experiences combines e-commerce plus rich personalized digital experiences. Web Content Management and eCommerce solutions have never been more in need of moving together into a seamless workflow.

5. Retention is the New Acquisition

Marketing’s job has expanded to include customer upsell and retention. As Forrester Research recently stated, “loyalty has never been more vital … and a brand’s customer experience needs to do more than please customers; it has to engender greater loyalty.”

What this means for 2016: Most content-driven marketing strategies start and end with acquisition. In 2016, marketers, along with their WCMS teams, will start solving for the entire buyer’s journey — and perhaps develop retention as their priority.

6. Technology Religion is Tired — Put it to Bed

Both the content and functions of any modern or capable WCMS is accessible via API these days. So — the religious arguments over whether a CMS is based in Java vs. PHP vs. .Net should be retired into the dusty old books where they belong. 

That doesn’t mean ignoring the skill sets. If the internal development organization is especially skilled at one particular platform — of course that’s a consideration. But, barring that — it should simply be about which solution matches the customer's goals.

What this means for 2016: More and more, the platform’s base code should be only a reason for, not a reason against. Eliminating a platform based solely on its development language will be short-sighted for WCMS buyers.

7. Hybrid is the New SaaS

Web content management as a software service seemed as if it would be a disruptive force on the enterprise installed market. But it just hasn’t happened yet. Tony Byrne discussed this at last year’s DX Summit, saying “10 years ago I thought software-as-a-service … would come to dominate the market. And they didn’t."

Instead what has emerged is a “hybrid model,” where most of the benefits of a SaaS model (speed of implementation, ease of management and cost) can be met by a modern CMS solution. But with this model, an organization can easily import that solution into its own environment if and when it chooses to.

What this means for 2016: Agility is the word for marketers in 2016 — and using services-based WCMS deployments for fast, non-critical and prototypes of projects are taking off. Then, once the platform or site is up and running — moving it into a more foundational, enterprise infrastructure provides the benefits of security, integration, etc.

The biggest, most meaningful trend of 2016 is how organizations can focus on creating meaningful digital experiences for customers, and get off the hamster wheel of producing more and more content. From our experience, those that pay heed to these trends — and focus on solution models that help them focus more on the quality of their content — will be the ones that succeed in the coming year.

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