It’s that time of year again. The time when we attempt to sum up the waning year and hazard a few hopeful predictions for the one that’s just around the corner.

The Web of 2012 looked quite a bit different from the online experience of just a few years ago, where BYOD could have meant anything from a new boy band to a dog-washing salon.

Every quarter brings new devices, apps and business models for publishers, retailers and consumers to contend with. The new iPad Mini is just the latest salvo in the ongoing campaign to transform the Web as we know it. And, as we approach the end of 2012, we find many Web CMS vendors struggling just to remain relevant.

2013 looks like it will be met with just as many changes. Expect to see some long-awaited trends come to fruition as well as some new curveballs that will shake up this ever-dynamic marketplace.

As I reflect on the year in review and look ahead to what the future holds, here are my predictions for WCM in 2013:

Online Publishing Will Continue to Transform Us All into Media and E-commerce Companies

The growing centrality and complexity of online publishing is forcing all companies with a significant Web presence to act more like media companies and e-commerce companies -- regardless of the industry they’re in.

This means updating content more frequently, understanding your audience more directly and exploring a broader variety of online business models. Most important, it means actively seeking to provide unified online experiences on any device and at any stage in the customer journey -- from discovery to transaction to advocacy.

A WCM platform that can’t support these kinds of dynamic online experiences to drive increased revenue generation for Web publishers will be at a disadvantage.

The Diverse Needs of Business Users Will Drive Improved Usability and Functionality

Purchasing a Web CMS used to be a task left up to the Head of IT or the CIO. As the Web continues to take center stage for most companies, business executives, such as the VP of Marketing or e-Business, are becoming more involved in evaluating and selecting WCM platforms for their organization.

Moreover, as WCM expands into Web Experience Management, marketers, editors and support staff are increasingly the primary users of Web CMSs. They expect to be able to do more without IT involvement and they will demand intuitive, highly productive interfaces that reflect their specific business processes.

Since none of these groups will use the software in quite the same way, these interfaces will need to be highly configurable so modifications can be made to serve the needs of different interest groups without extensive development. One-size-fits-all tools that appeal only to the tech geeks in your organization aren’t going to cut it.

The Mobile Web Is Taking the Web CMS World by Storm

The days of the static, desktop Web page are truly gone for good. The shift to support mobile customer experiences is massive and you can no longer afford to have a primary Web presence that is only optimized for a small segment of Web visitors. 

Nor is it feasible to maintain multiple, separately managed Web pages for every channel, app or device. This approach -- which involved constant replication and additional development -- is not scalable in what is now a predominantly cross-channel world.

To be an efficient online publisher in the year ahead, you must have the ability to dynamically reuse the same content across multiple Websites and online applications. This requires the use of scalable, responsive Web templates and a separation between your content and your layout.

Learning Opportunities

Whether you subscribe to the “mobile first” train of thought or address it as another channel in your WCM strategy, the heat is on to offer consistent and reliable digital experiences across any smartphone, tablet or desktop browser.

Social and Contextual Analytics Will Be Crucial to Online Success

As Web experiences become more social and personally relevant, the way in which companies measure their success online will have to change as well.

Tracking visitors to static Web pages remains critical but is only part of the story. You also need to be able to track social activity in real time and use this data to improve the online experience for all visitors in order to establish and sustain profitable customer relationships. And, you need to see how individual visitor segments are responding to different content items -- regardless of where and how they access your Web page.

Web Experience Management is Becoming the New ERP

In the traditional enterprise software world, people use enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools to integrate and optimize the flow of business data across and between organizations. Now, with the Web becoming a primary platform for business, WCM has an opportunity to play a similar role for a new generation of online businesses.

In order to fulfill this role, however, Web CMSs will need to do a much better job of integrating with backend data systems and other consumer facing tools, including marketing automation, lead generation, social communities and analytics.Business users are forced to deal with an ever-growing array of separate tools for managing online experiences. Now is the time to unite these tools under a common WCM infrastructure.

Bottom Line

Undoubtedly 2013 will be an exciting and game-changing year for Web content management vendors and their customers.

Consumers will continue to place high demands on online publishers for up-to-the-minute, reliable and consistent Web content across any device.To be successful, online publishers will need to stay one step ahead of these expectations or the fickle consumer will go elsewhere. And in a world where both content and context are of crucial importance, the role of WCM will continue to evolve as businesses look for new and innovative ways to monetize their Web presence.

Finally, the requirements brought about by the new mobile Web era will force vendors to be more inventive and user-driven -- igniting the emergence of new features that are easier to use, faster and ultimately, more fun.Buckle your seat belts because 2013 is going to be a fast-paced and wild ride for Web Content Management.

Editor's Note: Curious how Douglas did with his 2012 predictions? Check out Web Content Management in 2012: Many Evolutions, but No Revolutions