As another year closes and a new year rises, it is time to make my annual predictions for the web content management industry in 2013. This year, rather than focusing on specific predictions, it is more useful to look at the trends that will impact the industry. 2013 will be a year where the trend-line dictates the future.

The PC is the New Mobile Device

With the advent of Windows 8 and new touch screen PCs, the PC has become the new mobile device. While PCs are not portable, Microsoft Windows now uses the same operating system across desktop, mobile phone and tablet devices.

The transition may take a while, especially in the enterprise, but Microsoft still has the power to write the future. Whether you agree with the execution or not, the strategy is right. It also has far reaching impact in terms of how websites are designed and work, and how Web CMS applications function.

So what is the big change? Web experience is now tactile. You will be able to swipe or tap anything on a screen. Thus, content needs to be visible, whether in tiles or other forms, not layered behind menus. We use the term Universal Design. Universal Design is responsive and intelligent so it adapts the user experience around the device as well as the visitor. Web CMS applications need the features and capabilities to support multi-touch experiences on any device or form-factor, combined with the capability to target content.

Likewise, Web CMS applications should take a universal design approach in the software client and application. The new CMS needs to be touch-enabled and provide a simple, yet powerful user experience on tablets and touch screen PCs.

The Primary Channel for Customer Experience is the Web

The last few years have seen a massive modernization of marketing programs. With better analytics and marketing automation solutions like Eloqua and Marketo, marketers now have the tools to understand their customers and prospects and deliver the right message at the right time. Yet most marketing enhancements have focused on email management and web landing pages, not the public website where customer value is actually delivered to prospective customers.

For most businesses, two percent is a great conversion rate on a landing page. In what other industry would a 98 percent fail rate be a success? Marketers need to refocus web marketing on the actual website. In 2013 marketers will deliver websites with the conversion tools of landing pages layered with segmentation and contextual targeting to make the entire website a high-performance marketing tool. The Web CMS in 2013 needs to support this trend by offering capabilities to target and deliver content intelligently.

The Web CMS is the Social CRM

The value of a Web CMS is no longer simply content creation or management, but how the CMS delivers secure or targeted content by managing users and groups. Permissioning the Web Experience, whether for intranets, extranets, communities or online marketing is the value stone for Web CMS in 2013.

The Web CMS fills a critical gap in delivering secure content. Portals lack the editorial and content creation requirements to manage secure websites. Social business, community and other “social CRM” solutions lack governance, application delivery and the capability to manage the entire customer web experience. The Web CMS provides the entire solution, from content creation to delivery to user management, and will become the primary system for delivering secure and collaborative websites.

Most of the significant CMS projects in 2013 will focus on managing the user profile (customer, partner or employee). The Web CMS will be the system of record for capturing and storing user data, with the traditional CRM continuing as the ultimate back-office system of record. Syncing between CRM and Web CMS will become a required feature.

Too Big to Succeed

Conventional wisdom is that “no one ever gets fired for buying IBM”: the bigger the software vendor, the safer the investment. This no longer makes sense. HP’s six billion dollar write-down of Autonomy, the problematic consolidation of established CMS vendors with portfolio software companies, and lack of innovation from large CMS vendors have turned that logic on its head.

In 2013 Web CMS buyers will understand that the safe investment is the independent, best of breed CMS vendor. These vendors make the best software, update software with the most frequency, and provide the highest level of support. Many large portfolio CMS vendors have become too big to succeed. 

SaaS Based Web CMS on the Rise

In 2013, marketing organizations will think cloud first when selecting a new Web CMS. Every other marketing tool in their quiver, from CRM systems like to email and marketing automation systems to advertising managers are already cloud-based and purchased under a monthly SaaS subscription.

Why should a CMS application require heavy IT investments and expensive up front licensing? It’s very ironic that most Web CMS software, an application whose sole task is managing the Web, is still deployed on-premises.

SaaS lowers the management overhead of a CMS, provides greater scalability, and lowers total cost of ownership. In 2013 marketing teams should look to vendors with proven success delivering web CMS as a service.

That’s a Wrap

The future is bright for the Web CMS industry in 2013. While many of these trends will be challenging for vendors and customers alike, the opportunities and benefits far outweigh the costs.

We are finally entering a new age. The decade-old mouse driven paradigm from interacting with content and applications is evolving into a universal, multi-touch web experience, information can be intelligently delivered to any device, customer experiences are personalized and secure content is easily shared. Web CMS applications are joining the ranks of other “marketing cloud” solutions with true software-as-a-service delivery and agile web marketing tools.

2013 will be a very exciting year.

Editor's Note: To see how David did with his 2012 predictions, go no further: David Hillis' Predictions for Web Content Management in 2012