a headless statue with arm raised in a gallery
PHOTO: Pana Vasquez

Rapidly evolving technologies are pushing organizations to put innovation at the forefront of their overall business strategy. This is especially true with new digital touchpoints emerging and customer interactions evolving so rapidly as a result.  When it comes to innovation Gartner found that 91% of marketers are involved with the organization's strategy. Undoubtedly, part of this marketing innovation is driven by headless technologies and the freedom it brings to marketers and developers.

But how does that freedom translate into actual change in the customer experience? Here’s what we can look forward to in 2020 thanks to headless and decoupled web content management. 

The Adoption of Headless

First lets start with a recap. Headless CMS may be a broad term that covers a spectrum of CMS, but one thing is for sure, brands want their content to be headless.  “Anyone looking to take on a new CMS is specifically asking about headless CMS,” said Russ Danner, VP of product at Crafter Software. That’s because most developers don’t want to make a long-term investment in the traditional CMS-based development approach when a headless system would let them use the technologies they want or need. 

“Headless frees [developers] up to innovate at speed,” Danner explained, “and apply common tools, practices and processes.” The headless CMS, therefore, gives organizations the freedom to develop innovative digital experiences and will enable a wide range of use cases into the future.

Related Article: 24 Headless CMS That Should Be On Your Radar in 2019

The Future of Headless

We’ve already seen examples of brands launching Alexa Skills and stretching their content to digital signage thanks to headless technology. With the adoption of headless technologies growing, here are some of the most interesting use cases the experts expect to see more of in 2020 and beyond.

Breaking Data Silos

According to Even Westvang, co-founder & CPO at Sanity.io, “The most interesting use cases we see are complex and test our expectations of what content management can look like.” For him, that means using the headless CMS to break down data silos at large organizations. “Content is treated as data to integrate with legacy systems across enterprise silos and then distributed across many channels.” That means companies can tap into legacy systems to make better use of their data. “Just a few years ago,” Westvang said, “this would have to have been custom-built. Now it’s a commodity.”

Headless Commerce

“We’re already seeing a lot of ecommerce and expect this to continue,” Westvang said. That’s because there’s such a strong demand from customers for a seamless shopping experience across multiple devices and touchpoints, and most traditional platforms struggle to provide this. Headless commerce solutions, therefore, have seen massive growth in 2019, and Westvang sees this continuing well into 2020 and beyond.

Related Article: Top 15 Enterprise Video Content Management Systems

AI Becomes XAI

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been used to varying degrees in the background for awhile now, but the technology has been moving to the forefront in recent years. “As AI becomes more visible and prominent,” Tony Fernandes, founder of UEGroup, said, “it will also become scarier to people and the hype will begin to turn into concern and rejection.” That’s why Fernandez believes a new field will emerge in 2020 called Explainable AI (XAI) that introduces a new layer of UX design to digital experiences. “To prevent adoption issues, user experience that leverages AI and machine learning will need to create a new level of transparency.”

Anywhere There’s an Output

“The vast majority of the growth in systems that consume and manage content is primarily from JavaScript developers,” said Joel Varty, president at Agility CMS. These developers aren't constrained by the limitations of legacy technologies, and this is changing what the term digital channel means. “Anywhere that has an output — be it a screen, a speaker, a device, whatever,” Varty continued, “expect managed content to be there.”

Traditional Sites Aren’t Gone Yet

“Here's something that's also interesting,” Danner said, “a lot of people want headless capabilities, but also want the ability to do traditional template based sites for quick, tactical needs like landing pages.” While a traditional website may not be enough for today’s omnichannel demands, they’re not going away anytime soon. Companies will still want the ability to quickly launch microsites or landing pages focused on particular products or market segments and still reuse their content for other touchpoints. “You really need a CMS that can do both well,” Danner stated.

Expect Headless Innovation in 2020

“The channels that reach beyond web pages like mobile apps, VR/AR, game consoles, chatbots and digital assistants are really gaining steam,” Danner said, “and will continue to strengthen in 2020.” We likely won’t see the end of web pages any time soon, but support for a wide range of customer interactions using the presentation agnostic approach to content is here to stay. “It’s amazing how a headless CMS has given a whole new generation the ability to take managed content to all these new and interesting places,” Varty agreed. 

These use cases, therefore, only scratch the surface of what we’ll see in the future.