Say what you want about 2016, the year many people would like to forget for oh so many reasons. But on a bright note, it was another busy year in the world of web content management (WCM) and related digital experience (DX) platforms.

In the past twelve months, new platforms have been born, existing ones have evolved, and the industry’s biggest players have continued to respond to the demands of the market.

Here’s how it all went down.

DX, WCM Activity & Innovation

The higher end of the DX and WCM space is where the biggest vendors flex their muscles. Without a doubt, the general expectation of personalized and omnichannel experiences grew throughout 2016 — and the major players within the WCM space responded.

First up, Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) 6.2 was released back in March, which introduced personalization of targeted offers, omnichannel searching, and a new feature that enables marketers to fragment and assemble content that is specific to various screens and form factors (here’s looking at you, Internet of Things).

Sitecore, arguably Adobe’s closest rival, waited until September to release Sitecore Experience Platform (XP) 8.2. More so than anything else, this release focused on reducing time to market by enabling marketers to leverage a drag-and-drop interface to construct new web and mobile experiences from more than 80 pre-built components.

In November, both Kentico 10 and Kentico Cloud were unveiled, bringing forth features that aimed to bring more context to the personalization framework. For instance, Kentico 10 comes with cross-site contact profiles that enable cross-site contextual personalization and lead scoring. The cloud-based offering also marked Kentico's entrance into the Software-as-a-Service market.

In addition to major product releases, some enterprise-grade platforms took the time to buy and sell.

Following the June release of Hippo version 11 — which brought about enhanced localization abilities and mobile-first editing — BloomReach swooped in to acquire the rapidly improved platform. They claimed that the purchase would help them build an, “open and intelligent digital experience platform.”

Finally, OpenText acquired HP’s customer experience software, while SDL sold a range of assets after admitting that their, "marketing message has not resonated well with the market.”

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant

Gartner’s annually adjusted Magic Quadrant serves up well-researched insights into the WCM market as it evolves. Their latest report from September 2016, which was analyzed by CMSWire, poses a few talking points:

Gartner MQ for WCM

You may have noticed that Gartner relegated OpenText and SDL from the leader's quadrant, while HP is missing completely after selling off its customer experience software to OpenText.

Hippo was the only new visionary in Gartner’s 2016 Magic Quadrant, following a promotion from niche player status. Kentico Software was also included as a challenger after being left out by Gartner in 2015.

Notable Events

2016 was peppered with conferences and meetups with a focus on content management. Here’s a list of all the key vendor events from around the world:

And of course, CMSWire held its very own DX Summit in Chicago, where topics such as digital transformation and content marketing strategies were discussed.

Learning Opportunities

Highlights For the Rest of Us

If we ignore the leaders of the WCM market for a moment, we’ll find that the rest of the CMS world was buzzing with activity throughout 2016.

Automattic, the company behind WordPress, had a particularly busy year, releasing WordPress 4.5, 4.6 and 4.7. Together, these major releases brought about features such as inline links, custom CSS testing and live responsive previews.

2016 was also a big year for Concrete5 community, as they received the eagerly anticipated version 8.0. This latest version introduced scheduled page publication, a revamped file manager and UX improvements.

The most intriguing project launch of the year was that of The Grid, a platform that uses artificial intelligence to construct websites. It’s a concept full of promise, although I’ll be the first to admit that I’m skeptical about how well it will work in the long run. Definitely one to keep tabs on in 2017.

In the social network builder space — which I believe is in need of serious improvement — SocialEngine gave themselves a much needed makeover, while the Pligg project, which was sold via Flippa in late 2015, morphed into Kilqqi.

What's Ahead?

As we move into 2017, it’s fair to say that personalization — and by extension, contextualization — remains the immediate focus of most enterprise-grade platforms.

The consumer thirst for personalized, contextualized and omnichannel experiences will surely continue to intensify throughout 2017, and the biggest names in the WCM space will certainly keep trying to quench it.

Thus, in an attempt to further hone their personalization capabilities, I envision that major vendors will spend 2017 targeting the increasing need for context within customer journeys.

Kentico and Hippo are my top two picks to show most improvement during 2017, and I expect their progress to be reflected in Gartner’s 2017 MQ. WordPress will obviously continue to dominate the mass-market, although I’m looking forward to seeing other open source platforms make strides, too.

In any case, we can all expect yet another busy year of innovations, events and perhaps even a surprise or two.

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