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CMS Practitioners Bullish on Future of Digital Marketing

September 11, 2017

CMS Practitioners Bullish on Future of Digital Marketing

By JIM PANAGAS

:: Practitioners see many challenges, but surprisingly optimistic about what lies ahead ::

Content management system (CMS) vendors often grab the headlines, as they are the ones doing the “heavy lifting” by designing new software releases and rolling out entirely new platforms that connect brands with customers like never before. Yet, a great source of information lies the next tier down with the digital solution partners who implement and support these marketing technologies on a daily basis. It is they who have a clear and unobstructed view of the playing field. A number of them recently gathered in Toronto and offered a surprisingly bullish view of the digital marketing industry – and what lies ahead.

Digital Transformation: Coming to a Website Near You

Websites were, of course, front and center at this meeting, as they are where the CMS industry got its start. “I think websites are always going to be the baseline, they’re always going to be the front door for any company going forward,” said Kevin Grohoske of Sparkhound. “They’re going to be the old storefront to the business.”

 “Websites aren’t going anywhere,” agreed Stephen Medeve of Falcon Software, “but they are going to change. The data model is going to change…more intrusive information will be asked of you.”

Indeed. The amount of information that brands are collecting from online visitors is growing in leaps and bounds, enabling them to design an experience that connects people with the products and services that they are looking for in less and less time.

“There are extremely good people behind the helms of a lot of these big brands,” observed Medve. “They have transformed their sites into analytical data repositories that understand and describe customers and then are able to sell to customers. This now starting to catch up with medium-size companies, which is the bulk of companies out there.”

Website Accessibility:  Regulation or Business Necessity?

Another aspect of digital transformation discussed in Toronto was website accessibility, an area where solution partners have developed quite a bit of expertise. “According to research that we’ve looked at,” said Keith Durrant of ecentricarts, “about 20 percent of the overall population has some sort of accessibility issues. That includes people with motor skills challenges, of course visually impaired make up a large proportion of people having trouble accessing websites. So, when you think about it, it’s potentially a very large audience that will benefit from making websites accessible.”

He continued, “When it comes to creating a new office building, for example, you would put in ways for wheelchairs to access the building. People just do that as a normal course of construction now. And I think we’re getting to the point where with websites people are starting to have the same type of philosophy, that there’s no reason that you would want to put barriers up to keep anyone from using your website – especially when those people are consumers. They buy things, they buy their services, so why would you intentionally put barriers for people getting access to what you do?”

The good news here is that a single governmental body has written the specifications for website accessibility (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0), and they are being cited by governments not just in the Americas, but also in EMEA and APAC.

Content May Indeed be King – but Who’s Going to Create It?

“Fresh Content” is perhaps one of the most talked about topics in the digital marketing industry, and this meeting of solution partners was no exception. The industry, as a whole, seems fixated on producing Web content that is both new and constantly being refreshed.

According to Adam Hostetter of Notchpoint, “The single biggest challenge with clients in my experience,” said Hostetter, “is developing that fresh content. And what it means is content that is search engine optimized, that’s of interest, that’s topical. You can solve all sorts of technology problems with the tools that you implement, but having good content is still the single most important thing you can do for your organization.”

He continued, “We were talking before about teaching creativity in schools, and that’s another problem that we’re seeing. Students coming out of universities don’t know how to write. There’s no substitute for someone who knows how to write well….If you’re not a good writer, it’s tough to come up with that fresh content that is required.”

All one has to do is look at the online job listings to get a sense of just how important this one role has become. Listings for “content writers” abound.

Headless CMS and Omnichannel Communication

Two more widely used terms that pop up in digital marketing circles are “Headless CMS” and “Omnichannel Distribution.” And this meeting was no exception. The former term refers to separating the production of content from the distribution of content. The great benefit here is that you enter the content into the system only once, and you can adapt it for delivery to any Internet of Things (IoT) screen or device later on. That’s where the second term comes in. It refers to the long and growing list of places where one can today deliver a marketing message, and it ranges from computer desktops, tablets, smart phones, and digital billboards to automobile consoles, elevators, and even gasoline pumps.

“The digital experience is omnichannel,” emphasized Bruce Williams of Thundertech, “because that’s where your audience is. The website is that authority place that can always drive a lot of your content marketing and the major publishing elements that are needed today for both education and awareness, but it is most definitely omnichannel.”

That being said, Refactored’s Rob Bean cautions companies to take one step at a time and not try to do it all. “Just because you can communicate everywhere does not mean that you should,” said Bean. “I have yet to find a client that has unlimited resources and can hit every channel at the same level. It could be the level of client that we’re working with, but for the most part we do try to provide focus and remind them that unless you’ve got a certain way to sustain an effort, don’t try to do everything.”

No “Easy Button” for Digital Marketing

Bean also pointed out that what many companies seem to want is an “easy button” that they can press and then they don’t have to worry about digital marketing anymore. But it simply doesn’t work that way.

“Everybody that’s been doing websites – they are probably on their fifth or sixth version of their site,” explained Bean. “The same with email nurturing tools. People have tried a variety of solutions. And I think they are always looking for the ‘easy button.’ They want to buy a technology that’s easy enough that they don’t have to think about it. And I think that unfortunately is what still prevails. ‘I am going to buy the better, newer tool’ and it may do a little bit more than their last tool. But at the end of the day I think that’s why our focus in on message and content, not on technology, because things will always get easier or better or slightly different in some new way, but if your message is off and you’re not resonating with the customer, it doesn’t matter what tool it’s going through, it’s still not going to be that effective.”

Communicating with Multiple Generations of Consumers

Another topic that generated a lot of discussion was figuring out how to market and sell to a target that’s changing all the time. Baby Boomers are beginning to leave the work force in significant numbers. They are rapidly being supplanted by Generation Xers, Millennials, and even Generation Y. And the way that these newer generations interact with one another and find information is strikingly different from those of us in the workplace today.

“I have two teenagers at home,” offered Keith Durrant of ecentricarts, “so I find their media consumption habits very interesting. First off, they don’t watch television at all, which is amazing, because I still like watching TV occasionally. They certainly go to websites, but it’s always on their phone. Even though we have multiple computers in our house and they have laptops, they do the majority of their surfing on a telephone. So, I think that device, which they’ve grown up with, is their primary access point, even to the Web.”

Sparkhounds’ Kevin Grohoske couldn’t agree more. “My son has friends all over the world, some whom he’s never actually met. But he considers them close friends because he’s always socializing with them online. And so, some of the older-style marketing isn’t going to reach those people in the same way that these Millennials or whatever. They look at the world a different way, interact with their environment in a different way. They look at the Internet and online chat as the way to have a conversation around the coffee pot. The way to press the flesh with somebody is to send them a text over the phone or through online chat. We didn’t grow up that way. I got off the school bus at the end of the day and I’d get my friends together and say, ‘what sport are we going to play today?’ They don’t do that anymore.”

‘There’s no way it can get any better than that’

As this meeting began to wind down, the discussion turned to how far the digital marketing industry has come – and how far it has yet to go. 
“I remember when search engines first came out,” concluded Grohoske. “And Google came out, and we were, ‘Oh, my gosh. They can catalog the entire Internet, which was tiny at the time. And we thought, ‘There’s no way that it can get any better than that.’ Now we have Siri in our pocket. We have personal assistants. We’re going to have artificial intelligence. And all of these things are going to come together and start to create a mashing of technologies…These are things we wouldn’t have thought about 10 or 15 years ago. But we’re capable of doing it now with the technology that we have. So I think that’s what it’s going to be, something totally creative and out of the box. There’s probably going to be this moment of inspiration and then within the next 5 or 10 years, that’s going to be the way to do digital marketing…there’s going to be a change because how we market today is not going to work with the generation that grew up on video games, smart phones, and chatting with people all over the world.”

About the Author
Jim Panagas is the director of PR and analyst relations for Kentico Software, a leading provider of CMS technology. He’s a seasoned marketing and communications professional who has been working in the high-tech industry for more than 20 years. His current assignment is educating the market about digital experience platforms including Kentico EMS and Kentico Cloud.

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HOW TO GET MORE FROM YOUR ESTORE

September 05, 2017

Even successful brick and mortar retailers with a loyal customer base recognise that foot traffic alone isn’t sustainable, or profitable, forever.

Living in a globally connected digital age where consumers are empowered with a range of choices at their fingertips, an effective website with eStore functionality is vital for any business looking to grow. After all, your best customer may not even live in the same country, let alone city as where you are based.

But how can you get the most from your online store? Unfortunately, it is rarely the case that if you build it, consumers will automatically come. To drive online sales, New Zealand businesses looking to grow their operations need to focus on attracting the right customer for their business with the right digital marketing and incentives.

BEFORE YOU HAVE CUSTOMERS, YOU NEED VISITORS

The first step in driving sales through an online store is attracting traffic, or potential customers, to your website and eStore. Your business needs to inform people about its online presence and the range of products that can be purchased online.

Creating social media accounts for your business is one of the simplest (and cheapest) ways to attract potential customers. For example, if your business is involved in food production, you can post photos of products being used in dishes, share recipe tips, even show videos of meals being prepared using your products.

Content rich and visually engaging social media accounts across platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allows businesses to target advertising based on specific demographics related to your business. This means businesses can ensure any promotional advertising is seen by people most likely to be interested in your products and visiting your online store. In addition to targeted advertising on platforms like Facebook, businesses also have the option to boost your content so that this reaches more people. Although there is a minimal cost with boosting content on social media, this helps your promotions reach audiences that aren’t organically coming to you.

TURNING A VISITOR INTO A CUSTOMER

Once a business has begun to drive traffic to its website and online store, the next challenge is around ensuring visitors connect with the new platform and products and services being sold.

The first purchase is always the hardest to secure from a new online visitor, so why not consider offering an incentive, or first-time purchase discount, to help secure a new customer? However, simply giving away a $10 discount off a customer’s first purchase alone is a wasted opportunity. You want to engage with visitors, but you also need your business to succeed. Have first time customers fill out some contact details (including email address) to qualify their discount. The discount code can then be sent to the new customer’s contact details that they have registered.

After a customer makes their online purchase, you can further nurture them to continue shopping with you. Say the customer purchased a pair of pants —why not send them an additional 5% discount on your matching scarf? This way, you can see if the customer is truly interested in your products, or if the purchase was a one-time thing.

There are a range of discounts that businesses can use to help motivate customers into making a purchase. Some to consider are:

Volume discounts, for example, can help food retailers when they have a range of manufactured products nearing their expiry date—offer one for $3 but five for $10.

A buy X, get Y discount can inspire customers to buy a new frying pan when it comes with a recipe book “for free”.

Visitor levels allow you to reward repeat buyers so that they see you appreciate their frequent business.

Sending birthday discounts shows you know your customer—send a $15-off discount coupon (but let it expire in a week’s time).

AUTOMATE TO CONVERT

While it may be feasible when a business is a small-scale operation to send emails about new items to customers, as an online store becomes more successful, having automated communication systems in place is vital.

Businesses looking to grow their online sales need to set-up an automated newsletter so that everyone that wants to be kept updated with your shop can be added to a mailing list. With these automated communication systems, businesses can also have reminders sent out to customers a day or two before their discount coupon code expires, helping convert a sale.

Shopping cart abandonment is a fact of life with online shopping. A customer will visit your website, select a number of items to purchase and then for one reason or another (they could simply have been interrupted prior to sale) they abandon their purchase. Automated communication systems allow you to remind your customers of abandoned items in their shopping cart. Whenever a customer has abandoned items in their cart for over a week, you can have an email sent automatically that pushes them to finish their purchase (perhaps with an added discount as an incentive). To make that reminder even more useful, you can use a recommender that automatically calculates which items the customer would be interested in based on his shopping cart or shop-browsing history. This is a great cross-selling tool if you want to show your customers items they might not have seen yet.

PLAN FOR SUCCESS

It is not enough for a business to build a website, integrate an online store, or ordering functionality into their platform and expect sales to automatically come in. To secure business in a highly competitive online shopping environment, consideration needs to be made for the best way to attract website traffic and how to convert a visitor into a customer.

WAYNE JASEK IS DIRECTOR APAC AT KENTICO.

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How I built a CMS, and why you shouldn't

August 28, 2017

How I built a CMS, and why you shouldn’t

By Petr Palas

In the past 15 years, I’ve written five Content Management Systems and built a leading CMS software company. Now let me tell you why you shouldn’t write your own CMS.

“Writing your own CMS is like keeping your own elephant — for most people, it’s just easier to visit a ZOO.”

A market that didn’t exist

Back in 2000, I was studying at university and working as an intranet developer, posting content on an intranet written in static HTML. It was my first “programming” job and I really enjoyed it — for a few weeks.

Then it became apparent how repetitive and manual the work was. So I began writing an application in classic ASP that would allow users to manage content themselves. I had no idea that something called a Content Management System even existed, so I unknowingly invented my own.

At that time, there were very few productized CMS systems for purchase, often costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So it’s no surprise, considering the size and inaccessibility of the software category that I wasn’t alone in trying to minimize frustrations and maximize efficiency by creating my own CMS.

Productizing a CMS

By 2004 almost every web agency was building its own CMS, often customizing it for each client. This resulted in dozens of modifications that were a nightmare to manage.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” I thought to myself. I’d already written a few single-purpose CMS systems and was bored again. “What if I wrote a CMS that could be used for any website?”

So, I started my own company, Kentico Software, with a very simple vision: to build one CMS that any developer in the world could use to create any website.

Surprise: People are still writing their own custom CMSs!

13 years later, I’m still shocked by the number of people who choose to build their own CMS.

There is now a plethora of mature CMS products out there, for all kinds of projects, available in all sorts of flavors: from free open source to enterprise-level commercial products, from best-of-breed products to all-in-one suites.

So why would anybody write their own?

The answer is actually pretty simple: They do it out of frustration.

And I get it. Traditional web-oriented CMS systems can be fraught with flaws and limitations. But the truth is: these frustrations are no longer valid.

I know; it sounds hypocritical… writing my own CMS worked for me, so why not for them?

Let me explain.

Headless architecture makes custom CMS obsolete

In the past 15 years, the CMS market and technology have transformed to keep pace with the changes to the digital landscape and customer’s multi-device expectations.

And now the next generation of CMS technology — the cloud-first headless CMS — is getting ready to revolutionize the Content Management industry.

Unlike traditional CMS systems, headless CMS products only focus on content management and make the content available through API to any application.

As they lack the “head” that would normally dictate how the content should be displayed, a headless CMS leaves this design element completely up to the developer.

Cloud-first headless CMS removes many limits of traditional CMS solutions

So this is why it’s not a good idea for developers to write their own custom CMS — unless, that is; they want to become a CMS vendor too.

But that’s easy for me to say. I’m not the one faced with multiple frustrations and finding many reasons why a custom CMS would be the way to go.

So let’s take the main reasons in turn and see why they are obsolete.

Reason #1: Standard CMS limits my creativity

When you talk to front-end developers, their #1 complaint about CMS is that it messes up their HTML code and makes them look for workarounds.

But that’s over: headless CMS gives you absolute freedom and it has a zero footprint in the resulting HTML code. All you need to do is call its REST API using your favorite programming language to retrieve the content from the repository.

Then, it’s completely up to you as to how you display the content!

Reason #2: Standard CMS interfaces are too complex

Many traditional CMS systems have grown substantially over the past ten years. Although all of them started with the idea of providing a great content management solution, most of them failed to avoid a feature creepas they expanded into areas like e-commerce, marketing automation, booking systems, e-mail marketing, etc.

While it may be handy to have everything in one place for some users, it’s challenging for new users to learn the CMS. If all they want to do is manage content, too many options impact their productivity

The new headless CMS products come from a different perspective: they realize they are just one piece of the puzzle of microservices and they focus on providing a much more streamlined user interface focused just on content.

At the same time, they usually provide a Content Management API that allows you to create your own editing interface on top of their content repository.

This may be handy when you want to create a more streamlined UI or integrate content editing capabilities within your own application, instead of redirecting your users to another interface.

Reason #3: Standard CMS is too expensive

“We didn’t want to pay $X for a commercial CMS, so we decided to write our own.” That’s what you may hear from some developers.

Unless you need something much simpler than a real CMS (such as managing a list of news), there’s no way you save money with a custom CMS in the long run.

Today, you can choose from a whole host of free open source CMS or you can go with a cloud-first headless CMS that offers consumption-based pricing that will always beat the cost of developing and running your own CMS.

Reason #4: Standard CMS is not secure

For many organizations, CMS security is a nightmare. So some developers think, “If we write our own CMS, we will make it more complicated for hackers to find a flaw.”

That’s what we call security by obscurity.

While it’s true that hackers may leverage a known security issue, a widely used CMS is usually vigorously tested. In fact, the main source of security issues is companies failing to apply the latest hotfixes to the various plug-ins employed.

With a cloud-first headless CMS, you’re always on the latest version. The CMS is hosted directly by the vendor who knows the code as well as the infrastructure and can devote appropriate attention to security.

Reason #5: Standard CMS doesn’t fit my architecture

This used to be a valid reason in certain scenarios. Most traditional CMS solutions were expected to be used as the central platform on which to build, meaning that your application code was tightly coupled with the CMS, as illustrated in the picture earlier in the article.

You were limited by the CMS platform, programming language, upgrade cycles, scalability, and security.

It’s no wonder so many software architects wouldn’t take that path! Instead, they either created a proxy layer between the CMS and their application or — surprise! — they wrote their own CMS.

Fortunately, the headless CMS architecture allows you to easily access content using an API and write your application just the way you like it.

Reason #6: We still have plenty of customers on our agency’s CMS

Many digital agencies continue to run their own CMS for their clients.

Some of them even use it intentionally to lock their clients in so that they cannot easily move to a different agency.

In general, there’s absolutely zero advantage in an agency having its own CMS. Unless they aspire to becoming a CMS vendor, they should run away from their own CMS as fast as they can.

Fortunately, most agencies I talk to realize it’s not the way to go and that they can’t stay competitive in the market with their proprietary CMS.

However, they are afraid of making a leap of faith and moving their customers to a standard CMS.

In some cases, it’s also an emotional or political decision. The CMS was written by the agency founder many years ago or it’s the baby of their best developer who, after all, is the only person who knows how the CMS works.

My advice: Make that bold step before your agency becomes obsolete!

Choose a modern CMS for your customers and highlight the many benefits it affords them.

And give your developers a new toy to play with! Hint: most developers fall in love with a headless CMS very quickly.

… and two reasons when a custom CMS is justifiable

To be fair, there are situations when writing your own CMS still makes sense or it’s the only way to go:

Content management is your core business: If you’re a company like Medium, you may want to have absolute control of content management. If you’re a big media house with dozens of publications and need a completely customized workflow, you may want to write your own CMS (or at least create a custom editorial UI). However, there are VERY few companies in the world who fit this category and can justify the ongoing investment.

Unique security or compliance requirements: Again, there are a few organizations that need to adhere to specific rules when it comes to content storage, security, software architecture or infrastructure, and these rules do not allow them to use a standard CMS.

Even if you fit some of these scenarios, you should keep in mind that every hour you spend building a custom CMS is an hour you could be spending on creating your competitive advantage instead of reinventing the wheel.

Avoid writing your own CMS, unless there’s a clear business case

People ALWAYS underestimate the amount of effort that goes into building a true CMS.

Your first thought may be “What’s so complicated about a CMS? I just use a document database and build some editing interface on top of that.”

Yes, that’s an easy start, but it’s not a true CMS. Once you start adding layers, such as content modeling, versioning, language variants, workflow, permissions, content delivery, search, etc. you find yourself developing and managing a fairly complex solution.

By now, it should be clear that writing your own CMS sucks. It’s a great programming exercise, but it’s not your core business — unless you’re a CMS vendor.

Full disclosure: I’m the founder of Kentico Software, a leading CMS vendor that behind Kentico Cloud, the cloud-first headless CMS. Although I wrote this article with the best intentions, my view may be biased.

If you enjoyed this article, please clap it, share it or post your comment below. I promise to answer all questions.

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