Demystifying headless CMS for marketers

Why headless CMS exists

For a long time computers and browsers were the main vehicle for content consumption, with blogs and videos hosted on desktop browsers being our go-to information sources. That content would be created and delivered to audiences by marketers via a content management system like Wordpress. Gradually computers got smaller and more integrated into our day to day lives. Mobile phones, Smart televisions, in-car technology and wearable devices have all changed the way people consume content, so it stands to reason the way we build content experiences has to change too.

What is headless CMS for marketers?

The traditional CMS is a tool that allows marketers to create and publish HTML content directly to a website. Writing or uploading the content in the back end, then ensuring it publishes in a readable and on-brand format at the front-end (the website).

What traditional CMS doesn’t allow for is easy and quick publishing of content across multiple devices without having to recreate that content over and over again for different formats. This is critical because customers consume content across a wide range of different devices.

Headless CMS allows marketers to create just one piece of content, and automatically publish it to a website; social channels; wearable devices; mobile apps (and any other format you can think of) simultaneously without dealing with any formatting issues or having to get a developer involved.

This creates a consistent and on-brand experience for customers across every channel your business is active on, limiting effort and errors and allowing marketers to release a wide variety of content quickly and at scale.

Why has headless been led by developers up to now?

Headless has been of particular interest to developers because it makes their job easier and gives them autonomy. For example, rather than time consuming communication with the marketing team to build a landing page for a piece of content, headless allows the developer to build individual integrations in advance for each of your relevant channels so you can publish perfectly formatted content without the ned for real-time developer input.

The developer is also able to use the latest tech frameworks to build these individual integrations (they cannot do this with a traditional CMS). This is important as it means their tech stack stays current and efficient and their skills with the latest tech remain up to date which is essential for them to build lasting careers.

Lastly, because the CMS is ‘headless’ it’s not directly connected to the content part of the CMS, meaning they can iron out bugs separately without it hindering the marketing team’s deliverables. In a traditional CMS like Wordpress, if there were tech issues, marketing delivery would be impacted while tech took the time to fix the problem.

Why should headless CMS matter to marketers?

It would be easy to put headless CMS down to one of the many technological developments touted to marketers as ‘the new big thing’. But in this case, it’s actually business critical, especially at enterprise level. Here’s why:

  1. If you’re in a business that requires high volumes of content production with strong expectations around delivering exceptional customer experiences, traditional CMS won’t be able to achieve this
  2. Consumers have countless choices when it comes to how they read, watch or listen to content. If your content doesn’t easily deliver across all of these platforms you’ll risk losing competitive advantage
  3. Future proofing as the speed of app development and uptake gets faster, you will need flexible technology to take advantage of these ever changing platforms, which traditional CMS simply can’t support
  4. Headless creates a streamlined workflow that will improve time management and productivity, as well as enable more consistent reporting across national and global teams.

What are the critical next steps for marketers considering Headless?

  1. You need to fully understand the challenges of headless CMS as well as the advantages. Because there’s no front-end WYSIWYG interface it can be more difficult for marketers to make quick changes to content with input from a developer. This doesn’t mean headless is the lesser option, it just means you need to create a clear approach with the IT team from the outset, so they understand your needs and you understand theirs
  2. There is a hybrid CMS solution available that bridges the gap between traditional and headless CMS. It allows you to better manage your digital experiences by empowering both marketing and IT teams, giving marketers more input into content and presentation while still retaining developer autonomy
  3. Talk to your CTO, Marketing Ops and developers in your business and find out what the roadmap for the marketing tech stack looks like. Explore whether headless or hybrid solutions have been considered and put it on the agenda if not
  4. Access further reading on headless CMS from Adobe

Learn more about Adobe Experience Manager, a hybrid CMS solution allowing personalised content led experiences that benefit both marketing and technical teams.