How Steady Is Your Web Content Management System?

After securing themselves and their loved ones, people experiencing a minor earthquake tend to take inventory - quickly surveying the area, looking to see if anything fell or broke.

Small earthquakes tend to do little damage - with the exception of possibly unraveling some nerves (mostly those of the family dog or a visiting out-of-state relative) - because most modern buildings in earthquake-prone areas are engineered to withstand a significant amount of shaking. The foundation on which they are built serves those occupying the space well.

There are few industries more prone to shakeups than the Web - from bubbles and busts to ever-changing expectations and trends. Despite the constant shaking, not every piece of software, tool, solution or app available to today's enterprise is made to withstand such significant repositioning. Many are built for a specific micro-goal (shorten links, deliver ads, publish blogs, schedule social media), but today's enterprise-level solutions are increasingly looking to become more "everything to everyone" type offerings.

Content management systems are both the exception and the rule to this trend. Their foundation - the management of content (think publishing, editing, approving) - has served companies well for nearly two decades, but as both they and the industry mature, content management solution providers have taken inventory of the new digital landscape and built out their offerings to withstand industry shaking (or in some cases been the catalyst to that change). They are now the backbone of digital experiences (in Forrester's words), "a multifaceted toolkit for building, managing, delivering and optimizing digital experiences, the bedrock of your business technology agenda."

Others may say, however, that what is one man's (or woman's) blog is another man's digital experience platform.

As researched and evaluated in, "The Forrester Wave: Web Content Management Systems, Q1 2015," the top two leaders in the space are currently Adobe and Sitecore. Interviewed here, these companies are on the frontlines of how the criteria for selecting a Web content management (WCM) system is rapidly changing and how they (and others) are adapting to both external and internal pressures to serve everyone from the everyday content writer to the C-suite in a way that encourages analysis and optimization of the Web experience. Let the following serve as evaluation of how shake-proof your Web content management is.

Who Can Test?

Today's Internet professionals expect to be able to measure the effectiveness of landing pages, calls-to-action, images, etc. (any digital campaign, really). This expectation, according to Mark Floisand, VP of product marketing at Sitecore, stems from the expectation put on marketers to be more accountable. Inherent in this, Floisand continues, is that everything can be tested and optimized, which has traditionally been diffi cult to do. To ensure that it's easy for all content writers, marketers, executives and the like to run the most effective content/campaigns/copy, it requires WCM systems to have built-in testing functionality.

Testing is now considered a baseline offering for today's WCM vendors, but Forrester's evaluation of the top 10 (Acquia, Adobe, Ektron, EPiServer, HP, IBM, OpenText, Oracle, SDL and Sitecore) proves this offering varies dramatically in scope, with IBM and SDL scoring as low as one, on a scale of zero (weak) to five (strong). This is not to say, however, they aren't hyper-competitive in other areas (SDL, for example, scored the only five of the group for globalization and localization).

Adobe, which scored the highest for testing, is empowering the everyday user to test elements like which content to show based on known and unknown elements (such as user behavior) not because IT's role is diminishing (enterprises will always have unique scalability and security requirements), but because, according to Loni Stark, Adobe's senior director of strategy and product marketing, the amount of personalization, content and channels to publish and promote content is exploding. As such, Stark believes that the technology that lets marketers and business people be able to create, publish and test which content will be most effective.

What Can Be Personalized?

When an Internet professional begins to understand just how much of an enterprise's content can be tested, he or she also begins to realize how much of it can be optimized or, more specifically, personalized to individual users or groups. Rule-based personalization can be as specific as serving an image to someone with an average order value (AOV) of $90 that offers free shipping if that person spends more than $100 (or higher depending on that person's past AOV) - Adobe offers this kind of dynamic creative - to something as simple as recognizing returning visitors with "Welcome Back" copy in a landing page's headline.

There is, however, according to Floisand of Sitecore, some degree of trepidation by marketers when serving personalized experiences. Are the users actually seeing what the marketer intended? There's an alternative to trying to mimic user activity (sign up for a new account, abandon a shopping cart, etc.), and that is Sitecore's visualization tool. It lets users visualize simulations of personalized content based on the parameters they have set - providing reassurance that the personalization makes sense and isn't conflicting with other messaging.

How Future Proof Is It?

As few as 3-4 years ago, responsive Web design was mostly theoretical (and personalization was just in its infancy). Now, according to Stark of Adobe, nearly every Web redesign is responsive. Adobe, like many other WCM vendors, has focused its efforts on features and capabilities to help the average person be able to design and support responsive sites. In 3-4 years from now, what will be the focus of delivering content?

Floisand is putting his money on the Internet of Things, as there will be no shortage of Webconnected devices in which to access brands on/through. WCM vendors will need to innovate to find new ways to analyze and optimize those content experiences. Those ready, willing and flexible enough to embrace emerging channels are those that will remain competitive and continue to cater to the enterprise user.

Equally, Floisand thinks the industry will see expectations that a Web CMS will do more and more of the automation (in a broad term), so that marketers and business users can spend more time fine-tuning campaigns, rather than grappling with CMSs.

Continuous Movement

The Web industry will continue to shake - a sign of adapting to changing expectations - but if chosen wisely, an enterprise's Web content management system can serve as the bedrock of its digital existence and experience. While Adobe and Sitecore are far from the only WCM options worth exploring, they've thoroughly been vetted as two of the premier players in the space, making their offerings a standard to which others should be held. Where to Start: Personalization

Discover how to reduce the creative burden of personalization by starting small and building a strong foundation at