B&T: Why You Need To Go Headless Now & Not Later

This article first appeared in B&T.

You’ve read about it, or at least seen the headlines: the headless CMS buzz is everywhere. Those with their fingers on the pulse of digital marketing trends know it’s the future of the web, and that getting in now puts your business at a serious competitive advantage.

At the same time we can’t ignore the current conditions: tightening marketing budgets and economic headwinds make an ambitious website overhaul a tough sell to the CFO. CMOs planning to transition a legacy website to future-proofed headless CMS need to get their business case right and communicate an investment that is firmly grounded in delivering ROI. Here’s how to do it.

Before we get too far ahead, it’s critical to set a simple definition for what a CMS actually is and how a headless CMS differs from the traditional CMS. A content management system (CMS) in generalised terms is a software platform designed to facilitate the creation, management and publication of digital content.

CMS platforms aren’t new by any means. The early 2000s gave us some of the first CMS platforms – Drop.org, WordPress and Joomla! – which allowed users to update text and images on a website. As time went by, other features began to take shape with form editing, search, and multilingual capabilities. This paved the way for even more features to be added and the humble CMS to be rebranded as a digital experience platform (DXP), which included a plethora of capabilities including contact management, analytics, A/B testing, leads and plenty more.

The problem with DXPs is that these platforms come with more capabilities than most companies want, or will use, in their CMS. With such a big piece of software, it nearly always comes at a very high cost. It goes like this: the bulkier DXPs are, the more they cost upfront, the more code they have below, the slower they are to load for users (a critical issue for the modern web) and ultimately the more costly they are to maintain and enhance.

This is where headless CMS comes into play. With a traditional CMS, both the content management capabilities (back end) and the presentation layer (front end) are integrated in the same system, whereas with a headless CMS, the back end and front end are separated. The benefit of this decoupling is greater flexibility in content management and presentation. This provides a multitude of benefits from allowing the management of content across multiple channels from one platform (eg. websites, mobile app, IoT devices and even voice assistants) through to better security, lower cost to maintain, better editor experiences and more.

Headless CMS is a return to what CMS originally were in the 2000s. It is software focused on doing one thing really well: content management.

As we all know, content is king and the ability to quickly and easily publish content is not just a nice-to-have but a necessity in today’s market. In fact, according to a recent article from the UK firm 1827 Marketing, 72% of marketers report their business considers content marketing as a core business strategy.  The inability to quickly and easily add, update and refresh content in traditional DXPs will put a handbrake on any marketing team’s ability to succeed.

While funding re-platforming projects can be seen as a cost sink, the reality is the sooner companies act the better off financially they are in the very near term. Poor website experiences lead to lost sales and the costs of maintaining and updating legacy websites is often not as obvious to senior management as it should be.

A headless CMS model, despite requiring an initial investment in time and capital to deploy, is the answer. According to leading CMS technology business, Storyblok, 86% of Australian businesses report improved KPIs, revenue growth and productivity since using a headless CMS. It’s better, because it fixes most of the issues found with a DXP. Here’s why:

Saving time: Content is quick and easy to update. This agility reduces time-to-market for new campaigns, promotions and product launches, all enabling faster revenue generation.

Increased revenue: Better websites and more relevant, timely content drives an increase in engagement, leads and conversions, as well as repeat visitation thanks to frequency of content updates – let alone all the SEO benefits.

Productivity gains: Collaboration and concurrent workflows mean multiple teams can work simultaneously on content development and deployment. Efficiencies are achieved through the ability to build out pages using flexible and modular content blocks instead of having to have new templates built by a development team.

Future proof: Decoupling the front-end presentation of a website from the back-end content management system allows for reduction in development and maintenance costs plus seamless integration with almost any martech platform.

Cheaper: Headless CMS are cheaper to build, maintain and host than traditional CMS websites.

Now, overhauling website software is no easy feat. But as a marketer or CMO, a compelling case can be made to your CFO to fund website builds on a headless CMS given the benefits it will deliver to your bottom line in the medium term.

Economically, it’s an unstable time for brands. That means it’s more important than ever to invest in modern, ROI-led software that will future-proof your business and help deliver a competitive advantage.