Web Content Management 20 years later

Guest post by Arjan van Rooijen

As consumers face more brand choices than ever before and simultaneously become more technologically savvy, companies looking to win business need to keep up with the trends to stay relevant.

For Marketing and IT departments this means maintaining consistent, reliable, multi-channel communication with stakeholders. The key technology responsible for orchestrating this endeavor is Web Content Management, which is celebrating its 20th birthday. 

Whose platform is it anyway? 

Perhaps the biggest shift in WCM has been in ownership; once the domain of IT staff, WCM is now entrusted to the Marketing department. This change happened gradually over the years. The first evangelists of WCM were publishers--a small but mighty group who understood the need to separate content from design in order to maximize the use of existing materials. 

As technologically advanced as this group was, they still relied on their IT department to manage the published content, facing a bottle neck to modifying content. 

The usability of today's WCM solutions has empowered marketers to truly manage the content themselves. Interfaces have changed dramatically, while the technology at the back end is more sophisticated than ever before. As the user interface became for simplified, WCM actually grew its portfolio of capabilities, embracing multiple platform delivery, caching for large data and data mining, which allowed personalization and targeted content.   

Content is (still) king 

What do WCM's extended capabilities mean for the marketers using the platform? In a sense they're just a technicality since the importance of targeted, relevant content hasn't changed since the days of P.T. Barnum. The new storefront however, is quite different. No longer is it a physical storefront on a busy street. It is a website in the busiest forum of all: the internet. 

The websites that supported the first days of internet business and eCommerce were essentially online catalogs where consumers went to gather information. They contained a lot of textual information and perhaps a few images. Consequently, these sites produced very little data on the back end, causing minimal storage and memory usage concerns. 

The websites of the late 1990s look nothing like what we have today. Multimedia content such as high-definition video and connectivity with a multitude of social media channels create customer experiences unlike anything consumers using 'catalog' websites could have imagined. For the marketers and the IT staff managing such rich media websites, the challenge lies in content syndication, as well as data mining, storage and analytics. 

Data, data everywhere, and all for them to drink 

Most conversations about Big Data are centered on the problems of storage and management, but for marketers with the right mining and analytics tools, Big Data is gold. Data provides marketers the knowledge they need to deliver their customers the experience they ultimately use to make a decision about the brands they do business with. Social media in particular has been a new channel for marketers to utilize in information gathering.

Collectively, social media channels gather approximately 50 million impressions each day, and this is through the collection of public data only. Additional information is gathered from customers that connect to their preferred brands through channels such as Facebook. By  'liking' a brand, the company's marketing team has a wealth of information about the customer, including their age, location, relationship status, likes and behavior patterns. 

Analyzing this data and reacting to it in real-time requires sophisticated algorithms that combine two key technology trends occurring in the early 2010s: Big Data and cloud computing. Cloud computing has enabled marketers to manage large amounts of data and execute changes quickly, eliminating any down time.

The next 20 years

With the changes we've seen over the last 20 years, one has to wonder how the technology will evolve over the next 20 years. My prediction is that agility in businesses in managing multi-channel communication--across more channels we can't even think of right now--will be crucial for companies trying to engage with their customers. These channels must be connected and consistent with one another to send one key message about a brand. Other changes we are likely to see are improvements in sentiment analysis; the ability to understand sarcasm, colloquialism and other difficult-to-define human behavior.  

Over the last 20 years, Web Content Management has evolved into Web Experience Management. Even though content still reigns as king, the experience will remain at the forefront of brand marketing. The question is: How will the supporting technology evolve alongside it? 

Arjan van Rooijen is the founder of SDL Tridion who served as the Chief Architect responsible for direction of research & development and execution of Tridion's technological vision in the company's early years. Van Rooijen is still with SDL, now focusing on analyst relations and helping set the company and product strategy based on his market insight and vision. Arjan holds a degree in Computer Science from Hogeschool van Utrecht University.