As online brands continue to make strong inroads into consumer spending and further cut into the revenues of traditional brick-and-mortar competitors, content management tools to power e-commerce information systems take on greater significance, despite their rudimentary capabilities.
Enterprise content management and e-commerce information systems are just starting to converge into unified platforms, allowing businesses of all shapes and sizes to potentially offer better customer experiences with personalized content. Acquia Inc. and Magento exemplify this trend toward integrating all digital capabilities. Acquia created the popular open source Drupal content management system (CMS) and has proceeded to build out a rich suite of tools for e-commerce, personalization and customer journey mapping. Adobe recently acquired Magento, one of the more popular open source e-commerce platforms.
Companies need to differentiate not only on convenience, but on finding ways to interact, engage and build trust among their customers.
It's all about trust
"Content management's current role has been to state facts to customers at the time of making a purchase by providing the right information, specifications and usefulness of specific products," said Ankur Nandu, director of e-commerce at Chargebee, a subscription billing and management platform.
Ankur NanduDirector of e-commerce, Chargebee
Content management is moving more toward the role of guidance, direction and gaining customer trust through regular interaction and engagement with the consumer on specific topics of interest. "This trust eventually leads to transactions and commerce," Nandu said.
Most e-commerce information systems can provide simple links to the products from the blogs created on the platform and perhaps enable quick purchases. Yet, with few exceptions, content management systems are just starting to create tools for intelligently replacing out-of-stock products, provide flexibility in displaying different types of content and intelligently personalize the experience of users engaged with the content.
Syncing across multiple sources
One of the big challenges facing companies is that content can be spread across many different applications and services. Existing e-commerce information systems tend to focus on presenting products with limited integration into a variety of content management, CRM and ERP systems, observed Norbert Sendetzky, general manager at e-commerce platform maker Aimeos.
B2B e-commerce information systems are starting to lead the way with better back-end integration since there's a lot of opportunity for businesses to cut costs with better content management. "Traditionally, explaining products in B2B is essential," Sendetzky said, "and most B2B websites already use a CMS as base."
Dietmar RietschCEO, Pimcore
A good content management platform can help provide a consistent experience across all channels, including in-store kiosks, online storefronts or mobile apps, said Dietmar Rietsch, CEO of Pimcore, a product information management provider. And that goes beyond aligning PDFs, images and videos on all platforms. To provide a seamless experience, content must be synced with data from CRMs and ERPs so customers have access to the most relevant material during each stage of their purchasing journey.
Content management will become increasingly critical for predicting future consumer touch points and proactively providing content to consumers across channels by aligning internal processes, data and tools. "Content management is crucial for e-commerce," Rietsch said, "but without organizational alignment in place, it will be difficult for any content to be effective."
Range of content management capabilities
Basic content management tactics include smart-tagging content, various degrees of personalization and content integration with all the services needed to convert the sale, said Rasmus Skjoldan, chief marketing officer at CMS provider Magnolia International Ltd. Capabilities such as recommendations, retargeting and emails can help complete purchases. Reusing campaign fragments to ensure that offers and creative content are consistent as well as automating adaptive focal point selections on images when used on different touch points are also becoming important, according to Skjoldan.
"When it comes to content management capabilities," Rietsch added, "usability, interoperability and personalization are table stakes today." Enterprises need tools to manage web content across the organization as more and more departments play a part in the customer experience.
Rasmus SkjoldanChief marketing officer, Magnolia International
Additionally, these tools must be able to work in tandem with other systems and technologies to prevent data silos and deliver content to the right places at the right time. It's also important to ensure e-commerce sites have the capabilities in place to personalize the experience for users -- or else risk losing them to a competitor.
"We still very often see that content management and e-commerce systems are not properly coupled and integrated," Rietsch explained. This lack of tight integration often results in a customer experience that isn't seamless and is difficult to manage.
Getting more personal
Personalization will go beyond simply identifying customer product, brand, medium, payment and delivery preferences, Chargebee's Nandu said. He expects to see content and commerce plays on newer platforms such as virtual reality, augmented reality, conversational interfaces and omnichannel delivery.
AI-powered personalization and machine learning tools for matching an audience to offers are slowly starting to emerge, according to Magnolia's Skjoldan, who expects omnichannel delivery to become a mainstream reality by 2022. "This combination of always-individual offers, delivered in an always-right context, should lead to a much more satisfying digital shopping experience," he said.
Also, expect to see headless platforms that communicate with different types of apps running on consumer devices, Aimeos' Sendetzky said. Current content systems tend to send new webpages in response to clicks. Headless systems make it easier to generate unified experiences across different customers, such as progressive web apps, voice interfaces and mobile apps using the same back-end code with protocols like REST or GraphQL rather than HTTP used for webpages.