As companies increasingly use the Web to connect with customers, Web content management software must do more than just publish content. It has to enhance customer relationships.
As a result, some Web content management (WCM) software platforms are converging with customer relationship management (CRM) and customer experience management (CEM) software. WCM software is morphing beyond traditional Web publishing and shifting into customer engagement. While this development is still emerging, WCM vendors are recognizing the importance of more holistic WCM software to support the customer experience and engagement.
"Companies have a grander vision of what they want to do, and [that is] pushing them in the direction of doing more than running a website," said David Aponovich, a senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. "It comes under the heading of engaging with customers."
There are several reasons why WCM software is integrating CRM and CEM features. The primary reason is the increasingly customer-centric business environment. Secondarily, mobility and anywhere, anytime access have shaped and driven customer preferences. Increasingly, consumers want to engage with companies and products more directly and have anywhere, anytime access through the Web, social media and mobile devices.
Traditional WCM systems now need to deliver content to the diverse range of touch points that customers demand. That may be why nearly 40% of more than 700 respondents to TechTarget's October SearchContentManagement 2013 Reader Survey said they anticipated spending more on WCM tools in 2014, and more than a third anticipated upgrading their WCM system.
In fact, these respondents may consider more sophisticated digital experience platforms that combine traditional WCM platforms with CRM and CEM functions. These platforms encompass traditional WCM features such as page layout and templating, but also include CEM capabilities that provide an "interactive customer experience," according to Forrester's Market Overview: Digital Customer Experience Delivery Platforms. Those CEM features include marketing automation, Web analytics and social media monitoring. In many cases, WCM providers acquire or integrate with third-party, best-of-breed CEM software.
At Atlanta-based Cbeyond, a provider of cloud-based networking and infrastructure technologies, Crafter Software's WCM systems help serve up targeted, personalized content to first-time browsers and returning visitors to the site. "The way that Amazon recommends information based on what you have chosen in the past, we want to serve up dynamic content based on interest you have expressed," said Tom Ouellette, director of marketing and communications at Cbeyond. "When you come back to our site, we recognize where you have browsed previously and what you're interested in. So, someone researching cloud services, mobile, or PBX … we [can then] make sure they are aware of our other services and we can show them how these services can be woven together."
Tailoring content, targeting customers
But personalizing and targeting content is only the first layer of integrating CEM with WCM. The next step is to use WCM software to analyze customer behavior.
New England Biolabs in Ipswich, Mass., which produces and supplies enzyme reagents for life sciences research, is enhancing the customer experience on its website by using Sitecore's WCM software. With Sitecore, the company can gauge customer behavior and tailor content and campaigns to the right audience.
Tanya Osterfielddigital marketing manager, New England Biolabs
After a lengthy selection process, and after reviewing some 20 WCM systems, New England Biolabs deployed Sitecore in January 2013 because of its Web analytics and content reuse and targeting capabilities -- in short, because of its ability to enhance the customer experience through WCM software. "Sitecore was very attractive to us in terms of analyzing customer … navigation on the website," said Tanya Osterfield, digital marketing manager at New England Biolabs, "and being able to serve up specialized content and do behavioral targeting."
New England Biolabs can now distinguish between browsers on the site who are interested in purchasing products versus those who might simply be doing research. With its WCM, the company can also personalize content and target ads to those searching the site based on their behavior. Sitecore also makes it easy to make changes in one place and publish those changes to multiple pieces of content, given its reuse functions.
"These metrics will be very important to understand what different types of scientists are looking for," Osterfield said. The company can now see that "people are using X product and which pages they are browsing … and put contextual ads on that page, instead of plastering them across the site and hoping someone finds them," she said. "It's much more personalized for them."
Mobility has also put new pressures on WCM software to reach customers regardless of the device they are on. As a result, WCM systems need to accommodate responsive design, which allows companies to design page layouts once for many computing devices. Responsive design enables easy reading and navigation, and automatically adjusts site display to fit mobile phones, tablets and PCs.
Jason Mattox, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Behringer Harvard, a financial services company in Addison, Texas, said that the ability to enlist responsive design and HTML5 with its WCM system from Ektron was a deciding factor in choosing the software. The company wants to be able to accommodate mobile users. "More and more people are consuming things 'mobile-ly,'" Mattox said. "Ektron brought [the ability to accommodate responsive design] to the table. We can create the site once and it will work on a range of devices."
Better business processes through WCM
Open WCM software always provides the opportunity to streamline processes and better manage data in a central repository, with one "golden copy," so to speak. At New England Biolabs, for example, the WCM integrates with other back-end systems and enables the company to pull in that data and make it the authoritative copy. "If information lives in another system, we can pull [the information from] the data warehouse and pull [it] into Sitecore, and then I don't have to do it manually," Osterfield said. "So, we can optimize business systems and have golden copies of data instead of entering five copies of the data. It makes us more efficient -- and we have better data."
According to Osterfield, these kinds of features enable IT to work more strategically as well. Over the next several months, the company is launching three new WCM tools because IT has been freed from making "mundane site changes, because we are doing those ourselves. IT is now free for big-picture development and digital strategy for the site instead of making site updates," she said.
CEM equals company survival
According to Forrester's Aponovich, "This isn't a nice-to-have anymore; this is a must-have. C-level executives are saying we have to attack this very hard in 2014 and beyond." That resonates with experts' notion that customers are now at the center of the digital experience, and companies that neglect this reality will fail. "Consumers expect [companies to pay attention to customer experience], demand it and will go where it is the best for them," wrote Barb Mosher Zinck in her CMSwire article, From Web Content to Customer Experience Management, and Those Who Help You Get There.
"Companies are in this age of the customer," Aponovich said. "If they don't adopt the right tools and technologies, they could get left behind."
Web content management software quickens business pace
Bracing for the mobile revolution
Becoming a Web content management pro