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How headless CMS enables future content trends

The level of flexibility is a critical factor in how well companies can capitalize on current and future content trends.
Katie Lawson

Written by Katie Lawson

Jul 10, 2024
How headless CMS enables future content trends

We spoke to 10 industry experts about the future of content, and perhaps unsurprisingly, after last year’s AI explosion, the next wave of content trends is all about data and scale.

Sometimes pointed to as a trend in itself, “going headless” is more aptly the foundational step that organizations need to take to support any data-driven strategy. A headless content management system (CMS) structures content data so that it can be used in many ways across many channels. As discussed below, this level of flexibility is a critical factor in how well companies can capitalize on current and future content trends.

#1. Hyper-personalization moves from fantasy to feasible

71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions, according to a report by McKinsey & Company, and when personalization is offered, the majority of consumers are more likely to purchase (76%), repurchase (78%), and recommend the brand to friends (78%).

In a survey of 400 technology leaders about the state of content management, 93% said they want to use more data sources to drive personalization and services. Going beyond basic segmentation and using multiple data sets and real-time interactions to tailor content to an “audience-of-one” has long been a North Star, but two major challenges have kept companies from achieving this level of hyper-personalization: the scale of content needed to support it and the data maturity to drive it.

With the rapid rise of AI content generation, it looks like scale will no longer be an issue. As Dom Selvon, CTO at Apply Digital, puts it:

The impact of AI on content management will be singularly game changing. We will see hyper-personalization becoming a reality because the software is enabling the content editors to produce multiple variants of the same themed content. Personal AIgents will be dispatched into the ether to perform bulk content related tasks around digital asset management, content translation, analytics reaction, research, and more.
Dom SelvonCTO at Apply Digital

Even with a mountain of content variants, hyper-personalization can’t happen if your CMS limits you to rigid page templates, static segmentation, or makes it hard to integrate with third-party data sources. A traditional CMS is often the bottleneck to advanced personalization.

A main principle of headless CMS is that all content and functionality are delivered via APIs, which means headless content is stored as structured data. This structure is why headless content can adapt to many different frontend “heads,” easily integrate with third-party data, and be leveraged by data-driven personalization tools.

Structured content also allows teams to more efficiently create variants for personalization. Instead of creating a full landing page for each audience segment, variants can be made for smaller content blocks, such as banners, images, editorial content, product descriptions, or recommendations. A personalization engine can then mix and match different variants of these blocks to hyper-personalize content for each visitor.

Traditional, template-based CMS limits personalization to static segmentation Headless CMS structures content data, allowing for dynamic hyper-personalization driven by multiple data sources.

Traditional content vs structure content

#2. Omnichannel customers mandate consistent content

Omnichannel shoppers expect to be able to use any channel interchangeably, which means content needs to be consistent whether they find it on the website, app, marketplaces, social media, or in-store. For instance, 68% of shoppers have checked online for product availability at a nearby store, and 24% have used their mobile device to scan barcodes for more information while in a store.

Keeping channels consistent is easier said than done. 92% of technology leaders say it’s a challenge to deliver content from different sources to different channels, and 64% say it’s difficult to re-use content with their existing CMS.

Headless CMS was designed for an omnichannel world. Content data is stored completely independent of presentation so that it can be delivered in many different ways across different frontend “heads”. Meaning one CMS, and one set of content, can serve any and all digital channels. This decoupling of front- and backend logic also allows teams to add, iterate on, and remove different channels without worrying about causing a waterfall of errors on the backend.

Headless CMS is more than a trend; it’s a strategic tool for future-proofing content management. Technical teams have long run against the confines of monoliths and yearn for the flexibility to pair any number of frontend web and mobile applications with a unified backend data platform. Headless CMS is a critical piece in that evolution.
Ryan RoemerCEO at Nearform

With headless, content is not tied to a specific page template or presentation style. Instead, content can be broken down into reusable, modular pieces. This could be a single asset like a block of text or pricing data, or it could be a cluster of information like product attributes, case studies, or recommendation logic.

Companies can repurpose these modules to quickly build out new channels, which is how the Oetker Group is able to use one CMS to efficiently mange the websites, apps, and portals for a portfolio of brands across 40 markets.

#3. AI catalyzes new content strategies

AI-related startups raised nearly $50 billion in 2023, according to Crunchbase, with the 10 biggest deals accounting for $20 billion of that. It’s likely that every business will soon, or already does, feel the pressure to incorporate some type of AI solution into their workflow.

Generative AI clearly comes to mind when talking about content, and the rate of adoption of GenAI tools is rapid. In a series of polls taken by attendees of Gartner webinars related to AI, 19% said their organization was piloting or in production with GenAI solutions in spring of 2023 and by fall that number rose to 55%. In an August 2023 survey, Gartner found that 65% of marketers are already using GenAI for content creation.

AI’s role in content generation is a significant leap forward. Beyond just managing and structuring data, AI can actively contribute to content creation. It can generate necessary data for different views, widgets, and publishing platforms, ensuring the content is relevant, engaging, and tailored to each platform’s context.
Raúl Raja MartínezCTO at Xebia Functional

AI is a game changer for content, but trying to get cutting edge AI services to work with a traditional CMS can feel like trying to send a text message with a rotary phone.

AI needs good data to provide good results, and many companies struggle to manage content data with their legacy CMS systems. 92% of technology leaders find it a challenge to keep different data and content types consistent using their current CMS, and the majority say that the ability to better expose content and data could unlock revenue potential (77%) and reduce operational cost (74%).

By structuring content data, a headless CMS makes it easier for teams to define a set of consistent content models, the data required for each model, and how the models relate to one another. This organization can help AI services like chatbots, personalization, content creation, and analytics better navigate your data and uncover interesting relationships between content, context, and customer.

#4. Site security remains a top priority

A major security risk with WordPress and other monolithic CMS systems is that, because frontend and backend code is intertwined, the elements and plugins that let users provide data can open vulnerabilities that give bad actors access to your backend code.

A headless CMS completely separates front- and backend code, so that frontend channels can only retrieve data from the backend via an API. This lowers the overall surface area that is susceptible to an attack, which is one of the major security advantages a headless CMS has over traditional CMS.

Traditional vs headless CMS security

As tech stacks get larger and data scenarios become more complex, content security becomes a big task. 92% of technology leaders find it challenging to manage the number of different APIs, standards, and interfaces needed for development, and 73% say they have limited internal resources to develop their CMS.

Choosing a CMS that already has security features in place, like custom roles and granular permissions, can ease the burden for internal development teams. While working with software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions means that updates are automatic and vendors take on the responsibility of infrastructure maintenance as well as keeping the platform up to date with major changes in cloud services, programming languages, web browsers, and other key technologies.

#5. Data gets harmonized with a unified content layer

From ramping up personalization, to launching new channels, to using GenAI, the trends are pointing to a lot more content being created. For all this content to be fully leveraged, it can’t be left sitting in siloed data sources.

Siloed content within an organization

Source: Future of Content, a survey of 400 technology leaders on the state of CMS

The API-based delivery of headless content is a major step towards unifying data, as it allows content to be delivered to and consumed from any source. Next comes coordinating the APIs of all your services, sources, and best-of-breed platforms, which can be quite complex. 88% of technology leaders say managing middleware is an innovation bottleneck.

Hygraph is a headless CMS that takes on the middleware challenge.

Hygraph’s Content Federation makes it possible to fetch data from multiple sources using a single GraphQL API call. It provides an aggregation layer, or content graph, that creates a standardized way to query content from all sources. Data continues to live in the original source and is fetched as needed, so developers can bring together a diverse set of best-of-breed tools without complex integrations or duplicate data. Content editors can then access relevant data directly in the CMS, allowing them to combine assets from multiple sources to quickly create rich content.

The harmonization aspect is crucial. It’s not merely about accumulating content from different sources but ensuring coherence and consistency across the board. Harmonization helps unify content formats, languages, and structures, ensuring that regardless of the source, the information aligns and resonates with the brand’s voice and values.
Markus LorenzeCommerce Consultant at datrycs

By making it easy for both developers and content creators to work with remote data sources, Content Federation helps companies achieve things like bring together over 500 sources in a learning management system, or programmatically add 2,000 videos each month to a streaming platform.

To excel at any of the trends discussed above, teams need flexibility in how they create, connect, and deliver content. A traditional CMS that locks you into specific templates, plugins, or ways of working is going to hold you back from experimenting with the new tools and strategies shaking up the content space.

A headless CMS, with its ability to structure content data and deliver it in many different ways, is the ultimate solution to support today’s content trends - and adapt to future ones.

Content TrendTraditional CMSHeadless CMS
Hyper-personalizationLimited to static, rules-based segmentation based on just a few data sources.Structured, modular content can be leveraged by cutting-edge tools to deliver hyper-personalization based on many data sources.
OmnichannelContent is often locked to a particular channel, and new channels require building content and logic from the ground up.Content can be reused across channels, and new channels can be launched quickly by using existing content, logic, and infrastructure.
AIInconsistent data and content types limit AI’s ability to generate useful results.Robust data management makes it easy to integrate content with AI services.
SecurityFrontend vulnerabilities open the door for hackers to access backend code.Frontend and backend code is completely separate, so there is less surface area for an attack.
Unified content layerContent is siloed between different channels and data sources, the cost and time needed to build and maintain integrations is prohibitive.API-first approach allows content data to be delivered to and consumed from any source. API-first approach allows content data to be delivered to and consumed from any source. Hygraph’s Content Federation further simplifies data unification by using one GraphQL API call to fetch data from all sources.

Looking to level up content? Get in touch to discuss how your team can make the move to headless.

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Blog Author

Katie Lawson

Katie Lawson

Content Writer

Katie is a freelance writer based in Amsterdam who talks a lot about B2B SaaS and MACH technologies. She’s always looking for good book recommendations.

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