What is Content-as-a-Service, and Why Is It Vital to Delivering Omnichannel Experiences at Speed?

Headless and Hybrid CMS Innovation
by Christoph Feddersen

A lot has changed in the digital experience world over the last five years. Customers now demand personalized content and experiences across a growing array of channels, whether online, offline, in IoT smart device, mobile app, digital sign or any combination thereof. And they expect those experiences to be consistent across time.

Research firm Gartner estimates that over 20 billion connected IoT things will be in use across a range of industries by 2020. This ever evolving, complex content ecosystem has put pressure on the website-first technical approach in favor just a few years ago. It made sense then. Now, having screens and channels everywhere requires us to get smart about how content is delivered and presented. We have to keep content fresh, relevant and hyper-personalized to meet shifting consumer desires and engage in new and exciting ways that align to their individual lifestyles. In addition, new technologies enable more innovative and engaging experiences to be created on these devices.

The challenge organizations face today is twofold: How do you get personalized content to the growing diversity of digital touchpoints at speed; and How do you enable developers and marketers to tap into the power of these new touchpoints and channels wihtout being tied down by the disadvantages of a traditional, monolithic content management system (CMS). The answer is Headless CMS including Content-as-a-Service (CaaS). This post will focus specifically on CaaS capabilities and how it is the enabling factor of the headless CMS model.

What is Content-as-a-Service and How Did it Evolve?

Content-as-a-Service is the ability to make available structured content--commonly referred to as content fragments—that other apps, websites and IoT devices can consume. Through the separation of content, layout and structure, content is no longer published from the CMS in a pre-defined channel (push principle), but can simply be consumed by any channel’s front end on demand (pull principle). Thanks to Content-as-a-Service, new digital touchpoints can be added much faster, reducing digital complexity and allowing companies to go to market with unprecedented speed while at the same time providing superior digital experiences.

Looking back twenty years to 1998, the Harvard Business Review introduced the concept of the Experience Economy and predicted that “leading-edge companies—whether they sell to consumers or businesses—will find that the next competitive battleground lies in staging experiences.” How right they were. But nobody could have predicted then the volume of channels that would evolve, or the speed with which their potential successors are already emerging, enabling completely new user experiences and making solutions such as Content-as-a-Service a critical part of any company’s digital experience ecosystem.

Take, for example, the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT devices are a driving force behind digital transformation and are changing the way we use the Internet. Today, we get calls and offers via smart watches, design rooms using augmented reality apps, and control our smart home devices via language assistants such as Alexa, Siri or Google Home.

What sounds like a digital land of unlimited possibilities for consumers is at the same time a great challenge for companies thanks to the growing number of digital touchpoints through which they have to communicate with their customers. Managing this with traditional content management systems (CMS) is becoming increasingly difficult. More dynamic solutions such as Content-as-a-Service offer a better solution and strengthen the relationship between customers and companies.

Content-as-a-Service as a Problem Solver

Whether PC, Smartphone, Tablet or IoT device - 70% of Internet users consume digital content via more than one screen.[2] The same applies to online shopping: 67% of multiscreen shoppers start their shopping on a smartphone, for example, but end the buying process on a laptop. There are many examples of non-linear customer journeys, such as click-and-collect (ordering online, picking up on site), redeeming digital coupons in stationary shops, or location-based advertising to name only a few.

The diversity of channel touchpoints and therefore unique customer journeys is increasing exponentially. Traditional touchpoints such as websites, social media platforms, digital displays, apps and online shops continue to play their part. But IoT devices including everything from wearables and voice-controlled smart devices to cars and refrigerators are also increasing in importance. Companies therefore must provide customers with personalized content at more and more digital touchpoints - and this is exactly where Content-as-a-Service comes in. In fact, 84% of marketers see a comprehensive and cross-device strategy as critical to business success.1

Rethinking Content Management

In order to successfully engage customers across all channels, conventional content management via the "push" method alone is no longer sufficient—the primary reason being that every channel has its own unique presentation layer. IT departments in particular are thus faced with major challenges when it comes to supporting this explosion of content, channels and complexity while adapting to the organizational agility needed to empower content marketers. This often creates frustration among marketers who can only react slowly to trends and innovations and lag behind the market due to the high coordination and integration effort involved.

FirstSpirit CaaS offers a more agile approach. In contrast to a traditional CMS, content is no longer simply "pushed" into integrated channels, it is both “pushed” and "pulled" by a universal Content-as-a-Service interface.

Technically this is done by separating content into what is known as content fragments. Content fragments are editorial content, primarily text and related images without design or layout that are typically managed using a context-free (no design or layout) user interface, optimized for editing fragments. Once published using FirstSpirit CaaS, content fragments can easily be called up format-neutrally via REST API and consumed by apps, IoT devices and websites.

Content fragments—which can include text, images, videos or any other content type—are available to be pulled and consumed at the consumer’s touchpoint at any time and at speed for faster time to market, better experiences and increased revenues. No additional implementation is needed and content can be reused indefinitely. These content fragments can also be called as granularly as desired. An IoT device can access very small fragments such as one line of text, while other digital touchpoints can request complex content including an image, header, product text and video with a single request.

A special advantage: once content has been created, administrators, editors, and marketers don’t have to explicitly know where the content will flow. It goes wherever called and is assembled at whatever touchpoint (the front end) is being used to consume the content—a smart watch for example. No integration is needed. On the other hand, front-end developers who, for example, program an app for a sales partner do not necessarily have to be familiar with FirstSpirit. They use the Content-as-a-Service REST API to consume content fragments which are then published in the intended layouts, formats and structures of the channels and devices.

This highly scalable approach gives developers the ability to support new channels and digital touchpoints as they are introduced to the market. And at the same time, empowers marketers to satisfy customers as their preferred channels evolve. The required content can be centrally orchestrated from a single content source, which helps reduce content silos and provides a comprehensive view of the use and status of their content. Thanks to CaaS, developers and marketers are much more agile, accelerating the time-to-market of product and marketing campaigns.

Tailor-Made Customer Experiences for Higher Turnover

Content-as-a-Service gives companies enormous freedom to design the perfect digital experience since content is pulled together—at speed—for the right customer in the right context at the right touchpoint at the right time and assembled on the glass—that is to say, at the screen or display, regardless of what the display actually is.

A look at a younger generation of Internet users shows just how essential this is: almost half of all millennials say that good content influences their purchase decision.[5] 71% even go one step further and reject purchases from companies that provide poorly conceived and irrelevant content.2 A tailor-made customer experience can therefore have a lasting effect on company sales.

“Customers have the freedom to decide what they want to receive and how they want to receive it. Then, they just sit back and wait for delivery. Content-as-a-Service enables organizations to give customers contextually relevant, personalized experiences on the devices of their choice.”

Ann Rockley, CEO The Rockley Group, Inc.

Content Quality Increases - Thanks to Personalization and Content Control

Intelligent personalization makes a decisive contribution to business success because it recognizes correlations between content elements and their success (e.g. conversion rates). Qualitative and quantitative data on the use of the content played out make it possible to adapt future content perfectly to the target groups.

“Instead of delivering static, pre-bundled content, Content-as-a-Service can provide content configured to match customer product purchases, customized configurations, market, role, language, or any other variable that uniquely defines the individual.”

Ann Rockley, CEO The Rockley Group, Inc.

An important distinction: companies always keep sovereignty over the content delivered. This is especially true if the content is made available to third-party providers. With FirstSpirit CaaS, the company retains ownership of its content and provides its users with up-to-date and consistent content across all channels.

Four Use Cases for Content-as-a-Service

1. Publish content everywhere

  • In order to establish a lasting relationship with customers, their IoT devices must always offer new and relevant content. It doesn't matter whether it's a wristwatch, a vacuum cleaner or a car. Everything that has a display and is online needs content. With FirstSpirit CaaS you ensure that consistent and up-to-date information is available on all end devices at all times. At the same time you retain full control over your content, can make optimizations, eliminate errors or even play out warning messages.

2. Maximize content reach

  • International corporations with different brands, subsidiaries and country organizations also benefit greatly from using CaaS. It is crucial for these types of companies to be able to manage and share content from one central location. Without CaaS, it would be a herculean effort to distribute content from the corporate headquarters to subsidiaries and reselling partners worldwide, and then optimize it for each individual channel. Content-as-a-Service makes content available to all involved at once and is easily accessed via API. This ensures a consistent and targeted brand- or country-specific customer approach.

3. Group-wide content platforms

  • Complex, global corporate websites also have an advantage when using the FirstSpirit CMS as a centralized platform for all of their content needs. By using layout and editorial templates from a single source, brand consistency is maintained and editors get an intuitive tool making the creation, management and distribution of content worldwide fast and efficient. Adding Content-as-a-Service to the mix ensures customers get hyper-personalized digital experiences on all channels at any time for better engagement and increased revenues.

4. Voice assistants

  • In addition to Alexa and Siri, more and more so-called voice assistants are making their way into our everyday lives. Customer enquiries are increasingly being answered by chatbots. This presents companies with a completely new set of content distribution challenges. Looking forward, companies should look into how they can make relevant content available to customers linguistically and via terminal devices without displays. Content-as-a-Service offers a great solution to this problem as it enables content to be consumed in a completely format-neutral manner making voice assistants not only possible, but also easy to implement.

Conclusion: Content-as-a-Service Simplifies Content Management and Content Delivery

Whether IoT device, website, app or intranet, Content-as-a-Service makes omnichannel content distribution fast and easy. FirstSpirit CaaS reduces digital complexity for organizations while providing customers with better digital experiences anytime, anywhere—and at speed. The times in which marketing departments use traditional push methods to get content to touchpoints are drawing to a close. Instead, more and more companies are taking advantage of the more dynamic and agile Content-as-a-Service model and making hyper-personalized content the new norm and not the exception.

Want to see CaaS in action? Schedule a demo today!

[1]https://www.destatis.de/DE/PresseService/Presse/Pressemitteilungen/2018/09/PD18_330_634.html;jsessionid=7A3C8D301520F3BC55FCDE4354360B5A.InternetLive2

[2]https://www.go-gulf.ae/blog/multi-device-content-consumption/

[3]https://www.gartner.com/imagesrv/books/iot/iotEbook_digital.pdf

[4]https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Business%20Functions/McKinsey%20Digital/Our%20Insights/The%20Internet%20of%20Things%20The%20value%20of%20digitizing%20the%20physical%20world/The-Internet-of-things-Mapping-the-value-beyond-the-hype.ashx

[5]https://www.marketingtechnews.net/news/2018/feb/09/gen-z-engaging-10-hours-online-content-day/

[6]https://www.evergage.com/resources/ebooks/trends-in-personalization-survey-report/

[7]https://searchengineland.com/google-reveals-20-percent-queries-voice-queries-249917

About the author

Christoph Feddersen
VP Product Management