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From smart speakers to smartwatches, new touchpoints are sprouting up all the time—and marketers have to figure out ways to engage with their customers through each of them if they want to keep offering an omnichannel experience.

According to the IT crowd, a headless content management system is the key to sending content to IoT devices. The only problem with that is, for the non-technical marketer, a headless CMS sounds more like a complication than a solution.

In this article, we dive into headless content management from a marketer’s perspective and dispel six misconceptions marketers have about a headless CMS. By the end, you'll understand the power of a headless CMS and likely want to join the headless marketing revolution yourself.

Headless CMS: a marketer’s definition

First, let’s define what a headless CMS is, without getting too technical.

With a traditional CMS like WordPress or Joomla, the content you produce can only be presented in one way: through a template built for a web browser and mobile web browser.

That’s great if you just want to build a website, but problems arise when you want to create content for use across screens at your next event, or for the smart speakers inside your customers’ homes. That’s because the content inside your traditional CMS is tightly paired with the templating system. There’s no flexibility.

With a headless CMS, on the other hand, your content is no longer tightly paired with any template. Instead, your content is “headless”—meaning it can be given any required “head” or front-end template depending on the channel.

The result? A content management system that can send your content to any device or touchpoint without you having to duplicate any work.

We know what you might be thinking; this all sounds simple, but the reality might be very different. After all, headless content management systems were built solely for developers, right?

Misconception #1: A headless CMS is a developer tool

While it’s true that some headless CMS solutions are built solely for developers, leaving marketers out in the cold, it’s not true of the entire headless CMS landscape. This is an understandable misconception considering most headless CMSs don’t cater to marketers.

However, Sitecore’s hybrid-headless CMS solution caters to both developers and marketers, with marketer-friendly features such as WYSIWYG editing, inline editing, and even content previews—three features we’ll discuss below.

Misconception #2: Headless CMSs don’t support rich text editing

Many pure headless CMS solutions provide a back-end editor that enables content creators to input their content into content fields. It can be daunting, not to mention restrictive.

This results in a heavy reliance on the IT team, even for tasks that with a traditional CMS would be simple. In these situations, marketing teams aren’t just stripped of their tools, they’re stripped of their independence.

A hybrid-headless CMS like Sitecore, on the other hand, empowers marketers with features like WYSIWYG editing, digital asset management for inserting media, as well as inline editing. Sitecore’s Experience Editor comes with a number of presentation components and templates including content blocks, presentation prompts, and web forms to help you structure your content and its presentation.

Misconception #3: You can’t preview content with a headless CMS

When headless content management systems first hit the scene, marketing teams noticed one gaping flaw in the concept: you can’t preview content before it goes live. Once again, the removal of the front-end templating system meant that—while content could be distributed anywhere—marketers had to do it blindly or with heavy reliance on a front-end development team.

To alleviate this issue, Sitecore comes with a Live Editing feature that marketers can use to preview and edit content in real-time. To keep everything organized, only one content author can edit at any one time.

Misconception #4: A headless CMS will complicate our martech stack

On the contrary, if there’s one thing a headless CMS does well, it’s integrations. Using the same technology that connects your content to any device, a headless CMS can connect with any application or martech tool on the market. You can even integrate a headless CMS into a custom-built application.

For instance, Oriflame—a Swedish natural beauty company—used Sitecore to connect with two popular Chinese apps, Alipay and WeChat, when entering the Chinese market. With Sitecore acting as the connector, Oriflame was able to integrate these two apps into their digital ecosystem in order to gather customer data and provide personalized content.

Energy firm Innogy used Sitecore in a similar fashion with custom-built IoT sensors that were installed on customers’ gas meters. With Sitecore’s headless CMS technology, Innogy was able to integrate with and push and pull data from these meters—providing their customers with real-time gas meter readings, as well as personalized tips on how to reduce their energy consumption.

Misconception #5: A headless CMS will further silo our marketing team

Just as a headless CMS can unify your martech stack, it can also unify your marketing and content production teams.

A headless CMS acts as a centralized platform, allowing marketers to produce content for all channels, devices, and touchpoints under the same digital roof. In other words, you no longer need to produce or duplicate your content inside different tools for the sake of using different channels.

Once all your content is stored centrally, your broader marketing department can overcome inconsistent messaging, as well as the organizational silos caused by the spectrum of martech and publishing tools your brand is attempting to utilize.

Misconception #6: The headless CMS movement is a fad

It’s easy to label the headless CMS movement as an unnecessary and fleeting fad. After all, traditional CMSs still do their jobs just fine.

However, the headless CMS wasn't born out of boredom; it was born out of necessity. How else can brands efficiently produce content once, and then distribute it across the continuously expanding spectrum of channels? How long can brands ignore consumer demands for innovative experiences on their latest devices?

Traditional CMSs, which are bound by their rigid, pre-configured “heads,” simply weren’t built for the IoT era. They can’t push content to emerging channels, such as a Virtual Reality headset or a smart appliance. And when it comes to devices that make use of voice rather than a screen, such as an Alexa-enabled car, content that’s intertwined with one user interface is redundant.

Far from being a fad, a headless CMS is an investment in modern marketing—the type of marketing that consumers actually want to see and hear.

Harness the power of headless marketing

Now that you’ve seen that a headless CMS can serve the everyday marketer, it’s time to grow beyond your traditional marketing channels and embrace the touchpoints that consumers are already flocking toward.

Gartner forecasts that consumers will have activated over 12.8 billion IoT devices by 2020, from wearable devices to smart refrigerators. Meanwhile, a further 7.5 billion connected devices will be installed by businesses, serving content to customers at malls, on streets, and at major transportation hubs.

With a headless CMS, your omnichannel marketing initiatives can finally stretch to those devices—and all the devices we’ve yet to imagine.

The headless CMS landscape is healthier than ever. Make sure you choose the right CMS provider for your needs. As we saw in this article, not every headless solution was built to serve the marketer, so be sure to select one that was.

Headless content management and headless marketing are the keys to the connected future, and the sooner you embrace headless, the stronger your competitive advantage will be. Learn more about headless CMSs.


Mike Shaw is Platform Product Marketing Manager at Sitecore. Follow him on Twitter @me_mikeshaw or find him on LinkedIn.