Given that we’re halfway through January, I figure it’s high time I get around to writing my predictions for the Web Content Management industry in 2010. Let me correct that: these are my hopes for the WCM industry in 2010. I believe there’s enough evidence to support the notion that my desires have a shot at coming to fruition, but I’ve come to grips with the fact that Nostradamus I am not.
I have a long list of both predictions and desires, but I’m focusing on my top 4 since they are all tied to a single theme, are the most likely to come to fruition, and are all driven by what we at Gilbane believe will be one of the four global, cross-industry Megatrends for 2010: Customer Experience. We believe that customer experience has been and will continue to be a significant basis for competitive advantage for all companies, as it defines their relationships with their customers. Experiences are personal, and thus, they must be tailored to the individual. Companies, now more than ever, need to identify (and prioritize!) their customer segments in order to individualize their experiences, and they must consider both stated and latent customer feedback as essential metrics. ALL interactions with customers then, whether in-person or via the web, must be 1) grounded in an understanding of the customer, and 2) empowered to adapt based on recent feedback. This valuation of customer experience is [finally] starting to raise the bar for the WCM industry…gone are the days when we can get away with merely providing a means of doing more with less. CIOs and CMOs alike are now recalling those long-promised ROI calculations which included increased sales, and they are holding the WCM vendors accountable. If they’re not doing so already, I sure hope they start because the technology has finally caught up to the hype. So, with that said, here goes…
Hope #1: Audience Engagement Frameworks [The almost forgotten promise of WCM]
If you haven’t heard of an Audience Engagement Framework, it’s because I just coined the phrase last week. Hopefully it’s at least partly self-explanatory. AEFs, in my opinion, are the future of marketing on the web. They will enable WCM to realize its full potential. AEFs include traditional WCM combined with web analytics, marketing automation, audience segmentation and dynamic content delivery. Analysts and thought leaders have been discussing the notion of Persuasive Content for a while — the idea that content is tailored to suit the consumer / visitor. The only bit I would add to this is that in order to be persuasive, one must also be perceptive. Perceptive Content, another phrase I’m laying claim to, is that which is informed by visitor behavior via analytics (preferably in real-time), search, user-generated content, etc. AEFs includes both the perceptive and persuasive aspects of content, and a handful of innovative vendors have already released varying degrees of the framework in their products. I fully expect this trend to continue in 2010. And, while some vendors will implement it more wholistically than others, at least we’re not talking about WYSIWYG editors being the biggest leap forward anymore. Or, at least, I’m not.
Hope #2: Search [Tightly integrated and much improved]
In 2009, we saw a mutual interest between the Search and WCM industries as Autonomy purchased Interwoven, Squiz bought Funnelback, and a number of WCM vendors such as Drupal and eZ Systems took major steps to integrate advanced search engines into their products. Many of the newly integrated products include features such as faceted search, auto-complete/suggest, content spotlighting, relevance ranking, and more. As I see it, this was more than just an attempt to improve the usability of their resulting websites in response to an ever-increasing shift towards search as the primary form of navigation. I believe, er, I hope, this trend is an intentional step towards improving a site’s perceptive capabilities. Our ability to understand our audience’s desires will most certainly be enhanced by attending to their searches, and our ability to manipulate the search results based on the visitor’s (and her associated segment’s) interaction with the website should only improve her [customer] experience which I’ve deemed so imperative above. If my guess is right, today’s notion of search within a website will get a serious upgrade in the year(s) to come.
Hope #3: User-Generated Content [WCM gets even more social!]
User-Generated Content such as micro-blogs, social networking, tagging, commenting, etc. is everywhere. Many WCM Vendors have offered various UGC features in their products for a while now, but most have not implemented ways for companies to capitalize on the resulting content. As the industry continues to brainstorm ways to monetize the “social” trend, a handful of vendors such as Alterian and Sitecore have begun leveraging this content to improve audience engagement, thus again following suit with my theme from Hope #1. It won’t take long for others to follow.
Hope #4: Globalization [Multi-lingual gets localized in the mainstream]
In the days of old, multi-lingual content capabilities were only promised by specialized vendors. However, as more and more companies are concerned with improving the experiences of their international customer base, a number of mainstream WCM vendors have begun to include these features in their products. With a few exceptions, the capabilities of most are relatively immature at this point, but 2010 should see an improved understanding of localization by mainstream vendors. The continued enhancement of such features should help to avoid what my colleagues have termed the Language Afterthought Syndrome, and the engaged conversation will be allowed to thrive worldwide.
Well, that’s it. I’d love to know your thoughts. We’ll be discussing many concepts related to the Audience Engagement Framework in the Customers & Engagement track at the upcoming Gilbane Conference in San Francisco, so mark your calendars for May 18-20! I also intend to write more on the subject and am just getting underway with some related research, so please stay tuned!
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