Managing content becomes a more complex task as companies and brands slowly turn into publishers. To be found and talked about online, one does need extraordinary, relevant content. An additional challenge lies in the integration of webcontent with product catalogues and unstructured information such as user generated comments and reviews. Choosing a CMS is therefore a decision that needs to be thought trough. The abundant choice of CMS solutions will not make the job easier, but to narrow down your options and guide you through the process, some important aspects to consider are dicussed in this post.
Big or small? Choose a scalable solution.
Your website is a living creature, it will grow, and with a bit of luck reproduce, as your business grows and expands to different markets. To be prepared for this, ask yourself how well the CMS of your choice is handling such expansion. Can it support different domains (e.g. .com, .eu, .co.uk) and multilingual sites ? Would such expansion be costly or require a premium licence fee? On a shorter term it’s important to know how easily you can manipulate the system yourself. Adding new pages, news items or jobs is pretty standard but if you take your marketing seriously you also might want to change images, featured content and personalized offers on your homepage. Think about how user friendly this process should be and who in your company will be taking care of it.
To Open Source or not?
Open source solutions are becoming more popular, and then we are not talking hobbyists. Companies, big and small, have embraced open source as a viable solution for web projects. WordPress and Drupal are definitely at the forefront of these thriving developer communities. Getting rid of expensive license fees seems attractive, nevertheless hidden development costs and dependence on developers has to be considered. The maturity of the companies’ IT department can play a role here. With in-house php / drupal developers it’s reasonable to manage everything yourself and further develop to your needs where the community would fail. For smaller companies this might mean depending on a 3rd party and that might not be worth the cost of a CMS with support and updates included. Of course the scale of the project plays a big role as well. WordPress is easy to use but has it’s limitations if you are looking to set up an e-commerce or multilingual site in the long run. It’s perfect for campaign and portfolio sites though and of course blogs. Drupal on the other hand is more robust and offers more possibilities to integrate product and customer databases, suited for e-commerce sites and more complex web projects. Usability might be more of an issue. Another exciting open source CMS is Umbraco, ( .Net based, comes with premium support if wanted).
Personalisation and segmentation on the Splinternet
On the web your geograpical reach is virtually unlimited. As a consequence you must be prepared to cater a lot of different needs and expectations. Knowing your target audience is essential and means a whole lot more than translating your website in the audience’s mother tongue. Cultural differences mean that people value other aspects of your business and evaluate visual stimuli differently. Customizing landing pages according to culture is therefore a good idea. Segmentation options might be the strong point of licensed products. Current solutions ( such as Fatwire, Hybris or Ektron) commonly offer possibilities to segment and customize content based on country, language, (entry) keyword, landing page, navigation path and allow integration with a variety of CRM and ERP packages. Spindoctor also developped a segmentation plugin for Umbraco.
Using data to create new services
Your website is a marketing, sales or service instrument, in one way or another, through sales or branding it must generate income. Your CMS, in combination with customer and product data, offers interesting opportunities to develop new services for your customers, solely based on data. Thinking creatively of possible data combinations could serve your customers better, without too much effort or investment. Buyer profiles, e-mail lists, product information, web content, reviews etc. allow a tailored approach to various segments. Throw stock information, location based services or mobile apps in the mix and you’ll realise the possiblities are endless. Make sure your system allows for integration with these various databases.
Creating use cases to guide your decision
As a company, you will sooner or later sit around the table with a CMS reseller or implementation partner. Now certainties exist to prepare for, and use cases happen to be a very effective preparation. In the end, it’s how you want to USE the system that matters the most. Unfortunately that’s often overshadowed by the bickering between the IT and Finance department. Use cases sketch scenario’s end users will encounter whilst using the system. They point out which tasks have to be carried out, by whom and for what aim. (Similar profiling techniques are used to decide on the information architecture of the site from the visitors point). Additionally, it’s wise to specify which data and reports you want to get out of the system for marketing and sales purposes. Those data are valuable output and can be put to use in other systems to enrich customer data or analysed to spur innovation and optimization of the web presence.
Most of this post is based on insights acquired at the Content Management Forum 2011, in Brussels.
Resources and Solutions :
- Fatwire (CMS)
- Ektron (CMS)
- Hybris (CMS)
- Spindoctor (segmentation plugin for Umbraco )
- WordPress (open source CMS )
- Drupal (open source CMS)
-Emagic (.Net CMS)
- Umbraco (Open source ASP.NET CMS )
- Magento (E-commerce)
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