A headless CMS has no front-end components that control how digital content is presented to users but there’s a lot more about them to learn! In this article, we will explore different aspects about headless CMS technology.

Marketers have been using content management systems (CMSs) to manage their online content for a good few years now but the need for omnichannel marketing has turned CMS on its head. This has led us to the new frontier of the headless API, the headless website, and the hybrid CMS - and ultimately the creation of what is now the well regarded headless CMS.

So why is a headless CMS considered so beneficial? 

It’s all about ease, speed, and convenience - and we know time equals money in business. With a headless CMS, your creative teams can work solely on crafting the content – blogs, images, and more - without having to work on the presentation layer which deals with how the content appears on different devices - mobiles, smart kiosks, smartwatches, and so on. That part is handled by application programming interfaces (APIs) – software that you can configure to link the headless CMS with as many devices as you want to display all kinds of content in myriad ways on different devices.

To understand where we are today with headless CMSs, it helps to appreciate where we have come from.

History of CMS Solutions

A traditional content management system is software that enables non-technical users to store, organise, and publish web content easily. They essentially enable users to create and edit content on a back-end and the system then displays that content on a pre-built front-end delivery layer. 

As the CMS solution set has evolved, it has become a software platform used to manage all aspects of digital content in a firm – its creation, distribution, storage, and modification. Today, a CMS plays such an important role in an organisation’s tool kit because digital content is the currency that defines engagement within and outside of today’s businesses.

Naturally, quick and easy access to this digital content is essential. Companies rely on CMS platforms, specialist CMS architecture, and other specialised software solutions to manage digital content and effectively deliver optimised online experiences.

Now let’s move toward an understanding of headless content management and the evolution of headless. Over time, CMSs have been very useful, especially for marketers to easily upload, edit, and manage content for websites without the assistance of a technical coder or software developer.

But as technology started to shift away from the desktop to mobile and other devices, new delivery layers needed to be created. These new layers and devices made content uploading more burdensome for both developers and marketers. In order to circumvent these shortcomings, developers began to create headless solutions.

What is a Headless Content Management System?

A headless CMS - also known as a decoupled CMS - is a system with no front-end components or head to determine how the content is presented to end users.

Content instead can be published anywhere, across many channels through an API. With an API, front-end developers are free to build as many heads as they want such as websites, apps, kiosks, smartwatches, and others for more ways to deliver richer and faster user experiences. This is since these front-end presentations are not tied to the page layout system of a CMS. In addition, separating the front-end presentation layer speeds the time to market and allows for integration with other third-party technologies, keeping content future-proof and scalable for upcoming innovative devices. However, in order to use a CMS headlessly, a decoupled architecture must be in place to support a pure headless approach.

Why Headless CMS is Integral for Scaling Customer Experiences

With an ever-increasing number of channels, it’s easier than ever to reach customers. But organisations need to ask whether the sheer quantity of digital touch points could be affecting the quality of the customers' experience. The competitive edge pushing companies to new heights is not technology alone, but the way it is leveraged to create powerful customer experiences.

This e-book is a great next step on your educational journey about headless CMS systems. It examines headless architecture, and more specifically, today’s modern headless content management systems, as the leverage that businesses need to rise to the occasion.

Download the E-book >

What is Decoupled Architecture?

In a traditional CMS, your architecture is coupled, or connected, but in order to leverage a headless CMS, your architecture needs to be decoupled. Decoupled architecture refers to a state of an IT environment in which two or more systems somehow work or are connected without being directly connected. It is a type of IT operation environment where systems, elements, or components have very little knowledge about other components. The decoupled architecture also allows for a variety of approaches in terms of content delivery, which fall into three categories: traditional CMS, a hybrid approach, and full headless.

However, a full headless CMS has its own downfalls - marketers may struggle due to the lack of traditional content editing features, such as site building and page layout. To combat these problems, a hybrid CMS has pre-built front-end delivery tools which are connected to the back-end through APIs. It has all the benefits of a headless CMS but still retains its head or delivery layer, just detached. This means that marketers can still access templates, publishing tools, and content previews before an API pushes out the content to the different front-ends.

Here are the differences between a traditional and headless CMS depicted. Like we mentioned before, a headless CMS is contained within the decoupled architecture that allows users to leverage a traditional, hybrid, or headless CMS based on whatever best fits their needs.

How Does Headless Fit into Your Marketing Strategy?

The need for omnichannel marketing is evident. According to Google, about 85% of online shoppers start a purchase on one device but will finish on another. But it’s not simply enough to be present on multiple channels, rather enterprises need to ensure that the brand, messaging, and experiences are seamless and uniform from platform to platform, creating a fluid customer journey throughout every touchpoint.

If executed successfully, omnichannel marketing can:

  • Retain 89% of customers with strong omnichannel engagement strategies in comparison to only 33% with weak strategies.
  • Achieve customer satisfaction rates of up to 23 times higher.
  • Generate 14.6% year-over-year increase in annual income.

Yet according to Gartner, over 90% of marketers struggle to seamlessly connect more than three channels on the buyer journey. Failing to deliver omnichannel experiences can also result in a 10% loss in revenue. Overcome these challenges with a foundation established by headless technology to be able to deliver seamless customer experiences regardless of what new devices may be invented in the future.

Major Business Benefits of a Headless CMS

As this article has explained, a headless CMS allows companies to more easily deliver higher quality customer experiences on a wide range of devices and ecosystems, supporting the benefits of omnichannel marketing. The business advantages of omnichannel marketing include better customer segmentation, greater data collection and analytics capabilities, and more cost-effective branding and marketing.

In tandem, the benefits of a headless CMS include being able to more easily orchestrate the seamless omnichannel experience with more consistent and relevant touch points along the customer journey. But the benefits extend beyond this. A headless CMS also allows for improved security via a read-only API and allows integration with geographically dispersed content delivery networks which reduces the risk of distributed denial-of-service DDoS attacks.

They are also more flexible in the sense of giving developers the freedom to build on their framework of choice, without the frustrations of being limited by a traditional environment. A headless CMS also provides an organisation with greater scalability, because a decoupled front-end and back-end lets companies scale, upgrade, or customise their websites without taking the whole system offline. 

How a Headless CMS Benefits Marketers and Developers with Extra Flexibility

Among the useful features within Liferay’s digital experience platform (Liferay DXP), one of the most exciting is headless functionality. This functionality means that organisations can now leverage a full array of headless capabilities on Liferay DXP.

We know that in the digital era, businesses are hyperfocused on engaging customers with personalised content through multiple channels at all stages of the customer journey. Understanding these needs, we’ve implemented headless technology into the latest version of Liferay DXP. Check out this article, 3 Reasons to Leverage the Headless CMS on Liferay DXP, to discover some really practical applications you can apply to your own business.

Ready to Demo Liferay’s Headless CMS?

If you’d like to discover more and explore Liferay DXP, request a demo with our specialist team and learn how our headless CMS capabilities can match your current technology environment and organisational structure to meet your business and digital goals. We look forward to hearing from you!