Overview and tips for choosing between full-scale and open source CMS and CEM platforms.

When it comes to managing content, business and organizations are presented with three choices: open source CMS, CEM and full-scale CMS solutions. But what’s the difference between the three and the best way to choose?

Need basic content management? Consider an open source CMS.

Most open source CMS solutions on the market today are scalable, highly functional and flexible. The major players are well-supported and have a huge ecosystem of solutions and starters built in.

However, the primary function of an open source CMS is simply to manage content. That’s all. Higher functions like personalization, true customer experience management and multichannel marketing are generally not well-supported.

Popular open source CMS platforms include:

  • Wordpress
  • Drupal
  • Joomla
  • Liferay
  • DotNetNuke

Looking for deeper content management and marketing automation? Consider a full-scale CMS.

When managing content on a deeper and more complex scale, CMS solutions like Sitecore, Kentico and similar platforms are often the winning bet. Although they require a greater investment than open source CMS, when considering content reuse and ROI, the cost can make sense for managing a multitude of content and customer types.

One key thing to understand is that many CMS options have changed completely over the last five or so years. Most are no longer web CMS in the traditional sense—they are customer experience management (CEM) platforms with many robust features.In-Content-—-Headless-CMS_In-Content.png

CEM Platform Features

Integrated email, marketing automation, commerce and analytics

With true CEM solutions, marketers can orchestrate multi-step marketing workflows between digital destinations (the website, the mobile app), commerce and email.

A sample workflow might look something like this:

  • Sign up for a free download
  • Get a response via email
  • Track that response back through repeated interactions with the website
  • Manage commerce transactions on platform
  • Score sessions based on actions
  • Review engagement data by named user if they are identified, or by session if anonymous

In short, the CEM moves marketers far beyond “a database for content” and into understanding and influencing individual user experiences.

Targeted content based on session analytics.

CEM platforms allow content to be personalized based on user origin, onsite activity, repeated visits and other anonymous behavior. This is only possible because the platform provides (without a lot of custom hacking) session data on a discrete level. For example, if a user comes from x geography, searches y phrase and visits z pages, the next time they come back, I show them an xyz related content set. 

Built for multichannel and integration.

Newer CEM platforms are built for structured content reuse, customized author experiences, metadata, and taxonomy. While most CMS platforms manage structured content types, true CEM solutions make content reuse easy and modular. This makes building content APIs, syndicating content and getting single-sourced content out to various publication destinations easier, including enterprise-managed domains and apps.

With so many marketing technology vendors, integration matters. APIs make it far more straightforward to integrate with martech, but also along other data sources, including DAM, CRM, ERP or LMS systems. When you want to align content among many systems, CEM platforms provide all the handles and levers.

Making the Choice

Some clients really do need a traditional CMS. For those who need to do more than simply manage content, however, a CEM is a better choice.

If a client simply needs a true database for content (input/output of content, management of publishing workflow, multilingual, core content management), WordPress is a good option that scales well, as does Drupal and other open CMS platforms. Most offer enterprise infrastructure and support to go as big as needed pushing content to massive audiences, but they are still CMS approaches to publishing.

True CEM solutions offer a different option for marketers who need a unified way to organize deep, discrete data and customer interactions across channels. CEM platforms are being used far beyond marketing, too, with more parts of the enterprise using corporate CEM as the interaction point for their digital presence. HR, support, operations, partner relations and intranets and are all aligning towards delivery of content experiences via CEM. How they do that is another story for another day, but it does involve a lot of orchestration.

In terms of coding, it doesn’t make sense to custom hack even a simple CMS implementation anymore. The era of custom, go-it-alone, roll-your-own CMS ended in 2005. Now there are endless open and proprietary platforms, frameworks and toolsets that offer massive efficiency gains.

When looking for true CEM platforms, terminology can be confusing. Customer experience management can be called CEM, CX or CXM. It is also sometimes referred to as digital experience management (DXM or DX).

So, are open source CMS solutions like WordPress a substitute for full-scale CMS and CEM platforms? Most agencies and integrators agree that it depends on whether the goal is to simply manage content or deliver rich, complex customer experiences. Starting from that decision is the key.

[A]’s CMS Comparison Matrix

Download [A]’s Guide to CMS Platform Selection for more detailed steps on choosing a content management system. The guide includes:

  • Best practices for performing a CMS comparison
  • Tips for breaking a tie
  • Using impartial references
  • Running and scoring client references
Choose the best CEM or CMS platform for your needs.