Navigating the Content Management Maze

Today, a retailer’s e-commerce initiative extends beyond the online store. In fact, e-commerce typically becomes the central hub of a company’s overall digital strategy. Retailers strive to seamlessly integrate the brand into their catalogs and merchandising, and also to weave these components into the site experience as a whole. Factor in multi-channel integration and modifications for global commerce, and one can see how many brands find themselves struggling to find the most effective way to manage their content.

Selecting the right content management system (CMS) is critical to a brand’s overall digital strategy. It is a decision that needs to extend beyond the management of the online store to encompass the needs of all components involved in maintaining a sophisticated digital presence. More than just a merchandising tool, a powerful CMS needs to help a brand support its numerous branding and e-commerce initiatives and do so within an easy-to-implement solution that does not put additional strain on internal resources.

Moving Beyond Merchandising

Traditionally, CMS has not been viewed as a critical business process. The focus has instead been placed on addressing the needs of the online merchandiser through various product catalog or merchandising tools. While the quality of these tools has increased to meet the needs of site merchandisers, they have failed at providing the strong content management toolset needed to maintain the complex digital presence of today’s brands.

As a result, brands and retailers have increasingly experienced frustration with having to deploy separate instances of an in-house or third-party content management solution on top of an e-commerce platform’s merchandising solution. This approach fails to help integrate the brand’s digital presence and creates tremendous strain on internal processes, resourcing and initial project costs.

The Ideal Content Management System

For a brand with a sophisticated digital presence, the ideal CMS needs to be easy to use, require minimal internal on-boarding time, and support multi-channel and global initiatives. Considering the number of people affected by the implementation — from merchandisers to Web editors and publishers to e-commerce executives — it’s absolutely critical that an organization is able to get the most out of a single implementation.

Here are the key points to consider in selecting the ideal CMS tool for your organization:

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  1. Strength of underlying asset management system: Under every robust content management system is a good asset management foundation. In order for your CMS to serve your organization’s needs, your assets must first be easily uploaded, managed, tagged and organized and — most importantly — they must be easily available for sharing as needed.

    Ideally, this process involves managing your various data within an asset management system and then having the ability to easily distribute these files, PDFs, product images, etc., through your CMS. In addition, users should be able to easily automate and pull data from multiple channels, such as retail systems, digital photography studios, warehouses, analytics teams, etc., and easily incorporate it into their various e-commerce initiatives.

    In a perfect world, this integration would also occur within one easy-to-use and intuitive interface. Although there are many asset management systems available on the market that are easy to use, many lack this type of seamless integration with an organization’s CMS.

  2. Enterprise level customization: An ideal CMS will be easily customizable to serve the workflow needs of all teams within an organization no matter how large — or how small. A file may be created by one team member, shared internally by another and approvals on materials may be provided by various teams or departments.

    As such, a robust CMS must be able to facilitate this process in a way that is easy to use for all parties involved, without being overly engineered. For example, a drag-and-drop interface may be great for merchandisers alone, but a more complex approach is likely needed for the broader organization.

  3. Global scale/localization: With the increasingly global presence of today’s organizations, it’s becoming imperative for your CMS to not only have a global scale, but to also have the capacity to drill down to local information and function across multiple languages — and to make this process as pain-free as possible. A retailer’s default language may be English, but he or she must be able to easily convey product or image information into the various other languages for which he or she is running e-commerce initiatives.

    An automated translation service is a great jump-start to help make this process really efficient and easy. Brands with a sophisticated digital presence should look for a CMS that has these types of global/localization features baked into the solution.

  4. Automation: Each week a retailer may receive 100 or more products that must be quickly and effectively merchandised for the e-commerce site. An effective CMS will save time by automating this manual process and allowing retailers to quickly and easily drill down to the content they want to see, such as a particular product that arrived that week in a specific color and size.

    This automation of content is part of an ideal CMS that leverages an algorithmic interface to pull up data based on rules, and then use those rules to populate the interface quickly with relevant information. The benefit of this data control is obvious and applicable across numerous departments within an organization. It is also particularly vital to organizations with extensive and complex digital content.

    Finally, having a robust analytics platform to power automation is vital, as constant analysis is needed to understand what content is most popular versus content that is not working.

  5. Integration: Finally, a robust CMS must be able to support integrated data from multiple sources and then allow for the data to be consumed by multiple sites. Retailers typically have numerous vendors working on various components of their digital presence.

    Retailers or brands may invest in a single CMS to support their multichannel activities, but if they cannot leverage this system across their numerous sites and vendors, its use becomes limited very quickly. One vendor might create one site, another might power an additional site, and a brand needs to ensure its content is universally accessible to all internal and external parties involved with a project. A channel-agnostic open interface for universal and multichannel access is the critical final point of any effective CMS.

Allen Kung is chief technology officer and founding member of CREATETHE GROUP. He can be reached at [email protected].

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