When Limelight Networks bought SaaS web content management (WCM) vendor Clickability in 2011, it united WCM with video streaming and a large, global content delivery network (CDN) to create an offering unlike that of other vendors: Limelight Orchestrate, a multifaceted “digital presence management platform”.
Limelight liked to say marketers and other digital pros could, with a one solution, manage multichannel content and digital experiences including video and shave relevant milliseconds off page-load times and site delivery.
Flash forward to last week. On December 23, Limelight announced the sale of the Clickability WCM business to Upland Software, an Austin, TX, company that, in two years, has added six cloud-based software solutions to its enterprise work management portfolio.
Limelight says it will focus on “delivery optimization capabilities” – in a word, speed. It’s a change I can follow. Limelight invested in WCM enhancements and pushed “digital presence management” to marketers and technology pros, but WCM revenue never skyrocketed for the publicly traded company. Limelight estimates WCM revenue in 2013 at $13.7 million, according to an SEC filing, a small slice of its $170 million or so annual turnover. For Limelight, the CDN business still rules.
At a recent software summit for industry analysts in Stamford, CT, IBM made a big point of showing off some of its newest employees. They’re not computer scientists from top engineering schools like MIT or Carnegie Mellon, but visual designers, interaction pros and user experience experts from design schools like Rhode Island School of Design and Pratt -- urban hipsters in a sea of button-down IBM’ers.
This is part of IBM’s growing effort to embed “design thinking” into software development across its portfolio. Central to the effort is the new IBM Design Studio in Austin, TX, led by design general manager Phil Gilbert. The group is recruiting design-minded professionals by the hundreds to help inject human-centered design principles into next-generation business software. They work closely with software teams to rethink interaction models and influence what’s coming out next.
The facility has also hosted dozens of high ranking execs from across IBM in “design camp” events aimed at teaching the relevance and importance of design-centered thinking across the company.
“We are attacking this transformation from the bottom, top, and (everywhere) in between,” said Gilbert.
This isn’t just an effort to make software look good. Software vendors are realizing that to be competitive, software products must have powerful capabilities, function smoothly, streamline complexity and be usable across a spectrum of people, regardless of their technical skill.
Two or three years ago, software buyers in the market for new and improved tools for managing website content and cross-channel digital customer experiences had a typical request: “Help me replace my legacy web content management system with a new web content management system.” It was out with the old, legacy, hard to use system, and in with a new solution that perhaps had a few new capabilities, but which still looked and felt like… a web content management system.
As we approach 2014, that WCM buyer is asking for a whole lot more. Enter the digital experience platform – an emerging software category poised for takeoff as enterprises seek to differentiate through better digital customer experiences.
Forrester has defined the digital customer experience platform and 14 specific tools and capabilities in our TechRadar report for application development and delivery pros.
We took the research further in another recent report, a Market Overview report covering digital customer experience delivery platforms. This reports describes 17 representative software vendors and their offerings as they try to tackle this robust market with a diversity of capabilities; each has a different approach. Our research has identified players with heritage in four vendor categories: web content management (e.g. Acquia and Adobe), eCommerce (e.g. Demandware, Digital River), marketing solutions (e.g. Hubspot, Razorfish), and enterprise business software providers (IBM and Oracle).
Choosing digital customer experience solutions isn’t easy for application development and delivery (AD&D) pros, or for their counterparts in the business. Tech pros used to respond to digital business needs by acquiring, say, a web content management or eCommerce system. They may have integrated other software tools to deliver extended capabilities. And it was good.
Fast forward to 2013, and the range of tools to support robust multichannel digital experience is wide and deep. Many different vendors are responding. A new Forrester report cites a number of their offerings as examples of emerging digital customer experience delivery platforms.
In our research, we discover some vendors provide more capabilities; some have fewer. Some build or buy most of their capabilities; others focus on integrating best of breed tools. All represent a range of companies attacking this market by answering a multitude of needs by IT and business customers all seeking to better address their customers through digital channels.
For this report, we identified four market segments plus representative vendors, including:
Web content management-centric platform vendors, such as Acquia, Adobe, Bridgeline Digital, Ektron, HP Autonomy, OpenText, SDL, Sitecore.
eCommerce-centric platforms, which expand upon their transactional foundations, such as Demandware, Digital River, and hybris (an SAP company).
Many brands and corporations today suffer from “two site” syndrome. The ‘.com’ site (often owned by brand/corporate marketing) serves to offer up a glossy magazine experience — designed to romance the customer with brand and product stories, while the ‘store.’ is owned by the eBusiness team and is designed around structured product content to optimize conversion and revenue goals. The result is often fragmented and poorly integrated digital experiences that confuse the customer, introduce unnecessary complexity, and ultimately fail to deliver on the broader digital strategy of the brand.
In the age of the customer, brands today seek a unified experience between the four stages of the customer life cycle (discover, explore, buy, and engage). For eBusiness professionals, this means tighter collaboration with their corporate marketing and brand counterparts to find ways to embed commerce (the buy phase) into the heart of the .com experience rather than building segregated eCommerce sites. However, this is easier said than done. The problem is that many brand and manufacturing organizations leverage web content management (WCM) platforms to create, manage, and measure targeted, personalized, and interactive brand experiences. However, these WCM platforms lack the robust commerce capabilities that organizations need to manage large, complex product catalogs and develop sophisticated merchandising strategies to sell online.
In-line editing? Check. Personalization? Check. Testing and optimization? Check. As the web content management market matures, functional differentiators have become tougher to find. One of the remaining functional gaps in the market is a digital customer experience platform that supports complex but unified commerce-based and marketing-based experiences. Currently, these experiences tend to be disconnected due to technical (and organizational) silos.
Count Sitecore among the vendors — such as Oracle and IBM — hoping that a hybrid commerce and content platform will make an impact on the marketplace. This week, Sitecore acquired commerceserver.net. This marks the first marriage of significant .NET content and commerce (the other commerce/content combinations available — Oracle and IBM — are built on Java).
Good move? It is significant that another vendor has taken the step towards building a digital customer experience platform that includes both commerce and content offerings. And that’s where the challenge will come in. Both IBM and Oracle have faced the challenge of integrating commerce and content products that weren’t designed and built on the same architecture. Sitecore’s challenge won’t be any different. Time will tell if the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
If you’re involved in delivering and executing great digital customer experiences, you’ll want to access Forrester’s new TechRadar report that digs into the diverse, rapidly evolving technology ecosystem that supports this strategic business imperative.
We define 14 technologies (and cite representative vendors) including web content management, eCommerce, email marketing, web analytics and testing — all capabilities we believe are necessary to support “on-site” customer experiences, or the digital channels that businesses and brands control.
This is an important market not just because vendors that serve it are making lots of noise. It’s relevant because enterprises have discovered that great digital customer experiences matter to their customers and to their enterprise success, competitiveness and viability. It’s about technology plus a whole lot more. From the report:
Delivering great multichannel digital experiences isn't as easy as plugging in new software and calling it a day. Digital customer experience success comes from combining many elements: a big-picture vision, short- and long-term strategic planning, shifts in roles and responsibilities, and intelligent technology adoption and delivery.
The shift to digital at organizations is not happening — it cannot happen — at an incremental pace. Too much is riding on it. This is a transformative change, and to date too many organizations that have paid only lip service to supporting the customer across all digital channels have felt the sting of competition beating them to the punch. We don’t call it “digital disruption” for nothing.
This content also appeared in the June 2013 edition of CRM Magazine.
Web content management (WCM) software has been around nearly as long as the modern Web. This software enables technology pros to develop sites, lets content people create and publish, and helps marketers leverage online channels to engage customers and prospects.
Forrester’s recent research into this vibrant market confirms a fact that buyers of this technology need to be aware of: WCM has become an essential foundation for enabling successful digital experience efforts. And by doing so, it’s supporting one of the last things that corporations and brands can use to differentiate themselves.
Recently, vendors have put resources into expanding features, building, buying, or integrating with various things:
Visitor profile, segment, and targeting tools to deliver personalized content in context
Capabilities to develop and deploy mobile and social channels of engagement
CRM, email marketing, analytics, A/B testing, integrations, and tools
A question I hear frequently from Forrester clients: “Which WCM is the best for our organization?” My nearly universal response: “Tell me your priorities.”
Rarely is there one “best WCM” that meets all of a firm’s objectives for web content management and digital experience, so let’s dispel that myth right now. Instead, it’s a trade-off where your specific requirements should influence your investigation, direct you to a shortlist, and help you make an informed choice.
The WCM Wave Report (and the accompanying Excel with detailed product capabilities) is a powerful tool to help enterprise buyers compare solutions. It’s helpful only if you have some idea of the problems you’re trying to solve and the strategic opportunities you need to focus on.
Priorities matter. Or, more accurately, your priorities matter. Your priorities are different than those of the company across the street. It’s a big and confusing market, too. Although we cover 10 WCM solutions in the Wave, there are many additional viable solutions.