How Your Web CMS Should Enable a Digital Experience

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Web content management is no longer about managing pages on a website; instead, it’s now at the center of where marketing activities and customer engagement is carried out. Once holding a focus on publishing and management of web content, marketers can now expect CMSs to improve the development and management of entire digital customer experiences. Digital experiences that are driven by content, optimized with data, and delivered across all online channels. Additionally, a modern web CMS will utilize and manage data from CRM, ERP and other applications to deliver unique, personalized experiences.

Consumers expect a seamless digital experience. The following are just a few of the ways your web CMS should be helping to make this a possibility:

Personalized Digital Experiences

Modern CMSs are making it easier than ever for small businesses to go beyond personalized emails to engage customers. They are able to design and content elements across websites, portals, mobile apps and more, create various user personas or user segments, display targeted and contextual content to these different user segments, and personalize the design on the basis of various criteria that has proven to work via analytics. Although it delivers profoundly better results, it is still by no means “easy.” Marketing managers still have their work cut out for them as they test and iterate working with CTOs to outline the depth of personalization while creating a map content to specific user groups and scenarios.

Multi-Channel

Instead of multiple marketing teams taking on efforts to globally promote an array of products and services on a single website, this should be done across various digital properties – microsites, mobile apps, social media, augmented and virtual reality, and more. A modern CMS natively supports an API-first approach to content management that enables multi-channel content authoring, publishing and delivery. Additionally, complete separation of presentation from content and data, and support for any type of UI development framework, combined simplify the task of delivering a wide variety of digital experiences across multiple platforms.

Data-driven

Everything a customer does on your web properties yields insights. This data can then be used to optimize the customer experience.  Because of this, you’ll want to look for CMSs equipped with full support for A/B testing, customer journey tracking, customer engagement analysis, predictions and recommendations, goal tracking, campaign tracking and other actions related to analyzing customer data. It’s in your best interest to go above and beyond and use CMS that offers intuitive backend interfaces with integrated BI insights along with the administrative capability to take swift actions on these insights by just a few clicks.

Ease of Integration

Your customers view your digital experiences as one entity. Because of this, if you do not integrate with siloed platforms like CRM, Portals, BI, analytics and other key systems and applications, then you’re just spinning your wheels. Your goal of reaching a 360-degree customer view will be in vain.

Modern CMSs enable easy integration by offering out-of-the-box connectors for major CRMs, search platforms, e-commerce, language translation, databases, publishing platforms, analytics, etc. Additionally, you need to be able to easily integrate with existing systems and web applications through APIs.

Next Steps

It is necessary for every company or organization to identify their own unique challenges, marketing objectives as well as their desired business outcomes, goals and expectations. This should be done prior to beginning the journey of selecting and implementing a web CMS. The key is knowing how to use your choice of tools. If you have any questions about how a modern web CMS can support your enterprise’s digital experience, drop us a line at Crafter. One of our professionals will be happy to discuss a solution with you.

The Power of Great Content APIs

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From Amazon and Twitter to Expedia and YouTube, large companies recognize the value of providing Application Programmer Interfaces (APIs) to their systems and continue to invest big bucks in them.  These well-established APIs grant third parties controlled access to their functionality and content, which is essentially like allowing you into a candy shop filled with lollipops and candy bars (content and functionality) and giving you the key (API) to enjoy them anytime you want.

API Facts

Before explaining the value of API, it’s important to understand the ins and outs of these popular systems. The following are a few facts and figures to illustrate just how important APIs are and why so many companies are choosing to use them.

1. APIs allow businesses to build new platforms on scalable and accessible content much faster.

2. Once a maturing API becomes a core capability within a business, numerous opportunities begin to present themselves. Essentially, when it comes to API, it’s okay to start small, while thinking about the bigger picture.

3. Within the first 13 months, Netflix’s API usage grew 37x and currently boasts 33% of the US evening internet traffic.

4. Surprisingly, when building APIs, large teams are not required. Rather, small, flexible and dexterous development teams can equally create large returns on investment.  Simply put, APIs require vision, clear leadership and a story that resonates with stakeholders.

The Value of APIs

As you can easily see, APIs have a distinct value for large and small companies alike. The value of APIs begins with internal consumption use case, rather than the more commonly known public open APIs to attract others from outside. Beefing up the content accessible within your own organization will show benefits very quickly. Consider how easy your projects would be if you could access a system that gave you various kinds of content while using any possible dimension (language, profile, context, user, location, you name it!). The ability to have one simple yet standard and reliable option that gave you access to information would be pretty spectacular, wouldn’t it? The question then becomes, what value are you willing to place on that? The answer is priceless.

The capability to communicate and grant access to the controlled consumption of content both internally and externally within an enterprise is significant to the point that businesses are discovering they almost can’t function without APIs. With APIs as the programmatic stage for content, everything “backstage” is the outcome of the efforts invested in the “service providers” to make that content accessible. Meanwhile, the front stage or “service consumers” are able to focus their efforts on putting the content to the most effective use.

Linking it All Together

A robust content API delivers a definite separation of concerns between those backstage diligently working to structure and develop content, than from those at the front stage chomping at the bit to gain access to the content so they can creatively do amazing things with it.  Needless to say, APIs benefit both service providers and consumers with endless prospects for advancement on either side of the API.

The ultimate goal is to move beyond simply separating the content to effectively moving it so it can be utilized everywhere it needs to be. The benefits are endless and big brands are already seeing the profits. Your business can enjoy the same.

It’s important to keep in mind that APIs are going to get a lot more popular, but APIs require a solid infrastructure.  It’s a programmatic interface to your content.  So if you’re creating a content API, be sure to design a content model from the start that conveys the required level of structure and meaning.

Questions about where to start? Email info@craftersoftware.com and our experts will happily assist.

 

Avoiding Website Performance Bottlenecks

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In a world where multitasking is more prevalent than ever, enterprises are asking more and more from their websites. Unable to keep up, site functionality is exploding while optimization is falling flat. And it’s not only e-commerce sites that are failing at performance. Industries of all types are experiencing web performance bottlenecks caused by slow page load times and sluggish user interaction.

Whether it’s the hefty amount of images, plugins or JavaScript getting fancier, it is clear that some major factors are interrupting the flow of website optimization. With site functionality only continuing to get more complex, resource requests dramatically increasing, and the growing trend toward personalized experiences, performance is taking a huge hit.  Unfortunately, this trend is negatively affecting user retention – ultimately affecting your enterprise’s bottom line.

Yet considering how important a website can be for any given enterprise, it seems only natural to take the extra care to ensure the website is not only running fast from the desktop site but from a mobile perspective too. The number of websites still not optimized for a mobile experience is astounding.

People Are in a Hurry Even When They Are Sitting On Their Couch

In the fast-paced era we live in, anything more than three seconds for a page to load is too long. Studies show that potentially upwards of 50% of users click off the site if the page takes too long. Additionally, 30% will jump ship if a shopping cart isn’t optimized for mobile.

This leads to lost sales, competitors winning over your customers, and overall missed opportunities. When you consider the the number of visitors, your average revenue per customer taking into account your attainable conversion rate, and then subtract everything lost from a website bounce rate of 40% when your site loads slowly, you can quantify the amount of lost revenue pretty quickly.

Increase Brand Engagement

Your brand will be much more likable if you offer an equally satisfying, personalized experience for both mobile and desktop sites. Whether a user visits your site from their smartphone or desktop, the experience should be optimized for functionality and brand consistency, so it fosters trust and affinity with your users. Most users regularly go between devices so if you are not able to provide what they need than they are more likely to go to a competitor rather than wait until they get back to their desktop to make a purchase. Not optimizing your site results in lost opportunities and losing customers permanently to competitors.

Optimize Your Site, and Business will Grow

To keep your users engaged and continuously coming back, you need to optimize your site performance and a modern content delivery solution is the most effective way to pull this off. Despite many performance optimization techniques manually performed by developers, hand-coding pages for performance is specialized, time-consuming work. When it comes to intensely involved sites with hundreds to even thousands of dynamic components per page, this can be an eternal task. As both browser requirements and page requirements continue to develop the work can seem never ending.

Therefore, consistently faster page loads and a more reliable site starts with a blazing fast content delivery platform. We built the world’s fastest dynamic content delivery solution with Crafter Engine, which now serves some of the largest and fastest sites on the globe.

Think your website performance needs a boost? Contact us at info@craftersoftware.com for guidance or download our white paper Building and Optimizing Multi-Channel Web Experiences to learn more!

The Future is Now: Virtual Reality Transforming Retail

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When it comes to brick and mortar retail, every inch of retail space is crucial to keep the business booming. So it’s no wonder that Happy Family, an organic children’s food manufacturer, decided to turn to virtual reality to help them gather data from 800 shoppers. Turns out this method isn’t just working for them, but it’s working for many other retailers too. It’s quickly becoming the future of retail with an international reach.

While it may seem somewhat futuristic, the truth is scenarios in which using virtual reality are beneficial, isn’t that far reaching. Combining virtual and augmented reality are already transforming major retail locations in every way — from the aisles, to store design and signage.

The Difference Between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

Sometimes augmented reality and virtual reality are used interchangeably. However, there are significant differences that you need to know when using or discussing these technologies. Augmented reality is a blend of real life and virtual reality. In other words, the consumer is still in touch with the real world around them, yet interacts with virtual elements. Virtual reality, on the other hand, transforms the user into a different world. Goggles or some type of headset are required for experiencing virtual reality.

Virtual Reality is Here to Stay

Virtual reality is not just a hot technology item for gamers, and from the data, it doesn’t appear as if virtual reality is just a fad. While VR has been around for a long time, it has matured to something that benefits our work and home lives in addition to being fun for entertainment purposes.

With virtual reality constantly improving, it’s time for retailers to honestly consider adding the technology to the way they do business. It’s already been proven that brands who have embraced virtual reality have attracted a wider user base. In a world where technology is constantly evolving, consumers are continuously demanding more from brands. Keeping up with technology is how brands can stay among and ahead of their competition. Consumers are beginning to expect virtual and augmented reality as they do their online shopping.

V-Commerce is the Next Step

Clearly, a complete move to v-commerce is what lies ahead. Although the idea of new hardware may seem overwhelming to businesses, it really shouldn’t be. The concept is constantly evolving as is the equipment.  Because of this, there are multiple options with devices at different price points and even applications that allow smartphones to use augmented reality and virtual reality.

With this omni-channel strategy, consumers will be able to do everything from trying on clothes to looking at products or ingredients. With this technology, retailers will be able to deliver an in-store experience to users shopping online. The scenarios for using virtual reality are endless and the benefits for business success are priceless. From up-selling to cross-selling, virtual reality will allow consumers to engage more with the products and will help to create a much more personal experience. This will in turn, increase sales – a reality every business owner can get behind.

New Tool Tests Your Website for Mobile Friendliness

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A recent global mobile study has shown that, collectively, Americans check their smartphones 8 billion times per day. From shopping and checking social media to paying bills and responding to emails, that comes out to about 150 times a day per person. For those keeping tally, that’s up 33 more looks per day than last year. The frequency at which users look at their phones is a huge factor in the popularity of mobile-friendly sites. More than ever, companies are quickly discovering that their website speed and mobile-friendliness is a huge factor in sales and customer loyalty.

When things aren’t moving fast enough, users get frustrated and more than likely switch to a competitor’s site. In fact, according to Google, an average user will leave the site if it doesn’t load within three seconds. And, since more searchers occur on mobile devices than on computers, it has become excruciatingly clear that if a potential customer can’t get through to your company’s site in that timeframe, they are five times more likely to leave. Plainly, a good mobile design is crucial to the success of your business.

Because of this need, Google has come out with mobile speed testing tool to give enterprises an idea of just how fast (or slow) their site loads. They run all the numbers for you to help you take the guesswork out of it. You are even given a report showing where your site fails so you can upgrade your system.

The concept is simple. Using a scale of 1-100, the speed testing site takes your company’s URL and measures the loading speed and mobile-friendliness. Everything from HTML, CSS, and Javascript to how long it takes images to load (on both desktop and mobile) are considered. In addition to how well your site fares, you can also see the specific spots that need improvement. Knowing is half the battle, and seeking development in the inadequate areas as soon as possible will help you keep your company out in front of customers, and far ahead of your competitors.

Ironically, Google failed its own test receiving a 59/100 on mobile speed and a 66/100 on the desktop speed. Both are listed as “poor” ratings.  But these statistics are what Google will use to improve their site.  According to the tool, Google’s desktop speeds could be improved by optimizing images and prioritizing visible content. Certainly interesting (and no doubt humbling considering they got slapped on the wrist by their own site!).

In a mobile world, there’s no reason to have a slow, inadequate website. Allow your company to stand out by giving your users the mobile experience they are looking for – a fast, easy, user-friendly design.

If your company is one of the many out there that has a slow website or poor mobile support, rest assured, an upgrade to Crafter CMS will improve your website and make it mobile-friendly and blazingly fast.

Check out Google’s new tool here: https://testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com/

Rethinking the Content Management System for Media and Publishing in the Mobile Era

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Ask anyone from the staff at Buzzfeed to the owner of your neighborhood antique store, and they will agree: it’s time to reinvent the CMS so every publisher has the same tools to succeed in a mobile world. After all, in a world of smartphones, users have come to expect a better experience on mobile. Whether they are flipping through apps consuming content from left to right or experiencing rich magazine-like features, keeping the reader engaged is a top priority.

When it comes to moving beyond the desktop, “themeing” in the CMS is necessary to build these experiences across multiple screens. The goal of responsive design is a good starting point, but it doesn’t do the job completely. We need to take it a step further with the CMS being WYSIWYG and component-based. By doing so, any publisher can deliver a rich, touch-enabled experience regardless of the screen or device or wearable the reader uses.

Creating richer experiences on mobile enables engagement, and even monetization, to live within the CMS. Up until now, most CMSs had monetization relegated to the right rail of the page, but with so many users experiencing sites via mobile, it’s become necessary to shift to in-stream experiences. Dynamic experiences and monetization is now living symbiotically with the content. While many legacy CMS vendors have created bridge solutions, the real solution in the long-term is to make the CMS the place where native advertising is created and trafficked in sync with a publisher’s existing ad server. And this requires a CMS built for today’s era of mobile engagement.

Of course, every reader has different tastes and expectations for any given site so in order for native ads to be a success, personal relevance should be a major factor. Rather than a chronological feed, a personalized feed directed at the user’s own interests is needed.  Personalizing the user experience for each individual reader should be at the core of any given CMS. This provides a superior reading experience and users are much more likely to frequently engage with the site.

It isn’t just responsive design that has changed, users have changed their online activity as well. They are no longer simply reading content, leaving comments and moving on. Today, they are sharing more than ever and CMS for the mobile world needs to offer the seamless ability to connect with the online community.

Additionally, writers or anyone interested in creating content should have the option to write on mobile. Unfortunately, CMSs built a decade ago are not a viable option on mobile. Authors should be able to write content from their phone as effortlessly as they tweet.

While we aren’t totally there yet, this reinvention will surely happen. Publishing has drastically changed since the mobile shift and there’s no doubt that reinventing the corresponding CMS software will occur in the near future.

To learn how Crafter CMS was designed and built for the modern era of mobile engagement, contact us today for a personalized demonstration.

 

6 ‘C’s for Great Customer Experience

The type of customer experience your company provides to its customers can make or break the brand. The game has changed and the winners in today’s market are those who provide a great experience to their customers throughout the entire customer journey. Learn how to increase demand and encourage growth through great customer experience by leveraging these 6 ‘C’s of Great Customer Experience!

#1: Contextual

Are you sitting at your desk working?  Are you sitting on the couch browsing with your tablet?  Are you in a Uber hurling towards the airport and trying to move your flight departure time?  Where you are, what you are doing, what kind of access you has matters A LOT! Contextualization focuses the experience on where you are, what device you are using as well as preferences such as location, language, and time of day.  In a nutshell, contextualized experience is what brands use to go above the muck in today’s omni-channel, multi-device, multi-lingual, multi-step world to provide you with a more personalized and relevant experience.

#2 Consistent

A brand is successful by promises made and promises kept. By consistently shaping communications and interactions that highlight strong delivery and core themes brands set customer expectations and drive loyalty by meeting them. Lack of consistency and failure to meet expectations has the exact opposite effect. Have you ever dialed into an automated “phone-tree”, entered a bunch of information only to be transferred and then have to re-enter all of your information again?  It’s frustrating at best. A consistent experience delivers what you expect at every step in the customer journey.  At each touch point, it knows where you have been and where you are now.

#3 Conversational

The online world is much more social than ever before.  Marketing is no longer about one-way communication in which brands bark messaging at customers, it’s about engaging with them.  Today’s marketing is “N-directional.”  It’s an on-going engagement with the brand, a customer, and the brand ecosystem.  Everyone knows that good friends are the ones that know how to listen.  The same is true for brands.

#4 Cross-channel

Our customers have multiple ways to engage with us from traditional media advertising, mail campaigns and phone to digital platforms such as sites, applications, kiosks, digital signage, email, texting, social media and more!  Your customers want to engage you through the mediums and platforms that make the most sense for them in the moment.  Companies that truly get customer experience understand that offering the customer a great experience on the platform of their choice is a critical component for success.  Multi-channel isn’t just about a website responsive design that works on laptops and smartphones.  It’s about really being able to serve customers on any channel and further it’s about being equipped to add a new channel at a moment’s notice.  New channels emerge all the time, and it is the first movers in nearly all cases that dominate the new space.

#5 Convenient

Convenience is a no brainer. Customers love easy. You must reduce complexity at every step.  Make it simple for them!  Apple no longer has a checkout register. Any employee can help you complete a purchase.  Need to schedule an appointment? A couple taps of by an associate on an iPad and you are done.  That’s convenient and it’s enchanting.  Now compare your hailing a cab to requesting an Uber.  Hailing a cab requires good fortune or great patience. Uber by contrast puts mobility at the touch of a button, provides you with an ETA and requires no physical payment transaction.  That’s convenient and it’s enchanting.  Be convenient. Be enchanting.

#6 Cost effective

While great customer experience is vital for maintaining and obtaining customers, doing more (for your customers) often requires more time and resources.  The key to creating and maintaining a great customer experience is finding a cost effective way to make it happen.  The key to cost-effective customer experience is in the architecture of the platforms and solutions you choose to implement. Of course, the platform needs to enable you to deliver contextual multi-channel experiences that engage and enchant your customers. But it must also allow you to scale in an affordable way.  By scale I mean few things.  Scale as in volume.  You need to be able to add more capacity without breaking the bank.  Scale as in many birds, one stone.  The platform should be able to cover many needs.  Multiple sites, many channels within a site and so on.  Scale as in capacity to innovate.  Digital experience is a space of constant evolution.  You need to be able to quickly and affordably develop and deploy new value to your customers.

How have the 6 C’s for Great Customer Experience enhanced your business?  Let us know in the comments below.

3 Can’t Miss Trends On Why Your Company Needs A Web Experience Management System

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As the internet landscape changes, adapting to new trends is not only necessary, but crucial to effectively engaging with clients and prospects. More than ever, in this age of engagement, we are expected to communicate with friends, leads, customers, critics and fans on their terms – be it their schedule, language, location, or optimizing for their device. Consistently the line between on-line and off-line is blurring, and the experience immersive.

The most recent trends that are swiftly defining the need for Web experience management include social, personal and mobile growth. While each of the trends individually play a significant role in user experience, they also successfully work together, emphasizing one another in a way that is fast-tracking the trends entirely.

The following are the three most fundamental trends driving your company’s need for Web Experience Management and why adapting to them is vital to the life of your business.

1) Social
Gone are the days of online anonymity. The Web is a place to be social, engaging, and community-driven. With over 900 million reported Facebook users and an estimated 150 million Twitter users, social media is ubiquitous and consumers are looking to the personal aspects of the internet to help them make their decisions. Studies show that although only 14% of consumers trust traditional advertisement, a whopping 78% trust peer recommendations such as those on Twitter and Facebook. The personal and relevant communication driven by peers leaves no question as to why social trends are so significant.

2) Personal
While the web is vast and continuously growing, it is also evolving users to become more local and personal with their experience. Today the internet delivers news, reviews, sales and services to users in real-time. Information can be personalized to each individual according to their personal choices and desires. The internet is consistently making the world smaller by personalizing user experience and increasing the information available to each of us.

3) Mobile
Users go from their desktops and notebooks to tablets and phones without skipping a beat. The Web is constantly at users’ fingertips thanks to the growth of mobile access. Users are always on or can be within seconds. While there are 6.8 billion people in the world, an estimated 4.7 billion people have access to the internet via mobile device. Whether standing in line at a coffee shop or taking a selfie atop Mount Fuji, mobile devices are giving users access to the internet at any time in any place.

Because these trends are in the forefront of the current user experience, your audience has easily grown accustomed to them. Therefore, meeting the demands of a new era of engagement means personalizing a coherent and consistent customer experience. Regardless if your audience steps into your store, logs on to your Facebook page or peruses your website, they expect uniformity. Adopting the changes associated with these trends should be on your short-list of priorities, even if it means tackling the job with limited resources. An effective strategy along with the right tools, can help you get the Web experience that engages your audience and keeps them coming back.

Twitter is Powered by Java and Open Source

“Inside Twitter engineering we prefer things to be open rather than closed”

Christopher Fry, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Twitter

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According to Computer World, to eliminate disruptions and infrastructure problems while scaling up its service, Twitter has turned to Java and open source software.

With the hyperbolic growth of the company, their initial architecture was unable to handle the onslaught of messages. Twitter started out in 2006 by using a monolithic Ruby on Rails server rather than a distributed platform. The number of service disruptions eventually got out of control, and trying to improve the system by throwing more servers at the problem was no longer a solution.

Twitter processes about 6,000 messages a second, adding up to more than 500 million messages per day or about 3.5 billion a week.

Some of Twitter’s key decisions that has allowed them to scale out while increasing reliability has been a commitment to using Java (and a distributed, service-oriented architecture) and using open source software, which includes Apache Mesos.

According to Fry, there’re many benefits of open source software. “One is obviously that you end up building quality into the product because it’s very transparent, everybody sees what’s happening.  And then you get contributions back into the project, so then you can create a platform on which people can build new things and you can bring them back into the company”. See more of the interview at WIRED.

Chris Aniszczyk, Twitter’s head of open source computing at LinuxCon Europe in Edinburgh, mentioned: “One of the lessons Twitter learned is that basing its infrastructure on open source is a good idea” “That is where you find the best software these days”.

Proving yet again that smart businesses with business-critical apps turn to Java and open source software, not only to avoid service disruptions, but also for better security, pricing, flexibility, scalability and productivity, among others.

Learning Crafter

The following Guest Blog was written by Chris Paul, Software Engineer, Tribloom Inc.

Earlier this month I attended a training course for Crafter CMS, the open source Web content management system. In this post, I discuss my motivations for taking the training, highlights, and my impressions.

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