Hippo CMS - can a hybrid content platform be effective?

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher February 9, 2016
The headless-versus-holistic CMS debate has kept marketers in confusion. Hippo thinks it has a new answer, via a hybrid approach which distributes content-as-a-service from a central platform. Barb Mosher Zinck has been tracking this story, and reviews Hippo's latest release.

There are an endless number of web content management systems available to choose from, including full suites, standalone WCM, headless, open source, mobile CMS, even build your own. It’s no surprise that many organizations have more than one CMS in-house, and struggle to create a cohesive digital experience strategy that works across all of them.

Hippo believes it has the answer with the 10.2 release of its CMS platform - combining traditional digital experience management capabilities with content-as-a-service, creating a “hybrid, integrated cross-channel strategy.”

The headless vs. holistic debate starts to fizzle

We have the open source versus proprietary debate, the suite versus standalone debate and more recently, the headless versus holistic CMS debate. There has never been a clear winner in any of these cases, but there are some reasons why a purely headless CMS might not make sense.

Hippo’s Director of Product Marketing, Sonja Kotrotsos, explained how headless can lead to more problems than it solves. She talked about how on the surface it might seem less complex to use a headless CMS, especially when you build web applications or mobile apps, but it can quickly lead to problems when developers try to interoperate with the rest of the marketing stack. What happens is the developer ends up creating integration points over and over, and the resulting management of all that becomes complex very quickly.

She also mentioned a lack of ease of use for editors. Sometimes it hard enough to learn to use one CMS well; having to work with multiple CMS, with often the same content can be a pain in the - well you know.

Hippo feels that headless is a tactic that is simply plugging holes for something that should have worked in the first place. At the same time, they do recognize there is a need for content-as-a-service, and the latest release of the Hippo platform focuses on meeting this need. It’s called the Hybrid Content Platform 10.2, and it introduces another pipeline in the Hippo platform where a web or mobile app can retrieve content (a headless CMS).

Hippo’s new Content REST API

So one repository of content, one place to manage it, personalize it, analyze it. Sounds promising.

Hippo did have a REST API already, but it required some work to set up and use. With Hippo 10.2, there is a new automated read-only content API that is ready to use. Why create a separate read-only API? Tjeerd Brenninkmeijer, Hippo CMO, and Founder talked about the different requirements customer have for writing to an API. Write-enabled APIs are typically used because the developer needs to do something, like trigger a workflow.

He said the new content API was made as simple as possible, serving all content and content types in real-time to help organizations quickly try new things - mobile apps, Internet of Things, etc.

Hippo 10.2 targets web and application developers who want to use content in a format-neutral way. But it also supports marketing as it works to create a cohesive content marketing strategy across all digital channels.

But there’s more to this story

We could stop here, and most would say, “yes, okay, this is a smart move by a CMS vendor that wants to make inroads into the enterprise.” But there’s more to this story than simply accessing content from a single repository.

When Hippo announced the 10.0 version of its W , it introduced Experiments and Trends - content analytics within the CMS. Part of this functionality includes the ability to narrow down visitor data to look for trends, identify new segments, look at existing segments, explore the relationship between content and traffic, and so on.

“They can see what content is converting and what content isn’t working – giving them the information they need to improve the experience on their website. With this information, they can also get an idea of the best content to develop.”

By connecting the content from mobile and web apps, content analytics can be applied across all channels and devices, further increasing the ability to leverage analytics to improve the digital experience, whether that’s through more accurate targeting and personalization or something else.

Another use for this centralized examination of content usage across channels mentioned was market research.

My take

Bringing together the management and consumption of content into a hybrid CMS makes sense. Hippo isn’t the first to do it, and they certainly won’t be the last. Am I saying this is the only way to go? Not necessarily. There are some very good headless CMS options available and some interesting things have been done with them.

But this hybrid model is smart, and it’s smart particularly because it comes packaged with this content analytics capability that will help create a more seamless experience across all channels.

Mobile apps are widely used and managing content separately doesn’t make sense if it’s a lot of the same content used across other marketing channels. Likewise with web applications, you can see the opportunity to better personalize the content available in these apps if you can see what a customer has already looked at, bought, read, etc., on another channel.

One place to manage the content, one place to personalize it, fewer integration challenges and a more consistent overall customer experience. This is what all organizations strive to achieve.

Editors' note: We have one caveat regarding hippo. We reviewed the potential of using hippo for diginomica last year but found it very difficult to source well qualified resources able to offer a quote, let alone deliver. As with many new technologies, it is not enough that the basic frameworks exist, they need an ecosystem of partners capable of delivery

Image credit - Market. © BillionPhotos.com - Fotolia.com.

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