Industry analysts agree: In 2021 and beyond, you need these four CMS features

Illustrated image of sunglasses floating in the air, reflecting a text content type
October 1, 2021


At Contentful, compartmentalizing isn’t our style. We won’t tell content it has to live in one place (thanks, structured content!), we won’t put your brand in a box void of microservices and we certainly won’t restrict the markets or platforms you reach — we work to do all the opposite.

It makes sense, then, that we don’t compartmentalize our platform. What we mean is that Contentful isn’t really a content management system or a digital experience platform, despite being featured in recent reports highlighting vendors in both spaces. We float somewhere in between, fusing together the best aspects of both to create something different, something modern: a content platform.

In this post, we’ll walk you through the most sought after content management features as outlined in the following three reports: IDC MarketScape of Content Management Systems for Persuasive Digital Experiences, The Aragon Research Globe for Content Experience Platforms 2021, Constellation ShortList™ Content Management System (CMS) – Headless. Then, we’ll dive into how a content platform takes these features to the next level.

The reports

Before jumping into key CMS features, here’s some background on each report and Contentful’s performance in them. 

Now, while these reports all look at the market through different lenses (CMS, Headless CMS, CXP), a number of capabilities appear prominently across them all.

Multichannel distribution: Break ground on new digital frontiers

Traditional CMSes are one-trick ponies of yesteryear. Built to support publishing web pages, they make it much more challenging for brands to enter new channels, or worse yet, reuse existing content consistently across multiple channels — today’s customers expect brand presence on whatever trending platform they surf, scroll and sift through. A content platform like Contentful readily supports cross-channel-presences, helping your brand deliver its content to any medium, across mobile devices, wearables, AR/VR, and more.

“Organizations cannot afford to dismiss the technology that is at the heart of the digital experience — modern content management systems streamline the content value chain and orchestrate customer engagement across many digital channels.”


Cloud-native technology is a feature closely linked to CMSes and supports multichannel distribution. It’s also one of several parameters IDC considered when naming CMS leaders in their report. Cloud-native platforms offer ample room to scale and built-in CDNs, safeguarding content and experiences. Because these vendors manage this administrative burden behind the scenes, developers don’t have to spend cycles on patches, maintenance or delivery. It should go without saying that IDC included content delivery in their audit as well. 

Reusable content: Recycle what’s working 

Just because content and code complement each other, doesn’t mean they should be coupled. All three reports agree that traditional CMSes with templates tied to channels are out. CMSes and content platforms which support decoupled code and content are the modern, strategic choice. Such technology pushes the boundaries of where your brand exists and the frequency and consistency with which you publish new and updated content. These platforms support structured content, which uses content models to build relationships between associated text and media. Content modeling and headless content are so in demand that they accounted for two of the 14 threshold criteria the Constellation ShortList™ Content Management System (CMS) – Headless used to rank vendors.

Structured content helps brands create a single source of truth, preventing costly editorial mistakes and improving a multi-touch brand experience. An additional benefit of structured, reusable content is that it makes localization and personalization simple and straightforward. Instead of completely reworking what’s working for one persona, brands can use content models to tweak language and visuals in a way that speaks to each emerging customer base or change in audience preferences.

“The old market of web content management is in transition. The new battle cry for the digitally-enabled enterprise is content experience. This new market for content management solutions is about focusing on buyer journeys that are interactive, individualized, connected, dynamic, and rich. The aim of this new approach is to drive customer loyalty and retention with a solution that supports speed and flexibility and is personalized to buyer demands and behaviors.”

- Aragon Research

API-first technology: Flex your stack now and later

Traditional monolithic CMSes can be costly as fees accompany new tools and capabilities. This type of technology lacks flexibility and affordability in integrating vetted, high-performing applications. API-first platforms diverge for the better. Content platforms like Contentful simplify how developers integrate with the microservices they already know and love. Contentful’s App Framework, app marketplace and APIs are just some examples of ways content platforms support low code extensibility with tools and examples. 

“[Headless platforms separate away the presentation layer,] freeing content creators from the confines of delivery destination limitations while also freeing front-end presentation developers from the inefficiency of developing for single-use applications,” 

— Constellation ShortList™ Content Management System (CMS) – Headless

Having the option to add or subtract microservices on an as-needed-basis makes content platforms a good option for young and growing businesses whose plan to scale include question marks in response to: “in what direction and how extensively?” Such capabilities make it easy to compensate for present and future needs.

Composable authoring environments: Mold the interface to your liking

With CMSes and content platforms, the focus tends to be on digital customer experiences. Recent reports invite another type of “experience” into the conversation — employee experience. Employee experience refers to a brand’s ability to onboard, empower and retain its own team members. Technology can promote positive employee experiences when it's intuitive, fits an individual’s workflow and supports collaboration. A modern authoring experience must be flexible enough to meet the needs of any team within an organization. Elements that play into this are listed differently within each report but boil down to these technical specifications: user interface, authoring environments, customizations and user support.

While leadership might make the final decision on which technology is adopted, the experience of teams using it on the front lines of digital determines its lifespan within the organization. Content platforms provide creatives and developers extensibility through customizable UIs, workflow and automation, and the option to swap in and out integrations with other cloud vendors. Contentful’s Compose + Launch apps are a great example of task-focused UIs that can be quickly implemented to support streamlined content edits, management and publishing.

Should teams decide they need support in customizing their interface, leading content platforms must make finding support and answers to your questions easy. Offering FAQs, documentation, technology communities, slack channels and the option for personalized guidance with software experts are just one way content vendors put you and your team at the center of what they do and the services they provide.

Analysts agree that a modern approach to content lies at the heart of digital transformation — they also agree that Contentful is a key player in this space, with our different approach through building a content platform. Discover the power of Contentful for yourself. 

Illustrated icon of reading glasses

Source: IDC. IDC MarketScape Worldwide Content Management Systems for Persuasive Digital Experiences 2021 Vendor Assessment, Marci Maddox

Constellation ShortList™ Content Management System (CMS) – Headless, Liz Miller

The Aragon Research Globe for Content Experience Platforms 2021, Jim Lundy

Aragon Research does not endorse vendors, or their products or services that are referenced in its research publications, and does not advise users to select those vendors that are rated the highest. Aragon Research publications consist of the opinions of Aragon Research and Advisory Services organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Aragon Research provides its research publications and the information contained in them "AS IS," without warranty of any kind.

About the authors

Don't miss the latest

Get updates in your inbox
Discover how to build better digital experiences with Contentful.
add-circle arrow-right remove style-two-pin-marker subtract-circle remove