In today’s digital-first economy, yesterday’s content tools can’t keep up

In today’s digital-first economy, yesterday’s content tools can’t keep up
November 11, 2022


When the app-based food delivery service DoorDash launched nine years ago, it had big ambitions to make it easy for customers to have their favorite food delivered to their doorstep. To bring this to life, DoorDash hired various digital agencies to create this experience so that it could be accessed from any device. At the time, they relied on the then dominant content management systems to design the interfaces, menus, and other vital information.

But the end result was nearly two dozen microsites on a dizzying array of external platforms, all with varying websites, content, design, and support. Predictably, the quality of the customer experience and manageability of these external websites suffered. The content often wasn’t where it needed to be for easy use by customers.

And so, on its way to scaling up internationally and becoming the U.S. leader in food and convenience delivery, DoorDash knew its content needed to become truly digital-first, to give its developers the flexibility to create the best customer experience. It needed to build a scalable platform that let its teams take a standard approach to content creation — without the need for engineers or designers to be involved after initial setup.  

They began a journey to modernize their operations across an initial set of microsites by implementing Contentful and a new approach built on composable content, which has become an increasingly popular way to create, manage, deploy, and reuse content across digital channels. Such a platform is built on an API-first architecture that detaches content from the device or channel where it is displayed. Words, images, graphics, sound, and data are separated into small pieces so that they can be easily orchestrated into many combinations and permutations in any context, channel, or device. 

The power of composable content is that it is inherently flexible and can be modified as needs change. It assumes that any content could (and often should) be reused. It also informs how teams work together to build, use, and leverage content. Reuse is not limited to content, but applies equally to the models, assemblies, and architectures that make effective content reuse possible.

Adapt and change as requirements shift

Over the past few years, companies in all sorts of industries have learned to excel as digital-first operations — businesses as diverse as Siemens, the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team, and the cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase — by leveraging the power of composable content. 

Adherents of composable content know that in today’s digitized economy, content is much more than the static sales catalogs and order-placement platforms of the early era of ecommerce. These days, more and more, content is the product. It’s the center of the user experience. The shift in customer expectations now means that every business must have compelling content-based digital experiences, in whatever channel a customer wants.

That’s why any businesses that are still thinking of content only as a way to distribute information, using outmoded, monolithic legacy content management systems (CMS)  — well, those businesses and their target users are falling rapidly behind in the digital economy.

The big problem with legacy content management systems is this: Instead of making content easily connected and composable, they render it clumsily and disposable. Too many brands are still tied to a monolithic CMS that locks content in siloed systems based on department, channel, or geography. Their content is too hard to retrieve, making any updates laborious and slow. It takes months to build a new content repository from scratch and then create a full campaign every time content is uploaded. Often, that process is too time-consuming and resource-intensive to be worth the effort. 

For successful digital-first upstarts that have disrupted old-line markets — as Warby Parker has done with eyewear or Purple has done with mattresses — having the ability to deliver compelling digital experiences quickly and at scale is a critical competitive advantage. Just ask the legacy companies from whom those upstarts have been devouring market share.

Teams work independently, but in coordination

The new business playbook requires everyone across the organization to think and act like builders, whether they’re in IT, strategy, marketing, sales, customer support, commerce, HR, product, or legal. Together, they can become more responsive to the changing needs of customers. 

Coinbase is a good example of that power in action. In 2020, when the company launched its educational portal, Coinbase Learn, it contained hundreds of beginner guides, tutorials, and market updates on more than 40 different product surfaces across more than a dozen repositories or front-end applications. You can imagine a builder’s potential bewilderment on knowing where to begin whenever it came time to update any of those educational materials — particularly given the blazing velocity of change in the cryptocurrency field. 

Since then, Coinbase has adopted a composable content platform to curate and manage all of this content. Using Contentful, an update made by anyone at the company involved in creating and editing Coinbase Learn materials can automatically flow through to all end users, no matter how or where they experience the content. 

Because content and the user experience are essentially the central product for digital-first companies, the quality of those experiences will largely determine the winners and losers in the increasingly digitized business world.

Only by adopting a composable content platform, complete with tools and architecture that can make anyone in the organization a builder, can today’s businesses hope to succeed tomorrow and in the years to come.

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