Choosing the best CMS for your business

Updated: September 1, 2022

Find the best content management system for your business with Contentful’s easy-to-follow guide for choosing traditional or headless CMS.


Businesses are adapting to rapidly evolving customer expectations, investing more in technology to deliver digital experiences faster. As companies move to omnichannel content delivery, digital teams need more flexibility and scalability to accelerate this transformation.

Many companies struggle with moving beyond a traditional CMS. Initially built for managing websites, traditional platforms were created to store and publish content as well as design elements all in one place. However, this limited how businesses could deliver content across multiple channels. Headless CMS became an ideal solution to provide the needed scalability and flexibility to deliver content faster.

Small businesses are still surviving without a digital presence; while 60% of small businesses invest in a website, 40% still choose not to invest. But for many brands, today’s content needs to extend well beyond the limitations of the traditional CMS. Companies large and small are developing mobile sites, digital displays, and apps at an increasing rate, and customer expectations have never been higher.

When businesses try to capitalize on personalization at scale, they often encounter barriers to the portability of customer data and unfulfilled technology expectations. In order to evolve and compete in the digital-first era, companies experiencing rapid digital transformation may explore a shift from legacy systems to more scalable content solutions that blend well with the modern tech stack.

Here are a few examples of how headless CMS has helped global brands across industries future-proof their stacks and increase productivity:

  • Enterprise: With increased flexibility and faster development times, Intercom teams were able to reduce page builds from two weeks to two days.
  • Retail: With improved scalability and agility of their website, Beauty Bay updated their site workflow, increasing productivity from 24 hours to 10 minutes.
  • Finance: By optimizing workflows between developers and editors, XOOM teams were able to deliver digital content faster, reducing deployment time from two weeks to 30 minutes.

When investing in a new content platform, organizations should seek out the best CMS for their current and future needs. Find out how to choose the right CMS for your business and why many companies choose headless CMS to support their digital transformation journey.

What is a CMS?

A CMS, or content management system, is a software application used for web development that allows content creators to manage, edit, and publish content to a website from a user-friendly interface. The traditional architecture of the CMS is an all-in-one or “coupled” enterprise content management system that pulls digital assets into one place for managing and publishing content.

What is a traditional CMS?

A traditional CMS allows content creators to manage and display content to a website with an all-in-one solution. The most popular CMS for small-scale operations and personal websites, the traditional CMS packages all content and digital assets together, in a monolithic architecture that tightly links the frontend and backend of the website.

A traditional CMS platform comes with built-in themes and templates, and a frontend that can be customized and edited as needed. Because everything is together, users can quickly manage and publish content without technical expertise or coding required.

What are the advantages of a traditional CMS?

One of the best advantages of a traditional CMS is that the software is simple to set up and use. Everything from content management to the design is grouped together, making it easy for users to manage and publish content. Other advantages include:

  • User-friendly interface. A traditional CMS is easy to use, with downloadable templates and extensions to customize the website.
  • Good for basic sites. A traditional CMS is well-suited for blogs, personal sites, generic themes, and smaller company websites.
  • Easy out-of-the-box convenience. Using a traditional CMS is an inexpensive and easy way to create and publish content to the website.
  • Ideal for small teams. It’s the best CMS for companies that don’t have the bandwidth or experience to implement and use a headless CMS.

What is a headless CMS?

A headless CMS is a content management system that provides the content as data over an API. This type of content platform differs from a traditional CMS because the presentation layer, or the visual representation of a website in a browser or mobile device (also known as the “head”), is not coupled/attached to the CMS. In short, the term “headless” essentially means that the presentation layer is separated from the body. By storing content separately from the code used to build the presentation layer, a headless CMS can manage all of an organization’s content, no matter its destination, enabling teams to quickly launch content and products across channels.

What are the advantages of a headless CMS?

A headless content management system allows more control over how content is delivered across multiple channels. Without a designated frontend, a headless CMS gives developers and content creators more flexibility in design. Headless content management system benefits include:

  • Increased productivity. Streamlined workflows allow developers, content creators, marketers, and editors to work in parallel, increasing efficiency and enabling faster development.
  • Built for omnichannel experiences. API-native integrations empower brands to deliver a seamless flow of content across the tech stack, and to end customers on any channel.
  • Cost-efficient. Companies and developers have a more efficient way to create scalable designs without ongoing technical involvement.
  • Enhances security. Companies can reduce security risks with the best enterprise CMS for securing data that is completely separated from the frontend website.
  • Future-proofs content. Because structured content is held separately from the display, content can be deployed across any channel, now or in the future, without being locked into a prescriptive way of creating and managing content.
  • Scalability. Growing organizations need a modern content solution capable of supporting increased complexity and sophistication, integration with new technology, greater security and legal requirements, and accelerated speed to market.

Reasons why enterprises and industry leaders choose headless CMS

Without the limited functionalities of a legacy CMS, companies across industries can rely on a headless CMS to design large-scale and unique digital products that stand out from their competitors. Here are some reasons why a headless CMS may be the best content management system for your business:

  • Creates a seamless experience for end customers across digital touchpoints. Content creators and marketers can create innovative experiences across multiple platforms that increase customer loyalty and build trust in the brand.
  • Prepares companies for growth. Content creators, marketers, and editors can publish content at scale without sacrificing performance, helping them grow bigger, faster.

With headless CMS, companies like Bang & Olufsen (B&O) were able to use their content platform to meet their customers’ needs in different regions and languages. This allowed them to improve their digital customer experience that led to a threefold increase in their ecommerce conversion rate.

Which CMS should you choose?

While traditional architecture may work for basic websites, companies looking for a more flexible, scalable content management system solution should choose a headless CMS. Businesses need content infrastructure to handle the many dimensions of scale, including the ability to support complex integrations, customizations, additional features, and functionality.

Contentful provides companies ways to optimize their digital ecosystems and power digital experiences. With flexibility in pricing, businesses can scale their content platforms with a centralized hub for structured content, powerful delivery APIs, a customizable web app and JAM-stack ready CMS to create and deliver content faster.

With a more flexible content solution, businesses have more opportunities to produce content-driven experiences in shorter amounts of time. If something doesn’t work, a headless-style solution enables them to pivot, meet the expectations of customers and keep a competitive edge.

To learn more about how the next generation of content management solutions can help your organization deliver better digital customer experiences, check out The ultimate guide to headless CMS.

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