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How to Choose a CMS For Maximum ROI [2023 Edition]

Choosing the correct CMS for business can take time and effort. Each one offers different features relevant to the user experience, from multi-channel support and content delivery to personalization and analytical tools. 

However, they also come with different price tags and architectures. It's also easy to be lured by fancy features you will never use, which end up being additional perks that will take a toll on your company's budget.

With research, companies can save money by selecting the right platform, particularly considering how expensive it is to buy software solutions. Amidst rising expenses, intelligently reducing costs and increasing value for money with a modern CMS can be beneficial.

This article will discuss the factors to consider while purchasing a CMS and will help you find the most cost-effective solution for maximum ROI. 

How to Measure the ROI of a CMS

Return on investment (ROI) is the measure of benefit that you gain from a particular investment. It explains how much you gained as a percentage of how much you had to spend initially. This seems straightforward for businesses, but the ROI of a software solution like a CMS is slightly tricky. Choosing the wrong CMS costs companies, and the longer they stick to it, the higher the loss.

Losing Money and Time to the Wrong CMS

Often, companies using a legacy or traditional CMS may receive a poor investment return. Operating on legacy software can be a waste of time and resources. You might also miss out on some key features, such as:

How a CMS Can Bring ROI

Your CMS may not necessarily be a direct contributor to an increase in revenue, but it can help to improve business operations and enhance the customer experience.

If you can deliver the best digital experience, you can improve customer acquisition and retain your existing customers. A CMS that can help you accomplish this often includes the following characteristics:

Assessing Your CMS Options

When considering whether or not a CMS can deliver the ROI you need, you must analyze the different options and architectures available.

Headless CMS vs. Hybrid Headless CMS vs. Traditional CMS

CMSs have been continuously evolving according to business needs. With each iteration, they introduce features that benefit clients in terms of productivity or revenue.

Traditional CMS

A traditional CMS such as WordPress has a tightly coupled frontend and backend that is ideal for publishing to one channel, such as a blog. These types of CMSs offer a ready-to-use system out of the box. However, users are stuck with a predefined interface with little flexibility. Also, content from traditional CMS is often limited to just a website and is challenging to use on other channels.

Headless CMS

A headless CMS provides the same backend for content management but removes the front interface entirely. Instead, the architecture provides a set of APIs that can link the CMS to a custom-designed user interface. This makes the headless CMS an omnichannel platform that can deliver content to various devices such as desktops, mobile, and AR/VR applications.

The drawback of this approach is that it requires additional technical expertise to create and optimize an interface. Marketers charged with creating the digital experience have to rely on their more technical counterparts.

Hybrid Headless CMS

A hybrid headless CMS combines a traditional CMS and headless CMS. It leverages the benefits of a headless-first CMS architecture by providing content delivery APIs. Still, it allows non-technical users to create and publish content with marketer-friendly features like WYSIWYG editing.

A hybrid CMS, such as Zesty.io, benefits marketers and developers by providing seamless content publishing and the flexibility to create any frontend interface required.

Monolithic CMS vs. Headless CMS: Achieving "Composability"

Many traditional and legacy CMSs are often monolithic. These monolithic CMSs can also be part of a larger monolithic DXP that offers more than just content management but features like personalization, analytics, and more.

However, these monolithic platforms are bulky structures that are expensive to maintain and can lock businesses into a specific way of doing things and make it difficult to adapt. 

On the other hand, opting for a headless CMS or, better yet, a hybrid headless CMS, opens up the door to composability. With a headless CMS, you can easily integrate other tools into your tech stack since it acts as the centerpiece for a composable DXP. This allows you to achieve the same functionality as a monolithic DXP but with more flexibility and the option of selecting from different best-of-breed tools. 

Talking MACH: What is MACH Architecture?

The benefits of "composability" led to the development of MACH architecture. MACH refers to:

The MACH architecture defines what it truly means to embrace modularity in the software space. It encompasses all technologies that ensure a fail-safe, scalable and future-proof application. The architecture promotes microservices-based development and deployment techniques coupled with APIs for inter-service communication.

It encourages development in a scalable cloud environment so applications can be upgraded according to client needs. Finally, the headless approach allows brands to publish content to various channels with a frontend presentation layer decoupled from backend logic. 

Some of the benefits of systems that are considered MACH-based include the following:

Getting Specific: What to Look For in a CMS in 2023

Modern businesses have begun to embrace CMSs that allow them to experience the benefits of composability and MACH architecture. However, amongst other IT expenditures, the choice of a CMS requires planning. There are many factors to consider, especially when focusing on ROI.

Here are a few key questions to ask:

  • Does it meet the content needs of a traditional CMS?

A traditional CMS connects the presentation (frontend) and logic (backend) layers of a website for easy and faster deployment. You can serve your entire website from a single CMS by making use of themes and templates available, or customize the design using an editable HTML view.

  • Does it offer a headless CMS API interface?

A headless CMS separates the frontend of a website from its backend. That way, you can use content APIs to pull content to any digital channel (website, mobile, IoT, VR/AR, e.t.c) with little worry about its frontend framework (frontend agnostic).

  • Does it align with MACH architecture?

The MACH architecture (Microservice-based, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless) is a modern development approach to building a modular, composable, and highly scalable tech stack. By using a technology that follows MACH, you can integrate more best-of-breed services into your stack, ensuring greater agility and innovation.

  • Is it cloud-based, on-prem, or hybrid?

A CMS can be cloud-based, on-prem, or hybrid. This will play a huge role in providing better scalability and security, as well as internal security measures. 

  • If cloud-based, what cloud platform is it built on?

By knowing the cloud platform that the CMS is built on (GCP, Azure, AWS, etc.), you can better understand the technologies you can use with the CMS.

  • Is the CMS a suite/all-in-one solution?

A suite/all-in-one CMS combines everything you need into one monolithic software stack. While sometimes helpful, it can limit innovation, flexibility, and scalability.

  • Does the CMS offer content preview capabilities for device types, channels, personas, and language?

You can visualize how your content will appear across different devices and channels with content previews.

  • What programming language(s) is the CMS compatible with? Will the product require expertise in a specific programming language?

You want a CMS that aligns with the skillset present in your enterprise. Furthermore, you should choose a frontend agnostic CMS, so you can use whatever language you like.

  • What options are available for re-platforming/migrations?

Some CMSs have complicated processes to re-platform or migrate content. Before choosing a CMS, find out the options available for migrating content and the associated costs.

  • What is the estimated cost and timeframe for implementation?

Some CMS vendors may need to provide the cost of implementation during the selection process. You want to ensure that the timeline and cost suit you.

  • Is your CMS agile enough to meet future demands?

Tell your vendor what you want to achieve within a specific date and the metrics you plan to focus on to ensure that the platform will support you in achieving your goals.

  • Does the CMS support the third-party tools you currently use or plan to use?

You must ensure that the CMS integrates seamlessly with your current tech stack.

  • Is there 24/7 support on the CMS platform?

The success of your CMS may depend on how fast you can mitigate challenging incidents. A 24/7, 365-day support service will go a long way toward that goal.

  • What is the pricing structure for the headless CMS?

For SaaS businesses, there are many pricing models to choose from. Choose a CMS that delivers at an affordable price that meets your needs.

For a deeper understanding of a robust CMS that provides a good ROI, download our Headless CMS Buyer's Guide and RFP Template.


By Katie Moser

Katie is the Senior Marketing Manager for Zesty.io. Her expertise lies in crafting marketing strategy, with an emphasis on content and digital marketing. Having spent too much time in clunky CMS's, Katie understands the need for a CMS that works with you - not against you. In her free time, you can find Katie in San Diego enjoying the sunshine at the beach or on hikes.

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