The steady marketing mantra of “content is king” has been recycled as a trade show presentation for too long but the fact still stands that it is content that largely governs the success of our digital presence. The point of this little post is not to go into why creating good content is essential; that much will be assumed, but I want to quickly touch on the different ways we can manage content from a hospitality and travel tech standpoint.
What is a CMS?
CMS stands for content management system and is usually built into all modern websites in the form of an online dashboard with user accounts, login areas, pages, posts and other settings. They often support many different types of content management such as text, images, movies, sounds, formatting and more which makes them a very handy piece of kit when it comes to keeping a hotel or travel website up to date. Umi Digital typically work with WordPress which is currently used to manage over 30% of the known websites on the internet, the open sourced code along with oodles of documentation and plugins make it a popular choice for websites of all different types. Umi in fact goes further by customising the interface in a hospitality specific way.
What are the key limitations of most modern CMS?
However.. as much as they have their positives, they have some significant drawbacks. These drawbacks are not too costly now but looking ahead to the future of content management on the web, they certainly become most become more important.
- They are so deeply linked to the website front-end, that evolving from one website to the next (particularly with large amounts of content) can be very challenging. Up to 50 pages would be manageable but beyond that, it starts becoming easier to write custom migration scripts in order to lift the content out from one site into the next. Even using WordPress, the important and export process isn’t easy because every single field would need to match up to the new system in order to migrate property. This was exactly the process we performed with gapyear.com with their 100k+ pages!
- The double-edged sword of having a vibrant and diverse plugin ecosystem (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal etc.) is that they are all too easy to install.. As a result, the content management systems can carry a significant amount of bloat. All the features are usually overkill for the purpose they were designed for. An example would be social sharing plugins; something that can be done in a few lines of code within the theme itself has been overthought and turned into a chunky plugin that the browser and server have to chew through every time a page loads.
- The flexibility over the different types of content within the system can quickly become a hindrance. WordPress, for example, saves its content data as HTML within the database, this means that if you format, align, link and colour your text in the WYSIWYG editor, there is a vast amount of non-essential data being saved. This also does not allow for other applications to consume the data easily. An app, for example, won’t want to have formatted text from the website, it will just want to naked, unformatted text string in order to style it in a unique way.
- In almost all cases, they are completely synonymous with the website itself. This final point leads me on quite nicely to a new type of CMS and one that I think will be at the forefront of the hotel and travel innovators going forward. With most current CMS options, they only allow us to think about how to manage the content on the site itself and we are not thinking beyond this in terms of how our content might be consumed by other sites, or indeed have other services interact with it? If you adopt the on-site CMS approach, things like mobile apps, comparison tools, partnering with local sites and other exciting marketing initiatives will most probably rely on setting up a whole new content infrastructure. When a content change is needed, the content manager will need to change it on the app, change it on the website, change it on the PMS; all as separate actions.
What is a decoupled CMS?
Teed up by point four above, there is another option of content management. This can be seen more as ‘content infrastructure as a service’ as opposed to a CMS, because it goes a lot further than simply providing an area online to update copy. A decoupled CMS is a completely standalone service that holds content in structured ways so that it can be accessed from any service imaginable; anything with an internet connection anyway! These CMS options are API first, or headless, meaning that to engage (both publishing and fetching content) we need to make API calls from our website and it is given back to us. This is theoretically what WordPress is doing when we render a page but the decoupled CMS makes it possible from anywhere and doesn’t suffer the drawbacks mentioned above.
What does this all mean for Hotels and Travel
It might seem a bit conceptual at the moment but for our travel and property clients, this is something that has become immediately useful. For tours, activities and flight, the inventory is being distributed across many different channels in order to sell effectively, making the content infrastructure a nightmare if you are managing it in different places. To overcome this, we have implemented Contentful, a decoupled and API based CMS in order to both publish and consume content from any number of different applications. Going forward beyond 2019, we know that the content will be able to be consumed wherever necessary.
Map this onto hotels marketing, this is highly applicable to rooms as well. Currently, our content needs be managed separately across the website, apps, booking engines, PMS systems and there is no central repository for us to easily manage it all. I believe that this needs to change going forwards as integration becomes the name of the game. Having a decoupled CMS might require a bit of additional investment compared to a traditional open-source CMS like WordPress, however it will future-proof your content infrastructure as the industry pumps out new integrations and services to distribute your inventory.