Understanding the Business Value of Headless CMS


A headless CMS, one in which the content authoring “body” is separated from the content distribution channels (or heads), allows an organization to:

  1. Author once and publish to multiple channels; and
  2. Reuse the same content in multiple contexts.

This relatively new type of content management system offers several points of business value over its traditional cousins. When is it worth it? What business problems can a headless CMS help you solve? Why should your organization adopt a headless CMS solution?

Create More Compelling Content With Audience Segmentation

We all want to create engaging content that grabs the attention of our audiences. But the reality is, that is nearly impossible unless you define your audiences and write to their specific needs. When you try to create generic content for everyone, you end up creating dull, flat content that isn’t exciting for anyone.

That seems like common sense, but when you break it down further there are some implied technical requirements:

  • You probably have more than one audience.
  • If you’re going to create content which meets the specific needs of each audience, you’re going to need similar versions of the same content.

Supporting similar versions of content is a tricky content governance issue (we’ll get into governance below), but with the right content engineering, you can maximize your ability to create custom content to meet audience needs, while minimizing the burden of maintaining similar versions of the same content.

Consider this example. If you’re creating content to teach staff members in your organization how to follow a process, you’ll likely document the process step by step. If, instead of creating one single Word document that outlines the entire process, you create structured content where each step of the process is a unique field, you are then able to more effectively reuse each step for multiple audience needs.

Audience Content Engineering Strategy
Audience Segment 1:  New trainees learning the process for the first time The same content would be useful to this audience as a downloadable document that showed all of the steps in the process in sequential order.

Individual steps can also be beneficial outside of the restrictive context of a document as user help which is displayed in an application as the process is being followed.

Audience Segment 2:  Staff who have already been through the training, but just need a quick refresher about Step 3 In this case, your audience doesn’t want a document about the entire process – they just want Step 3! And they’re probably not searching for the phrase “What is Step 3?” They’re probably asking a question such as “How do I edit the Short Description field?” When someone asks a question, they want the answer – not a document title and link to where they can keep looking for the answer.

A headless CMS and well-engineered content allow you to display the answer to their question as their search result. It also allows you to make that answer findable quickly on their phone, computer, or any number of other devices.

Audience Segment 3:  Trainers who must teach the process Trainers may benefit from a dynamic document which shows the steps of the process in sequential order, in which all trainers are able to add shared comments flagging problem areas where previous trainees have struggled. This will enable trainers to focus on known problem areas and provide continuously improving instruction.

When you break down the document paradigm and craft reusable content components, a headless CMS can deliver them for multiple audience needs.

KEY POINT:  In all of these examples, the core content (the steps) is the same. It is the context surrounding the core content which must be customized for the audience. Rather than maintaining the core content in multiple places, a headless CMS with properly engineered content models allows for the reuse of the core content to meet the needs of audience segments. This is the foundation of effective content personalization and localization. It’s the building blocks of more engaging content.

Improve the Efficiency and Accuracy of Content Updates

As noted above, effective audience segmentation, content personalization, and content localization, all require contextualizing content for a unique audience and purpose. If you’re not careful – and your CMS is not well-designed – this could result in a lot of duplicate content. Generally speaking EK recommends avoiding duplicate or similar content because it is a nightmare to maintain and govern.

Let’s look again at the content reuse example from above. We’ve created step-by-step documentation of a process and we’ve reused that process documentation for three different audiences. If we’ve done this the “old fashioned” way, this means we’ve probably created three different documents or web pages. What happens in that scenario when there’s a change to the process? We’ll have to update the content in three different places (and, inevitably, we’ll lose track and forget to update at least one of the three).

So let’s pause a second and break down the business problems here:

  • Time Wasted: Content creators maintaining content in three places instead wastes time. Multiply that over all of the content your organization maintains and this is a very expensive problem.
  • Inaccurate Content: When your team remembers to update content in only two of the three places, the overall perception of accuracy and reliability of your content are eroded.

KEY POINT:  A well designed headless CMS enables the reuse of content so that your content creators only have to make updates in one place when content inevitably needs to change. This improves the efficiency of your team, and improves the overall accuracy of your content.


A headless CMS enables the efficient reuse and re-contextualization of content for multiple audiences, platforms, and purposes. Reusing content can help your organization realize a ton of benefits including better audience engagement with segmentation and personalization, saved staff time and money when content updates can be made in one place instead of many, and improved accuracy of (and subsequent trust in) content. Need help architecting and deploying a headless CMS? EK’s team of engineers can help.

Rebecca Wyatt Rebecca Wyatt Skilled trainer, content strategist, and project manager who is focused on empowering teams and maximizing learning. Rebecca is a self-described "learning addict" who is at her best collaborating with and inspiring teams to greater success. More from Rebecca Wyatt »