The Rise of the Headless CMS, and the Fall of WordPress
3 min read

The Rise of the Headless CMS, and the Fall of WordPress

There is now an ever-growing chasm between what enterprises need and what the traditional content management systems of old are able to provide.
The Rise of the Headless CMS, and the Fall of WordPress

Take one look at the modern customer journey, and you’ll notice that things are vastly different than they were even a few short years ago.

Today, potential customers spend most of their time on smartphones and social media platforms. They’re using smart speakers in their homes and remaining connected at all times via the smartwatches on their wrists.

With such an assortment of channels, there is now an ever-growing chasm between what enterprises need and what the traditional content management systems of old are able to provide.

WordPress’ Dwindling Market Share

WordPress has dominated the content management market for decades, powering almost 50% of the entire known web. That market share had steadily increased, even in recent years.

Until now.

Between March 2022 and June 2022, WordPress’s share of the web dropped 0.4%.

Source: W3Techs

While 0.4% may seem minuscule, it’s still notable due to just how dominant WordPress has been for over two decades.

WordPress users are increasingly recognizing that the platform isn’t quite as capable as it once was, especially if they’re an ambitious startup that’s looking to:

  1. Be around for longer than 12 months
  2. Expand their pool of content
  3. Augment and optimize their customer experience

Once the thing developers turned to when they wanted to build with the latest technologies, the platform doesn’t provide the flexibility to build frontend experiences using the latest JavaScript frameworks. WordPress’s legacy architecture limits developers’ ability to do a number of things, particularly for businesses that need to cater to their ever-growing list of customer-facing channels.

Headless Architecture: What is a Headless CMS? What is a DXP? What is Composable?

Headless CMS platforms have risen in popularity to answer the customer’s call for an omnichannel experience. Future Market Insights forecasts that the market will grow from $605 million to $3.8 billion over the next decade as demand surges for more flexibility, security and adaptability.

With the ability to deliver content to various channels and connect with the other tools in the technology stack, headless CMSs provide the agility and freedom modern businesses have been seeking for quite some time.

The choice of whether to consider these platforms headless, hybrid headless, agile, or API-first largely depends on the vendors selling the software and their interpretation of the technology. However, the headless approach and all that comes with it are growing in stature.

An excerpt from Forrester’s Agile Content Management Systems, Q2 2022 report says:

“While channel complexity and device fragmentation have increased, CMS platforms have up-leveled their game, too. Agile CMS has evolved to support omnichannel experiences, personalization, and more engaging experiences at scale in both traditional and headless modes.”

Gartner, which retired its web content management (WCM) Magic Quadrant in early 2020 to indicate the evolution toward digital experience platforms (DXPs), has echoed similar statements. Per its Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms 2022 report:

“[A DXP] provides the presentation orchestration that binds together capabilities from multiple applications to form seamless digital experiences.”

“A DXP forms part of a digital business ecosystem via API-based integrations with adjacent technologies.”

Headless architecture makes these capabilities possible and indicates how these platforms are transforming content experiences. But are these changes also being reflected on the broader market? Or simply analyst speculation?

As we’ve covered in DXPReport, platforms such as Contentstack and Agility CMS announced their best year-over-year returns in 2021. At the same time, others like Contentful ($175M), ($40M), Storyblok ($47M), and Magnolia have either raised significant funds or been acquired within the last year. This highlights just how much faith investors and leading organizations across multiple industries have in the headless approach.

Ushering in the Age of MACH and Composability

Headless is no longer a trend when it comes to building content experiences. It’s here to stay with other verticals like eCommerce, adopting the headless approach to fuel the demand for omnichannel content and shopping experiences through headless commerce.

The MACH Alliance, which now boasts over 60 members, is championing headless, microservices, API-first, and cloud-native capabilities as critical to enabling best-of-breed ecosystems.

Headless architecture also forms the backbone of the composable DXP, which is also seeing increased adoption in the place of the traditional monolithic suite. Traditional CMS platforms like WordPress may still hold the lion’s share of the market, but the headless revolution is well on the way with no signs of slowing down.