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Personalisation and WordPress for B2B publishers

By David Lockie, Founder and director



The Drum Network article

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March 12, 2020 | 6 min read

B2B publishing is now largely about digital-first experiences - whether that’s print heritage brands moving over to digital, or natively-digital publications starting up. In this two-part series we share our experience of working with WordPress and Zephr as a successful technology diptych for a number of B2B publishing brands at significant scale.

Website development

Pragmatic releases its first article in a series looking at the usefulness of Wordpress.

We hope to help B2B publishers determine where they are on the digital transformation journey from the perspective of personalised content marketing, assess the efficacy of their current approach and deliver illustrative examples of using Zephr alongside WordPress to create a best-of-breed architecture that can provide an enduring foundation for digital excellence.

We will also speak to a typical roadmap for executing personalisation for a typical paywalled B2B publisher.

Finally we’ll discuss the growing importance of first party cookie data for publishers’ long-term prosperity.

In this first part we’ll consider the two systems separately before looking at practical implementation examples and considering the wider implication of this best-of-breed architectural approach in the second part.

What’s the problem?

WordPress is the world’s #1 CMS - by an order of magnitude - powering (in one form or another over a third of the web[1]) and contrary to popular belief, the % use is actually higher in the top 10k sites than the top million. So lots of folks use WordPress, that’s not news. But for publishers, being able to create content to reach an audience is only one part of the challenge. Once visitors are on-site, there remains the need to engage and derive value from each visit.

In the good(?) old days, the business model was as simple as serving ads and paywalls. Now leading publishers recognise the importance of diversified revenue streams to include lead generation campaigns, co-branded editorial, conversion to social/email/registration walls, affiliate sales or own-brand event and/or product sales (as just a few examples) as non-mutually-exclusive outcomes, each of which may be the optimum outcome for a particular visitor on a particular visit.

But one thing WordPress doesn’t do well natively is identity management.

Identity management is a foundational capability for many of the things publishers now need to be able to do, including:

  • Segmentation and personalisation
  • First party data (inc cross-estate)
  • Data capture (inc progressive profiling)
  • Flexible registration and paywall rules
  • Mixed basket ecommerce
  • Integration with identity-dependent services

WordPress for content management

Content management systems are central, everyday tools for B2B publishers.

The right CMS can play a critical role in a publishing business’ digital transformation, supporting Satya Nadella’s four core pillars:

  1. Empower employees
  2. Engage customers
  3. Optimize operations
  4. Transform products

WordPress is free, open source software and we’ve always found it to be a very powerful solution for our clients, for a number of reasons:

  • Free - no license fees means an immediate and significant cost saving
  • Freedom - discard, enhance, or replace any part you don’t like
  • Agility - pick and choose from thousands of available, quality modules to gain increased roadmap velocity and agility
  • Supplier choice - more agencies, freelancers and specialists gives clients greater freedom
  • Lock in - you are much freer to execute business decisions with open source

With WordPress such a capable and popular platform, publishers are always going to be attracted to using it.

Why not just buy a ‘does it everything’ system?

Many enterprise content management systems include more functionality (including identity) in their core proposition, but it’s rare to find an organisation that won’t admit that they’ve barely scratched the surface of ‘what it can do’.

Starting off with WordPress and layering in functionality for which there is a measured business case leads to better understanding of requirements, the ability to select the best tools for each job and increased likelihood of utilisation of those tools.

In contrast to buying an off-the-shelf, monolithic platform and using a small fraction of the feature set you’re paying for, we’ve seen time and again that a best of breed architecture will deliver greater strategic value by creating a more digitally capable organisation that can evaluate its own requirements and create its own roadmap; blending technological capability into its overall value proposition.

If you buy this, then let’s consider how we take WordPress from a reasonably static front end to one that is as capable (if not more) than many of these enterprise platforms.

Introducing identity and user journey orchestration

For subscription-driven businesses (as many but not all B2B publishers are), the ability for prospects and customers to register, login, hit paywalls, complete ecommerce journeys are usually the most critical user journeys.

For the business, marketing and sales teams in particular will be looking for critical integrations to marketing automation, CRM and email marketing systems.

Layering an identity platform like Zephr over the CMS will enable all these journeys and integrations - often straight out-of-the-box.

Integrating Zephr confers an incredibly valuable identity data layer that publishers can immediately solve multiple challenges:

  • Actionable insights into prospect and customer product usage patterns
  • Orchestrate user journeys on-the-fly with no developer time required
  • Offload authentication and user-stateful workloads from the CMS
  • Improve performance by leveraging Zephr’s caching layer
  • Implement flexible sampling for better SEO indexing of premium content

Part two of this article will be published next week.

David Lockie, founder and director, Pragmatic


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