Customer Experience Web Content Management

2020 Year in Review (Part 2 – missed trends)

This is Part 2, where I cover some of the trends that I missed in 2020. Part 1 is here and is reviewing some of my 2020 predictions. Part 3 will cover predictions for 2021.


One of the big trends that I missed, is the emergence and growth of a relatively new category: “Front-end as a Service” (FaaS? FeaaS? FraaS??)

To be fair, this existed in the past, but had something of a niche focus; enabling Progressive Web Applications (PWA) for the enterprise commerce platforms (i.e. Magento, SAP Hybris, Salesforce Commerce Cloud). A typical example vendor in this space is Mobify, which was recently acquired by Salesforce.

FaaS has evolved out of this initial use case somewhat. What remains the same is that most have a strong Commerce component. However, there are a number of things that are different in the current crop of vendors:

  • Focus on crafting a multi-channel (vs. mobile) experience on top of SaaS or headless eCommerce vendors (vs. the incumbents). Shogun, for example, supports Shopify and BigCommerce.
  • Often including a Content Management component. The previous generation of Mobile Engagement Solutions seemed very focused on the commerce “cart” elements. Shogun includes their own CMS elements, but other vendors seem to be embracing some of the larger “brand” elements to customer experience. Nacelle, for example, includes connectors for Contentful and (to be fair, Brian Anderson, the CEO of Nacelle characterized his offering as more of “the neck” on headless systems. Not a full-front end creator application per se, but accelerating and simplifying the task of using a CMS and Commerce system working together as a single tool.

Other front-end creation tools such as Frontastic and Stackbit are rapidly trying to fill the “experience gap” that many headless CMS systems have. The ease in which they can craft a unified experience on top of other API-first SaaS tools leads me to think an entire market exists to be building business-focused tools on this pattern. I expand on this a bit in my 2021 predictions.

This need for “enabling” technology on top of more complex stacks is very closely related to the low-code/no-code movement which will start to gain more and more traction. The reason these types of pairings make sense is to get the best of both worlds; a solid API-first foundation which can enable all scenarios (including custom/complex tasks) combined with an approach to make the majority of work far easier, either by pre-built templates or marketer-friendly tooling.

Re-emergence of old architectural patterns

HTML! HOTwire – Hotwire is an alternative approach to building modern web applications without using much JavaScript by sending HTML instead of JSON over the wire.

Server-side rendering! React Server Components – I have to side with Deane Barker here – it feels a lot like .Net webforms

It’s been a while since I’ve coded for the majority of my job – thankfully I don’t need to learn any new concepts since they seem coming right back to how things were back then! Anyway, it seems like every generation seems to want to reinvent everything around a new standard; from HTML to XML to JSON, back to HTML… which is fine; it keeps us nerds employed, but I think it is worth nothing; pick the tool for the job. It seems like instead of understanding the strengths and weaknesses of multiple approaches, most companies/teams seem to pick a method most aligned to your personal, immediate, key use case or understanding and then evangelize the superiority of that method against all other methods (while at the same time trying to build to fill the gaps often better addressed by the other methods). 

Same principle applies to vendors as well. Jamstack/headless isn’t for everyone (and same can be said for most other vendors as well). When I’m asked to give my opinion on if the WCM/DXP industry will consolidate into a handful of vendors (similar to databases, CRM, operating systems, etc.) I generally say no, given that there are a large number of viable vendors; each with a particular strength or use case to solve and this means that for each main buying criteria (i.e. programming language, architectural philosophy, use case, etc.) there can be a number of viable leaders.

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