Headless CMS Buyer's Guide

Basic Definitions

A Content Management System (CMS) is software that helps users create, manage, and modify content for a website or application without the need for specialized technical knowledge.

Headless is a technical term that describes the separation of the backend logic and storage from the frontend application or view, typically through APIs.

APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are a computing interface which defines interactions between multiple software intermediaries. It defines the kinds of calls or requests that can be made, how to make them, the data formats that should be used, the conventions to follow, etc. It can also provide extension mechanisms so that users can extend existing functionality in various ways and to varying degrees.

A Content Repository is a database of digital content with an associated set of data management, search and access methods allowing application-independent access to the content. The content repository acts as the storage engine for a larger application such as a CMS.

A Headless CMS provides tooling that allows non-technical users to create, manage and modify content for a website or application. The frontend could be a website, mobile app or another smart device. A headless CMS provides APIs that connect the content repository with the frontend (head).

Digital Experience Platform (DXP) is an emerging category of enterprise software seeking to meet the needs of companies undergoing digital transformation, with the ultimate goal of providing better customer experiences. DXPs can be a single product, but are often a suite of products and services that work together.

Customer experience is the impression your customers have of your brand as a whole throughout all aspects of the buyer's journey, consisting of multiple smaller customer experiences, micro interactions and moments. It results in their view of your brand and impacts factors related to your bottom line including revenue.

Why Use This Guide

The CMS market is crowded with hundreds of vendors all claiming to provide similar capabilities, functionality and benefits. So how do you choose which CMS is the right fit for your business, and perhaps more importantly today, how do you know if a headless CMS is right for you? There is no “best CMS” and therefore, when choosing a CMS, you should focus on matching your company’s specific requirements to each vendor’s product offering.

We’ve guided hundreds of businesses through the process of selecting the right CMS for them. Amplience was a fantastic fit for many of those companies, but we have also recommended some businesses towards some of our competitors when their focus has not been commerce centric. In those cases, another CMS was simply a better fit for their business needs and we were happy to point them in the right direction.

As a result of many customer conversations and RFPs, we’ve built up a really good sense for the key factors that help businesses navigate their CMS vendor evaluation and selection process. Your business will likely make trade-offs along the way that typically boil down to speed (time to market), control (flexibility) and budget (cost). To help with your evaluation process and navigate these tradeoffs, we have broken down the key areas to consider into four key categories and their sub-categories.

The 4 Key Considerations When Selecting Your CMS

Technical Maturity

One of the first and most important considerations is to understand your company’s technical maturity or whether your business strategy requires you to mature along the technical maturity scale from where you are today.

CMS Architecture

It’s important to understand the different types of architectural principles that are available to your business. We’ve broken this down further into four key areas.

Business Requirements

The next key consideration you must make relates to understanding your business requirements and exact circumstances.

Commercial Models & Pricing

The last important consideration is to understand your budget and the different pricing models that vendors provide.


This is a relatively detailed guide and we highly recommend you read it in its entirety, as selecting a CMS is a mission critical component to effectively operating your business. We hope you find this guide insightful and help accelerate your CMS evaluation process. With that said, for those decision makers who lack the time, we’ve put together a very brief summary for you in this section.

Here at Amplience we’re focused on enabling brands to deliver customer-first experiences for commerce use cases, retailers and brands. We define customer-first experiences as having three core attributes:

  1. Lightning Fast / Mobile Optimized

    • Sub-second mobile load times. Faster sites mean higher conversion.

  2. Context Aware

    • Meeting your customers on their terms across any channel or device, providing tools for your team to manage content - not code.

  3. Ever Evolving

    • The only constant is change, Amplience is focused on removing bottlenecks so our customers can innovate at pace.

Retailers and brands choose Amplience when they need one or more of the following:

  1. A CMS focused on commerce use cases and content production workflows.

  2. Storefront experience management - specific tools to create and manage content from an eCommerce storefront perspective.

  3. An integrated, enterprise-grade DAM.

Additional Recommendations

If you’re looking for a modern headless CMS and have an internal or external development team, then you should begin your evaluation with Amplience, Contentful or ContentStack.

If you’re looking for a traditional CMS to manage a single website and don’t mind the reduced agility and increased costs, then you should look into the following:

Entry-Level / No Development Team - Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace, or Webflow

Mid-Market - Wordpress/Drupal or Hubspot

Enterprise Sites - Adobe Experience Manager, Bloomreach, Salesforce, or Acquia

This diagram includes many of the Content Management Systems mentioned in this guide and makes a great starting point for your discovery and evaluation depending on how you would categorize your business size and technical maturity.

Please note that this diagram is only based on two high-level criteria and there are other factors to consider that we’ll cover in-depth throughout this guide.

Next Steps

We hope you find our CMS Buyer’s Guide insightful. Now that you’re equipped with the top considerations for evaluating any CMS, we want to make sure you have all the information you need to understand if Amplience is the right solution for your business.

Please feel free to book a meeting with one of our experts if you’re interested in learning more about:

  • Specific details on how we compare against other vendors you may be evaluating, such as Contentful and ContentStack

  • How to start a trial or POC

  • Our pricing options

  • Headless solution architecture advice

  • Solution implementer recommendations

We’d be happy to jump on a call and answer all of your questions.

Book a Meeting