Headless CMS Use Cases

Key Takeaways

  • Headless CMS platforms have made a dramatic impact to the CMS landscape over the past few years.
  • There are a variety of Headless platform implementations. Each comes with its benefits and drawbacks.
  • Although Headless platforms were first designed for mobile applications, today they are finding many uses. 
  • Organizations are finding innovative ways to use them from content repositories to improved user experiences.
  • The CMS is quickly moving away from traditional, database-driven systems and toward API-driven.
  • Core dna  approach to headless is offering a hybrid platform with both API, templating and a sophisticated hooks engine.

Learn from the most successful headless and decoupled content management system (CMS) use cases to incorporate into your business strategy.

What are the different types of headless platforms

Over the past 4 years there has been an explosion of new headless cms platforms. These platforms can be divided into 2 categories. 1. Open source headless CMS platforms and 2. SaaS or Cloud headless CMS platforms.

Open-source headless CMS platforms

Software released under an open-source license allows developers to directly modify the source code. This control over the platform lets developers customize a CMS to meet their team’s needs.

Since developers from all over the world work collaboratively with the source code in an open environment, those that are new to the platform or have specific questions about how it works can reach out to experienced programmers within the community to get their answers. Let’s take a look at three leading open-source CMS vendors:

1. Strapi  

Strapi is an open-source CMS platform that’s built on Node.js and works with the database and self-hosting solutions of your choice.

The primary goal of Strapi is to build a solid API, while offering an intuitive admin panel. While Strapi has capabilities to ease the task of managing user sessions and applications, users have encountered occasional problems with the drag-and-drop interface and array data types.

Strapi is ideal for small companies that need a flexible API for their front-end.

Top Strapi features:

  • Built-in support RESTful and GraphQL APIs.
  • 100% JavaScript for front-end and CMS.
  • Intuitive admin console for content editors.
  • Highly extensible with a built-in plugin system.
  • Simple for developers to use and review.

2. Cockpit


Cockpit is a free, open-source, lightweight CMS that’s built to work with NoSQL databases like MongoDB and SQLite. It’s headless and API-first, meaning the CMS focuses only on backend APIs to manage meta-data and data entries.

There’s no presentation layer, so developers have total freedom to review and manage the frontend. Cockpit works well for clients who want a simple installation and require an adaptable content structure. Cockpit is also well-suited to support content on multiple devices.

Cockpit is ideal for small digitally-forward businesses.

Top Cockpit features:

  • Simple installation and self-hosted.
  • API-first CMS with JSON content.
  • Language and database agnostic.
  • Flexible content models and no predefined models.
  • Modern and clean UI.

3. Directus


Directus is an open-source software platform suitable for projects that use customized database structures, as it comes with a wrapper to serve content from SQL databases via an API.

Directus also allows non-IT users to manage content through the Admin App. The platform has a strong version control system, allowing for rollbacks and retrieval of previous versions. While it does allow for uploading files, Directus occasionally encounters problems with long-form videos.

Directus is ideal for small to mid-size businesses that use traditional SQL databases.

Top Directus features:

  • Every aspect of the CMS is extensible and customizable, with no limitations.
  • Multilingual content management, with 10+ languages supported out of the box.
  • Built-in authentication and support for other SSO services.
  • Intuitive and secure admin app for content creators.
  • Unopinionated, so there are no practices or specific languages required.

SaaS headless CMS platforms

With SaaS headless CMS platforms, developers are not allowed to modify the source code. Users need a specific license key to implement these systems, either on-site or through the cloud, and rely on the vendors for further customization or extensions of the software.

SaaS headless CMS platforms ease the burden for IT teams, as the vendor is responsible for updates, maintenance, and technical support.

1. Core dna


Core dna is not just a CMS, but a digital experience platform (DXP) that supports eCommerce, intranets, extranets, customer portals, and digital workplace solutions.

The platform has features for customizable templates, WYSIWYG content creation, image editing, search engine optimization (SEO) management, and more. With its APIs, Core dna can be integrated with third-party tools that support eCommerce, social media promotion, digital marketing, customer relationship management, and more.

Core dna targets the mid-size and enterprise-level markets with high-traffic and complex requirements, boasting clients such as Tivoli Audio, Stanley-PMI and SEEK.

Top Core dna features:

  • All-in-one DXP for websites, eCommerce, intranets, and more.
  • Personalization features that make dynamic websites quick to launch.
  • Webhooks make integration with other systems straightforward.
  • Pre-built solutions for a variety of industries.
  • Over 1500 new features added every year.

2. Contentful


Contentful comes with a wide range of features and prices, from the free trial and developer plan, all the way to custom quotes for enterprise systems. The variety of options makes the CMS a strong contender across numerous market segments.

Contentful is hosted on a cloud-based infrastructure with AWS, which makes it more reliable. The platform also includes a simple markdown language to make writing content that’s well-formatted quick and easy.

Contentful is ideal for many enterprise businesses that need a solution with a faster time to market.

Top Contentful features:

  • Rich editor interface and intuitive content modeling.
  • Advanced caching techniques and integration with CDNs.
  • Cloud platform monitored by engineers and support teams full-time.
  • Flexible APIs and SDKs that developers can work with.
  • Centralized content hub for maximum scalability.

3. Kentico Cloud


Kentico Cloud provides a viable solution for numerous types of enterprise-level firms looking for a platform to create and manage their omnichannel content campaigns.

The cloud-based platform allows users to develop digital experiences for their customers, without the need for specialized coding skills. At USD$299 per month, Kentico Cloud lets content collaboratively manage content, while easing the maintenance requirements for IT teams.

Kentico is ideal for mid to large-sized businesses looking for a best-of-breed solution.

Top Kentico Cloud features:

  • Integrate with existing technologies and microservice applications using all kinds of languages, tools, and pre-built modules.
  • Enterprise compliance with workflows, single sign-on, and multi-factor authentication.
  • Collaboration features.
  • Back end from security to scalability handled by Kentico.

Can a traditional platform be used with headless CMS?

To quickly recap, a traditional CMS has the frontend and backend tightly coupled together.

For instance, a traditional platform such as WordPress comes with HTML templates, CSS style sheets, and JavaScript libraries to handle the frontend, along with a SQL database to store the data in the backend.

By contrast, a headless platform decouples the frontend and backend, and each component communicates through API calls. This architecture allows for headless CMS users to send content to nearly any type of internet-enabled device that can consume APIs.

The good news is that developers can use a headless CMS with its traditional counterpart if suitable APIs are available. For firms looking to test out a headless CMS, but who still have resources dedicated to their traditional architecture, using API calls with their existing CMS may be better than a costly migration to a new platform.

However, this approach may become cumbersome over time, making a CMS migration the more cost-effective long-term option.

Is a headless CMS secure?

Another concern that brands face when migrating their CMS platform is security. Unfortunately, many traditional CMS platforms, like Drupal, have shown vulnerabilities in their security measures.

At the same time, this doesn’t mean that a headless CMS is automatically more secure. Therefore, it’s essential that IT teams only shortlist and select headless content management systems with strong track records as well as security technologies and protocols that protect against cyber attack.

For instance, when choosing a headless CMS, you should check if the platform provides authentication and authorization features out-of-the-box. For instance, APIs should use industry standards for security and have throttling features to prevent DDoS attacks.

Since headless CMS are API-first, they’re likely implementing API security practices by default, but it’s a good idea to inquire about these features before migrating.

In addition, IT teams should implement other practices for server security.

A headless CMS can be secure if its APIs follow industry standards and IT teams ensure the infrastructure uses security practices. It comes down to the individual implementation, not just the software chosen.


Headless CMS examples

Countless brands are using headless architectures to distribute content to new channels, integrate third-party tools, and collect data at scale. Here are three headless cms demonstrations. Below is a list of three companies using a headless or decoupled CMS.

1. Princess Cruises

  Headless CMS example: Princes Cruises

Providing personalized omnichannel experiences across multiple cruise ships is no mean feat. But with a decoupled CMS, Princess Cruises manages just fine. 

The cruise ship operator uses a decoupled CMS as a central content hub to distribute personalized, real-time, and multilingual content and customer experiences across mobile apps and onboard passenger-facing screens.

Passengers can use smartphones or tablets to access Princess Cruise’s native mobile app, where they can access deck plans, browse activities, and keep a personalized plan of their time onboard.

2. The Economist

  Headless CMS example: The Economist

The Economist is a prime example of a brand looking to penetrate almost every mainstream channel & touchpoint on the market—a feat that’s only feasible with a headless or decoupled CMS.

The global news and op-ed publisher uses a headless CMS to push content to channels including native mobile apps, Snapchat, The Economist Alexa Skill, Oculus, and much more. In other words, the brand is now accessible through mobile, social media, voice, and virtual reality devices, with one headless CMS serving the content.

3. V-Zug

  Headless CMS example: V-Zug

V-Zug is a Swiss luxury appliance maker that needed an eCommerce solution with headless commerce capabilities in order to integrate their eCommerce ecosystem with various back-end systems. 

V-Zug used Core dna, a decoupled eCommerce and DXP solution, to achieve their aim. They leveraged Core dna’s 80+ pre-built applications to handle payments, overstock management, and dynamic pricing. Further, the end product used Core dna’s APIs to seamlessly integrate with several back-end systems.

Real-world headless CMS use cases

In omnichannel digital marketing, a headless CMS is ideal touchpoints.

This goes for touchpoints available today, and for those that emerge in the future. That’s because headless content management systems leverage APIs to communicate with any internet-enabled device.

This enables marketers to deliver relevant and personalized content to whichever devices their customers demand. A headless CMS, therefore, can futureproof a brand's customer experience.

Here are a few of the most interesting real-world scenarios we’ve come across.

1. Downtown D.C. improves tourist experience with digital signage

  Headless CMS use cases: Downtown's D.C digital signage

(Downtown D.C.’S digital signage | Source)

The Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District found that there was a lack of information about nearby restaurants, hotels, and attractions for pedestrians/tourists.

Instead of using traditional signage, the organization chose to deploy 30 interactive kiosks to provide news and alerts in over a dozen languages.

Using a headless CMS as kiosk software, digital signage like this can be updated with new content in real-time for more relevant and timely tourist information.

2. Burger King rolls out digital menu boards to 6,500+ stores

  Headless CMS use cases: Burger King's digital menu board

(Burger King’s digital menu boards | Source)

As part of a rebranding initiative, Burger King installed digital menu boards to its U.S. restaurant locations in only four months.

Using headless technology, the fast-food giant can update menu items & pricing based on inventory in real-time and advertise new deals and promotions on-the-fly. These dynamic menu boards capture attention more easily while offering a more engaging dining experience.

3. The American Heart Association provides life-saving information via Amazon Echo

  Headless CMS use cases: American Heart Association & Amazon Echo collaboration

(Alexa, help me save a life | Source)

In the past, Amazon Echo has been used for relatively trivial tasks, but the American Heart Association aims to change this with life-saving health information. Using the association’s new Alexa Skill, users can learn about vital warning signs related to heart attacks and strokes.

In addition, users can get CPR instructions while they're actually performing the steps because the voice-enabled device is hands-free. Alexa can seamlessly integrate with an API-driven CMS to pull content and push voice-activated commands by users.

4. IKEA launches an augmented reality catalog mobile app

  Headless CMS use cases: IKEA's augmented reality catalog

(IKEA makes buying furniture even more engaging | Source)

Using IKEAs innovative AR app, customers can use their smartphone’s camera to capture an image of a room in their home and select items from the furniture company’s catalog to review how they’ll look.

Using an integrated headless CMS and eCommerce platform, companies can leverage APIs to deliver augmented and virtual reality experiences to their customers. Once again, API-driven content management is crucial for a futureproof tech stack.

Headless platform implementations

The future of CMS is quickly moving away from traditional, database-driven systems and toward API-driven headless or decoupled systems.

Consumers are making use of more devices and channels than ever before and brands simply have to meet them there in order to provide quality omnichannel customer experiences. Going headless, whether that’s through a pure headless CMS or a decoupled CMS, is the simplest way to achieve that.

Four years on here is where we are at with the whole headless topic

Want to see how high-growth companies use Core dna’s all-in-one content management platform? Let’s chat.

Core dna Headless Examples

Standard Process 


Standard Process is a Wisconsin-based family-owned nutritional supplement company.They focused on making high-quality and nutrient-dense therapeutic supplements. Standard Process is a Microsoft Shop, and they serve customers worldwide with various whole food-based products. Standard Process exclusively sells through health care professionals. 

Core dna provides Standard Process with a headless CMS product that allows the company to move content from various sources quickly and easily through the website. Before Core dna, publishing and organizing content was time-consuming and clunky.

By going headless, Standard Process is keeping up with client demands. Currently, content is stored in Core dna and managed by a Core dna admin. In addition, images and assets are stored in Core dna and are compressed and resized in real-time. Simple, easy API callouts are now a must-have, and a responsive, good-on-any-device look and feel is critical for any modern web page. Core dna uses APIs to connect and interact with other software and channels, permitting content delivery. APIs from Core dna trigger content exchange through hooks platform between the two systems to ensure a flawless content exchange. Finally, images and other assets are cached at the Core dna end to quickly gather information and reduce loading time. Pages are cached at the client-side to create high-performance services. 

Core dna uses its flexible API to disseminate data that will eventually be presented to the end-user. As a result, Standard Process can create a dynamic and up-to-date customer experience with more flexibility without resorting to costly third-party development fees. 

Mentoring Minds 


Mentoring Minds provides instructional resources, flexible instructional support, and teaching strategies to help K-12 administrators and teachers raise students' scores. Mentoring Minds is committed to meeting the needs of all students, including students with special needs. 

Mentoring Minds has transformed how books are created by reducing the book-making process from months to weeks and introducing the flexibility to copy and modify books quickly. As a result, Mentoring Minds makes it easy for educators to create books and offers a unique custom authoring environment for book authors or retired teachers. Core dna delivers content through an API directly to where it needs to go. APIs connect and communicate with other software and channels, allowing for content delivery. Now, Mentoring Minds can reuse the content in different ways with API callouts, including their learning systems or applications. So now, MM can utilize content in the best way, with the flexibility to distribute it when and where they need it.

Core dna's headless CMS has made it easy to store, review and deliver structured content, allowing content editors to collaborate on new content seamlessly. Additionally, the decoupled front-end and back-end systems made it easy for staff members to collaborate and communicate with each other. Going headless has enabled Mentoring Minds to connect to all the admin functions of Core dna to allow the content administration, improve the user experience, and provide the reviewing required by the customer. 

Sam Saltis
Sam Saltis

An entrepreneur at heart with over 20+ years of experience in building internet software, growing online companies and managing product development.

Loves all things SaaS, technology, and startups.

You can find him feeding his beloved fish when he's back in Australia.

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