Why Marketers Should Care About Decoupled Drupal

Read on to learn how marketers can use a decoupled strategy to overcome obstacles that are top of mind for every digital CMO.

In the web development world, few trends are spreading more rapidly than decoupled (or headless) content management systems. With some vendors growing at a rate of 500 percent year over year, it's no surprise that decoupled CMS has caught the attention of Drupalists and technical teams.

Marketers, however, haven’t caught the decoupled Drupal bug.

Although decoupled Drupal is about as nerdy as it gets, marketers shouldn’t ignore the headless trend. Read on to learn how marketers can use a decoupled strategy to overcome obstacles that are top of mind for every digital CMO, including:  

  1. Reaching your audience on the right device, at the right time
  2. Leveraging best-of-breed solutions on one platform
  3. Retaining and acquiring customers

Hold On. What’s decoupled Drupal again?  

Whether you call it headless, API-first, web services or decoupled, understanding what a decoupled architecture is, or how it works, can test any marketer’s technical chops. If you are interested learning more about Decoupled Drupal, check out our 101 Guide. In the meantime, here is a quick rundown of what is decoupled Drupal:

coupled and decoupled architectures

A decoupled CMS allows developers to utilize any technology to render the front-end experience (“the glass” where a user interacts with an application) in lieu of the theming and presentation layers that come with a coupled CMS out of the box.

In a decoupled architecture, the Drupal back end exposes content to other front-end system, such as native mobile applications, conversational UIs, digital signage, or applications built in JavaScript.

Right device at the right time

Marketers need to be where their customers are. To keep up with customer expectations, marketers have to send the right message, on the right device, at the right time.

For Princess Cruises, this meant fundamentally changing the way their guests accessed information onboard their ships.

Before boarding a Princess Cruise ship, every guest relies on their mobile device to connect, buy and inform. That’s why it only made sense to extend and transform the Princess experience with [email protected], a mobile application that allows guests to plan their day's events and activities, review the ship's itinerary, browse restaurant menus, and book shore excursions all from the palm of their hand.

princess cruises

The ultimate goal was to outfit every vessel in Princess Cruises’ fleet with a ship-specific version of [email protected] The digital experience needed to be reliable while ships set sail all over the world. Princess Cruises needed a way to centrally manage content across all channels and touchpoints to provide a uniform experience on mobile and digital signage onboard the ship and the guest stateroom TV.

Princess Cruises selected a decoupled Drupal strategy to serve content across numerous touchpoints and channels. By using Drupal as the brain beyond its technical systems, Princess Cruises can create once and publish everywhere. Today, every passenger facing screen on the ship is connected to [email protected], and therefore Drupal.

Embracing best of breed

This October, Lynne Capozzi (Acquia’s CMO) explained why the typical “integrated” suite of marketing technologies is no longer cutting it for marketers. Instead of being at the mercy of a proprietary vendor’s roadmap, marketers want to invest in open technologies that put them back in the driver's seat.

Capozzi described it best when she said Acquia’s customers want to live in a world where “API-first solutions reign supreme.”

Acquia’s long-running investment in APIs means we can help marketers build a platform on their terms. A decoupled strategy accomplishes this in two ways:

  1. Organizations can use Drupal on the back end to support existing technical systems, such as customer relationship management or product information systems. This means marketers can use the tools and solutions they need to succeed.
  2. Using Drupal as a central repository allows organizations to send content and data to the many outlets available in the current media marketplace. Ths includes iOS and Android apps, but can also extend to ending data to live broadcast television, posting to YouTube, and accessing future outlets as they become available.

Acquia’s emphasis on being API-first is important because organizations want to build a platform they truly own. Adopting an API-first architecture is emerging as the best-of-breed solution to deliver flexible, scalable, and ambitious digital experiences.

Retaining and acquiring customers

People are picky. They’re hard to please. They can be indifferent to your brands. Marketers have to constantly work to not only keep existing customers engaged, but to entice new customers to come on board.

Marketers need to make every interaction with customers as as fast and engaging as possible. For Powdr Corp., this meant giving each brand in the Powdr family flexibility to deliver customized web experiences for users.


Powdr is one of the largest ski resorts in North America, and oversees 18 resorts from California to Vermont. The challenge was managing all of their digital properties across multiple sites, while empowering each resort to communicate their unique brand identity.

Powdr selected a decoupled Drupal architecture to power its flagship site, in addition to resort sites. With Acquia Cloud, all of these sites are on one platform. Each resort site can use Drupal as a content repository, which exposes content for consumption by its preferred JavaScript framework in the front end. This provides front-end designers with flexibility, and allows them to customize their approach for each brand under the Powdr umbrella.

In the past decade, JavaScript frameworks have increased in popularity with developers due to the demand for more flexibility in the front end, in addition to the promise of increased productivity and maintainable code. Another advantage of JavaScript is that an emphasis on client-side rendering means that web experience are usually faster, more dynamic in its behavior, and generally more application-like. Think Gmail or Google Maps, which adopted JavaScript frameworks in 2009.

Powdr’s decoupled Drupal approach offers customers an engaging experience, and brings the mountain to any device or screen. Powdr is already seeing results, as 50 percent of users have entered a purchase path directly from the homepage.

Want to learn more?

Considering an decoupled Drupal strategy may seem intimidating for marketers, but it shouldn’t be. At Acquia, we can help you pull all the pieces together, and connect you with the experts who have experience to help drive your marketing strategy with decoupled Drupal.

If you want to learn more about how your organization can use decoupled Drupal to power your entire application ecosystem, checkout: API-First: On the Road to Publish Once, Access Everywhere.

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