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CMS vs. CRM: What’s the Difference?

Marketing Gillian Mays Gillian Mays
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When it comes to CMS vs. CRM (content management system vs. customer relationship management), don’t let their similar acronyms fool you – these two systems serve different purposes! But that doesn’t mean they have to work separately. By leveraging the features of each in tandem, you can maximize your ecommerce efficiency and sales numbers.

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Running an ecommerce business requires a lot of different technology. Knowing how each one works and what purpose it serves in your organization is key to using them to the best of their abilities.

That’s where the question of CMS vs CRM comes in. Both are crucial to modern ecommerce systems. But how do you define each one, and what do they have in common – or what don’t they?

Let’s take a look at what a CMS vs CRM is, why each is important, and how they work together to support your business.

What is a CMS?

CMS stands for content management system. It’s the core of your organization’s online presence and how you manage its content. It could be on a website, mobile phone, or even Internet of Things (IoT) options such as smart speakers.

CMSs do all of this by providing developers and content creators with the tools they need. For example, the structure of a CMS lets developers get right into their work without having to create everything from scratch. For content creators, CMSs make it easy to enter content into the backend without needing to have extensive technical knowledge.

When it comes to choosing a type of CMS, you have two main options: monolithic CMS and headless CMS. Monolithic CMSs have tightly tied front and backends, meaning your content is siloed and you have less flexibility and fewer features. However, they also tend to be easier to use.

Headless systems use APIs to link multiple frontends to a single backend, giving you the freedom to access multiple channels from a centralized location. They tend to be complex, but they also offer benefits that monolithic systems can’t such as omnichannel publishing and internationalization.

Boxes labeled 'admin interface' and 'custom integrations' connecting as a write/read option to a block labeled API, which then connects to several different reading outlets.

A headless CMS relies on APIs to read and write data seamlessly.

Features of a CMS

In the question of CMS vs CRM, a CMS – especially a headless one – offers essential features that most websites can’t go without. A few examples include:

1. Content editor

The content editor is the heart of a CMS. It lets you add, delete, and manage your existing site content. This may include your store’s blog, microsites, and of course, the products themselves. Without a way to store and distribute this content, it’ll be hard to run a successful ecommerce website.

2. Security

A good CMS should offer even better security – and with users stating security as the top reason to switch CMS platforms, it’s clear that this need has never been more essential. High-quality CMSs come with security features that will keep your customers’ data safe, allowing you to retain their trust and provide excellent customer experiences.

3. Collaboration tools

The bigger a website is, the more likely it is that there will be multiple people working on it to keep it running smoothly. CMSs make it so they can all work at the same time on the same project and stay in the loop with one another. Some specific features may include custom workflows, role management, and in-engine commenting.

4. Asset manager

If you’re selling products, there’s bound to be a lot of media attached. Finding relevant images and videos within your system efficiently saves you a lot of time and effort. A CMS with a digital asset manager gives you that power, which means you can keep a consistent brand representation and make the editing process as easy as possible.


To sum it up, a CMS is technology that creates the digital experience for your visitors. It provides content for frontend users and features for backend users to make it happen.

What is a CRM?

A CRM system – or customer relationship management – is technology that synthesizes your users’ data into an accessible database that you can use to improve their online experiences. It stores information from interactions that occur on your website to provide insight on how your shop is performing, creating a more efficient way to perfect your sales funnel.

Features of a CRM

CRMs exist to collect customer data and make it work for you. It helps you learn how they feel about their interactions with your website and turn it into actionable ways to adjust your strategies, using features such as:

1. Centralized customer data

Just like a CMS centralizes your content, a CRM centralizes your customer data. Interactions that occur over the site – from the first visit to the final purchase – are aggregated and stored in one location. This gives you an overview of your customers' behaviors and needs.

2. Email integration

According to one study, email marketing can offer up to $36 ROI per dollar spent. However, you can’t get there with a generic email blast. Personalized strategies geared toward specific audience segments is key. CRM gives you that information so you can create emails that convert.

3. Analytics

Crafting a lucrative relationship with your customers starts with understanding them. Knowing what they want allows you to provide it to them. Analytics give you an overview of how your customers are engaging with your brand, often summarized into useful reports. You don’t need to create a spreadsheet by hand. A good CRM will create the conclusions for you.

4. Sales automation

Automation is a great way to stay on top of your potential leads. Even small things such as sending an email reminding previous customers of what you have to offer or one that requests a review can make a big difference to your marketing efforts.


All in all, CRM is technology that assesses and tracks the experience that the CMS is providing. This results in you being able to leverage that info to create even better experiences in the future.

CMS vs. CRM: What’s the difference?

When it comes to CMS vs CRM, the question “what’s the difference” might not be the right one. Instead, we might want to ask ourselves: “what do they have in common?”. The reality is that these two tools are most powerful when they’re working together.

CMS creates the user experience that CRM learns from, information that can then be used to improve the CMS. The cycle goes on and on! Focusing on their relationship is the best way to optimize your store’s performance.

The major difference between CMS vs. CRM is when you start using them. You’ll probably start off with a CMS first as it plays an essential role as the foundation of your digital presence. If you’re starting out with a smaller user base, you may not need a CRM right away. However, as your organization grows, you’ll likely find that integrating one makes your sales funnel more efficient and successful.

CMS vs CRM: Key takeaways

CMS vs CRM presents two unique uses: CMSs for managing the customer experience through content, and CRM for monitoring clients and enabling sales efficiency. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean they stand alone. These tools are designed to work together, each enabling the other to maximize their effectiveness. You may start with a CMS in the beginning, but don’t underestimate the power of a CRM. All in all, it’s not quite CMS vs CRM – your business will likely get the most benefits from leveraging both together.

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